prologue

The day started with a not-too-unusual argument between the renowned tennis player and his manager. Nothing new, really. People who are also at the restaurant might think they are conversing about Ryoma's head-on games, but the topic was of Ryoma refusing to eat at the canteen from his resident building.

" So. You, Mister, are actually telling me to change the head chef cooking at your building? " The manager, Horio, stressed. " And. . . why is that if I may ask? "

He was earned with a delightful nonchalant shrug from the other man, casually scrolling through his phone. " Food's boring. Plain. Kinda bland, especially the Japanese foods. I need a chef who cooks tasty Japanese foods. "

" Japanese foods. Basically, you are asking for a Japanese chef, aren't you? "

" Maybe. But this chef should be able to make food other than Japanese. "

The manager sensed an upcoming headache of the day to where the conversation was going. " You're confusing me. If you're comfortable with foods other than Japanese, then why not go with those from the residency, Ryoma? I can bring you better Japanese take-outs, since that's the only thing you're complaining about, then for the different meals, you eat at that canteen. "

" No, I want it homemade. You know what, Horio, call your girlfriend. Ask her if there's someone there in Japan willing to work here in my suite as a chef. "

" Okay, stop. " Horio stood up to request for the bill of their food, while the tennis player pointedly stared at him, waiting for his next rebuttal. " First, Ryoma, no we are not or actually cannot get a personal chef for you- why? " He interrupted when his friend was about to voice his dismay. " Why? Because you're barely home, Ryoma. How is that different if you're just going to buy Japanese homemade foods from outside then go back straight to your home? "

" Well, it's different. " A low voice muttered, while the manager paid the bill.

Horio continued after, knowing what Ryoma said at his back. " And second, it is meaningless. That's it. "

The manager did really try to explain it on point for his friend to understand, because Ryoma can be a lot hard-headed when he wants to, by experiences. To see Ryoma all grumpy in front of him after his outburst, it made him groan. Suddenly, he's the evil one again. " Okay, fine. I'll ask Tomoka, alright? But if there's no one, then that's it. Do we have an agreement?"

" Deal." The smirk was returned. " He can just cook meals, or even live in the suite if he wants to. The place's big anyway for just me and Karupin. "

The tennis player caught a sudden glint crossed Horio's face. " What? What are you thinking? "

" Living in your suite? Well, that is a good notion. "

Ryoma's eyebrow raised. " What is it? If you're thinking of becoming my chef just because of a freebie space in my suite, I'm not allowing it. "

"No! No no!" The manager laughed, wiping his mouth with a tissue and to also hide his growing smirk. " I might actually have a pretty good candidate for that chef position of yours. Under some given conditions, of course. "

Now the tennis player has a growing curiosity. " Oh? Spill then. "

" Are you up for a practicing chef instead? "

" It depends. " Ryoma pointed out sharply. " If he's excelling in his skills, that's considerable. "

" Oh do not worry. This close friend of mine is a very competent person when it comes to cooking. There is nothing that she has not excelled at. Japanese foods are a given to her knowledge, I tell you personally, I like her cooking better than my girlfriend's. "

" If you're comparing it to your girlfriend then I guess it's true that she can be my chef. If she's a fan, I will decline. It will be a trouble for me. "

Horio laughed. " Sakuno-chan doesn't even know the concept of tennis, rest assured she won't know you unless you tell her who you are. "

" Fair enough. How old is she, Sakuno? " Ryoma don't do with formalities that much clearly.

" Same age as mine and yours." It is Horio's turn to be serious on his threat. " Don't think of funny business with her, Echizen. She received a scholarship for masters curriculum studies in University of Central Lancashire , and she needs a place to live in for a while. I wouldn't want to be the source of hate if she ends up failing her degree because of you. "

Ryoma lowly whistled at the high regards of the unknown friend of his friend and scoffed. " And why would I want to fail her? I just want to eat what she cooks for me. So, when is she coming? Classes here starts in two weeks. "

In cue, Horio focused his sight at the grandfather clock huddled at the corner of the barista shed. " In fact, I might need to dismiss myself now. I need to fetch her at the airport by 2pm. Gotta make this fast, I still have a meeting with your endorsements after, regarding your schedule for the next months. "

" Don't forget to add my tennis practices. "

" I know, geez, of course. You're a tennis player first and foremost, sir. "

Ryoma cleared his throat, appearing quite decisive. " About that fetching thing, let me do it. "

" Fetching Sakuno-chan? Haha no, I can do it. " There was a hint of finality at the last statement.

" No, listen. I'm going to get Karupin on the way, might as well wait for the woman at the airport. Besides, I still need to access her personally, if uh she can be trusted. Something like that. "

Horio looked at the seriousness painted at the other's face. He's trying to decipher what plan is going on his head, but failed. He sighed. Surely his friend won't betray his trust just for this. " I will send you her number and photo. You don't even know her, why are you going through these lengths, Echizen Ryoma. "

"Beats me. "