Hello and thank you all for the kind reviews, follows, favorites, views, and attention you have given my story! It was really unexpected. I apologize for the initial author's note, as I have heard some people tend to find them annoying, but I figured it was necessary for thanking you all. From now on I'll try and keep them all at the bottom, in case it is very important. Just know that I do read every review and really appreciate them all, as well as any feedback. I'm hesitant at responding directly to each of you as I'm not sure people enjoy that.

Happy reading and see you at the bottom.

I still don't own Shokugeki no Soma, how sad. (Am I supposed to keep writing this? Never really knew)


Tadokoro Megumi had just woken up from an uneasy sleep. She became used to it in recent days and thought it was probably because of the various ordeals she and her "rebellious" friends have gone though. Having the leading faction of their school out for their heads has really taken its toll on them after all. Still, she couldn't help but wonder if there was more to it.

She decided to do a little early morning research on recipes for various dishes known to relax people, hoping that they would help her sleep. She made a mental note to ask Hisako for advice and decided to think on if there was anything else on her mind that could be causing her to have problems with sleeping.

Thoughts of barely making it through the trials in Hokkaido weren't doing her any good, but she couldn't help but wonder if something else was bothering her. The fact that she made it through her trials in Hokkaido was actually rather uplifting to her, even if she only made it because of a tie. It was far more than she could have hoped for given the circumstances she had to deal with and she was actually pretty content with the results. She survived to fight another day and that's all that mattered. She'd get stronger. She knew she wasn't on the same level as Soma and Ryo yet, but she still had made a name for herself and underwent a huge transformation thanks to her friend's support and even more so because of the confidence Soma instilled in her. This was probably a different kind of uneasiness, now that she thought about it.

"Soma..." She thought. Thinking about the spiky red-haired boy always brought out a lot of emotions from deep within her. He became one of her best friends and is honestly one of the primary reasons she made it this far. If it wasn't for him, she would have probably failed Chappelle-sensei's first test in the beginning of their year, not to mention the various ordeals at the training camp, what with Soma saving her by challenging Shinomiya-senpai and all.

At that time though, Soma was someone she admired and respected. His inability to waver under pressure or the various insults thrown his way. His steadfast and straightforward attitude always taking people head on. His diligent and hardworking mindset allowing him to test and create a great variety of dishes and recipes. Really everything about him Megumi admired and respected. If it wasn't for him, she would never have found her courage and her own skills in time to stand on her own.

However, as time went on she knew her feelings were changing. She knew there was more to it. It wasn't until sometime after the Autumn election preliminaries where she realized that Soma had become far more to her than just a best friend. She remembered thinking of the advice her mother gave her about cooking, that she should cook while thinking about someone dear to her. That was how she was able to make it through the preliminaries and face Ryo head on in the quarterfinal rounds, and it was Soma she was thinking of.

At first she wasn't sure what that meant. She knew he was her best friend, but she couldn't say the feelings were the same when she thought of some of her other best friends like Yuki or Ryoko. Eventually she realized the truth though, and it was that realization that helped her get through Hokkaido.

"I love Soma-kun…" Just that thought alone brought butterflies to her stomach and made her feel like she could fly. This was her first genuine love and it was something she had never experienced before.

"Then why am I so uneasy?" She wondered. That was the question that had been bugging her as of late.

Her interactions with Soma post-realization really didn't change very much. Thankfully, aside from a few choice embarrassing and clumsy moments, not too unusual for her, she was able to keep her cool around him. Granted, there were definitely many times where she found herself just gazing at him intensely during class or here at the dorms, because let's face it, he's a very attractive boy. Her body and mind didn't have any trouble reminding her of that, whether it was through daydreaming about him in class or even seeing him in her dreams where things became far more risqué and erotic than her innocent mind could sometimes handle.

"I'm probably reading too many shoujo manga." She pondered. Still though, all of those thoughts and feelings made her feel wonderful in more ways than one, so she knew that they weren't the cause of her uneasiness either. Yet, she had the strange feeling Soma was the cause in some other way, she just couldn't explain why.

"Well, I guess I'll just have to figure it out as I go. I can't keep thinking about it now." With that, Megumi decided to get ready and make her way downstairs to make herself some breakfast.

-0-

Upon arriving in the kitchen, Megumi found Fumio, Yuki, and Ibusaki in the kitchen tasting something.

"Good morning everyone!" Megumi said. She also noticed Erina cooking on the other side of the room.

"Good morning Megumi-chan!" Yuki cheered upon seeing her.

"Getting an early start again, eh Megumi?" Fumio asked.

Ibusaki gave a silent nod in acknowledgement and Erina appeared too immersed in the small pot of food she was cooking to notice her.

"Yes Fumio-san. I was thinking of incorporating some of the fresh vegetables I've been growing into a new dish." She replied. "Is Erina-chan okay?" She added quietly so as not to disturb Erina.

"I…I think so." Yuki hesitated. "She seemed okay a few minutes ago when she gave us some of this delicious miso soup, but then she became very interested in what we thought and if there was anything off about the taste or if it could be improved."

"EHHH?! Really? Erina-chan said that?" Megumi asked in awe. "So they were tasting Erina-chan's food?!"

"It's shocking right?! Erinacchi never doubts her cooking or asks anyone besides Hisako to taste her food. Plus, it was delicious as you'd expect anyway. I was really happy though." Yuki laughed excitedly. "I told her that even though it tasted really good, if she wanted to, I had a few things she could add in. I just needed to find where they ran off to hehehe." Yuki added in a sinister tone.

"EHH?! Yuki?!" Megumi questioned.

"It's too early to be slaughtering livestock Yuki." Shun stated bluntly.

"Aww, you're no fun Ibusaki-kun." Yuki pouted. "She unsurprisingly turned down my idea anyway though. Although I thought I heard her mutter about adding something a bit savory. Anyway, after thanking me she went back to cooking over there and hasn't said anything since."

"Erina-chan…" Megumi whispered. "I hope she's okay."

"Fufu. My, my, my, such a lively house this has become again." Fumio laughed, while examining Erina. "Don't worry, I think Erina-chan will be just fine. We're only human after all, and seeking advice from others is only natural, no matter how great our skills may be. I think Erina-chan is finally getting accustomed to that fact and reaching out on her own." Fumio smiled reassuringly.

Megumi and Yuki made sounds of agreement at her words while Ibusaki nodded silently.

"That's true, and Erina-chan really has changed quite a bit over the last few months, especially since she's been staying here, so I guess it's only natural." Megumi thought.

She knew that with everything that's happened, it had arguably the greatest impact on Erina. Erina's father coming back and taking over, forming Central, and now targeting her and her friends. She could she the fear in Erina's eyes that time Nakiri Azami arrived at the dorm. Hearing about everything he had done to his daughter, Erina definitely had it worse than any of them. Megumi couldn't help but think that she'd rather be expelled from Totsuki than experience what Erina has. That only made her admire Erina that much more however, not just because of what she went through, but also how she was now working her hardest to fight against her father at every step of the way.

Erina had become a very dear friend to Megumi during the last few months of her time living in their dorm. She could safely say she was one of her best friends actually. They'd even hang out together often, just the two of them, and discuss shoujo manga and other things. Erina seemed to have an insatiable appetite for the stuff, but Megumi knew the feeling and was happy to lend her some from her large collection.

She remembered the various times they all had "girls only" parties and would finally get to act like girls their own age. They'd talk about a lot of things, whether it was gossiping about school rumors or celebrity icons and chefs they admired. They'd talk about romance and what it would be like to date someone while at school. Ikumi, Alice, and Hisako would also come over and join in. Even Fumio would join in occasionally and fill their heads with her own girlish tales of the drama and love of her youth. It took a little while for Erina to warm up and become fully engaged at the parties, but eventually she did.

She remembered a particularly heartfelt moment at one of their "girls only" parties where Erina had thanked all of them for everything they had done for her and said how much they all meant to her. She even asked all of them, who weren't already doing so, to call her by her first name as true friends. Of course this ended up in a teary-eyed group hug of a very embarrassed and flustered Erina, who, also teary eyed, was trying to get away in a tsundere-like fashion, but eventually gave in. The moment didn't last too long though as Ryoko produced another bottle of her signature "juice" and Alice also produced an equally potent liquid of her own creation. Needless to say, they didn't get to sleep until past dawn the following day.

Megumi giggled at the thought. "Well, I'm going to go check on her nonetheless." Megumi smiled and made her way to the other side of the large kitchen where Erina was still very deeply immersed in her cooking.

"Uhm…Erina-chan?" Megumi approached.

Erina jumped a bit, startled out of her monk-like focus on the small pot in front of her. "Ahh, Megumi?!" Erina said a little startled. "I'm sorry. I didn't see you come in. I got a little caught up with…" She said glancing at the small pot. "Something I was working on." She finished moving as if to obscure the small pot from Megumi's view.

"Ahh, no I'm sorry." Megumi said giving a slight apologetic bow. "I called out earlier and you didn't reply. The others said you seemed to be acting a little off, so I just wanted to check on you. I didn't mean to startle you."

"No, that's okay. You didn't do anything wrong." Erina waved her hands at the bowing girl. As strong and confident as Megumi had become, Erina knew she still had certain tendencies, and one of those happened to be apologizing when she was without fault. "Really, it's my fault. I've just been a little jumpy and on edge today."

"On edge? Jumpy?" Megumi asked raising a brow. "What's the matter?"

"Ahh it's nothing really. It's a little embarrassing, but a certain no good, idiotic, disgustingly annoying, semi-nudist senpai has no decency when it comes to his antics towards his juniors." Erina said annoyed.

"Mhmm. That's Isshiki-senpai alright." Megumi replied, now understanding exactly what was going on. Erina was still not as used to Isshiki-senpai's antics as her fellow dorm mates were.

"I understand exactly what you mean. How he starts whispering your name to you from the ceiling as you are about to fall asleep or how you wake up during the night or early morning to his voice, asking you for help with one of his projects outside or just to keep him company. Or maybe it's him reading to you, from the ceiling, various ingredients to a complicated recipe at 2 A.M. or perhaps it's him giving a lengthy summary on the history of fundoshis through the speaking tubes by your bed. Or perhaps-" Megumi listed to Erina as if this were normal for her, only to see that she had a look of shock on her face.

"Eh? Was I wrong?" Megumi questioned curiously.

Erina's expression softened and changed to one of concern. Placing a hand on Megumi's shoulder, Erina gave her a mixed look of pity and worry. "I'm so sorry Megumi." Moving in to hug her blue haired friend she continued. "I had no idea. I'm so sorry. It'll be okay."

"EHH!? Erina-chan?! Eh?" Megumi said, shocked at Erina's actions.

"It'll be okay. That fundoshi monster isn't here now. I'll protect you." Erina added hugging her tighter.

"EHH!?" Megumi continued, still in shock.

"Did somebody say fundoshi?" As if on cue, a recognizable voice whispered to the two girls, close enough that they could feel it on their ears.

"EEEEEEEEEK!" Both girls yelped at the voice and jumped apart. Obviously it was none other than the subject of their conversation, Isshiki.

"Mouuu! Isshiki-senpai, stop doing that!" Megumi snapped at the second year.

"GRRRR…ISS-HI-KI-SEN-PAI! THAT'S THE SECOND TIME THIS MORNING!" Erina yelled, having already had her fill of the second year's antics only an hour ago.

"I'm terribly sorry Tadokoro-chan, Erinacchi." Isshiki bowed apologetically before the blonde could attack him again. "I just couldn't help but overhear that you were talking about fundoshis, so I had no choice but to approach you. If you're truly serious about making the switch to the fundoshi life, I would be happy to guide you both and be your mentor on the transition. Although not common, It's not unheard of for women to wear fundoshis. Many women have even considered the switch to a fundoshi to be invigorating, giving them new found passion and purpose in life."

"Blechh! Disgusting! You idiot! Hentai!" Erina snapped, now red in the face.

"Eeek! No way! That's gross and indecent senpai!" Megumi fidgeted slightly, also blushing.

"Fufu. My juniors are kawaii. Fufu. Well if you two change your mind, you know who to talk to for advice. I have plenty of connections in the fundoshi industry. I can even arrange for private shipments." Isshiki said proudly.

"That's obviously not what we were talking about!" Both girls yelled in unison at him.

"Jeez. Isshiki leave your kohai alone will you?" Fumio said while approaching the trio, leaving both an uncontrollably giggling Yuki on the floor in the corner, along with a visibly distressed Shun trying to hold back his own laughter after witnessing the exchange with Isshiki from the other side of the room.

"Okay, okay. I'll stop." Isshiki said, hands raised, feigning defeat. "But, I'll have you know, I was serious about the proposition."

"Yes, yes. We've all heard it before." Fumio replied. "Anyway, weren't you supposed to be working in the fields with Soma-kun?"

Both girls perked up at the mention of the red-haired boy's name.

"Ohhh, Soma-kun?" Isshiki said. "Hmmm…I gave him the slip." He winked.

"Poor Soma-kun." Megumi said. Erina and Fumio nodding in agreement.

"By the way, speaking of Soma-kun…" Isshiki smiled sadistically at Erina. "I bet he's going to be hungry after he's done planting, picking and organizing all the crops I asked him to."

Erina started fidgeting a bit while also glaring at Isshiki in annoyance, as if threatening him to not say anything further.

"I guess I can make something for hi-" Megumi began.

"Ahh that's okay Tadokoro-chan. Soma-kun is actually rather lucky today as someone has already been working on a special meal just for him. She' actually been working for quite some time now, isn't that right Erinacchi?" Isshiki said smirking at the fidgeting blonde who was now both visibly annoyed and embarrassed.

"Isshiki-senpai…" Erina gritted, glaring at him as she tried to think of a response, realizing exactly what he was implying, just like everyone else around them.

"Oh ho…Erina-chan, is that why you were so keen on knowing what we thought of your dish earlier?" Fumio questioned with a hint of mischief in her voice.

"Ehh?! Erina-chan is…" Megumi trailed off looking at Erina, a sense of anxiousness in her eyes.

"Ahh…um…" Erina fumbled her words before regaining composure. "No way! Absolutely not! I was merely testing a new recipe and had heard that it may be beneficial to seek advice or opinions from different people from time to time. I was simply giving that a try as I only usually ask Hisako."

"Hmmm. Is that all? Are you sure? You've constantly been checking that smaller pot over there. Perhaps that's for Soma-kun?" Fumio smirked. "Fufufu. I thought something was going on between those two these last few weeks, but I'd never guess it would be something like this." Fumio thought, while thinking of her own youthful days full of romance. "Ahhh…Kou-chan."

"EHHHH!? Erinacchi is making a special lovey-dovey breakfast for Soma-kun?!" Yuki yelled, making her way over as she had finally recovered from her laughing fits and overheard the others. Shun had disappeared somewhere.

"LOVEY-DOVEY?!" Megumi yelled, the color had drained from Megumi's face and she looked like she was on the verge of fainting. "Erina-chan making…for Soma-kun…lovey-dovey." She mumbled, her thoughts racing, her mind spinning.

"Erina-chan….and Soma-kun…a special breakfast, like a girl-gi-girlfff…girlfriend…GIRLFRIEND! EHHHHH! I thought something was a little off between them, but I didn't expect something like this. Is this true?! She hasn't said anything yet." She looked over at Erina, but she was frozen still and reddening in the face. "Ahhhhhh, she's embarrassed! Does she like Soma-kun too?!"

The thought brought an unknown pain to Megumi's chest, almost as if she was punched in the stomach. It was rather similar to the feelings of uneasiness she felt earlier. "Maybe it's not true." She thought to herself, trying to calm down.

Although, as she thought about it, the relationship between Soma and Erina had done a complete one eighty since Erina's father showed up. Now that she thought about it, Erina no longer acted in the same prideful, and haughty manner like she used to around Soma. Their new forms of bantering seemed to have a lightheartedness to them. Come to think of it, Megumi now remembered that there had been many different times since Erina has been here where she saw how they were getting along rather well together, and sometimes even just alone. Before Erina couldn't be in the same room around Soma without getting annoyed at him, but now she was a different person with him. Megumi even remembered a few times where she saw Erina laughing at Soma's quirky antics.

"No. Erina's changed around everybody though. It isn't specific to Soma." Megumi countered to herself. "Yes, this is just her being friendly to him or something…right?"

"Lov-lovey-dov-ey?! GAHHHHH!" Erina finally blurted out. Still feeling a combination of annoyance and embarrassment. "Damn it Isshiki! Damn it Yuki!" Getting her bearings, she continued. "NO! There's no special meaning behind this or anything like that! Absolutely none!" She yelled, emphasizing the last point as if to quell their gossipy notions. "This is merely in return for helping me. That's it. I happened to be up early this morning and we ran into each other in the kitchen. I offered and he accepted. That was that." She said, regaining a bit of her lady-like aura.

"Ehh? He helped you with something?" Yuki questioned.

"It was a specific instance when I first moved in here. It doesn't matter, but with everything that happened, I didn't get the chance to repay him. It would be rude and shameful not to so I took the opportunity when it arose this morning. That's all." Erina replied thinking of the time he made a Yukihira special just for her.

She realized then that his type of food, the same food Saiba-sama had made for her so long ago, was the type of food she always wanted to make. She had forgotten about what it really tasted like, but when she found out who Soma's father was, everything fell in place and she had realized why his food always bothered her and how wrong she was. Food should...no needed to be free. After all, it was that freedom that allowed for the birth and creation of the very elegant and gourmet food that her father had coveted, and that she was indoctrinated to covet. The only type of cuisine that her mind were consider as delicious. How wrong and hypocritical of her and her father to have that notion.

If she had to analogize it, she'd say that Saiba-sama's cooking was the spark in the dark that instilled a creative, imaginative, and loving feeling in her towards food. Her father's subsequent training, or rather indoctrination and torture, had stamped out that spark and walled up all her emotions towards food, but also most human emotions in general. That wall only had a tiny crack for a prideful, haughty and emotionally detached girl to slip through carrying an unwavering preference for specific elegant gourmet cooking styles and nothing else. Everything else was sealed away.

Then…there was Soma's cooking. At first she hated it because she thought it was mocking her, looking down on her. As if all her ideals and knowledge were rendered meaningless before his strange methods of cooking. In reality she was just in denial because tasting it was an experience she hadn't had since her youth. It was unexpected, unique, and quirky, but also imaginative, creative, and adventurous.

Yet, as she thought about it, she could tell there was a difference between the father's and his son's. Where Saiba had the experience of many years of cooking, Soma's was a little more wild, youthful, and spontaneous. Beyond that though it was also kind and warming, as if it was consoling her or protecting her. It was Soma's cooking that broke through the dark walls holding her back, like a burning inferno that burst through and encased her, shielding her from the darkness. It was his cooking that set her free and it was his cooking she wanted to follow. "Just his cooking." She thought as if trying to convince herself of something. "That's all it is. Nothing else about him. Just his cooking."

However, unbeknownst to all of the people pestering her right now, she lied. That wasn't the reason she was making him breakfast today. This wasn't intended as thanks at all. "I already thanked him a few weeks ago." She thought as she began to feel a little embarrassed at the memory of "that" night. "I can't think about that now." She added, trying to focus on the matter at hand.

Truthfully she didn't know exactly why she wanted to make Soma breakfast or why she even asked to. She just blurted it out at the time. It bugged her, but no matter what she still wanted to make sure the food was delicious. She wanted to make sure he enjoyed it, even to the point where she asked others, besides Hisako, to taste her food. It was unlike her and even though it irked her, it didn't necessarily feel unpleasant either.

"Ahh, so that's all it was. I see." Megumi said softly, the color slowly returning to her face while a feeling of relief washed over her a bit. Still though, she felt something was a bit off, as if she wasn't completely convinced and that uneasiness remained. Although she thought her expressions went unnoticed by everyone as all eyes were on Erina, a certain second year noticed, but decided not to comment.

"Hmmm. But Erinacchi, I don't remember you saying it was in return for…" Isshiki began but was cutoff with a ladle thrust in his face.

"That's all it was Iss-hi-ki-sen-pai." Erina growled, ladle in hand, held inches from his face. "Keep your childish delusions to yourself. As if MY food would ever be made with special feelings toward anyone, especially Yukihira-kun. Hmpf. Don't make me laugh." She said, crossing her arms.

"There's nothing special about him and I feel nothing special about him. It's just his unique views on cooking that have helped me. That's all. Maybe he's a friend, but that's it. That's right, we're friends, just like the other friends I've made in this dorm. Yeah, that's it." Erina thought, continuing to battle her thoughts from earlier.

"Anyway, romance is nothing any of us should even be considering with everything going on right now. Surviving Central's tactics is the only thing we should be focusing on. Romance and romantic relationships are impossible." She stated while turning back to her cooking. "Especially for me. I don't even understand love. With my family…my circumstances…everything… it's…impossible." She added to herself.

"Well, I wouldn't go that far." Fumio said. "Totsuki is a place where only the strongest of students will survive it's true, and that goes double for all of you, especially now that Central and most of the school are against you. However, never forget that these years are also your precious high school years. Love and romance is a part of many high school student's lives, if they let it be and it can be the same for all of you." Fumio smiled knowingly, thinking of fond memories of her high school sweetheart Kou-chan.

"Fumio-san…" Megumi said in awe of her dorm mother. "Alright! I'll try my best!"

"As expected of Fumio-san." Yuki said, feeling determined herself.

Erina remained silent. "Love and romance…not for me…I don't need it…I can't…" Was all she thought before focusing solely on cooking once more.

"Well said Fumio-san!" Isshiki cheered. "That is part of the revelry and enjoyment of youth. Ahh sweet love...sweet youth, glorious youth. You girls should take Fumio-san's advice. This is definitely a prime time for love and romance."

"Senpai is getting out of hand again." Megumi, Erina, and Yuki said together.

"Wow! Sounds pretty lively in here. What's all the commotion?" Said a new, but very familiar voice.

"Ahhh, Soma-kun! Good morning!" Yuki cheered.

"Morning Soma-kun." Fumio said.

"Good morning Soma-kun!" Megumi smiled. Her heart started to beat a bit seeing the boy that had been the subject of their conversation. He clearly had been working up a storm out there and was covered in sweat and dirt. He had what looked like a sack of vegetables, probably potatoes, thrown over one arm. The other arm was carrying another sack underneath it. The outlines of the muscles on his arms were visible as he held the vegetables, causing his muscles to flex. The sweat on his body caused his shirt to stick to him, outlining the lean muscles underneath. Megumi felt herself heat up while gazing at his appearance. She realized she had a thing for the hardworking and dirty look, and Soma pulled it off splendidly.

Erina also had her gaze fixed on Soma again. Thoughts similar to earlier in the morning were beginning to flare up once again, as well as her body temperature. However, she pried her eyes away before she got worse. "Why does that keep happening? Focus Erina, Focus on cooking. Focus on the food!"

"Good morning Tadokoro! Morning Yoshino! Fumio-san!" Soma responded to the new faces of the morning. "Oi! Senpai! Where did you go? I spent a lot of time looking for you out there. You left me with all these potatoes to carry. You can't expect us to keep coming out to help if you skimp out on the work you know?" Soma said. "Ah well, I guess I should have expected this since it's you after all."

"You wound me Soma-kun. You wound me. But, I'll admit I should not have left you, but the conversation in here was far too riveting to ignore." Isshiki smiled slyly. Ignoring the noises of the fidgeting blonde cooking nearby or the flustered blunette.

"Ohhhh? What was the conversation in here about?" Soma questioned.

"Ahhh, what indeed Soma-kun, what indeed. If I had to sum it up in one word, I'd say the word is…" Isshiki looked around to see Erina a little stiff, Megumi eagerly awaiting what he was going to say and Yuki and Fumio giggling slightly understanding what he was doing. "Food!" He finally cheered, hearing sighs of relief from Megumi and Erina, the latter he also thought was muttering curses at him under her breath.

"Food? Isn't that what we all usually talk about? Was it about a new dish or recipe?" Soma asked.

"A new dish of course. It's a very special dish at that." Isshiki said. "Soma-kun are you hungry?"

"Ah, yeah now that you mention it. I had to do almost double the work thanks to you. I'm starving." Soma replied, realizing just how hungry he was and remembering that Erina had promised to make him breakfast. Looking over at her he saw her focusing intently on the pots in front of her. He could smell that it was delicious, he just hoped it was for him.

"That's wonderful because you see you're about to get to taste that very same dish we were discussing." Isshiki said cheerfully.

"Huhhh?" Erina said, while Megumi and Yuki had looks of confusion on their faces. Fumio just smiled observing the interaction.

"Wow, really? That's great!" Soma said enthusiastically. He was very hungry and since Erina was the only one cooking right now, he knew the special dish was going to be served by her, which ended up making him more excited for reasons he didn't understand.

"Of course, of course. Erinacchi has been working on this dish for a very long time after all. She seems to have only recently gotten the hang of it actually. Finally figuring out the right ingredients and such. It's that complicated of a dish you see." Isshiki said seriously.

"What?" Erina said, very confused. "Wait a minute sen-" She started, but was cut off by Soma who was hanging on Isshiki's every word. Megumi and Yuki now only more confused.

"Ohh boy! Sweet! What's it called? What's it called?" Soma asked eagerly, his hunger and love of new and unique recipes overtaking all else.

"This dish…hmmm…you probably heard of it. I'm not sure if you could handle it though, or even understand it." Isshiki said seriously.

"I can handle it. I can understand it Senpai." Soma said equally serious.

"Alright, but don't say I didn't warn you. This dish is one of the most complicated dishes known to man..." Isshiki began. "It's a dish called…lov-"

"MISO SOUP!" Erina yelled, interrupting Isshiki, after she finally realized what he was doing. "It's nothing special, it's just plain old miso soup!"

Yuki busted out laughing again after realizing what was going on, that Isshiki had brought it back to the original teasing from moments ago. Fumio looked amused. Megumi laughed lightly too, but also tensely.

"What?" Soma said, his face crestfallen, the eagerness and anticipation of what he thought was some spectacularly new dish they were discussing, now gone. "Ahhh, I should've expected this. Isshiki-senpai has been messing with me all morning after all. Senpai, you've been especially annoying today you know?" Soma said tiredly, but also missing the meaning of Isshiki's joke.

"I'll say." Erina agreed, thankful Soma didn't understand what had just happened.

"Ahh, my apologies. I guess you could say I'm full of energy and nothing burns energy like playing tricks on one's juniors, am I right?" Isshiki teased.

"NO!" Erina and Soma snapped back together.

"Well, anyway, I don't mind if it's miso soup Nakiri. It didn't matter what it was as your offer made me happy enough." Soma smiled, turning towards Erina. "Besides, don't forget that you're cooking for a guy who eats squid covered in honey and peanut butter from time to time." He said proudly.

"Fufufu, that's true." Erina laughed. "I should've just made a bowl of…what was it you tried to sneak into my dish yesterday? Ahh, that's right, squid soaked in vinegar and blueberry jam. Come to think of it, that dish actually suits you perfectly, perhaps I should make that for you instead." Erina teased.

"Ahhh, hey now, that was only because it's very difficult to get you to try my cooking. You know I'm trying to compete with my Dad in not just most delicious food, but also most disgusting right? I figured since, you know, you constantly mistakenly describe my 'delicious' food as 'disgusting,' you wouldn't mind tasting something that is truly disgusting." Soma shot back mischievously. "I thought it might clear your head a bit and you'd finally admit my food is delicious."

"Ohh ho ho, aren't we daring Yukihira-kun?" Erina smirked. "Unfortunately for you my God's tongue is never wrong in describing taste. True deliciousness can only be found on someone near my level, as I've told you before, and am about to remind you now…" She ladled the soup into a bowl for him. "I don't think you're capable of reaching my level. Your father on the other hand, well it goes without saying that his cooking is the epitome of deliciousness." Erina said giving him the bowl, baiting him, as if to challenge him.

"Oh yeah?! Well I'll be the judge of that. Bring it on!" Soma smirked, accepting her challenge, sitting down and preparing to taste her soup.

Spoon in hand, he dove in. On the first taste, it was obvious to Soma. This soup was delicious. So delicious in fact, that he felt like he would become addicted to the intensity of the flavors in the soup. As he anticipated, even though it was miso soup, this was no ordinary miso soup, for Nakiri Erina is no ordinary chef.

Before him in this bowl was a soup that had the effect of revitalizing him to the point where he felt like he had gained back double the energy he exerted in the field for the last hour or so. At the same time the soup was also soothing him and washing away the tiredness and soreness he felt from his work outside, relaxing his muscles and tension. The soup gave off the usual feelings of gourmet, elegance and grace, somewhat typical of Erina's style, but he sensed another feeling as well, something that reminded him of his own style, but he couldn't describe it. Needless to say, he couldn't get enough of this soup. It was almost as if he was becoming a slave to the taste. He wanted to devour it, and so he did.

"How is it?" Erina asked, with a cocky smile on her face as she leaned over the other side of the table towards him. She got closer to him, lying one arm on the table underneath her, and propping her head up on the other, leaning it slightly to the side. "Is it good? Would you like seconds?" She teased, knowingly. His face at the first spoonful already answered these questions for her.

Still, unbeknownst to Soma though, Erina was actually rather nervous when she made this, although she didn't know exactly why, but she'd most definitely never tell him either way. Luckily the various earlier distractions from her friends, as well as their banter and his reaction just now all caused the nervousness to dissipate.

Soma struggled to respond. Obviously it was delicious and of course he wanted more, he finished his bowl in seconds after all. They both knew it, but he wasn't sure he wanted to give her the satisfaction of that right now. He thought he'd mess with her a bit instead. "Hmmm, well…this is nothing special. I've had better." He paused, thinking on something. "Actually…I've MADE better." Soma smirked back with a new light in his eyes, emphasizing the word made.

"Ohhh really?" Erina raised a brow. "Are you challenging me?" Erina questioned back, a similar light in her eyes now as well, knowing where this was going.

"Perhaps." Soma stared back seriously. "Ahhhhh, but, I'll probably need to have a bit more first, just to double check, for research purposes." He caved in a bit as he really wanted more of that soup.

"Fufufufu. How silly. What the heck is that?" Erina giggled, expecting a cooking battle only for him to actually cave in so soon.

"What? I never said I didn't want anymore. Only that I can do better." Soma laughed.

At the same time as all this was going on, the other four people in the group had realized they had been forgotten as both Erina and Soma were off laughing and bickering together in their own world. They decided to leave these two to their playful bickering and silently backed away out of the room.

Yuki, Megumi, and Fumio had now also just realized something, that perhaps Isshiki's teasing of Erina wasn't as misplaced and random as they initially thought. The idea of a romance between the spiky red-haired boy and the honey blonde ojou-sama didn't seem too far-fetched after all.

Megumi lingered at the entrance to the kitchen looking back on the bantering boy and girl on the other side of the room. She could see the bliss on Soma's face as he ate, based on his reactions, the undoubtedly delicious soup Erina made him. She could see the glee on Erina's face at his reaction, but also the amusement when she prodded him to tell her how it was, and his struggle to resist her. She could see both their eyes light up in a way she had never seen before as they laughed and bickered with each other. She had never seen either of them give off that type of expression. If she was only slightly uneasy before, she was extremely uneasy now.

"They look good together." Megumi thought. "Erina-chan…she…she might like Soma-kun after all." Even if Erina didn't realize it or denied it, looking at them now, Megumi could tell. They were two of her best friends after all. "And Soma-kun…he…" She trailed off. She didn't want to think about these things anymore. Noticing a dull pain increasing in her chest. "It hurts to think about these things."

"Tadokoro-chan?" Isshiki approached Megumi. "Are you okay?" He asked as he noticed what her gaze was fixated on.

"Ahh, Senpai…I'm fine." Megumi said, turning to him, trying to force a smile.

"They're fun to tease, those two." Isshiki laughed, trying to lighten her mood. "Especially Soma-kun."

"Ahh, yeah, I suppose." Megumi said, trying to adjust to the topic. "You do seem to have fun teasing them. Actually you've been teasing Soma-kun a little more than usual as of late. Why is that?" She asked, curious now that she thought about it.

"Ohhh, well, it wasn't obvious?" Isshiki smiled. "He's been particularly frustrating for me lately." As if a switch was flipped, Isshiki's mood and voice changed, going from cheerful and friendly, to dark and serious.

Megumi was taken aback at his last comment. "Ehh?! Did I mishear him?" "Uhm, Sen-" She began to question him.

"Say, Megumi…" Isshiki cut her off and turned to her, looking directly at her with a face and gaze she'd never seen on him before. "Someday…will you make a special dish just for me?" He asked, leaning closer to her and gazing at her intensely with his deeply cyan blue eyes.

Megumi froze at his words and under the intensity of his gaze. She had no idea what was happening or even how to respond. She felt her heartbeat increase rapidly. It was like Isshiki's eyes had stupefied her and she couldn't look away from them. In a way, she didn't want to look away from them. She wasn't afraid, instead it felt like something else. Her breath was caught in her throat, so she was unable to speak or even breath. She almost didn't realize he didn't even use any honorifics and that he called her by her first name.

"Just kidding." Isshiki cheered backing away from her, as if the switch had been flipped back, the intensity and seriousness dissipating from his face instantly, as it returned to its usual cheerful and carefree expression. Isshiki turned and began walking away, waving. "I'm sure you have a busy day today, but remember not to overwork yourself. See you later Tadokoro-chan!" With that he was gone, leaving a very stunned Megumi to her thoughts.

"EHHH?! WHAT WAS THAT JUST NOW!?" Megumi's mind was spinning. She had no idea what Isshiki meant by that or why he suddenly changed. "Maybe I was imagining things?" She thought to herself. Also, she began playing the scene over in her head. "Special meal…" What exactly did Isshiki mean? Thoughts of Soma and Erina and the special meal and now Isshiki and just everything really were swirling around in Megumi's head as she began to move away from the kitchen.

Suddenly, Megumi's stomach began to growl. "Ahhh…that's right, I never did make something for breakfast." She realized. The primary reason she came down here was to make breakfast for herself and try some new recipes in the process. Glancing back at the kitchen door, hearing the cheerful voices of her two friends, Megumi knew only one thing for certain. She wanted to be anywhere else right now, but inside that kitchen. "Well, I guess I have some snacks in my room." With that, the downcast blunette made her way back upstairs.

-0-

A little later, elsewhere in the house Fumio had found Isshiki again and asked to speak with him in one of the private study rooms.

"Isshiki. When I spoke to the girls earlier about these years being your precious high school years and about not ruling out love and romance, I was speaking to you too you know? That advice applies the same to you. You may be their senpai, but you are still only just a second year yourself. You're only 17 years old." Fumio said as if trying to remind him that he doesn't always need to be acting the part of a mentor and senpai. He's just a student himself after all.

Not to mention she had seen hints of where his desires were. She was always observing the students in her dorm, watching over them as if they were her own. She could see through his act every now and then. How his eyes would take quick glances at a certain owner of blue hair every time they were in the same room together. Or how his gaze was sometimes just a few seconds longer on the blunette than on other people. She could tell, she was always watching over her dorm children.

"I have no idea what you're talking about Fumio-san." Isshiki smiled in his carefree manner.

"Hmmm. Fine then. I'll let you off on that matter for now. On to other matters then. Have you heard any new information on if Central is altering the upcoming trial for the students? It's one of the hardest trials they have to face and it kicks off the beginning of their second year. I can only imagine what Central might do." Fumio said solemnly

"Surprisingly enough, I haven't heard anything from my sources. I wouldn't be surprised if they just failed those who didn't comply with their teachings on the spot after the trial was over." Isshiki replied seriously.

"Hmmm…I wonder. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens." Fumio said. "The first major Free Study Period (FSP) of their Totsuki career is approaching after all."

"Ahh, the FSP's. Sure brings me back. I believe we lost the next 20 members of my class after the first one, bringing us down to roughly 60 left. Many more were lost along the way as well." Isshiki mused.

"Some of them are gone thanks to you, if I recall." Fumio chuckled.

"Hmm, but of course." Isshiki said seriously, but smirking all the same. "Challenging me for my seat was their mistake, and expulsion was only the first part of their payment."

"Fufu, well it's probably a good thing now. We'll need all the help we can get in the coming days and your connections and resources have been one of our strongest weapons so far. Same goes for Kuga and Megishima's as well." Fumio said.

"True. Ah …but Megishima is graduating soon. Helping from outside the academy is going to be far more difficult for him." Isshiki said. "Ahhh, getting removed from the Elite Ten solely because of the word of a maniac sure is…frustrating." Isshiki said angrily, clenching a fist. "I'll be back…Nakiri Azami…"

"Now, now, although I'm glad you're finally showing some emotion over it, save that energy for the battles ahead." Fumio said, calmly. "Besides, there's a lot at stake now. We all have things we want to protect here."

"Ahh, of course, you're right." Isshiki said. "So much has happened over the year I suppose."

"Not all of what's happened was bad though right?" Fumio smiled.

"No...no it wasn't. It was…" Isshiki trailed off, smiling calmly, turning away from Fumio to look out the window and think of all the fond memories of his second year.

Thoughts of him and his kohai…no…his friends, smiling and laughing together. Playing games and eating delicious food together in Marui's room. Working and having fun together outside or laughing at the pranks they played on each other. He thought of the many cooking battles they had together in the kitchen.

His thoughts drifted, as they often did these days, to a particular girl. He could see her standing tall against all odds on the Shokugeki floor, remembering how she proved wrong the judges and students who underestimated her. He could see her at the end of the ping pong table facing him head on, fire and determination in her eyes. The same girl always willing to help those in need and give them a smile when they were down. The girl who didn't mind his antics when he would wake her and her friends at the wee hours of the day.

He thought of the sunshine cast over the fields behind the dorm. At the center of one field, he could see the girl with a sunhat on and a straw basket full of vegetables in her hands. She was facing away from him, humming to herself cheerfully as she enjoyed being outside. Her blue hair braids swayed gently in the wind, catching the sunlight. When he approached her, she turned and gave him a smile more radiant than the sun behind her.

"It was beautiful." Isshiki whispered, vowing to always protect that smile.


So, what did you guys think? Let me know if you can. Any feedback is appreciated.

As you can see, Isshiki seems to have a thing for a certain blue haired girl. Now, I know this may seem strange to some, as I honestly haven't seen this ship mentioned very much before or at all really myself, but I think it could work. I wonder what to call it? Isshigumi? Megishiki? Megutoshi? Satumi? Hmmm. Blue Apron?

In my opinion, as far alternatives to Soma, Isshiki is the best bet for Megumi. I don't find the Ryo ship very strong at all as it literally comes from just the one match they had, while there have been various flags and hints throughout the series that Isshiki is the better candidate. (I'll remind you next chapter who Ryo should be with ;))

He was very confident in her abilities during the election preliminaries and defended her to those judges, I think it was one of those blonde twins, that doubted her. They have the ping pong rivalry, she acts differently towards him than the others in regards to his weirdness and waking people up at night and all that. Plus, their personalities and cooking styles match well with the focus on freshness and grown ingredients from Isshiki, as well as similar vibes coming from Megumi's fresh homegrown usage and style. I think it could work. I guess we will have to wait and see though. She may be down now, but I don't think Megumi will give up on Soma that easily..or at all hehehe.

Anyway, chapter 3 is underway and will hopefully be out before the weekend. More characters will be showing up as well. It's gonna be fun.