Chapter 139 Time Between Men - Part 1

「Good to see you. You are right on time」
 As soon as entering the principal's office, Chihiro heard a voice from the opposite side of the room.
 He closed the door and turned around with Aika's homemade lunch box in his hand.
「I didn't expect to be called here」
 Even though trying to be as normal as possible, Chihiro's reply was stiff.
 After all, he has no good memories of this situation.
 It seemed to be the same for the other party, too.
「...It occurs sometimes...」
 Principal Ootori, the principal of the school, a man in his thirties with a rather well-dressed body and a well-tailored suit, looked slightly away from Chihiro as he said.
 He had just finished his work, he said, and stood up, closing the drawer of his desk.
 Chihiro, who stood near the entrance, stiffened reflexively.
 But as he walks away, Principal Ootori simply approaches the table and sofa set for the reception.
「Lunch break is not long. Why don't you sit down?」
「Uh, yes」
 Chihiro nodded at the blunt voice.
 He sat down quietly across from Principal Ootori and placed his lunch box on the table.
 But then, something that was already on the table caught his eyes.
 A katsudon covered with a lid and a colander of soba noodles, Sawan (Japanese herring) and Mentsuyu (Japanese noodle soup) in a simple box, and a set of disposable chopsticks.
「Are your lunch delivered?」
「Yes, sometimes」
 The same reply as before.
 Perhaps he felt that he was criticized for his poor diet, as he seemed to be a bit upset. Anyway, Chihiro did not intend it that way.
 Still, communication between men is difficult.
 Unlike women who tend to prefer mutual understanding, men, surprisingly, are sometimes fine without conversation. Moreover, age difference and differences in ways of thinking make it even more complicated.
 Principal Ootori splits his chopsticks as he exhales.
「I sometimes eat at the cafeteria or purchase at the store, but I don't want the students to be intimidated by the presence of adults」
 As much as possible, Principal Ootori says he prepares ready-made food in a different way.
「You are very considerate. By another way, do you mean a convenience store or something like that?」
「Yes. Bread, boxed lunches, and instant food in some cases」
 Come to think of it, there is an electric kettle in a corner of the room, out of sight. So whenever Principal Ootori have a spare moment between work, he takes a quick bite of a cup of noodles or a loaf of bread, huh?
 As there seems to be no microwave oven in the room, the food is probably store-bought or food that doesn't need to be heated up.
 As Chihiro was satisfied with the situation, Principal Ootori frowned at him.
「When I talk to you, it seems like when Suzu and Yotsuba are in trouble」
「You can say "nagging" if you like」
 Chihiro's heart was pierced by the sound of his voice.
 He wonder if he is talking with girls so much that his pace has shifted from theirs to his own.
 But the basis of conversation is catch, question and answer, isn't it?
(I don't think Nii-san needs to worry about this)
(Hmm. Thank you, Chisato)
 While answering his sister in his mind, he opens his lunch box.
 There was an egg omelet, a mini hamburger steak with minced sardine and ground beef, a potato salad with a little mayonnaise, cherry tomatoes, and rice with a layer of nori seaweed.
 As usual, the meal was well balanced and colorful.
 He has told Aika several times that simple meals are fine for him, but each time he has said to her, she is enjoying herself enough.
 Really, he hs nothing but gratitude to Aika.
「...nice lunch box...」
 When Principal Ootori opened the lid of the bowl, he too was muttering to himself.
 Steam was rising from the bowl. It seemed that it had not been too long since the delivery, and the katsudon inside the bowl was in good condition.
 Chihiro had never been to a soba restaurant in this area, but the katsu-don was well fried and the batter was moist. It was also worth mentioning that there was a lot of onion with the cutlet, which was boiled with egg.
「That katsudon looks delicious, too」
「Well, you want a bite?」
「Is it okay?」
「I ordered a little extra so I can share it with you」
 Is it a lie or is it true?
 Well, Principal Ootori hands him a piece of katsu with chopsticks he has not yet used, and Chihiro offer him a ground hamburger instead.
 Upon taking a bite of the hamburger, Principal Ootori's mouth falls open.
「It's delicious」
「Thank you」
 When Aika was praised, it made Chihiro as happy as if it were his own.
 However, thinking that it might have been a bit much to express the gratitude, he shyly eat the katsu. As expected, it tasted good.
 However, the taste was a little strong.
 Perhaps it is because he was used to Riko's, Maria's, and Aika's cooking.
「By the way, Principal can cook, can't he?」
「...There is nothing I can't do. But I don't have time to make lunch boxes」
「Hmm. Suzu-san said you took care of her a lot」
 As one would expect from that Suzu.
 Not only cleaning and laundry, but also cooking would have been taken care of.
 Although Suzu can cook, too.
 However, when it comes to her own meals, she cuts corners endlessly because she thinks it is too much trouble.
 Principal Ootori let out a sigh.
「She's a pain in the ass. No matter how many times I tell her, she doesn't listen to me. Well, it seems someone is taking care of her now」
「Eh... umm, yes. Well...」
 Is he being sarcastic?
 It was hard to tell, and Chihiro laughed as he ate his lunch.
 Then, Principal Ootori said to him with a surprisingly calm expression.
「...Okay. I am grateful to you, in a manner of speaking」
 His voice sounded somewhat reluctant, though.
(...it seems, just in case)
 Chihiro mumbled a few words to Chisato.
 Meanwhile, Principal Ootori continued to say more.
 He kept his eyes on the katsu served on top of a bowl of pork cutlet and soba noodles.
「You convinced Suzu to go back to work, didn't you? Thanks to you, I didn't have to look for another examiner. It almost interfered with my next decision」
「No, no, not at all」
 Chihiro shakes his head hurriedly, not expecting to be thanked and he continued.
「You see, I was just talking to her for a while. But Suzu-san agreed to work again for beer」
「T-that's it?」
 Maybe it was a snake in the bushes.
 Chihiro saw Principal Ootori's eyes sparkle, a complete change from his earlier auspicious attitude.
 He picks up the soba noodles with disposable chopsticks and says to Chihiro as if he were complaining.
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