After dinner, Amane returned to the living room, and noticed Mahiru’s face being a little red.
He wondered if he had set the heater too hot, but it was the usual temperature, and Mahiru was not dressed excessively. Her eyes were devoid of vigor, dumbstruck even, her breathing frantic.
She tried to act normal, but there was no doubt something was wrong with her body.
Speaking of which, it had been cold recently, and as an honor student, Mahiru was often requested to assist the teachers. She also had to do housework and two persons’ worth of dinner. It was not unexpected for her to fall sick.
He should have paid more attention to her; if only he had noticed this earlier, so he regretted as he brought his face close to hers.
“Mahiru, your face’s red. Do you have a fever?”
“Not at all.”
He asked out of worry, only to be denied with an adamant voice.
She shook her head with a scowl, perhaps having noticed that Amane was staring at her, but the redness on her face was clear to see.
Her words were not to be trusted. He knew it was rude, but he combed her bangs above her head with his hand.
As expected, it was somewhat hotter than his hand. She was usually not any hotter than him, so he was sure she had a fever.
“Aren’t you hot now?”
“…I am not.”
“Then take a temperature check.”
“There is no need to. Do not do anything unnecessary.”
The usually harsh voice had lost all feistiness.
“Say, it’s obvious to me that you have a fever now, alright?”
“I am just feeling a little hot.”
“Then you got to prove it with a temperature check.”
He stood up, retrieved the thermometer from the emergency kit on the living room shelf, and returned to Mahiru, who turned her face back.
One had to wonder if she did not want to admit she had a fever, or that she was just acting tough.
Probably a little of both. Either way, he could not proceed if he did not measure her temperature.
He went before Mahiru, who had turned away, and put the thermometer in her palm.
“Mahiru, do you want me to remove your clothes and tuck it under your armpit, or you do it yourself?…your choice.”
He said with a pretentiously serious voice, “Uu” and she groaned, turning towards the backrest of the sofa.
It seemed she gave up on resisting as he heard the thermometer being activated, and for precaution, he turned away, only to hear another electronic beep.
He did not look back immediately, and only did so once she sorted out her clothes. She packed the thermometer back into the box, and gave him a stoic look.
“…37.2°C. A low fever.”
“A low fever; I have something else to do…”
Amane snatched the thermometer from Mahiru’s hands, and took it out from the case.
The thermometer could show the last temperature record. He started it again—and found it a lot higher than what Mahiru report.
“Oh, I’m seeing 38.4°C though.”
She averted her eyes.
“Say, you told me so many times to rest, and you exhausted yourself? Rest for tomorrow and the day after. Be nice now.”
When Amane caught the cold, Mahiru had him lie down, had him change clothes, and cooked porridge for him, but she did not do so when the roles were reversed. That was unspeakable.
Amane himself was better off, and recovered after a little nap. If Mahiru continued to toil without rest, the illness that could be treated would never be treated. She too should rest. Basically, the sick should obediently stay home and rest.
But Mahiru’s eyes were still darting around, and it appeared she was not going to listen to him.
（…She’s so stubborn.）
No choice then, so Amane reached his hands for Mahiru.
It might be unexpected to her, for the feverish Mahiru was late to react, her mind a little dulled.
Great that she doesn’t resist at least, he wrapped his arms around her back and beneath her knees, and lifted her up.
He lifted her up while bringing her close to him, heard the rattling of keys in her pocket, and went for the corridor.
“Eh, A- Amane-kun…?”
She finally realized she was being lifted, and called out flusteredly in his arms.
Amane stopped for a moment, and looked down at Mahiru, whose face remained red as she looked up at him with confused eyes.
“You’re going to fool around, so I’ll make sure you sleep.”
“A-are you entering a girl’s room?”
“Or are you going to sleep in my room?”
“…Is there a choice to leave me be?”
“That was possible if you rested obediently right from the beginning.”
Amane too knew that even though they got closer, it was rude for him to enter a girl’s apartment, let alone watching her sleep in her bedroom; it would be best if he did not do so.
But at this point, Mahiru would continue to do something after returning home. Looking at her, it might be correct.
Mahiru once forced herself into Amane’s house, so this time, the latter would do the same forceful measures on her.
“So, which shall it be? My house or your house?”
“…I dislike either choice.”
“I’ll break into your house and force you onto the bed then.”
“…Your room is fine, Amane-kun…”
It seemed she did not want him to enter her room no matter what, and would prefer to rest in Amane’s room instead.
It was understandable why a female would not want the opposite gender into her room, and he had no objections to her choice. Since she was so unwilling however, he hoped she would stay at home obediently from the beginning.
He let out a sigh out of frustration and relief, and brought Mahiru to her bedroom.
The last time Mahiru entered was during New Year.
He laid Mahiru onto the bed, and rummaged through his closet. He could not let her sleep as she was, and had to change her into clothes for her to sweat into.
He chose the smallest possible shirt and shorts, and put them next to her.
“Here, get changed.”
“Or do I do it?”
“I shall change…”
Of course, she would firmly refuse his idea to strip her, so she received the change of clothes unwilling.
Amane too would find it really embarrassing for her to change before him, and she would definitely hate him. He really did not want to do so, and luckily, she listened to him, so he was relieved.
Of course, he could not watch her change, so he hurried out of the room, and took out the isotonic drinks he usually prepared in the shelves.
He had prepared instant porridge and isotonic drinks ever since he caught the flu, which so happened to come in play this time.
He took the cooling sheets he bought, the isotonic drinks, a towel, and medicine. He knocked on the door to his own room, ‘I am done changing.” And heard a soft reply.
He entered the room to find Mahiru seated on the bed, having changed her clothes. As expected, the small clothes were still too big for her, too loose on her, in fact.
She was still cute wearing such clothes that did not fit her, but he purged these thoughts from his mind, went to the side table, and put the isotonic drink and towel there.
“Want some medicine? It’s over the counter though.”
“…Yes. I too have some at home, so I think I should be fine.”
He returned to the kitchen, poured some water, and took out an ice pillow from the freezer. Never hurts to be prepared, so he thought to himself with a wry smile, since these words came true.
He returned to the room, handed them to Mahiru, took the medicine, and put it on her empty hand.
“Drink this, replenish your liquids, and sleep.”
While Mahiru was taking the medicine, he wrapped the towel over the ice pillow, put it at the pillow, “…how naggy.” and heard her grumble,
“Just doing what you did to me.”
Basically, he was imitating how Mahiru cared for him. Since he himself was fine, he should be doing this for her.
“Anyway, why are you forcing yourself?”
“…I have not conditioned myself well.”
“Manage yourself, stop when you have to. You work so hard, your body’s suffering. Well, it’s because of me too, so, sorry.”
Mahiru would cook dinner for him, and that would cause her burden. She already had things to do, and he was really apologetic about having her take care of him.
The fever was probably due to her physical fatigue, so he hoped to care for her, and let her rest.
“…I never thought your matters are a burden, Amane-kun.”
“I see…but just take this chance to rest.”
He was happy to hear her say it was not a hassle living with him, and a little sorry; he wondered if he was making her worry too much
So all Amane could do was to let Mahiru to rest. It might be better for her to return home, but he was worried anything would happen, and he hoped to stand watch next to her.
Feeling a little hesitant, Mahiru nevertheless laid down.
Once the blanket covered everything beneath her head, she looked up at Amane.
She looked a little bashful, or probably did not want to be stared at while she slept. Guess it’s not good to see a girl’s sleeping face, he thought as he intended to leave her, only for something to tug at his sleeve.
He looked down at his sleeve, and found Mahiru’s little hand tugging at it.
He widened his eyes, and looked towards her. She instinctively looked at her hand, and then hastily let go before ducking beneath the futon.
The caramel-colored eyes faltered uneasily, so she covered her face with the futon.
She muttered softly as she hid within the futon. Amane scratched his cheek, not knowing what to do.
（…Guess she feels uneasy about being sick.）
Wonder if I can, he gently lifted the blanket, found Mahiru’s palm, and caught it.
He gently held her hand, and she showed her face from the futon, looking gaudy. Nevertheless, it seemed her face was out of shame, rather than unwillingness.
“…I am no child.”
“I know. I’m just catching you, making sure you don’t run away. Just ignore me.”
“…I will not run now that I am like this.”
“Who knows? Don’t worry, I’ll let go once you sleep. If you want me to let go, sleep.”
He said with a deliberately cold voice, and Mahiru obediently retreated into the futon.
The held hand seemed to be yearning for Amane as it grabbed back. Realizing this, Amane felt a little itch within.
He seemed happy and yet embarrassed, and for some reason, anxious.
He felt this anxiety tickling his heart, holding her slender fingers until she fell asleep.
The next day, Amane woke up on the sofa. He stretched his somewhat stiff body as he looked towards the clock.
It was past 8am, a rest day, and he did not need to go through with his usual activities. However, he should be checking on Mahiru at this point. He did check on her in the middle of the night, so he wondered how she was.
He stretched his back, stood up, and walked to his room, silently opening the door.
He did not knock as he assumed Mahiru was still sleeping; he opened the door to find her seated upright.
She still had some redness on her cheeks, but not as obvious as the previous day.
Mahiru looked a little dazed, and narrowed her eyes upon seeing Amane.
“Morning. How are you now? Don’t lie.”
“…Still a little sluggish.”
“I’ll go buy breakfast from the convenience store, and something for you to eat too.”
They had porridge at home, but he felt patients would find it easier to eat jelly and canned peaches, so he wanted to buy some back.
Upon seeing her being a little more energetic than expected, he heaved a sigh of relief, took out some change of clothes from the closet, and put it on the bed.
“I’ll leave the clothes here. Measure your temperature. There’s a basin of water and towel for you to wipe your sweat off there.”
He pointed at the water he prepared after gently wiping her face at night, and left the room.
He took his wallet, and left the house.
He took his time walking to ensure that Mahiru, a little dull from her fever, had time to change clothes and wipe her sweat off. The convenience store was really close, a few minutes’ walk away, but he decided to spend more time shopping.
After 20 full minutes, he bought his goods, and returned back, putting the chilled items into the fridge, before checking on Mahiru. The latter was done changing, and was waiting for him.
It seemed she was sober, and looked livelier than before, so he smiled at her,
“Hm, still some slight fever…don’t move around.”
“You got some appetite? I got porridge at home, and I bought some pudding and jelly.”
He could not let her eat something relatively hard to digest, so he bought small stuff that easily slipped off the tongue, but he would have to check on Mahiru’s appetite.
“Erm, apologies for making you wo,”
“Apologize for what? You did this for me. So, pudding or jelly?”
“Alright. Can you take porridge?”
“I’ll go heat it up then. Wait a moment.
It seemed Mahiru was still worried about it. Amane was left speechless by her as he left the room. He added water to the porridge retort pouch, served in a bowl, and brought it to her.
It would be better to cook it personally as Mahiru did, but one would doubt that Amane would be able to cook the porridge safely, so he went for the safe alternative that was the retort pouch.
It would not be better than a properly cooked one, but it was better to eat than not.
“Here. Can you eat it yourself?”
He handed over the spoon as he asked her teasingly, and waited for her to receive the porridge. She scowled unhappily.
“Do you take me for a fool? Are you intending to feed me if I say I cannot?”
I’ll feed you if you want, he quipped, and she blushed, as though the symptoms had returned.
“…I-I shall eat it on my own.”
Mahiru received the bowl from Amane, and nibbled, the redness on her face never fading until she was done eating.
She appeared to have some appetite left, so he took out the jelly, had her finish it, and sighed.
She should be a lot better, so all that was left was for her to rest and recover. Once he saw that she looked relatively better, he was relieved.
“Anything else you want me to do?”
“…None, right now.”
Rest a little longer then, so he stood up, got ready to leave the room; Mahiru slowly lifted her face towards him.
Her faltering eyes were staring at him, as though begging for something.
Amane could sense some uneasiness arising in those caramel-colored eyes, and had to sit down on the spot.
You look lonely, if he told her that, she would surely deny and say it was not so, and chase her out.
Thus, he silently sat next to her by the bedside, lifting his head towards her who had sat upright.
“I’m bored, so shall we talk until you sleep?”
Amane leaned on the bed, smiling, and Mahiru smiled faintly with a look of relief.
“…This is the first time someone is taking care of me when I am say…at most, Koyuki-san did so until it was time for her to leave.”
“The caretaker at my old home.”
“Ahh, the one who taught you how to cook.”
“…Morning and night, I was always alone…”
“Well, you have me around today. I’ll be bothered if you don’t get well soon.”
“…My apologies for taking your bed. As for your meals…”
“I don’t mean that…just thinking if you hate that the one who’s always with you is so lifeless.”
They were not familiar with each other for a long time, but Amane intended to spend his time with her for quite a while. Surely he would worry after seeing her sick.
It was not a case of him being under her care; as a friend, it was normal for him to be worried.
“Besides, I’m not the type who’ll be happy seeing someone get sick.”
“…You are a kind person, Amane-kun, I know that.”
He felt a little tingly to be seriously praised for being kind, somewhat embarrassed.
“Alright, time to sleep…sleep until you don’t feel like it, and you’ll be fine.”
“Do you want me to watch you sleep?”
He teased her back to hide his own embarrassment. Mahiru blinked.
“…Then, please do so.”
“You said so, Amane-kun.”
“I did, but,”
He never expected her to take up the promise; he thought she would refuse with a blushing face. He widened his eyes, and instead, it was Mahiru making an impish smile.
“Or are you going back on your word as a man?”
“…Nope. Come on.”
You win this time, he muttered as he held Mahiru’s hand, and she laid down, snuggling into the futon.
Then, she grabbed Amane’s hand, her eyes looking gentler.
“You cooled down quite the bed, so you aren’t that hot…now sleep.”
She held Amane’s hand, showing a serene face as she closed her eyes; it seemed she was relieved to have Amane next to her.
Soon after, he heard a rhythmic breathing from Mahiru.
He groaned as he covered his face with his other hand.
She was yearning for contact, probably because she was so feeble, and he was really restless. His heart was pounding, his face seemingly infected by Mahiru’s fever, sizzling.
His body was heating up. One had to wonder who between them had the fever.
（…Seriously, she’s bad for my heart.）
He glanced aside at Mahiru’s face, the latter sleeping soundly, not knowing of his inner turmoil.
Goodness, he cursed, and buried his face into the bed.
It was his own bed, but there was a sweet scent not from him.
By the time he woke up, the warmth next to him was gone.
The hand he should be holding was removed, and his face was sprawled on the bed.
He hastily lifted his face, and did not spot Mahiru on the bed.
He looked at the clock on the side table, and saw it was 2pm; he realized he had slept for long, probably because he spent the entire night waking up and checking on her. He did not expect to sleep for so long, so he hastily stood up and went to the living room.
He hurried out, and found Mahiru seated on the living room sofa. She was not wearing Amane’s shirt and shorts, but her clothes. It seemed she went home to change.
“Amane-kun, you are awake.”
“Yep. Saw you weren’t around. That scared me.”
“Sorry. I went to take a little shower.”
This might be why she went off to change. She seemed lively enough to take a shower, at least. Feeling relieved, he patted her forehead with his palm, and found that her temperature was back to normal.
“Yep, no fever. That’s good.”
“…I made you worry.”
“That you did. I’ll do the same thing if you aren’t honest about it next time.”
He sat down next to Mahiru and said this, and she lowered her eyebrows worriedly.
“I shall take note of that…Amane-kun, will you not be angry if I cause you trouble again?”
“Like taking care of me…”
“There’s no way I find it troublesome. Do I look like such a cruel person?”
“…Not at all. I do not know if I can ask of you again.”
“Ask when you have to ask. You’re always taking it all on yourself.”
They spent months living together, but he understood her personality well
She would not ask of others, and would keep it all suppressed in her heart, not revealing her true thoughts. She built a high wall, not wanting others to enter, and tried to separate herself from others.
“Well, if you can’t trust me, it means that I’m unreliable.”
“Th-that is not true! I really trust you, Amane-kun.”
“Nn. Then don’t force yourself. Ask.”
He instinctively caressed Mahiru’s head, waited till she remained still, and realized his own mistake.
“Sorry. You hate this.”
“…This is not, what I mean.”
She said, shaking her head, not to shake off his hand, but to deny. She then put her forehead onto his elbow.
Amane felt a little weight leaning on him, and his heart raced. He silently patted Mahiru’s head, and heard a really, really soft whisper “…thank you very much”.