Confessions should be made at “Twilight”
■Chapter: Takane Saki■
… I heard the sound of something tapping irregularly in the darkness.
No, apparently I had been hearing that sound for a long time, and my consciousness is gradually beginning to awaken.
The softness I feel on the right side of my body … leather? Warm…
It appears that I am lying on the couch, covered with a blanket.
Also, what is it? There is a peculiar smell in the air. I think I’ve smelled it somewhere before… Karaoke?
Yes, I think I’ve smelled this smell at a karaoke place I once went to with Yuka.
I slowly opened my heavy eyelids.
In the shadow of a table, dimness prevails in my field of vision.
I slowly raised myself up and crawled out of the darkness beneath the table and …
I saw a woman sitting in front of me.
“Is it …6 characters …6?”
She looks quite young, but I would say that she is in her mid-30s…?
To be honest, I was more than a little intimidated when I first saw her appearance.
Her blonde hair, darkened at the roots, was what is commonly referred to as pudding.
Her sharp eyes peeking out from under her hair were so powerful that it made me cower even if they were not directed at me. If she were to walk past me from across the street, I would keep my eyes down and pass her on the street as quickly as possible. That is the kind of woman she is.
Fortunately, she doesn’t even look at me, although she is glaring at some kind of text as she taps the table with the bottom of her ballpoint pen with a clunky sound…
“Hey, high school girl.”
I didn’t expect to be accosted and my voice trailed off.
The pudding girl, whose name I didn’t even know, continued in a low voice.
“What do you think a beef patty sandwiched between buns is called …?”
“It’s six characters long.”
What is this all about?
I don’t understand the situation at all, …but I know the answer to the question.
“I think it’s a hamburger …?”
“That’s it! What a trick question, it’s given me a hard time…”
What in the world could she have been stuck on…?
Despite my doubts, she writes the six characters of “hamburger” in the space provided.
… It seemed to be a crossword puzzle with a prize.
“Okay, I’ve solved two puzzles, I’m done for the day, brain training complete…”
She closed the textbook, which was full of blank spaces, and stretched.
… Apparently, she’s not as scary as I thought she was, but for goodness sake, I want to know who she is.
“Are you …?”
“Kaoru Mashima, you can call me whatever you like.”
… Huh? Mashima?
Wait a minute, then…
“Are you by any chance Mashima… Kengo-kun’s aunt?”
“Well, Kengo calls me his sister, but…”
“Hello, nice to meet you! I’m Saki Takane!”
My mind instantly switched to “Greeting Saki mode”.
I tried to straighten my posture in a hurry, and then something fell from the blanket in an avalanche.
“Ah, what is that!?”
“Hahaha, it’s body warmer, body warmer, disposable body warmer.”
“A disposable body warmer …?”
It’s almost summer, so why such a large amount of them…?
Seeing me puzzled, Kaoru-san laughed.
In contrast to Mashima-kun, she laughs a lot.
“Don’t you remember? When the high school girl had a stomach ache, that idiot started gathering disposable body warmers from all over the house and stuffing them into a blanket. It was funny, so I kept quiet and watched.”
“Kengo, who is always so serious about his work, came back home with a bloody look on his face. And he was carrying a girl on his back! I heard she collapsed all of a sudden. Lucky we live so close.”
Yes, I passed out in front of the train station and…
…Mashima-kun brought me in…
“By the way, this is a snack bar that I run, and it’s called ‘Leo’ after a cat I used to have.”
“I don’t really know what a snack bar is, but it’s for adults, right?”
Of course, I’ve never been in one, but if you ask me, I have a dim image of a long counter with beautiful bottles of liquor lined up like jewels on the shelves.
“I know it’s not a place for high school students, but it’s not open yet, so it’s a special day… Oh, don’t tell Senko or anyone else, okay? I’ll get in trouble.”
Kaoru is … kind of a mysterious woman.
But more than that, now I remember what I have done to Mashima-kun, and I feel deep self-loathing.
“…Um, Mashima-kun is …?”
“He said he was going to finish the shopping he asked me to do. I think he should be back by this time.”
“I have done terrible things to … Mashima-kun. I even caused trouble for Kaoru-san… I don’t have any face to match…”
“I don’t mind it at all, and he’s not the kind of person who cares about that kind of thing either.”
“…So I am sorry.”
I myself know very well that Mashima-kun is that kind of person.
It is because of that I cannot allow myself to take advantage of his kindness.
“I don’t think you should worry too much about it. Here you go.”
“My painkillers, and this is room temperature water.”
“I’m sorry for everything…”
“I’m just doing brain training here. Kengo was the one who took care of you.”
At first, I couldn’t help but be surprised to learn that this man was Mashima-kun’s upbringer…
But now I can understand.
“I will thank Mashima-kun in person when he comes back.”
“Smile like me! Saki is so beautiful, but with Kengo, she’s too expressionless… Wait a minute, Takane… Saki?”
“Yes? What is it …?”
Kaoru-san leaned forward over the table and stared at me intently.
Then she furrowed her brow.
“Takane Saki, could it be that Saki Takane?”
It was only natural, when you think about it.
…Because she was the one who raised Mashima-kun.
So of course she knows about the incident that happened.
The incident that got Mashima-kun suspended from school…
“Oh, I’m so sorry about that!!”
“Ha-ha-ha, you’ll apologize again soon, or rather, why are you apologizing? Saki, you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“Because of me, Mashima-kun is …!”
“Kengo is not a kid, no one made him do it, he took responsibility for what he did, that’s all that matters.”
“But, Saki! I heard you go to Kamimura High School, but you’re such a pretty girl! Your skin is so smooth, you look like a doll! You’re so cute!”
“What, wow, hey…!”
“Damn, that idiot never talks about that kind of things!”
My shoulders jumped.
“… Well, Mashima-kun, did he say anything about what happened at school?”
“He doesn’t say anything until he is asked. He says things like, ‘I changed the bulletin board today’ or ‘I did dusting exercises’ or ‘I had a mid-term exam’. That lack of interest is definitely a reflection of his father.”
“…I see… haha…”
“Really? Um, I’m sorry! How else would Mashima-kun…”
“I’m back, sister.”
“Welcome back, Kengo.”
I screamed involuntarily and immediately hid the painkiller that Kaoru-san had given me.
I was so lucky that Mashima-kun didn’t notice it.
When he saw me, his eyes widened.
“You’re awake!? Your complexion …… looks better, but what about your body? Anything wrong!?”
“Oh, ah, it was just…. anemia!”
“Ahhhhh, it’s just anemia, she just woke up, so don’t be too loud. Kengo’s voice is so low it echoes.”
“I see, that’s good…”
Mashima-kun expressed his relief.
There was definitely a sense of relief in his expression that I was safe.
Mashima-kun is the kind of person who can really worry about others and really reassure them…
“Do you have an appetite?”
“I’m sure you’re hungry. It’s getting pretty late, but I’m going to prepare lunch. Can I use your kitchen, sister?”
“You can use it all you want, I’m sleepy.”
“All right, then, Saki, you wait right here.”
“Ah! I’ll help you, Mashima-kun.”
I was about to follow Mashima-kun, who disappeared behind the counter with a shopping bag in his hand, when Kaoru stopped me.
“Our kitchen is too small to accommodate two people. You are a sick girl, so please take it easy on yourself.”
“But I’m not going to let you take care of me and cook for me…”
“…What do you like about Kengo?”
I spewed out my guts.
“W-What? No, w-why?”
“Don’t be in such a rush, my ventilation fan is old and makes a ridiculously loud noise, so he won’t be able to hear you in the kitchen if you scream.”
“How did you know? How did you know that? No one has ever … found out, not even one person…!”
“I knew it right away, didn’t I? What is it? Who’s an old woman, huh?”
Aside from Kaoru-san’s rhetorical questioning, I wonder if I’m quite easy to understand.
Now, if there was a hole here, I would like to crawl in it…!
…Anyway, there’s no way to get away with anything now that I’ve come this far.
“It’s … that kind of direct … open-mindedness…”
Kaoru-san stirred me up and I immediately felt hot all over.
I’ve only met her for a few minutes, but what am I being made to say?