“Hey Amane, can we hold a Christmas party at your place?”
The sudden proposal was rejected, and Chitose puffed her cheeks massively.
Christmas Eve was about to come…and for Amane, who was living alone and away from his family, it was not an event related to him. Chitose and Itsuki wanted to spend it together with Amane, and invited him along.
So Chitose came running over to Amane and Itsuki’s classroom during noon break with this idea, but puffed her cheeks with Amane responded so,
“But you’ll be alone anyway, so what’s the prob…ah, a girlfriend maybe?”
“There’s none, nobody’s coming.”
“Then it’s fine. Or do you hate it?”
“Well, if you don’t like it, we’re fine with that, Amane.”
They do so but they were worried for their friend.
Or another reason was that they wanted a place where they could freely fawn about.
But their apologetic looks left him a little sorry, and he did not hate that idea anyway.
The reason why he did not want to was that it would be embarrassing to see their unusual skinship at his own place, and he would need to spend much effort explaining to Mahiru.
To put it a little more extreme, he would have to tell Mahiru not to show up at his house before they left, and he would have to erase all traces of her existence in the house.
“Not that I don’t want to…right right, 24th? We’ll split before night, so you can just go around making out and such. Just don’t overdo it in my house.”
He was not adamant to refuse them, so he promised. Chitose’s face broke into a grin.
“Guess we have no choice. This will be a compromise.”
“Who are you?”
Chitose was getting a little too carried away, and so Amane pinched his cheek, “Owwieee Ikkkunnnn, Amane is buullllyyinngggg~” she started begging for help in a slurred manner.
“Come on Amane, stop bullying Chii. Only I get to pinch her cheeks.”
“Yes yes, just pinch her for me.”
“Leave it to me!”
“Don’t leave it to himー!”
He thought this would be a good chance for them to make out, so he gave Itsuki the chance to pinch her. And as expected, they ended up pinching and fooling around.
While being pinched, Chitose was really grinning away, and Amane merely shrugged at this sight.
“…Can I go back now?”
He said that, but they were in their own classroom, and he wanted to pull his own distance from them.
“No can do. We need to plan our stuff. Got to prepare cake and food!”
“I can’t do that.”
Of course, Amane could not make any food appropriate for Christmas.
Mahiru probably could make a few dishes as usual, but he could not simply go to her for help.
Amane waved his hand, insisting that he could not do it, but for some reason, Chitose stared at him.
“It’s like, you can’t cook, but how are you so healthy?”
“Don’t sweat the little details.”
“Well Chii, Amane too has his own issues.”
“Ehh, Ikkun knows something too?”
“He said he’ll tell me later.”
“I didn’t say that.”
Don’t make promises like that. He glared at Itsuki, but the latter merely laughed out loud.
A good thing about Itsuki was that he would not press matters, a bad thing is that he could come up with the most outlandish things instantly.
“Goodness…well, we can order a take out for lunch, though we need to book in advance”
Amane ignored the probing look as he came up with a realistic proposal.
Of course, it was without saying that Amane could not bake a cake, and could not cook, so he could only suggest food that was already cooked.
“Ah, then I want pizza! Let’s go to my usual place to order cake. Should be able to order in advance!”
“We’re not eating chicken?”
“But you prefer pizza, Ikkun.”
“Well of course, you understand me after all, Chii.”
They said on their own that they wanted to order pizza, but Amane himself did not dislike that idea, and he too found it fitting for a party.
At this rate, it was likely they would be ordering pizza from the shop Amane and Itsuki usually ordered from.
But once he heard of pizza, he suddenly thought of Mahiru.
The sight of her munching it down like a little animal was truly adorable, for it was because he usually saw her eating elegantly.
When he tried to feed cake to her days ago, he felt his cheeks searing somewhat.
（I’m never doing that again.）
Such a shameless act of feeding each other would be impossible to do again. They were not the lovey-dovey couple like Itsuki and Chitose, and probably would not have the chance to do so again.
“…Amane, what’s wrong?”
“Ah, nothing, nothing at all. I’ll leave the cake preorder to you.”
For a moment, Amane was lost in his own thoughts, and a surprised Chitose leaned over at him worriedly. He hurriedly purged that notion from his mind, and reverted back to his usual expression.
“Yes! Let’s order pizza too!!”
Chitose let out an excited squeal, and hearing that, Amane decided to ask Mahiru for her Christmas plans.
“Christmas plans? None at all, I believe.”
Once she was done washing the dishes, she sat on the sofa, and answered immediately.
He had expected her to have a girls gathering or something, but it seemed she had no such plans.
Perhaps it was due to the surprised look on Amane’s face, but Mahiru stared back at him, looking dumbfounded.
“Most of the girls I interact with have their own boyfriends, and I refused any male who invited me out. I do not have any plans at this point.”
“The guys cried huh?”
Mahiru’s defenses were exceptionally stubborn when she was outside, and those boys who had some faint hopes in inviting her out could only swallow their tears against her stubborn defense.
Amane felt amazed that they dared to invite her out. If he had no confidence, he would not have dared to invite out the Angel. He was really impressed with the optimistic fellows for trying their luck.
“…Do they really want to spend time with me?”
“If they’re lucky, they can get closer to you.”
“For what reason?”
“To put it, well, dating?”
“Why do they want to date me?”
“…They want to do this and that with you after that.”
He quietly said a prayer to all the rejected boys, “Ah, but.” and added on,
“Not all the guys are like that, so don’t be too suspicious. You should be able to tell what kind of stares they’re giving you.”
“I guess so. Not all are being so uncouth. You are not one of them, no, Amane-kun?”
“I’ve never looked at you with impure eyes.”
While he often thought she was cute, and did have thoughts of patting her head at least, he had no intention to do anything more.
After all, if he wanted to, Mahiru would have realized and ostracized him.
He got to sit next to her because he was a harmless boy. If he showed even the slightest bit of lechery, she would leave him. He never really had a wish to have a girlfriend, and to him, his hunger was more important, so he had no intention to ruin this relationship.
“I guessed so. You did not have interest in me from the beginning.”
“And so you can be trusted.”
“Really grateful for that.”
For a boy, he could not accept how he was trusted like this, but he was not displeased to be deemed a safe boy.
“…So, since you are asking about my Christmas plans, what about yours, Amane-kun?”
“Hmm? Ahh, Itsuki and co will be here on the 24th. Not too different from usual, but we’ll be a little late for dinner, so I want to tell you this beforehand.”
Finally, they got back to the original topic, so he explained once again, and she nodded, seemingly understanding.
“I understand. Do call for me once the Christmas party is over, and I shall drop by to cook dinner. I shall make preparations before then.”
“Oh, sorry about that.”
“I am fine. Please have fun.”
“…You won’t feel lonely?”
“I am used to, living alone.”
He felt his heart ache a little when she answered as though it had nothing to do with her.
Her face showed a bitter smile of self-reproach, probably because she was reminded of her parents.
“…Well, well, it’s a really rude request, but even if you can’t make it on the Eve, can we stay together for Christmas, like this?”
For some reason, this proposal had him really embarrassed.
He had no special meaning, but a typical invitation for Christmas had a special connotation to it.
Yet he really had no other intent.
He just did not want to see Mahiru looking alone with her head lowered.
In response, Mahiru blinked her eyes.
“Together? To do what?”
“Eh? Ah, nothing special actually, sorry.”
Once this was pointed out, Amane could not bring himself to invite her.
There was no way they could have gone out together, considering the troubles caused if he was spotted by others.
The only option would be to stay at home, but there was nothing that could really pique Mahiru’s interests, and thus, they could only choose to stay together and do nothing, but the vibe would be extremely awkward.
I guess it might be better for both of us to spend the time alone──right when he was about to retract his previous thought, Amane found Mahiru staring at him silently.
“…Then, I want to play, that.”
Unexpectedly, Mahiru was looking really enthused.
Her slender finger was pointing at the television.
Or to be precise, the game console inside the TV board.
Mahiru had been around the past few nights, and Amane never switched on the game, but she looked really interested, “Well, I have never tried that…” She muttered her little wish.
He had no reason to refuse her if she wanted to play, but it was utterly surreal for a boy and girl to spend Christmas together, playing games, when they were not lovers.
Even though he had no such desire at all, he would feel somewhat conflicted.
“No, well, it’s not like you can’t…I guess some games are fine.”
“No, not that we can’t.”
“Then, that should be good.”
Is that alone okay…so he wondered, but since this was her wish, he decided to do whatever he could to fulfill it.
At the very least, he hoped to bring a little joy to her. He had been in her care all this while, and she never actually requested anything. He was fine with letting her play some of his games.
Also, he had no special plans for Christmas, so getting to eat with Mahiru was a bonus itself.
“Well, who cares about Christmas, let’s just spend the time as it is.”
Mahiru made a little smile that Amane dared not look at directly, and he nodded, nonchalantly turning his face aside.
And so it was Christmas Eve.
It was already winter break, and on this day, every person spent the time in their own way. Itsuki and Chitose brought their belongings as they gathered at Amane’s house.
It was 1pm.
Pizza and juice from the usual shop were on the table. They only started at this time however because there were too many orders, and it was pointless to make preorders, as the delivery was really late.
But it was not too late to have lunch, and after all, they showed up after noon had passed, and did not wait for long. Nobody really minded.
“Amane, you’re not getting into it! One more time!”
“The pronunciation is correct, but you’re still so lethargic?”
He really wished he would not be compared to the already hyperactive Chitose.
Itsuki noticed that Amane was already somewhat enthused, so he coaxed Chitose as he showed his usual hearty, somewhat frivolous smile.
“Well that’s good enough. Let’s just eat, play and sleep, okay?”
“Don’t sleep in my house, you idiots.”
“Just joking. Of course I”m going to sleep at Chii’s house.”
“Make sure her parents aren’t in.”
“Ehhー, are you thinking of something H, Amaneー?”
Chitose leered away, and Amane ignored her as he went to the kitchen to take out the cutlery and cups.
While she pursed her lips and looked displeased, I’ll help out, she chimed in, and followed him.
Of course, the kitchen was really clean and tidy. It was already Mahiru’s territory, the utensils and seasonings already arranged as she pleased.
“It’s unexpectedly clean.”
“Thanks for the compliments.”
He answered her casually, and took some small places and cups from the utensils, passing half of them to Chitose, only to find her staring at the cupboard.
Nimaa, he had a feeling she was going to pester him when she grinned away, a chill rising up his spine, but he insisted on ignoring her.
He noticed she had some grave misunderstanding, but he could not figure it out as she did not say what it was.
She looked happier, and his cheeks stiffened. They returned to the living room Itsuki was in.
“But this house sure is clean. It’s so big and tidy.”
Christmas songs were being played from the room’s speakers. Chitose was almost done eating, looked around the living room with only three people, and muttered.
The vast room was due to his parents renting this place, and the tidiness was due to Mahiru helping to clean up this place. “Thanks.” Amane had no comments about it, so he could only answer thus.
“Well, there was a period when it was really messyー. It’s amazing you got it clean.”
“Yep yep. Has a female smell to itー”
“What makes you think that?”
Amane had no idea how the room being cleaner had anything to do with the presence of a girl.
“Hmm? Nothing specific. Given your personality, Amane, it doesn’t feel like you’ll be the type to clean the house. There’s also how you arrange the books, the cords, and how you put the things in a way to avoid damaging them. Some utensils aren’t exactly the type you likeー”
He did put those things furthest in, but it appeared Chitose noticed them when he took out the cutlery
Amane himself had insufficient cutlery, so Mahiru brought a few from her own house, but he never expected the crude chatterbox Chitose to notice such fine details.
“Well, it’s fine anyway? Right Ikkun?”
Amane made a strange pause, and Chitose stared at him with some intent, before grinning as she leaned towards Itsuki.
The latter did not mind as he was probably used to it, and he reached his hand out, having her sit on his thighs, and hugged her. Amane himself really could not bring himself to look.
“Stop flexing in someone else’s house.”
“Are you jealousー?”
Rather than envy, he might say that he would have enough, so he really wanted them to rein it in. Considering that this was their usual selves, it was unlikely such advice would be heeded.
Chitose continued to cling onto Itsuki’s chest delightedly, looking up at the ceiling and his face
“…Is everyone else so touchy feely now?”
“Don’t forget the folks crying tears of blood right now.”
It was impossible to think everyone was doing ths same thing. Some would surely be spending time with their families, and their friends. And there were some spending their time alone.
There were many who viewed being single as a humiliation, and Chitose’s words might be dangerous if they went public.
“Do all boys want lovers?”
“Probably not. I don’t really want one.”
“But that’s because you’re a weirdo, Amane.”
“Well, everyone’s looking uneasy before Christmas. Especially the single guys. Speaking of which, there’s a lot of guys who went to the Angel and invited her for Christmas, but she rejected them all. There’s a mountain of corpses. She said she has an appointment with someone, so no.”
Amane realized that the one she made a promise to was him.
While he felt he was the reason why they were rejected, but he did not mind her using this excuse, considering the guilt she would have refusing them. At the very least, she did not use his name, so that was fine.
“The despair those guys had on their faces were really something. It’s rude, but I just laughed.”
“Don’t laugh at them.”
“But well, it’s impossible when they don’t have any relationship, and out of a sudden want to act cool during this event, you know? It’s too late when they never established a proper relationship, and how is it possible to say, we ain’t really close, but let’s spend time together and improve our relationship. Also, there’s the kind of people who say let’s party and seek out the chance for two of them to be alone. That’s scary to any girl, you know?”
There is no way she is a loose person who accepts any invites, so Chitose spat her tongue, probably thinking of some bad memories as she clung onto Itsuki.
While Chitose and Mahiru were different, the former was a beauty herself, so she too had her own troubles. Once he considered that popular girls would be troubled by relationships, Amane started to pity her.
“Well, that Shiina’s not doing well either, given the many invites she got.”
“…You really don’t have any interest in the Angel huh, Amane?”
“Amane’s neighbor is the true angel after all.”
“Want me to chase you out?”
You’re annoying. Amane glared at Chitose, “scary.” and the latter said with a silly gesture, clinging onto Itsuki.
“But you can’t deny that the neighbor hasn’t been taking care of you”
Guh, he was speechless, and she chortled heartily.
“Stop glaringー. sorry.”
Chitose did not sound apologetic, so Amane glared at her again, “Kyaa~” so she made a cute voice, clung onto Itsuki…and looked towards the window behind Itsuki.
Amane saw her freeze, and wondered what was going on as he too diverted his eyes over. What he saw was a trail of white fluttering down the blue skies.
“…Ah, Ikkun, look! Snow!”
“Ohh, a white Christmasー?”
It was late December, snow itself was common.
It was rare to see snow fall while it was sunny out there, but to the lovers, it was something to be happy about.
Night had not fallen, but looking at the temperature, it probably would last into the night, a Christmas Eve night coated with snow.
Guess the couples are going to be excited, so Amane thought as he silently watched the couple next to him open the window and get onto the veranda, thinking that they were going to make out for a while as he stood up──only.
“Heh? Wh-why are you here?”
The last voice he heard was one he was used to recently, the sweet, cool voice.
He sensed a bad premonition.
This is terrible. Amane looked towards Mahiru who was seated properly next to him, and sighed.
He had no choice, after the tragedy at the veranda, and could only invite Mahiru in.
After all, if he tried to bluff the couple, those two would have strange ideas on their own. It would be better for him to be honest, and prevent unnecessary guesses and misunderstandings.
And if he did not shush them properly, what would happen next would be really terrifying.
“…Erm, I am really sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.”
Mahiru sounded apologetic as much as she could but this was the one thing she was not at fault at.
It was a White Christmas, the first snow of the season, so she could not help but go to the veranda to see the snowfall.
If Amane had heard the window open, he would have hurried over to stop the couple, but there so happened to be music blaring, so in fact, he did not hear it.
Mahiru herself probably did her best not to make a sound, and he did not notice.
Looking at the duo who were reflecting upon their actions, Chitose’s eyes sparkled as she brought her face close.
“So, your neighbor’s the Angel, Amane!?”
“Erm, please do not call me Angel if possible…”
It appeared the Angel did not want to be called so straight to the face, so she refused demurely. Chitose however was grinning away, and one had to wonder if she was listening.
Itsuki in turn scratched his cheek as he frowned, looking back and forth between Amane and Mahiru.
“Ehh, then…looking at what we know so far, Shiina-san’s living next to Amane, and often cooks for him, am I right?”
“We-well…I owe Fujimiya-san a favor, and I saw that he was not eating healthily, so I was worried…”
Mahiru began to explain how the two of them met, and also how the relationship continued; “I see.” so Itsuki answered, but his face showed that he could not accept this explanation, somehow.
If he were in Itsuki’s shoes, Amane too would not have accepted this explanation.
There was no way an ordinary boy like Amane would have an outstanding girl like Mahiru taking care of him.
“Hmm, I sorta know what’s going on, but it’s incredible that you don’t have other feelings for Amane, Shiina-san. You’re already a commuting wife.”
The term he usually would not hear caused him to snort.
A commuting wife.
Since he mentioned so, the situation did seem similar. Every day, Mahiru would cook dinner for Amane, and during rest days, she would accompany him for lunch, and she would occasionally drop by to clean up. Hearing it from Itsuki, it seemed this really was the case.
The difference was that there was no love between them.
And when Mahiru heard Itsuki say that, she widened her eyes, only to switch to her outside smile, “I have no intention to, and this is impossible.” she denied it.
Amane imagined her dealing with Itsuki and Chitose in the same manner at school, and felt an itch in his heart.
“Well, I have no bad thoughts at all, that’s why Shiina’s helping me out.”
“It’s fine when you say this, Amane, but this is a strange combination…the prodigy’s cooking for you…wait, was the doll given to Shiina-san?”
“But I haven’t said anything?”
“Your face is annoying.”
Chitose was grinning away…or rather, smirking, leaving him uncomfortable while he was really frustrated.
They were checking the facts, so she was not teasing Amane, but he did not want her to be teasing him, for it would affect Mahiru. If possible, he would want to ignore Chitose.
“Come on, calm down you two.”
Itsuki already noticed a change in Amane since the beginning, and did not tease him as Chitose did.
He was one who could stop before things got out of hand, and was a guy who could read the mood and put himself in other people’s shoes. Amane hoped that Itsuki would stop before this fact was exposed, but it was pointless at this point.
After coaxing a slightly glaring Amane and a thoroughly elated Chitose who had solved the mystery, Itsuki turned his body towards Mahiru and lowered his head for some reason.
“…Erm, Shiina-san, our Amane has been in your care.”
“Since when did I become your son?”
“Same to you. Thank you very much for raising Fujimiya-san well.”
“Don’t add on to that and make it sound like I’m worthless.”
“But you’re really worthless.”
He had self-awareness, and Itsuki had critiqued him for being too lazy…but he felt conflicted to be pointed out like this.
It seemed Mahiru could also play along with this joke as she seized the chance to play dumb, smiling as she watched Amane and Itsuki bicker.
While the smile was not as genuine as the one she would show only to Amane, it was not completely pretentious, and this too left Itsuki with a dumbfounded look.
Stop staring when you have a girlfriend, an annoyed Chitose jabbed at Itsuki…no, she was punching at him, which made it all the more humorous.
But once he saw Mahiru tilt her head in confusion, Amane reverted back to usual as though nothing had happened.
“…Well, we don’t have a sweet relationship like you two, and it’ll be troublesome if the others are to know. You get that?”
“Of course. We won’t tell anyone.”
Amane was subtly threatening Itsuki if he ever told anyone else, but was surprised to see the latter heartily agree.
“You too, Chitose.”
“I’m not that talkative. Nobody will believe that such a cute girl’s making meals for you anyway, Amane.”
“Sorry for being so incompatible.”
“I wasn’t going that farー”
Chitose was right, and he had self-awareness.
Nobody would believe that an ordinary boy was taken care of by the school idol they called the Angel.
And if they did, they would lambast him for being incompatible.
And it was because he expected it, he did not want others to know. He really did not want the hassle.
Being humble, aren’t you? Chitose chuckled as she stared at Amane, but her stare was seemingly attracted towards Mahiru.
Jii, she stared at the latter with a passionate gaze, sighed, and continued staring.
Mahiru herself was feeling uncomfortable, at a loss of what to do.
“Erm, what is it?”
“…Thinking about it again, how are you so cute, Shiina-san ?”
“Eh? thank you very much……?”
Chitose praised Mahiru, and continued to stare at the latter’s face intently.
“It’s the first time I’m looking at you up close; you really are so beautiful, an Angel. Pretty face, white skin, long eyelashes, silky hair, slender body.”
Once he noticed Chitose’s bad habits occurring again, Amane let out a huge sigh.
Amane was bad at dealing with Chitose.
It was not because he hated her, in fact, he was impressed by her personality…but there were moments when he could not handle her. She got agitated easily, overly concerned at times, and he found it too tiring to deal with. There was another similar person in his household after all, so this awareness was stronger.
In other words, the similarity to his mom had him unable to deal with.
Chitose’s personality and likes were similar to Amane’s mom…especially their utter fondness for pretty and cute things.
“Ahh, you’re so cute when I look at you up close. Hey, can I touch your hair? What’s the secret to keeping it so smooth? Which shampoo do you use?”
“No, e-erm…if you ask so much at once.”
“Your skin’s so bouncy. What did you do to maintain this.”
As a girl herself, Chitose was curious about Mahiru’s beauty secrets, and also had the desire to touch the latter who was so pretty. She rattled off a spiel of questions as she reached his hand towards Mahiru.
Mahiru would be really pitiful if he did not stop her, goodness, so Amane muttered as he tapped on Chitose’s head while the latter was reaching her hand out.
He did not use much strength as he was just trying to stop and retort, “Owie.” but a shocked Chitose muttered, pulling her hand back from Mahiru.
Mahiru herself was relaxed by Amane’s interference. She usually acted like the Angel, and was wary of those she was unfamiliar with. She was not as leery towards the girl Chitose as she did to Amane, but she was looking terrified.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“She’s a shy one. No skinship until you’re familiar with her.”
“So it’s fine when I’m familiar?”
“Ask Shiina that. Before that, note which state you’re at.”
Mahiru clearly looked as though she wanted to run away. It seemed to be the right choice to stop Chitose.
And once she saw how disturbed Mahiru was, Chitose seemed to have realized the reason why he stopped her.
“Sorry about that. I got too excited that I want to touch you.”
Chitose’s sudden confession of wanting to touch Mahiru left the latter confused. She did not know what to do, and looked towards Amane, pleading to him for help.
“AhーShiina, Chitose’s a weirdo, but she’s not a bad person…I think.”
“Are you even vouching for me? You’re just rubbing it in, aren’t you?”
“Can you even deny that now?”
“Not at all!”
Chitose heartily boasted, stared at Mahiru intently, and with a serious look, reached her hand over.
This time, she was asking for a handshake.
“Let’s start from being friends. Please take care of me.”
“Eh? Y-yes, please take care of me…?”
Upon being asked to shake hands, Mahiru extended her hand apprehensively.
Chitose would want to be friends with anyone she was interested in, and given her personality, it felt like Mahiru was going to be at her mercy. Well, since they were going to be normal friends, he had nothing to say.
He could only hope that Chitose would show some restraint.
“To get along well, we need to introduce ourselves! You might know about me, or Amane told you, but I’m Chitose Shirakawa, the girlfriend of Amane’s close friend.if that’s appropriate, Ikkun.”
“Yaa, it’s embarrassing to be called a close friend.”
“Then why are you making it sound so disgusting?”
“You’re saying that now…Amane, do you know the world calls this tsundere?”
“How about I chase you out?”
“You’re cruel for chasing me out into the snow.”
“If you’re a guy, talk like one.”
Ack, Amane gave a repulsed look, and Itsuki laughed.
Looking at this, Mahiru widened her eyes. “Ahh, that’s how our relationship feels like.” Itsuki in turn curled his lips into a happy smile
“Now then, introducing myself again. I’m Itsuki Akazawa, good friend of this dishonest guy here. If Amane does anything stupid or weird, you can talk to me.”
“What kind of person do you think I am?”
“…Fujimiya-san does not seem interested in me, and has no survival ability, but he has some common sense. I do not think he will do anything weird.”
“Saying that I have no survival skills is unnecessary here but thanks for that.”
It was tragic that Amane could not deny it, but he was glad that Mahiru deemed him a trustworthy person.
Itsuki then went up close to whisper “You have no interest in Shiina-san even when you’ve so close? Are you even a guy?”, and in response, was smacked in the back.
Amane could not say that he had no interest at all, but he did not want to date, and he did not want to fake it all the way.
Mahiru herself probably wanted someone of the opposite gender she could be suitably close with, and not to pursue a romantic relationship. After all, they were merely eating together, and spending time together.
Amane looked over to Mahiru. Chitose seemed to have felt they were done talking, and fired more questions at Mahiru, leaving the latter flustered.
But she did not look annoyed in the slightest. Sooner or later, they would start to get used to each other.
Still confused, Mahiru responded with a little smile. Amane himself was quietly relieved as he saw them start to get along.
“I’m really sorry about that.”
It was evening, after Itsuki and Chitose left, and Amane apologized to a clearly weary Mahiru.
The latter was immediately harassed by people she did not know, and her secret was revealed. It was likely she too felt perturbed and weary.
Amane had a feeling this was a deja vu from the last time Shihoko visited.
“No, it was because I was careless.”
“She’s noisy, isn’t she?”
“…A real lively person.”
“You can just say she’s really noisy.”
“She is just a little energetic, but an interesting one, I think.”
“What do you mean, a little…….……well, I guess it’s fine if you don’t mind.”
Amane felt that Mahiru was being polite, despite thinking that Chitose was a loudmouth, and that it was merely a mild expression.
Luckily, it appeared she did not dislike Chitose, but he did not know whether it would be a good thing to be friends.
They had different personalities…and it might be interesting for them to be friends, probably.
Of course, if she said anything that left Mahiru troubled, he intended to remind her, but he decided to just watch for the time being.
“I do not have such people around me, so i am a little happy.”
“Well, it’s rare to see someone like Chitose…smack her on the head if she gets too aggressive, you know?”
“Vi-violence is not good. I will try to coax her with words.”
Both of them felt Chitose would go crazy at times, and there were times she would be passionate about strange things, so such a reminder was necessary.
So he swore to remind Chitose later in his heart, and turned towards the window, looking at the falling snowflakes.
If not for this weather, this secret would not have been revealed to that couple…but snowfall might be a blessing to the lovers, so he could not complain too much.
It appeared Mahiru too liked the snow, and once she noticed Amane staring at the snow, she too enjoyed the sight.
The sun had set early as it was winter, the scenery darkening.
It was dark enough to be called night, and little snow fell, so one could faintly see snow from the lights in the room
“It is a white Christmas.”
“I guess. But it has nothing to do with us.”
“But they are pretty. Is that not fine?”
They were not dating, so the meaning of White Christmas was irrelevant to them…but since Mahiru liked it, the snow was not bad.
The fluttering snowflakes founded a white coating to the darkening world. At the rate the snow fell, there would not be much piled up.
“But if it snows too much, public transport will be paralyzed. Moderation is best.”
“You’re being realistic now.”
“People cannot live on romance after all.”
“I guess so.”
This little conversation might be thanks to the snow.
Both of them chuckled, and Mahiru stood up.
“I shall bring dinner over.”
“I made beef stew just now. Also, two people alone cannot finish a roast turkey.…”
“I never thought about roasting a turkey entirely.”
“Well that is because you cannot cook well, Amane-kun. Tomorrow’s lunch will be omelette rice with beef stew.”
“Sounds delicious for some reason…”
He knew before eating that it was going to be delicious, so he was already looking forward to the next lunch before he had this dinner.
“I prefer the eggs a little more cooked.”
“A coincidence. I do prefer this traditional style instead. I shall bring the pot here.”
Mahiru teetered out of Amane’s apartment and returned to her own, and as he stared blankly at her back, he recalled the commotion that had occurred in the day.
It was really unexpected that they were found out.
He himself was being doubted, so he expected the couple to be increasingly suspicious of him, …but he never expected that Mahiru would show her face at this moment.
Results-wise, they explained themselves, they got people who understood them…but he was feeling a little conflicted.
If only the secret only to them could last a little longer.
（What am I thinking?）
At the very least, he did not need to play hide and seek with those two, and it would be easier on his life, yet he felt a little gloomy. He too felt perturbed, not knowing what it was.
It was not a bad result, but he just felt something was amiss.
“Is something the matter?”
Mahiru returned with the pot in her hands, tilting her head in confusion as she stared at Amane, but after all, he could not express this ambiguous feeling to her outright.
As he struggled to maintain the same facade, Mahiru tilted her head in confusion the entire time, not understanding why.
“…Haa, it’s delicious.”
Like usual, Mahiru’s cooking was delicious.
It was Christmas, so the dishes served were a little more intricate.
The beef stew Mahiru made was converted into a pot pie, and they were slicing and eating it.
After enjoying the moment of cutting the pie, the crispiness matched with the rich sauce of the beef stew could only be said to be a blissful moment.
It appeared Mahiru bought flour just for the pie, and he was impressed by her outstanding skills, letting out a sigh after eating the second cake for the day.
Just to note, the cake was baked by Mahiru.
While baking the pot pie, she used said flour to combine with a sweet dough, making mille-feuille. She was already at the level of a pâtissier.
“Glad to see you like it…you ate quite a lot.”
“Nn. they’re really delicious.”
“Thank you very much”
He was getting used to her smile.
She would smile whenever he praised her cooking, and so it became a daily routine.
It felt like Amane’s special privilege to see a much tender expression from her, and he felt itchy within.
“…Omelette rice tomorrow…I’m looking forward to it.”
“You really like eggs, I suppose…I remembered you wolfing down the egg rolls and such.”
“Can’t help it, it’s delicious.”
Even though he liked egg dishes, he would not eat them if they were not delicious. He had such an appetite because Mahiru’s cooking was really delicious.
He felt it was excessive of him to be this selfish, but Amane had no intention of sharing Mahiru’s cooking with anyone else, and would continue to enjoy it until she would stop.
“…Amane-kun, you look happy when you eat.”
“Well. I am happy. Your cooking’s really delicious, Mahiru.”
“Thank you for the compliments, but this happiness sure is small.”
“No, it’s high praise…understand your own worth…”
After all, it was that Angel’s cooking, and some boys would have dreamed to have the privilege to taste it.
“It is something I do every day though.”
“But I’m still very happy with that.”
“Of course. I get to eat good food every day.”
Amane himself had little material desire, and a stronger desire for food. His biggest happiness was to be able to eat fresh, delicious food every day.
“How are you able to make such dishes?”
“Someone who once took care of me said, 『if you want someone who can give you happiness, capture the stomach』.”
“Sorry for letting you capture my stomach.”
“Just think of it as practice.”
Mahiru smiled, and his heart unwittingly jolted.
“…But the person who raised you is really amazing.”
“Yes. That person’s cooking is really delicious, and I cannot beat that. The cooking is filled with the taste of happiness.”
As he saw her smile gently, looking into the distance, Amane felt a little relieved.
It appeared that Mahiru really was doted on by the person who took care of her, and it was obvious that she respected that person.
Mahiru must have been truly lucky to be next to that person.
“Sounds like it’s really delicious, but for me, yours is the taste of happiness.”
Leaving aside his mom, his dad’s cooking was good too, but Amane’s tastebuds preferred Mahiru’s cooking.
Her cooking was one of comfort, the type he would not get sick of, peaceful and yet leaving him with anticipation. He would not get sick of her cooking, and would even demand more of it.
But it was too much of a burden on Mahiru, so he would not say these words.
So he nodded away, and saw her freeze.
One could say that perhaps it was unexpected to her.
She stared back at him, looking immature and dazed.
“Eh…I am fine.”
Once she heard that voice, Mahiru reeled, shook her head, and looked down.
She clung onto the cushion she loved, exhaled slightly. Unlike before, he could sense a strange charm from her.
“What is it?”
“…I am just thinking, if I can make such a happy taste.”
“Well, I don’t know why you’re being humble, but your daily cooking’s delicious, and I want more.”
“Ah, thank you very much”
She peeked up at him, looking a little bashful, yet satiated as she smiled. This time, it was Amane who looked down and wanted to bury his face.
Once she showed that extremely rare expression of hers, even his heart just jolted, even though he did not like her as someone of the opposite gender.
He did not want to expose this slowly rising heat in his heart, and it would be really awkward for both of them to be bashful.
“Ahh, erm…yeah, Mahiru.”
“We’re starting from noon tomorrow, right?”
He changed the topic, unable to take this mood, but she did not appear to mind as she considered his suggestion.
“Yes, we did agree, no? Lunch for dinner, and then the games we promised…right?”
“Erm…you do not like it?”
“Not at all. Just checking with you…the Eve’s over, but can we really spend Christmas like this?”
“I would not have said so if I hated it…looking forward to it.”
Once again, she showed a little smile on her face. He could not look at her, “oh.” just mumbling away as he leaned on the armrest opposite her side, shielding his own shame.