Amane was usually studious to begin with, and attentive in class, so he passed the exams without much effort.
He checked his answers with Mahiru, and found his score to be around the usual. Well, he had a good attitude at school, so he did not have to worry about retaining.
Itsuki too scored decent marks, and Chitose managed to avoid failing, so it seemed those Amane was well acquainted with were in no risk of repeating the year.
After their exams, they would be sending off the third years during their graduation, which he had nothing to do with. After that would be the closing ceremony…but before then, there was an event, a problem.
“…What do I repay her with?”
Yes, the returning gifts all the victors of Valentine’s Day would have to repay.
Leaving aside whether Amane was a winner, he naturally intended to repay Mahiru and Chitose after receiving gifts from them.
However, he was troubled as to what he should be giving.
For Chitose, he planned to buy the White Day package from the cake shop they bought from on Christmas, along with some collectable character goods.
Well, she preferred to eat rather than to lust, but he would not tell her the reason why he chose them.
The problem was Mahiru.
He felt Mahiru would be glad to receive anything from him.
She would gladly accept anything from Amane, and seemed to be more concerned about his feelings, not particularly fussy about what he would give. When he first asked her what she wanted, her first response was a whetstone and to be honest, that left him really troubled.
Even if he did pick from her likes, he only knew she liked sweets and cute things, which most girls would. Thus, he was frustrated about what he should be giving her.
After all, the whetstone she mentioned the last time was out of the question as it would be pointless, and tight on his budge, but he was still wondering what to give.
He would prefer to give her something to enjoy, rather than something practical to her.
So he thought as he wanted to the general store, looking at the White Day corner. Nevertheless, he could not figure out what she would really be happy with.
It would be great if the gift he gave this time would garner a similar reaction to the teddy bear the last time.
（No point giving a doll twice.）
There were lots of cute dolls, but there was a lack of variety giving two of the same items.
However, Amane’s poor imagination could only think of cosmetics and accessories as things girls would like.
He was an amateur at cosmetics however, and was unsure if they were close enough for him to choose an appropriately designed accessory for her.
At the very least, she would accept it, but he wondered if she would be delighted with it.
Of course, he felt that as boy and girl, they were on good terms…but he wondered if an accessory would make her happy.
It would be fine for Itsuki to give to Chitose, but a question mark Amane was to give it to Mahiru.
So he wandered around the special sales corner with a frustrated look, and might appear to be a suspicious fellow.
While he had changed into his outdoor clothing, it would be weird for a boy to be wandering around the cute goods.
He grumbled that nothing would fit, only to be approached from behind, “Is there something you are looking for?”
He turned back to find a lady of vague age wearing the shop’s apron, smiling and standing behind him.
She probably came to assist, seeing how Amane was being bothered. There was no other reason why she would approach such a suspicious looking person that was wandering around.
“Ahh, erm…I’m wondering what I should give for White Day.”
“Is there nothing that catches your fancy? People have chosen items from other areas here. I shall look for some.”
“Ah I don’t mean that…it’s just that I don’t know how to describe our relationship. I don’t know what I can give to not be hated.”
“In what sense?”
“She’s not a girlfriend, but rather close…like for example, I don’t know if she’ll be happy about receiving accessories from someone she might not like.”
His explanation was vague as it was embarrassing to do so, but the female clerk smiled upon hearing that, probably bemused by his worry.
“It’s common for males to worry about such things.”
“Then how did they decide?”
“Well, most of them were bothered, but they made up their mind to buy. If you are close enough, you can give one, and she won’t hate you, usually.”
She won’t hate you, once he heard those words, he felt relieved. Nevertheless, he was a little panicky about giving her an accessory.
She usually dressed herself well, and the occasional accessory she wore was posh.
She had a keen fashion sense, and he had no confidence that whatever he chose would be to her liking.
“If you want, shall I recommend you a few popular items among the females? Over there.”
Grateful for this assistance, Amane straightened his posture without thinking, and nodded.
“Nn, and you bought it.”
After explaining to Itsuki, he was laughed at, giving a look similar to the clerk the other day.
They were eating the daily set meals in a corner of the cafeteria, and Amane accidently blurted it out when they were talking about White Day.
“Shut up. But well, I’m giving her an accessory even though we aren’t dating. Isn’t that a little weird?”
“Stop being lame. You’re a guy, hold your head up high. Besides, she’s happy to receive anything as long as it’s from you, right?”
“…Since you mention it, yeah.”
Given Mahiru’s personality, she would be happy to receive anything from him.
Amane however hoped to give her something that would really delight her, something she would use, and was worried if it would meet her requirement.
“So, what you bought?”
“…A pink and gold flower motif bracelet.”
He felt that rather than the cool looking silver and the impressionable, glamorous gold, the cute pink and gold would be more fitting of Mahiru.
As a student, he could not possibly buy precious metals, so he chose something similar in appearance. Of all the accessories of the same color, he felt he chose one with a fine design most suitable for Mahiru.
“What? That sounds like it’ll make her happy, you know? ”
“…Don’t you find it unattractive?”
“No, aren’t you worrying too much? Why are you so pessimistic here…?”
“She’s the first girl I’m actually giving a present to.”
His mother would not count as such, and neither would Chitose. He would be giving Chitose sweets, which she wanted, and he did not think that was a gift.
“You really lack confidence in such things…”
“Like, how can I possibly have confidence here…it’s to her, you know?”
“She was happy with the teddy bear though.”
“Well, that’s right.”
“Amane, look at your feelings. You spent money, you bought the item, so now you just have to put your feelings into it.”
Itsuki said so frivolously, “Will be great if the work pays off”, Amane muttered as he put his hands on his forehead.
It seemed until White Day arrives, he would have to worry if he made the right decision.
On White Day itself, Amane looked a little nervous as he waited for Mahiru to arrive.
The mood at school was not as rowdy as Valentine’s, but one could sense the victors looking nervous as they planned to return their gifts, and the girls were all looking forward to it.
Just to note, Yuuta returned all the girls’ gifts with proper etiquette, and the sweets in total probably cost him tens of thousands of yen, which left Amane flabbergasted.
Amane did not wait to gift Mahiru after school, and waited at home for her instead.
He returned earlier, and was preparing himself mentally, but he was unused to giving a gift, and was tense.
He was not wearing his usual sweater or jersey shorts, but in layers, a grey V neck knitted coat over his white shirt, and chino pants.
He probably would not look as shabby as he usually was, but he was not sure what Mahiru would think, looking at his attire.
While he was restlessly waiting for Mahiru’s arrival, he heard the unlocking of the door from the entrance.
He instinctively straightened his posture, probably out of nervousness.
Like usual, Mahiru unlocked the door with her key, appearing at the living room, and froze once she saw Amane.
“Eh, wh-why that hairstyle?”
“Well, it’s White Day, so I thought I should dress a little formal…I can change it out if you find it weird.”
He managed to shock Mahiru, but it appeared she was not too fond of this getup—so he thought as he got ready to stand up, only to find Mahiru waving her hands, seemingly denying it.
“Th-that is not true. I was just, shocked.”
Mahiru herself looked a little restless, so it seemed the usual hairstyle would have been better off.
She sat down next to him, look very uneasy.
“…I guess I shall change back if you can’t calm down?”
“N-no, that is fine, but…you are just being cool for no reason.”
“What do you mean, no reason?”
“Th-the usual calm mood makes me more relieved…I cannot calm down, like this.”
“I’ll change back then.”
“…That is fine.”
She tugged at his sleeve, and looked up at him.
Her cheeks were slightly red, probably out of shame, and her moist eyes were looking up at him, causing his heart to jump.
She might not have intended it, but she looked really uptight tugging at him while looking up. From up close, a sweet scent could be detected, and it was really tough in various ways.
He was unavoidably aware of this, but Mahiru seemed to have some interest in his attire, wanting him to stay despite fidgeting about. Both of them blushed.
More than anything else, there was awkwardness between them.
Looking aside, “O-oh.” He clumsily answered, and then tried to pass it off as he took the paper bag next to him, shoving it onto her.
“Here, the return gift. Don’t be too hopeful then.”
“…Thank you very much. May I open it?”
He was embarrassed to have his present opened before her, but he did not stop her.
He bought a velvet box to make it look presentable, and put the gift inside. However, he did not think the box matched the contents, and it seemed he might be overdoing it this time.
With her white fingertips, Mahiru opened the dark blue box, and inside it was the pink gold bracelet he bought days ago, along with a folded piece of paper.
Mahiru did not like anything that stood out too much, so he chose something more simplistic, the flower motif bracelet.
The bracelet had crystal glass draped at various places, and it was a cute, elegant design.
Her caramel-colored eyes stared at the pink gold glitter upon the bracelet in the box.
“Erm, is it not to your liking?”
“No, it is cute.”
“That’s good. I think it’ll suit you, Mahiru. That’s why I bought it.”
“…Thank you very much.”
It’ll suit you, once she heard those words, she lowered her eyes bashfully.
Such a sight was really doable, and he was left breathless.
“…And, what is this?”
Amane wanted to look aside, but he found his eyes staring at Mahiru. It seemed she noticed the extra gift inside, and he scratched his cheek.
“Ahh, that? No, erm, I thought it wouldn’t be enough, so. I’ve been in your care all this while, so I thought I should grant your wish or something.”
Placed inside was a handmade coupon with the words ‘I’ll do anything you say coupon’, as though he was fooling a child.
The coupon could only be used thrice and contained an illustration of a bear Amane drew. He felt he did well with the illustration, at least.
He was usually in her care, so he hoped to grant her little wishes within his capabilities, and gave this coupon as a bonus. He never expected her to focus on the bear he drew, and his shoulders were shaking.
“Fu-fufu, did you draw this, Amane-kun?”
“Shut up, I’m bad at this, okay?”
“No, it is typical of you.”
He frowned as he sensed that she was hinting how bad his drawing was, but once he saw Mahiru’s innocent smile, he had nothing to grumble about.
“…May I use it now?”
He never expected her to use it out of a sudden, but if there was a wish, he hoped to help her fulfill it as long as it was within his capabilities.
So Amane thought as he looked on, and Mahiru looked back at him, holding the bracelet box.
“…Amane-kun, please put this on.”
“You don’t need to use the coupon for this…leave it to me.”
The wish she spoke of was really minor, and Amane gave a wry smile, noting that he would have done so without the coupon.
You could have used it on something more important, Mahiru stated her cute wish so earnestly and adorably, and his face naturally relaxed too.
She reached her hand out, and Amane took the box, put it on his knees, and removed the bracelet.
He heard the soft rubbing of the fine bracelet as he cautiously unlocked it, making sure not to break it, and wrapped it around her wrist.
He carefully locked the jewelry, and the mild colored bracelet glowed slight, seemingly adding colors to Mahiru’s fine wrist.
As expected, this was more appropriate for Mahiru’s white skin.
He felt a reticent, classy item would suit Mahiru’s innocent beauty more than the fancy ornaments, and could proudly say that he chose the right item.
“Yep, it suits you.”
“…Thank you very much”
Thinking that it was not good to keep touching it, Amane let go. Mahiru then brought the bracelet on her wrist to her chest, as though embracing it, showing a gentle smile on her face.
Her face was showing a faint red, her lips curled into a smile. Amane wanted to look away, but was charmed by her and unable to look away.
The sweet innocent smile, different from a full smile, was etched in his mind.
It was a little different from the stunned smile she usually showed, or the pure delight. The beautiful smile was a little tender, but feminine, pretty, and alluring; Amane’s eyes could look nowhere else.
（…This is unbearable.）
She showed such a smile, this smile alone for him, and he felt unbearable about this fact.
He tried averting his eyes to control his pounding heart, but was unable to do so. Finally, he ended up staring at Mahiru until the latter noticed she was being stared at, and hid her cushion into the cushion out of embarrassment.
“So, how did White Day go?”
The next day, Itsuki asked Amane about the latter’s thoughts, who then frowned hard.
Itsuki was considerate enough not to ask Amane at school. After school, they dropped by at a fast food restaurant, and Itsuki asked with a smile the moment they sat down.
Amane only showed up because he wanted to eat something salty stuff like fries once in a while, but he thought he should not have come if he knew this question would be asked.
“How, you ask…I just gave it to her, as normal.”
“Was she happy?”
Whether she was happy, the answer would be yes, she was.
She did not smile as innocently as a child, but her smile to Amane was apprehensive and sweet, unspeakably alluring. He felt she should be rather happy.
He felt restless just recalling that beautiful smile.
He tried to answer as calmly as possible while he suppressed the heat rising up from within to his cheeks. Ituski then folded his arms “Yep yep”, nodding away in understanding.
“So, looking at you, it seems to have gone well. I guess you caught her fancy to see her adorable smile.”
“See, you two are on better terms now?”
Amane bit his lips after hearing this voice that was more impressed than teasing.
Itsuki would never probe into anything Amane did not want others to know of, but as a close friend, he would accurately pinpoint what the latter was thinking, which made him difficult to deal with. Even if Amane wanted to retaliate, Itsuki was on such good terms with Chitose to begin with, so it was pointless.
Grrr, Amane gritted speechlessly. Itsuki showed a calm smile, the ambiguous calm expression infuriating the former.
Left with no choice, he turned his face aside as he ate the fries, and Itsuki shot him a wry smile.
“You look rather happy to me though? Seems like spring has come for you, Amane”
“That’s not it.”
“You don’t know what you feel about her?”
“…Nope, that’s impossible.”
It was true that Amane personally knew how Mahiru really trusted him. In that case, he intended to be close enough such that he would be the most trustworthy to her. Amongst all she was acquainted with, Amane might be the one she could open up most to.
However, it would be wrong to say it was love.
Sometimes, he would be embarrassed as he treated her as a girl, but that was common between those of different genders. He had received her goodwill, but he did not think that involved any love.
Recently, he had started to tidy his appearance a little bit, but the fact remained that he was a lowlife, and he did not she would like someone like him.
“Seriously, you’re having low self-esteem here. You’re always thinking that you’re not the type to be liked.”
“It’s like she’s been given everything from the heavens…ah no, she did work hard for them at least. She’s hardworking, cute, an amazing kid, and I got nothing. You think she’ll like me?”
“If all the pretty girls are to fall for all the capable handsome guys, those unpopular guys will launch terrorist attacks, you know.”
He felt that the handsome lad Itsuki should not be saying such things.
“Well, if you want to take it as that, so be it…but as a friend, I’ll give a prediction.”
“You’ll change someday. Actually, you’re showing signs of change now; all that’s left is for you to take the next step.”
“…You’re saying like you know me.”
“Ha ha ha, how many years have I been your friend?”
“Not even a year.”
Amane coldly retorted “Seems that way” and Itsuki burst out laughing.
While the conversation seemed foolish and unhelpful, but Itsuki, who was his friend in high school, seemed to be more understanding and helpful to Amane, compared to the other male friends back at Amane’s hometown during elementary and middle schools.
“Speaking of which.”
“You say you’re not a match for her, but what you say, that attitude of yours, basically admits that you have some feelings for her.”
“I’ll stab some fries into your nose.”
He was a little moved, only to have some unnecessary words directed at him, and took some fries in response. Itsuki immediately apologized, but that was just like him.
“You are rather late.”
He returned home an hour later than usual, and welcoming him was Mahiru wearing the apron.
Are you some newlywed wife? So he wondered, but it might be because of the conversation with Itsuki. She did not have such feelings, but he started deluding himself. He felt sorry to her because of this, and hastily rid himself of such notions.
“Nn, went to eat fries with Itsuki.”
“…Right before dinner though.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll finish everything.”
He was capable of downing Mahiru’s cooking, and he did order small sized fries just now, so he not particularly bloated.
He was confident of finishing the usual amount of food.
“I wonder…if you will grow fat, but it might be better for you to gain flesh, since you are so skinny, Amane-kun.”
“You should be the one gaining some flesh. You’re so terrifyingly thin, it feels like you’ll snap.”
“I am not that skinny to the point of breaking.”
“Really? See, that’s how thin you are.”
Mahiru’s delicate body was befitting a girl. She was adept at sports, and thin might not be the only term to describe her; one could call her tender too.
She might appear fragile on first glance. He grabbed her fine wrist, and found his fingers easily wrapping around hers, so much so that he could have snapped her wrist if he exerted strength. “Do treat girls kindly and carefully” his father once taught him that.
When he held her hand, Amane worried that Mahiru was way too thin, that she might get injured if he was not around.
Same for the fine fingers, they might snap if he got careless. He wondered if it was fine for her to be so thin.
He seemed to be tracing his finger on her as he checked, and found her fidgeting.
She looked down, but towards Amame’s hand that was holding hers.
He noticed her faint colored cheeks, and realized he did something without her permission, hastily removing his hand.
“…Erm, sorry. I think you don’t like others touching you, right?”
“N-no…I do not dislike it if it is you, Amane-kun.”
These words had him doubting his ears momentarily as he stared at Mahiru, and she might have realized what she was saying as she suddenly lifted her face.
She was blushing more than before, her eyes moist due to shame as she looked at Amane, who himself was becoming restless.
“No-not that I want you to touch me. I just do not want other boys to touch me.”
Even though she said so, he could not stop his heart from shrieking.
Mahiru viewed Amane as someone close to him, and treated him specially, which he understood. Nevertheless, this would still cause his mind to wander. He hoped she would not explain it in this manner again.
“…Y-yeah. You aren’t wearing that thing yesterday. Ah no, I’m not demanding that you do.”
He asked, trying to cover up his pounding heart; Mahiru looked towards her write, and gently stroked the part Amane just touched.
“…It is a hindrance to wear it while doing housework, and will spoil easily…I wish to treasure it, and will wear it only on rest days.”
Once she mentioned such an adorable reason, he nearly tumbled over in shock.
No boy would remain still when faced with such a cute declaration.
She treasured his gift, and intended to wear it well. Once he knew it, Amane felt various emotions rising up his chest, and he felt a fluffy pain within.
Doo, doo, he sensed his heart pounding wildly, his mind in a daze. He took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself down.
“…If you like it, I’m glad.”
“I really do, and I will really treasure it. Kuma-san, the key case, the bracelet.”
But I have been using the hand cream lots, she showed a little bashful smile. Amane had enough, and as he had not removed his shoes as he stood, he hastily removed them, and went to the corridor.
“…I’ll get changed.”
“Y-yes. Be seeing you, Amane-kun.”
It was his own house, but he felt as though he was being sent off by a new wife, and his heart palpitated. He hurried into his own room, and crouched down.