The sun was about to set when Mahiru was done with all the dishes, and left them in the Jūbako. This time, she began preparing dinner.
That was the case, but their dinner would be Toshikoshi soba, so all they needed to do was to boil pre-cooked soba, and add ingredients to them.
The kamaboko was excess leftover that could be added. They just needed to boil the spinach and dice the leek.
The most taxing work would be to deep fry the prawn tempura, but Mahiru kept deep frying them without annoyance.
“Since we have extra pumpkin, let us make tempura out of it too.”
“Ohh…that’s quite the fancy Toshikoshi soba.”
“It is fine once in a while.”
Mahiru said as she finished the Toshikoshi soba, and it certainly was fancier than the one he had back home.
Each had two large prawn tempuras, along with pumpkin tempura, and lots of spinach and leek. The kamaboko was served in a fan shape, giving a refreshing look.
Also, it appeared Mahiru preferred to put the tempura atop, to keep it crispy; Amane’s tempura was served separately on another plate instead, which left him very grateful.
“Please help yourself.”
She served some excess Osechi dishes on small plates, probably thinking Amane would not have enough to eat.
He saw Mahiru sit down, they clapped hands to give thanks, and began eating the soba.
It was pre-packed, but the fragrance of the soba spread as he bit into it, probably because it was a little expensive. Amane took a bite, and the fragrance of the soba spread.
The soup too was neither too thick nor too diluted, leaving him at ease. The warmth spread from the belly, the flavor suitable for the harsh winter.
“Haaー…now this feels like the end of year…”
He drank the soup…exhaled deeply, and muttered.
Watching TV at home, eating soba, waiting for the New Year; a nice feeling it was.
It was a yearly tradition for Amane to spend time back home eating Toshikoshi soba, waiting for the New Year, and watching the contest, and he was grateful to be able to do the same this year. Though, the one next to him was not his family, but an acquaintance girl.
“You know, eating Toshikoshi soba like this, It does feel like a year’s ending before we know it.”
“Truly…lots of things happened this year.”
So they said, but most of these things were his interactions with Mahiru.
When he started living alone, he never imagined such a pretty girl to cooking for him, not at all.
“Amane-kun, this is your first year living alone. It must have been tough on you.”
“You’re rather used to it yourself.”
“Well, I can handle most of my business. It is a no go for you to live alone without knowing how to do anything, Amane-kun?”
“Grrr…well, you say that.”
“You truly are a hopeless person, goodness.”
Mahiru reproached him with a smile, rather than simply looking bewildered, her face looking tender.
She maintained a genial smile, not thinking that it would be a hassle to take care of Amane, it seems.
“…I’ve really been in your care this year.”
It stung his heart to affirm this readily, but luckily, Mahiru herself did not seem unwilling.
“…Please continue to do so next year.”
“Understood. You will be completely useless and wasted without me around, Amane-kun.”
“I can’t deny that.”
“…If you understand, you should pay more attention to that, you know?”
“Take it as a next year goal.”
Even if he had the heart to do so, his determination would wilt after Mahiru had taken care of him so thoroughly. He kept his thoughts to himself however, and never mentioned about it.
Of course, he would tidy up his stuff from time to time—but it should be fine for him to ask her to cook.
He found himself enslaved to her cooking, but at this point, it did not matter to him.
Mahiru told him to change for the better, but he would ultimately be laughed at. He maintained a stiff look, and Mahiru showed a little smile on her face.
“The new year is coming soon.”
They finished the Toshikoshi soba, and were seated on the sofa, watching the TV concert. Before they knew it, time passed, and a new day loomed.
It appeared Mahiru would not watch the TV unless it was necessary, and did not seem familiar with the trendy songs. He saw her enjoy the concert silently, and time passed faster than he imagined.
The screen then showed the Joya-no-kane, and he was reminded once again that a new year was looming.
Next to him, Mahiru’s eyelids were falling as she silently listened to the bell.
And after hearing the 107th bell—
“Happy New Year.”
The moment the day changed, she straightened her back as she turned towards Amane, bowing down, and Amane too followed suit with this New Year greeting.
“Happy New Year…it’s strange, two of us spending the New Year together like this.”
“Fufu, I guess…please continue to take care of me this year.”
“Same here…I guess I should be the one asking you that.”
“I cannot deny that.”
Amane replied a giggling Mahiru with a wry smile, and then noticed the smartphone on his knees shaking.
It seemed Itsuki and Chitose had sent a few New Year greetings over, there were a few numbers on the app icons.
Mahiru too experienced the same, her smartphone was shaking. She had just known Chitose, and never exchanged IDs, so the messages should be from friends Amane knew not of.
The recent trend of delivering New Year greetings as messages had made things convenient.
“I shall reply to a few messages.”
It appeared Mahiru had received lots of greetings. For some reason however, he felt she never informed any boy on how to contact her.
As she began replying nimbly, She’s really like a high school girl here, he thought as he replied to Itsuki and Chitose.
The messages were normal, “Happy New Year” and “Are you spending the New Year with Shiina-san?” They were right on the mark, but he replied denials to them anyway.
“Stop lying now” Itsuki immediately replied, and the process of teasing and being teasing repeated itself again.
Suddenly, there was weight upon his arms. He then had a whiff of sweet fragrance.
Oh no, so he looked sideways tentatively…and found Mahiru leaning on him with her eyes closed.
—Wait wait wait.
He did not voice out, but he was rather flustered.
There were cases of her falling asleep, but who would have expected her doing so next to him, leaning on his shoulder?
No further thought was needed to understand why Mahiru had fallen asleep.
It was past midnight at this point.
It was expected that Mahiru, living the prim and proper life, would not stay up late. Furthermore, she was busy making Osechi the entire day, and though she did not show it, she must have been really worn out.
There was no doubt she had no resistance against the sleep demon.
He understood the reason.
He knew, but he never expected her to do so at this moment.
Mahiru fell asleep while leaning on Amane, ignoring how flustered and gaudy the latter was as she showed a serene sleeping face. The long eyebrows, nice nose, pink lips were all defenseless.
It was not the first time he saw her sleeping face, but it was the first time he did so up close, and he froze up.
“Mahiru, wake up.”
He called out worriedly, but there was no response.
She had fallen into a deep slumber, devoured by the sleep demon as she was too tired. She showed no signs of waking up no matter how he talked to her or shook her gently.
He patted her gently on the thigh, shaking her body, but she did not wake up.
Having done that, she started tilting a little forward, the parts touching him moving slightly and he hastily pulled her up…only to end up embracing her in his clutches, leaving him more flustered than ever.
…That’s a really nice smell.
Mahiru went back home to shower, or something else, after they had eaten. Perhaps the shampoo floral fragrance had blended into hers, for she was giving off a sweet fragrance, leaving him very comfortable.
And also, he sensed something soft on him, and was left really restless as a result.
She was sleeping so soundly, he could not bring himself to wake her up. He had a feeling that she would not wake up unless he hit her more forcibly.
What do I do now?
This happened right after the New Year started, and Amane found himself cupping his head.