7-1000(3) – ALL GLORY (Handholding)

Blind dates are a terrible idea. Blind dates set up by a friend are bad enough. Blind dates set up by your relatives are worse. But a blind date set up by your Boss, your mother, and your WoW guild, well, then it becomes a very good idea to go, especially when they all speak of it in a very dire and strange monotone.

And when the billboards showed up, inviting me to dine at a fancy restaurant in a week, I had to ask myself exactly what the hell was going on. Pretty soon it seemed the entire world was really, REALLY gunning for me to meet this girl, whom my mother had said was named Saliena. Such things are bound to happen in a world with Monstergirls, so you take it all in stride. I reasoned that somewhere along the line, some Monstergirl had decided that I was a good catch.

So I took the hint, and agreed to go to Le Cigare Volant at 7pm on Thursday the 24th of March. My mother immediately began phoning people, speaking with a deep voice, and adding at the end “ALL GLORY TO SALIENA.”

I mean, I could try to resist, but what good would that do?

The Cigare Volant was a very pricey bistro – it looked like an ancient Imperial palace, just festooned with modern art instead of anything good. In alcoves along the bright white walls were bent pieces of metal, pictures of squares having unprotected sex, and other ‘works’ clearly designed to be purchased at exorbitant sums to hide the sale of opiods and children’s organs.

The maitre d (or whatever the hell you call them) looked at me with a snooty face, and one of those pointed moustaches, from behind a wooden lectern with a brass-base.

“I am sorry, monsieur,” he said, speaking the last word with the same invective as the men who manned the guillotine. “But we are closed to the public today.”

“I’m, um, meeting someone. They said it would be here. The reservation is under…Saliena,” I said.

The maitre d’s narrow eyes widened. “Right this way, monsieur…” he said in the flat tone that my mother, my boss (and I’d guess my WoW guild if I went on voice) had used.

He led me past empty circular tables and towards one which had a single occupant. I recognized her.

She was the diminutive frog girl who had been stranded at the train stop a few days earlier. I recalled the memory: she was a cute little thing with the strangest eyes, like those glowly things that you touch and one arc of electricity touches the glass where your finger is. She had had a giant backpack on her shoulders, which made her wobble in the most adorable fashion on her springy legs. I had to admit, she had a nice figure, too.

She was obviously a co-ed who was new in town. She was hopelessly lost and bewildered, eager to find her way but unsure what to do. I walked up to her, introduced myself, and took her along. I helped her find the right train, and showed her how to find the rest in her schedule. Her train arrived, and she thanked me so profusely that I confess I puffed out my chest with self-satisfaction.

I hadn’t thought much of it, to be honest, except to wish that I had gotten her number. And after a few weeks of bizarre escalation in being asked on a date, here we were.

As the toad girl saw me, she waved nervously and smiled with the most endearing little anxious smile. Her eyes shimmered with prismatic light. I frowned. I remembered reading something about this. Something positive, of course…

“I have conducted your paramour to your presence, as requested, My Queen,” the Maitre D said, interrupting my thoughts. “ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!”

Ah yes, that was it. HypnoToads. Everything ever said about their noble race was 100 percent positive, revealing them to be both immensely beautiful, intelligent, and wonderfully good at receiving presents. I approached the tiny brown-speckled girl, who smiled at me sheepishly.

“S-sorry about all the fuss,” she said. “I really wanted to see you. People act like that when they get hypnotized. I-I’m Saliena. I wanted to, um, say thank you for helping me the other day…”

“Oh, well,” I replied with a laugh. “It was nothing. I’m glad you contacted me. It’s good to see you.”

Saying this released all her nerves, and her body relaxed. I found myself smiling to see how she adjusted, to see my words have such an effect on so pretty a girl. I took my seat, and we both picked up our menus.

“I hear this place is quite nice,” Saliena said, her cute little face and big eyes peeking out from behind her menu. “I hope you like it.”

I shrugged. “I’ve never eaten someplace this fancy before.”

Saliena laughed nervously. “N-neither have I,” she said. She leaned in. “In fact, I’ve never eaten in a restaurant before.”

I blinked. “Never?”

“We never really went out much,” she said.

“We?”

“My family. We stay in the swamps. Out of sight, out of trouble, as the old saying goes,” Saliena replied. “I started college a few weeks ago, so…here I am, out in the world.”

I looked around at the empty restaurant, and the row of waiters eager to serve their new mistress. “You seem to be doing alright,” I said.

“Oh! Thank you!” She said with genuine happiness. “It means so much to me. My parents always tried to make sure that I stayed grounded.”

The waiter walked over. “May I get you both something to drink?” He asked. “Some wine, perhaps?”

Saliena looked flummoxed. “Oh! Um…” she looked at me. “I don’t know…”

I smiled, and authoritatively handed the waiter the wine list, closed.. “We’ll have two glasses of Beaujelais,” I said, calmly.

“Excellent choice, monsieur!” The waiter said. He went off, pleased, in that way snooty waiters always are when someone shows a frigging crapload of culture.

Saliena stared at me with adoration. “That was amazing! How did you know what to order?”

I looked at my fingernails. “I am a man of culture and taste,” I replied. The truth, of course, was that I knew nothing about wine. I saw a man order Beaujelais on Fawlty Towers, and imagined that would be a good choice. But there was no reason to tell Saliena that, at least, not right now. I must appear wordly and sophisticated.

“So…” I said, when the waiter returned with two glasses of crimson drink. “I’ll ask the obvious question…”

Saliena blinked her big eyes at me, totally unaware of what I was going to ask.

“Why didn’t you hypnotize me? I mean, it would be the simplest thing,” I said.

Saliena looked about with uncertainty. “S-should I hypnotize you?”

I started. “Um, no. No, you shouldn’t. If that’s alright, I mean. It’s not really a question I ever expected you to ask,” I replied.

“I don’t…want…to hypnotize you. I want to talk to you,” she said, and this seemed to make her fearful.

“Fair enough. I guess you don’t talk to many people?”

“I generally keep to myself,” she said. “People…people are hard.”

“Hard?”

“Well, you have to make them do things. But what to make them do? Have them whistle? Knit? Weave baskets?”

I frowned. “Why make them do anything?”

“Exactly,” Saliena said with a nod. “Better to just live quietly and get what you need when you need it.”

“Is that what you are doing now?” I asked.

Saliena turned crimson, and hurriedly sipped her wine with a nervous laugh. “I didn’t mean to cause a fuss.”

I smiled, trying to soothe her. “Well, I’m glad you did.”

I realized, to some degree of amusement, that Saliena saw people similar to rocks, or trees, or other inert objects – they were simply there, and could be made to do anything. She wasn’t mean or cruel, but the same way a person can stack rocks to make a wall, she could organize people. But just as not everyone wants to make a wall, she had no interest in organizing everyone as needed to, say, rule the Earth like I would do.

“It worked out, I guess. I can hypnotize people, but I never know what to do with them,” Saliena continued. “I’m…indecisive.”

“You seem pretty decisive. You had half the earth stop to arrange a date with me.”

“Because I couldn’t make up the best way to ask you,” she explained with disquiet. “I kept coming up with something but then thinking it wouldn’t work. But then I was afraid to stop what I had…”

“Well, it did work. And you picked the restaurant,” I said. I looked around. “It’s very nice.”

She grimaced. “No…” she said with a sigh. “I’m not cultured like you. I picked it because I saw this restaurant on Frasier.”

“Hah,” I said. “I love Frasier.”

Her eyes brightened, and sparkled. “Me too!” She exclaimed. “It was the smartest show ever on TV!”

“Oh totally!” I responded. “I love the one where they find the skull and try to solve a murder…”

“Oh I love that one too!” Saliena said excitedly. “Or the one where Niles is drunk at the Costume Party…”

We did the thing where two people babble quotes from episodes at each other, and laughed at our impressions and shared memories. We both agreed that the show had a weak season 10, but recovered by the last season, and that the best episode is the one where Niles swordfights the Bavarian sword instructor who was trying to sleep with Maris.

The waiter came back and asked for our orders. Now I may not be cultured or worldly, per se, but I do know that you can never go wrong with a steak. It’s pretty much the best food, and if you get one at a nice restaurant, it’s unlikely they’ll ever fuck it up. But I figured that as toads eat snails, Saliena, being a Hypnotoad girl, might like escargot.

This turned out to be a very good idea on my part, and Saliena ranted and raved about the buttery little fellows as she inhaled them off the plate. My Ribeye was quite good as well, but then as I said, it’s hard to fuck up a steak. I was, it seemed, now responsible for every single decision about her meals. Having a very pretty girl in awe of you is quite a nice feeling, and it tasted more pleasant to my lips than the Ribeye.

Eventually our conversation turned to Frasier again, and to the show’s ending. On this we had a slight disagreement on the point of if Frasier found happiness in Chicago or not, having chased after his last season love interest.

“I suspect he blew it with Laura Linney’s character, too,” I said, swirling my wine. “Frasier always ruins his relationships.”

“I hope not,” Saliena said. “Frasier deserves happiness.”

I shrugged. “Ehhhh…”

“What? He’s a nice man,” she said. “He helps everyone. He’s a bit pompous, but he means well.”

“Sure, but he’s too picky. He makes his own problems.”

“He just doesn’t know what he wants,” Saliena said with a fierceness that surprised me. “That doesn’t mean that he should be unhappy.”

“Why, Saliena…” I said with a wry smile. “Is that like anyone else you know?”

Saliena blushed. “I know. I guess I’m a bit like Frasier in that way. I’m worried that I will never do anything, because I’ll never know what to do,” she said. She looked at me with her glowing eyes. “I’m always scared.”

“Scared of what? What’s the worst that can happen? You can HYPNOTIZE people!”

“Oh sure, I can make people shout ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD and start building golden likenesses to me, but that doesn’t help pick out what wallpaper to put in a bathroom. What if I choose the wrong thing?”

“Who cares? You can always change it if it doesn’t work out…”

“No, I can’t. But you can,” Saliena said. She licked her lips with her big tongue. “I’m far too timid, but you’re so bold, and worldly. I feel like when I’m with you, you’ll always know what to get, the way you did when you rescued me at the train station.”

I chuckled. “‘Rescued’ is a bit strong…”

“No, it’s not strong enough. You were the first person aside from my parents who helped me. You know what’s good for me,” she said. She held up the wine. “Like this wine – I absolutely LOVE this! And those escargot…that was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I feel like when I’m with you, I can just enjoy life. I don’t have to worry: you’ll guide me the right way. You’ll get me to my train.”

I looked at this charming Hypnotoadette, her big, almond shaped eyes and her cute little nose. She was adorably nervous, meek, and yet so warm as well. I was falling for her, hard.

I reached across the table, and held her hand.

She gasped, shocked by this outward display of lewdness. In the kitchen, I heard an audible gasp, and a falling pan.

“Why, Anon!” She exclaimed, reddening.

“I don’t care who sees,” I said, fiercely. Fuck it, I was worldly. “I think you’re a great girl, Saliena. I want to go out with you again.”

“Oooh!” Saliena exclaimed. She bounced up and down, quaking with excitement. “We-we should do something to celebrate.”

“In good time, my sweet Saliena. But first…” I began, running my fingers over her three-fingered hand. “We’ll need to go to the Airport.”

“Where are we going?” She asked, with big, happy eyes.

I took a sip of wine. “Rome,” I replied.

“What’s in Rome?”

“There is a staircase at the Lateran Palace of the Pope in the Vatican, a set of stone steps. They were shipped to the city from Jerusalem by Saint Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine. The stairs are said to have been the ones that Christ ascended to be tried by Pontius Pilate. Penitents ascend the stairs on their knees, to atone for their sins.”

Saliena frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“Darling…” I said, kissing her smooth, dainty hand. This made her gasp, and fan herself. “I must seek God’s forgiveness for the many, many abuses I shall use your powers for: the indignities I shall visit upon my enemies, the tiny hats I shall put on zoo animals. Your hypnosis paired with my rapacity may very well end with me being slain by an angry mob. But I have always played as Neutral Evil in Dungeons and Dragons, and eagerly I take up this mantle.”

Saliena smiled. “And we can watch Frasier?” She asked with hope.

I laughed. “Right after we go to Rome, we’ll hypnotize TV executives to get it back on the air,” I said.

She gasped. “That’s brilliant, Anon!” She exclaimed. “You are very smart.”

“Yes…” I said, sipping my wine and holding my hypnotoad’s warm hand. “Yes I am.”

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