2014-07-07 - Stars And Ramen

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Title: Stars And Ramen

Mai promised Mamoru a ramen-making lesson, and a lesson he shall have. Even if it's on a rooftop at night.


Mamoru Chiba, Mai Tokiha


The roof of Mamoru's apartment building

OOC - IC Date:

8 February 2014 - 7/7/2014

Over several days, a series of text conversations.

MAI: Work was crazy, and...I don't even know what to say to what happened. Are you okay?
MAMORU: you have reached mamoru's out-of-office textbot. i'm sorry i can't come to the fake keyboard, but i'm in tibet studying martial arts on a mountain.

MAI: Did you remember to bring food to that mountain of yours, or am I going to stumble across you meowing for food?
MAMORU: i have many granola bars and beer batter and a jug of butter
MAI: So that's a no, then.
MAMORU: i was just trying to get a reaction, that's disgusting, who would eat that
MAMORU: nah for real my mountain has monks that prepare the healthiest of nourishment for body and soul
MAMORU: also a monk sauna for after a hard day of mystical martial arts training

MAI: There's some tricks for making that instant ramen taste better, you know.
MAMORU: will you share them or are you just going to tease me with knowledge held tantalizingly out of reach?
MAI: Depends on whether you're willing to have a lesson in person. If not, then the latter~

MAMORU: maybe tomorrow?
MAI: Deal. In the meantime try chopped green onion.

MAMORU: can you do me a favor and not tell eri
MAMORU: about my quick exit the other day
MAMORU: was a weird feeling. Like sailor moon needed me, then didn't. I'll figure it out
MAI: Sure. Horde of grade-schoolers hit Linden Baum like a hurricane, going back to cleaning, will help figure things out later.
MAMORU: Have fun, i'm on the roof with my telescope. I'll probs be up there a while, it's like astronomical six degrees of wikipedia

MAI: I swear I am going to make sure the next batch of pine syrup never reaches the kitchen.
MAI: Also, you have the dorkiest hobby. Did you remember to eat before getting lost in stars?
MAMORU: Shut up are you calling galileo a dork
MAMORU: and I ate a few hours ago
MAI: Probably, yes. Rather save the ramen lesson for another day, then?

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's a clear night and the moon is a skinny little thing, not shedding much light-- that doesn't help with Tokyo's light pollution much, but still, the brighter stars are quite visible in the velvety blue-black sky. If one has a really good telescope, even the dimmer stars can be seen, and even details on the planets currently visible.

Mamoru has a really good telescope, and he's set it up on the roof of his apartment building for the second night in a row: the stars are calming, their orderly procession a delight, their age and distance reassuring.

After the trauma a few days ago, there were at least some texts back and forth with Mai, and Mamoru's been happy to help Eri try to find witches with Princess Runealy, even if there ended up being embarrassing trauma there too, and he managed to slink in to the hospital and convince Madoka to let him heal her the rest of the way, and he even ended up having a rooftop conversation with a much more openly lonely 'magical boy'--

--but tonight he's finally up for attempts at actual socialization again. Mai's been willing to distract him from horrible angst before and not pry, after all, and he has a handle on his emotions again, so--

About ten, fifteen minutes ago, after charting the twinkling constellations for a while, he texted Mai. About a minute ago, he texted Usagi...

...and didn't hit send. He didn't lock his phone when he pocketed it, either; this was deliberate, because maybe fate will send it for him when he's too much of a coward to openly commit to at least a 'we're still friends though, right?' overture.

Now? He's tall, the tripod is tall, the telescope is tall, but it's also pointed far up. Therefore, Mamoru's sitting in a canvas folding chair, peering into the lens, and there are a few other canvas chairs leaning up against the closest HVAC unit. Notably, the telescope is not set up in any of the usual superhero parkour landing spots.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

She tried to be respectable. Tried to be normal. But it's been a long day, and Mai didn't really have much patience left when the buzzer went unanswered. The only real trick was finding a part of the building that wasn't being watched directly - then it was just summoning her rings, and flying to the roof as quickly as she could.

Once on top of the ostentatious apartment building, Mai allows her rings to cool - cool, but not vanish entirely. There's not much point, given what she has in mind - so she just winds her scarf around another loop, adjusts the weight of the bags she's carrying, and takes a minute to prowl around the rooftop.

How big is this building, anyway?

Mercifully, it doesn't take long to find Mamoru Chiba. There's no one else up here, after all - and the telescope kind of stands out. She doesn't speak up immediately, just joins the telescope in gazing into the heavens. However good it is, and however good her eyes are, there's something she can see that he probably can't. Though, it can't hurt to check-

"Any red stars shining tonight, Chiba-san?"

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Mars doesn't rise until after dawn, this time of year," Mamoru says absently, adjusting the focus of the eyepiece carefully. "But seeing as she's a planet, not a star, that's probably not what you're asking."

He finally looks up, and Mai gets a warm smile, even if the upperclassman's face is a little more pale than usual. (Maybe he shouldn't have gone to heal Madoka the day after nearly drowning twice. Live and learn~! He stands and gestures toward the canvas chair, then pauses, eyeing Mai's rings. He adds sternly, "You can only sit on my incredibly flammable folding chair if you put yourself out first."

But then he's looking up again -- and he's got his glasses hanging out of the collar of his plain white t-shirt, and a flannel shirt on over that, and a slightly-too-large army parka on over that, and jeans that aren't even skinny or black, and he doesn't even acknowledge it. Tonight's Mamoru is an astronomy nerd.

"Are you seriously-- do you want a portable range? I've got one downstairs, it'll only take me a second to get it--"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

This should make things easier. This isn't Tuxedo Mask, handsomely suited hero beloved by the moonlight. This is Mamoru Chiba, astronomy nerd, paying zero attention to fashion. Mai can only hope the night's shadows hide her smirk at his appearance, casual as it is. The Mamoru who isn't trying to show off at all.

It's weirdly nice to see him like this.

"Well, you're the student of the stars, not me - I just thought I'd heard some stars were different colours." She steps a bit closer, returning the warm smile - she's got her usual winter jacket on, her bright red scarf, jeans on in deference to what cold there is this time of year. "And no, this incendiary friend of yours is seriously planning on magical fire. Just like the hotpot I never got around to rescheduling."

She takes a moment to set down her bags, and unpack them. There's a gallon jug of water, a pot, and a handful of bowls with cheap disposable chopsticks with Linden Baum wrappers. She also has a small cutting board and a paring knife, which get set down carefully on the flattish top of a nearby vent. Once empty, she uses the bag to lay out ingredients from the other bag. There's a bundle of bok choy, a head of garlic, a lump of ginger root, a small carton of eggs... and of course, several packs of ramen.

It might not be a familiar brand to Mamoru. It's possible he knows it - but it's the cheap kind. The kind many Ohtori students wouldn't be caught dead looking at. 35 yen a pack.

Mai looks up once everything's laid out, and gives a grin. "It's more fun this way, anyway. Not giving away all my secrets, but you can at least get the basics of Mai-style ramen."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The fact that he even has normal-people clothes-- even if it's not so much showing off as social armor--

--it's social armor he's not wearing right now, and it's twice Mai's seen him in 'bum around by himself' clothes. Less armor, and less.

"Well, some stars /are/, because suns do go through different colors in the different stages of their lives, but it's not the sort of thing you can generally see unless you're looking through a space telescope. Too much atmospheric interference. Did you know that's why they twinkle? They don't do that in space, they shine steady through vacuum." He sounds-- he actually sounds enthusiastic. Legitimately enthusiastic.

He doesn't quite wave his arms around, though.

Besides, Mamoru's also instantly distracted by the visible evidence of Mai-style ramen in the offing. "This-- if this were youtubed, it'd go viral quicker than that guy making ramen with the motorcycle. Instant internet fame with a great special effects budget. I mean I'm not saying you should, it'd probably be target city, but if you did..."

Yes, this is Mamoru wandering closer, and putting his glasses on, and hooking his hands in his parka's pockets to loomingly look over Mai's shoulder. "Eggs in it?" It's not dubious, it's just... all right, it's a little dubious.

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

A student of astronomy, of course, would know such things. Mai isn't a devout student - but it's an interesting fact. And perhaps a worrying one. If you can't normally see the redness of a star, then why? Mars wouldn't be visible, so...

But best not to bring that up. She simply nods, makes appropriate noises of understanding, and lets Mamoru talk. Because he is enthusiastic, and it is worth listening to. At least he isn't waving his arms around like an excited kid, because then her polite studiousness would be shattered by laughing at him.

The thought of appearing on Youtube does make Mai pale a bit - not something that had crossed her mind. She's gone unrecognized by the world at large, and ideally that will keep happening... Though hang on, Mamoru mentioned an offense against her culinary senses. "A motorcycle? That's extreme, and sounds dangerous."

At the sure nonplussed look, Mai holds up one bangled wrist. "And no, this isn't dangerous, this is safer than a gas burner. For me, at least." She grins - and then starts getting things ready by laying out things on the cutting board.

"Right. The egg is protein - instant ramen's food in a pinch, but the meal will fill you up better if there's some meat to it. Or failing meat, some egg. There's a trick, I'll show you once I start cooking." She starts with the bok choy, separating one stalk and its leaf. "For vitamins, and because it makes it feel less like a cheap meal, you'll want some sort of vegetable. Cabbage and spinach are both good picks - look at whatever's on sale. I washed this before bringing it over, because I figured you should get a quick demo. Chop it into bite-sized pieces, they'll go into the ramen near the end."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Fff he didn't do it ON a motorcycle... I don't think..." Mamoru starts to retort almost dismissively, but gets uncertain pretty quickly, then starts surreptitiously fishing around youtube on his phone. It's not very surreptitious when the screen lights up, but it is a great video--

--but then Mai's giving a lesson, and Mamoru Chiba is nothing if not studious. He pays close attention. "I do know about the value of protein," is interjected with a little laugh, but he doesn't look either mocking or offended. Just slightly teasing. "Peas are usually what I end up using, is all. Bok choi I usually saute, are you putting it in for crunch?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Greenery's the first thing. There's still some room left on the board; Mai slices off a small chunk of the ginger root, and splits off a clove of garlic. "The crunch, mostly - I put it in about a minute before things are done to wilt it a little, and if you want to use multiple pans you can go saute to your heart's content. Anyway, garlic and ginger. I don't need to tell you what they add to a dish - though the flavour's a bit different between freshly sliced and smashed into paste. Slice thinly, you want the flavour to soak in quickly." She has to work quickly - because Mikoto is known to be impatient. In short order - and with peels tucked away in the bag that held groceries - she has the garlic and ginger turned into thin strips.

Finally, she pours water into the pot - a couple of cups' worth, at least - and holds it above one wrist. The Element there spins to life, a controlled blaze igniting beneath - and around - the pot. Even if it weren't February, the heat would be noticeable - but through it, Mai simply grins. "You'll probably want to use a stove at this point. The instructions help here - get the water to a boil, then throw in the noodles, and simmer for a few minutes. There's just a trick..."

Remarkably quickly, the water's boiling. Mai suppresses the flames to free up that hand, face serious with concentration, and quickly adds a few things to the pot. The ginger and garlic, to improve the broth; the noodles, broken into a couple of chunks to soak and cook for a couple of minutes; and lastly, two eggs. Cracked on the rim of the pot with one hand, the contents plonked in without a second thought.

Once Mai's Element is ablaze again - though a less ferocious flame, this time - she explains. "The trick is, the heat and time needed to cook the noodles is about how long you need to poach an egg. It's convenient, and lets you have the traditional egg on top of your soup. Again, it's about how the meal feels - and that takes it from just soup to something you can take a little pride in." The noodles and eggs are simmering away, cooking rapidly, and Mai's expression shifts from warm pride to something a bit more sheepish. "Almost ready...um. Do you mind putting the bok choy and seasoning packet in? My hands are a bit full."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Shamelessly, Mamoru takes his chilly February unglovedhands from his pockets and holds them up to the heat as well-- just not nearly so close as the pot is. His hands are back in his pockets and he's backed off a little by the time she's cracking eggs, and that...

That makes him stare. "How did you even-- I would get shell everywhere--" he trips over his sentence in amazement. He immediately returns to observational distance and gets up on tiptoe to get basically a bird's eye view over Mai's shoulder.

The fire ends that quickly, and the upperclassman in the Seattle 1991 couture's backed up again. Mai's explanation of the feel of it has him nodding a little sheepishly. "Or even if not pride-- even making ramen like this just for yourself... instant things and prepackaged things are so bleak. And pride too: self-sufficiency, not doing badly for yourself at all, making something be a pleasure to eat instead of a thing that just happens when it has--"

It's a good thing Mai needs a hand.

Hurriedly, Mamoru goes to do as ordered, scooping up the bok choi and dumping it in, then carefully tearing the seasoning packet open and shaking it in. Shaking, not dumping. He's actually for real trying to have it land evenly, probably to avoid clumping, even though it eventually wouldn't be a problem.

Since she's holding the pot he needs to put things in and the older boy doesn't especially want to get crisped himself, the particular leaning necessary to perform the task is a little awkward. At least there's precious little chance of his ungloved hands coming anywhere near hers, since ohgodfire. "Uhh-- do you want me to hold the pot?"

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Practice makes perfect, so goes the saying. It's certainly easier to crack an egg with two hands, and given the choice Mai would pick that over this elaborate technique almost any time. But, well. On one hand, it's a good excuse to do it - she only had one hand free, and necessity breeds skill. And on the other hand, it's just her and Mamoru and a chance to show off.

Mai can't help but smirk just a little bit as Mamoru grabs the ingredients. She has the touch.

"That's the idea, yeah. Cooking's not just recipes and flavours - it's about caring about what you make. Even if it's just for yourself, it'll be a lot better if you put in that little bit of effort." The flames flicker once, then die away as the seasoning mix blends with the rest of the ramen. This time, Mai lets the rings fade away entirely. "No worries, we're just about done."

There is soup - noodles, poached eggs, beef broth with garlic and ginger and bok choy. There are bowls. And does it not smell good?

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It smells amazing. It has garlic and ginger, of course it smells amazing. The warmth of it is almost enough to scare February away from the chilly starlit rooftop. Mamoru fills a bowl, mumbles "itadakimasu" really quickly and doesn't even -try- to converse until he's half through his second bowl. That's also when he finally sits down. Dressed like that, with glasses and somewhat rakish hair, with his mouth unapologetically full of ramen, Mamoru Chiba has never looked so much like--

--a regular person. Like the teenaged boy he actually is, in spite of everything else. He's so good at masks--

--but not when he is eating ramen that Mai just made amazing on the roof and it's so tasty and hot and filling and he may have underestimated the time passed since his last meal.

But then yeah, he finally slows down enough to talk. "It won't just taste better. If I'm cooking something, it's usually something I think people I like would like, which means I'm thinking about them. That's a lot better than pouring hot water in Cup Noodles and letting it sit and thinking about everything I don't want to."

A beat.

"Of course, what's even better is if someone makes it for you," he says archly, tilting his head a little back and watching Mai sidelong, one brow raised. "And then sticks around and eats with you. What I think I'm trying to say is thank you."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

While Mamoru eats, Mai just leans back and watches. Gone, the stony countenance, the absolute determination; all that remains is someone utterly delighted to have something as basic as instant noodle soup. That alone would be a point of similarity large enough to hinge a guess upon; black hair and what she knows of Mamoru Chiba's quest just cements the point.

Mai really has to introduce Mikoto to him.

Why has she been hesitating, anyway? Being uncertain? Or...just not wanting the situation to change? The cook ruminates as Mamoru takes his second bowl, quietly setting down the empty pot and gathering up the remaining groceries - plenty of everything, really. Enough left to make another three batches on eggs alone.

She looks up abruptly at Mamoru's comment, and a hot blush doesn't want to leave her face - one that blazes brightly at the thanks. "You're welcome. Even if it is just instant noodles." She clears her throat, trying to remember her point, and holds out the bag of groceries. "It's no trouble, just - anyway, you're on a budget, and this might help keep meal costs down. Think of me when you're making it, if that helps."

<Pose Tracker> Mamoru Chiba [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Unfolding and almost lurching out of the low canvas chair in order to keep from spilling the rest of his noodle soup, Mamoru looks puzzled at Mai's blush, and unaccountably finds himself blushing as well, which means he's not looking at Mai when he takes the bag of groceries, smiling a little. He clears his throat and looks up and up -- hello, stars! -- and then lets his head drop to regard Mai with wry warmth. "I will."

His phone's display shut off almost half an hour ago. He'll eventually take it out to do something else with it, and he'll see on his screen--

'rooftop ramen with iron chef mai tokiha, if you are hungry'

--in his unsent text window in the ongoing Usagi text conversation, the last text from a couple of days ago.

But for now, he has home(roof)-cooked ramen noodle soup, a bag of groceries, and an excuse (full hands!) not to have some sort of embarrassingly awkward protocol fail at physical farewells. "Goodnight, Mai-chan."

<Pose Tracker> Mai Tokiha [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

It's been a long day, and Mai isn't entirely sure of her judgement at this point. Mercifully, she really does have a good reason to go - "I made Mikoto supper before coming over, and left her doing homework - I should go and make sure she hasn't eaten it. So - glad you enjoyed the meal, and I'll try to make sure you don't starve while your finances recover."

Mai's teasing grin is filled with more confidence than she honestly feels at the moment. Just a bit - she's honestly pleased to have helped out a friend in need, and she does like spending time with him. But she wants to ask what was up the other day at the park, and yet she can't bring herself to ask. And besides that - is she really the one who should be here, helping him like this?

But Mamoru isn't the only one who can keep up a mask; while she's still flushed from the compliment, her grin is as genuine as it can be. Because, when it comes down to it - she's helping her friend in a pinch, right? Nothing more than that. "I've got the next couple of days off - so drop by for supper whenever you like, I can whip up an extra couple of helpings easily enough. Anyway - goodnight, Chiba-san~"

As usual, the formal suffix has a teasing lilt to it. Mai smiles warmly, and with the now-empty pot and jug of water in her hands, makes her exit.