I happened to spot a familiar face walking alone in the city. It was Kanzaki-san, accompanied by a few men and women. The intimidating aura around them caused people in the vicinity to avoid them, and if Kanzaki-san weren’t an acquaintance, I’m sure I wouldn’t want to make eye contact either.
I wondered what they were up to…
Kanzaki-san and the group headed towards…some kind of office? I could faintly hear what sounded like shouting, but I couldn’t make out the words clearly. Yeah, it’s probably best not to get involved. I was about to walk past without paying much attention, but then Kanzaki-san appeared with a man who seemed to be pleading. Despite the man’s supplicating manner, Kanzaki-san didn’t react or even glance in his direction.
The gentle expression that Kanzaki-san showed when coming to my house was nowhere to be seen. Instead, she exuded a chilling, blade-like atmosphere. It made me wonder if that was her true nature.
“…G-Got it, I’m going shopping…”
I needed to buy groceries as requested by my mother. Normally, Ayana would accompany me, but today she was out with Seina-san on a mother-daughter outing. It felt a bit lonely not having her by my side, always smiling and laughing, but I suppose it’s just one of those days.
“It’s going to be quite a challenge cooking sukiyaki for just the two of us…”
Although there were only two of us, we decided on sukiyaki at the last minute… But even if my mother says that, she won’t eat that much. She’s more the type to fill her stomach with alcohol… Well, it wouldn’t be bad to cook hot pot together with my mother.
[Ayana-chan isn’t here, so I suppose I’ll go shopping with my son after all. Fufu, a date with my son… Ah, it has a nice ring to it♪]
[I’ll be fine on my own.]
I left the house while hearing my mother’s disappointed voice, but considering that she’ll be completely drunk after dinner and I’ll have to take care of her, I should conserve my energy from now on. Forgive me, Mother, but I’ve decided to increase my maximum stamina in advance… Such foolish thoughts crossed my mind as I tried to move forward, but then someone gently placed their hand on my shoulder.
My heart felt like it would jump out of my mouth. Well, anyone would be startled if someone suddenly did that. When I turned around, it was you.
“Yaho, Towa. It’s sad, you know? You found me, and yet you’re trying to leave so quickly.”
“Well, you had an air about you that I didn’t want to get involved with…”
“Well, I guess that’s understandable. That scum dared to bother me.”
That’s why you’re scary…
Kanzaki-san had an intense gaze that could make even the weakest-hearted person lose their footing… but they quickly noticed my concern and eased the atmosphere. But seriously, Kanzaki-san, the people behind you are incredibly terrifying.
Kanzaki-san seemed to sense it from my expression and apologized with a wry smile.
“Ahaha, sorry, Towa. But rest assured, they won’t do anything terrible to you.”
“Is that so?”
Indeed, I didn’t sense any intention to harm. On the contrary, they all bowed their heads… Why? As I was perplexed, a woman stepped forward timidly and extended her hand.
“You’re the son of that Yasha Princess… Would you mind shaking hands with me?”
Mother… I won’t say anything anymore. Since she asked for a handshake, I obliged, and the woman smiled happily.
“Good health and prosperity. It seems like it’ll be a good year. Thank you.”
Mother, just how many tales of valor have you created in the past? I’m extremely curious, but I guess I won’t ask. After that, Kanzaki-san gave instructions to the people who were standing by, and they dispersed. After bidding farewell to everyone who disappeared with only a brief greeting, I was about to leave the scene, but then I felt a firm grip on my shoulder.
“Hey, Towa, what are you up to now?”
“Heh, shopping… Heh, shopping, eh? Grocery shopping for dinner?”
“Yes. It’s just my mother and me, but she wants to have sukiyaki.”
“Oh, sukiyaki! Sounds delicious! Yeah, it looks really delicious!”
“Would you like to come to my house?”
Mother, we have another addition. I sighed, but seeing Kanzaki-san looking so happy, I couldn’t bring myself to complain. As mom mentioned, Kanzaki-san’s family seems to be wealthy, and they have luxurious meals every day that ordinary folks like us can’t afford… But still, it’s somewhat heartwarming to see her come to our house and enjoy the meal with delight.
“Well then, Kanzaki-san, please help me with the shopping.”
“It’s my pleasure. Let’s go, then.”
By some unexpected turn of events, I gained a companion in my shopping expedition. However, having Kanzaki-san next to me meant that it wasn’t a dull time, as we could talk along the way. We bought the ingredients for sukiyaki and the sake that Kanzaki-san likes, and finally, we headed back home.
“I’m looking forward to it. By the way, Towa, do you prefer to eat sukiyaki with raw egg?”
“I prefer eating it as it is. My mother is the one who likes it with egg.”
“Eating it with raw egg is absolutely delicious! You should give it a try.”
“Well, if I get the chance.”
“Towa, people who talk like that absolutely won’t do it.”
I actually like eggs… Personally, I prefer tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette). On the other hand, I don’t like it when the yolk solidifies, like with boiled eggs. When it comes to fried eggs, I think they’re best when they’re half-cooked.
Engaging in such trivial discussions about whether to use eggs or not, I suddenly stopped in my tracks as something caught my eye in the corner of my vision.
Kanzaki-san, seemingly puzzled by my sudden halt, called out to me, but I couldn’t respond. Because what I saw in my field of vision was the sight of a familiar woman walking arm in arm with an unfamiliar man, displaying an intimate demeanor.
It was Hatsune-san, Shu’s mother. She vanished into the crowd, arm in arm with the unfamiliar man. If I recall correctly, Hatsune-san’s husband, Shu’s father, was supposed to be away on a business trip in a distant place. So he shouldn’t be in this town right now… Which means… is this scene… affair?
“Was that Sasaki Hatsune… I think? She’s your friend’s mother and the woman who said hurtful words to you.”
“Yeah. I had the chance to hear about her from Sis before.”
“…That young flashy guy isn’t her husband, right?”
I nodded quietly in response to that question.
It might be premature to conclude that it’s infidelity. There’s also a possibility that it’s someone who just resembles Hatsune-san. It’s pointless to dwell on it without confirming the facts.
“Shall we go back, Kanzaki-san? It could have just been a mistaken sighting.”
“Yeah. Let’s pretend we didn’t see anything.”
…That person is one of those I don’t want to get involved with. But considering she’s Shu’s mother, it’s natural to be curious. …Wait, didn’t I just think that it could be a case of mistaken identity? I shook my head, deciding to forget the scene I witnessed.
“Welcome back, Towa-kun.”
When I entered the house and opened the front door, I noticed a pair of familiar shoes, and Ayana greeted me. When I went to the living room, Seina-san was there too, and it seems my mother had called them to join us for sukiyaki. I thought maybe I should have bought more ingredients, but I’m the only guy here, so this might be just right.
“I don’t know how you manage to sniff things out from miles away.”
“What’s wrong with that, Sis? I want to eat sukiyaki too!”
“…This child, really.”
She said it with a troubled expression, but she won’t chase her away. I knew that too, but I can’t remember when I forgot. But it seems it’s going to be a lively dinner once again.
Amidst that, there was Seina-san, sighing in exasperation.
“Well… Actually, since a couple of days ago, she’s been acting like that. But when I asked what was going on, she said it might have been a misunderstanding, so I shouldn’t worry about it.”
This might actually be it, a possibility that could turn out to be true. To shake off the words echoing in my mind, telling me not to ask, not to get involved, I straightforwardly asked.
“Seina-san, it seems like something is troubling you.”
“…Fufu, do you understand? But, as I told Ayana, it might be just a misunderstanding–“
“Is it about Hatsune-san?”
It was Seina-san’s reaction that provided the answer: what I saw was indeed the truth.