"So, how was it?" The old man questioned the small boy sitting across the table; his smile never left his face. Looking at his enthusiastic face, the small child excitedly picked up the spoon, which he then used to scoop up the food that was plated in front of him. The old man simply watched as the food entered the boy's mouth. After chewing the food several times, his face blossomed into a wide smile as his eyes started to sparkle.
"It's really delicious, Grandpa! I love it!" The boy answered sincerely as he continued to eat without paying much attention to the old man. Much like his grandfather, the smile that blossomed never left his face as he continued to devour everything on the plate. Not long after, a clanging sound could be heard when the spoon came into contact with the surface of the now empty plate.
"I'm glad you like it," The old man said after the young boy finished his food, his hand patting his head and ruffling the young boy's hair. The boy simply continued to smile as he let his grandfather do anything he wanted.
"In that case, I'll make you something else the next time you come here," The old man said after he felt satisfied, ruffling the young boy's hair.
"Really? Thank you very much, Grandpa! I'm looking forward to it!" The young boy answered excitedly as he started to imagine all kinds of food that his grandfather would cook for him.
The small room was packed to the brim with people. The boy could see some familiar faces, which he sure was regular customers of his grandfather's restaurant. Their usually happy faces are now solemn, and some of them even seem inconsolable. Their black outfit conceals the spots where their tears had fallen, as the cascade continued to portray the extent of their heartbreak.
And yet, amid all of this, the boy didn't cry. Even among the grieving family members, the people who had befriended his grandfather, or simple regulars at his restaurant, the boy didn't shed a single tear. After sitting in silence for a while, the priest entered, and the memorial ceremony commenced. As the proceedings came to a close, with the attendees having said their final goodbyes, the boy stood up and approached the casket, where his grandfather now sleeps. Putting his hand on top of the lid, the boy, who thought that his tears had dried up, felt a single tear streaking on his cheek, as he remembers his final conversation with him:
"Grandpa, why haven't you retire already? It's quite clear that your body is not what it used to be," The boy asked with a worried tone.
"Shush, I can still go for quite longer," The old man replied with a gentle tone.
"Grandpa, you've opened this restaurant for many years now. Even if you close up now, you'd still have enough to last until you kick the bucket. Why? Why do you insist on working your body to the bone every single day?"
The old man simply smiled upon hearing the boy's question.
"There are many reasons, most of which can't be explained. One day when you've grown up, you'll understand. But remember this, Takeru. No one is invincible. There will come a time when someone, no matter how strong they are, will need help from someone else. If what I do right now can save those people, then..." The old man went silent for a few moments at that point, before he resumed speaking. "Where was I? Oh, right. Like I said, I can't explain this kind of thing. I only hope that in the future, you'll get to understand it yourself, about why I'm doing what I'm doing. Anyway, how did you do with that recipe I taught you? Were you able to make it?"
A couple of months have passed since the memorial finished. They gray clouds that covered the sky during that day were as clear as if it was yesterday in Takeru Kamiya's mind. On that dark, gloomy day, he had lost the person whose back he grew up watching as his grandfather passed away. As his father and mother were always busy working, his grandfather was the only one he could turn to whenever he was alone, and he grew highly attached to his grandfather as a result. His memory was filled with the days he spent in the small eatery that his grandfather ran right up to the moment before he passed away. He was lost in thought, reminiscing about those days, when he heard his parents calling him repeatedly.
"Takeru, are you alright?" His father asked, sounding a bit worried.
"Yes, dad, I'm quite fine. Thank you for asking," Takeru replied as he focused back to the dining room where they all were seated, with food on top of the table in front of them.
"I'm sorry. I know his death hits you hard, but we couldn't do anything for you. We couldn't even be there when you were younger and had to leave you in his care most of the time, instead of taking care of you ourselves. We weren't good parents," His mother said apologetically; her face fully expressing the gloom she was feeling.
"No, mom, please don't say that. I understand that the two of you are trying to do what's best for the family," Takeru replied quickly when he saw her mother's face. He's fully aware that his parents eloped when she was pregnant, a result of a moment of unbridled passion between the two of them. Both of their families rejected their wish to marry, and they both decided to leave everything and start over from the very beginning as a family without much support.
His grandfather was the only one who accepted the two of them as they were, and even helped them by lending them one of his unused houses for a place that they could call home. With the problem of shelter being solved, their attention turned to money, and therefore the two of them decided to work whatever job they could to support their unborn child. Thus, when their child was born into the world, a boy they named Takeru Kamiya, they were ready to fully support themselves; His father had found work as a software engineer, a job that he'd hold even until now, and his mother worked part-time in various locations to supplement his father's income, which, being an unproven worker at that time, was pretty small.
After more years had passed, his father gained promotion after promotion, which enabled him to purchase the house that his grandfather had lent them, and even paid what could be said as rent for all the years he had let them stay in that house free of charge. Now, although they weren't exactly swimming in money, they were quite well off compared to the average people, and Takeru has never felt that he's been short of anything during his life so far.
"I am really grateful for everything the two of you have done so far, so please, don't blame yourselves for things that happened."
"...Thank you, Takeru," His father replied with a tremble, as if he was trying to hold back his tears from spilling out.
No matter what the three of them may have thought of, one thing was clear: All of them were deeply affected by the old man's passing. The three continued their meal in silence, yet the gloomy atmosphere was somewhat lifted after the short interaction between Takeru and his parents.
"Well, then," Takeru's father said after the three of them had finished dinner. "Takeru, we have something important to talk to you about."
"Yes? What is it?"
"It's about what your grandfather has left for us. Now, we want you to know that grandfather has given us most of his money. It's actually enough for us to live comfortably for a few years, but the two of us had decided that we'll continue working, and the money he left us will be saved for future needs. The problem is this one," Takeru's father said while taking out a folder containing a few pages of documents.
"This is?" Takeru asked inquisitively.
"This is the deed to the land and building that your grandfather used for his restaurant," Takeru's father said plainly. "In his will, he specifically designated this to you, and he said that under no circumstances it is to be given to someone else other than you."
"Wait, seriously? Grandpa really wrote that in his will?"
"I'm serious. Thanks to that, the others can't do anything even if they wanted to. I really enjoyed seeing the looks on their faces, as well as their lawyers'. Now, the question is, what do you want to do with it? It's quite a nice location downtown, so if you're going to sell it, you can get a nice sum of money."
Takeru went silent after hearing his father's explanations. He started to think about all the time that he spent in that restaurant, and the answer came in no time at all.
"I... don't want to sell it. I'm going to try and continue the restaurant," Takeru replied, his heart resolute, but the audible tremble in his voice showed his fear and nervousness.
"Are you sure, Takeru?"
"Yes, dad and mom, I'm sure. That place simply holds too many memories for me to try and sell it outright. I grew up watching him cook, so I've actually memorized how to make some of his dishes. The only thing I need now is to actually practice cooking it."
A short stint of silence grew between the three of them after Takeru stated what was on his mind.
"I understand. In that case, we'll keep it for now. You don't have to worry about the taxes and upkeep, we'll take care of it while you prepare to reopen it."
"Really? Thank you very much, dad!"
"However," his dad replied immediately. "We want to hear from you directly: how much time are you going to take before you're going to reopen the restaurant?"
Takeru's heart sank a little upon hearing his father's question. He racks his brain, trying to find an appropriate response.
"...I'm not sure." In the end, Takeru decided to answer truthfully. "I can't tell how long I'll take if I haven't tried to do it yet. Also, I still have to take into account the fees for ingredients and everything, so..."
"I see," Takeru's father replied before gazing towards the ceiling with his hands folded, appearing to be thinking something. "In that case, let's talk again tomorrow. For now, let's get some rest. Everyone must be tired," he said decisively.
"Okay, dad. Thank you for the food, mom. I'll be going back to my room first, then," Takeru said as he bowed towards his parents, and tidying up his chopsticks and plates, as well as sliding the chair back in before heading upstairs towards his room.
Once he heard Takeru's room door closed shut, Takeru's father brought out his phone and made a phone call.
"Hello. Yes, it's me, Atsuhiko. Sorry to bother you this late at night. Yes, do we have an unused pod lying somewhere? Yes? Good, very good. Sorry, but I need to ask for help from you to bring one and install it in my house. No, it's for personal use. Yes, don't worry, I'll pay for the expenses and installation fees. Oh, and also, please bring in a computer that is fast enough so that that game can run for multiple hours nonstop. Yes. First thing tomorrow morning if you can, please. Yes, thank you very much. I'll be waiting for you tomorrow, then. Thank you and goodbye."
After a short conversation, Atsuhiko ended the call and put his cellphone back in his pocket.
"Are you sure you're going to let him do this?" Takeru's mother asked after she saw Atshiko had ended the call.
"We couldn't be there when it mattered most, Akemi. We know back then that this might happen, but we decided to get through with it. We could have supported him in other ways, but unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. Thankfully, due to your father, Takeru grew up to be quite a good and amicable child. Call me selfish, but I simply want to try to support him doing anything he wants now. I simply hope that it isn't too late for us to start now," Atsuhiko replied, lamenting the fact that he couldn't spend more time with Takeru when he was younger.
"I understand," Akemi replied while holding Atsuhiko's hands. "I can't say I don't understand your feelings. It's just that, as a parent, I simply want to see him doing something that's more stable for his future."
"I feel the same as well on that part," Atsuhiko replies while patting Akemi's head, which is now resting on his chest. "However, this is clearly what he wants to do. So, even if it doesn't seem ideal, let's support him with all our heart. To an extent, of course."
The first chapter of the reboot is now out. Apologies for the long radio silence. Unlike before, I will not set a release time schedule for new chapters, since I found that my writing is bad when rushed/nearing deadline, so I'll take longer time to write each chapter but ensure that the quality is better (I hope). And yes, for those who've read this before, I changed the premise of the story.
Basically, I'm sorry for a lot of things, and I hope you can forgive me.
I'm currently in the middle of writing the second chapter, but, like I said; I won't be giving out a time frame on when I'll release it so I can take my time editing and proofreading it to ensure I'm satisfied with the result before publishing it for everyone to read. Please enjoy the first chapter, and hopefully you'll enjoy the writing more now.
Takeru Kamiya is captivated by food. He grew up watching his grandfather's back in the kitchen of his small restaurant, up until the day his grandfather passed away. Not willing to let his parents sell the store, Takeru makes a deal with his parents: To be able to get the title and achievement for the best chefs in the realistic VRMMORPG, "Second World Online". To save the place where he has so many memories, Takeru straps into the VR pod, to be able to stand in the kitchen in his grandfather's place.