“Poundcake, banana bread… ah, this muffin looks delicious, too.”
I’m looking at one of the confectionery recipe books that I borrowed from Tsubaki yesterday, pondering which one to make. There are too many options for me to pick that I end up getting confused. Of course, it’s after taking the available ingredients in consideration.
While I’m shilly-shallying, Mother points at one section in the table of contents.
“You know, Mom wants to eat some pancakes~”
“Hmm, I often make pancakes, though. What to do?”
When it comes to pancakes, there are many and various types that can be made depending on my creativity. I flip through the recipe book and open the page on pancakes.
“Yup, this can be prepared with what we have at home. Guess I’ll settle with pancakes then.”
I go to the kitchen and confirm that there are enough ingredients to make pancakes. I found a banana and some yogurt in the refrigerator, so they’ll go into the ingredients, too.
I add some hotcake mix, milk, eggs, and yogurt into a bowl and beat them well. Then I peel the banana and crush them adequately before putting it into the bowl. After mixing them once again, the batter is done.
Next, I apply oil to the frying pan thinly and pour the batter carefully. After this, I just need to cook both sides with low heat and the pancake will be finished. It doesn’t take much time, and the ingredients aren’t expensive, either, so it’s pretty cost-effective.
“It smells good~”
It seems like this one is finished, so I flip it over to see that it’s giving a nice color. It’s a success. I move it to a plate and I start cooking the second pancake when I hear the front bell ringing.
“Oh my, a guest.”
Mother leaves aside her laundry and goes to the front door to greet the guest. I hear the sound of the door opening, then I hear Mother speaking with someone. The familiar voice peaks my curiosity, so I sneak a look towards the entranceway.
“How do you do? I am Sekiguchi Rumi. Is Hinata-san home?”
“My, you are Hinata’s acquaintance? Hinata—! You have a guest—!”
Why is she here? With the second pancake finished, I turn off the stove before heading towards the front door.
“Good afternoon, Rumi-san.”
“Good afternoon. Is your leg all right?”
“Yes, it doesn’t hurt at all. There’s no problem.”
“…I see, thank goodness.”
She breathes a sigh, looking relieved. Don’t tell me she’s come all the way here just to ask about my injury. This level of scratch would have healed by itself, even if I left it alone.
“This is as my apology for yesterday. It isn’t much, but please eat it with your family.”
“It’s too much. In the first place, I was the one who hurt myself yesterday…”
“Mm-mm, that was my fault.”
I hurt myself out of my own carelessness, but it seems that she thinks of it as her fault.
“Thank you… very much.”
“Yup. Sorry for the sudden visit. Then, I’ll be on my way.”
“Ah, please wait a moment. I am making pancakes right now. Would you mind having some?”
Rumi flinches at my words.
“Yes, they’re yogurt-flavored banana pancakes.”
“Now, now, don’t be so reserved. Come in and eat some.”
Perhaps listening in to our conversation, Mother appears out of nowhere. Although Rumi is still hesitating, Mother succeeds to help her decide.
“I-I think I’ll have some.”
“Then, please come in. It’s not going to take long.”
“Sorry for intruding.”
She enters while looking somewhat reserved, and I guide her to the living room. Afterwards, I return to the kitchen to finish cooking the rest of the pancakes.
“Thank you for waiting—”
“Wow, it smells good.”
“These are my finest yogurt-flavored banana pancakes.”
“I’ve been waiting!”
Mother shrewdly sits next to Rumi. It seems they’ve been talking about something… which makes me worry that Rumi might have listened to things that she doesn’t need to know about from my chatty mother. I place each of their pancake in front of them before taking a seat on an empty chair. Saki is currently out somewhere, so I put her portion inside the oven.
“Hm? You forgot to put syrup on Rumi-san’s pancake.”
Mother’s pancake and mine have syrup on them, but not Rumi’s.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. Please wait a moment, I will bring the syrup——”
“Ah, it’s okay, it’s okay. I don’t really like syrup.”
“Aah, I see. Then it’s just perfect.”
Rumi never likes honey, syrup, and the like, so I intentionally didn’t put any syrup for her. Thankfully, no one notices, which makes me feel relieved in secret.
Mother stuffs her cheeks with pancake, looking satisfied as she eats. Hm, making others happy is the most important, after all. I look at Rumi, but she is silently eating while thinking about something.
“That was a feast— oops. Mom still has some laundry to do. Rumi-san, make yourself at home, okay?”
Having finished eating, Mother left to dry the laundry. She could’ve put away her plate, at least… oh well.
“Your mom is cheerful and charming.”
I let out a dry laugh. Hearing someone else praise my parent makes me glad. But I wonder why, I can’t be genuinely happy to hear that one.
“Your pancake is really delicious.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Looking at her savor the pancake as she brings another bite to her mouth, I feel relieved. Having someone else enjoy eating the sweets that you make feels rewarding, after all. This is why I can’t stop making it.
I’m gazing at the sight of Rumi eating the pancake, when she suddenly loosens her expression and smiles.
“Fufu, it somehow tastes like the one that my sister used to make.”
“I like pancakes, so she would make them for me in the past.”
As she says that, she finishes eating the last bite.
“That was a feast. It was really delicious.”
“…No, it wasn’t much.”
“I will repay you next time.”
Really, she’s grown into such an upright and earnest person. There’s no doubt that the mature Rumi is idolized by her students at school.
“Now that I’m here, maybe I’ll visit Tsubaki-chan’s home before I return.”
“Speaking of which, you said that you were friends with Tsubaki’s mom, didn’t you?”
“Yup, I did.”
“…Is Tsubaki’s mom rarely at home?”
“That’s true. It seems she is busy working, so she’s rarely at home.”
It may be just my misunderstanding, but the air around Tsubaki and her mother seems tense. It worries me, it’s like they normally avoid each other. Furthermore, Tsubaki acts a bit differently when it comes to her mother.
If she is troubled about it, then I want to be of help… but as the third-party—someone who has just met her recently, without knowing about their circumstances—a family problem isn’t something that I can just stick my head into. While I’m pondering what to do, I feel a gentle pat on my shoulder. I look up, and I see Rumi’s kind face.
“…Get along with Tsubaki-chan, okay? That girl is shy around strangers, and gets lonely easily.”
That’s about the only thing I can do.
“Well then, thanks for today. Good bye.”
She smiles and waves her hand as she takes her leave. She must be going next door to meet Tsubaki now.
I’m sure that instead of me, Rumi is far, far more reliable.
“Well…… I gotta clean this up.”
I collect the now empty plates to the kitchen to wash.
After washing the dishes, I am now relaxing while reading a recipe book, when Mother comes into the living room. She looks flustered while holding the cell phone to her ear. It seems she’s in a call.
“Hey, Hinata! This is serious!!”
“Eh, what is it? What’s wrong?”
Mother’s panicking expression is making me anxious as well.
“I think Saki has gotten lost somewhere in town!”
What’s that girl doing? I lose my spirit and get back to reading. While I’m skimming through the recipe book to decide on the next confectionery to make, Mother brings up the topic to me again.
“What do we do?! Mom doesn’t know the way around this town yet.”
“How about you tell her to ask directions from the pedestrians?”
“She already did, but she told me she didn’t understand.”
“Then, how about hailing a taxi?”
“No one stopped for her, she said.”
“Well, that girl is tiny after all… lend me the phone for a moment.”
There’s no end to this. I take the cell phone that Mother presents to me.
“Where are you right now?”
“[I’m calling because I don’t know in the first place.]”
“Then, are there any buildings that can serve as landmarks?”
“[Hm— Is there anything— ……ah! There’s a cow statue! Pfft, its face is so funny.]”
“OK, I got it. It’s hard to tell you the directions, so I’ll get you there.”
“[Eh, you’re coming here?]”
“Don’t move away from there, got it?”
“[Thankies— Hurry and get here, okay—?]”
I hang up the call and return the cell phone to Mother.
“Hinata, you know the place?”
“Yup, I’ve been walking around quite a lot ever since I came to this town. I know the gist around that area. Then, I’ll be going to fetch Saki.”
I close the book that I was reading and place it in the corner. I don’t want my sister to get into a bad mood because of waiting too much, so I make haste to where she is.
“I already told her. Why did she still move away?”
I’m now at the unattractive cow statue, but Saki is nowhere to be found.
Geez! I told her to stay still already!! That girl is always like that, acting at her own pace, making me hold my head in worry every time…… Well, that part of her is cute, too.
First things first, I bring out my cell phone and call Saki’s number. The call rings for several times before it finally connects.
“Hey, Saki. I told you not to move away.”
“[……hey, I don’t have the…… to…]”
“What are you doing?”
“Eh? Hey, I can’t hear you.”
Clack! Toot… toot…
“She hung up on me.”
I tried calling again, but I’m connected to the voicemail service center instead. I wonder if she ran out of battery. However, when the call connected earlier, Saki seems off.
“Could it be…”
I have a bad feeling about this. I start looking for Saki around the area. But since I have no idea where she would go, I have no choice but to search randomly. Sheesh, this is getting troublesome.
(At any rate, I gotta find her.)
It’d be good if it’s all just my bad feeling. It’d be good if nothing happened. I shake off my uneasiness and begin to run.
“We’ve finally caught up to you.”
“We’re not gonna eat you or something. We’re just asking you to have fun with us.”
“He’s right, we won’t do anything to you~”
“…Like I told you, I don’t want to.”
Saki is being chased by two men, and is now cornered in a back alley. Behind her is a wall that’s too tall to jump over, and in front of her are two men laughing frivolously.
“Playing tag is over. Come on, let’s go have some fun!”
“I refuse. To start with, you’re not my type. You’re annoying, gross, and persistent.”
“Haah?! Don’t you get cocky, now.”
The man kicks away an empty can nearby to intimidate her. The can hits a wall and resounds loudly, before bouncing away somewhere.
“Haha, she’s frigging scared.”
“You just need to listen to what we say, brat.”
“…Shut up, you lolicons.”
“You–! Don’t get cocky!!”
The moment the man reaches his hand to catch Saki, she evades by a hair’s breadth. With that opening, she nimbly runs towards the men and gets away from them. Her small stature saves her this time.
“Wait right there, you braaaat!!”
Angry shouts can be heard from her behind. She is running as fast as she can, but the men are still faster than her. Getting caught is but a matter of time. Furthermore, it is difficult for Saki to shake off pursuit because she is not familiar with the area.
It will be the end of her if she turns into a dead-end again without knowing. The reason she managed to escape earlier was because she took them by surprise, which means that there won’t be a second time.
“What did I do to deserve this!!”
While getting fed up by the trouble that’s uncalled for, she keeps running down the alley. Even as she tries to find for a way to escape, the distance between Saki and her pursuers is decreasing gradually.
“Just what should I– mmph?!”
There, a hand suddenly appears and covers her mouth, while the other hand pulls her body. Like one would expect, Saki, who was only putting on a brave front, freezes due to fear.
“Mmg!! Mm, mmph—!!”
Perhaps because she hears a familiar voice, Saki looks relieved and slightly loosens her tense body.
They press again each other and stifle their breaths. Soon after, they hear two sets of footsteps, and the two men pass by right before them. It seems the men didn’t spot them, so the girls give a sigh of relief at the same time.
“What are you doing in this kind of place?”
“…It’s not that I wanted to be here.”
She’s seriously in a bad mood, as she speaks in a low, trembling voice.
“Didn’t I tell you stay where you were?”
“Those ugly guys approached because I was standing there, you know. It’s really the worst.”
“Saki is cute like me, after all~”
“Ahaha, Mom is worried, too. Let’s go home.”
I release Saki from my arm. After confirming that the guys are no longer around just in case, we leave the dim alleyway.
“You could’ve saved me openly instead of sneaking around like this.”
“Now look here— although I don’t look like it, I’m just a weak girl, you know? What can I do if I have two guys as my opponent?”
I’m not a hero of justice.
“But Onee-chan, you’re doing judo, right?”
“Don’t lump a brawl and judo together. I’m not that strong in the first place, I don’t have the talent.”
“Say what you like.”
I’ve gone out of the way to fetch her, but what attitude she’s showing me. Our princess is really a handful.
“Stupid~ sleepyhead~ lazy bum~ sweets~”
What do sweets even mean? Does she mean that I’m sweet or something?
“I guess you’re right—”
I’m aware that I dote her, so I can’t deny that.
“No, I’m not!”
I’ll have to raise my voice and deny that one!! I-it’s not that I’m happy to be dissed, scorned, or bullied! It’s just that I have a big heart, or that I’ve gotten used to endure it… anyways! I’m not happy about it at all.
After all, I’ve been dissed by my childhood friend left and right in the past. But never once did I f-feel pleasant to receive her abusive words! That’s why I don’t have that kind of fetish. Yes, I’m sure of it.
“I think you have the makings of it.”
“I don’t need that kind of talent!”
I sigh exaggeratedly, while Saki is grinning while walking next to me. That attitude of hers vexes me, but as long as Saki is safe, I guess that’s all that matters.
“Thank you for coming, Onee-chan.”
I’m Saki’s onee-chan after all.
Various things happened, but we’re finally back here in front of our home.
“Ah, it’s Tsubaki-san.”
Saki is looking towards our neighbor’s front door, so I end up looking, too. Tsubaki is currently exiting the door.
…Hm? I wonder if I’m just imagining it, she looks downcast and somewhat dejected.
“Tsubaki-san, good afternoon—”
My sister greets her cheerfully without much thinking, so I follow suit and give my greetings, too.
“Ah, Hinata-san and Saki-chan. Good afternoon, did the two of you go out together?”
“Well, that’s pretty much it. Right, Onee-chan?”
“Ahaha— I guess so—”
“Fufu, you’re really close.”
Tsubaki smiles, as if her depressed face earlier was a lie. Maybe it really was just my imagination.
“Tsubaki-san, are you going out somewhere?
“Yes, I am thinking of going shopping for dinner.”
“Oh yeah, please listen. We were caught by these weird guys earlier, it was really troublesome.”
“Saki has always been popular, after all— in various meanings… ouch!”
Her eyes tell me not to say unnecessary things. On top of it, she’s stepping on my foot. It hurts.
“That happened…? Were you all right?”
“Yup, Onee-chan punched, kicked, cut them to pieces before throwing them away.”
“No, I didn’t. Your onee-chan didn’t do anything of the sort, okay?”
I didn’t do such a grotesque thing at all.
“Putting the joke aside, Tsubaki-san is pretty, so please be more careful.”
“Eh… um, I understand. Thank you for your concern.”
She bows towards us and leaves. After seeing her off, Saki and I return to our home, where Mother is waiting.