The Commander and Zuikaku stared blankly at the empty plate and then at an apologetic Shoukaku.
"Terribly sorry. If only I know the commission team would be returning today, I would've made more," she bowed. That both were so enthusiastic about taking a break when they heard she had made tempura caused her quite a guilt, especially when she saw how tired they looked right now. The Commander, though, wasn't as affected as Zuikaku, and not before long, he broke into his typical smile.
"Well, I suppose it's okay. They must be exhausted, too. Right, Zuikaku?" the Commander said when he noticed that Zuikaku had not snapped out of her daze. She didn't reply, still fixated on what she's been looking forward to, but was cruelly taken away.
"Tempura…" she feebly mumbled. Her eyes were seemingly close to tearing up.
Seeing that, the Commander held back a laugh as an idea crossed his mind.
"Well, well. I'm not going to let someone else eating our snack ruin our break. I've just remembered I got a package from home. Let me get it. You two just take a seat."
"Very well, but what are you planning to bring here, Commander?" Shoukaku inquired while leading her still dazed sister to the table.
"Snacks from Osaka," the Commander replied; the pride in his voice and grin did not go unnoticed by Shoukaku. "Some of them are going to be weird, so prepare yourselves."
Shoukaku smiled back.
"I'll be looking forward to them."
It didn’t take long for the Commander to return with a large box, the size of which was entirely unexpected for Shoukaku. And judging from the thud when the Commander placed on the table, she was sure the box was packed to the brim.
“Let’s see…the usual…takoyaki jagariko, takoyaki chips…” uttered the Commander as he pulled out packs upon packs of Takoyaki-flavored snacks from the box.
“Whoa…” Zuikaku, no longer dazed, watched in awe; she has never seen most of them before. Shoukaku was just as interested, though, as usual, she kept them tempered, and it’s not readily evident.
“Looks good, I’ve to admit,” she commented.
“People of Osaka are crazy about their takoyaki, I'll have you know,” the Commander said, then frowned as he stumbled upon bottles of red-colored soda.
“What’s the matter? Those are just strawberry-flavored soda, right?” Zuikaku craned her neck forward; the drink seemed normal for her, and the brand was a famous one from the States; there’s no way there could be something wrong with them.
She regretted asking when the Commander passed her a sly smile.
“Well, no. But I’ll let you find out what it truly is by yourself,” the Commander placed two bottles before the sisters, who then looked at each other. Shoukaku decided she would be the first to try.
She only took one gulp before putting the bottle down.
“It’s…unique,” she said. Zuikaku noticed her hand twitching, and suddenly she felt apprehensive.
In the end, her curiosity won out, yet when the smell of the drink entered her nose, she remembered that curiosity often results in regret. The smell wasn’t of strawberry at all, but something else she cannot put a finger on despite it being somewhat familiar. Whatever it was, though, she found it awful.
Still, she wanted to keep her pride, so she braced herself and took a gulp.
Zuikaku was surprised to find the taste to be not as awful as the smell indicated, and she didn’t need to force herself to swallow it. Yet, she also decided she wouldn’t be finishing the bottle—the taste was too peculiar for her.
“So, how’s your first experience with the red bean flavor? I don’t like them myself,” The Commander remarked.
“I don’t think I would either,” Zuikaku grumbled and moved the bottle away from sight. It looked even more unappealing now, especially after she saw the Commander’s amusement.
“It seems whoever’s sending you the package is playing a joke,” Shoukaku piped in.
“My sister? Yeah, her sense of humor is rather bizarre. She’s also a cheapskate, and I’m sure she bought all these from Don Quijote. I miss those convenience stores, though…” the Commander replied, looking outside the window. His longing sigh, uncharacteristic as it was, can be heard clearly.
“Ah, but Osakans are an interesting bunch, are they?” Zuikaku smiled as she glanced outside as well, while Shoukaku nodded. The Commander responded with a snort.
“Haha, I guess I should be flattered,” he said as he turned back to the box. There’s still much to unpack, even though they certainly couldn’t finish all of them. Still, he knew he would like the sight of its contents being sprawled all over the table. He soon went back into rummaging through the box, occasionally making a quip over what he found.
Resting her chin on both hands, Zuikaku remained smiling as she watched.