, yummy meal.jpg
The decree comes soon enough. Still sitting, poised as regally as you can manage, you dictate your terms.
“My punishment is way simpler than yours.” You declare with a shrug. “I think I'm just going to ask you to make something for dinner. A single dish for our feast.”
“Hmm...” She looks at you curiously, head cocked to the side, as if she didn't expect that.
“Not a problem, right?”
“Is... is this a thing?” She asks looking puzzled.
“Having me cook something. Is it a thing with you?”
“I'm not sure what you mean by a 'thing'.” It's your turn to be puzzled. You sit cross-legged with arms supporting your tilted torso.
“Well, you know.” Her explanation is a bit vague, “If you're inclined to seeing me in the kitchen for some reason. Or working for you or something. Because it's a thing with you.”
“I'm just telling your punishment.” You can't follow her logic, so you just restate your message. “Make something, anything, it doesn't have to be complicated.”
“And... why?” She asks softly, eyes looking at your legs instead of face.
“Same reason you asked me to go to the shrine earlier.” A punishment game is about doing things that are amusing to others. That should be pretty clear.
“Oh. I guess that makes sense.”
Kaguya says nothing for a moment, and the room is draped in silence – the background of pattering rain soundly becoming more noticeable. And then, for a reason you don't quite get, she becomes talkative.
“If I'm going to do this I should do it before I take a bath.” She sates matter-of-factually. “I should probably do it now and leave it ready for later.” She gets up, looking energetic. You can't help but smile.
“I'll show you the materials that we have.”
It takes a while to get all the edible stuff in your rucksack. The variety of ingredients that you can use is surprising, given the limited space. You've still got some perishable foods, fruits mostly, relatively intact and ripe for consumption. You decide that even if Kaguya doesn't use them, you'll endeavor to use them up before they spoil. There's dried foods as well and quite a sizable stockpile of canned goods. The stockpile is further complimented by food stock and flavoring that Reimu let you have. All in all, the variety of food represented there is probably more than the average shut-in would have in his fridge.
Kaguya chooses a few oddly-matched ingredients from the lineup, weighing vegetable and fruit in her hands. She smiles to herself, apparently confident in her decision. You say nothing, simply asking what cooking utensils she'll need. Her answer makes you question the wisdom in having her cook to begin with.
“I just need a knife and a pot. Probably.”
You comply, not commenting. She remembers at the last moment to take spices for the dish and grabs a small sack containing several herbs and condiments. You make sure she's well settled in the kitchen before stepping out to wait.
Waiting anxiously. In a room adjacent to the kitchen. You slide open the partition leading to the outside, unmuffling the sound of rain.
You hear her let out a sigh, and you think that maybe she's not really into this whole deal. You did force her to cook. Anyone in that situation might feel a bit uninspired, or at worst, resentful. You lie down, trying to not think about it too much. The sound of rainfall helps clear your mind somewhat. It's soft melodic tune soothes you, dispelling all worries. It's more than soothing, it feels warm and special. You begin to wish that every day it would rain like this. The lazy lying about, all worldly concerns long forgotten.
Chopping begins, dull arrhythmical intrusions on an otherwise lovely melody. It irritates you to hear it. It's a violation of harmony. You wish to exclude it from your hearing. But, as you try to focus harder on the background noise instead, you begin to realize that it wasn't the rain that was calming your soul. A cheerful and innocent tune comes from the kitchen, completely independent from the rainfall. It had combined with the the watery score to form the symphony you had given yourself into.
The coarse thunks of blade forcing itself through food is a sacrilege.
You are aware now that Kaguya is humming. She hums a mellow tune, unimposing and peaceful to the extreme. Her musical contribution had a powerful effect on you, you accept. Now aware of the cause for your relaxation you deafen yourself to everything but the humming. It makes you want to hum along. And you would, if you knew the song yourself.
You get up, deciding to pay the respect due for the calming performance. You go into the kitchen, finding Kaguya hard at work cutting ingredients into workable chunks. She hums joyfully, but the unequal intervals of chopping noises mar the performance. You sport a large and earnest smile as you approach her from behind. You notice that the chopped produce is divided into irregular chunks, the thickness and shape of each piece is unlike any other.
“I can show you how to do that properly if you want.” You whisper gently, as if afraid that talking will make the melody stop. It unfortunately does, causing her to try to spin around to look at you. You place your hands on her shoulders, swaying her to stay in place.
“Um, I don't need your help, thank you very much. I'll be fine.” You can't see her face standing directly behind her, but her voice betrays a sudden onset of anxiety. You feel anxious as well, cursing yourself for stopping the humming.
“There's no shame in learning. I'm no pro, but I can help you do this more efficiently.”
She's about to protest. Preempting that, you reach your arms around her and grab her wrists with your hands. Her wrist feels fragile and soft. She lets out a small yip, shivering once as if she'd touched a spark of electricity. She begins to mutter some sort of excuse or protest, but you dismiss it. You begin to gently guide her hands around by the wrist, manipulating them as if they were puppets. She doesn't resist, letting you move her easily. With a gentle verbal urging, you make her pay attention to what she's doing with her hands. You play with the hand gripping the knife, changing its hold to something firmer. You clasp your fingers around hers to make sure she's got a solid hold on the knife. You position the hands over a half-brutalized carrot, ready to cut. You move her hands gently downwards and then up, cutting a thin round piece of carrot. You shift the carrot towards the knife with her empty hand and then chop. You repeat the process several more times.
“See?” You chuckle, “Nothing to it. You try on your own now.”
You let go of her hands, and watch as she gives it a try.
“That's right.” She cuts up the rest of the carrot with much greater neatness. While not perfect, the pieces are more or less all round and of roughly the same thickness. “You've got the hang of it.”
You take a step back, giving her room to work. She stops, turning around gingerly. Her expression is complex – you recognize gratitude somewhere between her lips and eyes, but there's also a seriousness in her brow and something else, something invasive, around her check and ears.
“Thank you.” She nods slightly, holding the knife firmly in her hand.
'This is a punishment though. So please leave me to do everything by myself.” She says solemnly, the tone actually taking you aback.
You half-grumble some sort of reply and offer to light the stove. You don't really hear her reply but do so anyways, adding lumber into the iron contraption and lighting it. You walk away, sitting on the sheltered porch in the adjacent room. You lose yourself watching the rain and the dark forest just next to the shrine. Most of the trees have full leafy canopies stopping the rain, but several trees along the periphery of the forest are barren – as fits the season.
The rain lets up as the last of daylight is gobbled up by cloud and horizon. A steady drizzle lingers for a while yet, a stubborn remnant of the earlier deluge. Large puddles of water and mud crisscross the terrain as far as the eye can see, and you feel glad that you didn't go out. It would be easy to get tired and bogged down, not to mention absolutely filthy by mucking around in the mud.
The waiting is just starting to get to you when Kaguya appears stealthily at your side.
“I'm done, I'm going to take a bath now.” She announces. She smells of... food you think.
“Let the hot water run for a while. It's not bound to be very hot at first.”
You look around to see her holding a towel and a small bag. Shampoo and soap you reckon. She goes off into the bath, walking stiffly. The walking around today probably tired her out more than she'd admit. Her muscles probably ache now – yours are sore from carrying the heavy rucksack all day long. You think about how incredible it was that she made all that effort. For you and your wacky spur-of-the-moment plans. She's a real troop and good friend. You can't think of any others who would have done the same with so much grace and no complaining.
There's no electricity in the annex, so you light a couple of candles and several lamps you find tucked away in a cupboard. There's plenty of fuel for the lamps and you place the shining beacons mostly in the areas where you are. You leave one by the bathroom door, telling Kaguya through the door that it's there for her convenience. There's little light from the twilight, but the lamps are more than enough to make things cozy.
You get to your place in the kitchen, beginning the work on the lavish banquet. You do your best with what supplies you have, dreaming up improvised dishes. They'll be good, you think. You hope rather. There's no telling just how mixing fresh food and the sickly-looking canned goods will turn out. Spices will go a long way in disguising the taste any unfortunate failures.
Chopping and dicing is easy enough. Like you told Kaguya, you're no pro at it, but you can do it competently. You separate ingredients and ready the pans. You'll have to cook, sautee, and broil. One thing at a time, done efficiently. Most of it done before the meal, and you'll add the finishing touches and finish the last few minutes of cooking just before serving. That way all the tastes will be fresh and most appealing. Overcooked food tends not to be as perfect as you want everything to be, so you take the necessary precautions to get everything just right.
You'll take a bath after Kaguya and get dressed up, and you won't leave anything simmering by itself.
It's while caught up in the spirit of cooking that you notice the pot that Kaguya used sitting on an unopened burner. The lid is on and the pot perspires condensation. You keep on cooking, doing your best, but from time to time look at the pot in curiosity. Kaguya used up all the materials she took. Every single item, fruit and vegetable alike. You haven't seen scraps or garbage, meaning that they went all in there. You come closer to the pot while stirring another, smelling the same scent that you noticed on Kaguya. You're not sure what it is.
With no intended disrespect to your buddy, you pop the lid. You see that the contents are still bubbling, plumes of heavily-spiced steam rise up. It smells... interesting. You can't tell if your own reaction is good or bad. The insides themselves contain what looks to be something similar to a risotto. You stare at how there are dark chunks of... something lined up on the surface forming a pattern. A face in fact, a smiling face. A face with an exaggeratedly big line of pieces of whatever as a smile. You blink, recognizing vaguely a face that you see very often. In the mirror every morning in fact. Your face. You're an island of points, forming lines, given shape on the surface of the soggy substance.
You reach out a finger, feeling the hot steamy tendrils almost burning your flesh. You stop short of coming in contact with the surface, partly debating whether you should try it and partly concerned with the possibility of your finger melting off on contact. You pull back, deciding it's not worth risking your beautiful finger just yet. Truth is, you're in awe of this. You're sure that Kaguya will want you to eat this. No doubt about it.
Your attention turns away from the confounding concoction and to your pan, where mushrooms are almost burning. You remove them quickly, averting a culinary crises narrowly. You tend to your cooking for a while, thinking about what to do. And the how exactly the mysterious dish would affect your perfect evening. You're anxious, thinking all sorts of wild thoughts. If some force greater than man gets in your way, you'll feel like you've failed. Big time. And there's no telling how Kaguya will feel either. She has a point, you're responsible for all this. Then again, it's her creation. Still, it's nothing that couldn't be corrected with a spice or two and some care application of heat.
You sigh, sprinkling a bit of spice over the congealed contents of a can before putting in the skillet. The evening may have only just started, but time is passing quickly. You'll have to bath, change, and do other things soon. Find an appropriate drink for all of this in that chest as well. That's an important duty.
 Make sure Kaguya's creation is edible, fixing it
 Ignore the dish
Stressful things came up earlier. But I'll probably resume faster updates.