“…Phew. Today was a lot of work,” Yuuki Yuusuke, a second year high school student, grumbled together with a sigh as he was on his way home from work.
The time was already past 10 pm and the surrounding was pitch black.
Yuuki’s job today was as a helper at a factory run by a relative.
During busy periods, there were also times where he was returning home late like today, but considering the hourly wage, it was an amount that would be unbelievable for a typical part-time job, so this was something Yuuki was grateful for.
And now, although Yuuki was feeling tired all over his body from working like any other salaryman of the society, his steps were natural and light.
After all, I have a girl who’s waiting for me!!
Grinning, he continued on his way home while occasionally mixing some strange bouncy steps for a while, and finally arrived in front of the apartment building where he was living.
He lightly skipped up the stairs of his apartment building and walked to the front of his room.
And then, as he was about to open the door using the key he took out from his pocket, …huh?, Yuuki saw an unfamiliar girl coming up the stairs that he had just climbed.
Did I ever see that girl in this apartment?
Anyhow, her appearance stood out.
She was a girl around no older than ten, with bright golden hair and clear blue eyes.
Furthermore, that girl had unlocked the door and entered the room next to Kotori’s room that was next to Yuuki’s room.
“Moreover a next door neighbor, huh…”
He hadn’t noticed it at all until now.
“Well, she’s probably an elementary schooler, so maybe her and my time going outside doesn’t overlap… Oh well, that aside”
Once again, Yuuki inserted the key into the door, unlocking it, and opened it with a gusto.
“I’m home!!,” Yuuki said, greeted by the warm light at the entrance.
He could also smell something good.
“Welcome home, Yuuki-san”
The one who appeared and greeted Yuuki was a black-haired girl, Shimizu Kotori.
Yuuki’s girlfriend who was living in the room next door. She was wearing an apron over her uniform. She usually came like this to cook him breakfast and dinner.
Just by looking at her, with her gentle and well-ordered appearance combined with an apron, Yuuki felt like his body was enveloped with a warmth that seemed to drain away his fatigue.
…Yeah, this is what I’m talking about.
He had already experienced being greeted at the entrance when he came home from work like this many times before, but his mouth would still end up turning into a broad smile.
“What’s the matter?”
“I wonder what happiness is”
“What happened? Out of the blue like that,” Kotori tilted her head. Cute.
“First, the simplest thing that comes to mind is ‘a situation that allows you to live a well-off life without having to work,’ well, it would be awesome to be able to play around and live without working, wouldn’t it? But is that really happiness, I wonder?”
Yuuki continued his speech with a serious face.
“For example, my grandpa was running a farm, but when I was about ten years old, he was hospitalized for cancer and died without ever going back to work. But, what my grandpa would always say on his hospital bed was, ‘When I get better, I really wanna start farming again,’ you know? If you think about it, the billionaires in the world don’t have to work either, but they’re studying not less than anyone else and actively working. Humans are like living beings who can’t feel fulfilled in life unless they are working”
“But then, if you ask whether or not it’s fine as long as you’re working, that’s also different, right? Even if it’s something you like, you would get tired from working. Moreover, if you work all the time, and ignore spending time with someone you love, and become lonely, you’ve got your priority backwards, isn’t it”
“I suppose that’s true”
“That’s why, ‘to be able to spend a relaxing time with someone you love after working hard,’ is what I think of as happiness. And so, currently I work myself to the bone on my study and part-time, and when I get home, I have the cutest, most gentle girl making me dinner and welcoming home, alright”
Then with a smug face, “In other words, right now I’m thinking that this is ‘the greatest happiness,’ but what do you think, Kotori?,” Yuuki asked Kotori.
“I guess so, today it’s stir-fried vegetables and pork fried with ginger”
With a smile, she splendidly ignored it.
“What’s wrong? Were you not in the mood for pork fried with ginger?”
“No, that’s not it. Pork fried with ginger you make is the best in the world!! I’m thinking if there was a last supper, I’m definitely putting it on the menu. Thank you as always!”
“Thank you very much. And please don’t forget to leave your clothes and empty and pockets, okay?,” Kotori smoothly told him once again with a smile, and then quickly walked towards the living room.
By the way, her smile just now was cute.
Very cute (this was something important so it was repeated).
Yuuki crossed his arms and groaned.
She’s getting tough, huh. That Kotori.
Even though until a short while ago she would be embarrassed and her face blushed every time he told her something like this.
It was cute when she was like that.
Extremely cute (this was something important so it would be said time and time again).
“Well, she will get used to it, won’t she… And she can’t be that flustered every time”
While thinking it was something unavoidable, Yuuki felt a little sulky.
The pork fried with ginger and stir-fried vegetables were very delicious.
Kotori’s cooking was really the best. The seasoning wasn’t particularly thick or eccentric, but it was relaxing to eat.
Kotori deftly cleared away the plates that had become empty, and took out a homemade milk for dessert from the fridge.
“Here you go, Yuuki-san”
This refreshing and not too sweet dessert was Yuuki’s favorite food.
Kotori placed the dessert in front of Yuuki and went straight to start washing the dishes.
This was the usual routine of those two.
He had tried to help once before, but Yuuki, who had made do with convenience store food and cup instant noodles almost all the time before Kotori’s arrival, had splendidly slipped his hands and ended up smashing the plate (twice, in fact).
‘Umm… It’s okay if you take a rest, Yuuki-san. And you must also be tired from work, so… Ahaha,’ and was told so in a seriously sympathetic voice. Then he made the decision to leave this whole matter to the minister in charge, Kotori.
It was unlikely for him to be able to forget the way Kotori at that time looked at him like he was a pitiful thing until the next life.
Kotori was humming in a beautiful voice as she was finishing washing the dishes.
Very skilled. As for Yuuki, honestly, the difference was enough to make him want to shrink back.
After finishing washing the dishes in no time, Kotori came back to the table.
“Huh? Yuuki-san, what’s wrong? You’re not even eating the dessert”
“Well… I’m just thinking that I’ve always been taken care of by you”
He thought that he seemed to not be able to live if Kotori ever disappeared. He was grateful, and felt a bit guilty.
“Aren’t you also paying the food expense for me, too, Yuuki-san? It’s not something to worry about”
“Well, I wonder”
Well, let’s at least be very grateful for it…
Yuuki then picked up the spoon.
And he realized something.
“Ooh, there’s more pudding than usual, isn’t there”
“Is that so?”
The amount of pudding served on a clear glass platter was about double the usual amount.
Kotori would usually serve it in small portions, as it wouldn’t be good to eat too much sweet foods, but, “Aah, come to think of it, you look like you’ve been in a rather good mood since some time ago. Even when you were washing the dishes, you were also humming the song from an anime you watched with Ootani last time.”
“I-I don’t think I am, though…”
Kotori looked away and began fiddling with her hair.
Ah, she’s trying to dodge it because she’s embarrassed, isn’t she.
“…Don’t tell me, could it be that you’re happy with what I said at the entrance earlier?”
It felt like he had been ignored, but she must’ve been really happy and her reaction was weak to hide her embarrassment.
As a proof of this, Kotori, who had returned towards here, had her face blushing in embarrassment.
“Fufu, I see I see. Even so, you really could get in such a better mood that easily. I’m really glad I said it”
It was really adorable.
Kotori puffed out her soft-looking cheeks.
“…Yuuki-san dummy,” said Kotori, and she began to grind her reddened face into Yuuki’s shoulder.
“Wai, stop it, it tickles”
Although he told her to stop, the warmth of Kotori’s body against his shoulder was pleasant and Yuuki didn’t try to shake her off.
If so inclined, he would even be happy to stay like this for another hour.
For Yuuki, the time he spent fooling around with Kotori like this was more important than anything else.
“What’s wrong? Kotori”
With a muffled voice while burying her face in Yuuki’s arm, “Right now… I’m also happy,” and told Yuuki.
For a while staying like that, a comfortable silence flowed between them.
All they could hear was the occasional car passing by the apartment. That was why he could easily hear Kotori’s breathing and his own slightly raised heartbeat.
I wonder if this time could continue on forever…
Yuuki thought about it rather seriously.
However, the clock on the desk was slowly but surely advancing the time.
When he looked It was exactly midnight. And the day had just ended.
“Aww, summer vacation is over, huh”
Yes, the day that had just ended was the last day of summer vacation.
A lot of things… Really a lot of things happened before summer vacation, but that had also settled down over the vacation, and thus, he was returning to his daily life with Kotori while putting his spirit into his part-time job and studies.
Tomorrow was the opening ceremony, the start of the second term.
And then, it was also the first day that Kotori would attend school after transferring to Yuuki’s school.