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March 25, 2014
The steaming noodles from my soup taste phenomenal. I've never had noodle soup with so much flavor to it. In Chin Village, the liquid part of the soup is usually bland, making the noodles taste a little on the neutral side. However, I didn't realize this until now. Is this how food is supposed to taste? I wish that I could have an unlimited amount of this soup, but specifically from Gaoling. Even mother, being the amazing cook she is despite her current mental state, could never make this soup taste the way it does right now. It's like a bomb of savory flavor has gone off in my mouth and only feels saddening to swallow because you have to temporarily let go of that exhilarating taste.
Sadly, my final bite; my final slurp. This feeling of a wake up call in my mouth must come to an end. I almost want to cry, this is the best meal I've ever had in my life. Wakato seems to be enjoying his last bites of roast duck. It still probably would make me call it 'roast suck' here too, but if the soup is better, then so must be the meals I also don't care for. It at least smells better. As Wakato finishes up, Ryoma comes back to our table and picks up our bowls and cups.
"So, how was your first official meal in Gaoling?" he asks.
"Best meal I've ever had," I truthfully reply.
"Agreed. I could go for a whole duck next time," Wakato blurts out. Wakato starts to awkwardly laugh, but just cuts himself off and says, "but this was enough."
"Good, glad you enjoyed. What about my offer?"
Inhale. Exhale. "We accept. Whenever you're ready, we will be too," I say as serious as I can.
Ryoma forms a big smile across his face. "Great! Just let me get your bowls to the sink and I'll walk you two over."
Wow, right now? I thought Wakato and I would've had to sit here for an hour or so before he could take us. This is it. Soon, we'll be meeting new people. Ryoma's family might even start feeling like a family to us. That's going to take some getting used to. I'm not a very open person. I'm not one that likes to express myself to others. If I don't express myself enough, then people lose interest in me. If I express myself too much, then I end up pushing people away. There's no balance for me. Either way, I feel unwanted. Maybe that's why it was easy for me to leave my friends behind. No matter how good of friends we are, I'm always afraid they'll dislike me in the end.
Ryoma walks to the front door, signaling us with a finger motion. We all exit the restaurant, and start walking up the street.
"Hate to tell you this, but my house it kinda far," Ryoma confesses.
"How far is far?" Wakato asks.
"See those homes up ahead and on top of the hill?" Ryoma asks as he points upward. "My house is in that area."
My brain makes a mental groan. It took us a day to get here and now we have to keep walking? Oh well, at least we finally have a place to stay.
"Ever thought about using an ostrich horse to go from home to work?" I ask.
"I have, but the walk is good exercise. Besides, animals as a use of transportation? Never been a big fan of that. So tell me, why are you traveling?"
I was afraid he'd ask that. "We needed to escape from our home life. You see, our father passed away a couple weeks ago and ever since we found out, our mother has gone insane. She constantly yells at us for no reason, throws things at us, and makes us feel worthless. It hurt to leave her, but we just couldn't deal with it anymore."
At first, Ryoma doesn't say anything. he just stops in his footsteps and stares off into the sky. Out of nowhere, he turns to me, places his bony, but strong hand on my shoulder, looks deep into my eyes, and says, "You can stay at my place as long as you need to."
As he takes his hand off my shoulder, I can't help, but feel this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I'm here. In Gaoling. A place where all I've been told is that it's full of cruel people who don't deserve the wealth they have. There's something in Ryoma that's not what I've been told. He's a caring person that values even the most sensitive soul. I saw it in him when he stared into my eyes. I know that he meant what he said. Even if his parents say we can't stay, I just get this feeling that he'd beg them to change their minds. The strength in his hand when he was touching my shoulder. It's that physical feeling that shows me that he needed to get my attention. He needed to show how he felt about my story.
After about twenty minutes of walking, we finally arrive at Ryoma's house. The homes' exterior is breathtaking. I've never seen a rooftop that's gold. The outlines of the home and front door are painted in a forest green. The rest of the home is painted in an eggshell white; all three colors complementing each other perfectly. Not only that, but his house it twice the size of ours. What else can I do, but stare at it in awe? It's an honor to just look at it in person. Ryoma opens the door, letting us in first. The house only gets more incredible from the inside. The furniture is spotless. If the floor could become cleaner, I'd be able to see myself in it. Ryoma closes the front door and walks over to us.
"What do you think?" he asks.
"I'm not sure what to think," I say in a hushed tone. "It's beautiful."
"Mom? Dad? You home? You have new people to meet!" Ryoma calls out.
"New people?" says a gentle voice from down the hall.
From the hall comes a woman; shorter than any of us, her black hair turning a dark gray, and she's in dress as if she's going to a fancy party.
"Oh, hello," She says in a fragile tone.
"Hi, I'm Naomi, and this is my little brother, Wakato. Nice to meet you."
Ryoma's mom grabs onto my hand and starts shaking it. "Well it's nice to meet you two. I'm Ryoma's mother, but you can call me Mrs. Shimabukuro," she explains as she shakes my brothers' hand.
"Mom, I need to ask you a favor. My new friends here are travelers and need a place to stay. Is it alright if they stay here until they're ready to move on?"
"I'll have to talk with your father about it, but I don't see why not. He should be home from work before dinner."
"Alright. Come on, I'll show you around," Ryoma says happily.
Before we know it, it's time for supper. As Mrs. Shimabukuro serves up the bowls, someone walks in the house.
"I'm home," says a manly voice.
"Hi, sweetie," Mrs. Shimabukuro says lovingly.
Ryoma leans over to my ear. "My dad is a little strict about introductions. Instead of shaking his hand, bow after you introduce yourself," he whispers.
I nod. This news only makes me a little bit uncomfortable to meet him.
"Come over here, we have visitors," Mrs. Shimabukuro says leading her husband into the dining room.
Mr. Shimabukuro's eyes widen at us. I can feel my heart pumping. When he walks into the dining room, I have to look back over at Ryoma. My eyes travel back and forth. Ryoma is the spitting image of his dad! They have the same, curly, black hair, emerald green eyes, and bulky muscles.
"New friends, I take it," Mr. Shimabukuro says to Ryoma.
"Hi, I'm Naomi. Nice to meet you, Mr. Shimabukuro," I say as I bow my head in respect.
"And I'm Wakato. Pleasure to be in your presence, sir," Wakato says, bowing his head quickly.
Mr. Shimabukuro smiles at us. He doesn't seem nearly as bad as I thought. He sits at the table with us as Mrs. Shimabukuro serves us our dinner. On each of out plates is a drumstick to chicken. I haven't had chicken in months and it smells just the way I remember it. I pick it up, take my first bite, and fall in love with Mrs. Shimabukuro's cooking. It's the same feeling I got from the soup this morning. Another bomb has gone off in my mouth that I never want to leave my taste-buds. Sadly, like the noodle soup, I had to finish the drumstick.
"Mmm, good chicken, Mrs. Shimabukuro. You really know how to cook."
Mrs. Shimabukuro's light, pink lips form a smile. "Thank you, dear," she replies as she starts to clear the plates off the table.
"Let me help with that," I say, grabbing my plate along with Wakato's.
"Just give me the plates. No help needed."
"Dad, I have to ask you something," Ryoma says.
"What is it, son?"
"Can Naomi and Wakato stay with us? You see, they're travelers and don't know where they want to go yet. So until they do, can they?"
Mr. Shimabukuro closes his eyes, pondering his final decision.
"Of course they can. They have proven to be very wonderful guests."
Later in the night, Ryoma took us to the rooms we'd be staying in. Lucky for us, there were two extra rooms so we could each have one for ourselves. He shows Wakato his room first. Wakato decided to just crash for the night. Ryoma opens the door to my room.
"You like it?" He asks.
I walk in, my jaw dropping in amazement. "I love it!" I yell. "There's an actual bed in here and not animal skins. And I can use this little shelf to keep my stuff in." I drop my bag on the shelf and fall backwards on the bed. "It's perfect," I say happily.
"Glad you like it."
"Thanks for letting us stay. I was always told that people in Gaoling were terrible people, but you and your family are the nicest people I've ever met."
"Whoever told you that was sorta right. We should've never gone to war with Chin Village. We were secretly hoping Gaoling would lose. Chin Village deserved the rights they wanted. I can't believe how many people lost their lives in that dispute."
"Lots.............including my father," I admit.
"I'm from Chin Village. My father died in that war."
"Naomi..." Ryoma says as he sits next to me. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. Things are better now. I just want to get some sleep."
"Okay. Good night. Also, my room is right across the hall if you need me," Ryoma says as he leaves my new room.
Making sure that he's down the hall, I pull my book, stick, and ink out of my bag. I dip whatever I can get out of my bag.
Wakato and I have arrived in the town Gaoling. Yes, Gaoling. A town full of a bunch of jerks...except for a family of three. Today, we met a boy named Ryoma and his parents. They're the kindest human beings I've ever met. Now we have a new place to stay until we figure out something else. I'm really enjoying my stay here so far. Ryoma is the nicest guy ever. I don't think I'll ever meet someone as sweet as him for arranging us him home to stay in. I feel safe here. I feel like nothing can hurt me in any way. I can't wait to see where this adventure will lead us.
After that last sentence, I fell into a great, deep sleep.
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