Chapter 3: Letter from the Desert
On the way back home that day, Jin and Yuuya stopped by the restaurant on the back of the school, Alf Layla.
Alf Layla was a restaurant for special Persian dishes. But, because the shop was catering to the current fashionable female university students, the ethnic atmosphere wasn't as large.
Even so, the shop had not changed into just a place to go for cheap meals. There were tables, chairs, and counter seats, and above the table stood chopsticks, and on the wall there was an unskillfully written menu hanging.
Jin and Yuuya, as they opened the door and entered the shop, were greeted by a waitress with a powerful, pleasant voice. She was a girl with darkish skin, and precisely bound golden hair. The only daughter of the shopkeeper, she was Alf Shamshir.
“The attractive shop girl Alf. Cute right? You know she's the same age as us.”
In the kitchen, the shopkeeper with dark skin and black hair was joggling the frying pan, as his counterpart, Alf, with her golden hair, was grilling some meat for shishkabobs. Directing Jin to a seat at the counter, Yuuya lifted his voice to the shopkeeper.
“Hey Unks, I'd like to put today's order on a tab, is that alright?”
“Watch it ya bloody fool. I'm young and my stomach's still small, so don't be calling me 'Unks'!”
An authoritative shopkeeper, he answered like a true Tokyoite. Yuuya sat in his seat, turning to talk to Jin.
“By the way, your little sister is still pretty cute herself you know.”
“She's not my sister, just a kid from my old neighborhood.”
“Whatever it's all the same. If you compare them to Zadou, they're still just acorns.”
"Who are you calling an acorn!"
Alf came over, hitting Yuuya on the head with a silver tray. In a strong mood, her lips were bound together in a straight line. Pressing his head, Yuuya let out a shout.
“That freakin' hurts! That's why I said they were different, Zadou isn't as tomboyish as this.”
“You think so?”
Jin let out what he was thinking. Yuuya turned to glare at him.
“What's up with your question!”
“Ah, no. Nothing really.”
What happened yesterday was a secret. There's no way he could tell anyone. With his sense of duty, there was no way Jin was going to talk. Nearly spitting, Yuuya was shaking his fists as he dropped his claim.
“Listen up, Jin. It looks like you've got another opinion but, there's no room for you to doubt her gentle kindness. Well, there's not really any proof that she's reached perfection, but something like that is fine, isn't it? There's no dignity in dragging down such a girl. Don't you think so?”
“Nope. I've never gone out with a girl up till now after all.”
At Jin's response, Yuuya clutched his hand to his chest.
“......Ah, I see.”
“Since the past I've never really cared much about girls. It's a bit different from you, as you're always listening to music and stuff to learn more about them and stuff.”
Struggling for words, Yuuya spoke in a small voice.
“Actually for me too......as I've never gone out with someone before...”
“Eh!? Is that how it is?”
Under Jin's shocked gaze, Yuuya grew red, turning angry.
“Don't friggin' stare at me like that!”
“What, you want me to stare at you with a fuzzy warm look?”
“Besides that, during lunch break, you taught Zadou archeology? So what kind of thing is she interested in?”
“You can tell me. There's no way it's a secret is it? If everyone in class finds out there's a secret between just you and Zadou, they'll hang you from jealousy.
“No. There's absolutely positively no way it's anything good like that.”
Jin affirmed his earlier denial. Familiar with his mannerisms, Yuuya placed his hand on Jin's shoulder, preparing to ask again.
“Well then, tell me. Even though I listen to light music to try to understand women, it hasn't worked at all. Since I'm interested in Zadou, I feel like I've got to do my best.”
“I see. It deals with the ancient silk road, and how goods would be......”
“You went to sleep pretty quickly.”
Jin looked at Yuuya, with his head lying prostrate on the counter, in surprise. At that moment, Alf came over to the place where they were, roughly setting down their cups of water.
“Look here, if you're going to sit, then place your orders already! Else the shop's routine is going to be interrupted.”
Looking surprised, Jin turned his gaze up to look at Alf.
“Your Japanese is great. Just like a true Tokyoite.”
“Well that's obvious. I was born and raised here after all.”
“Hey, Young'un! It's way too early for ya to be flirtin'! If you lay a hand on my daughter, you'll be gettin' a surprise in your curry!”
Alf's father could multi-task quite well, shouting those things while still managing to keep the frying pan going. Yuuya turned to speak to Jin.
“The owner was born after his parents came to Japan. “The third generation will continue as a Tokyoite,” is something he's said as well. And that third generation is Alf.”
“You two, what are you going to do about your order?”
With her hand on her hip, Alf had asked Jin. All Yuuya could do was laugh.
“Even if you ask what we're going to do, without the menu there isn't much we can do, right Jin? Naan and shish kebab sound like some kind of incantation. With that said, two shish kebab specials please.”
After making his order, Alf responded by restating it.
“Understood, two special shish kebabs!”
Next, she began putting the servings of rice on two plates. When the meat on skewers was being grilled on the gridiron, Jin turned a curious gaze over to watch.
“So there was a Persian restaurant this close after all......”
He began looking around the shop. Just like Yuuya had said, the restaurant did indeed have a lot of cheaper dishes, and it really was full of classmates from Harusha Academy.
“The wait's over! Here's the two sets of shish kebab!”
With some force, Alf set the tray down before Jin and Yuuya. On top of the large plate, was a donburi bowl filled with a mountain of rice, on top of which was spread the beef skewers, which was spiced with a curry smell. There were even true green vegetables. There was also a tomato stew to top it all off.
“Excellent. Amazing,” is all Jin could utter in his overwhelmed state. Yuuya was already digging in.
“In the grilled chicken bowl, there's even salad and miso soup. It was the same for me when I was in middle school and a senior took me here, I was extremely nervous thinking about this place being a foreign restaurant. But since the food from the middle east is soft, you can use chopsticks to eat it.”
Jin picked up his skewer, covered with meat. The mix of herbs and spices was combined to form a miraculous flavor. After the teeth bit into the meat, the flavors in the condensed bullion were released.
Jin screamed out his thoughts. Even though he had never seen the endless Arabian sands, the images seemed to surface on the inside of his eyelids. Due to the added smell of the salt used, it seemed to draw out a feeling of the flavor of rock salt. Standing with a caravan of camels in the desert, were the ruins of an ancient city in the sand.
So that's the kind of place my parents are working at......, Jin thought to himself.
(Solomon's Treasure huh...I wonder where it could be...)
Jin was thinking deeply as he savored the meal. Jin's parents were searching with many archaeologists and adventurers, but had yet to find anything. The treasure had yet to be found. The last resort he could see, was only in thinking about the birthplace of the magic lamp which was Sierra's, that, and the fact he didn't know what else to do as he couldn't contact his parents. At his wits ends, Jin could only cradle his head in his arms.
Just then, a plate was placed in front of him. It was a massive omelet with spinach inside.
“I'll be leaving this with you~”
Jin quickly tried to hand the plate of omelets back to Alf, only to have her shake her head and push the omelets back towards him.
“That's my treat. Haha, the Persian Wind Omelets.”
“The spinach has a lot of nutrients in it. It's something that was carried over from Persia along the Silk Road here to Japan. Since you mentioned the Middle East, and the Japanese culture is thought to have been graced with a great deal from there.”
“But, I'm eating on credit, so how can you give me something like this?”
“It doesn't disturb the business to keep the mood in the shop bright.”
Alf puffed out her cheeks while crossing her arms. The muscles in Jin's face were twitching rapidly.
“Sorry. It's really delicious, it's just I had to think for a bit.”
“Don't worry, I'm a girl yet I couldn't explain very well. But what you said earlier, actually made me really pleased with you.”
Raising his finger to point at Jin, Yuuya smacked his head on the tray, causing Alf to turn a bit red.
“Don't say weird things to this dope!”
“Quit hitting me with each and every tray! This isn't Yoshimoto Shinkigeki!”
Rubbing his face Yuuya drew himself towards Alf, and indicating Jin's thumb, he pushed it into Jin's mouth.
“If it's Jin...You know he's a weirdo, it's like he's always looking up stuff about the Middle East. Until yesterday, our dorm room was stuffed full of book after book about that stuff. And since he likes the Middle East so much, he must like Alf too.”
“Don't say such stupid stuff! You're troubling her!”
Jin scolded Yuuya seriously. But, surprised, Alf rested her elbow on Jin's shoulder.
“Heeeh, so you've got some interest in the Middle East.”
“Not really. You say interest but......it's just thinking about if the magic lamp from Arabian Nights could have made it to Japan.”
After Jin's statement, both Alf and her Father's faces froze, followed by a stiffening expression.
“N-N-N-N-N-No way. That's just talk right? Right Dad?”
Looking a bit confused, Alf turned the direction of her speech to the shopkeeper. He also turned a cold shoulder on the conversation.
“T-T-T-T-T-That's right, bloody fool! What's up with ya? Something like a lamp from Arabia having a Genie of the Lamp come rumbling out, you believe that?”
“Jin, even though you're always thinking and studying about archeology, you're still thinking about stuff like that? Unexpectedly, you're pretty childish.”
Yuuya was bouncing around in his laughter. Jin simply put his elbows on the table, crossed his fingers, and though about how disappointing it was.
“I see...no matter how many Middle Eastern people there are, they don't know after all. If it's a Japanese person, there's no way anybody would know anything about a wicked pedestal.”
“U, uhm...that there was a magic lamp in Japan, who did you hear that from?”
Calmly, Alf took hold of both of Jin's shoulders, and enquired of him with serious eyes. Because what had happened between Sierra and him was a secret, Jin could only shake his head in negation.
“It's fine. I'm sorry for asking about such a strange thing.”
“Ah, it's fine, don't worry don't worry. For us too, we're sorry we couldn't be of more use.”
Even though Alf ended it like that, Jin suddenly noticed something for the first time, and sniffed at his surroundings. Becoming a bit worried, Jin asked about it.
“You smell something?”
“Ah, no. It's nothing.”
Sniffing quickly, Alf turned to her side. Just then Jin was elbowed by Yuuya.
“You know, it's probably because off all the garbage in the dorm room, so you just smell like mold.”
“I wonder if it's an outbreak of a new life-form.”
Someone like Jin, who always cares about his manners, to be wearing dirty clothes that hadn't been washed, was completely unthinkable. Yuuya sniffed at Jin's surroundings, simply saying “Ahh.”
“Isn't this the smell from the Dorm Head?”
“Ah, you mean that whatever it's called incense?”
In the morning, when Ukyou had gripped Jin's collar, the incense he was wearing had probably been captured by Jin. Alf, who couldn't have thought of this, was taking this in stride.
“That's right. It's that smell, that smell. Ah, while I've been talking, you've already finished eating everything. You know, you eat pretty quick.”
Alf was looking at Jin's plate. There was nothing left. Yet on Yuuya's plate, there was still at least half of his meal left. Jin's reply came as he took a swig of water.
“Really, I don't think I eat all that fast.”
“It's fast, fast, yet you're still so thin even with your gluttony.”
Come to think of it, when he had gone searching for Solomon's Treasure on a day off and gone mountain climbing and excavating, he had gotten really hungry from using his stamina, so he might have to eat more than others......Thinking so, Jin pushed against his stomach. Yuuya spoke while he was still chewing a mouthful of shish kebab.
“This shop, fits you doesn't it? The food tastes good, it's not too expensive......Next time how about we challenge that extra large Persian Curry? If you can eat it within 30 minutes, it's free. That right, Alf.”
With Yuuya's statement finished, Alf had been engrossed in sniffing with her nose around Jin, when her body started to shake.
“A-Ahh. That's a delicious scent.”
Wondering what she was talking about suddenly, Jin lifted his eyebrows in puzzlement. Giving a short start, Alf proceeded to shake her head.
“Ah, no. I just misspoke.”
“Alf, you're drooling.”
Being pointed at by Yuuya, Alf quickly shut her mouth. It was kind of suspicious.
“Ah, that's right. What you said about coming to eat again, it can't be today,” said Alf as she focused her attention onto Jin.
Rubbing his stomach, Yuuya could only shake his head.
“It's alright, today's fine as it is. Anymore and we'll get fat.”
“I wasn't talking to you. So Jin, won't you come to eat again today?”
Alf's waitress side was so developed. Different from how she had curtly given him the omelets earlier, she used the voice of a cat, and a mysterious smell was coming from her body.
It would be his evening meal, so he wanted to go on eating more and more, but he couldn't eat too much on credit, he had also received quite a lot of shish kebab, so he wouldn't be able to really fit much else into his stomach. So showing his restraint, Jin shook his head.
“I'm good with today as well.”
“Well, if you say you won't eat anymore. Our Persian Curry is made with pomegranates so they will restore your energy, and you can eat as much as you'd like.”
“To someone eating on credit, to make a recommendation like that...”
“It's fine. Isn't that right Dad.”
Alf raised her voice so it would carry to the kitchen, following which a response came from the shopkeeper.
“Yep. If that's what Alf said, then eat as much as you'd like. Bloody Fool!”
“Yeah, like he said, so you don't have to show restraint. So eat to your hearts desire, and become round round fat.”
“Round round fat, what's with that?
A part of what Alf had just said was strange. Before Jin could think too hard about it, Alf had already stretched out her arms deceivingly.
“Ah, ah, no you don't need to worry about it. So, come over tomorrow for some more great service!”
Alf was laughing sweetly. For her to not smile......was unthinkable, indeed whatever it seemed, her habit was her smiling face. But there was something else besides her smiling face that Jin had become conscious of, looking like he wanted to reply, he was stuck on her chest, unable to say anything.
After returning to the dorm, Jin checked his cell phone for any messages, but in the end nobody had called.
“After all, nobody returned my call. Just where are they fooling around at.”
There were plenty of times when he would get a call and he wouldn't answer, but for them not to pick up when he wanted to call, Jin was a bit worried.
Flipping the phone shut, Jin tossed it onto the upper bunk-bed. In order for the dorm to maintain order, they had a dress code to wear gym clothes, as the dorm had chosen the uniform for the exercise club, so that's what he and Yuuya were unwillingly wearing. Unaffiliated with the exercise club, Jin and Yuuya were wearing their gym clothes. Yuuya was wearing his shorts, while Jin had on his jersey. While looking at a music score for a guitar on the bed, he lifted his gaze to the clock on the wall.
“It's five-thirty, about time for dinner, Jin, you hungry?”
“......Starving. Even though I ate so much at Alf Layla...”
“As expected of a glutton, you have quite some fast digesting skills. Anyway, what if you went on a diet for just today?”
Thinking like a stranger, Yuuya was laughing lightly. However, until breakfast the next day, it would be over 12 hours, which he didn't think he could make. There were no archeology books either, so there was nothing to read as well. He also didn't have the willpower to do his homework. Feeling a pang in his stomach, Jin let out a sigh.
At that moment, someone knocked on the door. Standing up from the bed, Yuuya went to answer it.
Standing there was a first year middle school student. The number one lowest in regards to the Senpais, he wasn't even trembling.
“Hey, weren't you that first year handing out onigiri this morning?”
Bowing his head, the boy came into the room.
“I'm Himuro Keita. Araki Senpai, there's a letter that came for you.”
“Letter? Aah, thanks.”
Keita handed the letter to Jin, who was sitting up on his bed. With a tone of admiration, Yuuya spoke to him.
“You've got some guts to come in here not scared. Something like delivering a letter to a Senpai's room, usually people would be pretty scared, and just wait in the hallway or something.”
“But, in order to follow the dorm rules to not have something lost or stolen, all private letters and the like have to be relayed quickly to whoever they're made out to. That's what the dorm head is always saying.”
“Hah? Wait a minute...Himuro......the vice president of the student council?”
“That's right. Eriko is my older sister.”
“Ah, so that's why you've got guts.”
At that, Keita turned a stern gaze on Yuuya.
“I am not hiding or likewise taking profit from the shadow of my sister! Even though you're my Senpai, if you talk like that, I won't forgive you!”
“S-Sorry sorry. I didn't mean to say something so light, so don't get so mad.”
“Well then, please pardon my intrusion.”
Once more lowering his head, Keita left the room. With that Yuuya let out a sigh.
“Geez geez, it's so hard to get along with that honor student type, their prides are so high and all. Doesn't he look like his older sister, Jin?
“I'm not sure, I don't know his older sister after all...”
“Aah, that's right it's impossible to ask you anything about girls. But I can ask you stuff about cuneiform writing can't I?”
“I'd be more helpful with something like that.”
“It's a joke. Who'd ask about that stuff.”
“The oldest cuneiform written laws were Hammurabi's Code.”
“The Student Council Vice President's name is Himuro Eriko. She's famous for holding down a job now to help cover living costs. After getting permission from the school, she goes to a part-time job after class.”
Matching himself to Jin's pace, Yuuya explained it all.
“But apart from that, what's the letter about?”
Jin turned his gaze back towards the envelope. It had a stamp from abroad stuck to it, and the address was even written in English. The paper was rough, and the quality wasn't that high, and with it's scent, it gave off a very ethnic feel. There was also 'Global Express' stuck to the paper. It's postmark date was labeled as a week previous. Written cursively and with a blue fountain pen's ink, the name [Daigo Araki] was clearly written.
“It's from my Dad!”
He had just been thinking about his parents as well, so the timing for the letter was really surprising. On the letter in the blue fountain pen ink, was definitely his Dad's handwriting.
Are you doing well? Since we started the excavation over here, half a month has already passed. We met up with a guide named Sawaad, and he had some reliable information about Solomon's Palace. When the preparations are done, we'll enter the excavation phase tomorrow. It seems like a place where there's no cell phone service, so for a while we won't be able to communicate, but don't worry. It was good we got the satellite phones for your mom, but with the service now she's pretty upset.
Every day your mom worries about you. She's not too sure about life at a dorm, so as to whether you're eating right or not, she's pretty worried.
For me as well, because I don't have the extra funds, I'm causing you a lot of trouble, which I'm sorry for. It's fine if you're mad at us. With all that said, currently in regards to the progress of finding Solomon's Treasure,
At that point the letter began turning into a romance play, so Jin took it, put it back in its envelope, and put that in his shirt pocket. Suiting his own convenience... The contents of the letter just made him angry.
“That's right, you cause me nothing but trouble. You think I wanna hear your excuses?”
With Jin in his elevated anger stage, Yuuya raised his voice to speak.
“With a mood like that, is it Haraheri's fault? Sorry if it's in Haraheri, but I'm heading to the dining hall now.”
“Already? It's still pretty early though.”
“Well, to not have my seat taken, and to get one close to the upper classmen, I can't afford to wait. Well, I'm off solo to go eat chicken soup, beef and miso, but don't feel bad.”
“Then don't give out the menu!”
With that Jin's stomach gave a hungry growl. Laughing maliciously, Yuuya exited the room. How was he supposed to live off just a cupcake.
“...Geez, what a bad personality.”
Trying to figure out what to do about his hunger, he remembered the letter. Though Jin sincerely believed Solomon's Treasure was in Japan, he couldn't help but recall the lines written that said, “We've obtained some reliable information dealing with Solomon's Palace.”
“What does that mean? That it's different from my hypothesis? Just how reliable is the information?”
Thinking to read the letter all the way through this time, he reached his hand into his pocket to take it out.
At that moment, Jin's cell phone began vibrating. Everyday between school and the dorm, there was practically no free time, so their cellphones were always set to silent mode.
Maybe it's from my parents... thinking that, Jin picked it up. It might have to do with something like telling him directly about Solomon's Palace. That's why, when he heard Sierra's voice, he was extremely disappointed.
“...What, it's just you.”
“[W, what do you mean by that!]”
From the very beginning Sierra was already filled with rage. With all that energy it seemed the cellphone's speaker might break. Jin let out a sigh.
“You're already in top gear.”
“[I already told you to call me! What the heck are you doing!?]”
“Don't ask for the absurd. School ends at three, and the dorm doesn't close until six, so there's no way I could call you right?”
“[I heard from your roommate Utada Yuuya, that you'd be missing dinner, so you should be alone now, right?]”
Shocked, Jin couldn't come up with a reply. She was unexpectedly sharp.
“So... did you get my phone number from him as well?”
“[You idiot, if I did that it would turn into a misunderstanding. When I saw your phone at noon break, your number was written on it, right?]”
Shocked again, Jin looked at his phone. Written beneath the LCD screen in thin magic marker was his phone number.
“[A lot of commoners do that. Because there's a lot of people who get their phone number from the company.]”
Sierra laughed with her nose. Above her intelligence was little she would overlook. She gave off the impression of someone in a secluded world, but in reality it was completely different. Another way of thinking is that she doesn't understand the world, but that's not it either. It was a misrepresentation of herself as a humble person, when it was realized how she really acts.
“...That's right. Right now I'm in the room alone, and Yuuya won't be back until seven.”
“[Since it's in a room, and there's no chance of someone seeing me in the maid uniform, then it should be safe. So hurry up and rub the lamp.]”
“The word Genie really does suit you perfectly.”
“[That's rude! Where does that fit me!]”
“It's obvious, 'evil spirit' and 'god' are what make up the symbols for 'Genie' after all.”
To not continue riding on the mood, Jin got off his bed, went over to the desk and pulled the lamp out from one of the drawers, hitting his hand in the process.
“Ah, that's right! Hey, Zadou.”
“[Don't put off calling me, commoner!]”
“More importantly, stop calling me a commoner.”
“[You need something?]”
“When you come, could you bring something with you? Is there any kind of food you could come with?”
Thinking to himself what a good idea he'd had, he asked for Sierra's help. On the other side of the phone, Sierra let out an 'I see' sound.
“[That's a good idea. I'll come soon with something made. Then I won't have to do anything, and you'll thank me tons, right?]”
“Ah, of course! I'll be sure to give you loads of thankfulness.”
It was Hell. Jin said this as he pushed his hand against the rumblings his stomach was making.
“[Then after ten minutes rub the Magic Lamp. You got that?]”
“Ahh, you've let me reach ultimate happiness today.”
Holding the Magic Lamp on his knees, Jin was unusually calm and when he turned to the clock on the wall trembling in anticipation, five minutes had already passed.
The waiting time was long, and the sounds of his empty stomach were painful to hear. And so another five minutes passed. After waiting so long, Jin took the lamp and began scrubbing it frantically. With a popping sound, a violet smoke came out from the lamp. There Sierra stood in her maid clothes, holding a bowl with an unknown number of eggs in it.
“Bow down commoner! Before the almighty Matsusaka Beef Sukiyaki!”
Even with Sierra shouting insults, before his hunger they paled in comparison. Lifting both hands Jin was about to go 'Banzai!' when he suddenly opened his eyes wide, looking at Sierra in front of him.
“....uh, so where is the sukiyaki?”
Sierra looked around her feet. There an iron pot was spread out with a tiny portable gas stove, but that was all.
“Wh, what's this mean? It was definitely here, the finished sukiyaki! There was also some rice definitely in here as well...”
“Well there isn't anything but ingredients and cooking tools. So to raise your magic level...maybe you have to cook yourself?”
Jin shook his head as he looked at the raw egg. Sierra stuck her fist worriedly by her mouth.
“Cooking. What a problem...”
“Don't you have any cooking practice from home economics class?”
“The people that are in my group always end up doing it for me. They keep saying since I'm an idol I shouldn't have to do that stuff.”
“Being pampered goes to show that you can't do something for yourself.”
“Well, just wait until I get started. Then I'll let you try the cooking I have pride in.”
“How can you have pride when you can't cook anything...?”
Jin raised his eyebrow at the mystery. Laughing lightly, Sierra withdrew her cellphone from out of her apron's pocket.
“Ah, hello? Yeah, it's Zadou Sierra. I was wondering if I could have the usual pizza delivered?”
“You mean it's delivered pizza!”
Heatedly Jin took the phone away from Sierra.
“Food that gets delivered is banned here, so if a Pizza Store delivered here, they'd be chased off!”
“That's fine, we can just have them deliver it through the window.”
Sierra snatched back her cellphone. With an “ahh,” Jin clapped his hands.
“You're pretty smart.”
“Isn't that obvious. Don't compare me with a commoner like you.”
“I thought you were supposed to be nice and happy when you get praised.”
“How's that supposed to be when I get praised by some commoner like you!”
“[Uhm...Is anybody there?]”
A voice could be heard from the phone's speaker. With a soft girls voice that sounded quite grown up, the speaker still seemed to be quite young.
“Ah, I apologize. Then please give me the usual deluxe pizza. Ah, and the place of delivery is different than usual. Harusha Academy's Male Dormitory, do you know of it?”
“[Tachibana....is that it?]”
“Yes yes, Tachibana.”
“[Uhm, Tachibana shouldn't have any girls allowed inside...]”
“You know it pretty well. And so I'm in a room on the second floor of the Tachibana dorm, and to not be noticed by some stranger, I would like it if the pizza could be delivered in through the window.”
“[W-Window?......I don't think we can do that...]”
The operator on the other side of the phone seemed to be grinding her teeth as she talked. It wasn't unreasonable to assume it had something to do with the phone call having come from a girl in the the no-girls-allowed, all-male dormitory.
“[Well then, as for your order, if it's the same as always....that's the fourteen inch large size, with truffle, caviar, and foie grass as topings, correct?]”
From behind Sierra's shoulder, Jin impatiently interrupted.
“Hey, I'm just asking to make sure but...you do have money right?”
“Ridiculous. When ordering high class food at a restaurant, 'Is there any money in the wallet?' is something only those destined to be poor would ask.”
Snickering lightly from her nose, Sierra reached her hand into the pocket of her apron.
Her hand felt only emptiness. There was nothing there at all. Turning her pocket inside out, still nothing came out.
“NO WAY! Where's my wallet!? Before I was called out I took every precaution to make sure there would be enough money to cover whatever expenses might show up!”
“So from the beginning you were just thinking of using money anyway.”
“When I passed through the lamp, my clothes did turn into the maid uniform but...that it would disappear as well! Aaah geez! What an annoyingly useless lamp!”
Sierra kicked the lamp in her fury. Sierra followed the rebounding lamp with her eyes as it fell back down. With a clang, she was beat down onto the bed after being hit in the head. Her figure upon kicking it was splendid, with her leg raised over her head. Though at the same time the skirt she was in lifted up high as well.
Jin heatedly slapped his hands over his eyes, turning himself around quickly. Screaming “Kyaa!” and sitting up hurriedly so she was kneeling with the tops of her feet touching the ground, Sierra pushed down on the skirt with one hand while using the other to hold the back of her head.
“You saw it didn't you, Commoner! My head hurts! You saw it!”
“Wh, who saw what!? You were the one who fell by yourself!”
Jin turned back around again, while still holding his hands over his eyes. The operator on the other side of the phone spoke in a worried voice.
“[Uhmm, hello...? Just now there was some kind of loud noise but, how about your order?]”
“It can't be helped. For today, you'll be the one to get it.”
Sierra said this with her finger pointed at Jin.
“Why do I have start going with what you say all of a sudden?”
“If it's a little bit it should be fine right, besides I'll return it at school tomorrow.”
“Even if you say that, right now, I've got no money.”
“You don't even have fifty-thousand yen?”
“There's no way I'm gonna have that! Rather, there's no way one person could plan to eat that much pizza!”
With all his heart Jin was trying to relay this fact of common life to Sierra. Covering her mouth, Sierra seemed to be in distress.
“I, it can't be helped then...There's nothing to do but cancel...”
Even though the operator asked only for the sake of confirmation, Sierra went into a frenzy with her hair seemingly on end, as she turned to the phone.
“I'll tell you one thing though, I'm not canceling because I have no money! There's no way that would happen to someone like me!”
“[I, I didn't say anything though...]”
“To prove it I'll be ordering one-hundred pizzas tomorrow! All of them are going to be double caviar!”
While still fuming Sierra cut the call. Amazed, Jin opened his mouth to speak.
“Even double cheese is over extravagant....but to not just order caviar which they wouldn't normally have anyway, but to order double caviar...”
“Not having money really is humiliating.”
Heartbroken, Sierra fell back onto the bed. Jin clapped his hand onto Sierra's shoulder.
“You didn't actually fall too low you know. After all, there are quite a few times when people will buy too much at a super market, and have to say 'Sorry but, could you please return this and that,' at the register.”
“That's humiliating! In the end there's just no way I can stand to be poor. And for now, there's no other way than for me to raise my level as a Genie!”
“You just have to wait until we find Solomon's Treasure.”
The route was still being read but, according to the letter his parents had sent, it seemed they had uncovered some historic ruins that had a connection with Solomon. Sierra's expression and silence exceeded his expectations, though it didn't continue for long.
“That's because, there's no guarantee when we'll find Solomon's Treasure right? If we wait like that and it takes too long, I don't want to see my parents get divorced. Because of that, I have no choice but to be the Genie of the Lamp.”
Sierra was grasping him firmly. Because of the courage she showed, Jin couldn't help but stroke her head. When Aika was little, after something good happened, or after something that made her cry sadly, “Big Brother” Jin would always stroke her head like this. Stroking her head like that, Aika would always end up showing a happily smiling face. That's why he just reflexively started stroking her head...but Sierra wasn't Aika. One moment blinking in surprise, the next, not understanding what was happening and becoming angry, she turned her scarlet face towards Jin.
“What do you think you're doing all of a sudden!”
“Even if you do that when I haven't done anything, It won't raise my level as a Genie you know! A commoner like you, don't go touching my head like that!”
“So, the satisfaction gauge won't go up if I just rub your head then?”
“That's unavoidable! Don't do useless things!
“Don't you have any kind of order or something?”
Sierra spoke forcibly to Jin. In the end, with his stomach making rumbling noises, he just wanted something to eat.
“I've said it before already, that I'm hungry. But since there's nothing to eat, there's no helping it.”
“Even so, if you don't have anything to tell me to do, it's going to bother me.”
Saying that......Sierra dropped her gaze to the raw eggs she was holding.
“That's it then, it'll be fine as long as I can make an omelet! Luckily there's also a gas stove.”
“Ah, I get it. You'll fry the egg using the iron pot.”
Jin's eyes were sparkling. With a similar happy appearance, Sierra took Jin's hands.
“I know I know! I might just be a genius!”
“With this, I just might be able to make it the twelve hours until tomorrow's breakfast!”
At the same time, the atmosphere turned chilly and quiet as they realized they were hand in hand. Following which they quickly let go. Jin turned to the side looking like he had done something wrong, as Sierra turned her back to him, her face deep scarlet.
“Any, anyway, today I'll have you make the satisfaction gauge go all the way up! I don't want to spend any more time than I have to each day in this dirty place!”
Setting the portable gas stove atop the bed, Sierra lit the flame with a cracking sound. While she's frying up the omelet, I wonder if I should take the time to read the rest of the letter... Jin thought, as he reached his hand into shirt pocket, preparing to take the letter out.
“How would you like it fried? Medium, Rare, or Well-Done?”
Jin scrunched his eyebrows at Sierra's strange question.
“Isn't that how you would cook a steak?”
Rare is when the meat is still relatively pink, Medium is when you use a moderate amount of heat, and most of the pink is gone, while Well-Done is when there is no pink left in the meat, because of leaving on the flame for a long time. He watched as Sierra put three eggs still in their shell into the iron pot above the gas stove, to “fry” them.
“What are you doing?”
In a voice not usually used, Jin had spoken in a tone that was an octave higher than usual.
“It's obvious from watching that I'm frying eggs.”
Sierra replied in a matter of fact tone, as she began to poke the eggs.
“Idiot! Stop it! The eggs will explode, it's dangerous!”
Grabbing her shoulders from behind, Jin pulled Sierra back away from the gas stove. A girl's shoulder width was narrow, and so she fit easily between his hands. Completely dubious about Sierra's cooking method, Jin could only be suspicious.
“You don't want the satisfaction gauge to go up? Don't get in the way of my cooking.”
“Just how is this cooking!”
“Sure it's an omelet, though it may not be what you're used to, but it's actually much more difficult to make than you'd think by watching.”
“This conversation seems like something from a different dimension.”
“I am an idol, so this different dimension is because you're a commoner, right?”
“Don't try to explain it like that! This isn't an omelet, and it doesn't seem like cooking either!”
Turning off the flame of the gas stove, Jin recovered the eggs from the pot. Taking off his jacket, he put them together on the back of a chair at the study desk, leaving him dressed casually in a short-sleeved shirt.
“Listen up, if you're going to make an omelet, you first have to actually crack the egg.”
Next, Jin took the egg and cracked it along the side of the bowl and put the yoke in. Sierra seated herself on her knees, watching attentively the cooking lesson.
“You want to mix the white part and the yellow yoke together, but not too much or it will become hard, so mix lightly. Then, add some sugar for taste, heat up the pot, top it off with some oil, and then put in the eggs...”
He had sugar and oil for cooking. If it was just omelets, Jin's skill was pretty good. Impressed, Sierra clapped her hands together as she continued watching.
“Heh, it's unbelievable how you can do this.”
“I think you're the unbelievable one.” Jin whispered so it couldn't be heard.
“After letting the egg run into the pot, stir it with chopsticks to make sure the air is mixed evenly as well.”
“Why do something like that?”
“If you do it like this, it will come out much better. When it's half done, roll it up as it finishes hardening.”
“I didn't think you were this good.”
“When my parents were away on excavations, I was always left to watch the house, so that's why. I've even learned a lot about doing chores around the house too.”
“Even without a spatula, using just chopsticks you've done really good.”
“If you apply the oil properly, there's no problems. Put in another egg, roll it up again, as much as you like you can do it...”
“They look good.”
“Here, you give it a shot.”
Jin put the omelet he had just finished atop a plate. Cutting the omelet with a utensil she had brought from her home, Sierra ate the piece in one bite. Even though she wasn't wearing lipstick, there was still a noticeable pretty pinkness to her lips as she opened her mouth, and bit into the omelet with white teeth. With just that, Jin felt a throb in his chest.
“Wow, it's really delicious. It's so light and airy...and the layers make the omelet taste like a Millefeuille and a Baumkuchen cake. And it has just the right texture for chewing.”
“Well, you know. The omelet was the first item I learned to cook, so I've got some confidence.”
Slightly embarrassed from being praised by Sierra, Jin lifted his nose into the air. Sierra carried another bite to her mouth.
“Yep, you're really good at cooking.”
“I guess I'm probably not too bad, if I do say so myself.”
“If it's just the omelet, then the taste is worthy of my personal chef.”
“Th, that so...”
“Really, it was delicious. But, if it had been left on the flame for a little bit longer, it would suit my preferences better.”
“A little longer huh...I got it.”
“Well, next time do your best. I'll be waiting.”
“Then, thanks for the meal. You may bow."
“I understand, my master.”
With his head bowed, Jin began cleaning the plates. Stopping suddenly, he turned towards the satisfied looking Sierra, who was busy wiping her mouth with a handkerchief.
“....This isn't right!!!”
“What is it? Is there still desert?”
“That's not it! This is backwards!”
Jin took her arm, forcing her to stand. Sierra knit her eyebrows.
“That hu~rts! Compensate for a girl when you use your strength, commoner!”
“What are you going to do about my satisfaction! You're the one that keeps going 'I want to raise my Genie level!'”
“Ah, ah that's right. I just, started to act like I normally do...”
“You've got this super 'Master' like aura you know. Actually, you're a “Genie”, right? So then, are you really even able to do something for somebody else?”
“Are you suggesting that the word 'impossible' is written in my dictionary?”
“Even if you're burning with pride...”
“I can do it. I can definitely do it!”
Angrily Sierra grabbed hold of the front of Jin's shirt, looking up at him. Sierra's chest pulled in closer to Jin's stomach, until they just touched. Hastily he began pulling back, but Sierra followed forward with him, and the distance between the two closed. It seemed she didn't realize what she was doing to Jin.
“Wait, why are you trying to run away! Listen when people are talking to you!”
“I'm not really trying to run away though.”
“You know, it's because you're here that's the problem! Because you're here, are you trying to interfere while I work!?”
“That's just another excuse.”
“Well I've got that trait about when people are next to me. If there's nobody there, then I can do it!”
With her hands grasping Jin's chest, she stared at him with her lips drawn back. Her cheeks were colored light red. Her frustrated expression made Jin realize she was having trouble.
From the previous results of the “Egg Roast,” he was very uneasy about leaving her alone. But, looking at Sierra with her lips trembling from frustration, Jin felt it couldn't be helped.
(Right now she's got to be frustrated not just by the Genie Level thing, but also because she's having trouble doing this...She's someone with a lot of pride who cares a lot about failing.)
Jin let out a sigh admitting his defeat.
“...I got it. It's fine if I just leave then.”
“Yeah, please do.”
With her response to Jin, she puffed herself up and gave the request in an overbearing manner. Jin gave another sigh at her lack of remorse for her attitude.
“So what's the plan then....”
“Give me thirty minutes. You can come back in after thirty minutes. Because I don't want to be in this dirty room for more than that long.”
Sighing one last time, Jin left the room.
Even though he left the room, he didn't have any place to go. It was currently dinner time right now, so he didn't think it would happen but, if someone happened to enter the room and see Sierra, he would be chased out of the dorm with no place to go. Since it was going to be thirty minutes and he had nothing else to do, Jin thought about reading the letter from earlier, but when he tried to get it, he realized he had no pocket on his shirt. He had taken it off earlier.
“Ah...It's still in the pocket.”
He was really impatient to start reading the next part. But if he entered the room again at this point, he'd get the third degree from Sierra.
“Well, whatever. It's just thirty minutes...thirty minutes...”
Jin sat down in the corridor, and began waiting restlessly.
During that interval, he heard screams and sounds like 'BANG!', 'SLAM!' and 'CLANG!'. Worried yet helpless to do anything about what was going on in his room, while wanting to storm in, he could only close his eyes and ears to the ruckus.
After a while, the door to the room opened with a creak. Standing there with her apron soiled from the ordeal, was Sierra. Mouth agape, Jin could only stare at Sierra with her hair in disarray, while smiling triumphantly.
“Haha. What do you think? Have a look, Commoner!”
She pointed with a slender white finger to the interior of Jin's room. Cautiously, Jin entered the room.
“An omelet that you made, would be....”
Halting in mid sentence, Jin's eyes bulged as he gazed upon a delicious looking omelet resting atop his desk.
“The shape's right!”
“That's the first thing you say?”
A blood vessel pulsed on Sierra's temple. Impressed, Jin admired the omelet from various angles.
“Well that's...I didn't really believe you could do it.”
“Even I can do it if I give it my all you know.”
Sierra was acting with a little more humility than she normally would. It was most likely due to the great effort she had put in. Giving it her all to make the omelet, that was what Jin thought had made her happy. He also ended up becoming a little happy as well.
“Here, give it a taste!”
Sierra grabbed onto his shoulders, and pushed him down onto a chair. He turned to face the omelet, which he thought would be a waste to eat, as it looked so fantastic.
“A,-Ah...then here I go.”
He carried a piece of the omelet that Sierra had already prepared into his mouth. Standing in front of Jin with both hands clasped before her breast, Sierra waited with beating heart and closed eyes. She had looked depressed from earlier, but looking at her serious appearance now, Jin thought that what he had done earlier had really been his mistake.
She's...really not just all talk is she. She's really competitive, but also does things seriously to the best she can.
Putting the layered omelet into his mouth, it unraveled and crumbled with softness as he ate. The fragrance from the egg drifted up and added seasoning as it entered his nose, increasing the overall quality of the omelet by several ten's of times.
“Amazing!” Jin shouted with all his might.
“Really...it's really good?”
Jin's heart beat hard as Sierra asked, holding his arm. She really had small hands. With these small hands and fragile appearance, she had carried a heavy iron pot and portable gas stove all for the sake of letting him eat something...thinking of that, Jin felt even more that what he had done was inexcusable.
In the end the sukiyaki had disappeared, but thinking that she would make him an omelet, and that it would turn out to be done well, no flattery added, he felt really grateful. He was simply expressing how impressed he was to Sierra.
"It's really, really good you know. It's even better than this omelet I had at a Persian Restaurant.
Sierra gave a small jump from her happiness. This happiness didn't come from any connection to the Genie of the Lamp's level, but because with her own power she was able to do something, that was what made her happy. Still impressed, Jin continued eating the omelet. Staring at him, Sierra's palms were getting sweaty as she watched over him.
"It's really amazing. I can't even see how the same person who was going to use the whole egg, ended up making this so good.”
"F, for now, hurry up and forget about that!"
Sierra had definitely turned completely red.
"I got it. Since you're rich, you always eat good things, that suit your taste. That's why, when you make something you think tastes good, it comes out with the most delicious taste."
With that understanding, Jin finished eating the omelet. That was better than if he had given the best praise.
"Thanks for the meal. Really, it was great. Surprisingly good."
"That's a relief."
Breathing a sigh of relief a smile spread across her face. Jin's heart seemed to skip a beat. Looking at his face, Sierra once again blushed deep scarlet, shaking her head furiously from side to side.
"N, no...that's not it! Are you satisfied? Is your chest overflowing with thankfulness to me?"
As Jin Looked at the one who always speaks from a higher position's appearance after having worked so hard, a smile somehow showed on his face. He stopped his verbal abuse, and nodded his head.
"A~h. Because you let me eat something this good, there is no limit to my thanks."
Even without thinking about being happy, a smile floated to his face. For Sierra, it was the first time seeing his smile. She had thought him to be an ill-tempered, brazen man, but she realized his smiling face was very kind. Becoming embarrassed, she for some reason grew angry, with a purposely over-bearing bad mood.
"Your th-thankfulness can't be just words! Can't you even remember that by now!?"
"I got it. It's 'ChiChinPuiPui' right?"
Jin calmed down, but wasn't returning to his normal self, so instead Sierra grew angrier and even redder.
"I...if you get it, then hurry up and rub my head!"
With her eyes downcast, the upset Sierra held her head out towards Jin.
"Then here goes. ChiChinPuiPui."
Focusing on his thankfulness, Jin rubbed her head. Suddenly, Sierra's whole body became wrapped in light. Looking at the shining Sierra with an appearance like an Angel, Jin sucked in his breath, watching. Sierra was also surprised with herself giving off light, and looked down at her body.
"Amazing! With this, it just might..."
Sierra took the Magic Book from out of her pocket. Opening the very first page, Arabian writing had started to appear. Sierra lept with joy.
"Yay! I've got my first spell!"
"Yeah- it's thanks to you!"
Sierra said with force to Jin who had on a kind expression, causing her to return to herself. Embarrassed and with a scarlet face, Sierra again picked up her attitude.
"N,-No...It's because I went all out, so it's obvious you should be thankful. The satisfaction gauge could have gone up more. Since you're just a commoner, eating such a delicious omelet, there could have been two or three more spells that showed up, don't you think?”
Seeing through Sierra who had become more reserved and embarrassed, Jin couldn't stand any more. It really seemed to him that her actions much more suited a kid.
"So, how do you read...this spell?"
Sierra asked Jin sullenly.
"A Magic Book you can't use, you're hopeless!"
"Well, how am I supposed to know Arabian! It's not J-S-J you know."
"This is read 'Lammul.'"
Jin read the Arabian letters confidently. Impressed, Sierra looked at Jin with eyes as round as saucers.
"How come you can read it?"
"Well, because to search for Solomon's Treasure, I've read a lot of Arabian books."
"You know...you're pretty amazing."
Impressed, Sierra let out a sigh. It seemed she couldn't fully appreciate his skills. By no means was he inferring that Sierra was praising him, he just became a bit shy and his head spun lightly.
"It's not really that...amazing. It's just, from using my dictionary I've slowly been able to remember stuff..."
"Well, I thought the only thing I could do was just ask Papa when I get home. So, what's it mean?"
Preparing to reply, Jin took a deep breath. Sierra was staring intently at him. Her eyes were deep and sparkling just like space, and seemed to be drawing in their surroundings.
It was that which really made Jin realize what it was about Sierra that Yuuya, the other guys, and even Aika saw. It was the first time he understood that, she had a quality that anybody would find attractive.
Feeling as though he were about to be swallowed up by Sierra, staring at her, Jin was unable to stand. Sierra as well, could feel Jin stiffen. The next thing they both thought of was why they didn't know why this was pleasant, and so they waited a bit, standing upright like a pole.
Just then, Jin noticed the sound of dripping water, and looked around.
“What's that sound?”
Searching around, Jin noticed clothes hung outside his window on hangers. The water was dripping from the clothes, and hitting the window sill.
“Are those my clothes?”
The clothes he had taken off sometime earlier and left on the bed, his shirt, pants and even his underwear...Since it was so much trouble to take care of dirty laundry, he had decided to amass a pile before going to wash them at the dorm's coin laundry place. Little by little he was building up, but...
“W-Where did you wash them?”
“At the sink over there, they were really dirty.”
“You even washed my underwear? By hand?”
Jin's face turned scarlet. At that time, he noticed that among the hanging laundry was also his jacket.
Jin focused his eyes. Now that it was brought up, he couldn't recall seeing the jacket on the back of the study chair when he had eaten the omelet. Getting worried, Jin turned his gaze back to the chair. It really wasn't there. His blood pressure began to rise.
“You washed it?”
“You can tell by looking.”
“Why did you wash it?”
“It's like I said earlier, they were dirty. It was because of that mountain of books, I wasn't thinking of washing them for you, but I didn't want their dirt contaminating the omelet, so I washed them first.”
But what Sierra had said never entered Jin's ears. In order to confirm it, he went over and picked out the jacket. Reaching his hand into the pocket, he searched around before finding the letter mailed to him by his father. It had been washed as well, so the paper was all ruined. The blue ink had blended with the water, having caused it to disappear completely.
At that point, Jin stood with a mix of astonishment and terror.
“Before washing, you didn't check to see if anything was in the pocket?”
“There's no way I'd stick my hand into some Commoner's pocket, is there?”
Sierra said, full of confidence. Despairing, Jin turned his head to the side.
“Checking for pockets before washing, isn't that obvious!? You've totally destroyed what was in there!”
Jin thrust the ruined letter out under Sierra's nose. She froze. It seemed she had just realized what she had done. Her pride was too high though to allow her to apologize.
“It's...it's all your mistake for putting something in your pocket.”
Listening to Sierra with her arms crossed blame him instead, Jin's voltage jumped a level.
“What are you saying! All I did was take off my clothes in my own room, and you went and washed them on your own! You didn't even ask!”
“W-Why do I have to ask permission from a Commoner like you!”
“If you do something wrong, usually you'd apologize!”
“Why do I have to lower my head to a Commoner like you! A... all I did was get the paper a little wet!”
“This was a letter from my old man. There was a high possibility that there was something written about Solomon's Treasure!”
An interval passed after Jin raised his voice, and in that time Sierra's mouth was open in shock.
Sierra knew that Jin was searching for Solomon's Treasure, and she was looking for it for her own sake as well. But, the fact that Jin was so angry over something like this, was probably because he was lonely after his parents had left him and gone off, and Sierra, who held onto the same feelings in regards to her own parents, could somehow understand how he must be feeling. It seemed he himself wasn't aware of it, but that's exactly why he became so angry over the letter, she could understand that better than anybody.
Because she understood what had happened, she could feel the pain of it. It was obvious Jin would be angry, and her heart beat painfully, but even so she just couldn't bring herself to apologize.
“I...I didn't know.”
The best she could do was just make excuses. Jin couldn't take any more of the unapologetic Sierra, and so he took a deep breath, pushed the hair in front of his eyes away,, and spoke in a low voice.
“I'm sick of being used in your money-making scheme. Just go home.”
He had spoken in a distant, cold voice. Up until now this hadn't happened...His distanced appearance also seemed as if it were telling Sierra the same thing. Sierra's scared body trembled, and she squeezed her eyes tight. Just him disregarding her to this extent was enough to wound her fragile heart, is something Jin didn't think about. Until now, there had never been one person to disregard her existence, which was why this hurt so much.
After Jin gave her the order to go back home, Sierra was sucked back into the lamp. At that moment, it seemed as though there were tears in her eyes, but with the blood rushed to his head, Jin couldn't care less.
“It would've been better had I never summoned that selfish girl. I won't summon her again.”
Jin threw the Magic Lamp into the trash bin.
Wanting to read the letter from his Father once more, he tried to open it, but it was useless.
“...it really is no use.”
Crumpling the letter into a ball, Jin tossed it into the trash as well.
Hanging from the ceiling was a black and red spider, the same one that Jin had chased out through the window the other day. The spiders onyx-black eyes glittered in the light, it had heard everything, having climbed in the window at the time the laundry had been put out.
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