Disclaimer: I do not own Shokugeki no Soma. Please do not sue me. I have no money.
Summary: Nakiri Erina lives a life far removed from that of a normal girl's. After a near defeat in a minor shokugeki, concerns are raised as to whether the young heiress is overworked and stressed. To assuage her grandfather's concerns, she agrees to see a therapist. Peculiar assignments are given in order to address the source of Erina's demons.
Thanks to: Cyber, for editing.
Shokugeki no Soma
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"Lady Erina, we are here. Are you sure you don't want me to accompany you?"
"I'll be fine, Hisako."
The therapist's office was a small white house with a blue tiled roof in the middle of the green mountains. A white picket fence surrounded the house. Two windows flanked the red door. It looked unassuming enough without an air of hostility.
A young receptionist sat on the desk polishing her nails. "Oh, Dr. Shinagawa will see you now. She's been waiting."
These were the sort of interactions Erina was most fond of: short, succinct, and to the point with no hassle or small talk.
"Ah, Miss Nakiri Erina. I've been expecting you."
The room had an old-fashioned atmosphere, not to say it was dusty – everything was immaculate. The room had a dark carpet with red-brown furniture and cushions. Bookcases of various subjects from classic literature to paranormal activities to psychology and sciences and –yes- even cooking were among the titled etched onto the cover.
"I think the entire situation has been overblown."
The therapist smiled and continued on.
"Tell me about your friends."
The therapist looked up, as if she were surprised at Erina's response. "Yes, friends. You have friends, yes?"
Erina thought to her various companions. There was of course, Hisako. And beyond her there was Alice. And recently she had become close to Megumi Tadokoro. There were various other acquaintances… but deep down they carried a sense of awe and fear for her. They wanted to be her, but at the same time were terrified of her existence. She was the physical embodiment of royalty and the masterful example of culinary arts personified. Perfection.
A perfect girl like Nakiri Erina shouldn't exist except in the realm of fantasy.
"I have good friends. They are all excellent chefs. And they don't fear me."
With a slight smile, the therapist scratched some notes.
"W-what are writing?"
"Notes, of course."
"So tell me what happened. Every detail if you would please," the therapist requested. "Of course you don't have to, although if it isn't as big of a deal as you say, then perhaps nothing really did happen."
"It was a minor shokugeki – shokugeki are cooking competitions where both parties wager something. For example it could be a clubroom or funding or what have you. For this shokugeki I wanted to build another cooking facility to accommodate some additional personnel and I thought the Edible Insect Society was insignificant enough to be wiped out."
"Wiped out? That's a bit harsh."
"That's what they get for floundering. They shouldn't hang onto past glories. But anyways, the theme was 'Unusual Proteins' – and I just made some careless mistakes."
"From my understanding, you don't make mistakes."
"I don't… usually."
"So what happened?"
"Are you sure? Was something on your mind?"
"I was completely focused…"
That's right… prior to the match.
She saw something. It was nothing. It was small and insignificant as an ant.
Megumi Tadokoro was walking side by side with him.
"Want to walk home together, Tadokoro?"
Somehow, it stuck on her mind.
Careless mistakes were made. One at first, then another, until they began to snowball and Erina began realizing that the mere seconds in slip-ups were beginning to pile up into a catastrophe. Of all the hundreds of shokugeki she had participated in in her long and undefeated streak, this was perhaps her closest and hardest fought yet.
And this all came about because she couldn't clear her mind of an unnecessary memory.
"It's all Yukihira's fault," Erina muttered silently.
The name became associated with the little-deaths that attacked her heart. Every interaction seemed to shave off several hours or days off her lifespan. The cretin didn't understand anything and acted so familiar with her.
"Yu-Yukihira Soma… that name drives me… ugh."
"Yukihara? The name drives you…"
"Furious! That man's very existence is an affront to all things proper! He's nothing more than a second rate special-of-the-day che-, ugh. He's not even a chef! He's just a short-order cook! That's what he is!"
"Ah, so it's a boy?"
"Yes! He's a stupid idiotic boy who doesn't understand his place in the world. His admission into Tootsuki Culinary Academy was a terrible misjudgement on whoever approved it. He's in a league miles above his own. Vermin like him should be kept on a leash and only walked out outside of my presence. "
"That's unusually harsh. Does he not bath?"
"H-he cleans himself I'm sure," Erina fumbled. "I mean, he doesn't smell."
"You've smelled him?"
"No! B-but, he doesn't carry a bad odor…ugh, what do you want me to say?" Erina began growing frustrated at her inability to articulate what she wanted to say.
"He sounds like a lively boy," the therapist said, biting the tip of her pen. "Hm… I fail to understand what he did to make you so upset."
"He's a pest!"
"Did something personal occur between the two of you?"
Floods of memories came pouring back to Erina. Every embarrassing exchange, every moment the two were next to each other by fate or some idiocy of luck made her blood pressure escalate.
It was a cold and calculated response.
"I see. Have you seen any good movies lately?"
"What's so great about movies?"
"I take that as a 'no'. Okay. You're not a cinema fan. That's fine. Have you been to an amusement or water park recently? Perhaps you've been to an outing in a public setting like the mall or the local shopping district perhaps."
"I do go to the local fish markets on occasion," Erina answered before another memory entered her mind. "But I did go to a water park last summer with my cousin Alice. We spent nearly the whole day there."
"Did anything fun happen?"
"It was rather uneventful. Alice kept pestering me to be on guard in case we got hit on, but no boys ever came near us. So that was a relief."
The therapist smiled and nodded before scratching a few more notes.
Erina fidgeted in her armchair. She wanted to desperately see what was being written down.
"Do you like arcades? Karaoke? Hm… have you been to a summer festival?"
"Of course I've attended summer festivals. I enjoy sampling the local traditional fair when I get a chance. Sometimes during less formal parties my grandfather brings out the old karaoke machine and gets into sing-a-longs with his drinking buddies. But I don't know what this… arcade is that you're talking about."
The therapist nodded. Then scratched a few more notes.
"Erina. Have you ever been on a date?"
"Who has time for such foolish activities? I don't have time for flings."
The therapist furrowed her eyebrows. "That's certainly a mature position to take."
"A bit too mature, but I can see where you're coming from."
"Exactly… wait, what do you mean you can see where I'm coming from?"
"Hm… my current conclusion is that you're not a normal girl."
"A bit of normalcy isn't bad you know? You don't have to be so adverse to it."
"What could possibly be so fun about that?"
"I don't know, you could go out, see the world…"
"I'm flown out to Paris to sample the latest offerings every so often. And sometimes I go to trips to culinary expeditions to China, Turkey, and Europe with Alice and her family."
Biting the eraser tip of her pencil, the therapist frowned to herself. "Um… not quite what I meant…"
"But I'm seeing the world."
"You're seeing the world's food. What about the people and their culture? How well do you understand the people who eat the food?"
"I don't understand what you're saying."
"In many parts of the world, eating is just another thing to do. It can be entertaining and it should be enjoyable but there are more things to life than just refining one's taste buds."
"I can sort of see that…"
"Erina, do you have someone you admire?"
"These questions are coming really out of nowhere."
"I know, but please bear with me. So, do you have someone you admire? Perhaps a gentleman?"
"T-there is one…"
"It wouldn't happen to be Yukihira Soma, would it?"
The mere mention of his name didn't instantaneously cause Erina's blood pressure to elevate. Erina paused thoughtfully. Before her mind could control her lips, an answer began to slip out.
"Mayb-wait! No! Absolutely not!"
The therapist smiled. "Is that so?"
"Yukihira Soma is nothing like the person I admire! The person I admire… his cooking is the epitome of perfection. " The thought of that gentlemen who cooked a meal for the Nakiri residence once upon many moonrises ago swept into her mind. "Every spice chosen, each cut and technique used was masterful beyond measure. I-I… hope to achieve that level of perfection in my own cooking one day."
Erina mumbled the last part, embarassed at having confessed her secret desire.
"It's good to have a dream," the therapist said with a smile. She jotted a few more notes down before continuing, "How about this. I'm going to give you a homework assignment: you are going to ask him how his day is."
"W-what! I can't!"
Erina looked up, a blush formed on her cheeks.
"I-I don't know where he is. Nobody's seen him for years," Erina replied, her voice trailing off.
The therapist frowned. "Oh is that so… I guess I'll just change the assignment then."
"You are going to ask Yukihira Soma how his day is. And you are also going to learn at least three things about him. You'll report your findings to me during our session next week. That's your homework assignment."
"What? That's ridiculous! Why do I have to…"
"I believe confronting your demons is the best way to resolve this issue. And this Yukihira Soma certainly is a demon to you. The more you understand your demons, the less of a negative hold they have on you."
Quietly, Nakiri nodded. "I understand. If that's all, I'll be taking my leave."
"Of course, I'll have my receptionist call your car."
Erina nodded and quickly left the room. The less time she spent in there, hopefully her heart would stop beating so fast. The mere thought of having to interact with Yukihira, even for a brief and casual conversation felt so beneath her.
Taking her seat, Erina folded her arms and leaned back into the cushion. The car ride back would be a few minutes long, a brief respite from the day's events and the appointments to come.
"Did you find anything out about yourself," Hisako asked.
Biting her tongue, Erina gave a measured response.
"No. Nothing important."
Erina turned her head and looked out the window for the rest of the ride.
Chapter One Fin