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Part 5 
Afterward, we went to the supermarket to buy the ingredients, the thing we had come to the mall for in the first place. 
Altogether I had ended up spending about 20,000 private points. Needless to say, I had never purchased this many things at once before. The plastic bags I was carrying were so heavy that the handles dug into my fingers. 
My guess as to what exactly Amasawa was taking into consideration and what she wanted me to make with these ingredients was as good as anybody else’s. This was because she had me purchase all sorts of things from vegetables to meat to fruit, and everything else in between. 
However, there were a few dishes that came to mind. For example, the presence of nam pla and chili peppers helped to narrow down the options. 
Nevertheless, it was still hard to say. It’d be perfectly fine if she planned on having me use all of the ingredients, but it was more than possible that she had mixed in several fakes as well in order to mess with me. After witnessing everything she had said and done throughout the day today, I couldn’t help but harbor these suspicions. It was probably safe to assume that it’d be virtually impossible to narrow down the dish she wanted me to make for her at this point. 
“Okie dokie~! That should be it! Let’s go to your dorm room now, okay Senpai?” 
She spoke with a level of enthusiasm one would expect from a girl who was headed over to her boyfriend’s room, but I didn’t feel even an ounce of excitement about it. If I didn’t manage to cook her a dish she was happy with, all negotiations would probably be broken off then and there. Not to mention that the task this time was to cook her something ‘delicious’, which was an inherently abstract benchmark to base things off of. 
If she never had any intention of letting me pass this little test of hers from the very beginning, then all of this had been nothing more than a futile waste of points and time. But for now, it didn’t seem like I had any other choice but to come to terms with whatever development took place. 
I hadn’t realized that Horikita’s split-second decision yesterday would’ve led to something so heavy and troublesome. 
Originally, I hadn’t said anything to Horikita and Sud? before since I was fine with covering the expenses, but now I had half a mind to discuss the costs with them after I washed my hands of all of this. 
It would be best to set that matter aside for the time being though. 
In order to confront the current situation as straightforwardly as possible, I decided to pitch Amasawa one of the questions I had been wanting to ask her. 
“Wanting to eat a meal made by a guy you don’t even know is a little strange, don’t you think? Wouldn’t somebody usually be fairly opposed to something like that?” 
This was just my own self-centered opinion, but I felt like it was something that people would generally be reluctant to do. 
Meals weren’t just made for show, they were made to be put into the mouth and swallowed down into the stomach. 
One would normally be concerned about who cooked the meal and how it was made, as these factors were directly related to both taste and hygiene. 
Then, as you got to know the person cooking for you and began to trust their dishes, that past feeling of reluctance would gradually begin to die down. 
“Think so? But, like, it isn’t all that different from eating at a restaurant? With like, some stranger doing their thing in the kitchen to whip you up a meal, there’s no way you can know what’s going on back there.” 
It was true that none of us knew exactly how the food was made in the school’s cafeteria, for example. 
However, while those two scenarios might appear to be the same on the surface, they were in fact glaringly different. 
“Even if a restaurant were to make a simple rice ball, they’d still adhere to sanitation guidelines. That’s completely different from how it is when cooking on our own, isn’t it?” 
“So? I feel like it’s fine if the chef is cooking right in front of you. Cuz then you can like, see the look on their face and how they go about making it and all. You’d be able to check and make sure they’re being sanitary too. Conversely, aren’t some kitchens in restaurants like, totally hidden away from you? Some places are also like, super sketchy with bugs and stuff crawling around everywhere, right?” 
Amasawa put forward the opinion that, as long as she witnessed it with her own two eyes, it didn’t matter who made the food, even if they were a stranger. 
“Besides, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea about how this school works. I’d have to live sparingly if I somehow ended up without any points, yeah? But like, if I get Senpai to cook for me, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.” 
There it was. In other words, if the meal I cooked for her this time tasted good enough, she fully intended to come sponge off me again in the future. 
She was essentially looking to secure a reliable meal ticket in the event of an emergency. 
It would probably be a good opportunity for me to improve my cooking skills, but I was hesitant to say whether or not she’d be willing to pay for the cost of the ingredients. 
“You get where I’m coming from?” 
“More or less.” 
Amasawa flashed a white, toothy smile. 
But there was still something that didn’t sit right with me. Was a second-year student, and a male student at that, really the best person to reach out to about it? I’d imagine that asking this of one the classmates you were closer to or somebody of the same sex would make things much easier later on down the road. 
Well, I’m not exactly complaining though, since I was looking to gain something out of it. 
“Anyway, I’m super picky about taste~ If it’s not yummy enough, the deal’s off, okay?” 
“I get it. Just because I make the dish doesn’t mean it’ll be good enough for you.” 
In that respect, the hurdle was by no means low, but I had no other choice but to put my head down and do my best. 
The cooking skills that Horikita had spent the last night teaching me were all that mattered now. 
I wondered just how much I’d be able to leverage her training in the short time it had been since we accepted Amasawa’s proposal yesterday. 
But even so, Amasawa probably wasn’t someone I’d be able to deceive very easily. 
I could guess from the ingredients she had chosen that she was eager to test my skills. 
Before long, we had arrived at the entrance to the dorms. 
Amasawa looked up at the building with her hand placed above her brow, shielding her eyes from the rays of the sun. 
“The second-year dorms are like, kinda unsettling.” 
Despite saying that, she didn’t look very nervous at all. 
Rather, she gave off the impression that one would expect from somebody enjoying themself while they were out having fun. 
“Ah, but I guess it’s got the same, like, look to it as the first-year dorms.” 
She shared her thoughts after taking a good long look at the exterior of the building and surveying the inside of the lobby. 
“That wouldn’t be surprising.” 
I just casually went along with what she was saying, even though I had never visited any of the other dormitories before. 
We drew the attention of some of the students from the other classes when we passed by them. 
I suppose it was only natural though, since I appeared to be bringing a first-year girl back to my room with me- with groceries in hand, at that. 
Amasawa casually waved to the onlooking upperclassmen as we passed them by, but it was making us stand out, so I wanted her to stop. 
I hurriedly ushered her to my room before any strange rumors had a chance to spread. 
“Pardon the intru~sion. Wow, you’ve really got it all nice and tidy, huh? It’s like, super clean too~” 
“I just cleaned up last night because I knew I’d be having an underclassman over.” 
I had done so to ensure there wasn’t anything to insinuate that I had spent the entire night studying how to cook. 
Now? The sequence of events from here on out was vitally important. 
After setting down the bags of groceries and kitchen utensils on the floor by the kitchen along with my school bag, the first thing I did was go and set the water in my electric kettle to boil. Then, I faced toward the living area and prompted for Amasawa to take a seat. 
I could’ve seated her in a spot where she couldn’t see the kitchen, but I made sure not to do that. 
It was essential that I have her take a position where she could see what I was doing from the side if she felt like she wanted to. 
“I’ll make coffee. Feel free to turn on the TV if you want.” 
“Thanks, Senpai.” 
Then, I made her coffee after the water began to boil, giving it to her before asking her to hold on for a bit. 
Amasawa picked up the remote I had placed on the table and began to flip through the channels. 
While it was by no means foolproof, there was a solid, convenient reason for me to have her drown out the sound with the TV. 

Instigating her into watching the TV by placing the remote control nearby had been the correct idea after all. 
Once I confirmed that she had turned the TV on, I then went back toward the kitchen, moving in such a way that emphasized that I wanted to get started immediately. I needed to make sure I could stop her from watching what I was doing if she actually started watching, but luckily it didn’t seem like she wanted to do that. 
“Oh, looking up anything on your phone is against the rules, okay~?” 
She looked over, warning me. 
“How strict. I’m pretty sure that most people nowadays cook and look up recipes at the same time.” 
“You scaaared~?” 
“No, nothing like that.” 
“Sounds wonderful then. Cuz in my book, a good cook is somebody who knows the recipe by heart.” 
While Amasawa hadn’t mentioned anything about that being the case yesterday, I just went along with it anyway. 
After all, I had already predicted that this would be one of her requirements. 
“Well, I’ll just leave my phone on the bed then.” 
I went and plugged my phone into the charger and left it placed on my bed. 
Amasawa nodded contentedly and picked up her cup of coffee. 
“I’d like to get started before it gets late, so what dish am I making?” 
“Alright, I’ll tell you~ The dish you’re gonna make is… tom yum goong!” 
“Tom yum goong… is it?” 
This seemed to be the reason for the presence of the chili peppers and nam pla, two indispensable ingredients of Thai cuisine. 
“Could you make it for me~? Please, Seeenpai~?” 
The dish Amasawa had tasked me with was tom yum goong. 
Of course, I had never made this dish in my life. 
I had never even really heard of it before, let alone actually tasted it. 
It was the kind of food that they had never served to us back in the White Room either. 
I had seen enough TV to know that the dish was popular amongst women, but that was the extent of my knowledge. 
If I had to make it on my own right now, I probably wouldn’t be able to complete the dish properly. 
Not only did I have no clue what exact ingredients were in it, but I also didn’t have the slightest idea of how to go about making it. 
So then, one might ask what in the world had I spent all that time doing last night? 
I didn’t spend the time doing something reckless like attempting to memorize the recipes for every dish in the history of mankind. 
I didn’t spend the time mastering basic cooking procedures either. 
It would’ve been utter nonsense to spend time memorizing recipes given that there was a possibility that Amasawa might’ve allowed me to follow one on my phone. 
Once it had been decided that I’d be cooking Amasawa a meal, Horikita went about setting two different plans into motion. 
The first had to do with learning the basic usage of things like kitchen knives and the various techniques that came involved with that. 
I had spent most of my time practicing things like slicing, shredding, dicing, and chopping. That is, techniques that helped to broadcast a blatant display of culinary skill, even at a glance. 
Of course, my skills in this regard were no more than mere child’s play when compared to those of a professional chef. 
They were just at the level where an average person wouldn’t be ashamed to boast about it a little. 
It was something impossible for an ordinary person to master in only half a day, but I was confident in my ability to pick up new things quickly. 
I had probably managed to reach the skill level of somebody who cooked their own meal at least a couple of times a week. 
This was something I had accomplished thanks to the fact that I hadn’t even spent one second learning about recipes or how to make something. 
However, with that being the case, there was obviously no possible way I could know how to make whatever dish Amasawa ended up tasking me with. 
And that was where the second plan came into play: A method for checking recipes in real-time using a cell phone. But, Amasawa had expressly prohibited me from looking at my phone and it was currently being held hostage on my bed. 
Even if I had hidden a tablet or something somewhere nearby, I probably wouldn’t have any openings to look at it. 
In fact, we were expecting that Amasawa would most likely turn a watchful eye over to me from time to time. Working around Amasawa’s blind spot, I took out a tiny little device less than 2cm in diameter from my right-hand pocket. 
At first glance, the device looked like an ordinary earplug, and I casually inserted it into my right ear, knowing that Amasawa wouldn’t be able to see. 
I then proceeded to just barely clear my throat as a signal. 
And then? 
[I’ve been able to hear everything loud and clear so far. I never would’ve guessed that she’d ask you to make tom yum goong.] 
I could hear Horikita’s voice through the miniature wireless earpiece that I had inserted into my right ear. 
The strategy was to have Horikita feed me recipe instructions in real-time since she could freely access her computer in her own room. Sud?’s cell phone had been stored inside my school bag that I had placed near my feet, which was relaying all of the outgoing noise into the wireless earpiece. I had been on a call with Horikita since before I even arrived at the mall earlier. 
In the time Amasawa and I were shopping at the mall, Horikita had already gone back home and finished making all of the necessary preparations. 
The wireless earpiece was something the two of us had bought yesterday as well. 
If it started to seem like Amasawa was about to get up from her seat and come over to see how I was doing, I could simply pretend to scratch my head as I retrieved the earpiece and put it back into my pocket. After all, since she was keeping an eye on me, I was more than capable of keeping an eye on her in return. 
Thanks to this, I could cook without having to worry about the recipe. We had also established several discrete signals in the event Horikita were to give an instruction too quickly or I wanted to hear an explanation over again. 
From here on out, however, everything would hinge on how well Horikita and I were able to cooperate. 
Even if I knew what ingredients and tools I’d be using, I didn’t have any sort of visual reference. 
After all, I had to make a dish that I didn’t know very much about, and I had to make it perfectly. 
The challenge was how to go about giving specific, reproducible instructions through a pretty much one-sided conversation. 
[By the way, there’s something I’d like you to check with Amasawa-san first.] 
I took Horikita’s question and put it into my own words before asking. 
“Amasawa. There’s no need to use a whisk or a Petty knife to make tom yum goong. If there’s something else you want me to make for you afterward, just go ahead and tell me now.” 
It’d be troublesome if she wanted me to cook something else for her later, so I asked for her to bring it up ahead of time as Horikita instructed. 
“I was gonna ask for it later, but I was thinking of having you peel me an apple.” 
It seemed like Amasawa had planned on asking for something else afterward, as suspected. 
“You’re free to enjoy the leftover ingredients all you want, Senpai. Oh, and I’ll have you use the rest of those utensils we bought next time I come over, okay~?” 
The Petty knife that I wasn’t sure I would actually end up using would actually serve a purpose today, but it seemed like I could put away most of the rest of the stuff for now. 
[It’s a good thing I had you check. I taught you how to use a fruit knife yesterday, so you can handle the apple, right?] 
I didn’t know how far I’d get with only a day’s worth of training, but that much would probably be fine. 
[Our goal is a cooking time of about 15 to 30 minutes. You ready?] 
Welp? Let’s see how well I can do.


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