Tonari no Kuuderera o Amayakashitara, Uchi no Aikagi o Watasu Koto ni Natta - v1 chapter 2
- Tonari no Kuuderera o Amayakashitara, Uchi no Aikagi o Watasu Koto ni Natta
- v1 chapter 2 - A Half-priced Bento Box, then Karaage
A Half-priced Bento Box, then Karaage
”That person is…”
I was on my way home from the church after I finished my organ practice. When I dropped by the supermarket to buy some groceries before my day off on the weekend, I had another strange encounter.
The princess of our class was staring down at the half-price bento boxes on shelves with a serious expression on her face. The way she was standing there and looking at the bento boxes made it seem like a scene from a movie. The shoppers around us looked at her curiously, but kept their distance as they passed by.
(What are you doing… Villiers?)
I furrowed my brow at my classmate who hadn’t moved at all. Since we live in the same apartment building, it’s inevitable that we’ll run into each other at the stores we use to buy our necessities. Considering the future, I think it would be smarter to have a friendly relationship with her. However, as of now, Yui and I are just classmates who are not even friends.It was hard for me to imitate Kei by acting friendly and casually asking her something like, “Well, do you have any problems?”
After several minutes of worrying about what I should do, Yui continues to look down at the half-price bento box without moving from her spot.
(…Perhaps she’s worried about something?)
When I faintly sensed a hint of emotion from her poker face, Yui noticed my gaze and looked up.
“Oh, what a coincidence. I also use this supermarket since it’ s close, cheap and has a great selection, what’s wrong?” To avoid being mistaken as a stalker following Yui, I quickly threw in a lame excuse and called out to her as if I had only just arrived. Yui held out her palm towards me as if she was elegantly escorting me, and pointed out a bento box with a half-price sticker on it.
“I’m curious why this bento is being sold at half-price.”
My eyes twitched a few times after hearing her ordinary remark.
“…Eh, is that all? Is that what you’ve been worrying about?”
“Yes, I’ve been wondering why.”
Yui shook her head in a very serious manner. However, the answer that came back to me was so normal and unexpected that it made me blurt out the fact that I had been looking at her for a while now, but Yui just stared back at me in silence without mentioning it.
“Um, don’t they have half-price bento boxes in England?”
“Half-price bento boxes…? Sorry, I’ve never heard of those before.”
Yui tilted her head as she muttered this in her fluent and English-like pronunciation.
Oh, I realized once again that Yui was an English, and I pointed with my fingertip to the discount sticker on top of the regular price of the bento box.
“It has an expiration date written on it, right? After the expiration date you can’t sell it anymore, so it’s better to offer it at half price so the store doesn’t lose money.” When I explained this, Yui nodded her head several times as if she agreed with me.
“I see, half-price bento boxes are a very practical system, isn’t it?”
“System wise, …well, yeah.” I nodded my head in agreement with her exaggerated comment. I was sure that’s how supermarkets work.
I’m sure they have limited time sales in England, but Yui is an aristocratic princess, so maybe she never had a chance to shop at a supermarket. If she was a princess of that level, then why was she living alone in Japan in the first place? …When I witnessed her naivety, I thought she had the traits of an aristocratic princess after all.
“In any case, just because it’s half-price doesn’t mean you should doubt it, so don’t worry. It’s a convenient and good way to save money when you live alone.”
“Thank you for the explanation. I’m going to eat it for dinner…” The moment Yui turned her head towards the half-price lunch box, she looked slightly happy.
A hand reached out from the side and snatched away the half-price lunch box.
Yui stared blankly at the spot where the half-price bento should have been. The ironclad rule of bento sales is that the first one to buy wins. In other words, this was not anyone’s fault, but the unfortunate nature of this system.
Yui’s somewhat disappointed poker face made me smile slightly, and I covered my mouth that was about to laugh with my hand and averted my face to calm myself.
“The bento boxes go on sale every day around seven o’clock in the evening, so come back tomorrow to get some.”
“I see. Then I’ll try again tomorrow.”
I told Yui this while suppressing a smile from my mouth, and after giving a slight bow, she walked away from the store. Perhaps because she couldn’t buy a half-price bento box, her steps seemed to be sluggish and discouraged.
(I guess there is a princess who gets upset over a half-price bento box.)
I headed over to the cashier to pay for my groceries, smiling at her back.
◇ ◇ ◇
In front of the elevator of the apartment building where I lived. I responded to my fifth encounter today by raising my hand with a wry smile on my face.
“Just for the record, I’m not following Villiers around, okay?”
“Don’t worry, I didn’t think that. We go to the same school and live in the same apartment building, so this sort of thing is bound to happen.”
Yui, without being surprised, looked up from the information board of the descending elevator. While thinking that coincidences don’t surprise her at all, I dropped my gaze in the awkward atmosphere, hoping that the elevator would come down soon.
Then I saw the plastic bag Yui was carrying in her hands, and the contents were visible through it.
The plastic bag full of bottled water with the logo of the nearest drugstore printed on it made my heart skip a beat.
“I heard that they were selling them at a very cheap price today.”
Yui answered plainly with her eyes fixed on the information board.
(…Villiers was at the supermarket earlier, trying to buy a bento box for dinner, right?)
Then after we parted, she stopped by the drugstore and we bumped into each other again there. If that’s the case, I can’t help but ponder how she arrived at the apartment first in such a short time after eating out.
Yui sensed the discomfort in my expression and turned her head to ask.
“No, I was wondering if you hadn’t bought dinner.”
“I was told that tomorrow at seven o’clock the half-priced bento boxes will be restocked.”
“No, I’m talking about tonight’s dinner.”
“I’ve got water, so it’s okay.”
Yui lifted the plastic bag she was carrying and showed it to me.
As the elevator doors opened quietly, we both took our turn to get in, the doors slowly closed and the view outside the small window began to move.
“Are you not going to eat anything until tomorrow’s half-priced bento box? Water won’t be enough to fill you up, or did you forget to convert your money and don’t have any on hand?”
“I do have some Japanese yen on me.”
“So you’re not feeling well and have no appetite?”
“I’m still getting used to the time difference, but I’m feeling fine.”
While we were having this conversation, the elevator arrived at the second floor and in no time we were in front of each other’s room.
When I was about to open the front door of my house, Yui turned her face towards me, as if she was in thought for a moment and spoke
“I appreciate your concern, but I just don’t want to waste money, so don’t worry about it.”
Yui’s quiet words were sincere and straightforward. Her words were not aggressive or cold, but she said them clearly, as if she was drawing an invisible line.
“I want to earn my own living expenses as much as I’m permitted to.”
I was unable to speak any further, remembering what she said earlier at the church.
“Villiers…” Leaving her parents at this age to study alone in an unfamiliar foreign country, and even more so, trying to get a part-time job to pay for her living expenses.
In other words, although she receives enough money to live on her own here without needing a part time job, she decided to live without using it for as long as she could. I’m sure that Yui has her own reasons for doing so, and that she would rather keep it to herself.
I really like that aspect of her.
“I guess Villiers isn’t the kind of princess she seems to be.”
“Princess? What are you talking about?”
“No, it’s nothing. I’m only speaking to myself.”
I replied to Yui, who raised an eyebrow in a quizzical manner while relaxing her lips in a natural manner.
“I’m sorry, but can you wait here for a moment?”
I left Yui, who was tilting her head, and went back into my room.
I quickly opened the freezer and stuffed two resealable packs into a plastic bag, then walked back out to the front door and handed it out to Yui who was waiting there.
“I have enough for two meals at least. This should be enough for you until tomorrow night.”
Looking at the frozen meat, the potato stew and minestrone in the bag, Yui’s blue eyes fluttered.
“If you have a heat proof container, you can reheat it in the microwave oven, if not you can just place it in a pot or a frying pan and reheat it on the stove.”
“No… um, this is…?”
“Do you have a microwave or a frying pan?”
“I do have a microwave and a frying pan, but I don’t have… you know, money…?”
I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head lightly at Yui who looked confused and unsure about what to do.
“It’s just my own meddling, so don’t worry about it, besides it’s not the kind of food that’s worth paying for so don’t expect it to taste too good, okay?”
I said jokingly and pushed the plastic bag to Yui, who was still confused.
To be honest, I’ve been cooking for myself for a year and I’m quite confident in my cooking. However, I had my own taste preferences and I was worried about whether it would suit the taste of a real princess, so I told myself that this was just a friendly act of kindness and decided to take the opportunity.
Yui’s expression clouded as if she was troubled by my unneeded meddling.
“No, that’s… I appreciate your… offer, but there’s no reason for me to accept Katagiri-san’s kind offer.”
“If I didn’t talk to you unnecessarily, you could have bought the half-price bento, and as you can see, it’s just leftovers, so it’s nothing to worry about.”
When Yui was about to say something, she couldn’t get the words out. She turned her head down and her beautiful black hair covered her face as if to hide it.
She hid her profile and let out a quivering and soft voice.
“I’m very thankful for your kindness… but I don’t want to cause you any trouble.”
Without looking up, she handed back the plastic bag filled with food apologetically.
The expression on her face that I could see through her long hair looked like she was about to cry, with her lips drawn tightly together.
(… It sounds like you’re not just apologizing.)
Seeing Yui’s refusal with strong-willed words, a small sigh came out of my mouth. I guess there might be some circumstances she doesn’t want to talk about.
“That’s the kind of line a full-fledged adult would say, isn’t it?”
Yui looked up in surprise at my words.
“I don’t have any idea about Villiers’ circumstances, but I know that a classmate living next door, who I’m more or less acquainted with, is putting up with her hunger, and I’m not someone who can’t be bothered by that.”
I dared to continue talking in a light tone without looking away from Yui, who was taken aback.
“Someone who worries about others like that is not a full-fledged adult, and if you want to become one, you can’t do it without relying on others.”
Yui’s expression became cloudy and she turned her face down.
She tightened her thin lips even more than before, biting down on them.
The plastic bag she was handing back to me slowly dropped as she looked even smaller than her delicate body. I turned my face away from her, sniffing a little awkwardly.
“I understand… very well, because I used to be like you in the past.”
“Katagiri-san is also the same…?”
Yui turned her faintly shimmering eyes to me and muttered.
“Last year, I was a half-wit who couldn’t do anything, I got stubborn and created trouble for many people. I’ve learned from my past experiences, and with the help of others, I’ve been able to get by.”
With a painful smile on my face, I told her a memory I didn’t really want to remember.
When people get more and more carried away, they mistakenly think they can do everything on their own, causing people to worry and trouble everyone around them. I was reminded of the painful remorse I had felt and tried to meddle with Yui, who was in a similar situation.
“So maybe this is none of my business, but this on my own volition, so take it, please. And besides…”
I broke off my words there and gave Yui a wry smile.
“I don’t hate a person who’s trying to do their best on their own.”
The plastic bag in Yui’s hand made a rustling sound.
Seeing that she no longer had the will to ignore my meddling, I put my hand on the door leading to my room without waiting for her reply.
“Ah…! Katagiri-san, that…!”
Yui tried to stop me, but I waved my hand, walked through the front door and closed it.
When I took a breath, leaning against the closed door, I felt embarrassed what I did, and a bitter smile appeared on my face.
“…I guess I was a little presumptuous.”
I selfishly overlapped my past self on top of her, gave her a lecture and decided to forcefully involve myself in her affairs.
As soon as I was alone, I felt somewhat embarrassed and held my forehead.
But I’m not asking for anything in return, nor do I have any ulterior motives, and this is the only time I’m going to do something like this. I’m sure she’d rather have her strange neighbor bother her rather than enduring her hunger until tomorrow night.
As I was about to take off my shoes, the intercom rang with a somewhat reserved “ping pong” sound.
I opened the door, feeling a little embarrassed for leaving in an uncool manner, and Yui turned away awkwardly, looking more troubled than before. She was still holding the plastic bag of food I gave her in her hands, and there was no sign of her returning to her room any time soon.
As I looked at her, wondering what the h*ll was going on, Yui looked up and opened her mouth as if she had made up her mind.
“I’m sorry… I do have a microwave, but my room still doesn’t have electricity, so I can’t use it… “
“…Well, I’m sorry for the lack of confirmation on that one.”
We both awkwardly turned our faces away from the embarrassing atmosphere.
◇ ◇ ◇
“Sorry for the wait.”
I placed a platter of karaage on the low table in the living room. Yui, who was sitting in front of it, leaned forward slightly, with her eyes blinking.
They were crispy battered chicken thighs deep-fried with soy sauce and fresh ginger, and seasoned to perfection. Beneath the karaage was crispy shredded cabbage that I soaked in water. I reheated yesterday’s spicy pork miso soup with lots of vegetables, and served it with a small bowl of boiled spinach left over from the morning’s meal
The table in my room is a kotatsu table meant for a single person, so it’s quite cramped for two people’s worth of dishes, but I manage to squeeze them in. I took out a new pair of disposable chopsticks from my bag and offered them to Yui, who was curling her shoulders like a stray cat.
“Can you use chopsticks? I also have forks and spoons if you need them.”
“Um, yes… Chopsticks are fine, but…”
“That’s good. Then feel free to eat.”
After serving the cooked rice in a bowl, I put my hands together and said “Itadakimasu” to the food on the table. First, I sipped the pork miso soup. Thanks to the fact that it had been left overnight, the flavor of the ingredients was completely absorbed into the pork, and the broth from the ingredients also dissolved into the soup, making it delicious.
Next, I reached out for the karaage with my chopsticks and took a bite into it. The juices and fat from the chicken, firmly trapped inside the crispy batter, overflowed into my mouth. With the exquisite seasoning of the sauces and fresh ginger, today’s karaage was a masterpiece. Normally, I would have added more garlic, which is what I prefer, but just in case Yui didn’t like it, I left it out.
“What’s the matter, aren’t you hungry, or is there something you can’t eat?”
I called out to Yui, who was staring down at the table with her chopsticks in her hand and not moving.
“Uh, no, I’m not a picky eater…”
“Well, since you’re here, why don’t you eat before it gets cold? It’s not the kind of dinner for entertaining guests though.”
When I asked her to do so, Yui slightly moved her head vertically, though she was still a little hesitant.
“Yes, I will have some…”
After bowing with her hands together in the same manner I did, she hesitantly reached for the karaage with her chopsticks.
As she slowly brought the karaage to her small mouth, a small crunching sound spilled out.
Her blue eyes widened in the best way I’ve seen them today. Then, she cleared her throat, moving her tiny mouth as hard as she could, and her expression softened in relief.
“It’s… delicious, very… delicious.”
Yui mumbled to herself, covering her mouth, immediately bringing the next piece of karaage to her mouth.
I watched with satisfaction when Yui muttered, “It’s delicious,” every time she put something in her mouth, whether it was the pork miso soup, the spinach or the rice, I also felt relieved as I moved my chopsticks.
“Thank you for the meal.”
Once we were done eating, I and Yui bowed our heads in the same manner.
I offered her a cup of hot green tea to drink, which she accepted without hesitation, though she was still a little reserved. Seeing Yui frantically cooling the tea, I managed to bottle up my smile that was about to spill out from the corners of my mouth.
At the sight of Yui’s softening expression, which seemed to be more at ease than before, my cheeks also relaxed slightly.
“Well, I’m going to clean up, so why don’t you sit and relax a bit?”
“Um, no, I want to help you.”
“Then can you take the dishes to the sink? I’ll wash them myself.
I quickly rinsed the dishes with detergent after use, leaving the oil and grease around the stove to be cleaned up later. Then Yui carried the plates from the table one by one and stared at my hand.
“Am I just supposed to wait for Katagiri-san to finish washing the dishes?” Yui tilted her head curiously as she held a plate in each hand.
“No, you don’t have to wait for me, just leave them stacked on top of each other properly.”
“But wouldn’t that leave stains on the bottom of the stack?”
“No, I’ll wash both the front and back, so it should be fine.”
Yui slightly opened her mouth
“Oh… I’m sorry, I’m not used to this kind of thing.”
She blushed in embarrassment as she apologized.
She looked like an ordinary high school girl next to me, but I knew she was a noble princess who wasn’t used to chores, so I swallowed my laughter at the sight of her shrinking figure.
“It’s nothing special, you don’t have to apologize every time.”
“Yes, I’m sorry… well, I mean, I’m sorry about…”
Although she just barely managed to stop apologizing , she couldn’t find the right words to say, so she ended up apologizing again.
She looked up at me apologetically, her eyebrows furrowed and her shoulders slumped as she squeezed her thin fingertips together.
When I saw the strangely desperate Yui, I was not able to stop myself and a laugh spilled out from my mouth.
“Why are you laughing…?”
“No, I just thought that Villiers was an interesting person.”
‘…Interesting? Isn’t that the wrong word for angry?
“How can I be angry about something like this?”
“If this was an English household, they’d be disgusted with me.”
“I don’t know where Villiers grew up, but I won’t be offended by something as small as this. Rather, I just laughed at how cute and adorable it was.
“…Cute and adorable?”
When I told her that with a laugh, Yui’s eyes widened and she tilted her head, unable to comprehend the meaning of my words.
I’m glad that I wasn’t born in a noble household where every little thing was criticized, and I found the pouting Yui quite endearing, which caused me to burst into laughter again.
“Well, don’t worry about it, just have a cup of tea while you wait and I’ll be done with this soon.”
“…Okay. I don’t think I can be of much help to you…”
Yui sat down in front of the kotatsu table with an apologetic and embarrassed expression on her face. I quickly finished washing the dishes and smiled at the sight of Yui’s slightly reddened cheeks as she turned her head down as if she was in trouble.
◇ ◇ ◇
After cleaning up, I sent Yui off to the entrance with the plastic bag containing the minestrone,meat and potatoes.
“You will have to contact the electric company tomorrow, do you have their contact number?”
“No, I already completed the paperwork for the service, but it’s not working.”
“Huh?” The unexpected reply made me nod my head.
In this apartment building, all you have to do is contact the electricity company, and the service will be available immediately without any additional work. So if the procedure is done, it should work fine, but then a thought came to me.
“Did you turn on the breaker?”
The reply was exactly as I expected, and I became certain of the problem.
“Once you’ve done the procedure, the electricity won’t work until you turn on the main power source in the room itself.”
I opened the switchboard above the entrance of my room and pointed out the breaker switch.
“I’m sorry… for the inconvenience caused by my ignorance, and I even got treated to a great dinner…”
Yui curled her shoulders and looked smaller, seeming more apologetic than embarrassed. Watching Yui’s frown, I replied in a light tone with a bitter smile.
“I told you before, not knowing something at first is normal for everyone, so there’s no need to be ashamed of something you don’t know. Leaving the things you don’t know as they are is the real failure so don’t give me that look.”
“I was happy enough that you enjoyed the dinner I made.”
I scratched the bridge of my nose and smiled shyly.
Even for me, it was terrible at first. I couldn’t cook, I didn’t know how to use the washing machine, and I didn’t know the difference between detergent and fabric softener.
I didn’t know that vacuum cleaners had filters, that toilets need to be cleaned regularly to prevent black mold from growing, or that mailboxes can become full of flyers if left unchecked.
However, after receiving a special scholarship and feeling like I could do everything on my own, I was shocked to find out that I really couldn’t do anything at all.
That’s why I’ve been able to thank my parents, my sister and Kei for their help. I overlapped my old self with Yui, who was in a similar situation, and decided to help her, even if it was unnecessary .
“Besides, you must have your own reasons for wanting to study in Japan alone, right? To me, that’s more impressive.”
“Katagiri…san” Yui’s blue eyes rounded as she unconsciously clutched the plastic bag in her hand.
The expression on her face slowly relaxed, like ice melting, and she smiled gently as her eyes glittered.
“…Yes, you’re right. Even though I’m such a naive person, I chose to live on my own.”
Yui nodded with a smile, her words containing her own will.
It was the same smile she had shown me when she left the church this evening.
(…I knew she was cute when she smiled.)
It’s not an affectionate smile or a deceitful one, but a gentle smile that you can feel warmth from.
There’s no embarrassment, nor does it make my heart flutter, it’s just a genuine smile that I can’t help but admire.
As if following her lead, I found myself smiling naturally as well.
“So instead of an apology, may I say ‘thank you’?”
“Yes, that’s right. You’re welcome.”
Feeling somewhat ticklish, we exchanged glances and laughed at each other.
Her expression was soft, and she had a gentle smile on her face, as if she was a different person from the one I had met in the morning, the one I had talked to in the classroom, and of course, the one I had a conversation with in the church.
Even so, I could intuitively tell that this was the real Yui.
“If you have any troubles, just let me know. It’s part of my job.”
“Yes, I’ll be in your care then.”
Yui bowed slightly again and walked into her room, her long black hair swaying. After seeing her leave, I also went back to my room.
I went over to the window to close the curtains which I had forgotten to do earlier, and saw the light coming from the next room, illuminating the cherry blossoms in front of me in a faint glow.
Seeing this, I was able to confirm that the electricity had been safely turned on in Yui’s room.
“I guess there are some strange princesses out there.”
As I looked at my reflection in the window, with a faint smile on my face, I muttered a few words to the cherry blossoms that were faintly illuminated and closed the window curtain.
If you like my translation please consider supporting me on Ko-fi
kofiwidget2.init('Support Me on Ko-fi', '#29abe0', 'H2H84JM6R');kofiwidget2.draw();