Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai:Volume 3 Chapter 2
 Chapter 2
It was afterschool on a certain Friday in the middle of October.
I was on the way back from school with Manami as usual and, also as usual, was stopping by the Tamura Shop before heading home.
The Tamura Shop was a Japanese confectionary store and Manami’s home.
The two of us were walking together, headed there.
“Yes, Halloween. We’re going to have a fair starting tomorrow.”
As always, Manami had a slightly odd way of pronouncing some words.
She was mentally an old lady, so she had trouble with foreign words like “Halloween”.
Basically, the Tamura shop was going to have a Halloween fair like the department store in front of the station did.
“You’re a Japanese confectionary store, but you’re doing something for Halloween? …I’m not sure that’ll work.”
“Ah, you’re making fun of us. We made proper candy for Halloween and everything. I actually called you over to try it out, Kyou-chan.”
“Heh heh. It’s pretty good, so look forward to it.”
I’ve done it a few times already, but I guess I should introduce her. This girl with the warm, doting atmosphere is my childhood friend, Tamura Manami. She wears glasses, has a refined appearance, is neither short nor tall, and is on the higher end but not the top when it comes to academics.
Other than her slight airheaded tendencies, she is mostly normal. Her appearance and personality are the polar opposite of my little sister, so I’ve gotten along with her fairly well for as long as I’ve known her. We had never grown apart nor progressed to a lovers’ relationship. The relationship I had had with her since we were little kids had simply continued unchanged even in high school.
If anything in my plain, mediocre life was worth a special mention, it was that rare sort of relationship I had with my childhood friend.
Heh, well…My amazing little sister might also be worth mentioning.
As we chatted, the Tamura shop soon came into view.
The Tamura shop was an old, dull Japanese-style building. I had always felt it would fit right in if you placed it within Nikko Edomura.
“Oh, I see. Halloween indeed.”
I stopped walking and inspected the different appearance of the shop. The shop front was decorated with plenty of jack-o’-lanterns and ghosts.
It had a contrast of black and orange. I suppose it was what you would call a blending of Japanese and Western.
The wonderful wooden sign had “Tamura Shop” skillfully carved into it. The sign seemed fitting of an old shop, but a department store-like banner hanging next to it and saying “The Tamura Shop Halloween Fair opens tomorrow!” created a very strange and surreal mismatch.
I was a bit worried, so I bluntly asked the question on my mind.
“Will customers actually come to this?”
“Th-they will…! Surely… We are having some events on the opening day.”
“We are calling in the neighborhood children, showing them how we make our confectionaries, and handing out candy. Also, the clerks will be dressed up as monsters.”
The word “cosplay” that I had learned the other day entered my mind, but I shook my head to get rid of it.
“You said the clerks would be dressing up, but isn’t that just your mom and dad?”
The image that came to my mind was simple and pleasant, but it was just too plain. They were gathering children, so I wondered how well it would work as a sales promotion.
“No, the entire family will be helping out with the shop tomorrow. I will be dressing up, too. I will be a w-witch…”
“A witch!?” I shouted out without thinking.
After all, that was completely different from the image I had of her. If the plain, bespectacled Manami was dressed up as a witch…well, I could only imagine that she would pathetically screw up her magic a lot.
In fact, there was a similar plain, bespectacled magical girl in Stardust☆Witch Meruru (but she had pink hair). According to my sister: “It’s so sad. Her goods are the only ones to never sell out, so they have to package them with the other regulars…Uuh…” That was exactly how I saw Manami.
As I was reminded of that, a small chuckle escaped my mouth and Manami got both embarrassed and mad.
“Come on, don’t be so mean. Don’t laugh like that… Y-you aren’t imagining something weird, are you?”
“No, I’m not.”
As she lightly smacked me with her bag, we circled around to the back door. We entered the house and headed for the living room like usual, but the air seemed to freeze the instant we slid open the door.
Manami and I were frozen in place at the entrance to the living room.
This was because Manami’s grandfather was collapsed on the tatami mat floor.
Manami’s cry brought me back to my senses and I frantically ran over.
Shit! What am I supposed to do…!?
At a loss, I tried to call out to him.
“Gramps, are you okay!? Hey!”
He gave no response and his skin was extremely cold to the touch.
A chill ran down my back. I hesitated for a second and then I tried to find his pulse despite only vaguely remembering how.
…I can’t really tell. At the very least, I’m not feeling the pulsation that I normally feel when I check my own pulse.
His body was completely limp, so he felt heavy despite being nothing but skin and bones.
“M-Manami, call an ambulance! Hurry!”
“O-okay! I-I will…!”
Manami was so frantic as she ran off that she almost tripped.
I can’t believe a friendly visit has turned into this…
As I became aware of how fragile a thing “everyday life” was, I propped the old man up in my arms. As I did, a pathetic “oof” escaped my mouth.
I could now see his face. His skin was deathly pale and his eyes were open wide.
Grief won out over fear and tears appeared in my eyes. I felt a presence behind me and found Manami’s grandmother there when I turned around.
“Oh, Kyou-chan. Welcome,” she said with a soft smile that was so similar to Manami’s.
“Granny…! Gramps is…!” I shouted out half in tears.
She looked over his body and said, “Oh, dear.”
O-oh, dear? Wh-what kind of weak reaction is that!? Does she not understand the gravity of the situation!?
“He’s pretending to be dead, isn’t he?”
My eyes opened wide and my gaze quickly shot back and forth between gramps’s corpse and her.
Pretending to be dead…? But…he’s completely dead here.
“Really? B-but his body is so cold.”
“Yes. He was just sitting naked in the store’s refrigerator, so I thought he had finally lost it…Sigh. But it seems it was just to pull off this prank. What a troublesome old man.”
She never lost her smile, but I was still not convinced.
“B-but he has no pulse!”
“His pulse has always been weak.”
“B-but! Then what is this corpse-like smell…?”
“That is simply the scent of the elderly. Kyou-chan, try to think back. He has always smelled like that.”
“…You’re right!! But still…”
Granny must have realized I wasn’t convinced because she put a hand to her cheek with a troubled expression.
“In that case, I will give you some proof,” she said before bringing her mouth to the old man’s ear.
“Gramps, gramps, if you don’t get up soon, I will pull out your hairs one at a time.”
Our reactions were truly dramatic. Gramps jumped up as if he really had come back from the dead and I cried out in fright as the corpse I was holding suddenly sprang to life.
“You monstrous old hag! How dare you mess with my few remaining hairs!” gramps shouted, eyes wide.
H-he really was alive…
I’m the one that should be complaining here, old man! I thought I was going to have a heart attack!
Without listening to a word gramps had to say, granny looked at me and winked as if to say, “See?”
Gramps then spun around to face me with his eyes still wide in the same expression. Needless to say, it gave me yet another fright.
He raised a life-filled hand and said, “Happy Halloween, Kyou-chan! Trick or…what was it?”
“Don’t ask me! Has your brain started to rot, old man!?”
Before I knew it, I had shouted back without restraint.
“Th-thank goodness…grandpa is okay…”
After she returned to the living room, Manami was so relieved that she repeated that same statement a few times.
Afterwards, I had chased after her to stop her from calling an ambulance and to explain what had actually happened.
This was after we had returned to the living room from there.
“Ha ha, sorry about that. I guess your grandfather was a little too convincing♡ Teh heh!” said gramps while sticking out his tongue.
Believe me when I say it was difficult to resist punching him.
Don’t make your granddaughter cry.
“So gramps… Why were you pretending to be dead?”
“Eh? Oh, I was practicing my Halloween costume for tomorrow. Heh heh. I make a pretty amazing zombie, don’t I?”
“Amazing? That was nothing to joke about.”
If you make such a realistic corpse in the shop, one of the customers is definitely going to call the cops and an ambulance! And you’ll be coming back to life afterwards, right? The shock would kill the kids you called over.
Also, a zombie is a bad idea for a store that sells food.
“At the very least, I think it would be a bad idea to use that as a performance for the store,” I warned.
Gramps looked utterly disappointed. He glanced over at granny with a look that seemed to say, “What do you think?” She merely said, “Kyou-chan is exactly right,” and he looked downhearted.
He finally rolled over into the corner of the room and said, “Oh, I see. Fine then. Hmph, I guess I’m just…”
The old man was pouting like a child.
Granny chuckled and said, “Kyou-chan, don’t try to console him, okay? If you act too concerned, he tends to get carried away.”
Granny was normally incredibly kind, but she was quite harsh when it came to gramps.
“A-ah ha ha…” Manami laughed awkwardly as she watched the exchange between her grandparents, but then she stood up as if she had suddenly remembered something.
“Oh, right. Kyou-chan, I am going to go ahead and bring in the Halloween candy, okay?”
“Hee hee. I will lend you a hand with that.”
When gramps saw Manami and her grandmother had left the room, he slowly sat up and spoke to me reproachfully.
“Heh! You sure are popular with the old ladies, Kyou-chan!”
“That doesn’t make me happy!”
“Ka ka ka!”
Gramps was a fun old man to be around. I had known him since I was a little kid and I liked him almost more as a friend than anything else.
I hoped he and granny would never die.
Meanwhile, someone else entered the room.
“Oh! It’s An-chan!”
“Yup, here I am.”
I raised one hand in greeting to Manami’s little brother, “Rock”.
Rock was an embarrassing nickname he had gotten carried away and given himself a while back and it was also his soul name.
I’d been calling him that for about 2 months at that point, so it had just kind of stuck. If the same thing had happened at his school, I kind of feel sorry for him though.
“…Um…well…Keep up the fight, I guess.”
“You’re sympathizing with me the second we meet!? Well, okay! I don’t really understand, but I will!”
He had a buzz cut, he was rather short, and he always talked in a ridiculously loud voice that made it sound like he was using a megaphone.
I had always liked how he referred to me as An-chan and…well…he was kind of like a little brother to me.
“By the way, what do you have there?”
I pointed toward the instrument Rock was carrying. I actually knew quite well “what” it was. My question was more about “why” he had it.
“This? Heh hehh… I’m gonna give a performance for the events tomorrow! I guess you could say I’m in charge of the music. Basically, I’m gonna get everyone fired up for Halloween with my live performance! I’ll be all like, ‘Listen to the sound of my soul!’ Hah hah! Pretty badass, right?”
Rock strummed the instrument he was holding.
Leaving aside the issue of whether “Listen to the sound of my soul!” would ever be “badass”, a certain question had been stuck in my head ever since he had entered the room.
“But isn’t that a shamisen you’re holding?”
“Heh. That’s An-chan for you. You always attack straight to the heart of the issue.” With a distant look in his eyes, Rock let out a heavy self-deprecating breath. He then continued speaking while half in tears. “I’ll be honest with you, An-chan. I have no money, so I can’t buy a guitar! That’s why I bowed down and asked dad to buy me an instrument, any instrument! He said granny played the shamisen, so I should ask her to teach me.”
So that’s how this came to be. That certainly is a middle schooler-esque reason. But what was his dad thinking? Even if he asked for any instrument at all, a shamisen is a bit out there.
Actually, Rock is quite something himself for agreeing to actually learn how to play the shamisen. I suppose this is a case of like father like son. In fact, does anyone live here who isn’t an airhead?
With a huge grin on my face, I asked, “Well? Can you play it? Let me hear.”
“Sure thing! Prepare to be surprised!”
Rock held up the shamisen with such speed that I could almost hear the “shakin” sound effect. He must have been practicing. The pose he took wasn’t bad. It actually looked like something a real guitarist would use.
With a tense expression, Rock proceeded to play the shamisen. It was a truly surreal sight.
O-oh, wow. He’s playing a legit song!
I knew nothing about shamisen music, but I could tell he was intentionally making the tune I could hear rather than simply randomly playing.
It was a kind, melancholic song that made me feel homesick and was somehow reminiscent of the Heian era.
I almost thought I could hear the sound of a flute coming from somewhere.
It was certainly a fitting sound for a Japanese confectionary shop.
However, it was not Halloween-like in the slightest.
“Heh. Whaddya think, An-chan!? I’m like John Frusciante, aren’t I?”
“You’re like a lute priest.”
“Wha-!? That’s the same thing gramps said! That really hurts!”
No way! I made the same joke as gramps? That really hurts.
He may have been playing the shamisen, but I could only see him as the Marukome Boy.
“Chehh. You old people with your old tastes just don’t understand my youthful soul!”
Rock resumed his refined performance.
“Sorry about the wait~.”
With that relaxed announcement, Manami and granny returned.
They were carrying trays of candy and tea.
The living room now contained, Manami, gramps, granny, Rock, and me.
By the way, whenever I came over, that was usually the group I would usually drink tea with, eat snacks with, and chat with.
Manami and granny lined up the contents of the trays on the tea table.
I looked down to inspect the Halloween candies.
“Oh. These are pretty elaborate.”
“Eh heh heh. Aren’t they?” said Manami with a soft smile and I nodded in response.
There were a few different kinds of candy lined up on the tea table, but all of them were Halloween-themed Japanese confectionaries. One of them was a bite sized jack-o’-lantern, but it was actually the type of Japanese confectionary made of red bean paste and colored with nerikiri-an. I don’t know what that type is called, but I’m betting everyone has had one at some point or another. A skilled confectionary artisan can make anything out of nerikiri-an, so it is often used for decorative confectionaries. By the way, I can tell you from experience that they are incredibly hard to make. Shaping them with a spatula and mold is hard enough, but just making the nerikiri-an itself is hard for an amateur. I may only be at the apprentice level, but I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say that’s a secret technique of the trade.
Oh, looks like I got a little too worked up in my commentary there. Heh, I guess I can’t complain when Kirino does the same.
“H-here, Kyou-chan. Will you try one?”
“Sure. Here goes…”
I grabbed one of the nerikiri jack-o’-lanterns and tossed it into my mouth.
Manami’s face lit up and she brought her hands together in front of her chest.
I took a sip of tea and said, “Really, really! And there’s actual pumpkin in this! Now that’s attention to detail! And what are these? Seeds?”
“Yes…They’re pumpkin seeds.”
“Oh, so the decorations on the head were the seeds. Wow.”
I was truly impressed.
Also, each jack-o’-lantern had a different expression. That gave them a real handmade feel to them. Other than the jack-o’-lanterns, there were ghosts, witches, bats, black cats, and other Halloween-themed shapes of various colors.
These are all so small and cute. I bet they’ll be received well by the mainly young and female customers of the Tamura Shop. Not only are they intricately decorated, but thought has clearly been put into them.
I looked over at Manami and asked, “Did you make these?”
“E-eh? What makes you think that?”
Well, because you’ve been doing nothing but ask me for my thoughts on them…
The first thing you did was ask me to try one and you were so happy when I said it was good. Anyone would be able to tell with that loose expression on your face.
Manami embarrassedly fidgeted for a bit, but finally nodded.
“…Yes. I made them. I’m glad you like them.”
Things had gotten oddly awkward, so I started fidgeting too. If Kirino had seen me, I’m sure she would have called me disgusting, but whatever.
While watching us and biting into a dorayaki filled with pumpkin and red bean paste, gramps spoke up.
“You two need to hurry up and get married.”
I almost spat out my tea.
“G-grandpa!” shouted Manami in a rare instance of raising her voice, but everyone else was not phased in the slightest.
“They are rare, but that old man sometimes has some good ideas,” said granny with a warm smile as she sipped her tea.
It could get a bit troublesome at times, but those two were always trying to get Manami and me together. It had been going on for years, so we were rarely phased by it anymore, but a surprise attack could still get through.
Honestly… I hate this kind of atmosphere…
Manami seemed to be thinking pretty much the same thing, so she decided to leave the living room.
“I’ve had enough of you two! Ky-Kyou-chan, let’s go to my room.”
“O-okay,” I replied and stood up.
Gramps happily cheered us on with whistles as I left and followed Manami to her room.
We headed down the hallway a bit and walked up a narrow and steep staircase. I was rather fond of how the staircase creaked with each step. I don’t know why, but the sound had always had an odd calming effect on me.
The sliding door right at the top of the stairs led to Manami’s room.
“W-wait here a second…”
Manami slid the door open a crack and slipped inside.
She must have been cleaning up her room a bit. Putting away porn magazines…would be what I would do in that situation. Manami must have had her own things she didn’t want me to see.
She isn’t hiding something truly shocking like Kirino, is she? …Nah.
Come to think of it, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been in her room.
That said, my heart wasn’t racing or anything.
After a short bit, the door slid open again and Manami stuck out her head.
I then set foot in Manami’s room.
The room’s floor was made up of six tatami mats and it smelled of soft rush and incense. Both the room and the hallway had a large window, so plenty of sun entered the room. The amount of sunlight was almost dazzling and it seemed to warm me, body and soul.
Despite both being girl’s rooms, this one had a completely different feel to it than my little sister’s. If you imagine an old lady’s room, you should get a surprisingly accurate idea of what the room was like.
It had little furniture, making it basically empty. It had a few dressers, a three-sided mirror, and a tea table, but that was really it. Stuffed animals and colorful cushions were lined up in one corner of the room as if they were a last minute addition to make the room seem like a girl’s room.
However, the jars of unknown use, the hanging scroll-style calendar, and what looked like a framed ukiyoe print gave a much stronger impression of an old lady’s room.
“Doesn’t seem like it’s changed much.”
“Don’t look around like that… It’s embarrassing.”
What’s so embarrassing about those pots or that hanging scroll?
I’ll never understand girls…
I sat down in a random spot, stretched out my legs, and got relaxed.
Manami sat down about two fist-lengths away from me.
“U-um, what should we do?” she asked in an oddly hurried tone of voice.
“Since we’re in a bedroom, I know what I want to do.”
“Ehh!?” Manami seemed utterly shocked. “Y-you mean…!?”
What’s she so shocked about?
“I’ve been staying up late recently, so…yawn…I just want to lie down and get some rest. And I figure this is the perfect opportunity.”
Manami seemed to have mistaken my meaning somehow, but she sighed in relief once she realized what I had meant.
What did she think I meant? I just don’t understand her sometimes…
I flipped over onto my back and said, “By the way, we left our textbooks at school, so no studying.”
“I wasn’t saying we should…” After staring at me for a bit, a small laugh escaped Manami’s mouth. “Yes…let’s just relax.”
“…Now we’re talking.”
And so, we relaxed. I don’t know about other people, but for us relaxing was just lazing around doing nothing.
“Oh, right. Do you want some tea?”
We drank some tea.
We just sat around.
“Come to think of it, don’t you have to prepare for Halloween?”
“Yes, but we won’t start until after the shop closes.”
“The whole family is going to work hard tonight.”
“Then I’ll help out.”
“Really? There is a lot of manual labor involved, so that would be a lot of help. Grandpa’s back has been hurting him lately, so he has been having some trouble. …But are you sure you are up to it? Aren’t you tired?”
“I said, I’d do it, so don’t try to talk me out of it.”
“Thanks. It isn’t much, but we’ll feed you dinner in exchange.”
While we did nothing in particular, time naturally passed.
We would be preparing for college entrance exams the next year, so you could certainly say we were wasting our time. However, I’ve always felt that wasting one’s time like that is important. My view of life is that excess like that has value.
As I thought about that, I realized that way of thinking may have been why I felt so much sympathy toward the otaku lifestyle.
Pursuing video games, manga, or anime would do nothing to aid society. Those were nothing but unproductive hobbies that did nothing but idly eat away all of your precious time.
However, that was exactly why those things had an unquantifiable value and why so many people grew so obsessed with them. That kind of pointless time was not something to be mocked.
“Kyou-chan, what are you thinking about?”
Manami sipped her tea while loosely sitting in the seiza style.
I looked over at her face for no particular reason.
“Ah, the tea stem is standing up.”
It was not something to be mocked.
A few hours later, Rock and I were helping clean up the shop and set it up for the following day while the women of the Tamura family prepared dinner. After finishing the cleaning, only one job remained.
“Kwoh! Damn, this is heavy…!”
We had to carry bags of ingredients from the back of a truck to the separate refrigerated room out behind the store.
I’m sure anyone who has ever worked at a Japanese confectionary shop would know, but those business-size bags are all extremely heavy.
…My arms are gonna be sore tomorrow.
Manami’s father had gladly accepted my offer to help. In fact, his face had lit up when he saw me, so I’m betting he would have had me help even if I hadn’t offered. In all the time I’d known him, he had never hesitated to have me work. However, I didn’t mind. After all, that way I didn’t feel so bad about everything they did for me.
I wiped the sweat from my face with the towel hanging around my neck and my heavy breathing was visible in the cold refrigerated room.
When I exited back into the yard, Manami was waiting for me, wearing an apron.
“Thanks for the hard work, Kyou-chan.”
“No problem…but man am I ever tired.”
“Ah ha ha,” Manami laughed. “Kyou-chan, you really helped out a lot today. Thank you so much. I worked hard on dinner, so make sure to eat a lot.”
“You can count on it.”
“Do you want to eat first? Or would you rather take a bath first?”
“Since you worked so hard on the food, I’ll eat first. Wait…what do you mean take a bath?”
“Um…dad and the others said you might as well spend the night. …I-it was dad who said it, not me!”
“You don’t need to repeat that. I heard you the first time.”
She isn’t as bad as Kirino, but she does act weirdly every once in a while…
It took me no time at all to decide what to do.
“I guess I’ll spend the night then.”
“Well, yeah. I’ll just call my parents. We don’t have school tomorrow, so there shouldn’t be a problem.”
She had been the one to bring it up, but a magnificent smile stretched across Manami’s face when I readily agreed. Her expression softened so much I’m not quite sure how to describe it.
“Heh heh…I’m glad. It really has been a while since you spent the night, Kyou-chan.”
“You’re right. It has. We used to spend the night at each other’s houses all the time, but at some point we stopped. I wonder why.”
“Eh? It was because…actually, I’m not sure either.”
We looked at each other for a bit. I thought about it, but I simply couldn’t come up with an answer.
I guess it’s just one of those things with no clear answer. Changes in relationships are often that way.
“Hmm. Could it be that as a high school boy, you are too nervous to spend the night at a girl’s house?”
She sounded exactly like some old lady. There wasn’t the slightest hint of youth in the words she chose.
“Why would I feel nervous about spending the night at your place?”
“Eh? You don’t?”
Why does she look a bit disappointed?
“In fact, I feel more relaxed here than at home.”
Because my little sister isn’t here.
Hearing that, Manami’s disappointed expression completely reversed itself.
“I see,” she said with a smile.
“What? Is there something you want to say?”
“No. I was just thinking that that way is better.”
As was often the case, I did not quite understand what my childhood friend meant.
As Manami and I headed for the living room, we ran across gramps in the hallway after he had just gotten out of the bath.
“Thanks for the hard work! As a reward, I grant you the right to take a bath with Manami!”
You shut up. And don’t hang around your granddaughter while wearing nothing but a towel.
“S-sorry, Kyou-chan… Why does everyone have to say things like that…?”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing new, so I don’t really mind anymore.”
For some reason, my attempt to brush that topic aside seemed to slightly annoy Manami.
“Oh, I see. So you don’t mind at all,” she said while pouting.
At any rate, dinner ended without incident.
Everyone was resting after the meal in their own way.
A variety show was playing on the TV and Rock would laugh uproariously at every joke the comedian made. It didn’t take much to make him laugh.
If everyone was like that, being a comedian would be a piece of cake.
As I tried to watch from next to him, I wanted to smack him on the back of the head and tell him to shut up.
However, I couldn’t hear the TV because of Rock, so I lost interest. That was when I felt a gaze from the other side.
I turned around and my eyes met with Manami’s as she had been looking at me.
We were looking at each other with the table between us.
While uttering the onomatopoeia, Manami stared at me, looking like she wanted to say something.
“…Wh-what?” I asked while flinching a bit.
But Manami merely continued wordlessly staring at me as if to say, “You know what.”
It was like we were in a staring contest. The first to look away would lose.
However, I had never won that kind of contest.
In no time at all, I was unable to endure and averted my gaze. And so I lost.
I had known it from the beginning, but she wanted me to tell her something.
Umm…you liked it when I complimented the Halloween candies you made earlier, so you want me to do that again, don’t you?
“Oh, by the way…That food was good.”
“Eh heh heh. Thanks. I’m glad.”
Despite being the one that made me say it, Manami’s eyes narrowed happily behind her glasses.
For me, nothing was more embarrassing. And what annoyed me was that Manami seemed to love embarrassing me like that so much she couldn’t help herself.
But I enjoyed troubling Manami so much I couldn’t help myself, so I guess I’m not really one to talk.
“B-by the way, do you think your dad’s about done with his bath?”
I changed the subject and Manami looked up at the clock and brought her finger up to her lips.
As always, she was seated in a perfect seiza style. It was lovely enough to mesmerize you.
Her looks were average, but that aspect of her was most desirable.
“Do you want to go next?” she asked.
“I’m fine going last.”
I’d feel bad going before the people who actually live here.
“I don’t mind going after you, Kyou-chan,” said Manami, encouraging me to go take a bath.
“No, you go first.”
“Don’t hold back now, Kyou-chan. Go on ahead. Go on.”
After we repeated essentially the same exchange a few times, Manami suddenly seemed to realize something.
She clapped her hands together lightly and said, “Then how about this?”
Minami leaned over, bringing her face in close. With a mischievous expression, she whispered into my ear.
“How about we take a bath together after all?”
I knew she was just kidding and it was a scheme meant to get me embarrassed, but I hate to admit it still shook me to my core.
I started biting my lower lip as my heart raced when suddenly Rock turned around from where he lay watching the comedy act on the TV. He still had a grin on his face from laughing at the jokes.
“Hey, hey. What are you two whispering about?”
“Shut up! Just turn around and watch the TV!”
“Ah ha ha. Kyou-chan, you’re blushing.”
I can’t believe this. Dammit, Manami. You’ve gone too far…
She had an odd way of being much more strong and confident when at home than when she was elsewhere.
Keh! Your future husband is only going to learn about this after he marries you and be stuck having you attacking him with embarrassing words day in and day out. He’ll probably end up dying of embarrassment.
Hah, but don’t think I’m the same person I used to be, Manami. Over the past few months, I caught a nasty disease from my little sister and her friends. You haven’t seen the ultimate power I possess when driven into a corner! Now, listen to this!
“Okay, c’mon, Manami. Let’s go take that bath!”
The way that triumphant look melted from Manami’s reddening face in an instant made my desperate counterattack well worth it.
“A-are you serious?”
“Completely serious! You’re the one that talked me into it, so I won’t let you back out now!” I announced as I forcefully stood up and clenched my fist.
Seeing that, Rock got worked up too.
“Ohh! Hell yeah, An-chan! That’s why you’re a true man!”
Yes, yes. I knew you’d understand. After all, you’re an idiot.
Having become a man among men, I grabbed towels and changes of clothes for the two of us.
“C’mon, Manami! Let’s go! It’s time for our bath! I’ll show you my Hyper Weapon!”
My inability to stop once I work up some momentum is one of my most severe personality flaws.
Manami’s eyes were opened wide, her face was beet red, and she was shaking her hands around.
Hah, that’s what you get. I hope you learned your lesson.
However, I may have overdone it. I started to get a bit embarrassed and red in the face myself, so I was considering going ahead and telling her I was just kidding.
However, Manami’s lips stopped twitching and started moving with clear intent.
“G-grandma! What do I do!? Kyou-chan wants to take a bath with me!”
“Don’t go tell your grandmother!”
When I came back to my senses, I thought I was going to die, but I ended up taking my bath after Manami’s dad. And just to be clear, I took this bath alone.
The Tamura family bath was a completely normal bath with a bathtub and an area to wash in.
The bathtub had calamus floating in it. The calamus festival had long since passed, but the Tamura family had a habit of putting all sorts of things in the bathtub as additives to the bathwater.
As such, you naturally learned about that kind of thing by living in that house.
Simply put, the bathtub was filled with calamus water. By putting expensive calamus root in the water, it was supposed to help with back pain and nerve pain.
I was a bit young to need that kind of thing, but I have to admit it smelled so good it felt like the aroma itself was healing my body.
That mix of a refreshing fragrance and the hazy steam was not bad at all.
It may have been a cramped household bath, but it had a nice atmosphere to it.
I started by washing my hair and body and then washed the bubbles off in the shower.
Only then did I finally stick one foot into the calamus water.
Oh, that’s right. I forgot.
This family always turns their bathtub into a pot of boiling water. What is wrong with old-fashioned people…?
I may have been silently cursing them, but I was still hesitant to cool the bath off with some cooler water because of Manami and the other old lady who had to take a bath afterwards.
Fine then. I guess I just have to bear with it.
I plunged shoulder deep into the water with my eyes clenched shut. As the burning feeling on my skin slowly abated, it turned into a nice feeling.
My body was heated to the core. I did enjoy lazing around in a warm bath, but a truly hot bath wasn’t bad either. I rested the back of my head on the edge of the bathtub and sighed.
“Now then. What am I going to do about tomorrow?”
Manami had said she was going to help with the Halloween event, so I decided to help too.
I kind of wanted to see it through to the end.
I was looking forward to see what kind of plain witch she would make.
Also, I didn’t really mind helping out with the store. Hard, sweaty work like that just seemed to suit me. Taking a hot bath like this after finishing that hard work gave me an irreplaceable feeling of satisfaction. …Heh, sorry I’m such a normal guy.
Well, it looks like this weekend isn’t going to be too bad.
“I won’t have to see a certain annoying someone’s face even once.”
A smile naturally leaked out onto my face.
As I continued to pleasantly soak in the bath, I suddenly heard the sound of rustling clothes.
Hm? Is someone in the changing room?
I could see a silhouette through the steam and the frosted glass. Whoever it was seemed to be stripping.
………..Eh? Wha-? Ehhh?
“Wait! D-don’t tell me she’s actually doing it!”
I started trembling as I stared at the door to the changing room.
Is she an idiot!? Did she actually take that joke seriously!?
Waahh!! What do I do!? I-if this was an eroge, there’d definitely be an event CG here!
I tightly grabbed onto the edge of the bathtub. After all, I wasn’t getting excited at the possibility or anything.
A-anyway, I need to put a towel on!
Just as I began to take action, the door to the changing room slid open.
“Yo! I’ll wash your back, An-chan!”
I threw the wash basin at the intruder and scored a direct hit on the Marukome Boy.
Needless to say, it was Rock that took a wash basin to the face.
Hah. Of course it’s him. I had a feeling it was going to end this way!
“…Screw you! D-do you…Do you know what you’ve done!?” I yelled at him.
“A-An-chan, why are you pissed and half in tears!?”
Don’t ask me!
After getting out of the bath, I lazed about in the living room for a while longer. After a bit, granny approached me.
“Kyou-chan, I’ve laid out your futon in the usual room.”
The “usual room” was the room I had always used when I had slept over in the past. They had excellent hospitality. If she had just left the futon out, I could have laid it out myself.
Both of my own grandmothers had passed away, so that kindness left me with an odd, warm feeling.
“Hmm, is it really that late already?”
I looked up at the clock and discovered that it was almost 10. The Tamura family tended to go to bed early in the first place and they also had the event at the store the next day. I decided it was about time I headed back to my room.
“I guess I’ll be heading to bed,” I said.
“Oh, then I will get back to my room, too,” said Manami, standing up along with me.
By the way, we were both wearing pajamas. (I was told the ones I was wearing belonged to her father.) Manami had only just gotten out of the bath, so she was not wearing her glasses and her hair was a bit wet.
“Eh heh heh. How long has it been since we were together right before going to bed?”
“Hmm. About four years I think,” I replied as we walked down the hall.
Manami headed up the stairs and I followed.
“You look a little unsteady? Are you okay?”
“Hm? Oh, I’m fine. I’m just not wearing my glasses because I just got out of the bath.”
“Oh, I see.”
She didn’t look fine, so I kept myself ready to support her if she fell. However, we made it to the second floor without incident.
The sliding door right in front of us was Manami’s room. My room was the third door.
“Well, good night.”
“Yeah, good night.”
I watched Manami enter her room and then slid open the door to my room.
My breath immediately caught in my throat. The futon granny had laid out was there. However, there was another one.
Two futons were laid out right next to each other. Basically, it was what is known as a couple’s futon.
Wh-what the hell is this!?
I spun around to find Manami right behind me.
“Wh-why are you here!?”
“Y-you don’t have to get that surprised… For some reason my futon was missing and I saw you still standing out here when I came out into the hall to figure out where it went. …Um, is there something in there?”
“Don’t look! Don’t look in this room!”
My cries of protest were too late because Manami had already peered past me and into the room.
Her body stiffened and she pointed at the pair of futons while violently trembling.
“What is that!? Th-that is my futon…isn’t it!?”
“…I’m afraid so,” I said with a solemn nod.
“Did you lay it out, Kyou-chan!? So that you could sleep next to me!?”
“N-n-n-noo!? What are you saying!? D-don’t be silly! Why would I do that!? Make no mistake about this!”
We were so agitated, that we couldn’t string together our thoughts properly. We even forgot what had happened just a few minutes ago.
“B-but, but! They’re so close together! It’s like the futons of newlyweds!”
“C-calm down! W-w-w-we need to calm down and think about this rationally! Yes, yes. After careful thought, this could only have been my doing!”
“Kyou-chan, calm down! You aren’t making any sense!”
“Kh…! I never thought the day would come when you would be able to call me out on that…!”
At any rate, I didn’t even need to calm down to realize that it had to have been granny who had laid them out like that.
…That damn old woman. How could she have such a kind expression while telling me she laid out the futons like this!
“…Sigh. Well, let’s move your futon back.”
“Eh? You’re moving it back?”
“Of course I am! Why do you look so surprised!?”
“Well, actually…I’d be fine…with leaving it like this…”
“I’m moving it back.”
Ignoring Manami’s ominous statement, I started to pick up her futon.
Suddenly, I started hearing pained cries of “Gfoh…!” from behind me.
I spun around to find gramps crouching in the hallway and holding his heart.
“Th-the futon…The futon…” he was muttering.
Manami frantically ran over to him.
“Grandpa! Are you okay!?”
“Y-yes, I’m fine. No need to worry. When I saw Kyou-chan about to pick up that futon, my trauma from the war kicked in and I almost had a heart attack. That’s all.”
What kind of overly specific cause is that? And since when did something happen to you in the war?
And you were hiding and watching us this whole time, weren’t you, old man? You wouldn’t have been able to appear with such perfect timing otherwise.
So you’re in on this, too.
With an exaggerated expression, gramps said, “If you don’t leave those futons laid out there, the pumpkin’s curse will kill me.”
Quit making shit up…
I glared at gramps with narrowed eyes and tried picking the futon up again.
I put the futon back down.
Panting heavily, gramps said, “Th-that was a close one. I almost died. I saw granny waving me over from the other side of the Sanzu River.”
“Granny is watching TV downstairs.”
Could it be any more obvious it’s an act?
I could feel the blood vessels in my temple throbbing as I tried picking up the futon once more. When I did, gramps immediately grabbed at his heart.
“Daaahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Fine! I get it, so just give it a rest already!”
Don’t look up at me with those puppy-dog eyes, old man. Nothing pisses me off more than when you use the exact same mannerisms as Manami!
I was so overwhelmed, I could only nod. He was clearly only acting, but it looked like an old man like him would actually die if he put on that act much longer.
“Yes, yes. We just have to sleep here, right? It’s not like it’s that big a deal. …Right?”
When I looked to Manami for agreement, she gave a gentle smile in return.
“Yes, I am fine with it. As long as you are too, Kyou-chan.”
That reaction kind of does make it seem like this is no big deal.
Well, I knew you’d give that kind of answer.
But Manami, if you acted that defenseless around any other guy, they’d definitely mistake it for something else.
And so, Manami and I ended up sleeping next to each other in the same room.
Of course, we pulled the futons apart so it wasn’t a couple’s futon.
“This sort of reminds me of when we were kids,” she said.
“Come to think of it, we did sleep next to each other like this when you would sleep over at my place.”
“Yes. I never thought we would sleep in the same room at this age, though.”
We rolled over so we were facing each other and exchanged bitter smiles.
If we gave granny the benefit of the doubt, it was possible she had laid out the futons as normal.
However, that old man was clearly guilty either way.
Well, it really wasn’t a big deal. It would have been a huge problem with any other girl, but luckily, this was Manami. She was like family to me, so I didn’t need to be nervous or think about it too much. Yes, I’m serious.
“We should probably just get to sleep. Good night.”
“Nn…Good night, Kyou-chan.”
I turned out the lights and shut my eyes. In the silence, all I could hear was the regular ticking of the clock.
A minute passed. Then ten. No, it was probably more than that. Anyway, once I had lost track of how long it had been, I heard a voice.
“Kyou-chan, are you still awake?” whispered Manami.
“…Yeah,” I responded.
Silence continued for a short bit.
“Um…I hope we can go to the same college.”
C’mon, why do you have to bring that up now? Ha ha.
I almost said that out loud, but I managed to restrain myself.
“So do I,” I replied.
I felt there was no need or reason to talk about that then.
And that’s why I continued with the pointless talk.
“If we do go to the same college after we graduate from high school…what do you think things will be like?”
It was a very vague question. However, it was something I had thought about constantly.
I didn’t really want an answer. It was just a question I felt had no particular meaning.
“Hmm,” Manami thought about it for a bit. “I think things will stay pretty much the same.”
Her response could be said to be arbitrary, vague, and overly carefree, but that was what made it a very Manami-like answer.
It was most likely exactly the kind of answer I had wanted.
When I thought about it, I really did think she might be right. By graduating from high school and entering college, a lot of things would change. However, plenty of things would remain exactly the same.
“Hah. I get the feeling you’ll say the exact same thing when we graduate from college.”
A slight laugh escaped my mouth. I glanced over and saw Manami blinking in surprise, but she finally smiled back at me.
“Yes…you’re probably right. …Maybe I’ll never stop saying that.”
Whatever kind of future she was imagining, it made her tone very soft.
For some reason, her words left a strong impression with me. They sounded quite reassuring.
We fell silent once more. After a bit, Manami broke the comfortable silence.
“We used to go to each other’s houses and spend the night all the time as kids, didn’t we?”
Didn’t we just have this conversation earlier?
“But lately we haven’t at all, so…um…”
What is she having so much difficulty saying?
After searching for the right thing to say for a bit, Manami finally just said, “Sorry. It’s nothing.”
She then pulled her blanket up so it covered her mouth.
While watching her, I said, “Then do you want to come over to my place next time?”
I had recalled that it had been a few years since Manami had been to my house.
Girls had a way of not saying anything even when they wanted something. I had learned that firsthand recently thanks to a certain someone.
That was why I uttered that one phrase I had been unable to say before.
When she heard my question, Manami’s eyes opened wide in surprise and she blinked repeatedly. With her mouth still hidden behind the blanket, she nodded.
“Um…Yes. I’d like that.”
Her expression was mostly hidden behind the futon, but her gently narrowed eyes were enough for me.
I had only been able to draw out that happy expression from my shy childhood friend thanks to that certain someone I mentioned before. On that point alone, I was thankful.
“Okay, then let’s do that at some point.”
And that relaxed night continued on.
By the way, let me be very clear about one thing. We may have slept next to each other like that, but nothing like what you’re hoping for happened. Sorry about that.
|Back to Chapter 1||Return to Main Page||Forward to Chapter 3|