Sickness did nothing to cure his hunger; stomach viruses not a known ailment among the Qu tribe. Gourmands never had digestive ailments, even as the rest of this gourmand's body failed. From his bed, Quan still controlled his kitchen, ordering what was supposed to have been his last meal to cook his food. For seven years, he'd raised Vivi, tried to fatten him, but while time had kept Vivi's physical growth almost non-existent, something indescribable inside Quan grew, so that Vivi transformed from meal-in-training, to an almost-pet, and finally to a grandson, as dear--no, dearer--to him than the members of his own tribe.
Now old, sickly, and an outcast, Quan had no one to fulfill Qu tradition, that of the last meal. To follow the path of Gourmand, one could not stop walking and eating until the last meal was eaten. The one who professed to follow in the footsteps of the Gourmand would cook a fantastic last meal, a feast, or an exotic food, something special. Quan, of course, had no protege, just a little grandson, who could light a stove better than anyone Quan knew but who could barely crack an egg or catch a frog, but even now, the old Qu smiled faintly as he heard the noises of a busy kitchen.
It was an epic struggle between the mixing bowl and the boy, and most of the time the mixing bowl seemed to get the better of the boy. Flour smudged specks of white on Vivi's pure black face, as he struggled to create something worthy of his Grandpa. Oglop and Turnip Stew, not good enough. Not even South Gate Bundt Cake was special enough. After all, anyone could just get to South Gate and buy it, if they had a few gil. Grandpa deserved something that only Vivi could make.
When Grandpa had first asked him to cook something, Vivi first imagined all the dishes Grandpa had made him over the years. Huge feasts served at the beginning, and then smaller, more comforting meals as the years went by, all of them delicious. He couldn't make anything as good as Grandpa's stuff, but he could try.
Going through the kitchen and looking for ingredients, a little wooden box had caught Vivi's eyes, like it had so many quiet nights before. When he'd asked, Grandpa called it his legacy, his Gourmand path. Vivi never understood what a Gourmand was, except that it meant that Grandpa ate a lot, but it was very important to Grandpa. Maybe Grandpa would like something Gourmand. Vivi opened the box to an explosion of papers that scattered all over the kitchen. Vivi had picked up the nearest one, a sheet of thick paper that fit perfectly in his hands. Scrawls marked it that he couldn't decipher.
The next one hadn't make much sense either, nor the next or the next. As he cleaned up the explosion, he kept looking at papers, in hopes that one could mean something to him. And as he looked at the papers he remembered cooking with Grandpa, and lighting the stove for him. He remembered what he had cooked with Grandpa, and Vivi finally had an idea.
And then turning over a card in his hand, Vivi saw something he understood at last. There were no scrawls on this side, just a simple drawing of a frog. One night Grandpa had shown him that picture, the only one in his box.
"Vivi, no matter how far you go on path of gourmand, forget not your first meal. Frogs from home swamps are yummiest."
And with that echoing in his mind, Vivi set out to make something from Grandpa's home swamp, and thus began the epic struggle of boy against ingredients, in an act of love and cooking.
It was hours later when the door to Quan's room opened, and a thin line of light outlined his grandson. The boy and his bright yellow eyes drew closer, until he was close enough that Quan could see the heavy looking plate he carried. With a heft of little muscles, Vivi placed the plate on Quan's lap.
"Can I turn on the light, Grandpa?"
"Vivi turn on light okay." Quan didn't feel much like having light in his room, but it was only a proper that a Gourmand saw his last meal. After all, food captured all the senses, not just the ones in his mouth, even if it was made by a tiny Stovelighter.
When those old Qu eyes adjusted to the light, Quan looked down at Vivi's creation. Not a meal exactly, at least not to anyone who cared about food. Just a plate of cookies, like the one's he'd helped Vivi make when he was still considered eating his grandson, and frosted green. The shape was lumpy, but in his imagination it seemed important.
"The shape, Vivi, it important?"
The look in Vivi's eyes, the only expression the little boy had, indicated that he was crestfallen. "It's a frog, Grandpa. Because you told me that frogs from the home swamp are yummiest... but I don't know where your home swamp is, and there's no frogs here. Are you mad?"
Quan looked down at the cookies, seeing the frog shape in what had been a bunch of lumps, and his throat tightened, as if he were trying to swallow the air, but couldn't. "I not mad. Vivi did good." Picking up the top cookie, he took a bite of it, the Gourmand in him noting that it was a bit burnt, just like a Stovelighter to overcook it, but the grandpa in him liked this more than anything. Vivi would never be a Gourmand, he had his own path to follow, but these cookies were proof that a part of Quan would always be with Vivi. "Vivi make good yummy-yummies," he praised, and he didn't even lie.
Vivi's bright eyes were their own reward.