“Yo Long, I just thought of something. Isn’t it bad if Kristoph recognizes Yuki?” Jacque pointed at me.
“Oh yeah… we’ll just lie and say she’s your relative,” Zhuyu decided.
“I don’t know, man. The detective didn’t seem to believe you. Ah, f*** it. We’re already here, might as well,” Jacque agreed, going along with the plan.
We entered through the front door and a bell above it rung. A woman in her late twenties raised her head up from behind the counter.
“Welcome. Kristoph’s not here yet. What can I get you guys though? He should be back in about half an hour. You guys want to wait for him?” the woman asked.
“Yeah, we’ll wait. Does he have work or is he just getting supplies?” Zhuyu asked, selecting a table near the window.
“Just a supply run. Here’s the menu,” the woman answered, placing a stack of menus down on our table.
“Thanks. How’s work going for you?” Zhuyu questioned, handing a menu to me.
“Not bad, it’s usually pretty mellow on days like this. Take your time,” the woman replied, returning back to the counter.
“What does Kristoph do for his job?” I asked Zhuyu.
“He’s a health inspector. He does analysis for evidence the field guys bring back. It’s pretty fitting, right?” Zhuyu gave a slight smile.
“Sure,” I answered, not grasping the meaning behind his words.
I looked around the shop while Zhuyu and Jacque inspected the menu. It wasn’t too large, enough room for around ten to twelve tables. The lighting was a bit dim, but the natural sunlight entering through the front windows brightened everything up. There was a bulletin board near an entryway, pieces of paper pinned on it. Most likely orders they already took.
“She’s Kristoph’s wife, right?” I questioned.
“Yep. She comes in the afternoons to take over sometimes. Kristoph does too when he’s not busy. It’s run by Kristoph’s relatives most of the time,” Zhuyu revealed.
“The food here is pretty good. Kristoph makes really good sweets too,” Jacque added.
“What do you suggest? Sandwich or pho?” I asked the two for their opinions.
“Whatever you’re feeling, Yuki. I’ll probably order some pho, feeling something warm,” Zhuyu said, glancing out the window.
“I’ll probably go with that too. Need some of that salty MSG, bro,” Jacque agreed.
“Must be pretty good. I’ll have the same,” I decided.
Kristoph’s wife took our orders and pinned a piece of paper onto the board. My prediction was correct about its function. She entered the back and exited with a glass of water, handing it to Zhuyu.
“Thanks,” Zhuyu said.
“Do you want any drinks?” she looked at Jacque and then me.
“Kristoph did promise us bubble tea. Yuki and I will have that,” Jacque answered.
She asked for our preferred flavors and returned to the back. Zhuyu’s phone rang and he went outside to take the call.
“Do you guys come here often?” I asked.
“Yeah, once a week. We haven’t been here in the last few weeks. Long’s been tracking down a few people,” Jacque answered, handing me my bubble tea.
“Tracking down who?” I plunged my straw in.
“He reached out to Yukie and people from Lilith’s side who aren’t in the area. We decided to at least get everyone’s opinion before moving forward,” Jacque replied.
“My cousin? Why are you….?” I wondered about his motive.
Zhuyu returned before Jacque explained any further. He glanced at me with a strange look but said nothing. Of course, even now Zhuyu was still reserved about discussing certain topics. I wondered if it was Yukie who contacted him just now.
“Was it my cousin?” I guessed, shaking my drink.
“How did you guess? Oh, Jacque probably told you. Yeah, it was Yukie. I’m hoping she’ll be Tess’ replacement. She is the most qualified,” Zhuyu revealed his plan.
“You’re dragging Yukie into this? Are you crazy?” I exclaimed, raising my voice.
“Hold on, here me out Yuki. Listen, we need a Gatekeeper if we’re going to beat the Traveler or whatever else is happening. The list of people who even measure close to Tess are slim to none. Your cousin is the only one who’s demonstrated the aptitude,” Zhuyu said.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better, Zhuyu! I don’t want Yukie to be dragged into all of this!” I gestured in the air with my hands.
“I get it, Yuki. It’s dangerous, but if Yukie can save us, are you suggesting we not even try? I won’t force her. She’ll decide for herself,” Zhuyu continued, his tone remaining consistent.
“Right. I’m sure she will. But, you guys seem to have a habit of forcing things even if you don’t realize it,” I remarked.
“Damn, Yuki. That’s a little bit harsh. We’re just going to talking to her,” Jacque protested.
The bell rung and someone walked in. Kristoph entered through the front door, carrying two boxes. Hairpins prevented his long hair from covering his eyes. He noticed us and stared at me with suspicion.
“S***, you didn’t tell me you were coming,” Kristoph said.
“Come on, you said we can come anytime we want,” Zhuyu shot back.
“I never said that. Jacque, I never said that, right?” Kristoph smiled.
“I think Long’s right on this one,” Jacque laughed.
“I’ll come join you guys once I get all this stuff to the back. Is it just them today?” Kristoph asked his wife, glancing at the bulletin board.
“We had a phone order but I already took care of it. They’ll come pick it up in an hour,” she informed him.
Kristoph grabbed a cart, placing his boxes down onto it. He pushed the contents into the kitchen and his wife followed him. She reappeared with our food a few minutes later and placed three bowls onto the table, leaving with a smile.
“This smells really good,” I commented.
“Right?” Jacque nodded.
Everyone started eating and I had to admit, Kristoph knew his stuff. The broth was excellent and enhanced the flavor of the meat. Kristoph returned, taking a seat at the end of the table. He wore an apron over his clothes with a notepad tucked into the bottom pocket.
“There’s no way this is Yuki, right? She looks exactly like her. Sorry, I haven’t introduced myself yet. I’m Kristoph,” he introduced himself, a very surreal experience for me.
“Nope, has the same name though. She’s one of Jacque’s relatives. She’s actually over at the university
right now. Somehow, she’s also in my math class. Pretty weird,” Zhuyu replied.
“You better not be pushing her too hard, Long. You don’t want to get bad reviews,” Kristoph warned, looking over at his friend.
“Come on, would I do that?” Zhuyu asked.
“Yes, you would. Jacque’s relative, huh?” Kristoph glanced at me, not looking convinced, but didn’t pursue the issue any further.
“Yeah. This is really good. You made it right?” I pointed at our food.
“My wife actually prepared it. I just made the broth, the rest of it is her work,” Kristoph revealed, checking the time.
He stood up and returned with a plate of jello cake. I finished my pho and then took a bite of the dessert. Oh, this wasn’t too sweet and also oddly satisfying.
“Pretty good, right?” Jacque said, slicing the dessert with his spoon.
“Yeah, it’s really weird. It’s not too sweet and melts in your mouth, it’s really good,” I agreed.
“The first time I ate this, it was with Kuan, Jin, and Ko. It’s quite good,” Zhuyu agreed.
“Oh, that reminds me. Jin stopped by a few days ago. Said something about getting stuff for his research,” Kristoph revealed.
“Did he say where he was going?” Zhuyu questioned.
“I thought you would know,” Kristoph shook his head.
“You know how Jin is, he doesn’t respond sometimes. Not as bad as Darryl, but it can get annoying,” Zhuyu said.
“True,” Kristoph said.
We conversed with Kristoph for half an hour before departing. He encouraged us to visit again. As we left, the customer who placed the phone order walked in. I caught a glimpse of his face as he walked past us. I swore it seemed familiar.
“What will you do if Yukie refuses?” I asked as Jacque backed out of the parking spot.
“Look for someone else. What else can we really do? Jacque, any suggestions?” Zhuyu grinned.
“Not really. Yukie is probably the only one that could even be the Gatekeeper. Jin could do it, but I mean, I don’t know, he’s not exactly…,” Jacque left his sentence incomplete.
“What about him?” I asked.
“Jin travels a lot, pretty busy with stuff. Someone like Yukie would be able to do things better. Nothing against Jin, he’s a smart dude,” Jacque explained.
I understood Jacque’s reasoning, but I was still wary of Yukie getting dragged into this because of me. It didn’t sit well with me. One more reason to not f*** things up in my time period.
“Yuki, when are you able to go back or do you not know?” Zhuyu asked.
“It just sorta happens. I’m not sure,” I shook my head.
“Looks like it’s happening right now. Perfect timing, Yuki. We’ll probably see you again. Take care,” Zhuyu said.
He was right. My eyesight wavered and everything around me blurred. This was probably one of the better experiences I had when Shane and Emily checked up on my condition. Well, I guess I just have to wait until next time to know what happened. So strange, it was almost like watching a television show at this point.