Summary: Second Seat of the Elite Ten Rindou Kobayashi has always marched to the beat of her own drum. Unconventional, unorthodox, and with a playful persona - Rindou could never find the appeal of a rather boring, cooking school. Nothing held her attention for long, that is, until a particular transfer student came along…
Doesn't it make your Heartbeat Flutter?
Shokugeki no Souma
A Fluttering Heartbeat
Rindou Kobayashi skipped down the hallway, hands in her hair and bored out of her mind.
It was another day full of pointless propositions. Who knew being the second best chef of her generation at the finest culinary school in Japan would come with so much baggage? Rindou had restaurateurs, business magnates, and celebrities all courting her - both for her cooking skills and romantically - when all she wanted was to try all the food the world had the offer. The world of cooking is so vast, yet here she was filling out paperwork or going to meetings or meeting some balding octogenarian and his crone bragging about how his son is a lawyer or a doctor or a samurai or some ridiculous profession that requires an inane amount of schooling and tuition.
The Tootsuki Academy of Culinary Arts and Tea Ceremonies is a school that adheres to tradition and protocol which is just plain boooring in Rindou Kobayashi's opinion.
Maybe she should have just stuck to watching the Cooking with Dog videos and that be that. But noooo, apply for a cooking school her mom insisted. At least then her-no-good-for-nothing-'I-want-be-a-hikikomori-when-I-grow-up!' daughter could get decent grades in something.
Who knew her mother's plan would be so wildly successful?
It started with one random shokugeki, a cooking competition. She just wanted a pencil and the stingy broad next to her wouldn't let her borrow one. So she challenged her. And she won. Now Rindou gets a bi-weekly shipment of pencils sent to her room as tribute from her.
At least that was fun...
Turning a corner in the hallway, Rindou sighed.
Whatever was there to do? How could she alleviate the emptiness in her chest? The magic of the school was long gone. Everything came too easy. As a third year, she'd seen all the school events that were offered. Challenge letters came in less frequently as whispers of her brutal beatdowns of any challenger circulated with more and more intensity. Even Eishi Tsukasa, the first seat and only student above her, was so boring. It's not like he was better than her at cooking or anything. The guy just never seems to be able have enough free time to do a random shokugeki with her.
And if he did, he'd probably start having panic attacks about the stadium's floor tile arrangement or something.
Then, as Rindou approached the end of the hallway, she saw a girl on the ground fuming about something.
"Yo! How's the ground?"
"It's fine, I just dropped something," Erina replied with a flip of her hair. If only she dropped that haughty attitude she might be able to more approachable to the opposite sex. But Rindou was only her senior in cooking. In terms of romantic affairs, Rindou, who had no experience in love, was as useful as prime rib-eye steaks at a vegan conference.
"After you hit your hand on the wall? Must have hurt." Rindou smiled, baring her fangs.
She knew! was the expression Erina conveyed. Teasing the underclassmen never gets boring, Rindou mused.
"Wha-what are you doing here?"
The young heiress of the Nakiri cooking dynasty was flushed red. Rindou was definitely interested. She had stumbled upon the straight laced and uptight Erina's private moment. And from what she knew of the Erina, the girl never gets flustered or embarrassed ever.
Rindou was curious.
"I wanted to check out the transfer examinations," Rindou answered cheerfully.
"W-well they're over! Nobody passed! Not a single one!" Erina crossed her arms, a piece of paper clutched in her hands. Erina's eyes closed as she scoffed. "All the candidates were pathetic. There was even one in particular that… ugh, nevermind. They were all fifth-rate chefs, so don't even bother-"
"What's this?" Rindou asked innocently.
When Erina opened her eyes, she realized the paper that was a moment ago in her hands was now held up high in the light, being read by her senior.
Erina tried to snatch it away but missed.
"Yukihira… Souma, huh?"
The candidate for transfer to the academy came from a small special-of-the-day diner. His picture looked goofy and a bit dopey. Obviously he wasn't very photogenic. He had no remarkable achievements other than his long career at his Yukihira restaurant, which wasn't uncommon for family-owned businesses.
"He's a nobody!"
In the examiner's comment section, in giant bright red ink were the words:
IT WAS BAD.
On the top corner, where it displayed the results, a giant red stamp fail was pressed against it.
"Didn't make it huh?"
"No. His dish was b-... it dish was b…" Erina's voice slowly got weaker until finally, the answer came out in a barely audible whisper. "His dish was bad."
Rindou handed back the paper.
"Keep it… I really rather not see it again."
And so, Erina Nakiri slumped away. Rindou tucked the paper in her pocket before breaking out into a sprint towards the cooking examination room.
Whoever this guy was, he could make Erina Nakiri annoyed!
If that wasn't interesting, then Rindou Kobayashi didn't know what was!
Peeking in, Rindou saw the coast was clear.
Darn, must have missed him, Rindou sighed.
Entering the cooking examination room, she turned on the lights. She wandered about before she saw one station that looked recently used. Realizing that no one had bothered to clean up after themselves or dispose of the dish, Rindou skipped over to the tray with a bowl of something inside.
A pair of chopsticks laid off to the side.
"What's this? Egg? And what's this jelly stuff?"
With a swift motion, Rindou had the chopsticks pick up a piece of rice and egg and gooey whatever that was. In three seconds, two bites, and it was down the hatch and on a one-way ticket to her belly.
Rindou instinctively smiled. Her free hand placed on her cheek as the taste of the delightful stuff lingered on in her mouth. The tingling sensation from the slick rice sliding her throat was still fresh in her mind. There was the green onion sharpness, a chicken-like savoriness, all bonded together around rice's soft texture and the egg's gentle saltiness.
"What a dish!"
Rindou smiled and looked around.
It was the only station that had been used and it was the only dish in the vicinity. Erina Nakiri was known to prune candidates prior to the cooking examination, so it wouldn't be surprising… if…
"So this is what Yukihira Souma made, huh?"
Interesting, how interesting!
It was so raw and unrefined, but the potential! It was there! This was definitely not a simple dish you'd get at any run-of-the-mill eatery. It was polished. It was chiseled. There was no excess or want of ingredients and a display of tenderness.
This was the sort of flavor anyone can enjoy.
Placing a hand over her chest, she felt the warmth in this dish. A slight blush formed on her cheeks. That's it! Rindou Kobayashi has made her decision!
Rindou smiled and pulled out a phone.
With a quick press on speed-dial #1, Rindou made the call.
"Rindou? I'm kind of busy cleaning right now. I think I saw a speck of dust in my kitchen and that could disrupt the delicate balance of my dish and-"
"Sounds fun! Hey, look, aren't you and Nakiri in the transfer committee?"
"Well yes, but Erina said she'd handle that by herself-"
"There's someone I want you to pass!"
There was silence on the other line.
"That's awfully out-of-character for you…," Eishi sighed. "Then again, maybe not. Is he a specialist in cooking larvae and insects by chance?"
"No… but I think I've taken a liking to him."
Eishi's reply was stoic, and methodical. It was a measured response. Rindou doesn't take a liking to just anybody… in fact, Rindou never takes a liking to anybody.
But Rindou never does anything without reason.
"So, I want you to pass him."
"I get that." Eishi was still quiet. "What's got you so interested in him?"
Eishi sighed again on the other line.
Instantly, the thought of Eishi once again becoming so overwhelmed by pressure and minute details before crouching into his defensive curl entered Rindou's mind. If he doesn't that, it'd take hours -maybe even days- to coax him out.
"Hey hey! Don't retreat into your shell on me, you little turtle!"
"Give me a good reason, why."
"Well if you really want to know…"
Eishi paused. Rindou placed a finger on her bottom lip. The words were on the tip of her tongue. What was it? What was it about that sample of delicious delight could convey what she felt to Eishi? Chefs communicate through foods and expressions. The sight of one eating happily… the smile on one's lips… what could she say?
How could she express to Eishi what she felt in a succinct phrase over the phone?
Placing a hand over her heart, Rindou's response clicked. The words formulated in her mind.
She took a deep breath.
"His cooking makes my heartbeat flutter."
Eishi didn't say anything after that and hung up.
Chapter One Fin
A Fluttering Heartbeat