There were a few situations where the Angel nearly kicked up a fuss, but once she got back to gaming, she discarded all these thoughts and reverted to looking serious again.
She was starting to get used to the game, after stumbling around in the beginning, and finally could play a little, catching up to the pace.
It was because it was a different game from the one she played at first, a game of controlling a car.
She often crashed out of the course, into the mud or into the wall, but she could drive the car forward.
He was worried that Mahiru, being bad at games, would have driven off in the opposite direction, but she was doing better than expected, and he felt relieved.
So he split the screen in half, joining in the game, but the subconscious gestures she did left him a little uncomfortable.
She seemed to have a tendency of tilting her body about, sometimes putting her head near his elbow, and then turning aside, repeating over and over again.
And whenever that happened, there was a nice smell , leaving him unable to remain calm.
Well, they were still racing at the lowest difficulty, so he was winning the entire time.
“…How are you so fast?”
“Got used to it.”
After playing a few times, he memorized the track, and the turns were easier. Even when the opponents were trying to obstruct, he could adjust his camera angles or the obstacles to stop them.
He showed a wry smile while Mahiru looked incredulous, before switching back to single player mode.
Considering her lack of experience, he felt she should practice more on a large screen. It was better for her to race against the CPU than to race him and lose confidence.
Luckily, she was still motivated, and kept staring at the monitor intently even in single player mode
If she kept this up, she should be able to deal with the CPU players, somehow.
He was relieved to see that her status as a hard work applied on games too, and snickered away. It seemed Mahiru had realized this too, as she slapped him on the thigh a few times.
The humorous reaction had him chortling, and so she frowned, muttering “Amane-kun no baka”.
It took her at least two hours.
Mahiru stared intently at the glowing words indicating she was first, and looked towards Amane proudly.
After a long battle against the TV, she won the glorious first place.
After countless experiences of being last, she kept standing on the race tracks despite coming in last several times, slowly improved her rankings, and finally won. Surely she was really moved.
I finally did it, so the proud expression on her face, and Amane earnestly applauded her.
“That’s great. I saw your hard work.”
She was happy to be praised, and looked bashful, her usual expression softening a little.
It was not a simple obvious, smile, but one filled with utter, faint elation. It was so unimaginably sweet compared to the usual aloofness she showed.
Recently, her aloof face would show an expression befitting a girl her age, but on this day, this expression was more fitting than usual, and was overwhelmingly adorable.
It was an innocent, pure smile, eroding away at Amane’s sanity, and the desire to pat her on the head arose.
His mind unwittingly ordered his arm as it went along with the impulse to pat her like a kitten…before he hurriedly retracted the hand he unwittingly raised.
“What is it?”
“Ahh not. Just think that you played too much.”
“Have I improved?”
“Yep yep. A lot better than when you first started.”
“Thank you very much. I enjoyed myself, and started working hard.”
Fufu, so Mahiru chuckled, but Amane could not continue to look at her as he tried to disguise his motive, taking out a little box from a basket in a cupboard.
“Here’s your reward for coming in first.”
“Eh, erm, there is no need for that.”
“If you don’t want a reward, just take it that you got it from a certain fat white bearded grandpa.”
Yes, it was the Christmas present he had forgotten to give the previous day.
It was difficult for him to choose a present, given how close her birthday was to Christmas, but he so happened to fancy an item, and did not suffer as much as he did for her birthday.
Once she heard the words Christmas present, it appeared she was reminded that it was Christmas as she blinked away a few times, before cautiously receiving the item.
You can open it now, so he said, and she cautiously unpacked the item.
Well, it’s not a big deal.
She opened the box, and slowly retrieved a leather key case.
She would be troubled if he gave her an expensive item, so he did not choose a branded item, merely an item with a simple design, befitting Mahiru.
It was a simple item engraved with flowers and vines, one designed to be suitable for daily use. He was unfamiliar with flowers, and did not know what was engraved, but once he saw the fine shapes, he felt it would fit Mahiru, and chose it.
“Well, I gave you an extra key. You don’t have to use this though.”
“No, I will gracious use this. You have keener eyesight than I expected, Amane-kun.”
“What do you mean, expected.”
“You normally wear a sweatshirt and jerseys, so I thought you have some problems with your fashion sense.”
“I don’t have any other practical clothing.”
After all, he never got a chance to show himself being dressed up, and he would avoid doing so given how much of a hassle it was. Thus, the only modes he had been in were in school uniform, and in the warm house.
Thus, he might have given her a horrid impression of his fashion sense, but it would not be erased, for it really was terrible.
“…You look handsome when you tidy up a little. You did that back when you were in middle school, Amane-kun.”
“Mom forced me to…wait, how did you know?”
“Shihoko-san sent me a photo, saying『he looks like this when he dolls up a little』…”
There was a moment when he was forced to wear outdoor clothing because of his mom’s work. He never expected her to leak the photo, and quietly harbored loads of complaints towards her.
“…That dress up doesn’t suit me.”
“Is that so? I think you are just avoiding other people’s stares and hiding your eyes behind your bangs, Amane-kun, but your face is relatively handsome…”
Her little hand extended towards Amane’s face.
Her white palm lifted his bangs, and touched his forehead, his vision made wider than before.
It had been a while since his vision was so vast, except when entering the bath. His eyes looked towards Mahiru, who looked a little shocked.
He felt it was not something worth being shocked about, and while not particularly handsome, he had an ordinary face. He was thus incredulous as to why Mahiru was staring at him.
“Nothing. I just find your eyes livelier than before.”
Months ago, Mahiru said that his eyes looked dead, and while it really was rude, he could not deny that. At this point, she was staring up at Amane.
There was no way he was becoming any handsome the more she stared, but she continued to stare at Amane silently.
He was abashed to be stared at by someone of the opposite gender, especially a really pretty girl.
However, he was not one to take his punishment alone, and as payback, he grabbed some of the sidelong hair on her cheek, showing her pretty face.
While he was apprehensive about touching her, since she touched his hair without thinking, he should be fine. After all, he was just touching her head, and he hoped he was safe.
But seriously, she’s really a beauty.
Looking at her once again, he was amazed by how beautiful Mahiru was.
She might be far prettier than the pretty ladies in the magazines scattered around his house, more attractive even.
After all, photos could not be trusted.
They merely captured moments, and could be enhanced. One could publish it as it was, beautify it, or even falsify it.
At this point, Mahiru’s beauty and cuteness was undoctored.
As he continued to stare at this pretty face he would not get tired of, her eyes started to blur.
Why so? So he wondered, but she removed her hand from his hair, and looked down.
She fidgeted about, looking very uncomfortable. She put her controller down, and lifted the cushion next to her.
“Erm. Well…yes. I too have a Christmas present for you.”
Before he could ask what was going on, Mahiru took out a wrapped item from the bag she covered by the side.
“I shall prepare, dinner then.”
“Eh? A-ah okay…?”
So she said, and hurried to stand up. Faced with this overly rapid development, he was at a loss.