The young lady with the horns growing from her temples sweated and fretted as she walked into Brigade Town, paid for her hotel at a rather seedy tavern, although she didn't mind the smell of alcohol and her roommate wasn't awful for a grumpy orc falconer.
She freaked out as other contestants challenged her, and squeaked like a field mouse when she beat them. And when she did odd jobs...or when someone said hello from behind her.
Jaky spent the entire Battle Chef Brigade tournament panicking, is what we're saying here.
"Hey, the most important thing is to remain calm." Said Kirin, as Jaky helped her and Belchior with an experiment for a bit of pocket change.
"Yes, it'd be bad table manners to sweat into your food." Belchior chuckled.
"Not helping..." He sighed. The young orc woman sighed. "But you're right, I've gotta cool down." she says, focusing on the food, the gentleness of her stirring ran a bit counter to her stature as a tall, thin woman with large horns protruding from her forehead, long brown hair tied back in a ponytail, with a massive meat tenderizer clipped to her belt, which was frankly the most clothes she was wearing, as she also sported a cape and a scarf, which covered her entire body. "I've gotta get this done. My fiance wouldn't be able to look me in the eye if I didn't get into the Brigade."
"Are you sure about that? Because judging from your description, he's right outside." Jaky's eyes widened and she looked outside. Indeed there was a shorter man with messy dark hair and glasses walking around town. Jaky was gone like a shot, and scooped up the gentleman, who was laughing uproariously as he was hugged, even giving her a quick peck on the horns..
"Sola! What are you doing here?" She asks, grinning from ear to ear.
"You mentioned in your last letter that you were nervous my love, so I'm helping you relax!" Says the much smaller man, squeezing her tightly. "You're going to do fantastically, and I'll have front row seats to the entire thing. So get in there and break a dish, my Graceful Griller~" Sola then leant in and gave Jaky a kiss.
"Cadet Jakelyn!" The tiefling immediately jumped to her feet and saluted. "I'm sure you're happy to meet your husband, but the final test is up, and you're next." Inspector Razel smiled. "The three Battle Chefs you'll face today are some of our best and brightest. They're also some of the biggest troublemakers I've ever had the honor of watching. Good luck."
Krusha gulped. "Yes ma'am!" She says, swallowing the lump in her throat.
"Good luck sweetie!" Cried Sohko, blowing a kiss before running for the stands in the Arena.
Jaky stood, trying to feel as confident as she looked as Chairman Kamin took the stand.
"People of Victusia, it is my honor to bring another Proving Tournament to a close. But before we do, we have one of our brightest recruits here today to face the Gauntlet. How are you feeling?" Jaky jumped as Kamin addressed her.
"Like hammered Squickle?" Krusha answered, blushing and rubbing the back of her head. Luckily Kamin let out a hearty laugh.
"The Tension is palpable here. Introducing our first competitor, the crushing force of her hammer is only equal to the fires of love that burn in her heart and the beautiful dances that accompany her presentation. The Graceful Griller, Jaky!" The crowd cheered and Jaky couldn't help but flex a small, delicate muscle.
"And our first battle chef to face her is her only equal in the force of love. Once even fighting the mighty Yoku to save his beloved, the Benevolent Berserker, THRASH!" The cheers were raucous right now as the orc stood, gripping his dagger surely.
"Thrash? The legendary Thrash is my opponent?" Jaky took a step back in awe.
"Hey, don't get like that. I'm only round one. Just take it easy kid." Thrash chuckled.
"Our first round is centered on a mighty beast that reportedly gave King Heinrich a nasty scar when he first began his journey to establish the Battle Chef Brigade. Nonetheless, he didn't turn away from the dastardly...CRAGMOR!" He called, looking between Krusha and Thrash. "Our judges await your presentation, chefs. Ready? VIVE LA BRIGADE!"
Both chefs took off like a rocket, Krusha screaming and holding her hammer aloft, she could see a Cragmor fighting a Lapizard, futilely trying to chase it up a wall. Krusha's meat tenderize fell with the force of an anvil and crushed the poor arthropod. Quickly gathering up the soft underbelly, the claws, and the shell, she ran off, bashing as many more as she could carry, smirking and grabbing a griller some man with a scar across his lips had given her, preparing some bread, and beginning to cook.
"You're not half bad, kid." Thrash grinned as he tossed a few pieces in an Orc Fire Grill and breathing fire to heat it up. "Do Tieflings really have higher body temperatures than normal?" He asks as he passes by.
"Yeah, it makes cooking easy, but it also tends to make you sweat." She says as she dashes to her spice rack for some Emerald Grass and spicy ketchup.
"Ha! Kinda wish I had that. My wife says I need to lose a few pounds." He snickers, running back into the caves himself. Jaky took a look at the clock, then her grill, smirking as she ran off once more, crushing a Lupir's skull, she managed to collect several choice cuts, running back to shove them in the griller. It was difficult to make a Fire-Themed Dish with Cragmor, but the addition of that spicy ketchup and the grill was a godsend. Time was quickly up, and she spun with her customary grace as she slid the Cragmor rolls with Lupir blood sauce as well as a custom Candle Gourd tartar sauce as Thrash had his Cragmor rangoons with Sweet and Sour Lapizard Sauce.
"Incredible!" Ambassador Akebo cheered as he hungrily ate the Cragmor rolls. "The fire in this dish is incredible!" He cried. After a moment to collect himself, he attacked Thrash's rangoons. "It's always an honor to have a meal prepared by the Benevolent Berserker. The fire here is lovely, as is typical of orcish cuisine!" Akebo adjourned the two chefs, one of whom was tugging her collar.
"You know, if you're too hot, you should consider ditching that cape. Maybe putting on something a bit breathier." Thrash advised.
"That's not really conducive to cooking though." She sighs. "I hope the Battle Chefs have an alternate fabric for me." She pants gently.
"Our first judge has reached a decision!" Kamin announced as he unveiled the score card. "The Graceful Griller has defeated the Benevolent Berserker! Jaky wins!"
"YES!" Jaky grins, quickly moving to rearrange her kitchen before the next round. She removed the spicy ketchup, but grabbed Sapphire Dew and Emerald Grass.
"The next round begins now! I believe you may know your next competitor, one of the Brigade's finest young minds, and the apprentice to our Brigade alchemist Belchior, Kirin, the Decisive Blade!"
"Remember what I said about keeping your cool, Jaky." Kirin says with a smile.
"R-Right!" The tiefling responded, feeling nervous.
"Our next challenge comes from the very heart of our lands. It's a popular crop, but only grows in the unattended cliffs of the north, making it a dangerous prospect to harvest. ICEBERG TURNIP!" Kamin called out. "VIVE LA BRIGADE!" Jaky dashed forward, but quickly gained speed when wings burst from her back, letting her see Kirin doing the same with her beautiful black feathered wings, but Jaky's were like a bat, a testament to her demonic heritage. She loved flying through cold air as it did wonders for her body temperature. She flew into a Skowl, the bird impaled on her horns as she landed, using her hammer to dig up the ground and harvest the turnips, narrowly dodging an Armarock. She soared back into the kitchen, landing on the ground gracefully, causing cheers in the crowd as she placed the turnips and Skowl breast into her pan, adding the Emerald grass to make a hearty, earthy dish of Iceberg Turnip Bisque with Scowl Breast. Kirin was pickling the turnips and adding Verskit blood as a sauce.
Tossing her stew in the slow cooker, Jaky flew again, running off, killing several Verskit, grabbing their tails for more earth, than scrambling back to the kitchen, dissecting and deboning the tails and adding them to the stew, then using the leftover iceberg turnips to create a bed before dumping pasta inside, creating a thick pasta of water flavors.
"Incredible...The Earth and Water flavors are very prominent" The judge said with a smile,tasting each dish before rendering his verdict. Grand Matriarch Hazgil's normal thin frown was replaced with a happy but weary smile as she ate the pasta.
"With a narrow victory by a mere three points, The Graceful Griller enters the final round!" Jaky sighed in relief as Kirin strode forward.
"You're hiding too much." Was all she said with a smile.
"What?" Jaky said with a blush.
"You seemed so free in the air, Jaky. You should let yourself be like that all the time. Try to hide and you'll only hold yourself back. And trust me, you'll want to be yourself for the final challenge."
Jaky's eyes went wide as Chairman Kamin began. "Our final contestant in the Gauntlet was instrumental in stopping the blight by Alchemist Rixal last year. And Today she's here for pleasure rather than business. But trust me when I say that she means business...THE IRON STOMACH, MINA HAN!" Jaky's heart jumped into her throat when the small human woman with the short brown hair stepped forward.
"Y-You're...! Mina Han...! Th-The Iron Stomach!" The tiefling said, blue eyes wide.
"I'm just an Ambassador, nothing special." Mina shrugged.
"Don't sell yourself short, Miss Han. For Jaky's final trial is against one of the greatest Battle Chefs of the past generation. And our last ingredient, is a fearsome beast. The mighty...DRAGON! Vive La Brigade!"
Jaky watched Mina dash into the forest, looking back and forth, on the verge of a panic attack, before her eyes narrowed, and she quickly threw off her cloak, revealing the tiefling was almost naked, wearing two small straps over her shapely breasts, gasping for air as she stretched and finally seemed at peace, even wearing barely anything! Gasps rang out as she flew through the air, dive bombing the dragon, and expertly weaving around it, bashing it's joints and quickly killing it, spinning around the wreathing fire. She flew back, grabbing Sunhat tomato and Cheepchi breast and dashing back, quickly grinding the meat, fire dancing off her fingertips as she cooked, eyes narrowed.
"I gotta say, I wasn't expecting you to be wearing that under there!" Mina called.
"I'm half succubus, my body temperature is in the two hundreds. Victusian climate doesn't exactly agree with me." Jaky responded. "I'm just glad my fiance is here to see me cook at my fullest!"
"There you go, that's what it's all about! Go for it!" Mina cheered.
Jaky was almost a blur as she flew through the kitchen, grabbing Caranha nectar, Taka Berry, King Bean, everything was mixed together into an astonishing meat dish, and Jaky flew through the air and hovered, gently placing it in front of Kamin, who looked honestly surprised at the sensual beauty serving him Dragon Steak, then quickly flew off to serve the other two judges quickly. She was a vision of loveliness and speed, even swooping down to give her husband a kiss before flying off back into the forest, her wings beating faster and faster, propelling her and quickly serving the other two judges.
"Once again the final round of the gauntlet is over! Let us see how the judges favor the Iron Stomach, or the Graceful Griller!" The judges ate, and Jaky had once again replaced her jacket.
"Hey, don't do that!" Mina smiled. "You were beautiful out there, and you shouldn't hide your body just because it's not chef standard."
"It's true." Kamin says as he eats, smiling. "We are honored to receive such an astounding performance from anyone! And trust me, Jaky, we have received many different chefs here. A Tiefling with some unorthodox dress code is the least offensive cooking style we've seen in our halls. Mmmmh, the Rainbow flavor comes through well!"
Despite cooking for the Chairman before, Mina looked more nervous than Jaky, who swallowed when Kamin noted a large bone in her otherwise flawless knifework. The judges conferred for several minutes, during which the tiefling gave Mina a hug.
"Thank you. Without you I wouldn't have had the courage to really fly."
"You were so fast I could barely keep up!" Mina chuckled. "Good job, you got me shaken!"
"The judges have rendered a verdict..." Chairman Kamin said, standing up dramatically. "JAKELYN, THE GRACEFUL GRILLER, WINS!" Jaky flew up in the air and began to do any number of outstanding tricks, jumping laughing as she danced in the air, her fiance jumping off the stands to run to her and hug her. "Jakelyn is officially a part of the Battle Chef Brigade!" He cheers. "I'd like to thank our esteemed Battle Chefs for putting on a spectacular battle!" But most didn't seem able to hear him as the cheers were too raucous.
"You did good, kid." Thrash shook her hand respectfully. "Welcome to the Brigade."
"Indeed. You'll go far in any branch you choose." Kirin added.
"You were able to really shake me with your speed. They should've called you the Deadly Dancer or something." Mina joked.
"I think I'd like to be in the warrior branch to stay close to my fiance~" She laughed, the smaller human man hugging her tightly still.
"You've definitely got the chops for it." Thrash nods with a smile.
"Thanks guys. I appreciate it." She says, smiling as a forked tail wiped a tear from her eye, her fiance holding her hand tightly. She knew this would be a day she'd always remember.