Amane was terrible at housework of any kind, but the thing he was worst at was cleaning.

Surprisingly, he actually could cook. More specifically, he could prepare something hot

and usually technically edible, as long as he was willing to set aside petty concerns like

presentation or flavor and also assumed the possibility of grievous bodily injury at

some point during the process. He wasn completely incapable of preparing food.

Laundry was all right, too. That much was possible for anyone, even Amane. If push

came to shove, there was always the option of taking his clothes to a coin laundromat.

All it boiled down to was a matter of stuffing everything into the machine and letting

it run with detergent and water inside. Amane could pull that off, no problem. The one

thing he was absolutely hopeless with, however, was cleaning.

”What do I do? ”

One weekend, Amane had finally gotten tired of listening to both Mahiru and Itsuki

lecture him day in and day out about cleaning his apartment and had resolved to

finally do something about it. The only problem was that Amane was at a complete

loss on how to get started.

He knew that this was his own fault, but the first problem was that his things were

piled up all over the place, and he couldn figure out how he could even begin to get

them in order. Unsure of what else to do, Amane started by washing his bedsheets and

airing out his futon.

What should come next? he wondered. Clothes and magazines are scattered everywhere,

so theres really no room to walk.

One small mercy was that he always threw out any food garbage right away, so there

were no awful stenches or greasy stains. It was simply an enormous amount of clutter

—enough that it seemed like an insurmountable problem.

As Amane sighed softly at the mountain of work before him, the doorbell rang. He let

out a little gasp.

Rather than a regular visitor, he had begun to think of his neighbor more like a delivery

person, a blessing from above who just handed over gifts and then left. As he stood

before his messy room, however, Mahiru seemed like a savior.

Amane scrambled for his front door but couldn find his footing. He stumbled, caught

himself, and carefully crept the rest of the way to the door with one hand pressed

against the wall for balance.

”Sorry, I wanted to pick up my container a little earlier today… What are you doing? ”

Mahiru asked when Amane opened the door.

”…I was trying to clean, ” he admitted.

Mahiru looked at Amane, still off-balance, with a rather astonished expression.

”I heard a loud noise just now, ” she said.

”…I almost fell. ”

”I bet you did. You haven even begun to clean, have you? ”

”I wasn sure how to start. ”

”I can tell. ”

Amane grimaced at Mahirus comment. It was no less candid than usual, and Amane

really couldn think of anything to justify his lack of progress. Besides, he knew that

if he got sulky now and lashed out, he wouldn be able to get her advice on how to go

about cleaning his apartment. The trouble was that he wasn sure how exactly to ask

for Mahirus help.

I was hoping for some cleaning tips, but I wonder if shell actually give me any advice…

Amane hesitated when he saw that Mahiru was peering past him at the clutter beyond.

Her eyes conveyed her shock at the disastrous scene behind him. It truly mustve been

an awful sight.

”Unbelievable… Ill help you clean your apartment. ”

”Huh? ”

Even Amane knew that it would be too shameless to ask Mahiru to help him clean.

Thats why hed only been planning to see if she had any suggestions. Never had he

dared to imagine that Mahiru would come right out and offer to help.

”I hate the idea that the apartment next to mine is so filthy. ” Such scathing words, but

again, Amane could offer no argument. ”You must think its so easy to live alone, but

you can even clean up after yourself. Worse, you act like its no problem, like

everything will sort itself out eventually, but it clearly hasn . Why don you stop and

take a moment to look at yourself? ”

Amane was at a loss for words. His mother had always told him that if he was diligent

about cleaning regularly, it would be easy, but hed ignored her, and this was the result.

He was fully aware that he was suffering the consequences of his own actions.

”Look, as long as you keep up with routine cleaning, your place won get this bad

again. Its obvious that you have some terrible habits, ” Mahiru said.

e absolutely right, ” agreed Amane.

He couldn get angry with her. He already owed her so much, and shed been so kind

to him. Besides, everything she was saying about his past behavior was true. He had

underestimated how difficult living alone would be, and he really did just sort of

assume that everything would somehow work itself out, and this was the result.

Amane could only nod solemnly at Mahirus words.

”Well, is it all right if I start with this room? ” Mahiru asked.

”…Is it all right with you? ” Amane answered with a question of his own.

”Im the one whos offering, so of course its all right. Im going to go get ready, so while

I do, if you have anything you don want me to see, or any valuables, please put them

in a closet and lock them up. ”

”Im not worried about that. ”

Amane refused to even entertain the idea that someone who had been so kind to him,

even despite her sharp words, might steal from him. Not to mention that Mahiru was

far too good-hearted to ever harm another person like that.

e not? ” she inquired.

”Theres no way that you would do something like that, ” Amane replied.

”No, thats not what I… Look, aren you worried that I might see something that, as a

boy, youd rather hide? ”

”Ah… uh, well, unfortunately I don happen to have any such things. ”

”Well, in that case, its fine, then. All right, Im going to go change clothes and fetch

some cleaning supplies. I don take cleaning lightly, you know. ”

Mahiru returned to her apartment, and Amane watched her go with a wry smile.

She came back wearing different clothes: a long white T-shirt and khaki-colored cargo

pants. The T-shirt closely followed the lines of her body, the delicate fabric bringing

the curves and edges into full relief. Mahirus long hair had been skillfully gathered

into a perfectly round bun, and Amane felt strangely uncomfortable being able to see

the white nape of her neck.

Previously, he had only ever seen her in dresses and skirts, and he found there was

something refreshing about this look. Amane had thought before that boyish clothes

like this probably wouldn suit her well, but he had clearly been wrong. He was

beginning to realize that beautiful girls looked good in whatever they put on.

This new outfit looked comfortable for moving around the house, but it was also a look

that Mahiru couldve worn around town. Amane never wouldve imagined that these

were clothes that she was okay with getting dirtied.

”You don mind if those get messed up? ” Amane asked.

”I was planning to throw these out soon anyway, so its fine if they get a bit dirty. ”

Mahiru scanned the cataclysm that was Amanes apartment and sighed softly. ”Im

only going to say this once: We
e going to clean thoroughly, got it? ”

”…I understand. ”

”Good, then lets get to it. Im not going to go easy on you, and I won let this end

halfway through. I assume you have no objections? ” Mahiru had posed the question

so forcefully that Amane could do nothing but sheepishly reply in the affirmative.

So began the great battle to clean Amanes apartment. A battle spearheaded by an


”First things first, lets toss any clothes into the laundry basket. Usually when you

clean, you work from top to bottom, but we have to handle the clutter on the floor first

before we can run the vacuum cleaner. Before we start the wash, we can divide the

clothes into different loads, since there are too many to wash at once. Do you want to

split them into things you wear and things you don wear? Or do you want to wash

everything? ”

”Just do it however you like…, ” replied Amane. It seemed so obvious to him now. Of

course they had to clear the floor before trying to do anything else.

”…There isn any underwear out here or anything, right? ”

”Those are in my dresser, as you would expect. ”

”Thats fine, then. We can probably put off washing clothes for now, since even if we

wash and dry them, well kick up dust by cleaning and just end up having to do them

again. If you
e not in a hurry, you can do the laundry after we finish cleaning. ”

”Okay. ”

”…Now, regarding the magazines. Really, the only thing to do is to throw them out. I

suppose its a bit of a different story if you
e collecting them, but from the way you

keep them piled up everywhere, I doubt thats the case. If you do want to hold on to

some part of one, tear out the page and put it in a scrapbook, then dispose of the rest.

Tie up any magazines you
e getting rid of and put them out for collection. ”

Mahiru set about the task of cleaning right away, directing Amane to put his discarded

clothing into the laundry basket as she gathered up every last magazine. She told him

to speak now if there were any that Amane wanted to keep, but there weren any in

particular that he needed, so he simply shook his head. Having received the answer

she required, Mahiru skillfully tied up the bundle using some plastic cord that she had

apparently brought with her.

”When you
e finished gathering the clothes, please go through the other assorted

clutter and decide whether to throw anything out. All these different things on the

floor: same as before, sort them into what you need to keep and what you don . Then

put the latter in the trash. Got it? ”

”…Uh-huh, ” Amane answered meekly.

”If you have a problem with taking orders, youd better tell me now. ”

”No, I don , but… I was just thinking about how quick you
e doing all of this. ”

”If I don , well run out of time. Its total chaos in here, after all. ”

e right. ”

Even though it was the weekend, time was limited. If they were going to run the

vacuum, it would have to be during the day, considering that the noise would be a

nuisance to the neighbors. Since Mahiru knew that it would take a lot of effort to get

the place to a state where they could vacuum, she was working to tidy up as quickly

as possible.

One part of Amane felt bad for letting her do so much. On the other hand, under

Mahirus direction, more and more of the floor began to appear for the first time in a

long while.

”Professor Shiina…, ” Amane muttered.

”If you
e going to ask for guidance from me like Im a teacher, first learn by imitating.

Im not going to sort through your personal effects, so please be diligent and keep only

what you really need, ” Mahiru instructed.

”Yes, sir. ”

”Please don address me as a man. ”

The angel nonchalantly returned Amanes jabs as she skillfully cleared up more of the

clutter with a serious expression the whole time.

Amane had a bad habit of hoarding useless junk, and he was both grateful for Mahirus

decisiveness and envious of it. Here she was, in a strangers apartment, picking

through the mess without hesitation. She really was the spitting image of an angel.

Mahiru was so efficient that she could have easily cleaned up the whole place by

herself had she wanted to. However, likely because she was in such a hurry, she got

careless about watching her footing. There was no doubt that it was Amanes fault for

leaving it on the floor, but Mahiru slipped on a piece of discarded clothing and lost her


The instant a small ”Ah! ” escaped Mahirus mouth, Amane dived across the room,

aiming for the spot where he thought Mahiru would most likely fall.

A light, sweet fragrance mixed with the musty smell of the dust that had been kicked

up in the panic.

Amane landed on his backside, leaving his rear end to suffer a dull sting, but it was

tolerable. He groaned just a bit as he felt the weight of Mahiru pressing down on him.

She must be happy that I caught her right away.

”…Fujimiya? ” Mahiru looked up at him. She didn seem angry, but she didn seem

particularly happy about the situation, either. Mostly, she just sounded surprised. ”I

can accept the blame for falling, but this is exactly why you must tidy up, because

otherwise things like this are bound to happen. ”

”Im really sorry, honestly… You
e not hurt, are you? ” Amane asked.

”Im fine. Thanks for going out of your way to catch me. Im sorry, too. ”

”No, its all my fault… ”

Amane wouldn have been able to bear it if Mahiru had gotten hurt while helping him,

especially considering she was already sharing meals with him. That wouldve been

absolutely unforgivable; he wouldn have even been able to look her in the eye.

If he needed to, he was considering kneeling and asking for forgiveness, but Mahiru

didn seem too upset over her tumble.

e cleaning up so that things like this don happen anymore, understand? ”

”Yeah. Im really very sorry. ”

”Its fine; you don need to apologize. Im helping you because I feel like it, after all. ”

Mahiru looked just a little bit flustered as she gazed up at Amane.

Amane suddenly realized how close they were and was aware of her pressing against

him. For a boy who basically never interacted with girls on a regular basis, this was a

heart-pounding situation. Even though neither of them had any romantic feelings for

the other, something felt very wrong about it somehow.

Mahiru didn seem to be conscious of the situation, so Amane gently grabbed her

shoulder and pushed her off of him; then he stood up before the awkwardness could

show on his face.

”…Should we… keep cleaning? ” he managed after a moment.

”Yes, thats a good idea, ” Mahiru replied. Fortunately for Amane, she appeared to be

oblivious to his trembling as she grabbed the hand Amane extended and rose to her


Mahiru seemed unaware of how closely shed been pressed up against him, because

she just maintained her usual expression. Amane figured that a girl like Mahiru

mustve been used to the attention of a lot of boys. Surely a little contact like that

wouldn be enough to unnerve her like it did him.

Smiling wryly at Mahirus demeanor, Amane decided it would be wrong to leave

everything up to her and returned to cleaning with newfound resolve. Even though

the task was wholly unfamiliar, he did his best to struggle through.

”…You are full of surprises. ”

Amane was too focused on his work to notice the quiet words that escaped Mahirus

lips, nor did he see that her ears, hidden by her straw-colored hair, had turned slightly


”…Whew, now, this is clean. ”

In the end, it had taken the pair the entire day to clean Amanes apartment.

Several hours were spent tidying up the clutter on his floor, and then, between

washing the clothes, dusting the shelves and light fixtures, scrubbing the windows,

and vacuuming, the entire day had flown by before they knew it.

The sun had been visible when Mahiru came over, but it had long since set by now,

proof of just how long she and Amane had been working.

It had certainly been no small task, but those efforts were not without results. Amanes

apartment was so clean that he barely recognized it. There was no unnecessary clutter,

and he could see the floor! Once-dirty windowpanes and frames didn have a single

speck of dirt on them. The lights, too, shone brighter now that they had been dusted.

The place was finally clean. Without all the junk crowding every surface, it actually

looked to be quite a comfortable space.

”To think that it took us a whole day, ” Mahiru observed.

”Guess thats what it takes when its such a mess…, ” Amane answered.

”But it was your mess. ”

”R-right you are. ”

Amane verbally prostrated himself before his angelic savior, who had taken mercy on

him. Mahiru, who had wasted one of her precious weekend days helping him, finished

tying up a garbage bag with a beleaguered look. She didn seem upset, but a hint of

fatigue showed on her face, though it was mixed with a sense of accomplishment. That

was only natural, since she had been working all day.

After everything that had transpired, Amane would have been ashamed to simply let

Mahiru go make dinner. Itd be unforgivable to expect her to do any more work,

whether she shared a portion of her cooking with him today or not.

”Now that its evening, I don feel like going shopping, so Im going to order a pizza or

something. Please let me treat you today. After all, youve been giving me all kinds of

food and stuff, ” Amane offered.

”Oh, but—, ” Mahiru started, but she was quickly cut off.

”If you don want to eat with me, Ill order one for you, and you can take it home. ”

This gesture was more about showing gratitude than trying to get Mahiru to eat with

him, so if she wanted to eat alone, Amane didn mind.

”…Thats not what I meant. Its just… I was surprised, because Ive never ordered

pizza. ”

”Huh, youve never ordered pizza? ”

”Yeah, I live alone, but Ive never ordered pizza… Ive made it myself, though. ”

”Its amazing that you would even think to make it, ” Amane exclaimed.

Normally, if someone decided they wanted pizza, the three options were to buy a

ready-made one at the store, get it delivered, or go eat it in a restaurant. He was sure

that there were very few people who would think to go through the long, laborious

process of making one from scratch.

”Well, theres nothing strange about ordering pizza for delivery, ” Amane asserted. ”I

do it all the time myself: order delivery or go to a family restaurant solo… you know,

like most people. ”

”Ive actually never been to one of those, either, ” Mahiru admitted.

”Now, that is rare. I go alone pretty often, and my parents go to restaurants whenever

they don feel like cooking. I guess your parents aren the type to eat out often, huh? ”

”…In our house, the help made the meals. ”

”The help? Damn, you must be really rich. ”

Finding out that Mahiru was fabulously wealthy explained a lot. It certainly cleared up

why Mahirus mannerisms were so graceful and refined—and why her clothes and

possessions were always top quality. Even the girls gait seemed to speak of an affluent


At Amanes words, Mahiru broke into a thin smile. ”You
e right; I think I am

comparatively well-off. ”

Quickly, Amane began to regret what hed said, realizing that Mahirus smile was not

one of delight or pride but rather a display of self-mockery. It seemed that her family

was an area of discussion that was better left alone, and Amane didn plan to pry any


Everybody has a thing or two theyd rather not talk about. Its only polite to respect that,

especially with people you don know very well.

”Well, then this will be an interesting experience, won it? Here, order what you like. ”

Dropping the topic of Mahirus parents, Amane showed her a menu for a pizza place

Amane occasionally ordered from. Out of all the places that delivered, it was the best.

Their pizza was no match for one cooked in an authentic wood-fired oven, of course,

but they did offer a wide variety of toppings. Their choices ranged from the standard

fare to stuff more suited to little kids, so Amane figured that there was sure to be

something that would appeal to Mahirus tastes.

Mahiru accepted both the change of subject and the pizza menu. She immediately

began poring over the list of options, her luminous brown eyes drawn to the many

colorful photos of different pizzas. Her eyes weren usually very expressive, but now

they shimmered vividly.

She must really be looking forward to this, Amane thought.

Mahiru seemed a bit nervous, but after considering it for a little while, she pointed out

a party pizza with four types of toppings and said hesitantly, ”All right, this looks good. ”

She turned an expectant gaze to Amane.

With a slight smile, Amane nodded, picked up his phone, and dialed the number

printed on the menu. Mahirus eyes sparkled with anticipation.

An hour later, their pizza arrived. Mahiru dug in without hesitation. The pizza was

divided into sections to allow the different flavors to be sampled on their own, and

shed hesitated a little over which one to try first but finally decided to start with a

piece covered with a hearty helping of bacon and sausage.

Amane was not surprised when Mahiru nibbled at her slice with small, delicate bites.

He supposed her refined upbringing had taught her to eat everything with poise and

grace, even delivery pizza.

Watching Mahiru gave Amane a warm feeling inside, like he was watching a small, cute

animal. She was strangely adorable as her eyes closed and her expression relaxed a

little while she chewed on the stretchy cheese. Usually, the girl appeared so mature; in

this moment, however, she finally looked her age.

Amane quelled an intense urge to pat Mahirus head as she enjoyed the pizza with

little, mincing bites.

”…What? ” she asked.

”Nothing, you just look like you
e enjoying it, ” Amane replied.

”Please don stare at me so much. ”

The frown she cast at Amane was anything but cute, however.

”…Geez, youve really got no charm. ”

”Well, that suits me fine. If I were to act like I always do at school, youd say I was

making you uncomfortable. ”

”Yeah, I guess thats true. Im more familiar with this version of you than the school

version. ”

At school, Amane barely ever even saw Mahiru, and they had certainly never spoken

there. He only occasionally caught a glimpse of her, and she always wore that same,

impenetrable smile that she showed to everyone.

Here, he got to see beyond that layer. This has to be the real Mahiru, Amane thought.

At school, she always adopted her fake, public persona.

”As far as Im concerned, ” he continued, ”I never get tired of this version. ”

”The version with no charm? ”

”Don hold a grudge… You know, how do I put this…? I can never tell what you

thinking when you
e at school. ”

”Mostly about my schedule and my classes, I suppose. ”

”So even you can be clueless once in a while, huh? ”

Amane had meant to say that Mahiru always looked like she had some secret on her

mind, but Mahiru apparently took his words at face value. She looked at him with a

subtle protest in her eyes, as though she had meant something else entirely.

”I, uh, didn mean it like that, ” Amane quickly added. ”Its just… You don show what

e thinking. All I meant was that its easier to be around someone whos honest

about their feelings, even if they
e a little rude, than someone who you can never

read. ”

”…Do you think how I behave at school is bad? ” Mahiru asked directly.

”Well, I can really hate on it, since its probably the secret to your success. I just

wonder if you ever get tired of it, ” Amane said.

”Not really. Ive been acting like that since I was little. ”

”Hard-core, huh? ”

If shed been keeping up this act since childhood, spending her whole life trying to be

the perfect young woman everyone expected her to be, Amane could understand how

it would definitely be difficult for her to set that persona aside.

Amane had been able to infer a little bit about Mahirus home life, but he knew that

there was no way he could ask her more about it.

”Well, isn it nice to have a place where you can relax? And now youve even got a

buddy to chill with. ”

”Honestly, I don find you relaxing at all. You make my stomach turn in knots, ” Mahiru

stated coldly.

”Im… sorry? ” Amane apologized, a little dumbstruck.

Mahiru gave an exaggerated shrug and let out a strange little laugh.

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