Preparations for the cultural festival proceeded successfully under Itsuki’s lead.
Part of the reason was that it was their second year doing so, and everyone was used to it. More importantly, the boys and girls of this class were clearly united for selfish purposes.
They were naturally busy, as they had to tend to their studies and prepare for the festival, but Amane was numb to the hustle, and felt strangely fulfilled.
“Oy, there’s a mistake on the flyer. Redo it before it gets sent for printing. How can we make a mistake on the school address?”
“Where’s the tablecloths? I heard they’re bought but I can’t find them!”
“Our profits will drop if we buy it at usual price…”
The students finished their assignments, and Amane and others heard the buzz while being guided on how to serve their customers.
“…Fujimiya-kun, erm, smile.”
“Too stiff, too stiff.”
The girl in charge was a part-timer at a cafe, Ayaka Kido, and she was giving a wry smile at Amane, who was giving a fake smile.
It was not that Amane could not smile, but to her, his smile was a little rigid.
“Hmmm, just smile as you usually do. A forced smile makes it stiff and unnatural. Relax a little more.”
“But that’s how I am since I’ll be serving customers.”
“Just think of the customers as potatoes.”
“Amane-kun, you can assume them as eggs.”
Mahiru, who too was being guided, quipped jokingly.
She understood that Amane liked eggs, given their interactions over the past year or so, but Amane did not want to smile at customers like they were egg dishes, and it did not matter to him.
This isn’t the problem, so Amane thought, but he deliberately chose not to retort since Mahiru looked so happy, and scratched his cheek.
“Anyway, many people say that it’s better for you not to force a smile, make it normal. Try and get him to relax.”
“Who said I look better when I look natural?”
“…The girls in our class? I heard that’s the feeling they get whenever they see you with Shiina-san.”
“I don’t feel comfortable to be seen.”
“You’re not flexing?”
How’s that deliberate? Amane glared at Itsuki, who stared back dumbfounded with a this guy has no self-awareness implication. “Shut up.” Amane retorted.
Mahiru blushed a little, and showed a faint smile. She gave him a comforting, bashful look, and her face was a little redder, so it seemed she had some self-awareness. To be precise, she might have finally noticed it, given her personality.
The other girls led by Kido started nodding away.
“I think you’re most relaxed when you’re with Shiina-san, Fujimiya-kun.”
“What’s that about…?”
“Well, the aura or sort.”
“Sometimes it feels like that.”
Amane was clueless, but it seemed Mahiru had some inkling as she tried to hide her own shame.
Her eyes contained some shame, and along with some uneasiness. Kido noticed it, and started laughing, waving her hands to deny it.
“Don’t worry don’t worry Shiina-san, I have a boyfriend. I’m not interested in stealing someone else’s.”
“Th-this is not what I am worried about…”
“You don’t have have to hide it. You’re worried that your boyfriend is attracting attention, right? I’m more interested in muscular ones though, and Fujimiya-kun is too skinny for me to consider.”
“You’re making it sound like I’m a beansprout.”
Amane assumed that he had gained some muscle mass, so the ‘too skinny’ left him in some despair. Itsuki had once boasted that Amane had more muscles, but it might be hyperbole compared to how the latter was once like.
“…A-Amane-kun is not a beansprout. His skin is a little white…but erm…o-once he removes his clothes…he does have some muscle.”
“Oh, so he looks amazing when he strips?
“You’re making it sound wrong! Don’t say anything that they’ll misunderstand, Mahiru!”
“…But they are sturdy.”
“Alright now, you’ll be the one embarrassed later.”
Amane hoped that she would realize that whatever she said would have implications, that she had seen and touched his body.
In fact, they merely clung onto each other in swimsuits, and it was nothing indecent per say, but it would not be strange for these words to be understood as something else. Mahiru did mention that Amane was gentlemanly, and everyone probably knew that they did not do it.
Mahiru quieted down once Amane said so. Feeling relieved, Amane looked around, and there were warm stares around. Tch, he clicked his tongue, mainly at Itsuki.
“Eh, why are you giving me that look?”
“Your smile annoys me.”
“You’re pushing too much blame onto me. Alright, stop flirting and start practicing.”
Amane left his issues aside, and clicked his tongue at Itsuki again as the latter prompted him once again. He then gave Kido a displeased look, and Kido laughed.
“I know you two are really close, don’t worry. Just smile and serve the customers. Your gestures are gentlemanly anyway, so you should be fine as long as you follow what I taught you.”
“I don’t think I’m ever elegant.”
He did not think he was a brute, but he did not feel that he was elegant anyway. He was perplexed to hear her say this, but Mahiru smiled understandingly.
“I suppose it is because of your parents’ influence, Amane-kun. They are very graceful.”
“I can’t call mom that, but she doesn’t do anything to cause discomfort.”
“So you spent time with Fujimiya-kun’s family, Shiina-san”
Amane frowned at a giggling Kido, which caused her more amusement. Thus, he and Mahiru ended up basked in the warm smiles of many the entire time.