“Fue, that was fun.”
“Yeah. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this much fun.”
After playing in the pool as much as we could, Ayana and I were at a nearby family restaurant. I was tired after moving around quite a bit and thought I would kill some time with something sweet to eat.
“It’s a bit disappointing that we’re not alone…”
Saying that, Ayana looked towards the two people sitting in front of us, Iori and Akasaka-san.
“It’s not a big deal. Opportunities like this don’t come often, after all.”
“Yeah~ It’s totally fine, right, Yukishiro-kun!”
Certainly, it’s not common to have private time like this with our senpais. I personally don’t mind, and I think it’s a fun time. Although Ayana mentioned feeling a bit disappointed, her expression was calm and definitely not showing any signs of displeasure.
“Well, I think it’s fine occasionally. It’s not a lie that I would prefer to be alone with Ayana, though.”
Ayana embraced me tightly as I ruffled her head, and she closed her eyes with a contented expression. That gesture, how should I put it, when I see Ayana like this, she really reminds me of a cat.
“She looks like a cat.”
It seems Iori thought the same thing. If we were at home instead of a family restaurant, Ayana would probably switch from being a cat to a leopard in an instant…
“Here you go!”
Our orders arrived. Ayana, Iori, and I opted for cake, which is a safe choice… but is Akasaka-san going to be okay? What I see in front of me is a jumbo parfait with a considerable amount. It’s a scene that makes me want to say, “Where is all that going in that petite body?”
“Despite her appearance, this girl is a big eater. And she never gains weight, so jealous of her metabolism.”
“I don’t mind not gaining weight, but it’s frustrating that none of the nutrients go to my height or chest!”
It seems Akasaka-san has her own big concern.
Then, we all join our hands together and enjoy the feast, but Akasaka-san’s eating speed is too fast. She devours it at high speed, and her speed doesn’t diminish at all. It’s like watching a competitive eater up close.
“…Is she human?”
“Yukishiro-kun aside, Otonashi-san, that’s a bit rude.”
“?? What’s wrong?”
Akasaka-san tilted her head, seemingly unaware of our murmurs, and continued eating the parfait. The way she quickly brings the spoon to her mouth one after another is incredibly cute, and her cheeks bulging resemble a hamster.
Shortly after, Akasaka-san finishes the parfait completely, and Ayana and I spontaneously applaud.
“Ehehe, today’s food was good!”
“What’s going on with your stomach ……”
That is probably an eternal mystery. Akasaka-san finished her parfait and we each finished our cake and enjoyed chatting for a while.
“I’m sorry. I’m going to the restroom.”
“Ah, I’m going to go to the bathroom, too.”
Ayana and Akasaka-san got up from their seats, leaving only Iori and me. Personally, I don’t have anything specific to ask Iori, but it seems that she does. As soon as Ayana and the others disappeared from sight, Iori spoke up.
“Hey, Yukishiro-kun, what’s going on with Shu-kun lately?”
I was about to open my mouth when she asked me if something had happened to me, but I …… hesitated for a moment. It was the day when Shu faced the fate that had continued from the past and truly moved forward.
“Fufu, it seems that something happened for sure. I understand, I won’t ask for details.”
Iori took a sip of her juice and continued.
“When I look at Shu-kun these days, I see that he has changed somehow. I don’t mean in terms of his appearance or anything like that, but I think he’s become more self-aware.”
With a hint of happiness on her face, Iori spoke those words. Looking at her, I recalled… Iori truly had feelings for Shu. But on that day, when she overheard the conversation between Shu and me on the rooftop, she sealed those feelings deep within her heart.
“We often run into each other at school. Just the other day, he helped me with some work. It’s the same things he used to do for me, but there’s a different atmosphere around him, and it’s amazing how much a person can change just from that”
Indeed, since then, Shu no longer exudes a nervous vibe and seems more relaxed, as if a burden has been lifted. Although I haven’t mentioned it to Ayana yet, I can tell from our conversations while preparing for the school festival that she’s noticed the change as well.
“He’s been able to move forward. He had been standing still for so long, but he’s finally moving forward”
I didn’t need to go into detail for Iori to understand. Nevertheless, she seemed genuinely happy talking about Shu. Could it be that… I stared at her for a moment and noticed her cheeks turning slightly red before she spoke.
“…I’ve realized that I’m an incredibly simple-minded girl. I won’t go into specifics, though.”
“Haha …… yes. You don’t have to tell me.”
I decided to just laugh it off and assume that’s what she meant. Perhaps in a way, Iori, too, was one of those who had been standing still.
“Why do you have eyes like that of a father?”
“I just had that feeling for some reason.”
Father… I’m not at that age yet. I must have made a strange face because Iori chuckled, leaving me with mixed feelings. Well, it’s true that I used to be a bit older before, but that’s about it.
“Yeah? Welcome back, Ayana—”
While I was talking to Iori, Ayana’s voice suddenly reached my ears, and I responded. However, I found myself freezing on the spot.
The person I looked at was Ayana… Yes, it was Ayana, but she was wearing a black hood pulled deeply over her eyes. When she went to the restroom, she didn’t look like that, so I was surprised. However, my surprise wasn’t just about her appearance.
Her eyes looked as if she was in some kind of distress. The moment I was about to ask her what was wrong, Ayana’s figure disappeared as if she had melted into the air.
I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. It was such an unimaginable sight that I almost let out a sound, but I managed to swallow it back. What was that just now? I thought to myself, and then I heard Iori’s voice reaching me.
“Ara, it seems Otonashi-san hasn’t returned yet? Fufu, could it be that you’re so infatuated that you’re seeing illusions?”
I couldn’t immediately come up with a response to Iori’s teasing gaze and words. The recent sight had been so shocking. Was it due to lack of sleep? Fatigue? There could be various reasons… But the brief moment I saw during the time when I went with Ayana to buy a swimsuit flashed in my mind.
“…Ahaha, that could be true.”
I managed to reply somehow and drank the juice I had ordered to calm myself down.
“I’m back, Towa-kun.”
Then Ayana and Akasaka-san returned. The image I had seen earlier kept lingering in my mind, but I tried my best not to show any expression and reached the end of our outing.
“Well then, see you later, both of you. Let’s hang out again.”
“See you later, guys! It was fun!”
We waved goodbye to them, and Ayana and I headed home. To distract my unsettled heart, I held Ayana’s hand, as I always did. Even though it was a usual gesture, I wanted to feel Ayana’s presence for as long as possible.
“As I thought, did something happen to you?”
“…Haha, you noticed, huh?”
“Of course. There’s nothing I don’t understand about Towa-kun.”
That’s right. Ayana always notices. I’m grateful for that, and it’s reassuring. I squeezed her hand tightly in response and expressed my gratitude with a small word of thanks.
“Yes♪. I’ll always be by Towa-kun’s side, so don’t hesitate to rely on me… However, there’s something I’d like to ask in return.”
“I…also want to spoil you. I’ll spoil you and pamper you so much that you won’t be able to help it!”
Ayana let go of my hand and tightly embraced my arm as she said those words. Looking at her smiling face, it feels like all the worries I had just moments ago easily disappear. However, if I calm down and think about it for a moment, I can somewhat understand. The Ayana I saw earlier, as well as the Ayana I saw before, that figure was indeed the Ayana from the fan disc.
“…Is there a meaning behind it?”
While Ayana beside me wears a smile, the Ayana who had a pained expression… On the way home together with Ayana, I kept thinking about the meaning behind that the whole time.