Kazuki and everyone else had their very own storage item. Inside while there wasn’t a lot of space, there was still enough for a decent amount of food. In fact, everyone was supposed to have a certain amount of provisions but it turned out that a few had stuffed their storage rings with mostly sweets. Kazuki, Sam, Shin, and Tsura were the only ones who actually had real food in their storage rings. Emptying them out, Tsura had her pick of ingredients and she along with Danny began to cook a large meal for everyone.
So she wouldn’t be overwhelmed, Tsura asked Danny to help her cook since he had a natural curiosity and interest for it. Before she joined the group, Danny was the main cook and he wasn’t up to par. Now though, he wanted to improve. Shin didn’t understand it and made fun of him a bit but Danny didn’t care. He felt slightly humiliated at having turned out barely edible dishes to everyone over the course of a month or so in the Mangshi forest and wanted to prove mainly to himself that he could do better. So on occasion, he would volunteer to help Tsura make food.
Tsura at first was hesitant but as the days and weeks passed, she noticed a solid improvement in Danny’s cooking and now found his help to be useful. So especially today when they had another 30 mouths to feed, Tsura herself asked Danny for his hands and Danny readily agreed.
However, even this was not quite enough and Kazuki and Asuna eventually helped with peeling and cutting vegetables.
Asuna stood close to Kazuki. Kazuki would quickly and skillfully peel a few vegetables or simply cut them into thin pieces. Asuna did the exact same, except she was having trouble concentrating on what she was doing. She would occasionally peek in Kazuki’s direction and her face would grow red in embarrassment. She kept thinking about what she witnessed outside the bath and her heart rate increased again and again. She felt it was beating very loudly at this point as well and she swore Kazuki could hear it, yet he seemed to not notice at all as e continued his prepping. This for some reason frustrated her to no end.
(Dammit, why am I like this he doesn’t have a care in the world. Stupid heart, be quiet be quiet be quiet!)
Kazuki’s voice drifted in her ear smoothly but to Asuna, it was like a great alarm as it sent her into defense mode. Her hand slipped slightly and she cut her finger.
She quickly hid her finger away and shouted in frustration at Kazuki.
“What is it, can’t you see I’m busy here?”
“Right, I just wanted to know if you were still mad at me but it seems there was no need to ask, sorry.”
“Of course I’m still mad at you. Don’t you know a maiden’s heart isn’t suited for pranks such as yours? I mean how on earth do you and Sam even walk around with those, it’s…it’s ridiculous.”
Kazuki paused for a moment before a low chuckle escaped his past his lips.
“Haha, since when were you a maiden? More like a stubborn bear.”
“What, you…you…you asshole. Who are you referring to as a stubborn bear?”
Asuna punched Kazuki in the shoulder Kazuki was going to just ignore it but he decided to cheese it up a bit and cry out in pain.
“Ow ow ow. Your right, your definitely not a bear, with strength like that I’d say you’re more like a gorilla instead. Ow, I need a nurse, no a doctor, actually, maybe a lawyer to sue, ow ow ow.”
Asuna’s mouth fell open before she too started laughing.
“This…you seem more normal for some reason. This is just like that time when our class all went on a trip last year. You and Sam got into trouble like usual and were forced to prep all of the vegetables. You complained that there were a million potatoes and that you would never get done so I volunteered to help you two. Even then you said something rude and I punched you. Right after you rolled on the ground like you were hurt. That got us all in even more trouble but I remember we all couldn’t help but burst out with laughter, even while the teacher was still scolding us.”
Asuna thought about her simple days back on earth and felt nostalgic for such a time before she continued cutting her vegetables once more.
“I get why you act so differently now, why you act so strong and sometimes unfeeling. You’re under a lot of stress and pressure, we all are but you especially. Even if Shin or Danny doesn’t want to admit it, they and everyone else look at you as the leader. Even though we all argue and question your judgment at times, we know you’re just trying to do your best to keep us safe, keep us alive. That must weigh heavily on you. What am I saying? It’s more like back on earth you were very random but here you seem more focused. You would joke around every 5 seconds back on earth but now you might not do that for days. Your working hard, we all see that I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think I’m finally starting to understand the real you.”
Kazuki stopped cutting and turned to Asuna and stared deeply into her eyes. Once again Asuna’s heart began to speed up and beat rapidly.
“Wh…what is it?”
Asuna didn’t know what to expect. Just when she thought she was starting to understand Kazuki, he started to look into her eyes with the utmost seriousness, confusing her to no end.
(What is it, what is he going to say? Is he gonna say I understand you too or maybe I have something on my face? Oh god, please please please don’t let me have something stuck in between my teeth.)
With all of these weird thoughts bouncing around inside her head, Kazuki simply pointed down and said.
“Um, you’re bleeding on all the vegetables.”
Asuna’s face paled and her heart stopped for a split second as her head dropped and she looked down at the nightmare on her cutting board. All of the vegetables were dyed red with blood. She had cut herself moments ago but hid it away so Kazuki didn’t see. The with his teasing she nonchalantly went back to cutting, completely forgetting about her cut.
Asuna felt a wave of confusing emotions. Dropping her knife, she turned her back to Kazuki and walked away not saying a single word.
Kazuki thought about the real Ryuta for the tiniest of moments and felt grateful from the bottom of his heart that he had found someone like him. Someone that was so goofy and random that it wasn’t hard at all to take his place. His behavior wasn’t one etched in stone and given the circumstances of this world and their present situation, it would be considered weird if he didn’t get a bit serious, especially if people put responsibility on him. Kazuki had little doubt that if the real Ryuta had indeed come and he didn’t replace him if his personality would not have been molded into what Kazuki shows everyone now.
Asuna slowly dragged herself to Nunully and sat down in front of her and showed her the cut on her finger. Nunully herself was still recovering from earlier but once she saw the cut she went to work without question.
“That stupid Ryuta. I try to be serious with him for a second and he..he…he tells me I’m bleeding all over the food.”
Nunully felt perplexed hearing this.
“Eh, shouldn’t he tell you if your bleeding everywhere?”
Asuna felt slightly irked.
“That’s not the point! I…er…nevermind.”
Asuna pouted with her other hand.
“Damn it, why am I the only one who feels this way, it’s not fair.”
A silence grew between the two before Nunully whispered.
“You’re not the only one who feels like that.”
Asuna thought she misheard.
“Hmm, what you just said was?”
Nunully finished healing Asuna’s finger and spoke a little louder.
“I said, I feel like that too sometimes.”
Asuna’s eyes went wide and she laughed nervously.
“Hahaha, what, are you serious, don’t tell me you actually like Ryu…Ryuta. That’s pretty funny, you had me going for a moment.”
Nunully shook her head.
“I’m not joking.”
Asuna jumped to her feet and her eyes darted back and forth between Kazuki and Nunully.
“Eh, eh, eh, you’re serious, really truly serious but this doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I mean come one, what’s so great about that guy?”
Nunully herself grew nervous and squirmed a bit in her seat.
“Ryuta is, he’s smart, focused and really really strong. He may seem ruthless at times but that’s only when he needs to be. Other times he can be incredibly generous and caring. Most of us are basically strangers to him and yet he’s put his life on the line for us multiple times. How many would do that for people they’ve known for only a few months. Back in the Mangshi forest, he had already gotten the map and made a deal with that old village chief Atoh. He was gonna turn Mei and her mother in but he didn’t. I don’t think he did it out of the kindness of his heart, no but even so, I feel as though it was the right thing to do. Ryuta chose to save them and give up a fortune that could rival several kingdoms combined. How many men do you know that could do the same? Even when it came to his secret ancient hand signs. I knew about it ever since before we escaped from Tresta, yet he didn’t once threaten me over it even though he knew the consequences if others found out. Going so far to protect you all, he wouldn’t tell you that secret until he was forced to when Shin and Danny both threatened to leave. He’s the type of person who will go to the ends of the world for those he cares for. I can’t think of anyone else in this whole world who’s like him. So yeah to me, those are the things I think are great about him. I could go on if you’d like.”
Asuna was left utterly stunned with her mouth agape.
Mei found her appearance strange and funny and popped her head up beside them.
“Hey hey, what are you two talking about, is this a game, can I play?”