Volume 9, Chapter 4-2: Winter Quarter 2016 Finals Wind Down
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Thursday Winter Quarter 2016 Finals Week Day 5

“How did it go, Yukie?” I asked, driving my cousin home after she completed her last exam.

“Excellent. I anticipate high marks,” Yukie replied, a quiet confidence surrounding her.

“That’s great. Are you going to register for school here? I know your plan was online classes,” I inquired.

“I’ve consulted with my parents and instructors. I’ll transfer into a private university starting autumn quarter. For now, I’ll continue online classes. Besides, Uncle has shown me several opportunities I can partake in during my free time,” Yukie answered.

“That sounds great. When are your parents getting here?” I recalled her initial reason for staying at our house.

“Has Auntie not updated you?” Yukie asked, staring at me with her refined look.

“What do you mean?” I was confused by her statement.

“My parents secured housing in the area a month ago, but because of their research, they would not be home much. As such, I will continue to be in your care. I don’t know the exact duration, but my parents rather have me stay in a home where I am provided for and nurtured,” Yukie revealed huge news.

“Yeah, Mom didn’t tell me anything. You’ll have to put up with me,” I said.

“Not at all. You are a dear relative to me, Yuki, and a friend as well. It is interesting to observe you and your friends. They provide good entertainment,” Yukie said.

“Thank you for the kind words, Yukie. I’m going to talk with Mom later. How could she hide such big news from me?” I responded, parking in the garage.

I headed toward the kitchen first, seeing Dad with a frying pan, a serious look on his face. Oh crap, what happened? His food wasn’t exactly edible. There were only two or three dishes he could actually cook. The human body tolerated his food, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

“Dad, did you piss off Mom?” I asked, staring at him.

“Yuki, how could you say that? Someone at work gave me a recipe I wanted to try out. I don’t want to ask your mom for help,” Dad replied, smiling at my playful words.

“Are you sure? Look, I’m not going to mince words here. You’re a terrible cook, Dad. I mean, your food comes out okay, but the taste…. it’s not exactly good,” I said.

“Yuki, you underestimate my skills. Yukie will assist me. I cannot fail with those kinds of conditions,” Dad disagreed.

“Yeah, I somehow still think it won’t work. Mom will give you hell if you screw it up,” I said, heading up toward my room.

“Can’t you just have a little faith in me? Come on, Yuki, just a little,” Dad shouted.

I passed by Yukie. My cousin, you will see utter horror, I am sorry. If anyone could salvage Dad’s dish, it just might be you. I could potentially study for classes next quarter, but that was ridiculous. Time to browse the web. Dad’s cooking never turned out well the first time, forcing him to redo it again, which would take awhile. As I scrolled through my social media feed, my phone lit up. A text message from Yuka. She never liked texting so it was rare for her to send one.

“Let’s see….’Yuki, let’s go the bookstore tomorrow. There’s a book I want to pick up and someone wants to meet up with you’. Huh?” I read.

“Yuka, it’s me. I just saw your message. Who wants to meet me?” I called her.

“It’s Len. I’m not sure what for,” Yuka revealed.

“Why the bookstore?” I questioned.

“She works at the bookstore I’m buying from. I saw her the other day,” Yuka replied.

“Do you want a ride there or….?” I asked about our plans for tomorrow.

“I’ll come pick you up. It’s been awhile since I’ve drove,” Yuka decided.

“Okay. Give me a call when you get here,” I said.

“See you tomorrow, Yuki,” Yuka said, hanging up.

What was Len’s motive? I probably shouldn’t be so suspicious but yet I was. Could it be related to Ichizen?

Yukie finally called me down for dinner an hour later. Dad had a huge smile on his face. He pointed at a plate containing roasted spareribs covered in honey sauce. That was impressive, considering his lack of skills.

“It worked, Yuki! And you were doubting me! This is going to be good,” Dad exclaimed with pride.

I pulled Yukie aside. While the exterior appeared great, was it actually edible?

“Yukie, is it good?” I whispered.

“Yuki, why are we speaking like this?” Yukie followed my lead, a confused look on her face.

“I don’t want Dad to hear. Anyways, you haven’t seen him cook, but Dad’s not someone who makes really good food. It’s…. you can eat it, but you won’t exactly feel good after. Is it safe for my stomach?” I explained the situation.

“I taste tested it myself. It’s satisfactory,” Yukie informed me.

“Will I have to go to the bathroom?” I requested more details.

“It will be safe, Yuki, rest assured. While Uncle failed his first batch, this second one has come out nicely,” Yukie replied.

“I’m still scared,” I admitted.

“What are you whispering about over there? Making fun of my food, Yuki?” Dad took notice of our little conversation.

“No, Dad, you’re funny. Of course not. I was just having Yukie tell me how amazing your food turned out. That way, I can be sure to tell Mom how much work you put into it,” I said.

“That’s really nice of you! I’m taken aback by your kindness, Yuki! Let’s get the rest of dinner started,” Dad said.

“Uncle, I will take over. You must be tired after working on this. I will cook so you can have some rest,” Yukie offered, tying her apron on.

“How thoughtful. Thank you, Yukie,” Dad said.

Yukie realized the potential disaster. She tidied up the kitchen, doing preparations for other dishes. I headed toward the garage. Opening my car trunk, I took out my textbooks. I should have sold these. Oh well, guess I could throw them up on my bookcase, and pretend to look cool. When Mom arrived home, she stared at Dad’s dish, singling it out immediately. She called me over, a serious expression on her face.

“Yuki, a question for you,” Mom said.

“What is it?” I stood next to her.

“I know your dad did this. Is it safe to eat?” Mom asked.

“I talked to Yukie and she said it’s fine. I wouldn’t eat too much, just in case,” I responded.

“If Yukie says it’s fine, I’ll accept it for now. Yuki, you will take the first bite,” Mom commanded.

“Sure, I’m looking forward to it,” I nodded.

“Yuki, you’re not sick, are you?” Mom stepped back, shocked by my response.

“I’m fine. I’ll have to eat it sooner or later so might as well do it first,” I explained.

“I am taken aback by your dedication, Yuki. I hope you don’t regret it,” Mom warned, giving me a sadistic smile.

Dinner finally began. Dad stared at Mom, who glanced over at me. I picked up my chopsticks, placing one of the roasted spareribs onto my rice. Dad gave me an expectant look, one full of hopefulness and joy. I took a small bite.

“It’s good,” I provided my honest opinion on the dish.

“I hope you aren’t lying, Yuki. Your dad would be very disappointed if he found out you were just saying nice words,” Mom said, placing one of the spareribs onto her bowl.

“It is very delicious,” Yukie complimented.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” Mom said after eating it as well.

“Dear, what do you mean?” Dad asked.

“It is much better than any other food you’ve prepared. In fact, it makes me suspicious Yukie cooked it instead,” Mom accused, her eyes hardening.

“How could you even think that? I poured my heart into it,” Dad said, crushed by her words.

“It seems you’re telling the truth. For now,” Mom relented, not mentioning the topic again.

Friday Winter Quarter 2016 Finals Week Day 6

I woke up to the sound of my phone. It was only nine!

“Yeah?” I answered, stifling my yawn.

“Yuki, it’s me. I’ll be at your house in an hour. Sorry it’s so early. Len told me she’s only working in the morning. We have to get there before noon,” Yuka informed me.

“Got it. I’ll get ready,” I hung up.

I headed downstairs, seeing no one. Yukie was still sleeping or presumably working on a project. I grabbed cereal, eating it in silence. I cleaned up and heard a beep.

“Morning, Yuka,” I greeted, entering her car.

“I guess it’s a little early for you,” Yuka said.

“Where’s this bookstore Len works at?” I asked.

“Downtown,” Yuka answered.

“A fancy place or pretty small?” I inquired.

“More like a mom and pop store. Not super small, but definitely not a retail chain,” Yuka replied.

We arrived fifteen minutes later. Yuka circled around the area two times, searching for parking. Her description of the place was spot on. A bell rung as we entered and I saw Len behind the counter.

“Yuki, it’s been a few weeks. Sorry to call you here so early. I know you want your sleep, especially since finals are done,” Len apologized.

“No, it’s alright. What did you want to talk about?” I asked.

“It’s about Ichizen. I heard his little sister is coming over,” Len said.

How did she know about that? Aside from Manami, who was a relative, no one else knew. Yuka blinked, surprised by Len’s statement.

“Yeah, it’s true. Who told you?” I questioned.

“I thought it might be just a rumor, but it’s true,” Len replied.

“Wait, Ichizen has a little sister? When did this happen?” Yuka asked, staring at me.

“I didn’t learn about it until last week. Len, I’ll ask you again. Who told you?” I asked again.

“Here’s her picture,” Len answered, showing it to me on her phone.

Ace. I shouldn’t be surprised. Why pick Len though? She liked Ichizen, but that wasn’t anything special. Could it be Len was a potential hero?

“I’ve seen her before, but don’t know her that well,” I said, shaking my head.

“Oh, I see. She knows a lot about Ichizen,” Len said, putting away her phone.

“Sorry I can’t help you there. Anything else you wanted to ask?” I gave her an apologetic look.

“I’m amazed Ichizen even had a little sister. I thought you would know, Yuki, since you were so close with him,” Len remarked.

“Wish I did. She’s suppose to be coming next week, so I’ll get a chance to meet her,” I revealed.

“Hope she turns out to be a good friend to you just like Ichizen. Yuka, here’s what you wanted,” Len wished, handing my friend a wrapped package.

“Oh, thank you. How much was it again?” Yuka took the package, pulling out her wallet.

“Let’s see… it was….,” Len opened up a notebook, running her finger down the page.

I looked around, surprised the bookstore didn’t use a computer to keep track of orders. They had a modern cash register and even a computer screen at the front. Maybe the owners liked tracking things by hand.

“Do you know when the next book is coming out, Len? I’ve searched online, but no one knows anything,” Yuka provided her the tile.

“Let me check the records…. should be out next month. Do you want to place a pre-order?” Len asked, flipping through the pages of a large binder.

“Not yet. I’ll buy it once it’s out,” Yuka decided.

“Okay, I’ll see you next time then. Sorry to call you out again, Yuki. I know it wasn’t exactly important, but I feel better after talking to you about it,” Len said.

I entered Yuka’s car, thinking about Len’s possible involvement. I had to inform Tess about this. Damn, I had to go to Tess’ house too. Man, I wasn’t looking forward to that.

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