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Chocolate: A Sailor Moon Retelling

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A sudden burst of fireworks lights up the night sky! A new year has come to fill people’s hearts with ambition and hope. Towns and cities across the country are celebrating with music, dancing, and parade floats lining their streets, while others ring temple bells and release lanterns into the first sunrise of the new year. 

As the sun rises, the fisherman and his dog, Sora, walk along the wharf in their hometown of Hirado. He stops to watch the sunrise and remembers some of young Nephrite’s last words to him, “Don’t be sad! I’ll come back to Hirado before you know it, so you don’t need to miss me too much.”

 

“Don’t be worried,” says Makoto to her mirror image in the bathroom at D-Point hospital, “It’s a new year and a new me.” 

She lightly taps her cheeks with both hands, “I can do this!” 

She leaves the bathroom and walks over to General Admitting. 

“Can I help you?” Says the attending nurse. 

“You know, I’ve been battling terrible migraines for a few weeks now and I went to a walk-in clinic, but to no avail,” she lets out a nervous chuckle. 

The nurse pulls up a schedule on her computer, “Unfortunately Dr. Suzuki is not accepting any new patients at this time. If this is urgent, please wait in emergency for the next available doctor.”

“Oh, actually I’d like to see Dr. Nephrite Kurokami.”

“I’m very sorry but Dr. Kurokami left for Libya a few days ago.”

Completely wide-eyed and shocked, she barely finds her voice and whispers, “What?”

---

A sudden burst of sound fills the air as bomber jets appear in the sky. War has come to Libya, filled with death and devastation. Nephrite steps out of the tiny hospital van to a jarring experience. The horizon is lined red with fire; half of the town is ablaze. He hears the screams of pain and loss from injured people begging for help, nearly drowned out by the roar of planes rushing past overhead. With no time to process his situation, Nephrite snaps out of his shock as best he can and rushes up the stairs of a nearby building to help evacuate citizens as it starts to crumble. He sees many people huddled together in small groups, crying out in pain and fear. He helps a frail woman crouched beside a window and starts to escort her out, when an explosion hits the building with a deafening “BANG!” Both of them are hurled forward and slam against the ground. With his ears ringing and his vision slightly blurry, Nephrite fights to stay conscious. Lucky to be alive with only a few scratches, he stands up and checks on the woman who is now lying in a limp heap. Fighting off panic and tears, he carries the lady in his arms out of the building and into the ambulance. 

 

Months pass as Nephrite volunteers his time away at the rundown hospital. The halls are poorly lit and smell of mildew while the rooms are small and doorless, with barred windows. Each morning he walks through the entrance is reminded of walking into a jail. 

“Fitting,” he thinks dryly, “Since I’m here against my will.” 

The hospital has minimal equipment, is completely understaffed, and packed with casualties. A woman covered in blood reaches out and grabs Nephrite’s leg, “Sir, can you please help?” She says in Arabic. “Can you please take a look? My son is severely injured.” She points to her son, lying unconscious on the floor. 

Nephrite performs a quick body assessment and decides the best course of action for treatment is surgery. He changes into scrubs and performs surgery on the child, sewing stitches in the side of his head. 

After too long of a shift at the hospital, Nephrite is driven back to his lodgings. He is taken to the outskirts of town, a dry grassy field with some sturdy green bushes scattered about. He walks out of his minimalistic room to see three young kids playing in the dirt. He chuckles, happy to see some simple joy in this world. He watches them dig holes and giggle as he lights up a cigarette. Taking a long drag, he breathes out, and relaxes into the pleasure. He watches the kids through the smoky haze and sees one of them find something in the dirt and start to play with it. Nephrite’s hazy daze quickly leaves him as he recognizes what it is, “HEY! NO! DON’T TOUCH THAT!” But it’s too late, the mortar shell explodes in that small child’s hands, instantly killing all three children. The windows and doors shatter, sending bits of glass and wood everywhere. Nephrite is blown back by the force and slams into a concrete pillar. 

***

6 months later - Summer

 

Months fly by as Makoto buries herself in her work. So completely focused, she knows where every pot, pan, dish, knife, and ingredient is by memory. One day at work, while washing a pile of fruits and vegetables, she daydreams of Nephrite and the war in Libya. Scenes of Nephrite, badly injured, laying in his hospital bed run through her mind as she starts frying the steak. “Six months without any news about Nephrite, and now I hear that he was so badly injured, he might not make it home…”

She imagines walking down D-Point Hospital’s courtyard steps and sitting down at the same bench where she first saw Nephrite. He magically appears, dressed in grey scrubs with a red trim and walks over, sitting down on the other side of the bench. She turns toward him and smiles shyly. “Hello,” she says, and he stays silent. She continues, “I heard you were critically injured... I was curious about you, I wanted to know more about the time you spent growing up without me. I wanted to see if you would remember me.” He looks up at the sky, still saying nothing. She lets out a small giggle, “I’m also curious about this ‘Chocolate Shasha’ dessert you said you’d make for me.” She stares longingly at him while fighting her heartache, “I want to know more about you; what you’ve been through while growing up, your treasured and heartbreaking memories, I want to know it all.” Tears start to stream down her face, “So please, please Nephrite, come home alive and let me hear everything about you.” He shimmers and fades slowly away, as she hears her name being called in the distance.

---

It’s been a fresh new year for D-Point Hospital and fittingly Tourmaline has treated himself to a nice big office, complete with lavish black leather furniture, wall-mounted TV, and a huge plaque of D-Point’s logo engraved onto gold hung on the wall behind his desk. He leans back on his office chair taking in the luxury, when Zoisite suddenly explodes through the door.

“What is going on?” Zoisite yells at his father.

“Whatever do you mean?” Tourmaline lightheartedly responds. 

“Did you decide to take Nephrite off life support?” 

Tourmaline takes off his glasses and gives him a stern look, “Your all-wise grandmother Beryl made that decision. I assume you’ve heard that Nephrite won’t make it.”

“NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT HE’LL MAKE IT!!!” 

“Zoisite!” Tourmaline scolds. 

“I swear Dad, leave Nephrite alone or you’ll be sorry. I won’t just sit back and watch,” he says with a vengeance.

Halfway through storming out, Zoisite stops and without turning around says, “You know what Dad? You didn’t have to send Nephrite to Libya like the biggest coward in the world. I know I could beat him, I know I’m better than him.” 

And with fire in his eyes, he turns around and shouts, “I could have crushed him with my talent and skill! We all know you were no match against your brother, but I’m different. I’m not a big incompetant failure like you.” Resuming his storm off, he slams the door so hard that a painting on the wall adjacent falls to the ground with a loud crack. 

“That stupid little brat. How rude.”

 

As Zoisite storms out of his father’s office in his ever-graceful manner, he finds Nephrite’s friend Takahiro, standing just outside the office. “What are you doing here?” Zoisite snaps.

“I’m here to plead on behalf of Nephrite’s life, so your father can give Nephrite a fighting chance.”

Zoisite, having no available space for anyone else’s emotions, just turns and walks away.

Takahiro shouts at him, “How can your family hate him so much? Were you that frightened about this hospital becoming his down the road that you had sent him off to his death?!”

Zoisite whips around defensively, “You said you’re here to beg from my dad. So do that, and leave.” 

“Nephrite’s blood is on you and your family’s hands, he ended up this way because of you!” Takahiro yells as tears stream down his face.

Zoisite stomps over and slams him up against the wall, “Did I fucking stutter? Do what you came for and leave, you prick.”

Takahiro, feeling the full heat of his rage, grabs Zoisite by the collar and pulls his face closer, “Your family did nothing when his mother passed away. You all just swept it under the rug, denying a funeral, let alone a proper burial. You pretended she never existed while he cried to your face and you acted like nothing was wrong! You cremated his mother and wiped her existence out without a trace!” 

Seeing a chance to spread his hurt feelings around, he callously replies, “My family was embarrassed of her. That woman, Nephrite’s mother, was an embarrassing flaw we had to hide.”

“Regardless, you never gave Nephrite the chance to properly say goodbye! She doesn’t even have a grave he can visit!”

With a fiercely cold look in his eyes, Zoisite responds, “I guess they knew that would happen, that Nephrite would never be able to visit her.” He brushes Takahiro’s hands from his collar and walks off. Confused and in even more pain, Takahiro whispers, “What?” And he falls to his knees, weeping uncontrollably.

 

Night falls, and Makoto decides to walk over and sit at that hospital park bench she was daydreaming about. While looking around and wallowing in her own misery, she notices a defeated-looking young man walk down the hospital steps. For a brief moment, her heart flickers, imagining it to be Nephrite. Takahiro sits down at a nearby bench and softly cries to himself. 

“I’m not the only miserable soul wandering around these parts,” Makoto thinks to herself. She rummages around in her bag, finding a pack of tissues. Standing up, she walks over to him, places the package down on the bench without acknowledging him, and continues walking. 

“Did an angel just gracefully float by and gift me with tissues?” Takahiro thinks to himself, completely enchanted with Makoto, watching her walk away.

 

The next evening, Makoto tirelessly works through her shift, kneading dough while her mind wanders elsewhere. Her boss comes over, “Makoto, your brother is here.” She takes no notice and absentmindedly continues to knead the dough. “Hey, Makoto!” Her boss shouts, while tapping her on the shoulder. 

She snaps out of it, “Sorry?”

“Your brother is here,” her boss says once again, with emphasis. Grabbing Makoto by the shoulders, she turns her around and pushes her toward the entrance to the dining area.

Slightly frazzled, Makoto brushes her apron off and walks over to where her brother is seated. 

As she approaches the table, Makoto irritatedly calls out, “Shinichi!”

“OH!” He exclaims in overemphasized delight as he stands up. The man sitting with him also stands, straightening his dark blue pinstripe suit. He quickly combs his overly gelled hair back and sprays breath freshener in his mouth. Shinichi springs into action like a television host, “This is my sister, Makoto Kino, a beautiful chef who puts her heart and soul into everything she cooks.”

“Hello gorgeous,” the man says with an air of sleazy confidence, “I’ve heard so much about you.”

She politely gives a shallow bow. As Shinichi gestures for everyone to sit, Mako hits him in the arm and gives him a dirty look. He responds by widening his eyes in embarrassment, thinking she’s annoyed at his forgetting to introduce the suitor.

“You know the biggest steak house in the country, right? They are doing so well they were able to franchise and are now raking in loads of money! He is the eldest son of that family.” Shinichi flashes a huge grin. Makoto dryly responds with irritation in her face, “Enjoy your meal.” 

She then turns to the man, politely addressing him despite her rising irritation, “It was nice to meet you.” And again, she courteously bows and walks away.

Before she gets far the man blurts out, “You cook as well as run the restaurant? Sounds like it would be difficult to juggle both.” 

Makoto stops, turns around, and walks over to him. Glaring and barely holding back her thunderous anger, Makoto says, “Is that so?”

Shinichi jumps in immediately to quell the tension, “Oh ho ho! Sounds like you know the trade! Even though this restaurant may seem small, running a business is serious stuff and she’s doing it by herself!” 

He leans toward the man, “Honestly, there’s a lineup around the block of men wanting to date her, but it’s my duty to protect her and make sure her boyfriend exceeds my standards, like you do. Wouldn’t it--”

Pushed to the limits of her irritation, Makoto pulls her brother’s shoulder back, “And just who is it you’re talking about?”

Shinichi, oblivious to her anger, responds seriously, “You, obviously.” 

He continues to brag about his sister, “You know, everyone said she’d win the Miss Photogenic award if she entered the Miss Japan beauty pageant. Everyone tried to convince her to participate but she refused because she’s always had such a confident mindset.” 

Shinichi continues, growing in volume as if announcing to the whole restaurant, “In this shallow society, she’s vehemently against judging people based solely on their looks--”

Her rage now fully unleashed, Makoto smacks Shinichi upside the head, yelling, “Enough!”

She sighs and turns to the man, asking, “What’s your name?”

“Reo Yamamoto.” 

Mr. Yamamoto, I’m so sorry this punk has wasted your time. He is trying to dupe you. Have you loaned him any money yet?”

“Not yet,” he replies. 

“He’ll likely ask you if he can borrow some money very soon and I can assure you he won’t pay you back, so don’t do it.” 

Makoto’s irritation starts rising again and she feels the need to dispel her brother’s lies, “And another thing, I don’t own this restaurant. I work here on salary like the other chefs. I spend one-third of my income on debt repayment because of all the trouble my idiot brother causes!”

Shinichi jumps in, feeling embarrassed, “Makoto, stop lying!”

She ignores him and continues, “And the only reason I considered entering the Miss Japan pageant is for the cash prize. But as you can see, I’m not model material so I gave up after they ridiculed me for trying out!”

She quickly turns around and walks away, feeling exposed and upset, trying to find some place to let her tears flow without anyone seeing. Amidst all the commotion, Takahiro, dining there in hope of seeing Makoto, having caught sight of this tragic display of courtship, decides to aid her in her time of need. 

Makoto takes a moment to sit outside the restaurant and breathe some fresh air to calm down. Takahiro approaches and grabs something from his backpack. Before he reaches her, she gets up and walks towards him. They bow politely at each other and as she passes he turns around, “This is yours, isn’t it?”

Makoto turns around to find him with her wallet, “Where did you find this? I didn’t even know I lost it.”

“I was going to return your tissues to you as well since you were so kind to give them to me in my time of need.”

Makoto’s memory is suddenly jogged, “Ah right, the park bench at the hospital. How did you know it was mine?”

He opens her wallet and points, “It has your business card inside.”

She politely responds, “Thank you very much. I don’t have a lot of cash on me right now but I can transfer you some reward money.”

“I heard some incredibly happy news as soon as I arrived at this restaurant. A miracle happened to my friend, whom I was so upset over yesterday, so that’s all the reward I need.”

She looks at him curiously, “A miracle?”

“It’s all thanks to you. By losing your wallet, I was able to come all the way to this restaurant, Primo Miracolo or ‘The First Miracle’ and then a miracle happened.” He smiles, bows, and cheerfully walks on his way.

Thinking about the idea of miracles, she walks back to the restaurant and stops at the entryway. Looking at the restaurant sign, Primo Miracolo, she intertwines her hands and closes her eyes, “Please gift Nephrite with a miracle as well.”

 

Another day passes and Makoto is back at work again, igniting and tossing sauce in a heated pan. A server comes up to her, “Hey Makoto, someone is asking to see the chef, and don’t worry it’s not your brother.” She sets the pan aside and walks out of the kitchen to greet the customer. She notices it’s Takahiro and is surprised to see him again so soon. He greets her with a kind smile and head bow, “Hello.”

She bows in return, feeling relieved that it's not someone here to yell at her, but also hesitant as she’s not sure why he called her over.

She guesses he wants the food explained to him, “Ah, so your meal is a ricotta cheese salad with yuzu dressing...” 

Not listening to a word, Takahiro stares longingly into her eyes. His kind eyes and charming smile mesmerize her, and she becomes so caught up in his loving gaze that she trails off. She snaps out of it and pours him a glass of wine, “Enjoy your meal.” 

 

Determined to have Makoto notice him, Takahiro once again dines alone at the restaurant the very next day. In the kitchen, Makoto oils a heated pan and places a piece of meat on it to fry. As she cooks, her mind starts to wander yet again, “I can’t believe all I could find out is that Nephrite’s family recently flew to Libya. I bet they went to collect his body.”

Her thoughts run wild with imagining public announcements of his death and a funeral. A chef runs over and shouts at her, “MAKOTO!” 

She snaps out of it, stepping away from the smoking pan.

“You’ve burned the meat,” the chef complains.

 “I’m so sorry,” she says and stumbles, grabbing the countertop for balance. The chef feels her forehead, “My goodness, you’re burning up.”

The manager walks in, complaining of all the smoke. The chef reports, “Makoto has a pretty high fever.”

The manager feels Makoto’s forehead and can see how dizzy she is. She wraps an arm around Makoto to provide some support, “Come with me.”

The manager helps Makoto into her jacket and backpack, then escorts her to the door.

“Really, it's fine, I’m okay,” Makoto says, “What about the group reservation later tonight?” 

“We can cover for you, I can also help out as well. You’re in no condition to be working right now. I haven't seen you this sick since you first started here. Please go and see a doctor and get plenty of rest.”

Makoto weakly mumbles, “Okay I’ll get some rest. Thank you for caring for me, I’ll work extra hard tomorrow.” Her manager just smiles and gestures for her to get going. 

Makoto starts to walk home, but as she stumbles along her usual route, honks from car horns and lights from the storefront signs overwhelm her. She notices how dizzy she feels and feebly calls for a taxi, to no avail. She leans against a pole for support, struggling to stay conscious. As her legs start to give out under the full weight of her illness, Takahiro pulls up in his car. Illegally parking on the side of the busy street without any regard to other cars, he rushes to her aid. He softly asks her, “Are you alright? Will you let me help you?” Before she can nod, Makoto faints, falling forward into his arms. He scoops her up and carefully places her in the passenger seat of the car. He takes one deep breath and rushes to the driver’s side, speeding to the nearest hospital. 

Handing her over to emergency, Takahiro waits for hours before he’s allowed in to see her. Rushing to her hospital room, he opens the door to find Makoto soundly sleeping, like a princess from a fairytale. He slowly approaches and softly shuts the door behind him. Sitting by her side, he wipes the sweat off her face and quietly admires her beauty until he falls asleep in his chair. 

---

Back in Libya, the war rages on while Nephrite’s life hangs in the balance. In a coma and hooked up to life support, he flatlines and doctors rush to perform CPR. Nephrite’s life flashes before his eyes, and suddenly he finds himself in his childhood home in Hirado, sitting in the empty restaurant, facing the kitchen. His mother appears in front of him. 

“Nephrite, do you want to come with me?” Natsumi asks. “Life’s been so difficult for you, my poor, sweet son. Would you like to come and rest?”

Nephrite closes his eyes and a memory pops up. A young Nephrite cries out to his grandmother around the family dining table during dinner, “My mom is trapped under the collapsed department store!” A young Neph cries, “Please Grandmother Beryl, save her!” 

She ignores him like a family pet begging for scraps, as does Zoisite and his parents. They continue to eat as he desperately cries out, “Grandmother, please!”
He opens his eyes to see his mother still standing there, “Mom, they didn’t hold a funeral for you or build a grave where I can visit you.” 

“Sounds like they were ashamed of me, as if they never considered me part of the family.”

“My dear mom, I hope you know how deeply I love you and how much I miss you.”

Tears stream down Nephrite’s face as he continues, “And that I wanted to stay by your side no matter what.”

Natsumi moves toward him and takes his hand in hers. His eyes close once again.

As young Nephrite cries in hopelessness, Beryl turns to Tourmaline and dryly comments, “Even if we find out she’s dead, don’t bother holding a funeral for her. We don’t want any of this to become public and tarnish our name.”

Tourmaline nods in agreement, “Yes, Mother.”

Nephrite’s eyes open and he looks at his mother’s hand, “...But I can’t leave just yet. I have something I need to do. Please wait a little longer for me. I’m sorry, Mom.”

The team of international doctors take turns performing CPR for nearly half an hour. Exhausted and upset, the doctors start recording the time of death, when suddenly a flicker appears on the heart monitor, and then another, and then a steady rhythm forms. 

“His heart started beating!” A nurse cries out. Cheers and laughs accompany joyous cries of, “He’s going to live!” 

***

Six months later - Christmas

 

Christmas has come to Japan and decorations are shining their brightest. Cities celebrate with fireworks and all sorts of other holiday cheer. Makoto, sitting in her usual spot at her favourite coffee shop, watches the resident Santa laugh and play with a group of children. All that wholesome holiday cheer just melts her heart as she sinks into her latte. And as if to seem serendipitous, it just so happens that Takahiro casually strolls by the window of the very same coffee shop. He spots her and waves to try and divert her attention, but she is completely soaked in the magic of Christmas. He pulls his phone from his pocket to send her a text message.  

Makoto reaches for her phone and is surprised to read, “Turn your head and look outside.”

With a look of suspicion, she slowly turns her head to the window and sees Takahiro smiling and waving. He quickly opens his tablet to show her a short presentation.

“Merry Christmas!” The first slide reads.

Makoto texts back, “Merry Christmas,” and smiles politely at him.

He moves to the next slide which reads, “Do you know today is the 100th day….”

He slowly drags his finger across the screen to the next slide, “Since you rejected the confession of my feelings?”

She reacts with a look of guilt and discomfort, as she looks around nervously and back at him.

He nods as if to understand her feelings and moves to the next slide, “I’ve decided to be vulnerable once more and confess them again.”

Showing off his charm, he slightly pouts and coyly smiles as he moves to the next slide, “Will you accept my love?”

She takes a moment to breathe and sort out her feelings. Finding the right words, she texts back, “I’m a person with many flaws.”

He replies, “So am I, but I believe a relationship can succeed when two people aid in each other’s shortcomings.”  

He moves to the last slide; a giant red heart. Placing the tablet over his chest, he zooms it in and out, mimicking his beating heart while giggling. 

Takahiro puts his tablet away in his winter coat and grabs his phone. Hands shaking from the cold, he tenses and shakes them to try and increase blood flow. 

Makoto notices him suffering from the cold and immediately leaves the coffee shop. Head down from texting, Takahiro doesn’t notice Makoto walking toward him. Before he finishes his message, Makoto grabs his cold hands and tells him, “Don’t worry, you can stop now.”

“But I was almost finished,” he teases. 

She reaches into her pocket to grab her gloves and starts to put them on Takahiro, “You may not believe me, but remember, I told you I’m a person with many flaws. I’m too tall to be cute, I snore when I sleep, I have a mountain of debt, and I’m really only good at cooking and baking.”

And just as she finishes those last few words, Takahiro pulls her into a tight embrace, never wanting to let go.

“It’s fine. I barely had any homemade cooking as a child since my parents were too busy, so your homemade cooking is more than enough for me.”

She tries to step back from the hug but he pulls her back in.

“People are starting to stare,” Makoto shyly complains. 

Takahiro holds her tighter, “Let them stare, it’s Christmas and I couldn’t be happier!”

After a short pause, he speaks up again, “Well, there does seem to be one man in particular who is staring at us,” and grins mischievously. 

She tries to turn around but he doesn’t let go, “Stay still, I bet he’s jealous of us. He must be really envious as he’s practically watching without blinking.”

“What kind of strange man would be staring at us?”

He chuckles, “Yeah, he must be a strange man indeed. Not very handsome, but he is holding a potted plant. The flowers are quite pretty.”

“Do you think someone stood him up?” And she tries to turn around again but his grasp is still firm.

“Don’t turn around yet. What if someone stood him up and now he will try to steal you away from me?” He says playfully.

She gives Takahiro a strange look and he says, “Oh no, he’s coming toward us,” and lets go of her to greet the other man.

He wraps his arms around none other than his best friend Nephrite, miraculously alive and holding a poinsettia.

 

And with one glance, Makoto’s whole world shook. 

“Nephrite… Nephrite? NEPHRITE! I can’t believe he’s actually alive!”  

Emotions swirling and rising, she looks at him in shock. As if everything is happening in slow motion, yet too blurry to fully see, she watches Nephrite, with his charming sensitive smile, genuinely happy at seeing his dearest friend in complete bliss.  

Takahiro joyously announces to Nephrite, “She finally accepted my love!”

Her emotions run wild with too many feelings hitting her all at once; joy from seeing Nephrite alive, love from seeing Nephrite once again, panic from accepting his best friend’s proposal, and a deep sense of dread from the reality of the entire situation. 

Nephite, finally noticing her, politely bows, but does not pick up on Makoto’s state of shock. 

He asks her, “Have we ever met before?”

Eyes already turning red from the deep pain of wanting to scream, cry, and hide, she chokes back tears and can only stare at him. 

Takahiro jokingly brags, “Way to throw a terrible pickup line at my girlfriend, you dork. She’s mine now,” and reaches for Makoto’s hand, interlocking his fingers with hers. 

Nephrite chuckles, then absentmindedly hands the poinsettia to Makoto, “Merry Christmas. Please take good care of Takahiro and I hope you two are happy for a long time.”

Takahiro steps in to introduce Nephrite, “I should probably introduce you two. This is my best friend, Nephrite. He recently came back from a trip to the world of the dead.” 

Makoto, having severe difficulty hiding her emotions, fights back tears with all her strength but quietly loses the battle. 

Fortunately for her, no one notices since Takahiro is too busy wrapping his arms around both Makoto and Nephrite, “Look it’s snowing! What luck to have a white Christmas this year!

“I’m glad I didn’t die, I would have missed the beauty of snow falling,” Nephrite casually comments. 

Makoto looks around, trying to deal with the swirling chaos of emotions she’s feeling, watching the two men involved with her heart throw snowballs at each other, displaying all the cheer, joy, and togetherness the holidays offer. 

***

Dear Boss,

 

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity you’ve provided for me in working at Primo Miracolo .

I’ll never forget the kindness and compassion you showed me through my times of crisis and I will always cherish the time we spent together as you encouraged my culinary growth and pushed the limits of what I thought possible. However, it is with heavy heart that I hereby declare by resignation as chef from Primo Miracolo . And as you’re reading this letter, I’ve already packed up my life and moved to Greece. 

“Why Greece?” You might ask. I could give you all sorts of excuses, but you deserve an honest answer. The truth is, I can’t stop myself from falling in love with a man with whom I have no future. So I have decided to go to a place where I’ll never see him again. Thank you for all the fond memories.

 

Sincerely,

Makoto Kino

***

Four years later - Summer

 

An engine revs up as it speeds through a yellow light. Zoisite, testing the limits of his Porsche, speeds his way to D-Point Hospital. Enraged, he throws open the door to his office and turns on the TV to the news, “Famous American rapper Chris Kolder is currently in life-threatening condition, when he was involved in an accident while performing in Tokyo…”

Nephrite is first on the scene when the ambulance arrives, commanding his team while they rush the patient to an operating room. 

 

While all this unfolds, Tourmaline leans back on the couch in his office, calmly watching the news report. Kimiko rushes through crowds of fans and reporters gathered around the hospital entrance straight to Tourmaline’s office. She bursts open the door and starts berating him, “What is wrong with you? Why would you allow Nephrite to perform the operation on that famous rapper?” Tourmaline turns off the TV and slowly turns to her. 

Anger rising, she yells, “People all over the world are watching this event unfold, it’s attracting lots of media attention. Do you know what that means? How on earth could you possibly give this tremendous opportunity to Nephrite instead of Zoisite?!” 

Taking a deep breath, she calms down and continues, “Is it that there’s little chance he will survive?”

Tourmaline responds, “No that’s not it. It was already decided that Nephrite will perform the surgery.”

A quick blast of air left her, expressing her utter disbelief at his inaction, “What did you say?”

Tourmaline grabs her arm, “Have a seat. It seems that the rapper’s talent agency researched Nephrite’s time in Libya. They like the idea of having a doctor who’s saved lives in a war-torn country do the operation on him.”

Her face scrunches as she tries to understand, “Goodness, you are so infuriating! You need to do something about this! Assign Nephrite to another surgery immediately so--”

Tourmaline interrupts, “But Nephrite understands how important this operation is and would never give it up so you need to give up your schemes instead. Goodness….”

 

Nephrite describes the injuries present on the patient as his junior staff members furiously scribble away, documenting every word as fast as they can. In the middle of his action plan, Nephrite’s phone rings. 

“Your phone is ringing,” a doctor chimes in.

“Then pick it up and tell them I’m busy.”

The doctor interrupts again, “But it’s Takahiro”

“Excuse me for a moment everyone,” says Nephrite as he picks up the phone. Without hearing the other ends voice, he dives into a rant, “You finally called me! Do you have any idea how many times I have called you in the past week? I’ve been so worried--”

He stops mid-sentence, face turning as pale as a ghost. Running as fast as he can through hospital corridors, moving like a mouse in a maze, he completely disregards the surgery he is assigned to. 

Nephrite finally makes it to admitting to see Takahiro lying lifeless with a ventilator, his mother uncontrollably crying over his unconscious body. Nephrite, completely shocked, starts talking to Takahiro, “What’s going on with you? I can’t believe you never said anything to me, your best friend who of all things is a doctor.” Another doctor arrives, “This patient needs to be taken to the OR immediately.”

Nephrite scrubs in beside the surgeon in charge of Takahiro’s case. 

He interrogates the surgeon, “Are you sure you can perform this surgery? Are you certain you can save my best friend? You recently were involved in a medical scandal, I heard it was a negligent mistake.”

The surgeon turns to him, “Why you piece of--”

Nephrite slams his knee against the water tap on the wall, “If you’re not 100% confident, then get the hell out of my way. If anything happens to my friend, I’ll kill you myself.” 

The surgeon’s eyes widen out of fear, slowly backing away.

 

Zoisite furiously takes off his doctor coat and throws it on his leather arm chair in his office. A resident doctor barges in, “Excuse me, Sir?”

As Zoisite puts on his blazer he replies, “Aren’t you part of Nephrite’s team? Who do you think you are to rush in here without knocking? Answer me!”

The resident bows, “I’m sorry for the intrusion. However I was in a hurry to reach you. Nephrite has abandoned us…”

 

As if performing in sync, the two doctors both address their teams before proceeding with surgery, “I’m Zoisite Kurokami from Neurosurgery and I’ll be in charge of this patient’s operation. Stay focused team.” 

“I’m Nephrite Kurokami from Neurosurgery and I will be the chief surgeon leading this operation for this patient. Stay sharp and let's all do our best.” He bends down to the patient’s ear, “Don’t worry Taka. I will save you no matter what.”

---

Sitting behind yet another polished desk in yet another luxury chair, a stressed, middle aged man sits and stares, worried about his present circumstances. Heavy, dark bags sit under his tired, sunken eyes, devoid of light, as if their brilliance has been lost to darkness. Scraggly grey hairs sit atop his head, showcasing years of stress. His facial hair matches, sporting a “salt and pepper” five o’clock shadow. He breathes a heavy sigh and picks up the photo of his son, Takahiro. Holding it closely to his chest, he whispers, praying for a miracle. With tears in his eyes, he places the photo back on his desk, knocking his desk name plate to the ground, which reads, “Dr. Mamoru Chiba, Director of D-Point Hospice.”

---

Camera’s flash non-stop as Zoisite and his medical team enter the medical press conference auditorium. His parents follow behind him, joining him up stage, beaming with pride. 

He addresses the hall, “My name is Zoisite Kurokami and I was in charge of Chris Kolder’s operation today here at D-Point Hospital. I’m pleased to announce the surgery went smoothly and he is expected to make a full recovery.” Cameras continue to flash as reporters furiously type notes for their news segments; segments for international headlines, making a name for himself and D-Point Hospital. 

 

As Zoisite has his fifteen minutes of glory, Nephrite sits on the floor of a quiet, darkly lit corridor, back against a wall, looking utterly defeated. He hangs his head in between his knees, tears uncontrollably rolling down his face. 

A familiar comforting voice softly whispers, “Nephrite.” 

He looks up to see dearest friend’s father, Mamoru, “You did all you could.”

He bends down to Nephrite’s eye level, “You haven’t had anything to eat yet, have you?”

Nephrite’s tears intensify as he starts to tremble. He swallows, taking a deep breath and finds his voice, “I thought I’d be able to save him.”

Mamoru shakes his head, “Takahiro already knew there was little chance of success, so that’s why he told me to keep it a secret from you.”

Nephrite’s tears explode from his face as he hopelessly whisper-cries, “I’m so sorry.” 

“Don’t be sorry. I prayed for a miracle, but they happen so rarely.”

His tears intensify further, “I’m so very sorry.”

Mamoru places his hand on top of Nephrite’s clenched fist, “There’s no need, even I had given up hope. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for never giving up on my son. I can take care of him from now until the end.” He stands up and slowly walks away while Nephrite continues to grieve, tears forming a puddle on the floor.

 

Refreshed from a long night’s sleep, Nephrite takes a drive out to the countryside. He breathes the fresh air and enjoys the sunshine that turns foliage into shining jewels. He arrives at his destination, D-Point Hospice. Dressed in a linen suit, he steps out of his Lexus and has a look around. Full of spirit, he grabs a box from his back seat and heads inside. He enters Takahiro’s room and starts decorating it with action figures out of the box he brought. Takahiro wakes up and groggily says, “I’m grateful for the figures but I’d like it more if you just quit your job.”

Nephrite chuckles and turns around, “If I do, D-Point is doomed. Who will replace such a highly skilled doctor such as myself?” Flashing Takahiro a cheesy grin.

Takahiro lets out a small laugh, “A highly skilled doctor, as if. You couldn’t cure me.”

Nephrite’s face turns gravely serious, “I might have if you came to me sooner. You’re the asshole who didn’t tell anything.”

“Why should I have told you? You know how I find ‘Dr. Kurokami’ so annoying.” Takahiro looks him in the eyes with a grin on his face and Nephrite glances away.

“Where’s your Mom?” Nephrite asks, trying to distract himself.

“She’s at work. She took too many days off for me so I’m worried they might fire her.”

“Then should I take some time off to be here instead?”

“Nah, I’d rather you quit than take days off.”

Nephrite shakes his head, “You must be experiencing issues from the surgery because you keep saying nonsense like that.”

Takahiro retorts, “You know, I think you’re right. Maybe you committed malpractice…You really need to quit, you fraud.”

“Mr. Chiba, your meal is here,” says a kitchen staff worker loudly as she brings in his meal.

Nephrite takes the food, “I’m so glad you interrupted us, I was just about to get sued by this jerk!”

Looking confused, she asks, “Pardon me?” Takahiro bursts into laughter and she quickly leaves.

“Thank you for the meal,” he yells as she shuffles down the hall. 

He takes a few bites and sits back, looking disappointed. 

“What’s wrong? Is it difficult to eat?”

“No… It just tastes like crap. Great skill must have been put into this meal to make it taste this horrible. You know what I’d really love to eat? Dumpling stew.”

“Should I bring you some?”

Takahiro sighs, “I want Makoto’s dumpling stew. You’ve never had it before, have you? It is by far the best dumpling stew I have ever tasted.”

In a defensive tone, Nephrite asks, “Why are you even mentioning her? Why would you ever even think about that bitch who abandoned you?”

“I wasn’t talking about her. I was talking about her dumpling stew.”

Frustrated, Nephrite blurts out, “Just tell me what you want to eat and I’ll go grab it.”

“I told you, I want Makoto’s dumpling stew.” He looks out the window, “My wish is to eat it at least one more time before I die.”

---

Greece - Summer

 

It’s a long drive along the sunny Greek coast to the small village where Makoto spends her days cooking; working to pay off her brother’s debt while trying to forget the man of her dreams. A truck rumbles up and parks at the gate of the walking village. Makoto, in full chef uniform, greets the farmer delivering their fresh produce. He struggles to lift the heavy box and hands it to Makoto, who carries it with such ease it seems as if she’s carrying an empty box. They thank each other and head off on their separate ways. She gracefully weaves through the groups of people walking down the cobblestone streets and she works up a slight sweat in the summer heat. As she walks into the restaurant, all the other chefs are busy washing, chopping, and spicing various dishes. Makoto puts the box down and helps spice and skewer a pig for the outdoor barbeque. She helps her coworker carry it over to the fire pit and just as she sets the skewer down, her phone rings. Taking it out of her pocket, she sees an unknown number and takes the call.

“Hello?... Yes, that’s me... Who broke what?... Okay, yes I understand. I am very sorry for the trouble.” 

She hangs up the phone and fights her desire to scream. In the noon-day summer sun, Makoto jumps on her bicycle and takes off from the village. As mad as she is, she can’t help but enjoy the bright summer sun and crystal blue ocean as she twists and turns down the coastal road. She finally arrives at her destination and hastily jumps off her bicycle, throwing it to the ground. As she storms up the steps of the police station, she mutters, “I’m going to kill that jerk.”

Makoto walks in to find her brother chatting up some local sex workers while they smirk and ignore him. 

“You’re both so beautiful, would you care to grab a drink?” he says in Japanese. One rolls her eyes and the other shakes her head, laughing.  

“Drink?” Shinichi says in Greek. A policeman hears all the ruckus and takes the ladies to be processed. 

 

She finds him and stops just before he notices her. Putting her hands on her hips, she breathes deeply to calm the rage bubbling up inside her. 

Shinchi spots her and tries to stand, but immediately falls back into his chair, completely forgetting he is handcuffed to it.

“Hey, Makoto,” Shinichi shouts and half-heartedly laughs about his situation, as if to make light of it. Makoto puts her hands on her hips, looking scornful, and breathes a heavy sigh to show her discontempt. 

After paying Shinichi’s fine, he happily skips out of the police station and takes a romantic selfie against the coast to post on social media, “Drinking wine on the coast of Greece, won’t you join me?” 

“Look at all these likes, Makoto!” Shinichi brags. However, she is in no mood to hear it, as her anger has bubbled over. 

He starts doing a little victory dance, “I can’t believe so many people liked my post!”

Makoto stops and gives him a look signifying how tired she is of his delinquent behaviour. 

“Oh come on Mako, how can you be so pissed when you're in sunny-- OUCH!” He trips over Makoto’s bicycle that she left on the side of the road before climbing on the ocean beach rocks.

“Makoto! Hey, Makoto!” Shinichi yells as he clumsily tries to climb over the jagged sharp rocks. 

“Makoto! Wait up, will you?!”

“DAMNIT!!!!” she yells at the top of her lungs and starts fiercely crying.

“You are such an irresponsible jerk!” she manages to yell through her heavy sobs.

 

The next morning, Makoto is at the local fishing market bright and early. Dressed in rubber boots, gloves, and apron, she hauls fish from boats and places them into bins for descaling. As she dumps another large crate onto the pile, her coworker calls out, “Makoto, how many other jobs do you have besides this one and working as a chef?”

“I don’t have a choice, I need to pay off the family debt.” 

“I heard your little brother broke a very expensive bottle of wine at Dimitri’s restaurant. He didn’t even take a sip, the bottle was still sealed!”

“Don’t remind me,” she complains. 

“Doesn’t that bottle cost over 8000 Euros?” Asks another coworker, inserting herself into the conversation.

“Oh stop talking about this or I’m going to get pissed off all over again!”

“Well, you wouldn’t believe this,” the second coworker announces, “But our local winery association is holding a cooking competition. And guess what the first place prize is?” 

She wiggles her eyebrows and smiles, “A replacement bottle for Dimitri, if you enter that is.” 

Makoto smiles as if her spirits are lifted, “I’m going to win that bottle!”

 

Noon finally arrives and her shift is over. Freeing herself from her fishy clothes, she changes into shorts and a breezy top, and starts cycling back home. On the way up a particularly grueling cobblestone passageway, a poster catches her eye. It’s the poster for the cooking competition, complete with details and contact information. She jumps off her bicycle, letting it crash to the ground, and runs to the poster. She reads the rules over a few times, “So the competition is to make three dishes, each pairing perfectly with the three wines listed here. Okay, easy enough.” She glances at the contact information and deadline, “The competition is in two days?! I better buy those bottles of wine and start cooking!” Carefully looking around, she rips the poster from the bulletin board and stuffs it in her bag.

Later that evening, Makoto starts to prepare for the competition. Sitting at her kitchen table, she pours a large glass of wine from the first of three bottles and starts flipping through cookbooks and food magazines, looking for inspiration. Finishing the first glass, she opens the second bottle of wine and pours herself another large glass. Still focused, and now more relaxed, she sinks into her books. Finishing that glass as well, she pours herself a glass from the third bottle of wine and takes a huge gulp. 

“Oh crap, I forgot to take notes on what each wine tastes like. Maybe I should start now,” she thinks to herself. However, that thought arrives too late, since the room is already spinning and her writing is completely illegible. She stands up and catches herself from falling flat on her face, gripping the table for support. “Okay, I’m really really drunk,” she loudly says to herself, thinking she’s whispering to herself in her head. “I had better lay down for a bit…”

The next day she’s at it again, this time with a full belly and a smaller wine glass. She’s furiously tasting different spice combinations, making many variations of sauces, and grilling vegetables. 

The pressure of the competition fuels her through her financial stress and exhaustion from working the whole day. But her attention is spread too thin and she smells something burning.

“Oh no! The eggplant!” Makoto yells as the smell of charred vegetables snaps her out of her daze. 

 

It’s the day of the cooking contest! Contestants set up their stations bright and early on a shallow stage in the local park. Throughout the morning, people start to trickle in and form a small audience. 

There’s a total of twenty contestants on stage, with the panel of five judges at a table off to the side. Four judges appear on stage, leaving one empty seat at the judging table. The overly zealous host starts introducing the cooking contest, explaining the rules and showcasing each judge. 

“Welcome to our classy cooking contest! Don’t forget to enter your name for a chance to be a special guest judge!”

As he counts down to start, a loud chime goes off and contestants spring into action. They fire up their grills, heat up their pots and pans, and start furiously chopping their ingredients. 

In the center stage stands Makoto, diligently cooking at her station, working harder than ever. The host walks around obnoxiously commenting about the contestants, “Oh looks like you’re playing with fire over here! And that guy over there cooking up a storm!”

And as if that isn’t enough, Shinichi adds his own special flair to the mix, holding up a poorly constructed cardboard sign and cheering Makoto on. 

Pressure’s on as the timer counts down to zero. The host announces that there’s only ten seconds left and encourages the audience to count down with him. As they reach zero, the chime sounds again. 

“Okay contestants, time’s up! Please put down your utensils and step away from your plates!” 

He turns to the audience, “Alright it’s time to see who wins a seat to be our special guest judge!”

He fiddles with the box and pulls out a name, “Would you please come up to the stage, Nephrite Kurokami?”