Amane found it a hassle to go down to the convenience store, and was slurping at the jelly drink he usually kept at home, leaning on the railing as he breathed in the air outside. It was then that Mahiru appeared on the veranda herself.
Once Mahiru spotted Amane, she leaned over the veranda, noticed the jelly juice he was drinking, and frowned a little.
Amane never expected to be approached, and could only remain momentarily rooted.
“You understand, right? It’s jelly that replenishes my energy in just dozens of seconds.”
“…Are you planning to eat this for dinner?”
“What else then?”
“…A high school boy with a big appetite is eating this?”
“Stop being a busybody.”
Typically, he would have lived on bentos from the convenience stores or sides from the supermarket and not eat that little. He was not in the mood to cook dinner, nor have cup ramen, so he decided to have jelly juice instead.
It was unlikely he would have sufficient food, and he might have some snacks or sweets thereafter.
“…What about cooking?”
“Can’t do, and won’t do. You know that, right?”
“…And you cannot tidy up. It is amazing how you are living alone…”
“Shut up. That has nothing to do with you, right?”
The scathing truth hit him, so he frowned and finished his jelly juice.
He had suffered days ago, and was planning to clean up, but being told this for days turned his determination to the opposite direction.
Amane, in turn, was curious as to why Mahiru was being a little naggy; she stared back at him and let out a little sigh.
“… Please wait for a moment.”
Before he could respond or deny, Mahiru returned from the veranda to her apartment.
Upon hearing the windows clatter shut, Amane asked. “What was that?”
She said to wait, but what did she want him to wait for?
He looked towards Mahiru’s apartment with surprise, but naturally, there was no response.
Guess I’m cooled down. Time to go back.
He waited for her as told, but the winter night was colder than he thought. A sweater was insufficient.
In any case, he did not know why he was waiting so obediently.
The temperature was so cold, he was breathing white air. He exhaled, and there was an electronic buzzing sound from the corridor.
He immediately turned towards the door once he heard the bell.
There was only one visitor he would expect to arrive.
He did not know why she would appear, but he avoided the messy pile of clothes and magazines as he went towards the corridor.
He knew who it was even without looking through the peephole. He dragged his sandals towards the door and unchained it. As expected, slightly beneath his eyes was flaying flax-colored hair.
“…What are you doing?”
“I had enough seeing how poorly you live… these are leftovers, but here.”
Mahiru retorted tersely as she stretched her hands outward.
The hands, which were much smaller than Amane’s, were holding a tupperware container. The translucent lid gave Amane a sneak peak of the cooked food inside.
The contents were still warm, and there were some water droplets on the lid. It was hard to see, but there should be some cooked food inside.
He blinked a few times, and once she saw that his eyes were trying to comprehend why, Mahiru let out a deep sigh.
“You do not eat properly. Supplements are simply supplements, not to be taken as the main course.”
“Are you my mom?”
“I do think what I insist here is normal. Also, you should be cleaning up your apartment, no? It is difficult to stand in there.”
Mahiru glanced behind Amane, and narrowed her eyes in exasperation, leaving him speechless.
“… I can still walk through.”
“Not at all. Clothes typically should not be on the floor.”
“Well, they just dropped.”
“They will not if you wash them, dry them, and fold them properly. Please pack up all the magazines you have read. It will be troublesome if you slip and fall.”
There was some spite in the words, but Amane knew well that Mahiru was concerned for some reason and could not retort to every point.
It was true that the last time she took care of him, both of them nearly slipped because the room was too messy. It was no wonder he was being told off.
Grrr. Amane, unable to retort, grimaced and pursed his lips together as he received the tupperware container from Mahiru.
The warmth slowly spread through his palm, and it was comforting amidst this cooling weather.
“So, can I eat this?”
“I will discard it if you do not want to.”
“No, no, no, I’ll eat it. It’s not often we get an ordinary dinner made by the Angel herself.”
“…Please do not call me that. Seriously.”
He tried to get back at her by using her nickname at school, but her white face was clearly starting to turn red.
It seemed calling her ‘Angel’ was truly embarrassing. Looking from her viewpoint, Amane too felt uneasy about it, and it was to be expected.
Her cheeks were flushed, and she glared at him with a teary look, which Amane could only grin at.
“Sorry. I won’t call you that again.”
Any more, and he would really ruin her mood, so it would not be appropriate for him to joke anymore about this. Plus, they were not on such familial terms that they could joke about, and it would be better not to go overboard.
It appeared Mahiru really did not want to be called such, and she cleared her throat, regaining her composure.
Her cheeks remained strangely red however, and she looked not too different from before.
“Well, I’ll be accepting this graciously. You don’t have to be sorry about me getting sick.”
“Not at all. We are even now after I had taken care of you. I am doing this for self-satisfaction… but I am relatively concerned by how you are not living a proper lifestyle.”
“I get that.”
Amane had always been in a hapless state whenever she saw him, and her decision might be expected from a certain perspective.
Even at this point, the entrance behind Amane was a complete mess, and Mahiru had seen it all when she took care of him. There was no point hiding.
“… Do eat proper meals and live a proper lifestyle now, will you?”
“Are you my mom?”
While Mahiru lectured away with a completely serious look, Amane retorted back in exhaustion.
He brought the gift handed to him back, frisked for disposable chopsticks from the supermarket, and sat on the living room sofa.
How would the food Mahiru shoved to him taste?
He was thinking that the porridge from before tasted good. His tongue was insensitive due to the cold, but the taste of the porridge, cooked from uncooked rice, did enter his stomach gently.
Given the prior experience, Mahiru’s cooking skills were fine. How would it taste this time?
Harboring some expectations, he opened the tupperware lid with some apprehension, and drifting out was undoubtedly the fragrance of cooked food.
It contained some root vegetables and chicken. The soup was mild in color, the bright colors of the carrots and the green bean garnish stood out.
Food of various colors were chopped into bite-size, whetting the appetite of Amane, who had only consumed jelly.
He quickly split the chopsticks and brought the carrot to his mouth first.
The taste was obvious at once.
As to be expected of the health-conscious Mahiru, the seasoning was mild, but the fish stock was rich. This was not the powdered stock that was usually bought from the supermarket. It was stock boiled from bonito flakes and kelp. The taste was completely different.
He slowly chewed, savoring the flavor of the stock, seasoning, and vegetables spreading in his mouth.
The freshness of the vegetables was thoroughly emphasized while the soup flavor was absorbed. Amane himself disliked eating vegetables, but even he could enjoy it.
Do eat more vegetables, so the message implied, for there was little chicken inside. The chicken was really fresh, tender, not overdone. There was nothing to nitpick about it aside from quantity.
The ingredients were relatively plain for a high school girl’s cooking, yet it clearly emphasized her skills.
One could say it demonstrated a stark difference from those who had just learnt how to cook.
It would be better if there was some rice or miso or soy sauce, so he thought, but unfortunately he did not cook any rice… or rather, he had finished his supply of rice, and this little wish was left unfulfilled.
It was too late for him to say so, but Amane regretted not going out to buy two packets of rice.
“The Angel’s really amazing.”
So Amane praised the superhuman who was perfect at studying, sports, and housework, yet terrified and unhappy about being called that. He continued to savor the ideal taste of these root vegetables.