Alright, here's chapter 7. Vol 1's almost done.
For Romiemarigana, everyday was dull. Very dull.
Moreover, Romiemarigana realized that her sole support, Eason, had only brought her there under the context of 'investigation'.
He didn't show any traces of love or affection towards her.
In his quest to satisfy his curiosity, Eason asked her all sorts of questions and performed detailed checks on her body.
Despite her disappointment, Romiemarigana never thought of leaving Eason's side. "This is fine," she thought to herself. So long as she can 'satisfy' Eason - even if there was neither love nor lust - there would be meaning in being around.
Therefore, she could hold on even if other people showered her with curious looks or disdainful laughter.
Although she was cooped up in a small house, it was the world to her.
Romiemarigana's Expanding World
It was Saturday. Arumi-san, who had stayed over last night, started her morning by cleaning up the house and cooking. Not only that, when I walked into the living room half-awake in my pajamas due to all racket—
"Eita! How long are you planning to keep those clothes on!? That won't do! You have to dress better!"
She ended up scolding me. Shinonome will arrive in the afternoon, so there's still plenty of time. However, Arumi-san refused all of my protests and shoved me into the bathroom.
"Get yourself cleaned up! What about your clothes? Have you decided on what to wear? Is everything alright?"
I've got to hand it to Arumi-san.
"Normal clothes should do just fine, Arumi-san. It's not like this is a special occasion."
Although I said that, Arumi-san stubbornly rejected my views all the same.
"Of course it is! Eita's bringing his girlfriend home! I wonder what sort of girl she is? Onee-chan's getting all excited!"
I heaved a deep sigh. I did my best to deny it, but Arumi-san got it into her head that Shinonome was my girlfriend. I had no opportunity to rebut her. At the very least, I should remind her not to harass Shinonome too much. However, everything will be for naught if she doesn't calm herself down first.
Arumi-san nodded in satisfaction when she saw me washing my face. Then her cross-hairs turned towards Keisuke. She shouted towards the second floor.
"Keisuke! It's about time you wake up as well!"
She wasn't relaxed at all. Just this once, I felt nothing but pity towards Keisuke — as someone who normally sleeps into the afternoon, it must be silly to be woken up for something like this.
When I returned to the living room with a change of clothes, Arumi-san was in the kitchen cooking. I took a quick peek out of curiosity, and realized immediately that she was doing beef stew. Compared to her usual dishes, the vast difference in this stew's smell and colors suggested she probably began preparing it last night.
"I've been stewing this for eight hours since yesterday."
Said Arumi-san happily. Looking closer, I could see dark circles beneath her eyes. It did seem like she has been preparing the stew all night without sleep. I couldn't help but shrug in exasperation at how crazy that was.
"Ah, is she okay with meat?"
Asked Arumi-san worriedly all of a sudden.
"No problem, she's not—"
That was when I realized I never once had lunch or dinner with Shinonome. The movie was in the afternoon and we parted before dinner. We did eat together when we were at the theme park, but those were just sandwiches without meat in them.
The possibility of Shinonome disliking meat is not zero, but it's way too late to be worrying about things like that now.
"Oh right, when are you planning to serve that?"
Before I knew it, it was my turn to pose the questions to Arumi-san. Arumi-san replied with a perplexed expression on her face,
"Eh? Dinner. Why did you ask?"
Shinonome will be arriving in the afternoon. Still, it will be at least four hours till dinner-time, and that is a very optimistic estimation.
"Are we having dinner together?"
"Why the averse expression?"
With absolutely nothing at home, how on earth am I supposed to spend four hours with Shinonome? Should we kill time with cards? Keisuke, Arumi-san, Shinonome and I playing a game of Sevens? I'd prefer not to think about that. My original plan was to chat with her about trivialities for an hour or two before sending her home, but Arumi-san would probably stop me from doing so. Assuming that Shinonome agrees to it anyway.
"Nah, it's nothing."
To be honest, just thinking about what's about to happen is depressing enough. As I sat on the sofa in the living room just about to switch on the television, Arumi-san turned her attention to the situation on the second floor.
"Sorry to trouble you, Eita, but please wake Keisuke up. I went to his room earlier, but he just refused to wake up."
Keisuke's weekly routine involves him reading all the way until the morning during weekends, so it's possible that he's only slept three or four hours right now. It's just cruel to wake him up.
"He'll wake up pretty soon, I think? It's not like it matters if he continues to sleep......"
Knowing very well that Keisuke's hard to deal with when he wakes up, I came up with an excuse in my attempt to tactfully avoid the task, but Arumi-san had a different plan in mind.
"That won't do! Keisuke will space out for two full hours after waking up! It would be rude to your girlfriend if he doesn't act properly."
"Keisuke and I are your acting guardians since your parents aren't around! We will have to present ourselves properly! Now, get going!"
Seems like there's no more room for discussion. I stood up grudgingly and walked to the second floor.
There was no response from the room when I rapped the door. When I opened the door carefully, it was just as I expected — Keisuke was in bed, curled up in his blanket.
"Arumi-san will throw a fit, so get up already."
I shook his body in an attempt to wake him up, but Keisuke was showing no signs of waking up. This is creating a lot of pressure on me — Arumi-san will nag at me should I return to the living room without doing anything.
With no other option in hand, I decided to kill time in Keisuke's room until he woke up. To pass time, I began searching through a pile of books, and in it was the YOTAKA magazine which Shinonome autographed. There were more recent magazines stacked on top of it. As I carefully flipped through the books located below while trying my best not to topple the stack, I found a few copies of YOTAKA which were dated earlier than the one I borrowed before.
I began browsing through the covers, my eyes focused squarely on the names and the contents. Only the ones with Shinonome's works interested me. After a brief selection, I brought the stack of magazines to Keisuke's PC desk, sat on the chair and began reading the oldest volume. The magazine featured Shinonome's debut work, The Distressed Eyes of Sanni Yaka.
Yet another story which I fail to comprehend.
Just like the other stories Shinonome wrote, it wasn't set in the modern day world. Do you classify this as science fiction or fantasy? The story wasn't classified as it was published in a literary magazine, but to me, it feels way off from both genres.
In the next story and the one after that, everything was the same. All stories were set in fictitious worlds. None of them were futuristic worlds, neither was there any mentioning of terms like Japan or America.
While reading them, I began recalling what Shinonome had said.
One requires the necessary knowledge or experience to write a long story. Knowing very well what her weaknesses were, she ended up writing about fictitious worlds instead.
The other similarity in her stories was that there were no elements of romance. Even when there was a male and female character, no love blossomed between the two. All the casts portrayed their role mechanically — at least that's what it felt like for me. However, since her stories weren't based on the world we live in, one can probably interpret it as 'that's probably the kind of atmosphere she's trying to portray'.
With that interpretation in mind, Shinonome's stories may have been 'pretty decent' in that regard. However, as someone who barely reads, I'm not really in any position to judge.
Just as I finished with all the magazines I picked out (or more specifically, Shinonome's stories inside them), Keisuke's body stirred amid his rhythmic breaths. With the blanket still hanging on his body, Keisuke seemed to ignore my presence as he picked up his glasses from the PC desk before putting them on clumsily. He then finally turned to look at me.
"..... What are you doing?"
I shut the magazine.
"Arumi-san asked me to wake you up, but you never did, so I stayed here waiting. She'd chase me up here again if I returned downstairs alone."
Keisuke combed his messy bed hair upwards with his fingers and got off his bed with an irritated look on his face. Nothing was said when he saw the magazine I was reading; he walked out of his room, probably to wash up or something. Feeling all relieved for finally accomplishing my mission, I placed the magazines back onto the pile and left his room.
Back in my room, there was a message from Shinonome on my cellphone.
"Morning. Is it okay to arrive at two in the afternoon? Am I really not bothering your family?"
"Nope, not a problem. Give me a message when you get on train, okay? I'll pick you up at the station."
"Understood. Let's keep in contact."
I told her the station closest to my house. There won't be any hassle of switching lines, and it will also minimize the chance of her getting lost. Nevertheless, I kept the cellphone in my pants pocket even as I moved to the living room, just in case she needed to contact me in an emergency.
Keisuke was reading the newspaper with a cigarette in his mouth, his bed hair still messy and untouched. Arumi-san earlier insisted that I was to change my clothes, but she was silent when it came to Keisuke, and instead was preparing breakfast in the kitchen. Perhaps she knew from experience that it'll be pointless to expect anything from Keisuke when he had just woken up. She will probably leave him as is for about two hours.
The only thing left is a quick breakfast before contacting Shinonome and waiting for her at the station — just as I was thinking about such things, I suddenly noticed......
Keisuke shot a quick glance at me, but said nothing and returned to his newspaper. Perhaps it was because his brain wasn't functioning at full capacity yet. Thankfully, he didn't ask me what that was for.
As I was standing up, Arumi-san asked from the kitchen,
"Where are you going, Eita? Breakfast is ready."
"I'll be back in a jiffy. I have a call to make."
With that said, I moved to my room and dug out my phone. I found Shinonome's number in my contacts list and pressed the dial button.
About three rings later, Shinonome's voice came through.
"Ah, sorry for the sudden call. I would like to speak to you."
"You're coming to my house today, right? Due to various reasons, the situation has somehow turned into my girlfriend visiting my house......"
There was no response from Shinonome when she heard that statement. Only silence.
"Our relationship is pretty complicated, so they may not understand everything even when they hear our explanation. Therefore, I'd be really grateful if you can cooperate with me and present yourself as my girlfriend."
Shinonome was still silent. Given how early it was, perhaps she's still not fully awake? It kind of feels like Shinonome is someone who suffers from low blood pressure, so she may very well be similar to Keisuke when it comes to the morning. He will hardly respond to a conversation.
"My brother's girlfriend is a little..... you know. She may end up harassing you endlessly, so can you please put up with her? I'll do my best to save you in that situation."
Shinonome finally replied with a tiny voice,
"...... Mmm, got it."
Her voice was monotonous, as usual — perhaps she did just wake up. If that's the case, I should hang up since I'm done with everything I wanted to say—
"Well then, see you later......"
Just as I was about to disconnect the call, I directed a sudden question towards Shinonome.
"Oh right, Shinonome. Do you eat beef stew?"
"...... Beef stew?"
"Right. My brother's girlfriend stayed up all night preparing it for our dinner. So if you're fine with it...... and if time allows, why don't you join us for dinner?"
"Well...... Mmm, I'm fine with that. Thank you."
"Nah, it's not like I did anything."
"Well then, see you later."
When the sound of the disconnected tone came through, I heaved a huge sigh of relief as if I had just completed some major work. Oh boy, this is quite a bit of stress for me. The root of all my problems lies in the fact that they fail to understand our relationship. It would have been easier for me if she really were my girlfriend.
There was a sense of disappointment when the thought came to my mind.
Although I want it to happen, it never will.
On the other side of the door was the 'slightly...... you know' Arumi-san calling me out. Seems like breakfast was ready.
I heaved yet another sigh and walked out of the room.
Time ticked by once breakfast was over.
Keisuke did just as Arumi-san had predicted: two hours after waking up, he finally combed his hair and changed his clothes to show himself in a 'presentable' manner. As for Arumi-san, she remained busy as ever, sweeping the floor in one moment and checking the condition of the stew in another. Only when she was finally done with everything did she sit leisurely on the sofa to watch television.
"Let's have a simple lunch, shall we? I'd prefer if we can have our dinner early."
We went along with Arumi-san's suggestion and had udon for lunch. After that, just as I was about to look for more things to do, Shinonome's message came.
"I am on the train now. I should be there in about thirty minutes."
I stood up after reading her text. Arumi-san turned her head immediately.
"Ah! Is she on her way? Are you picking her up?"
"Ah...... Urm, yeah."
"Got it! I'll prepare some tea!"
With that, Arumi-san made herself busy yet again. As for Keisuke, he continued reading.
The sun was shining brightly, the temperature was warm enough that I broke into sweat. I stayed in the shade as much as I could while walking to the station. It takes fifteen minutes at most to reach the station even if I'm strolling, so it should end up with me waiting for her for a while.
Upon reaching the station, I leaned myself against the pillar at the ticketing gates. The train from Shinonome's direction arrived right at the exact same moment. Looking past the ticketing gates, I scanned the passengers who were getting off the train, but couldn't see Shinonome among them. Judging from the time, Shinonome's train should be the next one, so I continued to space out.
Ten minutes later, another train arrived. However, Shinonome was still nowhere to be seen. Bewildered, I checked the time on my cellphone. It's precisely thirty minutes after her text, while the next train will be here in ten minutes.
Shinonome was never late. In fact, she would always arrive early. I was a little worried.
Could something have happened to her? And then—
"Did she return home already....."
A murmur. Did she actually change her mind? Was she pissed about what I said this morning? Could she have ditched me for a reason like that? I couldn't help but to think about stuff like that.
If that was the case, the norm should be to contact the other person. However, we're talking about Shinonome here. I could sort of understand whatever course of action she chooses to take.
"You haven't arrived yet?"
I was planning to send that message, but I dropped the thought. It's unsightly to press her like that. She did text "in about thirty minutes", not within thirty nor exactly thirty. Meaning to say, there's some leeway — well, typically speaking. I hope.
I didn't want to irritate her by losing my patience and texting her.
To be honest, I don't want Shinonome to dislike me. I doubt she likes me in the first place, so all the more reason not to get into her bad books.
My only option was to wait for Shinonome at the station like a loyal dog.
While thinking about stuff like that, a train arrived at the opposite platform. I never paid any special attention to it since I wasn't expecting Shinonome to come from that direction.
But I was wrong. Shinonome was one of the many passengers who were getting off that train. She was at the rear of the pack when she stepped out, but quite unexpectedly, she walked hastily to the front and out of the ticketing gates. I was honestly surprised.
"I was expecting you to take the train from the opposite direction."
I remarked as Shinonome walked towards me. She turned around to take a look at the platform before lowering her head apologetically.
"I missed the stop as I was reading......"
"Ah, I see."
"Sorry for being late."
"Nah, it's okay. I didn't wait for too long."
That was my answer so as not to let her realize how uneasy I was feeling due to her being late.
The two of us began walking home. Even though I chose to stay in the shade as much as I could, sweat still poured from my temple due to the heat, which I wiped off with my hand. Worried about the smell of sweat, I chose to keep my distance away from Shinonome.
On the other hand, Shinonome was walking expressionlessly. Despite her wearing a cardigan (the one she usually wears) while I was wearing just a T-shirt, there was not a drop of sweat on her body.
"You don't sweat?"
Come to think of it, I seldom see Shinonome sweat, so I popped the question as we walked.
"Eh......? Why the sudden question?"
"I don't remember seeing you sweat. Today's pretty hot, isn't it?"
"It is not like I don't sweat......"
With that, Shinonome tilted her head slightly and reached for my hands all of the sudden. She then opened my gently clenched fist and held my hands. I could feel a slight moisture on her palm.
That reminded me of how Shinonome's hand was all clammy when we were on the roller coaster at the theme park. She's probably trying to say it's the way her body works.
When we were done with our conversation, Shinonome hesitantly released my hand, but I responded with a firm grip instead. I could tell from the corner of my eye that Shinonome was staring at me. I didn't look her in the eye, however. It would be incredibly embarrassing to have eye contact with her right now.
Shinonome allowed herself to be led silently by my hand. I said nothing either. Somehow, it felt like I'd be forced to let her go if we were to speak.
And so, we arrived before my house without speaking a word.
It felt like Arumi-san would tease me should she see us holding hands, so I let her hand go when we were at the door. Shinonome avoided looking at me and spoke,
"I'm feeling...... slightly nervous......"
With my hand on the door knob, I turned my head around and said,
"Relax, it'll be alright. My brother hardly speaks, though his girlfriend can be quite talkative. I'll help you out."
I then turned my back towards the stuttering Shinonome and turned the knob. Arumi-san appeared before me in a flash, which surprised me a tiny bit.
Yelled Arumi-san when she sees me. She then swiftly placed two pairs of slippers on the floor. Looks like she's ready to receive us at any moment. I've got to hand it to her; she's way more into this than I had imagined. I turned around and said to Shinonome,
"Come on in."
From the way Shinonome walked stiffly through the doors, you can easily see just how nervous she was. Arumi-san nodded gently.
She was grinning while observing Shinonome.
Arumi-san's probably one of the reasons why Shinonome's acting all nervous like this — I thought to myself as I followed behind Shinonome. Therefore, I whispered in Arumi-san's ears.
"Just wait over there for now."
Arumi-san's not too pleased with my request, but she did as I said anyway and moved to the living room.
I urged Shinonome to put on the slippers while wearing my own, but Shinonome remain rooted to the ground. Her eyes were fixed dazedly in the direction of Arumi-san.
"...... What's wrong?"
I asked. Shinonome replied softy with,
"She's so beautiful."
I tilted my head, not affirming what she just said.
It was only when I invited her once more did Shinonome step onto the aisle.
Keisuke was sitting next to the living room table reading while smoking. When Arumi-san requested him to stop smoking, he extinguished the cigarette disinterestedly using the ashtray beside him. I never thought Keisuke would be sensible enough to know not to smoke next to a guest who's a minor.
Keisuke puffed a white breath - probably to purge the remaining smoke in his lungs - as he looked at Shinonome, who was standing behind me. That was when Keisuke narrowed his eyes slightly. Keisuke's not exactly a fierce-looking guy, but it does look as though he is peering into someone whenever he narrows his eyes. Shinonome fearfully stepped back from his gaze.
I asked in Shinonome's stead.
Keisuke continued staring at me — or actually, he was looking at Shinonome.
I flinched when I heard Keisuke's deep voice.
Why didn't I think of that — I thought to myself.
"...... are Nishizono Yūko, aren't you?"
Just as I thought. This is to be expected though. Keisuke's a bookworm, a man who reads YOTAKA thoroughly every month. Of course, he would have seen the magazine with Shinonome's picture. Not to mention, Keisuke has excellent memory.
"Urm...... what's wrong? Did something happen?"
Arumi-san, who was preparing tea in the kitchen, came out when she sensed something was amiss.
"N-Nothing. Just continue what you're doing."
The reason I said that was because things would get even more complicated if Arumi-san was involved. Arumi-san looked at Keisuke and Shinonome repeatedly, then mumbled,
"Why are you leaving me out of this?"
"Nah, I'll fill you in later...... Shinonome, please have a seat. It never came to me that this might happen, so I'm sorry."
In my attempt at damage control, I had Shinonome take a seat in a slightly forceful manner and insisted that Arumi-san return to the kitchen.
When I was seated, Arumi-san walked over with a tray placed with cups and a teapot.
"...... Which do you prefer, red tea or coffee?"
Shinonome replied nervously to Arumi-san's question.
"Ah. Coffee...... please......"
While Arumi-san was preparing the coffee, I thought hard on how I should go about explaining this.
In any case, the cat's already out of the bag. I have no other option but to reveal the fact that Shinonome's a writer. Still, I have to get Shinonome's approval.
"Can I tell them you're actually a writer?"
I leaned towards her ears and whispered. Shinonome gave a hard nod.
Arumi-san came to the table when she was done preparing the drinks. So I cleared my throat and began my explanation - not forgetting to introduce Shinonome to them as well - about how she's actually a writer.
After hearing the truth about Shinonome, Arumi-san was actually the one to be all excited instead of Keisuke, repeating phrases like "That's incredible!" and "Wow......" several times. On the other hand, Keisuke seemed to lack interest once he confirmed the fact that 'Shinonome = Nishizono Yūko'. He spoke not another word.
When we were done with the cakes and coffee, everything that had to be done was done. Somehow, once our conversation was over, it felt like Arumi-san was about to get all gossipy and shower Shinonome with questions (more specifically, her relationship with me). I did prep Shinonome about how Arumi-san has mistaken us to be a couple, but I honestly don't feel like Shinonome has the necessary acting skills to fend off Arumi-san's attacks.
"Well then...... May I address you as 'Yuuko'?"
When Arumi-san made her request, that was the moment when I thought to myself — it has begun.
I knew their conversation won't be heading anywhere great, so I stood up all of the sudden and looked in the direction of Keisuke.
"Ah, right. I was thinking of showing her your room."
Everyone had their eyes focused on me. As for me, my eyes were on Shinonome.
"My brother's really into books as well, so he treasures his collection a lot. I thought it should be interesting for you to visit his room. You do like books, don't you?"
When I saw Shinonome nodding hesitantly, I turned towards Keisuke.
"So are we allowed to enter your room to have a look? I promise we won't make a mess."
"Do as you please...... Just don't topple the piles of books."
With him granting permission, everything's up to me now. I made Shinonome stand and led her up the stairs to the second floor. Shinonome was looking all confused and lost.
A mixture of different smells greeted us when I opened the door of Keisuke's room.
"The room reeks of smoke. My brother's a heavy smoker."
I informed Shinonome before inviting her in.
After stepping into the room, Shinonome began surveying Keisuke's 'den.
Shinonome gave off a very uncharacteristic, emotion-filled exclamation.
"Impressive, isn't it? It may not look like it, but this is the remaining half to what he used to own last year, the other half he cleared away."
She was barely listening to my introductions though; her eyes were fixed intently onto the stacks of books. That's a bookworm for you. Keisuke's room must look like a treasure trove in her eyes — that much I know despite not liking books all that much.
Way back when he was still young, Keisuke was already forking out more than half of his allowances on books — and there were occasions where he would even ask for his allowance in advance. I'm not too sure about the details myself, but it seemed like Keisuke had spent tens of thousands of yen to get his hands on rare books via online auctions.
"Wow, there is even Eréndira......"
Murmured Shinonome while caressing a book which was located at the top of one of the many piles of books.
I walked towards her, not having the slightest clue what she was talking about. Shinonome turned around and said with a bright smile,
"Eréndira. It is my most favourite novella."
The title of the book which Shinonome was caressing did indeed spell 'Eréndira'. It was written by Márquez, a name which I had never heard of before. I had no clue if the author's someone famous or not. I could chat with her a little if we're speaking of authors like Akutagawa Ryuunosuke or Dazai Osamu (authors who appear in Japanese lessons), but I'm totally clueless when it comes to foreign writers. The knowledge I possessed was no different than those of a typical person.
"...... Is it interesting?"
I detested myself a little for having only that question in mind. Shinonome tilted her head and answered,
"It feels like it's way more than just being interesting or not...... It's realistic despite being fiction, and is humorous while depressing at the same time......"
Quite a tongue-twisting response, but from the way she described it, she must have loved this book a lot. And yet, I was unable to voice my opinion on 'something which Shinonome likes'.
All of a sudden, the tightly shut door was opened. Keisuke's face appeared between the opening gap. He said nothing as he randomly placed the book in his hand onto one of the nearby stacks of books. He then looked briefly at Shinonome.
"...... So you like Márquez?"
Asked Keisuke. Shinonome tilted her head and replied,
"I can sense that. I did read your works after all."
Shinonome blushed and lowered her head bashfully, probably due to her embarrassment from having her works read by someone. Keisuke walked towards the PC desk to flip through some of the more recent books placed on top of a stack, drew one of them out and walked back towards the door.
Shinonome called Keisuke gingerly just as he placed his hand on the knob. Keisuke turned his head backwards lazily.
"What's your opinion...... about my works?"
The question from Shinonome came out of the blue. Keisuke narrowed his eyes and swept his hair upwards with his hand.
"They feel pretty raw."
"But that doesn't mean I hate them."
"T-Thank you very much......"
Keisuke responded to the bowing Shinonome with a "Mmm" before walking out of the door.
While watching them talking to each other, it felt like I was the only one left out of the circle.
It was surprising for me to see Shinonome that proactive in getting the opinion of others. But then again, Shinonome might have for a very long time yearned for someone who she can discuss books or novels with. Sadly, I'm not the one who can do that. Shinonome should know that already.
So I thought — Shinonome might be attracted to Keisuke already.
He's way smarter, calmer and more mature than me, and he loves books as well...... Keisuke possesses a lot of strengths which I lacked. It wouldn't be surprising if Shinonome's attracted to him.
I asked her softly, so as not to have her realize the growing disappointment within me.
Shinonome followed hastily in my steps as I walked briskly.
"My brother's pretty weird, huh?"
I said with my head turned towards Shinonome as we walked down the stairs. Half of me actually meant what I said, though the other half of me was hoping Shinonome would agree with me with a "Yes".
"Is that so......?"
Shinonome's reply came after a moment of hesitance.
"I personally think he is an exceptional elder brother......"
I stopped dead in my tracks. Shinonome's body bumped into mine, which caused me to stumble forward. I was close to falling off the stairs, but Shinonome caught my hand in the nick of time.
"...... Anything wrong?"
Shinonome tilted her head while looking at me with my head turned towards her.
With that reply, I shook her hand off and resumed my descent down the stairs.
While listening to the creaking sounds from the stairs, I thought to myself — I'm an idiot.
The answer to the deliberate question of mine was the one which I least wanted to hear. I was pissed off with the way I acted.
"Exceptional...... Well, you're right."
I murmured in a voice which wouldn't reach Shinonome.
I knew that for a long time already. Put me and Keisuke side by side, and everyone will choose Keisuke.
The despair that I'm feeling now's way worse than those I experienced with Arumi-san. The main reason must be because it's Shinonome we're talking about. Shinonome - a classmate, a girl who on the surface is my girlfriend - thinks that Keisuke is 'exceptional'. That's something I absolutely hate and cannot accept.
Perhaps it was just her being polite — I tried convincing myself several times. I knew very well she's not one to put a person down when his younger brother was standing right before her.
But I still didn't want to hear it.
When we returned to the living room, Arumi-san was sitting there in anticipation as she began bombarding Shinonome with loads of question, but I had no intention of stopping her. I was saved by Arumi-san's bubbling personality. There were occasions when Shinonome would look at me with concern, but I tried my hardest not to speak a word. All I did was to listen to the conversation between Shinonome and Arumi-san, joined in occasionally by Keisuke, who was smoking and reading a book behind the two girls.
Dinner time came, so Arumi-san served the beef stew which she had begun preparing since yesterday night. Shinonome smiled and said that the stew was delicious, but it actually tasted bland to me.
"Eita, is it good?"
When I heard Arumi-san's question, my reply was a simple,
That took me nearly all of my strength to reply.
Seriously...... what the heck am I doing?