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“First things first, my friend!” exclaimed Gustav, clapping his hooves again. A bunch of unicorns entered, carrying what looked like a table, chair, plates… All that landed in front of Chip.
He got swept up from his feet as the chair slid under his flank. Before he could protest, a bib nearly choked him, wrapping itself around his neck. All the various spoons, forks and knives arranged themselves around a place on the table, which was covered in a white cloth.
Gustav was beaming as a few of his helpers brought in some strange looking furniture and bowls of food. The changeling’s stomach gave out a call to the vegetables, plants and fruit of all shapes and sizes, many of which he never saw before. Maybe some of those blue plants would be there as well?
“Fine, my dear Chip! Lesson one! Hunger is a primal instinct – something everypony experiences at least once in their lives. Some have the luxury of not remembering that sensation, others will stuff themselves to the brim just not to feel as you do now!” The pony fiddles around with some levers and dials on the furniture pieces set around him, conjuring a fire over which he put a pot.
Chip stared in awe, drool dripping onto the cloth beneath his face. He listened as the Chef continued: “Hunger does not much differ from fear or pain – we have little control over it and it may happen just out of the blue! But ponies are smart creatures, oh yes! Fear can be mastered! Pain can be suppressed! And hunger, my dear friend – hunger can be defeated!”
With lightning speed, the pony switched attention between pots and pieces of food which were being cut by magic. The fat colt’s horn flared with green magic, a lighter shade than Chip’s natural color. Whatever he was making, it was beginning to smell – and that enraged the demon within the changeling even more. The meager sacrifice consumed earlier did nothing to quench the fire in the changeling’s stomach.
“How one would do that, you ask? Your proposal of grass would be one way of doing it,” he chuckled, tossing vegetables in the air and scooping them back into the pan he had over a fire. The motion looked really simple and Chip noted to ask if he could try it later.
“But for colts such as us, Mister Chip, there are things of higher nature, more sublime, richer – the only remedy for true hunger is a royal dinner!”
Chip’s ears were registering the words that followed; there was something about the history of food, facts and curiosities about types of consumable plants and the likes… But nothing really mattered when the godly smell of the goods in the pots and pans hit the stallion with its full force. The aroma was difficult to describe – mainly due to the limited vocabulary of things Chip knew. He could tell how grass smelled, some of the Everfree forest plants also left their mark in his memory. But they were all nothing compared to the rich and many layered fragrance of the steaming food just a few feet away.
“I can see that look on your face, Mister Chip. I ask that you be patient just a little bit longer. Gustav would not want to keep his guest waiting, but Gustav also will not disgrace himself with half-baked food. Everything must be just… right…” With those last words, he spiced up whatever he was arranging on the dish in front of him. As far as the changeling could tell, it was very colorful, almost flashy, arranged in a pleasant to the eye fashion.
Then, at last, when the final grain of spice landed on the plate, the food begun to move. It levitated carefully onto the table and slid in front of Chip. It was a holy grail, a meal that smelled so stunningly it deserved admiring.
The disguised colt admired the food up to the point when his face contacted the plate. Gustav understood what was happening before he could take action – as he yanked the plate away, with a sigh of relief he saw it was in one piece. The tablecloth however was rapidly disappearing in Chip’s frenzied mouth. It took a few seconds for the stallion to understand what he was munching on, and even less for his throat to reject the inedible intruder.
“Mister Chip, I am afraid that our mutual enemy got the upper hand in this battle, despite the victory. Those were definitely not good manners at the table. You didn’t even bother to use the forks! But, you are forgiven. The enemy was strong this time, and we should celebrate our success with a dessert!”
The unicorn henchmen of Gustav took away the soaked and torn tablecloth (with professionally smiling faces) and replaced it with a new, fragrant piece of material.
“Now, this time, Mister Chip, I ask that you control yourself. Let the food, not the stomach, speak to you. For dessert, we will have the most delicious slice of apple pie your tongue has ever tasted, topped with delicious and cold vanilla ice cream.”
Another hoof-clap later, a plate with a piece of pie and what was presumably the ice-cream floated in. Gustav looked hesitantly at Chip, who was eyeing the dessert. A bit on edge, the Chef put down the plate, ready to pull it back in case of an unexpected assault. There was no such thing, luckily, and the blue colt waited patiently for Gustav to give him a sign.
“Good, good! You are learning fast, my friend! Now, for us unicorns, using a spoon is very easy. We just levitate it and manipulate to our hearts desire. Now, for earth ponies, professional restaurants have hoof braces for such things. Of course, Gustav has such an item; it would be a shame for him not to!”
The fat pony procured something that looked like a bracelet with a round hole beneath it. It slid on his right forehoof, followed by a spoon. The utensil locked in with the bracelet with a click; Chip waved it around a bit and it didn’t fall off.
“I can tell this is the first time you use such things, Mister Chip. Do they not have restaurant where you live at?”
“I’m afraid not, Gustav,” replied Chip.
“Oh, poor you! I insist you visit my restaurant at least once while in Canterlot! I’ll make sure we’ll always have a spot ready for you, so you can appreciate the air and delicacies at Gustav’s Food Paradise. But back to the pie…”
Fuller than before, Chip watched as Gustav expertly guided his helpers with taking the furniture and utensils out of his quarters. The jovial pony once again recommended for the changeling to visit his restaurant before wishing him a good night.
It was a very interesting night, Chip thought. He kind of wished he could taste all the food he ate, just like before – according to the description of Gustav, the pie was moist and sweet, along with the cold ice cream mixing into a harmony of flavors that could comfort even the most regal of palates. Maybe he would ask Celestia about that as well, later on.
It was getting late and the colt was a bit sleepy now – the excitement of the day washed out from him, there was only a pleasant warmth and fullness in his tummy along with overall exhaustion. He still decided he would talk to Princess Celestia before retiring for the night. He knocked at the doors.
“May I speak with the Princess please?” he asked in the nicest voice he could muster.
“What for? Don’t you know she has better things to do than talking to the likes of you?” heard the changeling in response.
“Of course, you must be right. I was given a single room, two guards and the inability to leave this place because I am unimportant. Also, you were ordered to do heed to my wishes, which you are doing ever so zealously. I’ll make sure the Princess learns of your dedication once she comes here by herself.”
There was a silence at the other side of the doors – Chip wasn’t sure if he used the right words to poke the guards into thinking their situation over. Truth be told, they can’t know much about Chip and his origins – otherwise they wouldn’t be so careless when allowing guests in or entering themselves. Celestia was a force the changeling would fear, but certainly one he could avoid with proper care.
Finally, the changeling heard hoofsteps fading away – one of his guards went for the Princess. It wasn’t so hard, now was it?
“Oy, just don’t expect the Princess to come right away, you hear? She might be busy and come when she’ll have the time.” The voice outside seemed much more friendly and respectful than before. Chip was overwhelmed with joy – his stay in Canterlot just got twenty percent better. Relatively speaking.
As the guard predicted, the royal alicorn was busy and would meet Chip in some time. The changeling decided that taking a nap would help pass time faster.
A dream of his stomach playing war drums on top of a very large Gustav was broken by a knock on the door. The following silence allowed him time to fully wake up, shaking off the vision of the pony Chef trampling tomato fields.
“May I come in?” asked a female voice from the other side.
Chip blinked, remembering that the Princess was to visit him.
“Y-yes! Of course, your Highness!”
Gently, the doors opened, allowing a tall, blue coated mare entry to his chamber. Her mane and tail were flowing just like Celestia’s, but they had a dark color, resembling the night sky. They even had some stars in them, which was probably what the fashion magazine from before aimed for.
“You wanted to see me?” The pony, which was obviously an alicorn, eyed Chip head to toe with her cyan eyes.
“U-um? You? I asked for the Princess,” mumbled Chip, awestruck by the sight. This was already the third unicorn with wings that the changeling saw in his life. There were similarities with Celestia, but this particular pony seemed more approachable – maybe it was her relaxed pose or the sparkles in her eyes… Just like Cadance's.
“I am the Princess. The Princess of the Night, Luna. Co-ruler of Equestria? Master of the Night?” Luna furrowed an eyebrow, remembering something. “And you are Chip, correct? My sister told me of you…”
“Sister?!” interrupted Chip.
“… Yes, sister. Princess Celestia. You know what a sister is, right?”
“Yes, indeed. I’m so sorry to bother you, Princess!” Instantly, the changeling dropped to his knees, much to the confusion of Luna. “I hope I didn’t interrupt any of your business, my Lady. Forgive my confusion; I am new to this country and, well, my situation…”
“Your situation is known to me. Celestia told me to keep an eye on you and answer your questions, should you have any.” She cocked her head and added: “I was curious about you myself, to be honest.”
“… You were?” Chip risked raising his head. The Princess was smiling. It wasn’t the type of smile Chrysalis had, which would appear usually after the changeling got mangled or beaten up. It wasn’t the gentle facial expression of Celestia either. It was more akin to that of Cadance, a genuine token of being happy. It was a nice smile.
“Well, of course! I heard a lot about your… Kind, and your exploits in particular interested me. You see… I kind of understand how you feel. I… Heh.” Chip felt a shift in the Princess’ mood as she shuffled her hooves. There was a touch of sorrow, the dark kind, something that Chip would feel also when remembering his time of being exiled.
“Oh, it’s nothing,” she shrugged and smiled. “Let’s just say I understand what you went through. Maybe we will speak of that later, when and if time allows. If you have something to ask of Celestia, I can answer for her – it is both my duty and honor. What troubles you, fair Chip?”