After dinner, Amane recalled what Itsuki mentioned, and called for her name hesitantly.
She was seated next to him, “Hm?” and tilted her head as she looked towards him.
It appears you have something to say. She waited patiently for him to continue, while he remained frustrated about what he should say.
One reason was that when Amane and Itsuki went their separate ways, the latter give him a nudge saying, “Hug her if you have the guts”. Another reason was that he was curiously interested if Mahiru would forgive him if he hugged her.
Also, Mahiru was delicate, tender, and smelled good. Any boy of this age would want to hug her. Any youth would have such an impulse.
But he could not simply ask her, “Can I hug you.” Surely she would roll her eyes at him, going “what are you saying?”
And if he suddenly hugged her, she might refuse. It was a dilemma.
“…We have tests next week.”
Being passive, Amane changed the topic.
Mahiru obviously knew this was not the topic he referred to, but it seemed she knew he was unwilling to say it, and gave a wry smile.
“Yes. But it is easy since we are not tested lots.”
It was an abrupt change of topics, but Mahiru continued. Amane felt heavy-hearted, as though his shame and cowardice was bared before him.
He ended up saying.
“…What is it?’
“Nothing…I’m so hopeless…”
“Why are you denying yourself again. Did someone say anything to you?”
“Nope. it’s different this time.”
Amane merely felt despair at his own weakness.
“Goodness. I really do not understand, but please buck up.”
Mahiru reached to pat Amane’s head, and he had no intention to refuse as he let her be.
Her movements were earnest, familial, and kind, easily capable of lulling anyone to sleep. As she patted, Amane felt strength sapped away from him.
The tension he had before was gone, and before he knew it, he let her do as she pleased.
“Ahh…how am I supposed to say this…”
“Like, can I hug you? Or something like that.”
“You just did.”
Amane blinked as he stared at Mahiru, and found her with her head lifted towards him.
“…Can you pretend not to hear it?”
“No can do.”
Please do not put me on the spot, she narrowed her eyes, and he felt his face cringing.
He really did not intend to say it.
His sanity told him that it was a bad thing to say so to a girl he was not dating. Also, he was a coward who always put himself in check. Once he mentally let go however, he just blurted it out.
He gingerly looked over at her face. However, she did not appear to be uncomfortable with it. She looked stunned, seemingly out of it, shocked, as though she had an out-of-body experience. This in turn left Amane shocked.
“I will not be angry about this. At most, I am amazed to say that you are a boy after all.”
“…I don’t like how you’re being accepting of this…”
“It’s not like I want to touch just anyone.”
If the reason was that he was a boy after all, it would be akin to say that he was fine with any girl.
He wanted to hug her, embrace her softness, and touch her because she was Mahiru…even though he might sound like a pervert. No matter how pretty and alluring a girl would cling onto him, he was confident that he could reject the girl. Rather, he did not want to interact with any unacquainted female, no matter the intentions.
Mahiru froze once she heard his flat-out denial.
A faint color started to arise within her snowy white skin, and he realized that he let his tongue slip a second time.
Thus, Amane was left ashamed, his face searing, and his vision was swimming about.
“… Shall we?”
Mahiru said timidly, and Amane was at a loss of words.
It was Amane who said he wanted to hug, even though he just blurted it, but nobody would have expected Mahiru to actually agree.
Of course, Mahiru would not invite just anyone. Amane knew she said so because she trusted him―but that request was really bad for his heart.
She blushed, and her eyes were moist as she looked up at Amane when she said so. Naturally, his sanity could not be contained.
He cautiously reached his hands towards Mahiru, and hugged her delicate body by her arms, wrapping his arms around her back.
It was the second time he hugged her firmly, but it was different from the time she cried. She was willing to be in his clutches.
That day, he never could feel her, but as he hugged her, he experienced how slender and feeble Mahiru was. She had lean shoulders, and her arms were frailly thin.
There was a sweet smell coming from Mahiru’s neck, and Amane had a feeling this was going to end up bad.
Despite how agitated he was feeling, Amane managed to say his true thoughts calmly.
He was relieved to have Mahiru next to him. Rather, through this skinship, Amane felt happy.
“…Amane-kun, I heard that by hugging 30 seconds, you can reduce a third of your day’s stress.”
Mahiru whispered in his clutches as she nudged her body slightly.
“So there’s no stress if I hug for 90 seconds?”
“I do not know…but I feel that my stress for the day is gone.”
“Is that so?”
“After all, many people asked me questions today.”
Once he heard that, Amane recalled of the conversation Mahiru had with the girls.”
“Ah…erm…the most important person.”
Once Amane asked hesitantly, Mahiru, who buried her head in his chest, lifted it.
She was not looking embarrassed, but was giving a slightly forlorn smile.
“…For me, the world is really small. I can count the number of people I like with a single hand. I am like a little hakoniwa…of them all, you are the closest to me, Amane-kun. You said I should be myself.”
“So you should have a little more confidence in yourself, Amane-kun. You should impose yourself more.”
Because you are too humble, a wry smile appeared on Mahiru’s face, and Amane felt some heat from his eyelids.
“Can I really?”
“Of course. Please do the same as you did when you encouraged me.”
“If you lack confidence, I shall encourage you anytime and embrace you. You should be fine with that, I suppose?”
Once he heard her powerful words, Amane buried his face into her shoulder, and hid his expression.
He hoped to support Mahiru, but he ended up supported by her. He really could not laugh at this situation, but perhaps it was really like him.
“…Has your stress vanished, Amane-kun?”
“Just let me be for a little longer.”
Amane seemingly fawned about as he remained on Mahiru, goodness me , who answered as she gave him such a smile.