Chapter 1: Metal Spiders And Garandou

1

Mornings at Garandou are always early. Uka wakes up not with an alarm clock but with the sun. They open at 5pm, but there’s no shortage of work to be done before then, like picking vegetables from their garden, washing and cooking the rice, and making sure the plates and utensils are ready for use. But first, she’ll prepare breakfast for herself and her housemate.

Uka changes right out of her pajamas and into her work uniform. Her work uniform as a chef is naturally a maid outfit, an ancient garb passed down from the distant 20th century. Today’s is a simple long black dress and white apron, with lacey frills kept to a bare minimum. From her elegant features she might seem almost doll-like, but the second she puts on her headdress, a sense of businesslike refinement comes over her.

After she finishes dressing, she promptly heads into the kitchen. To account for her height, raised steps have been built into the floor around the counters and stovetops, and she is able to reach even the poorly-fitted shutters with ease. A fresh breeze wafts through the kitchen, and a few dry rays of sunlight tickle her golden hair. The city has long been known as a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, yet her hair is totally unique nonetheless. Her origins are a common topic of gossip among the regulars, with the current prevailing theory being that she came from some northern European country. Whenever asked, however, she always replies the same way.

“Hehehe, I wonder~?”

Just cryptic words and an even more cryptic smile – and yet that reaction seems to only intrigue the regulars more.

She fills a stockpot with water, then lightly throws in some roasted barley. Then, she sets the pot on a burner at high heat, waiting until it has begun to boil before turning it down to low. As the barley tea simmers, she takes a bowlful of leftover rice from the refrigerator. She adds fuki-miso, a paste made from giant butterbur shoot stir-fried with miso, and tops it with a handful of white sesame seeds. Finally, she arranges several types of thinly-sliced pickled vegetables on a plate. With that, the only thing missing from breakfast is her housemate.

Uka opens the door to Lyco’s room without knocking. At the far edge of the bed is her housemate, curled up like a bear in hibernation. She’s wearing nothing but a loose T-shirt and a pair of underwear. From where Uka stands she can even see Lyco’s slim stomach from beneath the risen hem of her shirt.

“Lyco-chan, breakfast is ready.”

“…”

“If you sleep like that, you’ll catch a cold.”

The ‘bear’ lets out a low moan.

“…Too early… it ain’t even morning yet…”

“Yes, it is. You promised you’d come shopping with me today, remember~?”

Uka throws open the curtain, and the morning sun bleaches the room white. Lyco curls up even more tightly, as if attempting to flee from it.

“Hurry and get up, will you?”

“Gimme five more minutes…”

“Oh, honestly!”

Uka lets out a heavy sigh, then reaches for the mister sitting on Lyco’s desk. She gives a bit of water to the ball-like cactus on the windowsill, watching the fine hairs on it tremble slightly. At least the cactus seems to be doing what it’s supposed to. Then Uka coolly turns the mister’s nozzle towards Lyco and gives her a few good sprays.

“Cold!?”

Fssh fssshh.

“S-Stop it! Dammit, not the face!”

Fsshhfsshh fssshhh.

“Agh, fine, I get it! I’m up!”

Only after big, wet droplets have begun to form on Lyco’s face does she sit up. Her hair is standing on end, much like the cactus.

“Seriously, the hell’re you thinking!? My bed’s all wet now! D’you hafta go so far!?”

“I was planning on doing the laundry today anyways,” Uka replies composedly. “You really are a restless sleeper, though, aren’t you? Here, why don’t you step aside a moment?”

Uka drives Lyco off her bed and begins to gather the sheets in her arms. Lyco slumps her shoulders with a small sigh as Uka scoops the comforter off the floor.

“…What’s for breakfast?”

Ochazuke with fuki-miso. It’s all ready, so go wash your face.”

“…’K.”

Lyco obediently heads to the bathroom to wash up, grumbling only a little as she heads to the dining hall. She takes a bar seat near the kitchen. The room is devoid of customers at this hour, but is largely spotless. All the chairs are neatly stowed upside-down on the tables, and not a crumb can be seen. The customers clean up after themselves at closing time, an extra little thank-you to Uka for the food.

Before Lyco even has the time to let out a yawn, Uka arrives with a steaming teapot. Lyco sleepily rubs her eyes and reaches out to grasp it, but as soon as she does she yelps and pulls her hand back.

“Ah, be careful with the tea. It’s really hot.”

“You could’ve said that sooner!”

“I thought it’d be the perfect wake-up call for a certain sleepyhead.”

“…”

Uka chuckles as she brings in a bottle of slightly warmed dashi stock. Then, with a practiced hand, she lightly pours the dashi, then the tea over the sesame seeds and fuki-miso. The alluring smell of the sesame and the fresh, natural smell of the butterbur hit Lyco’s nostrils a moment later.

“Please, help yourself.”

Itadakimasu.”

Lyco mixes the ochazuke together, and after making sure this time that it’s plenty cooled, she takes a mouthful. The thick flavour of the miso fills her mouth, but it compliments instead of overpowering the crisp bitterness of the butterbur. Then, the slight saltiness of the dashi mingles in to produce a soft, gentle flavour.

“Mmm… tastes like spring.”

Her ears twitch slightly. Every mouthful brings a new slight trembling, and the sleepy look in her eyes is now replaced by an energetic shine. The spring-like butterbur flavour flows throughout her body, filling her with new life after her ‘hibernation’.

“Hehe, your expression really is telling, Lyco-chan.”

“Hm? Tells what?”

“Everything.”

“Guess that means I’m an honest person, unlike you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean~?”

“You’re all smiles in front of the customers, but really, you’re the kind of demon who’d drench her own housemate.”

“I didn’t drench you! I only got you a little wet!”

“Same difference! You even tried to put cucumber on my face once!”

“I read in an old book that it’s supposed to be good for your skin!”

“Then why don’t you cover your own face in vegetables!?”

“I don’t need anything like that!”

Uka puffs out her cheeks indignantly. Lyco, unable to spot so much as a single blemish on her skin, searches in vain for a comeback but ultimately replies with only a “Hmph.” She instead turns her attention back to the ochazuke. After a few small bites, she can feel her frustration fade away.

“If anything, I think it’s your fault, Lyco-chan, for sleeping in every day.”

“It’s not like I asked you to wake me up.”

“Hmmm? Okay, then, I guess it’s fine.”

“What is?”

“Eating breakfast separately every morning. So you’re fine with half-cold food that’s lost that special fresh-made smell, are you? You want a normal breakfast… without seconds.”

“Gh…”

Lyco visibly falters. Uka reaches out to Lyco’s bowl, as if to deal the finishing blow.

“You want another bowlful, don’t you?”

“…Yeah, I do.”

Tasty is tasty. As much as waking up in the morning is a pain, she can’t start the day right without Uka’s cooking. It’s all thanks to Uka’s hard work that she has such delicious food in the first place. She supresses a sigh of defeat.

Uka, on the other hand, hums to herself cheerily, basking in her small victory. As she prepares a second bowl for her housemate, she checks the shopping list on the table beside her. They go through a lot of food, being a restaurant, and as such there’s no end to the amount of shopping they need to do.

“Hmm… We’re out of meat, and we should really get more seasonings…”

“Ah!” Lyco suddenly exclaims. “Come to think of it, we’re out of NEO Bluebird beer again.”

“Eh? Why?”

“When I checked the storehouse yesterday, I didn’t see any left, that’s why.”

“But we just bought more the other day…!”

“I dunno, maybe the spring air makes people extra thirsty or something?”

“Or maybe it’s because a certain somebody likes her booze a little more than she should!”

“Not my fault it tastes so good… not that I can expect a kid like you to understand.”

“I’m not a kid! I know it’s tasty… I just don’t get drunk, so I don’t drink.”

“Uh-huh. Sure.”

“What, it’s the truth! Besides, I don’t think it’s right for a waitress to try to outdrink the customers. Beer’s expensive, too!”

“Really? We always spend more on ingredients.”

Two world wars and numerous pandemics have ravaged the world since the dawn of the 21st century alone. In a world where the general populace fills their bellies with synthetic fats and nutrient powders, a decent meal is among the greatest of luxuries. Nearly every agricultural advancement made over the past few millennia, aside from basic staples like rice and wheat, were undone in the past centuries, leading to an effective end to domesticated crops, livestock, and even farms. The domestic strains, dubbed ‘Gourmet Antiques’, now fetch unbelievable prices. YAOYA, vegetable hunting experts, and MATAGI, meat-hunting experts, make their livings hunting down such treasured foodstuffs. Since Garandou doesn’t have a lot of money, they strive to only serve things they’ve procured themselves, but sometimes they have no choice to rely on such specialists… and sometimes Uka gets so curious about how certain dubious ingredients would taste that she simply can’t help herself.

Gochisousamadeshita! Ah, that was good!”

As Uka continues to pour over the shopping list, Lyco finishes her breakfast. There’s not a hint of tiredness in her expression now as she stretches, a broad grin covering her face. Uka gives her a discontented look.

“…You’re coming with me to carry the bags, you know.”

“What? Why!? I carried ‘em last time, too!”

“I’m sorry, I’m just a kid, so I can’t do hard labour.”

“You’re still angry about that…? I thought you said yourself you weren’t.”

“Honestly, Lyco-chan, you can’t just say whatever seems most convenient at the time.”

“That’s my line!”

Lyco’s voice echoes throughout the dining hall, but Uka has her cheeks puffed out in irritation.

“I won’t make breakfast for you anymore if you don’t come.”

“Wha…!?”

“…”

“…Fine! I’ll carry your bags or whatever!”

In the end, there’s not a shred of doubt as to who truly runs Garandou.

2

Third Experimental City Skopulus, formerly known as Tokyo. If the city were still divided into 23 districts as it was when Japan was still a country, they would be in the 18th district, Arakawa. To the north of where they live is the great Arakawa River, beyond which is an impenetrable jungle filled with vicious beasts. The districts of Adachi, Katsushika, and Edogawa that used to be there have been lost for over a century.

Even in Skopulus, the dangers of Mother Nature lurk behind every corner. The towering skyscrapers that sprung up like weeds until just before the wars started are now crumbling and overgrown with frenetic networks of vines, like a child’s scribbles. The few clusters of buildings that are still free from the jungle now house marketplaces with stalls fashioned from scrap steel. While Arakawa’s markets are relatively safe from natural threats, the lawlessness of the communities ensure that none can rest easy, and beneath the peace and quiet lies a powerful sense of tension.

A pair of young women walk right through the middle of one such marketplace.

One is a short girl in a long-skirted maid outfit. There’s not a hint of anger left over from the quarrel that morning on her face. The passersby can’t help but stare, whether or not they recognize her as Uka of Garandou. The very air around her feels charmed as if by magic.

Not a soul dares approach her, however, because of the woman at her side. She’s clad in a sleeveless combat suit crafted from carbon nanotubing, a material that could stop any amateur’s blade with ease. At her hip is a long-bladed wooden sword. Even the fleas would recognize her as Lyco, the prided Hellhound of Arakawa. Today, however, she more closely resembles a pack mule than a war dog. A massive basket is slung across her back, and her arms are filled with all manner of packages. A glance alone could tell that her entire load is foodstuffs alone, nearly a hundred kilos’ worth.

“H-Hey… are we really not done yet…?”

Even an experienced mercenary would find such a load backbreaking, especially with a slim body like hers. It’s only thanks to her genetically modified mitochondria that she can remain standing.

Uka doesn’t reply, however, simply continuing to scan the stalls. One is a junk shop for all sorts of metal odds and ends, the next a vendor for synthetic organs of dubious origin… Some stalls belong to YAOYA or MATAGI, but as it’s nearly noon, they have already begun to close.

“We have everything I was looking for, but it looks like you can carry a little more still. Who knows, there might be something interesting.”

“Nonono, just look at me! This is really frickin’ heavy!”

“If you still have the energy to complain like that, you can still carry more.”

“I’m running on fumes, really! I’d collapse if I wasn’t saying something!”

“Oh… I’d love to help, but if I tried to carry anything heavy like that, I’d bweak~.”

“Says the girl who’s always carrying massive pots around the kitchen!”

Lyco knows from experience that there’s no point in arguing now, however, so she quickly surrenders. At any rate, the edge of the shopping district is right in front of them, and then they’ll be on their way home.

Uka suddenly stops in her tracks.

“Ooo, what’s that?”

Lyco looks up to find a man in the process of cleaning up a stall. The edge of the marketplace is typically reserved for merchants who are only visiting or are new to the trade, and the man himself is wearing a traveller’s pack visibly laden with all manner of tools. Perched conspicuously on a nearby pile of rubble is a large fish skull.

“Um, excuse me? Do you have a moment?”

At the sound of Uka’s voice, the fishmonger raises his head to give her an apologetic look.

“Sorry, miss. I’m fresh sold out for today.”

The man gestures to the empty rug in the middle of the space. She shakes her head and points at a large net hanging from the side of the man’s pack. The glistening of smooth metal is barely visible from within.

“Is that for sale, by any chance?”

“Hm? Know a thing or two about HAWs, do you?”

“I’ve heard of them, at least. Can I buy them off you?”

“Nah, you can have ‘em for free. I was just about ready to give up on selling ‘em altogether.”

The man removes the net from his pack and throws it at Lyco’s feet. On closer inspection, the contents seem to be robotic spiders about the size of pit bulls. Their bodies are entirely covered in a shiny carbon-fiber carapace.

“For free? Really!? Yay! Thank you so much! I knew I might find something good~!”

Uka smiles at the man as she bows, but Lyco’s expression only turns graver. She shakes her head as Uka moves to rest the net on the top of her load.

“…Wait a sec, Uka.”

“Hmm~?”

“I’ll carry as much as you want so long as it’s food for Garandou, but I’m not carrying junk.”

“…”

“I know you like fiddling with machines and stuff, and you’re free to buy whatever you want in your own time. But this is work, y’know. You can’t go picking up hobby stuff on a work trip.”

Lyco fixes Uka with a serious look. They’ve been living together for nearly a year now, and they’ve been getting along fine, but they have to draw the line somewhere. If they don’t at least respect each other’s boundaries and work when it’s time to work, then they won’t be able to make it work long-term.

Uka, however, simply cocks her head to the side in confusion.

“What are you talking about, Lyco?”

“C’mon, quit joking around. You know what I mean.”

“But this is food. Didn’t you say you’ll carry food?”

“What!? Nonono, that’s a machine. A robot. That ain’t food no matter how you look at it! Even an android wouldn’t eat a machine!”

“But infoplankton and nanomachines are really popular with androids–”

“That’s not what I mean! And besides, Garandou serves humans!”

“And I’m trying to tell you, this is human food. Or the inside is, at least.”

“…The inside?”

“I’m not talking about circuitboards or anything silly like that, either. HAWs are bioroids. The muscle on the inside is synthetic meat made from spider DNA, and I’ve heard it tastes quite good.”

“…Bioroids…?”

Lyco’s brain freezes. Uka begins explaining, her words smooth and composed as though she were reading off a script.

“They’re officially known as ‘Homing Arachnoid Weapons’, and they’re a type of terrestrial drone that was widely used during the fourth World War. They can operate on their internal batteries for up to a year, but after that they need to return to their docking stations for recharging and system updates. I’ve heard that if you just put up a net in front of their stations during recharging season, they’ll walk right into it and practically catch themselves.”

“But synthetic spider meat…?”

“Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. The armor does a great job of keeping bacteria and parasites away from the meat itself. I think I’ll make some sashimi first and see how that goes…”

Uka’s thoughts quickly turn to how to cook it. Lyco, still in shock, blankly accepts the bag of HAWs. She turns to the fishmonger, as if begging him to tell her it’s not true, but he’s not there. The sun is already high in the sky; he must have gone home already.

“Come on, Lyco-chan! Let’s hurry back and have lunch!”

Uka, already far ahead, calls back at Lyco. She clearly has no intention of sharing the load, but just seeing her smile is enough to urge Lyco’s feet forwards. The sound of spinning rotors comes from inside the bag as the arachnoids begin to flail about.

“Jeez, how fresh are these things…?” It appears lunch will be fresh, fresh spider-drones.

3

The name Garandou was borrowed directly from the adherents of the new-wave religion that built it over a hundred years ago. Lyco has been living in its ruins for quite some time, but not long after Uka moved in with her it was refurbished as a restaurant. The worship hall became the dining hall, and nearly every room has a high-vaulted ceiling and extravagant arching doorways. The kitchen came equipped with four range tops, two sinks, and a countertop the size of a bed.

After finishing carrying in the ingredients, Lyco collapses into a stool by the kitchen counter to take a short break. Uka cheerily sets about readying the bioroids for cooking, and Lyco watches as she pulls out not knives and other cooking utensils but wrenches and screwdrivers.

“I think I’ll start simple and prepare some raw and some cooked. This is my first time, after all.”

“Go ahead, do your worst.”

“Hm? Don’t you like crustaceans? I’ve heard HAWs are supposed to taste a little like shrimp.”

“N-No, that’s not the problem…”

Uka takes a screwdriver to the first HAW’s head and legs, nimbly releasing the screws there. After undoing three little clasps at each place, she carefully peels back the metal plating to reveal a number of circuit boards in the main torso and neat white flesh stemming from the legs, all interconnected by webs of wiring.

“That really doesn’t look like cooking… Ugh, it reeks like scrapyard in here.”

“Really? I think cleaning fish or animals smells a lot worse than this.”

“…You’re sure this is safe, right? Aren’t these things attack drones or something?”

“Oh, it’s perfectly safe. The only weapon they have is a 7.62mm machine gun, and I’m sure it can’t–”

RATATATATATATATATATATAT!!

“…”

“…”

The room is filled with the smell of gunpowder, and the kitchen floor now has a neat row of bullet holes in it. Lyco glares at Uka, who chuckles nervously before detaching the machine gun mounted on the HAW’s underbelly. She turns to Lyco, grins as cutely as she can, and winks.

“Tehehe! Oopsie☆”

“’Oopsie☆’ my ass! You could’ve turned me into swiss cheese just now!”

“But I didn’t! Come on, Lyco-chan, the past is behind us!”

“Seriously…!”

Uka ignores her exasperated housemate, instead refocusing on her cooking. She takes the screwdriver in hand once more with a serious expression.

“I’d better remove any resinous parts before cooking it, or else it might start smelling bad. I think I’ll keep most of the armour on, though. If I throw it into the oven just like this…”

She removes all eight of the legs, arranging seven of them neatly in the oven without extracting the white flesh inside. They’ll be ready to eat as soon as they’re cooked through. For the last leg, she uses a pair of metal shears to create an opening in a joint, from which she works to cut away the plating.

“There’s a sturdy membrane between the flesh and the metal armor, so it’s best to start from the edge and cut it away completely just like… this!”

Semi-transparent white muscle slips out of the metal shell. Looking at it now without the membrane or carapace, it does resemble fresh shrimp flesh, but given that it’s roughly the size of a human’s upper arm, it would be impossible to mistake the two. Uka slices it thinly, places the slices on a tray, and extends it to Lyco.

“Here you go, drone sashimi!”

“…Can we at least do something about the name, maybe?”

“Okay, how about synthetic spider–”

“Sorry I said anything.”

According to Uka, the best way to eat it is with a dash of salt. Lyco makes a small mountain of salt at the edge of her plate, then grabs a piece of flesh and sweeps up a bit with it. Then the meat suddenly wriggles, twitching and spasming as though it were still alive.

“I think I’m gonna be sick… You’re sure this is edible…?”

“Oh, it’s just some leftover ATP reacting with the salt. It’s perfectly fine!”

The circuit-ridden husk of the HAW on the counter catches Lyco’s eye, and her resolve falters. She clamps her eyes shut, takes a deep breath, and steels her resolve.

I-Itadakimasu!

Nom.

“…”

“So? How does it taste?”

“…S…S-S…”

“S?”

“…So sweet…”

It doesn’t quite taste like a shrimp. There’s a slightly metallic aftertaste from the high mineral content, but the main flavour is rich and incredibly sweet. Not only that, but it’s surprisingly chewy. The more Lyco works at it, however, the more nuanced the flavour profile becomes, resulting in a taste she can call nothing short of ‘drone-like’.

Nom. Chew-chew-chew. Nomnom. Chew-chew-chew-chew-chew.

“See, I told you it’s good~!”

Uka grins triumphantly, to which Lyco has no response. Her brain is still screaming at her to put down the drone meat, and yet her starving body refuses to listen. Her chopsticks and jaw are unstoppable.

Uka takes the plate away before Lyco can finish, however, quickly adding bay leaves and pine nuts before throwing the whole mixture into a frying pan with scallion oil. The HAW meat sizzles, shrinking and hardening only slightly as a tantalizing aroma wafts back over the counter. Finally, she adds minced amanatsu citron and two or three dashes of soy sauce before returning the plate to Lyco.

“I present to you oriental-style drone carpaccio.”

This time, Lyco doesn’t hesitate. The moment a piece of meat enters her mouth, her entire body twitches.

“Whoa… just a little heat and the flavour becomes so much more refined! This is almost too good!”

The taste is now more similar to seafood, but without the ocean-y flavour. While it lacks punch on its own, pairing it with such fragrant ingredients instantly draws its unique qualities to the fore. Paired with the slightly sour flavour of the amanatsu, it becomes simply exquisite.

“Okay, now let’s see how it tastes baked.”

With that, Uka pulls the tray of HAW legs out of the oven. It doesn’t look any different from before.

“It’s fully cooked now, right? The armour isn’t blackened at all…”

“That’s because carbon-fiber is really hard to burn. It’s great for conducting heat, though.”

“Wait, they’re weak to heat but they were used in wars?”

“They are bioroids, after all. They don’t work very well if it’s too hot or too cold.”

“Wow. Sounds like crap.”

“They used to be called the ‘walking meals of the battlefield’, after all. Most of the best ways to cook HAW were devised by soldiers during the war, like this baking method. I ran across it while reading an old diary.”

“I guess if they’ll just walk into a net, they’d be pretty good eating… but if they’re so tasty, why aren’t they extinct?”

“Hmm… maybe because they look really gross?”

“Hey.”

As they talk, Uka puts on a pair of gloves and starts neatly peeling the HAW flesh out from the shell. The meat is now white as snow. Lyco dips a piece in a bit of salt before trying it.

“…Ah, hot!”

“I told you it was fully cooked. How does it taste?”

“Hmm… it’s a little dry. Still pretty good, though.”

“I see… it might be good in a gratin, then.”

“Ooh, let’s try it!”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have a whole lot of ingredients aside from meat — not including what we’ll be serving to the guests, that is.”

Lyco puffs out her cheeks discontentedly, but Uka can only shake her head sadly. Then she suddenly remembers the leftover dashi stock from breakfast.

“Wait just a minute!”

Uka pours the dashi and some chopped green onion whites into a wok, then adds the HAW and breaks it up into smaller pieces. Once it’s come to a boil, she beats in several eggs. Finally, she sprinkles in salt, pepper, and potato starch. She pours the syrupy mixture onto the remaining HAW meat.

“What do you think? Drone-meat ankake.”

“We’re seriously gonna need a new name for this if we’re going to be serving this to people…”

As soon as Lyco puts a piece into her mouth, however, a powerful shock runs through her body. Not an actual electric shock from a leftover charge held by the meat – rather, a wave of deliciousness. Despite having a very sensitive tongue, Lyco continues to spoon morsels of meat into her mouth, panting loudly to cool down all the while. In moments, the plate is completely empty.

“Delicious… way too delicious!”

The meat, too dry only moments before, has been utterly revolutionized, the sweetness of the flesh mixing perfectly with the an sauce.

I could eat this forever, Lyco thinks as Uka brings over a second plate. As soon as she realizes that Uka is still just watching, however, she stops. Uka clearly seems content without eating it herself, but food always tastes better when eaten with others. Lyco skewers a piece of meat with her chopsticks and holds it out to Uka.

“Here, you take a bite. Say aah!”

“Eh!? N-No, it’s okay! I can eat by myself!”

“C’mon, don’t be like that! Hurry and take a bite before it gets cold!”

“…I-If you insist…”

Uka leans over the counter towards Lyco. The second it enters her mouth, her eyes open wide.

“See? It’s crazy good, right?”

“…”

“…You don’t like it?”

“I-It’s good, but…”

Her brow furrows ever-so-slightly as she chews. Her cheeks are puffed out a little, and as Lyco watches they blush a light peach colour.

“You’re treating me like a kid again…”

“Am not. I was just giving you a hand, since you had ‘I want a bite!’ written all over your face.”

“Honestly, I’m not like you…”

Uka suddenly grabs the plate, shovelling it into her mouth at a ferocious rate. Lyco stops and stares in shock, only recovering after the plate has been picked clean.

“Aw…! You went and ate it all!”

“It’s your fault for trying to hog it all to yourself in the first place!”

“What, so you did want some! Seriously, you’ve gotta work on being more true to your emotions.”

“Fine, you’re right! I did want some! And I’m not good with my emotions – I am just a kid, after all! Honestly, you’re twice as childish as I’ll ever be!”

“What!? How’m I childish!?”

“Just look in a mirror! Look, you’ve got sauce on your cheek!”

Uka points an accusative finger at Lyco’s face, and Lyco quickly wipes it off in embarrassment. As soon as she looks at Uka’s face, though, she begins to smirk.

“And what’s that on your cheek?”

“Eh? No way…!”

Uka puts her hands to her face, at which point Lyco howls with laughter.

“Ha-ha! You fell for it hook, line and sinker!”

Uka’s pearly-white skin suddenly flushes red up to her ears, and she clamps her mouth shut. Lyco, however, turns her smirk into a genuine smile and gives her companion an affectionate pat on the head.

“Ah, that was really, really good, though! You really are a genius. I’ve never seen you make anything that wasn’t jaw-droppingly amazing!”

Uka’s face turns a shade deeper red still. She looks up at Lyco for a long moment before letting out a quiet little sigh.

“…Of course. I’m Garandou’s cook, after all…”

“Yep, you sure are!”

“…And, um…”

“…And?”

“Um… thank you for carrying everything earlier. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Carrying stuff like that’s about all I’m good for anyways. We’ve gotta share the load, after all.”

A large yawn suddenly emerges from Lyco’s mouth. Seeing that, Uka rolls her eyes, but her smile is unmistakeably gentle.

“You can leave the cleanup to me. Why don’t you go take a nap?”

“Mmm… thanks. We’ll be busy again tonight…”

“Yep. It’s our first new menu item in a while, so we’ve got to celebrate.”

“But… we need… a better name…”

Before she can even finish her sentence, Lyco slumps onto the counter and falls asleep. Uka watches her peaceful expression for a long moment before starting to put things away, careful so as not to wake her. It’s the end of spring, just over a year after they started living together, and Garandou is business as usual.

Uka and Lyco’s Ingredient Log

#1 – HAW

Uka: HAW stands for ‘Homing Arachnoid Weapon’, but their appearance and characteristics differ greatly depending on the model number. The one we ate, for example, was a HAW-602. Only the 600 through 800 models are bioroids, so they’re the only edible ones.

Lyco: Huh… I guess there’s a lot to unpack in just that little acronym.

Uka: Yep. The only thing they really share is a homing ‘instinct’ that brings them back to their charging docks, or ‘Spider Nest’ once a year. They’re really cleverly designed, since even weapon maintenance is done automatically. Ever since the secret to catching them got out, though, they’ve been nothing more than eight-legged meals.

Lyco: If they’ll walk into a net all by themselves, it’s no wonder.

Uka: Especially since by the time they’re close to their nest, they’re sluggish from being nearly out of power. Sometimes you’ll find one or two of them that are still plenty energetic, though, so if you let your guard down, you could be in for a nasty surprise.

Lyco: Yeah, I seem to remember someone almost getting shot while we tried to cook it.

Uka: Well, I happen to learn best through experience.

Lyco: Don’t sound so proud about it…

Uka: The secret to successfully cleaning them, by the way, is to first turn off the power using the switch behind its head, then quickly remove the neural network circuitry from its legs. It can be dangerous if there’s a power leakage, and it may short circuit and start firing randomly. Since the synthetic muscle is maintained through a combination of electrical impulses and chemicals, it’s a good idea to take that out quickly.

Lyco: Yeah, makes sense… by the way, just why are we recording all this anyways?

Uka: It can’t hurt to have a record of the things we’ve eaten, can it?

Lyco: So why do I have to be here?

Uka: I thought it’d be nice to have a firsthand account from someone who ate it. Well? How was it?

Lyco: …Tasty.

Uka: …And?

Lyco: What do you want me to say!? It’s not like I perfectly remember the flavour, especially when you just ask me like that out of nowhere!

Uka: I guess we’ll have to have it again sometime, then. Apparently different models have different flavours, and some have quite a cult following. The best is supposed to be HAW-730. After hearing that the HAWs were being eaten on the battlefield, the inventor decided to make one that tastes extra good. The problem was, though, it had terrible efficiency and it wasn’t anywhere near as useful as a weapon. It was supposedly hunted to extinction soon after being released, so I don’t think we’ll be able to find any around now.

Lyco: Jeez… the more I hear, the sorrier I feel for the little guys…

Uka: The tasty animals are always the first to die.

Lyco: Is it even an animal, though…?

[to be continued]