Standard disclaimers apply.

READY MEAL IN A CARDBOARD BOX

By Cassandra's Destiny

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"I can't believe I forgot all about it!"

Yoh Asakura was frantically running through the streets, beads of sweat forming on his brow. He just got back to the house after long hours of training. Announcing his presence, he walked up to a note on the fridge from Tamao.

"Master Yoh, Tamao did remind you last night she was going to go back to your grandfather's place this afternoon." Amidamaru appeared beside his young master. The spirit knew Yoh can be a little careless and forgetful at times, but at this instance, he knew he was in for it. Anna will be home in an hour's time, expecting dinner to be ready.

Entering the supermarket, Yoh jugged from aisle to aisle. "Why did they have to remodel now of all times?" He didn't know where to find what he was looking for. He was more familiar with the convenience store a few blocks from their place, but it was closed for renovation.

As soon as he reached the section for fresh fruits and vegetables, he stopped dead in his tracks. "I can't get Anna something I need to thaw. That'd take a lot of time, plus gathering ingredients for a really complicated vegetable dish won't be a smart move right now." He took in a deep breath. "Calm down, Yoh. Clear your head and think of the perfect dinner to serve Anna."

Amidamaru watched as he closed his eyes and stood his ground. He was certain Yoh was counting down to one – it was his way of remaining calm.

Oddly enough, it was taking him too long to chill this time. Has it been three whole minutes already? "Master Yoh, need I remind you Miss Anna will be back soon? And you don't have enough time."

His eyes snapped open. Yawning almost loudly, Amidamaru had to admire Yoh's determination to serve Anna. Apparently, he has dozed off, standing in the middle of a supermarket aisle. "That was a good nap, Amidamaru. Hey, what's up?" He was smiling. "That's a good sign, perhaps he has already thought of something." The samurai was wise. He had been through so much and he is able to understand a lot of things, solve tons of mysteries. "So what are you cooking for Miss Anna?" Yoh's eyes went wide as saucers, and in a snap, off he went, frantically running around again.

Amidamaru is a wise samurai spirit who is able to solve many mysteries. But apparently so, Yoh was a different kind of mystery altogether.

"What to get. Have no time. Dinner not ready. Fear a mad Anna. What to get. Have no time. Dinner not ready. Fear a mad Anna. What to get. Have no time. Dinner not ready. Fear… whoa." Reaching the packed goods section, a certain shelf was calling to Yoh. There, in bold letters, were the words quick sausage spaghetti. He instantly grabbed one and reviewed the needed ingredients. "12 ounce vermicelli, included in packet; a pound of sausages, included in packet; two cloves of garlic, included in packet; canned crushed tomatoes, included in packet; and salt and pepper to taste, we have that at home… This is perfect!" He read through all the fine prints, making sure it was a guaranteed quick sausage spaghetti.

Amidamaru went through most of the aisles, trying to find Yoh, who has sped off after waking up from his semi-nap time. Finding him in the packed goods section, he sighed in relief. "At least he's not asleep again."

"Yea, this much calories… saturated fats, who cares?"

"Master Yoh, have you—"

"Takes 20 minutes to prepare? How much time do we have, Amidamaru?" Yoh was still agitated. Amidamaru was sure.

"I'm not sure, Master Yoh, but I believe we have a little less than an hour left."

"Good. I'll take this."

And there he went, speeding off again.


"What do you mean your computers are not working?" When Amidamaru reached the check-out line, what he saw was an out-of-control, devastated Shaman.

A lady in pink offered an apologetic smile. "The system's been down since noon, sir. It will take a couple more minutes before the engineers give the go signal for us to use the cash register. Now if you can wait about five to ten minutes, we will be able to serve you then."

Yoh let out a frustrated groan and rubbed the back of his neck furiously. "Sure, it's okay. I can wait." What other options did he have?

"Cashier number seven, you're good to go!" The engineer from the maintenance room shouted. "Oh, sir, you're in luck!"

He lets out a small laugh. "Yea, I guess. Well can you just—"

"Excuse me, dear," an old woman wearing a frilly yellow dress, probably in her seventies, or her nineties, tugged Yoh's shirt from behind. "Will it be okay if I cut in? I only have this can of milk for my cat. Sophie must be really hungry now. She doesn't eat cat food, only drinks milk." Naturally, her request was well responded to. Yoh just couldn't say no to the old lady, especially since her cat might already be dying from… thirst or, "hunger?"

The girl at the counter swiped the item for its barcode. "That'd be 1.35, ma'am." Yoh smiled. He was going to be served next and prepare Anna's dinner, plus he has done a good deed for the old lady. "Things are definitely going good."

"Oh, let me just get my senior citizen's card, dear." She places her purse on the counter, taking out knick knacks of all shapes and sizes. "Oh dear, where did I put it?"

Amidamaru watched the old lady's display. She was taking too long, and he knew Yoh was twitching in anticipation.

"Here!" She handed the card over to the counter girl. Before she swiped the card though, she inspected the back of it. Yoh sensed that there was something wrong. "Uh, ma'am, I'm sorry, but you can't use this card yet."

"Why not?"

"It doesn't have your social security number on the back." She pointed at an empty box at the item to emphasize her point. "You see, when you use this in supermarkets or any retail store, it has to have your social security number. May you please write it down here for me?" Handing the old lady a pen, she laid down the card on the counter.

"Of course, that was very clumsy of me." She laughed. Yoh noted that her laugh was a cross between a chuckle and a snort – 35 percent chuckle and 65 percent snort. What? He had to entertain himself somehow.

The old lady got out a small notebook from her purse. Flipping through the pages, she creased her brow and said, "I've never got around memorizing that long number." She laughed again… okay, she chuckled and snorted again.

Yoh was glad it didn't take her forever to find her social security number and write it down. Just when he thought he was almost good to go…

"Okay, you only need to pay 85 cents, ma'am."

"85 cents? Oh, I have just the right amount of cents here!" She dug into her purse again, bringing out a coin purse the size of Mt. Fuji. And, to Yoh's horror…

"One, two, three, oh, I've got a five! Eight… I'm on my eighth cent now, right? Nine, ten, eleven…" She continued, counting loudly as she placed the coins one by one on the counter.

Amidamaru sweat dropped. The sweet old lady was being too much of a pain to be called a sweet old lady. She sure was old, he'll give her that much.

After a few minutes, or what Yoh thought was an eternity, he was out of the supermarket. He didn't bother getting his change or his receipt. In fact, he was too much in a hurry to mind who he had been bumping into.

"Asakura!"

Oh no, not today.

"I want you fight me!"

He turned around to see a very arduous Ren Tao. He was practically on fire.

"Sorry, Ren, no can do. I have to get home. And why fight? We're friends now, remember?"

Ren narrowed his eyes at him. "It's just for training, Yoh. Are you too lazy to do that for a minute? Jun has practically been screaming at my ear to run errands for her and I hardly have any time to train. Fight me, Asakura!" He brings out his sharp pointy weapon. What was it? Was it the kwan… gong? Kwan-do? Yoh can't remember anymore.

There was no way out of this. Why did he have to bump into Ren today? But angry Ren was an angry Ren. He will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Yoh exhaled loudly. "Alright." He went to his fighting stance, still holding on to his grocery bag, but trying his hardest to match the fire in Ren's eyes. "Amidamaru," he raised his free hand. "Attack Ren from behind!" And as calculated, Ren turned his back on him, crossing his arms in front of his body to shield himself. But when no blow came whatsoever, he looked up and said, "what happened?" Returning her gaze to his opponent, Ren was surprised to see Yoh was no longer there. Instead, he was already running to a different direction, waving his hands at him. "Sorry, Ren! Anna will kill me if I don't get dinner ready!" Yoh's form slowly faded away.

Ren grunted. He can't believe he fell for his trick.


"It was a good thing you didn't really attack Ren from behind." Yoh was continuing his mad dash to home. "I knew your priorities, Master Yoh. Fighting Ren may be important but I know you won't risk having Anna mad at you for not preparing dinner on time."

Yoh panted. He had been running laps since this morning. And who would've thought he'd be running to save his dear life as soon as he got home?

"Finally!"

His first destination was the kitchen. Opening one of the cabinets, he got out the salt and pepper and prepared all the other ingredients provided in the packet.

"Alright! So I need to cut the sausage into pieces first then cook it without the rest of the sauce." And he did just that, earning himself a few cuts and wounds in the process. "I don't think you should hurry too much in your cutting, Master Yoh. So far, you've let seven out of your ten fingers bleed already.

Yoh nervously chuckled. "They're just tiny cuts, Amidamaru. I'm afraid Anna might do worse things if I don't get this ready on time."

Next on the procedure was to add the garlic and crushed tomatoes. "This is going pretty well. How much time do we have left, Amidamaru?"

He looked at the wall clock on the living room. "Fifteen minutes, Master."

"Alright! There's only one thing to do and that is to cook the pasta in boiling water!" Yoh was grinning in happiness. Never in a million years would he have thought he will be able to pull this off.

Bringing a large pot to the sink, he turned on the knob of the faucet.

No water was dripping.

"We have no water?"

Things just made a turn for the worse.

Oh, how Yoh wanted to cry. Anna will be home in a matter of minutes and all he has is half-cooked spaghetti sauce with sausages. "Master Yoh, maybe—"

"Ssshh… the gates are opening." His eyes went dead serious.

"Amidamaru, would you know if that wooden box Horo-horo left in the spare room is still there?"

The samurai had to give it a thought. "I think so, Master Yoh, but how is this—"

"Distract Anna. Hold her off as long as you can."

And for the third time this day, off he went, speeding upstairs.


Anna was tired. She received a call from Kino this morning, asking her to gather a few materials for a study she was conducting. After a long day of gathering nothing but scraps of wood, some ancient artifacts and rare leaves, Anna simply wanted to sit down, eat dinner and go to bed.

"Miss Anna! How was your day?"

She raised a brow. What was Amidamaru grinning nervously for?

"Where's Yoh?" Her tone was cold as usual. This made Amidamaru shift uncomfortably, if he was alive and had real legs, that is.

"Master Yoh? Well, he's not up to something if that's what you're thinking, Miss Anna. He did his laps and did a few push-ups too!" Okay, now he was making a fool out of himself.

"Amidamaru." Came her sharp call.

The samurai stopped. What else was there to say? It's not like Yoh let him in on his plan or anything.

"Anna! Welcome home!" She looked at the entering Yoh skeptically. Anna knew he was up to something. Eyeing him suspiciously, she asked. "Where were you?"

"Upstairs. Yea! Ahahaha!" Yoh laughed, clutching the back of his head.

"Well, is dinner—"

"Ready? Of course dinner's ready, Anna! Why wouldn't it be?"

She walked passed him to the dining room, refusing to take part in his peculiar display. Yoh made eye contact with his spirit partner, silently pleading him to pray for him.

Sitting down comfortably on a chair opposite Yoh's, Anna allowed her gaze to fall down the contents of her… cardboard plate. She turned her attention to Yoh and raised an eyebrow. "You got me a TV dinner." It was a statement of facts. Yoh did run to the spare room to get Horo-horo's hidden stash of TV dinners in cardboard boxes.

"No, well, yes, but, well… I added the spaghetti sauce I made earlier! It has sausages!" The nervous chuckling has become quite a habit today, hasn't it?

"I see." Anna's face was stoic as usual and Yoh had to sigh in relief. She began eating the dinner he prepared. At least Anna was not angry at him.

"Well, I got this at the supermarket today." He raised the plastic packet that once contained the ingredients to the quick sausage spaghetti. "It says here the sauce is good for your heart because of all the tomatoes in it. It has just the right amount of carbohydrates and fat your body needs to survive the day and should be cooked and consumed…" He stopped dead in his tracks, another habit he developed since this afternoon.

"And what?"

When Yoh didn't answer, Anna instantly grabbed the packet from him. She took another spoonful of her food while reading the back part of the plastic.

Yoh wished the ground would open up and swallow him alive.

Anna's eyes went wide, and she violently spat out the food in her mouth.

"The spaghetti sauce ingredients expired last month?!"

Now he was really in for it.