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Chapter 333: b.u.t.terfly Kiss
Food King Hara?
It sounded like the kind of nickname you would slap on a glutton. In fact, he was a glutton, a very meticulous one too.
“Is he famous?” Cillin asked.
“Very!” Snarker and Xingfu replied in unison.
“Looks like I should try to keep up with the times more.”
“No, I’m sure you’ve seen this before.” Snarker took out a fruit cake’s plastic bag and pointed at the logo—a big smiling face—and this time Cillin recognized it. It was a famous brand in GAL, and Tang Qiuqiu purchased sweets under this brand before. After he performed a simple background check and learned that it was produced by a factory belonging to the Andrea Family, he never looked at it again. It just didn’t seem like an important detail to remember at the time.
In fact, fish biscuit was the one and only food product Cillin was most familiar with. It was because Wheeze went through them like a vacuum, and its taste only grew more refined as time pa.s.sed (which is to say it was a very picky eater). This was why Cillin’s knowledge of fish biscuits was far more in-depth than any other food. Unfortunately, this smiley brand didn’t product fish biscuits. The fish biscuit factory the Andrea Family was contracted with was a different brand.
Information regarding Sector S had always been scarce to an outsider. In the case of Food King Hara, the man wanted to maintain a low profile and requested the help of several big shots and the Andrea Family to make it so, so he wasn’t known to the public until chaos descended upon GAL and turned everything upside down. Even so, very few people had actually met the man before—more so in Sector S, much less so everywhere else. He was like a blip on the radar compared to his own brand and t.i.tle.
“Are you guys saying that the owner of this smiley brand is Food King Hara? I’ve always thought that it belonged to the Andrea Family.”
“No, they just share a partners.h.i.+p.” Snarker showed Cillin some info regarding Hara.
Hara believed that eating was a kind of pleasure, and he has been very interested in its art since a young age. He had never received any high level education, and he started his career as a restaurant waiter. This meant that he was a man who started from the bottom and climbed all the way to the top. This alone would be an impressive achievement in this day and age, but it was still nothing compared to the story of his gene rank. Hara was originally a D-rank human, but today his genes were A-rank. It was rumored and later confirmed that the Food King’s genes somehow improved via eating.
He… ate until he became A-rank? No wonder he’s called the Food King.
“Some people say that he could ‘gift’ a food a specific kind of feeling, but I have no idea if it’s just a metaphor or a real thing. Only a handful of people has ever eaten the food he personally made. Still, there is no smoke without fire, so the rumors can’t be completely unfounded even if the Food King turns out to be lesser than his legends. Unfortunately, there is no realistic way to confirm this since Food King barely makes food for anyone these days. Not even my boss has tasted his delicacies before.
There’s another rumor saying that a beggar on the streets shares the same chance as the Food King’s own son and grandchildren to eat the food he makes. It all depends on his mood at the time. That is why people say that it is a blessing to be able to eat his food!” Snarker said longingly.
Suddenly, Xingfu took a sip of tea and interrupted, “I ate his food before.”
Snarker and Cillin: “...”
What is this absolutely unsubtle attempt to boast?
The duo showed no signs of replying, so Xingfu added, “And it wasn’t a one-time thing.”
Snarker stared at the young man who pretended to be collected, but couldn’t control the corner of his lips from turning upward. He felt very much giving him a punch or two.
Finally, Xingfu ended his impression with a wistful sigh. “He truly deserves to be called the Food King!”
“How can I contact him?” Cillin asked.
Snarker kept quiet and looked at Xingfu. He didn’t have an answer for Cillin because he didn’t know where the Food King was living—he didn’t even know that Hara had lived on this planet until Cillin showed up. The man was as mysterious as his legends made him sound like. It was rumored that the Food King has a stranger temper. He loved to smile, but it could be a killer smile or a killer killer smile depending on the situation. Long story short, he was quite the complex personality. He would never have made it to his his current status and influence otherwise.
Xingfu shook his head. “I don’t have a way of contact him, but my father does. I’ll give him a call.”
In Golden Beginning, the closest person to Food King Hara was undoubtedly Xingfu’s father, Gensheng. In fact, Hara treated Gensheng much better than most people, and by extension Xingfu and Xingji as well. It was the only reason they got to eat the food he made more than once.
And so Xingfu contacted his father and requested Hara’s contact information, but Gensheng refused to oblige at the beginning. It took the young man almost an hour of begging—even going so far as to throwing a tantrum and pretending to be pitiful; both tactics that normally disgusted him—before he finally got his puzzled father to agree to contact Hara on his behalf. Even so, the man didn’t give out Hara’s contact method because he promised never to do so without the latter’s permission, especially since it would only bring Hara trouble.
The communication went through. It was clear from the sheer amount of encryption that Hara really, really disliked having his being interrupted. However, it equally showed just how much Hara cared for Gensheng.
A plump, smiling face appeared on the screen after the video call finally connected. It was impossible to tell the man’s age from his features alone, especially since his skin looked as smooth as a baby’s, and he looked to be in well spirits. It was more proof that the Food King’s genes grew better via eating.
“Food king grandpa!” Xingfu greeted the man respectfully.
“h.e.l.lo, little Xingfu! Did you run into some trouble? Why did you contact me so urgently?” said Hara with a kind smile on his face.
“A friend of mine wants to ask you something. It’s urgent!” Afraid that Hara would grow annoyed, Xingfu went straight to the point and emphasized that his business was urgent. Speaking of which, Snarker didn’t leave the scene because he wanted to “witness the living legend with his own eyes”, he said.
Hara displayed no signs of anger as he asked, “Is that so? Who is it?”
Xingfu immediately waved a hand and motioned for Cillin to speak.
“h.e.l.lo. I’m Cillin.”
Cillin greeted Hara respectfully; the way a younger person would greet his elder. It improved Hara’s impression of him a bit because he wasn’t acting scared or reserved like most people would in his presence.
“What is your question for me?”
“I’ve been entrusted to retrieve a personal effect he left in your care.”
Food King Hara’s smile froze for a second. Then, it gradually wore off until he wasn’t smiling at all.
Behind Cillin, Snarker and Xingfu were so nervous that they didn’t even dare to breathe loudly. Not only had they never seen an unsmiling Hara before, they never thought that the term “severe” could be synonymous to this man. It was simply unthinkable until it happened right before their eyes.
Snarker felt like running away. It was just an image, but the pressure building up rapidly in his heart made him feel as cold as ice.
“And what is this personal effect you speak of?”
The temperature in the room dropped several degrees even though the question was voiced indifferently. However, the keen-eyed might notice a slip of composure behind his mirthless eyes. For someone with his experience to slip up like that? It just showed how affected he really was by this turn of events.
Food King Hara looked down and sucked in a deep breath. Then, he looked at Xingfu and Snarker and said, “You two, get out of the room now. Do not return until our conversation is done!”
The look of relief on Snarker and Xingfu’s face resembled the look of a death convict who was given clemency as they hurried out of the room. It was after the fact that Snarker realized that he just carried out the order of an outsider. He was a member of Flying Snake, and he only took orders from Qi Geyou. And yet, there was no denying the fact that he had obeyed Hara’s demand without hesitation!
Is this the presence of the Food King?
After the duo were gone, Hara asked Cillin in the Mist Bodhisattva tongue, “What happened to him afterward?”
Cillin replied using the same language, “He’s doing very well right now.”
“What?!” Hara was trying to test if Cillin was lying to him, but the answer he got was beyond his wildest imaginations. Food King Hara was said to only have one expression—a smile—so this was the second time his expression changed today.
His astonishment was completely understandable though. Genya already looked like a dying man when he left his family, and many more years had pa.s.sed since then. Hara was prepared to hear that Genya had pa.s.sed away, but not this.
“What do you mean by that exactly?!”
“I mean that he’s safe and healthy right now. However, he is unable to return right now, so he asked me, his disciple to retrieve the logbook he left in your care.”
An entire minute of silence later, he asked, “Where are you right now?”
Cillin told him his celestial coordinate and address, and Hara snorted. He sounded both incredibly happy and relieved. “That’s a coincidence. Well, come find me now at this location. Oh right, take Xingfu with you as well.”
Hara took out a map and pointed at a certain location. To Cillin’s surprise, it was the exact same area and location he received from Genya. As it turned out, Hara never left the place even after the place was rebuilt. Not even Snarker was aware of this.
And so Cillin, Wheeze and Xingfu traveled to their destination. It was located in a bustling food street, a place no one expected the famous Food King to live in.
There were tall buildings on both sides of the street. The ground floor were covered in food stalls or restaurants of all kinds, and the upper floors were where the residents lived.
There was a huge restaurant on this foot street, and its logo was the smiley everyone was familiar with. It was—and has always been—positively jampacked with customers right now.
A guide was waiting for them outside the restaurant when they arrived. He led them to the third highest floor of the building.
No one expected someone like Hara to live together with a bunch of normal people. With his kind of wealth and status, he could’ve bought the entire building for himself if he wanted to.
The three floors on the top of the building was a triplex apartment. The door opened on its own when they arrived at the entrance, and closed after they went inside.
The smell of various food entered their nostrils and caused Wheeze to look left and right the second they entered the apartment.
The interior was fairly simple and not at all extravagant. Physical paintings were hung on the walls instead of the flashy displays most rich people preferred to use. Judging from the different scents of sweets emanating from them, the paintings were drawn using sugar.
“Hey.” Hara walked out of his bedroom and greeted them. He was fat, but his footsteps were steady and unimpeded by his size.
“h.e.l.lo!” Cillin and Xingfu greeted back in unison.
Hara examined Cillin from head to toe the moment he walked over. His gaze ultimately paused at the curly leaf pattern around Cillin’s finger.
“It’s him! It’s really him! He, he’s...” The Food King was so excited that he could barely stop himself from stuttering. “He’s alive? He really is alive?!”
“Yes. He’s doing very well right now.”
“Then why hasn’t he come back to see us? He didn’t need to hide for so long!”
In his excitement, Hara slapped the armrest of a chair and caused Wheeze’s tail to puff up in fright. The glutton was preparing to steal some food until the surprise action.
Cillin let out a sigh. “He put himself in a deep coma to prolong his life as much as possible. He only awakened after he returned home and received treatment.”
Hara walked back into his bedroom. A short while later, he came back out with a small, locked logbook and pa.s.sed it to Cillin.
He pointed at the nearby study and said, “You can read the logbook over there. Xingfu, talk to me for a moment, will you?”
It was obvious what he was hinting at. He didn’t want Xingfu to see the logbook, so the young man obliged and stayed with him for a chat.
Wheeze didn’t follow Cillin this time. Hara didn’t reprimand the gray despite discovering that it was stealing his food, so it took it as permission and began eating right in front of the Food King’s face. It was the perfect example of the kind of person who took a mile when given an inch.
Back to Cillin. After giving the logbook a cursory look, Cillin moved his ring closer to the lock.
The logbook became unlocked just like that.
Originally, Genya meant to use the logbook as a captain’s log. Instead, it turned into his personal diary.
The logbook contained footages and notes Genya made before and after he stumbled into GAL. For example, it contained a record of the navigation routes prior to encountering the Shortcut, and some notable events that happened afterward. He had emerged in Sector S and was saved Angenia shortly after that. One might attribute the encounter to both great luck and destiny. If he hadn’t encountered Angenia that day, he should’ve died a long time ago. GAL was a galaxy where only the strong survived, and great n.o.bles like Genya weighed nothing without their private army to protect them. He might be able to defend himself against people of his rank or lower, but he was nothing but a small fry to the Hunters.
Some time later, Genya and Annie fell in love with one another. Naturally, there were many people who found their relations.h.i.+p ridiculous—he was as mediocre as she was excellent— and mocked him for it.
Genya was very young when he encountered Hara for the first time—not long after he entered adulthood. Hara himself was just a waiter at a small restaurant on a food street.
Hara was engaging his boss in a heated argument about the food ingredients they were using to make their food. At the end, it resulted in him resigning and the boss sending some thugs after him. He would’ve been beaten to death if Genya—or more accurately, his bodyguards—hadn’t saved him.
Genya was the one who suggested Hara to open his first restaurant with the smiling face as his brand. He even invested money in it since Hara didn’t have the capital to kickstart his business.
Cillin played a video, and it showed a young Genya and Hara staring at their small restaurant and grinning like idiots.
“I believe in you, Hara! I’m sure you’ll be able to spread the joy of your food to everyone!” A young Genya said.
“Of course!” Hara replied confidently.
It was a success. The restaurant’s size and fame kept growing, and from time to time Angenia would come over to eat the food Hara made. It was also during this time Genya taught Angenia and Hara the Mist Bodhisattva language.
Genya addressed Angenia as “Annie”, and she was already quite the accomplished woman at the time. It was clear from Genya’s personal notes and records that he missed his family a lot, but his disappointment at being unable to return home was lessened a lot by the presence of his lover, Annie and his best friend, Hara.
However, Annie’s excellence only highlighted Genya’s mediocrity, and countless people called him a shameless gigolo behind his back. Genya himself knew that he lacked the smarts, the ruthlessness and the ability to make it in this galaxy, and the one thing he could pride himself in, his background amounted to nothing here, not to mention that he had to keep it a secret in the first place. But for Annie, he quietly endured all the ridicules and abuses.
Some time later, Annie gave birth to a baby boy. He was Xingfu’s father, Gensheng.
This was hardly a unique event for a couple, but in Genya’s case it was noteworthy for a very different and disturbing reason. Because he hadn’t received his second injection after reaching adulthood, his genes declined and caused him to age faster than he should. As a result, he looked like an old man just decades after he became stranded in GAL.
Hara, Angenia, his bodyguards, and everyone else looked as young as ever. He was the only one who had grown old.
Genya had mentioned the Gen Family’s naming rule to Angenia. Every five generations, the fifth generation must have the word “Xing”—meaning “Star”— in their names. Genya’s grandchildren would be the fifth generation, so when Gensheng had a son or daughter, they should have the word “Xing” in their names.
Cillin had a feeling that Genya was terrified that Angenia had forgotten about the naming rule. He was afraid that his grandchildren wouldn’t have the word “Xing” in their names.
Clearly, his worry was unfounded. Not only did Angenia remember it, she had stuck to it scrupulously.
Barring some exceptions, Sector S was without a doubt the most compet.i.tive Sector in the entire GAL. It was an endless war where the key to victory often rested on one’s cunning and ruthlessness. Angenia’s father, the leader of Golden Beginning only had two daughters, and Angenia was chosen and raised to be its successor since young. At the time, Angenia wasn’t yet the official leader, and Golden Beginning wasn’t nearly as stable as it was now. One weakness could be covered, but two could only be a disaster. Genya knew full well that Angenia already had her hands full just trying to protect Gensheng, so during those tumultuous times he made sure to tread every step cautiously to avoid burdening Angenia even more than she already was.
From the notes Genya left behind, Cillin learned that he was filled with self-hatred just like Xingfu at the time. Their fates had been sealed entirely by their genes, and the ways of the great Fuji Gen Family meant nothing in GAL. There was simply nothing he could do to help at all.
The final video in the logbook was captured by Hara himself. In the video, Genya was hugging a tiny Gensheng and pressing their faces together affectionately. Gensheng’s long eyelashes brushed against Genya’s wrinkly face and sent ripples of warmth into the old man’s heart.
Hara urged Gensheng, “C’mon, give your father a kiss! I’ll take a photo for you!”
The toothless baby was making bubbles with his mouth, but he seemed to understand what Hara was saying. He kissed Genya in the cheeks and left behind a huge stain of saliva, but Genya still smiled until his face was completely covered in wrinkles.
Later on, Hara personally made a milk cake that even a baby like Gensheng could eat. Its name, was “b.u.t.terfly Kiss”.
Genya wrote on the page behind that video: “b.u.t.terfly Kiss is very tasty. It is a kind of happiness brushes lightly against the heart, but leaves behind a permanent memory you will never forget. I am satisfied, and I think… that it is time I finally let go.”
On the last page of the logbook, Genya used a lollipop to draw some pictures. They were all pictures of Gensheng and Angenia…
Cillin closed the logbook and closed his eyes. He could feel Genya’s pain and helplessness. His master couldn’t even become a warrior like Shusag because he could barely protect himself in Sector S at the time.
Thankfully, those difficult times were all in the past. Genya would return, and that day might be closer than he believed.
Cillin walked out of the study intending to show Xingfu some of the records and deepen his understanding of his grandfather. However, his melancholy was completely shattered when he saw it.
This G.o.dd.a.m.n embarra.s.sment of a cat!