Before long, Chiaki had finished cooking. She quickly plated the food into three bowls and headed to the dining room with a bowl in each hand.
And as soon as she slid open the Japanese paper door, she heard the grandmother-grandson pair singing a duet of the Magical Girl☆Pretty Sparkle ending theme. After shaking her head, she decided to ignore them and simply placed the food in front of them, going back to grab a final bowl for herself and a teapot, already full of water and spiritual tea leaves. Since the chopsticks and cups were already on the table, she didn’t need to make a third trip. Though, the rooms were right next to each other, so Chiaki really wouldn’t mind even if she did in fact need to go back once more.
She settled herself down onto the dining room table and noticed that the somewhat badly-sung duet had ended. The pair had already turned their attention to the food. Riku, glancing back up from the bowl, focused on Chiaki and asked, “What is this?” while pointing at the bowl.
“It’s dan dan mian,” she replied. And indeed, what was in front of them was a soupless variant of dan dan noodles. Small pieces of ground pork were mixed in with the noodles covered with a brownish-red spicy sauce. Fresh green onions topped the bowl, finishing off the rather simple dish.
She took her attention off the food and picked up the teapot, creating a magical flame under it with a snap of her fingers. After it was heated to the perfect temperature, she quickly extinguished it and poured the tea into the three cups. Green tea with a magical fragrance steamed into the air as it fell into the teacups, releasing a refreshing fragrance.
With their meal now completely ready, the three did their prayers and picked up their chopsticks, slurping up the delicious noodles.
“This is pretty good,” said Riku between mouthfuls of food, “The fresh and light onions contrast well against the heavily spiced pork and noodles. It helps bring out the flavor.”
Kikue added, “This dan dan mian is truly a step above the Szechuan cuisine I had the last time I went to China. Ah, I would sacrifice my grandson to eat like this for the rest of my dying days. What do you think about marrying into the family?”
She made this joke every time the three were together. And the two children always gave the same response.
“Me, marry that 2D lover?” Chiaki retorted, “He’s of the wrong gender, and I’m not 2D. I don’t think it would work out. And I’ll happily switch to become your personal chef without that. Mm, just get Riku’s parents to agree to the transfer.”
Riku nodded along, agreeing. “Hah, a real-life wife takes time away from my 2D waifus. No way I’ll marry anyone in the third dimension.”
Kikue laughed and said to Chiaki, “My grandson is handsome enough to turn straight men gay and gay women straight. Just look at him! Don’t you want to marry him right away?”
Chiaki took a look at Riku’s below-average face gorging into the dan dan mian. “No, not really. If anything, he reminds me of a few reasons why I’m not attracted to guys?”
Once again, Riku nodded along, agreeing.
Sighing and shaking her head, Kikue gave up and turned to her grandson. “Riku, just take a look at Chiaki! Isn’t she so much more beautiful than Haruka-chan from Haruka’s Normal Adventure?”
Riku took a moment to process what she had said. Someone had just blasphemed Haruka-chan, and Chiaki knew where this was going.
And then, without another moment’s pause, he stood up, light-heartedly indignant. “What? Grandma, you’ve gone too far this time. I know that you say this everytime you’re with us two, but I still can’t take that insult lightly. Nobody, you hear me, nobody’s waifu is better than mine. Chiaki might be an overall amazing person, and anyone else would be blessed to have her as a partner, but that doesn’t mean you can disparage Haruka-chan like that, okay? Haruka-chan is a goddess, you hear me? A goddess! How could a mere human, no matter how good at cooking they are, compare to a goddess! If I hear another word insulting Haruka-chan or my 316 other waifus, you’ll wake up in the morning to see 317 large posters of my waifus on top of the house, and all the other old people in this city will be laughing at you! They’ll be laughing about how you managed to get such a worthless grandson who posts 317 anime posters on top of their ancestral home instead of cultivating! Where will your face be then, huh? What will you feel when Grandpa and Grandma Kurei, Grandpa Nazuki, Uncle and Aunt Saito, and Grandpa Amata all come knocking to laugh at you! Bad, right? Terrible, right? That’s exactly how I feel right now. I dare you to say another word about Haruka-chan. Come on, do it! I’ll even marry Chiaki if I don’t follow through! Go ahead, try me!”
His grandmother chuckled. Riku meant his dare as a joke, but how could she pass by the opportunity to tease her grandson? With a twinkle in her eye, she said, “Oh, if you’re asking so politely. Chiaki is so much cuter than Haruka-chan! You said it yourself, you’ll marry her if you can’t put 317 large posters up when morning comes. The sun rises at five A.M., you know? Haha, let’s see if you can do it.”
Riku paused for a moment before grinning. “You think I can’t? Hah, my many years of consecutive all-nighters have prepared me for this! I accept this challenge! I’ll marry Chiaki if I lose, but what will you give me if I win?” And so, Riku beautifully fell into Kikue’s trap.
Chiaki, sensing a threat to her chastity, tried to slowly slink off, but Riku pulled her back.
Kikue laughed. “I’ll convince your parents to let you keep a figurine.”
The grandmother and the grandson shook hands. Chiaki slowly shook her head and went to leave the room, but Riku once again pulled her back in.
“What do you want?” Chiaki said, annoyance obvious in her voice, “I’m going to sleep.”
“Do you still think this doesn’t concern you? I’ll have to start courting you if we lose.”
“Don’t tell me you two aren’t joking…” Her words trailed off as she looked at the cross-generational pair in shock.
Riku and Kikue exchanged glances, and Riku replied, “Of course not. A Shinosaki does not shy from a challenge. The fact that we can’t force you to marry doesn’t mean that I can’t act like a lovesick young master for a year. I wouldn’t like it either, but c’mon, it’s a figurine! I’ve never had a figurine in my room that didn’t get obliterated out of this world the next day. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. Please? Haven’t we known each other for five years already? I can introduce you to a few girls that fit your type! You might not realize it, but I know quite a few ladies around your age. I guarantee you guys will hit it off.”
Chiaki clearly didn’t believe that Riku, a person with below average looks, a lazy fashion sense, and a monumental dislike for the Great Outdoors, would know a single girl, let alone “quite a few.” But she didn’t have any other plans, so she thought to herself, why not? and acquiesced, albeit slightly reluctantly, “I don’t really care about you introducing me to people, but I guess I have nothing else to do. What do you need me for, anyways?”
“Oh, my spatial ring was confiscated by my dad. I need to borrow yours,” Riku honestly replied.
Spatial rings were mini-portals that could access a storage space. However, like all spatial items, they required a lot of spirit stones to power and had limited range, making them items that only the rich could afford to waste money on. Spatial rings could only be activated by the spiritual energy of its owner, so Riku couldn’t just borrow Chiaki’s without taking the whole person along.
Chiaki was miffed. “So I’m just a mobile spatial ring to you?”
“Yep,” Riku replied happily, “Now, let’s go find a print shop to get the posters.”
He pulled Chiaki out the door without even giving her the short time to retort.