“Hey Mister! Another bowl of sorruz!” Ranta exclaimed, raising an index finger as soup and noodles dribbled from his full mouth .
The only place to get sorruz noodles around here was from a small food stand in Altana’s southern district in the food court area for common laborers . Sorruz was a soupy, salty dish made from thinly cut, yellowish wheat noodles with stewed meat added in . Not everyone thought it was totally delicious, and there was a clear divide between people who liked it and people who didn’t . At least on the first bite .
The problem was, the more you ate, the more it would grow on you and after a period of not having any, you would start craving it . After a while, it would become an addiction . You’d want to have a bowl once every ten—no, five… wait, three—days .
A huge pile of empty sorruz bowls was stacked next to Ranta’s face on the counter . Seven, to be precise, and Ranta was fervently working on conquering the eighth . He had ordered the ninth just now and it would be arriving momentarily . Freshly made sorruz was scalding hot . He wasn’t exaggerating when he said that it was fucking scalding hot . But he didn’t have time to blow on the noodles to cool them .
He had probably burned several layers of skin off in the insides of his mouth already and to be honest, he could no longer even taste the flavor . His stomach was also at the point of rebellion . It was so full and swollen, he looked like he was pregnant or something . Continuing to eat was torture, but Ranta didn’t stop . One more mouthful and the eighth bowl was finished .
“Eight down!” Ranta exclaimed as the ninth was put before him .
His eyes teared up from the steam rising off the fresh bowl . The delicious smell from a perfect combination of onions, carrots, chicken bone broth, and fatty pork would’ve been enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but the only thing Ranta felt was the agony of heartburn .
“You okay, kid?” the cook and owner of the stand peeked out from over the counter to regard Ranta .
Ranta nodded, wiping his brow with the back of his hand . His face was dripping with sweat, snot from a runny nose, and soup that missed his mouth . It was gross by anyone’s account, but Ranta didn’t care .
“Here I go!” Ranta dug into bowl number nine, slurping the noodles down even as he felt like they were going to come back up .
He hurriedly pressed both hands to his mouth, refusing to throw up . He would never, ever throw up . He couldn’t let himself . He was going to eat, eat, and eat the shit out of these noodles .
“Let’s do it . Start a shop . ” His friend; his companion, Mogzo’s face appeared in his mind’s eye, exactly like it was that time . He had never seen Mogzo’s expression light up like that before . “But I don’t want it to be sorruz, I want to make it a ramen shop . While we save up money, we can keep experimenting with the flavor . And once we’ve got it right, let’s do it . Let’s open a shop . ”
“Yeah, let’s do it,” Ranta muttered, knowing that Mogzo couldn’t hear him .
So all he could do now was eat . Eat, eat, and eat some more . Keep eating the sorruz that Mogzo had liked so much . Eat until he couldn’t eat more, then eat more . Eat until he was fuller than full, until he didn’t want to eat any more, then eat more . Eat, eat, eat .
“Ughhhhh…” Ranta groaned . But he had to keep eating because… because… “Because you won’t be able to eat ever again . ”
Right, partner? No matter how much Mogzo wanted to eat now, he couldn’t anymore . So Lord Ranta’s gonna eat instead . What was the point of doing something like this anyways? Fuck if he knew and he didn’t give a shit either . It just felt like the right thing to do . He couldn’t help feeling that way and he couldn’t stop himself from doing it .
“Mister! Another bowl!”
“Look, kid…” the shop owner started to protest .
“It’s fine!” Ranta cut him off . “Just hurry up and bring another!”
“Bowl number nine!” Ranta declared .
Determined to finish this one in a single go, he started to eat faster . Or wanted to, but no matter how fast he thought he was eating, the amount of noodles in the bowl didn’t seem to decrease . He stopped, his stomach in full rebel mode . He couldn’t breathe . He was going to suffocate to death .
Then, he noticed; it’d gotten awfully noisy all of a sudden . When he looked up, he saw a mass of workmen and Crimson Moon reservists crowded around him . What the hell? Why were they all staring at him?
“Whoa… he’s going onto his tenth bowl,” someone murmured . Then another, “Holy shit…” And a third, “No way… is that even possible?” To which someone else replied, “He’ll throw up before then . No way he can hold down ten bowls…”
Ranta scoffed loudly and suddenly felt an entire noodle shoot into his nose . He made to pull it out and throw it away, but then thought better of it . Mogzo wouldn’t do any such thing . So he extracted the noodle from his nostrils, put it back into his mouth, and swallowed .
“You idiots just watch,” Ranta said . “Ten bowls ain’t NOTHING! I can eat double that no problem!”
Here goes! Ranta tackled the remainder of bowl number nine with renewed vigor, polishing it off in one gulp . The tenth arrived . He started to feel dizzy and sick but whatever . He got to his feet with a battle shout, brought the steaming hot bowl to his lips, and started downing the scalding contents . Noodles, meat, vegetables, whatever . They all went down his throat at once .
Those around him started to get excited, cheering and shouting encouragement . Fueled by the crowd, Ranta finished the tenth bowl in less than a minute, soup included .
“Take that!” Ranta shouted . “Mister! Bring on another!”
“Coming right up!”
“Whoaaaa!” someone exclaimed .
“He did it!” said somebody else .
“Keep going! Go, go, go!!” another encouraged .
“Fuck you all!” Ranta flipped his middle finger at everyone around him . “The name’s Ranta! Everyone say it!”
“RANTA! RANTA! RANTA!” they chanted thunderously .
“Mister, hurry it up!” Ranta yelled at the shop owner .
“Here you go!”
“Hahaha! Bowl number eleven!” Ranta laughed as he took the bowl into his hands and for a passing moment, wondered why he was doing this .
Whatever . He didn’t give a shit . Eat, eat, eat . I hope you’re watching, partner . Because it was the only thing he could do for Mogzo now .
“Urk—!!” he suddenly choked and noodles came flying out of his nose . The crowd erupted into laughter . Rather than getting angry, Ranta laughed too, louder than anyone else . He’d show them . He’d eat until he exploded .