Teen Heart Manga Stories presents
A Dear My Shoujo production
Chapter One: "A Talent for Cooking"
One day, out of the blue, Azusa Kumi, age 16 (student no. 1434) got up out of her seat (row 3 seat 4), went out of her classroom (1-4), and into the neighboring classroom (1-3), looked around uncertainly for a moment before finding the person she was looking for, and walked over to row 2, seat 5, to address the occupant. Again, out of the blue.
"Um, excuse me, Shirogane-sempai?"
Shirgane Hiroshi, age 17 (student no. 1325), sleepily looked up and searched around to find the voice that had called him, finally coming to rest on the face of an unfamiliar girl, apparently in the same grade, judging from the color of her neck scarf. He looked up at green eyes and short reddish-orange hair tied with two pink bows framing a slender face, the whole framed by shadows, as the she was facing East.
"Shirogane-sempai," she started again, bowing low "Onegai. Teach me to cook chocolate."
The boy was thinking, 'Why is she calling me sempai, we're in the same grade', when her words and her question registered.
"Eh?" he almost blurted out, startled by the starkness of her words. An embarrassing if not awkward moment for most boys, yet Shirogane merely nodded. His drowsy state of awareness no doubt accounting for some of his panache. "Oh, if now is not a good time, could you meet me by the South Gate after school?"
Just then the door opened, and a curly, blond haired girl came in, followed by a girl in green tresses."Ah, Ohayo, Ku-" the blonde began to say. The red haired beauty jumped up, startled by the familiar voice. Glancing around, Ah, ohayo Hachiko-chan." She pressed something into Shirogane's palm as she scurried from the room.
From the corner, a girl with short brown hair (Matsusuwa Naoki, age 15, class 1-C, student number 1436) frowned, as she watched the skittish redhead hurry away from Shirogane's desk, and clenched her fists together on the desk, gripping her pencil tight enough to break.
"So, um anyway, if you agree, please meet me at the school gate today after school." she said. As she turned, a piece of paper fell from her hands. "Oi, kimi" Shirogane tried to stop her, but she had already made it through the door, squeezing past his best friend Miyagami Natsuki (row 2 seat 6, student no. 1326) as the bell for homeroom began.
Shirogane rubbed the back of his head. "Strange request, strange girl" he thought to himself.
Natsuki walked past on the way to his desk. "Ohayo Hiroshi. What was that about?" he asked, indicating the girl who had just left.
"Oh, Nastuki, ohayo. I'm not sure. I think she asked me to teach her to make chocolate. I'll fill you in at lunch." Hiroshi said, a little distracted.
"Oho..a girl, huh?" A knowing smirk began to cross Natsuki's face. "And what's that in your hand?"
"Something she dropped. I don't know what it is because its not polite to look at other people's belongings".
" Well, I'm not," Natsuki said, grabbing the folded slip from Hiroshi's hands, opening it up and reading. "Oh ho ho. She had this planned well, she did. Room number, desk number, even the spiel to use." Natsuki said on reading " 'Nice" he said in heavily accented English.
Hiroshi glared at his best friend. "Stop it, would you?"
Natsuki just smirked back, and sat down as Asumi-sensei, their homeroom teacher, came in.
"Ohayo gozaimasu mina-san. Class is about to begin, settle down please," she said, clapping her hands before the Class Rep could open his mouth. Whatever else Natsuki was going to say was lost in the ringing of the bell. "At lunch, then" he whispered. Haruki nodded agreement
"You really don't remember?" Natsuki said in a shocked voice, pausing his chopsticks halfway to his mouth.
"Should I?" Hiroshi asked in turn.
"Yes, you should." Natsuki said, twirling his chopsticks around, threatening to fling the shrimp loosely caught between them into someone's soup. "That's no way to win the hearts of the ladies, forgetting important details like when and where you first met someone!" Natsuki shook his head in mock exasperation. "It was the last year of junior high, in Home Ec class. How could you forget the day the whole class found out your secret talent for cooking?"
That brought Hiroshi up short. "Oh, that day." he said, between bites.
"Yes, that day! That wonderful, day when you had all the girls eating out of your hand, and you dropped it like a hot potato." Natsuki retorted.
Hiroshi sighed, "Remembering all the tiny, sordid details about girls is your department, Na-kun, I just do the cooking."
"You see, with an attitude like that, you'll never have a girlfriend." Na-kun pronounced.
"I don't exactly see them flocking around you," Hiroshi snipped.
Natsuki tried to wave the comment aside. "No, you're right about that. Instead, they go for guys like him." Natsuki admitted, pointing with his head at a blond haired youth two tables over who was completely surrounded by squealing, laughing girls. "Its money, and looks they go for nowadays. Talent's gone right out the window."
"Explain to me again, what _your_ talent is, Na-kun" Hiroshi quipped.
Natsuki looked as if a heavy dish pan had fallen on his head, but quickly recovered. "Ah, got me again. I'm just your understudy, your entourage, your sidekick, even."
Hiroshi speared a pickle and brought it to his mouth. "I'm trying to have an unassuming time at school, and you're not helping." he told his friend before biting down.
"Unassuming? This is the springtime of your youth, you should be relishing the opportunities afforded by God." Na-kun chided his friend.
"Still, Azusa Kumi-san, huh?"
"What about Azusa-san?"
"Oh, nothing, it just that I wouldn't have expected her to want to learn to cook, she seemed a little intimidated by the whole thing, from what I remember.."
Natsuki looked at his friend with raised eyebrows, "Hirosh, anyone would feel intimidated when placed next to you. Don't you remember what happened when we made that meal?" ...
"All right class, for Friday's cooking class, you will be preparing a full course dinner. Each group will prepare one course: Table 1 will prepare the Hors d'oeuvre, Table 2 salad, Table 3 main dish, Tables 4 and 5 side dishes, and Table 6 dessert." Akahashi Gan-sensei announced to the class. Groans came from all around.
"So, any ideas?" Natsuki asked the group, when the teacher set them loose, pointedly not looking at Hiroshii. Besides Natsuki and himself, Table 6 was comprised of 3 girls, one with curly blonde hair and an eager disposition, a girl with short, red hair, who seemed content just being there, and a girl with long black hair who seemed to wear nothing else but a frown.
"Well, we could do a chocolate parfait, crème brûlée or a chocolate creme moose, hmmm although truffles would be nice too." Hiroshi offered, when no one else spoke up.
"I should have known" Natsuki shook his head. "How about something we can all do?"
As though he hadn't heard him (which was all too possible, Hiroshi being Hirosh, he continued his brainstorming "Though, we really need to know what the other courses are, to give the best fit. In fact," he said, turning to get the teacher's attention. "Akahashi-sensei, are we prohibited from knowing what dishes the other groups are preparing?"
"Not exactly, Shirogane-kun, though it is an unusual request. May I ask why you want to know?" he replied.
"Well, because in trying to decide on a desert course, I thought, that if we knew what the others were planning, I'd know whether to make a heavy or a light desert, since a desert properly compliments and sums up what comes before it."
"Fine, fine" the sensei said, waving him off.
"That guy, spouting food philosophy again." Natsuki sighed, as Hiroshi walked around to the other groups, stopping first at one, then another, asking questions, nodding, and passing on to each table before making his way to the prep tables where ingredients and utensils were spread out awaiting use.
"Okay, I have an idea of what to do. I also checked the ingredients available, and think we could do better," Hiroshi said after coming back. "But..." the bell rang, cutting off the rest of his sentence and silencing any response from the rest of the table.
"Okay then, Shi-kun, we're counting on you!" Natsuki said as class broke up. Hiroshi blushed a bright red at Natsuki's joking, and even more when the girls echoed Natsuki's sentiments.
The next day, right before class, Hiroshi went to the large refrigerator and brought out a set of covered bowels, and put on his favorite apron, a much stained "C C" apron.
"What are you doing, Shirogane-kun?" Ayako-sensei, who was filling in for Akahashi-sensei, who had called in sick, asked.
"Bringing out the base for Group 5's desert, sensei. I didn't think we would have enough time to finish it in class, so last night I went ahead and did a little prep work" (which was a lie, he had spent nearly half the night working on it, as both he and Natsuki well knew)
"Where did you get those bowls from...oh, That's right, your parents own a restaurant, don't they?" Ayako-sensei said. "All right, but don't make too big a mess" the teacher warned.
"Hai" Hiroshii acknowledged as he began ferrying boxes and bowels over to his table. Before long he had everything neatly laid out and stood back for a visual inspection.
Uh...Hiroshi, I'm afraid to ask, but what is all this" Natsuki asked, frowning at the bowels of ingredients.
"Umm..chocolate shavings, almonds, lightly glazed lettuce in a white cherry sauce, tomago slices, and some slivers of garlic as a garnish." Hiroshi said, pointing to each bowel in turn. "I didn't think we'd have enough time to baste the lettuce and fix the dishes today, so I went ahead and did the glazing last night after we closed."
"Please don't tell me its another one of your experiments." Natsuki said shuddering.
"Well, it is something we're planning to try out in the cafe, as a compliment to..." Hiroshi admitted.
"Oh no" Natsuki said, hanging his head in his hands. "Hiroshi you know what always happens with your experiments."
"But, otosan says, the only way to learn is to study, and experiment."
'Yes, but he didn't say to use your classmates, or your friends, as your guinea pigs." Natsuki retorted. "Besides, your father is a trained chef, you're not." The two friends stared at each other, completely ignoring the girls. Silence reigned as sparks began to fly from their eyes. Neither one was willing to look away.
"Ano" Azusa-san spoke up, trying to break the tension. "If its all right, I can help."
"Ahhh...maybe you'd best leave them be," Hachiko said, waving her hands in the air. "besides, we all know your cooking is just starting out."
Azusa-san looked crestfallen, but backed down. "Ohhh...Kumi, gomen! I didn't mean for that to be a criticism!" Hachiko said, flailing around in an attempt to patch things up.
The two boys, meanwhile continued to stare, until finally, Natsuki looked away, unable to bear Hiroshi's intense gaze any longer.
"Look, just drop the garlic okay?"he said to the wall.
Hiroshi nodded (afraid to admit that he had already squeezed garlic juice into the chocolate last night), and the crisis was averted, and extended his hand, friends again.
"And just why are we making a salad for desert?" Naoki demanded.
Hiroshi, startled, as if remembering the girls for the first time replied "Well, you see, I know that Sakamoto-kun's group is in charge of the salad, and he doesn't have much of an imagination for food, Which means his group won't be preparing anything more elaborate than a plain dinner salad. Also, I thought a desert salad would be a nice treat, something different for people to try."
Natsuki grimaced, "Hiroshi, _no one_ has your imagination for food, that's half the problem."
Naoki held up a limp leaf of lettuce "I think its gross", she complained.
"I like it" Hachiko said, reaching over and nibbling on one of the dipped leaves."Ummm...it tastes good, too, so it must be good!" she laughed.
"Must you always think with your stomach?" Naoki muttered, shaking her head.
"Of course not, sometimes I think with my nose," Hachiko said proudly, "though it does have a close partnership with the stomach at times"
Noaki lifted a hand to her head, as though warding off an ache. "Say something Kumi-chan" she pleaded, turning to her other friend.
"Anyway... there's not time to come up with anything else, so I think we should just go with Shriogane-kun's idea," Kumi said waving her hands in front of her. Naoki was horrified. Natsuki was equally horrified, staring in amazement at the three across the table.
"Come on guys, it'll be fun..." Hiroshi said pleadingly. Naoki snorted.
"Alright, but sweetened lettuce?" Natsuki complained weakly, having already given up.
Naoki, seeing that she was surrounded, and betrayed, gave in, but not very gracefully. "Fine, we'll do the salad. But I know it'll be horrible." And boy was she wrong! They spent the next 30 minutes putting the salad together. First went the base of glazed lettuce, followed by the almonds, and liberal sprinklings of chocolate shavings. Hiroshi oversaw the preparation, down to the last minute, his hands flying magically over plate and bowl as he adjusted first one thing than another, until each loaded plate sparkled in the light of the sun, each with a unique looking structure in the middle.
After 50 minutes, Ayako-sensei looked up from papers she was grading. "Alright. Prep time is through. You may now serve your dishes." One by one, the groups came forward and presented. There was enough for everybody to taste each of the dishes, except for Hiroshi's group, he noticed. The five of them got up and started delivering dishes to each student, a complete serving for everyone, including the teacher.
"I thought we were preparing a meal, and that we were supposed to make enough for the whole class, so we made enough dishes for everyone to have their own," Hiroshi said when the sensei raised an eye in question.
"wahhh...its a White Kiss" someone said, when presented with Hiroshi's desert salad.
"Well, not exactly, but the presentation and technique, is similar." Hiroshi said, proud of his accomplishment, yet embarrassed that someone had noted the resemblance.
"How do you know?" someone else demanded.
"Because my parents and I make them nearly every day." Hiroshi answered him.
"Yeah, right." a third student quipped, sarcasm quivering on his tongue.
Then Sakamoto-kun noticed the apron, "Hey, isn't that a 'Chocolate Confessions' apron?"
"You mean the shop that makes the White Kiss?" a girl called. "Yeah, that's the one."
And then, someone put two and two together "Shirogane-kun, you work at Chocolate Confessions, don't you. That explains how you know about the White Kiss."
And just like that, he found himself the center of attention.
"wahh...you actually work at Chocolate Confessions?! Wow. So cool!"
'Well, my mother uh, works there, and father occasionally lets me try my hand at making dishes.
"Don't be so self-effacing, Hiroshi," Natsuki chimed in to his acute embarrassment. "His parents own Chocolate Confessions. You're looking at the heir." Hiroshi glared at his friend, as he was besieged by students wanting a closer look at the new celebrity.
"Shirogane-kun, you must join the Cooking Club!" Hachiko said, echoed by at least three other girls. He could see dark looks of the boys over the shoulders of the girls and gulped.
"Really, I can't, you see i have to help otosan out most days, and I just wouldn't have the time to commit. Thank you for the invitation though"
"That's all right, Shirogane-kun. you would not be the only member with family responsibilities. Feel free to come by when you can." Ayako-sensei said pleasantly, putting the official seal on the girls invitation.
"Funny...I don't quite remember it that way. And I certainly don't remember anything about making a dish with chocolate and garlic." Hiroshi said pointedly. Natsuki swatted his hand back and forth rapidly, as it to brush away the comment.
"So, how are you going to get in touch with her?"
"Well she said to meet her at the school gate..."
"And after that?"
Hiroshi shrugged. "Hadn't thought that far ahead," he admitted. "I'm not even sure if she'll be willing to..."
Natsuki brushed off his attempt. "Hmm...aren't you a member of the Cooking Club?"
"Yeah" Hiroshi admitted. "Well a part-time member. When I don't have to mind the store."
"Perfect. Kurusugawa Hachiko-chan is also a member. And, she's one of Azusa-san's best friends." Natsuki said.
"And?" was all Hiroshi said.
Natsuki sighed... "And, you can any relay message to Azusa-san you want through her. Plus, she was also part of our group in Jr. High"
"Do you really hear what you're saying?" Hiroshi asked.
"Of course, it's the perfect plot"
"You really dig this whole conspiracy thing, don't you?" Hiroshi said.
"Of course. Some of its bound to be true!" Natsuki said optimistically.
"You say that so cheerfully" Hiroshi said under his breath.
"Anyway, lunch is about over, so don''t you think its polite to give her your answer before school's out at least, so she knows what to expect?" Natsuki prompted, pointing at the clock.
"Oh, right. What's her class? I'll go there now" Hiroshi asked, gathering up the remains of his lunch and looking at Natsuki expectantly. Natsuki smiled and rambled off the room and desk number.
Hiroshi rolled his eyes "You know where everybody is, huh?" he said as he headed out.
"Oh, not everybody, just the ones I want to." Natsuki said to Hiroshi retreating back.
"I should have known." Hiroshi remarked as he left the room.
Hiroshi made his way down the hall to Class 1-4. At the door, he asked the nearest student "Is Azusa Kumi-san here?" The boy looked blankly at Hiroshi for a moment, then nodded to his right, "Hai, over there" pointing. "Domo" Hiroshi said as he walked in and over to Azusa-san's desk. He waited a minute, then cleared his throat, and said "Azusa-san? It's Shirogane from 1-3, we spoke earlier. If it is convenient, may we speak further on the matter?"
Azusa-san looked up, startled at Hiroshi's voice. A small gasp escaped her lips. "Oh! Sempai. "Of course."
"Hmm, its a little loud in here, mind if we go outside?" He said, noticing her slight fidgeting.
"Please" she said getting up. "Aki-chan, I''m stepping out for a moment. I'll be back before next period." She said by way of apology to the girl beside her. They walked out the door and went to the courtyard. The sun came down in rays. Stopping by some bushes, he turned to Azusa-san.
"Earlier today you asked me to teach you how to make chocolate, right Azusa-san?" he started out. She nodded.
"Um, its not like I'm opposed to the idea, only, no one's ever asked me for a cooking lesson before. If its okay, may I ask why? I mean it seems so sudden, asking for cooking lessons."
"For Valentine's Day" she replied, suddenly very quiet.
"Ah?" Hiroshi said, not really comprehending.
"You see I realized I'm no good with sweets, and I really want to be good with sweets for Valentine's Day, to make the best chocolate possible, and I remembered back in Junior High when you made that fantastic desert for us in Home Ec class, so, could you teach me?"
"But, isn't the Cooking cCub offering lessons?" Hiroshi offered.
But they're no good!" Azusa cried. "Or not good enough for what I need. Please, it has to be you."
Taken back by the strength of her pleading, Hirsohii gave in. "All right, I'll teach you. When do you want to begin?"
"Is today too soon?" Azusa asked.
"Today? I don't know, I'll have to ask okasan. Do you mind waiting?" She indicated with a shake of her head that she didn't. "Then excuse me for a moment, won't you."
He took out his cell-phone and placed a call. "Ah, moshi-moshi, 'kasan? ... No, nothing's wrong. A classmate asked me to give her some pointers making chocolate, and I want to know if its okay to bring her to the shop today, if its not a bother? ... Really? Yatta. ... Then, I'll leave it to you, kasan. I'll see you when we get there. Ja ne."
While all this was going on, two sets of glaring eyes peered out from behind the bushes where Hiroshi and Kumi were talking, unaware that they were being spied on.
"Oh ho, what's this...kumi-chan's going all out. all right, then..Shiiro-kun, you can teach all of us." Hachiko giggled
"If he lays one finger on Kumi, I'll..." Naoki growled, clenching her chopsticks so tightly, they snapped.
"Oh Noaki-chan, be sensible. What could he possibly do to her with all three of us with him?" Hachiko asked between bites of a rather large bento. Naoki just glared at Hachiko as she crawled back to the blanket.
"And why are we eating outdoors like this? It's totally the wrong weather!"
"Oh really, Naoki-chan, how else would we overhear such lovey-dovey conversations? Besides, the chill of the air is just the right setting for this bento!" Hachiko said, between more bites.
Hiroshi turned back to Azusa. "Okasan's delighted to have you over. She'll have things ready for us, so we can start any time. Shall we meet after school then, by the front gate?"
"Umm..that sounds good. Thank you Shirogane-sempai." she said.
"Well, I must get back to my classroom." Hiroshi waved as she turned and walked back into the building. He watched as the door closed behind her. "What have I gotten myself into?" He accused himself. "Oh well, its just a simple cooking lesson; nothing to be worried about."
As the bell rang signalling the end of lunch, Hiroshi prepared to go in and almost ran into a girl with long black hair with a scowl on her face. "I'll be watching you' she whispered as she walked past.
"Eh?" Hiroshi asked blankly, but the girl was already gone when he turned. Puzzled, he returned to the classroom ahead of the sensei.
"So, you going to go through with it?" Natsuki said, when Hiroshi re-entered the room.
"Well, I told her I would." Hiroshii said.
"Private lessons with Hiroshi-sensei, oh my." Natsuki sniggered.
"Stop it," Hiroshi admonished, "and stop with the weird fantasies I know are running through your head."
"Someone has to keep the fun alive." Natsuki complained. "Oh, by the way, have you registered the shop yet?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Mmmm. not yet" Hiroshi replied.
"Well, you really should, you know how strict the school is on outside working."
Hiroshi grimaced in reply. "I said I'd do it, so I will."
Finally the last bell rang. "Good luck, 'sensei'" Natsuki joked, slapping Hiroshi on the back as he left the classroom. Hiroshi just glared, as he gathered his books. He was just walking out the door, when he bumped into Kurusugawa running into the room.
"Oh, there you are, Shirogane-sempai", she said breathlessly.
"Why is everyone calling me -sempai nowadays, we're in the same grade, you know.?" Hiroshii grumbled.
"Because we all remember you from Jr High, you were a grade ahead of us, and to us you'll always be -sempai!" Hachiko answered with a smile.
"I really didn't expect an answer, you know." Hiroshi said, a little glumly. "Anyway, you were looking for me?" he prompted, when Hachiko stood there.
"What? oh yeah, Cooking Club was canceled for today. Asumi-sensei had some unplanned business to take care of. I'm supposed to find all the members and let them know." Hachiko said.
"Oh. Thank you Kurusugawa-san, I'd forgotten about that," Hiroshii said. blushing faintly.
"That's what classmates, and fukukaicho-tachi are for," Hachiko said proudly.
"Well then, see you tomorrow." Hiroshi said and walked out the door.
"heh, heh, heh" She said to Hirsohi's retreating back, with a look as if a bright glaring star was emanating from her eyes. "Maybe sooner than you think, 'sempai'" She gathered her books, carefully folding her apron into her bookbag, and rushed to join her waiting friends. This was going to be such fun!
So it was that the day came to its close. The final bell had tolled its last chime, and everyone started gathering their things to head for home, or club activities, or even their nightly juku sessions. Hiroshi trailed behind -as he normally did, so as not to feel packed like a sardine, though that was a virtual certainty no matter when he left- mulling over the various comments and requests of the day. At the shoe lockers, Hiroshi bent down to put on his shoes, checking for any last minute messages, and finding none, walked outside, exchanging pleasantries with other students along the way. He made his way to the school gate to meet Azusa-san, where to his surprise, not one, but three girls awaited him, one smiling broadly, one fidgeting nervously, and the third scowling darkly.
"Eh...Kurusagawa-san? Matasuwa-san? What are you doing here?"
-end chapter one-
Tsuzuku / To Be Continued
A/N This is a slightly edited version in terms of formatting and minor changes for purposes of clarification at two points in the text.
Storynotes and Updates can be found at : myforums/Yuuenchi/742030