Chapter 114:

Volume 4, Chapter 25: Long's Kindness

Heroes of the Past

“Yuki came along with you too, huh?” Zhuyu glanced at me with a slight smile.Bookmark here

“Long-niisan, I have quality ingredients for you,” Yue said with excitement.Bookmark here

“Oh yeah? Let’s see them,” Zhuyu said.Bookmark here

We headed inside and Yue placed her bag down on his dinner table. She took out a large lettuce, bok choy, green onions, and green beans. How large was their garden?Bookmark here

“You harvested all this?” I was impressed by the variety.Bookmark here

“Yep. Neesan was insistent I bring it over to you, Long-niisan. She wanted you to make really good dishes with it,” Yue replied.Bookmark here

“Is she busy?” Zhuyu asked, inspecting a green bean.Bookmark here

“Neesan said she’s staying late for a class,” Yue revealed.Bookmark here

“Oh, I see. Well, let’s see what I can make,” Zhuyu said, opening a drawer.Bookmark here

He flipped through a notebook, revealing oil and food stains on the pages. Never expected Zhuyu to use something like that. He seemed like the type to store everything in his head. Yue transported the food over to his kitchen counter.Bookmark here

“Yue, how well can you cook?” I asked, watching her wash a knife.Bookmark here

“I’m alright. Enough to make decent meals if my parents aren’t home,” Yue replied.Bookmark here

“Hold on. Yeah, that should work. Can you dice everything except for the lettuce? Yuki, mind grabbing peanuts from that cabinet?” Zhuyu requested, closing his notebook.Bookmark here

“Is this what you’re looking for?” I held up a bag.Bookmark here

“Perfect. Could you grab the pan too?” Zhuyu asked, taking out a bottle of oil.Bookmark here

I handed him the pan and he thanked me, rather graciously too. Fuck, still wasn’t accustomed to this to. I was never this close with Zhuyu so this felt out of place and jarring.Bookmark here

“Yuki, can you guess what I’m making?” Zhuyu gave me a smile as he stirred the peanuts in a pan.Bookmark here

No idea. I shook my head. Yue laid out the lettuce leaves and Zhuyu pointed at the fridge with his free hand. She nodded, returning with a lunchbox full of rice. It made sense to fry the cold rice but what about the lettuce leaves?Bookmark here

“I thought for sure you know. Yue, grab me the bag of Chinese sausage and a couple of eggs too?” Zhuyu finished sautéing the peanuts, transferring them over to a plate.Bookmark here

He placed a large wok onto the stove and poured oil into it. He first cracked the eggs and scrambled them, pouring it into the same plate as the peanuts. He fried the rice along with the remaining ingredients Yue brought over. He dumped the eggs and peanuts into the rice, mixing everything up. Turning off the flame, Zhuyu scraped the spatula clean and stared at me.Bookmark here

“Hold on, someone’s calling me,” I said, feeling my phone vibrate.Bookmark here

“Yuki, you’re at Long’s house, right?” Mom asked with obvious mischief.Bookmark here

“Yeah. I’m with Yue. I’ll be home soon,” I replied.Bookmark here

“Take your time, Yuki. I won’t be home until seven and your dad won’t be home until later too. Don’t get too carried away,” Mom joked.Bookmark here

Zhuyu scooped the fried rice mixture onto a lettuce leaf. A fried rice wrap? I bit into it, experiencing an amazing mixture of tastes.Bookmark here

“Delicious as always. Can I take one home for Neesan?” Yue caught some of the fried rice as it fell out of the end.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m sure Feng-senpai would get on my case if you didn’t bring one home for her,” Zhuyu agreed, grabbing a paper plate for Yue.Bookmark here

“Thanks. Long-niisan, since I’m here, I have a favor to ask,” Yue asked.Bookmark here

“What is it?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“Could you teach me this recipe? I want to make something for someone,” Yue requested, pulling out a folded piece of paper.Bookmark here

“Yeah, I can do that. I don’t have all those ingredients so I have to make substitutions,” Zhuyu responded, glanced over at her paper.Bookmark here

“I brought along all the stuff we’ll need,” Yue revealed, pointing at her bag.Bookmark here

This was the perfect opportunity to check his room. Considering we were childhood friends, it should be fine.Bookmark here

“Hey, Long, I’m going to head up to your room. I need…. reference books for math class,” I said.Bookmark here

“Yeah, go ahead. Just remember to return it,” Zhuyu allowed.Bookmark here

I took one last look at the two before heading upstairs. Yue pointed at the paper, and Zhuyu nodded, a gentle look on his face. Yeah, still strange.Bookmark here

“Alright, which one is it?” I muttered, arriving on the second floor.Bookmark here

I noticed an open door on my lower side. Just a bathroom. One room eliminated. I paused in front of the other door on that side and twisted the doorknob. Empty, nothing inside except for a few boxes.Bookmark here

“It’s probably this one,” I said, checking the middle door.Bookmark here

There was a bed near the window with a computer desk in the upper left corner. A bookcase, on the right side, contained a variety of books and other material.Bookmark here

“Alright, what kind of information can I get on you, Zhuyu?” I murmured, inspecting the bookcase with a critical eye.Bookmark here

This bookcase was quite impressive. It had seven wide shelves and the bottom one was filled with….boxes? A closer look revealed small containers with…. anime style illustrations? Of course, should have expected this. On the second and third shelf, various figurines were on display. Some of these were crafted with expertise and looked expensive. Onto something else then.Bookmark here

I inspected his books next. I expected a large number of academic books, but those only made up a third of his collection. I expected more math books but only saw three or four. Could this mean the Zhuyu of this dimension was not gifted at math? Although the physical appearance remained the same, slight discrepancies existed. To expect this Zhuyu to also excel at math was a poor assumption on my part. If not math, what was he good at?Bookmark here

“What should I expect? It’s not like he’ll keep his secrets out in the open,” I muttered, checking all the shelves.Bookmark here

I noticed a photo album and flipped through it. Inside were childhood photos and the standard classroom picture every elementary kid endured. I skipped to the end and saw more recent photos. Nothing useful here. Time to check elsewhere. Several notebooks, with handmade covers, occupied the middle shelf. Oh, what were these? I pulled one out and saw the number “1” on the spine. How many of these were there? “26” was the latest number. Fuck, was this a book series Zhuyu wrote in his spare time?Bookmark here

“\textit{Revolutionaries Tales: The Dragon’s Beginnings}. What kind of title is this?” I questioned.Bookmark here

A familiar name was mentioned in the first few pages. Tatsumaki Ryuu? If I recalled, this was the name provided by the Zhuyu look-alike within my mind dives. Could it just be a coincidence? I placed the notebook back and resumed my search. At the end, I came up empty-handed. I sighed and stared at the closet door. Might as well take a quick peek. Clothes hung inside along with several cardboard boxes at the bottom. Could this finally be a breakthrough?Bookmark here

“What do we have here? Old toys, stuffed animals, school papers….. come on, there has to be something,” I muttered, checking each of the boxes.Bookmark here

I opened the box containing school related materials, hoping for embarrassing items from when Zhuyu was younger. Of course his middle school material was on top, which meant his elementary crap resided at the bottom. Too much effort. I didn’t have the time nor desire. I checked the room one last time before leaving. Oh right. Math textbook. I grabbed the one most similar to mine and exited.Bookmark here

“Just don’t turn the heat up too high. It’ll burn the onions and other small bits,” Zhuyu explained, sautéing food in a pan.Bookmark here

“Okay, thanks for the help!” Yue nodded.Bookmark here

I saw her tap the record button on her phone. How diligent. Zhuyu turned around, facing me.Bookmark here

“Did you manage to find it? My room’s a little messy right now,” Zhuyu asked, wiping his hands on a towel.Bookmark here

“Yeah. I noticed you’re writing some kind of story. Guess I got a little into it, that’s why I took so long,” I made up a quick excuse.Bookmark here

“It’s not that great. Just something in my spare time. Good to know you liked the story. Yue, anything else?” Zhuyu smiled.Bookmark here

“No, that’s it for today! Thanks for all the help! I’m sure Neesan will be excited!” Yue packed up the food Zhuyu cooked.Bookmark here

“Yuki, are you staying for dinner?” Zhuyu asked, adjusting his apron strap.Bookmark here

“No, I’ll get going now,” I decided.Bookmark here

“See you tomorrow morning. Okay, what did Mom say again? Hmm……” Zhuyu murmured, retrieving his notebook again.Bookmark here

Yue and I exited his house. We talked for awhile and then went our separate ways. I did learn Zhuyu was some kind of novel writer. It seemed impressive he already filled twenty six notebooks. Of course, quantity didn’t imply quality. For all I knew, he wrote overblown sentences mixed with filler, keeping the story alive.Bookmark here

“Home already, Yuki?” Mom greeted as I walked in.Bookmark here

“Weren’t you suppose to home at seven?” I recalled.Bookmark here

“That was a lie. I just wanted you to stay longer at Long’s place,” Mom disclosed her true intentions.Bookmark here

“I’m heading up to my room to read,” I informed her, waving around the math book.Bookmark here

“From Long? I thought you would find someone else for that,” Mom said, a surprised look on her face.Bookmark here

“I just thought I would grab it since I was there anyways,” I said.Bookmark here

“Dinner will be ready in an hour,” Mom reminded and headed to the kitchen.Bookmark here

This confirmed my suspicions this Zhuyu wasn’t skilled at math. I sat in my room, spinning around in my office chair. I opened up the reference book and found highlighted sections with notes in the margins. Even though this Zhuyu wasn’t exactly a mathematical fanatic, he still put effort into it. I flipped through a few pages and realized this material mirrored my course during autumn quarter. Hold on, did that mean this Zhuyu was actually great at math after all? Damn, this was confusing. My head suddenly pounded. What was going on? I didn’t feel this bad over at Zhuyu’s house. I felt heavy fatigue set in. My eyes drooped and then darkness.Bookmark here

Fourth DayBookmark here

I woke up, my head still pounding. Two blankets covered me, but I still felt cold. How did I even get sick? I turned my head to the left, seeing a wet towel on top of my bedside cabinet. Fuck, I lacked the focus and strength to even reach for it.Bookmark here

“You’re awake, Yuki!” Dad entered my room, carrying a bowl of steaming soup on a platter.Bookmark here

“What…. happened?” I said, feeling my throat hurt.Bookmark here

“Your Mom called you for dinner, but you didn’t respond. When she came up, you were already asleep. And here you are now,” Dad explained the situation.Bookmark here

“Is it a…. flu?” I asked, a struggle each time words came out of my mouth.Bookmark here

“Have some water first,” Dad suggested, handing me a glass.Bookmark here

I drank it and my throat cleared up. What the fuck kind of flu was this? In all my years, I never experienced such a potent sickness before.Bookmark here

“We can’t be sure until we take you to the doctor’s. Does your head still hurt?” Dad questioned.Bookmark here

“Yeah, it does. It’s clearing up a little,” I said, my voice less hoarse.Bookmark here

“Okay, that’s good. Can you try standing for me?” Dad offered his hand out to me.Bookmark here

I stumbled immediately upon exiting the bed. Shit, no strength in my legs at all. I attempted another step. This sucked, I could not even walk straight. Dad steadied me, leading me back to the bed.Bookmark here

“Rest up, Yuki. You’re looking better than yesterday night. I’ll get a doctor over to check up on you,” Dad decided, exiting my room.Bookmark here

These were not the signs of a healthy person obviously. However, the symptoms were far too severe for just the standard flu. It was probably related to Mirei.Bookmark here

“Oh, one more thing, Long made chicken soup for you. Drink it when you have the chance. He said he’ll stop by once school’s over,” Dad said, poking his head through the door.Bookmark here

The doorbell rang and Dad gave me an encouraging smile. Shit, did staying here too long cause severe side effects? Dad returned with Zhuyu, who stared at me with a worried expression.Bookmark here

“I’ll let Long talk to you for a bit. One of my friends is a doctor. He’ll stop by soon as possible,” Dad informed me before leaving.Bookmark here

Zhuyu wore a different version of the school uniform. He had on a short sleeve dress shirt underneath the usual vest. It was close to summer so it made sense for a uniform change right now.Bookmark here

“Yuki, has your fever gone down?” Zhuyu asked.Bookmark here

“I think so. Still feel pretty bad though,” I answered, the headache diminishing.Bookmark here

“I’ll come back another time if you need to rest,” Zhuyu offered.Bookmark here

“I should be fine. I actually wanted to drink the soup you brought over,” I requested, pointing at the bowl.Bookmark here

“Can you hold everything okay? I don’t want you to spill it,” Zhuyu said, picking up the bowl.Bookmark here

“In that case, just feed her already!” Mom suggested, arriving without a sound at all.Bookmark here

“Mom, when did you….?” I stared at her.Bookmark here

“Go on, Long, feed her. Here, I even have a spoon for you,” Mom encouraged.Bookmark here

“Yuki, can you sit upright? I don’t want to drop anything on the carpet or blankets,” Zhuyu directed, stirring the soup with his spoon.Bookmark here

Was this really happening? Damn you, Mom. Always instigating situations to your liking without consulting me first. And Zhuyu, of course, agreed with no complaints. I didn’t have much of a choice.Bookmark here

“Wait, Mom, you can do this for me. Get back…,” I started my sentence but Mom interrupted.Bookmark here

“Yuki, I have something cooking downstairs. Long, good luck!” Mom dashed off, a shameless smile on her face.Bookmark here

Zhuyu, unfazed by the entire interaction, instructed me to move closer. He scooped the soup up and placed it into my mouth with care. Saltier than expected, but contained chicken essence, along with a slight hint of herbs.Bookmark here

“How did you make this?” I asked.Bookmark here

“I bought a chicken the other day. Didn’t think I would end up using it so soon,” Zhuyu answered, feeding me more soup.Bookmark here

He used an actual chicken instead of canned broth? This was just too much. This Zhuyu was ridiculous. How did he find the time to watch the soup cook? I was sick around six and Mom probably found me near seven. If he started preparing at eight, it would have taken him until midnight , even longer depending on the cooking time. I felt really bad he did all of this for me.Bookmark here

“It must have taken you a long time,” I commented.Bookmark here

“I slept around one. Don’t worry, today was a half day anyways,” Zhuyu said with a smile.Bookmark here

“Still….,” I began.Bookmark here

“Yuki, worry about yourself. I’m not sleep deprived at all. There you go, you’re all finished now,” Zhuyu interrupted.Bookmark here

“Thanks for all the help,” I finally mustered, not sure what else to say.Bookmark here

“No problem. I’ll let you rest and come by again later if you’re up,” Zhuyu said, taking the bowl downstairs.Bookmark here

I laid down with a new, cold towel draped on my head. Mirei, are you finally going to end this now? You’ve made your point. I felt fatigue set in once more and drifted off.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.