“Mahiru-chan, you really can cook.”
It was evening when they returned from Hatsumōde and rested a little. Mahiru changed clothes and began preparing dinner… but Shihoko wanted to stay over at Amane’s house just to observe Mahiru’s cooking.
The hometown’s a few hours car ride away from here, they were already tired, and it seemed they planned on staying over to begin with. Amane wished they would have permission from the head of the house, but that would be Shuuto, so he could not complain about it.
Luckily, they had an extra futon for guests, and they probably would share it. They slept together back home anyway, so it would not be anything drastically different
“Thank you very much.”
“You really are capable for a high school girl. I couldn’t do this when I was in high school.”
“You’re not as capable as Mahiru now mom.”
“Did you say anything?”
Amane heard a monotone from the kitchen, and played dumb as he leaned his back into the sofa.
Next to him, Shuuto was going “Stop bullying Shihoko-san”, but usually, Amane was the one being bullied, or rather, teased. This little bit of payback should be somewhat acceptable.
“How rude”, the voice from the kitchen reached the impudent Amane, but she reverted back to her cheerful voice as she spoke to Mahiru.
Mahiru too did not hesitate in talking to Shihoko. It seemed she was used to the latter’s vigor and personality, for she looked really calm.
From afar, he saw them cook amicably, and sighed in relief.
“Shihoko-san is rather curious about Shiina-san.”
Shuuto smiled as he too stared at their backs.
“Well, she’s capable, cute, and has a good personality. No wonder mom’s curious about her.”
“What do you think then, Amane?”
“…Nothing much, just that she’s a nice person, and cute.”
Amane immediately assumed Shuuto was just casually checking, but the latter was never one to pursue the matter, so it seemed he was just interested in what Amane thought.
And he did not inquire further into Amane’s reply.
“I am looking forward to enjoying the cooking you get to eat every day, Amane.”
“I can guarantee that it tastes good. As long as mom doesn’t do anything unnecessary.”
“Don’t worry, Shihoko-san wants to try some of Shiina-san’s cooking too. She’ll just be helping out.”
“That’s good enough.”
Not that Shihoko’s cooking was bad or anything, but compared to Mahiru’s delicate control of the flavoring, hers was relatively crude.
Shuuto was usually in charge of controlling the flavors, while Shihoko would prioritize volume and happiness.
Of course, she was the housewife who had a son with a growing appetite, so that would be expected. Amane however preferred Mahiru’s finely crafted tastes, and it would be great if her cooking charisma was unaffected.
Luckily, it appeared Shihoko was just helping out Mahiru, and nothing more. He sighed in relief as he watched them cook.
“Yep, it’s delicious.”
“Thank you very much.”
It was impossible for the dining table for two to fit all four of them, so they moved the larger folding table that was in the storage for dinner.
Mahiru was relieved to hear Shuuto’s heartfelt thoughts, and did not look as tense.
She had never shared her cooking to anyone other than Amane, except during cooking class, so she was a little tense…but she was at ease after seeing Shuuto’s kind smile.
“It really is delicious. Guess you don’t have to worry about staying alone or getting married.”
Shihoko looked over at Amane as she murmured away. The latter’s face nearly cringed, but he sipped at the miso soup with a stoic look.
He was already used to the rich taste of the soup.
He was completely conditioned to Mahiru’s flavouring, and did not desire for anything else other than her food. This might be a downside to eating Mahiru’s cooking every day.
“Amane, your thoughts?”
“It’s delicious of course. I’ve been thanking her all the time.”
Even without Shihoko prompting, he intended to express his thanks, but it sounded like he was being prompted to do so.
Whenever they were alone, he never forgot to praise her, but this time, he restrained himself as his parents were around, though he failed.
He praised Mahiru as usual, but she appeared a little restless, or rather, uncomfortable “…yes.” She whispered.
There was a slight blush on her face, probably because his parents were around.
Even though she was used to hearing Amane’s thoughts, hearing praises from three people would leave her somewhat bashful.
“You’re really cute, Mahiru-chan.”
“Shihoko-san, don’t tease her too much.”
“I’m not teasing her. Seriously, I just think she’s a pure innocent girl, you know?”
“Th-that is not the case…”
“Well, she is. Pure, innocent, you name it.”
She was pure. She would blush even when facing a guy who was not handsome, with his shirt undone. Innocent and naïve, maybe.
“Oh my, did something happen without us knowing?”
“Nothing in particular.”
“Nothing at all!”
Mahiru too firmly denied it.
It was not demeaning to call her pure, but she seemed to dislike being called so as she firmly denied it, so he did not continue on.
“Well, I’m fine as long as you don’t hurt Shiina-san, Amane. There is a limit to how much you can tease her though.”
“…See. Are you not teasing me now?”
“I’m serious about you being innocent though.”
Mahiru was sitting next to him, and she tapped at his leg beneath the table.
She looked towards him with slightly red cutes, “Sorry sorry” once he apologized, her pretty face made a pout, which made her rather cute. However, Amane held back the urge to laugh so as to avoid angering her.
“…How do I put it, see, what we brag about is being bragged before us here.”
“Isn’t that fine? Amane’s looking a relaxed compared to usual.”
“Nn, sorry for having you cook for my parents.”
After dinner, they spent two hours or so talking, before turning in for the night. However, his parents would be sleeping in the living room, so Mahiru would be the only one returning home.
His parents were off to bathe, so Amane was the only one to see her off. There was no need to see her off, but he did so just in case, and also to apologize for his parents’ recklessness for the day.
“No, I am fine. I enjoyed myself today.”
Luckily, it appeared she was not displeased in the slightest.
One might say she was really joyous.
“…I have understood the feeling of happiness, if a little.”
Mahiru showed a faint smile, accompanied by a soft voice as weak as a sigh.
The fleeting smile would seemingly vanish with the wind. He could sense some jealousy in her eyes, and had a rough idea of her family situation.
He felt he could not leave her be, so he inadvertently placed his palm on her hair, deliberately ruffling it.
She did not look annoyed, merely shocked as she looked up at Amane.
“Wh-what is the matter?”
“Not nothing…my hair is all messy.”
“You’ll be taking a bath anyway.”
“You are right about that.”
“…I can’t do that?”
“N-not that you cannot…but you should have told me first.”
“I already touched.”
“You are just reporting after it happened.”
So you’re willing to let me touch if I told you, he had such a thought, but he did not voice it out. He obediently apologized, and Mahiru let out a little sigh.
“Goodness…I am fine with that, but you cannot go about touching a girl on the hair.”
“No, it’s not like I’ll go about touching others…”
At the very least, Amane knew well that the only ones of the opposite gender he could touch were those close to him. He could not do any casual skinship like an outgoing person.
He treated Mahiru as someone close, so he would be sure she would not dislike him while patting on her head. However, he would not do this to anyone other than Mahiru.
To be precise, he had no intention of touching anyone else. The most he would desire was to punish the prankster Chitose.
Once he said he would not touch anyone else, Mahiru was quiet, and did not shake off his hand.
“…Now that I look at you, I do think you really resemble Shuuto-san, Amane-kun. I can tell even though we just met.”
“In what sense? Our personalities and faces are so different.”
“…You look similar. Really.”
She sighed hard this time, and this time, he rubbed her head with some frustration, but it appeared she did not dislike it.
…Do we really resemble each other?
Well, it was true that they would be mistaken for brothers with a large age gap if they stood next to each other, but they had completely different demeanors.
Their personalities were not completely contrasting, but they were not similar at all.
One would thus have to wonder why she said they resembled each other?
He had a few questions on his mind, but it appeared she had no intention to continue talking, her eyes narrowed at Amane as she left it at that.
After he fondled enough, he let go of her head, and she suddenly reeled back, a little taken aback as she looked up at Amane.
“What, you want me to keep touching?”
He asked mischievously, “please stop” and Mahiru answered with a blushing face, so he stopped.
She appeared to be a little peeved, looking displeased as she opened the door to her house, and slipped in.
Before he could regret going overboard here, she peeped through the door gap.
“…Amane-kun no, baka.”
Mahiru’s cheeks were slightly red, and she appeared to be pouting and yet fawning with sweet words, before closing the door.
…Who’s the idiot here?
It was Mahiru’s fault for causing his heart to suddenly jolt.
He let out a little sigh, and leaned on the corridor wall to cool his heated body, before sighing out a breath of white air.