“Yuyo, here... Try this pork cutlet I made from scratch.” Kyashii brought her chopstick with a crumbed cutlet toward my mouth. “I’m trying a new dish, and I’d like to know your thoughts.”
We’re about to eat lunch with Minori, Tomoka, and Nazumi-san. The school trip seems to have served as a springboard for this group to come into existence.
“Hmm?” I had one eye on the teeny morsel of meat as I took a bite of my cafeteria sandwich. “This looks like a typical cutlet to me; is there anything interesting about it? Plus, it’s your lunch, so you should eat it first.”
A scathing glare from Kyashii befalls me. “That’s why I’m saying you give it a shot! How can you tell whether something is different if you don’t even bother to try? I already had some this morning, and I considered it quite tasty. Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on it. Hmph!”
“Heh~…" With a grin, I threw out my forefinger and pointed at myself. “What am I — a personal food taster for your culinary creations?”
“Ooh! Wait.” Kyashii sounded to have had an aha moment. “You know, that would make a good idea, Yuyo~...” She sneered.
“Try not to take me seriously, Kyashii-chan.” I deadpanned.
“Nooo~... You won’t get me to do that. I’m going to treat you as my food taster for this week. I expect you to try my lunch and tell me what you think.” It was said in a tone of finality on her part.
“Oh, this means you get to eat more nutritious meals other than your favorite bread and sandwiches, plus I get comments on my cooking...” Kyashii made finger gestures as if talking to herself, indifferent to my reaction. “Yay! It’s like killing two cockroaches with one stick~...”
“Cockroaches?! Where’d you even get that bizarre aphorism?”
“What... It’s fun to come up with your own saying that follows the same logic! Hmph! So, doesn’t the idea of you being my personal food taster sound fun, Yuyo?” Her smile lends credence that she’s pleased with the idea.
“What gives, though? Why just me? Any of our friends here would also be glad to share their impressions. Right, guys?” My eyes settled on the others who were eating in silence but practically keeping a weather eye on us. It has gotten to a point where I hardly notice their presence anymore since they barely make any noise.
“Na-uh... You should ignore us, Yu-chin. If you can spare us the injustices, drop the ball on getting Mikami-san to say — ‘I don’t want to feed you guys’ — in so many words.” Tomoka said in jest. “I’ve already had my heart ripped out. One more critical hit, and I might not live to witness the start of exam week!”
“That’s amazing, Mizuno-san. I’m glad you’re reading it well.” Kyashii sneakily grinned at Tomoka.
“Haaaa… The pain! Mikami-san, let’s quit snatching my wife, yeah? How… How you… Oh, wait... What was it again? ...Right! Listen to this, Mikami-san… How you could do such you do… to me?!” Tomoka decided on a whim to give it a go trying to speak in English.
“Mizuno-san, I think you’re phrasing it erroneously. The proper way to say it is, ‘How dare you do this to me.’ If you keep that in mind, you’ll thank me later~.” Minori made a playful attempt to iron out Tomoka’s wording.
I restrained myself from giggling. English certainly isn’t Tomoka’s strong suit, so she’s probably just mimicking utterances she found online.
“Ooh... Thank you, class rep! You’re a genius!” Tomoka beamed unsuspiciously, seemingly buying Minori’s version. “Let me try one more time. It has such a badass ring to it, yeaaah? Aherm…. Aherm!”
Yet Tomoka’s plan to carry on the conversation in English hit a snag when Kyashii interrupted her. “Don’t even think about it, Mizuno-san. Yuyo is not and was never meant to be your wife.” She tutted.
“Awts! See?! What did I tell you, Yu-chin?! Now, she just said it! Your mistress is savage!” Tomoka growled.
“Huh?” My brows knit together. “Mistress??”
“Because Mikami-san is acting more like your wife than me, Yu-chin. That’s right! She’s your mistress now!” Tomoka’s lips lifted in a pout.
“You…” I snarled.
There was some lighthearted tittering erupted from Minori and Nazumi-san.
I have a sneaking feeling Tomoka and my brother will get along swimmingly. There was some strange labeling in their minds about the nature of the relationships between persons. Tomoka first called herself my wife, then asserted that Minori was my girlfriend. Now she jokes that Kyashii is my mistress, whereas my brother thinks Kyashii is my girlfriend.
Sheesh... Well, perhaps, they are the real siblings.
Tomoka and Sanji-onii have the same line of thinking about me; they make me look like I’m into girls by putting me in these strange pairings. I kid you not; this gave me pause for thought.
Hmm... Have I given off the impression to others that I’m interested in girls?
“Come oonn, Yuyo. I’ve got a hanging cutlet here, and my arm is about to grow sore!” Kyashii’s frown deepened as she gingerly held her chopstick inches from my mouth.
“Yeah, yeah... Alright... Hold still, then.” I placed a firm grip on her wrist. “Thank you for the food...” With Kyashii’s watchful gaze, I nibbled on the cutlet.
“S-So, how was it?” Her voice was anxiety-laden, and her face was twitching with nervousness.
What’s up with that expression?
“It’s utterly delicious. Hmm? There’s a subtle sweetness to the meat, which is unique to me, and the sesame seeds add an extra layer of flavor. Uhmm... Yep... As always, your cooking is superb, Kyashii! I know it will always be.” She gets a thumbs up from me.
“Really?! Pheeww!” Kyashii heaved what might have been a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you like it, Yuyo.”
Heeh... How nerve-wracking is it to receive comments on your cooking?
“I told you so, Kyashii.” An intriguing grin played across Nazumi-san’s face, aimed squarely at Kyashii, who was beaming and nodding vigorously.
“Told about what, Hana-chan?” Tomoka was a bit curious.
“Ahh… I thought it was noteworthy for Kyashii to get Shibasaki-san’s stamp of approval on her newly discovered recipe, Tomoka-chan. She was wondering if her latest cooking was any good, so I encouraged her to ask her best friend. Considering Shibasaki-san is not fond of cooking, her opinion would be more valuable.” Nazumi-san smiled coyly.
“Huh?? Wouldn’t it be better to ask someone who enjoys cooking?” I asked Nazumi-san with confusion.
“Ooh… A-Absolutely not, Shibasaki-san. For me, hearing from non-technical people is always rewarding because I know they enjoy the unfiltered nature of what I offer. Thus, with respect to cooking, the best comments should come from those who prefer to consume rather than cook.” Nazumi-san extended a warm smile at me.
“Hmmm? Really??” I’m not sure I understand what she’s trying to say here. There seems to be an expectation that seeking input from those who share similar passions to what you do will yield the best results if you are looking to improve things.
“Yes! Kyashii simply wants to get better gradually while she’s still a high schooler. We’ve already got cooking classes, too. And once we enroll in universities, she will gain a deeper understanding of cooking’s technical aspects. For now, it will be extremely advantageous for her to have someone like you try her dishes, Shibasaki-san!” Nazumi-san spoke with enthusiasm and determination in her eyes; it almost seemed like she was trying to talk me into this.
“I see… Yeah, that seems to make more sense now.” I simply nodded. Nazumi-san certainly possesses a wealth of information about Kyashii, huh?
“Hana’s right, Yuyo. So, over the next few days, I’ll be more than happy to share my lunch with you.” Kyashii smiled as she fed me some radish garnished with micro herbs this time, which I munched on anyway.
“Hmm... That’s pretty sweet.”
“H-Huh? Y-You think so?” Kyashii is looking a little flustered.
“Yeah. Is that a caramelized radish?” I showed a little bit of tongue. “Uhh... You know how I feel about sweets.”
“Ah—” Her expression switches to one of disappointment. “You’re talking about my side dish.”
“Uhum? What else could it be?”
“Ooh… You’re… right…” In between pauses, Kyashii muttered in an utterly lifeless tone before flashing me a sinister smile. “If you’re going to act as my food taster, you might want to up the sugar intake, Yuyo... After all, I’m a sweet person who appreciates sweets! Here!” She then shoved more radishes into my mouth!
“Whaa—” The caramel syrup is almost dripping off, leaving me with no choice other than to consume it before it drips on my uniform. “What was that for?!” My protest sounded after I finished it.
Blergh! I’m not really a fan of the syrup’s overpowering sweetness!
“What...” Kyashii’s reaction was unapologetic.
“Hold on... Did my remark about the side dish upset you? Sweets aren’t my thing, and you know it.”
“I’m not upset.” Kyashii’s response was sharp as she carried on eating her bento.
She definitely is pissed off!
All right... I guess I need to be careful with my choice of words when expressing my thoughts on her cooking, or I’ll keep upsetting her.
“Anyway, why try a new recipe just a week before exams? Don’t you think it would be wiser to pay more attention to studying by now?” I asked Kyashii, but she pretended not to hear me.
“. . . .”
“Kyashii is trying to decide what to cook for this weekend’s group study at your place, Shibasaki-san.” Nazumi-san was kind enough to answer my question.
“Eh?! Really?? There’s no need to go through all that trouble, though. Surely we can eat anything edible.” I noted.
“No! I demand delicious meals to help me focus, Yu-chin!” Tomoka suddenly whacked the desk. “Once I eat something that isn’t great, my stomach takes complete control of my head! If that happens, our group study will lose its purpose!”
My eyes went catatonic. “Quit tricking yourself, Tomoka. You could stuff yourself to the gills, yet you still couldn’t have your sights on your studies. And I thought you’d also pitch in with the cooking?”
“Haaaa?? Yu-chin, I didn’t promise to cook, though. I just said you should leave the cooking to us, but I’m pretty much saying let them do the cooking. Te-he!” Tomoka winked and flicked her thumb at the others.
“. . . .”
“I believe Mizuno-san has no cooking skills. What do you expect, Yuyo?” Minori shook her head.
“Hey! I can cook, class rep. I can fry anything and boil an egg to perfection! He-hem!” Tomoka smugly jutted her chin.
“Ara~… Is that so? Mizuno-san, I can tell you’re a pro in the kitchen~.” Minori sniggered.
“Of course! Haaaa… I’m confident I can outdo Yu-chin in that regard!” Tomoka gestured me a peace sign with a toothy grin.
“Hey… I can handle cooking as long as the instructions are straightforward and not too intricate.” I puckered my lips at Tomoka.
“You see, class rep? I can do boiling and frying without looking at instructions! He-he!” Tomoka is so pleased with herself that it seems pointless trying to say a word against it. Not to mention I’m hopeless at frying without specific timing instructions.
“Mizuno-san, wink out on making a comparison between apple and rotten orange. Obviously, Yuyo can’t cook without a precise set of instructions, but you can. That’s it.” Kyashii said in a detached tone and a pout.
“Waa! Mikami-san, what did I ever do to you to make you think of me as rotten orange?!” Tomoka whinged.
“Ohh~. You’re the apple, Mizuno-san.” Kyashii pointed out without hesitation.
“Huh?!” Tomoka and I both exclaimed in surprise.
“Whoaaa! Mikami-san, what’s this?! Could it be that you finally see the good in me?!” As if hearing something incredible, Tomoka covered her mouth in humor.
“I guess that makes me the rotten orange, then??” I was slack-jawed as I gazed at Kyashii, who was giving me the evil eye.
“Yes, Yuyo.” Kyashii pushed her shoulders back and assumed a threatening pose with the words ‘you got a problem?’ written on her face.
“A-Ah... Alright then. I was just wondering.” I muffled my chuckle.
“Hmph!” She just glared at me with a scowl.
I really got under her skin with that side dish remark, didn’t I?
Alright... Now I’m starting to fear for my life, considering I’ll have to taste and comment on her cooking for a couple of days. Pfft!
“Excuse me… Yuyo-senpaiiii~!” From nowhere, I heard a cheerful voice I hadn’t heard for days. A glance toward our classroom’s main door revealed Takashi-san waving at me. “I’m here to collect my souvenir, senpai~!”
Hi, guys. Please accept my apologies; there will be no new chapters for the next two weeks as I will travel home and visit family and friends over the holiday season. The next chapter will be published in the first week of January. I'm sorry for leaving you hanging for a while — hontou ni gomen nasai~. 【⩾人⩽】
I'm thankful for your continued support and precious time reading this story. There has been a considerable increase in readers of this novel in HoneyFeed & Tapas, so thank you very much. That is the sweetest Christmas gift I could ever ask for, given my lack of advertising skill. ㋡
I wish you a pleasant holiday season, everyone. ☃ ❅ ❆