“…You have become popular before I even realized, Amane-kun.”
Mahiru returned to the classroom after she was done with her task, and was shocked and delighted to see their classmates celebrate Amane’s birthday.
It was to be expected however, since Amane usually would not be surrounded by so many. Their classmates were simply celebrating his birthday, and it was not actually a matter of him being popular.
“Ah, good morning Shiina-san. Don’t worry, I won’t be stealing Fujimiya-kun.”
“I-I am not worried about that. I am just shocked to see him surrounded by everyone.”
“Well, I guess if Amane’s surrounded, that shows that it’s only possible when he’s dating Mahirun. That shocked me too.”
Chitose, who arrived at the classroom alongside Mahiru, widened her eyes as well. Once she met Amane in the eyes, she showed a mischievous leer.
“The old Amane would be completely flabbergasted.”
“Yeah, I’d be speechless.”
Amane admitted to the past gloomy vibe he used to have that was completely different from this point. The old Amane might not be able to handle this present him.
But Amane did not hate his present self.
He put in the proper effortso that he could stand next to his beloved. Though his sense of inferiority did not disappear, it was somewhat mitigated. The most accurate description of him would be that he was more accepting of himself.
Having experienced firsthand the undeniable fact that love changes people, Amane felt embarrassed, bitter and nostalgic as he thought of his past self.
He gulped, showed a faint smile “You’re more relaxed now, huh.” and Chitose giggled.
“I guess this is a positive example of how loving someone changes a person.”
“Shut up. Is that bad?”
“Unya, I think it’s good though? It’s not like your old self is bad or something, but aren’t you happier now, Amane?”
Chitose grinned away as she put her index fingers at her cheeks, indicating that Amane often smiled nowadays, and the latter could not help but facepalm. He glanced aside at Mahiru, who nodded with a gentle smile, the shock from before nary to be seen.
“You are gentler compared to before, no?”
“Yeah. That stare is different. It wasn’t as obvious as when he saw you, Shiina-san.”
“He’s so head over heels for that Shiina-san. Doting on her even.”
“I think the Angel has become more dere nowadays.”
“…I get it, stop looking at me. I’m aware that I’m too doting on Mahiru.”
Amane’s expression would relax whenever he faced Mahiru, and while he did try to keep his guard up, his classmates clearly had paid attention. he could hear boys and girls chiming in agreement.
Amane started to feel awkward again when this was pointed out, and when the ends of his lips started to tickle, “Okay, this is enough. Otherwise, Amane will start to pout.” Chitose clapped and changed the mood.
You should have said so from the beginning, Amane thought so, but Chitose was probably celebrating Amane’s birthday in her own way. She giggled, and took out a wrapped box from her bag.
“So, here’s a present from Ikkun and me that’s a day late.!”
“…Seriously, thank you for setting this up together with Mahiru for my sake.”
“Ufufu, I’m Mahirun’s one true friend after all~ Of course I’ll help with whatever my adorable friend is planning. For~ you~”
Chitose sounded more elated than usual as she handed over the box, which was heavier than Amane had assumed.
Since it was a present chosen by Itsuki and Chitose, there should not be any problems. Of course, Amane would be delighted unless the present was too tasteless. They had fine taste, so the present chosen should not cause worry, but the plain weight had him looking mystified.
“…Let me ask first. What’s inside this?”
“Yaa, you’re asking now? I can say what it is though?”
Amane glanced aside at Mahiru, and found himself suddenly uneasy.
“Oy, what’s with the meaning in those words?”
“Ahaha, just kidding. It’s not anything dangerous, just some bath powder and salts. One of them is what Mahiru likes, and the other is said to be good for metabolism. I thought the two of you can use it.”
“…Why for the two of us? Isn’t it usually for one?”
The item itself was good, but the unnecessary line itself had Amane frowning.
There was some skinship, but their current relationship remained pure. It would be real troublesome if everyone assumed the two of them bathed together. While that did happen before, they would wear a swimsuit or have towels draped over them, and it did not happen during every stayover.
Won’t this cause misunderstanding? Amane glared back, “Ehh~” and Chitose unhappily pouted back. Amane had the urge to pinch her cheeks, but he held back.
“Say, won’t this cause misunderstandings?”
“We have a real coward here.”
“Shut up Itsuki.”
“Hey hey…well, even if I do keep quiet about this, everyone knows about your feelings…oowww, I get it..”
Amane rubbed his fist at the flank of the approaching Itsuki, but it felt hard, and he felt like he lost out. Since he got Itsuki to shut up, Amane let out a deep sigh.
“I’m really grateful for the present, and your feelings, but just don’t say anything unnecessary.”
So he said as he tried to preserve his cheeks that were overheating with shame as he earnestly brought the present to his seat. And then, Itsuki pretentiously put his hands on his own hips, and retorted,
Once they left the crowd, Itsuki put his mouth gently near Amane’s ear.
“I never mentioned that you two are going to bathe together. The idea is that you two would bathe individually.”
“I already kept my voice down though!?”
Amane realized that he dug himself a hole, so he pursed his lips and looked elsewhere. Itsuki in turn gave a hearty laugh, and giddily slapped Amane on the back.