The Taste of Victory

Bruce stood outside the neon-lit restaurant, nervously shifting his glance from the menu posted outside to the open wallet in his hands and back to the road. "Hey, Dare," he muttered. "In the real world, us guys have something we like to call 'money'. Did you factor 'money' into your search?"

"Believe me, Bruce Skinflint Shiner, this is really the best compromise you're gonna get. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to assume that Teruko would expect a full blown date meal, with the works! This way, we get to run with our gimmick for only half the price." Dare grinned in further defense of her decision. Of course, she'd taken the restaurant search as a serious challenge like anything else.

"Well, all I can say is that this place had better serve some darn good steak. I feel like I'm turning to skin and bones here..." Bruce had donned his jacket by this point, changing out of his stuntman getup at his house earlier. The weather was not really right for waiting outside of a restaurant.

"Oho! But you two won't be ordering off the regular menu! You're going to be taking part in this restaurant's specialty... a main event brought about by yours truly! And it's a secret until you go inside!" Dare pointed her thumb at herself dramatically, then gestured outward (apparently to indicate the restaurant).

Bruce had read something strange on the menu a moment ago, but it didn't mean anything to him and he figured Dare wasn't going to tell him. All he could do is wait and hope that Teruko would step off a bus or at least send him an "I changed my mind, some other time" letter so he could just go grab a burger.
Teruko was always one to defy expectations; she neither stepped off the bus nor sent Bruce a text. Instead, she arrived behind him in a jog; Electown was her home, after all, and she was pretty used to jogging across all corners of it. "BOO!" she shouted from behind, raising both arms like she was a bear, about to attack him. Thankfully, she'd removed her mastadon outfit and dressed into something else already, or the illusion of an animal attack might be a little too convincing. She'd replaced the outdated park mascot costume with her black clubbin' dress, the same above-the-knees affair she'd warn when she'd gone out with John and Ariel a while back. She was, of course, jogging just fine in pointed-toe shoes. This time, given the temperature, she also wore a lengthy black-and-white coat with big, circular buttons over it all, which flapped amusingly as she jogged, since it was unbuttoned.

Now that she'd finished her best ghost bear impersonation, Teruko stopped jogging and took a peek at where she'd been invited. "This is the place, huh? I just hope neither of us is getting bent over and spanked on a motorcycle! I know what Dare's idea of a big night is," she joked, elbowing Bruce's side.

On that note, Ante's PET sparked to life and her voice spoke out. "I certainly trust Dare's judgment. She's an excellent strategist when it comes to pair play events, I've found," she chimed in, giving a perhaps situationally inappropriate defense of her friend.

"Pair play event? That's a silly thing to call it," Teruko giggled earnestly. "Anyways, if there's a moving vehicle again, I'm complaining! We'll never keep anything down if we keep riding motorcycles and amusement park rides!" Of course, most of the excitement of the cart they'd ridden on hadn't been due to speed, but their own ridiculousness.

Ante didn't speak up this time. She wasn't entirely sure there wouldn't be a moving vehicle involved, as that certainly sounded like it was up her friend's alley.
Getting tired of waiting around, Bruce cupped a hand to his mouth. "Hey, Teruko! If you don't show up in the next 5 minutes, I'm going inside and ordering Monster Burgers for both-" the stuntman had begun in deadpan, before the woman in question managed to sneak up on him. Bruce started a bit, which annoyed him because when he turned he could see and hear that Teruko wasn't wearing a stealthy getup at all.

"Yeah, we both know how Dare is, but I've seen some kids go in here. I can't imagine they've got too much kinky going on, in spite of all the neon lights they've got set up." Bruce scanned Teruko with his eyes while he talked, but decided that was pretty much a waste of time. All it told him was what he already knew: great body, no taste. Still, if the temperature inside could convince her to lose her coat, he might have a pretty hot-looking date.

"Anyhow, don't worry. I didn't even get paid for my awesome stunts today, so nobody's about to get a third freebie out of me!" Bruce let out a rough laugh, evidently thinking he'd come up with a good one. "Well, if they let me pay with that, I guess I'd be open for it..." A bit shrimpier of a laugh this time. "Anyway, how about we go ahead and get this pair play event on the road?"

"Indeed, it will be a pair play event... of sorts!" Dare spoke up (a bit more loudly than was necessary, worried she was getting turned into an afterthought and needing to inject herself into the conversation). "I wonder if Ante will be able to sit down after the intense spa-" Dare stopped mid-taunt, realizing she'd almost made a big mistake. "I mean, I wonder if she's, uh... ready for what I have planned! I bet... not!" the Navi finished, crossing her arms and grinning wide as if she'd said something cool.

Bruce looked at his PET with a frown before shrugging to Teruko and heading inside... or so he thought. As soon as he reached the door, he encountered a scattered bunch of parties still waiting to be seated. He couldn't help but think a lot of them looked like couples. Regardless, he sighed and went ahead to reserve his party, walking through the front door. The interior was mostly red-orange in theme, decorated like an average family restaurant or maybe a boring bar... again, strangely, he noticed that there were no windows here to get a view of the inside of the restaurant. There was a doorway on either side of the hall, one with a banner showing a family seated around a table, and one that simply showed a blue man and pink woman... probably restrooms. The "wait to be seated" podium was ahead, and he could see the back of a short man's bald head behind it. "Hey, pal! Table for two?" Bruce shouted at him. He didn't want to nudge his way through this crowd, small though it was, but he realized he was about to pay for his decision with the hot glare bunch of people staring at him like the shouting douchebag he was.

Surprisingly, though, the waiter did notice him and the people, absorbed in their own conversations, did not. The head waiter stepped from behind his podium...

... and something was wrong. "Damn it, Dare." Besides his head, the short man was entirely dressed in some outfit straight from a renaissance fair. Before approaching Bruce, the man reached behind his podium and withdrew a ridiculous feathered purple hat. Cursing the ironic twist that had kept him from simply seeing this and beating a retreat earlier, Bruce tried his hardest to keep a straight face as the man addressed him. As his eyes traveled, Bruce noticed a crown on the head of the man at the dinner table on the first banner, a sword at the hip of the blue man, and a pointy hat on the pink woman. How had he missed that earlier?!

"One table for two. There will be a bit of a wait, I apologize... will this be your first time dueling?" The man was writing something on a pad, but paused to hand Bruce an electronic device with a flashing red LED light.

"Uh, yeah," Bruce replied honestly.

"Excellent! You can jack into that device there, which will also alert you when you may proceed. Your name and the name of your adversary please?"

"Adversary...?" Bruce thought as he got Dare into the table caller. Realizing what the man was talking about, he spoke up. "Oh! I'm Bruce and this is Teruko," he said, gesturing to his right with one hand.

... Thinking about it, he realized that he'd been unable to tear his eyes from the man and hadn't even checked if Teruko had followed him in. Had she managed to escape? Bruce can't tell whether he'd be mad or happy for her if she had, and he was now introducing thin air as his partner for the evening.
"Woah! You didn't tell me we were going to a kid's pizza place!" Teruko exclaimed, sounding amusingly excited rather than upset. "They'd better have veggie pizza though... I'll let cheese slide just this once... Unless they have flatbread pizza! Then we should just get it with no cheese and no sauce, just veggies!"

Ante had heard spanking almost wiggle its way back into the conversation, but she managed Rockkeep her cool and expended great effort to raise a smile. "I imagine the setting is more than it appears, Teruko. Let's continue and see what they have in store," and suggested.

"There are princesses here too! Do you think I'll get to be one?" Teruko asked, beaming. "And Bruce will be the royal jester!"

The navi looked aside distractedly. "Being a princess probably isn't so great... I hear it is a sort of dull existence. Your scheduling is rigid and you have little time for yourself..." she muttered, pressing her hands into her lap.

"Oh, come on! We'd both make great princesses! And Bruce, he would make a great... jester!" she giggled again, clearly picturing him in some ridiculous costume. "And Dare could be... Uh..."

"You don't think that Dare should be a princess too?" Ante asked, raising one eyebrow.

"... Maybe a Prince? I dunno,the outfit doesn't feel like it'd look right on her as a princess," Teruko suggested, crossing her arms and tilting her head. "Anyway, I'm going to send you in, Ante! Hold on to your hat!"

Funnily enough, Ante followed that suggestion as she was ported over.

((Jacking in))
"I didn't know we were going to a kids' pizza place," Bruce hissed under his breath, only bothering to half-correct his pal. "And if pizza's what they've got, you'd better hope they fix two-halves-different or you're going to be picking meat off it for half the meal!"

Since Teruko didn't seem to be objecting, Bruce sighed and figured they were set for whatever Dare had gotten them into. "Hey, a joke from the royal jester right now: what's black and denim and about to pay out the butt for some gimmicky's kid's pizza if we don't-"

Seeming to sense they were about to lose a customer, two knights suddenly came from what Bruce had guessed was the bathroom and hooked their arms into Bruce and Teruko's. Teruko's appeared to be a male and Bruce's a female... their armor wasn't really realistically formless. The pair found themselves being ushered towards where the knights had came from hastily, and could even hear people behind them grumbling about how they'd been waiting.

Bruce thought the area they were being led into looked funny... for starters, it definitely wasn't a bathroom. They were being led down a long hallway with closed doors, made of heavy wood in a "ye olde" feel. Tapestries also adorned either wall, but they competed with exit signs, modern lighting, and even some more neon beer labels. Overall, a very disjointed feeling... still, all the beer signs made Bruce begin to think at least maybe Dare hadn't dumped them in some kiddie pizza parlor.

As if to stop Bruce from asking any question he might be about to open his mouth for, the knights stopped came to a stop and turned. "OPEN" was printed on a reversible sign hanging on a nail driven into the door ahead. The knights opened it and led Bruce and Teruko inside.

The interior didn't do much to help the "displaced in time" feeling. The area appeared to be a room designed to accommodate a party of two or more. The walls were stone, but it was easy to imagine that they were veneer... they were given an interesting touch, though, by neon faux-torches that served as the only light in the room. Still, the room was well lit, as there were many such torches. Couches which seemed cheap enough to be affordable while ritzy enough to try and look unaffordable lined each of the three walls besides the one with the entry door, each bearing a few large, soft pillows. More alarmingly, their appeared to be wooden weapon racks in each corner, although a closer look would reveal these to be plastic. There was a table in the center which seemed as though it could seat six, but only had two chairs...

... And the table had a steel pole affixed to it.

Bruce's original question got caught in his throat, but before he could ask another one, the knights released the two of them, bowing and telling them to wait for a server. The two hurried off to whatever court duties must currently be awaiting their attention. One of them muttered something about a smoke break.

Bruce couldn't decide whether he needed to spring into apologies to cover his tail or not. Normally, he figured leading a girl into a room like this on even a not-date would get him a slap in the face, he thought... but then, Teruko wasn't a normal girl. He decided to stay quiet for a sec and waited for her to have the first reaction.
"If I have to pick meat off mine, you're going to have to eat yours off the floor!" Teruko pouted; everyone has a subject they'll ever give an inch on and Teruko's was plainly obvious from the first day Bruce had met her. "Anyways this place is wacky! Look, the seaters all wear armor! That's kooky!"

As it turned out, there was a little bit more to it than kookiness: inside the room where they were presumably supposed to eat, a big stripper pole and medieval stocks decorated the room. Teruko took a deep breath, raised on finger, put it down, considered her words, raised it again, and then finally spoke. "You're super weird," she whispered.

Stripping seemed to have a way of following Teruko around ever since she picked up Ante. She figured maybe this was karmic retribution for failing to jack out her navi before that drunken poledance started. Maybe Dare brought them there to watch someone else poledance? That'd almost be an even worse date idea...

Or maybe some flower girls were going to come out and do a may-pole skip around it? She had no idea what to expect any more and, evidently, neither did Bruce. She kept forgetting that. "Ante! Ask Dare if we're on a hidden camera show!" she requested. "And if we are,hit her on the head with your club thing!"

"The last thing I want to do is give her a reason to fight me right now," Ante sighed, dismissing the request as a joke. Teruko hadn't really meant it as one.
"Hey, I promise, I really have no better idea than you do," Bruce reaffirmed, walking over to one of the weapon racks and poking the tip of a spear to confirm they were indeed plastic. "I don't even care about the crazy setup, though, I just wanna know where the fooood is!" the grown man moaned.

Taking a seat over at the table, Bruce rested his head on one hand and looked at his PET. "Hey, can you believe Dare and Ante ended up in another random batch of contests? I guess Dare would never get tired of it, but Ante has probably about had her fill, right? No offense, but she has that, uh... disposition, like she'd want to soak her feet for a while or something. I mean, she seems competitive, but Dare kinda lives and breathes the stuff, so I wonder if she feels like she's getting dragged around..."

Not that Bruce minded small talk, but he quickly found himself drumming his fingers as he prayed a host or hostess would show up. If he'd had a fork and knife, he would have been banging it on the table right about now. "You don't think this is supposed to be... some kind of dungeon, do you?"

Before Teruko could mull that idea over, a woman in a black knight costume came in. Her outfit looked a bit more realistic than the others had, and included large horns and imposing armor. A short sword was even sheathed at the side. The only thing offsetting about it was the white apron with the company logo over the otherwise authentic armor. Glimpses of black skin could be seen at the neck.

"Welcome to Taste of Victory!" the hostess spoke in a cheesy low bellow. "I'm you're hostess, er... Dullahack, the Black Knight! We brought some cheese bread, complements of the house. Always, at Taste of Victory!"

Bruce had been raising a very skeptical eyebrow, but immediately forgot all else as the basket of steaming bread was set in front of him. He grabbed one and munched on it eagerly as Dullahack continued.

"The rules of engagement at Taste of Victory are very peculiar, and should be explained to first timers," the woman spoke, sounding more like "tie-muuuuhs" because of her ridiculous affected accent. "Before I explain how you may slake your thirst for blood, however, I will slake your thirst for beverages! What may I get you, Bruce and..." The woman looked at her paper briefly, possibly finding Teruko's name hard to pronounce. "Um, Bruce and mi'lady?" she finished gracelessly, passing out menus from where they'd been strapped by her scabbard.
"Naw, Ante acts like a princess, but she's actually super pumped for action, 24/7! I guarantee you she's not tired of competing yet," Teruko boasted, feeling fairly certain of her words. in reality, she might be projecting her own personality onto her navi. "And a dungeon? Naw! What, does everything have to be life threatening with you?" she giggled. Of course, that theory was looking a little bit more likely as a girl in black armor came out. "Hmmm...... Well, no dungeons have cute aprons," she finally decided.

Cheese-bread was a hard sell for Teruko. She supposed she would make a dairy exception, just so as not to appear a hard-ass to Bruce any earlier than she had to... She was also feeling pretty hungry herself. "Oh, goodie! Hmmm... I will have your best tomato juice product!" she replied, trying and failing to mimic the flowery language. She felt perfectly certain they could do that. She didn't want to risk another fruity cocktail... that last alcohol-ridden night had gotten a little ridiculous. "Heehee... milady..."

She did give a little more thought to the fact that the knight had barely pronounced her own name correctly... and she'd been on a first name basis with Bruce (she wasn't getting the thing about Electopian names being occasionally hard to pronounce)! She vaguely remembered having somehow learned that Bruce likes black girls... What if she was an old (or worse,current) flame of his?! Ante may have brought them together here to put them in direct competition.

"... Interesting!" Teruko mused aloud, smiling and crossing her arms as she viewed her "foe" in a new light. "Now I'm excited to see how the night goes!"
"Hey, s'not 'freatening' wif me, s'dangerouf'! Totally differen' connotafion," Bruce corrected Teruko through a mouth full of appetizer. He swallowed before raising an eyebrow and equipping a grin as cheesy as the bread he'd just downed. "Terrifying is creepy, but dangerous is sexy."

"Ahem!" the black knight coughed suddenly. Such a loud and deliberate-sounding cough probably wasn't something the diners here would want the kitchen staff catching. "Drinks?"

"Oh, uh... I'll have the 'Ale of Respite.' Seriously, even the beer has funny nicknames? Well, the respite must be the light, anyway..."

The black knight scribbled very quickly on a notepad. "One 'Thrown Tomato' and one 'Ale of Respite'. Sound choices. Mi'lady, would you care to accompany me outside briefly? There are certain rules of the house that I must explain to your oafish steward. You may think of them as game rules! But they must be separately divulged betwixt the two sexes." Before Teruko could really object, the woman helped her from her seat with cordial haste and moved her towards the door with less cordial haste.

Pushing Teruko outside of the door, the black knight stood in the crack between the nearly-closed door and the hallway outside, barring her from entering again. "Please wait outside and I will rejoin you shortly." Teruko could see her begin to unsheathe her sword as she closed the door... Did she hear a sound of locking?

A second knight turned the corner, a man in a much cheesier looking plasticy get-up and carrying a platter with water. "Oh, milady Teruko, I am so sorry! You won't believe what happened to me on the way here..." The man, thin with stringy black hair and a long face, gasped for breath, seeming dangerously capable of dumping his entire tray immediately. "Oh stars in the sky, has your knavish fellow locked you outside of thy dwelling? Let me... simply unlock the chamber..." The man continued to balance the tray precariously on his stick of an arm as he fished out a key ring and rifled through it. "My name is Sebastian, and..."

The guy seemed to have a voice that naturally faded into the background, but perhaps that was just because of the alarming scene that seemed to be taking place behind the locked door. "Yes, please peruse our wares... take your time..." Dullahack's voice could be heard. Bruce, interestingly enough, wasn't responding at all. Sebastian finally finished unlocking the door. Its creak was simultaneous with and not loud enough to mask a distinct "schwing" of some metal object from inside the room.

The door opened to find Dullahack standing beside the table, one hand resting on her sword hilt, looking otherwise innocent. Bruce had been gazing down at the menu intently and looked up startled, as though he'd been caught in the act of something. A glance would reveal there were only 2 biscuits in the basket of 5 from earlier.

Other than that, nothing strange.

"M-milady knight! Know ye that I have been assigned to the care of this duo beneath the fair moon tonight?" Sebastian spoke with a frown, seeming to stutter only due to his exasperation and nailing the complicated speech without missing a beat.

"Uh, sorry?" the black knight muttered distractedly. "I-I mean, beg pardon?"

"You appear to be lapsing into tongues, milady knight... p-perhaps it would be best for you to retire for the night?"

With that, Sebastian began ushering the Black Knight out of the room much as she'd done to Teruko earlier. "W-wait! I mean, unhand me, cretin, or feel the blade of the Black Knight upon th-"

Sebastian slammed the door shut, wiping sweat from his brow and attempting to put on a smile. "I know not the name of the dark mistress... perhaps she be some green blood employed by our sire? But I digress, may I fetch drinks to sooth your parched pallets?"

"Yeah, I'll have the Ale of Spite and she'll have the Thrown Tomahawk... we already ordered our drinks, bud, what's goin' on?" Bruce scratched his head in confusion as he shoveled a fourth piece of cheese bread down.
"Danger is sexy!" Teruko agreed with her best sexy smile. "Wait... You didn't steal that from a Von Derzel movie, did you? It sounds familiar... Hey!"

Before Teruko had time to dig into that any further, she was pushed outside by her very pushy rival for the night. "Not fair, abuse of authority!" she pouted, pushing her cheek against the door so that the two could hear her. She crossed her arms and waited. Sword sounds? Well he did just say that danger thing... "That's it! I'll find a big battle-axe and when I come back in, I'll-!"

Before she could finish that thought, she was interrupted by a guy that made her feel like wearing a pink mastadon suit could be pretty flattering by comparison to having to wear his costume. "Huh? We got the wrong waiter?! Oooo, darn, Bruce's weird girlfriend is cheating!" she complained, stamping her feet irritably.

She followed Sebastian back inside, then watched in satisfaction as her rival was dragged away. "That'll teach her not to forget to talk with ridiculous words!" she proudly commended their new host. She was pretty sure that Bruce had botched her order, but Tomato Tomahawk sounded pretty good,so she went along with it.

That said, what she really needed was a salad... but with only cheesebread in sight (one cheesebread, not plural) she figured that would have to suffice. "Keep up like that, Bruce, and she can have you!" she thought to herself, rolling her eyes.
Sebastian had hurriedly scrawled down the drinks, and turned to go get them even as he finished speaking. "I'll procure the beverages post-haste, sir and madame. I'll ensure another squire is about to finish preparing you for a rousing night of combat."

Bruce was chuckling for a second at "arousing" before he thought about what their waiter had said. "Wait, I still don't think I get this. What combat? Who was that black knight chick who brought me the menu?"

"Ah, well, typically I have a Taste of Victory Battle Scribe clarify the night's course, but since these be special circumstances and thou hast been stayed a fortnight already..." Sebastian cleared his throat and took a scroll from a compartment by his (fake) sword sheathe. He unfurled it and began reading from it: "The night's sport is a series of bouts between the lord and lady. The gauntlet is made up of a total of three events, chosen in turn by the lady, the lord, and the lady again-"

"Wait, the lady a-gain?" Bruce interrupted, making a point to mimic Sebastian's pronunciation. "That doesn't sound fair!" By the subject of his protests, it sounded like Bruce was taking the whole random competition thing in stride.

"Chivalry is quite alive at Taste of Victory, sire," Sebastian returned. "The full scroll of events may be found in the victuals menu. Traditionally, for the, er, coupled version, both the contests and rewards are rather erotic in spirit. General events and prizes are also available to be selected from the list, if the lady prefers. The typical general prize is the selection of the appetizer, main course, and dessert in turn."

"Hey, maybe I'm not getting through your speech, but am I understanding that the man doesn't get any say in what type we do? What the heck, man?"

"Chivalry, sire," Sebastian repeated, looking frustrated. He was already explaining this bit with a sour look on his face, as it seems it was normally left to someone else. "We will... preferably be assigning someone more qualified to act as referee for the riveting jousts. Now, please decree a general format before I see to your drinks, and then feel free to peruse the menu options and events as you deem fit."

"Hey, remember, Teruko, there's no stipulation that allows you to make it menu-rewards veggie-only! If you wanna go that way, there will be hell to pay when you lose! Flame-broiled, char-grilled, fall-off-the-bone hell!" Bruce warned.
"Ooo, I'll spite in your ale if you just ordered me something terrible!" Teruko complained, thinking that a "Thrown Tomahawk" sounded like something kids dared each other to drink at parties. She was still dizzy from trying to keep up with the scene, given that not only was the establishment not what it appeared, but even the servers seemed confused as to what was going on. Her mood brightened when she learned there would be contests, however. Sexy contests! Her competitive spirit burned and she felt ready to get started. "Sorry, Brucey, but cheer up: this punishment will do wonders for your belly fat! Not many medieval sports end in tasty salads~" she giggled, confident there would be tasty salads awaiting her victory.

Did Bruce have belly fat? She had gotten a look earlier but couldn't remember. She was betting he had some abs if he was filling in for movie stars... well, she could hope.

"Let's see that menu! Hmmm..." she went on, crossing her legs beneath herself unconsciously as she read all of her options. She wanted to something sexy... after all, this was a date, wasn't it? On the other hand,she didn't want Bruce thinking she was a skank... although she'd given his rubber dinosaur suit clad junk a footsie earlier... had that been too much? Perhaps, but he'd gone for the date anyways, right? So no need to worry. "Alright, we'll start with who gets to pick the appetizer! If I win, we're gonna eat..... mmm, veggie skewers! There's no cabbage, so you won't mess up your breath!" Whoops, did that look skanky again? She hoped not. And if I lose I'll get... er... t-the beast of land skewered meats platter," she finished with a groan in her voice. If she lost, she was going to have to hope Bruce was okay with fat chicks, because her metabolism would go into a period of revolt.

Next was the event... her heart beat quickly as she tried to find the best sounding one (hopefully one she could win at). She suspected her stamina was better than Bruce's but her coordination was less, given that he performed, in a way. Still, she was an exercise trainer; she had to have some athletic ability more than his, or she wasn't really cut out for training grown men at all, was she? "I wanna do... uh... how about... 'The Sword in the Stone?'" she asked. It was classified as a couple's game but she had no idea what it was; the image, of course, showed a blade protruding from a rock; sword, meet stone. If it had anything to do with physical strength, though, she thought she could maybe beat out Bruce. Sure, he might lift some weights to get in shape for a shoot, but she lifted weights every day! Besides, it sounded safe. How erotic could some game named after a long object piercing into a big, round surface be anyway? She bet it was just something cutesy like Pin the Sword on the Rock.

"So we're getting a new referee?" Teruko thought to herself suddenly, bringing up her head. Her competition senses were tingling... she'd be willing to bet (she was often willing to bet) it was Bruce's possibly ex possibly never black knight girlfriend.
"If I end up forking out appetizer-grade cash for veggie skewers, I'm gonna make use of those skewers when I'm done," Bruce assured Teruko, pantomiming the motion of stabbing himself in the head. "And the sword in the stone, too, after I, uh... pull it from the stone, I guess... Hold up a sec, Sebastian, what's Sword in the Stone?"

"Sword in the stone, very good m'lady. May I say that this is a personal favorite of mine. Not to do, mind you, simply the nature of the contest," Sebastian added hurriedly. "Now, I bid you each a rousing night of combat."

Bruce chuckled again and waved goodbye to their armor-clad host. He started to call out for a second, hoping to remind Sebastian he still hadn't cleared up the mystery of what the game actually was, but decided against it. He'd probably do better to stop delaying the food as much as possible. "So, Dare, that's what this was all about? You wanted the two of us to have to do silly contests like you and Ante keep having to do?"

"Hngh... Yeah, uh, Bruce... you think we can save the chit-chat for another time?" his Navi responded from the PET. "Kinda went all-out there... need a sec to catch my breath..."

"Ah, sure," Bruce responded, taking a second to stuff his chips back in his folder. Truthfully, he'd never seen Dare worn out from so much exertion before. Then again, he'd never seen her marathon through an obstacle course that quickly, either. Without his Navi to address, he turned his attention back to Teruko. His eyes fell briefly to the nearly emptied basket of cheese bread and then darted away with guilty quickness. "Gee, they're really taking their time with our drinks, huh...?

Shortly after, the door was opened again, with a new drink-carrying waiter entering the room. This one was a younger dark-haired man in a full and fairly ridiculous looking red-and-gold jester's costume, any authenticity of which was immediately ruined by the presence of stylish thin-rimmed glasses on his face. Of course, the more interesting glasses were the mugs he was carrying on a tray, and he set the four in front of the pair quickly. "Hey guys, I'm Matt, and I'll be your Battle Scribe for the evening's events, starting with a rousing game of Sword in the Stone!"

Bruce didn't chuckle this time, beginning to suspect that saying "arousing game" was part of the employee training here. He did take a second to glance into the mugs, finding one full of ice water and one full of... what appeared to be ordinary beer. Although he was curious, some combination of guilt and fear kept him from looking into Teruko's Thrown Tomahawk. "Matt, what is 'Sword in the Stone,' anyhow?"

"Glad you asked! Give me one moment," Matt said, seeming eager and quickly rushing out of the room. Bruce groaned, fully convinced they were about to get yet another new waiter, before Matt quickly re-entered, carting some cloth-covered thing in on a trolley. Bruce had a pretty good idea from the silhouette what it was even before the waiter pulled off the tarp to reveal it: a plastic sword stuck into a realistic-looking (but most likely fabricated) stone. "Sword in the Stone is a rousing game in which the contestants attempt to pull the sword from the stone, each taking turns. The first one to try starts by making a wager: basically, they can claim any one thing another contestant has to do if they manage to pull the sword out. The contestant then has thirty minutes to try and get the sword loose. If the contestant can't do it, the other contestant gets a thirty second try, and they have to counter with making their opponent do something worse than what the first contestant came up with. Essentially, the two of you will go back and forth this way until one of you manages to successfully pull the sword from the stone. I'll be the judge of whether your penalty is 'worse' than the previous one your opponent gave, and beware! If you suggest one that I don't think is worse, if you fail that try, your opponent gets fifteen more seconds on their next pull!" Matt sounded like he was pretty excited about this. Maybe it was a favorite among the staff here...? Of course, he could just be trying to show enthusiasm to earn a tip.

"And the stone isn't rigged to, like... only be removable by the woman in the pair, is it? Cause I've seen some pretty stacked rules in your layout so far," Bruce interjected.

"Huh? Oh, no!" Matt said, waving off Bruce's concern. "It's a completely fair and quite a rousing game!" Matt replied. "But, uh, as I think your previous host probably explained, the lady gets to go first. By the way, before I forget, what are your names? It'd be better for me to be more personal as the referee."

"Bruce," said Bruce, becoming more and more convinced that the "a rousing" thing was intentional. Sebastian had, in fact, not mentioned that rule, but with all the chivalry nonsense up to this point it really wasn't surprising. "Well, Teruko, what's it gonna be? Go as hard or as soft as you want. When you fail your thirty seconds, I'm going to ramp up the penalty like crazy and pull it out early!" Bruce sounded fully convinced and more excited than any guy about "pulling out early" than Teruko had probably heard before.

What Matt knew that Bruce and Teruko most likely didn't was that there was, in fact, a trick to Sword in the Stone. The device was locked so that no amount of hard pulling would release it. The stone itself was being bolted into slots in the corner of the room, presumably provided for this game or others, and as a result the contestant could pull as hard as they wanted and not manage to move budge out the sword or the stone. The locks were specifically shaped so that the sword one only move out if successfully jiggled into a "notch" which would normally be found by accident after a lot of hard pulling. Therefore, the trick was to not work hard, but smart: one could simply move the sword around while lightly pulling on it until they felt a sudden lack of resistance, and easily work it out.

Luckily, most contestants never figure this out, making the game a rousing success. The waiters always got a kick out of seeing how hard the contestants would work trying to pull it out with brute force.
Teruko was beginning ti believe that the restaurant either had more staff than they needed or less business than it needed... There was no way it could be normal to involve this many different staff members in one dinner/show routine... especially not if Bruce was as cheap as she figured he was (she had forgotten Dare's role in picking their locale). To her great joy, it turned out that the first contest was exactly what she'd pictures it being: a literal challenge to pull a sword out of a rock. "Goodie!" she chuckled darkly. While her form consistently tried to default back to that of a fatty (her life's great work was stopping it from doing so), she felt pretty darn confident that she had more weight-lifting experience than Bruce did. She felt certain she'd win, even with her deceptive lack of a muscular build. "And don't think you'll win just because you greased your hands up with all that cheese earlier!"

Of course, the greater problem was deciding upon what sort of delightful reward she wanted. It needed to be something fun... flirty, but not skanky. The former was not hard; she had all kinds of ridiculous things she'd like to make Bruce do in order to laugh her ass off at his expense. She was the type that really enjoyed winning (although she was a game addict in general, so a loss wouldn't put her off). So many ways to make Bruce look stupid, but no way to choose... She squinted hard and crossed her arms firmly at her chest. "Think, Teru, think!"

"You look like you're strategizing, Teru. Perhaps I can offer assistance?" Ante piped up, smiling winningly. Teruko looked down with a grumpy frown, both because she thought Ante would be zero help in constructing a silly wager and because her navi persisted in calling her a nickname that sounded utterly incorrect coming out of that hoity toity mouth-

"That's it! You just gave me an idea!" Teruko announced, then began beaming as she regarded Bruce hungrily with her hidden eyes.

"... How? We haven't begun yet... Now, allow me to help. When I root my own weapon into the ground, my first step in getting it out is to prop my foot onto an elevated-"

"Bruce, if you lose, you have to act like Ante for the rest of the challenge! You have to do a real impersonation or it doesn't count!" Teruko announced, grinning a huge, toothy smile as she imagined The Funniest Thing in the World. "And she'll be really offended if it isn't a good impersonation!" It was hard to remember that Teruko hadn't touched her drink yet.

"... I'm actually more offended that you think I'm an amusing person to imitate."

Teruko laughed again, as if that response only furthered the humor of the idea. "I'm Teruko, by the way, but you can call me Teru!" she addressed Matt. "Although soon, you can call me Lady Teruko Hotta, Queen of Camelot! Because I'm taking that sword-!"

"Before you take the first step on your ascent to the throne, I would advise you to heed my warning. In the story, magic rooted that sword in place... a sort of charm. In the net, the same force might act. Here, however, the sword must certainly be locked into place by some mechanism. My suggestion would be to try a lockpicking process; turn the hilt to various degrees while using concise vertical jerks to test the give of the sword-" Ante advised, only to be predictably cut off.

"Hey, who's the Queen of Camelot here, me or you? Prepare to see the fruits of my daily exercises! Well, besides the paycheck I get for being a workout instructor," Teruko interrupted, wrapping both hands around the grip and squatting to lift with her knees. That'd be pretty darn provocative if she was wearing just the dress, but her floppy coat got in the way instead. "Hrmmmph! I'm going to win the lotteryyyyy!" she spurred herself on, yanking as hard as she could.

Unfortunately, Ante had been right: the more she pulled, the more she became convinced that the only thing she was on the right track to pull was a muscle. "Aw, come on! I wanted to make Bruce talk about boring things in a snooty voice! And pantomime trying to run in high heels! And I wanted to watch him strip off his shirt for no good reason at an inopportune moment!" she whined as her thirty seconds quickly came to an end.

"... Are those really all things you associate with me? Just because I can't run doesn't mean that I'm hindered by my fashion choices in combat. I manage to stay rather agile as well as well-dressed... Well, I don't always STAY well dressed, but you get the point!" Ante pouted. "You're the only one who would describe me as snooty or boring."

"I just like picking on you. Boring gals like you are the most fun to pick on!" she replied, seeming satisfied despite her loss since she'd gotten to make fun of her navi. "Fun girls like me aren't any fun to pick on, Bruce. So don't you even think about pulling that sword out! Especially since I loosened it up for you!" she warned her date. With that, she sat back down and took some of her drink,not stopping to think about the fact that a Thrown Tomahawk was nothing like the 80%-95% fruit/vegetable juice alcohol she was used to drinking. "Brrr... This tastes like beer," she noted, echoing Bruce's earlier suspicion about the mystery drink's identity. "Bruce, did you order me beer?! If you did, I'm going to start a rebellion and we'll put you on the guillotine! Off with the king's head!"

"That's the French," Ante pointed out in a dry tone.
Bruce frowned, not sure what he was supposed to think of this contest, its silly rules, or the fact that Teruko was apparently planning to have him imitate her Navi. He had to confess, ever since the rules had been announced, he'd only been sitting there drooling over all the nonsense he could force Teruko to do... the though that she might get it on the first try never crossed his mind. "I don't really even know how to make that one funny... I mean, Ante's just kind of boring, like a schoolteacher that isn't even mean. Dare seems to be pretty into her, but eh... I don't know what I'd do that was funny other than pretend to drop meat on my chest and try to make Teruko eat it."

Luckily, as he watched, he quickly realized he was probably worrying over nothing. "What's the matter, having a little trouble?" he chuckled, grinning wide. "You made a critical error picking this challenge: you've barely eaten anything, while I've carboloaded to build up my strength! I'll show you-" Bruce stopped, catching a glimpse of Matt making a funny smile behind Teruko's back. He stayed frozen for a moment while Teruko continued to tug, trying to think of what Matt was trying to say, before finally realizing the guy was probably... warning him not to call attention to the fact that he was starving his date while stuffing himself on the appetizers.

Bruce sat back in his seat, deciding to just stay quiet and hope Teruko hadn't been paying attention. He took another look at his PET, where Dare appeared to have gotten some of her strength back.

"Hey Bruce! Are you guys doing contests now?"

"Yeah, I basically just gotta pull some fake sword from some fake rock and then I can make Teruko do whatever I want," Bruce declared with a devious cackle.

"Pfft, did you pick some silly parlor game for your first event? Lame," the Navi taunted.

"Nah, it was her idea. I can tell she's not gonna get it, though, so I'll pick it up after this. Got any good ideas?"

"Well, sure, plenty... but I'll leave that up to you, Brucey. You have your fun!" Dare laughed, sitting back on the floor cross-legged. She sat that way for a while, seeming to be thinking about something else. "Oh! You do know the trick to that kind of parlor game, don't you? I mean, it's pretty obvious, so I'm guessing Ante already would have told Teruko..."

"Nah! Can you believe it? I guess Ante isn't the strategic genius we thought, Teruko's just jerking it hard." Saying that seemed to put Bruce back in the mood for thinking about what he was going to have Teruko do, and a goofy, horny grin reappeared on his face.

"Really? But Ante is kind of a tactical whiz," Dare proclaimed, crossing her arms. "You'll be surprised if you underestimate her, you know? She might be having Teruko throw it so they can surprise you when they ramp up the crazy."

"Hah, I can't imagine Ante thinking up a crazy scheme like that. You must have a different idea of her, or something... besides, I can tell Teruko's really just trying her damndest. Poor gal!"

"Huh. Okay. Well, just to be sure. We both know the trick, right?" Dare said, smiling confidently.

"Pfft, yeah, of course," Bruce responded, taking a draw from his beer. "Pffftttuuck!!" he sputtered, wiping his mouth. "No wonder they call this stuff 'Ale of Spite'."

Seeing he was finally up, Bruce put down his PET and walked up to the stone. "Dare gave me a great idea for the first challenge," he said, whispering to Teruko and Matt as he passed. "If I win... you have to convince Ante that Dare has a crazy-huge ladycrush on her, completely sexual! And if you can't convince me you convinced her, you have to drink my whole Ale of Spit."

"Ale of Spite, Bruce," Matt piped up. He wasn't quite sure how to judge whether or not Bruce's request was any less zany and horrible than Teruko's, seeing as he had no idea who "Ante" or "Dare" were, so he decided to just roll with it unless Teruko complained.

Bruce didn't respond to the correction. He swaggered over to the sword, stopping with his hands on his hips and turning his smug smile to Teruko. "I knew you'd go at it with brute strength. Silly Teruko! Allow me to show you... King Arthur's secret power!!" With that declaration, Bruce raised his hands to his mouth...

... spit in either hand...

... rubbed them together...

... and confidently, but gracelessly, stomped one foot onto the rock and began jerking the sword with all his strength. "Hnnnnnnnnnnggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuh," he wheezed, doubling back over after his fruitless first attempt. "What the hell?! Everyone knows the secret to this is you just spit-n-grip! Spit-n-grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeuuuugh!!!" the stuntman cried, finally losing his legendary grip and falling back onto his butt, very narrowly missing a rack of fake weaponry in the corner.

Matt smiled his smile for a while longer. "What are you doing, dude?" the smile clearly communicated. "Well, I'd say we're up to try 3! Why don't you make this a little more exciting for us, Teruko?"
"Oooh, don't you even go there! I can give you about twenty billion reasons why stuffing yourself with cheese bread before you exercise is a stupid idea. But you'd have to pay me by the hour," Teruko scoffed, far more offended that he would dare to say something so insulting to the field of health and fitness as a whole than that he'd pigged out on their appetizers. Things only worsened when he revealed the further grace of his victory plan: spit. "Gross..." she murmured sticking out her tongue in a distasteful grimace.

On the other hand, she was pretty excited about the bet. Making fun of Ante would be something she'd do even if she wasn't asked, and that did sound pretty amusing to watch. Unfortunately, Bruce failed, so she lost out on the chance to innocently hatch such a scheme. At least she wouldn't have to concede to the glory of carboloading, which might have ruined the night for her.

Now that her chance had come around again, she nodded to the server, then huddled with her PET away from Bruce. "Okay, it's stuck in there pretty good! We'll do it your way this time, Ante. Maybe since you're royalty and all, that's why you would know the magic trick to pull out the royal sword!"

"... Perhaps, although the nature of mine and most monarchies is that one's status as a royal is dictated by bloodline," Ante responded. "I didn't become a princess because I pulled my sceptar from a stone."

"Bloodline!? Navi babies!?" Teruko gasped, unsure of whether that made sense or not.

"Well, in my case, it was just succession associated with my operator's bloodline. But again, that's the past. For now, listen carefully to my instructions," Ante continued, not waiting for Teruko's inevitable question regarding the identity of her previous operator. "You must work methodically; any random testing will invalidate whatever other tests you make in this sort of situation. Start by pulling the sword as far to the left as you can... then pull and poke with it. If it pulls, good. If it pokes, try moving it further in all directions, in a clockwise method. If you find any of these motions yield additional movement, try another pull. My guess is it will pop out, having been released from a 'loop' that secures it."

"Agh! That's way confusing... but I think I get the gyst of it. I'll just treat it as a workout routine!" Teruko encouraged herself. "Now, the important part... Next bet!" she announced, pointing one finger out with a wave of her floppy coat sleeves. "If I win the next contest, you have to tell me all about... no! Dare has to tell me all about what's in your porn folder! Like, your favorite genre and stuff!" Teruko announced, feeling satisfied. Not only would such a reward be embarrassing and thereby fitting for this event, but it would also solve the nagging question at the front off her mind: "does Bruce prefer the company of black chicks?"

"Now hold on! Why would you just assume that he has a folder of pornographic material?" Ante asked, incredulous. Unfortunately, the contest didn't have her busy at the moment.

"Cause I think Dare told me at some point?" Teruko responded, holding one finger to her lip in a pensive expression. "And even if she hadn't... I mean, duh...? Of course he does," the operator laughed.

Ants furrowed her eyebrows and continued. "Well, can you really just assume that Miss Dare has any kind of notion as to what is inside? Why would she bother with such a filthy thing?" Ante continued in an intentionally judgmental tone.

"No way you live with a guy who leaves his porn where you can reach it and don't even have a look! Come oooon, no more questions! It's time to yank this doohickie!" Teruko finished, unable to wait any longer. The time had come to test her newfound lockpicking skills. As it turned out, she had easily become rather good at it; the sword jingled a bit with the first twist, then a bit more with each successful test. "Ah ha! Ante, you're like a super ancient net bandit, in addition to a knight and a princess!" the operator cheered, waving the sword through the air dangerously as a beaming smile spread across the fullness of her cheeks.

"That isn't a title I care to keep..." the navi sighed. "Miss Dare, don't feel obliged to indulge my operator. I'm sure you respect your operator's privacy, no matter how vulgar his pastimes, correct?"
Bruce got up and brushed himself off, grumbling and muttering as he returned the to the loser's corner known as the dinner table. "The hell, Dare?! Your strategy didn't work!"

"What, seriously?" Dare said, her eyes going wide. She apparently didn't remember that she'd never actually given her hapless operator a strategy. "I was pretty sure... maybe you've really gotta just pull on it... super hard, like a strongman!"

"Strike two," Bruce complained, resting his jaw on his hand. "I pulled on that thing like a madman, not a strongman. Like a mad stuntman! And it ain't comin' out like that. I think Teruko knows that too, because she and Ante seem to be having a little girl chat."

"Girl chat?" Dare asked, raising an eyebrow. "Wait, does Ante know some kind of strategy for it I don't?! No way!"

"Well, we're going to find out," Bruce said, crossing his arms and leaning far back in his chair with the carelessness of one who frequently rebels against gravity. As Teruko announced her bet, however, he bolted forward, causing the chair to clatter on the floor noisily. "Wait, what?! No way, what the- She can't make me do that, can she?"

"I'd say she sure can if she gets that sword out, Bruce!" Matt said, smiling his most punchable smile. "That condition's far and beyond your last one, so I'd say it's in the rules of the game."

"Look, man, what if a chick you were taking out to dinner made you tell her what's in YOUR porn folder? How can you do this to another dude? What about brocode, man? WHAT ABOUT BROCODE?!"

"Aaaand, it looks like we have a victor!" Matt shouted, indicating the victor with a wave of her arm and ignoring the loser's plea for mercy.

"Aaaah, geez! I wasn't even watching! How'd she do it...? Well, whatever! Dare's kinda busy, big tournament thing going on, feeding a buncha Metools, so-"

"No way am I too busy to heap the coals of punishment upon your great failure!" his Navi shouted, seeming mercilessly intent on following through in spite of who might hear it, even on the Net. "Let me tell you all I know about Brucey's porn... Well, I'm sorry to say I actually don't know as much as you might think. Basically, when Bruce first got me, he had a ton of porn on his PET in various protected folders, but it seems like before getting me, he chatted with somebody about it and found out how to block out my actual visual access to the contents, and how to block off the two-way visuals when he actually was doing the deed."

Bruce's head fell to the table. He had a feeling this was about to get a lot worse, but he didn't have the strength to stop it.

"Well, that was pretty good foresight on Bruce's part, but he neglected to consider that when he actually upgraded to a Custom Navi, he lost the standard browser feature to collect the stuff on his own. So one day, of course, I caught him searching the Net for 'how to download porn with a Navi.' He's pretty hapless when it comes to technology. Naturally, that was a pretty big blow to his pride..."

Bruce continued lying motionless on the table, any reactions or pain he was feeling hidden by his position.

"... Well, pride or no pride, a man has needs. Needs for porn, I mean! And a lot of it, actually. Well, not like I know how much he has, just a lot of separate folders, you know. So it was only a matter of time until the big man came to me on his hands and knees saying, 'Please, Dare, please help me download porn again!'" The Navi made her best, deeply pleading porn-starved Bruce impression. "Well, no, it was more sideways, like he was trying to ask me how the weather was... you know, 'Say, Dare, would you mind helping me download some porn?' And I couldn't really say no to that, so yeah... that's why even though I download all of it for him, I really have no idea what's in it."

Bruce continued lying dead on the table, an occasional groan or twitch the only indicator he was still alive.

"Oh yeah, except he doesn't hide the names, so I guess stuff like MILFs, a little bondage, Navigators Gone Nuts, a bit of a healthy dose of everything, really. But I don't know any more specific than that."

"Seriously?!" Bruce suddenly shouted, springing to life. "You had to tell them the story and THEN give them an answer, too?!"

Dare smiled and shrugged, apparently either not aware or not repentant of the huge amount of lay she may have just cost her operator.

Matt smiled pityingly now, having apparently finally seen Bruce fall to a state that touched his sense of bro empathy. "Weeell now, why don't I run and get you two those veggie skewers? While I'm gone, Bruce can take a look at the game selection for the next event and see if there's anything that rouses him."

Bruce chose to believe that Matt somehow sidestepping another "a rousing" was an act of mercy on the waiter's part. He started to rise and reach for the menu before falling dead on the table again. He couldn't make himself look at the menu because he couldn't risk making eye (squint?) contact with Teruko. "Do me a favor, please, Princess. Can you put that sword in here," he said, pointing to the nape of his neck on the table, "And screw it in reeeeal tight to make a nice challenge for the next two that give this a shot?"

"Aw, you're being a sore loser, Bruce," Dare complained, crossing her arms behind her head. In spite of the fact that she believed her strategy had lost, Dare didn't seem to be owning any of the failure. "Anyway, go ahead and ask her how she got that sword out!"
"D... Despicable!" Ante murmured, almost wishing now that she hadn't told her operator how to succeed in the contest so that all of Bruce's perversions would have stayed hidden. "You have your navi retrieve such awful things for you? And looking at such images, even... even of net navigators and older women! Those two things shouldn't be sexualized," she warned, now blushing for whatever reason. Apparently the bondage was just fine, because she didn't mention that.

Teruko laughed heartily, which of course she would, almost regardless of the answer. "Ha ha ha! Poor Brucey!" she cackled, since the situation demanded such a reaction. She slowed down, mercifully sparing him much of a laughing fit. She didn't feel mean (or sympathetic) towards him, but she did have some material to chew over now. On one hand, Dare hadn't mentioned black chicks, so that could be reassuring for her. On the other hand, she'd mentioned BDSM and milfs, neither of which she claimed to be able to cater towards (although at the age of thirty, she'd be teetering into MILFdom within the decade). Still, what she'd mostly learned is that he had pretty normal tastes as far as porn went and they'd all gotten a good laugh out of it, except for Ante, whose laughs were few, far between, and usually only given in a handsome sort of chuckle at a quaint occurrence. "If you're into MILFs, this next event ought to be perfect for you! Mettaur Mommy!"

"P-Please, don't put strange ideas into his head. Neither Dare nor I wish to be viewed as a mother, nor as an object of lust," Ante scolded her operator, although she was probably speaking for Dare where she had no business doing so. Dare's form-fitting race suit didn't exactly scream "not sexual."

"Naw, I bet Bruce is getting all hot and bothered just thinking about it!" Teruko guffawed, becoming increasingly amused at the mental image. She decided to go the Dare route and do her best Bruce impression, which was even less like him than Dare's had been, given her accent. "'These girls feeding and tucking in these little Mettaurs, it's so exciting! I wish Ante would feed me and tuck me in too! Goo goo!'" she demonstrated, then burst out laughing again. It wouldn't have been possible for Bruce to make eye-contact any more even if he wanted to, since her eyes really were squinted shut now.

Ante turned her head aside and put on a stern expression, although again, she was blushing. "That's enough joking," she snapped, crossing her arms across her chest. She turned her red eyes downward and glared back into the monitor. "I'm not feeding a pervert."

"Alright, alright," Teruko sighed, still beaming. "Come on, tell me what the next contest is! Decapitating Bruce isn't a good contest, so you have to pick something else!" she urged her friend, pushing on Bruce's shoulders firmly with one hand to spur him to action.

Bruce had been pushed to an emotional limit and called a pervert by his romantic interest's Navi, so he'd been having a rough night, but Bruce was nothing if not resilient. He had been beginning to feel more like "nothing," but the Mettaur Mommy event their Navis were involved in had run its course, and thankfully had been distracting enough to divide both his attention and Teruko's from his own predicament.

Bruce had grabbed the menu and thumbed through it with a disgruntled heart. Foreseeing that the previous contest may have cost him enjoyment he was counting on after this meal, later on in the night, he was determined to bet all of his future chances on the promise of immediate satisfaction. As such, he was browsing the menu with a dirty mind, searching for the one that would most obviously shift the momentum in his favor.

Moments later, Matt burst back into the room, looking quite a bit more excited than when he left. Curiously, Sebastian was following directly behind.

"Finally! I've decided: King's Throne Twister!" Bruce blurted out shamelessly.

"Sad tidings, good sire, but that merriment will be stayed for another engagement," Sebastian told him, holding forward to paper bags with the restaurant's logo on the front, clearly in apology for his next announcement. "You see, ma'am and sire... er, if I may momentarily cease the medieval speak that is our restaurant's flavor, we have had a bit of an issue. We are unfortunately forced to temporarily close the restaurant while we investigate."

"It's nothing about the food, of course," Matt said, reassuring the couple. "It's just a security issue, apparently someone in a black knight costume-"

Sebastian shot Matt a sharp look, forcing him to clam up. "In any case, we have been forced to bag your food for the night. As a result, this meal will be 'on us,' as they say." Sebastian had a very uncomfortable look in spite of his hospitality. It might occur to the two that this could be because he was forfeiting a tip for his night's services.

One might have expected Bruce to be upset, especially considering that security issue sounded like something that should have been an immediate concern for him, but he was looking pretty ecstatic. "I wasn't crazy about the idea of veggie skewers before, but free is the right price for anything. Not to mention all that delicious free bread Teruko and I got," Bruce thought to himself, displaying some creative memory. "Well, can't be helped. Thanks for your service, guys, I guess we'll have to pick it up next time."

The two waiters rushed Teruko and Bruce out to the exit. Bruce, for his part, was helping them along. He didn't know where Teruko stood on the issue, but he was pretty into this whole "not paying" idea.

Standing out back, Bruce turned to Teruko. "Well, sorry the night didn't go how we expected. Uh, you interested in picking it up another time? I figure we're going to have to meet again, seeing as Dare and Ante want to finish this mission and they have to reschedule. That all right?" Bruce hoped he wasn't being presumptuous in assuming Teruko was game for it... it would be the perfect, humiliating cap to his night if Teruko told him "our Navis can just meet up over the Net, we don't necessarily have to meet again."
With Teruko's navi having completed Mettaur Mommy and being told that she couldn't finish the rest of her competition for another ten hours, it stood to reason that there was little for either of them to do at the moment but chillax. The operator watched Bruce thumb through the menu with obvious intent, smiling as he did. "That's the way... More and more enthusiasm!" she thought to herself, a smile curling onto her lips and her eyebrows setting into an undisguised, fierce expression while she watched her date try to find something dirty for her to do. It wasn't much of a date if they avoided that sort of thing and they'd already set the bar pretty high on their first meeting. When the two waiters burst into the room, she turned her head over to the door and jumped in her seat, her mouth gaping open into a frown like she was dismayed at being caught red-handed at some sort of crime. "We're not doing anything bad!" Bruce then shouted out the name of his proposed game selection. "Well... nothing too bad, anyways," she coughed, then grinned. "Dummy! You know you can't beat me at Twister!"

It seemed that any thoughts of kicking Bruce's behind at twister would have to wait; much like Ante's competition, Teruko's own was now discontinued as well. Her face ended up looking sort of like it had when the guys had first burst in. "No! Aw, c'mon! I was going to win our contest and then I was going to make Brucey Boy eat the only decent meal he's had since he learned about cheesburgers as a baby!" she complained, crossing her arms and puffing her cheeks out for maximum poutiness. Unlike Bruce, she wasn't acting... Still, she perked up when she heard that the meal would be free. Like Bruce, she was one to appreciate free food, especially free food she'd picked out herself. "Well... I guess that'll be alright," she agreed. The fact that she suspected Bruce might have some connection to the black knight who'd come in earlier had become lost in the tide of other current events, so she didn't think to ask about what sort of havoc that woman was causing.

"Goodness... Everyone's having pretty poor luck tonight finishing what they've started. But a black knight causing a security issue? That sounds like a mission for a navi to handle over the net, not something you'd encounter on your side..." Ante mused.

Teruko nodded her head in agreement. "I'll say! Well, all's well that ends well. We'll just come up with something more fun to do... tomorrow... SHIMATAAAA!" Teruko cried, slapping both hands over her cheeks. "I have to work tomorrow! B-But..." she murmured, biting onto her knuckles. She hadn't made any progress with her date yet and she'd be at the gym all tomorrow. "Uwaaaah! I wanted this weekend to last forever! Bruce, are you free tomorrow? You can come to the gym, right?! We can still do fun stuff, even if I'm supposed to be working! I get to walk around a lot, so we can still have lots of fun!" It didn't sound like an altogether riveting time.

"... Maybe you should just wait until next weekend, Teruko?" Ante proposed, looking unamused at the thought of Teruko shirking her work.

Of course, patience was never Teruko's strong suit; she shook her head violently. "No, no, no! Alright, Bruce... Tomorrow, I don't have any serious appointments or classes, even though I'm managing the gym! It's really just one class of kids that comes in, and they mostly handle themselves! S-So... If you want... Y-You should come exercise with me tomorrow! Super early morning exercise, before anybody shows up at the gym! It's really healthy, you know? You should be exercising in the mornings anyways! In fact, it really only makes sense for you to meet up with me at the Weekendz Work Gym, the place I work, at 7:00 AM tomorrow!" she finished, pointing one finger out dramatically to point at Bruce. She looked like she was trying to back him into a corner. "Alright... To sweeten the deal... I'll make breakfast for you!" she announced, pressing one hand over her bosom proudly and beaming ear to ear. "We'll eat a healthy breakfast and then do some morning exercises together!"

"Plus, Miss Dare and I can finish our mission together," Ante pointed out. "I think it will be around the proper time..."

"So long as Brucey doesn't stay up too late," Teruko agreed. "You got it? Don't oversleep! In fact, you should give me your address... And I'll come wake you up if you oversleep," Teruko added, rubbing her shoe against the floor with an uncertain smile. She wasn't sure if that was stepping over the line, but on the other hand, she felt fairly confident that oversleeping was something he might do if she didn't look after him. "Or e-mail it to me..." Having finished that up, and with the two now being well outside of the building, Teruko gave Bruce another warm grin, fighting internally over whether skinship was appropriate yet. She decided: not quite yet, but tomorrow she'd make it her goal to advance to that point. "Alright? Alright! See you tomorrow!" she finished, waving and jogging off towards her apartment, her coat flapping around her much as it had earlier. She didn't want to give him a chance to say no.