Original post: http://ks.renai.us/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=7281&p=148279#p148279
“Let’s see… oh! There it is. Rin, get over here and quit knocking on other people’s doors!”
“You told me you had to knock before you go into someone’s room. So I’m knocking.”
“Yeah, but we’re not going to those rooms. We’re going to Satou’s room.”
“You’re going to Satou’s room. I’m not going to Satou’s room. I’m just following you because you told me to come with you. If I happen to end up there then that’s the way it is. Or I could end up somewhere else, which is why I’m knocking on these doors, because if I end up in someone else’s room they will have wanted me to knock first. It’s polite.”
“It’s not polite to bother people for no reason, though. C’mon, you don’t wanna miss dinner, do you?”
“I don’t really mind. Dinner usually misses me, so I don’t think it will mind if I miss it back.”
I stare hard into Rin’s eyes, hands on my hips, trying my best to convey my displeasure. Her neutral stare remains unchanged, so I give up and knock on the door before me. A refined voice rings out from within.
“The door is unlocked; please come in.”
I turn the doorhandle and push the door open slowly, poking my head through the gap as I enter. The room inside is immaculate and well-ordered, as one would expect of a blind girl’s room; you gotta minimise trip hazards and all that jazz.
In the centre of the room lies a small table, on which rests a floral teapot and several matching teacups. Seated at the left side of the table, and dressed in some pretty flattering dark pyjamas, is the blonde amazon, Lilly Satou.
“We’re not early, are we?”
Lilly smiles in my general direction and covers a slight giggle.
“Not at all. You’re just in time I’d say. Hanako should be returning with dinner shortly.”
I rub my hands together in eager anticipation, and take a seat on the far side of the table, to Lilly’s left. Noticing that Rin is still standing outside, staring at something in the distance, I call out.
“C’mon Rin, don’t just stand out there. Come sit down!”
Rin ambles through the doorway without even looking away from whatever holds her interest, and somehow manages to take her place opposite Lilly without tripping on anything.
“My, my, I wasn’t expecting to have two extra guests tonight, though I can’t say I’m surprised. Welcome.”
Rin ignores Lilly’s greeting, instead choosing to take in the unfamiliar room. I jab her in the ribs with my elbow to catch her attention.
“Oh. Hello. I wasn’t expecting to have two guests either. I was dragged away from my room, which might be why I’m a guest myself, so I wouldn’t know if I have any guests. I don’t usually have guests. Except Emi, but she’s your guest right now. So I don’t have any guests after all. What a shame.”
Clearly Lilly has no idea how to respond to Rin’s nonsense. I don’t really have much of an idea myself. I usually tend to ignore it. Thankfully the awkward silence is broken by a knock at the door, which opens shortly after to reveal Hanako with her arms full of an assortment of plastic containers.
I catch her eye and wave, which she returns with a smile before stepping over to the table and setting down her load. As she unpacks the food, I notice that her nightie, while showing more of her scars than the school uniform, is quite conservative. It makes a strange contrast to Lilly’s attire, as well as my own nightshirt and boxer shorts, and reminds me somewhat of that day at the beach.
Before long, Hanako has finished setting out the food, and I take in the sights and smells of the various dishes with vigour. Lilly, being unable to see the food, takes several long breaths, savouring each flavour in its odour form.
“Would you like to tell us what you’ve made, Hanako?”
“S-sure. On your right are s-some miso onigiri… um, I decorated them with some c-cute faces, but you… um, never mind. On your left is a fish c-curry with onions and t-tomatoes. There’s some rice n-next to it if you want, as well. A-and on the other side of the t-teapot is a bowl of curly fr— oh, um…”
Hanako holds up her hand in a feeble half-withdrawn-half-reaching pose, as Rin looks up like a deer in headlights, mouth open and toes holding several curly fries before her mouth.
“Oh. Were we not supposed to eat these yet? I’ll put them back.”
“N-no, that’s okay…”
Rin shrugs and stuffs the fries into her mouth. Her expression indicates that she likes them. Without further ado, I take several fries and chomp them down myself.
“Hey, these are pretty good! Shame they’re so fattening though, I’m gonna have to run twice as hard tomorrow to work these off. Well, may as well enjoy myself while I can!”
I take a plate and start loading it up with piles of the different dishes, sampling pieces as I go. I notice that, while Lilly has her plate filled, she has not yet touched any food.
“How come you haven’t had any yet, Lilly? You’re missing out; this stuff is beyond delicious!”
Lilly hums quietly, a light smile perched on her lips.
“Oh, I was just waiting for it to cool a little. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.”
Lilly then takes a mouthful of the curry, chewing slowly, apparently savouring the taste. Next to her, Hanako watches as Lilly’s expression turns to one of enjoyment.
“It’s delicious, Hanako. Thank you.”
Hanako beams at Lilly’s approval, squeaking ‘great!’, and starts on her own food. Soon enough, the four of us have consumed the lot, crockery licked clean. Well, I lick mine clean anyway, which elicits a giggle from Hanako as I do so.
Lilly serves us all tea to wash down our meal, which I drink out of respect. I never was one for tea, and the caffeine… ugh. A bit of saturated fat can be run off easily enough, but caffeinated energy sticks around for a while. Nevertheless, it’s quite nicely flavoured. Lemon, I think.
From over the top of the cup I watch the others. Lilly sips her tea with her pinky finger out, while Hanako wraps her hands around her cup. Rin, on the other hand…
“Could I have a straw? Teacups don’t agree with my feet. That’s not to say they disagree, because teacups can’t hold nor express opinions, but it doesn’t work very well.”
Hanako sets down her cup, eyes wide, and hops to her feet.
“Oh! S-sorry, I’ll go get one from the c-common room. I’ll be right b-back.”
Hanako dashes out the door, leaving it open. I take the opportunity to get something off my mind.
“Hey, Lilly, you seemed kinda hesitant to tuck into that grub before.”
Lilly frowns and shuffles nervously.
“Yes, well… let me just say that Hanako likes to experiment, and that not every meal comes out as well as that one did.”
“Huh. Say, do you reckon Hanako’d wanna come over and cook with my mom? She cooks all kinds of great stuff.”
“It’s a possibility. Why don’t you ask her?”
I don’t notice the footsteps in the doorway until the voice of their owner speaks up.
“Ask me what?”
I find myself stammering for no good reason. Maybe it’s just the feeling of being caught out talking about Hanako behind her back.
“Oh, I… uh… I was just telling Lilly about the great stuff my mom cooks, and I wondered if… if you wanted to come round and cook with her sometime.”
Hanako’s face takes on a surprised expression, cheeks flushed bright red. Her right hand nervously fiddles with her nightie, while her left clutches her arm. Her eyes flick between Lilly, Rin and me before she makes up her mind.
“Great! I usually head home on the weekends, so you can come with me then if you want. Otherwise we can organise something that suits you.”
“The weekend is o-okay.”
“Awesome. Now how about some more of that lemon-y tea?”
The bus comes to a lurching stop, and I make my way to the front and out of its confines. I’m glad to be out of the hot, cramped space. I crinkle my nose at the heavy city air, and turn around to beckon Hanako onto the street with me.
I gotta hand it to her; she scrubs up pretty well when she wants to. She’s got a real fashionista look about her, with her ruffle-collared shirt, denim jacket, and matching black jeans and hat. She’d probably get along well with the girl that runs the fashion club – what was her name? Saki, I think, from the year below us.
I lead her the few blocks to my place, the exterior of which she takes in briefly before following me inside. I call out across the house.
“Mom, we’re here!”
“I’m in the living room, dear!”
We enter the living room, where mom is reclining on a chair, reading a women’s magazine.
“Hey, mom. This is Hanako. Hanako, mom. Mom, Hanako.”
Hanako gives a nervous wave and a slightly more confident ‘hi’, while mom gets out of her chair to greet Hanako properly. Thankfully, she seems to take no notice of – or ignores – the scarring that Hanako is habitually hiding.
“Well, aren’t you gorgeous? I love your outfit; it suits you very nicely. It reminds me of the stuff I used to wear when I was young and pretty. You can call me Meiko, or Mrs. Ibarazaki if that’s too casual for you.”
Hanako blushes slightly before mom continues.
“Did you want something to drink? It’s quite hot out there after all.”
“N-no, thanks. I’m fine.”
“Okay, great! It’s only quarter to six, so if you want to relax for a bit before we get started, then I’d be happy to put on a movie or something. Otherwise, we can get started now and leave plenty of time for dessert.”
Hanako appears to be caught off guard at having the choice deferred to her. She makes that pose where she clutches her elbow and shirt again; it must be a nervous thing.
“Um… I’d like to start n-now, if that’s alright.”
Mom beams and makes an exaggerated dismissive wave when she responds. Gee, mom, way to be embarrassing.
“Oh, of course, sweetheart. C’mon, the kitchen’s this way.”
The kitchen is only a short walk away from the living room. I note that mom has a spread of different things prepared on the bench. I guess her definition of ‘just get a few different things to try’ is vastly different to mine. She opens and uncovers various containers in turn as Hanako inspects the contents.
“I wasn’t sure what you liked, so I made sure there were a lot of options we can take a look at. I have a few recipes in mind, but if you want to try something specific then I have a fair few things in the pantry.”
“S-sure. Do you have a n-notepad? I’d like to write a few things d-down.”
I take a seat at the table while Mom and Hanako discuss various potential dishes and flavour combinations. I kinda lose track of what they’re talking about after a bit, with all the foreign words they’re throwing around – oh hey, I know what sauté means – but just from looking, it looks like there’s to be a lot of dishes to wash afterwards.
With the menu sorted out, Hanako begins cutting some vegetables. Mom steps into the dining area and over to the battered cassette player she keeps on the crockery cabinet. Oh no. Really, mom?
“Hanako, dear, do you mind if I put on some music? I find cooking to be much more enjoyable with some fun tunes to cook to.”
“Oh, um, n-not at all. What sort of music is it?”
“You’ll see~,” mom adds, shooting a coy wink my way. Yup. She’s doing it alright.
I roll my eyes and sigh in response. She knows I can’t stand her old people music. She insists the seventies and eighties weren’t that long ago, but I have to disagree. Music from before I was born has no place in a modern kitchen. Nevertheless, the infuriatingly catchy melody forces me to hum along.
Back in the kitchen, I notice Hanako mouthing the words while she scores what looks like several chicken fillets and inserts some kind of herb into the gash. Mom, too, sings along, albeit audibly. Mom’s singing is usually pretty good, actually, but oh God is it embarrassing right now.
The vocal taboo broken, Hanako joins mom in letting her voice be heard. Did I say mom’s singing was pretty good? Hanako’s voice makes mom’s singing sound as bad as mine. Hanako hits all the highs with perfection, and belts out the choruses with passion.
At the same time, she slices, dices, fries – no, sautés – and grills various meals into existence. The smell wafting from the kitchen is as infuriatingly tempting as the foreign pop music blasting from the cassette player. So much for a Jack of all trades being a master of none.
I guess I was partly right with all of the silly nicknames I suggested at the beach. ‘Hanako Ikezawa, the mighty Iron Chef-slash-rough ‘n’ tough pop-rock princess of Yamaku Academy!’ Man, what a mouthful. She certainly seems in her element, though. ‘Hanako at her Hanakoest,’ Rin would say.
In due time, the sounds from the kitchen die down as the dishes are completed, and shortly thereafter the cassette reaches its end. Aww. I mean, thank God.
I look with eager eyes as mom and Hanako bring over the assortment of concoctions. There is definitely too much here for two young women and one seventies dinosaur to consume. Hanako explains what exactly it is they’ve made, but it’s full of foreign words again and amounts to something like ‘seasoned chicken breast with saucy vegetables; chilli-flavoured rice, meat and vegetable mush; and unwrapped chicken burrito’.
All of it is delicious. And fattening. But delicious. Oh, Hanako, why must you tempt me so? I’m gonna have to run double to run this dinner off as well. And yet, I can’t help but shovel more and more of the gourmet grub into my gob. I notice Hanako staring at my piggish eating habits, and smile through a mouthful of food, causing her to giggle.
Despite my valiant efforts, quite a bit of food remains uneaten by the time we’re done. Mom packs the leftovers into several plastic containers, and we settle down to make some room for dessert. A rumbling in my belly takes me by surprise, and I involuntarily let out an ear-shattering burp. The silence that follows only lasts a few seconds before mom and Hanako burst into laughter.
“Goodness, it sounds like you enjoyed yourself, dear,” mom sputters between giggles.
“It’s a compliment! It was pretty awesome, after all. Hanako, what did you say that rice thing was called again? It was damn good.”
“It’s called p-paella. It’s a Spanish dish… but I added m-my own ideas as well.”
“Well, you’ve got some great ideas, then. I’m glad you made it.”
Hanako blushes and a small, prideful smile emerges on her face.
“Th-thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Now, dears, let’s not forget who the head chef was~,” mom teases.
“Ah shaddup mom, you spent more time singing than cooking.”
“Ohoho maybe, but I did most of the preparation!”
“Yeah, on a recipe that Hanako wrote.”
“You should be more appreciative of your mother.”
“You should be more appreciative of our guest.”
I gesture towards Hanako for effect. I notice she looks something between confused and scared at our teasing debate. Mom follows my gaze and takes note as well, before repeating the dismissive hand wave from before.
“Oh pish posh, you know I kid.”
She turns to address Hanako, hand covering her mouth as if to prevent me from hearing, even though she makes no such effort.
“Never you mind, sweetheart. Something you should know about Emi is that she likes to get into silly debates with people.”
“Hey! Mom! No way! You’re always the one that starts it…”
“Don’t listen to her, Hanako, she’s a born liar.”
“Oh, sure… just another thing I get inherited from you.”
“Now that’s just nonsense. I’ll have to have a talk to the nurse about corrupting my daughter.”
Unable to think of a witty comeback, I resort to crossing my arms, sticking my tongue out, and muttering ‘ass’ under my breath. Hanako giggles heartily at my defeat, to which I roll my eyes. In the kitchen, a light ‘ding’ signals the timer in the oven elapsing. Hanako hops out of her chair and skips over to it to remove whatever goodies lie within. Smiling with an comparitively large grin, she holds out a tray full of some kind of chocolate pastries.
“S-so, who’s ready for dessert?”