Warm Place Chapter 20


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‘Tis a Fine Day

“What a nice weather~”

 

When I exit the front door, I look up to see the refreshing blue sky extending to the horizon. It’s not just the sky; my heart has also cleared up, which puts in me a good mood. Hiori and Tsubaki have reconciled yesterday, and it feels like a weight has been removed from my mind. I stretch my body, as I breathe the fresh air.

“I hope that tomorrow will be clear, too.”

Tomorrow is the day of the high school entrance ceremony. I may have experienced it once before, but when I think of the new encounters, the new class, and new adolescent days… it makes me look forward to them.

Which reminds me, in my past life, the principal’s speech during the ceremony was so long that I ended up nodding off. I think I headbutted the back of the person sitting in front of me, and it turned out a bit rowdy after that. This time, I’ll need to focus not to fall asleep.

“Hinata-san.”
“Yahoo—”

When I hear the sound of the door opening from my neighbor’s house, Tsubaki suddenly shows up and spots me right away. I wave my hand to her, and her eyes make a gleam as she happily trots over to me. Hmm, she’s as cute as a puppy. It’s as if I can see her bushy tail.

“Good noon, Hinata-san!”
“Good noon.”

She greets me while smiling like an angel. My, she’s the very definition of happiness! And thus, I end up feeling happy, too. Like I thought, Tsubaki is the cutest when she smiles. It’s the best. Nay, it’s out of this world!

“Hinata-san, are you going out somewhere?”
“Yup, I was intending to visit Tsubaki’s home to deliver something.”
“Eh?”

I hand it to her hands while she’s still astonished. It’s the confectionery recipe books that I borrowed from her the other day.

“Thank you for lending them to me. I managed to learn a lot, and it was fun reading them.”
“Are you sure, returning them already?”
“Yup. I already noted down the recipes that I liked, and being able to read them once is more than enough for me.”
“I see. I’m glad to know that you enjoyed it.”
“And, here.”

I hand Tsubaki a pouch with a cute character printed on it.

“What is this?”
“It’s my new maple cookies—an original recipe that I made using the recipe books as reference. Just consider it as my thanks… even though it’s actually a trial product.”

When I make an evil grin, she giggles.

“Thank you very much. The confections that Hinata-san makes are delicious. I’m looking forward to eating this.”
“Hehe—m, it might be a miss this time, you know?”

At any rate, this is still a prototype. I did taste it myself. Mother and my sister also gave their passing grades, so it should be okay, I think.

“It’s fine. I’d be glad to receive anything Hinata-san makes.”

Being told that with such a breathtaking smile is naturally rising the temperature of my face. Kuuh…!! Anyone would feel embarrassed if they’re in my situation!

Feeling shy and bashful, I want to turn my face away. But for some reason, I can’t avert my eyes from her face. Moreover, I have the feeling that Tsubaki’s face looks somewhat flushed, too.

“W-well, I’m glad to know you’re happy about it, I think? A-ahaha.”

As a result of my hard struggle to escape from this strange mood, I somehow manage to say those haphazard words. I don’t really hate this kind of mood, but I can’t get used to it. Should I say, I just don’t have the experience. Or maybe, I’m just poor at dealing with this situation.

“Hinata-san, did you learn to make confectioneries from your mom?”
“Hm~ I kinda forgot. I think that’s the case, probably.”

If I remember it right, Mom taught me how to bake cookies at the start. After that, I want to hear her say that it’s delicious, so I read some books on my own and learned a lot. In the end, it became my hobby.

Now that I think about it, the first confectionery that Mother taught me to make after my reincarnation was baumkuchen. I was only around eight at that time, why did she want me to make something that difficult? Although, I’m pretty sure that it’s all because she wanted to eat them. Because the hurdle was too high, it resulted in a failure.

 

“Um, do you remember Mom’s story about her childhood friend….. from yesterday?”
“……Yup, the gist of it.”

My heart throbs because I’m surprised by the sudden topic. I carefully hide my unrest from showing, and I gulp down my saliva as I wait for her next words.

“Mom told me a few things about that person. It seems that she liked making confectionery, too.”

“H-heeh~ Really~?”

“The more I listened to her story, the more I thought how similar she was to Hinata-san. For example, the way she liked sleeping, or how kind she was.”

“Eh~ you think~?”

“Mom said that your characters are quite similar, too.”

Tsubaki is speaking so happily. But in contrast, I’m having a cold sweat by listening to her. I don’t think that she’s found out about me, but this feels really awkward. I feel like running away.

“It’s thanks to that person, that I’m now living in this world…. and so is Mom.”
“………”

“She had hoped for me to be born. She had protected me. That’s why, I think of her as my special person, as well. If she was still alive, I wish I could give her lots, and lots of my gratitude.”

Listening to those words, my heart is gradually filled with warmth.

“I’m sure, that she heard you.”
“…Do you think so?”
“Yup, I think she’s always watching over you.”

After all, I will be here next to you, watching you for the days to come. When you’re going through happy times, painful times, fun times, and sad times, too, I’ll be there with you. If this feeling isn’t happiness, I wonder what is? If gods really exist in this world…… I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for letting me meet her again, and for giving me the chance to meet this child.

 

“Hinata-san.”
“Hm?”
“The school entrance ceremony will be held tomorrow.”
“Yeah. The days when I need to wake up early in the morning to attend school are starting soon—”

I exaggerate my lack of energy, and she looks worried as she makes a fuzzy smile.

“It’s all right. I will come fetch you every morning so that you won’t be late.”

W-what a gallant child she is…!! But to tell the truth, I want to sleep in until the last moment!

“…I guess… I’ll do my best… to wake up early.”

I really don’t want to make her wait when she’s going out of her way to fetch me. Besides, I’ll end up making her risk being late herself.

“Please work hard getting up early.”
“Yes, I’ll give it my best.”

Yup, let’s do this! …..Then I’ll secretly doze off at school!

“I hope that we can get into the same class.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”

After that, we talk about things like what we’ll do tomorrow, about school; then suddenly, a ringtone resounds. It seems to be Tsubaki’s, as she takes out her cell phone in a fluster and fiddles with it. Hm, it seems to be an email. She stares at the screen for a while, then she starts to beam happily as she swiftly makes a reply before putting her phone away.

“An email, from your friend?”

“No, it’s from Mom. It appears that her work will finish earlier than usual, so we will be having dinner together.”

“I see—”
“Yes!”

I’m relieved to know that they have a favorable relationship as a parent and child. They’re going to slowly regain the happy family time that they didn’t get to spend before.

“Um, would you mind… joining us for dinner?”
“Eh?! Don’t worry about me, I’ll feel bad intruding on you.”

They’ve just mended their family ties, so they should spend some time by themselves without some meddling outsider. It’ll be boorish of me to join them like that.

“Please don’t be reserved. Mom also mentioned how she wanted to repay you.”
“But, I’m…..”

 

“How about you take up on her offer~?”

“?!”

 

 

My Mother who never reads the mood has appeared!

It seems that she was listening in our conversation as she pleases.

“Listen here, there’s no way I can be so inconsiderate.”
“Actually, Mom and Saki-chan is going to a full-course Chinese dinner.”
“………haah?!”

“We won the lottery at the supermarket—a pair ticket for a Chinese meal! …But, since it’s only for two people, Saki and I will be going!”

“So cruel! It’s so cruel of you to leave me out!”
“Hey, you don’t eat most Chinese foods because you don’t like them, right?”
“Ugh!!”

But that doesn’t mean that you can just make me stay at home by myself. I-I can eat gyoza at least.

“So, Tsubaki-chan, if it’s alright with you, can I leave Hinata in your care?”
“Hey, wait-”
“I understand. Please leave her to me and go out without worries!
“Thank you, Tsubaki-chan! Hinata, don’t make trouble for her, okay?”

The two have a friendly chat while smiling to each other. Somehow, the conversation has moved on beyond me….

“………haah.”

It’s not that I don’t want to eat dinner at Tsubaki’s house. Only that, I’m having a mixed feeling, which makes it hard for me to accept her invitation. Even if she tells me not to be reserved, I can’t help but to feel apologetic and awkward.

“I-I’ll do my best! Maybe it won’t suit your taste, but, um, I’ll prepare it with my utmost effort!!”

Tsubaki’s eyes are glittering, filled with motivation. Uuh, after she’s shown her enthusiasm, it’ll be too inhumane for me to refuse…. Well, I do want to try eating Tsubaki’s home cooking. I should give up here.

“Then, I will be intruding on you this evening.”
“I’m sorry about this, Tsubaki-chan. Come to our house for a meal next time.”
“Yes, thank you very much.”

With that settled, Mother retreats into our home in good humor. Sheesh, she always does things at her own pace.

“Ehehe.”

I peer into Tsubaki’s face, and I see that she’s looking really happy. Come to think of it, she’s always been eating by herself….

“Tsubaki, can I help you prepare the meals?”
“But, Hinata-san is our guest. I can’t have you do that.”
“Ah, could it be that you’re doubting my skills? Despite how I look, I’m confident with my cooking.”
“O-of course that’s not the case! I know full well that Hinata-san is good at making confectionery.”
“Then what’s the harm? It’ll be more fun to prepare it together than alone. I’m sure of it.”
“Hinata-san…… all right.”

I guess she finally gives her consent. She fixes her gaze on me with a gentle expression on her face. A refreshing breeze flutters her long, beautiful hair, signing the beginning of spring.

“Um, if you have the time, want to go shopping for dinner together?”
“?!! Y-yes! Ah, I, I’ll get ready in a moment, so please wait for me!”
“Just take it easy— I need to get ready, too…… and, she’s gone.”

The way Tsubaki hurries home makes her cute like a child. My cheeks slacken without me noticing. I need to complete my own preparation before she returns, so I go back home, as well.

After we finish our preparations, Tsubaki and I go out for shopping together.


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