AN: Alright, guys... Here is the crack AU fic which I have been wanting to write for sometime. If you are a reader of my other story in this fandom, know that this will be quite different from it both plot-wise and writing style-wise... This is written just for fun and should be read just for fun again.

Before we begin, I have to make some things clear about the story in general:

I love cooking, it is one of my hobbies and though I am not truly knowledgeable on Japanese cuisine, I will use it here and you'll see some detailed depictions of some popular Japanese dishes and how they are prepared and served. If any of you are knowledgeable on the subject, I am sure that you'll find mistakes but be merciful, OK? Though I will try my best to present the culinary culture of Japan, I accept that I am bound to make mistakes. So, I apologize from the start ^^.

I am sure you are aware of other wonderful writers' waiter!Zero fics, too... Well, this fic will show Zero also as a waiter, but of an absolutely different kind, and the idea behind the restaurant-serving-cooking will be quite different from them. Because, this fic's main focus will be Zero, Kaname and how food brings them together ^^. In fact, in a few chapters, you'll see how unorthodox a restaurant The Imperial is. So, I am not imitating anyone or stealing from anyone...

There will be Crossdressing but the reason will be well explained, so don't worry. I said crack, but not mindless crack XD.

The characters are bound to be OOC, since there won't be vampires, no hatred between the characters, no love rivalry between the boys :P So, be warned. But, again, I'll do my best.

Disclaimer: I don't own Vampire Knight Anime-Manga.

Pairings: The story will revolve around KanamexZero, of course. But I am thinking of adding TakumaxShiki, KainxAido and IchiruxYuuki, as small details to brighten up the mood. We'll see...

Characters: Zero, Kaname, Yuuki, Ichiru, Takuma, Shiki, Kain, Aido, Ruka, Kaien, and a few others...

Summary: In dire need of money to keep surviving in a harsh world, four fast friends Zero, Yuuki, Aido and Shiki apply to a restaurant as the serving staff. Managed by the nut-case Cross, will The Imperial be a place for Zero where he will find love and happiness or misery and heartbreak in the form of a handsome and rich young man, named Kaname?

Let me remind you, reviews are the manna of a writer and I'd love to hear from you... Now, enjoy!

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Chapter 1

"Have you gone completely nuts, Yuuki?"

Two young men's voice boomed with unison in the small kitchen of a house where five friends lived together. The said girl looked at the one scandalized, one infuriated face of the two young men who were helping her with the dinner.

"Why not, guys? What do we have left to lose after all?" Yuuki argued back, vigorously mixing the boiling rice in the pot which was barely enough for five young people.

"The owner of the restaurant offers great money... Real money! Much more than the four of us can earn collectively in a night even when we slave ourselves for it!"

One of the young men, Aido, huffed, continuing to stir the soup boiling at the stove, cheeks a bit red.

"It is easy for you to say, you are a girl! And if you have forgotten, let me remind you that the rest of us are boys!"

Yuuki grumbled, letting go of the small ladle in her worn hands to show them to Aido.

"Look, Aido, do they look like the hands of a girl any longer?"

Aido didn't even glance at her. He closed his turquoise eyes and sighed, defeated. "I know, Yuuki, I know..."

The young girl turned her attention to the other young male of the room, who chose to stay silent after his initial angry outburst.

"Zero...." She tried tentatively and saw the lean shoulders of the young man go stiff.

"Zero, please think about it, please..." She practically pleaded with him to listen to her. Zero was a hard nut to crack, stubborn in everything he did. But if she could crack his shell even a bit, she knew that the others would follow him.

Yuuki watched the silver haired boy peel tomatoes for the omelet he was going to prepare for the dinner. And from the corner of her eye, she could see that Aido, too, was discreetly watching the other boy's reaction whilst he tried to seem put out and offended by Yuuki's offer.

"Zero, nobody will recognize who we are there, I promise... We can give you aliases, we can take extra care in you guy's make ups..." But her words were cut of as Zero turned around and spoke agitatedly.

"Yuuki, that restaurant wants girls... Girls... Understand? How could you expect us to go there and apply, dammit? Do I look like I am hiding... hiding boobs somewhere around here?" Zero asked incredulously, pointing at his lean chest, his pale cheeks coloring slightly because of the words Yuuki was forcing him to use.

"But we will wear kimonos, no one can see how flat or big is the bust of a person with them!" Yuuki answered heatedly.

"Yuuki, I think what you don't want to understand is that we are boys... Who think and act like boys... How can you expect a normal man to act like a woman just for the sake of money?"

Yuuki's thin eyebrows met in the middle with anger and scorn and she sighed exasperatedly.

"Look, Yuuki... If you want, you can go and apply to the restaurant by all means... Your share in the house expanses won't change and nobody will expect you to put in more money. We are fine as the way we are." Zero knew that he was being harsh and unfair, but right now he was really not in his element and very much worried because of their, or to put it more accurately, his and his twin's current predicament.

That made both Yuuki's and Aido's eyes go round. Zero was generally brash and nearly always seemed callous, but they both knew that he was indeed a very kind soul and tried his best to hide that vulnerable side of himself under that harsh mask. Zero was afraid of being exploited because of his heart's softness, and his friends respected it. But Yuuki had enough. She stepped up to the tall male and punched him in the chest, as if she wanted to hammer down some sense into the level headed young man, her anger flaming in her eyes.

"Fine? You are fine the way you are?" She asked. "We aren't fine, Zero! We haven't been fine since we have left the orphanage! How many months have passed? Six? Tell me which one of us could go to the college that we have worked so hard to enter to! And how in the seven hells do you think we will pay this month's rent?"

Zero watched her with pained lilac eyes as she continuously hit his chest with her small fist. The pain he felt was not inflicted by her hand but by her words, by the reality of their situation that her questions tried to remind him as if he could ever forget it.

"I will do something about it." He whispered, not even able to fool a soul there.

Yuuki's eyes were shiny with a sheen of tears and she lost even her will to punch him.

"You say things as if I am afraid to share my money if I go there and earn more than you guys do... When have we ever done that, Zero? How could you think that I would scrimp you for money when Ichiru is in that condition? Are you that kind of a jerk who thinks of his manly pride before the wellbeing of his loved ones?"

It was Zero's time to stand with widened eyes mutely. Ichiru... His twin brother's condition... Yuuki and Aido watched him in stricken expressions. Yuuki was aware that it was cruel of her to mention the condition of Ichiru in a situation like this; but she also was hurting inside for him, for being unable to help the frail, sickly boy as her heart desired but her circumstances denied.

"Hey, guys..." Aido tried to dispel the uncomfortable atmosphere in the kitchen. "Let's don't make the dinner turn sour than it already is..."

Zero gazed at the two through his silver bangs. Apparently, he deemed that further argument was unnecessary, so he turned to his task as if he hadn't heard a word from Yuuki.

Yuuki's shoulders sagged in defeat.

"Fine, Zero... Do as you please... I will go and persuade Shiki. I am sure that he will come with me since he is not a stuck up macho klutz like the two of you."

And she left the kitchen to do as she declared but not before adding an extra bit to nag Zero further.

"The last day for application is tomorrow and the two things the owner of the place is looking for are beauty and experience in serving... Not a big feat for us who have been groveling around the cheap bars and caf├ęs for tomorrow's bread."

And she soundly shut the door of the small kitchen, leaving the two young men to their thoughts.

Aido narrowed down his bright eyes at the door accusingly. Yuuki had been harsh and Zero had been impossible again. But this was no life to drag around... The five of them, Zero, Ichiru, Shiki, Yuuki and himself had been fast friends since their days in the orphanage. Some of them didn't even have either of their parents, some of them had one and some of them had the both but never knew them. Theirs was a tough life. It became especially harder when they had to leave the orphanage, because this year all of them were eighteen and it was the orphanage's policy to not to keep the kids any longer when they came of age.

Thus, this summer they had found themselves with a little money in their pockets, with trivial jobs to sustain their basic needs and a mediocre house rented through the help of the orphanage management... Simply put, they were left to their own devices to suffer in a big and harsh world all alone.

By a few months, Zero was the eldest of the group, followed by his twin Ichiru, Aido, Shiki and Yuuki. Being the youngest and the sole female of the group, Yuuki always tried to show that she was also capable of help and was determined to share the burden of living in a house which Zero inadvertently tried to keep together and safe.

They all had sacrificed their college education, because this year they couldn't find the money for paying the tuition fees which were provided by the orphanage last year when they were freshmen. But this year's priority was to set themselves a life which was devoid of the fear of being unable to pay their basic expenses, and saving enough money to pick up their education where they had left it.

Yet, now, that seemed an impossible dream day by day.

And moreover, Zero's initial concern was not getting a diploma but was saving up enough money to keep the medical treatment of his twin going which was highly expensive. Zero was a very proud individual and everyone was aware that it hurt him to accept money from them when they were also striving to make the ends meet and save a bit for future.

Aido sighed, agitated, watching the troubled form of his silver haired friend from the corner of his eye. He pouted silently to himself and squared his shoulders to try again from where Yuuki had left.

"Zero... Maybe you could try applying to the kitchen staff... What do you say?"

Zero shrugged, expertly mixing the eggs in a bowl. "Yuuki told me that the fee is nearly the same as the place I am currently working in... And the restaurant she mentioned is further down the town than my current place is. At least here, the subway tickets remain in my pocket."

Zero saw no reason to change his work place if he was going to do the same job for the same fee. Even though he had been studying cookery and world cuisine before he had had to suspend his education, no place he had ever applied agreed to trust him even with the duty of a scullion where he could learn from watching the chefs. Discouraging, really. And day by day, Zero was realizing and accepting the fact that he could never be a good chef in a well known restaurant.

Every place he had gone had asked him of a diploma or a degree. But he didn't have them, heck, he didn't even have recommendation letters. So, after spending some time in looking for a place which could accept him as their cook and finding none, he had simply relented to his fate and circumstances and worked as a waiter and bartender in several places, doing two shifts, sacrificing his sleep as he tried to forget about his worries in hard work.

"Zero..." Aido tried again, watching Zero fry the chopped tomatoes and mush them in the pan before he added the eggs. "Zero, I will try my chance." Aido added, biting his lower lip, expecting to meet scornful and judging eyes. But he was proven wrong when Zero simply nodded his head and went about adding the green onions to the omelet and watched the sizzling pan distractedly.

"It is not as if the owner of the place will accept us at first glance, Zero." Aido tried to defend his decision weakly, passing Zero the salt and pepper. Zero added them into his pan with deft fingers and finally when he turned off the stove he turned and met the hesitant, doubtful gaze of his friend.

"You guys are not tied to me and my brother, Aido. Of course you can try your luck. I am fine."

This time, Zero tried to be reasonable and not hurt his friend's feelings, but when he saw how Aido's shoulders hunched, he felt strangely guilty for some reason.

"Let's leave that matter aside and set the table." He tried to close the subject. But it didn't deter Aido from thinking wistfully. But we all have promised each other, Zero...

The dinner was eaten in a somewhat sour atmosphere. Zero and Yuuki didn't even glance at each other, Aido tried to escape from the inquiring eyes of Ichiru and Shiki. The two clueless occupants of the table managed to carry on a silent conversation, obviously affected by Yuuki's put out face and Zero's grouchy apathy.

When Zero left the table to make it in time to arrive his bar tending shift, he spoke for the first time, yet again acting like the mother hen of the house.

"Ichiru, don't stay up late in front of the computer... Aido, lock the door and close the windows before bed. Shiki, don't forget to put the left overs into the fridge..." The young man wore his light blue coat and put on his shoes as he seemed to be thinking if there was anything more left to remind them of before he left.

"Take your scarf, Zero!" Came Yuuki's voice from the living room area. "Even the tough macho guys might catch cold!"

Zero narrowed down his eyes at the general direction of the room that Yuuki's voice came from, but he chose to not banter with her since she seemed to be desperately trying to get a rise out of him. He didn't take the bait and silently left the house but not before taking his scarf, not because he felt cold but because he knew that Yuuki would check the portmanteau after he left and if she saw the gray woolen scarf hanging there, she would get upset with him further.

When the sound of the closed door was heard, Yuuki left the table, too and true to Zero's guess, she went and checked if the scarf she knitted for Zero was still there or not. The slight smile that appeared on her face, when she saw that Zero had taken the thing, vanished quickly when she remembered their earlier banter. She returned to the living room with hunched shoulders.

Ichiru, who was playing with his omelet thoughtfully, quickly realized the way how suddenly Yuuki seemed much more tired than before and the strange tight atmosphere dissipated with his brother's departure.

"So, won't you guys tell us what is happening in this house?" He demanded with a gentle voice.

Aido closed his eyes and stopped eating, Yuuki simply dropped back onto her chair as if she wanted to disappear under the table, and Shiki shrugged, waiting for an answer, too.

"Well, there is this huge employment Ad on the papers, Ichiru... Of a new restaurant's that will open soon." Yuuki started talking wearily as if she was explaining the same thing for the umpteenth time.

"You mean that new upscale place which will open under the The Imperial Hotel?" Shiki asked in his usual bored drawl.

"Yeah, that one. It recruits kitchen staff and service staff." Yuuki added and leaned her elbows on the table. "I was asking Zero...Well, trying to persuade him to apply there." She waved her hand with a spike of anger, "But he is being his usual utterly charming self as you can guess..." She huffed, pouting.

Ichiru smiled softly at Yuuki's antics and raised an eyebrow. "If Zero-nii rejects an idea, there must be a catch to it... What is it, Yuuki?"

Yuuki glanced back at Aido in uncertainty who was also dreading of the same question. Aido tried to send a warning glare at her but when he saw her pleading look, he raised both hands in surrender and dropped the bomb.

"Well, the restaurant is looking for beautiful girls to use them as the service staff."

There was a sudden silence in the room, during which even the tick tacks of the wall clock could be heard. And then came Ichiru's laughter. "Are you nuts, Yuuki?" The young man asked, silver eyes dancing with mirth and pale face going a bit red. Even Shiki seemed amused and smirked lazily, shaking his head.

Yuuki's big doe eyes turned into slits in mock anger. "Well, your precious Nii-san asked me the same thing... Why don't you guys for once just listen to what I have to say and then laugh your asses off?"

"Now, now Yuuki, how unlady like...." And Ichiru continued to smile some more, bu when he realized that Yuuki was waiting patiently for him to ask more, he stopped.

"Tell us about this place..." He conceded just to please Yuuki.

As if a lamp was turned on, Yuuki's anger flew away and her eyes suddenly lit up.

"Listen, this place will be one of those splendiferous places where pompous rich people come and dine... They say, there will be a traditional setting, complete with a garden and a koi pond in the middle of it... I also heard that there will be live traditional music and some dance shows, too... But what is different about this place is, there will be Western style sitting arrangements but also traditional style private partitions where the service staff personally assist the diners throughout their meals..."

Ichiru listened to the girl's enthusiastic explanation closely, getting interested by the minute.

"So a traditional setting, service staff personally assisting the diners... Beautiful girls, you say..."

"Yes!" Yuuki quipped, leaning on the table with more energy now.

"Do we think of the same thing, gentlemen?" Aido asked with an air of superiority, arms crossed.

"They are trying to add a geisha flavor..." The three boys uttered at the same time.

"But the money and the tips are fantastic! And how can anyone tell whether you dopes are guys or girls in that traditional make up and costumes?" Yuuki argued back, eyes big like saucers.

"So they offer a good money, huh?" Ichiru's mirth disappeared. "How much?"

"For a night, it is more than Zero's weekly salary that he gets from his two shifts collectively, and I am not even counting the tips..." Yuuki answered proudly, watching the thoughtful faces of his companions. Zero was the one who earned the most and when Ichiru thought about it, the offered money was a really good sum.

"Ne, say, Yuuki... The kitchen staff...."

Before he could finish his question, Aido answered. "It is the same weekly salary Zero earns in a week... Nothing more, nothing less... I guess they are only looking for extra hands in the simple tasks... Such a posh place wouldn't hire a newbie even for boiling eggs..."

"And what does Zero think?" Ichiru asked, biting his lower lip.

"Is there a use in changing places when you earn the same for the same old washing and cleaning you do?" Shiki sighed. "And this place is far from here... Zero wouldn't want to pay for the transportation when he could do the same job a few blocks down here."

Shiki was right. It was no use. For a moment, Ichiru thought that he really liked the chances the new place offered. But, just for the sake of money, it was unjust to expect Zero to even apply to a place where he could be ridiculed and deprecated. Ichiru was working at home as a translator, taking works through some web sites. He was certainly of help as much as his sickly body and frail heart permitted. And even though he would die to be side by side with his brother, sharing the hardships of doing manual work, he was forbidden from tiring his heart and worsening his condition.

He could guess how Zero had to be feeling now and for causing it, he hated himself.

Ichiru glanced at the table, at the left overs of the meager offerings of tonight. Yes, the rice was good, because Zero was the one who balanced the amount of water and boiling temperature of it. The soup was great, because Zero was the one who thoughtfully saved aside the ingredients for it... And omelet was deliciously fluffy... Because Zero was the one who cooked it for him... Zero could turn a plain and hopeless thing into a miracle and Ichiru could tell that he was trying to create a miracle for them, too, with this simple life that the fates tossed before them, as if it was the left overs of a lucky but still a pricky jerk... This was unfair. Everything was unfair. And Ichiru was feeling as if he was the one who deterred his brother from reaching his dreams and being happy.

Suddenly feeling a pain in his chest, Ichiru grimaced and tried to will the disturbing feeling away. But Yuuki, ever watchful of his condition, hastily poured him a glass of water and gave him his medicine. Ichiru looked at the pills in his shaking hand distractedly. Zero's life was reduced to the tormenting effort of providing him with these every month... To prevent the inevitable. And they were trying to live as if his illness was not there, as if Zero was not sacrificing himself to ease these pains even for a second. Ichiru closed his eyes, feeling his pain worsen with the agitation that his thoughts caused.

"What are you doing, Ichiru?"

"Swallow them, quick!" Came his friends' voices and Ichiru forced himself to gulp down the small pills, feeling as if he was greedily gulping down the hard work of his brother into nothingness. Breathing deeply a few times, he calmed himself and his treacherous heart, nodding silently at his friends' questions asking him if he was feeling alright.

"I am going to work a bit more..." He murmured, leaving the table. "And if Zero-nii doesn't like something, we couldn't force him to go with it. He is already doing more than he should do."

Yuuki watched him leave with a sullen expression on her face, her cheeks a little bit pink with the remorse she felt.

"Guess I have a steak for breaking the twins' hearts..." She mumbled.

Aido's eyebrows rose in mock surprise. "So, you have finally realized..."

Yuuki huffed in annoyance. "Oh, shut up, you!"

-

The next day, before going to his shift, Zero headed to the doctor who took care of Ichiru since their days at the orphanage. Quickly finding his way in the hospital, Zero found the doctor busy with another patient and he waited for his turn.

The kind doctor was in his late fifties and he was painfully aware of the situation that Zero and Ichiru was in, knowing them since their childhood. Ichiru had a weak heart which kept beating thanks to the constant medicine he took every day. Convincing a small kid by saying that what he took were pieces of candy rather than sour tasting pills that that kept his heart going was an easy task at first... But Ichiru was past from that stage and was cruelly aware of his worsening condition. Ichiru needed a heart plantation or the constant care that he could get from a hospital. Yet, Zero was unable to provide him with any of it. Twice in the past, they had found the suitable heart for the younger twin, but because it was such an expensive operation, the orphanage didn't even bother to inform the twins about it.

The doctor, Shindou-san, chose to not tell the boys about this, because he knew that Zero would be crushed had he known that he could save his brother but was lacking the necessary money for it. So, Shindou never mentioned the possibility of finding a suitable donated heart before Ichiru, but told Zero that if they could do it, Ichiru would live for long years as a healthy young man. How much more cruel could the world become?

When he accepted Zero, he had bad news for him, even though he hated to pass them to the already troubled boy. Zero listened to him attentively, his pale face going even paler when he heard that the government aid that they took for buying the medicines was about to be cut down. Since they were orphans, Ichiru was provided with the half of his medical expenses, but that money was to be cut in half now when Zero could hardly earn the other half of it from the jobs he was slaving himself at.

His amethyst eyes shimmered with despair, but he refused to capitulate to his emotions. Crying or cursing the fates wouldn't give him money in return.

"Your brother is already at the stage where he needs regular medical care in a hospital, Zero-kun..." Shindou told him. "Since we can't provide him with that, you must at least continue to provide him with his medicine, or I don't even want to think what would happen to him..."

Zero's head hung, his shoulders tense with the strong emotions he felt.

"I understand, Sensei..." He murmured. "I will do my best."

Shindou watched the young man leave his office with a heavy heart. If only there was a kind soul out there who would be willing to cover the expenses of an ill boy to lessen the burden of an honest but poor brother...

-

Whole day, Zero tried to swallow down the lump in his throat but it was in vain. He didn't even eat his lunch, unable to find the appetite even though he felt the effects of working on an empty stomach. His hands were trembling and he felt light headed, but he was barely aware of it, a simple but unanswered question was eating up his mind.

What am I going to do now?

Not that the life was any easier to him and Ichiru before, but this was too much... He had never felt this much helpless and alone before. His amethyst eyes were tearing up every time his mind came up with an image of Ichiru on bed, reminding him of what would eventually happen to his brother if he wasn't able to figure a way out of this.

What am I going to do now?

Just as his mind was full of that torturous image, the glass of soda he was placing on a table slipped from his shaky fingers and the bubbly drink spilled every where, barely avoiding the patrons' shirts and pants.

Apologizing profusely for the scene his messed up emotions caused, he saw one of the patrons quickly dabbing on the spilled drink with the newspaper he was reading. Zero's eyes widened. On that particular page of the newspaper was that Ad that Yuuki had been nagging him about yesterday. He remembered the offered salary, his mind quickly comparing it with the amount of money that he needed to cover up Ichiru's medical expenses... And in lightning speed, he realized that it would be even an enough sum for Ichiru to get the occasional hospital treatments.

Zero cleaned the table in a flash, skillfully avoiding any argument with the patrons and checked his wrist watch. This was the last day of the applications and he still had two hours.

It was either now or never and Zero cast aside his pride and made his decision. He was going to get this job. He had to get this job...No matter what... For Ichiru's sake...

-

In an hour's time, he was before the ominously tall and bright hotel doors, telling the footmen that he was there for the job application. He hoped that it would be worth the risk being of getting fired from his waiter job, since he had left whilst his boss was looking sour and discontent with him.

The Imperial was one of the most prestigious hotels of the city. It reigned over the busiest part of the downtown with its five-star glory, standing tall among other posh looking, high class places, beckoning rich people of all kinds. Zero hated this kind of places, but he was damn determined to take a bite from it.

He was led to the lobby at the end of which a small office was suited and saw the surprise of that evening seated boredly before the office door.

There, on the waiting chairs of the lobby, Yuuki, Aido and Shiki were waiting with tired looking, disheartened faces, as if they had been there for a long time. Yuuki was mumbling something about stubborn block headed people with overly masculine issues and Aido was dully nodding his head as if he was really listening to her tantrums. Shiki was eying his watch and gnawing on a pocky, watching his two friends, looking as if he was bored out of his skull.

Zero allowed himself a small smile when he realized that they were waiting for him. It was a given that Yuuki wanted this job, but not without Zero being with them. He approached silently and mustered his best glare before he spoke.

"Oi, slow ducklings, can't you do something on your own without waiting for your mommy duck?"

The trio turned their faces to him and as if he was the most wonderful thing ever happened that day, their faces lit up with a new found enthusiasm.

"Zero, you came!" Yuuki chirped, clapping her hands.

The other boys stood up and approached him while Yuuki playfully tried to make Zero look more presentable and handsome as if he needed it.

"Aren't we going into the office, we didn't miss the deadline, did we?" Zero asked, trying to stop the petite girl from attacking him further.

"We thought you wouldn't come, Zero..." Shiki said.

"Yeah, we waited for you the whole afternoon, dummy!" Yuuki pouted.

"What is the reason for the change of heart?" Aido asked, but Zero shrugged.

"Let's just get in guys... We'll talk later."

The group knocked the door and a merry voice told from inside to enter. When they got into the office, the person they saw certainly didn't look like an aspiring businessman. A man, probably in his early thirties, was sitting behind his desk with cozy looking, casual clothes. The man had ash blond hair and glasses on. Certainly he was not the picture of a serious manager.

"New applicants? I thought there was none left..." He commented with a friendly voice but when his eyes landed on the boys, his face fell.

"The kitchen staff is not elected by me, young men." He added even though his eyes were sweeping over the figures of the boys in a critical manner.

"We all are here for the service staff recruitment." Zero stated firmly.

The man gazed at Zero with a frozen expression, Zero gazed at the man with a determined look.

"Um... Young man... We are looking for girls... Not boys..."

Zero felt himself blush a bit but he didn't relent.

"We all are experienced in servicing, have been working here and there for nearly six months now." Zero pointed at himself and Yuuki, "Two of us are studying culinary culture at the college," He pointed at Aido "One of us is studying food engineering," And his finger landed on Shiki. "And he is studying business administration."

"And?" the odd looking man asked Zero with widened eyes.

Zero glared at the man full force and looked at the faces of his companions.

"And we are all good looking." He declared with and air of certainty, making the trio beside him gasp and and look at him with open mouthed shock. Zero did certainly seemed enthusiastic for this job...

The man got up from his seat and approached them. He inspected each and every of them with a funny looking curiosity on his face.

"Surely..." He mumbled as he gazed at them with scrutiny.

"Surely you young people look good..." He stood before Zero, clearly admiring his silver hair and lilac eyes.

"Are they natural?" He asked with a childish curiosity.

"Of course they are!" Zero had the very bad feeling that they were being ridiculed and he didn't dare to look at the faces of his friends. What kind of a job interview was this? He feared that the man was going to demand to see them half naked, suddenly his mind procuring deprecating images.

The man was inspecting their eyes, their faces and hair so closely that it was freaking him and his friends out. Yuuki squealed in surprise when the odd man apparently tried to touch her face and Zero quickly pulled her back towards himself.

"Now... don't tell me that you are going to ask us to get naked for further inspection, old man!" Zero practically snarled at the blond man, making him back a little with wide eyes. Just as the group expected to be hurled out of the door for insulting him, he burst into a laughter.

He laughed so much that his eyes watered and he barely kept himself from doubling over. Zero watched with angry eyes, thinking that coming here was the greatest mistake he had ever done. The man, without even looking at a mirror, was mocking them apparently.

Zero turned around and indicated that he was leaving, his friends' faces in various hues of red.

"Young man, wait, young man..." The man coughed a little to suppress his mirth, clutching at his sides. Zero stopped in his tracks and turned around.

"Was it not enough entertainment for you?" He asked with rancor.

The man blinked away his tears and stopped laughing.

"Excuse me..." He amended. "What was your name?"

"Kiryuu Zero."

The odd man stood tall and introduced himself. "I am Cross Kaien, I am one of the two share holders of the restaurant. And you are the first person who asked me if I wanted to see my applicants naked." He smiled serenely. "You sure are an interesting boy."

"Yeah, whatever..." Zero waved his hand and turned back again.

"And you young people are the first boys who wanted to be recruited as the service staff..." Kaien added quickly. "And I certainly took interest in you and your friends..."

Zero stopped again, trying to suppress his ire and listen to what the eccentric man had to say.

"And this is the most interesting job interview I have ever seen... Cross-san..." Zero added with sarcasm. So, the owner of this new posh restaurant was this freak? God clearly lacked a sense of humor.

Kaien adjusted his glasses eying the young group with a devious glint in his eyes.

"Boys acting like kimono clad ladies..." He smirked, eyes still scanning the bodies of the young men.

"I liked you lot... Your bravery..." He commented and made the group look at each other's faces in surprise.

"Zero-kun... Could you verify the things you claimed earlier? About your education..."

"Yes, we could get those documents..." Zero quipped with a questioning look in his eyes.

"I have chosen 60 people all together and I will eliminate 20 of them after a test done with costumes... Do you feel up to it?" Kaien asked with a mild challenge in his eyes.

Zero looked at him skeptically. "You mean a servicing test done in kimonos?"

"Yes... The kimonos will be provided by us and the test will be done here, in the old restaurant up floor, tomorrow..."

Zero turned towards his friends and saw the glimmer of confidence in their eyes, even though Aido looked somewhat embarrassed and Shiki looked as apathetic as usual. It was clear that they were up to the challenge even though they hid their feelings well.

"Alright, Cross-san. Please write down our names." Zero nodded his head stiffly.

Kaien wrote down the names, easily memorizing them and put small indications before the scribbled letters. He wondered what drove these youngsters to become this willing to put such a task upon themselves, but he was always in for a bit of fun and admittedly all three boys were overly handsome and he was looking forward to see them walk prettily in their kimonos. They were lean and had delicate features, and Kaien saw no reason to pass such an opportunity to test their skills and see how far could they go for a job like this.

He already thought that the girl, Yuuki and the boys were good candidates, so what was left was to see if they could prove themselves good enough for The Imperial.

-

TBC...