Ever since that cleanup, it seemed the wall between Amane and Mahiru had eroded a little, but the distance between them did not close.
Even at school, they were strangers; after school, they would merely exchange a few words while sharing dinner.
A few days ago, Amane was reminded to maintain the cleanliness of his house. She was harsh, but he understood very well how she loved to care for others.
And it was due to the timely reminder and cleaning advice she gave that Amane’s house remained clean ever since then.
“Ooh, it looks a lot better.”
Itsuki came running over on the weekend, having heard the apartment was looking better. Once he saw this completely renewed house, he could only marvel in amazement.
“Never thought it would become so clean, especially when it was so messy. I did help you clean up the last time, and it got dirty days later.”
“No, I’m not nagging you, but think about it, how long it has been since you last threw something all over the place?”
“Don’t worry, it’s a new record. Two straight weeks.”
“Can you please be ashamed that your new record is only two weeks?”
You don’t usually throw your stuff onto the floor. As Itsuki nagged on, Amane frowned, but the latter could not reject the goodwill of honesty and common sense.
In fact, before Mahiru helped out, he had caused Itsuki trouble, so he was unable to retort harshly.
Grrr, as Amane clamped up, Itsuki chirped happily.
“But well, since it’s so clean, I want to bring Chii along.”
“Don’t. Why do I have to see you two flirt with each other in my house?”
“You don’t have to be so courteous.”
“Don’t take my house as a dating spot.”
How tragic was he for him to see his friend flirt around with his girlfriend?
Having seen what others called the idiot couple being all lovey-dovey, he hoped that they could show some consideration for him.
While he knew Itsuki was joking, he could not laugh given that he had been seeing them every day.
“Well, enough with the jokes. I guess it won’t be dirty now that it’s so clean, right?”
“I’ve been dealing with it.”
“So I say…whatever. It’s good to have the habit of putting back the things you took out though”
“Are you my mom…?”
“Seriously, Amannneee, you have to start cleaning your house often, you know~?”
“That sounds disgusting, and sounds disgustingly similar to mom. You’re scary.”
Amane felt a chill up his spine when Itsuki made a falsetto impression of his mother.
While Itsuki had never seen Amane’s mother, it was scary how similar he resembled.
Furthermore, a boy faking a woman’s voice was really disgusting, and Amane really had the urge to stop Itsuki there and then.
He stuck his tongue out in a pretentiously repulsed gesture, and Itsuki kept laughing away.
“So your mom’s like this, Amane? My mom’s pretty hands off.”
“Guess I’ll say that I envy you. My mom’s the type to keep talking.”
“Just a good mother worried for her son, no?”
“But the kid won’t become independent.…”
“No, you’re so terrible that your mom can’t leave you be.”
“Shut up. She’s still being too much of a busybody to her son.”
It might be because he was an only child, but Amane’s mother really cared for him.
She did not dote on him, but rather, she was the type to meddle with everything, and worry about everything. While Amane himself did not hate it, it was a hassle dealing with her.
She said lots of things when he chose to stay alone near his high school, often dropping by to check on him. She was quite the hassle.
“Well, that at least means that she really finds you important, right?”
“This love is too heavy.”
“Just give up. One day you’ll understand how precious that is.”
“You’re the standard rebellious kid, and now you’re sounding like you’re experienced.”
“Hahaha. Can’t do anything when it comes to Chii.”
Itsuki had quite a few disputes against his father because of his girlfriend, so these words really sounded unconvincing, but what he said did make some sense, so he listened to her.
He has his own problems to deal with after all, so Amane thought as he let out a long sigh. Itsuki himself remained optimistic, not looking weary in the slightest. “Those who dare get between Chii and me can get kicked by horses.” though he did say such scary stuff before.
“Anyway, I’ll do something about my dad. You need to spend your days well, Amane?”
While Itsuki grinned away, “I know that without you telling me that.” Amane frowned with some frustration. He then realized Itsuki’s words were exactly the same as a certain person, and made a wry smile.
But Itsuki came to visit Amane’s house…not because he wanted to check on the latter’s living habits, but just to play games. The topic of the house soon ended, and they started playing.
Initially, they were supposed to be revising for the exams that were to be held the following week, but before they knew it, they were playing video games.
“Hey, stop wasting healing items man. We might not have enough later.”
“We’ll figure it out.”
“No, not that, you haven’t increased your level. It’ll get troublesome later…”
While Amane was wondering how he should retort at the thrill seeker Itsuki, the doorbell rang, causing him a different problem.
“Hm? A visitor?”
Itsuki paused the game, showing the menu as he lifted his face.
He knew Amane hardly informed others of his address, and thus there were practically none who would visit. Even if there was, they would be stopped by the apartment block gates, and would press the speakers instead.
“I don’t know. The neighbor maybe? Probably got some news on the notice board.”
“I’ll go check for a moment.”
He restrained his facial muscles from twitching as he tried to pull a fast one over Itsuki, before hurrying towards the door.
It was fortunate that she did not call out after ringing the bell.
He opened the door without checking, opening a little slit just in case he was seen, sneaked out, and closed the door.
As expected, Mahiru was inside, and she blinked away upon seeing how Amane was being out of character. “Shhh.” he made this gesture with his index finger.
“…Be quiet. Itsuki’s in my house.”
“My friend. He’s here to play.”
“Ahh, I see.”
Once she understood why he was being so stealthy, she nodded and did not ask further. As usual, he handed the tupperware over to Amane.
It appeared she prepared this since morning. Inside it was udon, and it was the perfect dish for the season that was starting to turn chilly.
Mahiru handed the tupperware without any further question, Amane accepted it graciously, letting out a sigh.
“Ehe, well, thanks for the care you showed me, but I never was able to express it. Sorry.”
“I am not doing so to be thanked by you…but thank goodness your place is presentable enough to invite your friend.”
“Do I have to prostrate and express my thanks?”
“Not at all. Please do not.”
Stop making me look like a bad girl, she gave such a dumbfounded look, and Amane could only give a wry smile.
After all, he really could not lift his head towards her, so he was somewhat serious with what he said. After being in her care for so long, a dogeza itself might not suffice.
She brought quite the ample portion of dinner, and he was sorry about being a freeloader. He intended to find a chance to talk about dinner money.
“Since your friend is here, I shall not disturb you for long. Please excuse me.”
“…Thanks for all the help. I won’t tell Itsuki about you.”
“Please do so.”
“Well, even if I do, he’s not going to believe me.”
Amane felt conflicted that she affirmed his statement so readily, yet looking from Itsuki’s perspective, he would have wondered if Amane was delirious if he said, Shiina is is actually cooking for me.
After all, the Angel herself was a flower at a tall place.
It would be one thing if he was a talented, handsome guy, but it would have been impossible to assume a lazy, useless boy like him could have her cooking for him.
“…May I ask you something.?”
“What is it”
“Since you cook for me every day, are you planning anything?”
Labor too costs money, and such free meals typically would be impossible. Amane would not have done so if he was in her shoes, and while he had no expectation of a once in a million chance that she liked him, his curiosity got the better of him.
Mahiru lifted her head a little as she pondered, “Just for self-satisfaction” and she said without changing expression.
“It is not difficult at all. It is easier for me to cook two persons’ share instead of one, and I simply like to serve others.”
“So you just like to cook?”
“That may be one reason. I too feel relieved that you do not have any strange misunderstandings, just expressing what you think. I worry whenever I see what you eat, so I am doing so for self-satisfaction.”
“…Is that so?”
“Of course. You do not have to worry about it. Do think of it as fortune falling from above.”
It appeared Mahiru had no intention to talk further, “Please excuse me.” so she bowed courteously, and returned to her house.
（…Is that really the case?）
Amane did not think it would be enough reason for free dinner, so he muttered as he too returned to his house.
“Who was that?”
“Just a neighboring sharing some food. I’ll put it in the fridge. Don’t continue without me.”
“Ah sorry, I finished off the boss.”