Mother paused suddenly and licked her lips. "Well, don't just stand there, boy. Get cooking. I'm famished and I've been salivating over that fine catch you've got there. You can listen while you move your hands."
I rolled my eyes, muttering, "Gluttons, all of them." under my breath as I went back to work with my ear trained towards her.
Mother's ears twitched, "Just you wait, young man. Your father's joining us for dinner and I'm sure he'll double your training when he hears of your disrespect towards your elders…"
"Mother!" I whined. "Do you want me to die from exhaustion? And continue please … you've left me hanging."
"Ahem. As I was saying; someone's elemental gift is very influential on their personalities. For example, Deimos, with her affinity to the wind element is quite free spirited and flighty in her thoughts. Yet, she is sometimes shy like a summer breeze.
"Basically, one's personality closes up towards one's associated element, taking on aspects of their traits. Different elements affect different parts of one's psyche."
I took up the knife in my right hand and holding the fish steady with my left, I cut off its head and tail. Sliding the tip of the blade just above its spine, I ran it along the length of the fish, slicing it into two halves.
Flicking my wrist, I deboned the fish with the tip of my knife, causing the fishbones to fall accurately into a bowl I had kept by the side. Sometimes, my newly mended hand spasmed and the bones fell on the counter and I had to put them into the bowl manually.
As I continued, the spasms grew fewer as I adapted to the new state of my arm.
"The gift of wind is closely tied with the thoughts of its owner, making their thoughts unshackled and their attention spans short. They are the dreamers of our nation and most innovations come from their hands.
"While those with the gift of the earth are resolute. Once their decision is made, nothing short of severe injury will make them draw back. They are the backbones of our army.
"The flame-touched are highly emotional. The fire of their enthusiasm driving them to perform feats of both great benevolence and great evil. They are the impetus behind our nation's continued progress."
Setting aside the separated head and tail, I scored some lines into the two pieces of the fish before washing them in the sink. Once the blood had run out and the water running off had turned transparent from red, I laid them back on the cutting board, scaly side up.
Scraping off the scales with my knife, I made sure to be careful not to injure the skin.
"Those with the previous three gifts are easier to categorize in terms of what kind of personality to expect. The other three elements on the other hand are a bit difficult to classify.
"You might have heard the terms mutable like water, treacherous like shadow and fickle like the light. They came about because every practitioner of these elements is different from their brethren.
"Those with the gift of water are shaped by their experiences into what they are as their memory is what is associated with their element. You should expect them to ruminate over any of their plans multiple times before they take action. They never make the same mistake twice.
"Shadow elementalists are quite misunderstood since their element is closely linked to the physical sensation of pain. People expect them to be sadists, masochists or cowards who flee from the slightest discomfort and sadly, in some cases, they are right. But, for the majority, mind triumphs over matter, their predilection towards pain only manifesting in a slightly more violent fighting style and some quirk of their personalities."
I nodded as I recalled Phobos and her fixation towards her hair and the fate of those who annoyed her.
Shuddering at the image, I sliced two tomatoes thickly. Layering the bottom of a large bowl with the slices, I put the fillets into it side by side. Pouring water into the bowl till the fish was covered, I squeezed in the juice of a lemon and some salt and let it stand while I went to work on the vegetables.
"The ones blessed with light as their element are more attuned to corporeal pleasure. That may manifest in as many ways as there are people. In my case, due to my variation light element, I developed a love for healing others, finding pleasure in relieving their pain.
"Come to think of it, Bruno, that boy has a variation element too. As an ice elementalist, you would expect him to be cool and indifferent, instead of the hot-headedness he shows. Right?"
I grunted my assent as I finished dicing the last of the bell peppers, finishing the preparation of the constituents of the salad.
Placing a wire mesh on top of the large bowl I had the fillets soaking in, I extracted them, placed them over the mesh and lidded the setup with a domed cover. I put the bowl on top of a stove fuelled with fire stones and let the fillets steam as I turned around and listened as Mother continued.
"The thing about one's element affecting one's psyche becomes more pronounced the higher you make your way up the tiers as your conjunction with your element increases. Take Deimos' break-through for example. Didn't you feel the normally reserved girl was acting a bit too bold when she, if I got it right, convinced you to make out with her in public?"
'Deimos you sure ran away at a convenient time.' The corners of my eyes twitched as I helplessly nodded. I didn't want to have to rehash the details of my sex life with my Mother!
She chuckled, "Well, that was probably due to her imminent break-through exacerbating her unrestrained personality trait. That is what we call the break-through blues. She is likely curled up somewhere in mortification now.
"Actually, any natural break-through involves further conjunction with one's element and hence, a shift in personality. So, just by knowing someone's element, you can make an educated guess about what they might be like.
"Any male Bestia you meet in the competition, who are at the second tier though, you should forget about these empirical rules. They probably broke-through with the aid of crystals and as such, weren't affected by their elements. While this might be good for them socially as they can be more unpredictable, it permanently reduces their potential by making them lose a chance to increase their elemental affinity."
A whistle from the steamer caught my attention and I took it off the stove and removed the steamed fillets from the mesh, placing them on the salad bed I had already prepared. The grid pattern on the fillets from the mesh facing upwards to make it look better.
The tomato slices in the lemon juice had already been thoroughly boiled during the steaming and most of the water had evaporated. Using a ladle, I mashed the slices into the remaining juice, turning it into a sour tomato sauce which I used to garnish the salad.
Picking up the finished dish with one of the fillets, I walked over to Mother and Phobos who were eagerly anticipating it on the couch and placed it on the table in front of them while I drew up a stool to sit on.
Without further ado, the both of them dug in with the help of the cutlery I had brought along. For a long moment, there was silence in the room except for the clatter of knife against fork until finally, their knives hit against the bottom of the plate and they had to stop.
"Boy, I raised you right." said Mother as she wiped her mouth.
"Husband, you've finally achieved perfection in the culinary arts. I have nothing more to teach you my young apprentice." said Phobos with mock solemnity. She wrapped her arms around mother and buried her face into her shoulder. "Mother! The little boy who couldn't crack an egg has grown up and surpassed his teacher. I feel like crying."
I rolled my eyes at her theatrics as Mother chuckled. Shooting me a sidelong glance from her shoulder, Phobos spat her tongue at me, making me smile.
"Anyway. As I was saying: not all people follow this kind of convention. Take you, or any other Hominum for example. Your mindscapes form upon your first contract and have all six elements. Unlike your Bestia partners, a Hominum mindscape is incapable of producing its own mana and depends on their link with their partner to activate their own production. The mana produced is exactly the same as the partner and their affinity and personality are affected by them too. Only to a much lesser extent. One-sixth to be exact."
I was pondering over her words when a slight sound from the window facing the lawn distracted me. Turning around, my lips twitched as I saw a red-faced Deimos sheepishly crawling over the sill as she refused to make eye contact.
From her subtle glances at the kitchen counter, I could infer what had drawn her here despite her mortification. It looked like I had fished a big cat with a steamed fish.
The sound of Father simultaneously entering from the main door let me know that we were in for a family dinner after a long time.
I couldn't help but smile brightly, reaffirming my determination to protect this familial warmth.
I was Mars Felidae. Son of Epione and Veer Felidae, Husband of Phobos and Deimos.
In this competition…
Victory would be mine.
Because an info dump tastes better with culinary writing scattered all over it.
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