It was the next day and I just got back home from work when—

“Welcome back, Komamura-san.”

–Himari was standing by the doorway, welcoming me with a soft smile

 “Ah, uhh. I’m back”

I though that she would have been in my room drawing but….

 Did she hear the door being unlocked and expressly went here just for this?

It kind of feels creepy being greeted like this.

No, it’s not like I’m averse to in any away. In fact, it was rather pleasant.

“Let me carry your stuff for you.”

Without waiting for a reply, Himari took the bag from my hand.

“Wew….. This is pretty heavy.”

“Somewhat, I guess… I’ve got a lot of paperwork and various other stuff inside it.”

“I can’t believe you carry such a heavy bag to work every day…….. You’re so strong Komamura-san”

“This much is normal though………”

There are a lot of people who come to work with a bag similar to mine.

I was genuinely confused because I didn’t expect to be praised just for carrying my bag to work.

“You must be tired right? Take a sit here please.”

Himari then immediately invites me to go straight to the kitchen chair.

……..What’s with this all of a sudden?

Somehow, I feel like it would be better to just go along with it so I did as I was told and sat down.

Himari leaves the bag in my room and comes right back. She then takes out a plastic water bottle from the fridge and pours it into a glass.

“Here you go.”

She hands me the glass with a smile on her face.

It feels like I’m not allowed to refuse.

“Thank you very much……..”

I unintentionally took on a business-like tone.

For now, I drunk about half of it in one go.

The sensation of cold water going down my esophagus had a different but all the same, refreshing feeling than when I beer.

“Is it delicious?”

“Ahh… Yeah.”

Well it did have “Delicious Water” in bold letters making a big deal out of it the label….

It can’t be bad.

There’s something I finally realized though.

“Where’s Kanon by the way?”

She ought to have been making dinner at right around this time, but I can’t see her.

“Kanon went out to shop. She said something about needing cooking sake I think, and left in a hurry.”

“I see”

If I didn’t pass by her, then she might have left quite a while ago so she should be coming back soon.

“Komamura-san”

“Hm?”

What would it be this time? – I wonder as Himari sits in front of me. With upturned eyes she says—

“Ah, uhmm dinner….would have to wait till Kanon comes back, errrm so the next would be…. Do you want to have a bath first? Or maybe…… D-do you want to have me?”

*Bwooosh*

I spit my water reflexively.

“What the heck are you spouting about all of a sudden!?”

“Eh? Isn’t that what you ask a man when he comes home from work?”

“Where are you picking up these kinds of things!?  No one usually says that!”

That’s the sort of exchange newlyweds usually have….or at least I think they do…..

What’s more, we’re not even newlyweds. I haven’t even made mention of the fact that it was being said by a high school girl so I can’t just up and honestly respond to that now can I.

 “Is that so……”

Himari felt disheartened, but she seemed to bounce right back up as she raises her head.

“M-moving on. The bath is heated up for you. Go ahead!”

“I need to wipe this dry before that…..”

The water I spewed out is scattered all over the table.

“I’ll do that for you! So please go ahead and take a bath!”

Himari interrupted me with her assertive tone just as I was about to get the rag

“Ah, ok then……”

I was overwhelmed by Himari so I just went along with it for now.

“Aaaaaaa~~~~……….”

I inadvertently let out my voice as I soaked in the bathtub.

The bath’s water just hits the right spot for someone who’s fatigued from riding the train and working.

But still…. What was up with Himari today?

She’s acting too suspicious ever since I got back.

―And as I was thinking that…..

“Komamura-san. Uhmm……….”

I heard Himari’s voice come from inside here, just on the other side of the frosted glass door. I could also see her hazy figure standing.

“I’m entering.”

……………………Hah?

Before I could parse the meaning of those words, the door had already opened.

“W-w-w-w-w-what!? Hold up, What the heck is this!

 I hurriedly sink my body further in the bathtub.

Himari was here holding a towel with one hand.

Seeing so, I can guess on what she was planning to do.

—And I would need to stop it at all costs.

“I-I’ll be washing your back ok…….!”

“You don’t have to!  I can wash it myself!”

“But if I don’t do at least this much then—“

*creak*

Himari’s sentence was swallowed up by the sound of the front door opening.

In other words― Kanon was here.

…………………………………

I’ve resigned to my fate.

And of course what followed was……….

“Huh!? What are you doing!?”

Kanon noticed there was something going on in the bath so she had entered here with even shopping bag on hand.

<><><><><><><>><><><><><> 

“Sigh………”

With her temples twitching in anger, Kanade was sitting on a chair with her arms and legs crossed.

In front of her was me and Himari, who have been forced to sit in seiza, were just waiting in silence for her next words.

Our rights to speak have been stripped out of us.

“Quit acting that way from now on, Himari”

“Yes, mam………”

With Kanon saying it to her straight to the point, Himari hangs her head down in sadness.

I wanted to thank Komamura-san somehow…… or rather, I wanted to be of service to him in any way possible…..

“I can sympathize with how you feel. But you know…. doing that kind of thing invites weird misunderstandings.”

“Yes…..I’m sorry….”

Himari gets even more down.

Kanon sounds out a small sigh while looking at Himari and then subsequently turns a sharp glare towards me.

“You, on the other hand, didn’t even try to stop her.”

 “No, I mean, I didn’t even have the time to and—”

“Then try harder. You’re a grown up right? Act like one. Understand?”

“……….Yes mam”

As one would expect, I couldn’t defend myself.

She was right.

I was carried along by the pace Himari set, right from the onset……..

I have to be careful in the future.

“Himari. I don’t want you to concern yourself that kind of thing from here on out ok?  I know I already said it before but,  Seeing you properly draw is good enough for me.”

 “Yes…. I understand”

Himari nods wholeheartedly.

With that, It’ll probably be ok— And after thinking that, Himari turns to Kanon with sparkling eyes.

“Uhmm, Is it ok if I wash your back for you Kanon?”

“Ueeh!?”

Kanon, who thought of giving Himari the cold shoulder, almost slipped off the chair.

Isn’t that too much of an overreaction?

This is the first time I’ve seen a person slip of their chair in surprise outside of manga.

“………I can’t?”

Himari looks at Kanon with teary eyes.

If a random guy sees this without any context, they’d think they were just two girls who were simply good friends but I was instantly able to guess her thoughts.

She wants to thank Kanon for the food she makes.

“Eh ah uhmm….. I-I…….”

“……You don’t want to?

“Ahh geez, ok ok! But just this once! Just this one time ok!?

“Ok!”

Himari smile and nods at Himari’s reply.

……I’m I really allowed to watch this conversation?

I was completely removed from the topic of conversation and just watched on and felt sad at the thought of being cast aside.

And so, the two of them immediately headed to the bath looking as close as close can be.

“Uwaah~……You have such beatiful skin Kanon”

“H-hey!? D-don’t just suddenly touch me ok!?

“Ah, sorry. I didn’t mean to….. But it really is nice~”

“You have long slender legs and tender skin yourself, Himari’

“Uweh!? That tickles Kanon!”

“He he he. It’s payback for earlier.” 

“Mmmm……”

The chatter of the two could be overheard from the bathroom.

I wish they’d tone down their voices a little more but if I bring that fact to light though, it’s pretty obvious to me that Kanon would hit me with the “Don’t listen in you pervert”.

I have no choice but to bear with it but…………. Don’t imagine it, me.

Nothingness. Once I reach the state of nothingness, then these conversations would be nothing more but noise.

“I’m going to wash your back now Kanon”

“Ah, yeah. Thanks”

It seems that Himari has started washing Kanon’s back just like what she said she was going to do.

“Kanon uhm……since we’re here already, can I ask you for something selfish?”

“Hm? What is it?”

“Please let me touch it”

“Eh?…..Hiyaa!?

“Hehehe . You have such fine breasts dear customer~ Please share them with me.”

“Why did you suddenly turn into one of those sketchy people!?  Hey w-wait a minute…….D-don’t rub them so hard—”

“Mmm. It’s no fair. Yours are so soft , squishy, and tender.”

“Hi-Himari, didn’t I say yours was tender one? Torya!”

“Eeek! P-please don’t suddenly touch my butt!”

………………..Achieving the state of nothingness………..Is all but a distant dream……..

The weather was cloudy today.

If I remember correctly, The day Kanon and Himari came here also had the same night sky.

It has only been a few days since they arrived, but I feel as though weeks had already gone by.

My life since they came here was a fresh new experience.

That’s how it was.

Back then, went I went home, there was no one here. Then suddenly, two people joined me.

As I’m idly gazing at the grey clouds, Isobe had gently come up to my desk with sheets of documents in hand.

“Komamura. All the numbers here are shifted by one line.”

“Eh-“

I hurriedly go through the documents handed by Isobe.

I……did this?

It was the third line from the top. I forgot to enter a number which caused it to misalign.

“Considering that it’s you, that’s a pretty rare mistake. You seem to be out it today even today too.

Is your health holding up?”

“No, it’s nothing like that.  Sorry. I’ll fix it right away.”

“Hmm…..? Please do then. It’s everyone’s important salary after all so it needs to be done properly.”   

When he sees me sharply looking at my computer screen, Isobe went back to his desk.

This isn’t good. I’m thinking about those girls even during work too.

I took a long deep breath to forcibly change my mindset.

I frantically made up for the lost time I made and managed to finish work on time.

When I returned home, I find Kanon already standing in the kitchen making dinner.

“…….Welcome back.”

-Kanon says without even bothering to look at me.

I was still happy about it nevertheless.

“Welcome home~”

I also hear Himari’s voice come from further inside.

“I’m back”

I’m still a little embarrassed saying “I’m back”

But it feels good to once again greeted being greeted after I come home after work.

After I loosen my tie, I stand at Kanon’s back-right side to watch her work.

The frying pan contained chopped pork belly seared in low heat and is starting to release some beautiful juices.

She is cutting Eringi mushrooms and puts it into the frying pan as the meat was cooking.

She follows it up by taking broccoli from the microwave and puts it into the frying pan too.

I see. So you can use broccoli without having to boil it just by using a plate, water, and cling wrap.

“Why have you been doing since earlier? Stop staring, it’s distracting.”

“Nothing. I was just thinking you’re really good. By the way, what dish are you making?”  

“It doesn’t really have a name. It’s somewhat like simple vegetable stir-fry with a rich taste by having mayonnaise substitute for the cooking oil.“

What a jack in a box-like dish……

Well, Now that she mentioned it, mayonnaise can certainly be used as oil.

While I was in shock and awe, Kanon mixes mayonnaise with garlic paste and puts it into the frying pan.

She then increases the heat and starts frying away.

A little while later, she sprinkles in the black pepper.

Come to think of it, I don’t think we had any garlic paste or black pepper here.

I guess she bought some during shopping the other day.  I didn’t notice.

“Didn’t I tell you to stop staring??”

“Sorry, sorry. I was just thinking that you’d make a good bride”

“Wha——!? W-why not just quit saying this weird stuff and get in the bath!?”

I only said my true thoughts but Kanon’s face turned redder than I expected.

I think this atmosphere has turned sour so before Kanon got to complain any more, I bolt out of the kitchen.

Dinner was already done once I got out of the bath.

There was also miso soup in addition to the stir-fry made earlier.

“It’s fine if you just continue eating. I just want to say stuff about what future weekday mornings will be like.”

“Ah, I also wanted to talk about that.”

Basically, I’m at the office on weekdays while Kanon is in school.

That would leave Himari as the only one here.

I hadn’t been able to think too deeply into it since I had gone to work both today and yesterday.

“It’s been decided that I’ll do the laundry but should I sweep the place up too?”

“That would be a big help but I do have a request for you about that. Can you refrain from using the vacuum cleaner? I think it might tip off the neighbors about your presence if you do.”

“Ah, I see….. I understand.”

Himari’s existence must be held with the utmost secrecy.

If her existence were to be leaked out, it would be the end in more ways than one.

“Also, What will you do for lunch?  Kanon made rice balls for yesterday and even today too but….”

Kanon had made Himari rice balls for her lunch while also making her own bento.

Himari can’t cook unlike Kanon.

While it is true that Himari can make cup noodles by simply pouring hot water on it but since she’ll have to turn on the ventilation for it then it would be same scenario as the vacuum cleaner I mentioned earlier. I honestly don’t want that to happen.

“Kanon. I think I can handle making onigiri at least, so I’ll do it myself from tomorrow onwards.”

“Hmm, Okay. Then let me a bit extra to your lunch by giving you some side dishes from my bento. Is that ok with you?”

“Yes. Thank you. Oh yeah, I was also thinking of getting a part time job”

“”Eh—“”

My voice resonated harmoniously with Kanon as we voiced our shock at Himari’s statement.

“Isn’t that a bad idea when you’re a runaway?”

That’s right Himari. It’s dangerous……….”

“Thank you for your concerns. But I’ve been thinking about it for the whole day today. I can’t just keep being taken care of by the both of you forever. I really hate that, so at least let me handle the costs of my own meals.”

“But…”

Seeing how serious Himari looked, I couldn’t say anything else.”

There was a fire in her eyes.

Himari did have the guts to run away from home to chase her dreams after all.

Seeing her eyes made me understand that it would be difficult to change her mind with that resolve.

It seems Kanon also felt the same and could only look at her in anxiety.

“It’s great that you have a strong will but…. Are you sure you’re going through with it?  If you’re discovered, the you’ll lose the right to talk about pursuing your dreams anymore.”

“I think I’ve said it before but I don’t think that there will be a problem. My parents are the type of people who keep up their appearance…. They won’t want to make a big deal of this so I don’t think they will look for me using the public authorities. I’ve already searched the internet on whether there’s a search request out for me just in case, but so far there’s no information was available that’s related to me.”

“I see…..”

I’ve actually also secretly looked into that myself by looking at the police’s website but just as Himari said, there was no information about her available.

Now that I think about it, I don’t even know Himari’s surname.

There’s also the likelihood that the name “Himari” is just an alias.

I’m not going to dig that deep into it though.

I’ve been thinking about what would happen if Himari just so happens to be discovered staying at my house.

I don’t know her real name.

I wasn’t informed.

I was deceived.

I could use one of those excuses.

……..I might just be pretty cowardly being so calculative.

On one hand I’m helping her, and on the other hand, I’ve also been thinking of the time I’d have to abandon her……..

“So, will you allow me to take a part-time job? I won’t go to a convenience store or such. I’ll look for a place where there is an infinitesimal chance that my parents will be able find so……”

“If you’re that adamant, then I’ll have to oblige….. I’ll buy1 you a resume when I get home tomorrow. But…. are you sure you want to do this? If your parents find out about this then I probably won’t be able to help you.”

Himari closed her eyes for a tiny bit as she thought about something but soon opens her eyes and heartily nods.

“Yes”

“…Then that’s that.”

After I confirm Kanon’s intentions, Kanon stood up gently holding her plate.

“Thanks for the meal.”

With Kanon saying her graces as the cue, me and Himari proceeded to eat the food we stopped eating during the conversation.

The nameless vegetable stir-fry Kanon made had almost no taste of mayonnaise. The pork with its hints of black pepper meshed extraordinarily well with the rice.

It’s my first time tasting something like it but this is delicious.

I’m really grateful that I get to eat food without having to eat it myself.

When I think about the various things on how I’ve led my life like eating convenience store bento and supermarket side dishes, my hearts gets touched once again.

And what would have it, A high school girl was the one making it for me.

Plus, although she can’t cook,  there was another high school girl who’s doing the laundry and cleaning for me.

If the single men of this world were to know of this, they’d probably kill me out of jealousy.

I once again made a silent vow in my heart to never let anyone find out.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><> 

After washing the dishes, I sat down on the sofa in the living room to take a break.

At that moment, the phone I had left on the sofa had played the sound that indicates that it was low on battery.

When I plug in the charging cable to my phone, a thought flashed into me.

“Come to think of it, I still haven’t gotten your contact information Kanon. Can you give it to me? It’s for emergencies. “

Kanon is sitting on the floor near the sofa watching TV.  She turns around to me and says–

“Ah, sure”

Kanon shows me her phone’s screen with her number on it.

After I register it in my contact list, I ringed her a miss call and then she conversely registers my number too.

With that out of the way, she directs her eyes to the TV as if nothing had happened.

It looks like she’s hooked on the drama.

Personally, I haven’t watched a drama since high school I think.

I don’t know the names of most actors these days, but the fact that they’re played by handsome men hasn’t changed,

Having those “Boring Men”2 be played by handsome actors has come to make me feel a sense of discomfort but I don’t think I was all that opposed to it when I was a teenager though.

I think it’s just by jealousy talking though.

Come to think of it, Kanon hadn’t brought up anything about SNS….but I don’t think it matters I guess.

I registered for an account just in case, but I rarely use it. About the only things I receive are notifications from official corporate accounts.

I don’t really get in touch with my friends and classmates these days.

I used to receive notifications for alumni gatherings but since it keeps overlapping on days that I have to work over vacation, I had to flag myself as “Not Participating” every time. Because of that, I don’t even get notifications for those anymore.

I know it’s the result of my own actions, but I do feel a little sad about it.

“Oh yeah, Do you not have a phone Himari?”

I call out to Himari, who was in my room in front of the computer.

“I left it at home. I didn’t want to be tracked through GPS…..”

“I see…….”

There’s no way to contact Himari.

….No. There is a way.

“I’ll give you the home’s contact number of this place then. Kanon, register this number as well.”

“Sure. Tell me later”

I move to the landline fax machine hybrid situated on the farther end of the living room.

It was hardly used now so it’s covered with a thin layer of dust.

My boss could barely use a computer back when I first joined the company so there was a period of time where I was contacted through FAX instead of email. This was a testament of those times.3

Man, those times were tough…..

I have thought of cancelling my subscription but I’ll leave it for a little while longer.

“If you ever need anything you can call me through that. I think you know this already but you don’t need to pick up the phone when it rings. I have it set to voicemail.”
I handed Himari a piece of paper with my phone number and landline written into it.

She looks at the numbers as she nods.

 “Oh, I should tell my number to Himari too then.”

Kanon takes a cute looking notepad from her bag writes her number on It, then hands the piece over to Himari.

“Thank you”

Himari puts the notes she received from us right next to the computer.

<><><><><><>

Today, Kanon used the bath ahead of Himari.

I took a bath immediately after returning but would it be better to decide on an order?

If I have overtime though then I’ll likewise be late in returning. I would need to be flexible in regards to that.

I don’t know if it happened after taking a bath but Kanon was sitting on the sofa where she dozed off

I just thought she was intently watching TV but no wonder she was quiet.

I should finish up on this beer and brush my teeth soon too.

 “Hayahh”

I utter a sound while standing up.

I guess I’m that much of an old geezer now huh, but there really is no helping it.

Now then. All I need is to spend the day tomorrow uneventfully…

While thinking all of that, I unconsciously opened the door to the bathroom.

Note the word unconsciously.

I just went to the bathroom to brush my teeth.

It was an unremarkable action that was ingrained in my body all through my life here.

The notion that a freshly bathed Himari could possibly be inside had completely slipped out of my mind at this time.

“Heh!? Ah!? Wa!? Eh!?”

“–!? Sorry”

I closed the door in a flash.

I couldn’t believe that my heart was beathing this fast.

….She was in her birthday suit.

A young and health yet pale white body.

Slender, soft legs.

Twin hills that weren’t large but had great shape. Its tips a beautiful pink–

Stop it! Don’t remember it. Shut it out and forget about it.

What can I think of to make it go away?

Isn’t there something?

That’s it. That old man next to me on the train this morning. The face of that “Hair so thin they look like barcodes” balding old man.4

…..Yeah, that seems good enough.

I was forced to be glued together with that old man due to the crowded train.

He was sweating by the bucketloads so I wasn’t really fan of that guy but I didn’t think that an experience like that would be useful here.

I’m sure that old man would never dream of thinking that his appearance would have a purpose like this.

“Hyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!?”

With a few seconds of delay, I hear Himari’s scream echo from the bathroom.

It looks like It took quite a bit of time for her to register what happened.

Yup, she was completely frozen in place after— Crap, didn’t I say you should stop remembering, Me!?

Old man, I plead for your help once again……..

“What’s wrong Himari!?”

Hearing Himari’s scream, she immediately comes running.

Her eyes were greeted at the sight of me crouched down in the bathroom.

I can’t believe it. Why would you just barge in!?

I was in seiza hanging my head down in shame as Kanon blasting me one after another with harsh words in a daunting pose.

Himari meanwhile, immediately headed for my room as soon as she came out of the bathroom and closed the door shut.

Man… the fault is completely on me.  I need to apologize.

“Sorry Himari. I’m really sorry.”

I prostrated and apologized to Himari within earshot of the inside of the room.

“If there is one truth in this world it’s that I didn’t do it on purpose”

“Really….? Isn’t it because you thought you were going to be allowed to since me and Himari entered the bath together?”

“How would that leap in logic even come about!? It may sound like an excuse but…. back when I was living with my brother, I’ve never thought to care about entering the bath in any capacity. I went about this same way I always had…… You may not believe me, but I didn’t really mean to. I’ll be careful about it from now on. I’m really sorry!”

“Well, you did skip peeping and just brazenly walked right in so I guess you could make a case of not doing it on purpose so……. Anyways, just don’t do it again! Don’t forget that we’re here so be careful next time!”

“I’ll keep that in mind. I won’t make the same mistake again.”

“—Is what you say but… What would Himari say about that?  I for one think she will forgive you if you at least get hit in the head with a frying pan.”

Don’t make such a scary proposal, Kanon.

No. If it makes Himari feels better then I better take it like a man…….

“Uhmm, you don’t have to. I was just a bit surprised….. I’m fine now, yup….. I’m sorry about it too…..”
Himari had opened a small gap through the door and shyly peeks out from it.
“Himari, you don’t need to apologize”
“That’s right. I’m totally the one at fault here.”
“Emmm…. I can see that Komamura-san is very remorseful about it so…..I don’t mind it anymore.  Uhm, I’m going to bed now….”
That would be a good idea.
This atmosphere is a bit suffocating.
And so, to escape this indescribable atmosphere,  we decided to start preparing for sleep.

*****************

― I can’t sleep.

For some reason, Kanon’s vision was clear.

It has been quite a while since the lights were turned off so her eyes had adjusted to the darkness.

She turns her eyes towards Himari who was next to her.

With her constantly shifting sleeping posture, it seemed quite likely that she couldn’t sleep either.

“…..Is it still bothering you?”

Kanon couldn’t help asking her.

From Himari’s point of view, the incident earlier must have been quite a shock.

“Kanon……To be honest, I’m a bit sad………..”

Himari’s voice sounded depressed.

As I thought, it’s not easy to get your mind out of it right away after all…….

“He definitely sees me as just a child………”

“………Eh?”

Kanon didn’t comprehend Himari’s words right away.

“Komamura-san’s impression of me didn’t change at all considering he saw my naked body….. It’s proof that he doesn’t see me as a woman.”

–I see.

It’s true that Kazuki only kept apologizing all throughout. It was even a sincere one too.

There was no trace at all of him thinking – “Even though it was only an accident, I’m lucky to have seen a high school girl’s naked body”

Maybe there really was truth in his words that he wasn’t a lolicon.

There was one time when a classmate of mine who has a boyfriend said to me that “Men are wolves they can change in a snap of a hat.” But I don’t think that applies to Kazuki.
Was it because he’s an adult?

It’s too early to judge. I should still be wary of the existence called men.

But even so, Kazuki is———Just as she was starting to reach a thought, Kanon is struck by her drowsiness.

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  1. TN- I don’t think other countries have this. Note that this is quite different from hiring some to write your resume for you. You can buy blank resumes in Japan from Universities, stationery shops, or even convenience stores and the like. Companies may even require you to buy specific resumes and Resumes gotten from universities seem to be held in high regard too.
  2. TN: If you’ve watched Saekano(冴えカノ contraction of Saenai Kanojo meaning Boring Girlfriend although Kanojo is juxtaposed with the word Heroine as its reading in furigana) it’s basically Saenai Otoko 冴えない男 and handsome men is literal translation of ikemen.
  3. TN- Japan weirdly enough based on how technologically advanced it is, is pretty backwards in a lot of things. Fax machine is one of those cases as it is still widely used there today.
  4. TN- In case that wasn’t descriptive enough –  https://haelier.jp/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/U.jpg