Chapter 7:

007 – A Time Near and Far the Stove

Rainbow of the Horizon—Illuminating Our Darkened Path | Our World

‹Jean›Bookmark here

So… I will be doing the narration for this one, huh… I didn’t think that I’ll get to do this once again.Bookmark here

Well… saying “once again” is kind of weird and at the same time it’s not. I remembered doing this for the first time back in the previous fiction, but I guess it will be the first time here.Bookmark here

I however do wonder how it came down to this point where I will be holding on the mic again. Unlike last December, I was in a predicament deciding about my career choices.Bookmark here

This time, I feel like it’s kind of random. Granted, I started working as an apprentice chef in Giotto’s… but the resto’s always the center of the plot in most of the chapters so that’s not really a good reason, in my opinion.Bookmark here

If I were to say it, I am like the Gin in the past when he hadn’t gone to the Void; when he was still 15 “last year.”Bookmark here

I can hear his voice echoing inside my head saying: “Ahh… My everyday life is terrifyingly normal.”Bookmark here

In that sentence, you can pretty much summarize the current events in my life.Bookmark here

Unless, I have a different definition of what the word “normal” is.Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

April 14, Saturday.Bookmark here

The day is just like any other day in Giotto’s restaurant.Bookmark here

Every minute is busy and the burst of customers does not end. It has been a bit more difficult for the chefs because of the absence of two cooks.Bookmark here

It however did not make the others waver. Countless drops of sweat have poured down and fallen to the floor, and the heat of the stoves and ovens made the perspiration increase by twofold. The sound of the boiling water, the sound of knives sliding on the board, and the popping of the oil are like a minimally toned band of orchestra…Bookmark here

However tough the two compares, every sound has a rhythm where the chefs carefully follow the steps and get to the beat.Bookmark here

The shouts of the waiters echoed in the kitchen as they loudly slam and pin the orders on a corkboard. It was like a siren—a signal where whenever it sounds, there is definitely something that is coming—fighting against the will of the culinary agents.Bookmark here

Irregardless, everything is like music, everything is like art.Bookmark here

And thus, comes forth the lunch break.Bookmark here

Crap… That’s a really bad segue.Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

“Oh… This is unusual…”Bookmark here

Surprise is all over my mind as I stare upon a rather unusual message saying that Gin is totally vulnerable.Bookmark here

“**Thank you for your hard work,” enter Ai as she slowly opened the door of the staff room while staring blankly.Bookmark here

“**Ah, good work to you, Ai-san.”Bookmark here

“Oh, Jin-san. Have you eaten lunch already?”Bookmark here

“I just got here a few minutes ago and I’m just checking my phone before I get something to eat. It seems like something happened to Gin.”Bookmark here

“What…? Is Sakato-senpai alright?”Bookmark here

“He’s homesick right now, apparently. And according to Ringo, he’s depressed to the point that he can’t even get up easily.Bookmark here

It feels like all of his energy was leeched away from him.”Bookmark here

I suddenly remembered Nacchi just now.Bookmark here

“Homesickness…Bookmark here

I wonder if that will happen to me too…” she whispered loud enough for me to hear.Bookmark here

“Do you have a bento with you, Ai-san?”Bookmark here

“Ah-!” Ai flinched out of surprise. “I don't. I was planning on going out to eat.”Bookmark here

“Really? Shall I accompany you? I’m getting famished after all.”Bookmark here

“I’d be glad if you do, then.”Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

This day is really nothing out of the ordinary. The weather is fair that just lands down precisely to the swaying of the cherry blossoms. The streets are always filled with people walking under the playful shadows of the trees as they move.Bookmark here

The weather truly is a bit on the dry side, but the breeze blowing towards us is just as cold as ever. Bookmark here

“Say, Ai-san… Do you know a place for us to get something to eat?”Bookmark here

“Of course. The place is not really that far to the restaurant, Jin-san. It’s just a small udon house nearby. It is however a bit hidden being established in a narrow path, but it was quite popular irregardless.”Bookmark here

“Udon… That reminds me… There’s also an udon restaurant near to where we, in the South, live. I haven’t been there, though. But I heard that Gin and Ringo have eaten there from time to time along with our other friends.Bookmark here

But then, talking about them makes me a bit awkward.”Bookmark here

“Why though?”Bookmark here

“I don’t really mind it but just knowing the fact that there are two pairs of couples in a group of six is a bit overwhelming since their exposure is different from when the situation wasn’t like that yet.Bookmark here

There’s no way I was pressured, though. Maybe a little… But I just feel a bit lonely at times.”Bookmark here

It truly looks that Jean is speaking with an expression and an emotion that is almost indistinguishable. Unpredictable as it may be, his nonchalance is sincere.Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

“Mmm… This udon is good.”Bookmark here

“See? This is why I always come and eat here, Jin-san.”Bookmark here

“So you’re a regular? But man, the authenticity makes it more delectable. It also does look like the man behind the kitchen counter is really skilled. Was he a chef or something?”Bookmark here

“So you can tell, Jin-san? He was actually a popular chef in a luxurious restaurant but he decided to start a small business and lived humbly. That is, what all I said is just based on his story.Bookmark here

I will sure miss this place once we move out.”Bookmark here

“Food for the mass… for all…Bookmark here

So that thought was the thing that Gin was trying to hammer on my head.”Bookmark here

“Jin-san?”Bookmark here

“Ah, sorry. I was suddenly visited by a thought. Gin’s experiences are really incomparable to mine. I really respect that guy.”Bookmark here

“…Bookmark here

Can you tell me a bit of yourself, Jin-san?”Bookmark here

“All of a sudden?”Bookmark here

“I’m just curious. Aside from your upbringing of culinary, I really don’t know a lot about you.”Bookmark here

“Well, that just sounded really clichéd. But is it really okay… us leaving and all?Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Just screw that.”Bookmark here

“Well… I guess I was born in a family with two children. Though, my older brother is currently in prison for a crime that he didn’t do. Unjustified, isn’t it? But I learned that hope will act as a light and pierce through the dark clouds. So I hope that we’ll be complete again.Bookmark here

Aside from family, I have said that I will be entering senior high school this coming June. We have the option to choose a maximum of two courses or strands or department; whatever you want to call it. I chose Culinary Arts as my first priority and Business Management as the second.Bookmark here

The system has become more of a college-like approach and more practical—directly applying the relevance of the courses. It’s really beneficial since it will shorten your college years if we do satisfactory.”Bookmark here

“…Bookmark here

That was really quick and detailed…”Bookmark here

“I guess I just got it from a habit because I’m pretty much the guy who explains everything in our group.”Bookmark here

“But… can I ask…?”Bookmark here

“About what?”Bookmark here

“Your brother… what made that situation happen to him?”Bookmark here

“Ah, that’s what you meant.Bookmark here

I guess I would say that it was the unlocking key to my discovery of this unfair reality. It happened two years ago when he was about to graduate in college. He was staying in the house of his classmate when a burglar entered the house and murdered his classmate because of fighting back.Bookmark here

My brother was asleep at that time but he woke up with a corpse in the living room and the burglar swept valuable things in the house. The guy made his escape and left my brother alone with the corpse.Bookmark here

The police came, and it was a bad timing that they were corrupt police. They didn’t listen to what my brother wanted to say and ended up being sentenced with ten years in the cell.Bookmark here

That made me wake up and realize the injustice of this world. However… Ai-san, have you heard of the situation in our hometown last month?”Bookmark here

“You mean… the Exiles’ upbringing?”Bookmark here

“Yes, precisely. Have you heard of their background?”Bookmark here

“…No?”Bookmark here

“Well, I guess I’ll have to explain it, yes.Bookmark here

Exiles is a group of people estimated around a hundred or two in numbers which was erased from existence, but still living incognito. Their existence started in WW2 due to the extreme abuse to people at that time in our country.Bookmark here

Right now, their whereabouts is unknown-“Bookmark here

“For the most people…”Bookmark here

“But they suddenly surfaced midway March with a peculiar uniform. They faced off a politician that was actually a ruthless killer and a mercenary, but they put a stop on him. Not only that, one lone Exile saved his group and the police from a C4 bomb.Bookmark here

Afterwards, they made an agreement with the government to not lay a finger at each other and the Exiles wished to live their lives as it is. Truly, it is a big irony because the society in the past considers them as animals and the Exiles consider them as wild beasts that predate over their prey.”Bookmark here

“There were people like that in Orio…?”Bookmark here

“Yes, and for seventy years and counting. What I can’t forget is their brave statement: ‘We wouldn’t call ourselves humans if the humans themselves can easily throw away their humanity.’Bookmark here

The truth is, I know some of them regardless of their very secure identity concealing. Some of them actually decided to conquer the world and surfaced back to life to prove that they were not what the others called trash. They are very kind. Their loss of exposition to the cruel reality made them what they are now.Bookmark here

They are the ones that gave me hope. In this unjustified world, I believe that something will make way to the fairness I sought.”Bookmark here

And once again, as the two are sat face to face, the young maiden locked her eyes on the solemn and calm man as she listen to the rather mature words of him.Bookmark here

The gaze was brimming with emotions and it is as if that those eyes are telling a message—that perhaps the maiden herself can only answer.Bookmark here

Jean felt and finally seen it. He realized that he was being looked at warmly and was struck with sudden emotions in his heart, even for a second. Setting aside the shock, he looked down and smiled as if he’s thinking of something in his unpredictable mind.Bookmark here

“Ai-san, shall we go back to the resto now? We might be late if we stay here longer.”Bookmark here

“Ah, yes. Let’s go, Jin-san.”Bookmark here

“This is seriously happening to me now? Ai-san…Bookmark here

I’m just really happy for some reason.”Bookmark here

“I wonder if Gin was like this when his emotions suddenly went back…” I muttered.Bookmark here

“Did you say something, Jin-san?”Bookmark here

“I’m just mumbling to myself. Don’t mind it.”Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

In the afternoon of the same day…Bookmark here

“Jean, do you want to see the new guy?”Bookmark here

“Oh… so he’s being introduced today, Sean?”Bookmark here

“Yep. Here he is.”Bookmark here

“**My name is Kiriyama Shun, 17 years old. I will be working as a replacement chef, but as a regular. I look forward to be working with all of you from now on!”Bookmark here

Thankfully, I get the gist of what he just said. His name is Shun Kiriyama and he’s 17. He’s going to be a chef here in Giotto’s at that age. It’s not really unbelievable knowing that I’m also working here and I am a year younger.Bookmark here

“Hmm… Let’s see… He’s a high school dropout and seemingly a delinquent but apparently he’s not one,” Sean blankly explained.Bookmark here

“You see… Jean. He dropped out because he wants to study culinary more than basic education. Because of that, he sometimes threw a fit when the home economics room is unusable,” Hiro added.Bookmark here

“Oh… so that’s why he was titled a delinquent.Bookmark here

Wait, as a replacement?”Bookmark here

“Well, Gin is finally off so we hired one as his replacement.”Bookmark here

“**Coincidentally, I have seen Sakato-san with a girl when I was riding the train. I think he was wearing a red jacket.Bookmark here

**And I was found arguing on the phone since they had a bitter look at me.”Bookmark here

“Wahh… He sounds like a handful…”Bookmark here

▪ ▪ ▪Bookmark here

April 17, Tuesday.Bookmark here

The sundown in Giotto’s is just the same as ever every time the restaurant closes. It has been exactly two weeks since Jean took overtimes to maximize his performance while practicing the menu.Bookmark here

It is not as simple, however. His taking of overtimes is just half of it since Ai Hikari has been accompanying his practices without missing a night. Though his practices can serve satisfactorily alone, he catches an unknown energy whenever he is being helped by the girl.Bookmark here

“Jin-san. You know, you’ve improved quite a lot.”Bookmark here

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”Bookmark here

“Huh? Of course it’s a compliment, Jin-san!Bookmark here

What I’m saying is that you are a better chef than what you were two weeks ago. I have always seen you exert a lot of effort even if it’s just for testing purposes and now, I see the hard work coming from you but it’s different because every time you let me taste your dishes makes me even happier!”Bookmark here

“Ai-san…” there comes a sensation and a bubbling feeling somewhere in Jean’s chest. That sensation is once again uplifting his already uplifted feelings that suddenly removed the doubts he has on his mind.Bookmark here

And suddenly, he was reminded of something.Bookmark here

“Say, Ai-san… how do you feel whenever I have you to help me, just like right now?”Bookmark here

“It’s as I have said, Jin-san. I enjoy watching you and have a taste of the food you make, but not only that. I learn a lot of things just by watching you move around the kitchen.Bookmark here

And I'm hungry when the restaurant closes.Bookmark here

But to be honest, I didn’t really have a lot of experiences in front of the kitchen counter, but it is as if I imitated your way of cooking unconsciously."Bookmark here

Ai stood up and rolled her eyes until she found a knife and took it.Bookmark here

“For example, it became a habit of mine to hold a knife with my index finger on the back of the blade,” she gripped the knife to exactly how she described and formed like she was cutting something.Bookmark here

“T-That’s… That’s how I hold a knife…”Bookmark here

“You’ve said it yourself just now, Jin-san.Bookmark here

But it feels like it’s not the only thing I got from you. It also feels like I even caught your passion and how you turn your emotions to the dishes you make. That’s why I’m happy that I feel like I always received your emotions whenever I get to taste what you make. But then, it kind of sounds weird. Ahahaha…"Bookmark here

She paused abruptly, but continued.Bookmark here

"Can I ask you something, too?”Bookmark here

“Yes…? Go ahead.”Bookmark here

“Jin-san. What made you strive for more and become a better chef?”Bookmark here

A subtle smile of joy slowly bent on Jean’s lips after hearing the question of the curious girl.Bookmark here

“Whenever I cook, I always try to remove the negativity surrounding me. What’s more is that I always think about my family, friends, and I try to imagine the expression of the masses that was served with my food.Bookmark here

Then again, I especially think of my brother. I always wished for him to eat my food. I know I always follow Gin’s words. But there is one thing I learned that did not come from him…Bookmark here

My one wish is to serve my food for the rest of my life to my family, friends, and those who I love the most.”Bookmark here

The small hands of the girl shuddered as it tried to grip on the apron she wears. As those happened, her head slowly bent down along with the tears that fell from the corner of her eyes.Bookmark here

“Ai-san…?! What’s wrong? Are you okay?”Bookmark here

“There’s nothing wrong… Jin-san… You… You really are amazing…Bookmark here

I hate myself for unreasonably objecting my family’s decision without even understanding how they feel… It is entirely my fault for not trying to understand others before I act… I feel so weak… I feel so worthless…”Bookmark here

“Stop right there, Ai-san…” Jean spoke with a quiet and calm voice. “It’s the negativity and regrets that caused you to be like this. There’s always a chance to correct our mistakes. Just like how you helped me for correcting mine, I’ll also help you be happy and remove the negativity in your heart.Bookmark here

Ai-san, you can always rely on me when you have a problem.”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

“Oh, I know…! Ai-san. If it’s okay with you, why don’t you come with me after this? I’m going to visit Gin tonight as he is currently sick.”Bookmark here

“Visit… Sakato-senpai…?”Bookmark here

“Yes. He’s still extremely homesick, right? But he is apparently getting better slowly. I hope that he will get better by seeing us. What do you think?”Bookmark here

“…Bookmark here

Mhm…” she nodded.Bookmark here

“Alright. Let’s go ask your sister if she wants to come with us.”Bookmark here

I did ask and she responded but…Bookmark here

I didn’t know that Haru-san can also speak our language fluently…Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

And so, Jean, Ai and Haru went out to make their way onto Gin and Rin’s current place of residence.Bookmark here

As they got near to the entrance of the residence, Jean saw Yuzuri, the caretaker of the house, standing in front of the house, looking up with her mouth wide open.Bookmark here

“Kamichi-san, good evening. Is something wrong?”Bookmark here

“Gin-kun…! Why and how did you get on the roof?!”Bookmark here

“Oh… Good evening, Kamichi-san. Welcome home.”Bookmark here

The three of us quickly ran after hearing Kamichi-san shouting. She was standing petrified while looking on the roof of the house with the height of a standard three floors.Bookmark here

And so, we looked up and subtly saw Gin on the dark, lying down on the roof… playing with a stray cat with catnip.Bookmark here

Meow.Bookmark here

“Oh? Jean’s here too?”Bookmark here

“Ah, good evening, Jin-san. I’m sorry I didn’t notice you coming,” Kamichi-san bowed.Bookmark here

The cat ran away after Gin got up while dusting off his clothes and jumped down from that height without even breaking a sweat.Bookmark here

“Playing spider person… I see. Anyways, it’s been a short while, Gin. Feeling better?”Bookmark here

“Physically, but not mentally.”Bookmark here

Just for added information, the house Gin and Ringo are staying at is only a two-floor traditional house. But because of the unusually high level of the ceiling, it looked like it was three floors.Bookmark here

“Wait, so Ai-san and Haru-san are here too?”Bookmark here

“**Good evening, Sakato-senpai. We’ve heard that you were sick so we also took the time to visit you and Akanami-senpai.”Bookmark here

“**So this is where you, Sakato-san and Akanami-san currently live?” in amazement, Haru-san looked around.Bookmark here

“Rin is finally here after hearing the commotion! I was busy eating sunflower seeds and ate all of them before coming out,” Ringo came running out of the house with a way speaking in third person.Bookmark here

“Yes, Haru-san. This is where we currently live.”Bookmark here

“Ringo, your ‘laid-back-ness’ is so amazing that you even finished the sunflower seeds before even coming out if there was an accident…”Bookmark here

“Anyways, let’s all come inside.”Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

We just nonchalantly sat on the living room while Kamichi-san is voluntarily making dinner.Bookmark here

“So as I have said earlier, I am feeling well physically but not mentally. Thanks for taking your time and visiting us. Truth to be told, the two of us are a little bored today but we just don’t feel like going out under the sun today.Bookmark here

Do you have any stories to tell, Jean?”Bookmark here

“Hmm… I guess I’ll tell about the new chef that was hired last Saturday.”Bookmark here

“Oh? So Ito-san hired a new chef? Well, that makes sense since Gin and I left the restaurant. I bet he’s Gin’s replacement.”Bookmark here

“I wonder if being together with Gin makes you sharp, Ringo.”Bookmark here

“Dinner’s ready~!”Bookmark here

~ ~ ~Bookmark here

It has been a while, but having to eat Kamichi-san’s dinner is very rejuvenating.Bookmark here

“Ahh… Thanks for the food.”Bookmark here

“I thought you weren’t going back from work today, Yuzuri-san.”Bookmark here

“Well, I don’t think I will be around in a bit for real. It’s been really busy in the company while we sort out a lot of things, and I recently got to his team.”Bookmark here

“Ohh… I guess it’s good for you, Yuzuri-san,” Ringo butted in.Bookmark here

“I think the next time we will all meet is at the last day of your stay here.”Bookmark here

“Oh… our departure.Bookmark here

Droops back…” Gin literally said.Bookmark here

“As you can see… Gin has been like this for the fourth day now.”Bookmark here

“Poor guy… Can’t blame him for worrying about not seeing his family for a month.”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“I wonder what Jin-san meant by that. Wait… I forgot to ask, but just to be sure…”Bookmark here

“Jin-san, Jin-san…” Ai-san whispered.Bookmark here

“Ai-san, Ai-san. What is it?”Bookmark here

“You saw Sakato-senpai earlier, right? Weren’t you surprised by what he did earlier? I thought he was going to fall off…”Bookmark here

“Nope. Doesn’t even trigger my adrenaline. I’m used to seeing him jump off like that. Not gonna lie, though, it’s still a sight to see him land like it’s nothing.”Bookmark here

“I see… But it really doesn’t make any sense.”Bookmark here

“Well, he himself doesn’t make any sense. He’ll even admit that if you ask him.”Bookmark here

“…Bookmark here

I’m starting to feel like senpai is a very mysterious person,” Ai-san then asserted.Bookmark here

Our conversation ended and when Ringo suddenly offered us to go outside.Bookmark here

“Jean, Ai-san. I would recommend you go out the terrace right this time. Gin and I go there a lot because there’s a great view every night.”Bookmark here

“Really? I guess we’ll take a look.”Bookmark here

Ai-san and I then went outside to the wooden floors of the terrace where the cold breeze of the night is felt.Bookmark here

The outside is open but slightly dim, contrary to the brightness of the hot springs. As we step out, we were greeted by a bluish light that stood out on the dark night.Bookmark here

I looked up and saw the bright and round moon. This is probably the first time I’m seeing the moon this bright and detailed. I was so astonished, and left entranced by the brightness of the moon and all the exhaustion in my body suddenly vanished.Bookmark here

At that time, I realized that I was not thinking about the moon anymore, but…Bookmark here

“Jin-san… after going out you immediately sat, you know. Now I still don’t see what Akanami-senpai was talking about because you got me distracted.”Bookmark here

“Sorry for that, Ai-san. I guess I got all unconscious because of the calmness of the night and because of what’s above.”Bookmark here

“You know, Jin-san, you sound like an old man, honestly. But you always sound so-"Bookmark here

Her speech was halted right after the subtle brightness of the moon caught her attention.Bookmark here

"The moon… it’s so bright.”Bookmark here

“Yeah…”Bookmark here

We stayed sat for a good amount of time without uttering a word. It was quiet and all we can hear are the rustling of the leaves as they dance through the rhythm of the breeze and the tireless singing of the night cicadas.Bookmark here

The two of us are only looking at the moon, taken aback by its unique brilliance.Bookmark here

“Jin-san… It’s now exactly two weeks before you to go back to the South… right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah…”Bookmark here

“I guess I would feel lonely when you leave… and we’re also moving out next month.”Bookmark here

“…Bookmark here

I’d feel lonely too, you know.”Bookmark here

“But then again, I’m very happy…”Bookmark here

“About what?”Bookmark here

“It’s just that before we leave, I get to meet a friend like you, Jin-san. And even in the midst of everything, you taught me what hope is. Because of that, I’m very happy for you.”Bookmark here

I seriously do not know what is happening to me, but I always find myself smiling even when I don’t intend to. It’s feels like there is always a feeling of happiness that grows inside me.Bookmark here

I guess hearing those words made me happy too.Bookmark here

I can’t take my eyes off of the moon but in the very end of my vision, I can see her, not looking at the moon, but looking at me.Bookmark here

“Ai-san…”Bookmark here

“**Ai… The moon is beautiful, isn’t it?”Bookmark here

After uttering those words, I turned my head down while I close my eyes momentarily. I rotated my head to my right and opened my eyes and…Bookmark here

She is still gazing upon me with a smile.Bookmark here

“**Yes, the moon is beautiful, indeed.”

Chapter Message:Bookmark here

You've finished reading 007!Bookmark here

Yes, there are no spies or agents, but there emerged a bond.Bookmark here

Thanks for reading!Bookmark here

NextBookmark here

008: This is what happens when references does not line up properly. I'm talking about a pianist on glasses and a violinist.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.