“W-What the hell is this?”
“It… kind of looks like it hasn’t been cooked…”
“God, forget that, it looks like it’s still breathing!”
“Would you lower your voices? She’ll hear you…”
“But… I don’t think it’s safe to eat something like this…”
“Yeah, what if it bites your stomach walls?! It looks alive enough to—”
“What looks alive enough, mister Rimbauer…?”
As Kael slowly raised his head and blew a few strands of cherry-brown hair away from his eyes, he found himself staring straight into the ice-cold eyes of the headquarters’ official chef, Frieda Hendrick, nicknamed ‘Fairy’ by the vice-director of the Science Department. The name had caught on, and very few members of the organization could remember her real name.
“M-Miss Fairy…” Kael felt a drop of cold sweat run down his forehead. He tried smiling in order to hide his obvious guilt. “Y-You’re looking positively radiant tonight!”
Fairy swiftly stabbed the white wooden table with her kitchen knife, leaving it there, standing, like a bad omen. Both Aeria and Akira stopped breathing, their eyes pinned on the blade. Kael tried hard not to draw his eyes away from hers.
“Don’t give me that routine, mister Rimbauer! I may not look my age, but I’ve known you since the days I had to make you special porridge ‘cause your teeth weren’t fully grown yet!” Fairy grabbed the knife by the handle and pulled it out of the table as if the wood had turned to butter. The other two, innocent bystanders, started breathing again, but shrunk down in their chairs as the monstruously tall woman used her apron to clean the blade of the knife. They could only imagine how much fear Kael was experiencing at that moment.
Akira felt rather sympathetic – he had been in a similar situation before. Having questioned the ‘harmlessness’ of Fairy’s mushroom risotto a year back, Akira had been given an hour-long sermon, a meat cleaver being shaked at him the entire time, and then been ordered to help with the meals for the entire headquarters staff for a week.
The blonde boy quivered. He didn’t want to go through that ever again.
Fairy tightened her grip on the knife handle and, just as Kael was about to speak, she shook the knife at him, the tip of the blade only a few inches away from his eyes. Kael jumped back in his chair.
“I’ll have you know” she continued. “that I’m very careful with my food, especially when making sure if it’s properly dead or not.”
I can tell. Aeria thought, holding onto Akira’s jacket.
“I know, I know, I was just kidding, Miss Fairy!” Kael had broken out in cold sweats, and had raised his hands apologetically. Fairy had an eyebrow raised in curiosity, her knife still pointed at his face. “I could never doubt the quality of your exquisite meals-”
“Are you making fun of me, kid?” Her voice dropped to a growl. Kael choked on his own air and Aeria let out a sigh of worry, hiding behind Akira’s arm.
“N-No! I’m just saying—”
At that moment, the grandfather clock chymed behind them, letting them know it was now one o’clock in the morning. Fairy looked at her own wristwatch, distraught from her lesson-teaching, and let out a long sigh. She took one final wave of her knife at Kael’s face.
“I’ll let you off the hook tonight, but only because it’s late and I like your nerve. Now, you all finish up eating and go to bed. I’ll wash the dishes in the morning.”
As she left the monumental dining room, the trio could only muster a low ‘Yes, sir’ before Fairy closed the door behind her. They were now alone in the dining room, sitting beside each other at the long table, facing four large windows which allowed the moonlight to dimly light up the room, as the chandelier had been left switched off.
“That was close.” Akira said, looking at his friend who was now leaning back on his chair, sighing in utter relief. “You’re lucky she didn’t get you like she got me.”
“I know!” Kael replied, his eyes closed. “I kept thinking of what you had to go through back then the whole time she was talking to me. I was already picturing myself in the apron you had to wear last year.”
Akira blushed in embarassment. It was an obscenely frilly apron, and it had taken weeks for him to get over the mockery. Aeria stared at her plate still.
“…I think I still have cookies left over from the mission in my satchel.” She said to herself, but immediately felt both boys staring at her. They were smiling widely, hungry sparkles in their eyes. Aeria blinked at them for a while, before sighing and standing up from her chair.
“Is there enough for the three of us?” Kael asked, before standing up as well. “I’d hate to have any of you starve…”
Aeria and Akira exchanged looks. His idea of self-sacrifice and compassion was amazing.
“I still have a whole box, I think.” She replied. Akira stood up.
“I guess I still have a few soda bottles in my room, from when you stayed over…” He turned to Kael, whose smile brightened considerably. The amber-eyed young man threw his arm over Akira’s shoulder and linked his other arm with Aeria’s.
“A picnic it is!”
The other two sighed, exchanging small smiles. It was troublesome, it had always been so, for the three of them. But who could ever say it wasn’t fun?
Three best friends arrive late from a mission and comment on the dinner they are given. Kael says something he shouldn’t and faces the wrath of the headquarters’ main Chef.