Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reikoku Part 6

20:17.

She is late, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing. I mean, I didn't wanted her to come in the first place, but after spending a whole afternoon tidying my flat up, I would be rather disappointed if she didn't show up.

Kouma and Ryo left at 17:24 p.m. because they needed to work on a project that was already behind schedule. Apparently they were going to their studio at Kouma's place. I thanked them for their help and they left in quite a hurry, making me feel a little bad for making them come when they already had other plans. After that I kept unpacking and organizing. I even went down to the market and bought the ingredients to make curry rice. I have eaten it a few times, but never tried cooking it. Now it's time to test my chef skills.

No, I'm not going to start cooking now. I have already started. Actually, I'm just letting it simmer right now. It might take 10 minutes, so I guess I can spend some time explaining the recipe. Are you ready to rock (or rather, cook)?

First, the ingredients. Let's start with the meat: I don't like to use a single kind of meat in every meal, so for this recipe you will need a quarter of a pound of pork and a quarter of a pound of beef. One onion, two big potatoes, three carrots, three and a half cups of water, a quarter of a pound of curry roux and four or five cups of steamed rice. You will need some vegetable oil, too.

Once you got the ingredients, start by cooking the steam rice while you slice the onions and cut the carrots and potatoes into small pieces. Get a deep pan and heat the oil. Sauté the meat in it (some might say it's not a good idea to put both the beef and the pork together, but they would end up mixed sooner or later). Add the vegetables and sauté them together with the meat. After that, pour water in the pan and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to low and simmer the ingredients for 30 minutes. Don't forget to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface. Add curry roux and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve the curry over steamed rice.

The recipe is easy and it seems like the result is going to be really good. Thank you, Internet!

You're welcome.

Oh, you're back.

Don't mind me, I just came because I wanted some curry.

Really? So today you didn't come to bring me down and fill my head with paranoia. You just want some curry.

Yeah, it smells divine.

You, a mysterious voice inside my head, wants to eat my curry.

Pretty much; that recipe serves four portions, so you will still have more than enough for you and your teacher. Is there a problem with me wanting to eat some curry?

No, not at all. Everything is just fine. Except the obvious, of course. You don't have a mouth, a nose, a stomach or even a physical body for that matter. Just that small issue. Other than that, no problems.

You're right...

The voice went silent for about ten seconds.

...well, then I won't be getting any curry. I guess it could be worse, though.

How so?

I could be you and have to find a way to pretend my legal guardians weren't around right now but would soon come soon, the whole night. And if I were you, I wouldn't even have legal guardians in the country.

Just wait a second, I...

Yet I would have to pretend and lie until she either found out the truth and made the situation weirder by telling the school or went home for tonight and came back in a near future, eventually learning the truth and resulting in the same ending for you. So yeah, not having a body is not the end of the world. I'm really glad to be myself instead of being you.

...t-t-thank you for your kindness and cheerful words. I feel so much better now.

Once again, you're welcome. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to leave you alone with the teacher. She will arrive in three... two... one...

The doorbell rang.

I know my own capabilities very well and I wouldn’t be able to hear someone walking to my front door from the kitchen, especially considering the flat’s acoustics. It would be an impossible task for any human being, and it confirms a hypothesis I started working on since that little situation at the Le Ciel Bleu café: the voice in the back of my head is not mine at all.

Still astonished, I turned off the oven and went to answer the door.

"Good evening, Koukishin-kun."

The figure of the woman standing in front of me certainly didn't look like the one I met in the classroom. While in school the teacher was simply the definition of neat, the one I see here is someone who could easily pass for a NEET. Forget the serious teacher outfit, Reikoku-sensei is fine with a hand knit sweater and white wool pants. She had let her hair down and, surprisingly, it was longer than I expected it to be based on the size of her bun. Her face was now calm and almost friendly and she was carrying a plastic market bag full of instant ramen. I barely recognized her.

"...sensei?"

"I'm sorry for being so late. There was a big line at the convenience store because a woman insisted that she wanted her change back. Now that I think about it, I would have done the same. Maybe not, if I was under the same circumstances. Anyway, aren't you going to let me in?"

I was a little bit too shocked. I mean, even her speaking style has changed.

"Oh, sure." I shake my head. "Yes. Please come in."

"Well, well..." She walks in and scans the whole place with her eyes. "This is a lot less messy than I thought it would be. I bet you spent the whole day trying to tidy the place."

"Yeah, I did."

"Then it's a good thing that I've bought us dinner." Reikoku-sensei hands me the bag. "You just need to add hot water and we'll be able to eat it in three minutes."

"Actually, I cooked our dinner." I say, proudly. I didn't realize at that moment that she was unaware of the fact that I had food at home (and worse than that, she had brought just two cup noodles' units with her when she wasn't supposed to assume it would be just us). It's always easier to think about the details when the opportunity is gone, isn't it? "Tonight we'll have curry rice."

She seemed to be pondering over that.

"I guess that explains that apron you're wearing. I was starting to think you had a thing for cross-dressing or something."

"What are you talking about? Every great chef wears an apron! I-it's not like I enjoy cross-dressing or anything!"

That last bit went out on its own, and after I said it, I only wished I could take it back.

"Yeah, a real chef would wear an apron. It's just that the one you're wearing is pink and frilly, and your face is not really manly. Just look at yourself; it doesn't make you look like a chef, it makes you look like a maid."

Despite being called "girly", I was actually glad she ignored my tsundere reaction towards cross-dressing. I'm pretty sure she would have a witty comment for me. I knew she would. The best I could do at that moment was distract her. I needed to be sure that she wouldn't start thinking about that, and I started to serve the curry. After doing so, I took my apron off and put on my robe and wizar-

What I meant to say is that I knelt on the floor and we started eating. The weirdest thing is that despite her sarcastic remarks, unusual questions and rather manipulative ways, she was really nice to me. Nicer than she seemed to be to everyone in class, anyway. She seemed genuinely interested in talking about trivial things, and never made a question too deep or personal (well, except that one about my kitchen utensil collection). She even helped me do the dishes after dinner. Who would have seen that coming, really?

We played a few short chess games (and when I say "short" I mean she beat me up so quickly I can only believe she was cheating, somehow), watched a zombie movie from the 60's and listened to some remastered old-school jazz recordings (unlike Ryo and I, she doesn't play any instruments or program; she just loves listening to jazz). It was a great night, after all.

Around eleven o' clock she stood up.

"I guess it's time for me to go, Koukishin-kun. We have played quite a bit and I am tired. I'm just glad I don't really need to write a report about you now, otherwise I wouldn't get my beauty sleep." She shook my hand firmly and walked to the door. "I had a great time. See you tomorrow at school."

There was only a single thing in my mind, and it was "WHAAAAAAAAAAAT?"

"W-wait! You don't need to write a report for tomorrow? Then this wasn't a routine home visit after all!" I screamed. "You haven't even met my pare- ck!"

She looked at me and her expression was clearly saying ‘gotcha!’

"You are right about this not being a routine home visit, but I never said I was expecting to meet your parents tonight or anything like that. You assumed that, and you were wrong. Please don't take me for an idiot. As a responsible teacher I had checked your documents and I already knew you were a... ah, recently emancipated minor from abroad."

We both knew that wasn't quite the situation.

"Why have you come here, then?"

"You're kind of slow sometimes." She stopped for a while, probably searching for the proper words. "I came to spend some time with you, obviously. I, of all people, know how it feels to live by yourself and have to eat dinner alone every night. I also had to... emancipate myself at fifteen and it was kind of depressing, so I decided to come and see if you were doing alright."

The shock made me feel really odd.

"I didn't know that."

"And how could you? Practically no one here does, and you just came yesterday. By the way, you know too much already. I'm not telling you anything else about my past." She combed her hair with her fingers. "My reasons to come and spend time with you might be selfish, but I'm only trying to do what I wish someone did for me back then. Sometimes, all we need is a little company, even if only for an hour."

At first words failed me.

"...thank you for coming, sensei. I really appreciate it."

"Don't worry. Now you know I'm doing it out of my own selfishness, so cut it out." Reikoku-sensei sighed. "So you'll keep my liking for splatter films a secret and I promise not to say anything about your little familial situation. Deal?"

"Deal."

"You also need to understand that I won't treat you any different from the rest of the class just because you are living on your own or because we are, say, friends. Not in class, though."

"I'm okay with that too, sensei."

She nodded, satisfied.

"Good. Farewell and good night, Koukishin-kun." She turned her back to me and started walking. "I might drop by to have dinner with you and play chess again someday."

I kept looking at the streets for a while after she left.

Closing the door, I went straight to my bedroom. I felt pretty tired, but this was certainly an interesting day for me. I think I found the word for that thing I felt when Ryo hugged me. It's the same thing I am feeling right now. The word is hope. I think I might have finally found my place in the world and it feels great.

After texting Ryo "good night", I fell asleep.

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