Disclaimer: None of these fine characters belong to me. It's call Fanfiction for a reason ¬_¬
Notes: I love the dynamics of these two characters in their chapter together and this is my view on how their relationship can evolve in the future, Hope you enjoy and I look forward to your reviews and comments on their relations!
"I would like your help," were his first words after calling out my name from the other end of the hallway and jogging up to me.
"People usually start with a greeting." I narrowed my eyes at him for his informality… not that I mind especially since I knew it was him; His words were unexpected but speaking with him was not unwelcome.
He grinned widely, "Ah, sorry, sorry, I'm just wondering if you can help me with something." He continued after a pause to scratch the back of his head, "I'd like you to try out a few dishes."
"No. I still remember the last time we did that." I shuddered as I recalled the taste of peanut butter and fermented sea cucumber. Everyone who tasted it had fought over the use of the sink to wash that foul taste.
"Aww, c'mon, it won't take much effort."
I tsked at his insistence and glanced at my watch even though I knew the time. It was a gesture meant for him to get the hint. "I'm busy… what are you grinning about?"
"Well, I know for a fact that Nakiri is abroad which means your schedule is free. What else would you be busy with?"
"Other things!" I huffed at the insinuation of his words but he had a point…besides being Erina-sama's secretary, I really had nothing else to do. I eyed him when he didn't respond. Eh? Is that a pout? Come on, don't do this, I'm soft to those expressions and seeing him do that tugged something within me. "Oh alright. You got me." I sighed, "What do you need help with? "
Those words seem to have immediate effect on him as he beamed and, before I can react, he grabbed me by the wrist and excitedly tugged me through the corridor, enthusiasm radiating from him as we hurried pass more than a few students.
He sat me down at a table next to a quaint bay window decorated by indoor plants in a kitchen that is designed to allow the dinners to observe the chefs in action. I folded my arms in protest of his treatment, not bothering to mask my mild annoyance for bring effectively dragged through the halls earlier as he set the table with a blue mat and dinner spoon, humming a happy tune as he poured me a glass of water.
"So, what's this about?" I asked.
"Well it's almost dinner so I thought I'll cook for you."
I snorted at his cheeky reply, dismissing it as his usual banter. Despite my scepticism, the darkening sky outside the widow as well as my increasing appetite favored his words. A quick scan of the cooking space which had a rice cooker and a wok had made me guess that he's going to make some fried rice or something.
"Dinner will be served shortly, I appreciate your patience." He said, with ease and sincerity that only a veteran working in a restaurant can recite as he removed his blazer to reveal his signature Yikihira restaurant uniform. He then proceeded to put on his apron and finally his signature headband cloth.
At the work station, he began with a display of his knife skills, finely slicing up a head of cabbage to thin strips followed by mincing a little garlic. Then from a soup pot, he pulled out a piece of chicken thigh of which he quickly de-boned and cubed the pieces then setting aside into a bowl. He finally proceeded to beat and season some eggs. All his movements were swift and precise. I would have likened him to a musician playing at a quick tempo.
He then heated a wok on high and poured in a measure of oil. He slide in the garlic then paused for them to impart their fragrance to the oil. He then added some thick tomato paste with some stock from the soup pot. After a moment to let the two ingredients to mingle and thicken, he added a generous bowl of rice which he rapidly tossed it with gusto to separate each rice grain and allow them to be coated with the reddish liquid.
Cabbage is then sprinkled in followed by the rapid tossing again. Incidentally, I caught myself staring at the muscles of his strong arms that flexed with each tossing motion and coughed to mask my embarrassment. What? I am still a teenage girl, and despite the rumours on campus, what's so odd that such things can catch my attention? Oh, shut up.
Next, the chicken pieces were added along with the final seasoning. Once he decided the rice was to his standard, he took the wok off the fire and set the contents into a separate bowl.
Returning the wok onto a medium fire, he added a dash of oil to gently scramble the egg. He then shut the fire off and allowed the residual heat to cook the egg. He then upended the bowl of rice onto the egg. Folding the sides of the egg onto the rice he finally plated the dish by flipping the wok's content onto a wide plate.
And there it was: omurice.
I face faulted; so this was what he was so excited about? It didn't seem impressive at all; it was just a common dish just like what one can find in an everyday café. That is until he remarked, "now for the finishing touches."
He picked up a squeeze bottle which I would assume is ketchup and started to write on it. I bet that he's going to write either his catchphrase "御粗末" or something cliché.
Once complete with his work, he proudly served the dish to me with a wide grin, "Dinner is served."
The moment I looked down, I was surprised by what laid before me: it was a drawing of me; or at least a line drawing of me…a very well drawn one, in fact. Through it was impressive I resisted the urge to let it show.
Frankly, this was my first time in a long while seeing omurice in person as no one would dare serve such common food to Erina-sama which in turn means I would never come close to it. Now, having it served to me brought on a feeling of nostalgia of my youth when my parents brought me out for lunch for the rare family time in a café as they were always busy tending to the Nakiri family.
"What we have here is my experimental omurice. It contains a special ingredient that I think your expertise will be most useful for feedback."
"Korean ginseng," I glanced up at him, "Don't have to look impressed, herbal cooking is my speciality remember?"
"Exactly," he smirked, "That's what I'd like to consult you on. I was considering adding this dish into my restaurant's menu when I reopen for the summer holidays. For one, it fits the special-of-the-day theme and I was considering the ageing demographics along with the Korean craze that's sweeping across the nation." He grinned with pride, gesturing at his dish, "and so, I came up with this! Try it while it's hot!"
What he said made sense. In a way, I'm glad for him that he still thought of his restaurant back home despite the busy schedules we have in school.
Picking up the spoon, I paused for a moment to appreciate the artwork before I sunk into the soft golden pillow. The egg layer yielded immediately giving me access to the reddish core of the dish. The aroma of ginseng permeated the air, immediately whetting my appetite and caused me to subconsciously lick my lips in anticipation.
The moment the spoonful of rice met my tongue, I was treated to an explosion of flavour. The first thing that came forward was the citric acid from the tomato base, watering my tongue for more which then ushered in the herbal notes from the ginseng. The chicken stock made the chicken pieces stand out from the backdrop of fragrant rice and crunchy cabbage. He had got the balance of seasoning and textures just right.
"So, what do you think?" He asked as I was working through the first mouthful, excitement gleaming in his eyes.
I instinctively covered my mouth as proper manners obliges. I would have told him off to at least let me swallow before he asked but his enthusiasm was sincere which made me decide against it…so I settled with a glare, hoping that he got the hint to be more polite in the future.
"I think," I began as I finished chewing. "It's good." I answered honestly.
"It's well balanced: the seasoning is good, and the texture keeps the dish interesting…but I think it lacks something."
"You know, I was thinking the same thing." he smiled with a slight smirk, "guess we do have the same tastes."
I took another spoonful. This time, I savoured the fluffy egg which enveloped the pleasant umami rich flavors. The sourness of the tomato, saltiness of the broth, and the refreshing crunch of the cabbage would make this dish a hit with anyone, young or old. Then it clicked, "sweetness" I remarked, "I think it can do with some sweetness in the dish, and a little tang to make a contrast."
He laughed, "I knew I approached the right person. You just further proved we think alike." He seemed really glad about that. "so any suggestions I can add to improve this? I was thinking using some rice vinegar and sugar but it will just spread through the whole dish, making it dull."
I considered the dish as I continued eating: it was a dish that fuses the standard omurice with herbal properties targeting older folks while not neglecting the other demographics. So something unique to the youth but familiar with the elderly will make this dish more interesting; perhaps something that has herbal properties, being sweet and tangy; something that gels with the ginseng chicken theme.
Ah I got it!
"Add in some of this," I lifted something out my pocket: my personal stash of a certain healthy snack. Dropping a few pieces onto the dish, I tried another spoonful…and it works perfectly!
"Oh? What's that?"
I set my spoon down and shook a few pieces of the berries into my palm for him to see, "These are goji berries. They are high in vitamin C and a good source of iron and anti-oxidants. Furthermore, considering your dish, it could help relieve arthritis and protect against muscular degeneration. Plus they give a good boost of energy. I think this might be the answer to your problem."
He considered the berries for a moment to process my words and then brightened. I was really expecting him to take a piece of berry off my palm to sample but he, being him, took up my spoon instead and scooped a spoonful of rice and a few berries into his mouth!
WHAT WAS THAT?!
Does he not know what he did? He just took MY SPOON, the spoon that I JUST USED, and put it INTO HIS MOUTH (yes, yes, there was food on it but that is not the point) Ok, ok, stay calm, this is Yukihira Soma we are talking about here but: WHAT THE HAY? Look at him there, clearly enjoying the food, acting as if it didn't bother him at all. He was the one who took my spoon but why am I the one who is embarrassed here?
"Yo, Arato, are you alright? You look red." He took another mouthful, speaking between chews, "Are these berries that effective in energy boost? They are delicious."
"That's not why I'm blushing!" I blurt out before I could stop myself. I would kick myself if I could at this moment.
I huffed and took a deep breath to refocus, "never mind that."
He raised an eyebrow then shrugged and went on to happily take another spoonful of rice before settling it down. "You know, I think having a bag of this amazing berry really suits you." He beamed. "Thanks to you, I just know this dish will be a hit in the restaurant."
I hmm-ed nonchalantly, eyeing the spoon that we just shared.
"So, do you think Nakiri would approve of this dish?"
That snapped me back to reality, "Erina-sama?"
"Well, I had a vow with her on my first day of school that I'll clearly make her say my food is good after giving a bad review the last time she tried my dish."
Was there such a thing? Why was I not told of that? "So is that why you're always so adamant for her to try your food? You're motivated for her approval?" Somehow, this did not sit well with me.
"Oh no no no. I was thinking more of an ego reason: I can't get my shop's name dirty by leaving someone saying my food was bad." He pouted.
I caught my mouth wide open at his train of thought: all those efforts for a bad review? Then again, his dedication to his shop is admirable. Thinking of nothing else to say, I just praised him as such.
"Yeh well, my family restaurant is my life. One of the reasons I'm here in this school is for the sake of making a name for it…that and to defeat my dad in a cook-off!" he chuckled nostalgically
A moment passed then he switched back to his chirpier self. "And so, right here, you've just got yourself named an honorary member of Restaurant Yukihara for your contribution!"
"Eh? But I didn't do anything much." I was frankly confused at his words.
"Yes, you did; your contribution to the menu gets you recognized for the effort!"
"Erm…thanks" I muttered, "I guess" under my breath, still unsure about the significance of his words.
"Alright, time clean up, maybe you can help by finishing the last spoonful while I start washing."
His words were so casual that I automatically picked up the spoon next to the plate, scooped up the remnants and put it into my mouth…only then I realized that this was the same spoon he was using!
A/N: Thanks for reading! Please leave a review on how you think their relationship should go.
As a challenge and fun, leave a review on any scenes you like to see and I'll work it into the story somehow. I'll make sure to acknowledge you is I do so!
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