Living with a Beautiful High School Student: A chance encounter after seven years [Chapter 4] [Volume 2]

Enjoying our time together

It was the end of the year, and I decided to spend some relaxing time at home with Aoi. We enjoyed the delicious food she prepared, had fun conversations, and went shopping nearby… Even though we didn’t go far, it was a very satisfying time.

However, we didn’t want to waste our well-deserved vacation by simply staying at home. On New Year’s Day, we went to the shrine together for the first time this year. While we were praying, Aoi had a serious look on her face. She must have had an important wish that she wanted to fulfill. Thinking about it, I asked her: “What did you wish for?”

So Aoi replied…

—I wished for better grades in school instead of always being with Yuya-kun… This year I will take the college entrance exam!

However, it didn’t take long for her to clarify her playful joke. 

—Just kidding, hehe, I always want to be by your side, Yuya-kun!

It was more than obvious that this was her wish. At the beginning of the new year, I was touched by her tender feelings.

I also received a lot of scoldings from her for my misbehavior during the shrine visit. 

—Yuya-kun, you’re not following the rules of reverence properly. After ringing the bell, you’re supposed to bow twice… 

It was embarrassing to be scolded in public by a girl smaller than me, but it turned out to be a good memory.

And that’s how we enjoyed the holiday season and got enough rest. However, those happy days came to an end last week. Yesterday was my first day at work, and today is the first day of classes for Aoi.

I put on my tie in front of the mirror. Before, I didn’t care much about ties, but now I can’t be satisfied if it’s not properly adjusted. The tie is fine, my beard is shaved, my hair is not messy, and my appearance is perfect.

—Yuya-kun, here you go. — Aoi said as she handed me the suit jacket.

I’m getting used to this newlywed life.

—Thank you, Aoi. — I replied as I took the jacket and put it on.

While I was buttoning the jacket, Aoi crouched down and picked something up. 

—Yuya-kun, I found your card holder. It seems to have fallen out of your pocket…

Aoi stared at the cardholder intently. 

—This cardholder is quite worn out, don’t you think?

—Hmm?”

As soon as I took the cardholder and examined it, I noticed that it was stained and visibly worn. 

The worn leather was wrinkled and had strange stains that I couldn’t understand. I had been using this cardholder since I joined the company. At that time, I didn’t know what kind of card holder to buy, so I bought a cheap one by chance.

—You’re right, it’s falling apart. Maybe it’s time to get a new one. When I exchange business cards with clients, I feel like a worn-out wallet doesn’t make a good first impression. I should pay attention to these little details.

And also… It seems like Aoi might scold me for this.

I quickly looked at Aoi. Contrary to my expectations, she had a smile on her face.

—You don’t have to replace it yet. I find it charming.

—Really? — I replied, surprised. 

Although to be honest, it did look old and not very presentable. Besides, Aoi pointed out that it was very worn. Isn’t it strange that she says she likes it now?

—Well, it’s not that bad. It’s not urgent, so you don’t have to buy a new one right away.

—Understood. I’ll think about replacing it in the spring.

—Hehe, I think that would be best.

Saying that, Aoi went back to the kitchen. While humming happily, she started to prepare breakfast. She’s not scolding me, and she’s in a good mood for some reason. Is she excited to go back to school after such a long time?

—Yuya-kun! Breakfast is ready!

—Yes, I’m coming right now!

I put the cardholder back in my jacket pocket and sat down.

Today’s breakfast consisted of toast and salad. We finished eating while I chatted with Aoi and then cleared the dishes. I usually left the house before Aoi. When I went to the entrance to go to work, Aoi followed me.

—Yuya-kun, have a good day.

—Thank you. I’ll be careful. And you, be careful on your way to school.

—Yes…

—Aoi? Is something wrong?

I quickly realized that something was wrong with her, and as soon as I asked this question, she immediately jumped at me.

—Waah…?

Unable to react to this sudden act, my center of gravity shifted backwards. I took a half step back to keep my balance and held onto Aoi’s body.

—I felt lonely for a moment… So I decided to hug you.

—I see. Aoi is still acting like a spoiled child, huh?

—Do I seem childish…? Mmm, well, I don’t mind. Even if I seem childish right now, it’s okay.

Aoi buried her face in my chest.

—It will help me endure until we see each other again. — she whispered, looking up at me.

Normally, she tries to act mature, but when she becomes affectionate, she becomes a younger girl again. It’s not fair.

—It’s unfair. — I whispered.

—Huh? Did you say something?

—No, I didn’t say anything. I’ll be home on time tonight, too

—Really? I hope you keep your promise.

Aoi’s smile was so bright that it blinded me.

—Of course I will. I promise.

With a heavy heart, I left the house.

 

***

 

I wanted to stay home with her and enjoy some peaceful time together,  thoughts of an irresponsible adult crossing my mind.

I laughed ironically at myself for still being in vacation mode.

Aoi always manages to balance her studies and housework. I couldn’t joke about not wanting to go to work and staying home with her.

Lately she has been praising me. Even at Christmas, she told me that I’m not an “old man” but a “cool older brother.” I will work hard both at work and at home to become a responsible adult.

When I arrived at work, my mind was already in full work mode.

I opened the office door and greeted everyone with the usual “good morning.”

However, I didn’t get any response from my colleagues, even though several employees were already in the office. They were all gathered in one place with serious and silent expressions.

…This gloomy atmosphere is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. Based on my past experiences, I can more or less guess what happened.

After leaving my bag at my desk, I went to where everyone was gathered.

In the middle of the crowd of employees was Yamada-san, who is a year older than me. She kept apologizing, bowing her head with a sad look on her face.

—I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…

—We cannot change what has already happened. Instead, we need to think about how to deal with this situation. We will be fine if we work together.

Chizuru comforted a distraught Yamada who couldn’t stop desperately apologizing.

Deep inside, intuition turned into certainty. I was sure that something important had gone wrong and that we were facing a problem.

—Chizuru-san, what happened? — I asked, and she turned to me.

—Oh, Yuya-kun. Actually, we are facing a rather complicated problem. We have a system development project commissioned by a client, but we made a big mistake during the design phase.

According to Chizuru, the mistake went unnoticed during the design process. They only realized it after the project was delivered.

—After delivery?! That’s serious… By the way, wouldn’t you have detected it before?

In normal working procedures, a functional test is conducted after the program is completed. Normally, we should have discovered the bug during this test phase…

While I had my doubts, Yamada-san looked at me with tears in his eyes.

—Since we were very close to the deadline, I simplified the tests… and I couldn’t find the bug in the design.

—I see…

The situation was pretty bad. A design flaw meant that this wasn’t a task that could be completed in a day or two.

—So will we have to make a new delivery? What will be the new deadline?

—At the moment, we haven’t determined the details because we’re at the stage where the customer is pointing out the problems. — Chizuru explained.

—How long do you think it will take to fix the problem?

—It’s not a complicated system, but it will still take about two weeks… However, the other team members are already working on the next project, and we can’t devote our full attention to it. If we move forward, we’ll have to work overtime to make progress…

—Even with a two-week deadline, it still looks challenging.

—Yes…

Once again, a heavy atmosphere filled the office. Yamada-san’s face was pale. Her eyes were filled with tears, and she clenched her fist tightly.

Suddenly, I remembered my former self. When I was a new employee and couldn’t do my job well. I also made many mistakes and I definitely wasn’t a competent employee. I even remember making big mistakes like deleting data from a developing application.

When I made mistakes, there was always someone by my side to cheer me on and give me a helping hand. And that person was Chizuru-san.

She never gave up on me when I was a mess, and always said kind words like: “We’re all beginners in our first year. Let’s learn together.”

Or things like: “Yuya-kun, one day you’ll be a great asset to the company. Make sure you know how to handle your alcohol by then”. All with a touch of humor, of course.

Even though I was tired and exhausted from days of overtime, I didn’t give up my job because I had such a great boss by my side. I really admired everything Chizuru did. It’s time for me to do something similar for others.

—Yamada-san, I want to help you.

—Huh…?

At my suggestion, Yamada-san opened her eyes in surprise.

—B–But… Yuya-kun, you also have several ongoing projects and you must be very busy.

—Don’t worry. Leave it to me.

—But, this is my mistake…

—We all make mistakes. Even when I’m in trouble, I always get help from everyone. When we’re in trouble, we help each other. That’s how teamwork works.

In such a situation, Chizuru would always be ready to help. She kindly supported us and guided us to find solutions. I wanted to become someone who could be relied on and trusted, just like her.

—I think I’ve been outdone. — Chizuru said, laughing happily. 

It’s unbelievable to see her like this, even though she’s in the middle of a big crisis.

—Yuya-kun, I want to help too. — Chizuru added.

—A–Are you sure? If Chizuru-san joins, it would be like having the power of a hundred people!

—Well, well. A hundred people isn’t enough; we might as well say it’s the power of a thousand!

After that, I heard someone say “Count me in!” loudly from the back. When I turned around, I saw Izuka-san with her hand raised.

—Onee-san, I’ll help too. Yuya-kun seems to have the schedule down, so there shouldn’t be any problems, right?

Izuka-san narrowed her eyes and smiled mischievously.

She is our ace card. Also, Chizuru-san describes herself as someone who works best when you light a fire under her butt.

In this crisis, we are grateful to have her help. Soon, other staff members approached her with warm words such as “Can I help with anything?” and “I can even stay overtime for a while!” Unlike before, the heavy and gloomy atmosphere in the office was completely gone.

Yamada-san thanked everyone and bowed. Although she had been depressed a moment ago, she now had a relieved smile on her face.

While I was watching the scene in the office with a smile on my face, Izuka-san approached me.

—Yuya-kun, you did well. How cool!

She nudged my side with her elbow and said; “You’re amazing!”

—I wasn’t trying to be cool… I just wanted to be like Chizuru-san.

—Do you want to become a heavy drinker?

—Let’s say something like that… But can I really handle that much alcohol?

—Hahaha! I doubt it!

After bursting into laughter, Izuka-san added; “But still…”

—Yuya-kun, at that moment, you seemed like an authority figure, just like my Onee-san. You really made me believe that you were someone I could rely on. — Izuka said as she stretched and returned to her seat.

To be honest, Chizuru and I were completely different in every way. There was a big difference in our abilities and she was much more efficient.

But if I could act like the boss I admired, I must have matured since those exhausting days.

—Yuya-kun. Can I talk to you for a moment? — Chizuru motioned to me.

—Yes, how can I help?

—After this, I need to give you detailed information and then I will apologize to the client before discussing the delivery date.

—W–What…? No, I should apologize. I was the one who suggested it in the first place.

—It doesn’t matter. It’s my responsibility to take the blame for my subordinates. Your turn will come later. Let me show that I am the boss here and protect your image.

—Chizuru-san…

She really is someone I can trust. From the bottom of my heart, I’m grateful to be working in the same place as her.

—I understand. I’m counting on you. I’m sorry I can’t help more…

—Haha, that’s okay. Even if we manage to get an extension on the delivery date, I think the schedule will be pretty demanding. Are you really okay with that?

—Yes. The projects I’m handling have some extra time cushion, so there’s no problem.

—I’m not talking about work. I’m worried about Aoi-chan.

—A… What do you mean?”

—If you’re stuck in the hell of working overtime, won’t that reduce the time you can spend with her? That’s what worries me.

—A–Ah, you’re right…!

I realized that I had completely forgotten about it because of the problem. This morning, I promised Aoi that I would come back on time.

And not just today, but I’ll be working overtime for a while. I’m going to make Aoi feel lonelybecause of me…

—Yuya-kun, depending on the schedule, I’ll try to lighten your workload a bit.

—No, that’s not right. I was the one who suggested this, I can’t escape my responsibility. But…

—Hmm?

Chizuru-san looked at me expectantly.

—I feel so bad for Aoi… I’m getting depressed because I can’t keep my promise… I’m a useless man, I’m sorry…

—Pff… Hahaha! You really are a funny guy!

Chizuru-san laughed and patted me on the back. It seems like she enjoys playing with her depressed colleagues.

—Are you really laughing at me, Chizuru-san? I’m really sad.

—I’m sorry. Don’t worry, I’ll contact Aoi later to support you.

—Thank you… Wait! How can you contact Aoi?”

—We exchanged numbers during the company trip. But that doesn’t matter, right? There’s nothing wrong with it.

That’s not very appropriate. I’m sure this person will be a bad influence on a minor.

Ignoring my objections, Chizuru-san shifted her focus and mentally prepared herself.

—Alright. First, we need to have a meeting. It’s time to get to work. — Chizuru said as she walked away.

I also need to contact the client as soon as possible. Chizuru will be very busy today.

But before I start working, there’s something else I have to do.

I took out my phone and opened the messaging application.

“Can I call you at lunch today?” — I sent the message to Aoi.

I have to apologize for not being able to keep our promise.

 

***

 

We managed to make progress on the faulty design.

After Chizuru-san contacted the client, it seems that we received a pretty serious scolding. That’s understandable, since it was our mistake that caused the need for a new delivery.

The delivery date they suggested was in two weeks. Honestly, I think they gave us quite a bit of flexibility. Chizuru seems to have negotiated very effectively.

We also have Chizuru, Izuka, and other valuable team members to help us, so we should be able to meet the deadline.

However, each of us also has projects that we are currently working on. Considering these projects, it’s inevitable that we’ll have to work overtime.

I managed to finish my morning work, and it was lunch time.

Usually, some people would go out to eat, but today there are fewer people. I think most of them bought something light from the grocery store, probably because of the rush. As for me, I had a sandwich for lunch.

I finished eating quickly and stepped out of the office. To call Aoi, of course.

I came to a small park behind the office building. Maybe because it’s a weekday at lunchtime, there are no children around.

I sat on a blue bench and called Aoi.

After the phone rang three times, I heard Aoi’s voice on the other end of the call.

—[Hello.]

—[Aoi, I’m sorry for calling you so suddenly. Are you free to talk right now?]

—[It’s fine, I’m in the backyard of the school building where there aren’t many people right now.]

—[Oh, I see… Look, I have to apologize to you, Aoi.]

—[Apologize?]

—[Yes, I won’t be able to come home early today. Not only that, but I think I’ll be working overtime for a while.]

—[…Did something happen?]

—[Actually, there was a big mistake at work…] I explained to Aoi without making excuses how the problem occurred, the need for a new delivery, and the help I had to provide.

—[Oh, I understand. So that’s what happened.]

—[I’m really sorry, Aoi. I broke my promise to you. Not only that, but I’m going to have to work late for a while… I’m really sorry.]

Aoi is someone who feels lonely easily. Even this morning, she hugged me before going to work and told me that she would bear the loneliness until the evening. Surely she will be disappointed to learn that there will be more days of overtime.

While I was worried…

—[I understand. Please do your best at work. Good luck!] — she replied with an unexpectedly cheerful voice.

—[Aoi, are you sure?]

—[No. If I say I’m fine, I’d be lying.]

—[I see… I’m really, really sorry.]

—[You don’t have to apologize. Although I feel lonely, I’m also happy. Because you’re doing something true to yourself, Yuya-kun.]

—[Something true to myself?]

—[That’s my way of saying you’re great.]

—[It’s a little complicated for me to understand.]

—[Yuya-kun, you willingly offered to help a colleague who made a mistake at work, right?]

—[Uh, I guess so.]

—[Then I understand. I like the kind and reliable Yuya-kun you are.]

—[Aoi…]

—[Hehe. If you had left your colleague behind to come home on time, I might have been angry.]

Hearing these unexpected words warmed my heart. Even though Aoi would normally feel sad about spending less time with me, she still talks to a teddy bear to ease her loneliness.

However, she pushed me forward while laughing. She didn’t hold back or complain. Instead, she encouraged me and sent words of support. I can’t help but be grateful for Aoi’s gesture and consideration.

Thanks to her being so loyal and kind, I found new energy. I can’t help but try harder.

—[Thank you, Aoi.]

—[Why are you thanking me? You’re a strange guy, Yuya-kun.]

—[It’s because you’ve always supported me. I love you, Aoi.]

—[Ah, please don’t say such embarrassing things on the phone.]

—[Understood. I’ll tell you in person.]

—[Wh–What are you saying…? Stupid.]

She spoke with a slightly grumpy voice, which made me laugh involuntarily.

—[Haha, but seriously, I’m grateful to you. I’ll do my best at work.]

—[Yes. I’ll leave the dinner preparation to you, so just heat it up and eat it when you arrive.]

—[Thank you. That helps me a lot.]

—[You’re really dramatic… Oh, the bell. I have to go back soon.]

—[Oh, right. Then I’ll let you go.]

—[Yes. Be careful on your way home because it’ll be late at night. And I recommend that you have some chocolate as a snack. It contains glucose and cocoa polyphenols… Oh, but don’t eat too much, that would be bad for your body. Also, lack of sleep is the enemy of work, so make sure you go to bed early when you get home. And also…]

The scolding I hear over the phone is more precious than usual. I smile and nod as I listen attentively to Aoi’s advice.

 

******

 

The first day of overtime.

I left the office around eleven at night. Chizuru was in charge, and some employees were working late. Among them was Izuka and it seemed that Chizuru was giving her more tasks because she was the fastest programmer in the company. Izuka even complained that, “Ugh, the boss is a demon”.

However, Chizuru was really supportive as a boss. She brought Izuka donuts, talked to her, and cared about her mental well-being. It’s really admirable how even when she was busy, she could still take care of those around her.

When was the last time I had to stay up so late to work? I think it hardly ever happens since I started living with Aoi.

However, the situation is different from when I used to do all the work by myself. Now I work with my colleagues and we work together to achieve our goals. That alone comforts me.

When I got home, the room was dark. Aoi was probably asleep.

—It’s very quiet.

Normally, Aoi would greet me with a smile. But today that didn’t happen. I felt a bit lonely when I turned on the light in the room.

On the table was a plate of ginger pork wrapped in plastic. There were fried dumplings next to it. Since I was quite hungry, I was grateful for the many side dishes.

Next to the side dishes was a handwritten note that said; “The salad is in the refrigerator.”

—Thank you, Aoi.

Just as I said thank you, the door to Aoi’s room opened.

—Yuya-kun, welcome back. Thank you for your hard work.

Aoi was wearing her pajamas. She smiled as she rubbed her sleepy eyes.

—I’m home. Sorry, did I wake you?

—No, I was half asleep but I couldn’t sleep well. I was worried if Yuya-kun would be able to have a proper dinner.

It was as if she was speaking not as a wife, but as an overprotective mother. Even though I know how to use a microwave…

—I see. I think I’ll keep coming home late like today. If you stay up late like this, you’ll get tired, so make sure you get a good night’s sleep, okay?

—Yes. But I think you’re more tired, Yuya-kun. You’ve been working so hard. You’re amazing.

Aoi stretched and patted my head.

If there’s a reward like this, I can work as hard as I need to. But if I say that, Aoi might want to spoil me again. Let’s avoid excessive displays of affection.

—Alright! I’ll enjoy Aoi’s delicious food and regain my energy.

—In that case, I must do my best to cook tomorrow as well.

—Then I can work harder too. Amazing. It’s an infinite loop of energy.

—Hahaha. What are you talking about? You’re a strange guy, Yuya-kun.

Even the time for such trivial conversations is so limited. Oh… how I wish I could spoil Aoi even more!

With sentimental thoughts we said goodbye and wished each other a good night. Aoi went back to her room with a touch of melancholy.

I heated the dishes in the microwave and took the salad out of the refrigerator.

I put the food on the table and sat down on the chair. The figure of Aoi, who always sat across from me, wasn’t there.

“Thanks for the food,” I said. My voice echoed clearly in the quiet room. It had been a long time since I had eaten alone and I definitely felt lonely.

 

*****

 

I had a peaceful night and woke up the next morning. I finished getting ready and sat down for breakfast.

There was Japanese food on the table: rice, grilled salmon, miso soup, and radish salad. It was a real Japanese breakfast.

Aoi, dressed in her uniform, took off her apron and sat down. We both said; “Thank you for the food” and then picked up our chopsticks.

—Yes, this salmon is delicious. — I said. 

But even though I praised Aoi’s delicious food, I got no response from her. She just stared at me as if she wanted to say something but was struggling to find the words.

Sensing the situation, I put down my chopsticks for a moment.

—Aoi, is something wrong?

—Well… Actually, there’s something I want to talk to you about, Yuya-kun.

Aoi said with a serious expression. A discussion… What could it be?

I’ve heard many requests from Aoi before, but she never spoke to me with such seriousness.

Feeling that something was wrong, I straightened up in my seat.

—What do you want to talk about?

—Well… I want to try working part time.

—A part-time job?

Honestly, I was surprised. I didn’t think Aoi was the kind of person who would get involved in something like that. I could intervene, but in itself, it’s not bad to want to work part-time. I think it’s a good idea.

But there is something that worries me. I wonder what the real motivation behind your sudden desire to work part-time. I might have an idea, although it’s unlikely…

—Are you unhappy with the money I give you every week?

—Huh?

—I’m sorry. As an adult, I’m not familiar with the financial situation of high school students these days… I guess girls also spend more money on makeup and other things than boys. I understand. During today’s recess, I will briefly discuss with Ryoko-san how much money I should give you.

—Hahaha. What are you talking about? You’re completely wrong.

I seem to have said something completely out of place, and Aoi laughs.

—Isn’t it? I thought you wanted to work because you need more money.

—No, it’s okay. I’m happy with what you give me.

—Oh! Then why do you want to work?

—Well… actually Rumi-san invited me.

—Rumi-chan?

—Yes, she asked me if I would like to work at the local cafe near her house. It seems that the staff there is temporarily shorthanded due to vacations or sick leave… So they’re urgently looking for staff.

—Temporary… Does that mean it’s a short-term job?

—Yes. She said she expects she’ll need help for about two weeks. Rumi has a very close relationship with the cafe owner, as they’re family friends, and she really wants to help them out in this situation… And I want to help too.

—I see.

If it’s a place Rumi knows, it’s probably a safe work environment that isn’t demanding. Knowing that makes me feel more comfortable.

As a beginner in part-time jobs, Aoi will feel more comfortable and relaxed with her friends, and it will also be a good social experience. Besides, since it’s a short-term job, it shouldn’t interfere with her studies.

I guess it’s okay to give her permission.

I smiled at Aoi, who had a nervous expression on her face.

—Sure, I don’t see any problem. As long as you want to, it’s okay with me.

—Really?

—Yes. But just in case, we should also get your mother’s permission.

—Oh, I already took care of that yesterday.

—You did?

—Yes. She was very excited about it. Although she was a little frustrated that she couldn’t be with me on my first job.

—Oh, I see…

She won’t be coming back to Japan just for that, will she? Considering how much she loves her daughter, I’m afraid there might be something else going on.

—Yuya-kun, thank you for giving me permission.

—You’re welcome. It surprised me, but I’m glad that Aoi is expressing what she really wants to do. It’s your first job, so do your best.

—Yes, I’ll do my best!

Aoi smiled and started to cut the grilled salmon. She seemed very happy. Obviously, she really wanted to work at the cafe with Rumi.

Did she want to work that much? Come to think of it, I wanted to work part-time in high school, too. Maybe that’s common at that age.

—Do you have an interview date yet?

—Since I got your permission, I’m going to the store today. They said I could start working after the interview.

Interview and start working right away, huh? It seems they really need staff.

—Ah, what a shame. If it wasn’t for the extra hours, I could have come to see how you work, Aoi.

—You can’t come. It would be embarrassing.

—Think about the reverse. What would you do if you could visit my place of work?

—I would definitely go see it.

—I’d definitely go see it, too!

—Hmm… You’re not allowed to copy me!

Aoi got angry and her pouty cheeks made me laugh.

It’s a shame that we can only share moments like this in the morning. Because of my extra work, I won’t be able to spend time with her for a while.

That’s why I want to cherish this time in the morning.

Even if we don’t do anything special, I think I’ll be fine just by seeing your happy smile.

—Hahaha. Wasn’t that a good impression?

—That’s not the point. Anyway…hahaha.

As we looked at each other, our cheeks automatically relaxed.

Unlike the lonely dinner the night before, we enjoyed a cheerful breakfast.

It was the afternoon of that day.

 

****

 

I got up from my desk and looked out the window. The sun was beginning to set in the west, turning the city a crimson color.

The problem we had planned to work on during the extra hours was still in progress. It was still before the usual quitting time. We were still working on our respective projects as usual.

I approached Izuka’s desk and spoke to him.

—Izuka-san, about the thing I asked you about last year…

—It’s going great, Yuya-kun! Progressing smoothly!

—Ah, really? Thank you…

—Yes! You can rest assured…

Izuka-san said confidently and proudly.

He’s strangely energetic today. I feel like his gaze is more intense than usual… Why is he so fired up?

While I was confused, my eyes turned to his desk. There was an empty energy drink can.

I see… The fact that Izuka-san consumed that energy drink is proof that he has gone into extra work mode and is pushing himself to the limit to meet deadlines.

—Oh, by the way, Onee-san was looking for you earlier, Yuya-kun.

—Huh? Me?

What could it be? Is it a meeting to plan future tasks?

—Understood. I’ll go find Chizuru-san then, excuse me.

—Yes, come back soon.

Waving to Izuka, I go to Chizuru-san’s desk.

…Hmm?

From the direction of Chizuru’s desk, I hear unusually loud tapping sounds. The closer I get, the louder it gets.

Chizuru-san has been tapping at the keyboard at an uncontrolled rate. If she keeps hitting the keys with that amount of force, it’s going to break.

After she finished, Chizuru sighed in relief.

—It’s harder than I thought. Minesweeper is…

—Have you been playing Minesweeper?”

Is that the game that’s played with such fast typing?!

—Oh, Yuya-kun, just in time, I was looking for you.

—It didn’t seem like you were looking for me…

—Don’t look at me like that. Minesweeper was just a joke. Look.

When Chizuru points to the computer screen, it’s filled with code. Apparently, she had been writing code.

—I am glad. It makes me feel better to know that you are really working.

—What do you think I am? Can’t you see that I’m working right now? Even if I wanted to drink, I wouldn’t gamble or do anything stupid.

—Alcohol is forbidden too, you know!

I’m worried that Chizuru might have cans of beer instead of energy drinks.

—Even though it was a joke, I kind of feel like drinking. Oh, I miss alcohol…! What? Wait! Did you just call me an alcoholic?

—I didn’t say anything like that… By the way, didn’t you have something to tell me?

—Oh, that’s right.

Chizuru puts her hand on my shoulder.

—Yuya-kun, you have work to do. There are still about thirty minutes to go. If you want to work overtime, you’d better take a break soon.

—A break? No, I’m fine…

—Taking a break is part of the job. Besides, I guess you went home late and barely had time to have a conversation with Aoi-chan, right? How about sending her a message during your break? Or give her a call. It would be nice to keep in touch. She seems very lonely, doesn’t she?

Despite being so busy and worrying about her subordinate’s personal affairs… Chizuru is truly amazing.

—Thank you, Chizuru-san. I’ll take a break then.

—Go ahead. Well, I think I’ll take a break as well… Yuya-kun. I’m curious about your relationship…

—I won’t tell you!

—Hahaha. I look forward to seeing how spoiled Aoi-chan is.

Leaving that joke behind, Chizuru stood up from her seat… It was just a joke, right? She won’t talk about my relationship, right?

—Well… I’ll contact Aoi, thanks for the advice.

I left the office and entered a cafe on the second floor of the building.

I ordered a coffee at the counter and carried the cup to an empty table.

While I sipped my coffee, I took out my cell phone.

I guess Aoi is at the interview right now. And she said she could start working today… Is it okay if I send her a message?

Well, it doesn’t matter, I’ll do it anyway.

—How did the interview go?

As soon as I send it, the receipt appears.

—Thanks for your support, Yuya-kun. I was hired without any problems.

After the message, I get a bear sticker with a satisfied expression.

—Congratulations, Aoi! You made it!

—Thank you! I will start working today.

—Oh, I see. Good luck at your job! What are you doing now?

—I am waiting, because the owner told me that they will provide me with the uniform.

—Oh, I see. So there is a uniform.

—Yeah, I’m a little nervous about my first part-time job…

—Aoi, you’ll be fine. Even if you make mistakes, stay calm and do your best.

Watching Aoi at home, I know she will be able to handle the job well. However, I am a little worried about the customer service aspect since she tends to be a little shy.

—Oh, if I didn’t have extra hours, I could stop by a cafe after work. I would like to see Aoi working hard with my own eyes and also inform your mother…

While I sip my coffee, I wait for an answer, but there is no new message. I assume that Aoi has already changed into her uniform and is getting ready for work.

For now, I’ll settle for sending her a few words of encouragement.

I am about to close the messaging app when Aoi sends me a photo. It’s a picture of Aoi and Rumi together.

As I sip my coffee, I look at the photo.

—Oh, a photo of them in uniform… Ugh!

Seeing an unexpected photo, I could not contain myself and spit out some coffee.

They were both wearing maid’s uniforms.

A white headband on their heads, a small red bow on their collar, and they were dressed in long black dresses with pure white aprons.

And they didn’t show an inch of skin. It was a very proper uniform in that respect.

Aoi’s shy figure looked like that of a devoted and loyal maid serving her master. On the other hand, Rumi looked like a playful and energetic maid.

What should I do? They’re so adorable it hurts. Is it really possible for a cafe to exist with such beautiful maids?

While I was trying to contain my excitement, I received a message from Aoi.

“What do you think, Yuya-kun? Did I surprise you?”

“Yes, I was really surprised. The maid’s uniform looks great on you.”

“Thank you. You said you wanted to see me in a maid’s outfit during a sleepover… The surprise was a success!”

“Thank you, Aoi. Thanks to you, my spirit is rising.

“I’m glad to hear that. Do your best at work, Yuya-kun!”

“Yes, I will… By the way, this cafe isn’t a maid cafe, is it?”

“No, not at all. It’s a classic old-fashioned cafe. It seems the owner just enjoys this kind of dress.”

“Oh, mixing personal and professional… So they don’t provide customer service like the maids in manga and anime? You know, where they cast a spell on an omurice and say ‘be delicious’?”

“Oh, they wouldn’t do anything that embarrassing. Idiot!”

“Hahaha, true.

“Well… If we were at home, I could do that for you, you know?”

Just with those words, I imagine Aoi in her maid outfit making a heart shape with her hands and saying, “Be delicious, be delicious! Moe moe, kyuuun☆”…

Yeah, she’s so cute, I could eat ten plates of Omurice.

Even though I’m curious to see Aoi shyly cast a spell, I’m an adult. I can’t just get all excited and go “Woo-hoo!” I’ll pretend to be calm and respond calmly.

“You don’t have to do that, Aoi. Your omurice is already delicious. I love how fluffy the egg is.”

“Really? Then I’ll make omurice tonight.”

“Great! I’m looking forward to it.”

“Yeah. Ah, looks like I have to go to work. See you later, Yuya-kun.”

“Thanks, take care and do your best.”

I finished my conversation with her and continued to drink my coffee.

I felt a sense of lightness in my body and mind. Maybe talking to Aoi refreshed me.

“Well, it’s time to get back to work.”

I put my cup on the tray and said goodbye with a “Thank you for the food” as I left the restaurant.

I looked up at the sky. It was already getting dark.

Now my overtime begins. I’ll be working late for the next few days.

However, I didn’t feel as exhausted as I did when I was just an employee. I wanted to finish the overtime quickly and go back to having dinner with Aoi.

It’s this support in my heart that allows me to work hard at any job.

 

****

 

Day 5 of overtime.

It’s after four in the afternoon.

I’m at the same cafe, taking a break.

Lately, exchanging messages with Aoi during my break has become part of my daily routine. However, since Aoi also works, our connection time is limited.

While resting, I remembered the conversation I had with her this morning…

—Listen, Yuya-kun. Yesterday was the first time they let me work at the register.

—That’s great! Did you do well?

—Of course I did! The owner praised me and said, ‘You’re learning fast.’

—I see. I’m glad your first part-time job is in a good place.

—Yes. At my part-time job, everyone is nice and most of the customers are very friendly. It’s a welcoming environment.

—Haha, sounds like a job ad.

—Heh, it’s the truth. By the way, Rumi made a big mistake at work yesterday…

Aoi excitedly tells me even the smallest details of what happens in her part-time job.

The only time Aoi and I can talk face to face is in the morning.

That’s why I think it’s important to maintain this communication. It will help alleviate Aoi’s loneliness, and hearing Aoi’s stories will give me energy.

“Aoi, isn’t it time for you to go to work?”

“Oh, yes. There are so many things I would like to talk about, but I can’t help it. It’s work, after all.”

“Oh, that made you sound very mature.”

“Hehe, I am already an adult, you know? Well, Yuya-kun, have a nice day.”

Just as I was about to reply with something similar, my phone started to vibrate.

It was an incoming call from Aoi.

Why is she calling me? Did something bad happened?

I tap the screen and bring the phone up to my ear.

—[Hello. Aoi? What’s wrong?]

—[It’s just that… Just a little, but…]

—[Aoi, I don’t understand, what’s going on?]

—[…For a moment, I felt like I was hearing Yuya-kun’s voice…]

It was a tender and loving voice.

I thought she was mature before, but now she sounded like a younger, more loving girlfriend.

—[…You are quite an expert when it comes to showing affection.]

—[Huh? What did you say?]

—[Nothing, I just wanted to hear your voice.]

—[Mmm, that sounds like a lie. Are you treating me like a child?]

—[Hahaha! That’s not true, it’s just your imagination.]

—[Hmph!]

Trying to calm down Aoi who was getting upset, I sent her words of encouragement and ended the call.

—…So she wanted to hear my voice.

That’s what she said on the phone.

Since I started working overtime, Aoi hadn’t openly expressed her need for affection. That’s why I was surprised when she suddenly became affectionate.

I guess she’s lonely after all.

As I finished the rest of my coffee, I felt guilty.

 

*****

 

The days of overtime seemed endless. But the deadline was fast approaching.

Despite feeling tired, we were successfully completing our work.

I kept running back and forth in the office. The speed of Izuka-san’s typing was directly proportional to the number of energy drinks he consumed.

Chizuru works efficiently, sometimes letting out a sigh that made her sound like she was longing for her partner.

Apparently, her stress is building up because she has no time to stop by an izakaya after work. It’s a bit unfortunate, since alcohol is her source of energy.

And so, slowly but surely, we saw the finish line approaching.

And the twelfth day of overtime came. It was past ten at night.

Even though it was so late, some members of the re-delivery team were still in the office. All eyes were on Chizuru-san.

—Listen up, everyone. — Chizuru-san said, her expression softening — We have just finished a complete verification of the system. And I’m happy to inform you that we will be able to deliver the work with the changes smoothly tomorrow morning.

Hearing this, everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

Chizuru-san nodded in satisfaction at the look on everyone’s faces and continued.

—Despite the long overtime, everyone worked hard without complaining. We made the deadline thanks to everyone’s efforts. Thank you! And good work, everyone! — Chizuru-san shouted as she finished her speech.

In response, shouts of “Good job!” rang out from the staff. Everyone had smiles on their faces and congratulated each other in the nearby seats.

—Phew, we finally finished. — I said quietly, as if relief had escaped me.

Now I’ll be able to go home on time tomorrow. And finally, I’ll be able to spend time with Aoi during dinner. I’m so happy!

I excitedly packed my things to go home.

—Um, Yuya-kun.

I was startled by a sudden voice. And of course, I looked at the voice.

It was Yamada-san.

—Yamada-san, we made the deadline. Good job.

—Yes, good job. I’m really grateful to you, Yuya-kun. You saved me.

—Hahaha, it’s not just my merit. It’s thanks to everyone’s efforts, right?

—Yes, but it was because you involved all of us, Yuya-kun. You made all of this possible.

—R–Really? That’s a little embarrassing, hahaha…

—Sorry for being such an insecure senpai… I’ll work even harder! I’ll become a senpai who can help you in your time of need!”

—Yamada-san…

—Hahaha, I just wanted to thank you and express my determination before I go home. See you later, Yuya-kun.

With those words, Yamada-san left with a wave of her hand.

A senpai who can help in difficult times, huh?

When I heard those words, the first person I thought of was Chizuru-san.

I wonder if I’ve managed to get even a little closer to her.

—Hahaha… I guess there’s still a long way to go. — I said to myself.

I still have a long way to go to catch up with her. I would be very happy if I could get a little closer.

Thinking about that, I continued to prepare to go home.

After that, I left the building together with Chizuru-san and Izuka-san. Although both of them should be tired, they seemed to have a satisfied expression on their faces.

—We finally finished. Good job to both of you. — Chizuru-san said.

I smiled and nodded in response to her words.

—Phew, it was exhausting, wasn’t it, Izuka-san?

—Yeah, definitely. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Yuya-kun working so late.

—That’s true… It felt like it was the first time I’ve seen Yuya-kun working so late.

—Hahaha. I guess Izuka-san feels the same way, huh?

—Well, yeah. This marks the end of my relationship with energy drinks. — Izuka-san said as he stretched his back.

The phrase “my relationship with energy drinks” seemed to amuse him as Chizuru-san laughed.

—Hahaha, Izuka-kun, you really did a good job… Oh, by the way. How about going out for a drink tomorrow? Do you both have free time? — Chizuru-san gestured with her glass.

It was a bit late for that today, so when I asked her about her plans for tomorrow, she said that she wanted to meet for a drink some another time.

It’s a tempting invitation, but tomorrow I want to have a quiet dinner with Aoi after a long time. So I’ll have to decline the offer.

—I am sorry, Chizuru-san. Let’s leave the drinks for another time…

—Hahaha, I knew you would say that, Yuya-kun. And what about you, Izuka-kun?

When Chizuru-san asked, Izuka-san apologized awkwardly.

—I’m sorry, but… even though I want to go out for a drink with you, I can’t tomorrow…

—Don’t worry. If you have plans, that’s no problem… — Chizuru exclaimed, but suddenly her expression changed — Huh? Izuka-kun, why that smile? Don’t tell me… You have a date…?!”

—Hehehe, yes. I’m going to have dinner with him.

Chizuru-san froze and made a clicking sound.

Wow! She’s petrified by the sheer happiness aura of Izuka-san hitting her head on…!

—I have to rest early today and prepare for my date tomorrow. Good job, everyone!

Izuka-san waved his hands as he walked towards the station.

It’s adorable, or rather heartwarming. I feel like I’ve received a small portion of their happiness. Of course, there is one person who doesn’t feel that way.

—Chizuru-san, are you okay?

—It’s just… Lately, Izuka-kun has been distant from me.

—You can’t help it, you know? They’re in the early stages of their relationship, it’s the most exciting time anyone can experience.

—I understand that in my head! But my heart isn’t convinced! Sniff!

—Can you please stop acting like a whiny child in the middle of the street?

My respected boss has turned into a little girl. Seriously, enough already. She’s not a spoiled brat…

—Cheer up, Chizuru-san. At least you’re free from overtime now.

—Sniff. When he first joined the company, Izuka-kun used to say, ‘I want to be a capable employee like you, Chizuru-san,’ and he would follow me around… Where did that cute Izuka-kun from back then go?

She’s already lamenting her situation as if she were drinking alcohol. It shows how close she was to Izuka-san.

—Don’t worry. I’m sure Izuka-san still admires you.

While consoling my boss who was feeling down in a strange moment, we went home.

The day after the delivery.

After getting ready as usual in the morning, I had breakfast with Aoi.

—Yuya-kun! As for the part-time job, yesterday was my last day! I got my paycheck too. — Aoi said excitedly.

She reminds me of how touched I felt when I received my first paycheck from a part-time job.

—Good job on the part-time job. How was it? Did you have a good experience?

—Yes, it was fun, but I also came to understand how challenging work can be… Yuya-kun, you’re amazing for working every day.

—Hahaha. But there are moments that make it fun. It’s not all hard work… By the way, I have something to tell you as well.

—Something to tell me?

—Yes. Yesterday was my last day of overtime.

—Really?

With a loud noise, Aoi suddenly jumped up.

—Then today…

—Yes, I’ll leave on time. It’ll be nice to have dinner together after such a long time.

—Perfect! Then I’ll have to prepare your favorite hamburger, Yuya-kun!

Aoi sits down again with a happy expression.

—I’ll prepare some demi-glace sauce and then think about the side dishes…

She was quite excited, already thinking about what she was going to prepare for today.

—Aoi, you’re excited, aren’t you?

—Of course I am. After such a long time, I’ll be able to spend time with you, Yuya-kun.

—I see. I’m excited too.

—Hahaha, I’m glad everything worked out.

—What do you mean ‘worked out’?

—Huh? Well, uh…

When I asked casually, Aoi started to get nervous.

—Aoi, what’s wrong?

—Ah, well… I meant it’s good that you made the deadline.

—Oh, I see. Thanks to the help of our senpais. If they hadn’t supported us back then, I would have been really nervous.

—R–Really? So Chizuru-san and Izuka-san are good senpais too… That’s a relief.

Aoi sighed in relief for some reason.

She’s been acting weird for a while now… Oh well, it doesn’t matter. There’s no need to push her, there might be things she doesn’t want to say.

—I can’t wait to try the burger you’re making.

—Yes, I’m going to make you something delicious as a reward for all you’ve done. So keep working hard.”

—Hahaha, this sounds like a conversation between newlyweds.”

—N-Newlyweds?! I-It’s not what I meant…

Aoi blushed and started to get nervous. She looked at me with a face that looked like she’s about to cry.

And then she slowly opened her mouth.

—Please come back soon…

Wait a moment! Is she activating the newlywed mode? Aoi blushed even more and looked at me with a face that looked like she was about to cry.

—Say something, please, because I’m embarrassed! — is written all over her face.

Damn it. If I don’t say something serious, this sweet atmosphere won’t end.

—I understand. I’ll do my best for you, dear wife.

—Huuh…!

Aoi made a strange sound and fell silent. No, please say something too. I’m so embarrassed, I could die.

Both of us, embarrassed, had breakfast together.

****

 

I shut down my computer and checked my cell phone.

It was after six in the evening. My work is done, so it’s time to go home.

I stood up and called over to Chizuru who was sitting next to me.

—Thank you for your work. I’m going home now.

—Thank you for your work as well, Yuya-kun. Take care.

Chizuru-san replied with a smile. Although she was down last night, she seems to have fully recovered.

—Chizuru-san, you seem to be in a very good mood. Did something good happen?

—You know what? It turns out that I’m going to have a drink with Izuka-kun this weekend.

—Oh, that sounds great. You’ll be able to enjoy a drink after a long time!

—Yes. Izuka-kun really wants to go out for a drink with me. He has his charm, doesn’t he?

I’m glad to see that Chizuru-san has improved quite a bit… Maybe Izuka-san asked her out because he was worried about her.

—You should use these moments to relax more at home, Yuya-jun.

Chizuru-san whispered and grinned mischievously.

—I bet you’re looking forward to dear Aoi-chan taking care of you and comforting you after all the sacrifices you’ve made.

—Are you mocking me?

—I’m not mocking you. I just thought that Aoi-chan could be your reward, that’s all. And who knows, maybe her reward will be spending time with you. You better be prepared, Yuya-kun.

With that, Chizuru-san smiled happily.

I understand that Aoi feels the same way as I do.

But what does she mean by be better prepared’?

Chizuru-san has a track record of dropping cryptic hints during company outings. I would prefer it if she would refrain from making ambiguous comments that make me anxious.

—U–Uh…? Are you planning something for me like you did on the company retreat?

—No. I’m not the one planning something. It’s Aoi-chan.

—That sentence structure, like ‘I’m not A, but B,’ is the same way you spoke when you left clues during the trip!

At that time, Chizuru-san left clues by saying: “I’m just setting the stage, but it’s you who will make the move,” and that led to what happened to her in the hotel.

There’s no way that horror is going to reappear… Right?!

—Thank you for your work, Yuya-kun.

—Thank you for scaring me, Chizuru-san.

As I left the office, I was afraid of the signals the Master of Clues left behind.

Ah, I hope they’re just teasing me!

 

*****

 

While rocking on the train, I exchanged messages with Aoi.

It seemed that Aoi had gone shopping with Rumi after school. She said she got her paycheck and probably bought herself a gift as a reward for her efforts.

Now she’s already home, preparing dinner and waiting for my return.

A moment of happiness around the table, enjoying a delicious meal with Aoi… as Chizuru-san said, there couldn’t be a better reward.

After a while, we arrived at the next station. I got off the train and let the crowd carry me to the station gates.

Just as I was leaving the station, I received a call from Aoi.

—[Hello.]

—[Oh, Yuya-kun. Thanks for your work. Where are you right now?]

—[I just got out of the station. I’m going straight home, no stops.]

—[Really? That’s a relief, I made it in time… Where in the station are you?]

—[Huh? Near the grocery store…]

—[A convenience store… Oh, I found it.]

Suddenly, the call is cut off. When she says she found it, it means…

—Yuya-kun!

I turn my head in the direction of the voice.

Aoi, dressed in her uniform, runs toward me, waving her hand. She stops in front of me, her breath visible in the cold air.

—Thank you for your work.

—Aoi, didn’t you prepare dinner?

—I already finished preparing it. You don’t need to worry.

—Then… Did you come to pick me up?

—Yes. I wanted to spend as much time with you as possible, even if it’s only a few minutes.

The apartment isn’t far from the train station. It’s a walk of about ten minutes. Even in that short time, she couldn’t wait and came to see me.

—I’ll have Yuya-kun all to myself tonight.

—Eh…?

—Hahaha. You can’t escape, you know?

Saying that, Aoi took my hand.

Aoi has a somewhat absent-minded side. Even her previous statement has a similar meaning: “Since you came back early, let’s talk a lot,” or something like that.

But when she says something like; “I’ll have you all to myself tonight,” even if it’s a joke, it makes me excited.

—She really can’t hide her feelings…

—Huh? Did you say something?

—I said you’re cute.

—Oh, are you trying to avoid me again? That’s not fair. What did you really say?

—I’m not lying. But more than that, let’s go home. I’m looking forward to Aoi’s dinner, so I rushed out of the office.

—Haha. You’re like a child… But even if you try to escape, it’s useless. When you randomly say ‘cute’, you’re usually trying to avoid something.

Aoi sulks and gives me a defiant look. Her expression is so amusing that I can’t help but laugh.

—Yuya-kun, are you listening to me?

—Hahaha, sorry, I couldn’t help it.

—Hmph. We need to have a serious talk. You’re going to get a scolding on the way home.

—Eh? P–Please be gentle with me…

While Aoi scolded me, we walked home.

I looked to the side and saw Aoi diligently taking care of me and gently warning me.

We have finally returned to our normal lives.

Being scolded by my younger fiancée, I can feel the sweetness of my everyday life.

 

****

 

—This food is too luxurious!

That was my first impression when I saw the food on the table.

The burgers were fluffy and the sauce shone brightly. The Napolitan on the side had curls that really caught the eye. The fried shrimp seemed to have a crispy coating.

It’s also quite large. The salad is filled with carrots, lettuce, peppers, purple cabbage and other vegetables, making it very colorful.

—There are even fries and sausages…

It’s like a level 100 kid’s meal that appeals to an adult palate. Everything looks delicious.

—Haha, I got so excited while cooking that I think I made too much. Yuya-kun, please eat a lot, okay?

—Of course. Thank you for the food.

When I put the chopsticks into the burger, the meat juices overflow. It looks so delicious that it makes my mouth water.

I put the burger in my mouth. It has a soft texture. As I chew it with my molars, the taste of the meat envelops my tongue.

—It is delicious! Is this meat different from the usual…?

—Today is a special day. I allowed myself a little treat.

—A special day, huh…?

—It’s been a long time since we ate together, right? I feel like Aoi put a lot of effort into cooking.

—Yuya-kun, there’s no need to apologize for making me feel lonely these past few days.

Aoi said with a smile.

Today she seems to be in a better mood than usual. If I could see my own face in the mirror, I would probably smile too.

—Yuya-kun, let’s eat while the food is still hot.

—Yes… That sounds good. Even the fried shrimp has a tender and tasty filling.

As we ate, we talked about many things.

The past few days at work. School. Part-time jobs. The topics were endless and the time passed in a warm and relaxed way.

Even after dinner we stayed together. As if to make up for lost time, we even engaged in trivial conversation.

While we were sitting on the couch chatting, Aoi suddenly got up.

—I’m going to my room for a moment. Don’t move, I’ll be back soon.

With these words, Aoi went to her room.

While I was alone in the room, I checked my smartphone. It’s nine o’clock at night. Even though we talked so much, it’s still early. Having a regular work schedule certainly has its advantages.

Aoi has been smiling all day. Dinner was great too, and I could tell that she was looking forward to sharing it with me.

…Aoi still hasn’t returned. What could she be doing?

As I looked toward her room, the door opened at that moment.

—Thank you for waiting. — Aoi says as she shyly approaches me.

I am completely speechless when I see her.

Aoi is wearing a black maid’s mini dress. It is adorned with lace and ruffles and looks adorable. She wears a white apron over it. Her legs are wrapped in knee-high stockings, and a garter belt extends from her thigh into her skirt.

It is completely different from the uniform Aoi wore at her part-time job. It’s a completely different maid’s outfit, with a sensuality that tempts her master.

Aoi stood in front of me and turned gracefully.

—Haha, did I surprise you?

—…Yes, I am very surprised. Did you prepare this outfit for me?

—Yes. I bought it at a discount store. You only got to see pictures of my part-time job uniform… But since you love maid’s outfits, I wanted to show it to you properly.

The way she expressed it can lead to misunderstandings, so I hope she stops wearing it… Although it’s true that I was surprised to see Aoi dressed as a maid.

…The naughty maid costume Aoi wears is frankly erotic. With the skirt and the bare thighs between the thigh-high stockings. She also comes with garters. This combination is simply a forbidden combination that confuses men.

I look up for a moment and see Aoi blushing nervously while clutching the edge of her skirt.

—Yuya-kun, you shouldn’t just look at my legs. It’s… Embarrassing, so…

—Ah, I’m sorry.

I hastily apologize, but it’s already too late. Aoi stares at me with narrowed eyes.

—Yuya-kun… Sometimes you’re really perverse…

—I’m really sorry…

—Hahaha, but I’m glad. It seems like you enjoyed it.

Aoi smiled shyly and sat down next to me.

—I get nervous when you’re different from the usual Aoi…

—Haha. The surprise isn’t over yet, you know?”

Saying that, Aoi took out a small black box from the pocket of her apron.

Hmm? I wonder what this box contains.

Filled with curiosity, Aoi showed a friendly smile.

—Yuya-kun, happy birthday!

—Eh?

Birthday… Ah!

That’s right, today is my birthday. I’ve been so busy these past few days that I completely forgot.

Suddenly, I remembered the peculiarity of our conversation this morning.

When I told Aoi that my overtime ended today, she said, “I’m glad you made it in time”. Is that why she said that? Did she want to be with me today?

So… Is everything she’s doing part of my birthday present?

Aoi looked at me and laughed slyly.

—Haha. The look on your face says ‘I forgot’, doesn’t it?

—Yes. You just reminded me that I’m twenty-five.

—Oh, you’re so absent-minded.

—Haha. Lately, I’ve been thinking only about you and neglecting myself.

—Ugh…! Don’t say strange things all of a sudden! Idiot.

Aoi tapped my shoulder lightly. It’s clear that she’s trying to hide her shyness.

—This is a birthday present for you, Yuya-kun. I picked it out today with Rumi-san. I also bought the maid’s outfit.

—Now it all makes sense… I see, thank you.

I thanked her and took the gift from Aoi.

I looked at the box again. It had a simple design with only the brand name in English letters.

Maybe… Is it an expensive gift? Even if I gave her money, I would have to save a lot to be able to buy it, right?

Wait a minute…

—Aoi, don’t tell me the real reason you got a short-term part-time job was because…

—Ah, are you going to ask me about that? Yuya-kun, you lack tact.

—I’m sorry…

—Haha. You guessed right. I wanted to work so that I could celebrate your birthday. I wanted to prepare the food and gifts with my own money, not with what you gave me.

—Aoi…

Suddenly, I feel warmth in my chest and my eyes become moist.

This is the first time I’ve ever tried to work part-time, and she’s secretly planned such a wonderful party for me… I’m just too happy.

—Remember when I said I would surprise you? Tell me, did I succeed?

—You surprised me so much. I was so touched that I almost cried…

—R–Really?

—Yes. This gift contains so many of Aoi’s feelings… Hey, can I open it?

—Yes, please.

I untied the ribbon and opened the box.

Inside was a leather card holder. It had an elegant brown tone with a small logo detail. It looked luxurious and cool. It’s a design I like.

—Your wallet was worn out. So please use this one starting tomorrow.

Earlier, Aoi had pointed out that my card holder was quite worn out. Maybe that was the spark of inspiration for this gift.

—This is incredible. I love it so much.

—Really? I’m glad. Even though it’s not very expensive…

—It’s not about the price. I’m happy with the sentiment you put into it. That you went out of your way to prepare so many things to celebrate my birthday.

—Yuya-kun…

—Oh, I’m getting emotional! Starting tomorrow, I’ll be handing out more cards to my customers!

—Haha, why are you saying that? It would be annoying for the other person.

—It shows how happy I am. Really, thank you so much.

I gently stroke Aoi’s head.

Suddenly, her expression changes the moment I touch her.

From a smile, her face gradually changes to a seductive expression. Her eyes have a sensual glow that makes me feel excited.

—…Yuya-kun.

A sweet voice falls from Aoi’s lips.

Aoi gently places her hand on my thigh. It tickles me and my body shakes slightly.

Then she moves closer to me and presses her body against mine.

—Do you want to be spoiled?

—Is it wrong if I ask for it?

She looks at me with pleading puppy eyes.

Today is a special day. A night where I get to spend time with my beloved after a long time.

So no matter how much she wants to be spoiled, it’s okay. I put my arm around Aoi’s shoulder.

—No, come here, my little one.

—I’ve been so lonely all this time.

—I know. Me too.

—When you’re not around, Yuya-kun, everything becomes unbearable.

This adorable explanation excites me. How did she learn to say words that men like?

I can barely keep my sanity when Aoi throws words like that at me as a surprise attack.

—…Yuya-kun. I love you very much.

Aoi stands up quietly.

And then she straddles my thigh and sits down firmly.

—Aah?

Aoi’s bold and unexpected action causes a strange sound to escape from my mouth.

The skirt of her maid uniform unfurls like a flower petal. The sensation of her thighs and hips is quite raw because it’s not through the skirt.

When she embraces me with her hands around my body, I suddenly come to my senses.

—Aoi, I understand that you want to be spoiled, but you’re very close… Can you back off a bit?

—No, you said it’s fine.

Aoi pressed her breasts against my body even more, clinging to me tightly. Not so much that her breasts were smacking together or anything like that, but my whole body felt like it was being absorbed by her.

—Please, let me be like this just for tonight. I… I’ve missed you so much that I would cry every night.

A sincere confession escapes from Aoi’s lips.

Aoi had been supporting me while I was overwhelmed with overtime work. She endured without complaining, always smiling.

…This position might not be ideal, but I had to accept her request.

I gently stroke Aoi’s head once again.

—I’m sorry for being so selfish.

—It’s not selfishness at all. You’ve always supported me, Aoi. I’m truly grateful for that. It’s only natural that you can rely on me a bit.

—Yuya-kun… Thank you. But, maybe a bit of comfort isn’t enough.

—Eh?

—Tonight… I want to receive a lot of love.

Aoi tightens her arms that are wrapped around me.

—I ache from the little time we’ve spent together. I really, really like you, Yuya-kun. I can’t help it, I want to be close to you.

—I–It’s embarrassing. That’s enough with that…

—No. I want you to keep comforting me.

Although Aoi usually takes great care of her image and the way she communicates when she’s with me, today she’s in spoiled mode. She’s incredibly adorable and challenging.

—During class. When I cook by myself. When I’m in the bathroom. Even during breaks at work. I’m always thinking about you, Yuya-kun. I like you so much that it feels strange. What are you going to do with me? You fool.

Her words were as sweet as candy. The soft feel of her breasts and thighs. The warmth of her body and her scent tickling my nose.

I was overwhelmed by all the intoxication she stirred in me.

Finally, I understood the meaning behind Chizuru’s words about “what Aoi is up to”. I guess it means that Aoi is being more affectionate than usual… But how could I have known? Who is Chizuru to predict such a situation?

—Yuya-kun, is something wrong? — Aoi asked with wet eyes.

—Oh, no. I was just thinking a bit.

—That’s not good. Please, really spoil me.

—R–Really? How can I…?

—Don’t get distracted. Look into my eyes while we talk.

Aoi looks right into my face. Her melting expression shows a hint of adult sensuality, as if she’s looking for the love of a partner.

Aoi is still in high school.

No matter how much I spoil her, I cannot have an adult relationship with her. If I really love Aoi, I have to resist…

—Yuya-kun, I’m very excited. I did something pretty daring… I became a bad girl.

—W-What are you saying? Don’t you think our faces are too close already?

—I want to be even closer to you.

—No, that’s already too much…

—Heh. It seems like you’re very nervous today, Yuya-kun.

—Grrr. You’re teasing me, aren’t you?”

—No, I’m just spoiling you. Today I decided to be a moody girl. — Aoi said with a smile 

—Yuya-kun, I love you very much.

—Yes… I love you too. — I replied as I hugged her gently.

A sensual sigh escaped Aoi’s small lips.

After telling her that it was okay to spoil her, I couldn’t escape. While caressing Aoi’s head, I could only receive her sweet attacks.

—Is it childish to do that?

—Um… I guess it’s okay to be childish today. It’s a special day. You decided to be spoiled, right?

—That’s right… In that case, I should do the same.

—Do that…? What are you…? Wait! Aoi?!

Aoi kissed me on the cheek.

A soft, fleshy touch spread across my cheek. A warm breath hit my ear… I felt like I was going to pass out.

—For some reason, my heart hurts… It’s Yuya-kun’s fault, isn’t it?

—M–My… Fault?

—Yes, I’m very nervous. I’m so nervous that I keep thinking… Naughty things.

—What kind of things?

I should have refrained from asking, but I lost my mind and asked the question.

Aoi showed a seductive smile and trembled her lips shyly.

—It’s doing something very naughty that makes you feel good, Yuya-kun.

I’m not sure, but Aoi’s words and voice had a strangely erotic tone.

I can’t go on like this… Grrr! I can’t lose my mind!

I tried my best to spoil Aoi while fighting my own thoughts.

 

****

 

The next morning came.

While I was getting dressed in my room, I remembered what happened last night.

Afterwards, Aoi talked endlessly about how much she enjoyed it.

“The amazing thing about Yuya-kun is how he understands my feelings even though I’m clumsy with words,” or “He’s mature, kind, and cool.”

But no matter how grateful I am to Aoi for her words and actions, there’s a limit to how far I can go. We have to stay within the limits of our situation.

Even though she mentioned more things, I’m so embarrassed to remember them that I don’t want to.

…It seems that what Aoi calls ‘naughty things’ refers to her strategy of praising and teasing me to make me blush. It’s true that I felt good when I received those compliments, but the level of ‘naughty things’ seems to be at the level of an elementary school student.

At first, I thought Aoi was trying to grow up, so I decided to put a stop to it… But now I wish she wouldn’t make confusing comments.

If Aoi ever pressures me seriously, I have to firmly refuse and have an honest conversation. That’s what I promise myself.

—I can’t believe she’s become so affectionate…

I touched my cheeks in front of the mirror. I could still feel her cheeks brushing against mine, which was a little uncomfortable.

I finished changing and stepped out of my room, only to find Aoi in her apron uniform.

—G–Good morning…

Aoi blushed and fidgeted awkwardly.

—Good morning, Aoi. Is something wrong?

—I’m sorry for showing you how rude I was yesterday. I really indulged myself too much. And I said a lot of embarrassing things…

Aoi covered her face with her hands and groaned. She seemed to remember yesterday just like me.

Aoi’s reaction was so adorable that I couldn’t help but relax my cheeks.

—It’s okay. I was really happy to see a blushing Aoi.

—You fool! I’ll tease you soon!” Aoi shouted and playfully slapped my chest.

This too is part of the precious everyday life we have regained.

There are no overtime hours at work today either. I sat at the table with Aoi and enjoyed dinner.

To others, it may seem like a trivial happiness, but to me, it is the greatest joy.

—Hahaha, it’s a good day today, don’t you think?

—What are you laughing at? I’m not going to make you breakfast today, Yuya!

—Why?

—Because I want to be mean to you!

—I’m really sorry, it won’t happen again.

—Hmph.

Aoi turned to the side and ignored me.

After being so affectionate yesterday, she’s acting distant now.

While I was trying to think of how to fix her mood, Aoi suddenly laughed.

—Well, just when I was starting to admire the effort you’ve been making lately.

—Huh? What do you mean?

—Your work, helping those in need, being someone your colleagues trust… It made me want to grow up like you.

After saying that, Aoi suddenly frowned.

—But even though I admire you, I’m still going to be mean to you.

—I’m sorry. It’s just that your reaction is adorable, so it’s inevitable for me to tease you.

—What?! What does that mean? I’m not a girl you can just tease for no reason.

Aoi looked at me with narrowed eyes and called me an “idiot.”

I really want to be more careful, but it’s hard to control myself because I like Aoi’s blushing face.

However, I just realized something important… She admires me.

My goal has always been to be like Chizuru-san. Even though I’ve managed to make some people depend on me, I’m still far from being like her. I never thought that someone would look at me as a role model despite my own immaturity.

That’s why I’m glad that Aoi can see me like that.

I remember when we talked about our future and career choices.

Aoi wasn’t sure which faculty to choose because she couldn’t find her dream… But maybe, just a little, the path opened up for her.

—Aoi, do you want to be someone who works hard for others and is reliable to everyone?

—Yes, I think so. It’s wonderful to be that kind of adult.

—Then you’ve found your dream of ‘becoming someone others can rely on.

There are many people in the world who are dependable and whom others turn to in their professional lives. There are also a variety of professions in which they can be found. It may seem like a dream that is too vague to be considered a “fulfilled dream.

But for Aoi, who was uncertain about her career, it was a dream of great value. I believe that a strong desire can become a light that leads to a concrete future.

—A dream, huh? Heh. Maybe it is. — Aoi said with a smile.

While I was captivated by her warm smile, Aoi’s cell phone on the table started to vibrate.

—Who could it be this early in the morning…?

Aoi moved away from me and picked up her phone.

—It’s from Rumi-san… huh?

Aoi looked at her phone in confusion. She furrowed her brow and seemed to be worried about something.

I wonder if everything will be okay.

—What does Rumi-chan say?

—I’m not sure… Look at this.

Aoi showed me her cell phone and on it was a message from Rumi.

—What should I do, Aoi-chan?! My life is in danger! My spring break could be over!

—Your spring break…?

I really don’t understand. It seems like she’s referring to a complicated situation, but how serious could it be to die like that android?

While I was thinking about it, another message appeared on the screen.

—My mother found my hidden answer sheets from last year’s exam. She’s really angry! If I don’t get an average grade in the next exam, they’ll force me to take extra classes and I’ll have to go to spring classes every day.

I remember talking to Rumi’s mother when I attended Aoi’s open class. She was an elegant and kind person. If she’s so angry, it must be because Rumi’s grades were really bad.

The phone beeped again and another message was added.

—So Aoi-chan, tutor me! I need help studying!

And finally, a crying dog sticker was attached.

Aoi and I exchanged glances.

—Hahaha. Congratulations, there you have it, the first person who will depend on you.

—Hehe. Rumi-san is always giving me trouble. Even though I keep telling her to review her lessons, she never listens.

While we were laughing about Rumi’s situation, Aoi was typing a message on her phone.

—I’ll organize an intensive study session for you soon.

Aoi’s profile seemed oddly happy after Rumi asked for her help… and it also showed some pride.

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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