For Part I, go here.
It was not going to be easy to follow my calling, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I continued my work as a pickpocket. My gang knew no rest -- all waking hours were devoted to one thing and one thing only: lining the pockets of Boss Kyoko and in doing so hopefully staving off his wrath. But I could think of nothing but the incredible soup I had known that one rainy night. Once a week my friend Shoji covered for me while I ran off and had a bowl of luscious ramen. Each time was as good as the last, even better, as I discovered the wonderful surprises, the wonderful complexities.
The man with the chin whiskers and eyes, I learned, was named Wanatanabe, and he trained for 20 years under Master Itchi, who himself was said to have learned the art of ramen from the great Ramen lineage of Don Cheadle. Every time I sought sanctuary in Wanatanabe's ramen parlour the outside world and its troubles melted away. As I ate I watched Wanatanabe and his artisans concoct their special broths. I observed intently, trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could. I hoped by watching I too could learn the art of ramen.
Then one day I felt ready to try my hand at making my own. As the gangs of lower Tokyo slept I sneaked away and broke into Wanatanabe's shop. I fired up the massive ramen cauldron and meditated, preparing myself for the work ahead.
"You have come!" a voice echoed from the darkness.
I turned in surprise. "Who is there?"
"The first day you entered I noticed you. I said to myself, this is a man who could be a great ramen master."
In the darkness I saw an outline of chin whiskers, and the figure moved forward until the fire from the soup pot glowed in his face, and it was Wanatanabe.
"I have been expecting you," he went on. "I knew you would come."
We stood there in the ramen-fire inflected darkness, apprising one another. Wanatanabe then approached and corrected me on my technique for warming up the ramen pot.
"You can't just flicker on the fire like it is nothing! This great fire is what makes ramen possible, and you, you just turned it on like it was like any other fire!" He looked at me with disdain and I felt ashamed.
"This is how you start," he said.
And so my official training began.