I reunited with the house once again to refill the jug into the fridge. After that, I took a glance at the clock hanging above the doorway.
It’s almost noon and nobody’s cooking. Considering how free my hands are, it wouldn’t hurt to cook lunch for us, no? I pull out a cookbook from a drawer underneath the countertop and then flipped along the pages for food suited for lunch.
When I found a deserving dish to serve, I collected the ingredients one by one and placed it on the marble countertop in preparation.
Arctic will be home in about thirty minutes from his fishing trip, bringing tuna and some weird stuff he fished from the sea. Last time he brought several junk he thought we’d keep, Grey however ended up selling some to the junkshop and kept those that can be reused.
Lunch was ready hours later. I hope that they’ll like what I served them, I made efforts in preparing the meal. When I was down, I sat on my seat down the dining area and waited. Across the room, the clock steadily ticks with the time. I stare as I count down to exactly twelve.
“… Five, four, three, and…”
Right on cue! Johnnard, decent this time, exits the bedroom to join me in the dining room sniffing the air as he walk, taking in the savory scent dispersed in the air. The backdoor behind me creaks. Heavy steps grew closer owned by the big wolf himself. Grey lowers his axe under his seat. How many times do I have to tell this wolf not to bring his tool with him when eating?
“Grey, please put your axe outside,” I told him.
“I won’t be taking long, don’t worry,” he replied, settling down in a big thump. The chair creak under his heavy bulk.
Johnnard sits adjacent to me, to the right side in my point of view. Grey prefers the seat across mine. Eventually, Reggie would join us. Judging by how late he is, he must be busy entertaining customer in the shop.
“Smells good! Did you make these?” Johnnard is enthralled by the dish served on the table. Who couldn’t resist the sweet, honey-cured flavor of tocino made from wild Aulken boar? Good thing there were tenderloins left in the freezer. Arctic is usually the cook, if not, Grey. They don’t have any ideas on what to do with it and left it for at least a week.
The cookbook I used was among the junk Arctic reeled out of the ocean. His friend’s fire Element dried the pages and it was a fortune the pages weren’t ruined.
I have studied most of the recipes. One dish that stood out the most is tocino. Therefore, I chose the dish instead.
The second dish on the menu is egg-fried rice. A classic, dish shared in the entire country. Made of eggs, rice, and minced spring onions, has variations all throughout the country. The south prefers the meal served in barbecue sauce. My meal is special though, I added little chunks of gongghoro berries to boost their energy. After all, Grey needs to recover his energy spent the entire day.
Judging by their reaction, they seem to be appeased with my cooking. I have to agree, even if it sounds conceited. The scent is savory and sweet! One that could churn someone’s appetite.
I nodded in reply to Johnnard’s question. “Just got to do the cooking by the book. If it weren’t for it, we would be eating canned tuna again.”
Grey grimaces by the thought. We had canned tuna for lunch three days straight since yesterday. He’s bemused by the lack of creativity, he also starts to hate the food as well.
“Oh, the junk Arctic brought wasn’t a junk after all,” Johnnard chuckled, beginning to fork down a chunk of meat.
Before he could pierce the meat, a slapped his paw mildly giving him the warning not to touch without the rest.
“People have different vocabularies. What is junk to the eyes of others are treasures to somebody else, no matter how grand or cheap. And don’t be rude to Arctic and Reggie.”
“Geez, what wisdom. I doubt Arctic would be here in time,” Johnnard rolled his eyes, frowning because of what I did.
“Just, bear with the time for a moment before they return,” I told him. “Perhaps visit Reggie in the shop instead and invite him to eat. Then we could enjoy the meal.”
“So… we could start digging into the food if I call Reggie?” Johnnard reiterates.
I nodded. “Sure.”
His mood immediately shifts when the deal I made agrees with him. He jumps off energetically from his seat and then sprung back towards the wandering door in the right side by the dining area. He opens the door and disappears behind. The mechanism of the door clicks, securing my identity.
That door leads to any door you want. With just the right turn of the knob will take you somewhere else.
Glancing back from the door, I have noticed Grey’s disappearance from his seat. The fridge door suddenly creaks, there I found Grey rummaging in the chamber of the cold storage, probably looking for his liquor… in broad daylight.
“Beer isn’t gonna help you on your job later!” I told him.
“Whatever,” he grumbles, still rummaging. He finally pokes his head out revealing a pitcher of fruit juice cradled in his arm. He returns and sets down the glass container on the mahogany surface. The pitcher is sweating from coldness.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“A pitcher of colored water,” Grey replied in his sarcasm. “Stupid, it’s juice.”
“Oh, is it not?” I rolled my eyes, mimicking his sarcasm. “I was pointing out what kind of fruit it is.”
“Four seasons,” he replied. “Made of four tropical fruits from Luminor. Selected by professionals in the market, sold to the public. Guaranteed to quench your thirst in the sweetest and nutritious way.”
I chuckle by the way he spoke. “You sounded like an advertiser.”
“Just statin’ a fact, that’s all,” he turns away, clearly embarrassed.
The door’s mechanism resounded once again. Johnnard had returned finally with Reggie. Reggie is a bull, the biggest person in the house standing nearly seven feet tall. Despite his intimidating size, he’s kind and friendly, down-to-earth according to Johnnard.
The two of them joins us both in the table. Once we’re settled, I finally announce the words before meal.
Johnnard hesitates none but to redo what he should have earlier, stuffing his plate with respectable share of meat. Grey goes for the fried rice, scooping an amount into his plate. Reggie waits patiently for his turn, occupying his idle time by pouring himself cold, four seasons drink.
I sat enthusiastically anticipating for their response to the dish. Watching them lower their spoons into their muzzled mouths.
Their faces shift, as soon as they closed their mouths. Eyes flashed open like a tree struck with lightning. Soon, their eyes close slowly. Their responses will determine my fate.
“So… tender!” Johnnard sings.
“Hmm, the honey blended with natural herb and spices cured the innermost tissues of the meat, complimenting with the tenderloin’s softness giving a savory-sweet flavor and texture. Impressive!” Grey commentates. His formality is indeed funny.
“How are you able to cook fried rice ahead of time? I had never eaten fried rice this savory before! Never knew you had hidden culinary skills! You must be a chef in your previous life!”
“I used the leftover rice from yesterday and this morning. Instead of wasting good rice, why not create something to address the issue?”
“Grey, we could live another day!” Johnnard jokes, stuffing food in his mouth.
“Serve yourself some, Ruelo,” Grey insisted. “It’d be rude not to give the chef his own opinion about his meal.”
“Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the food—”
“Hey-yo! What’s with the entire ruckus?” Arctic finally returns. Joining us in the dining area lowering a sack he shouldered on the way here by the counter.
He’s a polar bear, slightly taller than Grey with a chunky build. Always wearing his favorite jacket anywhere, he goes leaving people question why on Adaminno would a polar bear wear something warm. “Mmm! Smells good!”
“Tastes terrible to be honest,” Johnnard bluffs. “You should not eat instead. You’ll get sick if you do!”
“Really?” Arctic raises a brow.
“He’s being selfish, that’s all,” I chuckled. “Come, join us, there are still some tocino left in the pan. Enough for second serving.”
Johnnard’s eyes dart in determination. Shoving his entire serving into his mouth and rushes mouthful to the stove. Triggered by the action, Arctic followed, repulsed by Johnnard’s selfish attempt.
I shook my head, chuckling by their childish behavior. Johnnard and Arctic are clearly two peas in a pod. Also why they are best of friends. Arctic’s size gives him the advantage to block his puny friend aside, serving himself respectable amount into his plate before returning to us to serve himself fried rice.
“You could not imagine how rough the waves are this morning!” Arctic lowers himself adjacent to me, on the left side. “Nearly toppled our fishing vessel. Fortunately, there were water-bending rookies aboard that controlled the flow of the harsh tides. How hard may the wind blow, we mustn’t surrender. A creed we anglers proudly keep! The open season is one time of the year when fish is abundant. We could not let this opportunity falter because of the waves, despite the dangers it poses.”
“So, how did the fishing go?” I ask, raising a spoon up to my mouth.
“Fantastic!” Arctic grins wholeheartedly. “In fact, we reeled in hefty sea-junks adrift the ocean as reward!”
“Great, another trash to dispose,” Grey mumbles.
“What did you bring this time?” I asked.
“Well…” Arctic leans back from his seat, reaching for the sack lying beside the counter behind him. He proceeds to ransack inside. The sound if familiar cluttering metal and junk resounds.
“Do it later after lunch, Arctic,” Grey told him.
“Promise! This time I pulled something interesting!” he convinces. “Ta-da!”
He raises to present a leather back covered in seaweed.
“Wow, a weedy satchel,” I said.
“And you did not bother to clean it.” Johnnard tsk-tsked.
“You tried to check the contents?” Reggie asked.
“Sure am!” he confirms. “There was this grimoire-thingy that came along with it with incoherent notes. I have no idea what kind of language it is, not even an Armaggon nor ours.”
He pulls out a hard-covered book from the sack. The front cover is dark green, with a gold symbol similar to an Elemental symbol.
Have I seen this thing before? That sensation came upon me just now, drawn to the intriguing aspect of the book.
“If it’s not what we assume it is, then what is it, why would it by floating adrift in the ocean?” I asked.
Arctic shrugs. “My fishing vessel has been collecting random stuff along with it. Trash, some weird stuff, and that satchel with a book is among them. So it isn’t a mystery, of course, except for the notes inside.”
I slid the book towards me and let my fingers brush along the golden print that flows on its canvas. Holding the side, I flipped the cover open.
Suddenly, a surge of pain shoots into my mind. A flash! Voices echo and accelerate. Noises too incoherent yet so familiar. Are they… my memories from the past?
The pain practically made me dizzy, so dizzy that I have to slam the book shut. Accidentally calling everyone’s attention. The pain slowly diminishes, and I am free to open my eyes back where my guardians’ concern gaze meet me.
“Are you alright?” Grey asked.
“Yes…” I told him, gasping with both eyes staring hardly at the book. Whatever is that book? Is it cursed? “A-Actually… I seem to recall something… about my past life. These voices, surge suddenly when I open it.”
No comments about it, except for long exchange glances of confusion they give each other before returning to me. Grey closes his eyes as if thinking. Then returns, opening them with an aura of seriousness.
“Voices… you’re telling me your washed memories are slowly developing?”
I shrugged. “I think so… they sound so familiar at the same time, strange. Like, I also don’t know them.”
Grey crosses his arms ahead of him, sinking into deep thoughts as his eyelids slowly shuts. He hums as he thinks, with his fingers fidget tapping on his arm.
“Keep the book,” Grey said.
“Wha-wait! Are you serious?” I asked.
Grey nods, returning his gaze at me. “That book may have some memory-recovering aspects. If you keep it, it may gradually pave way into revealing your past altogether.”
I glance at the book, skimming through the pages. Majority of the pages are blank. Unwritten. Honestly, only a page is donned with alphabets. Unfinished even. Whoever owned it should have had completed ate least the entire page, and not leave me with an enigma about what happened after he exited the tent, hearing the strange rustling sound outside.
“It’s about damn time for you finally earn your own Element. Considering you’re of age to have one.”
“Wait, Ruelo having an Element? Are you certain about this, Grey? I mean, if I may be frank with you, you’re going against your principle—”
“Do you doubt my decisions, dear brother?” Grey, in deep, grim voice, shot a look of fury at Arctic, who is hesitant of his decision.
Arctic quivers with Grey’s intimidating glare. Shaking his head, denying Grey’s claim.
“Wha—no! Did I mention something about doubting! Your humor is as strange as you are, Grey!” Arctic stammers
Grey scoffs at the remark, gazing back at me with earnest, serious eyes.
“Tomorrow, we’ll head to the village. Register you as among us as citizen. Bring the book with you. You can use it as your tome or grimoire—whatever spell book you consider. Use it to record your skills once you earn your auburite crystal.”
“M-My own Element… wouldn’t it be contradicting? I mean, I’m possibly not from here.”
“Hmmm… you’re neither right nor wrong. Even if we were the ones who found you, guarantees we know your whereabouts.”
“Now that you’ve mentioned it… where did you guys found me again? From the nexus was it?” Johnnard gives Grey a worried look. The rest is uneager and unsettled. Did I say something wrong?
Grey remained with his composure. His sighs make me worry. Yet he gives me a reassuring look, telling me not to worry a thing.
“Now is not the right time to discuss such… matters. Perhaps I will tell the story.”
I wince at his words. Now I feel like being the unsettled. This will not make me sleep tonight, I’m sure of it. The voices I heard once I opened the book were merely a blurry glimpse. Just a few words from a sentence in an entire story.
The rest of the afternoon, I spent packing. Grey may have mentioned about departing tomorrow as early as possible. Regarding that, time may move quickly as we move and possibly spend the night in the woods along the way.
At night, lay in my bunk, staring at the bottom of the top bunk, bothered by plethora of thoughts. Grey reassured me this lunch, but the feeling itself resurfaced like a sunken ship. Soon, I’ll sail off into the distance. In the unknown, untamed seas.
Whatever lies beyond the blue horizon, is something myself is yet to see. So I must prepare.
Finally, once I calm myself down, I let the drowsy sensation lull me into the darkness. Vast and imminent darkness… awaits me.