When the bell rang to announce lunchtime, I automatically stretched my body.

On the spot, the office erupted into an uproar. Everyone proceeded with their respective lunch preparations.

“Komamura, let’s go to the cafeteria!” As usual, Isobe called out to me in a relaxed tone.

“I’m sorry, I feel like eating a bento today. I’m going to go shopping at the convenience store.”

I felt some regret, but I honestly decided to follow my own desires.

Occasionally I felt like eating bentos from the convenience store, even though they didn’t seem to be good for the body at all.

Today was one of those days.

When you go to the cafeteria every day, you get a little bored of your preferred menu, so sometimes you do this to refresh your mind.

“Is that so? That being the case, I’m also going to the convenience store,” it looked like Isobe would follow me.

So, with our employee ID cards hanging around our necks, we headed for the convenience store in front of the company building.

We each bought our respective bento at the convenience store and headed for an open space inside the company.

It is OK to bring your own food and drink to the open space, so many female employees were opening the bentos they had brought.

We sat at the counter by the window and pulled the bentos we bought out of the bag.

The bentos we had them heat up for us were still warm, so it was a little difficult to remove the plastic wrap.

By the way, for today it was a fried chicken bento (extra large) with vinegar and tartar sauce, paired with oolong tea.

A faint smell was already wafting out, but when I opened the plastic lid, the chicken smell spread even more.

Isobe’s next to me was a large portion of garlic spaghetti, so the garlic smell was extremely potent.

I vaguely thought that the people in the sales department sure wouldn’t want to eat a lunch that smelled as strong as ours, or like garlic ramen.

I was glad to be in the accounting department.

Well, first of all, before the restrictions on what I could eat, I preferred working with numbers rather than having to deal with people, so I wouldn’t have wanted to do another job in the future, if possible.

“Ah, Komamura-san, Isobe-san, may I sit with you?”

I had just split the single-use chopsticks when I suddenly heard a woman’s voice behind me.

Turned my head, and there stood a spirited woman with short hair.

It was Sachihara-san from the sales department.

I hadn’t seen her at lunchtime since that time in the cafeteria.

“Oh, go ahead.”

“Thanks.”

As soon as Isobe suggested it, Sachihara-san sat down in the chair next to me.

I looked at Isobe’s slightly disappointed face. Apparently, he wanted her to sit next to him.

It might be because she cares for her appearance or because of her good smell, but it’s not like I don’t understand how he feels.

…Reading between the lines a bit, maybe Sachihara-san wanted to distance herself from the strong smell of Isobe’s garlic spaghetti.

“A co-worker I usually eat lunch with didn’t come today. I thought about staying for lunch at the department, but some old geez- some senpai started complaining, so I fled from there,” Sachihara-san corrected her words and took out from the bag the bento she had brought with her.

The bento bag with a print of a dog indicated that she liked ‘cute’ stuff.

“Well, I certainly want to eat in a good mood,” Isobe nodded meekly as he wrapped the spaghetti around his fork.

“Indeed. I don’t like that kind of atmosphere. Is the accounting department like that?”

“Hm, our department is relatively harmonious, isn’t it?”

“Sure. Starting with the department head, everyone else is the taciturn type…”

Maybe it was the accumulated stress, but I started wondering what they would think of me.

Well, not that I cared much… unless it was something on the negative side.

“I see. So, Isobe-san and Komamura-san are kind of special in the accounting department, aren’t you?”

“Wait, what do you mean, Sachihara-san?!”

“I wish you wouldn’t put me in the same boat as Isobe…”

“What’s that supposed to mean, Komamura?!”

“Fu fu fu fu. Exactly because of that kind of exchange.”

I involuntarily made a face like I had chewed three worms.

It wasn’t the first time I had lunch with Sachihara-san, so the conversation and meal continued after that without any strange tension.

Being the first to finish my meal, I vaguely looked outside through the window.

Unlike in the basement cafeteria, this facility was on the seventh floor, so there was a wide view.

When I somehow looked in the direction of my house, which was out of sight, Sachihara-san said, “Speaking of which…” as she put away her bento lunchbox.

“Komamura-san, you’ve been taking good care of your appearance lately, you know?”

“Huh…?”

“Your shirt and tie are wrinkle-free.”

Reflexively, I got in fright.

That had a double meaning. It made me wonder if I had ended up suggesting the existence of Kanon and Himari, and it made me look at the fact that even a person I met occasionally, not long ago thought of me as ‘the guy with the wrinkled shirt.’

“Ah, as expected, Sachihara-san noticed. As you mentioned, I’ve been wondering for a while now if this guy got a girlfriend. He stubbornly refuses to admit it, you know?”

“I told you I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Really? I doubt it.” Isobe was smiling like this was schoolgirl talk.

I had the persistent thought that maybe if I reacted too seriously, it would be suspicious, so I couldn’t respond skillfully. I felt that I had given Isobe a similar response before, but he still didn’t seem convinced.

This guy appeared to be a relaxed minded dude, but he had a good instinct for odd things, huh?

“Have you changed your mind?”

“Well… kinda. I’m trying to get back to my principles…”

“Hee…”

I didn’t know if it was a good enough excuse, but I didn’t intend to bring up even a fragment related to the matter of Kanon and Himari…

“Hm, I think that’s a lovely willingness.”

“Huh?”

“Fu fu fu fu. Then, I will leave first.” Sachihara-san left a mischievous smile and quickly walked away from the place.

I remained looking all the way at her silhouette from behind.

I wasn’t used to receiving something like compliments, so I ended up a bit perplexed when she suddenly called me ‘lovely.’

“Komamura… you…” As Isobe looked at me with inquisitive eyes, I suddenly felt uncomfortable. “Did you finally get your moteki?”1

“No, it was just polite words.”

 To begin with, I don’t treat her enough for her to like me.

“Damn. I’ll also get a new shirt starting tomorrow. I’ll get myself a stylish tie and give my shoes a shine while I’m at it.”

When I thought it wasn’t for him to have to compete with me, it struck me that it wouldn’t hurt for Isobe to tidy up his appearance as well, so I schematically didn’t mention anything.

  1. モテ期 ‘moteki’. It is an expression used to refer to the period when you are most popular with people of the opposite sex.