“This may be the first time I am meeting you, Ruki. But from everything I heard from Akane, you’re no longer a stranger to me.” Auntie added before resting her back against her seat.

From her expression alone, there’s no doubt that she’s telling the truth. However, as for whether Akane told her about me directly or not, I had no idea.

And that was probably something I would find out at the end of this.

“That’s flattering and embarrassing at the same time, Auntie.” I put on an embarrassed smile and scratched my cheek, “Maybe I’m sincere and honest but that doesn’t excuse me for making Yuuki-san frustrated, does it?”

“Certainly. But Ruki, ever since you first escorted her home, Fuyu has started to change. Her frustration has been divided into two separate emotions that she’s oblivious to; confusion and elation. On one hand, her complaints about you have become more critical and personal, and on the other, she cannot help but raise your positive points, absolving you from her criticisms... It makes me wonder. Have you struck her with a bewitching spell?”

This... Bewitching spell, huh? At least it’s not hypnotism like Nina suspected. But then again, Auntie must have been watching her daughter closely.

From my observation, Fuyu shouldn’t be the type of person who would openly consult her mother about her troubles. Rather than that, she’s the type to bottle it in until she cannot anymore.

And so... Auntie telling me all this while watching carefully behind me must’ve been because Fuyu has no idea that her mother knows what she’s going through.

As for Akane... that girl would probably mention it to me if she talked to Auntie about me.

With those two details... Auntie’s information about me must’ve come from her intentionally eavesdropping on Fuyu and Akane’s conversation or if not that, she’s also observing her daughter closely and picked all of that up.

Whichever the case, this meant that if Fuyu returned from her room, Auntie’s interrogation would also stop at this.

And so, should I just keep my silence and bide my time or... satisfy a mother’s curiosity?

Ugh... I guess if I weighed those two choices, it’s best for me to do the latter... As payback for what I put Fuyu through today, I should also take on a bit of suffering, right?

After arriving at that thought, I downed my glass of water and answered sincerely, “I don’t think so, Auntie... However, I won’t deny that... I’ve been meaning to close my distance with Yuuki-san.”

Taking a few seconds to analyze my answer, Auntie raised an eyebrow before replying, “Close your distance. I see. Have you been smitten by her?”

“Smitten is probably not the right word. But my interest in Yuuki-san has grown a lot and it broke past the boundary of simple admiration.”

Well, I was mostly taken in by Fuyu’s courage to stand up for her friends. But earlier, embracing her like that made me lose control of myself. I guess I like her more than I can admit already.

“You’re careful with choosing your words, Ruki. That’s okay. I understand. You’re afraid to overstep your boundaries.”

Alright. That’s where she’s wrong. I already overstepped my boundaries earlier. But could I tell her about that? Maybe not today. It would just push Fuyu further down if her mother brings that up to her after I leave.

“Uhm... That’s not it, Auntie. There’s a more understandable answer... Akane.”

“Oh my. You’re unafraid to not keep that under wraps, huh? Or is it because you believe I am already aware of your current state of affairs?”

“It’s a bit of both, actually. In the end, hiding this will just make me appear deceitful to you, Auntie. No matter what, I’m still keen on closing my distance to Yuuki-san. Right. We’re going to have a tennis match soon. I’ll probably be destroyed by her after what I watched earlier but I’m looking forward to it.”

“Fufu. I appreciate your honesty, Ruki. I will be withholding my views on what you revealed for now. I trust the two of you. Also, I won’t actively meddle in my daughter’s affairs. I’ve raised her to be someone who can decide for herself. Whatever her judgement may be, I will support her on that as long as it’s not something out of hand.”

Upon saying that, Fuyu’s mother didn’t wait for my response anymore. She stood up and walked back to the kitchen, leaving me alone in the living room.

She was quick on her feet. Most likely, she already gauged the time perfectly.

A few seconds later, I heard footsteps coming from behind me. One pair of light footsteps from Fubuki who was sprinting from where she came from and another pair of footsteps from Fuyu who was probably dragging her feet on the ground.

Fubuki climbed up on the open space next to me and hugged me like her teddy bear. That’s just her being mischievous again. She’s trying to provoke a reaction from her sister.

Unfortunately for her, when I saw Fuyu arriving at my side, she was already too worn out to even play along with her.

Before sitting down, the girl filled my glass with water and drank it in one gulp. I don’t know if she’s conscious of her actions or not but at the next moment, her head landed on my shoulder as she weakly leaned her body against me.

My hand reflexively dropped on top of her head and caressed her gently. With that, it didn’t take long before the girl’s eyes closed. The only phrase that escaped her mouth before she drifted off to sleep was words of gratitude.

Upon seeing her sister like that, Fubuki read the air perfectly. She stopped being playful, got off the chair, and reminded me to take care of her sister before running to their mother.

Auntie returned to the living room a few minutes later and silently giggled at seeing her daughter peacefully sleeping on my shoulder.

She was definitely amused to find out that the girl changed and left her room only to sit down and pass out next to me.

And because of this, I once again delayed my departure.

Thankfully, after finishing what she was doing in the kitchen, Auntie soon brought a pillow from Fuyu’s room which she placed on my vacated side.

While making sure not to wake up the girl, I carefully laid her down. Although she held onto my arm before I stood up, that was only an unconscious action on her part. I spent another minute just sitting next to her and watching her sleep.

Afterward, I said my goodbye to the little menace and their mother as silently as possible to not disturb Fuyu’s sleep.

I could already imagine the girl being teased by them when she woke up later. And if she remembered what happened, I would be expecting her message.

A lot has happened and I still have no idea how to deal with this growing desire of mine for Fuyu but I guess I’ll just have to see how this will progress in the future.

Auntie kept her own view of our situation vague. However, no matter what happens, she’s definitely going to side on whatever she will deem best for her daughter.

Should I consult Akane about this? Well, I also want to confirm my guesses so that shouldn’t be a question at all.

Anyway, time to go home... My day isn’t over yet.