The first part of the date went well and is completely irrelevant to the tragedy that would soon follow. When we got to the clothing store to pick up the clothes we’d wear for the ceremony, I decided to mix and match a few things for my dress. A backless, shoulder less, cream-colored dress, a tan sash around my waist that matched my fur, and a white scarf to wear around my arms. It looked really cute and unique, so I wore it the rest of the day.
The café I took him to was this nice little place frequented by thousands of Slavani and humans every day. There were three floors with a large rotunda in the center that gave space for a gigantic statue of Master in your first incarnation. Lining the walls were artistic renditions of you. The columns placed strategically around the building were carved into statues of you bravely holding up the ceiling, symbolically reminiscent of how you hold up the Slavani every day. The tables and chairs have some of your more famous quotes etched into the wood.
Slavani come for the aesthetic and food. Humans come for the food and are slowly indoctrinated by the aesthetic. A good, slow-working strategy.
As we walked in and got seated, the place was packed. There were some groups of Slavani here, some groups of humans there, but the café was dominated by Slavani-human couples on dates, just like Peter and I. We all had the same idea, of course. Take our boyfriends and girlfriends out on a nice date before the new year’s ceremony begins.
“Nice place,” Peter said casually as we found an empty table.
“I think so too! Let’s see what quote of Master’s we got this time.” Carved into the table is one of Master’s quotes, one written in the human language, one written in Slavanish. I cleared my throat before reading aloud. “’Stop eating rocks you morons! I have no idea how you got it into your thick skulls that eating non-edible things would prove your devotion to me, but stop. I had nothing to do with it.’ -Master’s fourth incarnation, shortly before she brought us to the stars and conquered the 13 Crown Worlds.” I smiled,“I remember learning about this in school.”
“You girls ate rocks?”
“Some did, yeah.” I leaned forward on the table, “there was once this traveling merchant girl, see, and she came upon a village high in the mountains. Weary from a day of travel, she decided to ask the local villagers for a snack to sate her aching belly, but the mountain village was isolated and distrustful of strangers. House by house, the traveler was shunned each step of the way until, at the final house, the traveler got fed up and thought of a devious plan!
‘Well then,’ the traveler said, ‘may I borrow just a pot, some water, and this stone from your porch?’ She asked.
Now, the villager was totally blindsided by that, what an odd request! But the traveler said that since she could not get food, she would make stone soup, a delicacy where she was spawned. That was a lie, of course, but the villager acquiesced to the strange request, and followed the traveler as she heated the water and set the large rock at the bottom of the pot. When it was finished, the traveler gave it a taste and declared it was the best stone soup she ever made! Fueled with jealousy and drooling from anticipation, the villager asked for a taste, but the traveler said it might not fit her pallet, as this village doesn’t eat rocks as she claimed her batch did.
So, the villager tried the stone soup, declared it was just hot water, and was about to call the traveler a liar. But the traveler was smart! She said that, to fit with the villagers unrefined sense of taste, they should add carrots to the mix. Surely, if they added carrots to boost the flavor, then the villager would be able to enjoy the stone soup that was so famous in the traveler’s homeland.
The villager had carrots and was terrified of missing out on a foreign delicacy, so she raced back home to fetch them. With the carrots’ added flavor the stone soup was improved, but something was missing.
‘Potatoes!’ The traveler exclaimed. ‘Surely potatoes would be needed to draw out the true flavor of the stone for such an unaccustomed newbie.’
So the two ran off to a neighbors house. With a local at her side, the neighbor was far more willing to part with her potatoes, but she couldn’t believe that a non-Caster Slavani could make soup from a stone, so she demanded to come along. Sure enough, with the potatoes added, the flavor was even better! But not enough. Cabbage was needed. Cabbage was surely the final ingredient needed for these mountain villagers to understand why stone soup was so great.
This went on and on and on, beets, roots, spices, meat, they added so many ingredients that they needed a bigger pot to store their stone soup. Finally, the stone soup was perfect and the village had a grand feast, passing out servings until, at the bottom of the pot, there was only a stone left.
‘Hmm,’ the traveler said. ‘This stone seems to have a bit of flavor left. I shall take it on my journey and finish it elsewhere!’ But the villagers wouldn’t let her leave, they blocked her in.
‘You think you can just take it and run?’ One villager asked.
‘We know what you did,’ another added.
‘You can’t make soup from a stone, it’s impossible, stones don’t have flavor.’
The traveler, fearing her secret was out, panicked and tried to think of an explanation, but the village elder grabbed the stone and held it high above her head.
‘This stone must be blessed by Master Herself! This is a treasured relic that must be preserved! I shall keep it in my house for, ah, safekeeping.’
But the first villager stepped forward. ‘Eeh? No, it’ll be kept at my house. That rock came from my lawn, I wanna eat it! I mean I want to take care of it!’
The traveler could see that no good would come of this and slowly backed away before a massive fist fight broke out for possession of the holy relic. The traveler ran away, and the stone was lost in the scuffle. So, dropping all pretenses of taking care of the relic, each Slavani set upon every stone they could find in the village, tearing into the rocks and swallowing every last pebble that broke off. Each sister declared that they ate the correct one, confirming it by praising the excellent taste of each bite.
But that couldn’t be the case. How was each sister able to claim that their rock was delicious, when there was only one holy relic? This was when, collectively, they realized that since they had all eaten from the soup made from that blessed stone, they all gained Master’s favor and could now enjoy rocks to their heart’s content. News of their boon traveled fast across the planet. Soon enough, all tried to show that they too were favored by Master, and started eating stones as well. The practice continued for a few hundred years until Master’s Fourth Incarnation came about. The end.”
“Nice story,” Peter said. He was leaning on the table and listening to every word.
“Ain’t it? I love that story. Nowadays, it’s clear that all those girls were lying when they said their rock tasted great, but everyone at the time figured it was real and wanted to join in. It just goes to show the sheer depths some sisters will go to in order to believe that they’re special in Master’s eyes.”
“And how you gals will sometimes see patterns where none exist, and you attribute a lot of things to your Master.”
“…” I decided, for the sake of our relationship, to not address that.
At about this point, a Slavani waitress with a cute uniform fluttered over and took our order. I ordered a cupcake while Peter decided to get a milkshake.
“So,” I leaned closer to Peter and rested my chin on my hands, “how’re you liking the date so far?”
He shifted in his seat, “I like being with you.”
There was something off about his tone. “But?”
“But… I’m not really cut out for crowds like this. I also don’t like bowling and I’m still full from breakfast. And the second breakfast we had.”
“Ah. Sh-should I not have beaten you so badly in our game?”
His face turned sour and he folded his arms. “My low score is irrelevant, forget about that. Listen, I shouldn’t have complained. I’m having fun with you and that’s that.”
“O-oh, I see…”
“It’s not a bad date at all.”
I smile weakly, “w-well, I guess you’d have had more fun if you were a Slavani, sorry…” I said, slowly implanting the idea of him becoming a Slavani one day. “But, uh, I need to go ‘powder my nose’ real quick!” I got up from the table and hurried into the washroom, leaving my date to simmer in the beautiful aesthetic of the restaurant.
Being a Slavani-owned business, this place had a room dedicated for us Slavani to go and wash out our fur. It also doubled as a quiet meeting area so we could coordinate with our sisters and ask for advice in how to deal with aliens.
I rushed past the shower stalls and leaned against the sinks, looking at myself in the mirror.
“Crap. Crap! He’s not having fun? Why is he not having fun? I took him to all my favorite places… Why do aliens have to be so weird?”
A girl walks out of one of the stalls, drying her hair. “Hm? Having dating trouble?”
I turned around to see a Slavani… a Slavani wearing the exact same dress I was. The backless cream dress, the tan sash, and the arm scarf. “Heheh,” I smiled. “You look great. Fantastic choice of dress for the ceremony tonight!”
She circled around me, “I must say, you’ve a great sense of style as well. You must be some kind of genius to pick out those clothes!” We snicker to each other, then she continues, “but what was that? Your date isn’t having fun?”
“Yeah… He says it’s just not his thing.”
“My boyfriend, Tyler, has the same problem. I wasn’t really sure how to fix it, so I retreated in here to think of a plan.”
“Anything come to mind?”
“Well let’s think together! I’m sure if two geniuses like us put our brains to work, we can come up with a great plan.”
We talked for a while, passing ideas back and forth, until we reached an idea that made sense. If the best part for our boyfriend was just spending time with us, then our relationship had to be front and center. We weren’t ‘going to a café to eat’, we were ‘going to a café to spend time together while we eat’. A subtle differences but very important.
“Genius!” I exclaimed. “I’ll talk to my boyfriend more and make whatever we’re doing secondary.”
She folded her arms and nodded, “though I am a little disappointed.”
I nodded, “you hoped coming to a café with this much religious iconography would open his heart to Master?”
Her shoulders dropped and she sighed. “Yep. I’m starting to think he doesn’t even realize that the four people are Master’s four different incarnations…”
“I’ve had that fear as well.” I reached over and put a hand on her shoulder. “Still, don’t lose faith! You can’t be too forceful with these things. I’m sure Tyler will come around eventually.”
“Of course!” She brightens. “Nobody can resist Master forever. Well, I’m gonna head back out. Thanks for the chat.”
I gave her a wave as she walked out. “Good luck.”
I turned back to the mirror and sighed. “Right. I can’t get discouraged. Just keep talking and deepen our bonds of love!” Taking some water in my palms, I splashed my face to focus then walked out to return to my destiny. I was determined to make Operation Honeypot a success!”