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July 3, 2014
The dinner party with the Beifong family was not as great as I thought. The party was meant only for us as a celebration for Hayao and Ishi surviving, but things took a turn for the worst when the guy who robbed them broke into the Beifong estate and almost killed everyone. Me, Wakato and Ryoma all tried to fight him, but I was knocked out. He was taken down by my brother and Ryoma, but while I was out, I had flashbacks of me with father. I wish that he could still be alive, but there's nothing I can do to bring him back. Also, Ryoma has been comforting me on and off since I was injured. He's such a good friend to me. I actually considered thinking if we could be something more, but I'm sure that we are better off as best friends. It's weird to call him a best friend after only knowing him for a couple weeks, but we've been through so much since we met and he has shown me more kindness than any of my other friends have.
I quickly stash away my book, ink, and stick inside my bag and place it on the shelf next to my bed. "Come in," I say in a powerful voice.
The door to my room opens, and in comes a tired looking Ryoma. Sweat is running down his face from his temples and his eyes are bloodshot and dazed. He's holding a small cup with what I'm guessing is tea due to the steam coming from the inside, and a green, thick napkin in another. As he walks over to my bed, he lets loose a glowing smile. I hope he realizes that he doesn't have to put on a show for me. If he wants to visibly be exhausted, he can. I sit up as he hands me the cup of tea, and take a sip. It's ginseng. The warmth of the tea as it travels down my esophagus makes me feel calm. It's like getting a loving hug, but internally.
"I know how much you like ginseng, so I brought you a cup from work," Ryoma states.
"Thank you," I answer back as my eyes catch the sight of the napkin in his right hand. "What's in the napkin?"
"Why don't you find out for yourself," Ryoma says with a smirk on his face.
He hands me the napkin. What could he have brought back for me that is making him smile so smug-like? I unwrap the napkin around and aroun--no. He didn't. Out of all the things he could have brought back. Not this. Why this? Why the roast suck? Maybe we're not as best of friends as I thought. No, that's ridiculous to think. He doesn't know about your years of dedicated hatred towards this abomination. On the other hand, Ryoma did bring this all the way from work and he didn't have to. I don't want to make him feel like his generosity was all for nothing. Just suck it up, Naomi. Just eat the roast suck, and drink it down with the tea. Wait. What about the smirk on his face? Does he know that I hate roast duck? Can he sense the repulsed feeling I have for this meal? Maybe he's just happy to see me doing better today.
"What a surprise, it's roasted su--duck," I say trying to sound as pleasant about it as I can. Before I can even think about what it'll be like to take the first bite of this, it occurs to me that I don't even have chopsticks to grasp the wedges with.
I really hope he doesn't have chopsticks with hi--
"I was wondering when you were going to ask about that," he says pulling a pair of wooden chopsticks out of his pants pocket and handing them to me.
"Thanks," I say whilst holding back my (hopefully not visible) annoyance.
I take the chopstick and grab onto one of the smaller pieces of the roast suck. I inhale and exhale through my nostrils and gulp at the thought of having to swallow this. As I bring the piece of duck closer to my mouth, my hand starts to tremble a little. I open my mouth, ready to conquer the second worst thing I have ever had the displeasure of tasting.
I chew on it a little, letting the juicy flavor leak out of it. Hmmm. Well that's strange. This can't be roast suck. It actually tastes good! It smells the way I remember it, but there's something different. Have my taste buds changed since I was a kid? Is there some ingredient that the entire town of Chin Village forgot to use? I'm not sure what to conclude here, but I actually think that this roast su--no. This roast duck is good. I feel like I've been cheated out of what is actually not so bad tasting my whole life. But no matter what, Wakato and I are always going to hate jook. Always.
The fact that I keep going for bite after bite surprises me. I never thought I'd ever consider to give roast duck a try again. I try to grab for another, but the napkin has no more pieces. Just leftover crumbs that are not worth it to swallow. I'm actually kind of sad that I finished eating it so quickly. Ryoma takes the napkin from my hand and folds it neatly.
"You seem to be doing a lot better today."
"I feel a lot better today."
"The bump on the side of your head is swelling down. And the slice on your forehead is healing nicely too."
"Well thank you for bringing some food from work. You didn't have to do that."
"I wanted to."
Ryoma takes a seat on the floor and leans his back on my bed. "Hey, I gotta talk to you about something."
Something? What could he want to talk about all the sudden? He's done nothing wrong and has been taking great care of me since the break-in at the Beifong estate. I hope nothing is wrong. What if we have to leave? That would suck, but what choice would I have?
"Did me calling you my best friend make you feel pressured to feel the same way?"
What? This is the last thing I expected to hear.
"Because in the moment, I was terribly worried about you. When you got knocked out, I was fueled by this uncontrollable rage because that man hurt someone that means more to me than I knew. I just didn't realize it until the possibility of you being gone forever came into my thoughts."
I'm speechless. I am overwhelmed with feeling touched by the way Ryoma feels towards me. Smiling hurts a little due to the bump on my temple stretching whenever my mouth makes a sudden movement, but I can't help it. I know that my parents would feel the same way if they were there, and maybe Wakato, but this is a guy I've only know for a couple weeks. He knows how he feels and he's not afraid to confess it.
"Really?" I ask as Ryoma nods with a grin on his face. "Don't you have any other friends that you've known for awhile?"
Ryoma looks down to the floor and sighs. "Well, I was good friends with the Nakabaru kids, especially Daichi. Me and him would tell each other everything and when we were little kids, we used to prank the Hoshino kids. We'd jump outta nowhere and they'd scream. It was great!"
Ryoma starts to laugh a little, but wipes a tear of joy away and breathes heavily. "Anyway, the guy that we battled at the Beifong home was the same guy who murdered the entire Nakabaru family. I was devastated, but then the war started and there were other things to worry about."
"What about the Hoshino kids?"
"We never became really close."
My heart breaks thinking about the friendships he used to have. It must be horrible to have only a few friends you can call close and then something happens to them. Sure, I had some friends that I can call close as well, but there was nothing special between any of us. We were friends and we liked to hang out, but that was it. The only friend that I'd consider a best friend would be Eriko. She actually showed up for my fathers' funeral, and she didn't have to. She was there for me when I needed someone, even when I wouldn't admit to it. And now there's Ryoma, who I really can call a best friend because he offered us a place to stay, took my brother and I out to explore Gaoling, and comforts me when I need it. He's more than a best friend; he's a person you can depend on and can make even the most torn up person feel like they're needed.
I place my hand on his shoulder, getting his attention. "If it makes you feel better, you're my best friend. Sure, I had other friends back in Chin Village, but there was nothing that special between us. My friend Eriko and I sound as close as you and Daichi, but our connection wasn't as real as I hoped it would've been. You have shown so much care and acceptance towards me, and I will always be grateful for that."
Ryoma forms a huge, toothy smile across his face, turns so his knees touch the ground, and wraps his arms around me, suffocating me with in his grip. Wow, this hug is tight! I place my hands on his sides, enjoying this moment, but the grip becomes a little too constricting for my liking.
"Ryoma....you're....crushing me," I let out, practically gasping for air.
He lets go of me and rubs the back of his neck with his hand. "Sorry about that," he says as a light shade of pink displays on his cheeks. "You know, it's not always easy being wealthy. Society in this town makes it hard to be friends if they're not in the same class as you. The rich aren't meant to be friends with the poor, but there was something about you and your brother that were so lively when we met. You were both interesting and full of energy. I still remember how startled I got when you slammed those silver pieces on the counter."
I let out a little laugh through my nostrils. "My first impression of you wasn't exactly thrilled due to your judgement of us."
"Sorry about that. I just didn't want you to waste your time if you didn't have the money. I know it seems weird for a member of the upper-class part of Gaoling to work in a lower-class section, but it was always my favorite restaurant as a child."
I'm glad that Ryoma and I are able to tell each other everything. I've never done that with anyone else...unless my book counts.
"Hey, you wanna go out back? Not that you look pale or anything, but we could all use some fresh air."
As I sit up, Ryoma grabs my hand and helps me stand up slowly. My legs feel like rubber, but that's probably because I haven't walked in a couple days.
"You know how I know that I'm your best friend?" Ryoma asks.
"Because I know you hate roast duck, but you ate the pieces I brought back for you."
My eyes widen. "How did you know that I hate roast duck?"
"Because when we were at the Beifongs', that huge plate of roast duck was put right in front of you, and your face looked so disgusted, and you went right for the chicken."
Not only does he help me feel better, he's also observant.
"Well, I'm glad I gave it another try. It actually tastes good here."
"If you think the roast duck is good, you'll love the jook here!"
"Just kidding, jook is terrible no matter where you go!"
"Tell that to my mom."
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