(2016-11-30) Not The Food Of The Gods
Not The Food Of The Gods
Summary: Seth should stop being nice to Dianli. It never ever works. (But he won't.)
Date: 2016-11-30
Related: None
NPCs: None
Scene Runner: NA

Lighthouse Pizza — Shady Cove
Wed Nov 30, 2016 — evening

Arousing the senses, the aroma of fresh baked pizza is strong and the popular music that plays from a jukebox in the corner adds to the ambiance. Checked white and red tablecloths cover all of the tables and lining each of the walls are black covered booths. On each table there is a selection of crushed red pepper, Parmesan cheese, napkins, salt and pepper.

The floor is carpeted in muted tones, a dark green with varied other colors woven throughout. There is a counter for ordering to-go orders and waitresses walk around in jeans and a t-shirt, the latter in blue with Lighthouse Pizza in white writing. The kitchen is behind the counter and a long, rectangular opening for the cooks to pass the food through. Furthest from the kitchen and entrance are the doors for the game room with many, many games and marked bathrooms for each gender off there.

— == — == —

Pizza is not the food of the gods. It is, however, the food of the highschool student who does not want to eat what-is-that-animal-loaf at the cafeteria. And that's precisely the reason why Seth Gebsen is here, instead of there. He has ordered a Margherita, not the drink but the basil, fresh mozzarella, tomato, and garlicky pesto confection that comes on a thin, drawn out crust. It serves four.

No, it serves one and he's the one. However, he has also agreed to feed Dianli because he put down both of her codenames, and he didn't figure out which one was the one she gave herself, and she has ordered her own. Well, that was a trap, but yeah.

Pizza is not the food of the gods. It isn't even the food of all high school students, especially for those who've never encountered it before. Dianli orders her pizza by the time-honoured tradition of staring blankly until pressed at which point she stabs her finger at one random item.

"Extra large double-stuffed, deep-dish seafood pizza." The server seems a bit dubious. "Hope you're hungry."

Dianli nods off-handedly as she takes in the surroundings and the smells of the place.

"Just … tea," she says to the inevitable question about drinks before ignoring the server again.

"So this is a pizza parlour. I'd heard of them but never seen one before."

Pizza certainly isn't the food for robots. Dyna doesn't eat. But what she does get out of the place is a wealth of information to file away and process - not just on people and how they interact, but of all the pizzas and their ingredients, how they smell.

She finds a seat by Dianli and Seth. "It is a pizza parlour," she tells Dianli, as if she wasn't sure. "Hello Seth, Dianli."

"I didn't have this growing up. Only after I got my legs back, and I could go to normal school," Seth says. "I can't eat it very well except when I'm human. Too much cheese."

It's true: Snakes are lactose intolerant. Milk and cheese, not good for snek.

"So, I googled it, and pizza is kind of similar to bing, but not to the pancake kind. More like cong you bing but with other things in it than scallions."

Seth takes a sip from his tall glass of tea. He's not really fond of carbonated sugar water with chemicals at every meal.

"There are more kinds of bingzi in China than there are wursts in Germany," Dianli opines. "And none of them look like this."

She peers curiously at the pizzas already on other tables.

"What is that slimy white stuff, for example? It strings like lotus root, but … weirdly. Not silk-like. More … I don't know. Slime-like."

When her tea is delivered she quietly, without fuss to attract attention, pulls out a bottle from her bag and tops the mug off with its contents. An amber liquid with a certain pungent-sweet smell. She grins Seth's way and puts the bottle back.

"So … eating this is some kind of rite of passage?" she asks. "Or is it just cheap for the quantity or something?"

Dyna stares at Seth for a good, long moment.

"You are not always human? What are you when you are not human?" she asks, seriously. She glances to Dianli, as if she could explain to her what Seth meant.

"And I think that is cheese."

"It's not a rite of passage but it's tasty, cheap-ish, and delicious," Seth says. "The white stuff on that pizza over there, is a white sauce, and an abomination that desecrates the name of pizza everywhere, but some people still can't handle the idea that tomatoes are in the nightshade family but the fruit isn't poison. The other white stretchy stuff isn't slimy, though. It's melted mozzarella cheese which is made from yak milk, and it's very elastic and stretchy when it's warm. Have you never had cheese before?"

If she hasn't, Seth will share a couple tablets of "lactaid" — the digestive enzyme in a pill that lets people (and him) eat cheese without getting all bloaty and cramped, because that's hardly a good thing after a meal.

"I'm a snake. Well. Naga technically, I don't turn into a terrestrial serpent, more a shadow-serpent because that's my other half," he says to Dyna.

He notices Dianli adding a dollop of that same smell from yesterday, and his tongue flicks for a moment. Hm.

"Do you need the alcohol or just like it a lot?" he says quietly. Not that he wants any of it for himself. Snek also does not liquor well. He knows this. He regrets knowing this.

The Margherita pizza doesn't take long to make but the double-stuffed deep-dish will take longer. Seth's order arrives, and against his inner greed, he will offer a slice to taste to Dianli and Dyna, because even if she is a robot and smells a bit off, why be rude?

"I've had some Mongolian stuff that's called cheese, but it doesn't look anything like that," Dianli says. "It was too sweet for my taste, but still had a weird sour taste to it. I'm not sure how the Mongolians eat it; it's not really to my taste. Is this the same stuff?"

She pauses a short while to consider the other question.

"It's a combination. Bourbon is very tasty. It's one of the few American-originated consumables I've had that I think is a serious addition to world cuisine. Most other things are … alright. Except at the school. Nothing there is alright." She laughs a bit at that. "But … I have nightmares. They prevent me from sleeping through nights often, and they're also a fire risk if I don't get into my rig properly. They gave me medicines for that, but those meds make me sluggish and stupid all the time. I hate them. Booze … often lets me get through a night's rest, but it doesn't impact me much next day."

She raises her hands in a defensive gesture. "I don't get drunk. I hate that feeling. I just like the calming effect of having a drink inside me."

Dyna stares at the pizza like a dog being offered a doctorate.

"No, thank you," she replies. "I do not eat."

Instead, she asks Seth, "Are you vulnerable to cold temperatures? I have heard that snakes require a heat lamp due to their ectothermic thermophysiology."

She listens to Dianli talk, watching her, but doesn't say anything. Sleep, nightmares… they're not something she has ever experienced.

"The training yard is alright," she offers.

His pizza is safe! Well, unless Dianli decides to accept the piece he offered her.

"Fair enough," Seth says to Dianli. He's not unfamiliar with nightmares.

"Mongolian cheese? Oh, it's probably not the same thing. I don't know if it's anything like that stuff. I've heard unreliable stories that they use horse milk, which would … not be to my taste."

The sleep thing — yeah, that's understandable. He's wondering if there might not be better things than alcohol, though, but none of the folk-remedies he learned as a child work on humans, and his human parents don't really do medicine the scientific way. Mages, go figure.

"No, I'm not bothered by cold, I'm what they call warm-blooded in all my forms."

No matter what people tell him sometimes.

The proffered piece of pizza is declined with a quick smile.

"The tradition is horse milk, yes, but they also make cattle milk these days. The third largest dairy in the world is Mengniu, literally 'Mongolian Cow'." She pauses to sip from her tea, another action that causes a smile to flit across her face as the flavour complexes bounce around. "They also make liquor from horse milk. It's … very unusual in flavour."

Her pizza arrives and Dianli's eyes widen in shock. She stares at the server (who smirks a little), then back at the pie, then at Dyna and Seth.

"OK, this is larger than I expected. I'll have to sneak it back into the dorms."

Dyna files the warm-blooded bit of information away. Intriguing.

The redhead slings her satchel from her shoulder, setting it down by her feet. Sneaking legal goods doesn't seem to violate her programming as she entertains the idea, poking at it like a sore tooth.

"If you need assistance with sneaking it in, I can help."

"It can be better the next day. But you should taste-test a piece. If it's really not something you want, we can get other food here that isn't pizza. And don't forget, if you don't eat cheese very often, take one of these."

Seth pushes the tablets forward, wondering now if Mongolian cow cheese is weird. He wonders half-aloud if Mongolia is exactly on the other side of the world. If so, he could hop over there come morning twilight, and see if he can get some. But he'd have to find someone who can speak one of the languages. English, Spanish, and French are all he does.

Dianli waves off the proffered tablets.

"I don't eat cheese a lot, but they made sure to feed me lots of milk an yoghurt when I was …" Her face darkens. "Younger."

Her voice finishes flat, revealing no emotion. She fails to make eye contact with anybody and instead focuses on the pizza before her, awkwardly trying to pick out a piece and failing almost entirely with not making a mess. She gingerly takes a small bite of one corner and takes a long time to chew it and ponder over it.

"It's … OK, I guess," she finally pronounces. "A bit fishy, but I guess that's what comes of living on the coast right?" Well, that and ordering a seafood pizza…

"This is bigger than my bag can handle, yes, Dyna. I think at least part of it will have to go into your satchel if you're offering?"

The dark mask has lifted again and she's talking normally again. The smiles even almost reach her eyes.

Dyna glances at the tablets as they are pushed forward, like a bird sensing movement. She's talking to Dianli though: "If the pizza seems to be behaving in a suspicious manner, then you should notify the authorities."

But then Dyna nods, slightly tilting her chin to Dianli's question. "I am. I am happy to assist."

"Good," Seth says, deliberately taking Dianli's circumvention at face value. "Also you chose a seafood pizza, that's why it tastes fishy."

He takes the pills himself. He's not a fool. Not only is it uncomfortable, but he doesn't want to render a room untenable with pizza aftermath gas.

"They have boxes, they might be able to pack it for easier transport."

And he folds his slice down the center, but doesn't engulf it in one bite. He takes time to taste it. It's pizza after all. It's meant to be tasted.

He double-takes at Dyna and strangles a laugh. "No, it's not that kind of fishy."

Dianli watches Seth like a hawk as he consumes his slice then tries to mimic the action. Of course deep dish pizza being what it is isn't really quite as amenable to folding. The filling plops onto her plate as she tries to take a bite.

"There is a talent to this, isn't there?" she grumbles, largely to herself. "And I lack that talent."

She reaches into her pack for … a pair of chopsticks, then glares at the other two practically daring them to laugh. Her hair, slightly rising, punctuates the dare. A visible force of will settles the hair again.

"I've decided on my codename," she says in an abrupt change of topic. "I've decided to stick with Cataclysm." She looks over at Seth. "I know you disapprove of it as being 'villainous' … but …"
She ticks off the points on her fingers.
"First, how do you know I'm not destined to be a villain?"
"Second, if I'm not a villain, anybody who attracts my attention will find that their plot has turned into my name."
"Third, a good friend gave the suggestion and,"
"I like it."

She fields the chopsticks like a pro and picks up the mess she left on her plate with rapidity that is somewhat astonishing.

"I know," Dyna comments to Seth. "I am experimenting with humor. But we will need a box. I do not want pizza grease on my belongings." What does she even own, anyways?

"I like Cataclysm," Dyna tells Dianli as she purges the last remnants of Dianli's bit of electric punctuation from her systems, "I think it is an accurate codename. You are not destined to be a villain. No one is destined to be anything. Unless, perhaps, you examine the world through a deterministic lens."

"There is no one best way to eat Pizza, except that deep dish pizza is the only kind where it's okay to use a fork or spoon," Seth observes. Or chopsticks apparently. They seem to work too.

"Those are all good reasons," Seth says. "As 'C' names go It's also much better than Calamity, which was the codename of a woman born in pioneer times."

He eats a second slice, deliberately not saying what the woman's power was… nor that she was a person of mixed repute. Still, it's one of the few bits of "human" history he remembers, from a trip through the town where she was buried. And he thinks about the 'villain' thing and agrees with Dyna.

"I also doubt that you'll be a villain. You're too stubbornly yourself to become randomly stupidly evil. I can't imagine you deliberately, willingly terrorizing someone with your power." NOMF, swallow. "Although, if this were a comic book or novel, and villains were simply people who couldn't easily appear to be every-day heroic stereotypes, and worked in secret for the super-teams, then you'd totally be a great villain. So would I, given the whole shadows and snakes thing."

He doesn't mention that his parents expect him to go into the family business, which among other things means being a monster-hunter. Though, only actual monsters, not people who happen to be non-humans.

"I'm glad you have faith in me," Dianli says quietly, staring down at her pizza again, trying to work out the dynamics of eating a second slice without appearing too foolish. She works out an ingenious system involving rolling the pizza around her chopsticks held in such a way as to keep it up. Which works until she tries to bit it and all the ingredients slide out again.

"I don't have that faith myself." She looks up at Seth. "That's probably a lot of the reason why I got sent here."

When Seth is saying that he can't imagine Dianli going mad with power, Dyna remarks: "I can."

As Dianli talks about faith, though, Dyna counters with what she has instead of faith: knowledge. She quickly adds, though, "Cataclysm is not, by definition, ominous. The common usage is. But cataclysm can refer to any event that might bring about great changes."

As she talks she leans back in her seat, crossing her hands behind her head, obviously imitating some expression she's picked up from somewhere.

Seth gives Dyna a steady stare for a moment. Go ahead, undermine the positive reinforcement. Still, yes of course Seth can actually imagine the nightmare scenario. But how likely is it? Not very, he thinks, if she learns more confidence and masters her abilities.

"Confidence comes with experience," he says. "I spent extra months every year in my other-parents' world because my shadow powers were growing so fast. If you go by the clock on Earth, I was born 18 years ago but by sequential time, I'm 21, because they tilted the gate. So I've had more time to get confidence. And my powers aren't as instantly dangerous as yours, but they're insidious. I came here because it's the best place I could learn the stuff I missed and also manage my most recent power-surge."

He hasn't accidentally set loose any independent, sentient shadow nightmare monstrosities since he started the one-on-one training with Spellbinder. Maybe he's learning?

Dianli darts a shocked, hurt look at Dyna, narrowing her eyes. The infamous blue glow starts and her hackles rise, along with the rest of her hair. It takes a few long seconds of eyes squeezed shut and that "Anita" mantra of hers to get everything back under control.

"If you look for my name," Dianli says quietly, in a flat monotone, "out on this 'Interweb' thing, you'll see what Dyna is talking about."

She avoids any eye contact with anybody.

"She is right. I have great potential for destruction. I don't belong in polite society." The nimbus starts again, then stops as she practically wrenches her face in straining.

"When you do look me up, you'll understand why I need help to sleep."

Dyna looks at Seth like she doesn't understand the reason for the stare, nor the look from Dianli. She was asked if she could imagine Dianli being a villain, and while Seth could not imagine it, Dyna knows that she could. Why would it make Dianli upset? It isn't as if she was referring to-



"That is not what I was referring to," Dyna tells Dianli. "I did not wish to offend. I was speaking hypothetically. Everyone in this school has potential for destruction."

And then she spots something interesting out the window - the waves, maybe - and shuts right up.

"I did, Dianli," Seth says softly, ignoring the last three slices of pizza that are demanding he eat them before they get too cold to be perfect.

"I researched everything I could find on everyone I've met here, and several I haven't yet met. If you had been a villain, you would have been killed. The people who thought of you as a performing animal, and stupidly put you into a dangerous situation where your power would go uncontrolled and hurt other people, were executed for their crimes. If you were a monster or a villain, you would not feel sorrow for what happened."

He looks over at Dyna, and remembers reading in some piece of paperwork he shouldn't have had access to, that she's emotionally incomplete. So instead of scolding… "Dyna? You can avoid that kind of mistake if you think about what people's emotional responses might be. It will take practice, but you can avoid accidental emotional cataclysm that way."

Dianli looks at Seth, eyes widened in shock at his words. Tears well up, then spill, but not tears paired with the screwing up of the face like someone bawling. Nor the tears of joy or gratitude. They just spill, uncontrolled, over her mask of a face.

"You … I … you … they … it … I …" She tries to talk, but words aren't escaping. It seems as if multiple conflicting thoughts are in a death match in her throat, trying to claim control of her voice.

"But … where … my … their … her …" The cage match in her speech centres continues. She finally manages to choke out a coherent thought. Well, word.


She gets up, tears still spilling, and rushes away from the table, knocking over her chair in her hurry. There being no other histrionics to judge by, people nearby just assume she is clumsy and laugh among themselves.

"Thank you for explaining," Dyna tells Seth sincerely, although she remains looking out the window. She is unable to make sense of Dianli's tearful noises, but she knows that crying means sadness, so she just doesn't say anything. Then she reaches over to right Dianli's chair.

Seth closes his eyes and mutters a few words in a language that has nothing to do with terrestrial mammals. They sound a bit like a curse.

"Case in point," Seth says, "I did not foresee that reaction."

He reaches into the shadow under the table and something takes shape, then moves into the darkness, following Dianli to the bathroom, and inside if she makes it there. It has the form of a large housecat, but it's utterly black, and it looks at her with concern, and rubs against her pant-leg. It seems to have no electrical field though, which isn't normal for a cat. Also, it's in a pizza place, which isn't usually permitted. But it's soft and cuddlesome and absorbs an infinite amount of tears. Which is unusual for a shadow-beast.

"I did not either," Dyna comments to Seth. Then, glancing to him, she asks: "You have a cat? Pets are not usually allowed in restaraunts."

"Cat? That's a shadowbeast. I made it to comfort Dianli. It's got a mind of its own, though."

It does. And because Seth was shocked and disturbed, he did a lousy job of making it be what he wanted to make, and so it's more what he was thinking of when he made it. It's not Dianli's pet-slash-comfort. It's a cat. It's curious. It's somewhat friendly. It thinks Dianli will feed it. It's not dangerous to her, but if she doesn't … well. This is why he's here for training.

Seth decides to finish his pizza, and get some boxes to reduce the size impact of the fishy pizza.

Dianli returns from the washroom after a while, face very thoroughly scrubbed, holding an oddly, very thoroughly black cat. She strokes it idly as she returns.

"I believe this is yours," she says to Seth, voice carefully neutral, although a hint of a smile is breaking through. She makes no particular move to return it.

"Sorry," she says to the table at large. "That was … unnecessarily dramatic. I obviously still have to work on my control exercises."

A wan smile flickers on, then off.

"At least I was only leaking tears this time. That's an improvement."

"I'm sorry, I should've just said I'd read about it."

The cat hisses at Seth and steals his last piece of pizza, swatting at him and scratching his hand. It disappears under the table into the darkness.

"Yeah, I need to work on my control exercises too," Seth says, pressing a paper napkin to his scratched hand. "That … wasn't what I intended. It was supposed to be a nice cat."


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