Mahiru was going to start cooking dinner at Amanes apartment, and she presented

him with a list of conditions:

• Amane would pay for half the cost of ingredients, plus an additional labor cost, plus

the cost of any incidental expenses.

• The two of them would each contact the other no later than the day before if they

had something to do and couldn eat together.

• They would divide the work of shopping and cleaning up afterward.

Regarding the extra labor cost, it had taken some work to get Mahiru to agree to it.

Amane had insisted that he felt bad about all the time she was spending on him. It was

to be expected, since she did all the work making the food. Aside from that, though,

Amane and Mahiru had come to an agreement rather quickly.

And so, the day after their agreement had been ratified, Mahiru came over early holding

supermarket bags in both hands and made preparations to start cooking.

”…Its really all brand-new, like its hardly been used…, ” Mahiru commented.

”Shut up, ” Amane shot back.

A beautiful girl stood in his kitchen, and she was wearing an apron. This was like a

fantasy come to life. Amane was sure he was going to lose it any second now. When

Mahiru pointed out, yet again, that he had really never used his kitchen, he felt a deep


”Youve got an impressive collection of gadgets here, but they
e like pearls tossed

before swine, ” Mahiru observed.

”Well, if you use them, they won go to waste, ” Amane reasoned.

”Thats a poor excuse, after the fact. Your precious cookware is practically dying from

neglect. ”

”All right then, bring it back to life with your amazing culinary talents. I sure as hell

can . ”

With gracious concession, Amane motioned for Mahiru to take over. She returned the

gesture with an exasperated expression, but perhaps because shed expected as much,

she just sighed and didn complain further.

”All right, lets get started. Do you have any spices? ”

”Of course I do; are you making fun of me? They
e all properly stored—and none are

expired, either. ”

”Wow, Im surprised. ”

”Its because theyve never been opened. ”

”Thats nothing to brag about. All right, if you don have what we need, I can bring

things over from my place to use this once. ”

”That would be helpful. ”

”For now, if you have the basics, I think we can make do. Also, I decided on todays

dishes already; is that all right? ”

”I don know much about cooking, so Im happy with anything as long as I get to eat.

I don have strong preferences. ”

”Really? Then lets hurry up and get started… Please show me where you keep

everything. ”

”In this basket. ”

e really unopened, huh… ”

Mahiru raised her eyebrows in shock as she stared at the basket filled with untouched

seasonings. Perhaps because shed been warned before shed seen the unused spices,

she quickly reassumed her usual demeanor and began washing her hands at the sink.

”All right, Im going to start making stuff, so you can go wait in the living room or in

your bedroom, ” Mahiru declared.

”Okay. I can help you with anything anyway, ” Amane accepted.

”What a gentleman. I suppose youd just get in the way if you hung around. ”

e awfully honest. ”

”Its just the truth. Theres no need to sugarcoat it. ”

As Mahiru said, he would clearly just be in the way, so Amane obediently returned to

the living room and watched her back as she worked.

When she had finished washing her hands, Mahiru quickly set to work. Amane didn

know what she was making, but based on the ingredients she had readied, it was

probably Japanese food.

Everything about this felt strange to Amane, like he was in a dream, but it was real.

Mahiru was actually preparing the ingredients right there, her hair tied up in a gently

swaying ponytail.

Whats with this situation? Its like Ive got a wife or something, Amane thought.

Mahiru probably didn feel the same way, but their setup looked a little too much like

they were a happy family, and Amane couldn help but imagine it. He didn have even

the smallest desire to live with Mahiru, but the sight of a beautiful girl standing in his

kitchen was in itself enough to send his mind to all sorts of places. Whether or not

there was any affection between Amane and Mahiru, just having a lovely girl treat him

to a home-cooked meal was enough to touch Amanes heart.

”…Are you thinking weird things over there? ”

”You can stop with the strange speculations. ”

Amane had frozen when Mahiru called him out. Shed guessed what he was thinking

without even turning around.

She sure is sharp…

Feeling amazed and anxious all at once, Amane stamped down on the not-quite-evil

base instincts that had begun welling up inside him and returned to staring at

Mahirus back.

About an hour later, Mahiru began setting out completed dishes on the table.

Shed chosen to make Japanese food today, which was typical when one considered

her penchant for healthy cooking.

”It turns out you have quite a few utensils and seasonings, so it looks like I won have

to bring anything from my place. Starting tomorrow, I can try more elaborate dishes,

too. ”

”I mean, Im just grateful you
e making anything for me, ” Amane admitted.

Perhaps because Mahiru hadn known how many pieces of cookware and seasonings

Amane had in his collection, she had made many simple dishes rather than anything

more intricate, but the presentation was flawless nonetheless.

Lined up along the table was an array of Japanese-style dishes. From fish simmered in

soy sauce to dressed greens. From rolled omelets to miso soup. Every last item was

something Amane could never dream of making himself.

Previously, Amane had said he didn have any particular likes or dislikes, but he did

in fact love Japanese food. He wanted to reassure Mahiru, who looked apologetic for

having only prepared easy recipes, that this was exactly what he had wanted.

”…It looks amazing, ” Amane said.

”Im happy to hear you say that. Eat up while its still hot. ”

Mahiru sat down in a chair next to her, so Amane took a seat across the table.

His dining table was small, since he lived alone, so no matter how they sat, they were

still close together. It was lucky that Amane happened to have two chairs just in case

a guest stopped by, but seeing a beautiful girl sitting right before his eyes evoked some

indescribable feeling from within him.

Once Amane set upon the food, however, even Mahirus beauty ceased to matter.

Hurriedly, he said ”Lets eat ” and started with the miso soup.

The moment he brought the bowl to his lips and took a sip, the fragrant miso and the

flavor of the dashi spread through his mouth. The gentle taste was so completely

different from instant miso soup. Amane could tell that it must have been prepared

with great care. The miso flavor wasn overpowering, and it was thoughtfully

seasoned to allow the taste of the dashi broth to come through.

At first, Amane felt that the soups taste was just a little bit strong, but after he

considered drinking it while eating the other dishes, he realized that it struck the

perfect balance and knew he would empty his bowl. Rather than being overwhelming,

the miso soup was a comforting flavor. It was a taste that made you want to eat more.

”Delicious, ” Amane said with sincerity.

”Thank you for saying so. ” Mahirus eyes crinkled in a relieved smile.

Amane had been complimenting Mahirus cooking for a while, but shed probably been

feeling nervous with this being the first time shed cooked right in front of him.

Mahiru watched Amane for a few moments before eating anything herself. Once she

finally did start digging in, Amane extended his chopsticks toward the other dishes.

Sampling a bit of each dish, it came as no surprise to Amane that everything Mahiru

had prepared was fantastic.

The simmered fish was bursting with juicy flavor without sacrificing its tenderness.

Usually when fish was cooked for a long time to bring out the taste, it would naturally

lose some moisture and dry out, but this one was plump and had a nice texture.

As for the rolled omelets, they were tailored exactly to Amanes tastes. They were an

enticingly vivid yellow, and when Amane stuffed one in his mouth, he was unsurprised

by the gentle seasoning of dashi that greeted him.

When it came to Japanese-style omelets, Amane knew, some people added sugar when

making them, while others only used salt. These rolled ones had been flavored with

dashi, however. In addition to the rich taste of the dashi, Amane could also taste a faint

sweetness. He wondered if that light undertone came from honey. There probably

wasn that much in the rolled omelets, but the satisfying hint of sweetness brought

out a real depth.

Amane had no real preference between sweet or salty when it came to egg dishes, but

the ones he liked best combined the complex flavor of dashi with what he suspected

was a bit of honey. Mahiru had accomplished that expertly, and Amane found himself

quite impressed.

Quietly muttering that the rolled omelets were delicious, Amane grabbed another one

with his chopsticks and quickly tossed it in his mouth.

Not only had they been perfectly flavored, theyd been skillfully cooked as well. The

stock added to the eggs made them extra juicy.

These are definitely better than Moms rolled omelets. He kept rude thoughts about his

nonpresent mother to himself as he smacked his lips happily. Then he realized that

Mahiru was staring at him.

”…You really seem to be enjoying it. ”

”Because its all so good. Im paying my respects to the delicious food. ”

”Sure, all right. ”

”Besides, doesn it feel better when Im honest about how much I enjoy it rather than

sitting here eating with a blank expression? ”

If you think somethings delicious, youve got to really act like it, otherwise, the person

who made it will be left wondering. Even if you say you enjoy it, who would believe you

if you didn look the part? Its better to be honest and just let how you feel show directly

on your face. Whether you
e the one giving thanks or being thanked, its best to do what

feels good.

”…Yes, I suppose so… ” Mahiru seemed to understand what Amane was saying, and she

smiled slightly. It was a gentle expression, and it betrayed just a hint of relief. It was

sweet enough that all of Amanes thoughts ground to a halt for a second.

”…Fujimiya? ” Mahiru asked.

”Ah… no, its nothing, ” Amane replied. Hed been enchanted by the angels smile, but

he couldn possibly tell her that. To conceal his growing embarrassment, Amane took

another bite of food, ending any further discussion.

”…Thank you for dinner. ”

”Im glad you liked it. ”

Amane had completely devoured every dish Mahiru had laid out. Mahirus words had

been calm, but her expression was serene, and she seemed happy that Amane had

packed everything into his stomach. Not a single grain of rice had been left behind.

”It was delicious, ” Amane complimented.

”I could tell that much just by watching you, ” Mahiru quipped dryly.

”Better than my moms cooking. ”

”I hear its taboo to compare a girls cooking to your mothers. ”

”Isn that only true when you
e criticizing someone? Anyway, does that bother you? ”

”I don mind, no. ”

”Well then, its fine, right? It doesn change the fact that its delicious. ”

Mahiru was clearly no amateur cook. Amanes mother probably had more years of

experience under her belt, but she preferred different tastes, and many of her dishes

were fairly bland, so they were no match for Mahirus carefully concocted foods.

”…Man, this is so awesome. To be able to eat like that every night! ” exclaimed Amane.

”As long as I don have anything else going on, that is, ” Mahiru added.

”…So I can really host you every night for dinner? ”

”I wouldn have suggested it if I was against the idea. ”

”Well, I guess thats true. ”

Mahiru was a straight shooter, so of course she wouldve never agreed to it if she didn

want to in the first place. Amane still wasn sure if it was okay to have her cooking for

him like this so often, however.

He was paying for half the ingredients, plus a bit extra to cover her labor, but even so,

he couldn help feeling like the burden on Mahiru was too large.

”…Do you normally cook for boys you don even like? ” Amane asked.

”Im doing it because you were neglecting your health. Besides, I enjoy the act of

cooking itself, and I don hate seeing you eat it with such gusto. ”

”But…, ” Amane started.

”If it bothers you that much, it would be no problem to stop. ”

”No, please, Im begging you. ”

At the first sign of Mahiru possibly not cooking for him anymore, Amane instantly

retracted any and all complaints. That was just how much her food meant to him. To

have it snatched away now—it would practically be a matter of life and death.

Amane was entirely aware that Mahiru had gained full control of him by way of his

stomach, but Mahirus cooking was just too delicious to refuse. Returning to

convenience-store meals now would be like robbing the world of color.

Shocked at Amanes immediate reply, Mahiru was stunned for a moment before

breaking into a smile.

”Well then, please continue to enjoy. ”

”…Okay. ”

It appeared that Amanes days of dining with the extremely charitable angel who made

all the food by hand would continue for a while yet. Amane couldn help but sigh from

happiness, guilt, and anticipation.

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