After finishing their ice cream, Mika and Seiji walked back to the apartment building, carrying the groceries together.
An enigmatic light flashed through Mika’s eyes. "Seiji, come over and eat dinner at our place tonight."
"Eh? Why so suddenly…"
"I’m telling you to come, so come!"
"But the landlord…"
"My mom will agree… I’ll call her right now!" Mika decisively took out her cell phone.
Nozomi Uehara answered her call.
After the call had ended, Nozomi smiled faintly.
‘Nice job, this is how you have to be, Mika! With an opponent’s appearance, my daughter has become more decisive.’ The landlord approved of her daughter’s slight growth in maturity.
"My mom agreed, but you need to help out with the cooking as well. You don’t need to return to your room; just come over to my place!" Mika was rather spirited as she talked to Seiji after hanging up the call.
"Oh… oh." Seiji reflexively agreed.
He was more than happy to help out with the cooking and have dinner together with the Ueharas. He just felt that something about this particular meal was…
‘Well, whatever. I should stop thinking too deeply into it.’
The boy and the girl walked back home together.
After Nozomi Uehara returned home, she found her daughter preparing food in the kitchen together with the tall boy, who was also her tenant.
Both youngsters wore aprons as they prepared the food, and they occasionally made idle conversation while cooking together. It was such a warm scene.
Nozomi truly felt that it was an excellent thing to behold.
Of course she was already used to her daughter being there, and as for the boy… it would make her feel reassured if there was a strong and reliable male in her family.
Her husband died early, so she had to raise her daughter as a single mother. There were various difficulties as she had to put up with life’s pressures.
Even though she’d considered remarrying, time passed by quickly, and before she knew it, her daughter had grown up. Only now did she remember her husband.
She had almost forgotten what it was like to have a man in the house, but in this instant she recalled it clearly.
The boy’s back seemed to overlap with her husband’s figure.
Nozomi was lost in her thoughts for a while before she recovered her senses and discovered her face was burning with embarrassment.
Honestly, what was she thinking!
He was only a boy, a student the same age as her daughter. Even though he was tall and strong, he was still only a child.
But it really did feel reassuring to have him around, honestly…
Nozomi stopped thinking along these lines as she reined back her slightly unstable emotions. She flashed the pair a small smile and walked over to greet them.
"Mom? Welcome home."
"Excuse my coming over today, Miss Landlord."
Her cute daughter greeted her normally, and the gentle boy greeted her politely.
"Yep, I’m home… Welcome, Haruta-kun."
Nozomi smiled in response as she started to help them with preparing the food in the kitchen.
They seemed just like a real family.
Cooking with Mika and the landlord, before eating dinner together with them was a process which didn’t disappoint Seiji’s expectations.
He thoroughly enjoyed their company..
Only… something had caught his attention. Mika… was more proactive than before.
She intentionally sat close beside him and gave him food to eat with her chopsticks. She kept looking directly at him and talked to him more than she typically did… Anyway, it was obvious that she was being more proactive. Even though her face was reddening, she still worked hard to… get closer to him.
As for why, this was easy to guess. Seiji could only sigh.
Seiji suppressed the mixed emotions he felt when thinking about the blonde girl as he continued smiling in front of the Uehara family.
Seiji helped with washing the dishes and returned to his room afterwards.
But he wasn’t able to rest for more than a minute before he heard a knock on his door.
Seiji silently clutched at his head for several seconds before going to open the door.
As expected, it was the blonde young missus from the mafia family.
She must have been waiting for him to return home!
Kaede Juumonji was still smiling, but there was a dark shadow beneath her smile.
"Hello, Harano-kun, have you eaten dinner?"
"Hi… I just ate."
"Actually, I ordered some sushi for takeout, and I wanted to invite you if you hadn’t eaten already… But it seems like I’ll have to wait for next time." There was a hint of frustration in Kaede’s eyes as she sighed.
Seiji didn’t know how to reply to this.
"This is the moving-in present I was going to give you, but we were interrupted. Is now… a good time?" Kaede handed him the cake box for the second time.
"…Thanks, I’ll accept it." Seiji took the cake box from her.
"Sorry to be a bother. Please take care and have a good rest now." Kaede bowed slightly as she turned around to leave.
Her pretty figure looked lonely as she walked off.
Seiji’s expression flickered as he held on to the cake box.
"Wait a moment!" he called out to her.
The blonde girl’s footsteps paused.
"Would you like to come in and sit down? Although I don’t have much to entertain guests with…"
Kaede slowly turned around.
"I… would be delighted to do so."
Her beautiful face was blushing, and her eyes were sparkling.
‘I’m such an idiot!’ Seiji thought to himself as he watched the blonde girl walk towards him.
But he couldn’t let things remain the way they were.
It was necessary to have a discussion with her.
Thinking this, Seiji invited her into his room.
His apartment was small and narrow; it wasn’t suited to accommodating guests. Seiji let her sit on his own chair, while he sat on the edge of his bed.
Thankfully he had two cups… They were the only two cups he possessed.
He poured two cups of tea and opened the cake box, putting everything together on his table. He figured this would count as him treating a guest.
"These tea leaves are rather cheap, so there’s no need to have any expectations about the flavor. Please feel free to have as much as you would like."
"No… as long as you brewed this tea, it’s good tea to me." Kaede’s face reddened slightly as she spoke. She slowly took the teacup in both hands and lifted it to her mouth.
Seeing how careful she was being with even the teacup, Seiji inwardly sighed.
For such a high-class beauty to have such feelings towards a boy, what were the odds that the boy wouldn’t be moved at all?
Seiji felt like it was zero.
At the very least, he would definitely be moved.
At school, when he received all those love letters, the situation was different. After all, they were only love letters; he didn’t have to meet the girls personally, so he was able to deal with it.
But Kaede Juumonji was an unmistakable beauty who had followed him all the way here!
Although he was slightly inconvenienced, it was impossible for him to remain completely unmoved.
It still wasn’t at a romantic level yet, though, and he still had to consider her identity as a member of the mafia.
‘No matter what, it’s best to have a fruitful discussion first.’
"Juumonji-san, you don’t need to act so polite around me. Feel free to relax and little and be more casual."
"Is that really alright?" Kaede’s eyes lit up upon hearing those words.
"By all means, please do so. It’s nice to have manners, but I’m not used to such etiquette." Seiji lifted his own teacup and took a sip.
"Okay…" Kaede was delighted at closing the distance between her and Seiji.
Silence fell in the room for a few seconds.
"I’m not very good at beating around the bush, so I’ll just say things directly." Seiji scratched his face awkwardly. "If I’ve misunderstood things, or if I’m being impolite, then I apologize beforehand… Anyways, I need to ask, you came here because of me, right?"
Kaede’s face became a deeper shade of red as she nodded slowly.
"Since that’s the case, I’m happy that you… have feelings for me, but I currently have no intention of getting a girlfriend," Seiji stated sincerely while looking into her eyes.
Kaede’s face darkened slightly.
"Harano-kun… am I bothering you by coming here?" she asked in a small voice.
"No, you’re not bothering me… but honestly, it’s a little bit inconvenient," Seiji told her directly.
Kaede’s face darkened yet again.
"But you didn’t do anything wrong. Living here or wherever, it’s your freedom to choose. You came here for me, so I should respond to your feelings, and that’s what I just did. Although I don’t believe that I’m worthy of you doing so much, but… in any case…"
Seiji’s gaze became slightly unfocused as he scratched his face awkwardly, showing a hint of embarrassment. "Thank you for liking me."
Hearing these words and seeing his expression, Kaede’s dark expression cleared up, and an indescribable light flashed through her eyes.
This person is definitely…
A difficult-to-describe feeling of warmth welled up within her heart. It felt as if all the bitterness she’d accrued from her earlier defeat had been herded out of her chest.
‘I won’t… give up,’ she resolved, gritting her teeth in determination.