Living with a Beautiful High School Student: A chance encounter after seven years [Chapter 3] [Volume 1]

I Like It When You're Affectionate

It’s been two months since I started living with Aoi. I’ve already gotten used to this new life, but one morning, something suddenly happened.

When I woke up and was getting ready to get out of bed, Aoi was already busy preparing breakfast for the two of us, wearing a white apron over her uniform.

—Good morning, Aoi.

—Good morning. Breakfast will be ready soon, so get ready in the meantime.

—Sure, thank you for everything you do.

—No problem, I enjoy cooking a lot and I want Yuya-kun to enjoy it too.

Aoi continued cooking while humming. I had already gotten used to this lifestyle in a very short time.

I headed to the bathroom and finished brushing my teeth. Then, I grabbed my clothes to change as usual. But when I tried to put on my shirt, I noticed something strange.

—Oh… The wrinkles are gone.

The sleeves and hem, which were a bit worn out, were now stretched and smooth. The collar was also impeccable, and the shirt I usually wear looked completely new. Surely Aoi had ironed it.

Once I put on the shirt, I felt completely renewed and energetic. Like a totally new person.

Then I put on my suit and adjusted my tie. Once ready, I headed to the table for breakfast.

On the table there was toast, salad, boiled eggs, and milk. It was probably a balanced breakfast designed for nutrition.

—Aoi, I noticed that you ironed my shirt, thank you very much.

—No problem. Dressing properly improves your mood and makes work easier… But don’t keep doing this!

—Huh? W—What do you mean?

—Your tie is crooked. — said Aoi, extending her hands towards my neck.

—You should be more careful with your appearance, Yuya-kun.

—Yes, you’re right, I’m sorry.

Having Aoi tie my tie was… Embarrassing, it was like we were a newlywed couple.

She was so close to me… With her small face and pale skin. She looked like an idol. Maybe it’s my bias as her tutor, but even compared to other women my age, I think she’s quite pretty.

—Done. Now you look impeccable.

—Thank you, Aoi…

—Is something wrong? Is it too tight around your neck?

—No, it’s just that… Aoi, you’ve become much more beautiful.

Damn… I think I shouldn’t have said that so lightly.

—Don’t say such strange things suddenly. Silly.

Although Aoi said that, the corner of her mouth curved into a smile.

I thought her reaction was also adorable as I sat down at the table for breakfast.

 

***

 

The clock is about to strike 5:00 pm.

Since I became Aoi’s tutor, my attitude towards work has changed. I reviewed the task distribution within the team so that I could reduce my overtime hours and be able to go home early.

Right now, I’m running around the office, asking everyone to help me with tasks.

—Izuka-san, could you take care of this? It’s quite urgent and I need your help before the end of the week.

—Understood. Leave it to me, Yuya-kun.

Izuka-san, she’s my project partner, two years older than me. She’s a talented programmer and works quickly. It’s comforting to have someone like her who responds with a smile and a “Leave it to me”, even for small challenges.

By the way, Izuka-san, how’s the progress with the API?

The API, in short, is a connector that allows communication and collaboration between different programs or software. Its most common use is the ability to log in to other services using a specific social network account.

—The work is almost done, I would say about 70%. I’ll finish it on time, so don’t worry.

—Thank you, you’re my lifesaver.

It’s a great relief to have assigned the work already, and I know that Izuka-san has a great margin of time. If any problems arise, I can count on her again.

Alright, it’s time to check on Ito-kun’s progress, the youngest member of the team.

He’s diligent in his work and makes few mistakes, but his work pace is a bit slower and he tends to finish just before the deadline. I’ll probably need to provide support.

Although I have the will to stay and work overtime, Aoi is waiting at home. I want to go back early and be able to spend time together. So I’ll leave the overtime for just before the deadline.

When I returned to my desk, Chizuru-san, who sits next to me, patted me on the shoulder.

—Yuya-kun, it seems like you’re working hard again today.

—Yes, after all, I’m in my third year at the company. I want to become a professional as soon as possible.

Actually, I can’t tell her that I’m now living with a girl. It would be a disaster. Reporting that I’m living with a high school student would result in a social disaster, and even if it wasn’t, I’m sure I would be the subject of ridicule. And Chizuru-san is that kind of person.

—Hehe. You’re already a professional. At least, that’s what I believe. It’s nice to see the growth of a cute subordinate.

—Eh? Ah, thank you.

Unexpectedly, my boss’s words of praise made me relax.

However, my joy was short-lived.

—Actually, you’ve experienced rapid growth… Rather, surprisingly.

—Eh…?

—Recently, you’ve changed your way of working, right? You’ve been identifying team members who can handle the workload and those who need support. Before, you used to handle all the projects on your own, remember?

—W—Well, yes. Is there any problem with that?

—No, I find it’s a wonderful change. But I must also say that it’s a bit strange that you, someone who used to work overtime, suddenly changed their way of working. It seems like you’re anxious to go home.

Chizuru-san is so perceptive! Her power of observation is terrifying.

—N—Not at all, Chizuru-san, don’t you think that’s natural?

—That’s true, but…

—There’s no important reason behind it. Don’t you remember that even you, Chizuru-san, said that before? ‘Changing the way of working is necessary.’ I’m just putting my boss’ advice into practice.”

—Oh, my advice…?

Chizuru-san looked at me as if she was scrutinizing me from top to bottom.

Oh no, it seems like she’s suspicious of something.

I have no intention of revealing anything, but since she’s very observant, and constantly keeps a careful watch on her subordinates, she may have noticed something different about me.

—Yuya-kun, what time do you think you can leave today?

—Eh? I can probably leave after 6:30 pm…

—Understood. Then, keep working hard.

After saying that, Chizuru-san went back to her work.

Why did she ask me about when I’m planning on leaving?

—…I have a bad feeling.

Without understanding Chizuru-san’s true intention, I headed to my colleague Ito-kun’s desk.

 

***

 

I managed to finish my work according to the planned time. It’s relatively early compared to when I used to leave the office at 9:30 pm.

—Thank you for your hard work, guys. I’m going home, see you later.

I said goodbye to my coworkers and then proceeded to leave the office.

While waiting for the elevator, I hear the sound of heels hitting the floor. Instinctively, I turned my head towards the origin of the sound, and noticed Chizuru-san approaching me with a smile.

—Hello! What a coincidence, Yuya-kun. I’m also about to leave.

—…You left the office as I planned.

—… You left the office just when I planned to leave.

—What are you talking about?

—Don’t play dumb. You asked me when I would leave just a few moments ago.

—Oh, yes. Now that you mention it, maybe I did ask that. I completely forgot.

It’s definitely a lie. Chizuru-san might say meaningless things, but she doesn’t ask meaningless questions. As her subordinate, I know that very well.

—Seriously… It would have been better if you just invited me to leave together.

—Yes, you’re right, I could have. But I thought that coinciding in leaving time by chance and ending up going together would be better given the situation.

—Better in what sense?

—It’s simple. If I had invited you, there was a possibility that you would have rejected me, right? But if our leaving times coincide by chance, there would be no other option but to go together given the situation.

—Wow, you’re very clever.

—Hahaha. I’m confident in my cleverness, and in my drinking.

—Ah, I see. That’s why you can’t get a partner.

—What did you just say? Do you want me to set your desk on fire?

—I—I’m sorry. I got carried away…

Chizuru-san’s expression was like that of a demon. I better be careful with the things I say in front of her to avoid getting her angry with me.

—Setting jokes aside, today I feel like talking with you, Yuya-kun. It’s necessary for us as manager and subordinate to have meetings outside of work from time to time.

—I don’t like how that sounds… Are you inviting me to have a drink?

Chizuru-san loves alcohol. She often takes me to restaurants where there’s good food and sake. Although lately, due to my overtime, I haven’t had the opportunity to be invited.

Until now, I wouldn’t have minded going for a drink with Chizuru-san. We have many work topics to discuss and silly things to talk about.

However, I feel indecisive about such a sudden invitation, because Aoi is waiting for me at home with dinner ready. If I go for a drink, I should have told her in advance.

While I’m thinking about what to do, Chizuru-san shakes her head from side to side.

—No, it’s not necessary to go for a drink. It’s enough to go together while we talk.

—Just… go together?

I was very surprised by Chizuru-san’s sudden response. So it wasn’t an invitation to drink? By the way… what did she mean by “it’s not necessary”?

—Fortunately, you and I live nearby and use the same train station. We have enough time to catch up on some things.

And it’s precisely for that reason that it makes it even more suspicious. If we go to an izakaya near the station, we can drink until late. Besides, we left early today. It’s a perfect opportunity to drink much more than usual.

Why is she letting this opportunity pass? What is she planning?

—Well, Yuya-kun, the elevator has arrived.

—Y—Yes.

I proceeded to enter the elevator while distrusting Chizuru-san’s unexpected attitude.

 

***

 

Today, I was lucky enough to find a seat on the train. After boarding, there was another stroke of luck that the two passengers sitting in front of me would be getting off at the next station.

Now I’m on the train, venting to Chizuru-san about work complaints.

—First of all, I have a lot of work. If it wasn’t for Izuka-san, I would have had to stay late today too.

—Hahaha, Izuka-kun is incredibly fast at work. You should take advantage of her talent for your department’s tasks.

—Well, although that sounds good, I can’t just dump all the work on Izuka-san…

—Of course, depending too much on her is not good. But she’s the type that becomes super motivated when she’s in a hurry. So, within a limit that’s not too overwhelming, you could set effective deadlines.

—Oh, I see. So that’s what you were trying to say? I’m learning a lot from you.

It’s necessary to assign each task taking into account the characteristics and strengths of each person… Really, Chizuru-san is amazing. It’s really helpful.

While admiring that, I realized belatedly that I was just venting and complaining without adding anything else.

—Oh… I’m sorry for complaining so much about work.

—It’s okay. I like listening to your stories, they tend to be very funny and entertaining.

—You have a strange idea of entertainment… By the way, did you have something to tell me? You were waiting for me to finish to leave.

—Yes, about that… Yuya-kun, you have a girlfriend, right? — Chizuru asked, pointing to my forehead.

—Eh?

—And you live with her, right?

—What?!

My mind went blank as soon as my secret was discovered.

It’s strange. How does Chizuru-san know that? I haven’t told anyone that I’m living with Aoi…

—Hahaha. It seems like I hit the nail on the head, right?

—H—How did you know?

—First of all, your appearance. It seemed strange to me that you, who are usually unkempt, were wearing a tight tie. That caught my attention, so I began to observe you more closely. And then, I noticed another change. You were wearing an ironed shirt, which would usually be wrinkled.

This must be a joke. Does she really pay such close attention to the details of her subordinates?

—I’ve been your boss for a long time, but you’ve never given any indication that you usually iron your clothes. It’s hard to believe that you suddenly started to worry more about your appearance. That’s why I thought maybe it wasn’t you who ironed your clothes, but someone else who did it for you.

—How perceptive!

—So, who ironed your clothes? That’s a task that a wife usually does. And since you’re single, I assumed that your girlfriend helped you get ready.

—Ugh… That was an accurate deduction!

—But that doesn’t explain why you’re living together.

—And how do you know that I’m living with someone?

—Your tie gives you away. Haven’t you noticed that your tie is always crooked? Like with the ironing of your clothes, if someone fixed it for you when would they do it? That makes me understand that it was this morning that a woman did that job. And being with a woman in the morning is proof that you live with her.

—Your logic is perfect!

—Also, your focus on work has changed. Isn’t it because you found someone you must protect? Isn’t it because someone important is waiting for you at home, and that’s why you want to go back early? Confess right now!

—Yes, you’re right, I plead guilty…

I don’t quite understand what’s happening, but it seems like I’m some kind of criminal… It’s scary but exciting.

—I see. So you didn’t want to insist on going out for a drink because…

—Exactly, it would be very bad for you if your girlfriend is waiting for you at home with dinner ready and you don’t show up, right? Next time, I’ll make sure to make an appointment before inviting you for a drink.

—Not only did you make an accurate deduction, but you also care about me!

Her deduction was almost perfect, if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a small mistake. The girl who lives with me isn’t my girlfriend, she’s a high school student, and I’m her legal guardian.

Explaining my relationship with Aoi would be quite complicated. I’m sorry, but I prefer to keep the misunderstandings for now.

—You started living together recently, right?

—Yes, about two months ago.

—Oh, wow. You’ve become quite the man in just two months. The power of love is impressive.

—Hey, don’t make fun of me.

—Hahaha. So, what’s she like? Is she someone from your work?

—No, I’ve known her for a while and she’s younger than me.

—Younger, huh? It seems like you’re a pervert no matter what you look like.

—Why do you say that?

During the train ride, Chizuru-san asked me detailed questions about my living companion. In order to avoid revealing that she’s a high school student, I agreed to answer her questions.

After a while, the train arrived at the nearest station.

—Chizuru-san, we’ve arrived.

—Oh, what a shame. It seems like the time for questions is over.

We got off the train and went through the station exit.

As we approached the station exit, I noticed that some people were carrying umbrellas. Maybe the rainy season was about to start.

—It seems like it’s raining.

—Yes, that’s true. Surprisingly, I forgot my umbrella.

Wow, even Chizuru-san, who is always perfect, forgets things sometimes. It’s surprising.

—If you want, you can use my umbrella. — I said as I took out my umbrella from my bag.

—What? I appreciate your offer, but… What will you do, Yuya-kun?

—It’s just a light drizzle, so I’ll run back home.

—Don’t worry about me. I’ll buy an umbrella at the convenience store, so it’s okay.

—Chizuru-san, I insist. Besides, right now I feel like running for no apparent reason. — I said as I lifted my legs.

—You’re really kind. You don’t have to worry so much.

—Haha… I was exaggerating a bit.

—Yes. But I appreciate that gesture. However, I still feel uncomfortable taking your umbrella… Oh, I know. How about we share the umbrella? It would be fun to feel like a high school student again.

—Eh? Share my umbrella with you? Are you sure?

—Do you have any objections or something? Is it uncomfortable for a twenty-year-old to share an umbrella with a woman? Is that it? — Chizuru said with a frown.

This is bad, the Thunder Goddess has manifested again.

While thinking about how to improve Chizuru’s mood, I noticed a girl watching us from a certain distance.

—Eh… Aoi?

Aoi was wearing her school uniform. She was holding a yellow umbrella and looking at us anxiously. And then she proceeded to approach us timidly.

—Yuya-kun, thank you for your work today.

—Aoi… Did you come to pick me up?

—Yes. Since this morning I’ve been wondering if you took your umbrella to work, and I didn’t want you to get wet… Haven’t you received my calls?

—Really? I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.

Damn it. I was so focused on Chizuru-san’s question attack that I didn’t have time to check my phone.

Aoi looked away from me and stared at Chizuru-san. She had a penetrating gaze, as if she was evaluating her.

—By the way, Yuya-kun, who is this person?

—This is Chizuru-san, and please be nice. She’s my boss and has been a great help to me.

—Mhm… So she’s your boss?

—Yes, we live not far from each other, so we take the same station and train.

—Oh, I see… Nice to meet you. My name is Aoi Shiratori.

Aoi introduced herself to Chizuru. Is it just my imagination or does she look a little relieved?

—Nice to meet you too, Aoi-chan. I’m Chizuru Tsukishiro. I hope we can get along… Yuya-kun, can I talk to you for a moment? — Chizuru said, taking my hand and moving us away from Aoi — Yuya-kun, sometimes you exceed my expectations.

—Exceed your expectations…? What do you mean?

—You’re living with that girl, right?

—Eh?

My blood suddenly froze.

This is bad. My boss found out that I’m living with a high school student.

If this continues, I’ll have to try to justify myself… No, it’s impossible. Aoi mentioned “this morning” during our conversation. In other words, it’s more than clear that she and I are living together.

And Chizuru-san must have deduced that from her previous question about whether I’m living with someone.

I have no confidence in being able to deceive Chizuru-san, who is very perceptive. So I decided to resign myself and tell her the truth.

I admitted to her that I was living with Aoi, and gave her a brief explanation of our living arrangement. There was nothing to suspect, I’m just her guardian, and nothing more.

—I see, so that’s what’s going on. Now I understand why you’ve been acting so reserved.

—I’m sorry… Aren’t you angry or thinking of accusing me?

—Not at all. You’re working hard for her, and she’s also working hard to support you. I think you both have a wonderful living arrangement.

—Chizuru-san…

I was worried about how she would react, but I was glad that she accepted it so calmly. Maybe it was fortunate that Chizuru-san was the one who discovered the truth.

—By the way, does Aoi-chan sometimes wear her school uniform and an apron at home? How is she? Is she cute?

Oh no, here come the inconvenient questions. I had forgotten how problematic Chizuru could be.

—I just want to make it clear that I’m not a uniform and apron fetishist, okay?

—Answer the question. Is she cute?

—Well… I guess so.

—Congratulations. You’ve been promoted to ‘Chief of Intimate Affairs’.

—Why did you give me such an embarrassing title?!

If only I could have been promoted at work instead of this. I want to cry.

—What are you talking about? — Aoi asked with a curious expression.

—Ah, nothing… We were just talking about how I was going to lend my umbrella to Chizuru-san.

I didn’t want to involve Aoi in this absurd conversation, so I improvised an excuse.

—So, Chizuru-san, are you going to take it?

—Yes, let’s consider the face of your living companion. — Chizuru said, glancing briefly at Aoi.

Aoi’s face turned red at the joke.

—Ah, um, I… Yuya-kun and I…

—Don’t worry, Yuya-kun already explained everything to me. Everything will be fine, Aoi-chan, I won’t say anything. Oh, and I have some advice for you as an older sister… Show a lot of love to your kind older boyfriend. Be sweet, and you’ll see that he’ll become easy prey soon.

Aoi, upon hearing that, blushed even more and lowered her head.

I didn’t understand the true meaning of Chizuru-san’s advice. Was she referring to the fact that she should depend more on me since she’s underage?

Although I had doubts, I just gave Chizuru-san the umbrella without asking questions.

—Thank you, Yuya-kun. I’ll return this favor fifty-fifty.

—It seems like the size of the favor has decreased… Don’t worry about it. I didn’t lend it to you with the intention of you owing me a favor.

—Hehe. You’re a really considerate adult. I should learn from you. See you,” Chizuru said, waving her hand.

—I’m sorry, Yuya-kun. If I hadn’t come in my uniform, I could have disguised our situation and avoided revealing that you live with a high school student…

—You don’t have to apologize, Aoi. I should be the one apologizing. Don’t you think my boss is a pretty problematic person?

—Oh, no. She seemed like a charming and adult woman.

—Well, I guess her appearance and work style can be charming…

I decided not to mention that she’s a dangerous woman when she drinks alcohol, for the sake of Chizuru’s reputation.

—Yuya-kun, Chizuru-san is just your boss, right?

—Eh? Yes, but… why do you ask?

—Well… If you were to say that you like Chizuru-san…

—I don’t like her. — I replied firmly.

—Really?

—Yes. I respect Chizuru-san, but only in a professional sense. I’ve never considered her as a romantic interest.

—Oh, I see… That’s reassuring. — Aoi sighed in relief.

Could it be that… she was worried that I was in love with Chizuru?

—Aoi… Were you jealous?

—W—Well… just a little. — Aoi replied, frowning — Please don’t ask those kinds of things, idiot.

After saying that, Aoi looked away and her cheeks turned red.

—I’m sorry. I was a little cruel.

I stroked Aoi’s head as I suddenly realized that in recent years, I hadn’t thought much about love.

I also had the excuse that I didn’t have time for love because of work. But it was also because I hadn’t met any women who attracted me.

And now that I think about it, what would my ideal type of woman be like?

I know that appearance is also important, but the most important thing is that we have a connection and can have a good time together. Plus… Maybe I like women with a cute smile and a little dependence. A woman who makes me want to protect her at all times… If I had a woman like that close to me…

While thinking about that, Aoi’s image suddenly floated in my mind. The everyday scene of the two of us enjoying food together and talking about work or school.

I was surprised and held my breath… Does that mean that Aoi is my ideal type of woman?

—Yuya-kun, you’re distracted. Is something wrong? Your mouth is open. It’s a funny expression. — she said, laughing.

That charming smile overlapped with the image of Aoi in my mind, and I felt my heart skip a beat.

—…No. It’s nothing.

Although I couldn’t sort out my feelings, at least I smiled to hide my thoughts. I was afraid that my laughter would become uncomfortable and worrying.

—I doubt that. Are you sure nothing’s wrong? It seems like you’re not fully here…

—It’s okay, let’s go home. Thanks for bringing the umbrella, you saved me.

—Oh, about that… Uh…

Aoi suddenly became uncomfortable, stuttering and seeming to have difficulty saying something.

—Is something wrong?

—Well… It’s just that… There’s only one umbrella.

Upon hearing that, I looked closely at Aoi.

It’s true, she only had her own umbrella.

—I see. Don’t worry, did you forget the other one?

—No, that’s not it. I only brought one on purpose.

—On purpose?

—…I wanted to share the same umbrella with you.

—You mean… walk together under the rain with the same umbrella?

—Yes, exactly that… Previously, you didn’t show any reluctance for both of us to walk close to each other, so that’s why I thought… Did I do something wrong?

Seeing Aoi timidly asking, I felt a warm smile naturally emerge. It was an innocent and charming request typical of her age, she’s really adorable.

Plus, I was glad to hear that. Aoi really wanted to do that with me and that meant a lot to me.

Maybe it’s a little embarrassing from an age perspective, but Aoi had gathered the courage to ask for it. Therefore, I’m going to respond to that feeling.

—Of course! I’d love to go back home with you under the same umbrella!

—Eh? A-are you sure? If adults see you sharing an umbrella with a high school student, they’ll look at us strangely, you know?

—I don’t care if they look at us. The most important thing is to do what you want, right?

—Yuya-kun… Thank you.

The sky was covered with gray clouds. The rain was constant. It seemed like it would rain all night.

—Yuya-kun, your shoulder is wet. — Aoi said, tilting her umbrella.

I was grateful for her kindness, but I couldn’t allow that, so I tilted the umbrella in her favor again.

—Don’t worry about me. It would be a problem if you catch a cold.

—I should be saying that. It would be more problematic if you catch a cold. I can skip school, but it’s not that easy to skip work.

The umbrella we shared went back and forth between Aoi and me. Aoi turned out to be more stubborn than I thought.

—There’s no choice. You’ll have to get closer to me.

—Eh?! Wait…

I put my arm around Aoi’s shoulder and hugged her gently. Although we were in a quite close and tight position, this way both of us could be under the umbrella.

—How about this? Now neither of us will get wet, right?

—Yuya-kun… that’s cheating. Idiot.

—Eh? A-Are you angry?

—No, I’m not. But it’s cheating… Thanks.

—You’re complicated, saying negative things and thanking at the same time…

—And you’re too slow. Idiot.

With that said, Aoi fell silent. She seemed happy, so I guess she’s not angry, but I don’t understand exactly what she considers cheating.

—Hmm, girls your age are really complicated… Aoi, why are you smiling?

—Hehe, it’s because I’m happy. Thank you for listening to my request and fulfilling it.

Her soft smile has the adorable beauty of hydrangeas that bloom on a rainy day.

I felt my tired heart heal thanks to Aoi.

—Now I understand… That’s why I can work hard.

—Eh? What do you mean?

—Nothing, I was just talking to myself. Don’t worry. — I replied with an instant lie.

It would be very embarrassing to say it out loud, but… It’s thanks to Aoi being by my side that I can strive hard at work.

—If you say it like that, it’s inevitable not to feel interested. Please tell me.

—No, I can’t. It’s a secret for Aoi.

—Hmph. Yuya-kun, you’re mean.

Aoi’s resentful expression was so funny that I couldn’t help but laugh.

We got closer to each other and walked slowly under the rain until we arrived home.

 

***

 

The next day, Aoi developed a fever that exceeded 38 degrees and collapsed completely on the bed, immobile and unable to do anything.

—Yuya-kun, I’m sorry to be a bother.

Aoi apologized from under the blanket with an apologetic expression. Her face was burning and she clearly felt bad.

Since she woke up, Aoi had stayed in bed staring absentmindedly at the ceiling. She had sweat on her forehead and her breathing was labored, it was evident that she was sick. I quickly took her temperature and then informed the school that she would be absent from classes due to her current condition.

—Don’t worry, you’re not a bother to me. Once we started living together, it was inevitable that a moment like this would come. Don’t worry, I’m willing to take care of you.

—Thank you… By the way, shouldn’t you go to work now?

—It’s okay. I already told them I would take the day off.

—Eh?! — Aoi exclaimed as she suddenly sat up.

—Don’t worry. Chizuru-san took care of talking to the company for me.

—B—But…

—Come on, sick girls should rest.

I gently pushed Aoi’s shoulders and laid her back down.

I want Aoi to recover soon. That’s why today I will dedicate myself to taking care of her to the fullest.

—Yuya-kun… Thank you. I’ll accept what you’re trying to do for me.

Aoi accepted my kindness and resigned. I don’t know why, but she has a cheerful expression on her face.

—Well, I’ll go make breakfast now.

—I was thinking of salmon rice and miso soup for breakfast. Could you wash two cups of rice while I prepare the miso soup…?

—Hey, hey. I told you to rest, right? Sick people don’t have to work. Besides, wouldn’t it be counterproductive to eat salmon and miso soup with a fever?

—Ugh… When you put it that way, you’re right.

—I’ll go buy breakfast at the convenience store. And other things we need.

—Oh, in that case, it would be better to stop by the pharmacy. We also need medicine.

—It’s not even eight in the morning yet. Most stores are still closed.

—Ah… That’s right.

Aoi, who was normally very responsible, is disoriented today. Maybe it’s because of the fever.

—Then, I’ll go to the convenience store. Make sure to rest, okay?

—Ugh… Okay…

—I’m serious… Will you?

Yes, I won’t do anything, I promise.

—Hahaha. That’s much better. I thought if I wasn’t serious, you’d get up and cook or do something else. Well, I’m off, I’ll be back soon.

After saying that, I left the room.

As I headed to the convenience store, I thought about how much Aoi takes care of me all the time. But today it’s my turn to take care of her. I’ll do everything I can to make her recover as soon as possible.

The first thing is food. I’ll prepare something that’s easy for a sick person to eat and at the same time delicious.

While thinking about the menu, I hurried to the convenience store.

 

***

 

—I’m back.

When I arrived home, Aoi was still lying on the futon, it seems she obeyed my instructions after all. Apparently, she couldn’t sleep, but I was glad that she was resting.

I sat down next to her and placed the plastic bag on the floor. Inside were hydrating drinks, easy-to-eat foods for the sick, and also a gel sheet to stick on the forehead.

—Welcome back, Yuya-kun! I see you bought a lot of things.

—Yes. What would you like to eat first? I brought easy-to-prepare rice cream and udon noodles.

I took out the products from the plastic bag and Aoi wrinkled her nose when she saw them.

—Yuya-kun, are you planning to have pizza for breakfast? You always choose things that are unhealthy…

—Oh, I see the recurring scolding is coming back. It seems like you’re feeling much better now.

—…Today’s Yuya-kun is very mean. And I want the rice. — she said while covering her face with the blanket.

It was funny to see how our roles had reversed, and without realizing it, I laughed at how funny the situation was.

—Haha. Okay, I’ll prepare it… But first I’ll put the cold sheet on you. Can I see your forehead?

—Ugh… Please.

Aoi peeked her head out from under the blanket. She looked a little angry, but still looked very cute. Although it’s better not to keep joking with her.

I wiped Aoi’s forehead with a towel and then put the cold sheet on for her.

—How’s that? Do you feel better?

—Aah… It feels cool and nice.

—Okay, that will be more than enough. Well, I’ll prepare the food.

I left Aoi’s room and headed to the kitchen.

—Now, how should I prepare this?

However, it’s not as straightforward as simply heating it in the microwave. I wanted to add a special touch to the canned rice cream stew. It’s what could be called “modifying the recipe.”

Among the foods I bought, I bought a packet of chicken broth. I think this would go very well with the rice.

—Hehe, I’ll surprise Aoi.

I took out my phone as I was filled with enthusiasm, and opened the recipe page I found on the internet.

First, I put the canned stew and the chicken broth packet in a heat-resistant bowl and mixed them.

Then I took a fresh egg from the fridge, cracked it into another bowl, and beat the yolk with chopsticks. Then I lightly mixed the egg white. Once it was well beaten, I added it to the bowl with the rice. All that was left was to cover it with plastic wrap and heat it in the microwave.

After several minutes, the sound of the microwave timer echoed in the room. I proceeded to transfer the contents of the bowl to a plate, and it was ready!

But before that, I’m going to try it.

—…It’s delicious!

It had a smooth texture and the egg gave it a sweet flavor. The chicken broth, with its light flavor, mixed smoothly, elevated the rice cream stew.

The steam and aroma that rose gently also stimulated the appetite. I’m sure this will satisfy Aoi very much.

I approached Aoi with the food in hand and sat down next to her.

—Yuya-kun, are you sure you prepared it correctly?

—I have confidence that I did it well, but not as well as you would, after all, you’re an expert in the kitchen.

—Hehe, you’re exaggerating… But thank you. — Aoi replied as she squinted her eyes.

She had a frown on her face, but I was glad to see that she still had energy to make jokes.

—Are you ready to eat now?

—Yes, I’m very hungry.

—I’m glad to hear that. In that case, you’re going to eat this dish, and then I want you to keep resting, it’s the only way you’ll get better.

I took the spoon and filled it with food.

—Hey… Yuya-kun, what are you doing?

—I’m trying to feed you.

—Eh?! N—No, it’s okay! I can eat by myself!

—Sick people should graciously accept the help of others. Come on, open your mouth.

Ignoring Aoi’s objections, I brought the spoon to her mouth.

—I—It’s embarrassing…

Although she expressed a little discomfort, she blew on the spoon to cool the food.

—Okay, say aah.

—Ahh…

When Aoi took a bite, her shy expression gradually transformed into one of surprise.

—Oh… It’s delicious.

—Really?

—Yes, very much.

Aoi nodded gently and showed a warm smile.

I was glad to hear those words. I felt relieved knowing that she liked what I had prepared.

At the same time, a feeling of happiness invaded me. It’s nice when someone says something you cooked is “delicious”… Although I don’t know if I can really brag about cooking this.

—Yuya-kun, is this a modified version of the canned rice cream stew?

—Yes. I saw a recipe online and decided to try making it.

—You did very well. You’re amazing.

—Oh come on, stop treating me like a child.

—I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make fun. Thank you for doing this for me… Hahaha, I did it.

Aoi made a small victory gesture.

Hmm… why is she celebrating?

—Hey, what do you mean by ‘I did it’?

—Well… Yesterday, Yuya-kun lent his umbrella to Chizuru-san, do you remember? At that time, I felt a little frustrated seeing how you were kind to other women… But I forgive you for that. Since today, you’re being much kinder to me than you were yesterday with Chizuru-san. And for that reason, I have won.

Aoi looked very proud of it.

But it’s not a matter of winning or losing, I think it’s normal to be kind to the person you’re sharing a home with… But oh well. Aoi looks adorable when she’s happy, so it’s okay.

—Yuya-kun, I want to eat more rice stew.

—Of course, there’s still plenty left.

I continued to feed Aoi, who was in a very good mood. At first, she looked very embarrassed, but she seems to have gotten used to being fed.

After a few minutes, she finished the whole dish.

—Yuya-kun, thank you for the food.

—You’re welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it… Hey, Aoi, are you sweating?

—Yes. I’m hot. I sweated while I was sleeping. My pajamas are also soaked.

—Understood. Please wait a moment.

I quickly cleaned the dishes and prepared two towels. I warmed them up with warm water and took them to Aoi’s room along with a change of clothes.

—Aoi, sorry for the wait.

—Well… What’s next?

—You sweated, right? It would be better for you to clean yourself with the towel and change your pajamas.

Leaving her body and clothes soaked in sweat can make a cold worse. Plus, it’s unhygienic and Aoi is sure to be uncomfortable.

I looked at the clock and realized that the pharmacies will be opening soon.

—I’ll go to the nearby pharmacy. Meanwhile, wash up and change your clothes.

—Y—Yes.

—Hmm, is there a problem?

—No, it’s just that… Today, Yuya-kun looks especially nice.

—Hahaha. Don’t I usually look nice?

I don’t mean that. It’s just that… Today you’re especially attentive and handsome. That’s what I meant. Please understand… idiot. — Aoi said as she covered her face with the sheets.

Aoi proceeded to cover her face with the sheets.

I’m not very used to compliments. At times like these, I also wish I could hide my head under the sheets.

Aoi peeked out again. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fever or if she’s feeling embarrassed, but her cheeks are slightly flushed.

—Um… But in the end, you’re still you, Yuya-kun.

—What do you mean? Is that a bad thing?

—After we separated seven years ago, I came to believe that you would have completely changed your personality and way of thinking. But I’ve realized that’s not the case. You’re still the same Yuya-kun, the kind and reliable older brother… That makes me happy.

I don’t think I’m still completely the same. I think I’ve changed quite a bit since then. I became a tired salaryman and lost the sparkle I used to have.

However, if Aoi thinks I’m still the same as before… I guess that’s due to the influence she has on me.

—Oh, I said something embarrassing. Maybe it’s because of the fever.

—Don’t worry. Hearing that makes me very happy… Besides, you’re still the same as before, it’s comforting to see that adorable smile hasn’t disappeared in you. Well, maybe a little, now you’re much more spoiled than before. And that’s part of your charm. Which, I adore.

—No, please stop saying those things. I’ll get even more embarrassed. Idiot.

Aoi covered herself with the sheets for the third time today. I thought she would be happy if I spoke to her honestly… Does that mean I failed completely again?

But while I was thinking about that…

—…But I’m glad to hear that. If possible, maybe I want to depend on you more like before…

Aoi responded with a small, pleasant, muted voice. That shy way of expressing herself, saying “if possible,” is very typical of her.

—I’m ready for that, so feel free to depend on me anytime. Well, make sure to clean up and change your clothes.

I took my wallet and left the room.

As I walked down the street, I began to think about what I would have to do next.

After Aoi takes her medicine, I’ll have to take care of the household chores. I don’t think I’ve taken out the trash yet… Oh, yes. I’ll have to take care of cleaning and preparing lunch. I guess there won’t be any problems if we eat the udon noodles I recently bought. And for dinner… Well, that will depend on how Aoi feels by then.

Hmm… Is there any other household chore I should do?

As I thought about it, I realized how much effort Aoi puts into household chores every day.

—I’m starting to believe that the reason Aoi is in that state is because I’ve overloaded her too much.

Since we started living together, she has taken care of the household chores and her studies every day. It’s no wonder her health is affected.

I want to relieve Aoi’s burden as much as possible. What else can I do?

As I thought about it, I headed to the pharmacy.

 

***

 

—The next day, Aoi’s fever had gone down. She didn’t have the same feeling of tiredness as yesterday and seemed to be in good physical condition. But as a precaution, we decided that she should stay at home and rest, she may be fully recovered tomorrow.

—Aoi, since you’ve just recovered from an illness, please avoid doing household chores and focus on resting.

Before leaving for work, I gave a warning to Aoi at the entrance door.

—Yes, I understand. I’ll just take care of preparing dinner, okay?

—You’re not going to cook dinner either.

—Hehe, oh come on. Cooking is my passion, there won’t be a problem.

—And you look so proud saying that… Anyway, it doesn’t matter. But don’t do the other household chores, understood?

—I understand. And thanks to your help, there’s hardly any household work left to do.

This morning, I woke up before Aoi and took care of washing clothes, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, and preparing breakfast. Although breakfast was just toast and coffee.

—Hey, Aoi. From now on, I’m also going to help with the household chores. Let’s split the responsibilities between the two of us.

—What happened to you all of a sudden? I can take care of the household chores myself, you know?

—I can’t allow that. We’re a couple living together, we have to support each other.

—Living together… Supporting each other…

Aoi repeated my words and then relaxed her cheeks.

—Yes, you’re right. Then, I’ll teach you how to do the household chores, okay? I warn you, I’m going to be very demanding.

—Hahaha, I’ll try to do things properly, teacher. Well, I’m off to work.

Turning my back to Aoi, I put on my shoes and prepared to leave… But before I could do that, I felt like someone was holding me back from behind.

When I turned around, Aoi was holding onto the hem of my suit.

—Aoi?

—Stay.

—I can’t, I have to go to work.

—Yes, you’re right, I’m sorry. — Aoi responded as she let go of my hand.

She squinted at me, as if regretting our parting… Why is she acting like this? Before, she didn’t care that I had to go to work.

No, it can’t be. Although Aoi is a bit dependent, she wouldn’t be so selfish as to say something like that. I must be wrong, yes.

—Yuya-kun, um… Is it okay for you if I’m a little dependent?

—Uh? Oh, of course.

—Then… Allow me to be dependent, please.

Aoi approached me, wrapped her arm around my waist, and hugged me gently.

—Aoi, what’s wrong?

—I can’t help feeling lonely when you’re gone all day and don’t come back until night. So… Allow me to hug you. Just to recharge a little of that energy you give me, which gradually disappears when you leave.

The reasons Aoi gave me were extremely tender. So I told her that she didn’t have to hold back. I want to be able to please her in every way I can.

Knowing that this needy person is waiting for me at home makes me just want to leave work on time. And I’ll do my best to do it today.

—Aoi, you’re very spoiled, you know that?

—D—Do you see me as a child?

—No, I don’t mean it that way. It’s just… I see you as very adorable when you act like that.

—…Idiot. — Aoi responded as she hid her face in my chest.

She may be able to hide her blushing face, but she can’t completely hide her cheeks turning red.

After a while, Aoi raised her head.

—Yuya, I’ve finished recharging. If we keep this up, I won’t want to let you go later.

—Yes, you’re right. Well, now I’m going.

I gently separated from Aoi and touched the doorknob of the entrance door.

—Yuya.

—What’s wrong?

—Please come back soon.

—Trust me. I’ll come running back.

After making that promise to her, I left the room.

How unfair of you to say those things, Aoi. You make me avoid working overtime at all costs just to come back to you.

Plus, I really enjoy having dinner with her every day. So coming back early is also a great benefit for me.

As I walked, I straightened my back with determination.

—All right! Let’s do our best today.

I wonder what we’ll eat tonight.

Autumn has arrived. It’s been six months since we started living together, and time has passed so quickly that it’s hard to believe we’re already in October.

Outside the office window, a clear blue sky stretched out as far as the eye could see. The sun was at its highest point and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. The suffocating heat of summer has completely disappeared, and the weather has become pleasant. I think the maximum temperature was about 20 degrees Celsius.

Aoi is waiting for my return home today too… Thinking about that makes me feel motivated at work, and also makes me eagerly await the time to leave.

Between internal meetings, client negotiations, drafting minutes, and supervising programmers, time passed quickly and it was already afternoon. It was only a matter of a few hours before the sunset took over the sky.

And now I was reviewing the progress of the team members and managing the schedule.

—Izuka-san, I have a question. Would it be possible for you to help me with this task too?

—Hmm, let me see… Of course. You can trust your Onee-san for this. — Izuka kindly responded.

Since we started sharing tasks among all team members, my overtime hours have decreased drastically. I used to stay at the office until 9 pm, but now I leave work after 7 pm at the latest.

The progress of the project I’m handling is also moving forward smoothly. Even if there were any problems, it seems that we could meet the delivery date with plenty of time.

—Izuka-san, thank you so much for your constant help. You really saved me.

—No problem. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. It’s a piece of cake for me… And I’ve noticed that you’ve changed a lot, Yuya-kun. — Izuka said with a smile.

Both she and Chizuru-san are very perceptive people. I have to be careful about what I say and how I act.

—Do you really think I’ve changed that much?

—Yes. Everyone in the office says so, you know? Six months ago you looked like a miserable salaryman, but now you’ve become a handsome and energetic professional.

—Is that really how you all thought of me?

It was a bit shocking. I thought only Chizuru-san saw me that way, but no, everyone in the office shared the same thought.

—I’m sorry, but hey, that’s in the past, now you’re cool, you know? You’re a completely different guy! And let me emphasize a lot that NOW you’re much better.

Izuka-san raised her thumb in approval. No matter how many times she repeats it, she’s not being supportive at all and I want her to stop emphasizing the ‘now’.

—By the way, why did you suddenly change? You’re worrying more about your appearance than before… Do you have a girlfriend?

—W—What are you saying? No, not at all.

At such a direct question, I couldn’t help but get nervous.

—Oh really? Darn, I thought you had started dating older sister Chizuru after all, you get along so well.

—Eh?! N-No, you’re mistaken! Chizuru-san and I don’t have that kind of relationship, we’re just boss and subordinate…

—Haha! Your nervousness is really funny, Yuya-kun.

Izuka-san started laughing out loud. The expression on her face was quite charming and cute. By the way, she’s the only one in the office who calls Chizuru-san “older sister”.

Well, then, why have you changed lately? Or should I ask my older sister?

—Uh, well…

I can’t tell her that I’m living with a high school student. How do I escape from this situation?

While I hesitate on how to respond, Izuka-san smiles bitterly.

—You’re quite an enigma, Yuya-kun. If you don’t want to say it, you don’t have to answer, you know?

—Y—Yes, I’m very sorry…

—I also regret making you feel uncomfortable. Well, let’s get back to work. If I keep distracting you, my older sister will get mad at you. — Izuka said as she turned to her computer — After all, you’re her favorite.

Although she says that, I think she treats me more like her toy.

Sighing, I returned to my desk. I pressed the keyboard keys silently and began to respond to the emails that had arrived during the afternoon.

It seems that there were only a few minor tasks left at work. It doesn’t matter if I leave them for later. I can work until the last moment of my shift and, if I don’t finish, I can do that work for tomorrow without any problem.

While thinking about how to word my email responses, I was gently tapped on the shoulder by my boss, or rather, Chizuru-san.

—Hey, Yuya-kun! It seems like work is going well.

—Yes, I’ve reduced my overtime hours quite a bit.

—That’s great. Plus, you look better than before. The effect of Aoi-chan is huge.

Chizuru whispered so low that no one else could hear her.

—Hey, Chizuru-san. We shouldn’t talk about that at work…

—Oh, right. That was my mistake. Then let’s talk in code.

—Eh? I—In code?

—Yes. If we use office terms in our conversations, it doesn’t matter if someone else hears us. From now on, we’ll call Aoi-chan ‘Agenda’. It sounds like the name of a foreign woman, right?

—Certainly, it sounds like ‘Amanda’.

—Agenda is not only cute, but also has a good physique. We could say she has a ‘modem’ figure.

—You mean ‘model’, right? It would be weird if Aoi had a modem figure… Besides, I don’t think it’s necessary to use code words in that aspect.

—That’s true. There’s no deep meaning. We’re just playing with words related to what is commonly found in this space.

—It’s a childish word game! There’s no need to use code words here!

—Okay, okay. Don’t get ‘WiFi’.

—You mean ‘irritated’! Just stop with that. I don’t think I can keep up with your strange terms.

There are too many errors and it’s becoming very complicated to analyze them. Could someone debug them please?

—Seriously, Chizuru-san, instead of saying nonsense, you should be working.

—You don’t have to tell me that. I just thought you might need a break and that’s why I came to talk to you… Here, have this. — Chizuru said as she placed a box of chocolate on my desk.

—Thank you. I’ll enjoy it.

—Just don’t push yourself too hard, and make sure to take breaks when you need them.

With that, Chizuru returned to her seat.

I’m worried that Chizuru-san always cares about me… Maybe I’ve been pushing myself too hard without realizing it.

While thinking about that, I broke the wrapper and put the chocolate in my mouth. The sweetness of the milk chocolate spreads smoothly over my taste buds.

By the way, Chizuru-san also left a note. Let’s see what it says…

—[What’s sweeter, chocolate or Agenda’s lips?]

—I have no idea about the taste of Agenda’s lips!

I shouted without thinking and gave Chizuru a serious look.

She tried to contain her laughter, her hands on her stomach as she shook with laughter. This woman really considers me her personal toy.

So I decided to send a message to Chizuru-san to clarify things.

—I just want to make it clear that I have no interest in Agenda, okay? Seriously… It’s because of things like this that it’s complicated to get a girlfriend.

With the intention of hitting her back, I sent the message with a lot of enthusiasm.

And in just two seconds, I received a response from her. That was really fast. It’s like receiving an automatic response email seconds after registering on an app or website.

I proceeded to open the message with great expectation. The message I received was:

—What? Do you want me to change the wallpaper on your computer to a sexy photo of me?

You can’t reason with her. I feel like I’m in hell. What an annoying woman… But knowing her, I know she’s capable of doing something like that. That’s why I hurried to send an apology.

 

***

 

After leaving work on time, I returned to the apartment where Aoi was waiting for me. As I opened the door to the room, a pleasant aroma of spices tickled my nose. Thanks to the delicious smell, I knew we would be having curry tonight. I took off my shoes at the entrance and headed towards where Aoi was. She was studying with headphones on. On the table, there was a textbook and notes. As soon as Aoi noticed my presence, she took off her headphones and stood up.

—Welcome back, Yuya-kun! — she exclaimed.

—Hi Aoi, thank you. Were you studying?

—Yes. Since I’m not very good at classical literature, I decided to translate it into modern Japanese and study it in advance. — she replied.

—I see. You really put a lot of effort into your studies. You’re someone very admirable. — I said as I stroked her head.

—Oh come on, stop exaggerating. — Aoi responded with slightly reddened cheeks. — And what would you like to do first? Eat or take a bath?

—I’d prefer to eat. I’m starving. When I came in here, a delicious aroma invaded my nostrils. —
I said with a smile.

—Haha. Tonight’s dinner is beef curry. I’ll serve you right away. — she responded as she gathered her things.

While she did that, I washed my hands and prepared the dishes. Once we finished preparing dinner, we sat across from each other.

—Enjoy your meal. — I said as I put a spoonful of curry into my mouth.

The meat was tender and melted once it made contact with my mouth. The potatoes were soft and had a delicious texture. The carrots and onions also had a sweet taste. We both enjoyed dinner in silence and quickly.

—Thank you for the food, Aoi. It was delicious. — I said.

—Thank you for the delicious food… Oh, leave the dishes, I’ll take care of washing them. — she said.

—No, let me do it. You should rest, Aoi. — I insisted.

—Come on, Yuya-kun, it’s my duty…

—Don’t insist. Hey, Aoi, you have curry on your mouth. — I interrupted.

—Huh?

—Wait, don’t move.

I took a tissue and wiped Aoi’s mouth. Her cheeks turned red as she tried to remain rigid.

—Okay, now you’re clean. — I said.

—Oh, thank you…

—Haha. I see that the roles have now been reversed, don’t you think? — I teased.

—Ugh, don’t be mean, Yuya-kun… Haha.

Aoi’s beautiful smile was a healing balm for my tired heart.

—Of course. I’m looking forward to the class visit. — I replied with a smile on my face. 

I want Aoi to feel secure, so I plan to dispel all her doubts.

—Haha… Why are you getting excited about something like that, Yuya-kun? That’s weird. — Aoi laughed happily as she looked at the class visit paper. 

This girl is not at all honest about what she thinks, but that also makes her adorable.

—In that case, I see no reason to refuse. I’ll be looking forward to your attendance. — Aoi said.

—Yes. I’m excited too.

—Usually, guys say the opposite for these kinds of requests… Idiot.

I recently discovered something new. When Aoi says “idiot,” she actually means “I like you.” Despite her offensive words, I think she’s actually happy.

—Now that we’ve agreed, I’m going to wash the dishes. — I said.

—You’re very stubborn, you know that… There’s no choice, I’ll dry them. – Aoi replied.

—I guess I have no other choice but to give you that privilege.

—Oh… A spoiled girl talking condescendingly?

—Hey… Don’t treat me like a child!

—Haha, sorry, sorry.

I stroked Aoi’s head as I laughed.

Hmph… Even if you stroke me, I won’t forgive you, you know?

—Then, should I stop stroking you?

—…I’ll be even more upset if you stop.

I’ve become a fan of these nights where we joke and have a lot of fun. They’re quite relaxing and fill me with happiness. I can’t express it well in words, but I feel like I’m ready to give my best tomorrow.

I’m glad to live with Aoi.

 

***

 

Several days have passed, and Aoi’s class visit has finally arrived. I stood in front of the school gate and carefully observed the sign.

—The name seems to match the one written on the sheet… I want to believe that this is the high school that Aoi attends.

According to what I heard from Aoi, this place seems to be a fairly famous public high school. They have a balanced focus on both academics and extracurricular activities, putting effort into both studies and clubs. The average score on entrance exams exceeds sixty, and they also have sports teams that have participated in national competitions.

—It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Aoi studies here, after all, she’s very smart. — I thought to myself.

As I thought about how impressive it was to be able to do everything, I crossed the threshold of the school. It was lunchtime, and the inside of the school was full of noise. The boys were having fun and making noise, while the girls chatted animatedly. I also noticed some couples whispering in a corner. The scene didn’t differ much from when I was a student.

Immersed in a nostalgic feeling, I walked straight down the hallway of the school building and stopped in front of Aoi’s classroom, room 2-3. There was a table in front of the classroom with a seating chart for parents. Hmm… Should I write my name here?

As I filled in my name, someone called me from behind.

—Oh, it’s Yuya-san! Long time no see!

I turned around and saw Rumi. It was the first time I had seen her in a school uniform.

—Oh, Rumi-chan. Hi.

—Long time no see. So, did you come for the class visit?

Oops. She still thinks that Aoi and I are dating, right?

—Yes… Hey, Rumi-chan. Do you remember that little secret? I hope you haven’t told anyone yet…

—Of course, I’m as silent as a tomb. If it’s discovered, it would be difficult for Aoi-chan, I wouldn’t want her to be bothered by uncomfortable questions.

—I see. Thanks, Rumi-chan.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I was really glad that Rumi was a kind girl and a friend of Aoi’s.

I took a quick look into the classroom. Most of the students were already sitting and chatting with nearby classmates. Maybe they were talking about the parents who came to observe the class.

I looked towards the back of the classroom and could see all the parents lined up in a row. All the present parents turned out to be women, except for me, I was the only man.

In addition, each of them dressed elegantly and with a very presentable appearance. Again, I was the only one wearing a plain suit.

—Yuya-san, are you looking for Aoi? She’s already in the classroom. Look, she sits next to me.

—Let’s see… hmm, first, I don’t know where your seat is, Rumi-chan.

—Haha, that’s right, how clumsy of me. Well, I’m going in now, just look at me.

After those words, Rumi entered the classroom, and I did the same, staying in a corner so as not to stand out in a visible place.

—Haha! Seriously, Aoi! Look, he’s over there!

Instinctively, my gaze turned to where Rumi’s laughter was coming from. She was talking to Aoi while pointing to the place where I was standing.

Our eyes met. Aoi smiled shyly and discreetly greeted me with a wave. I also returned the greeting with a gentle gesture.

Aoi looked away from me and resumed her conversation with Rumi. A girl from the front row also joined the conversation at some point, laughing and showing a natural expression as she participated in the conversation.

It was just as Rumi had said. Aoi seemed to get along well and enjoy herself with her classmates. I felt very relieved to be able to witness that scene for myself.

As I watched Aoi with a smile, I suddenly felt a gaze. It was one of the mothers of the students who was next to me, dressed elegantly in pink clothes.

The mother approached me with a smile and spoke to me.

—Hello, I noticed that you’re very young.

—Eh? Oh, yes.

—Yes, so I can assume that you’re not that girl’s father, right? Are you her older brother?

Obviously, I couldn’t tell her the truth about the kind of relationship I have with Aoi, so I decided to make up an excuse.

—Not exactly, we’re close relatives. Today, my niece’s parents couldn’t come, so I came in their place.

—Oh, I see. You’re very considerate of your niece. You must be a kind uncle. I’m sure your niece is also a kind girl.

—Uh, yes, I suppose so… Haha…

—That’s right. I hope she also gets along well with my little Rumi, ohoho…

—Hehe, cough, cough!

Phew, that was close! I was about to laugh out loud.

The elegant lady who approached me was Rumi’s mother. I was surprised, she seems to be a lady who takes good care of her appearance, especially with that laugh.

As I was surprised by the difference in atmosphere between mother and daughter, the classroom door opened.

—Hello! I hope everyone is already seated in their respective seats.

A young teacher entered the classroom. The students and parents stopped talking and looked towards the front.

—Okay, let’s start the class.

A student in the front row gave the signal and the class began.

—Please open your literature textbook to page thirty-four. As I mentioned last week, we’re going to read and explain ‘The Pillow Book (Makura no Soshi)’.

‘Makura no Soshi’ is a pillow diary. It was written by Sei Shōnagon. I think everyone has heard the beginning of the passage that says, ‘Spring begins at dawn.’

—Okay, let’s continue with the next paragraph. How about we translate to modern Japanese from ‘Autumn is a good time of day’? Shiratori… can you do us the honor?

Aoi was selected by the teacher.

This is really weird. Although I’m not the one in Aoi’s position, I feel extremely tense for some reason.

Now that I remember… That day when I came home from work and found her studying, she mentioned that she was having difficulties with classic literature.

Aoi, do your best. Even if you make a mistake, answer with confidence…!

—Yes.

Aoi responded briefly and silently stood up from her seat.

—Autumn is a good time of day. When the sun is setting on the edge of the mountain, the crows return to their nests…

Aoi was able to smoothly translate the sentence into modern Japanese. I was fascinated witnessing how intelligent she was. It’s a facet that I hadn’t been able to notice when we’re at home.

Aoi not only takes care of household chores but also puts effort into her studies. It’s similar to me, who has set a goal of balancing work and family life… No, actually, unlike me, Aoi has already achieved that… She’s really amazing.

She’s adorable and responsible. After all, she managed to fulfill her promise seven years ago. She has become a great wife… I don’t care about her age. She has earned all my respect.

—…The sound of the wind and the sound of insects can no longer be expressed in words.

—Well done, Shiratori-san, you’re amazing. That was an exemplary translation into modern Japanese.

Among the parents, there was a small murmur of amazement. Aoi blushed and returned to her seat embarrassed.

Our eyes met when she glanced at me. At that moment, she made a discreet victory gesture, which was so adorable that I couldn’t help but laugh.

Finally, I was able to see Aoi in her student version, and I must say that she’s too cute. I don’t regret coming.

 

***

 

—That’s all for today. You may now disperse.

After the teacher said those words, the atmosphere in the classroom relaxed. Some students started talking to their seatmates, while others headed towards their friends.

On the other hand, Aoi stood up from her seat and went out into the hallway. I thought it was typical of her to prepare for the next class before taking a break.

I should inform Aunt Ryoko about what happened today. She will surely be happy to know that Aoi is enjoying her student life.

After a while, the parents started coming out into the hallway one by one. I also joined the group and moved outside.

When I went out into the hallway, I saw Aoi talking to a classmate. He was tall and gave an impression of being a nice and fresh young man. He seemed to be a kind person.

Both of them were laughing as they talked. Perhaps they are good friends.

—Aoi-chan, do you have any plans after class? I mean… I would like to go out and play with you, just the two of us.

I had no intention of listening to their conversation, but those words that I couldn’t help but hear reached my ears.

Aoi is still a teenager, so it’s natural for her to hang out with her classmates. However, as her tutor, I’m worried that they’ll be alone.

…No, that’s not right.

This feeling doesn’t come from a father’s perspective. I don’t want her to go out and play with that boy. I don’t want Aoi to go out with an unknown boy alone.

A feeling similar to envy and jealousy springs up inside me. So I just observed their interaction from a distant place.

—Um… I have plans today. I’m sorry.

Aoi rejected the boy’s invitation with a sorrowful expression.

While I felt relieved to see the outcome of the events, a doubt also formed in my mind.

As far as I know, Aoi doesn’t have any pending issues that would prevent her from hanging out with her friends. It will be the same as always, being in the apartment, cooking and joking around together.

Why did she lie saying that she had something to do?

—I see. Well, no problem. Maybe next time then. — The guy responded with a smile and a resigned expression.

Although he was rejected, he withdrew with dignity and responded with a refreshing smile… Something tells me that this boy has a lot of influence in the school.

—I’m sorry. I don’t want you to think that I’m underestimating your invitation…

—No, no. It’s my fault for making this invitation suddenly. If you have plans, it’s okay. Is it something important to you, Aoi-chan?

—Yes. It’s something very important. For me, the moment of eating with the person I love is the most exciting thing there is. — Aoi responded with a gentle smile.

—Eating with the person I love… Does she mean eating with me?

Aoi values me enough to reject a classmate’s invitation… Just thinking about it makes me extremely happy. Although we’re in a public place, I can’t help but smile widely. Quickly, I cover my mouth with my hand, trying to hide it.

On the other hand, the boy was smiling ironically, as if the words; “Do you have a boyfriend?” pierced him like an arrow. I’m sorry, handsome boy. Maybe I’m immature, but I won.

Thanks to this, I think I already know the reason why my heart gets so excited when Aoi expresses herself that way towards me.

I remembered the day Aoi and I walked home together under the same umbrella, thinking about my ideal woman while Aoi’s face passed fleetingly through my mind. Since then, I had vaguely sensed it.

I… I’m in love with Aoi. That’s why I want to protect her, I want to fill her with love and make her feel special. That’s why I’m always so determined to become a protective figure she can turn to.

And in that process, my feelings have gradually changed. I feel comforted by her adorable smile. I get excited when she seeks my affection. It makes me happy when she trusts me and asks for whims.

I have started to want to see Aoi more, to make her happy, to spend more time together. My feelings have evolved from a simple liking towards Aoi to a special, intense and loving feeling.

I want to express these feelings to Aoi… No, I have to do it, it’s my duty. Because I want to be honest with her. After all, it was she who kept our promise firm, and has been thinking about me all these years…

—Yuya-kun.

—Oh! A—Aoi?

Aoi had approached me without me realizing, so I involuntarily let out a surprised cry. It seems that she has finished talking to the other boy and is now alone.

—Is something wrong? You seem distracted…

—Eh? A-Ah, yes. Your translation into modern Japanese was so good that I got absorbed.

I can’t tell her the truth right now. So it’s better to resort to a little lie for now.

This is bad… My cheeks are inexplicably hot. And it’s because my head is full of thoughts about Aoi.

—Oh, Yuya-san and Aoi-chan. Hi!

Rumi approached, greeting us. Frankly, I couldn’t keep calm, so I was glad she came just now.

—Aoi-chan, your translation was amazing, even the teacher praised you, you’re amazing!

Aoi smiled uncomfortably at Rumi’s praise.

—You don’t have to exaggerate so much, Rumi-san.

—It’s my duty as a friend to be excited about your achievements! You’re great!

—I see… You’ve suddenly become quite lively. Did something good happen?

—Oh, yes. My boyfriend invited me to the amusement park a while ago.

—Oh, that sounds good.

—Hehe. It turns out he remembered when I told him I wanted to go to the amusement park. He said, ‘It’s obvious that I should remember the places my girlfriend wants to go.’ Hearing that made me so happy.

Rumi held her cheeks with both hands and made a shy gesture. Although she gave the impression of being a cheerful girl, it seems that she also has a very feminine side.

…The place she wants to go, huh?

Now that I think about it, Aoi never says where she wants to go. She almost never makes requests or expresses her desires. If I hadn’t found the paper about the class visit in the trash can, she wouldn’t have told me about it. It’s more than obvious that she’s still holding back.

Well, I know what I’ll do next. I’ll ask her out! And when that date is over, I’ll tell her how I feel about her.

After thinking about that plan, the school bell rang throughout the building.

—Oh, the next class is about to start. Let’s go, Aoi.

—Yes. Well, Yuya-kun. See you later.

—Yes. Goodbye, Aoi. Rumi-chan. — I said as I waved.

Both of them went back into the classroom, and I was left alone in the hallway.

Well. I have work to do, I’ll focus all my strength and energy on coming up with the best date ever.

What would be a good place to take Aoi? And what would be the best way to express my feelings to her?

As I was lost in thought, I left the school.

 

Living with a Beautiful High School Student: A chance encounter after seven years

Living with a Beautiful High School Student: A chance encounter after seven years

Kutabire Salarymen no Ore, 7nenburi ni Saikai shita Bishoujo JK to Dosei wo Hajimaru
Status: Ongoing Type: Author: Artist: Released: 2023 Native Language: くたびれサラリーマンな俺、7年ぶりに再会した美少女JKと同棲を始める
Amae Yuya, an office worker in his third year of employment, is completely exhausted by the daily grind. Then, for the first time in seven years, Yuya meets Aoi Shiratori, a girl eight years younger than him who used to live in his neighborhood. She had grown up to be a beautiful JK girl who was good at housework, and she said to him, “Yuya-kun, would you like to live with me under the premise of marriage?” Aoi desperately wants to live with Yuya, her first love. Yuya, who is puzzled, agrees to live with Aoi as a guardian for the time being, but Aoi’s aggressive approach makes him very nervous inside.

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