“Thank you very much for the previous day. Here, the parka and pants you lent me.”
Mahiru delivered dinner in the tupperware as usual, along with a paper bag.
He could see something inside the bag…probably the parka and jersey pants he lent her the previous Friday. It seemed she had folded them neatly.
“Hm, how’s your injury?”
“It does not hurt anymore. I shall not do heavy exercise until I am completely healed.”
“That’s fine. I remember you were sitting by the sidelines during gym class, right?”
As a precaution, Mahiru watched them from afar, which was the right thing to do. She did not seem to be in pain, but she was a little mindful of that ankle, so it probably was not healed completely.
Amane nodded in agreement, and then recalled the smile back then.
“But well, I guess the Angel’s really popular. One smile got all the boys enthusiastic.”
“I told you not to call me that… I too was troubled. Was it something worth being that happy about?”
“Well that’s what happens when a beauty smiles at them. Didn’t you see the girls squealing when Kadowaki waved at them?”
“… Kadowaki… ahh, that really popular one?”
Mahiru looked disinterested, or rather, she had no interest at all. She could not remember him, and only recalled him after Amane’s explanation.
He was no Angel, but Kadowaki was a relatively famous boy in school, so it was surprising that she did not recognize him just from hearing his name.
“You don’t have any interest in him?”
“No. We are in different classes, and there are not very many chances to get along.”
“Hmmm? But the other girls look interested in him, saying that he’s cool.”
“He is good-looking after all. I have not spoken to him, and never got involved with him. He does not matter to me.”
“You’re pretty blase about this.”
“If people can fall for each other just because of looks, how have you not fallen for me?”
“Oh, so now you realize how cute you are.”
But Mahiru’s words hold weight.
A beautiful appearance was a reason to harbor feelings for someone, but not so much to like.
Having agreed that, he had to admit that Mahiru was a pretty girl, though he was a little surprised that she had some self awareness of that, and would actually agree with that sentiment.
“There is always a commotion around me, and I will know even if I do not want to. Objectively, I understand that my looks are passable, and I have not been neglecting them.”
Mahiru said as a matter of fact, not a hint of arrogance in her voice.
In fact, she probably did everything she could to maintain her beauty.
Her face itself was pretty, but she was not satisfied with just that.
Her hair appeared to have a halo befitting her moniker as the Angel, and her skin was perfect and unblemished. She was always doing housework, but her hands did not coarsen, and she did trim her nails.
She had a fine, curvy body, and that was not something attainable within a single day.
“You’re right, what you just flatly said is the truth, and I’m not uncomfortable with that. So, does that mean that you’re not embarrassed to be praised?”
“I will find it annoying if others praise me too much.”
“A beauty sure has her troubles.”
“Along with the rewards that come with that, so it is not all bad.”
“You’re making it sound like someone else’s business…”
“What? Is it better for me to answer ‘that is not the case’ with a bashful look?”
“No, I know it feels really awkward for you personally.”
“I guess so. I do also feel it is pointless to put up such a facade with you.”
He would feel gaudy if Mahiru was to correct her unfiltered manner of speech, and would feel some goosebumps if she treated him as she did to others at school. He hoped she would remain the way she currently was.
Habit sure is scary. If she acted like the Angel at school here, he would find it surreal.
The Mahiru Amane knew of was the one present before him, not the one at school.
Both of them concluded it was for the better, so Amane looked towards the tupperware brought towards him.
It was a larger portion than usual, containing several dishes. It was more of an early-bird bento box than mere leftovers at this point.
“Quite a lot today.”
“You took care of me after all.”
“Didn’t I tell you that you don’t have to worry about that… ooh, there’s a croquette.”
One should never underestimate the croquette.
It was often sold as a side dish and commonly sold, but it was tedious to make, and infamous for being the most tedious dish to cook at home.
One had to steam the potatoes, fry it, add ingredients like beef and onions, shape it, cool it, coat in batter and deep fry it… It was a bunch of ordinary, yet tedious steps.
Amane, who could not cook, saw how much of a hassle when his mother made it.
Thus, his mother was often unwilling to do so whenever he asked of it.
“I simply fried the frozen stuff together.”
“So you made fried chicken too?”
The only fried food Amane ate while living alone were the side dishes from the shops, and he was really grateful to receive handmade ones.
If he were any greedier, he would have asked to eat it when it was fresh and crispy together with rice.
“… I do want to eat something freshly made though.”
Out of hygienic concerns, she would cool the food before putting them into the tupperware, and he had to reheat it before eating. An oven could replicate the crispiness, but it was nothing like the texture fresh out of the pan.
Of course, that too would be delicious, but the best would be if he could eat it fresh out of the pan.
He merely blurted out his own wish without any other intent, but he might have been a little too loud, for Mahiru frowned.
“You want me to enter your house?”
“I didn’t say that. You shared food with me, and it’ll be too much if I ask you to do that.”
To shake off all suspicion, he shrugged and denied so. Mahiru put her palm under her chin, looking down.
She seemed to be thinking of something and did not look at Amane in the eyes.
“If we each contribute half of the ingredients’ cost, I will consider cooking for you at your house.”
Mahiru finally said so, and the vigor in her words left Amane’s flabbergasted.
It was merely a joke…or a notion he accidentally blurted – but he was taken aback by how she seriously considered and agreed to it.
Typically, would anyone cook in the house of a boy she was not well acquainted with?
Even if that was more efficient, he was still of the opposite gender, and they were not on close terms. Surely she would be uneasy.
“Look, I’m more than happy to share half the costs, since I’m getting too much from you… won’t you find it dangerous?”
“If you do anything, I will crush you. Physically. Irreversibly.”
“Woahh, you scare me.”
“After all, even if I do not do so, you will not try anything. You do understand my position at school, no?”
“If I do anything to you, I’ll be dead meat.”
There was a vast difference in popularity between Amane and Mahiru, the latter a weak girl at that. If Mahiru said that Amane did something to her, there was no doubt Amane would never be able to step foot into the school again.
He knew the consequences of social suicide.. After all, he was no fool, at least not one without restraint.
Or rather, he himself had no such intent.
“You do not seem interested in people like me.”
The conclusion, coupled with the serious face, had him smiling wryly.
“What if I say you’re my type?”
“You would have talked to me incessantly, and I would keep my distance.”
“So I guess you recognize that.”
“Well, I do know you are a safe person for now.”
“Thanks for the compliment.”
I guess that’s fine,’so he thought, but he really had no intention to do anything to Mahiru, so he did not deny it.
Naturally, he would seize upon this opportunity for dinner fresh off the pan. While putting on the title of the harmless boy, he also gained the privilege to eat together with her.