“Choco banana, chestnut cream, strawberry tiramisu, and triple berry. Also, give me an order of a tuna salad and a ham cheese.”
When they arrived at their destination, the boy ordered that much for himself as though nothing could be more ordinary, causing the young woman managing the food cart to laugh.
“Alright, give me a while,” she said.
From the tone of her voice, the young woman seemed to know the boy.
She worked with the other employee in the car stall to prepare the order, but from the way she was acting, it seemed the boy habitually ordered this much.
“But I gotta say, that’s one heck of an appetite you got there. Not that I’m complaining, of course, appreciate the business, but still… The manager of the Manly Butcher was really shocked when you ate steak enough for 10.”
“Ha ha, word sure gets around fast, but, well… I am at that age, so what can you say.”
The boy chuckled dryly, but deep inside he was shrugging at how fast word spread.
This might actually be faster than the national intelligence agencies if only towns were considered.
Not to mention, the accuracy since the time, the serving, and the name of store were all correct.
Apparently, however, it was because it was him.
“We don’t get a lot of customers from outside, so information about our regulars are really important. Besides, you’re famous among the restaurants of the academic district, the famed dark black hole.”
“…I get what you’re trying to say, but a black hole by definition is… Besides, a second name like that doesn’t make me happy,” the boy said.
“Is that so?” The young woman laughed.
As the boy and the young woman shared a friendly chat while the latter worked, the boy turned behind him to call out to the girl.
“So, what will you be having? You should decide while they’re working on my order.”
The boy said as he pointed to the crepe menu propped up against the cart.
He had to let her hand go because of that, but the girl was more surprised by the fact that he’d brought her here.
“H-How did you know that I wanted to come here!?” She asked.
This was the mobile crepe store that has recently gotten popularity among the female students, albeit one kept in hush.
Quality ingredients and craftsmanship unheard of for a food cart, and a young woman with the disposition of a big sister for the manager.
With its growing popularity among the female student population, Aristel wanted to try it out, but the opportunity never came… Until now, that is.
Strangely enough, she couldn’t recall ever mentioning this little wish of hers to him.
“Just some good ol’ deduction and inference on my part, Watson-kun.”
The boy spoke proudly as he used a reference that a Garestonian wouldn’t understand before giving a seemingly sound deduction.
“First of all, you’ve already once acted on your own to eat a limited time offer parfait, so there’s precedence. The food at the hospital might be enough to sate your hunger, but I doubt it could sate your sweet tongue too. It’s not hard to imagine that the very reason you left the hospital was to sate that need of yours. And then among the restaurants nearest the hospital, the one with a menu that fits the bill was this food cart here. Lastly, your exam break ends today and you won’t have any more time later, so…”
“My destination could only be this food cart… Wow, you figured it out just like that!”
“But to be honest, 80% of it is that I just wanted to come here myself.”
A half-baked deduction that could’ve been wrong for all he cared, yet the sparkle in the girl’s eyes didn’t dim the slightest.
Not because she’d mistaken his words for humility, but because he’d gotten the right answer while only being 20% invested into the matter.
“…Umu, what a powerful foe.”
Shinichi wryly smiled, but he intentionally left out what he meant by that.
“Hey, your order’s ready. You know I was thinking you brought a girl for the first time, and now that I get a better look, it turns out you brought back the sneaking princess. Now that’s one hell of a catch.”
The manager meaningfully laughed as she handed the crepes in order.
As it turns out, the girl was just as famous as the boy.
Shinichi knew what she wanted to say, so his eyes swam all over as he received the crepes.
Since he neither denied nor confirmed her words, the manager meaningfully exhaled, then turned to the girl in question with a curious chuckle.
“So, what will you be having? Or will you just be sharing with this kid?”
“R-Right… That sounds like a very attractive proposal, but I’ll have to put it off for another time. I’ll be having a strawberry chocolate whipped cream topped with ice cream and a pudding a la mode please.”
“For another time, huh… Alright give me a few minutes.”
The manager smirked meaningfully at the boy as she went to work, while the boy glared at her with eyes half-opened to no effect.
“…Sigh, I really am weak against creators.”
Further talk was meaningless, so he acknowledged his loss and
“I’ll go secure that bench for us,” he said.
“Thanks,” she replied.
By the time he seated himself on the bench, Aristel’s crepe was already done.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting. Here’s your order,” the young woman said.
“Thank you very much. How much will that be?” Aristel asked.
But before she could get her foster out, the young woman laughed and pointed to the boy.
“There’s no need, he paid for it already, just before he left. Astute and experienced, bet he’s made a lot of girls cry. Just had to fall for trouble, didn’t you?” The woman chuckled despite her sympathy.
But Aristel didn’t actually hear most of the latter half of that.
“Uh, don’t tell me it was when he raised his hand— Oh, no! T-That’s no good. I-I’ll pay! I mean I have to, I didn’t mean for him to treat me!”
The young manager was surprised to see Aristel so panicked, but she quickly recovered herself and told her gently.
“Come on, you’re a good girl, but you really don’t need to mind so much. When a man wants to show off, the woman should just accept. With men like that, a simple thank you will go a long way better than being sorry.”
“Of course. That’s the kind of creature men are, always wanting to show off.”
“I see, thank you for advising me!”
Aristel gave a big nod as she meekly accepted the advice of this woman who was her senior.
Touched by her meekness or her innocence, the woman took a step further and gave her another advice.
“Well, good luck. That boy is known to dine with a beautiful woman, so if you’re going for him, you should attack now. I’m positive he’s the type weak to straightforward girls!”
“Y-Yes! Thank you very much, I’ll do my best!”
When she reacted so strongly like that, the cheeks of the manager loosened.
This girl before her neither became shy nor denied her assumptions, instead implicitly confirming her words with that resolute smile of hers before running to that boy with such zeal she could see it even from behind.
“Oh, boy, that’s youth for you… That’s why I can’t stop this business… *Slurp”
“…Your taste is as bad as ever, Boss. And please wipe your saliva.”
The popular food cart, Aphrodi.
The woman managing it was reputed to have a caring disposition, but the truth was that she simply enjoyed watching youthful love bloom.
Only the subordinate with a wry smile on him was privy to that, however.
“Hamu, amu, un! I knew it! The crepes here are the best!” Shinichi said.
“Yes, I’ve eaten at plenty of restaurants myself, but this is really something!” Aristel said.
The boy and the girl sat neither too close nor too far from each other as they meticulously tasted the crepes they ordered.
Sweet harmony unfolded with every bite, painting a smile on the boy’s face.
“Amu, fuu, ahh… This is happiness…”
“Fu fu, Nakamura-san, you make it look so delicious.”
A smile could be seen on the girl’s as well, but it was not owed to that sweet harmony, but to the bliss drawn on the boy.
The crepe was delicious, yes, but the sight of his smile moreso.
“Hmm, you think? Actually, I only got into sweet stuff like this after I came back to this world.”
“Yeah, I didn’t realize how blessed I was until I was drifted off to another world. It was only then that I realized just how good and safe the food I’ve been eating every day was. I managed to make up for the taste through various tricks, but I never could make anything sweet. It was really difficult,” Shinichi shrugged.
Sweetness like that of candy and cake was not something readily found in nature.
“The most I could make was some fake ice cream when I found the right ingredients and environment.”
Perhaps that was the reason why he looked into the distance, reminiscing, as he ate his banana-choco.
The ice cream he made then was well received by the people of that world since they didn’t have a culture for sweet food, but as a man who’s had a taste for the plethora of sweet delicacies modern Japan had to offer, it was simply too lacking.
“Huh!? You can make ice cream!?”
Aristel was about to praise him again, but Shinichi shook his head.
“I said fake, remember? It was really poorly made, even for an amateur. I made a mess of the place too, and cleaning up took a long time. The whole thing just reminded me how hopeless I am when it comes to ‘creating’.”
He could cover up for his clumsiness by relying on Skill rank, but it didn’t work for something as complex as cooking that involved many steps and stages, so when he tried to brute force his way through, the kitchen had to pay.
“Oh, so you’re bad at cooking? Fu fu, by talking with you like this, I get to learn the things you’re bad at too,” Aristel smiled.
She wanted to learn more about him, she wanted to see all of his different faces.
Aristel didn’t hide any of her feelings as she looked at Shinichi, but it was exactly that straightforwardness that left him a loss, scratching his face.
“…It’s not just cooking. There may be some things that I can do, but I’m not good at any of them.”
“But the things that you can do, you do properly, that’s why you’re amazing.”
The boy mocked his own incompetence, but the girl accepted it just like that and gazed into him with a feverish gaze even stronger than just a few days ago.
The boy didn’t know, but the irresponsible remark of a terrorist had given color and shape to the once unknown feelings swirling within her.