”Amane, your snifflings annoying. ”

e annoying. ”

The next day, it was Amane whod ended up with the cold.

As his classmate and good friend Itsuki Akazawa had pointed out, Amane had been

trying and failing to snort everything back up his nose. Trying to exhale only resulted

in a terrible, wet, burbling sound.

Amane wasn sure whether it was because his nose was stuffed up or as a result of

the cold itself, but a throbbing pain was spreading across the back of his head. He had

taken some over-the-counter medicine, but it wasn making a dent in his symptoms

at all. Truly, Amane was a sad sight. His congested face twisted in nasal distress as he

became well acquainted with a tissue.

Itsuki looked at him, not with concern but exasperation.

”You were just fine yesterday, dude. ”

”I got caught in the rain. ”

”Aw, chin up. Wait, didn you have an umbrella yesterday? ”

”…I gave it to someone. ”

Naturally, there was no way that Amane could openly admit at school that hed given

it to Mahiru, so he kept things vague.

Incidentally, hed caught a glimpse of Mahiru earlier that day. Shed looked rather well,

not ill at all. Amane couldn help but laugh. Things had gotten completely flipped around.

It was his own fault—hed neglected to warm up in the bath when hed gotten home.

”Doncha think you were being a little too nice, lending out your umbrella when it was

pouring like that? ”

”Not really. Even if I did, no point complaining about it now. ”

”And who did you give it to anyway? Who was worth catching a cold? ”

”…A, uh, a lost little kid? ”

Can really call her a kid with that body, though… Well, that and the fact that we
e the

same age. Although, her face did look kinda lost…

Something clicked when Amane thought of the unusual encounter that way. Her

expression had been exactly that of a lost little kid searching for their parent.

”Well, what a kind and upstanding gentleman you are! ” Itsuki laughed, unaware of the

feelings bubbling up in Amanes chest as he recalled his meeting with Mahiru the day

before. ”But you know, even if you let someone borrow your umbrella or whatever, I

bet your real problem was that you got lazy and didn warm up afterward. Thats why

e dying. ”

”…How do you know that? ” Amane shot back.

”Well, you don exactly take good care of yourself. That much was obvious the moment

I saw your place. Thats why you got sick, dumbass. ”

Amane couldn really argue with Itsukis friendly ribbing. It was true that he didn

have the most wholesome lifestyle. To elaborate, he was bad at keeping things tidy,

and his room was always a total mess. Whats more, he subsisted on a diet of

convenience-store meals and nutritional supplements. The only time he had a decent

meal was when he went out to eat once in a blue moon. Itsuki often grew frustrated

with him, asking him how he could live like that.

Knowing his friend kept such habits, Itsuki was not at all surprised that Amane had

caught a cold overnight.

”You oughtta go straight home today and rest up. Tomorrows Saturday, so focus on

getting better, ” Itsuki advised.

”I will…, ” Amane replied.

”If only you had a nice girl to nurse you back to health like I do. ” Itsukis lips curled up

at his slight boast.

”Shut up. I don need to hear that from a guy whos already got a girlfriend. ” Amane

slapped away the box of tissues in front of him with the back of his hand, intensely


As the day wore on, Amanes condition continued to deteriorate.

The headache and runny nose were soon accompanied by throat pain and a fatigue that

permeated his body. Though he single-mindedly hurried home after school, his body

seemed to be losing its battle against the disease, and his pace was agonizingly slow.

Eventually, he reached the lobby of his apartment building and forced his heavy legs

to move him into the elevator, where he leaned against the wall. His breathing was

rougher than usual, and he felt hot.

Somehow, Amane had been able to endure it while he was at school, but hed let his

guard down now that home was in sight, and his condition had suddenly taken a turn

for the worse. Even the peculiar floating sensation of riding in the elevator, normally

not a concern, was now a source of dull agony.

When the elevator eventually stopped on Amanes floor, he staggered out on leaden

feet and began to shuffle toward his apartment. Almost immediately, he was confronted

by a sight that caused him to seize up, however.

Right there in front of him was the girl he had not expected to speak to again, her

shimmery flaxen hair fluttering in the breeze. Her lovely features were full of life, her

complexion vibrant and glowing.

Even though she had definitely seemed the more likely candidate to catch a cold, she

was healthy as could be. The benefits of her self-care were on vivid display.

In her hands, Mahiru was gripping the umbrella that Amane had forced on her the day

before, neatly folded and closed.

She must have come to return it, even though I told her she didn have to, Amane reasoned.

”…Really, you don need to give it back, ” he said aloud.

”Its only natural to return something you borrowed… ” Mahiru hesitated as soon as

she got a good look at Amanes face. ”Um. You have a fever, don you…? ”

”…Its got nothing to do with you. ”

Amane frowned. This was perhaps the worst possible time to run into Mahiru—and

all over a stupid umbrella, too. It was the kind of thing that shouldn have been worth

the trouble of returning. Mahiru was smart, however, and was sure to quickly figure

out how Amane had caught a cold.

”But you only became sick because you loaned me your umbrella… ”

”Thats totally unrelated. Besides, I loaned it to you on a whim. ”

”It most certainly is related! The fact is that you caught a cold because I was out there

in the rain. ”

”I said its fine, really. Its not something you need to worry about. ”

From Amanes perspective, he had done her the favor for his own self-satisfaction, and

he didn want her fussing over him now.

However, Mahiru didn seem likely to just leave him be. Anxiety was written across

her graceful features.

”…So yeah, its all good. See ya. ” Their back-and-forth was quickly growing taxing, so

Amane decided to force his way out from under Mahirus questioning and concern.

Swaying and staggering, he snatched the umbrella from her and pulled his keys out of

his pocket. Everything was going fine, so far. Unfortunately, Amane fumbled quite a bit

as he opened the door to his apartment. The moment he got it open, all the strength

left his body.

Perhaps the feeling of relief on finally entering his home was to blame for how his

body unexpectedly keeled over toward the railing behind him.

Although Amane was alarmed, he trusted that the railing was solid enough that it

wouldn break, and he wouldn fall. Surely it would catch him, and hed be fine.

The impact will probably hurt a bit, but I guess theres no avoiding it…, Amane thought,

resigning himself to the pain.

However, someone firmly took hold of his arm and hauled him back upright.

”…Just as I thought; I can leave you alone like this. ” Amane heard a fragile voice through

his feverish haze. ”Ill repay your favor. ”

Amanes head swam as he tried to make sense of the words, but he quickly gave up.

Before he understood what was happening, Mahiru had propped up his limp body and

opened the door to his apartment.

”Im going to help you inside. Theres no other way, so please forgive the intrusion. ”

Her tone of voice was quiet but left no room for argument.

The fever-stricken Amane had no willpower to resist. He was pulled along, entering

his apartment with a girl his own age for the first time in his life. It was true that he

didn have a girlfriend to nurse him back to health, but it seemed that an angel had

descended to care for him instead.

Thoroughly addled with fever, Amane had forgotten all about the sorry state of his

place until it was too late. It wasn until he saw the condition his home was in that he

regretted ever letting Mahiru enter.

His apartment was spacious. It even had a spare room in addition to the bedroom and

main living space.

It was quite an extravagant dwelling for a person living alone, but Amanes parents

were fairly well-off and had decided on this place after considering the safety of the

neighborhood and the convenience of nearby transportation. Amane had always

thought that spending so much money on housing was unnecessary. The apartment

was much too large for a single person anyway. Still, his parents had insisted, and he

wasn about to complain.

Setting that aside, Amane did live alone, and he was a typical teenage boy. Things were

not kept especially tidy. Various items were scattered all over the living room, and

needless to say, there was the state of the bedroom.

”This is too pitiful to look at. ” The angel, Amanes savior, gave him a frank assessment

of his living conditions. Such harshness was quite the contrast to her charming


Amane could hardly argue—it really was a sorry sight. If hed known that hed be

bringing a stranger into his home, he might have moved some things, perhaps tidied

up a bit, but it was too late for that now.

Mahiru let a sigh slip from her glossy lips, but undeterred, she set to moving Amane

into his bedroom. They nearly tripped along the way, and Amane vowed to do some

serious cleaning sometime soon.

”First, Im going out for a moment, so please go ahead and change clothes before I get

back. You can do that, right? ” Mahiru asked.

e coming back? ”

”My conscience would never let me rest if I left you alone like this, even to sleep, ”

Mahiru responded bluntly, apparently feeling the same way now that Amane had felt

toward her when she was soaking wet the day before.

Amane did not argue any further. After Mahiru left the room, he obediently did as he

was told and started changing out of his school uniform.

”Its really a mess in here; theres nowhere to even step… How can anyone live like

this…? ”

As he was changing, Amane heard an exasperated voice, quietly coming from the next

room, and felt quite ashamed.

After changing clothes, he went to lie down and must have fallen asleep without

realizing it, because when he managed to lift his heavy eyelids again, flaxen hair was

the first thing he saw.

Following the hair, Amane looked up to see Mahiru standing silently at his side,

peering down at him. The whole scene felt like something out of a dream.

”…What time is it? ” Amane asked, confused.

”Seven in the evening, ” Mahiru answered matter-of-factly. ”You slept for several hours. ”

As Amane propped himself up, Mahiru handed him some sports drink that she had

poured into a cup. He accepted it gratefully and brought it to his lips, then finally was

able to take a look at his surroundings.

Maybe it was because he had slept, but he felt just a little bit better than before.

He realized that his head felt cool and pressed a hand to his forehead. When he did,

his fingers registered a slightly starchy sensation, like cloth.

There was a cooling sheet stuck to him. Amane was sure he didn have any of those at

his place, and he looked up at Mahiru.

”I brought it from home, ” she answered immediately.

Amane had no cooling sheets in his apartment—and no sports drinks, either. Mahiru

must have brought that over as well.

”…Thank you. Sorry for all the trouble. ”

”Its fine. ”

There was nothing Amane could do but smile bitterly at Mahirus curt answer.

Mahiru had only offered to play nurse because she felt guilty. It definitely didn mean

that she genuinely wanted to spend time with Amane. He was sure of that. She was

already talking with a boy she barely knew—and alone in his apartment no less. That

she would make sure there were no misunderstandings about how she felt was only


”For the time being, I brought you the medicine that was on top of your desk. Its better

to take it with something in your stomach… Are you hungry at all? ” Mahiru asked gently.

”Mm, a little bit, ” Amane answered.

”Oh really? Well, in that case, I made some rice porridge, so you
e welcome to have

some. ”

”…Huh, you made it yourself? ”

”Is there anyone else here but me? If you don want it, Ill eat it all alone. ”

”No, Ill eat it! Please let me eat it! ”

Amane had never imagined Mahiru preparing a homemade meal for him. For a moment,

he was caught off guard.

Frankly, he had no idea whether Mahiru even knew how to cook, but hed never heard

rumors of her failing cooking class, so he was fairly confident it wouldn be awful.

Although Mahiru looked surprised at Amanes sudden bow and insistence that he

would eat her food, she nodded before handing him the thermometer that was sitting

on the side table.

”Ill bring it to you, so take your temperature first. ”

”Okay, ” Amane said, taking the thermometer out of its sleeve. He began unbuttoning

his shirt, and Mahiru quickly turned away.

”Do it after I leave the room, please. ” There was a slight rise in her voice, and Amane

spied that the girls pale cheeks were tinged red.

Amane hadn thought twice about taking off his shirt in front of her. He didn consider

it anything to worry about, but Mahiru was clearly flustered. Perhaps she wasn

accustomed to seeing much skin.

Mahirus alabaster cheeks were faintly rosy, and she kept her blushing face turned

away, trembling. Even the tips of her ears appeared to be changing hue, making her

shyness almost palpable.

…Ah, I think I kind of understand why all the other boys are always saying how cute she is.

Amane had never denied that Mahiru was very pretty, but hed also never had any

special feelings for her beyond a commonplace appreciation for her gentle beauty. He

had looked at her like something akin to a work of art and had been content to admire

her like one would a distant masterpiece.

Mahiru wasn some far-off thing anymore, though. She was in his apartment, looking

slightly flustered and very shy. In that moment, Amane saw her as a girl and not some

idol, and it was strangely adorable.

The two didn have the kind of relationship where Amane could just up and say that

he thought Mahiru looked cute, however. It would probably just come across as weird

if he tried, which was why he kept his impressions to himself.

”…Well then, do you think you could go get the rice porridge? ” he asked.

”Y-you don have to tell me, ” Mahiru answered dismissively. ”Ill be right back. ” She

turned and made a swift exit, her footsteps pattering away.

It took Mahiru some time to leave, maybe because she was trembling or maybe

because of all the clutter. Probably the latter.

After vacantly watching her go, Amane wondered again how things had turned out

this way and let out a soft breath that was not quite a sigh.

…Well, I guess she just feels guilty over what happened.

Normally, it would be unthinkable to follow a stranger into his apartment. It was too

dangerous; she could be attacked or something.

Mahiru taking such a chance on Amane mustve meant she was worried about him.

Maybe his apparent lack of interest helped put her at ease. Either way, Amane didn

think it mattered. He was certain Mahiru was only helping him out of a sense of


Amanes mind, still slightly delirious with fever, continued to wander as he waited.

Then came a hesitant knock at the door.

”…Ive brought the porridge. ”

At the sound of Mahirus concerned voice from the next room, Amane remembered

again that he had loosened his clothing in order to take his temperature.

”I haven taken my temperature yet, ” he called back.

”I thought I told you to take it while I was out of the room, though… ”

”Sorry, I spaced out. ”

Amane apologized meekly and stuck the thermometer in his armpit. After a few

moments, it let out a muffled electronic beep. When he yanked it out and held it up to

look at the screen, it showed a temperature of 38.3 degrees Celsius. It wasn bad

enough to go to the hospital, but it was still pretty high.

”Okay, Im finished, ” Amane said as he put his shirt back on.

Mahiru entered with obvious aprehension, carrying a tray with a lidded bowl resting

on it. She looked relieved, probably because Amane had fixed his clothes.

”What was your temperature? ” she asked.

”Thirty-eight point three. Ill be better after I take some medicine and get some more

sleep. ”

”…Over-the-counter medicine only treats the symptoms and won eliminate the virus

itself, you know. You need to rest properly and let your immune system do its job. ”

Such harsh scolding, even if it was coming from a place of concern, embarrassed


Mahiru sighed in exasperation and placed the tray and bowl on the side table, then

opened the lid. Inside was rice porridge with pickled plums. It looked severely

watered down—maybe 70 percent porridge to 30 percent water. Perhaps Mahiru had

done that intentionally because shed thought itd be easier on Amanes stomach.

Shed likely added the plums because of their reputation as being good for fighting


The dish wasn steaming, but it gave off a faint warmth. Amane guessed that Mahiru

hadn brought it straight from the stove but had instead made sure to let it to cool

down first.

Ignoring Amane as he stared at the porridge, Mahiru ladled some into a smaller bowl

with a clearly practiced hand. She had broken the pickled fruit up a bit for him and

had apparently even neatly removed the pits. The red of the plums and the white of

the rice mixed easily.

”Here you go. It shouldn be too hot. ”

”Mm, thank you. ”

Mahiru gave Amane a puzzled look as he received the bowl, but then he merely stared

at the porridge while his spoon hovered over it.

”…What is it; you want me to feed you? Sorry, but thats not on the menu, ” Mahiru


”Nobody asked for that, okay? Its just… So I guess you can cook, too, huh? ” Amane asked.

”I live alone, so of course I can. ” The girls words stung, a heavy reminder of Amanes

own domestic failures. ”But before you learn to cook, you should learn to clean up your

room, Fujimiya. ”

”Yes, maam… ”

Mahiru had quickly and thoroughly put him in his place. Amane grumbled quietly and

scooped up some of the porridge, stuffing the spoon into his mouth in a bid to end the


The flavor of the lightly salted rice spread across his tongue as he ate the porridge.

The mellow sourness of the pickled plums pulled it all together. It was truly a dish with

a perfect balance of flavors.

Amane didn like pickled plums that were too salty, but these had a milder taste and

a bit of sweetness. They were actually a favorite of his. Often, he liked to top green tea

rice with pickled plums.

”Its good. ”

”Thanks for saying so. Though, really, once youve tasted one rice porridge, I think

youve probably tasted them all. ” Mahirus answer appeared indifferent, save for the

very slightest beginnings of a smile.

Without meaning to, Amane found himself staring at the beautiful girls relieved

expression. Something about it seemed quite different from the more outgoing smile

he occasionally caught her wearing at school.

”…Fujimiya? ” Mahiru asked.

”Sorry, its nothing, ” he answered.

Amane thought it a shame that such a beautiful smile had been so fleeting, though he

kept the musing to himself. Instead, he shoveled spoonful after spoonful of porridge

into his mouth.

”…Anyhow, you rest today. And make sure to replenish your fluids. If you need to wipe

away sweat, use this. Ive put water into your washbowl, so make sure to wet it and

wring it out before wiping, okay? ”

After Amane had eaten, Mahiru diligently prepared an unopened sports drink, readied

the bowl of water, and laid out a towel and spare cooling sheets. All had been carefully

placed on the side table in Amanes bedroom.

There was no way Mahiru was going to stay over at the home of a boy she barely knew.

Amane wouldn have stood for it if shed tried. Thus, Mahiru had prepared everything

Amane couldve needed while he rested, and he was grateful for her diligence, though

he stared at her the whole time she got everything ready.

This is an awful lot just to repay a favor. Once this is over, I guess we won have much

reason to interact. Its a one-off thing, a freak occurrence; thats all.

Well, since we won be talking ever again, I guess its all right to ask about that thing I

want to know.

Whether from the medicine or his nap, Amanes head felt clearer, though he was still


”Hey, theres something Ive been wondering…, ” he started.

”What is it? ” Mahiru turned to look at him from where she was setting up all the

essentials hed need.

”Why were you sitting out in the rain? Did you have a fight with your boyfriend or

something? ” The strange behavior thatd kicked off this whole chain of events had

been on Amanes mind since hed first noticed it. Mahiru had been rocking back and

forth on a swing in the pouring rain. What could she have been doing there?

It was precisely because Amane had been curious about Mahirus slight resemblance

to a lost child that hed offered her his umbrella in the first place. Hed never

discovered why shed been out there in the storm to begin with, however.

Amane had thought Mahiru had been waiting for someone, so hed guessed that there

was a boy she was dating, even wondering if perhaps she and her boyfriend had gotten

into an argument. In response to Amanes question, Mahiru looked at him as if she was

fed up.

”Sorry, but I don have a boyfriend, and I have no plans to get one, ” she replied.

”Huh? Why? ” Amane asked almost unconsciously.

”Let me ask you, why did you assume I was dating someone? ”

”With how popular you are, I thought youd have at least one or two boyfriends. ”

Something about this back-and-forth made Mahiru seem much more like a normal girl

to Amane. She was kind but strong-willed. To other people, though, he was sure she

seemed quite different. Mahiru was a beautiful girl who was tidy, sweet, quiet, and

humble. Her pretty face, so lovely that she was often called an angel, turned heads

wherever she went, and her body was petite but possessed abundant curves. The

briefest sight of her instilled a strange, momentary feeling of wanting to protect her.

That quality, combined with her excellent sense of style, made her an object of desire

for many a schoolboy.

On top of all that, her grades kept her at the top of her class, and she was an all-around

excellent athlete. Whats more, Amane had just learned firsthand that she was good at

cooking, too. That certainly wouldn hurt her popularity.

Just one glance was enough to know there must have been plenty of guys who were

after her, and Amane knew for a fact that quite a few of his own classmates had

romantic feelings for Mahiru. She couldve had her pick of the litter, and it hadn

occurred to him that she might not be seeing anyone.

That was what Amane had meant when hed said that thing about one or two

boyfriends, but the moment shed heard those words, Mahirus expression had

stiffened, if only for a moment.

”I don have a boyfriend, and whats more, Im not the kind of girl who would keep the

company of several boys at once. Its absolutely out of the question. ”

Mahirus eyes were so cold, they sent a shiver down Amanes spine. He realized

immediately that hed stepped on some kind of social land mine.

It might have been because of his sickness, but he felt a chill pass over him, and the

room seemed drafty all of a sudden.

”Sorry, thats not what I meant. I apologize, ” Amane said.

”…No, Im sorry for getting fired up. ”

Mahiru bowing her head seemed to disperse the cold, tense atmosphere of the room.

More than being ”fired up, ” Mahirus icy reply to Amanes question had been like a

blizzard, though he knew better than to point that out.

”Anyway, thats not what was going on at all. I was just trying to cool my head a bit…

And I really am sorry that you caught a cold because you were worried about me, ”

Mahiru explained.

”Its fine. I mean, it was my decision, after all. I feel kind of guilty about all this, actually.

I only gave you the umbrella as a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. Ill try not to

bother you once this is all over. ”

Amane was sure that Mahiru was only there to help out of some sense of obligation,

but when she heard what he had to say, she blinked a few times and gave him a curious

look. It must have intrigued her to hear that he wouldn be troubling her again.

”We don really have any reason to interact, so its not like itll be a big deal. I mean,

even if you
e the most beautiful girl in our grade, and a genius, and everyone calls you

an angel, I wasn trying to hook up with you; I swear. You don think that this was

some kind of scheme or something, do you? ” Amane inquired.

Mahiru looked away a little awkwardly. A bitter smile spread across her lips, as if shed

been waiting for Amane to say those exact words. Finally, he realized that she wasn

just acting cagey. Mahiru had probably wound up in that sort of situation a few times

before. A guy trying to get in with a beautiful girl by making her feel indebted was,

unfortunately, not unheard of.

It explained why Mahiru had been so wary of Amane that day in the rain. She hadn

been upset at him; shed just been trying to protect herself.

”It must be so irritating. Being bothered by guys you don even like, ” Amane said.

”Well, thats true, but… ” Mahirus voice trailed off.

”Called it, ” quipped Amane, a little surprised to hear her admit it.

So the quiet, charming, model student, the one everybody makes a big fuss over, the one

everybody calls an angel, does have things she doesn like. Why, she even gets annoyed

from time to time, just like the rest of us mortals. The thought gave Amane the sudden

impression that he was seeing the real Mahiru for the first time.

Unfortunately, the way she glared back at Amane seemed to suggest that she was really

regretting having ever met him. It looked like she resented him for making her reveal

how she really felt.

Further proof that the angelic honor student has real emotions hidden deep down,

Amane thought.

”I don really see the problem with that, ” admitted Amane. ”Actually, Im relieved. Its

nice to hear that the angel finds that stuff just as annoying as normal humans. ”

”…Please stop calling me that. ” Mahiru obviously hated the title others had given her.

With disapproval in her eyes, she continued to gaze at Amane.

Even her displeasure seemed interesting to Amane, who smiled again and said, ”Not

to worry, I won bother you again without a good reason. ”

Mahirus eyes opened wide as if his declaration had caught her by surprise. With the

faintest whisper of a smile crossing her lips, she bowed sharply and left.

Amane lay in bed, staring vacantly up at the ceiling while thinking about Mahiru.

Even though the medicine had taken effect, he was, unsurprisingly, still feeling sluggish.

If he relaxed, sleep would surely claim him in no time at all. He closed his eyes and

reflected on the events of the day.

No one would ever believe him if he told them that hed been nursed back to health by

an angel with a surprisingly sharp tongue. The days events were a secret shared only

by Amane and Mahiru.

It feels kinda weird to call it a secret. Its more like itd be a real pain to explain the whole

story. Its just easier not to tell anybody, thats all, Amane reasoned.

As he slowly lost consciousness, Amane told himself that, when tomorrow came, he

and Mahiru would be nothing more than mere acquaintances again.

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