Volume 10, Chapter 8: I’m a Cooking Genius?

“Did something exciting happen?” Mom noticed my excitement as I walked through the door.

“Long asked me to join the cooking club. They wanted me as the final member to qualify for an upcoming competition,” I answered.

“How exciting. You finally have an opportunity to profess your love to Long,” Mom teased, raising her right thumb in the air with a smile.

“No, Mom. Is Dad home yet?” I glanced around the kitchen, not seeing anyone.

“Not yet. He’s bringing home a special guest tonight. Yuki, can you prepare the chicken? I’ll be back in thirty minutes. I forgot to grab a few things,” Mom requested, grabbing her keys and purse.

“Where did you put it?” I asked, feeling nervous.

“It’s in the middle of the freezer!” Mom answered before leaving.

I pulled the chicken out, placing it down on the counter, and searched for a knife.

“Come on, let miracles happen,” I begged.

My hand touched the handle and something clicked in my head. The blade felt familiar, not a foreign at all. Even if I lacked memories for this reality, I retained the skills of this dimension’s Yuki. Opening the package, I sliced the chicken into their individual parts. Wings, breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and so on. I hit a hard piece of bone and almost cut myself. S***, that was close. After trimming off the skin and fat, I stared at my handiwork. Not too shabby.

“How am I suppose to prepare this?” I whispered.

I gave Mom a call but she didn’t pick up. Looking around the kitchen, there weren’t any recipe books or detailed notes. Time to ask Dad.

“Yuki, something happen? It’s rare for you to call,” Dad answered after the first ring.

“Mom asked me to prepare the chicken but didn’t say how,” I replied, staring at the oven clock.

“There’s seasoning in the second cupboard. Use that and roast it for around forty-five minutes. Check using the thermometer and make sure it’s not raw,” Dad answered.

“Thanks, Dad. How long before you get home?” I asked.

“About an hour. Traffic is pretty bad,” Dad answered.

“I’ll start preparing it right away,” I said.

“Your mom already prepared the other dishes. Sorry I couldn’t get it done,” Dad informed me.

“I got it under control. Be safe driving,” I assured him.

After seasoning the chicken, I tapped the kitchen counter. Crap, what should I set the oven temperature to? Time to bother Mom. She should be at the store by now.

“Yuki, did something happen?” Mom asked, grocery cart wheels scraping against the floor audible in the background.

“I just want to know what temperature to preset the oven to,” I replied.

“Huh? That’s a first. Around 325. After that, set it to 400. Feel free to change it midway if needed. Anything else important to report, Yuki?” Mom inquired.

“That should be the last of my questions,” I answered.

The oven beeped and I placed the chicken inside. I adjusted the temperature and searched for the thermometer. After going through five shelves, I finally found it. I set the timer and headed to the living room. I felt uneasy though, and returned to the kitchen, leaning against the counter. My phone rang and Felicity’s name appeared.

“Yuki, Yuki!” Felicity shouted at a high volume.

“You’re going to break my eardrums!” I warned.

“Sorry. I heard you joined the cooking club. Did you see the club president today?” Felicity asked.

“You’re talking about Tama Minato?” I checked the time remaining.

“He’s amazing. I saw him at one of the track practices before. I know the boy’s team has been trying to recruit him but he refuses. So I have a favor,” Felicity spoke, minimal pauses in between her sentences.

“No,” I simply stated, imitating Kisai’s trademark response, applying a small humorous undertone.

“Come on, Yuki! Please, as a favor for me? He’ll be great to compete against during practice. I always wanted to test out my speed against him,” Felicity pleaded in a desperate voice.

“Konoe-senpai, why don’t you ask him yourself? I’m going to the club room tomorrow. Come along and ask in person,” I suggested.

“Fine, that works too. It’s a promise, okay?” Felicity said.

“Anything else?” I questioned.

“Thanks for setting up the meeting!” Felicity exclaimed and hung up.

The chicken was finally done! I confirmed the temperature was right and placed it on the table. Mom entered with two bags of groceries a few minutes later.

“Thanks for the help, Yuki. Your dad should be home soon,” Mom complimented.

“Dad said he was stuck in traffic. Who’s this special guest, Mom?” I wondered about the identity of our visitor.

“Yuki, do you really think I’ll tell you?” Mom gave her usual smile.

“There’s no harm in telling me,” I argued.

“It’s better if i don’t. I get to look at your frustrated face and feel better about myself. Just kidding,” Mom replied.

I helped Mom unpack the rest of her stuff and set the table. If I were stuck here for a significant amount of time, what did that mean in the real world? Tess mentioned the passage of time varied in each specific dimension. No reason to dwell on it too much. I already made up my mind. Enjoy the f*** out of this until it concluded..

“Yuki, stop looking so thoughtful over there. It’ll scare our guest away,” Mom scolded.

“What? That doesn’t even…. whatever, Mom,” I said.

“Come on, Yuki, smile. I’m sure our special guest will be able to make you do it,” Mom chuckled.

“Sorry about the delay. Traffic was really bad. I can’t wait for dinner. I forgot to bring lunch and haven’t eaten anything except trail mix,” Dad revealed, walking in an hour later.

“Where’s our guest?” I questioned, checking the doorway.

“Hang on, Yuki. They’re still getting ready. I’m sure you will enjoy their company. Dear, are the preparations complete yet?” Dad answered, placing his briefcase down on 
the floor.

“Yuki, it’s a pleasure to see you again. It has been awhile since we last saw each other,” Yukie greeted me with a bow.

A young man, with a clean shaved head, followed behind my cousin. He wore a white tank top with a stylish lab coat over it. I saw an ID badge clipped to his left breast pocket with several pens tucked inside. He wore slacks, not too fancy, but durable enough to endure any staining.

“Yuki, it’s been a long time. How have you been?” he asked, extending his right hand out.

Who the f*** was this person? I clasped his hand, shaking it with caution.

“Oh sorry, you must have just finished cooking. We really do apologize. There was an accident and it took a long time for things to clear out,” he revealed.

“Everyone’s here! Time to get the party started as your Mom loves to say,” Dad commented, unzipping his jacket.

“It’s nice to have you over, Yukie and Sou,” Mom greeted them.

“Thanks for having us over Auntie,” Sou responded, flashing yet another goodwill smile.

“You can thank Yuki too. She just joined the cooking club at school,” Mom suggested.

“Oh, cool. Is your school joining the competition?” Sou inquired.

“That’s the plan. They needed one more member and I was the lucky one,” I responded, nodding my head.

“I’ll look forward to seeing you there then, Yuki,” Sou said.

“We might face off as opponents at some point,” Yukie added.

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“Oh, that will be fun. An interesting match-up,” Mom said.

“Have your teams been decided yet, Yuki?” Sou questioned.

“No, I just joined today. I’ll ask the club president for more details tomorrow,” I answered.

“You’ll be a good fit for either tier. Yukie will, of course, be doing the upper one. focusing on presentation,” Sou revealed.

“It’s regrettable you won’t be joining me there,” Yukie revealed, a discouraged look on her face.

“I’m not cut out for the big leagues. I prefer pounding out food with different ingredients and seeing if it tastes good or not,” Sou disagreed.

“Come on, let’s start dinner already! Talking about food won’t make us full,” Dad cut into our conversation.

I bit into the chicken and it was edible. Could I transfer these amazing skills over when I returned to the real world? One could only hope.

“Yuki, how’s Long doing?” Sou asked, picking up a piece of chicken breast.

“He’s about the same as always,” I provided a stock response.

“Oh, should have been clearer. What’s his role in the club?” Sou expanded on his previous question.

“Are you trying to gather intelligence on us?” I stared at him.

“Ah, well, that was part of it. I’m just wondering what kind of waifu material he’ll make. Actually, I guess that’s more of husbando material, hahhah,” Sou chuckled.

What kind of b*******…. f*** it, no time for that. Sou did have a point though. Zhuyu was more capable here, a redeeming quality.

“He seems pretty in control. I thought he was the president with how he spoke and managed things,” I replied.

“Long’s always serious. He’s kept that approach even while cooking. I’m excited to face off against him,” Sou said.

“How do you know Long will compete in the same tier?” I was curious about Sou’s assumption..

“Oh I know. Right, Yukie? I’m not saying he’s a bad cook, but his style doesn’t go well with the expert tier,” Sou explained.

“Sou makes a valid point. Long indeed has a higher chance of success at that level,” Yukie supported him.

“Mintao’s still the head of the club, right?” Sou questioned.

“Yeah, he’s uh…. interesting,” I replied.

“He’s not very dedicated to the craft at first glance, but always makes excellent dishes with minimal effort. I’m sure you’ll agree, Yuki,” Sou said.

“You’re right,” I agreed.

“Yukie, you ready to take him on? I’m pretty sure that’s how it’ll go down,” Sou asked.

“Minato poses a great threat with his vast variety of dishes. If I am to defeat him, it will require great effort on my part. It certainly will be no easy feat,” Yukie provided a gracious answer as always.

There was plenty more of discussion afterwards. Much of it concerned idle gossip and school life. After washing the dishes, I headed up to my room and saw Yukie inside.

“Ah, sorry for intruding, Yuki. I needed someplace quiet to complete my homework,” Yukie said, pointing at her notebook.

“Go ahead,” I allowed.

Ten minutes later, she completed her assignment. I stared at her, feeling awkward, even though it was my own room. Yukie’s mannerisms were consistent, same elegant handwriting and precision placed into her calculations.

“Where’s Sou?” I asked, realizing her brother(?) wasn’t present.

“I believe he’s off somewhere with Uncle. Most likely in the garage. Sou is quite excited when it comes to projects,” Yukie answered.

“And you aren’t?” I questioned, surprised by her answer.

“Sou has always been much more proactive. I prefer refining my own craft before working on it with someone else,” Yukie replied.

“I see,” I said.

“I hope that he does not cause you too much trouble during the cooking contest. Sou can go to the extreme, a little too much at times,” Yukie remarked, giving a slight smile at the end of her statement.

“Reminds me of someone I know,” I said as Ichizen came to my mind.

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It wasn’t a fair comparison. Sou was far more competent than Ichizen. However, they both carried that same recklessness which often resulted in mixed outcomes. Still, Sou seemed composed enough to handle anything going awry. That kind of brought me down. Come on Yuki, get yourself together, this is not the time for that! Yukie and Sou departed around nine. I stared up at the ceiling and sighed. Another day was close to passing. At this point, it seemed this would never end.

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