When Mahiru agreed to cook at Amane’s house, she raised the following conditions.
・Amane was to pay for half the ingredients, along with labor costs.
・If they could not eat together, one was to notify the other a day in advance.
・Both of them would have equal responsibility buying ingredients and cleaning up.
The labor costs in the first condition was suggested by Amane, who was sorry about taking advantage of Mahiru. The latter compromised on this, and there was not much dispute about the rest, so they managed to work out these details.
It was established that she would be the one cooking, so there was nothing to worry about.
On the day after it was decided, Mahiru arrived with a grocery bag in hand, or rather, carried it with two hands as she prepared to cook.
“…It really is new and unused…”
With a girl dressed in an apron in his house, Amane was practically living in a man’s romance, but for some reason, he was on tenterhooks.
One reason was that he was not used to that sight. The main reason however was that she pointed out that the kitchen was unused.
“You have so many good things here, and you let them rust away.”
“They won’t rust when you use them, right?”
“That will be the outcome. These utensils are crying from being unused.”
“So use your cooking skills to get them to stop crying.”
I can’t do that, so he bluntly admitted, and she stared at him blankly. She might have expected that however, for she merely sighed and did not grumble much.
“So do you have any seasoning lying around?”
“Of course, you think I’m an idiot? No issues with storage and expiry here.”
“Oh? That is surprising.”
“They’re still sealed, that’s why.”
“That is not something to be proud about. If they are insufficient, I can just go back to take them.”
“Thanks for the assist.”
“I should be able to cooking something with the basic seasonings. Ah, I decided on the menu together, that is fine with you, right?”
“I don’t really get all these things, so I’ll eat whatever there is. I’m not that picky either.”
“I see. I shall get started then…please tell me where the seasonings are.”
“In this basket.”
“They really are unopened…”
She glanced aside at the seasonings, and frowned in bewilderment, but she quickly reverted back to her usual expression as Amane had briefed her beforehand, and she went to the faucet to wash her hands.
“I shall get down to cook. You can wait in the living room or the bedroom.”
“Sure. I’m useless here anyway.”
“That was really honest from you. But it is true that I will have difficulty cooking with you walking around.”
“You’re pretty blunt yourself.”
“That is a fact though. I have no need to be discreet about that.”
As Mahiru had said, Amane would only be a hindrance, so he went straight to the living room, and watched her from behind as she cooked.
After she washed her hands, Mahiru hurriedly got down to seasoning.
He did not know what she was about to make, but looking at the ingredients, it was probably a Japanese dish.
He was incredulous that he could invite Mahiru to his house to cook those delicious dishes, and wondered if he was dreaming. Once he saw her hair swaying in a ponytail however, he knew it was reality.
（…Why does it feel like I have a wife?）
They did not have such feelings for each other, but the current situation seemed that she had made this place her home, and he could only imagine so.
He truly did not have an inkling of interest in Mahiru, but with such a pretty girl cooking in his house, the situation would have caused his thoughts to run wild.
As expected, whether he had feelings for her or not, the sight of a cute girl being willing to cook for him caused his heart to throb a little.
“…You are not thinking of something weird now, are you?”
“Don’t make any wild guesses.”
She asked without looking back, and his face twitched as a result, but as she did not look back, his ruse was not blown.
She’s a sharp one, so he marveled, a shiver ran up his spine as his still innocent heart of a man watched her from behind.
An hour or so later, dishes started to appear on the table.
Mahiru was the one deciding the dishes on this day, and they were all healthy Japanese foods favoring her palette.
“These utensils and seasonings are somewhat useful, and I do not have to take much. I should be able to make more exquisite dishes starting tomorrow.”
“Well I’m grateful that you’re willing to cook for me.”
Mahiru was unsure of how many utensils and seasonings she could use, so the dishes were relatively simple. Nevertheless, they were colorfully vibrant and well plated.
There was steamed fish, vegetables with toppings, omelettes with miso, and various Japanese dishes laid out that he would not have dreamed of making.
Amane himself was not really a picky eater, but he liked Japanese food. Once he saw how apologetic she was, he blurted that he wanted to eat these.
“…These look really good.”
“Thank you for the compliments. Let us eat before it gets cold.”
Mahiru said as she sat on the chair. Amane then took the chair opposite her.
The dining table for one was pretty small, and the duo were seated very close.
Luckily, he had two spare chairs for guests, but there was something indescribable about a pretty girl seated before him.
Once he started eating however, Mahiru’s beauty did not matter.
Itadakimasu, so he said, and first tried some miso soup.
The moment his lips touched the soup, he savored the miso and the fish stock in his mouth, the tastes spreading along with the fragrance.
It was a gentle taste different from instant miso soup, achieved after much deliberation.
The miso was not too rich, and the taste of the fish stock remained even with the saltiness.
The first taste was a little bland, probably because the miso was to be used in other dishes. Only after one drank the soup completely would he find it sufficiently concentrated.
More than lacking, it was a relieving taste that piqued his appetite for rice and other dishes.
“Thank you very much.”
He honestly admitted his feelings, and she was relieved, narrowing her eyes.
While he had been praising her for her dishes, she might be nervous about him stating his thoughts directly to her.
Mahiru, who had been worried about Amane’s reaction, started eating, and the latter too reached for the chopsticks.
After tasting all the dishes on the table, he found Mahiru’s cooking to be really palatable.
The steamed fish was really delicious, while preserving the moisture in the flesh.
Moisture would be lost if she heated it for too long, wanting to get the flavor. It would have made the fish too dry, but the steamed fish was really tender and smooth.
The omelette had the flavor he really liked.
Lured by the bright yellow color, he took a bit, and tasted the gentle fish stock flavor.
There were some who liked their omelette sweet, someone who liked it salty, but the one here was made from fish stock, a little sweet.
The faint, soft sweetness might have been honey.
Not a lot was added, it seemed, but the lingering sweetness added to the richness of the flavor.
He did not dislike either sweet or salty omelettes, but he loved those with stock, with a little sweetness, and the perfect amount of seasoning. He was so moved that he was able to eat such an ideal omelette.
Delicious, so he muttered to himself, taking another bite.
The fire control was perfect. He slowly chewed on the soft omelette with the fish stock, savoring flavor.
Definitely better than my mom’s, so he quietly thought to himself these insolent things to his mother as he chowed down. Then, he noticed Mahiru staring at him intently.
“…Looks like you are enjoying it.”
“It’s delicious after all. I should be grateful for good food.”
“Yes, that is true.”
“And well, it’s better to eat with a honest look than just scowling away. We’re both happy here, right?”
Even though the food may be delicious, the cook would feel uneasy and curious if one did not express his feelings honestly. Sometimes, saying it was delicious with a frown would leave the chef wondering he was sincere.
More importantly, it was better for both of them to express their feelings on their faces. The one thanking and the one being thanked do like to be in a good mood after all.
“…I guess so.”
Mahiru seemed to have accepted Amane’s explanation as she showed a little smile.
The gentle smile seemingly expressed relief, and she was so adorable, he found his mind space out for a moment.
“Ah…no, it’s nothing.”
He was mesmerized by her, but naturally, he could not say this. He suppressed the rising shame within him as he continued eating, not wanting to be found out.
“Glad that you like it.”
Amane finished the food on the table, indicating he was full, and Mahiru tersely answered.
Nevertheless, she looked calm, probably elated that Amane finished the food completely, not leaving a grain of rice.
“I can tell from that.”
“Better than my mom’s.”
“I think it is taboo to compare a girl’s cooking to one’s mother.”
“Only when I’m trying to insult, you know? Anyway, are you curious about that?”
“Not at all.”
“That’s fine then. It’s a fact that it’s delicious.”
Mahiru’s cooking skills were not honed simply with some experience.
Amane’s mother had more cooking experience, but she had a different taste palette, and was blase about it, so there was no way she could have fine tuned the taste like Mahiru did.
His father might even be better than his mother, let alone her.
“…Well I think I’m very fortunate here. I do get to eat it every day after all.”
“Only when both of us have nothing else going on.”
“…Are we seriously okay with eating together every day?”
“I would have suggested so if that is not the case.”
“Well, that’s true.”
He knew very well that a straightforward person like Mahiru would not have suggested so if she disliked it, but despite that, he was wondering if this was fine.
He paid for half the ingredients, along with labor costs, but he was worried that it would be too taxing on Mahiru.
“…Do you normally cook for guys you don’t like?”
“You are living too unhealthily. Also, I do enjoy cooking, and I do not dislike seeing you enjoy the food.”
“If you are still concerned about that, I do not actually have to cook for you?”
“No please cook for me thank you very much.”
He instinctively answered, and it showed how much her cooking was a necessity, something he liked.
For him, getting Mahiru’s cooking was a matter of life and death.
He had some awareness of his own stomach, but the problem was that her cooking was too delicious. It was likely that if he went back to eating side dishes, every day would seem bland, and that scared him.
Once she heard his instant answer that was easy to understand, Mahiru showed a wry smile.
“Please accept it obediently.”
Amane had to sigh with elation, anticipation and guilt, thinking about how the days of eating together with this great merciful Angel would continue.