“Oh that’s why.” Amane saw a piece of paper with many students’ names pasted on the corridor wall, and muttered.
The rankings of the prior week’s exams was released, and Amane came to look, along with his peers.
He was 21st, not much different from usual, not exactly standing out, though decent. He did not feel anything different when he wrote, and was a little relieved seeing that his rankings were as expected.
On a sidete note, Mahiru remained 1st in their year.
She truly was an intelligent girl, but he knew she was not lacking in hard work, and could only marvel at how amazing she was.
He often saw her studying after dinner.
Well, she was already smart to begin with, but what elevated her to 1st position was the relentless hard work.
“Shiina-san’s still 1st…”
“That Angel uses her mind differently after all, to be expected.”
Amane heard such voices amidst the commotion, and curled his lips unhappily.
“…What is it, Amane? You look unhappy. Didn’t rank well?”
Itsuki, who was with Amane, was a little surprised by the latter’s reaction.
Just to note, the rankings only listed the top 50. Itsuki was merely there to accompany Amane, not to look for his own name.
“Not really. 21st.”
“Ohh, that’s a little better than the last time.”
“Somewhat within the margin of error.”
“Well, the smart ones always say things differently after all.”
Itsuki ribbed back as he smirked away. “Fine fine.” and Amane brushed it off, before looking at the rankings again.
She really worked hard, so he thought.
She was unwilling to show anyone the effort she put in, and while others would think it was to be expected of her, it was the result of her putting in so much effort.
Those around her praised her for being amazing, but they knew nothing of her hard work, and could not comprehend.
Surely that bothered Mahiru greatly.
“…I’ll make up for that.”
“Hm? You said something?”
“Nothing, I’m going back to the classroom.”
“Huh, Amane-kun. What is this?”
Mahiru had changed her clothes, went to the supermarket to buy ingredients, and returned to his house. She intended to put the ingredients into the fridge, only to notice this white box.
“Hm? Ahh, cake..”
There was cake inside the white box, and Mahiru might have figured it out when she saw the shape, but she wanted to be sure.
On a side note, Chitose loved to upload photos of her favorite patisserie on SNS, and that was the place he bought it from.
“…You like cake?”
“Not exactly. It’s for you.”
“You’re first in our year, so here’s a little celebration. Congrats on getting first.”
Mahiru blinked her eyes once she heard it was for her.
It might have been really unexpected to her.
“I-I have been 1st every time. It is not something worth celebrating.”
“But well, you’ve been working hard, so a reward once in a while is fine. You don’t like a strawberry shortcake?”
“Eh? I-I cannot say that I dislike it…”
“Hm, that’s good. We’ll eat it after dinner.”
While he realized she was a little stunned, Amane cut off the conversation.
Mahiru would feel troubled if he paid too much attention to her, so he should be a little more deliberate.
To him, she was one who was devoting her utmost to others, but extremely strict to herself. She was the type to not relax unless something drastic happened.
She would have put her head down and do what she had to do, toiling without rest as long as nobody praised and coddled her. He had a feeling she did not know how it was to fawn.
While they did not spend much time together, he somewhat understood her personality, and hoped to repay some of the efforts she spared him all these while.
Amane saw that Mahiru was still rooted in the kitchen, made a wry smile, and sighed as he stared at her until she moved again.
After dinner, he saw her serve the cake with some nervousness, and burst out laughing.
“Wh-why are you laughing?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
“It does not feel like there is nothing.”
“Don’t mind me.”
He was just bemused that Mahiru was acting so tense, and that was all.
But if he laughed too much, he would have ruined her mood, and his objective to reward her would be for naught, so he stopped after a short while.
She brought some coffee along with the cake, and placed them on the table, before sitting on the sofa.
All these actions made her look really unnatural, and he had the urge to laugh. However, the person herself was right next to him, and he managed to endure it.
Mahiru looked up at Amane worriedly.
“…Thank you very much. But…”
“Just accept it. You did work hard after all.”
“Yes, that is true.”
“Come on, eat it. You should relax once in a while.”
I bought it for you after all, so he quipped. Mahiru looked a little apologetic as she nodded away, took the fork and the plate with the cake.
“I am really grateful.”
He waved his hand, and she took the fork, cutting a bite size of cake cautiously, and brought it to her mouth.
Girls typically had the impression of being picky with sweets, but it should be fine since it was from the shop Chitose often shopped at.
The proof was that once Mahiru ate it, her eyes widened a little, and her mouth relaxed a little.
She hardly showed change in her expressions, but recently, she was starting to show some range of common emotions.
She slowly ate the cake, showing a relaxed expression, and this one eating scene became a painting of sorts.
“…? What is it?”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Mahiru found Amane staring at her, and tilted her head in confusion.
The expression was gentler compared to usual, and he, who had been staring at her, was looking aside instead.
Instead, it was Mahiru who was staring at Amane. She then suddenly thought of something, as she took another bite of cake, reaching it towards Amane..
Ahh, so she ended up trying to feed him.
“Eh, n-no I don’t really want to eat it.”
“You do not want to?”
“…No, well, that…since you’re giving it to me, I’ll accept it.”
He never imagined this scene to be possible, so obviously, he was looking bashful, accidentally agreeing.
They were at such an age, and of different genders. Further, it was a really pretty girl feeding him, so in a certain sense, he might be considered lucky…but Amane was not at the point where he could discard his shame and be outright happy.
“It is something you bought after all, Amane-kun. You have the right to eat it.”
And Mahiru, the one suggesting this, never realized as she brought the cake to Amane’s mouth with her usual look.
Amane could only see a perplexed look on her face, so he made up his mind and took a bite of it.
Spreading in his mind was an unbelievable sweetness.
“It is cake after all.”
It was not simply because of the cake, but Mahiru did not seem to have noticed it.
He took a little nibble, and found it really sweet. His mental state might have affected him greatly.
“…Feels like you haven’t felt anything.”
He experienced all of the sweetness, shame, and itchiness in his heart, but Mahiru herself appeared fine.
Amane found it really vexing, “Give me that.” so he snatched the fork from Mahiru’s hand, doing the same gesture to her, and handed her the cake.
With this happening to him, how could he not retaliate?
Mahiru looked more perturbed than before, for his tone was a little stiff, and she took a bite of cake in the same manner, like a birdie being fed.
He stared at her, and found her expression increasingly red.
“So what do you think?”
“I-it is delicious…”
“Not that. I’m asking how do you feel about being fed?”
“…I would say I am very embarrassed.”
“Of course, right? You’re going to cause misunderstandings if you do this to others. Do it amongst girls if you need to.”
Now you understand how I feel, so Amane said as he looked aside, “Yes.” but Mahiru replied with a fading voice.
She probably did so probably because she treated Amane as a safe person.
Her subconscious act had him really worried, but it was not a bad feeling, so there was nothing for him to blame her about.
But the sweetness lingered in his mouth.
I’ll be in trouble too if she’s too careless.
He was glad to be trusted by Mahiru, but the unwitting careless act was truly astounding.
So he concluded as he looked towards a shriveling Mahiru, gently sighing.