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The next few days were spent in peace but then一
It was an evening when Himari jumped at me at the entranceway as soon as I got home.
“Oh? What’s up? Looks like you’re happy about something.” As I said so, Himari showed a big smile and answered.
“That’s right! I got a job! I’ve finally been hired!”
Our lives were about to change again.
It was a week before this. Kanon and I were watching over Himari as she wrote her CV in earnest.
Himari is still a minor. In other words, she still needed her guardian’s permission if she were to apply for a part time job. With that in mind, I wrote my name and used my seal on the space provided and Himari used my last name in place of hers.
It pains me to have to cooperate in lying on a resume but if her real name is written on it, she could be traced and all she has done will be for nought. Kanon casually asked her real name but Himari just dodged the question.
It looked like she didn’t want to reveal it just yet.
The school she used in one section was Kanon’s.
“Part-timing isn’t prohibited in my school so I don’t think the store would contact the school. That’s what my friends usually do, too.”
Hearing that, Himari and I both rest easy.
When she went to the interview, Kanon lent her uniform for added authenticity. The only problem was that the skirt was too short for her. She did well on her interview; she was honest and she gave off an atmosphere that she’s skipping school for personal reasons. However, it seems she was troubled when she was asked about her school life. Despite that, she still passed her interview, though it might have been because of other factors.
It is true that Himari has a bold personality which was shown when she asked me to stay at my home. Furthermore, she does look like she has everything under control so I guess she gave a good impression to the interviewer. Either way, it was a step forward for Himari.
Although, I’m still slightly conflicted about it.
Himari going out means there might be higher chances of her being found. However, I know how much she wanted to repay me, so I can’t bring myself to stop her.
“What job did you get, anyhow?”
Kanon asked with great interest.
I didn’t know either so I was curious myself.
“A maid café.”
“Aaahh~ I did hear something of that sort.”
“I don’t think my parents would look for me in that sort of place… They don’t like manga and anime after all… I don’t think they even know maid cafés exist.’’
“That makes sense….”
I’m worried, considering her job needs her to serve customers but it’s what Himari had decided after giving much thought.
I know about maid cafes but I’ve never been to one so I don’t exactly know what kind of place it is. But I think that’s especially true for older people who don’t know about popular subcultures.
“With that said, I’ll start working hard starting tomorrow.”
“Pace yourself, okay…”
“I will. I don’t want to leave this place until I’ve applied for a place after all.”
Himari replied to my concern with a tiny smile but her eyes shone with an unwavering light.
It was evening when Himari came back haggardly, shortly after I got home.
“A-are you okay, Himari!?”
Kanon rushed to the entrance before me. She looks worried about Himari after all.
“Yeah. No worries… It’s been a long time since I interacted with people other than Himari and Komamura-san, so I got a little tense. I think I’ll get used to it soon enough…”
She dropped her small shoulder bag on the floor and slumped back on the ground. It looked like her feet were dead tired. Just as what you’d expect from the customer service sect, I guess.
“You can’t convince me with such a ghastly expression. I’ll make curry to cheer you up so wait for it, okay?”
“Kanon’s just like my wife… Me likey…”
“What nonsense are you spouting!? I like you too but…”
“Ehehe. Yay, the feelings are mutual!”
“Stop saying stupid stuff and go take a bath first.”
…What’s with this conversation? I got completely left out the loop.
Still, I felt like I shouldn’t butt in so I kept silent.
It’s great seeing high school girls casually say they like each other… I’m a little jealous.
“Can Himari still keep working when she’s like that? I wonder.”
While Himari was taking a bath, I gave my opinion on the matter.
“Hmm. If the person herself said so then isn’t it okay?”
Kanon said as she gently poured the curry roux into the pot. Until she did that, I could only smell the onions. Now, the smell of curry permeates in the room at that exact moment.
“…In my next free time, I’ll go and see if I can sneak in a peek.”
“Eh!? That’s definitely annoying so don’t even think about it!”
“But you saw how tired she was. I’m still worried.”
“You’re just going to bother her. Picture this: what if me and Himari went and checked out your workplace, would you be fine with that? What if we snuck a glance at you working, would that be okay for you?”
“…Sorry. I’ll knock it off.”
I meekly accepted Kanon’s persuasion. Yeah, I’m not sure I’ll like people walking in when I’m working either. At my age, I’m reminded of the mental toll that inspection days cause.
For Himari, her part time job is a very exciting experience.
The only people she works with are girls but there were artists like her, people who like anime and manga, and even cosplayers. No one here would complain about her interests. It’s the first time outside of Kazuki’s house where she can freely talk about her hobbies without worry.
There was also something she’s secretly happy about.
It was called “Komamura-san” by her colleagues.
Kazuki’s name was logged in as her guardian in her resume. That’s why Himari had taken upon the surname Komamura to accommodate that. She was way too happy with it.
“Everyone calls me Komamura-san. It somehow feels like we’re a married couple.”
Every time she was called by the same surname as Kazuki, she suppressed the urge to break into a smile.
No, there were more times than not that she had successfully controlled herself. Even so, the only side effect it has is she was considered as a person who smiles a lot so it might have just been a blessing in disguise. And to the customers calling her with the nickname that the store gave her, she responds with a natural, cheery smile. Hence, her fanbase steadily grew.
In this place where no one knows about her, she was able to be herself, going about with no use for pretending.
Himari worked two to three days a week. She had decided early to only have that schedule so she could focus on drawing when she’s off work.
She takes great precaution to not be spotted by other residents and she takes the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s great that this place is only on the third floor, though. If it were on the seventh or eighth, then that would’ve been tough.
One day, I came home to see Himari standing on the doorway. I do remember her telling me that she had the day off today.
“Welcome home, dear master.”
She said with a gentle smile. She had her hands on her stomach, her posture straight, her voice higher than usual.
The long legs that’s stretched from her short pants still look good no matter how often I see it.
No, nevermind that.
“What are you doing?”
“Ehehe. I thought I should also let you experience what I do at work.”
“No, it’s not like you need to do that.”
“Eh, isn’t it fine, though? Since it’s a great opportunity, please order something.”
Himari, unusually enough, puffed up her cheeks in protest. I found her pouting quite cute.
“You say order but…”
Kanon is in the kitchen, cooking dinner, so we shouldn’t get in her way. Speaking of which, Kanon is watching our exchange with a broad grin.
After wondering what to do…
“Oh well, can you massage my shoulders for me?”
It may not be something you would ask for at a maid café but it is true that my shoulders felt stiff so I asked anyway.
“一!? Ah, ok. With pleasure!”
“Eh? Are you sure?”
I just wanted to try saying it but she quickly agreed with it.
“It’s what you wanted, right? It’s all good. Please take a seat then.”
I sit as per her instructions.
This is fine once in a while, I guess.
This is something someone would do for Father’s Day instead of a maid cafe, though…
“Then, umm… I’ll be massaging your shoulders.”
Why is she tense all of a sudden? Isn’t she the one who allowed it to get to this point?
After a small breath, Himari touched my shoulders.
She gently holds onto it and slowly starts rubbing it.
This might be the first time in a long while that I got massaged. The last time was when I went into physical therapy.
It looked like she was still unsure of how much force she should put into, but her touch was gentle. It was enough for my stiff shoulders to feel relaxed, after spending most of the time seated in front of a computer.
“Komamura-san… I don’t really get what it feels like for people with stiff shoulders, but it’s hard to move, right?”
“Yeah. That’s just how desk work is.” I was able to have my fill of Himari’s gentle massage for some time.
No, I wasn’t really able to think anything.
I rub my own shoulders from time to time when it gets bad, but it’s a different experience when someone else does it for me.
“Ah, Himari. It’s okay if you apply a little more force?”
“Okay. I’m on it!”
In spite of the go-getter response, the strength didn’t change much. I could be wrong but her grip strength might be weak.
That aside, it’s all good.
“Hmmmm…….That seems to feel extremely good now doesn’t it>”
After putting the carrots in the pot and putting on the lid, Kanon closed in on me. I wonder if it’s just my imagination, but she looks a little peeved.
“Yeah, it’s pretty stiff after all.”
“Then let me do it for you, too.”
Kanon crouched in front of me and then took off my socks, with not a moment’s notice.
I don’t really get why but although she took it off herself, she picked it up and tossed it aside like she was touching something dirty.
“Wait a minute. Are you going to一”
“Himari’s got your shoulders so I’ll handle your foot.”
She smirked as she squeezed in the soles of my foot.
My screams of agony reach to the kitchen and echoes.
“Eh, you look like you’re in so much pain. There’s something wrong with your organs, am I right?”
“Don’t say that while smiling, okay?”
Himari worriedly called out to me but I didn’t miss noticing her trying to stifle her laughter.
“You’re laughing at me too!?”
“Sorry. It’s my first time hearing your voice like that… ha… hehe.”
“Laughing at other people’s pain is a bad quality to have, you guys!”
“You’re being massaged by two high school girls so I don’t want to hear any complaints, okay~”
Then Kanon squeezed my feet further in.
“Not the pinky!”
The two laughed as I screamed out.
Himari got used to working soon enough. Seeing her today however, she looked quite depressed.
“What’s wrong, Himari? Is everything alright? Is your health okay?”
Kanon rushed to Himari’s side. It’s like she was her mother. Could it be that the malicious bullying native to women-only workplaces has begun?
I asked about it since I was worried too but Himari replied in the same way as before, that the people there are all kind. When I further asked for the reason why she’s so down, she just waved it off with a wry smile.
Himari soldiered on with her job, giving it her all, in a cycle as the days go by. It’s just that her face had gotten more serious than before, or rather, the time for her to concentrate has increased. We could only watch over her.
Himari was frustrated.
Her part time job is going well. There weren’t any people talking behind her back, and for the customers who get a little rowdy, she talks to them about what she should do to satisfy their needs.
Her fellow part timers looked very mature to Himari. In fact, a chunk of them were actually older than her with almost all of them being in their early twenties. However, age isn’t the only factor on why she sees them that way. Himari often feels that she is inexperienced compared to them in every way.
There were the people like Himari, who have goals and have saved up money.
The people who have moved out of their parent’s home, living independently.
The people who are well informed about the latest trends.
The more she got to know her colleagues, the more she was made keenly aware of how naive she was.
And above all, the main source of this feeling was Kanon.
Despite being a high schooler, she knows her way around housework well and knows a lot of things that she herself doesn’t. Lately, even without realizing it, she had been comparing herself to Kanon more and more.
The major reason behind it was probably Kazuki, though.
Kanon’s attitude towards him has visibly softened compared to when they just arrived. She got accustomed to living with him, which she believes is the likely reason, but Himari thought there was another reason for it.
They are probably the same, her and Kanon. Kazuki is the一
Himari shook her head to forcefully banish those thoughts.
It was obvious to her that once she starts thinking about it, she will enter a maze of thoughts that has no exit.
Pulling herself together, she fixed her gaze on the computer screen. A close up of a line art was displayed on the screen as if it was waiting for Himari’s next move.
She could only dream straight ahead without any solid plans because she is a minor protected by her parents.
She acknowledged that but she’s still frustrated with it. After all, she doesn’t want to go home no matter what. She knows that what she’s doing right now is not a good thing and is also inconveniencing Kazuki and Kanon while she’s at it.
She knows all of those things all too well since long ago.
But even so, her feelings on the matter are of no consequence to her parents. She doesn’t want to go home.
…What should I do?
Her chest tightened, worry washing over her. But the only thing she could think of is that she needs to do what she needs to. And that is to work hard on her illustration she needed to submit for the competition.
“I’m not asking you for anything. If I was asked to give a reason, I guess I want to see the sight of you drawing properly?”
Kazuki’s words reverberated in Himari’s mind. And then strength welded into her hand.
She suddenly thought of something. How long would Kazuki allow her to live in his home?
“No, I don’t need to think about that now,” Himari decided to lift her mind off of it.