“Do you prefer tea or coffee?”

“Uh... I’ll take water instead, Auntie. I believe I won’t be staying for long and I can’t trouble you more than I already did.”

“Okay. Wait a moment. Feel free to relax there while I get it for you.”

Declining politely, I put on a smile as I tried my best to look as relaxed as possible in front of her. Well, there’s no need to be nervous. Even if she was truly aware of my identity as Akane’s boyfriend, I hadn’t sensed any hostility from her yet. Or at least, that’s what I concluded after my initial observation.

Watching her disappear into the kitchen, I was left alone in their living room.

Fuyu and Fubuki weren’t around yet. The older sister who’s already worn out from everything that happened weakly made her way to her room after we entered the house. Either she’s already going to rest or change first before dealing with this.

On the other hand, the little menace stayed for a bit just to act a little spoiled around me before eventually running to her older sister’s room, saying she was going to pick her up. That girl didn’t want this situation to end yet... What a mischievous brat.

Yep. She really took after her mother... I did try to excuse myself right away and not extend my stay here. However, I missed that chance when Auntie expressly invited me to sit down as soon as Fuyu disappeared into her room. She said she wanted to thank me for escorting and taking care of Fuyu...

And that’s how we arrived at this present.

The same as our house, the kitchen wasn’t really located in another room. Only a divider served as a boundary between the living room and their dining area. That’s why I could hear the clinking of glass and the opening of their refrigerator from where I was sitting.

Looking around, the place was actually quite nice and relaxing. I could see a lot of girly things on some corners like a flower-shaped cushion and the white teddy bear that I’d seen Fubuki carrying during the first time I escorted Fuyu home. The interior decoration also showed that this was a girl-prevalent house.

There are books, flower vases and picture frames placed on shelves. And upon closer look those photos contained mostly of the two sisters’ development over the years.

I was tempted to check them out but I lost the chance to do so when Auntie emerged from the kitchen.

She made her way back with a tray containing a pitcher of cold water and glasses alongside some snacks like cookies.

After placing it down on the table in the middle, she filled a glass and handed it to me while maintaining her usual amiable smile.

“Here, Ruki.”

“Thank you.” I accepted it and took a sip right away which was actually kind of refreshing. I had no idea my throat was that dry. Possibly because I was also not expecting this kind of development.

I should’ve kept my hands on me earlier and just diligently escorted the girl home.

Now, there’s no escape for me or it will be rude. I don’t want to make a negative impression in front of her mother even though there’s a possibility that she’s already familiar with me.

After pushing the tray closer to my side, Auntie sat down on the chair across from me, the expression on her face the same as earlier; amused and intrigued. There’s no mistaking how Fuyu inherited most of her genes except the tendency to be mischievous. From face down to her figure that probably wouldn’t lose against Miwa-nee, their father must’ve been a truly lucky guy to have her as a wife.

From what I heard, he’s still at work at this time so... I was saved for further interrogation.

A few seconds of silence later, without beating around the bush or waiting until her daughters returned from their room, she opened up the conversation.

“Ruki, what do you think of my Fuyu?”

I gulped down and tried to organize my thoughts. This wasn’t a trap question as she’s genuinely curious about my perspective.

She’d seen us that intimate with her own eyes. There’s no way I fooled her with the flimsy excuse I made earlier. She simply gave it a pass for us to arrive at this situation.

“Uhm... If I have to be honest, I think Yuuki-san is a wonderful person. She’s kind and gentle to her friends. Also, she’s someone who will do her best to protect them. Yet, she’s someone wary of getting close to the opposite gender. That’s why I consider myself lucky to even be able to get close to her.”

Was that satisfactory for an answer? Of course not. That’s pretty standard.

Thankfully, Auntie didn’t press me for more.

“Uh-huh. You sound like you have a high evaluation of her. But as her mother, I do agree with you. That child, I seldom see her talk about boys in general. But when she did, it was all about one guy. You.”

Upon saying that, she also took a glass of water and drank it to half, perhaps to wet her lips. Following that, with a meaningful look, she leaned forward a little, putting my whole figure in the depths of her eyes.

“Onoda Ruki. A boy so baffling to her that she has no idea whether to keep complaining, hating or admiring him. Over these past few years, whenever she’s frustrated about something, the same name would inevitably come out of her mouth. Tell me, what have you done to my daughter?”

This... I didn't want to believe it before but with her mother confirming it now, I have no other choice but to accept that reality. If it’s already been happening for a few years, it definitely started when she befriended Akane and how that silly girl kept on chasing after me.

Judging from how Auntie framed it, she was also interested in how I affected Fuyu to this extent.

Although that didn’t tell me whether she was aware of my relationship with Akane, I’d just treat that as a matter of fact considering Akane wasn’t really a stranger in this house. She’s already a regular visitor to Fuyu. Just like how Fuyu treated that silly girl as someone close to a blood-related sister, Akane was the same. They’re already inseparable and their parents were aware of it.

“Uhm. How should I answer that, Auntie? I never did anything to her. Not to the point that I am responsible for everything that happened However, I admit. I am guilty for being the person that frustrates her the most.”

I deliberated for a while before giving that answer. Honestly, it got me to think back about the past. Would I be involved with Fuyu if she hadn’t suspected me? Probably not. I did admire their friendship but if not for the girl bravely charging forward to confront me, I wouldn’t even think of trying to put myself in the middle of their friendship.

Then Akane saw the opportunity to bring us closer.

What happened was just us becoming more conscious of each other.

Or rather, spending time with Fuyu dug up my buried interest in her.

“Hnn... I like that answer. You’ve proven that what I heard about you is true, Ruki. You’re not afraid to answer honestly and sincerely.” Nodding with approval, Auntie straightened her back again and retracted the pressure she’s subjecting me to.

“If I may ask, where did you hear that from, Auntie?”

Fuyu’s mother took another sip from her glass and looked behind me. Perhaps checking if Fuyu or Fubuki was about to return.

Then, with her lips stretching into another meaningful smile, she answered, “Akane.”