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Kitchen Princess meets the Cooking Spool
(2013-05-09 - 2013-05-09)
No description.
Alma Hyral Alma Hyral had made a naive wager that at a superficial glance appeared exceptionally naive.

A week of cooking for the entirety of the TDA if Will Sherman had bested Rena in an eating contest at the Wildkat. If Rena had won, she'd have received nothing at all in return. It had ended up as a draw and her sentence had been cut to three and a half days, rounded up to four. The reality is that she was using it as a /vacation/ away from the employees of the Murasame Corporation.

Her time at the Cloud Nine had allowed her to actually get adequate rest between her shifts cooking for the members of the Detective Agency that came by, and the regulars of the cafe both. Cooking was a calming domestic exercise for her, and while she was an exceptional cook, she lacked imagination. It was a skill she'd learned primarily because as per the Cosma Naturalis way of life.. she expected she'd have been betrothed to a man some day, get married, have a suitably sprawling family, for which she'd have to care for.

She still enjoyed preparing food, as it made her useful while at the same time, allowed her time for her thoughts, and her solitude. She was a timid creature, afflicted with severe social anxiety. And so she never actually went out of the kitchen to serve the fruits of her labors, instead allowing the few other employees to do it for her.

Right now, it was just after the lunch rush, and she was busying herself with cleaning the kitchen in-between preparing the last few dishes for those who yet lingered on the stove. The sleeves of her frumpy, traditional white mages robe were rolled up as she worked at cleaning a stack of pans with rubber gloves on. The cowl of her robe was down, her hair in its usual unattractive bun. She was humming a song in tune with the radio, she didn't yet know the lyrics of it enough to sing along, but it appeared to be a sappy tune from the World of Manhatten.
Maximilien Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne does not often visit the Cloud Nine. It's a risk - not just for him, but for the people he is slowly coming to view as actual friends, the people of the Twilight Detective Agency. As the mysterious Phantom Thief MARS, Maximilien is wanted by most-if-not-all (Cocoon may be an exception, given his...relationship with the director of PSICOM) of the nations of the worlds; a dramatic declaration mailed and posted to every news outlet in the merged reality of intent to steal sort of has that...effect.

So Max tends to avoid the TDA - not because he's worried about his identity exposed (he could always discard it and make a new one; the benefits of being a master of disguise), but because he's worried someone who wasn't as romantically attached to him as Jihl Nabaat or Cirra Constantine might find out his relationship with the TDA, and use it as pressure...or worse. The TDA didn't deserve that sort of hardship; though their door may always be open to him, he usually stays out of it. Besides, he's a loaner and a wanderer anyhow; he rarely stays at one place for long. Even his hideouts have already changed in the last couple weeks, and will again soon; it was just...safer that way.

Still, sometimes, you just want to go where everybody knows your name. The TDA is that place for Max, so he slips inside silently, closing the door behind him as he does so. Not even a click hints at his presence; the door closes as silently as he moves.

Still, the smell of something being cooked, and someone humming, was a smell Max was not used to from the TDA; Celina notwithstanding, most of the TDA didn't cook, and the discarded boxes of fast food firmly resembled Jihl's apartment - and thoroughly encouraged Max to turn his nose up at the whole affair. So of course he moves to investigate the cook and the hummer; you don't get to be a Mysterious Phantom Thief without making sure you know what's going on in a building when you show up.

Max slips into the kitchen as silently as he did the actual building; then he leans against the wall, still absolutely noiseless, even his breathing paced and careful by sheer habit.

The effect for Alma, when she sees him, is probably akin to 'suddenly there's a strange tall man in a cape where there was none before!'

Max has been told that's rather unnerving. He still enjoys doing it.
Alma Hyral Alma was naturally oblivious to his entrance. She didn't expect anyone to come on by, and typically there were cues that indicated that someone had entered the kitchen. And so she hummed merrily along as the radio reached the next verse of the sappy love song from the 90's.

~Here's my heart, you can keep it. You're the only one in my world..~

Laying back the pan she was scrubbing, she slid back off the rubber gloves, moving back to the stove to check on the progress of the comfort food she was making... simple fair really. She'd picked up on the recipes easily enough once she arrived. But on her way back to the stove, she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eyes. Looking in his direction, the humming instantly stopped, as she gave him a timid look which communicated her thoughts of, /Who are you, and what are you doing here?/ rather perfectly.

A moment later, her expression turned into embarassment, how long had he been watching her? Then potential terror. Why was this strange man watching her at all? Unnerving didn't even begin to describe it, as she fought back the urge to shriek.

Despite all this, she was a guest at the Cloud Nine, and didn't know who he was. So she took a step forward, clearing her throat to greet him. "H-Hello. We h-haven't met. I'm A-Alma Hy...Oh!" Half-way through that step, turned into a fall, as she stumbled forward, trying to catch herself on a counter on the way down.
Maximilien Max would've laughed at her shock if she hadn't immediately stumbled. He's the kind of guy who appreciates a good scare, but not the sort of person who enjoys hurting people (Max is, in fact, an avowed pacifist), or allowing people to be hurt on his watch. As Alma trips, Max moves incredibly swiftly, acting on what appears to be well-honed reflex; he catches her before she goes all the way down, himself tilted over to stop her fall - he is, after all, quite tall and quite skinny, and not terribly strong. Physics is not against him here, though, not with a little cleverness! She's probably going to wind up against his chest, while he's down on one knee. "Pardon; I did not mean to startle you." His voice is gentle and soft, thick with his native accent, and his eyes are gentle and kind.

Once Alma's back steady on her feet and off his chest, Max takes a step back and folds his hand over his heart, bowing low; his cape flows around him, and he's got a perpetual smile on his face, like a character from a fairy tale. "Bonjour, madamoiselle; je m'apelle Maximilien. Maximilien Amadeus Renaud-Sylvianne. Enchante, I'm certain."

Max straightens, one of his hands going to his pocket, and indeed Alma can see that he is quite a tall man, and quite a slender fellow at that; he's not worryingly skinny, but he's certainly more in the beanpole category than not. His tuxedo - and it is most certainly a tuxedo - is an immaculate white flared with gold, and shows none of the signs of travel or wear and tear.
Alma Hyral At first her arms flail, as she frantically tries to catch ahold of something.. anything, on the way down. And then she stops. Her fall arrested by Max's swift reflexes.

She looks confused at first, as if not realizing what exactly happened. And then it dawns on her that she's being held against a man's chest while he's down on one knee. The very idea of it brings fire to her cheeks, her voice becoming bashful as he starts to bring her back to his feet "T-Thank you, that was rather c-clumsy of me. I'm s-sorry."

Once on her feet, she'd put a hand over her chest, taking a deep breath. She didn't understand the language he was speaking in intermittently, but the gyst was communicated to her rather adequately. "L-Likewise, M-Mister Renaud-Sylvianne."

And then she took a good look at him. He was skinny, and exceptionally fast, for wearing a tuxedo.. On Ramuha, tuxedos would have been considered stiff and out of vogue except for the most formal of occasions, or for the exceptionally pretentious. So she had no idea what to make of the man wearing one so.. casually, especially one who could move like that while in one.

She must have realized that she was gawking at him, because after a time she moved back to the stove, turning down the heat before she burned the food she was cooking. "I-I didn't h-hear you come in. Are you one of M-Mister Sherman's f-friends from the detective a-agency?"
Maximilien "Please, madamoiselle; call me Max. Everyone does." Max's smile does not, and apparently never, wavers; he just stands there quietly, listening to her stammer patiently. In truth, he's sizing her up, too; it was reflexive, the kind of thing he always did when presented with another human being. He'd done it to everyone he'd ever met - they just didn't realize it.

She's nervous. She's extremely nervous; adorable, shaky, but she lacks in confidence. It doesn't take Max long to see that; he's an excellent judge of character, and one of the best at reading people the TDA even *has*. Max can break down the haughtiest of people - Alma wears her heart on her sleeve. No challenge.

"I am something to that effect, oui. And you? Are you a new hire, or simply a passer-through?"
Alma Hyral He was absolutely right. She couldn't hide her emotions to save her life. She was a fretful, dowdy little creature with self-esteem issues. Alma, on the other hand, had no idea what to make of Max. He was polite enough, certainly, and kind to her so far. She tended to respond to that rather favorably. And so she was a touch calmer, when he offered for her to use his shortened name so informally. She'd still stammer, but less so. It seemed to be directly proportionate to however many people she was speaking to at a time, and her familiarity with each of them. "M-Max it is."

She'd offer a shy smile his way, "Oh n-no. I'm not a new hire. I h-healed Mister Sherman after a b-battle with the E-Emperor of Palamecia. He was on Souji Murasami's a-airship, that's my e-employer. I cooked him a m-meal and afterwards he told me that I n-needed to get out more and took me out. I made a w-wager with him over an eating contest with a c-classmate and as a result I'm here to c-cook for the Detective A-Agency for a few days. He told me I should m-meet all of you."

She'd continue to regard him with an embarassed look about her, the situation still bringing heat to her freckled cheeks, as she wondered why he had such interest in her. Taking a spatula, she'd gingerly turn over one of the melts in the cooking pan, before stirring around the chicken and rice in the other to keep it all cooked evenly.
Maximilien Max listens for a moment as Alma stutters through the events that led her to the TDA. He seems rather hard to phase, or even surprise - or he's really good at keeping his face impassive, which is probably the most likely thing, as she's just sort of spilling information into Max's lap without a second thought. He's not going to say anything, of course, or stop her from doing so, but...well, she might be a little more dangerous than she knows, poor thing.

It hasn't escaped his notice that she's cooking. However, he's been sort of quiet about it so far, watching her work. But that's not going to last for long; the true measure of a chef is when you taste their work.

Suddenly - with exactly that same sort of not-there-a-moment-ago speed and silence - he's standing directly behind Alma; his fingers go into the drawer to fetch a fork. Deftly, he slides the fork into one of the melts, slicing a piece of it off and sliding it into his mouth. A second frighteningly deft motion slips a bit of the pot into his mouth.

Max takes a moment to enjoy it carefully, with the look of a master chef in his eye.

"Not bad, madamoiselle. Where did you learn to cook?"
Alma Hyral She'd chattered on willy nilly, truly guileless. If she held any secrets, then they weren't the sort that she'd drop in casual conversation.

The food was good. Perfectly cooked. But it was simple, lacking any sort of imagination. She could follow a recipe, and sometimes add little touches, but she had trouble improvising, and couldn't truly create a masterpiece in the kitchen.

Maybe her true creativity lay elsewhere.. but in the kitchen it wasn't for a lack of trying. Her sister was the opposite. She was /creative/ in the kitchen, it's just that her creativity was /dangerous/ and not out of a simple love for the act of cooking and food, but for her one true love.. science!

She hadn't noticed him cutting off a piece of the melt, so quick were his reflexes. She did however see the afterimage of the fork slipping away behind her after he sampled the chicken from the pot. She was shocked, and if she were her mother.. she might have tried to whack him over the hand with the spatula. But she had none of her mother's ferocity. So instead she turns around to face him, holding the spatula up against her robes, not realizing that she was causing a small grease stain that she'd have to clean later. She might have given him a reproving look at least.. except that he was complimenting her food. Her embarassed flush deepened, Max would likely realize that she didn't know how to take a compliment..

She didn't receive them often.

Meekly she'd reply, "You r-really like it? My M-Mother taught me. We u-used to watching c-cooking shows together. The r-rest I just.. sort of p-picked up, here and t-there."
Maximilien "It needs work, but it is a fine foundation. Simple, but well-cooked; for what it is, it is delicious. Still..." Max rolls the piece about in the back of his mouth thoughtfully before finally actually swallowing it. "YOu lack something most important for a real master chef, madamoiselle."

Max's fingers brush across his chin. "You lack...creativity, madamoiselle. You lack the essential spark to be a true chef; this is home-cooked, true, and perfectly suitable..."

Max snaps his fingers. It's a sudden, loud noise, his fingers long and thin and delicate, suddenly pressing with a fierce click. "Suitable is not, 'owever, what a chef ought to be aiming for! Madamoiselle, do you want to /cook/? Or do you merely want to *produce* food?"
Alma Hyral She'd listen to his constructive criticism in its entirety. When he mentions what she's lacking to become a real chef, she actually leans forward almost imperceptibly in anticipation.

And then she'd hang onto every word. Midway through the conversation , she'd realize she was clutching her spatula against her frumpy plain looking robes, and would realize she's making a mess, putting it down and grabbing a rag to try and dab it out before it stained too badly.

And then he'd snap his fingers, and her attention would return solely to him once again.

She didn't even have to consider his statement, there was no hesitation before she blurted out. "I w-want to cook. What must I do to l-learn how?"
Maximilien "Come back here tomorrow, madamoiselle, around this time; bring with you you favorite recipe, your favorite ingredients. I must see what it is you intend to cook when you cook from the bottom of your heart."

Max's arms slide across his chest. "I will warn you; I am a harsh taskmaster. Follow my instructions to the letter, madamoiselle, and I will see you become a magnificent chef, equal to any restaurant in these myriad worlds. Fail even by a little, and you will still be a great maker of food...but you will forever be distant from the true artist."

"Do you understand, madamoiselle? I will brook no argument, nor dischord; I cannot make you skilled. I can merely lead you down the path. It is up to you and your confidence to walk it."
Alma Hyral She'd nod as he stated for her to return tomorrow with her favorite recipe, she could do that.. the ingredients might be a little harder to come by, but she'd manage.

And then he described all the requirements, and her heart sank. She didn't hold up very well to harsh teaching. That approach tended to break her, rather than build her up as some had intended. But.. even so, she did really want to learn to be a better chef. She didn't think she'd be capable of mastery but.. wouldn't it be wonderful if she could manage it?

He'd see her expression fall when he speaks of confidence. She might have cried. She had no confidence in herself. But somewhere, deep down.. she wanted to try and impress the man who had been kind to her so far.. to impress herself, to impress others. To have skill in something she could be genuinely proud of. And so she swallowed such feelings of inadequacy, and stated to him calmly, "I'll be here tomorrow. And I promise.. I won't disappoint you."

She didn't know if she could keep that promise or not, but by Cosma she was going to try.

This scene contained 13 poses. The players who were present were: Maximilien, Alma Hyral