Hey guy and girls :)
I'm back with a brand new story for SnS. Reviewers showed the most interest for The Guild out of all the other side stories summaries, and I'm so excited to write and explore a completely different side of food and drag Erina with me haha! So we have a new cast of OCs, I promise not to burden you with too many!
IMPORTANT: SnS was first published in 2012 by Weekly Shounen Jump. I've decided that it will take place in 2013 to stay in line with when most of the chapters are published. Therefore the following games, gaming soundtrack, anything associated that I will be mentioning is anything released up until a few months in for 2013. Sorry guys, games and soundtracks released AFTER 2013 will not be mentioned because they wouldn't exist yet in my story. I've decided this because the 2013 will be extremely important for the motif in the story.
So here's the first opening chapter and I hope you like it!
Disclaimer: I don't own SnS nor the video-game titles and soundtrack that will be mentioned
Chapter 1 - Main Theme
"Hisako, what's the first item on the agenda?".
The blooms of the courtyards were already out to herald spring time, but the edges of campus were more shaded. Just the way Nakiri Erina liked it. The sakura trees only had a time-share of sunlight competing against the shadows of the school buildings. Erina wasn't concerned though, it would bloom just a little later than the others. Her feet carried her through a languid stroll amongst the late-coming growth, with no destination in mind as her trusted aide faithfully accompanied her a few steps behind. Her hair of streaming gold swayed with the breeze against her straight shoulders as she brushed her finger tips against her loose locks which were tickling her sensitive, fair skin. She could practically feel Hisako's blush from behind. She was such a dear. Traditions and breeding from the noble house of Nakiri demanded that she exhibited only elegance, grace, class and feminine strength in every iota of her movements from the flutter of her lashes to her gait. That way, all would bathe in her sunshine, agreeing to whatever she said.
That didn't work in the culinary world.
Years of harsh militaristic training in the heat of the most competitive kitchens in Japan had honed her discipline, strength and mind until she was the most formidable chef of her age. She needn't reflect on her cooking skills as it really spoke for itself. She made Ojii-sama proud and she damn well would continue to do that, for the Nakiri name and for herself. Skill was one thing, but if a chef didn't possess 'talent' or 'a gift', then they could never stand out and be the extraordinary.
"The Research Societies' last excursion reports were due yesterday, so we'll need to evaluate them within the next five weeks before we can assign their budgets for this year", said Hisako.
Erina nodded. Her amethyst eyes skipped over the thick, beautifully manicured hedge which lined their stone pathway. They were right beside the grand administration building now, but they still had a fair distance before reaching the main courtyard. Erina estimated it'd be a further four-minute walk back to her office.
"Alright, I'll start on the first submissions, tonight. What else?".
"There is the Rapport Building Training Camp next month, and then after is the Autumn Elections Competitions".
"Isshiki-senpai and Eizan-senpai are staffing the Elections this year, aren't they", Erina whispered, knowing the answer already.
First thing was the Research Society reports. If she remembered correctly, only a handful of them applied to go abroad to further strengthen their skill in their specialised area. It was the usual suspects which were the Research Societies that had the most funding. For example, the Chocolate RS went to Lyon, the Chinese Cuisine RS went to Sichuan, the Spanish Cuisine RS went to Madrid, the Cutting-Edge RS went to Copenhagen, obviously, the French Cuisine RS went to Paris, the Italian Cuisine RS went to Rome, and the Middle Eastern Cuisine RS went to Constantinople just to name a few. However, the Research Societies with lower budgets had albeit a smaller chance to go abroad and it was highly competitive because only one application from a mediocre RS could pass. Usually twenty out of fifty of the remaining Research Societies had the guts to apply. They just needed to apply for the grant money and state their case in the toughest closed interview in school on why they should go, what they were expecting to learn and finally, how Tootsuki Culinary Academy would benefit from it. All that was handled by Tsukasa-senpai, she'd thought.
Erina mentally scoffed.
'If I had my way, I would've done away with this whole silly grant application long ago. If the RS's weren't doing well, and therefore, didn't have enough money in the first place, then there was no point investing in them going abroad for further training'.
"I'm already familiar with the main RS's that went abroad, but which RS passed the grant application?", asked Erina, turning around to face Hisako.
Her aide licked her finger and flicked through the pages on her clipboard. Her sharp magenta eyes deftly scanned each surface, not missing a single piece of information inked on the papers. Erina crossed her arms under her bust and smirked. Whichever the RS was, she would be sure to skip them over. Never once in the history of Tootsuki, did a low budget RS proved worthy to be given more money after successfully applying for the grant application for going abroad. They often struck out overseas! Erina surmised that this allowance to join the same standing as the other Elite Research Societies was more of a pittance from the Administration Board more than anything. Those RS's who took the bait were pathetic because in all honesty, what else were they going to achieve?
"Found it. They went through a name change last year… I think it's called The—",
Erina's blood ran cold. That voice… Was that who she thought it was?! She'd recognise that infuriating voice anywhere.
"Y-Yukihira! How'd he find me?!". Erina spun around and hissed.
She narrowed her eyes into a deathly glare and scrutinised her surroundings. Just beyond the tall administration building was the peskiest cockroach she had the displeasure of coming across. It was waving at her in all its disgusting redheaded glory. Erina felt sick to the stomach. The way his golden eyes glittered towards her direction was tantamount to invoking revulsion as she could feel the utter embarrassment boil her insides. Her cheeks flushed in anger.
When she first clapped eyes on him, he wasn't anything and didn't even deserve to have a number label for the exam. Come on… he couldn't even afford a proper chef's uniform and showed up in a… shirt. He hardly looked prepared for the entrance exam. Painting the shop name on the back of a shirt was no better than pre-school art. He'd the gall to still challenge her after she'd sent all the other new school applicants with their tails tucked between their legs by only breathing her name. When that didn't deter him in the slightest, she made it abundantly clear who she was, how many levels she was above him, and that he wasn't worthy of studying at Tootsuki so he could take the hint. But no, he just wouldn't quit. So, she ended up having to waste her precious time and give him one of their precious eggs to make a dish. She bet the egg was worth more than his shop. The food he'd made was 'technically'… 'good', but his condescending and goading smug grin had riled her up so badly as if he'd thought he knew better than her, and how she experienced his food was the sealing wax on her final decisions.
She very gladly failed him.
That was supposed to be the end of the story. She'd never see him again and just forget the redheaded cur… But her nightmare resurfaced like a bad case of indigestion and his arrogant smile waltz back into her breathing space again on that First Ceremonial Day. Ojii-sama had let him in anyway! Why'd Ojii-sama override her decision like that?! Especially after she'd assessed him! He was the one who'd let her be in charge of the entrance exams in the first place! Her beloved Ojii-sama, The Demon Food King of Japan only gave her a teasing smile old grandparents were infamous for and he just said in his loud and deep voice, 'You'll see' before getting on with his business with nary a care for how distraught his granddaughter was. Here, the ingrate was now kicking up the fallen petals of the sakura blossoms in his wake, making his way towards her and Hisako like an untrained puppy. Couldn't she have a day where she wasn't reminded of that stupid, dense, second-rate, poor-excuse of a chef?
"Damn it! He's coming this way. What am I going to do?".
"You go and hide Erina-sama! I'll stop him", said Hisako, determination set in her eyes.
Erina turned this-way-and-that, assessing where could be the best possible place to evade him. If she sprinted in the opposite direction, he'd only pursue her and she knew he could outrun her. She also knew that the redheaded headache was coming closer, and closer, like an inevitable migraine and was going to start some sort of inane and banal conversation to further deteriorate her brain cells. She saw nothing but trees, hedges and the sandstone wall.
"Where am I supposed to hide? There's nothing!", she seethed at Hisako.
"The bushes, Erina-sama! You've no choice". Hisako tucked her clipboard under her arms and pointed to the thickest bush near the hedge.
Erina gaped, appalled. "You can't be serious!".
"He's getting close, Erina-sama!"
"Hey Miss Aide! Is that you?"
Erina swallowed and grudingly bit the bullet. She steeled her resolve and grabbed onto her skirt. As best as she could, she leapt over the bush.
The world turned sideways. Erina felt herself careening to the side and for a moment she saw her life flash before her eyes. Her wealthy, aristocratic and privileged life. In one second she could clearly see the trajectory she was aiming for, as she agreed that the bushes would have to do while Hisako dealt with Yukihira. In the next second, a shockingly strong tug on her left foot, like a rubber-band had pulled too tight, had jolted her body and pulled her off-course, just short of clearing the bush. Erina knew this was her end and she was going to plummet into the ticket and possible bruise her face. An unlady-like yelp escaped her lips and Erina flung her arms in front of her and braced for impact. Instead of meeting her maker against the sharp twigs, grass, leaves and dirt, she found herself sprawled on top of something warm, soft and firm with a muffled 'oof!'.
… That something began to move…
… AND IT GROANED.
"Phew, finally caught up to you. Hey Miss Aide—".
Erina froze. The shifting thing beneath her also stilled and she temporarily put it out of her mind as she became hyper-aware of the ingratiating sound of Yukihira's disembodied voice, flitting above her. It set her teeth on edge. She stiffly turned her head in a to desperately catch a glimpse of his red-hair to check if he was distracted by Hiskao enough. Luckily, Hisako was smart and inconspicuously shifted her position as soon as he reached them so that Yukihira's back was facing her hiding spot.
"It's Arato-san to you. Wh-What do you want, Yukihira-kun?".
"I thought I saw Nakiri with you, but looks like I was wrong. I wanna talk to her about something. You know where she is?".
"She's very busy now and have lots of important things to do. She can't waste any of her valuable time on you. If you think it's that important, just send an email to her school account", clipped Hisako.
"My school email isn't ready yet. So, can you take a message for me?".
He still sounded happy-go-lucky and Hisako's clear displeasure and obvious attempt to deflect him and send him on his way didn't reach his thick skull. What an imbecile. He kept prattling on until Hisako was exasperated.
While the two students engaged in their mismatched conversation, Erina suddenly became aware of something else.
Then she became even more aware. She slowly let the reality of where she was and her immediate surroundings trickle back to her and she was left more than mortified by what she had gotten herself into. She jumped over, or more like collapsed, into a bush, but landed on something that was in no way, vegetation. The solid mass shifted under her again in a tentative manner. Something fell next to her with a soft thud and she realised it was a set of expensive-looking headphones. Music she couldn't identify was softly leaking out of it. It was instrumental, like meditation music which wafted on low volume, but enticing enough for her to tune her hearing to it. They looked new, glossy and shiny. She recognised the brand as a high-end one and it was completely black, save for a few silver trimmings to keep it looking futuristic. Headphones belonged on people… Oh no… Her body remained paralysed, but her eyes still worked. It trailed from the headphones… to the black cord that snaked its way through the short grass… and then up… and then between her and the thing trapped beneath her.
Her mouth went dry.
'Oh… please no, please no, please no'.
She nervously looked up and she was met by the visage of a very uncomfortable and bemused face.
It was a person.
It was a person.
It was a person.
IT WAS A BOY.
She wanted to scream, but her heart leapt into her throat, suffocating her and only a choked garble managed to creak out. Her brain ran a million miles a second, fuelled by utter humiliation, mortification and embarrassment until it short-wired and she couldn't think. Her jaw fell utterly slack. All she could see were the eyes gazing back at her, just awoken and not quite there from slumber. There was still the tell-tale hazy sheen in them as long stygian lashes fluttered a couple of times to be rid of the drowsy sleeping spell until its focused returned. That was when she felt her lungs snap from the intensity. Crystalline blue eyes peered at her from beneath stray raven locks. They were now completely unblinking and it derailed her, more than Yukihira did. She couldn't find the strength to look away. The stark contrast of them against his hair and alabaster skin was stead-fast as it held Erina's gaze for several long, drawn-out moments before a soft groan emitted from his thin lips. Her fingers reflexively clenched in her panicked state and fisted two handfuls of his school shirt. The body sprawled beneath hers tensed up and she could feel every contraction of the muscles under the shirt she hung onto. She became very warm, very fast, especially in her cheeks. Slowly, she slid down his body a few centimetres, courtesy of gravity, and she found herself sensitive to the warm curvature of his torso and his narrow hips between her knees. She panicked again, fearing the soft crackling of the dropped foliage around them would alert Yukihira of her hiding spot. Erina realised the boy was trying wriggle her off to prop himself onto his arms behind him and she was weighing him down. He stopped and let his elbows sink into the grass with a quiet huff. His shirt-collar was skewed thanks to her and she caught more glimpses of his pale skin wrapped tightly over his over-exposed collar bone. Her face was on fire!
His eyes suddenly went frigid and it drowned out her internal laments, but those orbs still shone through the bedraggled curtains of his dark hair and his face went blank, except for the slight knitting of his dark, fine brows.
"Could you… get off me?"
Erina clamped her mouth shut and squeezed her legs together to stop him from rustling the leaves. She released her death grip and slapped her sweaty hands over his mouth. His next words were stifled and thanks to Yukihira's increasing volume, and Hisako's distraction, the redheaded block-head didn't suspect anything. The boy's eyes widened in confusion and stared at her. Erina was trembling and shaking all over. She couldn't believe she was doing this! She was in too deep now and it was impossible to get away without Yukihira discovering her and this… this… this… boy among the bushes. Oh, the scandal! Her golden hair splayed across the boys chest and her face. She had to blow her strands from her face because it tickled her nose so badly.
'Come on, Hisako! Hurry up!'.
Her nose twitched and she sucked in a breath. She caught a noseful of the boy's scent and oddly enough, it did something to soothe and calm her rapidly firing nerves, but she couldn't understand why. He was wearing deodorant and it possessed a citrusy, lemon-like scent and something leafy and green. As her body rose and fell in tandem with the boy's own breathing, her breathing sychronised with his. She took in his scent again, as she waited impatiently for Yukihira to begone. This time it wasn't the same scent as the first, instead it was more of a musk, which she instinctively knew only males naturally possessed and it hid beneath his deodorant. She blushed heavily from this strange drawn feeling to his smell. His scent reminded her of a thunderstorm with a fruity tinge. She slightly moved her neck and brushed her cheeks against his warm body. He tensed up again and she cursed herself for making this awkward position more awkward than it needed to be. On the third intake of breath, she noted that combined with the grass, dirt and leaves they were surrounded by, his musk took on a forest-like scent with freshly cut wood but more exotic.
'Stop it! Stop think about things like that!'.
She wished Hisako would hurry up and kick Yukihira's butt back to the courtyard so that she could get out of this degrading and compromising position!
She made the mistake of looking up again and was once again caught in the boy's pressuring gaze. A stark knowing gleamed in his eyes. She prayed understanding dawned on him for her absurd predicament, that she absolutely didn't want to be seen by the redheaded youth only a few steps away from her. His nostril flared with each intake and exhale of breath and his breath against the skin of her hand which sent shivers through her. They were so warm. His chest started to rise and dip higher as the exertion in his arms to hold them up was starting to take its toll.
But he didn't give them away.
Erina dipped her eyes ashamedly away again when his unblinking stare was too much for her. She ended up focusing on his collar bone which still peaked out of his slightly pulled shirt. It started to become red and flush as the blood beneath the pale skin was creeping up his neck. The tendons there were making miniscule flexes as the boy strained to keep from moving the bushes for her sake. An overwhelming gratitude brushed passed Erina's thoughts.
He finally blinked.
She could feel him gritting his teeth through her palms. His eyes darted from beneath his messy, raven fringe to also check up on Yukihira.
"Okay, I'll send her an email. But If I see her first, I'll ask her anyway", said Yukihira.
"Fine. Class is about to start, so you'd better be on your way", replied Hisako.
"Alright then. Laters!".
Erina imagined Yukihira's cheesy grin and lazy salute at Hisako. Erina wasn't stupid enough to get off immediately. She had to wait until the coast was clear. When the last few thumping steps of Yukihira's jogging feet died down in the distance, Erina flew off the boy and almost collided her back against a nearby tree. Her heart thumped like war drums in her chest.
"Damn, you were heavy…".
She spluttered and frantically wiped her hands on the pleats of her skirt.
"Erina-sama! Are you al— EH!? Who are you and what're you doing with Erina-sama?!".
Erina got up on all fours before shakily getting back up onto her unsteady feet. Her tremouring hands brushed away the dead foliage, twigs and bits of grass from her person. Her knees stung so much and we she looked down, was immediately revolted by the angry, red imprints of the grass on her skin. Hisako was in front of her, in her defensive stance and armed with her trusty clipboard. Erina tried to look over her rosette hair. The boy was still on the ground. She gently pushed Hisako to the side. Her aide was ready to say something, but Erina gave her a look and she was silenced. Hisako nodded her assent and stepped back, but her eyes remained trained onto the boy with the headphones.
He massaged his shoulders and flexed with them with a grimace. He retrieved the headphones on the ground and gave it a few strokes to get the grass off before fitting them around his neck. His fingers dipped into his pockets and pulled out a smartphone tapped, it a few times and Erina could see he was pausing his music.
"Is it too much for a guy to catch a nap?", he murmured.
Now hearing him properly for the first time, Erina almost balked at the ever so slight husk in his voice, probably from sleep. It was low. It did something to her ears that made her want to hear him speak again, just to re-affirm that his voice quality was really like that. Finally, he got up onto his feet and Erina could see his face properly too. He was a good half a head taller than she was. He straightened out his school uniform, but left his school shirt untucked. He wore the school beige vest similar to Alice, but his tie was missing. Erina was replaced by a different kind of nerves as she had to slightly crane her neck to look at him.
"What was that all about?", he asked. He twisted his shoulders again, getting the last of the kinks out.
"That was… none of your concern…", replied Erina.
That was her go-to response. Every single time. No matter the situation, she needed to re-establish her authority and superior standing which was step one of damage control. Her haughty voice returned and she almost cringed at her scathing words. She knew she wouldn't be able to get very far in asserting control again since she was the one who'd blatantly landed herself into that compromising situation with a strange boy who'd a thing for naps in ridiculous places. However she'd be damned if she didn't try. Her cheeks flared up exponentially and she crossed her arms. She shuffled her feet away from him to show that she was dismissing this conversation, and that he should stop asking. From the corner of her eyes, she saw him quirk an eyebrow above his glacial blue eye before slight annoyance settled in. Then he yawned and stretched his arms. He looked the other way with a bored stare and turned around until his back faced her. His fingers grasped the two ends of his headphones before lifting them up to fit them snuggly over his ears.
Wait… he turned around… with his back to her…?
Was he dismissing her too…?
NOBODY DISMISSED NAKIRI ERINA UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
"Hey, wait a sec—".
"I need to get back to my clubroom", he interrupted her.
Erina and Hisako were both flabbergasted by his utter nonchalance. He fished out his smartphone again and turned his music back on, ensuring that he was a hundred percent going to ignore her. She clicked her tongue. She unfurled her arms and stomped through the dead leaves towards him. She swiftly cut his path before he took another step and stood right in front of the raven-haired boy with her arms akimbo. She stared him down with her infamous Nakiri glare.
"You will not speak of this to anyone. Understood?".
His eyes narrowed at her once again as he challenged her stare back with his own.
"I don't really care, but I won't say anything if you won't".
"What do you mean 'if I won't'? of course I won't! Besides, it's not like we did anything of consequence".
"I missed the rest of the track because of you. How's that for consequence". He pointed to his headphones with piercing narrow eyes.
Erina snarled at him. She was fighting a losing battle and like a tiger backed into a corner, all she could do was find every the excuse in the world and hurl it at him, hoping one of them would knock him down a few pegs.
"W-Well, you shouldn't be sleeping there in the first place! Who sleeps in the bushes like a creep?!".
"I always take a nap here and I don't like it when people invite themselves", he sidestepped her and brushed past.
Both Erina's embarrassment and ire rose. She choked on her saliva from the acrimony that completely welled up and blocked any words from leaving her mouth Invite?! HERSELF?! This ingrate must be purposely twisting the events for his on sick amusement or he was the densest of the human species. Even denser than the blunder-wonder that was Yukihira Souma! She could see Hisako shaking her head, urging her mistress to just let it go and just drop the conversation, but Erina couldn't. She hated losing an argument and right now, no matter how ridiculous she knew deep down it was getting, she just. Couldn't. Let. Him. Walk. Over. Her.
"Why can't you just sleep in your clubroom? At least then you would be out of everybody else's way!".
Hisako slapped her hand over her face.
He kept walking, with his hands in his pockets and headphone firmly in place, but there was a distinct jauntiness to his gait which was influenced by whatever music he was listening to from his dratted headphones. Then he was gone.
"Kami-sama… I knew he looked vaguely familiar. I think I know who he is now", said Hisako, tapping her finger against her chin.
Erina turned around and looked to her aide, raising a brow for more information. "And?"
"That's Mitsunaga Yozora. He's from the RS with the name change".
"And what RS is that?".
"They specialise in interpreting video-game music, and recreating them into food".
"What kind of stupid RS is that!".
That concept was laughable! It was completely asanine!
"Actually, Erina-sama… they did very well overseas, along with the main Research Societies. The passed the grant application last year with flying colours. They traveled all the way to a well-known annual comic convention in San Diego, America to set up a pop-up video game gourmet café and food truck, and help promote the events, and of course sharpen their skill in…".
Her aide struggled to find the words.
"…Whatever it is to do with video-game music and cooking… I'm not certain. They were very well received at the comic convention, which brought more recognition to Tootsuki from what was otherwise a 'niche market' of video-gamers and pop culture fans from the Western culture. The year before that, they were invited to the Tokyo Game Show to showcase video-game music inspired gourmet food for the fans of the highly anticipated and newly released titles and to help promote. They also gained a large number of followings online because of that. They seem to utilise social media well enough to fuel their endevours…", said Hisako.
They were not accolades to be proud of whatsoever, in Erina's opinion.
"What's this joke of an RS called now, Hisako?".
He was grateful for the uneventful week. Unlike last week, he had full peaceful naps.
"She was so hot! L-Like, I wish she would look at me just once…".
"Keep dreaming. Girls don't give the time of day to otaku guys like you, you know".
"What about you? Aren't you an otaku like me? And you've got girls giving you bentou!".
"It helps that I also work out and you on the other hand just strut around like the scrawny little chicken you are".
"Hey! It's called being 'slim'!".
Yozora didn't need to open his eyes to know what sort of expressions his friends were pulling. He was very tempted to turn up the volume on his headphones and drown out their bickering with the sweet medley of Elder Scrolls exploration music, but he knew the President of The Guild, affectionately known as, drill-sergeant-posh-boy-senpai would scold him again. Hmm… wasn't he supposed to be here too? The dark-haired teen wondered what was holding his President up. His eyelids were already fighting to stay closed as slumber inevitably slipped away, being overpowered by awareness. The high-pitched voice of his best friend started to scale upwards at his senpai's insinuation that his virility was questionable and it brought a quiet smile to his face.
'I'll never reach the end of the song now, thanks to those loud-mouths'.
Yozora groggily lifted his head and cracked open his lids with a rough groan. His throat felt a bit tight and dry but a few weak throat-clears did the trick. The brightness of the clubroom danced in his eyes and made it stung a bit, but after a few blinks it dissipated into a clear picture of their small set of eight cooking stations, looking spotlessly clean. The crescendo of the string quartet gently flowing through his eardrum made his waking easier. He yawned and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes one last time and he was met close-encouter with the beaming face of his best friend…
"Rise and shine, buddy-bud-bud!".
He caught a face-full of flaxen blonde hair as Hayato-kun pressed his youthful face closer to him in the hopes of rousing him further awake. It worked and Yozara bobbed his head in acknowledgement and yawned again… one couldn't yawn too many times. Hayato-kun dragged over his stool with a screech and parked it right in front of the kitchen bench, opposite to Yozora. He slapped both his hands on the table, effectively making Yozora wince from the suddenness. Hayato-kun grinned cheekily at his friend's expense and chuckled when Yozora grimaced. He pulled his headphones from over his ears and let it rest against his neck, but he kept the music playing, effectively trapping it as soft background music for now. The soft instrumental melted away to a barely-there vibration against his neck. There were very few people he'd admit it to, but he quite liked waking up to his best friend's cheerful smile and cackling laughter. It was kind of refreshing from having his blankets ripped away from him and being defenseless to the chilly morning with nothing but his pyjama bottoms and his sleeping cap to protect him. He quirked a soft smile at the blonde joker who was smiling back with faded blue eyes and bouncing excitedly up and down on the stool like a kid waiting to be served his favourite dish.
"Settle something for us, Yo-kun. Tsurugi-senpai reckons girls don't go for otakus like us. That's not true, right?".
"You're the otaku. I'm not", Yozora deadpanned.
"… why must you always feel the need to hurt me in this way…".
Yozora smirked and lazily reached over to ruffle Hayato-kun's already fashionably unruly blond hair. The gelled strands skewed every which way like a bird's nest that dropped out of the branches, causing the boy to yelp and slap his hand away. He desperately tried to finger-comb his golden strands back into their original place, but to no avail and it filled Yozora with a sadistic glee to watch his best friend fruitlessly struggle to retaining his 'punk' image as he wiped the hair gel sticking to his hands onto his trousers. There was honestly nothing funnier that watching Hayato-kun panic over the smallest thing and blessed be, it was almost all the time. His reactions were either zero to a hundred, which made gaming with Hayato-kun not only epic and full of laughs, but also something to look forward to every time. Hayato-kun shot him an unimpressed glare and wrinkled his nose at him, which made Yozora smirk even further.
"There we have it, squirt. You're the only dweeb here".
"You guys are dicks".
Yozora's keen eyes darted towards the direction of the low and guttural voice of the most beastly student he'd ever known.
The hulking figure of his senpai sat in a normal school chair, which he had stolen from the next clubroom over. He sat on it backwards with his huge, muscular arms folded on top of the back rest. It groaned under the weight. He gave a wolfish grin to Hayato-kun with a scalding triumph in his dark amber dancing in his eyes. He was wearing only the school undershirt and his school shirt was nowhere to be seen, meaning he was working out earlier. Yozora wondered if he was doing dead-lifts with the cast-iron wok sets this afternoon. He sniffed the air a few times and concluded yes, as the lingering scent of Tsurugi-senpai's deodorant still hung in the air, only it already faded a bit. The tall senpai raked his hand through his long scraggly hair which was haphazardly pulled back into a low pony-tail. A few locks escaped their bindings and framed his chiseled face, and his biggest feature, his square jaw which was already sporting a bit of stubble. Yozora observed as the bulging muscles in his shoulders rippled back and forth from stretching in the air. Then Yozora turned to Hayato-kun with a tired sigh as his friend growled back at the senpai like a corgi trying to pick a fight with a massive German Shepard.
"Hey, where's Kasai-senpai?", asked Yozora.
It was their President who told them to meet up, and he'd yet to make an appearance. He started to worry. Yozora realised that it was starting to get late in the afternoon. Woah, did he nap for that long? He could've sworn it was just early afternoon five-minutes ago! He remembered walking with Hayato-kun straight from Chef Chapelle's class to the clubroom as per their club President's instructions. He remembered looking outside and admiring the clouds floating by whilst appreciating the major key change in the powerful brass of The Legend of Zelda Theme Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Orchestral Arrangement. Hayato-kun was excitedly jibber-jabbering about their Research Society's latest blog post and how many comments they racked up in a week. He remembered reaching the clubroom and already finding Tsurugi-senpai lounging on one of the stolen chairs, with his phone volume cranked up to the max blaring one of the more vocal battle themes from Devil May Cry 4 Original Soundtrack.
"Don't know. But if Kasai-senpai isn't here in the next five minutes, I'm jetting. I've got an Instagram edit for the blog post and a Halo song to break down and analyse".
"You go anywhere and I'll spam your Instagram with dick-pics", Tsurugi-san growled back.
"Oh c'mon. Just text me and I'll come back!".
"I'm telling you now. You won't find a half-cadence or a perfect fifth in that song choice, just move onto something else. Oh yeah, and that build-and-drop will drive you insane".
"W-What? How do you know? It was my turn to do Halo this month! That's cheating!".
Hayato-kun sprang up and braced his arms on the kitchen bench. He scowled down at Yozora who opted to roll his head against the soft and comfortable folds of his jackets and dangle his arms under the bench. He turned his head slightly to stare at his friend's pathetically menacing face. He taunted him with a 'What're you gonna do about it?' look. Seriously, what did he think he would achieve with puffing his cheeks out and baring his teeth at the same time? He looked like a toddler who was about to throw a weak tantrum and achieve nothing, even with an inexperienced baby-sitter. His light blue eyes bubbled with indignation which was doing him no favours to try to be threatening in any way.
A few seconds later, Hayato-kun scoffed and straightened himself up. He folded his arms over his chest and looked away with a light dusting of pink on his nose as he darted his eyes towards the fading afternoon out the windows.
"Your stare is as soul-sucking as always. Don't you ever blink?", he grumbled.
Since Tsurugi-senpai wasn't going to offer any explanation as to why their President was uncharacteristically late, Yozora decided to reflect on the day. He fitted his headphones back over his ears and let the next track, another exploration one, wash over him into a wistful calm. He missed napping under the trees. Hayato-kun had already wondered back over to his original seat and pulled out his phone, no doubt editing the newest post on their Research Society's blog page. Yozora brushed his dark fringe from his eyes as he tried to remember what lead him to this point in the late afternoon while his lids started to dip.
He remembered Tsurugi-senpai saying that the President of The Guild had an important announcement.
He remembered setting his bag down and pulling up the closest stool at the kitchen bench.
He remembered leaving his headphones on.
He remembered folding his school jacket on the kitchen bench and resting his arms on it.
He remembered he needed to blink because something caught onto his lashes
Opening them to this very moment.
Hmm… he had completed conked out again…
"You just realised you took an obscenely long nap?", rumbled Tsurugi-senpai.
"Yeah, I feel so tired today" he murmured back, ignoring his senpai's wolfish grin at his sleeping habit.
"Oh, was another Nakiri giving you some much needed trouble?".
Hayato stuffed his phone away and leapt off his seat and scooted around the other-side. Wasn't he just full of energy today, how envious. He none-too-gently hooked his arms around his neck and pulled him towards his chest, ready for a noogie. But Yozora knew him too well and quickly twisted so that he locked Hayato's arm in a bend. Triumphant aughter bubbled from his lips as his friend flailed about and begged for mercy at the top of his lungs.
"OW OW OW OW! Okay! I tap out!".
Yozora hummed a winner's fanfare and released his friend and puffed out his chest with victory. His best-friend simpered and nursed his arm with a quiet whimper. Awww poor puppy. Yozora knew it had been a bad idea to tell his friends about what happened last week. But luck wasn't on his side because Hayato-kun had some sort of radar to detect if a girl had been within one-metre of any of The Guild club members. He'd hounded him, interrogated him with no reprieve as to why he was covered in leaves and smelt like a girl. There really wasn't a decent explanation for it that would paint him in the best light, and Hayato-kun knew that. There was no escaping the flaxen blonde once he had sunk his tiny puppy teeth into a succulent bone. Yozora had given in and told him what happened.
"No, that was just the one time. I doubt I'll run into her again".
"Never say die~".
"This is why you have no friends".
"But you're my friend".
"Out of pity".
"Now who's being hurtful…".
To be suddenly ambushed by somebody and ruining a perfectly good dream-filled nap was frustrating and annoying to say the least. Even more so when that someone wouldn't remove themselves from him after unceremoniously winding him. His arms were still kind of sore, but at least his stomach wasn't bruised anymore. Perhaps he needed to work out like Tsurugi-senpai. If it'd been a guy, he wouldn't have had any qualms knocking him out with a well-aimed knee to the teeth, but it had been a girl and he had stopped in his tracks, not knowing what to do. It hadn't been just any girl. It had been the Nakiri Erina. The grand-daughter of the illustrious Director of their school and the Demon Food king of Japan. Heiress to the most prestigious clan in the gourmet food world! The youngest Elite Council member in the history of the school, the most formidable and toughest chef with the God's Tongue ability.
She was infamous.
She was biblical.
She was legendary.
She was on top of him.
He was paralysed as soon as he laid eyes on her! First thing he'd thought was that she was going bite his head off for sleeping during class-hours and then issue him a million-year detention slip! But the way she was trembling and the absolute terror in her deep violet eyes had told a different story. She hadn't seemed to be aware of that fact that she practically collapsed through a bush and onto him in such an undignified manner for somebody of her station, but rather she was fixated on something else.
Her pre-occupation gave him the opportunity to properly look at her as he'd never seen her up close before. He couldn't stop looking, even with the track playing from his headphone which had initially put a sleeping spell on him. Long golden hair spilled onto his chest as she gripped his shirt. Her cheeks were flushed a rosy colour and her small lips were pinched together in a silent tantrum. Her heart-shaped face had morphed into a fierce expression directed towards an obnoxiously nasal and loud voice from above them, and Yozora had realised that she was escaping someone and made an unplanned escape through the bush. When she'd realised she was sprawled against a human body, namely him, his breath was caught by the shining depths of those violet eyes. They widened in surprised and that small mouth formed an 'O' shape in shock. In that moment, she had shed her shield, her glamour and her aristocratic front. It'd made his heart skip several beats. He had expected her to scream at the top of her lungs and burst his eardrums, but instead she'd snapped her mouth shut and flattened against him. That was when Yozora had had enough and was about to remove himself from the bizarre situation Nakiri Erina landed herself in because he so didn't want to be part of the aftermath and if he'd been late for his clubroom meeting, the President would've strung him up in the freezer by his toes.
However, as soon as he'd moved, the Nakiri Princess tightened her thighs together and shot him an acrimonious glare. His body immediately reacted and not just because her weight was starting to bare down on him, but well…
There was a girl…
… lying on top of him.
… his body said ''kay-thanks-bye' to his brain.
He was old enough to know exactly what was going to happen if he had allowed her to stay on top of him any longer, and he wasn't up for embarrassing the both of them. So, he'd been about to tell her to get off if him, but the painful smack of a sweaty palm against his mouth destroyed any hope for him to escape this unlucky situation with both their dignities intact. She'd squared him with another strong glower and her face had been almost puce by that time. Yozora's eyelids had been practically glued to his eye sockets and he continued to drink in the visage of a panting, trembling girl, still tightening her plump thighs against his hips draped over chest on the ground, surrounded by dead leaves. Yozora was aware of the negative effects his stare had upon people and so Nakiri Erina had predictably tucked her head away, escaping his sharp blue eyes, and her nose had nestled against his shirt, tickling his side and making him tense up further. Her hand had still been glued against his mouth and the other gripped his shirt even tighter, making him more uncomfortable. He tried to get up, but she stopped him again, much to his frustration. He had no choice but to look up and see if her almost-assailant was close to leaving.
Kami-sama he was so close to rising to the occasion…
"Oops! I can hear Kasai-senpai coming".
Yozora shot his eyelids open and darted his gaze towards the door and his head briefly swam. Sure enough, it slid open with a sharp snap and then fluidly closed behind the figure with a soft tap. All eyes were on the tall and slender boy who was carrying a stack of documents in his arms. His uniform was practically shining its own light. Yozora was mystified by how his senpai's uniforms could stay so immaculate and pristine throughout the day. He and Hayato-kun always ended up with their shirts untucked, shirts unbuttoned, ties pulled loose and collars upturned by the end of the day. The two teens never knew why, but just accepted it as fact and more than once were pulled up on that by their lecturers.
"My apologies for the tardiness gentlemen, my meeting with Isshiki-kun had run overtime".
The President of The Guild was the only person he knew who could make a Kansai accent sound posh.
Kasai-senpai settled at the front of the clubroom and cleared his throat to get everyone's already undivided attention. He lifted a finger and pushed his spectacles up his nose a bit further, the light from outside caught in the glass and briefly flashed in Yozora's eyes. His steely, sea-foam green eyes regarded everyone in the room cooly. His thin, wide lips were pressed together in all seriousness. He straightened himself and pulled on his lapels slightly to straightened his already god-damn perfect uniform.
"I've gathered you all here to discuss the future of The Guild".
Yozora quirked a curious brow.
"As you know, Tsurugi-san and I are in our final year. The Guild had never had high numbers to begin with and we have a reputation a revolving door on our members, but alas, our Research Society has survived upon our passion for food and immersive music, and have proved over time to be valuable in the gourmet food community".
"And…?", asked Hayato-kun.
"I've decided to step down as President of The Guild—".
Hayato-kun jumped up and gripped his blonde hair and ruthlessly pulled at it. Yozora almost slipped off his stool from the sheer suddenness and had to regain his balance by hauling him back onto the kitchen bench. Step down? What the heck?! His brain ran a million miles an hour filled with a billion more questions, but he short-circuited and could only gape like a choking fish. Kasai-senpai didn't bat a perfect eyelash and his dark-blonde hair remained swept up at his hairline and not a single strand was out of place. His senpai had more than likely predicted this childish outburst and Yozora could see the imperceptible twitched in his jaw. Kasai-senpai never had long patience for interruptions, but Yozora deemed this announcement monumental enough to warrant a violent reaction. The dark-haired teen narrowed his eyes at his calm and collected, senpai, patiently waiting for an explanation.
"Yes Hayato-kun, I will no longer be The President".
"Sit down, squirt, and let the man speak", Tsurugi-senpai rumbled from the corner.
Hayato-kun immediately dropped back down with a squeak. The lack of notable reaction from the larger student told Yozora that Tsurugi-senpai had been in on this piece of information since the beginning. Those two third-years had probably discussed this for some time.
"Thank you, Tsurugi-kun. As I was saying", he squared Hayato-kun with a chastising glance, "we've decided that it was time to hand over the reigns to younger blood. I've been President for more than two years now and there is no better time than the present for a change in leadership. Not to worry, the next President will be guided by myself and when I graduate, they will be more than fully equipped and knowledgeable in managing The Guild".
Yozora didn't know how to feel about this. When he first entered the elusive and unpopular club, Kasai-senpai and Tsurugi-senpai were the only members and they were called 'The Gamer's Cuisine RS'. Kasai-senpai was already the President and Tsurugi-senpai was… he had guessed the treasurer or something? But it turned out The Guild's budget was so small there was no need for a treasurer. It was during his middle school years when he and Hayato-kun were eligible to join a Research Society. It wasn't compulsory, but everyone knew that to further one's skill, they needed to join a club. That sense of belonging was dwindling from the lack of friends, and the added insult of being labelled an otaku just because he happened to really like video-game music and knew every single title produced by the games company SQUARE ENIX.
He thought the unorthodox Research Society was cool as it combined his passion for music, video-games and food! So he had dragged his best friend Hayato-kun with him to sign up and hadn't regretted or looked back since. They gained two new wonderful friends and wise mentors. His initial impression of Kasai-senpai was that of an uppity, stiff upper lip noble child. His eloquent and high-brow manner of speech was evident of that, however the underlying passion for video-games and music spoke volumes of the inner otaku and classical music expertise in Kasai-senpai. Music had the power to break boundaries. Tsurugi-senpai came across as being a beefed up gym-junkie, who was obsessed with crossfit, but it turned out he had a great love for creating delicate desserts to the soft tones of exploration music, and sorrowful melodies of games with sad backstories. Under Kasai-senpai's and Tsurugi-senpai's tutelage, Yozora and Hayato-kun learned to combine music and food in the most epic and wondrous ways! The Guild's goal was to immerse oneself, re-define, interpret and extract the wonder and emotions from video-game music and re-create it into a fine dish, which represented the song and its story.
Just like movies, plays, books, music, and video games, food was another medium for story telling.
The Guild aimed to scale a zenith that no other traditional gourmet food expert or chef had ever dreamed of.
Evolve with societal changes.
Share their passion for music and food, loud and proud.
Tell a story.
Yozora had known this was the Research Society for him and Hayato-kun. He and Hayato-kun were an ignorable anomaly in Tootsuki. It was only fitting they joined an ignorable and anomalous Research Society too.
"So… what's going to happen now?", whispered Hayato-kun. His voice trembled.
Kasai-senpai hummed low in his throat and pulled out a set of stapled documents from his folder. He looked more like a board-member than a chef sometimes.
"The instructions are simple. As first year students, I am throwing the both of you into the ring for PvP and the reward will be the seat as President of The Guild. Yozora-kun and Hayato-kun, you two will battle it out".
Yozora bolted upright. "P-Player versus Player?", he echoed back.
Others called it a cook-off or a shokugeki, if the conditions were right, but The Guild called it 'Player versus Player' or 'PvP'.
His mouth went dry and his headphones slipped over his ears and landed around his neck. He turned to look at his best friend and was greeted with an equally surprised look from him. They both stared each other and before he knew it, both their lips curled up into ferocious and hungry grins. A PvP to be the President of The Guild?! Oh hell yes! His blood bubbled like a cauldron of stew and the building excitement for a fierce fight against his friend filled with a gleeful adventure just like the times he went against boss monsters. He had always dreamed of one day running The Guild. He could already hear the impending battle theme of this golden opportunity ricocheting through his brain. His mind was constantly filled with music and this time, it erupted into 'One Winged Angel' as he stared down Hayato-kun and his maniacal grin with his own infamous unholy un-blinking stare.
"Whaddaya say, Hayato-kun?".
"I say, you're gonna wish you had theKael'thas bot with you".
'Oh, so that's how he was gonna play?'.
He and Hayato-kun participated in PvPs with each other as often as they could and it wasn't anything over-complicated. They also had other club activities they liked to call quests. It was anything cooking and music related, which nobody complained about. The two boys used to try to scrounge for them from Kasai-senpai and Tsurugi-senpai, but ever since they launched their RS blog, they were snapping up quests with varying difficulties from all sorts of people all over the city who needed their talents and were rewarded with different things. Sometimes it was money, other times they were products and produce, discounts and special services. Rewards were usually sweet, so their club President and his right hand man never minded as long as it didn't affect anyone's school work too much.
The last quest the two boys participated in was when Kasai-senpai notified them of the quest notification from a small independent up-and-coming games store via their blog. The proprietor needed help to promote the business, and showcase the release of the new Halo 4 game. Of course, Kasai-senpai and Tsurugi-senpai were busy with school and so had left the quest up to the two kouhai to complete. They had set up a pop-food food stall, with menus filled with Halo 4 themed creations. They had been studying the Youtube release of the music for a few sleepless nights, and experimented in the kitchen for the next few sleepless nights until they were satisfied their dishes sang the soul of the excitement, intensity, camaraderie, adventure and thrill of the Halo 4 game soundtrack. Their reward was cash and a brand new PlayStation 3 Super Slim model, and a partnership with the games store, which was more than enough motivation for the two of them. Damn, it had been a fine day! The food were gone in only a matter of hours and had enough time after cleaning up to participate in the mini Halo 4 Tournament hosted by the games store. They had come third and cried as soon as they'd gotten home. At least they gained more than enough funds, to pre-order newer games online much to the boy's pleasure. Yozora and Hayato-kun spent months studying every single soundtrack as they played through the new games and spent the next few months cooking, and cooking, and cooking until their arms almost dislocated.
Each teen designed a unique dish to represent their own interpretation of each song and each had compiled their own menu. That reminded Yozora that he needed to buy another book for his recipes. Elder Scroll took up three volumes.
"You boys get dressed and I'll prepare the song I've selected for the PvP", said Kasai-senpai.
Yozora ripped the headphones off his neck. He grabbed his bag and headed towards the change room with Hayato-kun in tow. They changed into their chef's uniform in silence, but the tension of their competitive nature was deafening and only stoked their fires further. Yozora ran through every single analytical classical and contemporary music technique he had. He was sure Hayato-kun was doing the same thing. He finally finished dressing and he tightened the azure neckerchief around his collar. He watched Hayato-kun as he secured his crimson chef's uniform and black neckerchief also. They both gave each other one last look and bumped forearms together. Yozora still couldn't wipe the smile off his own face and Hayato-kun's grin only got wider.
"Ready?", asked Yozora, with a smirk.
"You bet", replied Hayato-kun with a sure nod and glimmering sky-blue eyes.
They both exited the change room to see that Tsurugi-senpai had already placed his smartphone onto the sound system dock. Yozora couldn't see the art-cover of the song, so he couldn't guess what it was. He gulped and a tinge of nerves hit his system but he shook it away. He had to remain focused. Behind Kasai-senpai were three trolleys filled to the brim with fresh ingredients. Fruits and vegetables, a collection of meats, fish, dairy products and condiments. He must have hidden it in the small club storeroom.
"Take your place", ordered Kasai-senpai.
Yozora immediately stepped up to his own kitchen station and Hayato-kun was in the next station over. He pulled his knife case from underneath and placed it on top and flipped open the top. The mirror-like shine of his cooking blades yearned for a good fight and in his mind, he coaxed them to remain calm and that soon, he would take them out to play.
"Both of you wouldn't have heard of this song before. It comes from a game that is currently still in development".
"What? It hasn't come out yet?", gasped Hayato-kun.
"Correct", Kasai-senpai affirmed. "It's in the second-last stage of development and won't be released until another three or four years depending".
"And!", Tsurugi- senpai stood up to throw in his piece. "Kasai and I already know which game it is".
"Oh, that's not fair…", Hayato-kun huffed.
"H-How did you get your hands on the unreleased track, Kasai-senpai?", Yozora was utterly intrigued.
"Through our usual connections", he smirked. "Now, I will loop the track for two and half hours. Just listen to the first loop and then you may begin cooking. I won't tell you the name of the track until the end".
Fine by him. Approximately two and a half hours, huh? This meant he had to go all out. As Yozora narrowed his eyes into a penetrating stare and clenched the handle of his chef's knife, Tsurugi-senpai pressed 'play'. He was instantly hit by a well-mastered strains of powerful string and piano in pounding beats from the high-quality speakers. The action-packed introduction seized his attention and wouldn't let up. He shut his eyes and was immediately sucked into the hypnotic strain of intensity, anxiety and desperate instrumentals of what could only be a battle theme. The layered violins were forceful and the drums thumped along like the clash of swords on the battlefield before it segued into a choppy ostinato as if scrambling up and down slopes driven by pure adrenaline. It finally gave way to the heart-pumping percussions, making his blood sing and hum to get ready for the PvP against his best friend.
'Here comes the build'.
He succumbed to the song as Yozora's mindscape wiped the darkness from his closed lids and he found himself in a grassy field with rocky outcrops. The countryside stretched before him like a great quilt of golden, brown and green squares held together by the thick green stitching of the hedgerows. It rose and fell like giant waves on a gentle ocean and was dotted with animals. Occasionally there was a wood that separated the fields, or a farmhouse or barn.
That President seat was his.
And there we have it! My new crew of OCs!
Ishikagaku Kasai (upperclassman)
Yuujou Tsurugi (upperclassman)
Not a particularly flattering first meeting for Erina. Well done Yukihira. Thanks for driving her into the bush. The first years of the Crowning Jewels of Tootuski will have a quite a different ride from the canon. I wanted to have a go at subverting the manga with the new OC members of The Guild. I hope The Guild will be a game-changer to the SnS canon! (PUN INTENDED).
NOTE: In case readers are wondering about why the periods are written outside the quotation marks in my story's dialogue, they may look like punctuation errors, but I assure you they are not. This is how British and Australian punctuation works. (I'm Aussie). I believe, in America, periods are written inside the quotation marks, so my story might look strange to American readers. There will be spelling differences between some words too like colour/color, mum/mom, centre/center. The Aussie in me still favour the 'u' and the '-re' and will for a long time.
Please let me know what you think! I hope to see you again!