Your Recipe

“Give it back! Give it back to me!!” An elementary school girl, Izumi Tsukino, reached her small hands up high in attempt to retrieve her diary that had been snatched away from her.

“Eww! Your drawings are ugly!” One of the boys in her class laughed while his friend held her back from reaching him.

“Give it back!” Izumi repeated, tears beginning to well up in her hazel eyes.

Another boy took the book into his own hands and grinned with a devilish glint in his dark blue eyes, “But I think these bugs look great!”

It was Haruto Kimura, the boy with the richest heritage in town. Izumi hated him the most.

She frowned deeply upon seeing the golden brown haired boy, “Those aren’t bugs! They’re muffins!!” She snapped, wiping her tears with the back of her sleeve.

“Eww…they look disgusting! I’d never eat them!” He made a face and threw the diary back at Izumi, “I’d never eat anything you cook!”

“I’d never cook for you! I hate you!” Izumi yelled in anger before she grabbed her diary from the floor and ran out of the classroom.

Tired from running, she slowed down and walked into the playground.  She sat cross-legged under an oak tree, holding her diary tightly against her chest as she sniffed and wiped away the last few tears strolling down her cheeks.

Izumi’s interest in cooking grew from watching her mother at home. She would often try to draw the foods that she wanted to make in her diary, but Haruto would never fail to pick on her for it. He in fact had interests in cooking too. He always had comments to make when someone was talking about food, however he wouldn’t acknowledge Izumi’s passion for cooking. He bullied her every day, telling her that she would never have any talent for it.

This turmoil continued for years, throughout elementary school, middle school and even when they had reached high school. The conflict between them only grew stronger.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You can’t fool me Haruto, I know it was you!” Izumi glared, ready to lunge at the smirking guy in front of her if it wasn’t for her friends holding her back.

“Izumi, calm down! We’re going to get in trouble if Mr Yoshi hears us!” One of her close friends, Yuriko, warned.

Izumi took a deep breath and leaned back against the table behind her. She took the baker’s cap off her head and put it aside, letting her dark auburn hair fall back over her shoulders.

They were in the middle of a cooking lesson and were meant to be baking cookies, except Izumi ended up making bricks instead, all thanks to Haruto of course. He had mixed an excessive amount of corn starch and baking soda into the flour that Izumi had prepared for her cookies, which made them rock hard.

“Don’t blame me for your poor cooking skills,” Haruto narrowed his blue eyes at Izumi, clearly finding the pleasure in tormenting her.

“What do you know about my skills?” Izumi snapped back, “All you do is complain, you haven’t even tried anything I’ve made before!”

“I’d rather eat from the trash than poison myself with your food.”

Izumi rolled her eyes, knowing a rich snob like him would never have the need to eat from the trash anyway. The sudden squealing of a girl in the class averted their attention.

“Amazing! Haruto, did you really make these?” the girl gasped excitedly, munching into one of his cookies. “You really are the prince of cooking!”

Haruto furiously whacked the cookie out of the girl’s hand, “Who gave you permission to eat those you hag?!” He yelled.

The girl froze in shock and backed away.

Izumi noticed Haruto glance momentarily in her direction before he picked up his baking tray and dumped all of the remaining cookies into the nearby trash can, confusing Izumi.

‘What was that for?’ Izumi thought, but one thing she understood for sure because this hadn’t been the first time she had heard someone praise Haruto for his cooking.

It had always made Izumi feel insecure, because she couldn’t handle the possibility that he was better than her after all. She was so curious that she secretly wanted to taste his cooking for herself too, but never had the courage to admit it. How could she possibly want to taste the cooking of the one guy who had been refusing to try hers since childhood? Izumi had more pride than that.

“What’s going on here?” Their cooking teacher, Yoshi, suddenly turned up behind Haruto. He was a short middle aged man with a large balding spot on the middle of his head. Clumsiness was his most significant trait, but he was a pretty good teacher.

“I’m leaving.” Izumi and Haruto said at the same time and looked at each other in irritation.

Yuriko rolled her eyes, “Don’t tell me you’re going to fight over this too.”

“Well I hope you’re leaving.” Yoshi grinned, “Because the class just ended my buddies!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There was a knock on the school principal’s office door. “Come in.”

The door opened and Yoshi stumbled into the room, “Mr. Kenji, I heard you were looking for me.”

“Yes, indeed.” Kenji smiled, “I believe you’re aware of the TV channel named ‘Ryori’. Our school has been offered a guest entrance in one of their game shows. It involves a cooking contest.”

Yoshi’s eyes glinted in excitement.

“Two students from our school must be selected to participate as a pair. I do not care who you choose, but just don’t make a mess out of it again like last year.” Kenji sighed while Yoshi nodded his head with enthusiasm.

“You have 3 days to prepare.”

“Okay!” Yoshi punched his thumbs up into the air, “Wait… ONLY 3 DAYS?!”

“Exactly 3 days.”

“But-“

“That’s all, you may leave. Wish the students good luck on my behalf.” Kenji cleared his throat and turned away in his office chair again.

“Yes sir!” Yoshi bowed before humbly leaving the principal’s office.

He had already decided on the first candidate as soon as the principal had told him he needed to pick two students. He didn’t even need to think twice about it… Haruto Kimura.

But he was struggling to think of any other student who would be a complimenting partner for Haruto. He didn’t get along with a lot of other students and was usually very stubborn. And if it wasn’t someone with good skills he would probably make his partner come out of the show in tears.

Yoshi returned to his empty classroom and sat at his desk, rubbing his temples.

“Who do I choose… who do I choose?” He sighed, almost pulling out his nonexistent hair from his bald patch.

Suddenly the classroom door banged open and he jerked in fright.

“Oh, Mr. Yoshi?” Izumi blinked, “Sorry, I forgot my cap here earlier.”

She made her way to her usual working station and grabbed the cap she had left on the table when she was fighting with Haruto earlier. Izumi waved it in the air with a smile, “Found it!”

Yoshi stared at Izumi, enlightenment flooding into his mind.

“Mr. Yoshi?” Izumi saw a toothy grin creep up on his face as he continued to stare at her, like a starved fat boy would ogle at a blueberry muffin.

“Okay well umm…” Izumi awkwardly walked towards the exit again, “I’ll be going before I get late for my next lesson. See you later!” With that she quickly slipped out of the door.

“What’s wrong with him?” Izumi muttered to herself as she hurried down the hallways, but shrugged, not making anything big out of it. He was weird all the time anyway.

Yoshi on the other hand was now satisfied. He had found his second candidate, Izumi Tsukino.

He was well aware of the thorny relationship between Haruto and Izumi; in fact Izumi got along with Haruto the least. They would break into fights in almost every lesson of his, but he was certain that none other than Izumi could match with Haruto’s skills. Both of them were immensely talented and they could bring out the best in each other to win this show. The only thing in their way was their clashing personalities and not to forget …the undying ego and rivalry between them that had apparently been going on for years.

Yoshi could only hope that this pairing would work out somehow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning

“YES!!” Izumi squealed in delight upon hearing the news from Yoshi, “Thank you sooo much for entrusting this to me!! I won’t let you down!”

Yoshi awkwardly nodded, dreading the next part of the news he had yet to tell her.

“So who’s my partner?” Izumi smiled gleefully.

“Well that…” Yoshi scratched the side of his head, unsure of how he should tell her.

The classroom door suddenly opened and both of them turned around to see Haruto standing in the doorway. “You were looking for me?” He asked Yoshi casually.

Izumi whipped her head back to Yoshi with wide eyes, “No way!”

Yoshi stepped back, sweating.

“What?” Haruto frowned in confusion, still unaware of the situation.

“No!” Izumi stared at Yoshi, “I don’t want to partner with him!”

“Partner…?” Haruto was starting to get irritated, “Someone care to explain what’s going on here?  I don’t have all day.”

But just as Yoshi had expected, after he had explained everything to Haruto, he too reacted against it.

“I’ll do it by myself, I don’t need a partner.”

“Look here boy, the show needs a PAIR!” Yoshi was almost in tears. This discussion had been going on for almost an hour yet still neither of the two would budge. He looked over to Izumi pleadingly, who was standing aside with crossed arms and a disapproving look on her face.

“I’m not pairing with that incompetent loser.” Haruto said, unwilling to succumb to Yoshi’s request.

“Excuse me?!” Izumi retorted, “I don’t want to partner with that snobby know-it-all either!”

“Tsk,” Haruto glowered at her.

Yoshi could almost see the daggers flying back and forth from their eyes. He sighed and slid his palm down his face, “FINE!”

Izumi and Haruto looked at him.

“Thanks for your time, I’ll look for another pair.” Yoshi huffed and headed towards the classroom door.

“Wait!!” Izumi called out after Yoshi in panic, “I’ll…I’ll do it!” Her face turned red in embarrassment. She did in fact not want to pair with Haruto, but participating in such a popular cooking related TV show was a one in a million chance. She couldn’t just let go of it because of him.

Haruto looked expressionlessly at Izumi, unsure of what to think of her sudden change of mind.

“I still don’t want to do it though,” He casually stated, throwing Izumi off.

“Well without Haruto it’s a bit pointless…” Yoshi shrugged, trying to act as tough as he possibly could. This of course was his Plan B; he wasn’t going to give up that easily.

Izumi turned towards Haruto, twitching with intense hatred. He looked back at her questioningly, “What?”

“L- Let’s do it.” Izumi clenched her fists, swallowing back her pride for the sake of her dreams.

Haruto blinked at her, dumbfounded. “I don’t want to. You’ll make me lose face.” He replied, unsure of how else to react.

“At least give me a chance dammit!!!” Izumi suddenly shouted, the anger that had built up within her since childhood bursting out right in front of Haruto.

Haruto blinked at Izumi, who was staring up at him in fury with her glistening hazel eyes, tears of anger threatening to fall out any moment.

Haruto quickly averted his eyes from her before that could happen. Suddenly he felt really uncomfortable and heavy inside. He hadn’t seen Izumi cry in years. “Fine…”

“Huh?” Yoshi whipped his head towards Haruto. Izumi too was slightly unsure if she had heard him right.

“You better not make me regret this though.” Haruto muttered before leaving the classroom with an irritated expression. Yoshi and Izumi looked at each other in disbelief.

“I DID IT!!!” He shouted in excitement, “Uhh…I mean you did!” He laughed awkwardly.

Izumi looked away, still in disbelief and embarrassed of how she had lost control of herself for a moment.

“Well, now you guys have 2 days to prepare! Good luck, from Mr. Kenji too!” Yoshi gave the thumbs-up to Izumi.

She nodded as she walked towards the classroom door absentmindedly until she realised what she had just been told. “2 DAYS??”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day: Training

“Hello?!” Izumi had been knocking on Haruto’s bedroom door for the past fifteen minutes already. She had been hesitant about asking Haruto to prepare for the show with her, actually she was hoping he would approach her first, but knowing Haruto, that wasn’t going to happen.

“Open the damn door, Haruto!” Izumi kicked the door with all her might before making sure his parents weren’t walking past. In contrast to Haruto, his parents were really sweet and friendly. They hadn’t only let her into the house, but also offered her plenty of cupcakes and tea. It was his mother who had led her to Haruto’s bedroom, saying he was still sleeping.

“We need to train!” Izumi groaned, “If you don’t get up and open the door now I will barge in!” She threatened. The door wasn’t locked, but they weren’t exactly in a relationship in which she could just casually walk into his bedroom. The fact that he was still in bed would only make the situation more awkward, but at this rate she’d be standing in front of the door all day.

Izumi took a deep breath and pushed the door handle down; she stopped there, gathering some strength to push the door open first.

“Here I go… don’t complain that I didn’t warn you later.” Izumi muttered under her breath, ready to open the door. But before she could, the door swung open by itself.

“AAAH!!!” She went flying forwards by the sudden force, colliding straight onto the intensely irritated guy in front of her.

Izumi rapidly blinked her eyes, still in shock and confusion. It took her a few seconds to realise the awkward situation she was in. She was leaning onto Haruto with both her hands on his bare chest, holding onto him for support.

Quickly she pushed herself off him as she looked away, trying to hide her blushing face with an irritated expression.

“What are you doing in my house?” Haruto asked with a gruffer voice than usual, looking slightly grumpy from his disturbed sleep.  He was wearing baggy grey sweatpants and was topless, making it too uncomfortable for Izumi to look straight at him.

“Training!” She said abruptly, “We need to train for the cooking contest! Hurry and g-get dressed!” Izumi stammered, cursing at herself for it mentally.

Haruto bent down slightly and tilted his head to look at her face curiously. He smirked, amused at how her cheeks had reddened just from seeing a topless guy.

“What?” Izumi frowned.

Haruto shook his head, laughing to himself.

“WHAT?” Izumi snapped again, getting annoyed.

“Wait in the kitchen, I’ll be there in a minute.” He said, pushing the door against her until he could close it completely.

Izumi huffed and stormed towards the kitchen, still embarrassed. Although both of them grew up hating on each other, it was hard for her to deny that he was an attractive guy. He was popular with the girls at school, but Izumi had too much of a barbed history with him to think about him in that way.

It was enough that he was constantly humiliating her in regards to her passion for cooking, she wasn’t going to allow any other reasons for him to humiliate her even more.

After walking into a few other rooms and once into the bathroom, she finally found the kitchen. She also found a black furry dog sitting in front of her feet, staring up at her with big brown beads for eyes.

“It’s you,” Izumi narrowed her eyes at the dog, remembering a day in her childhood when Haruto had set this furry beast to chase her down a street before. He looked much older and matured now, not as frantically hyper as he had been in the past.

The dog wagged its tail excitedly, as if he remembered her too. Izumi smiled and patted him on the head, holding no particular grudge on the dog. It was Haruto who was to blame. He had tied a sausage onto her bag without her noticing it; any dog would do the same.

There was a note on the kitchen table. Izumi took the note and read it;

“We’ve gone out grocery shopping. Have fun and don’t forget to feed Juro! – Mom and Dad”

Izumi stared down at the dog, “So you’re Juro! Looks like it’s just me, Haruto and you today,” Izumi froze as soon as she said the words, realising what that meant.

“What’s wrong?” Haruto suddenly turned up behind her, taking the note out of her hand before reading it. Izumi jerked in fright.

Haruto casually scrunched the piece of paper in his hand and threw it into the trash can, “So how do you intend to ‘train’ for the show?” He looked at her.

Izumi blinked at him, actually not having a clue herself. “Haven’t really thought about that yet… Perhaps by making a meal…for Juro?”

Juro whined.

“If your intention is to murder my dog you can leave right now,” Haruto stated.

“What? I don’t want to kill Juro! If there’s anyone I want to murder, that’d be you!” Izumi retorted.

“Why don’t you try it,” Haruto turned around to face her completely, suddenly too close for Izumi’s comfort. “We’re alone after all.”

Haruto was doing it on purpose. He had never seen her react the way she did to him earlier and it had made him curious… about how she really felt about him.

“We’re not! Juro is here too!” Izumi stated impulsively, to which Juro barked accordingly as if agreeing with her.

Haruto rolled his eyes as he turned back towards the kitchen table, “Coward. If you’re so confident about your skills, we should be able to win tomorrow without needing any training.”

It wasn’t as visible with Haruto as it was for Izumi, but he too was feeling slightly uneasy being alone with her. He was a standard target for a lot of girls around him, but he wasn’t used to being close with any.  Although he had grown up bullying Izumi all the time, there had been a lot of times he had found himself looking at her longer than he should have been. He just wouldn’t allow himself to think about it long enough to give himself a chance to admit to anything.

Izumi was offended by his words and annoyed, thinking that he was only keen on sending her out of the house as fast as possible. “Fine,” she snapped, “I just wanted to prove that I’ll have no problem keeping up with you tomorrow.”

“No need,” Haruto ran a hand through his dishevelled golden brown hair, “If there’s anything you want to prove to me, do it tomorrow during the contest.”

The hostility had returned between them.

“I will!She huffed.

“So you’re leaving right?” Haruto glanced at her. That was his intention, but he didn’t exactly hate having her presence around.

“Duh, why would I still stay here?,” She said, feeling more and more offended about the fact that he seemed to be wanting her to leave.

Haruto cleared his throat, heading out of the kitchen, “Good. But you read that note first, so feeding Juro is your responsibility.”

Izumi stared at Haruto’s back, her eyebrow twitching at the way he was treating her like his slave. “Give me the strength not to murder him Juro…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On the day of the contest

Izumi hadn’t expected the days to be over so fast. In the end neither of them had prepared for the show due to ego. Now they were standing in the filming studio with two other pairs standing behind their respective cooking stations.

Izumi and Haruto were the pair positioned in the middle, both wearing matching yellow aprons. Haruto didn’t have to say that he hated it, it was written all over his face.

Izumi turned to her right and observed the pair dressed in red. A skinny, tall and brown haired girl in braids was staring right back at her so Izumi awkwardly averted her eyes to her partner, who was a short guy. He was wearing glasses and looked like one of those computer nerds. What was he doing in a cooking contest?

Izumi then turned to her left to look at the blue team. It wasn’t hard to tell the two boys were identical twins. Both of them had the same dark brown hair and eyes and solemn look on their face. Actually, they kind of looked alarmingly depressed.  They even had those creepy dark circles under their eyes.

“Will you stop ogling at the other teams? You look like you’re staring into their souls.” Haruto stated under his breath.

Izumi huffed, “It’s called research! We need to know the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents!”

“By staring them down like a hawk?”

Izumi grumbled to herself.

“Okay guys, are you ready?! Let me explain today’s contest to you!” The host of the show announced, causing Izumi to tense up while Haruto sighed, already exhausted by all the unnecessary hype.

“Each pair will be given different ingredients. As a team you will have to figure out what you can cook with the given ingredients and prepare a meal, which will be served to the judges.” The host scratched his head, moving his neatly combed wig slightly to the side. “You’ll only have 30 minutes though.”

Haruto remained expressionless, making Izumi wonder what he was thinking right now because her stomach was stirring in anxiety.  Other than the task itself, she was starting to get wary about having to work together with Haruto. Would he even trust her enough to let her do anything?

The crew of the show brought out the ingredients and placed them on the respective cooking stations for each team. The red team had minced beef, noodles, a couple of vegetables, chilli paste, cheese and other herbs.

Izumi lip synced silently with the short nerdy guy in the red team, “Spaghetti Bolognese”. It was one of her dad’s favourite dishes so it was one of her specialities.

“Aw man… Why couldn’t we get that?” She sighed.

Haruto was ignoring her, making her sigh even more. The other two teams seemed to get along really well. The red team were a smart duo who seemed to cooperate nicely while the blue team didn’t even have to be mentioned, they were twins.  It was only Haruto and Izumi who weren’t getting along and she knew this was going to cause them a disadvantage.

The next set of ingredients was placed on Izumi and Haruto’s table. Izumi instantly pounced on the big metal lid, lifting it to reveal the ingredients.

“Noodles too?” Izumi frowned nervously as she looked back at Haruto. It seemed like he had already figured out what to make, judging from the confident look on his face.

“Look properly… those noodles are different.” Haruto spoke, calming her down a little.

Izumi looked back at them and realised he was right. Then she looked at the other ingredients. Japanese bonito fish stock, a lot of varying vegetables, dried seaweed… and miso paste. That was a big give away.

“Ramen!” Izumi shouted gleefully, proud to have figured it out on her own.

“Took you long enough,” Haruto teased her again, killing her happy mood almost straight away. “I’ll leave the preparation of the noodles to you.”

“O-okay,” Izumi blinked, surprised.  Although he was refusing to communicate properly with her, he was still putting in the effort to try and work as a team, discreetly.

The blue team had already received their ingredients too. They got rice, a few vegetables, seaweed and lots of different seafood.

“Sushi,” Haruto and Izumi said simultaneously. Haruto cleared his throat and looked away, while Izumi pretended to be busy rolling her sleeves up her arms.

“All the teams have received their ingredients! Your thirty minute timer staaarrts…” The host mused, “NOW!”

Both Haruto and Izumi got to work. Suddenly they both seemed like different people, or at least two people who had momentarily forgotten all about the hatred between them. They were so much into the cooking that they had fallen in sync. It was true that they didn’t communicate much, but they barely had to do that to know what had to be done.

Izumi had already left the water to simmer in a pan for the noodles and reached over for the salt, brushing past Haruto who was almost already finished with cutting the vegetables. She looked at him, distracted by his serious expression. His dark blue eyes looked so captivating in that moment that it caught her off guard.

“Watch out!!” Haruto suddenly shouted, pulling Izumi back from the boiling hot water. She had bumped into it accidently, knocking the pan over.

“A-are you two alright?!” The host asked cautiously.

“We’re fine.” Haruto said, hurriedly picking up the pan and filling it up with water again. They were going to lose time at this rate. Izumi stood back in shock as she watched Haruto make up for her mistake. He had clearly burnt the back of his hand when he pulled her back, but no one other than herself had noticed it.

“How about helping me finish cutting those vegetables instead of standing there like a statue?” Haruto suggested as he briefly glanced over at her.

“But your hand…”

“A professional cook wouldn’t whine over trivial things like this… Don’t get in my way.” Haruto hissed loud enough for her to hear as he walked past her with the filled pan in his hands.

Izumi frowned, snapping out of her trance. She hadn’t asked him to save her from the boiling water. It was him who had gotten in her way for no reason. She was thankful, but she didn’t like the fact that he was trying to take the upper hand because of it.

Izumi pulled her sleeves up again and took over with chopping up the vegetables. It barely took her a few minutes. Eventually she was outworking Haruto, taking over most of the things that he had planned to do.

It was starting to irritate him, but at the same time it was allowing him to have more time to concentrate on the flavour of the Ramen and making sure it turned out exactly to his taste. Haruto had especially sensitive taste buds, which gave him a lot of advantages whist cooking.

“Are you dumb?!” The short guy from the red team yelled at his tall partner, “You don’t add the salt till later!”

The tall girl looked down at the guy in shock, appalled at his comment, “I’m s-sorry! I made a mistake!” She was a quiet and introverted person so standing in front of so many cameras was too much for her to stomach. The school they came from had a very high and mighty reputation, which only increased the pressure for both of them. That alone was enough for them to start making stupid mistakes that they normally wouldn’t make.

On the other hand, the blue team was getting along so well that they almost seemed inseparable. But even for them, matters seemed to twist around at the last minute.

“No… I don’t think this is right bro,” One of them mused, “I don’t think using squid is a good idea. We should just go with salmon.”

“What are you on about man?” His twin brother frowned, “Salmon alone isn’t enough!”

“Of course it is! Simplicity is the rule, you’re adding too much! Your sushi looks like a Christmas tree!”

“You have no idea! Do whatever you want then, you don’t have to make Christmas trees with me!” he retorted back and carried on with his own thing, while his twin brother huffed and turned away too.

The atmosphere between them had instantly changed as soon as their opinions began to differ.

“Done!” Izumi grinned in the meanwhile, staring down at their elegantly set out ramen bowl. It was ready to be served to the judges. Haruto folded his arms and leaned back, waiting for the last few minutes to tick on the timer. He hadn’t expected it to go this smoothly with Izumi.

“STOP!” The host called out.

“Damn it!” The short guy with glasses from the red team cursed in frustration while his partner was almost in tears. Izumi didn’t understand what they were so tensed up about, because their dish of spaghetti Bolognese looked mouth watering. The sight of it was starting to make Izumi feel even more anxious. She held her hands together tightly, breathing in and out slowly.

Haruto noticed how stiff Izumi had become, making him smile to himself unknowingly. Her body posture looked similar to a meerkat’s.

The blue team had already finished too and although their faces looked as gloomy as ever, there was an aura of confidence around each of them. Still, the hostility hadn’t disappeared and both of them had prepared their own kinds of sushi.

The teams anxiously waited for the results as the food was served to the judges.

Several minutes later, “The results are out! Are you ready to hear it?”

Haruto was glowering at the host, making him sweat awkwardly. He had been getting annoyed at his forced way of building up the tension.

“Uhh…haha I guess you’re ready! Firstly, I will announce the blue team’s result! They have gotten a total of….” The host paused, building up the suspense for viewers, “22 points!!”

The audience cheered while the blue team remained straight-faced. Izumi wondered if they had any sense of emotion.

“A-aren’t you nervous at all?” Izumi asked Haruto, feeling the same way about him. He was looking unconcerned while she was fiddling with her sweaty hands.

Haruto shrugged, “If my sense of taste hasn’t failed me today, we should be fine.”

Izumi blinked, still unsure of what to think.

“The judges have given the red team a total of…” The host did the pause thing again, pissing Haruto off. If it hadn’t been for the fact that they were in the middle of filming, he’d have blown that wig off the host’s head already.

“22 points too! It’s a tie between the red and blue team!!!” The host shouted with enthusiasm, fixing his wig in place as if he had heard Haruto’s thoughts.

Izumi slumped over the table and grumbled, “I think I’m going to need the bathroom…”

Haruto grimaced, “We’re at the crucial part of the contest and you want to go to the bathroom now?”

Izumi pouted, almost sliding down the table.

“And finally our yellow contestants!” The host beamed before pointing towards the judges who were holding up the boards with numbers on them.

“Eight…Ten…and…” Izumi mused, “And EIGHT!” She furrowed her eyebrows deeply before quickly whipping her head towards Haruto, evidently weak in mathematics.

“Twenty-six,” Haruto smirked, before the Host loudly announced the total as well.

Izumi stood frozen with wide eyes, almost having died of a heart attack. “We actually did it!! WE DID IT!!” She shook Haruto by the shoulder.

Haruto looked down at her, amused at her joyful expression. To be honest, he was surprised by her skills. He had made Ramen a lot of times and the taste had always come out satisfactory for him, but today it was more than that. When he cooked together with her, he was able to achieve more than usual… and he couldn’t deny that anymore. She had talent.

One of the judges stood up, “The red team’s spaghetti Bolognese was actually rather pleasing, however the sauce seemed slightly too salty and the sauce was a little bit too lumpy for our liking…”

The boy in the red apron turned to glare at his partner, as if it had been only her fault.

Another judge got up from her seat, “The blue team on the other hand prepared equally delicious sushi! However the ingredients seemed to have been used too differently. Some were filled with too many ingredients while others barely had any in them… it didn’t balance out right, which was a shame.”

The two boys looked at each other gloomily and sighed, knowing they would’ve achieved perfect sushi if they had only tried to compromise with each other.

Izumi and Haruto were already anticipating their feedback.

“Finally, the yellow team have satisfied us the most today.” The last judge grinned, “The flavour of the soup was fascinating. Not too salty, spicy or bland. It was totally to all of our liking. The vegetables were finely cut and tender too.”

“So why did we lose marks?” Izumi asked out loud without realising. She wondered why they had gotten four points short.

Haruto already knew why, but didn’t want to mention it.

The judge laughed, “The noodles seemed just a little bit undercooked. It wasn’t that noticeable but it still couldn’t be entirely ignored.”

Izumi bit her lip, unable to look at Haruto. It was her fault that they had lost those points. If she hadn’t knocked over the pan of boiling water they would’ve had enough time to properly cook the Ramen noodles.

“He’s never going to acknowledge my cooking skills…” Izumi thought to herself, not sure why she was even bothered by that. She couldn’t figure out since when his opinion of her mattered so much.

Suddenly Haruto’s hand dropped down on her head with a smug grin, “What are you sulking about? We won.”

“I’m so- “ Izumi wanted to apologize, but was interrupted by Haruto before she could do so.

“Don’t mention it,” He smirked, “I know it’s all thanks to me.”

Izumi instantly forgot all about the apologising. She was occupied with glaring at him again, “I helped too! Give me some credit!”

Haruto laughed, ignoring her complaints.

He knew she was right, but he wasn’t going to openly admit how impressive her skills actually were.

Still, he felt it wouldn’t hurt to admit one thing at the very least,

“You proved yourself well.”

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