Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
“Meet in front of the fountain at the station at 10 o’clock, okay? You do understand what will happen if you’re late, right?”
Saki’s message read more like a threat. Fortunately, it was a clear sunny day with not a cloud in sight. I couldn’t afford to be late under any circumstances, apparently, so I left my house thirty minutes earlier than I had to. Still—
“I got here way too early…”
Being there far earlier than I had to was a bit of a regret. I didn’t consider myself to be a workaholic, but I had been working nonstop until recently. Which meant I didn’t know how to pass the time when I had to.
Maybe I should check the news?
Handling my phone, I headed toward the fountain. One quick glance and I noticed a crowd was gathering there.
“Is that a celebrity? A model? She’s incredibly cute…”
“What a baddie.”
“Hey, let’s go talk to her!”
“Can it, idiot. She’ll just shoot you down.”
To be more precise, a crowd gathered around someone by the fountain instead. From where I stood, the people had formed a wall, and I couldn’t see what was going on.
Seems like someone important is here.
Uninterested in the bunch, I decided to send a message to Saki. “Just got here. Am at the fountain, but there’s a huge crowd, and it doesn’t look like there’s a way there. Should we change the location?”
It was read almost instantly. She replied with a quick, “Impossible.” To which I wondered if being surrounded by a crowd was one of her weird preferences. Her next message was even more confusing. “I’ve been here for a while, but there are so many people here that I can’t move…”
Before I could ask her why, she sent another message. I had an unpleasant feeling.
Disbelieving, I pushed through the crowd and made my way to the eye of the storm.
“Excuse me. Could you move? Sorry!”
After a bit of “digging,” I made my way to the meeting spot. There, where the eyes of all had been focused, I saw Saki donning a white frilly blouse with a ribbon, topped with a reddish-beige dress. I couldn’t help feeling a bit apprehensive about having to approach the epicenter of this natural disaster but steeled myself regardless and went ahead.
“Nah. You’re just here too early, Saki.”
“And I wanted to try the classic rendezvous cliché.”
“Yeah. I was so excited to appear before you, who would’ve been here early, while saying ‘Sorry, did you wait?’ to which you’d say, ‘No, I just got here,’ and all that…”
“In that case, shouldn’t you have come here later?”
“T-That’s true, but…”
Her words left me a bit puzzled, but at least I found her. Even if she was surrounded by a crowd.
“W-Well, y’see, I just got a bit too excited, and my legs moved on their own…” She spoke to me while fiddling with her fingers, face flushed.
Now that I was closer to her, I could see the finer details. She’d applied a subtle layer of makeup, which in turn made her look more mature than she actually was. Sure, there was a hint of a high school student trying to act unlike their age, but even that was strangely attractive in a way.
“Anyways. How do I look?” She twirled to show me her whole outfit.
“I-It suits you…” I averted my gaze while being honest.
That wasn’t enough for her, apparently.
“Y-You look even more beautiful than usual. The makeup makes you seem more mature… Sorry,” I hid my face. Honestly, I didn’t yet have the grit to look into her eyes and shower her with praise. Not when she was this dressed up. Yeah, she looked that good.
“Hehe, I guess that’s a passing grade!”
It seemed like my answer barely passed her whatever-test.
“Shall we go then?” With that, she reached out her hand to me.
“…What’s this for?”
“What a dumb question. Akito, you should know at least this, right?”
“…Are we really doing this?”
The second question may have been dumber than the first one, I realized.
“That one’s too much,” she sighed. “When I have something I want to do, I do.”
I know that. For sure.
Resigning myself from the uphill battle, I took her hand. Without skipping a beat, she interlaced her fingers with mine. We were holding hands the most intimate way someone could.
“Is this a dream? I’ve wanted to try this for sooo long…”
We both walked away from the fountain.
“So, where to?” I turned to her, as she’d promised to take care of the details for today.
“I’ve got it all planned out. Let’s start with the shopping mall!”
“Slow down, Saki.”
And so, our date began.
“First, here,” she led me until we both reached a certain place.
It was a cat café.
“I’ve always wanted to come here, but couldn’t bring myself to do it alone…”
“C’mon, let’s go. The kittens are waiting!”
With Saki leading the way, we both entered the café. Not five minutes had passed, and her mature façade had crumbled—or rather, melted away.
“Saki. Your face’s melting.”
“W-Well, I can’t help it! They’re too cute!”
Around Saki, there was a traffic jam of cats. It seemed like she was thoroughly enjoying each one, and they were getting exceptionally fond of her. In contrast, no cats came near me at all. It hurt, man.
But, well… If she’s having fun, that’s what matters.
“I want to take one home. Actually, I want to live here! Maybe you and I should make this our new home…”
She was going off on a weird tangent, which I chose to ignore. As I was busy trying not to pay attention to her craziness, a black cat approached me. It curled up in my lap and purred, softly making its new bed. After casting one last quick glance at my face and letting out a soft “Meow~!”, it fell fast asleep.
“You’re quite gentle…”
I hadn’t expected to be so considerate by a cat, as it was my first interaction with one. Somehow, I felt that this cat had a sense of refinement and reminded me of someone.
“You’re very lucky to be liked by Saeko, dear customer~!” One of the staff members started a conversation with me.
“Is that so?”
“Yes. This one here is quite wary, and unless something exceptional happens, it usually doesn’t approach people.”
“Isn’t that a bit unusual for a cat working at a cat café?”
“Our Saeko is a beauty, so she’s very popular. Some even come here just because they want the chance to get along with her.”
“Oh?” I petted the cat I now knew the name of. Watching her breathe softly under my fingers, brushing her tenderly as she slept was quite the medicine for the heart. Though, suddenly, I felt a murderous gaze leering at me.
“Akito… Are you cheating on me with a cat?”
One of the cats noticed the terrifying predator gaze coming from Saki and bolted away in a flash.
Her jealousy extends to cats now?
Amidst all this, Saeko remained unfazed, peacefully asleep in my lap. Also ignorant to what happened outside its dreamscape.
“You’re something else, aren’tcha?” I chuckled and decided to calm down Saki.
“Thank you so much~!”
Saki and I left the cat café.
“Ah, that was so relaxing! I just didn’t like that one cat the whole time…”
In the end, Saeko didn’t move from my lap until it was time for me to go. It seemed like she had taken a liking to me and even saw us off as we left the establishment. However, she would hiss and drive Saki away whenever she got too close to me.
“Saki?” Someone else said. Though, it must’ve been the wind!
Continuing to talk about the little black kitten would only worsen Saki’s mood, so I decided to change the subject.
“Where to next?”
“Well, I wanted to get some summer clothes. Having you see them and give your opinion would be quite nice.”
“Oh, it’s Saki, right?” That voice tried again to join in our conversation. We chose to not acknowledge it.
“I hope you’re not relying on me for fashion advice…”
“It’s fine. I just want to see your reaction. And for you to enjoy it!”
“Don’t ignore me, Saki!” It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the newcomer’s voice. As fate would have it, Matsuyama was right behind us. Saki, though, was completely oblivious to anyone but me.
—However, she couldn’t ignore him this time.
“Saki. Yuto-kun is trying to get your attention, so say hello.”
I felt the squeeze of beastly claws clenching and scratching my heart. At that moment, it was as if I had become a cadaver, cold to the touch and unmoving. I slowly turned back just to see who I feared to see the most. Matsuyama was there, but it wasn’t him who terrified me…
“I just didn’t hear it, Mom…” Saki said.
“It’s fine then.”
Standing beside Matsuyama was the one who kicked me to the curb when I needed her most. My stepmother, Mikiko.
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