Volume 10, Chapter 9-2: Long’s Cooking

“Yuki came along with you too, huh?” Zhuyu glanced at me with a slight smile.

“Long-niisan, I have quality ingredients for you,” Yue said with excitement.

“Oh yeah? Let’s see them,” Zhuyu said.

We headed inside and Yue placed her bag down on his dinner table. She took out a large lettuce, bok choy, green onions, and green beans. How large was their garden?

“You harvested all this?” I was impressed by the variety.

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“Yep. Neesan was insistent I bring it over to you, Long-niisan. She wanted you to make really good dishes with it,” Yue replied.

“Is she busy?” Zhuyu asked, inspecting a green bean.

“Neesan said she’s staying late for a class,” Yue revealed.

“Oh, I see. Well, let’s see what I can make,” Zhuyu said, opening a drawer.

He flipped through a notebook, revealing oil and food stains on the pages. Never expected Zhuyu to use something like that. He seemed like the type to store everything in his head. Yue transported the food over to his kitchen counter.

“Yue, how well can you cook?” I asked, watching her wash a knife.

“I’m alright. Enough to make decent meals if my parents aren’t home,” Yue replied.

“Hold on. Yeah, that should work. Can you dice everything except for the lettuce? Yuki, mind grabbing peanuts from that cabinet?” Zhuyu requested, closing his notebook.

“Is this what you’re looking for?” I held up a bag.

“Perfect. Could you grab the pan too?” Zhuyu asked, taking out a bottle of oil.

I handed him the pan and he thanked me, rather graciously too. F***, still wasn’t accustomed to this to. I was never this close with Zhuyu so this felt out of place and jarring.

“Yuki, can you guess what I’m making?” Zhuyu gave me a smile as he stirred the peanuts in a pan.

No idea. I shook my head. Yue laid out the lettuce leaves and Zhuyu pointed at the fridge with his free hand. She nodded, returning with a lunchbox full of rice. It made sense to fry the cold rice but what about the lettuce leaves?

“I thought for sure you know. Yue, grab me the bag of Chinese sausage and a couple of eggs too?” Zhuyu finished sautéing the peanuts, transferring them over to a plate.

He placed a large wok onto the stove and poured oil into it. He first cracked the eggs and scrambled them, pouring it into the same plate as the peanuts. He fried the rice along with the remaining ingredients Yue brought over. He dumped the eggs and peanuts into the rice, mixing everything up. Turning off the flame, Zhuyu scraped the spatula clean and stared at me.

“Hold on, someone’s calling me,” I said, feeling my phone vibrate.

“Yuki, you’re at Long’s house, right?” Mom asked with obvious mischief.

“Yeah. I’m with Yue. I’ll be home soon,” I replied.

“Take your time, Yuki. I won’t be home until seven and your dad won’t be home until later too. Don’t get too carried away,” Mom joked.

Zhuyu scooped the fried rice mixture onto a lettuce leaf. A fried rice wrap? I bit into it, experiencing an amazing mixture of tastes.

“Delicious as always. Can I take one home for Neesan?” Yue caught some of the fried rice as it fell out of the end.

“Yeah, I’m sure Feng-senpai would get on my case if you didn’t bring one home for her,” Zhuyu agreed, grabbing a paper plate for Yue.

“Thanks. Long-niisan, since I’m here, I have a favor to ask,” Yue asked.

“What is it?” Zhuyu asked.

“Could you teach me this recipe? I want to make something for someone,” Yue requested, pulling out a folded piece of paper.

“Yeah, I can do that. I don’t have all those ingredients so I have to make substitutions,” Zhuyu responded, glanced over at her paper.

“I brought along all the stuff we’ll need,” Yue revealed, pointing at her bag.

This was the perfect opportunity to check his room. Considering we were childhood friends, it should be fine.

“Hey, Long, I’m going to head up to your room. I need…. reference books for math class,” I said.

“Yeah, go ahead. Just remember to return it,” Zhuyu allowed.

I took one last look at the two before heading upstairs. Yue pointed at the paper, and Zhuyu nodded, a gentle look on his face. Yeah, still strange.

“Alright, which one is it?” I muttered, arriving on the second floor.

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I noticed an open door on my lower side. Just a bathroom. One room eliminated. I paused in front of the other door on that side and twisted the doorknob. Empty, nothing inside except for a few boxes.

“It’s probably this one,” I said, checking the middle door.

There was a bed near the window with a computer desk in the upper left corner. A bookcase, on the right side, contained a variety of books and other material.

“Alright, what kind of information can I get on you, Zhuyu?” I murmured, inspecting the bookcase with a critical eye.

This bookcase was quite impressive. It had seven wide shelves and the bottom one was filled with….boxes? A closer look revealed small containers with…. anime style illustrations? Of course, should have expected this. On the second and third shelf, various figurines were on display. Some of these were crafted with expertise and looked expensive. Onto something else then.

I inspected his books next. I expected a large number of academic books, but those only made up a third of his collection. I expected more math books but only saw three or four. Could this mean the Zhuyu of this dimension was not gifted at math? Although the physical appearance remained the same, slight discrepancies existed. To expect this Zhuyu to also excel at math was a poor assumption on my part. If not math, what was he good at?

“What should I expect? It’s not like he’ll keep his secrets out in the open,” I muttered, checking all the shelves.

I noticed a photo album and flipped through it. Inside were childhood photos and the standard classroom picture every elementary kid endured. I skipped to the end and saw more recent photos. Nothing useful here. Time to check elsewhere. Several notebooks, with handmade covers, occupied the middle shelf. Oh, what were these? I pulled one out and saw the number “1” on the spine. How many of these were there? “26” was the latest number. F***, was this a book series Zhuyu wrote in his spare time?

“\textit{Revolutionaries Tales: The Dragon’s Beginnings}. What kind of title is this?” I questioned.

A familiar name was mentioned in the first few pages. Tatsumaki Ryuu? If I recalled, this was the name provided by the Zhuyu look-alike within my mind dives. Could it just be a coincidence? I placed the notebook back and resumed my search. At the end, I came up empty-handed. I sighed and stared at the closet door. Might as well take a quick peek. Clothes hung inside along with several cardboard boxes at the bottom. Could this finally be a breakthrough?

“What do we have here? Old toys, stuffed animals, school papers….. come on, there has to be something,” I muttered, checking each of the boxes.

I opened the box containing school related materials, hoping for embarrassing items from when Zhuyu was younger. Of course his middle school material was on top, which meant his elementary crap resided at the bottom. Too much effort. I didn’t have the time nor desire. I checked the room one last time before leaving. Oh right. Math textbook. I grabbed the one most similar to mine and exited.

“Just don’t turn the heat up too high. It’ll burn the onions and other small bits,” Zhuyu explained, sautéing food in a pan.

“Okay, thanks for the help!” Yue nodded.

I saw her tap the record button on her phone. How diligent. Zhuyu turned around, facing me.

“Did you manage to find it? My room’s a little messy right now,” Zhuyu asked, wiping his hands on a towel.

“Yeah. I noticed you’re writing some kind of story. Guess I got a little into it, that’s why I took so long,” I made up a quick excuse.

“It’s not that great. Just something in my spare time. Good to know you liked the story. Yue, anything else?” Zhuyu smiled.

“No, that’s it for today! Thanks for all the help! I’m sure Neesan will be excited!” Yue packed up the food Zhuyu cooked.

“Yuki, are you staying for dinner?” Zhuyu asked, adjusting his apron strap.

“No, I’ll get going now,” I decided.

“See you tomorrow morning. Okay, what did Mom say again? Hmm……” Zhuyu murmured, retrieving his notebook again.

Yue and I exited his house. We talked for awhile and then went our separate ways. I did learn Zhuyu was some kind of novel writer. It seemed impressive he already filled twenty six notebooks. Of course, quantity didn’t imply quality. For all I knew, he wrote overblown sentences mixed with filler, keeping the story alive.

“Home already, Yuki?” Mom greeted as I walked in.

“Weren’t you suppose to home at seven?” I recalled.

“That was a lie. I just wanted you to stay longer at Long’s place,” Mom disclosed her true intentions.

“I’m heading up to my room to read,” I informed her, waving around the math book.

“From Long? I thought you would find someone else for that,” Mom said, a surprised look on her face.

“I just thought I would grab it since I was there anyways,” I said.

“Dinner will be ready in an hour,” Mom reminded and headed to the kitchen.

This confirmed my suspicions this Zhuyu wasn’t skilled at math. I sat in my room, spinning around in my office chair. I opened up the reference book and found highlighted sections with notes in the margins. Even though this Zhuyu wasn’t exactly a mathematical fanatic, he still put effort into it. I flipped through a few pages and realized this material mirrored my course during autumn quarter. Hold on, did that mean this Zhuyu was actually great at math after all? Damn, this was confusing. My head suddenly pounded. What was going on? I didn’t feel this bad over at Zhuyu’s house. I felt heavy fatigue set in. My eyes drooped and then darkness.

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