Seri and anko. This never gets old.
Sweet Valentine by Furuhashi Hideyuki
"—Thus, today, I will distribute the obligatory-gift chocolate. Stand by for it".
Buzz ran down the file of troops, but a single cold glare from Awashima was enough to quiet it down.
In the middle of February, after the end of the all personnel sword-armed mobile division training session, the Scepter 4 Lieutenant, Awashima Seri, went along the lines of the troops members, distributing small boxes gift-wrapped in soft Japanese paper. Her movements were highly efficient as always, but the procedure still took quite some time due to her handing the boxes to each of over a hundred members personally.
"It’s perishable, so I advice you to consume it at the nearest time. Dismissed!"
Turning her back to the saluting troops, Awashima took her leave; her subordinates, left on the grounds, exchanged confused looks.
"Perishable…?" Akiyama Himori, whose name was the first on the roll of the sword-armed special operations squad, tilted his head to the side in puzzlement. "She said, it’s ‘chocolate’… Maybe she meant something like a chocolate cake?"
"No…" Benzai Yuujirou, a squadsmate of Akiyama, replied, undoing the seal on his box. "It looks like a Japanese confection. A small rice ball with anko filling, perhaps…? Ah, no, a small anko coated ball, most likely".
"Yeah, looks that way", Akiyama opened his box as well and took out a ball the size of one mouthful to examine. Using the toothpick, thoughtfully provided with the box, he put the ball into his mouth and discovered that it was filled with something rather solid. "Mmm! There’s… chocolate inside!"
"You mean chocolate is the filling inside anko coating?"
"Yeah. I must admit this is pretty… novel".
Both Akiyama and Benzai busied themselves savoring their respective chocolate filled anko balls appreciatively.
Next to them, Kamo Ryuuhou was grimly eyeing his box, before presenting it to Doumyouji Andy, who was standing across from him. “…I’ll give you this if you want”.
"I appreciate Lieutenant’s feelings, but I don’t eat sweets".
Doumyouji, however, broke into a carefree grin and said, “Well, and I hate anko”.
Behind them, Enomoto, Fuse, Gotou and Hidaka were whispering about something, gathered in a circle.
"Mhuhu… She may have said she gave us this chocolate out of ‘obligation’, but still, it’s such a nice, human gesture on her part", Gotou said.
"She seems to be surprisingly attentive to things like this", Enomoto noted.
"If it’s given out of sheer obligation, then there’s nothing to be thankful for", Fuse contributed his opinion.
"Um, but I’m… I’m still happy to get some chocolate… I think", Hidaka disagreed.
"For real?" The other three turned to Hidaka. "Despite the chocolate you received being simply obligatory?"
"Yes, despite that".
"And despite the fact that the one you got it from was Lieutenant Awashima?"
"Yes, despite it being from Lieutenant Awashima".
"…And here I thought you disliked Lieutenant".
When Enomoto said that, Hidaka turned solemn, “Actually, I’m not very fond of her personality”.
"Mhehe, Awashima-san is rigorous indeed".
"Then why? Is it her body? Are you one of those guys who’re only interested in huge boobs, not giving a damn about everything else?"
"No, I’m not! I don’t care about huge boobs! No, I mean, I care, but right now, that’s not the point!" Hidaka shook his head. "It’s kinda embarrasing, but I find it deeply moving when a girl gives me chocolate personally on Valentine’s day."
"That’s… an incredibly proper attitude".
"Yeah, pure to a sickening degree". Enomoto and Fuse exchanged glances.
"…Mhuhu. Come to think of it, you attended an all boys’ school, didn’t you, Hidaka?" Gotou giggled.
Hidaka turned to him, serious, “Yes, I did… And my memories of Valentine’s day are limited to the humiliation that I felt when, after losing at rock, paper, scissors, I had to go buy chocolate for my whole class, and then the shame that I burned with when, after I secretly bought one extra piece and said to my classmates that a girl from another school gave it to me, they exposed my lie by checking the receit”.
"Whoa… So lame".
"…That’s why I’m glad to receive chocolate from Lieutenant Awashima and sincerely grateful to her for consideration. Itadakimasu".
As Hidaka expressed gratitude for the small box sitting on the palm of his hand, somebody called out to him from the side. “—Well then, squadsman Hidaka”.
"Yes, what is it, Doumyouji-san?"
Doumyouji had already put two more identical boxes - his own and Kamo’s - onto Hidaka’s open palm. “Here, eat this too, so you could be three times happier. I just thought that it’s only appropriate to let someone who’s happy to receive this chocolate have it”.
"Eh, huh… Alright, I gladly accept".
Meanwhile, the other three were in the middle of taste-sampling the gifts they received.
"Oh well, I wouldn’t say it’s particularily tasty, but it’s not bad either…"
"But this combination of chocolate and anko, it leaves a long lasting saccharine aftertaste on your tongue…"
"Mnn… Some tea and salted kelp would sure be nice, you know?"
"You’re being rude! Stop complaining and eat", Hidaka lectured the other three so openly expressing their opinions as he stuffed another anko ball - a third one so far - into his mouth.
Watching him, Doumyouji’s lips curved into a mischievous grin. “…Hidaka, once you’re done eating, go thank Awashima-san”.
"Wha? Me…? On my own?"
"A simple ‘Thank you for the treat’ will suffice. I’m sure even Awashima-san will be invigorated to see some kind of feedback on her efforts. Our guys are all pretty insensitive when it comes to things like this, you see, so…"
"Ah… is that so".
"What I suggest is you be our representative. Besides, doing this will earn you good points in Awashima-san’s book, and maybe next year you’ll get chocolate that won’t be purely ‘obligatory’".
"Not ‘purely obligatory’…? You mean what is called ‘chocolate for someone special’?"
"Yeah, that one. This is your chance, and a perfectly good chance, I might add".
"Huh…" Hidaka gazed into the skies, chewing the ball in his mouth. Then he abruptly said, "Alright, I’m off", and headed to the headquarters building where Awashima had gone to, with quick steps.
"…He actually went, huh. And so excitedly, too".
"Mhehe… He can deny it all he wants, but Hidaka actually likes Awashima-san".
"Huh? Ah, I see. It’s not only fear he feels for her…"
As the three looked at Hidaka’s retreating back, Doumyouji suddently said, “Oh, really? Wow”.
Fuse turned to him. “What you mean, ‘wow’, Doumyouji-san? Isn’t that the reason why you persuaded him to go see Lieutenant?”
"Nope, I just goaded him into it for the fun of it", Doumyouji replied with an innocent smile.
"Oh my, what an awful person, this guy", Fuse uttered shocked.
Some time later, when the three friends migrated to the dining hall and started their meal, Hidaka returned, carrying a rectangular bundle in one hand. “Ah, guys, you started without me?”
Upon Hidaka’s accusation, Fuse’s hand pulling udon paused, and he answered, “Yeah, we did. What’s in the bundle?”
"A tiered bento box".
"A tiered bento box", Hidaka repeated. "I caught up with Lieutenant in the corridor leading to Captain’s office. And yeah, I thanked her and expressed my hope to get similar treatment next year as well".
"Mhuhu… And? What did Awashima-san say to that?" Enomoto and Gotou joined in the conversation.
"That my wish will be taken into account".
"That answer is certainly like her… or should I say, it’s just a common polite reply".
"Hnn… You didn’t do very well. That’s disappointing".
"So? What’s the deal with that… tiered bento box?" Enomoto pointed to the bundle in Hidaka’s hand.
"Um, well, once I said what I wanted, I was about to leave, but Lieutenant was carrying a rather heavy bundle, so I offered to help and ended up carrying it all the way to Captain’s office", Hidaka explained.
"Wow, you’re such a gentleman".
"Mhehe, still managed to earn some points, eh?"
"So what’s inside…?"
"Ah, well, this". Hidaka put the bundle on the table with a heavy thud and unwrapped the cloth.
The tier of the lacquered bento box was tightly packed with anko balls, some them the size of a fist.
"Actually, this box was three-tiered and intended for Captain Munakata; all three tiers were stuffed real tightly, too… but he thought he should share, so he gave me one tier".
"Figures that Captain’s share would be special… this certainly has a kick to it, huh".
"His are on a totally different level from our ‘obligatory’ anko balls".
"Yup, tiers apart”.
"Mhe… As things stand, there’s no room for Hidaka, eh".
At this, Hidaka blushed and waved his hand in front of his face. “No, don’t get ideas, I don’t need any ‘room’ or anything, that’s not what this is about. I’m just happy to actively participate in a significant event like Valentine’s day, is all”.
"He’s got worse".
"What’s with that wording?! Like it’s a disease or something!" Hidaka pouted. "Well, anyway, there’s a mountain of these, so come on, help yourselves. These sweets can serve as a dessert".
However, the three others backed away from the bento box Hidaka pushed towards them, putting some distance between it and themselves.
"Mmn, thanks but no thanks. I’ve already had my share of anko balls earlier".
"Yeah. Besides, that amount - that’s way too much for dessert. One ball can easily count for a whole meal".
"Hm, I agree… How about we put them into the dining hall kitchen’s frige for now, and split them between everybody tomorrow? That way we’ll be able to deal with them somehow".
"You guys, you’re still saying things like ‘deal with them’, ‘get rid of them’… Fine, forget it. Those who can’t appreciate this treat won’t get it. I’ll eat all of them myself". Holding the bento box, he started eating the chocolate filled anko balls (big version).
He, then, raised his head and murmured, “I probably should return the favor on White Day…”
"…You wanna observe White Day?"
"Hmm, what are typical gifts on White Day, I wonder?"
"Uh, that would be things like candy and marshmallows, I guess?"
"Whoa, I seriously can’t imagine Lieutenant Awashima being happy over getting some candy".
"What should it be, then…"
The four friends folded their arms across their chests, thinking.
"—Well, since yours is gonna be the return gift for these anko balls, it’s gotta be something with anko, too", Doumyouji, who happened to pass by behind the four’s backs, cut in.
"Oh, right. That makes perfect sense".
"I know, right? And since it’s White Day, the anko should be from white beans, obviously".
"Awashima-san put chocolate into anko, so you should—"
"Ah, wait a second. I want to write it down. Hey, Eno! Gimme something to write with!" Hidaka took out a notebook and bent over it.
His three friends exchanged looks. Ah, again… Hidaka’s getting manipulated by Doumyouji-san again…
A tiered bento box full of marshmallows made out of white anko which Awashima Seri would eventually receive one month later on White Day from squadsman Hidaka Akira, the representative of all the members of the sword-armed division, and which would leave her greatly perplexed, makes for another anecdotical account.