AN 1: I honestly didn't expect this story to grow so quickly. Thanks to everyone who favorited, followed, or reviewed!
AN 2: It was brought to my attention that at least one reader felt that the romance might be progressing to quickly. Allow me to clarify for them and any who feel the same; Soma is just wanting Erina to admit his cooking is delicious, and isn't even aware of the crush that he is developing; he is still the same dense idiot from canon, just with slight changes. Erina is still a sheltered rich girl whose only romance "experience" is some shoujo manga. How do you expect her to act?
Scene change/time skip
Flashback/ brief memory
Chapter 3: Advice Sought
Polar Star Dorm, Soma's room:
It was the weekend, so one could normally expect to sleep in. Soma Yukihira certainly did, right until Isshiki woke him via yelling into the megaphone that was right next to his ear. "You should come help out. It'll be fun!" After trying and failing to get the energetic upperclassmen to leave him be, the redhead gave in.
"What are we doing anyway?" he asks the others who were woken up. (Everyone other than Fumio, Erina, and Hisako)
"Harvesting vegetables in the field out back." Yoshino replies as the group heads outside.
The group idly chatters as they work. Eventually they take a break to eat, all of them enjoying Megumi's Three Kinds of Onigiri, though Soma ruined the moment by asking her why she doesn't make things that good in classes. They work until it gets close to noon before returning to the dorm, expecting to have to clean up and figure out who would be responsible for lunch. To their surprise, only the first half of that statement was correct. While they were working Erina had taken it upon herself to cook. Apparently someone went on an ingredient run, as there was no other way she could have made some of the stuff on the table.
They were impressed. The meal consisted of simple, yet elegantly prepared Nikuman (Steamed Pork Buns) and a few pickled vegetables as sides. After everybody started eating Isshiki felt the need to ask what prompted her to cook. After she explains that it was her way of repaying the dorm members for letting her stay, she and Hisako left; the latter having called a car while Erina was explaining.
A few Hours Later, Polar Star Dorm:
Soma was bored. He ran through his options of things to do to pass the time, 'I could try a new recipe-wait, not enough ingredients. Everyone else is busy, so cards are out. Guess I'm going for a walk.' he decides. Writing a note in case someone tries to find him, he grabs his phone and jacket before exiting the building. After he walks the long path from the dorm he wanders around, just taking in the sites on campus.
Eventually he stumbles across a rather large kitchen that appears to be in use. Being curious he walks over to spy on- er, observe whoever is cooking.
Within the room is a single white haired male who looks to be a bit older than even Isshiki, the only upperclassman Soma had encountered. 'Third year.' he decides, silently mesmerized by the precision and care the chef is putting into every step of both prep and cooking. As Soma stared, the student finishes his last dish, mumbling something, and looks up. 'Busted!' Soma thinks, panicking slightly at being caught.
With the student, moments earlier:
'...and there. Done!' he thinks, letting out a sigh as he does so. "Much easier when Rindou isn't bothering me." he mumbles, before looking up. He spots Soma, who looks like a deer in headlights. The white haired student stares.
Back to Soma:
"Um… hi?" he says aloud, internally trying to find a way to explain why he was there.
Before he can say anything else the older student responds. "H-hi," he stuttered, "who are you?"
'This guy is a third year? Where's the confidence he had while cooking?' Soma thinks while introducing himself.
"Was there something you needed, Yukihira-kun?"
"Not really. I was just wandering around when I saw someone was using this kitchen and came to check it out." he replies, a trace of embarrassment in his voice. "Your dishes look really good." he compliments, trying to avoid more awkwardness. "I didn't catch your name, senpai."
"Ts-Tsukasa Eishi." the now named student replies, becoming nervous again for some reason. "Would you like to try them?" he asks, gesturing to the nearly forgotten dishes on the counter.
"No fair~! You never offer to let me try any of your new dishes!" a new voice whines, startling both Soma and Tsukasa.
'When did she get there?!' they both wonder. "A friend of yours Tsukasa-senpai?" Soma asks.
The new arrival, a girl with red hair and yellow cat-like eyes, answers before the white haired chef can respond; "I'm Kobayashi Rindou. This guy's only friend." she cheerfully says before turning to her fellow third year, "Why don't you ever offer to let me try anything?" she whines with an exaggerated pout.
Tsukasa sweats and answers, "Because you always take some anyway, and you never give me any feedback."
While this is going on Soma just stares with a sweatdrop on his forehead 'Are all upperclassmen insane? Hm, that would explain why dad is crazy; he did graduate from here.' "Tsukasa-senpai what dish should I try first?" he asks, knowing that as a course meal the dishes are eaten in a certain order for reason.
"Start with this one." Tsukasa indicates a bowl with sakura shrimp in it.
As both Soma and Rindou try it they enter a near blank state of mind. Soma was the first to recover, as Rindou was busy savoring the flavors. "It's really good senpai. What next?" Tsukasa slides a dish that vaguely resembles a miniature sandwich. Soma cuts a portion off and tries it. "This is also really good! But it feels like something is missing. Maybe something with fruit in between these two?" he says, taking note of how the two dishes clash slightly.
Tsukasa nods and tries the two dishes himself, seeing what Soma means. Rindou, who had returned from her food induced high, stares at the redhead. "You're pretty skilled to notice that so easily." she praises. "I want to try your cooking too! Go make something!" she demanded, scaring him with her rapid mood change.
"Okay. Let me see what's available." he replied, not letting how intimidated he is show. "We've got fish, rice, seasonings, what else…?" he trails off, clearly thinking of what dish to make. After a few minutes he looks to the elder male in the room, "May I?" Soma asks, gesturing to the tools and ingredients. Tsukasa nods, and sits down to watch his underclassman. Soma grabs some salmon, rice, and some seasonings. He pan fries the salmon, and starts cooking the rice and puts begins making some kelp tea. "Two orders of Onigiri Chazuke coming up." he mumbles, focusing back to the days when he worked at his family diner with his parents, and he nearly loses himself in his memories.. As he finishes cooking the two third years look at the simple dish with interest.
The two try the chazuke and are surprised by how much flavor is in the simple dish. Rindou, surprisingly, is the first to supply. "Yummy!" Soma sweatdropped, understanding what Tsukasa meant by her never giving feedback.
Tsukasa's response was a bit more informative. "It's good for a first year. I would actually say it is almost the level of an average second year. Your cooking style is almost completely opposite of mine though."
Rindou cuts in, "Yeah. Tsukasa removes himself completely from the dish, focusing on bringing out the best of every ingredient. You pour yourself entirely into your cooking."
Soma looks at Tsukasa with surprise, not understanding how a chef removes himself from his cooking. "I guess I've got a long way to go to be able to match you senpais." the freshman says with a grin on his face.
"So you want to take his seat?" Rindou asks catching Soma, who had yet to learn who the members of the Elite Ten were, off guard.
"He's on the Elite Ten? What seat?" he asks, shock audible in his voice.
The older students look at the underclassman surprised, as most students would know who the ten most important students in Tootsuki are. "You didn't know? He's the first seat, and I have the second." Rindou says, enjoying the look of shock on Soma's face.
Before Soma can say something else his phone goes off. Checking it, he sees it's Isshiki reminding him that he needs to be back before dark. "Shoot. I gotta go! It was nice meeting you Tsukasa-senpai, Rindou-senpai!" the red haired chef shouts as he rushes back to the dorm.
Polar Star Dorm, Sometime after dinner:
"Hey Isshiki-senpai, can I ask you a question?" Soma asks, catching the flamboyant upperclassman's attention.
"What is it Yukihira-kun?" he responds, curious as to what Soma wanted.
"Can you help me get better? I mean by doing things like critiquing my dishes or pointing out flaws, sorta like a Shokugeki judge or a consultant. Or giving recommendations on what I need to improve."
"I'd be happy to!" Isshiki's expression shifts to one of curiosity, "What brought this on? You seem more driven than earlier."
"I met a couple of other upperclassmen and they showed me how far I need to go." Soma answered.
"Who? Kuga? Kinokuni?" Isshiki inquired.
"No. Who are they, other members of the Elite Ten? The two I met were Tsukasa-senpai and Rindou-senpai." Soma responds.
"That's right, Kuga Terunori is the current eighth seat while Kinokuni Nene holds the sixth. You got to meet Rindou Kobayashi and Tsu...kasa... Ei...shi…" the seventh seat trails off, his mind finally processing the information he was given. 'You got to meet the two best students at Tootsuki. And from what you said, you got to try at least one of their dishes. Lucky!' the brown haired chef thinks, surprised at his junior's luck to run into them of all people. He smirks, "When do you want to start?"
"Eh, day after tomorrow? I want to see what Research Societies are available tomorrow, and I'm running low on ingredients." Soma pauses, yawning, "Besides, it's getting late. G'night senpai!." he calls as he walks towards his room, desperate for sleep.
This chapter was tough, mostly because I don't quite grasp Isshiki's character like I do the others. Point out any issues you spot, and feel free to ask questions. Reviews are much appreciated.