Note: Ryoma and Sakuno do NOT know each other before.
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 , 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. "
" Be my chef."
Those were the words Ryuzaki Sakuno heard, right after her wrist was captured in the middle of her call. The grip on her wrist hasn't disappeared, as clueless as she was on what on earth was happening and who was this tall man actually? She hastily ended her call and fumbled on her words, sure she has studied foreign language in preparation for her scholarship, and yes, she did understand the English words spoken by the man, but subjected to this circumstance with her mind suggesting rather violent action of abduction by the man, she couldn't help but stutter out her response. " Y-y-yes?"
" I said, be my chef. You need a part-time job, right? Then be my chef."
" Oh yes, I do need- wait-cho-chotto matte kudasai, you are speaking with my language?" Sakuno was momentarily bewildered, hearing and understanding exactly that last statement in Japanese. But she couldn't be so sure, I mean, those were just few to be renowned. " Excuse me, sir, I- I don't mean to be rude, but please let go of my hand. "
Attempting to observe the other's features seemed to be futile with his cap on, shielding his face, paired with a hoodie. " Right. " She almost felt the man's smirk over his hoodie, and her hand was released.
" U-Uhm " She started once again after a lapse of uncomfortable silence. Surely this man heard her plea right? How would this interrogation continue further if she's about to accept a job from a stranger. She'd rather work in a restaurant than this. "So, mister, are you sure you want to hire me? Do you even know me? "
" Sure. You are Japanese, aren't you? I'm Ryoma. "
" E-eto, Ryoma-san, is it? Yes, I'm a Japanese. My name is Ryuzaki Sakuno, it's nice to meet your acquaintance. " Sakuno smiled reluctantly, almost hesitantly since she's still actually focusing her sight to his cap that screams a big 'R', his face remained unseen. How that R seemed to strike something familiar, she wondered. " Well, again, I do not mean to be rude, but how exactly did you find me? "
The man, Ryoma, shrugged. " I heard it from Horio. "
" Horio-kun? " Sakuno gasped. " Have you seen him, by any chance? I have a terrible sense of direction, you see R-Ryoma-san, and my phone of all unlucky chances, chooses to drain its battery, so please please if you could contact him in any way, I would repay you-"
A hand hovered inches from her face. " You're rambling, Ryuzaki-san." Ryoma chuckled. " Horio is my. . ah. . friend. He's at my home, where you'll stay and work. "
" Oh yes he's at your house- e-EH? " She did a double-take. " So I would be a chef of your house-a-at your house? Is that it? "
" Yes. "
" But . . . " Sakuno bit her lips, the consequences of this is a bit high, first she has little grasp of the geography of this big country, she only has the instructions and guides given for the dormitories she could book in and also the direction to the university, and diners. Second, if this man does really have some kind of connection with his colleague, Horio, she assumed she wouldn't miss any issue since her bestfriend andHorio's girlfriend are the same roommate she had, less likely could Tomoka forgot to mention Ryoma at least once. Third, she is not fully confident of her capabilities to work as a chef- her original intention was to work at the kitchen, yes, but to also observe and study some dishes. " But- "
"You can live at my house, eat, bath, study, anything, all I need for you to do is cook my meals. That's it. You don't even need to clean the house, someone is already assigned to do it. "
Sakuno shyly smiled, sharing a grin. " That is quite a hard bargain you are placing unto me, Ryoma-san. " Inwardly, she was trembling from all the free passes she could have- a house to live where you only need to cook? Where else can anyone look for a job as simple as that? That's basically her routine in a normal everyday lifestyle. " Well, if it isn't too much of a trouble- "
" Great. Let's go." The large bag on her feet was carried.
Then her wrist was snatched once again and tugged forward. "E-Eeeeh? " Confused, Sakuno asked him while she hastely gathered her last belonging, her stroll bag, unconsciously letting her body being pulled strongly. " Are we going to your house now? "
" Yeah, but I need to drive-by somewhere on the way, or rather fetch my stubborn pet. "
Sakuno tried invading bodies from the common crowd to follow the man's huge steps, almost tripping from luggages of departures piled everywhere and her own stroll bag bumping unintentionally. " O-okay, but may I ask what you particularly do for a living, Ryoma-san?
" For a living huh? " There a flash of confusion etched on the man's face, before he masked it and doily pulled her to the crowd . " You'll see once we get home. "
Sakuno huffed. The man has his mind on making this conversation difficult. They passed by the gates without words, when Sakuno had enough. " Well, just so you know, Ryoma-san, I still don't trust you fully. It might just be a coincidence you heard Horio-kun's name but- a- wh-wha?! " She shrieked, once a personnel she thought was going to pass by them, directly acknowledged the man, who wasn't listening to her ramblings. Following the personnel's movements, her belongings, even the stroll bag on her hold, were placed in a shiny silver sports car which she is quite sure not even her total tuition combined could afford. The sports car screamed celebrity, she's sure of it, and now her mind is going haywire.
She stood rigid, as the personnel politely gave the keys, both of them in stiff silence. She chanced a glance to the human being beside her, there is something definitely off with this setup.
A snicker at her side, and the man's moving forward, opening the passenger seat. " So do you have any plan on hopping in or what?" He called on her still unmoving form.
" I am debating, Ryoma-san. " Sakuno confessed, her hands fisted to her skirt in stubborn manner. " Are you perhaps a president of a huge company? Leader of mafia or yakuza? A famous idol? A prince? "
" I told you, you'll see when we get home. "
"Wha- we? Please wait a minute. I- I'd would like to hail a taxi instead. " She declared, finding the whole ordeal suspicious. " Even if you are an acquaintance with Horio-kun, I would like to meet Horio-kun myself. Please, may I have my belongings, Ryoma-san?"
" I can't believe I'm arguing with my chef at our first encounter. " Ryoma sighed and dropped his hoodie that was shading his face, but let the cap on. " Listen, alright. Yes, you got it. I am somewhat famous and Horio is my manager for three years now, and he's also my friend. I heard about you from him. Who am I and why I do for a living, you will know all of it if you just come with me. "
It took a moment for Sakuno to digest everything. So he is more than an acquaintance to Horio. Fair enough to be trusted. " Fine." She grumpily stated, pacing forward. " If-If this is a prank, you will see to it, I will poison you with food!" She warned before entering the vehicle in Ryoma's stride, watching the conscious smirk emitting at the man's face before the door was closed..
The threat held no bite, especially since the woman was pouting cutely in Ryoma's eyes. " Hn. Noted." He smirked and pressed the engine button.
Along the way, Sakuno was pressed on her cellphone, typing furiously to her best friend about her strange encounter with the owner of this fancy car she's riding on. Oh my gosh, I can't believe I actually hopped in his car, Tomo-chan! I don't know why I did it!
While waiting for the reply, Sakuno chanced a glance to the driver. He's still sporting that sunglasses so she couldn't look and analyze further but his side profile. There has been a silent atmosphere between them for a while in the ride. " So, uhm, Ryoma-san. "
The man answered with a low hum, encouraging her to continue.
" About this errr job you're offering me. Does it include a whole day of cooking food for some catering, or restaurant job, because I actually went here to study and finish my degree. "
" I'm aware of the reason you came here. Horio briefed me on some. You're just going to cook my meals. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. That's it. "
The woman had a second to digest the information. " Just that? You mean I am obligated of a room in your house, in exchange of cooking meals for you? "
The man did a sharp turn to the right, making Sakuno pressed slightly to the door, which was what she pretty much wanted to do right then. The man is becoming borderline suspicious, for allowing her to live with him in such a vulnerable contract in between.
" Yes. It is easy as that. You can live there, it's spacious enough for a crowd to come anyway. "
Sakuno's lips went to a thin line. Wait- but what if- " Not to be mean, Ryoma-san, but are you perhaps a very picky-eater then? "
" No. I eat anything delicious. "
Well that just negated the chance of understanding him right away.
" We're here. " Ryoma's words disrupt her from brooding over more choices to why he's allowing so many offers to her.
Sakuno paused to look at her left.
It's a small veterinary clinic, judging from the marble dog statue at front, and the tarpaulin mounted at the doors. She hastily turned back to see Ryoma going out from his position, without turning the engine off. " Ryoma-san? " She called.
" Wait here, I'll be back quick. " She nibbled on her finger, watching the man jog to the entrance door. What on earth is going on.
She took the opportunity to call her friend from Japan while she's alone at the car.
His face! Look at his face! Is he handsome, Sakuno?
Sakuno face-palmed. Knowing her friend, she would be like that. " B-But why the face? I was describing to you his manners!"
Uuugh I get it, he's kind of sharp-tongued and more of a brooder, but so what if he's handsome. So tell me! Is he?
" W-Weeeell. Yes, he is. Even if some parts of his face are covered by his sunglasses, I think he is good looking. "
Kyaaaa! Now is your chance to claim your love, Sakuno! You might come back here in Japan with a degree and a boyfriend!
" Bo-Boyfriend? " Sakuno felt the upcoming heat creeping up her face. " That's not the reason I came here, Tomo-chan! Mou!"
That's just a hunch, baka! Take a photo of him! I wanna see his face!
" I can't, he's out right now. I'm in the car waiting for him to come back. "
Waiting for him, huh? Wow, you're still in the getting to know stage but you're both warming up reaaaal fast. Kyaaa!
"To-Tomo-chaaan." Seriously, her friend would be the death of her. If she continues, with all her teasing she might combust. " it's not like that, really- a-anyway, he's here! Omo, his cat is so cute! I'll call you later, okay? Ja!"
At her view, Ryoma was talking with who seemed to be the owner of the clinic, the cat slouching at his arms. What a large cat. Then they were exchanging pleasantries, awaking Sakuno to compose herself while she follows with her eyes Ryoma's fast approaching figure. The next thing she knew, there was a cat jumping down to her lap.
The cat openly meowed while staring wide-eyed to her. Sakuno actually feared her face from being scratched, but the cat was doing nothing but voiced its meows continuously.
" She's maybe confuse. You're sitting at her usual spot in the car. " Ryoma answered her unspoken question, as they drove back to the road.
" Oh. Well I could go to the back? "
" Nah, let her stay there, know that's not her place anymore. "
The inclinations between those words were lost to Sakuno, but she became embarrassed nonetheless that she's trespassing and insisted. " O-Oh but it's okay. I can move."
" Don't move. " That was only the words replied to her, no more additional, telling Sakuno not to further make any issue about it, but she still remained bothered about the fact that he's comfortably telling her that she owns this spot to herself from now on.
It's not like she would be here for that long. Right? I mean, is she even allowed to have a ride with her employer?
The cat seemed to be satisfied with the soft brushes Sakuno was giving to its fur, resulting to curling at her lap, its other limb smartly slipped at the seatbelt to prevent itself from sliding down at every halt of the car. " She's a pretty cat. "
" Pretty but naughty. " It's owner supplied, and the cat's head turned like it has understood it and produced another lazy meow. Sakuno chuckled, poking its tiny nose.
" She's Karupin. "
" Why hello Karupin-san. I am Sakuno. "
She was earned with an acknowledging stare then went back to its position. Sakuno was delighted, she'd take that minute gesture.
The ride went on with Sakuno musing herself with the cat, deciding to pamper it with affectionate touches and taking photos, not noticing the owner throwing side glances at them.
When they arrived at the said building, first thing Sakuno noticed was how peaceful the surrounding of the hotel was. There was even a convenience store they passed by and a small town, houses lining on the street, few buildings erected at the near blocks ahead. How on earth did such a grand hotel made its way here.
" It's pretty convenient in this hotel, it's being paid well cause of celebrities choosing the quiet environment here, away from cameras. " Ryoma supplied once again the voids on her mind.
Two men were called to help carry her belongings, Sakuno didn't bother arguing anymore, letting the man do as he pleases while she settled on carrying the cat. Another thing she noted of was that nobody was paying him any heed if this man is indeed a famous person. He did say a lot of celebrities, so it's something.
Sakuno had a half-mind not to slacken her jaw at the amount of space the suite has for just one person to live in. It's too huge and spacious!
"Anywhere is fine, except for that room and that too." He instructed immediately once they entered the suite, pointing first at the door near the staircase and also at the door besides the spacious balcony and getting the cat from the other's hold. " It has my things unless you're volunteering to transfer them, if you want those rooms. "
" Uhm Ryoma-san? " Sakuno immediately called, realizing that the man carrying his huge feline was about to disappear from her sight to nowhere, and she would be alone to disfigure this huge place.
" Hn?" Ryoma called without stopping from his tracks, hearing the woman's steps from behind while he let Karupin down, his arms are cramping from her weight anyway.
Sakuno left her belongings behind, finding it hindrance from her attempt to catch the owner of the house. " If it is not too much of a trouble, could I please have the room near the kitchen? "
" Go ahead. " The man waved a hand. " After you have settled, there are some ingredients left at the refrigerator. If you cannot make something out of those, call me. "
There was a tone in his voice, that the chef did not like, however she let it go, knowing fully well how cocky the man can be, she realized. Though this time, this man's attitude ticked her to challenge her skills into creating a possibly delicious meal out of what she could find inside the refrigerator. Oh she just hopes nothing's too difficult to handle, since she was just about to adjust to foreign countries, such as New Zealand's, cuisines. " I will try my best to satisfy you, Ryoma-san."
A thin grin emitted from the other man's lips as he rested his back at the table top. " You don't need to make this sound like I'm testing you or anything, Ryuzaki. I do eat anything that is delicious. "
Sakuno bit her lip, thinking. " Do you have at least rice? Fried rice should be easy. "
" Yeah, I have that. Help yourself." He gestured to his double-door refrigerator, and walked away.
As soon as the master of the house was away from her hearing range, Sakuno pouted. "Mou. He's such a difficult man. " She chose the nearest room to the kitchen in hopes of not bothering said owner whenever she might try recipes at nights, in practice for her studies ahead. Once she has placed all her belongings inside the room, her destination went to the kitchen, choosing to postpone her luggage opening for tonight's agenda.
" Yosh, let us see what he has here." She observed every cabinet, memorizing in the process the arrangement and placements of the utensils and ingredients she would need in the kitchen, for her stay in this house. Maybe she might need it, if ever the tennis player comes home with a hungry tummy, she can produce a meal right away without asking for the materials and ingredients, that would surely tick the man more if ever she does.
She set the ingredients she would be needing. " White onion, lemon, parsley, carrots, and about three-fourths of meat. Only good for a fried rice, I guess. " She raised her head, to look at the figure posed at the balcony, busy calling somebody on his phone. Echizen Ryoma's back was shown to her, his built shoulders exposed from the sleeveless long hoodie. Sakuno shook her head to diminish her weird thoughts.
Half an hour has passed quietly at the large suite, as the person manning the kitchen was busy on her thoughts as well as working her hands to improve her dish. It was a simple fried rice, but she made do with the parsley, shrimp paste, and sesame seeds she found at the refrigerator, turning it as her personal plating. She was careful not to bump the fuzzy cat seemingly following her every movement without making sound. Karupin hasn't let her do her work properly without meowing her need to be attended by Sakuno. " Alright, alright, Karupin-san. I have just finished preparing your owner's meal anyway. Let's go look for him, shall we? "
Sakuno placed the dish and a cover down at the table, rushing in her movements as the grumpy cat started showing signs of impatience as it swerves around her legs on her every step. After fixing the table, she crouched down to gather the contented cat at her arms. " You are such a needy cat, do you know that? " She scolded fakely and headed towards the balcony where he last saw Ryoma's figure passing by, moments ago. A glint from the periphery caught her sight. It was a huge trophy in a casket. Approaching the said object, she has noticed alongside the golden shimmering from the trophy, the scribed name at the bottom. " He must be a famous sports player then. "
" But of what. . " She observed every material designed at the place. There was a surfboard attached at the wall, but the material it was made of was not meant for use of the said sport, though it could be considered. Karupin mewled loudly from her arms while she was analyzing other spots. " What is it? " She asked, noticing the direction to where the cat was staring at.
There beside the coffee table was a dirty, used tennis ball. Sakuno picked it up to which the cat immediately tried pressing its claws with. " You like this toy, Karupin-san? "
She was answered with a primed meow.
" Don't you mean your owner loves tennis then? "
" Is he . . . a tennis player? "
A satisfied meow.
Well is he?
" Yes, I am. "
A voice resounded not far from her right. Sakuno jumped outright at the sight of the man. He's not wearing his sunglasses anymore! The pink blemish at her cheeks was not prevented from her eyes meeting cat-like golden ones full of mirth, accompanied by a smirk on his lips.
The tension was broken by a loud whine from the ignored feline at the fidgeting woman's arms. It looks like the cat was hungrier than her owner.
Sakuno cleared her throat. " So you're a tennis player, Ryoma-san. " She's surprised her voice came out straightly. " You-You must be famous. "
The tennis player shrugged. " Not really. Only if you watch sports. Do you? "
She blushed. " I- I don't. "
" There you go. I'm not that known. "
Sakuno and the cat followed the house's owner as he strolled to the kitchen, peeking through the cover to check the dish. " Yum." He spoke blankly, but Sakuno could tell from his eyes he wanted to devour the meal just by how he stares on it.
When Ryoma was comfortably sat on his chair, ready to eat, Sakuno plopped down to the chair in front of him. " Uhm can we talk about this arrangement while you eat? That is if you don't mind. I can wait if you don't- "
" No no. It's fine. " Ryoma stopped him with a raised palm. " 20 questions? Do the honors. "
Sakuno bit her lip, so we're beginning this with a game. " Well, for starters, I thought Horio-kun would be here. "
" Horio is out with a meeting with the press. He's my manager so he's busy every time to check my schedules. He will be right here soon, don't worry. How did you know Horio?"
" B-But I didn't exactly ask-"
" Technically you did. Come on, answer mine. "
She feels a sweat drop coming. It's obvious it would take some time for her to adjust to this environment, this tension between them even if she has no choice. Apparently, Ryoma isn't making it very clear to be able to openly talk with him. Sakuno isn't one to back down, though she might drop down some notches since she is technically a freeloader in this person's house, but she definitely wouldn't let Ryoma have his arrogant ways on her. Oh no, she's sensing a lot of arguments between them that is for sure.
Oh my, today would be a loooong day.