[Chapter 1 - 004]

Some of the students sit around a table in the cafeteria.

I could smell something delicious in the air even before the door to Sector 1 opened– Jurou had been hard at work, apparently! I hadn’t even thought about being hungry until just now, but my stomach was definitely rumbling.

Inside the cafeteria sat some other students who had been drawn out by the scent. Nikola piped up almost immediately, prompting the rest of the table to turn and look at me.

Nikola beams.
Nikola

Hi Tim!!!

Tim looks spooked.
Timaeus

Aah! Um! Hi?

Yusra giggles.
Yusra

Hehehe… Did you find what you were looking for earlier?

Timaeus smiles.
Timaeus

Oh! Yes I did! And Ishi’s doing better now, she’s just got to stay resting in her room. I’m here to get her some supper, ahaha.

Vasundhara smiles.
Vasundhara

That’s great, I-I’m glad she’s, um, that it’s not too bad…

Michi looks to the side.
Michi

Man, speaking of… when’s the food gonna get done already?

Honoka thwapped him on the shoulder with her ever-present cane.

Honoka huffs.
Honoka

Be patient!! It’s extremely nice of Jurou to cook for all of us tonight, so don’t rush him!

Michi gripes.
Michi

Geez, I was just asking…

Gugalanna waddled out of the kitchen, as if on cue. I guess she’d been helping Jurou cook after Aoi shooed her away.

Gugalanna grins.
Gugalanna

Just a few more minutes, amigos! It’s gonna be good!!

Siegfried looks annoyed.
Siegfried

Must you always be yelling, Fräulein?

Gugalanna yells.
Gugalanna

Why aren’t you yelling?! I know you got some pipes, fresa! Loosen up a little!!!

Vash huffs.
Vasundhara

Please don’t start s-screaming at each other again…

Tim laughs nervously.
Timaeus

I-I’m just glad someone here knows how to cook! The most I can do is like… grilled cheese.

Honoka thinks.
Honoka

Hmm, actually… Who else here likes to cook?

Honoka raised her own hand, and looked around at the others expectantly.

The group looks at Honoka in confusion. Some students raise their hands.

A few others raised their hands– Kapono, Nikola, Gugalanna, Yusra… Siegfried, too, after a little hesitation.

Honoka grins.
Honoka

Seven! That works out nicely! One for each day of the week! I can cook supper tomorrow, and I’ll go make a sign-up sheet for the rest.~

She clapped her hands together decisively, and left the room with a bounce in her step before anyone could object, her tap shoes click-clacking against the floor.

The unwitting volunteers glanced around at each other, looking a little baffled.

Sieg huffs.
Siegfried

What? I did not sign up for anything…

Yusra smiles.
Yusra

She probably should’ve asked properly first, but… Jurou shouldn’t have to cook every night! And it’ll give us something to do besides moping around, yes?

Tim smiles.
Timaeus

The rest of us can help too! Just– if it’s me you’ll have to show me what to do, ahaha.

It didn’t take too long to decide on a cooking order– Jurou, Honoka, Nikola, Gugalanna, Kapono, Yusra, Siegfried. We’d all be on our own for breakfast and lunch, but each volunteer would make supper on their designated day.

Siegfried may have been a little wary of the idea, but the others were pretty excited!

Nikola babbles.
Nikola

Oh this’ll be fun!! I’ve never cooked for such a big crowd before I wonder what kinds of stuff there’ll be to work with in the pantry I’ll have to hop in there once Jurou’s done…

Kapono smiles.
Kapono

…I hope there’s, um… a grill!

Gugalanna laughs.
Gugalanna

Hell yeah there is! Gonna make me some tlayudas!!

Michi grins.
Michi

Oh hell yeah I haven’t had those in forever!

Vasundhara smiles.
Vasundhara

I… don’t know what those are, b-but I’m sure they’re great!

Yusra thinks.
Yusra

We are all from pretty different parts of the world, huh? I’ve never had Swedish food… or German.

Nikola grins.
Nikola

Then you are in for a treat! Nothing like a gen-u-ine Swedish cinnamon bun!

Michi blinks.
Michi

That doesn’t sound like a very well-balanced meal…

Nikola huffs.
Nikola

Well of course there’ll be an entrée, dessert’s just the most important part! I’ll have you know I have an extensive repertoire of potluck dishes–

As Nikola began rattling off a list of recipes, I noticed Siegfried turning to Yusra with an almost apologetic frown.

Siegfried looks worried.
Siegfried

…I do not make German food.

Yusra smiles.
Yusra

Oh, I suppose I jumped to conclusions, hm?

Siegfried smiles slighly.
Siegfried

Meine mutter, she is Indonesian. She taught me the cooking that I know, though I will never match her skill.

Timaeus smiles back.
Timaeus

I’m sure it’s wonderful, Siegfried!

He looked away, and his tiny smile faded. Why in the world would he be embarrassed about something like that…? Ah well, I wouldn’t bug him about it.

Everyone else began to list off recipes they knew, too– some familiar, some I’d never heard of, and all sounding so delicious right now that I almost had to ask them to stop. It wasn’t too much longer, though, before Jurou poked his head out of the kitchen.

Jurou grins.
Jurou

It’s ready, y’all! Sorry for the wait! Guga, can ya help me carry this pot?

Guga flexes.
Gugalanna

Hell yeah!!!

Gugalanna darted inside and emerged with a massive steel pot, filled to the brim with… soup? It wasn’t quite what I had expected from Jurou, though I wasn’t sure what I expected in the first place… but it was definitely the source of that wonderful smell!

Gugalanna and Jurou carry a massive vat of ramen out of the kitchen.

She sat the pot down on the buffet bar as if it weighed less than a feather.

Jurou laughs.
Jurou

Now I ain’t had time t’go through and proper lookit all the stuff in the pantry, so’s just a quick batch o’ ramen wid whatever veggies was on the counter, hahaw. Ain’t real traditional, but it should taste alright!

As we gathered around Jurou’s culinary invention, the rest of the students began to trickle in.

Ping smiles.
Ping

What’s everybody looking at? Human food?~

Sal looks over the moon.
Salvatore

I don’t know but it smells amazing!

Riko looks imperious.
Riko

Mm. I suppose the hick has something going for him after all–

Thwap! Honoka’s cane barely reached her shoulder, but it landed solidly enough for Riko to whirl around in disbelief.

Honoka yells.
Honoka

I heard that! He has a name, you know! Go thank him properly or make your own supper if you're gonna be like that about it!!

Riko snarls.
Riko

I don’t have to do a thing you tell me–

Jurou laughs.
Jurou

Hahahaw, izzalright Honoka, there ain’t nuthin’ wrong with bein a hick, yeah?

He looked up at Riko with a capricious grin.

Jurou thumbs his nose.
Jurou

But y’ain’t gonna wanna bite th’ hand that feeds ya or yer gonna wind up wid a few extra tablespoons o’ cayenne in that there bowl!

Tiffani recoils.
Tiffani

There’s cayenne in th–? That’s, like, some weapons-grade shit!

Michi snarks.
Michi

It’s not that spicy, you’re just white.

Tiffani accepted the food regardless, and sniffed the bowl warily– which made me realize I’d gotten so distracted people-watching that I hadn’t tried my own bowl. And wow, did it taste every bit as good as it smelled! The pepper did sting a little, but pleasantly so.

Timaeus grins.
Timaeus

Wow, this is–

The reviews started pouring in, overlapping mine.

Vash smiles sweetly.
Vasundhara

Jurou, this is wonderful!

Kapono gives a thumbs up.
Kapono

…!

Siegfried smiles quietly.
Siegfried

…Sehr gut.

Nikola laughs.
Nikola

It’s not just good, it’s absolutely delightful! Delicious! De-lect-able!

Sal is practically drooling.
Salvatore

I don’t know what the hell you put in this stuff but I am in L-O-V-E~

Yusra gasps.
Yusra

And you just– made this up on the spot?? If I didn’t know I’d say you were the Ultimate Chef!

Jurou looks embarrassed.
Jurou

Well gawsh, I’m glad y’all liked it, hahaw! There’s plenty fer seconds, help yerselves!

Tim smiles.
Timaeus

Ishi’s going to love this! Is there some tupperware or something in the kitchen so I can–

Jurou grins.
Jurou

Already made some! Uh… One mo’!

He ran back into the kitchen for a moment, and returned with two plastic tubs that he practically tossed at me– it was a miracle I didn’t drop them.

Jurou looks embarrassed.
Jurou

Now y’tell Ishi, u-um, that I says howdy, and I hope she gets t’feelin’ better soon… yeah? An’ here’s one fer Aoi, too.

Tim smiles gently.
Timaeus

Yeah, sure, I’ll tell her. Thank you so much!

Hmmmm, did my eyes deceive me, or did somebody have a little crush? Poor guy, he’s much too nice for Ishi’s horrendous taste in men.

Armed with two bowls of the best ramen I’ve ever had in my life, I waved goodbye to Jurou and the others, and decided to call it a night.