Since each game in Double Score only has two guys, you’re pretty much free to choose whoever you want right from the start. From the CDs I loved Yousuke a bit more, so I’ll save him for later and do Issei (plus his Tachibana voice) first.
Suoh Issei is a serious, diligent salaryman at the age of 31. He has a very strong sense of responsibility and can be TOO serious, but also kind. As the oldest of five siblings, Issei is good at looking after others, not to mention he also excels at all kinds of housework. He’s used to being relied on, but doesn’t like relying on people in return. He’s an efficient worker in the public relations department. His birthday is October 30, with cosmos as his birth flower.
• OCTOBER •
When Mai chooses the cosmos, Kyouga tells her to deliver it to a man named Suoh Issei—a familiar name she recognizes. Ever since his high school days, Kyouga has been friends with four people: Mai’s cousin, Emori Chisato; the owner of the café at their mansion, Sakita Takuto; her school’s infirmary doctor, Sano Fumiya; and the last one is Suoh Issei. She often sees them because Chisato is living with her family, and Issei used to help with her studies… but she lost contact with him by the time she entered junior high. It’s been years since the last time they saw each other. Kyouga assures Mai that Issei hasn’t grown at all since high school though, so she will be able to recognize him. Issei is now working as a salaryman, and Kyouga also adds that he’s still as straight-laced and inflexible as ever. After forcing Mai to change into her shrine maiden outfit, Kyouga sends her to the company Issei works for. All she can do is to hope that it won’t start a rumor that Issei actually loves cosplaying girls LOL. Even if it does, she’ll make sure that Kyouga takes full responsibility. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
The company Issei works for—SNT—has a large, luxurious building. Mai finds it hard to enter thanks to her shrine maiden outfit, and she was wondering what to do when someone excitedly claims that he’s lucky to see a shrine maiden here—surely Rio would be excited if he sees her. When she turns around, Mai finds a brown-haired man staring at her with a grin. Just as she feared earlier, he thinks she came here to attend a cosplay photoshoot session… and he wants to watch. When Mai explains that she’s here to deliver a flower for Issei, he’s really surprised and wonders if Issei has that kind of hobby. Then he winks saying it’s so cute how she blushes as she tries to explain. Knowing it’s hard for Mai to enter with her shrine maiden outfit, he then offers to call Issei for her. He also introduces himself as Todaka Yousuke, and he works for the same company. Yousuke asks if Mai is Issei’s girlfriend, and when she says no… he laughs saying it doesn’t seem like Issei is adventurous enough for that. Then he pats her head saying he’ll help her.
Before Yousuke goes inside, Issei suddenly appears and slaps his hand—telling him not to touch Mai. This is followed by Issei going into a long rambling over how Yousuke is lacking awareness as an employee, and how a frivolous person like him would bring bad influence for Mai. Yousuke protests because he’s actually Issei’s senior at work, but Issei only asks Yousuke to be more proper if he wants respect. When Mai tries to stop them from fighting, Issei explains that Kyouga already informed him that she’s coming to see him. He’s still calling her “Mai-chan” like he used to in the past, but he decides to drop the suffix since she’s not a kid anymore. They smile as they greet each other, until Yousuke teases Issei for getting デレデレ in front of Mai. Issei calmly replies that Mai is just like a younger sister to him though, so it’s only natural for his expression to soften up. However, Issei then apologizes and asks Mai to take the cosmos back—he doesn’t need any blessings nor support for love. Yousuke, on the other hand, is excited. He asks Issei to receive it since love might bloom for him later, but Issei firmly refuses—leaving Mai feeling troubled. After all, it’s the Kamizono Shrine’s policy to make sure the client receives their flowers.
In order to help Mai, Yousuke reminds Issei that it’s her job to deliver the flower. He shouldn’t refuse it like that. What if he receives the same treatment at work? Would he just accept it and give up? This, fortunately, convinces Issei. He accepts the cosmos and apologizes for refusing earlier… but then he also whispers that he never thought he’d receive this flower from Mai again. Mai seems taken aback to hear this, but Yousuke interrupts by asking for her number and mail address. Issei quickly stops this and shoos him away though. Now that her job here is done, Issei also suggests for Mai to return home. Yousuke says they should totally exchange contacts if they meet again, but Issei only asks Mai to go home before she gets deceived by this frivolous man. ( *´艸`)ｸｽｯ♪ Mai then takes her leave, with Issei and Yousuke sending her off.
However, Issei actually noticed that Mai was about to say something before Yousuke interrupted. He then chases after her to ask about this, but she’s concerned since he’s in the middle of work… so he asks her to wait in a nearby café. He’ll have an hour of break in 30 minutes, so they can talk freely if she’s willing to wait until then. When Mai nods and smiles, Issei suddenly blushes and averts his gaze. (。-∀-)ﾆﾋｯ♪ 30 minutes later, Issei comes to the café and finds Mai eating a cake set there. It reminds him that she has always loved sweets. Whenever Chisato and him bought some sweets, she’d come and take a LOT into her room… which she can’t deny LOL. After ordering coffee, Issei asks how old Mai is right now. When she says that she’s 17, he comes to the realization that time has really passed by. He couldn’t visit her house as often because he started working. He’s now working for SNT, an IT company focusing on online and digital business. He’s in the public relations department, to be more specific. As Issei explains more about his job, Mai realizes that he has grown into an adult—he’s no longer the kind “big brother” she used to know. He’s now an adult, a working man… and it makes her rather uneasy.
Issei then asks what Mai wanted to say earlier, so she asks about what he said—that he received the same flower from her again. Issei blushes upon hearing this, and he says that Mai might not remember because she was really young back then. On a certain night years ago, Issei was walking around aimlessly. He didn’t return home from university. He knew his mother must be worried, but still, he didn’t contact her. He didn’t want to see his phone. Three hours prior to that, Issei received a call from his father—who took a physical examination at his office. Normally he’d call his wife, but she was pregnant and had to stay at home… so as the eldest son, Issei was called to come in her place. Or at least that’s what he thought at first.
It turned out that Issei’s father was diagnosed with a deadly illness. He had always been frail and often got hospitalized ever since Issei was small. Following the doctor’s advice, Issei’s father agreed to take a surgery. He was immediately hospitalized and left the family in Issei’s care—asking Issei not to tell his mother about the illness until she gave birth. He smiled saying Issei is more reliable than him, but Issei was really worried. He was only a kid who was still living off his parents’ money, but it all ended that day. Starting from the next day, he’d have to support his sick father, his mother, his three year old brother… and his siblings who were about to come into this world. He felt stressed by his responsibilities, and he was terribly scared—he felt so pathetic.
Eventually Issei reached an old shrine in an unknown area, surrounded by cosmos flowers in full bloom. There he met a young Mai, who came over to hug his leg—holding a cosmos in one hand. She asked why he looks sad, but he shoved her away saying it’s nothing. This caused Mai to fall down, and Issei instantly regretted his action. She started tearing up, and he tried to think about how to comfort her… but then she forced a smile and said that she’s fine. Then she gave him the cosmos in her hand. She explained that the flowers are actually a charm for love, but holding them always cheers her up. That day she had a fight with her friend and was feeling down, and she received the cosmos upon coming to the shrine. She felt like the flower encouraged her to do her best, but since she felt better already… she gave the flower so it can cheer him up. Issei knew it wouldn’t change the situation, but surprisingly, he felt calm after receiving the cosmos from Mai. It was because she tried her best to cheer him up. He realized that he doesn’t have to carry all of the burden alone, as he can always ask his family and friends for help. Issei smiled as he thanked Mai, and she happily hugged him.
Sadly Mai doesn’t remember any of this, but Issei thinks it’s only obvious—she was really young after all. Thanks to her encouragement, now he can support his family in behalf of his father. She’s his savior. He’s always been grateful to her, and he always wanted a chance to thank her. Mai blushes when Issei smiles at her, and she changes the subject out of embarrassment. She asks if he’s still keeping in touch with Kyouga and Chisato… and his smile instantly vanishes LOL. Much to his dismay, they ARE still friends—though he’s thought of cutting ties with them several times. Especially with Kyouga. Besides, he knows that Kyouga sent the cosmos to mess with him. Kyouga surely knows that Issei would get embarrassed and refuse, and that is exactly what he wanted to see. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ
When Mai mentions that Kyouga forced her to wear her shrine maiden outfit, Issei reveals that Fumiya and Kyouga also tricked him into wearing a maid outfit for a culture festival. I am very interested in this, it’s really too bad we don’t get to see it. (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ Mai agrees that Kyouga is a true demon, but she’s surprised that Fumiya would do something so mean. He’s always so kind to her—even at school—but Issei only sighs saying Fumiya has always been kind to her. Definitely not to him though LOL. Issei soon receives a mail from a business partner, and since he has to return to work, Mai also decides to go home. Issei feels bad because he couldn’t stay for long, but Mai is happy to talk to him again after so long—a sentiment also shared by him. She feels bad when he goes to pay the bill, but he asks her to let “big brother Issei” treat her and pats her head. Before Mai leaves, Issei turns red and is about to say something… but then he only says it’s nothing and tells her to be careful. He watches over her as she walks to the station, and she goes home feeling all warm inside.
Several days later, Issei comes to Kamizono Shrine. Mai finds him bickering with Kyouga in the middle of the shrine, and she stops them saying it’ll blow off Kyouga’s “handsome priest” mask. Since Kyouga’s only good point is his looks (according to Mai anyway) he always acts like a kind gentleman in front of the ladies. He only smirks saying he won’t make such a mistake though. There are no visitors at the moment, so there are no problems! ♪ヾ(´∀´o)ﾉ When Issei greets Mai, Kyouga grins and throws a comment about how he always gets デレデレ in front of her—both now and then. Issei gets embarrassed when Mai asks why he’s here, but Kyouga forces him to talk properly. Or else he won’t lend Mai to Issei. It turns out that Issei needs Mai’s help for work. SNT is gathering data about places students would visit during holidays, and she’s the only students he knows. The reason why they were arguing earlier was because Kyouga wants Issei to pay HIM instead of Mai. She’s his employee after all. ヾ(o´∀`o)ﾉﾜｧｰｨ♪
Mai agrees to help, but Issei is still troubled because he’ll have to take her to visit various places. Since she’s working for Kamizono Shrine, first he needs Kyouga’s permission as her employer. However, Mai tells Issei to just ignore Kyouga’s payment request. Issei has received a flower from their shrine, which means that he has been blessed by the god’s kindness—he’s a special figure for their shrine. Kyouga is surprised that Mai knows about this, but then he grins saying she’s not bad at all. He agrees to give them permission, and he tells Mai to help Issei before walking away. Issei is impressed that Mai can stop Kyouga that easily, but Mai knows that Kyouga actually stopped because Issei is clearly troubled. Kyouga takes his job seriously—he’s just being a bully because he’s not honest. Issei quietly admits that he’s a bit jealous of Kyouga, but before Mai can ask anything, he changes the subject by asking for her cooperation in data gathering. He shyly asks if he can have her number and mail address, and they both turn red as they exchange contacts. Issei then smiles saying he’ll adjust their plans to her schedule, and she can feel her heart pounding rapidly. Could it be that she’s weak against his smile?
The next day, Mori invites Mai to have lunch together since the weather is so nice. He almost jumps in glee when she agrees, but sadly for him… Miki soon comes to interrupt. She won’t let them have lunch alone as she wants to eat with Mai too, so the three of them decide to have lunch together. They move to have their lunch in the courtyard, where they get a look of Mai’s cute lunch box—made by Chisato. Miki’s lunch box is also made by her older boyfriend, Kazuki. Every morning they make one for each other and exchange them when they meet up at the station. Mai is a bit envious since she can’t cook without recipes like Chisato and her mother, but Mori thinks those two are on a completely different (read: pro) level. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ Mai soon notices their modern language teacher, Saiga Rui, roaming around nearby, and she finds it unusual for him to be outside. Usually Rui eats lunch with Fumiya, but he explains that the infirmary is being waxed today. That’s why he went to eat outside, but since the courtyard is full and there’s no place for him to sit down… Mai invites him to sit with them.
Unlike Mai and Miki, Rui can’t cook at all. His lunch box comes straight from the convenience store, though he also buys salad to get balanced nutritions. Much to Mori’s shock, Mai offers to cook for Rui whenever he wants to. She’s rather weak in modern language and regularly attends his supplementary lessons, so this is a way for her to show her gratitude. Mori quickly says he wants to eat her cooking too, and Mai nods asking what he wants to eat. Of course this sends the guy flying to seventh heaven, but in only lasts until Miki joins in… and being the nice girl that she is, Mai agrees to cook for everyone. (人´∀`)☆゜’・:* Mori knows that Miki disturbs them on purpose though, just to enjoy his reaction. 8D After lunch, Mai informs them about Issei’s request. She thinks it’d be better to ask for their opinions as well, and they agree to help—telling her places they often visit and their friends’ recommendations.
However, Mai is surprised when Rui mentions that Issei is as diligent as usual. Apparently they’ve met each other when they went drinking with Fumiya before, and Rui knows that Issei takes his job very seriously. He was actually surprised that Issei asked for Mai’s help, since he noticed that Issei doesn’t seem to like relying on other people. Fumiya offered to help him before, but he refused until the end—giving off an impression that he has a high pride when it comes to work. This causes Mai to feel insecure, because Issei did seem to be reluctant yesterday… not to mention Kyouga had to force him to say it. Could it be that he actually didn’t want her help? After school, Mai heads to Kamizono Shrine. She keeps staring at her phone along the way. Today she gathered quite a lot of information at school, and she’s thinking of reporting to Issei… but she’s also concerned about what Rui said. What if she’s doing something unnecessary? On the other hand, Mai doesn’t want Issei to fail at work either. She’d rather get scolded for doing unnecessary things, and so she decides to report to him after all.
Issei actually has a meeting and is quite busy at work at the moment, so if Mai calls him, he’ll apologize and she’ll feel bad for disturbing. Later on he calls her back to apologize once again—asking if he can call her at night since he’s going out for work. He’s taken aback at how happy Mai sounds upon hearing this, and she also wonders why she feels so excited. Is it because she can talk to “big brother Issei” again after so long…? Back when Mai was in elementary school, Issei often helped whenever she had problems with her studies. Chisato would take Mai to visit Issei, and he would look after her along with his younger brother. She feels comfortable with his kindness, which hasn’t changed since then. Mai keeps thinking about this at work, and she only stops when Kyouga asks why she’s blushing. She quickly snaps out of it and returns to work.
If Mai sends the information via mail, Issei directly asks if he can call her later. He wants to talk more about the data she gathered, and she happily agrees. Either way, Issei is going to call Mai at night and she feels rather excited.
Once she gets home, Mai quickly eats dinner, takes a bath and nervously waits for Issei to call her. When he finally calls, he explains that he already shared the data she sent with the project members. The problem is they don’t have any data for some of the places on the list, so he’s thinking of visiting those places directly. It’ll be more convincing as well since he checks them himself. However, the project’s objective is actually to do a research about the “steps” in a young couple’s relationship. In other words, they have to learn about what kind of place young couples would visit for dates—as in what kind of place would drive them to grow closer. Issei says he can learn and analyze how students think, but he’s a bit unsure since he obviously has a different perspective compared to how he used to think during his school days… so in the end, Mai offers to accompany him to those places. This surprises him, but she explains that she’s a student too. In order to keep their opinions balanced, she’ll invite a male and female friend along.
Issei feels bad for relying on Mai too much, but she assures him that she wants to help. He eventually gives in and asks her to give him a hand, to which she excitedly answers that she’d be happy to. She realizes that she’s being rather loud and quickly apologizes to him, but he chuckles saying it’s encouraging. In any case, their first destination will be a popular and large shopping center. He’s going to adjust his schedule for this month, so they can go out with her friends on a weekend. After Issei ends the call, Mai happily rolls into her bed before contacting Mori and Miki.
Just as planned, Issei visits the shopping center with Mai, Mori and Miki one day. He enters “work mode” as soon as they arrive. He’s busy taking detailed notes as they guide him to various shops, but he notices that Mori has a crush on Mai. Issei feels bad and asks if Mai is dating Mori. He offers to split up so they can have a date if they want to, but she explains that they’re just friends. Poor thing. As they watch Issei at work, Mai comments that Issei is wonderful—much to Mori’s shock. Miki adds more damage by pointing out that he looks dashing in his suits, which Mai admits as true. Being a normal high school student that he is, the only thing Mori can offer is “uniform moe”… which sadly doesn’t apply to any of them LOL. Out of jealousy, Mori comes up to Issei and protests that his suits look rather suffocating. It’s a day off for him too, so he should go for something casual instead! (-`ェ´-怒) However, Issei reluctantly replies that he’s here for work… and that’s why he can’t wear casual clothes. His answer impresses everyone. Mai and Miki are charmed by how mature he is. Even Mori says he wants to become an adult who looks good in suits—like Issei. (ﾉ´∀`*)
After walking around for a while, Mai notices a take-out café that sells her favorite drink—tapioca milk tea. It’s really popular though, and the queue is incredibly long. She decides to just buy one the next time she comes here, but Issei says they should buy the drinks and take a break. Since it’s going to take a while, he says Miki can use the time to visit the bookstore—earlier she mentioned that she needs to buy something there. Miki is planning to buy quite a lot though, so she asks Mori to come and help carrying her stuff. She will repay him with some onigiri later. Mori accepts the deal, but he instantly regrets it when Mai says she’s not coming with them. She’s going to help Issei carry the drinks instead. Mori tries to change his decision, but his effort is useless since Miki drags him away. Issei is a bit worried about him, but he’s surprised when Mai says that Mori might feel a bit lonely. Apparently she’s under the idea that Mori loves lively places, and that’s why he keeps hanging out with her. Realizing that Mai’s 100% oblivious of Mori’s crush, Issei can only sympathize with the poor thing.
After joining the queue, Mai and Issei start chatting as they wait. He asks if she often buys drinks here, and she says it’s only when she comes here. Most of the time, she buys her drinks at Takuto’s café—Siesta. Issei mentions that he hasn’t been in touch with Takuto recently, and Mai reveals that she told Takuto about him before. Takuto asked Mai to tell Issei to come over sometime, so Issei decides to pay Siesta a visit next time. He’s working during the café’s operating hours, but he might make it during the bar’s hours at night. Mai is curious about the bar version of Siesta, and Issei smiles saying she can see it once she turns 20.
Since Issei said he can’t visit Siesta at noon, Mai then asks if he’s busy with work. He admits that he is, but somehow he feels satisfied while working. As the result, he keeps on taking one job after another. It’s a bad habit. This is his first time visiting a place like this though, so it’s a refreshing experience for him. He enjoys gathering information here, and he soon starts analyzing the marketing strategy of a boutique they visited earlier. It’s popular because it sells high quality clothes at affordable prices, and their goods are perfect for teenagers who want to appear mature as well. However, Issei soon stops himself and apologizes for going on a long rambling about work—it must be boring right? On the contrary, Mai smiles and admits that she’s really interested. In fact, she gets excited when someone tells her about things she never knew before. It’s like opening the door to a new world for her. That’s why she loves talking to him. Her heart is racing just by listening to him.
Upon hearing this, Issei looks straight at Mai with a serious expression. She’s worried if her answer might come off as irresponsible, and he’s about to say something… but the café staff then asks for their order. It seems like their turn has come. Mai is a bit surprised due to the timing, but Issei calmly orders four tapioca milk tea, takes the paper bag and walks out of the café. Mai quickly follows him saying she’ll carry the bag, but Issei only smiles and asks her not to worry—it’s a man’s duty! ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ They contact Mori and Miki after that, but Mai still feels bad and a bit uneasy as she walks beside Issei.
• NOVEMBER •
One night, Yousuke goes to see Issei at the latter’s desk. He wants to ask about the data gathering, but Issei is clearly giving him a very displeased look LOL. When Yousuke grumbles about this, Issei apologizes saying it’s simply because he was really concentrating on his work. Which is just the same as saying that Yousuke is disturbing him. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ Yousuke doesn’t think Issei needs to be so painfully honest, but then again, he also knows that his beloved junior has always been like this. Anyway, Yousuke wants to know how much information Issei has collected so far. The required quota for one person is from 10 to 30. Issei replies that he has gathered 10 last month, and he went to check one of the places directly—which he finds interesting. He gets irked when Yousuke responds with a grin, but that’s actually because he looks happy. Yousuke has gathered information for about 15 places, so they should be able to provide good sample data for the next regular briefing. From him, Issei also learns that the other project members are doing good as well.
Currently, Issei and Yousuke are working on advertising a new complex area. The target market is students. They have to think about how to attract customers when the business opens, and so they’re gathering data from places that are popular among students. From there, they’ll use the data to determine trends and the necessary measures. Issei believes they can gather a lot of data before the date, and they should be able to make a PR draft by then… but Yousuke sighs and complains that he’ll be busy with promotions. Issei thinks he shouldn’t say that as an employee of the company, but Yousuke says it’s okay because it’s his style. This is Todaka Style! (>ω・)☆ Issei responds to this by giving Yousuke a flat, expressionless laugh LOL. Of course Yousuke finds it creepy and says it’d be better if Issei makes fun of him blatantly, so…
Issei: “Oh, I see. Then Todaka-san, you’re stupid.”
Yousuke: “Wha…!? T-T-The one who says stupid is the stupid one!!!”
ARE YOU FIVE? (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ
Issei can’t believe that Yousuke is 32 years old, not to mention his senior at work. The world is doomed.
Yousuke then remembers something, and he asks if Issei has made sure he’s free this weekend. From a few months ago, they’ve been working on promoting and advertising a restaurant’s Christmas event. They were ordered to check the customers’ feedback, but since both of Issei and Yousuke were busy with work… now they’re the only ones left who haven’t checked the restaurant. The assistant manager ordered them to visit the restaurant together this weekend, and they have no choice but to agree—as much as they DON’T want to. Issei doesn’t like Yousuke, while Yousuke complains that seeing a Christmas event with a man is not fun at all. He’d rather go with a cute girl than spending the day with Issei. Issei suggests complaining directly to their superior, but Yousuke says it’s impossible since their assistant manager is a super ドS. If he complains, the assistant manager would only send him out with more men. It’d be hell for him. They can’t do anything, and Issei has no intentions of going against their superior’s order either. Even if he has to go with Yousuke, he’ll grit his teeth and endure everything until the end. As Yousuke flops in his chair, Issei can only pray for this mortification to end soon.
One evening, Kyouga asks Mai to deliver something for Issei. It’s an envelope with “IMPORTANT!” written on the front side, and he explains that it’s a bill. It’s really important, so she has to make sure it reaches him properly. Mai doesn’t get why Kyouga would give a bill to Issei, but he only grins saying she’ll find out later. That’s enough for Mai to know that it’s probably not a good thing, and she feels sorry for Issei as she walks to his office. Just before she goes inside, Mai sees Issei walking out of the building. She goes over to talk to him, and he knows that Kyouga must’ve sent her here. She then hands the envelope to him, and he takes it knowing that Kyouga is plotting something… but as soon as he’s done reading the contents, he crushes the letter and curses at Kyouga LOL. When Mai asks what happened, Issei explains that he went to Takuto’s bar the other day. He was chatting with Takuto on the counter when Kyouga came, and since it’s been a while… they decided to drink together. Issei left early since he had to do something at home, but apparently it was a mistake to leave Kyouga back then. Because Kyouga is now asking Issei to pay for his drinks. ヾ(*´∀`*)ﾉ♪ Issei quickly takes out his phone and dials Kyouga’s number to complain, but of course Kyouga won’t pick up. He’s completely enjoying this. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Issei grumbles since he also has a “troublesome job” from now on, but eventually he gives up and puts his phone back into his pocket. Mai tries to cheer him up and asks him not to mind, since this is Kyouga they’re dealing with. Getting angry wouldn’t do anything. Issei nods and thanks Mai, but she notices that he seems to be forcing it… and it makes her a bit sad. She understands how he feels though, since she’s also a victim of Kyouga’s. Just then Mai notices Yousuke leaving the building, and he looks just as gloomy as Issei… until he sees her. A radiant smile instantly appears in his face, and he approaches her asking if she’s doing well. Yousuke asks if Mai is here to see Issei, and he suggests her to stop since Issei is boring. (○´ﾟωﾟ｀):;*.’:;ﾌﾞｯ Issei replies that it’s really terrible for him to say so, and he admits that it’s not pleasant to see that Yousuke is just as frivolous as ever. Mai explains that she was asked to deliver something from Issei, so Yousuke asks if she’s done with her job here. When she nods, he comes up with a very brilliant idea: “Let’s have a delicious meal with Suoh and me!”
Why yes, Yousuke wants to take Mai along so he can avoid dining together with Issei LOL. He can endure it if she’s there with them. Or rather, he’d be in paradise if she comes along. Yousuke then holds Mai’s hand, but before he can go anywhere… Issei quickly stops him. It might be alright if Mai is helping them for work, but this is completely Yousuke’s personal wish. Besides, Issei can’t believe that he’s going to take a student to walk around at night. It’s only 8 PM though, and Yousuke points out that Issei is being too stubborn. He explains that they have to visit a restaurant to check the result of their work, but the thought of dining with Issei is just so gloomy—he can’t stand it. Once again Yousuke asks Mai to have dinner with them, but Issei tells her to just ignore him. She’s done with her job here, so she can go home now. No matter what option you choose, Mai will end up having dinner with them. Even if she refuses, she’ll get surrounded by flirts on the way to the station. Issei and Yousuke will come to save her, and they decide to bring her along instead of sending her into the danger of going home alone.
From there, Issei and Yousuke take Mai to a restaurant with a beautiful night view. As they talk to the staff, she notices people who seem to have high social standings coming out of the restaurant. She’s amazed to see this side of the society, the world of adults. The staff then guides them to a four-person table, and there she finds a cute mini Christmas tree—sitting on the center of the table. When Mai comments that it’s lovely, the staff smiles saying they put one on each table. They’re really popular with the customers. Yousuke grins saying it’s good for Issei, who is blushing beside him. It was his idea to put a Christmas tree on each table, as it’d make each customer feel special to have a tree just for them. Due to its popularity, the restaurant has received reservations five times more than they expected. Mai finds the Christmas trees wonderful as well, and Issei averts his gaze out of embarrassment. He was wondering if it’s too early to use Christmas trees in November, but she shakes her head. She can never get bored of looking at the tree, and she’s happy if she can gaze at it for a long time. Yousuke teasingly says he’s jealous to see Issei getting praised THAT much by Mai, and Issei is still blushing as he tells them to choose their order.
After ordering the chef’s recommendation, Mai asks what kind of work they do here. She’s been interested ever since she saw the Christmas tree. Yousuke starts by explaining his job in the sales department. First he offered to work with the restaurant’s owner for Christmas, getting a new project by promoting SNT. The PR department then took over, and they take care of the restaurant’s publicity—like homepage renewal, ideas for new menu, and also the display of the restaurant. The mini Christmas tree is a part of the last one. They also created a limited edition dinner for Christmas and Christmas Eve, which has been fully booked due to its popularity. Yousuke then glances to a poster on the wall, and Mai sees a picture of the Christmas dinner there. Everything on the poster looks incredibly delicious, but more than anything else, she’s drooling over the Christmas cake. When she wonders out loud about what the ingredients might be, Issei recalls that she loves sweets. She nods saying the cake looks delicious, but the price is a bit expensive for a student like her. She might be able to afford it by using her part-time wage, but she also wants to buy new clothes and other things. Their order comes not too long after that, and they enjoy their delicious dinner together.
After leaving the restaurant, Yousuke receives a call from a business partner. He says goodbye to them with a sad look in front of the restaurant, and Issei walks Mai back to her mansion. She told him that she can go home alone, but he insisted. Mai feels bad since they paid for her dinner, but both Issei and Yousuke don’t mind at all. They already told her not to mind either, because she’s the one who helped them. Even though he’s not a flirt like Yousuke, Issei wanted to avoid dining with a man as well… so he really appreciates Mai’s help. Mai then thanks Issei and says good night, but before she walks into the mansion, he suddenly stops her and asks if she has plans for Christmas. Mai admits that she doesn’t since she has no boyfriend, so she might celebrate it with her family instead. Issei nods before asking if she wants to go to the restaurant from earlier with him, and he blushes saying the limited edition dinner was suggested by his subordinate. That’s why he was happy when she praised it, and to show his gratitude, he wants her to have the limited edition dinner on Christmas.
Issei stutters as he adds that he can use Mai’s opinion as a data, and she finds it cute how he reluctantly observes her reaction. Of course she happily agrees, but she doesn’t want him to treat her again—she’ll save up to pay for her own dinner. He laughs saying it’s hard to predict her actions, but that’s why he finds it fun to spend time with her. Issei then says it’s a promise, and Mai smiles as they make a pinky swear. She feels nostalgic to make a promise like this, and it makes her happy. With this, Issei and Mai made a promise to spend Christmas together.
Several days later, Mai is attending Rui’s supplementary lesson at school—just as usual. She’s really weak when it comes to modern language, and her dislike for the subject blocks her from memorizing anything. She failed yet another test for the subject, and she can only apologize to Rui in her heart. Mori—her loyal supplementary lesson comrade—whispers that he has gathered quite a lot of new information regarding popular spots for students. They mostly asked the students in their year before, so he went to ask seniors and juniors this time. Most of them are male though. When Mai points out that he has a lot of friends, Mori admits that he makes new friends without even realizing it. His friends keep introducing him to theirs, and before he knew it, he has a lot of friends to play with. Mai says she can understand though. Mori is good at taking care of others, and she finds him fun to be with. Upon hearing this, he blushes and asks if she wants to have some tea after the lesson ends. He wants to share the information he gathered with her too. Sadly, Mai can’t accept the invitation. Mori already finished his test, but she hasn’t reached the required score yet. She has to stay back to retake the test. As much as Mori wants to wait, Rui asks him to go home because his presence would only distract Mai… and so the poor guy has no choice but to leave.
After retaking the test for three times, Mai can finally go home. She felt bad because Rui is always so patient while teaching her, and it only added to her panic. She knows she has to do more studying as well, instead of avoiding the subject just because she doesn’t like it. Usually Mai would feel better after reflecting on her mistakes, but it doesn’t work today—probably because of what Rui said before she left school. He told her that it’s okay for her to help Issei, but it shouldn’t cause her to neglect her studies. If Mai’s grades dropped because of this, Issei would definitely be worried… and Rui knows that she doesn’t want that to happen. It also makes Mai worry that if her grades are bad, Issei wouldn’t allow her to help out anymore. She’s scared since it sounds like it CAN really happen, and she doesn’t want to quit helping him before they’re done. Mai is planning to ask for Chisato’s help once she gets home, but then a little boy runs and bumps into her leg. Both of them are surprised, and she helps him stand up. When she asks if he’s alright, the boy looks at her and nods. Just when Mai smiles with relief, she hears a familiar voice apologizing to her… and the boy goes “Ichi-nii!!” before running off to the voice’s direction.
It turns out the boy is actually Issei’s younger brother. Mai is surprised to see him in casual clothes, holding shopping bags in both hands. On his sides are a little boy and a little girl who looks exactly the same as the boy who bumped into her. Issei then tells the boy, Akira, that it happened because he didn’t look at where he’s heading. He asks Akira to apologize to Mai, so the boy obediently bows his head as he apologizes. The other boy, Kiito, also apologizes for his brother, but Mai doesn’t mind at all. She’s just glad to see that Akira is alright. When she asks if they’re twins, Issei explains that they’re actually triplets. The other one is the girl who’s hiding behind him, Aoi. Issei asks her to greet Mai, but Aoi greets her good afternoon with suspicion in her eyes—it’s more like she’s glaring at her. When Akira asks if Mai is Issei’s friend, she doesn’t know how to answer. Issei is always taking care of her, but that’s not a proper answer. Upon hearing this, Issei laughs saying it’s okay to say they’re friends. Besides, Mai is always taking care of him as well. It’s the first time Akira has ever seen Issei having a female friend, and Kiito thinks Mai is actually Issei’s girlfriend—he’s just hiding it from them because he’s pure like that. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ Issei warns them not to say absurd things or he won’t make any dinner for them, which makes them apologize in unison. As Issei talks to his siblings, Mai notices that he looks more relaxed and more gentle than usual. The sight makes her smile as well. She knows he’d get angry if she says this, but she finds him really cute.
Since they’re heading towards the same direction, Mai ends up walking home with Issei and his siblings… but along the way, the triplets say they want to drop by the park. Issei refuses since he won’t have enough time to prepare dinner, but they promise to help him do laundry and wash the dishes in return. Mai helps by asking them to make a pinky swear with her, and since their promise has been sealed… she asks Issei to let them play for a while. He agrees to let them play for 30 minutes only, but it’s enough to make the triplets’ eyes sparkle with joy. As they run off to play, Mai comments that they’re so high-spirited. Issei explains that even if he can go home early like today, he doesn’t have enough time to take them to play at the park. They must have been holding back. Mai realizes that it’s rather unusual for Issei to be at home at this hour, and he tells her that his mother is a nurse. She’s away from home a few times per week, so whenever she’s not around, Issei or the second son, Jiou, will stay at home. Mai remembers Jiou since they have met a long time ago, and she’s sure that he’s grown much bigger by now. Issei explains that Jiou is now on his first year in junior high, and he’s working hard as a regular member of the baseball club. As he says that, Issei watches over the triplets with a gentle gaze. Mai knows it’s because they might trip, and she thinks he’s an incredibly respectable big brother—that’s just like him.
The next moment, the triplets return to their place. Aoi goes to Issei’s side, while Akira and Kiito ask Mai to help them check who’s faster between the two of them. All she has to do is just to chase after them, so she agrees to help and warns them that she’s a pretty good runner. However, right when she’s about to chase them, Mai trips over her own bag and falls over. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ Even Aoi is surprised by this, and she looks at Mai with a worried expression. Akira asks if she’s alright, while Kiito says that she’s “surprisingly” clumsy. Akira warns Kiito that it’s cooler for a man if they’re NOT honest at times like this, and Aoi reluctantly asks if she’s not injured. Mai assures them that she’s alright though. She only scraped her knees, and she’s more surprised than hurt. Issei holds out his hand and helps Mai to stand up, but soon she hears him snorting. He tries to hold back his laughter as he apologizes to her, while she turns red out of embarrassment. When she apologizes for tripping like that, he says that she’s just like his younger siblings. Akira often tripped too.
Aoi then approaches them and hands a very cute band-aid to Issei, saying Mai can use it. She smiles when he pats her head, and Mai can clearly see that she loves her big brother a lot. She can understand how Aoi feels though. She’d feel the same if she has a big brother like Issei. After that, the triplets keep playing in the park while Issei is busy treating Mai’s wounds. They look really happy since they can play for a little longer. Mai says she’s glad she got injured if it makes the triplets happy, but Issei tells her not to say foolish things. He then asks her to sit down, taking out a handkerchief and disinfectant from his bag. She’s surprised and asks if he carries those around, and he nods saying Akira often runs around and trips—like he said earlier. That’s why he keeps them in his bag. He actually has band-aids as well, but since it’s unusual for Aoi to give hers, he decides to use that one instead. Just as they can see, Aoi loves Issei a lot. She always acts thorny to his female friends, so it’s unusual for her to do something like that. Maybe she likes Mai. After putting Aoi’s band-aid on Mai’s knee, Issei notices that she looks really happy. She admits that she does feel happy that the triplets are worried about her, and she wants to play with them in return… but he asks her to do save it until her knee is healed. If she goes to play with them right now, he knows she’d get worked up and might trip again—which she can’t deny at all. Issei looks like a young boy when he laughs, and it brings a smile to Mai’s face as well.
• DECEMBER •
In early December, the whole town and Mai’s house have been colored by Christmas. Chisato received a fir tree from a gardener he used to work with, and Mai’s family spent three days decorating it together. Both Mai and her mother got really excited upon seeing how beautiful their Christmas tree is, and they took a lot of pictures with their phones. After that, Mai returns to her room. She’s thinking of sending a picture of the tree to Issei and his younger siblings, but soon she receives a mail from him. He wrote that he owes her an apology. He’s gotten really busy with work, so he might not be able to contact her for a while. He’s going to make time for their Christmas dinner and inform her later, and he asks her to wait until then. Of course Mai doesn’t mind, because she’s aware that Issei is a working adult—not a student like her. She knows that he doesn’t as much free time, and that he needs to prioritize work above all else. Mai then replies saying she’s free anytime, so Issei can contact her when he has time. She wishes him good luck at work, but she doesn’t send the Christmas tree picture to him. He sounds busy, and she thinks the picture would only bother him. They’re going to meet up on Christmas anyway, so she can show him the picture then. She then closes her eyes, feeling excited about seeing him in three weeks for Christmas.
One evening, Kyouga is laughing loudly to the night sky. He’s REALLY happy because a lot of people came to pray in their shrine today, but Mai gives him the ( ಠ_ಠ ) look anyway. He says it’s only obvious for him to laugh though, because people have a LOT of faith in their Christmas charms and fortune sheets. They have distributed a lot of goods even though Christmas is still two weeks away, and he’s pretty sure more people will come to pray on the actual day. It seems like he can welcome the New Year with a pleasant feeling this year. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ Just as Kyouga said earlier, it’s two weeks before Christmas… and Kamizono Shrine has a lot more visitors than usual. Those who are planning to confess on Christmas are praying for success, and couples are praying for their love to remain strong. Because of this, Mai and Kyouga have been really busy for the last few days. Kyouga was the one who suggested making the Christmas charms, because he knows a lot of people would want to confess during events like this. They want to receive encouragement from the god of Kamizono Shrine.
Mai also noticed that everyone who bought the charms look so determined. They all want to convey their love for their significant other, be it a one-sided love or a mutual one. She wants to experience that kind of love too, and the moment she thinks about this… Issei appears in her mind. She blushes as she covers her cheeks with her hands. It’s only two weeks away from their Christmas dinner plan. Issei seems to be really busy with work though, and Mai wonders if it’s going to be okay. She’s looking forward to their Christmas dinner, but she’s also worried about his job. Just as he said in the mail, he hasn’t contacted her again since the beginning of December. If he’s really busy with work, she doesn’t want him to force himself. She knows how serious he is, so he might work even harder than usual to keep their promise. Even if they can’t go out for dinner, they can do it some other time. There’s no need to be fixated on Christmas. As long as they can spend time together, it’ll be enough for her… though she doesn’t understand what this means yet.
Kyouga soon pulls Mai out of her reverie, saying they’re done with work for today. He praises her for doing a good job at handing the goods to the visitors, so now he’s going to treat her to dinner as the reward. She finds this hard to believe since he never praises anyone before, let alone giving them rewards and treating them to dinner. She puts her hand on his forehead to check if he has a fever, asking if he’s exhausted after acting like a gentleman in front of a lot of visitors. (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ Kyouga slaps Mai’s hand as he asks her not to make fun of him, and he protests when she admits that she’s scared LOL. Since she’s clearly doubting him, he then admits that he’s giving her a reward because he doesn’t want her to run away when they get super busy on New Year’s and Valentine’s Day. This actually makes Mai feel relieved, since Kyouga won’t be Kyouga if he’s not like this. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ He soon rages saying he’s hungry, so she rushes to the shrine and changes back into her uniform.
From there, Kyouga takes Mai to have dinner in Siesta—which already switches to its bar hours. When they enter the café, they are welcomed by Takuto. Kyouga always comes at this hour, but Takuto didn’t expect to see Mai with him. Takuto is also a resident of the same mansion. He’s known Mai ever since she was a baby, and she’s always in his care. Due to his sociable and cool personality, he’s very popular among the mature ladies in the mansion. He’s also good at making coffee and cooking in general, so Siesta has a lot of regular customers as well. After asking Takuto to cook something for Mai, Kyouga orders a bottle of Japanese sake and a LOT of snacks. Takuto also informs him that Fumiya is sitting in the back, and the next moment… they hear his voice calling Mai’s name. Kyouga grumbles and tells him not to come over, but Fumiya ignores him and approaches Mai with a wide smile. He then asks why she’s here—did Kyouga threaten and force her to treat him dinner…? If that’s the case, she can tell him and he will help. Of course this causes Kyouga to rage and calls Fumiya a pervert, while Mai answers that she’ll ask for help if that really happens… and apparently that’s enough to make Fumiya smile. (人´∀`)☆゜’・:*
Just as Mai mentioned before, Fumiya is the infirmary doctor in her school. His good looks, mysterious aura and the hint of sexiness in his eyes make him popular among the students. Fumiya then glances at the back of the café and calls Rui to come over. They were drinking together, but he decides to join Mai and Kyouga at their table instead. Kyouga immediately raises a protest since he’s feeling good today, and so he doesn’t want to drink while looking at Fumiya’s face. However, his resistance only lasts until…
Fumiya: “Kyouga, I’ll pay for your first cup… Oh wait, you don’t have that. Correction.”
Fumiya: “I’ll pay for your first bottle. Then you won’t mind us sharing a table, right?”
Kyouga: “Of course not, my best friend! ☆ Don’t hold back and sit down.”
Fumiya doesn’t hate this reasonable (?) side of Kyouga, but sometimes he finds it extremely stupid LOL.
Anyway, Fumiya and Rui move over to Mai and Kyouga’s table after that. Takuto soon with Kyouga’s sake, as well as a cup of Oolong tea for Mai. He’ll make his special curry for her too later. Takuto then mentions that seeing these people makes him want to call Issei and Chisato as well, which would reunite their circle of evil friends. Fumiya says he doesn’t need anyone but Mai, but Kyouga points out that both Chisato and Issei are working anyway. They wouldn’t come even if Takuto calls them over. Fumiya knows that Chisato is working, but he wonders what Issei is doing. He often says that he’s busy, but is he really working? Takuto points out that it can’t be anything but work though. After all, this is Issei they’re talking about. He doesn’t think Issei is that good of a liar, but Fumiya replies that they can’t say for sure. Even though Issei is serious and boring, he’s also good-looking. He might have a girlfriend. Rui adds that Issei seems to be popular, so it wouldn’t be strange if he does have a woman.
Upon hearing this, Mai’s heart suddenly starts racing. When she asks if Issei has a girlfriend, Kyouga snorts and asks if she’s curious about his relationships. This officially starts their gossip session on Issei. (ﾉ´∀`*) Fumiya says Issei isn’t the type of guy Mai would be interested in, because ever since high school, even if he manages to get a girlfriend… the relationship never lasts for a long time. Takuto also remembers that Issei’s first relationship only lasted for a month. Rui finds this surprising since Issei seems to be really serious, and so he thought Issei would keep his relationships for a long time. All the girls Issei has dated in the past are really pretty though, and Takuto is wondering if Issei is mostly attracted to physical looks. Noticing that Mai seems to be really interested in this, Kyouga grins and asks if she wants to hear more about Issei’s love life. She denies it and averts her gaze, trying to convince herself that she was only surprised. Since he treasures his family a lot, Mai thought Issei would treasure his lover as well. Kyouga knows Mai is actually curious, so he teases her until Takuto stops them from bickering—he’ll cook dinner for them.
This doesn’t stop their gossip session though. Later on, Fumiya mentions that it must be tough for Issei as he can only do that kind of relationship. When Rui stops him from gossiping further, Fumiya explains that he’s not doing this to damage Issei’s reputation… as tempting as it may sound, since Mai is helping Issei at work. It’s just Fumiya feels bad if this causes a misunderstanding, not to mention Issei isn’t here with them. Fumiya then asks if Kyouga is going to interrupt, but Kyouga says he won’t. Fumiya can reveal whatever he wants, he already got bored of talking about Issei. Here, Fumiya tells Mai that there’s only one reason why Issei’s relationships never last: “It’s because he prioritizes his family more than his girlfriend.” If something happens to his family, or if his family needs something, then he’d go to their place instead. Even if he has a date with his girlfriend. On the other hand, this allows him to look after his siblings and raise them up with care. At first his girlfriends can understand, but in the end they prefer a person who can stay by their side… and so they dumped him. They can no longer tolerate his priorities as the representative of his family, and Issei agreed to break up so easily too. That’s why the “lover” category is low on his priority list, and it seems like he doesn’t really need one either—which is why he’s still single.
Fumiya thinks Issei shouldn’t let them go so easily if he really loves them, while Kyouga finds it stupid that Issei doesn’t try to obtain both—his family AND his girlfriend. Mai, on the other hand, wonders why Issei’s ex-girlfriends gave up on him. If the man they love is trying to support his family, don’t they feel like helping him instead? Upon hearing this, Kyouga laughs saying that’s why Mai is still a kid. She has no experience in love, so she shouldn’t act as if she knows how it feels. Beside them, Rui says Issei’s ex-girlfriends probably did feel that way. However, they were in love with him. It can’t be helped if they wanted to monopolize him. Fumiya also tells Mai that most of the time, you can’t apply reason to love. One day, Mai will understand too once she falls in love—though Fumiya might cry if that day comes. This causes Kyouga to call him a pervert, but Fumiya denies it saying he adores Mai. He points out that Kyouga is also a pervert for making her wear a shrine maiden outfit, and of course Kyouga rages saying he didn’t make her wear that because he wants to—it’s her work outfit! (-`ェ´-怒) Fumiya then asks why Kyouga is always wearing his priest outfit. Does he like cosplay? Does he think he looks cool in it? That’s so dumb. Kyouga replies that he doesn’t want to hear that from Fumiya, but he admits that it’s to attract people to their shrine… and he thinks he looks good in it.
OH KYOUGA. (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ
As Fumiya and Kyouga continue bickering, Mai keeps looking down. She can’t lift her head, because what Kyouga said was right. She’s inexperienced in love, so she can’t understand how Issei’s ex-girlfriends must have felt. Now she feels ashamed of herself for blaming them. They fell in love with Issei, and they wanted him to look at them more than anyone else. It’s a feeling she doesn’t understand yet. Just then Mai’s phone starts ringing, and upon seeing “Suoh Issei” written on the screen, she immediately runs outside to answer his call—even putting aside Takuto’s special potage soup for later. Issei notices that it took quite a while for Mai to answer, so he wonders if she’s currently busy. She assures him that she’s not though, and she asks if he’s not busy with his job. He explains that he always gets flooded with work by the end of each year, but he’s grown used to it. Mai feels excited to hear Issei’s voice after so long, but soon he reveals that he needs to apologize to her. She knows where this is going, and she asks if he’s too busy to have a Christmas dinner with her… which turns out to be true. He suddenly has to attend a meeting, and he can’t refuse because it’s for an important client.
Issei apologizes for breaking the promise, but Mai tells him that it’s okay. It can’t be helped since it’s his job, and they can always wait for another chance. Issei feels bad and asks if he has ruined Mai’s mood. She can tell him instead of hiding it, but she quickly answers that she’s currently having dinner with Kyouga, Fumiya and Rui at Siesta. Takuto made a soup for her earlier, and she has to return before it gets cold. She tells him to do his best at work, and without even waiting for his answer… she ends the call. Mai feels really bad after that, realizing that she has done something rude to Issei. The reason why she did that is because his guess was right. She feels pathetic. She was worried that he might be forcing himself to keep their promise, not to mention she knows that his job is more important. But for that one moment, she was disappointed to hear that he can’t keep his promise—even though she was really looking forward to it. She really hates how she wanted him to choose her over his job, so much that she wants to slap herself for thinking like that. After a while, Mai starts typing an apology mail for Issei. She feels like she can understand the reason why Kyouga called her a kid earlier. She wants to become more mature. She wants to become a good adult who doesn’t put her feelings above all else.
Two weeks later, Christmas finally comes… and Mai spends the day alone. She went out in the afternoon, buying CDs and having tea by herself. Her parents are out to enjoy a dinner she gave them for Christmas, while Chisato is away for work. Knowing that Mai will be alone for Christmas, Mori and Miki invited her to spend the day together… but she refused. Somehow she doesn’t feel merry for Christmas. She’d feel a lot better if Issei got angry at her for being rude, but he didn’t. After she sent her apology mail, he only asked her not to mind since it was his fault to begin with. He knew it’s only obvious for her to get angry. It makes her feel even more pathetic, knowing that he was concerned because of her action. She’s been spending time alone for reflection ever since, but still doesn’t feel better. She went shopping because she knows that things can’t stay like this forever, but it didn’t give her a change of pace. Once she gets home, she’s going to read the book she just bought today. Then she’ll eat dinner, take a bath and go to bed early—maybe it can help make her feel better.
On the way home, Mai suddenly hears voices calling her name. The next moment, Akira and Kiito suddenly appear and cling onto her. They tell her that they’re preparing to celebrate Christmas with their big brother, and they’re really excited since they can drink carbonated juice today. Akira and Kiito are looking up at Mai with smile on their faces, but she’s too surprised to get excited. Since they mentioned their big brother, are they going to celebrate Christmas with Issei? Does that mean he’s done with work? What should she say to him…!? However, the big brother they were talking about turns out to be Jiou—who soon comes with Aoi. It took a while before Mai realizes who he is, and he also apologizes for not remembering her. Issei told him that they’ve met in the past, but they were really young back then. Jiou was only about 3 or 4 back then, and she feels nostalgic upon faintly recalling how he looked like in the past. During those times, the two of them often followed Issei around. Mai is pulled out of her nostalgic memories when Aoi asks if she’s alone, even though it’s Christmas. When she explains that everyone else has plans, Aoi turns red and asks her to come to their house. It must be lonely to spend Christmas alone.
At first Mai refuses since she feels bad for disturbing them, but Akira and Kiito then grab her arms on both sides—asking her to come to their place. Issei left delicious food for them at home, along with a handmade cake. When Mai asks if Issei is away, Jiou explains that he’s going to return home late today. Their mother is working too, so it will be a party for the four of them. Jiou then smiles and invites Mai to join them if she can. The triplets will also be happier with more people, and so she decides to go with them. As soon as she says yes, Akira and Kiito happily hug her legs—both saying that they love her. (人´∀`)☆゜’・:* Aoi isn’t as honest, but Mai finds her really cute. She actually wants to hug Aoi, but she gives up since Aoi keeps hiding behind Jiou’s back. From there, the Suoh siblings take Mai to their house. Akira and Kiito guide her into their living room, while Jiou pours some tea for her. Mai notices that their house is really clean and neat, and Jiou tells her that Issei is the one who does the cleaning up. Their mother doesn’t handle housework too well. Even if she tries cleaning up, she’ll end up making a mess instead. Issei, on the other hand, can do anything. He can cook, do laundry and keep the house clean, and he’s been doing it ever since Jiou was small.
When the clock in the living room start chiming, Akira reminds Kiito and Aoi that it’s time to take care of the laundry. The boys immediately run up to the second floor, while Aoi remains to ask Jiou about dinner. Jiou tells her it’s okay, since they only need to warm up and serve the food Issei cooked for them. She can watch over the boys instead. Aoi then follows them to the second floor, while Jiou walks into the kitchen. Mai, who is still sitting in the living room, asks if the triplets are in charge of laundry, but Jiou says no one taught them to do it. They all want to copy what Issei and him normally do, though it helps them quite a lot. Even if Akira and Kiito get bored and play around, Aoi will scold them to finish their chores. Aoi might appear reliable in comparison, but she’s actually the clumsiest among the triplets. It’s nice that she takes the initiative to help, but she has their mother’s rough side… and so does Jiou, actually. Right after he says this, Jiou accidentally drops a plate in the kitchen.
Mai is shocked and rushes to the kitchen, where she finds him trying to pick up the plate fragments with his hands—muttering that Issei will scold him for this later. Mai quickly tells Jiou to stop and asks where the broom is, saying she’ll clean it up for him. After sweeping the fragments away, she tells him that it’s really dangerous to touch them directly. He might get injured, and he should gather them with a broom instead. Jiou apologizes saying it really helps since he’s actually just as clumsy as Aoi, and so Mai offers to help him preparing dinner. He feels bad since she’s their guest, but she doesn’t mind at all. She’s going to eat it with them, so now she’s going to help. After all, those who don’t work don’t eat. Jiou eventually gives in, and he asks Mai to help him in the kitchen. When he smiles, she notices that he resembles Issei a lot. After that, Mai helps Jiou preparing the feast for their Christmas party.
Meanwhile, Issei is riding a taxi home. As he stares at the Christmas decorations on the streets, the driver comments that he bought a lot of presents. The driver asks if they’re for his children, but he says the ones on the back are all for his siblings. They’re always helping him at home, and he got a bit carried away when he was buying rewards for them. He can’t take the train because of the presents, and that’s why he had to ride a taxi. He actually collected the presents in between work, but he put everything in the office since he had no time to carry them home. When the taxi driver says he’s a really kind big brother, Issei can only give him a sad smile. After handing the presents to his siblings at home, he needs to fly back to the office. Does that really make him a kind big brother? Recently he’s been leaving the house in Jiou’s hands. Their mother is busy too this month, so she doesn’t have enough time to take care of the household. Issei has no choice but to ask for Jiou’s help, which he accepted with a smile.
The next day, Jiou discussed this with his friends and the advisor of the baseball club. They decided to end practice earlier than usual for him. Issei doesn’t think he has Jiou’s ability to take such decision and action. He doesn’t want to put more burden on Jiou, so he needs to finish work as soon as possible. This reminds Issei that he bought a watch for Jiou. He thinks such a heavy watch would only be a hindrance, but Jiou has been wanting it for quite a while. Issei has put the presents for Jiou and the triplets into a briefcase, and he also bought a bouquet for his mother. He bought the same flowers to put in his father’s hospital room. His father is truly in love with his mother, so he gets really happy by things like this. It might be weird to say this about one’s father, but Issei finds him cute. Speaking of which, his father seems to be doing well. Last week he looked healthy. Issei’s father had a heavy disease before, and he’s hospitalized because it has occurred again. Luckily they found out on an early stage, so his life isn’t in danger. It’s just they don’t know when the symptoms will change. Everyone in the family is worried about this, and Issei has been supporting them so they won’t get exhausted by this. He has to give them a fun Christmas in their father’s behalf.
When the taxi stops at a red light, a small box with a red ribbon falls onto Issei’s feet. As he picks it up, he wonders if Mai will accept this present. It’s a token of gratitude for her cooperation for work, as well as an apology for breaking his promise. It’s probably the first time he ever bought something for someone other than his family. He thinks it’s because she’s like a family to him. He has known her ever since she was small, and she’s just like a younger sister to him. That’s why he has to apologize and thank her properly. He wants to treasure her. As the taxi carries him home, Issei keeps staring at the small box on his lap.
Back at home, the Suoh siblings and Mai have finished their dinner. When Mai comments on how good the food is, Aoi smiles saying Issei is really good at cooking. He already promised to teach her how to cook. Mai asks if Aoi is willing to make something for her once she learns how to cook, and Aoi agrees to invite her as a taster—which she gladly accepts. Mai is happy that she can get along well with Aoi. After the triplets were done with the laundry, Mai noticed that Aoi wants to help them prepare dinner. She then asked Aoi if she wants to help out in the kitchen, and Aoi started talking to her as they prepare dinner together. Anyway, it’s time for them to bring out the cake. They’re going to cut it for seven people, but Mai says they don’t have to give her one. When Mai explains that her mother has made a cake at home, Aoi looks really sad as she says that Mai has to go home soon for her mother’s cake. Since Jiou probably can’t make an even cut, Mai offers to cut the cake for them and goes into the kitchen. Earlier he did his best to cut the roast chicken, but none of them are even. |ω・`)ﾌﾟｯ♪
Just as Mai starts cutting the Christmas cake, Issei arrives at home. The triplets are surprised because he’s supposed to return late today, but they happily run off to welcome him back. Mai, on the other hand, has no idea what to do. She didn’t expect Issei to return home early, and she feels awkward to be here. Soon they hear the triplets cheering in joy near the front door, so Jiou explains that they must be receiving their presents. It’s going to be noisy for a while. When Mai asks if Issei is home, Jiou nods saying he needs to go back to his office after handing out their presents. She suddenly feels really nervous and wants to escape, but then the triplets return to the living room with Issei—who’s obviously surprised to see her. After a long silence, Issei asks why Mai is at their house. She doesn’t know how to answer either, but Jiou explains that they met her on the way home… and the triplets invited her to join their party. They seem to like her a lot, so she came along for their sake. When Jiou asks why he looks so surprised, Issei blushes saying it’s obviously because he didn’t expect to see Mai at home. She apologizes for visiting when he was away, but he tells her there’s no need to apologize—he was just surprised.
Just then the triplets enter the kitchen, showing their Christmas presents to Mai. Upon seeing how happy they are, Mai can feel her nervousness melting away. She apologizes for not preparing presents for them, but her presence in their party is more than enough present for them. Issei pats their heads and is about to praise them, but his alarm then starts ringing—it’s the time limit. He has to return to the office, and Mai decides to go home as well. It’s already dark outside. The triplets look sad, but they remain quiet. They’re probably holding back in front of Issei, so Mai asks them not to be sad. If they want to, she’ll come to visit them again. Aoi is clearly happy to hear this, though she quickly covers it up and shuts the boys up when they poke fun at her. Issei then says he’ll walk Mai back home. She feels bad since her mansion is not that far, but he insists since it’s on the way to the station anyway. Besides, he can’t let her walk home alone at night… and this leaves her with no choice. The triplets send her off along with Jiou, asking her to visit them again and stay over next time.
Along the way, Issei thanks Mai for today. Jiou said the triplets were really happy because of her, and he’s also grateful to her for helping out in the kitchen. Just as she can see, Jiou is really clumsy. It’s unusual that the victim is only a single plate. Mai laughs upon hearing this and immediately feels bad, but Issei doesn’t mind since Jiou is also aware of this fact. In fact, they often make a joke out of it. Earlier he also praised his own (extremely) uneven cut, and she burst into laughter. Mai soon notices that Issei is staring at her, and she asks if she said something weird. He doesn’t seem to be aware of this either, so when she points out that he’s been staring at her, he instantly turns red and nervously says it’s nothing. Once again he thanks her for today, and she says it’s okay because she also feels grateful to Jiou and the triplets. Besides, she’d be alone even if she stays at home. Issei’s expression turns serious upon hearing this. He asks why Mai is alone on Christmas. What happened to Chisato, her family, and her friends?
The moment Mai says it’s because she wanted to be alone, Issei immediately knows the reason. When he asked her to tell him how she truly feels, he knows she ended the call because she didn’t want to tell him. Mai tries to deny this, but Issei says she doesn’t have to lie—it’s not a bad thing for her to admit how she feels towards him. It’s okay to depend on others at her age. She doesn’t have to suppress her own heart and force herself like he does. However, Mai knows Issei would feel guilty for breaking his promise. Earlier she saw how Jiou and the triplets do their best so they won’t become a burden to him, and that’s why she can’t let herself be spoiled here. Mai assures Issei that she’s alright. She only wanted to be alone because she was feeling a little down. He asks if she doesn’t want to tell him the reason, but she smiles and tells him that it’s not a big deal. She’s been feeling guilty about the call though, so she apologizes to him for that. In her heart, she also apologizes for holding selfish feelings. Knowing that Mai has zero intentions to tell him the reason, Issei smiles and gives up. He won’t inquire further, but if she ever wants to talk… she can come to him anytime.
As Mai thanks him with a smile, Issei takes out the Christmas present he bought for her—asking her to take it. It’s to show his gratitude for her cooperation at work, his apology for breaking his promise, and a token of gratitude for spending the day with his siblings. He also assures her that it’s by no means expensive, so she doesn’t have to be concerned about that. Mai then asks if she can open it, and when Issei asks her to go ahead… she opens the box and finds a cute handkerchief inside. The color is cherry blossom pink, and it has cherry blossom petals embroidered on it. She really loves the handkerchief, so much that she finds it a waste to use it. He’s glad that she loves the present, since he was worried about this the whole time.
Issei then admits that he doesn’t know what would make a young girl around Mai’s age happy, and so he had to collect some data from the female staff in his office. He also asked for Yousuke’s opinion, though he ended up ignoring it LOL. He decided to buy the handkerchief based on the information he got, but he was really worried whether she’d like it or not. Now that he’s relieved, he can go back to the office and finish his work energetically. Mai then asks Issei to do his best. If he ever needs help, he can call her and she’ll come flying to his aid. After exchanging smile, Issei walks Mai back to her mansion.
• JANUARY •
For the first three days of the new year, Mai is really busy working in Kamizono shrine. This happens every year, but she still gets exhausted each time. One evening after work, she sits down on a bench at the shrine and sighs. A lot of visitors came to pray for their love today, and she spent the whole day handing out their charms and helping out in the New Year’s festival. She didn’t get to rest nor to eat lunch again. Beside her, Kyouga is complaining about how tired he is. It’d be fine if the festivals didn’t overlap each other, but now he’s extremely drained. Mai knows that Kyouga is saying this because he wants her to do something, so he grins and tells her to make some tea—he’s thirsty. The problem is, Mai doesn’t want to do it since she’s just as tired. Of course Kyouga won’t listen and orders her to bring some tea right away, but soon Issei appears and tells him to get his own tea—hitting the lazy sadist’s head with a book.
Ignoring Kyouga’s protest, Issei turns to Mai and wishes her a happy new year. She returns the greeting before asking if his office is having a holiday, so he explains that they finished work by the end of the year. Now they have three days off, and he’s using them to get some rest. When he mentions that she seems to be busy, she blushes and coves up her face—wondering if she looks that tired. Mai then asks why Issei is here, and he answers that Kyouga wanted to borrow a book from him… so he brought it here. The book’s title is “Marketing Strategies for Absolute Victory” LOL. Kyouga wants the shrine to flourish even more, and he knew that Issei, as a stubborn person who does “boring PR” for work, would have this kind of book. As he flips through the pages with zero interest, Kyouga then asks why Issei went out of his way to deliver the book. He can just wait until their drinking party on Friday, but soon Kyouga realizes the reason and grins.
Issei: “What? You look like you want to say something.”
Kyouga: “Nothing~? I just thought it’s so disgusting that a 31-year-old can’t be honest.”
Issei: “Disgust…!? Σ(＠盆＠) I’m done. I’m going home.”
Issei: “I don’t want to deal with you, but for the sake of greetings.”
Issei: “Happy New Year! Please take care of me too this year!”
Even if Issei refuses, Kyouga will keep bothering him anyway. He should just give up. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ
Kyouga also asks Issei to pay for his drinks again next Friday, but of course Issei refuses to treat him every time they go drinking. Even if Kyouga forgets his wallet like last time, he will ignore him. Issei says goodbye to Mai before leaving the shrine, but she feels a bit sad since she hasn’t seen him since Christmas… and yet they don’t get to talk much. She needs to ask how the project is going too, so she decides to talk to him for a bit more. After saying goodbye to Kyouga (who’s clearly enjoying this), Mai chases after Issei and catches up with him by the shrine gate—asking if they can go home together. She’s afraid that he might refuse, but he only blushes and freezes in place LOL. He quickly assures her that he’s just surprised though, and he’ll be glad to walk home with her. When she admits that she wanted to talk to him for a bit more, he suddenly averts his gaze and stops walking. He remains silent until she calls his name, and he nervously admits that he was thinking of the same thing… so it makes him happy. Mai mentions that Aoi said she feels safe when she’s walking beside Issei, and she can understand that feeling. She’s not scared to walk through the night road if she has a reliable “big brother” by her side. However, Issei only gives Mai a sad smile—which leaves her wondering if it’s because she said the words “big brother” so lightly.
As they walk back home, Mai finds it awkward to initiate a conversation with Issei. She’s concerned about his expression, but she told him that she wants to talk. It’d be weird if she doesn’t say anything, so she has to say something—anything! Mai desperately tries to think of a topic, but the one who breaks the silence is Issei. The new school year is coming in two months, and Issei asks if Mai’s going to become a third year. Do they have class changes and such? Noticing that his expression has returned to normal, she feels relieved and tells him that it’ll indeed be her third year. They don’t have class changes, and she’s happy to be in the same class as Miki and Mori. He says they did have it back during his school days, but for some reason… he was always in the same class as Kyouga and the others. Mai is surprised since it means Issei is her senior, but he only asks if she didn’t realize it all this time—because Chisato is an alumnus of her school.
Mai gets embarrassed because she didn’t notice at all, but Issei chuckles and says it’s okay. It reminds him that he’s been stuck with Kyouga and the others since high school. Chisato and Takuto didn’t cause much trouble, but Kyouga and Fumiya abused him to no end. Looking back, he had to clean up their mess a LOT. He had to take care of them everyday. Since Kyouga and Takuto never studied at all, he had to help them to pass supplementary lesson tests. Mai flinches upon hearing this, and noticing her reaction, Issei asks if she also has to take supplementary lesson tests everyday. She quickly explains that it’s not everyday. This leads to her blurting out that she really dislikes modern language, but she’s doing her best. She’s been studying super hard ever since Rui said she shouldn’t help Issei if her grades are dropping. Even though her efforts have been fruitless so far, Mai promises to do her best so she can continue helping him. LOL. Mai basically just told Issei everything—including things she didn’t need to say. ｡ﾟ(ﾟﾉ∀`ﾟ)ﾟ｡ｱﾋｬﾋｬ Since Issei is such a serious person, Mai is afraid that he’d ask her to stop helping him on the spot. Before he can say anything, she makes a vow that she’ll work hard on her studies—so she won’t have to attend supplementary lessons anymore. In return, she asks him not to ask her to stop helping.
Issei is obviously surprised, but then he bursts into laughter. He doesn’t think Mai has to say it with all her might, though he apologizes when she protests. He finds it funny how she explained everything in a panic, but he also knows that she’s serious. He then asks her not to worry, because he won’t refuse her help. He wants her to keep helping him, and he knows she wouldn’t want to quit before they’re done either. When Issei says he likes that obstinate—or rather, determined—side of her, Mai can feel her heart racing… but it doesn’t seem like he’s implying a deeper meaning. As he pats her on the head, Issei then tells Mai that he’s going to teach her next time. He doesn’t hate modern language, so he thinks he can tutor her just fine. Mai is surprised to hear this, but Issei only asks if she has assignments for winter break. Apparently she doesn’t have any, but Rui gave her a recommended reference to help her do better on modern language… and she hasn’t finished it yet. Issei smiles saying they should work on that, and he promises that Mai will finish it in no time under his guidance. He’s aware that it’s not like him to do something like this, but he mentions that there’s something he wants to make sure. She asks him what it is, but he doesn’t answer and only gives her a silent smile.
In any case, Issei has time around the beginning of the year. Since Mai has to go to school and work, they can meet up somewhere in the evening. She asks if it’s really okay since she’s pretty dumb, but he reminds her that he taught Kyouga and Takuto in the past. Tutoring her should be easy compared to that LOL. This makes her wonder how he taught those two in the past, but a part of her doesn’t want to know either. Mai then decides to accept the offer, but she doesn’t want to trouble Issei even more by asking him to come to Siesta… so she’s going to the café near his office. They argue about this for a while, but he eventually gives in and agrees. This time he will surely keep his promise, and they seal it with a pinky swear.
Several days later, Mai goes to the café near Issei’s office after school. He comes not too long after she’s done setting up the materials, and he sits with her after ordering a cup of coffee. When he mentions that she seems to be so determined, she admits that she’s doing this to tell herself: “See? There’s nothing you can do but to do them!” Mai pouts when Issei laughs at her, but then he smiles and apologizes. He points out that she looks like Aoi when she’s pouting like that, and this makes her really embarrassed. They start studying after that. He asks her to tell him the parts she doesn’t get, and he carefully explains them to her. It doesn’t take long until she notices that he’s a really good teacher. Even if she doesn’t understand, he’ll give her hints to guide her towards the answer. If she’s heading towards the wrong way, he’ll ask if she’s really sure and takes her back to the right path. Rui’s explanations are also easy to understand, but unlike Issei, he reveals the answer first and explains the process. Mai finds it more difficult to follow Issei’s way of teaching, but she also feels more satisfied when she reaches the answer.
Somewhere along the way, Mai has completely forgotten about her dislike of modern language. She gets really absorbed when Issei teaches her about proverbs. When she realizes the meaning, she lifts her head to ask him about this… and both of them are surprised to see how close they are. It feels like time stopped moving for a moment. The distance between them are really close—so much that their bangs nearly touch each other’s. Mai turns red as she apologizes, but Issei also apologizes for being too close. He knows that she must be surprised, and he quietly scolds himself for not realizing. While Issei averts his gaze from Mai, she notices that he’s blushing… and she knows the same goes for her. Her heart is racing, though she tells herself that it’s because she’s surprised. They end up apologizing to each other once again, and Mai can’t look straight at Issei after that.
After they’re done studying, Issei walks Mai back to her mansion. Things are still a bit awkward because of what happened earlier, and he apologizes for being overprotective of her—he’s worried about letting her to walk home alone. Mai then says meeting up near Issei’s office seems pointless if he ends up walking her back home, and she apologizes for troubling him. They should have gone to Siesta right from the start. He asks her not to mind since he’s just worried about her, but she notices that he has that sad smile again. It’s the smile he had when they walked back from Kamizono Shrine. The smile looks sad and painful, as of he’s desperately enduring something and giving up on it. Why does he has that smile? She doesn’t think it suits him. Before taking his leave, Issei asks Mai to tell him if she has any problems with her studies. That, and he might need her help again for work… so he asks for her cooperation when the time comes. Issei then says good night and walks away, leaving Mai to think about his sad smile from earlier.
• FEBRUARY •
One evening in the SNT building, Issei runs into Yousuke on the way back from a vending machine. When Issei gives him a brief greeting, Yousuke points out that he’s frowning—because greeting Yousuke with a smile won’t bring any merits for him LOL. Issei quickly excuses himself and walks away, but then Yousuke asks if he’s been tutoring Mai recently. It has caused quite a rumor in their office, and Yousuke admits that he’s jealous. He’s curious if Issei ever has questionable desires after spending time alone with such a cute girl, but Issei only tells him not to lump them together. He has explained this to everyone, but he’s known Mai for a long time—she’s just like a sister to him. He’s only helping her with her studies. Yousuke doesn’t buy this though, and he asks if Issei actually feels happy to be so lovey dovey with a young girl… but much to his surprise, Issei falls silent instead of throwing a sarcastic remark at him.
Recently, Issei has been feeling uneasy. There’s a question that’s hard to answer inside of him. He doesn’t understand either, but maybe someone who’s completely unrelated like Yousuke might be able to lead him to the answer. Issei then says he has a question for Yousuke. Let’s say that right now, in front of Yousuke’s eyes, lies a wine that he shouldn’t drink yet. He knows that someday, there will come the time when he can drink it… but right now, he wants to drink it no matter what. What would he do? Yousuke grins and says he would drink it without holding back. Issei reminds Yousuke that he’s not yet allowed to drink it, but would he drink it still…? Yousuke nods saying a wine tastes the best when they drink it, and he’s not the type who follows the rules created by others. He doesn’t like holding back his desires and would rather leap directly into action, even though he’d get scolded later on. Issei asks if that’s why Yousuke sealed a contract with a client before asking for permission, and he got a severe warning from the department chief thanks to that.
Yousuke cringes saying his salary got cut for a month, which he finds terrible because the contract brought profit for their company anyway. Issei says that’s what he get for not following the rules. Those who don’t follow the rules will be punished in the end… and that’s why he decides not to drink the wine until the time comes. Because it’s written in the rules. However, he admits that he’s not sure if avoiding the wine when he wants to drink it is really the right decision. That’s why he can’t find an answer and keeps on feeling uneasy. He needs to take another look at his situation and think about what he truly needs to do. Yousuke is about to ask something, but Issei apologizes for the long chat and leaves—with his heart still in turmoil.
Meanwhile at school, Mai gets flooded with love-related questions from her friends. Miki points out that it happens every year whenever Valentine’s Day draws closer, but Mai knows she can’t escape it since she’s working at Kamizono Shrine. In February, the shrine receives a lot more visitors than usual. It’s because a lot of girls are praying for their confession to be successful. This also goes for the girls in Mai’s school, and she’s been flooded with questions since junior high. Not only directly, but also through mail and calls. It’s only two weeks before Valentine’s Day, and she’s wishing for everyone to do well with the person they like. On the other hand, Mai only prepares obligatory chocolates for family and friends. When Miki asks if she’s not going to make a real one, Mai says she doesn’t have a person she loves, and so Miki asks what about a special person then. The moment she hears this, Issei appears in Mai’s mind. She brushes the thought off and says there’s no one like that, but noticing that she’s blushing… Miki only smiles and asks her to share if she falls in love with that special someone. She’ll cheer her on. Mai gets flustered and tries to deny this, but Miki doesn’t listen and only pats her head.
After school, Mori asks if Mai wants to study modern language together. Rui is going to give them a test on their next lesson, so he thinks it might be good if they start studying early. Sadly for Mori, Mai refuses since Issei has been tutoring her on modern language since last month. She’s going to see him too today. Mori is really shocked, but since Mai is totally unaware of his feelings… she asks if he wants to join them. She’s sure that Issei wouldn’t mind. Of course the poor guy refuses though, and he flops onto his desk after assuring her that he can study alone—with Miki patting his back in sympathy. This failure pattern has been repeating for so many times she’s starting to feel sorry for him. Mori cries that he won’t lose, but since Mai doesn’t get what’s going on… Miki only tells her to go and see Issei. Before Mai leaves, Miki also reminds her to prepare a Valentine’s Day chocolate for her special someone. Mai turns red saying it’s not like that at all, but Miki just wishes her luck and sends her off. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Mai is still feeling embarrassed as she walks towards the café. When she checks the time, she realizes that she came a bit too early. At this rate, she’s going to arrive two hours before the actual meeting time. When she looks around thinking where to pass time, she notices a Valentine’s Day sale nearby. The shop is filled with cute decorations in pink and chocolate, as well as a lot of girls inside—all doing their best to choose a chocolate for their loved ones. As for Mai, she already gave gratitude chocolates to her family, friends, and Kyouga… but ever since the conversation with Miki, she’s been confused about whether to buy a chocolate for Issei or not. She feels really embarrassed, because it looks like she’s looking at him as a man. She can’t stop thinking about the term “someone special”, and she couldn’t buy a chocolate for him because of this. Of course Mai doesn’t hate Issei. In fact, she likes him—just not romantically. She thinks it’s quite similar to her love for Chisato as her cousin, but it also feels different. It’s not exactly love, but it’s special. She doesn’t really understand either.
However, Mai thinks that even though it’s embarrassing, she should give Issei something. He always takes a good care of her, not to mention he’s also helping her study. Mai enters the shop as she thinks more about this, and eventually she decides to buy a chocolate for Issei after all. He’s always busy with work, and yet he uses his precious free time to help her study. She wants to convey her gratitude to him. She assures herself that it’s simply gratitude, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. Now that she has decided to buy one, she wants something he’ll love—something attractive and interesting. There’s a wide range of chocolates in the shop, ranging from the ones in a bottle, the ones that come with a doll, and also the ones sold as a set with underwear LOL. After looking around for a while, Mai notices a five-piece chocolate set. Each puzzle piece is a normal chocolate, but if you put them together, they’ll turn into a heart-shaped chocolate. She wonders if Issei will be able to eat all five, but then she remembers about his siblings. The Suoh family has five children including Issei himself, and so Mai decides to buy the chocolate set for them. They took care of her back on Christmas, so she wants to make them happy too in return.
From there, Mai rushes to the café and arrives 10 minutes early. She looks around and wonders if Issei has arrived, but she freezes in place upon seeing him inside. He has a laptop open on the table, and he’s typing something while talking on the phone—he’s working. Mai doesn’t want to bother Issei when he’s working, and so she decides to wait until he’s done with the call. She moves towards the wall so she won’t block the way, and that’s when two beautiful ladies walk past her—whispering about how good-looking Issei is. One of them wishes she had the courage to ask him out, but the other one knows it definitely wouldn’t work. He kept glancing at the entrance the whole time, so she’s sure that he’s waiting for his girlfriend—much to her friend’s envy. Mai feels nervous upon hearing this. She’s not his girlfriend! He’s just teaching her! Mai soon notices that the women around Issei are throwing glances at him, and she realizes how popular he is with the ladies. It’s only obvious since he’s so good-looking, especially when he’s working like this. She feels her heart racing slightly, which has been happening quite a lot recently. For Mai, Issei is a reliable older brother figure. Maybe he’s special to her in that sense. She wonders if she’s just charmed upon seeing him at work, but she has seen Kyouga, Chisato, Fumiya and Takuto at work too… and she never felt like this. What makes him different? Why is it only him who makes her heart race?
Before Mai can figure out the answer, the phone in her pocket starts vibrating—it’s a mail from Issei. He’s wondering if she has something to do today. If she does, then she can tell him. For a moment, she doesn’t get why he sends a mail like this… but then she realizes that she’s late. While she got absorbed in her own thoughts, 10 minutes have passed from their meeting time. Mai quickly rushes over and apologizes to Issei for being late, explaining that she was actually waiting for him to finish his call. After apologizing for making her wait, he tells her that it was from the company president—he had to answer it. Mai says it’s her fault for getting lost in thoughts for so long, but of course this only causes Issei to get worried about her. He asks if she has any problems. so she quickly tells him that it’s not a big deal. He smiles and nods, but also says that if she ever has any problems, she can talk to him. He will listen to her, and she can rely on him anytime. Mai thanks Issei before taking the seat in front of him, but of course she can’t talk to him about this problem. As she takes out her textbooks, she’s wishing for the heat on her cheeks to fade away quickly.
It’s useless though. ヾ(*´∀`*)ﾉ♪
Issei loosens his tie before starting their study session, and this small action causes Mai’s heart to go wild again. Can she hand her chocolate at this rate…? Issei also notices that Mai seems to be a bit nervous than usual, and he asks if something happened to her. Knowing that it’d be dangerous if Issei inquires further, Mai quickly changes the subject… by handing the chocolate to him. He blinks in surprise and asks if it’s for him, while she explains that it’s a token of gratitude. Her grades on modern language have improved a lot thanks to him. Issei is still a bit surprised, but then he accepts the chocolate and thanks Mai. Upon noticing that there are five boxes in the set, he reluctantly asks if she gave him a chocolate meant for someone else by mistake… but she explains that it’s for him and his siblings. She will take the remaining ones if they don’t like chocolates, but he replies that all of his siblings love sweets. Jiou and Aoi especially love chocolates. Mai is glad to hear this, and she tells Issei that the chocolates will form a certain shape if they put all five pieces together. He’s looking forward to open them, knowing that Akira and Kiito will be happy. Issei then thanks Mai for thinking about his siblings too. It’s the first time he received Valentine’s Day chocolates for all of his family members, and it makes him really happy. Her heart is racing even more when he smiles at her, and it won’t calm down at all—no matter how many times she takes a deep breath.
After that, Issei teaches Mai for around two hours—just as usual. He explains the parts that she got wrong on her assignment, but her heart keeps on pounding rapidly. She notices him even more as time passes by, and this makes her feel nervous. Of course he notices this as well. He knows she won’t remember anything if she can’t concentrate, so he decides to end their study session for today. However, Mai suddenly gets up and asks Issei to wait—grabbing his left hand at the same time. She quickly apologizes and admits that she couldn’t concentrate at all, but she promises to focus from now on… so she doesn’t want him to stop here. Mai then notices that Issei is blushing, and she doesn’t understand the reason until she realizes how close they are to each other. She panics and immediately moves away, explaining that she didn’t mean to do that or hold his hand on purpose… but he only asks her to calm down first, because everyone’s looking at them. At that instant, Mai wishes for the ground to swallow her LOL. She sits down saying Issei can laugh at her if he wants, and he apologizes for throwing her into panic like that… but he also finds her panic funny. When he covers his mouth to hold back his laughter, she can’t help but laugh along with him. Somehow her heart calms down with their laughter, though it also causes everyone to stare again. Since they way got too much attention today, he doesn’t think they should continue studying in that café anymore.
On the way home, Issei asks about Mai’s plans for next month. When she tells him that she doesn’t have any, he explains that he’s going to visit a certain place for direct data gathering. If she doesn’t mind, he’d love to have her and her friends’ cooperation. Mai says she has to ask Miki and Mori first, but she doesn’t mind—she’ll go with him. She’s happy to be able to help Issei again, and she asks him to tell her once they have decided on the place. However, Issei suddenly averts his gaze and stops walking. When she asks him what’s wrong, he looks straight at her saying it might surprise her… but he has a question for her. Once he hears her answer, he’ll be able to figure out his current situation. He feels that he’ll be able to find out what he needs to do. After taking a deep breath, he asks: “Do you enjoy being together with me, like this?” Mai is surprised and instantly turns red, wondering why Issei suddenly asks that question. Of course she enjoys his company a lot, but recently she’s been feeling nervous… and so she falls into silence instead.
The next moment, Issei moves in and closes the distance between them. Once again, he asks if Mai enjoys being with him. When she admits that she does, he gives her a sad smile. The same smile from before. Issei whispers that words alone aren’t enough for him to make a decision, though he knew that things won’t go that easily. If it does, he should be able to decide more quickly. Mai doesn’t know who or what he’s talking about. The only thing she knows is that his hand stretches out towards her. His slender fingers quietly slide down her cheek, touching her chin before pushing it up. Issei then asks if Mai knows why she enjoys being with him, and with her heart racing wildly… she answers that it’s because he’s the “big brother” she loves, but she doesn’t quite understand either. It feels like the answer lies right in front of her, but she can’t seem to grasp it. Issei turns silent for a while, and then he suddenly moves even closer to Mai—so close that she can feel his breath on her cheek. When she calls his name out of confusion, he instantly blushes and stops before moving away. He looks both surprised and troubled, but then he forces a smile and says there was something on her cheek—he was trying to brush it off. Yeah right LOL. Mai awkwardly replies that she was surprised, and Issei quickly says they should go home now. He walks ahead of her, and without looking at her, he says: “Thank you, Mai. It feels like I can make a decision now.”
Mai can only wonder what was going on earlier. She doesn’t get the reason behind Issei’s action, and she doesn’t understand her feelings either. How would she feel if he touched her earlier? It feels like her heart gives her the answer by racing nonstop.
• MARCH •
In March, Issei informed Mai that they’re going to an amusement park in two weeks. She invited Miki and Mori three days prior, but both of them have plans. Miki has a date with her boyfriend, while Mori has to attend a supplementary lesson. Issei seems a bit nervous when he hears about this, but since Mai is here, they should be able to gather information just fine. He already did a research on the popular rides, but he wants to know what students like her want to ride first. When she explains that most of her friends like the jet coaster, he decides to check it out because they have to experience the thrill directly. The queue is very long though. It goes on for about an hour, so Mai asks if they should see other attractions first. They have to check the haunted house and the ferris wheel as well, but since it’s best to ride the ferris wheel at dusk, Issei suggests going to the haunted house first… until a familiar voice comments that the queue also goes on for 40 minutes over there. When they turn around, they find Yousuke standing behind them. He had a meeting with the amusement park’s manager earlier. It seems like the manager wants to do something fun for summer vacation, so he went to do some promotion.
When Yousuke starts complaining about how he had to visit an amusement park for work, Issei only gives him a flat, sarcastic response and takes Mai to leave him. (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ Yousuke quickly grabs Issei’s shoulder saying he’s done with work, so now he wants to join him and Mai. He already reported to their office too, and they said he can go home directly. He finds it sad to play in the amusement park alone, but it’s equally sad if he goes home without doing anything. He was planning to have a meal before going home, and that’s when he saw Mai among the crowd. In any case, Yousuke wants to join them. Since Mai doesn’t mind, Issei has no choice but to let him tag along. Yousuke is surprised that Issei agrees so easily though. He finds it creepy, but quickly apologizes when Issei tells him to go home LOL.
After waiting for an hour, Mai can choose who to ride the jet coaster with. Yousuke obviously wants to ride it with her, but Issei doesn’t invite her to ride it together—she’s free to decide. If Mai chooses to ride it with Issei, he blushes and asks if she’s okay with him. Since he has to watch a student’s reaction when they ride the jet coaster, she thinks it’d be best if he sees it from up close. Issei nods saying he needs to check which points they find scary and entertaining, but Yousuke only grins saying he probably won’t be able to analyze when he’s riding it. When Issei asks what he means by that, Yousuke only pushes him forward—telling him to go like a man. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ …except that doesn’t happen because when the coaster climbs up, Issei looks terribly pale in his seat. Especially when Mai explains how they’re going to slide down from the peak. When the jet coaster drop off from the peak, he lets out a VERY loud scream of horror and eventually gets off the ride looking like a living dead. She feels bad for taking him to ride something he doesn’t like, but he weakly explains that he never knew about this either. He never really went to play in amusement parks, and so he never really rode a jet coaster either. He didn’t know they’ll go down from such a high place LOL. Issei then apologizes for being so uncool, and while Mai doesn’t think so… Yousuke can’t seem to control his laughter since he can actually hear the scream from below.
Issei: “To… Todakaaa!!!” (＠盆＠)
Yousuke: “Ah~ I saw something good today~”
Yousuke: “I have to tell everyone in the office about this tomorrow… Pfft! Uhahaha!”
Issei: “Not a word! Not a word!! Not a wooord!!!”
As Issei grabs Yousuke, who is still laughing, by the collar, Mai is glad to see him doing fine. ヾ(*´∀`*)ﾉ♪
Next comes the haunted house, and this is where Issei gets his revenge. They can enter right away since they took quite a while on the jet coaster, and Mai notices that the haunted house looks scary—even from outside. It seems like the haunted house is a “real” attraction, and quite a lot of people give up along the way because of how scary it is. Issei also mentions a rumor about how “someone” would follow you after you leave the attraction. Upon hearing this, Yousuke shivers and asks him not to spread a baseless rumor like that… and that’s when they figure out that he’s actually scared of ghosts. (*´艸`*)ｧﾊ♪ A grin suddenly appears on Issei’s face, and he gleefully drags Yousuke to “gather data” in the haunted house LOL. When Yousuke asks if this is revenge for earlier, Issei laughs and assures him that he absolutely does not hold a grudge after getting laughed at on the jet coaster. Nope. Not at all. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ Yousuke says Issei is really uncool for bullying him like this, but sadly that doesn’t do anything… and soon their turn comes.
Since they can enter the haunted house in pairs, Issei then asks Mai to choose between him and Yousuke. If Mai chooses Issei, Yousuke falls into despair for a while… but then he realizes that he’s going to look so pathetic inside, so it’s better to enter alone. He comes up with a great plan to send them off first and head straight to the exit without actually entering the haunted house, but since he says it out loud… Issei shoves him to the front and pushes him inside. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ He begs them to wait since he’s going to cry for real, but the staff then closes the door and his miserable wail disappears into the darkness. This is the first time Mai has ever seen Issei smiling so happily. ｡ﾟ(ﾟﾉ∀`ﾟ)ﾟ｡ｱﾋｬﾋｬ Once they’re inside the haunted house, Mai feels terribly scared. The setting is a “haunted mansion” where a lot of people were murdered, but Issei is observing everything with great interest—probably collecting data.
When Mai asks if he’s not scared, Issei says he doesn’t believe in non-scientific stuff. Not to mention this is also a man-made attraction. She tries to convince herself that it’s not scary, but when a woman’s silhouette appears from a shadow… she ends up screaming and clinging onto his arm. Noticing that she’s trembling, he gently tells her there’s no need to be scared. He’s right by her side, and everything will be alright. Issei’s soft voice and warmth make Mai feel relieved, and her fear quickly dissolves into thin air. She gets flustered and apologizes upon realizing that she’s clinging onto him, but he doesn’t mind at all. He was the one who took her here, and he’s glad if she doesn’t feel scared anymore. They avert their gaze from each other due to the embarrassment, but soon they hear Yousuke’s scream echoing—melting the tension between them. Issei chuckles saying they should go on, and Mai nods with a smile. From there, she tells him the points she finds scary in the haunted house… while listening to Yousuke’s nonstop cry from afar.
After leaving the haunted house, they head to a plaza in front of the ferris wheel. As soon as they reach a table, Yousuke sits down and flops onto the table—muttering that he will never enter a haunted house in amusement parks ever again. Mai feels bad and offers to buy a drink for him, but Yousuke assures her that he’ll be fine after resting for a while. They should check the ferris wheel instead. Now is a good time to ride it since the sun is setting, and the scenery looks the most beautiful at dusk. It seems like poor Yousuke can no longer move, so he tells Issei to ride it with Mai before the sun disappears.
After queuing for 30 minutes, Mai and Issei ride the ferris wheel together. As they watch the scenery, she tells him the information she has gathered in advance. The ferris wheel is popular because of the beautiful sunset, and people love how they can see the whole amusement park from above. The ferris wheel slowly move to the top as Issei writes down the information from Mai. This is her first time riding the ferris wheel at dusk, and she finds the scenery really pretty. After closing his notebook, he says nothing can win against nature after all. His heart feels warm upon seeing the sunset, and it also encourages them to do their best tomorrow. Issei then says it’s all thanks to Mai for guiding him around the amusement park, and so he has something for her—a pair of cat dolls, each of them holding candies in their hands. They’re the mascots of the amusement park, though she didn’t notice when he bought it. Issei explains that it’s a present to return Mai’s chocolate on Valentine’s Day. He actually wants to give her something better, but he didn’t know what to give her… and he couldn’t choose anything until today. She asks him not to worry though, because she’s happy just by receiving a present from him. Besides, she loves the mascots of the amusement park.
Mai then thanks Issei with a smile, promising to treasure the present. He blushes before averting his gaze. For a while, only silence flows between them—along with the sound of the ferris wheel. When they finally reach the peak, Issei quietly admits that he truly enjoys spending his time with Mai. She said that she feels the same way before, and he asks if her answer is still the same right now. Mai answers that she does feel the same. She truly enjoys being with him in the amusement park today, so much that time flies really fast. However, a sad smile appears in Issei’s face. The same smile Mai often saw from him. He says it’d be nice if that’s really true, and this makes her feel like she can’t convey anything to him right now… because she did mean what she said. As she clenches her fists, Mai then asks why Issei always smiles like that. He looks like he’s sad and in pain. Issei is really surprised to hear this, but then he quickly denies it, saying it’s just Mai’s imagination. When she tries to argue, he firmly states that he does not look like that. Then he turns to look out the window, and she can’t say anything to him. She feels rejected knowing he doesn’t want to answer, so she can only lower her gaze. Is it something she’s not supposed to ask…? She finds it painful to see him smiling with that expression. It feels like something is hurting him, and he’s smiling to forget the pain.
Issei doesn’t talk to Mai anymore after that, and Yousuke greets them when they leave the ferris wheel. He notices that one run on the ferris wheel is quite long, so the ride should be popular with couples. Mai asks if it’s because they get to spend more time together, and Yousuke is about to say there’s only one thing to do for couples who are “excited”… but Issei quickly slaps his head saying there’s a leaf on his hair LOL. Just then Issei’s phone starts ringing, and he walks away to receive the call. Not too long after that, he returns and tells Mai that he has to return to the office immediately. He feels bad about this, but he asks if they can call it a day. Of course she doesn’t mind, and he thanks her for helping him collecting data today. Yousuke jokingly asks him not to worry since he’ll take Mai home, so he can go back to the office. Issei looks like he wants to say something, but he only asks Yousuke to take care of Mai and walks away without turning back.
Yousuke notices that something is wrong with Issei, and when Mai mentions that he looked very sad in the ferris wheel… Yousuke instantly understands what’s going on. He pats her head saying it’s probably not something she should be worried about, since Issei is probably confused over something stupid. Mai then asks if Yousuke knows what’s troubling Issei, and he says he does somehow. He doesn’t have a proof, but he knows what Issei might be worried about. He thinks Issei is really stupid for causing such a cute girl to worry, so she shouldn’t mind him. Issei needs to find the answer by himself, so Mai can just leave him be. Yousuke smiles and gently pats Mai’s head again, but she finds it hard to cheer up. The reason behind that sad smile. The reason why Issei is in pain. Can’t she do anything to help…?
Mai tries her best to search for Issei’s back among the crowd, but she can’t see him anymore.
• APRIL •
When April comes, the new school year starts and Mai becomes a third year student. Since they don’t have class change, she’s happy to be in the same class as Miki and Mori again. She’s also happy to have Rui as their homeroom teacher, but she can’t fully enjoy that happiness… because whenever she closes her eyes, Issei’s sad smile appears in her mind. It’s hurting her every time. After school, Miki finds Mai sighing at her desk and asks if it’s because of Issei again. Mai quietly nods. She has told Miki about what happened with Issei and Yousuke at the amusement park, as well as how Issei seems to be suppressing pain in his heart. Mai is aware that he wouldn’t want to consult it with a kid like her, and they’re not that close to begin with. It’s just the fact that she can’t do anything for him feels painful to her. She knows it’s none of her business and he might think of her as a nuisance, but still… she’s worried about him.
Miki smiles and points out that if Mai is that worried about Issei, then she should ask him directly. Mai says it’s impossible though, because it’s really none of her business. Not to mention that Issei has been busy as well. They haven’t contacted each other, but Mai exchanged contacts with Yousuke at the amusement park, and he’s been keeping her updated on Issei’s condition. Miki feels more worried about this though, and so she tells Mai to inform her if Yousuke ever turns into a “bad bug”—she’ll exterminate him right away. In any case, being gloomy in the classroom won’t do anything… so Miki invites Mai to eat some cake together. She doesn’t have club activities today, and Mai doesn’t have work either. Mai is thinking of inviting Mori too, but sadly the poor guy is joining the baseball club’s practice today. He’s going to help in their upcoming match, and Miki doesn’t think they’ll let go of him before they’re done with practice.
As they change their shoes by the lockers, Mai and Miki hear some girls whispering about a handsome man in suits at the school gate. It seems like he’s waiting for someone. The girls then rush to see how handsome he is, while Miki is wondering if this man is who she thinks he is. It seems unlikely, but not impossible either. On the other hand, Mai doesn’t really think much about this rumored handsome man… until they reach the gate and see who he is. Of course it’s Issei LOL. Who else…? Upon noticing Mai, Issei quickly walks up to her and apologizes. He was planning to contact her before coming, but he couldn’t find the time. He asks if she has time now. Mai turns to see Miki since they have plans, but Miki only grins saying her prediction was true after all. Then she nudges Mai and says she’s completely okay with this, so Mai can go with Issei instead. Of course Mai feels bad since they already promised, but Miki quietly points out that she can solve her worries by going with Issei. Miki then winks and wishes Mai luck before pushing her forward, asking them to take it easy somewhere else since it’d be hard to talk here. A lot of girls are staring at them, which obviously makes them uneasy. When Mai suggests changing the location, Issei nods and admits that it was rather painful as he waited for her earlier—obviously because everyone was staring at him.
This is the first time for Mai to walk home with Issei at this hour, and forces herself to remain calm. Or else it will end up like last time. After taking a deep breath, she asks how work is going for him. She heard that he’s been busy. He nods saying he went out for work today and was allowed to go home after that, and now he has some free time since he’s done with work. Issei is surprised and asks how Mai knows about this, since he hasn’t contacted her since their amusement park trip. When she explains that she’s become mail friends with Yousuke, he frowns and whispers that you really can’t take his eyes off that man. Or rather, it might be Yousuke’s talent as a salesman. Issei then asks Mai to tell him if Yousuke’s mails become too annoying. He’ll make sure Yousuke stops bothering her. She only nods, because so far Yousuke is only mailing her. It’s not troubling her at all.
After intently staring at Mai for a while, Issei blushes and asks if she wants to go watch a movie with him. It seems like the movie’s very popular among students, so he’s thinking of watching it once. When he shows her the tickets, she recognizes the title and tells him that it’s indeed popular. Everyone in her class is talking about it, and they’re going to make a sequel for it next year. Due to its popularity, the movie is still playing in smaller movie theaters right now. Mai asks if they should contact Miki since it’s for data gathering, but Issei replies that he’s fine with her alone. He quickly adds that he doesn’t mean anything deeper by this, and it’s because he already collected some information regarding the movie. Mai smiles and agrees to watch it with Issei, promising to watch it thoroughly so she can provide a proper opinion for him. Here, she notices that he looks relieved… and she wonders why he seemed to be in a panic. Was there anything to worry about?
From there, Issei takes Mai to a movie theater in town. Their seat is right in the middle of the studio, which makes it really comfortable for them to watch the movie. Mai is excited since she hasn’t seen the movie yet, while Issei gives her a juice and popcorn pack. She puts it in the middle and asks him to eat it together, but he refuses because he bought caramel popcorn for her… and it’s a bit too sweet for him. She thinks it’s not that sweet though, and she asks him to have a taste since it tastes pretty good. As she says this, Mai takes a popcorn from the box and brings it to Issei’s mouth. He turns red and tries to refuse, but she only asks him to try it—she’s pretty sure he’ll find it delicious. Since Issei is frowning and seems to be lost in thought, Mai soon feels bad for forcing him to eat it… but just before she pulls her hand away, he suddenly takes a deep breath and eats the popcorn from her fingers. He agrees that it’s delicious, and it’s not as sweet as it looks. He’s glad to discover something new, but since he’s still blushing, she can feel that her cheeks are burning as well. It’s true that she was the one who started it, but it’s still embarrassing.
When Mai apologizes to him, Issei also apologizes for doing such an embarrassing thing. He was in a hurry thinking that she wouldn’t eat the popcorn if he keeps refusing—even though he only had to accept it. Mai ends up thanking Issei out of embarrassment, but he smiles and says this must be her kindness. That’s why he… Issei quickly stops himself and smiles, asking Mai not to mind what he just said. His smile has the usual hint of sadness and pain, but it also feels different somehow. As he looks deep into her eyes, she feels like he’s looking straight into the depths of her heart—which won’t stop racing. Mai then calls Issei’s name, and he’s about to say something to her… but the studio turns dark as the movie starts playing. He smiles saying they should watch it closely and compare their opinions later. They can search for the popular scenes after that. This reminds her of their objective, and so she turns her focus on the movie.
By the end of the movie, Mai is deeply touched and can’t stop crying. Issei asks her not to rub her eyes and is about to search for something she can wipe them with, but she tells him it’s okay since he has one. When she takes out a pink handkerchief from her bag and wipes her tears, he turns red with his mouth open. It’s the handkerchief he gave her on Christmas. Mai says she always carries it around since she likes it a lot, and Issei thanks her. He never knew that seeing her using the handkerchief he chose would make him feel very happy. For a moment, she’s at a loss for words. It’s the first time she’s ever seen him smiling so happily, and she can feel her heart racing again. It’s really troubling her how his words and actions always make her feel like this. Is it because she’s not too used to men? After checking his watch, Issei tells Mai that it’s about time for dinner. He’s thinking of having dinner with her if she doesn’t mind, as a token of gratitude for watching the movie with him. He also asks her not to hold back, telling her to rely on him. After thinking about this for a while, Mai smiles and nods—knowing Issei will be happy if she accepts. Just as she expected, he smiles at her… and while it sends her heart to pound rapidly, it also makes her feel warm inside.
Before going to the restaurant, Mai calls home and got the permission to have dinner outside. Her mother has taken a liking on Issei since a long time ago, so she warns her daughter to eat calmly and not to cause any trouble for him. As Mai grumbles about this, Issei bursts into laughter since her mom often told her to eat calmly when she was small. She doesn’t mind though. In fact, she’s actually happy to see him enjoying himself. After that, Issei brings Mai to the restaurant they visited with Yousuke before. He couldn’t take her here to have their Christmas dinner, so this is to make up for it. He then orders the chef’s recommendation for this month, as well as a non-alcoholic drink for her and water for him. Right after the staff delivers their order to the kitchen, the restaurant’s manager comes to greet Issei. Since their Christmas plan was a huge success, the manager is really hoping to work together again next time. When he smiles and politely returns the greeting, he looks so distant in Mai’s eyes. They look so happy and eager as they talk about work, while she can only observe the “adult world” from outside.
Mai has always thought that Issei looks so mature and wonderful when he’s at work, but for the very first time… she feels a distance between them. Mai—who’s still wearing a school uniform—can’t seem to enter Issei’s world. This makes her feel really childish, even though she’s aware that she IS a kid. While she feels uneasy and panics over trivial things, he remains calm and can have friendly chats with the staff. She knows it’s just a matter of experience, but she finds adults amazing. She wonders if she’ll be able to eat calmly too someday, and all these thoughts are stopping her from enjoying the delicious food—because she’s forcing herself be calm like him. She manages to keep this up until they’re done eating dinner, but all of her effort instantly goes to waste the moment her dessert arrives. Mai can choose between fruit parfait, royal milk tea jelly or strawberry shortcake, but no matter what she picks, she ends up getting all excited in front of Issei. If she orders strawberry shortcake, he notices that she has cream on her cheek… and he wipes it off saying she’s just like his younger siblings. He gets flustered upon realizing what he has done, and she apologizes while forcing a smile. She continues eating her dessert after that, but she can no longer feel the taste. She’s only a kid after all. No matter how hard she tries, it’s impossible. He wiped the cream on her cheek and ate the popcorn from her hand because he’s treating her like a kid, a figure he needs to take care of—just like his younger siblings. She knows that already, but why does she feel like crying now…?
After dinner, Issei takes Mai to ride a taxi home—because it’s already late. It’s just like him to look after her, but she actually wanted to be alone. Both of them are completely silent in the taxi. Mai is feeling down after realizing how childish she is, but she can only wonder what happened to Issei. He keeps gazing at the view outside, not glancing at her even once. His reflection on the window has a serious expression. It’s like he’s thinking of something difficult, and she decides to keep quiet since it might be about work. She can still feel the distance between them, which she finds suffocating. When they arrive at her mansion, Mai thanks Issei for today and offers to pay for the taxi, but he tells her it’s okay since she’s helping him with data gathering. It’s only obvious for him to pay for everything, since it’s his duty as an adult. Mai’s heart is pierced with pain upon hearing this, but she forces herself to smile and thanks Issei again. He seems surprised and calls her name, but then he says it’s nothing and thanks her for helping him today. After saying good night to Issei, Mai turns around and runs into the mansion without turning back.
• MAY •
One day in May, Kyouga sends Mai to do some weeding at the sanctuary. The cosmos in the pond and the camellias on the trees are waving in the wind. The seasons have passed for these two flowers, and yet they continue blooming. Mai wipes sweat off her cheek as she gazes at the colorful cosmos flowers. She can see the white ones, the pink ones, even the red and orange ones. Just as she wonders if there are other colors, Kyouga appears and asks if she’s done weeding—since she has the time to count colors. When she shrieks out of shock, he complains that her scream isn’t feminine and sexy at all LOL. She protests and asks him not to scare her like that, but he points out that she’s not done weeding yet. He lightly hits her head and orders her to work, and she obeys knowing she can’t win against him anyway. Mai lets out a sigh before resuming her task, while Kyouga smiles as he watches the pond. Since she was counting the colors of cosmos earlier, he asks if she found any two-colored cosmos. Normally they have one or two petals in a different color, but the ones growing here are even more rare. All of their petals alternate between pink and white, and they’re known as Kamizono Shrine’s two-colored cosmos… but the shrine doesn’t publicize any information about them, because they actually don’t have any effect on love.
When Mai asks about their effect, Kyouga explains that two-colored cosmos grant blessings for health. His father searched for one when his grandfather came down with an illness, and when they put it beside him, he recovered in just a few weeks. Kyouga isn’t sure if it’s really true though. His father insisted that he got a message from their god regarding the flower, but he thinks his father was just pretending. His grandfather was a really strong man who did a rubdown half-naked in the middle of winter, so maybe the illness wasn’t serious to begin with. Besides, two-colored cosmos are really rare. One might grow among ten thousands, but it’s not certain either—that’s why he thinks his father is definitely lying.
As of why this is important, we’ll see it later. ヾ(❛◡❛✿)ノ～❤
Kyouga then turns to Mai and says he heard from Rui that she’s been studying really hard lately. Thanks to her effort, she doesn’t have to attend supplementary lessons as much. Mai says that she’s just taking things more seriously, especially since she’s now in her last year of high school. Kyouga doesn’t seem to believe it, but he asks if that’s also why she keeps coming to work even during her days off recently. Mai’s hands stop weeding upon hearing this. When she looks up at Kyouga, she realizes that he’s grinning—which means he knows the real reason. Mai only averts her gaze and continues weeding. Last month, after that dinner with Issei, she has made a decision. She doesn’t want to feel childish and pathetic whenever she’s with him, and so she decided to start by improving her studies. If she doesn’t have supplementary lessons, then he won’t have to go out his way to teach her. She decided to stop helping him until she can do that properly, even if she knows he’d be confused and troubled if she suddenly refuses or disappears. Of course she knows that she’s doing something terrible, especially since she said she wants to help, but right now… she finds it hard to meet him. At first she thought about explaining the reason, but of course she can’t tell him since it’s such a childish reason. That’s why she refused and told him that she has work. Since she doesn’t want to lie, she ends up going to work for real each time—even when he asks her out on holidays.
Mai knows that Kyouga would only tease her if she reacts, so she refuses to say anything. It only lasts until he informs her that a certain “damn serious salaryman” has collapsed at home. Mai instantly stands up and asks if that’s really true, and Kyouga explains that he got the information from Yousuke—it should be true. He then asks what she’s going to do, because she has decided not to meet Issei and all. Mai gets impatient since Kyouga keeps on grinning in front of her, and so she answers that she’ll confirm it with her own eyes. After promising to clean up the remaining weed tomorrow, Mai quickly leaves the shrine and dashes off to Issei’s house. She knows Kyouga will tease her even more for ditching work tomorrow, but right now… she doesn’t care what’s going to happen. She keeps on running while praying for Issei to be alright.
Upon reaching Issei’s house, Mai is panting harshly as she presses the interphone. She can hear her own heartbeat, though she’s not sure if it’s because of the run or her worry. After around a minute, Issei’s voice is heard from the interphone. She immediately asks if he’s alright and unharmed, and he sounds surprised to hear her voice. Issei then asks Mai to wait and opens the door, coming out of the house wearing a sweat suit—probably because he was sleeping. She panics and approaches him right away, holding his hands as she floods him with questions. Is it okay for him to get out of the house? He should go back inside if he’s in pain! Is there anything she can do for him? Issei is obviously confused, and after asking Mai to calm down, he asks why she’s in a panic. He doesn’t get it at all. She quickly answers that she ran here with all her might after hearing that he collapsed… but as her panic fades away, she finally notices his condition. For a person who collapsed earlier, he seems to be doing fine. He doesn’t look sick, and he’s standing firmly as well. This makes her realize what might be going on, so she asks if it’s true that he’s sick and collapsed today. His eyes widen as he explains that he was indeed sick, but he definitely did not collapse. It’s just he got a bad stomachache in the morning, and he decided to rest at home—knowing he will only trouble everyone if he goes to work. He already went to the hospital and got his medicine, so now he’s already fine.
Congratulations, Mai. You just got trolled by Kyouga. (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ
Mai is relieved to hear this, but at the same time, she also rages at Kyouga in her heart. For a moment she tries thinking of ways to get back at him, but she quickly gives up knowing it’s impossible LOL. Issei blushes as he asks if she came here just to check up on him, and he promises to give Kyouga a good scolding next time. Mai is glad that it’s nothing serious though, and she apologizes for causing such a commotion before taking her leave… but then Issei grabs her arm and asks her to wait. She ran all the way here just because she was worried about him, so he can’t let her leave like this. He asks her to come inside, saying he’ll make some tea for her. She feels bad since he’s not feeling well, but he assures her that he’s already fine now. If she truly cares about him, then he wants her to stop by. Mai can’t refuse since Issei is looking at her with a serious expression, and so she follows him into the house.
After taking Mai to the living room, Issei leaves to get changed in the second floor for a while. When he returns not too long after that, she notes that the house is rather quiet and asks if Jiou and the others aren’t home. He explains that his younger siblings are out shopping with their mother, and it seems like they’ll come home late. Since he’s feeling unwell, his mother took them out so he can get some rest at home—even though he doesn’t mind having them around. Mai then asks if he feels uneasy since it’s too quiet, and as much as he wants to deny it, Issei admits that he does. He couldn’t sleep properly because of it. When she smiles and chuckles, he turns red and asks her to wait—he’ll make some tea for her. Then he escapes to the kitchen. (*･ω･*)ﾎﾟｯ
Issei soon returns with a cup of tea for Mai, and as she drinks it, he closes his eyes for a while and says it’s been a while since they last met. She seems busy recently, so he can’t see her at all. This brings Mai to the realization that despite her decision of not seeing Issei for a while, she ended up running all the way to his house. It makes her feel terribly childish, thinking that she keeps embarrassing herself in front of him. Her heart suddenly feels heavy, and so she decides to leave before he notices. After finishing her tea, Mai puts the cup on the table saying she’ll be going now. Issei is surprised and asks her to take it easy here for a bit longer, but she makes up an excuse saying she left in the middle of work—she has to return to the shrine. This isn’t entirely a lie though. She’s pretty much done with work since she decided to leave early, but she still needs to return there to get changed. Mai knows Issei will understand if she mentions work. He stares at her for a while, but then he gives her that sad smile and sighs. He agrees that she should return if she’s in the middle of work, but she can ignore any sarcasm Kyouga might throw at her.
When Mai nods and stands up, Issei also gets up from his seat—most likely to send her off. She asks him not to mind her though. He’s not feeling well after all, so he doesn’t need to walk her outside. Mai quickly turns around and starts to walk out, but since she’s still looking at Issei… she doesn’t see what lies around her feet. She steps on a book that’s lying on the floor and slips. He immediately grabs her arm and tries to support her, but both of them end up falling onto the floor—with him on top of her. Issei then apologizes for failing to support her, and Mai also apologizes for dragging him into this. She feels sad knowing that her lack of composure has troubled him once again. Mai opens her eyes as she thinks about this, and her breath stops upon seeing how close Issei’s face is. It feels like their breath might touch each other’s. Both of them look surprised as they look into each other’s eyes, unable to move or even to blink.
Knowing that she has to say something, Mai opens her mouth to speak… but no words come out. It’s as if her consciousness is absorbed deep into Issei’s eyes. There she can see ripples of his strong determination, as if it’s seeking—yearning—for something. As he whispers her name, Issei moves closer to Mai. Their eyes are locked onto each other’s, and it makes her feel warm inside. She can’t look away from him. She wants to stay like this forever. She wants to get closer to him. When Issei leans in and calls her name once again, Mai can feel his breath on her lips. Her heart is fluttering. However, when Mai whispers his name in return, Issei suddenly holds his breath and pulls back. At the same time, he lets out a long and heavy sigh. It’s like he’s suppressing and enduring something inside. When she calls his name, he shows a painful expression for a very brief moment… then it disappears and he moves away from her. The next thing he says is: “…I’m sorry, can you please go home?”
Of course Mai is confused, but Issei shows a rather stern expression as he gets up from the floor. He then helps her to stand up and takes her to the front door—a sign that he wants her to leave. It leaves her with no choice but to put on her sandals and walk out of the house. When she turns around, she sees the door closing… and he whispers goodbye to her. She notices that he looks terribly sad, as if he’s on the verge of tears. His voice is trembling too. Why…? Her question is left unanswered, and the only thing she can do is to stare at the door. This is the first time Mai has ever been chased out and rejected like this by Issei.
Why did he close the distance between them?
Why did their lips nearly touch?
Why did he reject her?
Mai doesn’t understand anything. Her heart is deeply hurt, and she can only clutch her chest. No matter how many times she asks the closed door for an answer, she will never figure it out. She’s confused, and yet the person who can solve it won’t come out to see her. Mai eventually sighs and gives up, deciding to just go back to the shrine with heavy footsteps.
• JUNE •
After school, Mai goes to sit at the courtyard alone. She keeps on sighing, but she doesn’t feel any better. What happened to Issei? A month has passed since he chased her out, and he never contacted her again after that. He might be busy with work, but he won’t reply to any of her mails either—which he has never done before. Up until now, no matter how busy or late he might be, he always answers her mails. Did she do something that made him angry during the visit? As Mai lets out another sigh, someone sits beside her on the bench. When she turns to see who it is, she finds Rui smiling gently at her. He noticed that she kept sighing today—even during lessons—and asks if there’s something wrong. He knows that people around her age have a lot in their minds, but as a homeroom teacher, he’s a bit worried about her. Of course she doesn’t have to share if she doesn’t want to. It’s just if she finds it hard to endure alone, then he wants to help. Mai feels touched by Rui’s kindness. At first she refuses because she doesn’t quite understand either, but then he asks her to try sharing it with him. Even if there’s something she doesn’t get, she might find a solution by sharing her problems with someone else.
Knowing that Rui notices how she feels, Mai decides to rely on him. Issei and him are close in age, and he might understand what’s going on from an adult’s perspective. After she explains what happened to him, Rui tells Mai what he thinks of Issei’s action: “He probably made that decision because he’s an adult.” Issei probably has a problem that brings him to more than one answer, and he’s confused about which one he should take. Rui doesn’t know what kind of problem it is, but he thinks Mai should wait for Issei to make a decision… and she takes this advice to heart. She noticed that Issei did seem both troubled and confused, so she decides to wait until he finds the answer—just as Rui said. She doesn’t know the reason behind his problem, but once he finds the answer, he’ll come to see her again… right? Looking at how serious Issei is, Rui thinks he’ll contact Mai once he makes his decision.
Rui also has one more advice for Mai. He knows that she wants to become more mature like an adult, but he doesn’t think it’s necessary to rush it. Everyone will grow into an adult eventually, so there’s no need to stretch herself beyond her limits. She doesn’t have to force herself to change, because there are things she can only do at this moment. When Mai asks if that’s really alright, Rui smiles and says she doesn’t have to hurry. She should treasure the present instead. Rui’s precise words feel a bit vague somehow, but Mai can feel the doubt in her heart fading away. At the same time, she also comes to realize that growing up into an adult is much deeper than gaining composure as a person. Mai thinks it’ll take a while before she can find her own answer, but she thanks Rui and says she’ll search for something that her current self can do. He feels relieved to hear this, because he knows that she can do it. When Rui asks her to believe in herself as she makes her decision, a smile finally comes to Mai’s face.
After doing some shopping for dinner, Mai walks home thinking she’ll cook for tonight. Her parents and Chisato have been worried to see her looking sad lately, so she’s going to tell them that she has cheered up through her cooking. However, just when she walks past Siesta, the door swings open and Issei walks out. He’s clearly surprised to see her, but soon his expression turns stiff. She knows that means he doesn’t want to see her, and before she can say anything to him… a beautiful woman comes out behind him. As she thanks him for the delicious coffee, the woman links her arm to his. He only smiles saying he’s glad to hear that, and she asks him not to call her with her surname—he should use her given name instead. The woman then turns to Mai and asks if Issei knows her, to which he nods saying Mai is one of his friends. He then introduces the woman as Nikaido Manami, a co-worker who’s now working as his assistant. Nikaido politely greets Mai, and Mai quickly snaps out of her shock to shake Nikaido’s hand. Nikaido has no idea that Issei is friends with a high school girl though, and he says it’s because she only transferred to the PR department recently. Issei explains that Mai was helping him to gather information on popular places for students, and Mai is surprised upon noticing that Issei is using past tense.
Just before Mai asks about this, Issei’s watch suddenly starts beeping. Their break time is ending, and he coldly says goodbye to her before walking away with Nikaido… but he stops when she calls him. Mai did this before she could even realize, and not knowing what to say, she tells Issei that she has some free time this month. She can help him to gather information again, and he can call her anytime. She also has new recommendations from her friends. Somehow, Mai feels that she won’t see him again if they say goodbye like this. However, Issei closes his eyes and puts on that sad, painful smile. Then he whispers that it seems impossible to delay this after all. He didn’t want to choose, but it can’t be helped. Issei lets out a quiet sigh before asking Nikaido to wait here for a while, as he needs to talk to Mai.
Issei then grabs Mai’s hand and takes her into an alley beside the mansion, stopping when they can’t see Nikaido anymore. When he turns to face her with a stern expression, she sees his dignified eyes—looking straight at her. There, Issei tells Mai that she doesn’t need to help him anymore. They’ve gathered enough information. All that’s left is for them to organize the data, but that’s for him to do with Nikaido. Issei then thanks Mai for her kind help up until now, and he’s saying this now because he’s really busy with work at the moment. He thanks her once again and pats her head, though his smile seems sad somehow. Without another word, Issei takes his hand off Mai’s hair, walks past her and leaves the alley. She’s too shocked to chase after him. Why…? It’s the same as her visit to his house. She can feel that he was rejecting her, as if he’s building a wall to block her out. She doesn’t know the reason. The only thing she knows is that she’s no longer needed by him. Something hot is welling up in her throat, but she desperately holds it back… or else she’s going to cry here.
• JULY •
Late at night, long after everyone went home, Issei is still working in the office. He keeps typing until he’s done inputting all the data he’s gathered. From there, he only has to send them to the others and he’ll be done with work. As he sits back on his chair, he looks at the complete, detailed data of the popular places for students on his computer screen. After re-checking and editing the contents, Issei does one final check and sends them through a mail. Now it’s truly over. When he looks up at the ceiling and slowly closes his eyes, Mai appears in his mind. Last month, when he told her that he no longer needs her help, she looked terribly hurt. He keeps recalling that moment since then. He knows it’s because he wants to apologize, but this is the right decision. This is the answer he chose. That’s why he won’t look back. It’s just he made one mistake. He should have given her a better explanation. He should have said goodbye with a smile so she won’t get hurt, but he made a mistake by rushing it. Back then, he only wanted to settle things as quickly as possible. He wanted to kill his feelings before he becomes unable to let go, though he’s aware that it’s his ego. He won’t be able to see her anymore. He won’t be able to go out with her or look after her studies anymore. Their time together will never return, and he will never see her smile anymore.
Issei quickly shakes his head to brush his thoughts away. Just as he prepares to go home, his phone starts ringing—with “Kamizono Kyouga” written on the display screen. He doesn’t want to pick it up. He REALLY wants to ignore it, but then it’d become even more troublesome if he does that… and so he has no choice. The first thing Kyouga says is that he knew Issei would pick up, adding that it must be hard to have a high pride. Issei only answers that he’ll end the call if Kyouga has no business with him. He’s going home, and he’s not going to put up with any idle chatters. Of course Kyouga notices that Issei is in a foul mood, but he completely ignores it and tells Issei to come to Siesta—he’s currently drinking with Fumiya and Rui. It’s already 11 PM, so Issei refuses since he has to prepare for work tomorrow… but saying “no” isn’t an option since this is Kyouga he’s dealing with. If Issei doesn’t come, Kyouga will do something awful to him—such as banning the whole shopping district to give any discounts for the Suoh family.
Kyouga has the authority to do that since Kamizono Shrine holds the largest power in the area, and he’s going to abuse it if necessary. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ It doesn’t help that he gained everyone’s trust by managing the shrine, not to mention he also helped restoring the shopping district to prosperity. Well, if Issei doesn’t mind buying everything at regular price… he’s free to go home, take a bath and go to sleep. Kyouga then ends the call, leaving him with no choice but to go to Siesta. The discount is on the line. This is a matter of life and death! Issei also knows what Kyouga wants to talk about—it must be about Mai and why he hurt her. Fumiya has been on Mai’s side right from the start, and despite his terrible attitude… Kyouga takes a very good care of her. It seems like he can’t do anything but to let them scold him. Issei then takes his bag and leaves the office with heavy footsteps. The destination is no longer his home—it’s Siesta.
When Issei arrives, Takuto welcomes him with a sympathetic smile. As much as Issei wants Takuto to stop Kyouya, both of them know it’s impossible since Mai is probably the only one who can stop that evil. Issei then asks Takuto to bring a strong Japanese sake for him. He’s going to get scolded anyway, so he might as well get drunk as quickly as possible. Issei goes to join Kyouga, Fumiya and Rui at their table after that. As soon as he sits down, Kyouga gives him a defiant smile saying he’s late. Noticing that Fumiya is giving him an intense glare across the table, Issei asks him to say whatever he wants to say.
Fumiya: “I’m saying it with my eyes because I can’t say it out loud.”
Fumiya: “But if you don’t get it, then I’ll have to put it into words.”
Fumiya: “………get cursed.”
Rui asks Fumiya not to do that since the curse will return, but Issei only asks him not to mind. He’s used to Fumiya’s curses anyway. Not too long after that, Takuto comes with a new sake for Issei. He received it as a recommendation, and so he wants to use Issei as a tester—which he has done repeatedly before LOL. If Issei likes it, then he’ll start stocking up from next month. After Takuto leaves them, Kyouga quickly grabs the bottle and pours the contents into Issei’s cup—telling him to drink and clear his head from stress. Issei knows that Kyouga is plotting something though, so he tells Kyouga to spill it. Kyouga laughs saying he’s just comforting his dear friend, to which Fumiya replies: “No one clashes with the word ‘friend’ as much as you do.” (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ Kyouga points out that Fumiya is just the same though, and he doesn’t care anyway—he only wants Issei to start drinking already.
Of course Issei finds this rather creepy, but he takes his cup and drinks the contents. The sake is delicious. Just as expected from a recommendation. He then asks if they’re not going to drink it, but Fumiya refuses saying he’s only drinking highball cocktails today. Similarly to Kyouga, Fumiya tells Issei to keep drinking. Then get cursed. As soon as Issei’s cup turns empty, Fumiya goes to pour more sake for him. He finds this weird since Fumiya is supposed to be extremely angry at him, and Fumiya even says that his reaction isn’t wrong… but he needs to keep drinking. Or else they won’t be able to proceed. Issei is about to ask what he means by that, but Kyouga tells him to stop sweating the small stuff and drink already. Both Kyouga and Fumiya are smiling eerily, while Rui puts on a smile to cheer him on. Issei doesn’t get what’s going on. So far none of them said anything about Mai, and he finds this really creepy… but he can only keep drinking as they asked.
After drinking nonstop for two hours, Issei obviously gets drunk—just as planned. Rui is worried that they might have made him drink too much though, since he’s not moving with his head on the table. Issei can faintly hear their conversation, so he lifts his head and assures Rui that he’s alright. He can still move and is feeling well. Really, REALLY well… and completely drunk. Fumiya thinks this will do, and Kyouga agrees. Issei will spit out the truth when he’s in this state, and so it opens their interrogation session. First, Kyouga wants to know why Issei suddenly rejected Mai. Kyouga knows that Issei likes Mai, so why did he push her away? Upon hearing this, Mai’s warm smile appears in Issei’s mind for a second… and then it disappears. Issei admits that it’s because he was on the verge of falling in love with Mai. Right now, he has absolutely no composure to think about what he says. He explains that if he continues seeing her, he will completely fall in love… so he decided not to see her anymore. Back when he was confused about his father’s illness, she was the one who gave him the courage to go on. Since they’ve known each other for a long time, he’s always treasured her as a sister… until he came to realize that his “little sister” has grown into a charming young lady. The straightforward look in her eyes and her kindness make him feel calm whenever he’s with her, but she’s still a student. In terms of common sense, he can’t be dating her. His love for her is wrong.
However, Fumiya points out that Issei is only trying to escape. Besides, his reason for giving up on Mai is dumb to begin with. Fumiya doesn’t think age is a problem in love, though Rui believes Issei’s composure and carefulness are also necessary. After all, Mai is still in high school. Fumiya then asks if Issei wants to wait until Mai is old enough for him to date, but he doesn’t like that idea. What if she gets stolen away by someone else before then…? For Fumiya, the thought is enough to drive him nuts. He’d rather take her on the spot. The idea of giving up with regret like Issei sounds like a joke to him. Upon hearing this, Issei gets up and rages at Fumiya. If Mai is of the same age as them, he’d gladly confess to her… but he can’t do it. He can’t close the age gap between them. Issei thinks the saying “love doesn’t matter in love” is simply for their own self-satisfaction. He doesn’t want to do that. He doesn’t want to hurt Mai. Even if she returns his feelings, what would people say if they know that she’s dating a 31 year old man? He doesn’t think they’ll grant any blessings, and instead would only tell her that it’s wrong.
Kyouga sighs saying Issei is just as serious as usual, and sometimes it makes him want to hurl. What does he mean by self-satisfaction when he’s doing exactly the same thing…? Issei can’t say anything in return, but as an old friend who understands his personality, Kyouga gives him an advice: “Women can change, you know? If it’s for the man they love, they will endure and overcome anything. Don’t underestimate her just because she’s a kid.” Kyouga grins, but Issei only gulps down the remaining sake in his cup—as if he’s trying to deny the emotions shaking inside of him. Then he collapses onto the table. He can feel his head hitting something, but he doesn’t feel any pain. He only entrusts his body to the drowsiness that’s slowly coming to him. Issei whispers Mai’s name before closing his eyes, wishing that he can find her by his side by the time he wakes up. Faintly, he can hear Kyouga, Fumiya and Rui talking around him.
Since Issei has fallen asleep, Fumiya wonders what they should do about him. He doesn’t want to deliver Issei home since it’s troublesome, and Rui asks if they should call a taxi… but Kyouga says they can leave him to Takuto. Takuto is living in this mansion, and he has more than enough strength to carry Issei. Rui smiles saying Kyouga and Fumiya must care a lot about Issei. They got him drunk just so he can confess how he truly feels, even telling him that he needs to make up his mind and be prepared—it’s a wonderful friendship. Fumiya says he’s simply giving a warning because he doesn’t want Mai to get hurt anymore, even though he actually wants to punch Issei. Kyouga also knows that Issei will take a LONG time before he can make a decision. As troublesome as it may sound, Issei is a man who’s been chosen by the god of Kamizono Shrine… so Kyouga has to take care of him. Besides, he needs to do something for their shrine maiden as well. When Takuto comes to see what happened, Kyouga just leaves Issei in his hands. Takuto sighs saying it can’t be helped then, and he pats Issei’s back saying it must be tough. Issei completely falls asleep after that.
One sunny afternoon, Mai visits the park with Miki and Mori. It’s really hot outside, but Mai and Miki are waiting for Mori to buy some ice cream for them. Since Mai has been feeling down recently, Mori invited her to have something delicious to cheer her up, and Miki helps encouraging her to accept the invitation. Mai smiles upon thinking about how kind they are. It’s been two months since Issei stopped seeing her. He clearly rejected her last month, so she doesn’t contact him anymore after that… but she’s been concerned. Why did he suddenly say something like that? Even if he doesn’t need her help anymore, she doesn’t think he’s the type of person who would make one-sided decisions like that. She’s been thinking about this, and yet she can’t figure out the reason. She feels that each second carries him further and further away, and it only makes her even more uneasy.
Soon Mori returns with three cups of ice cream—mango yogurt, mint chocolate and strawberry. They sit on a bench and gaze at the fountain as they eat their ice cream, and Miki sighs saying she wants to go to the pool or the beach. Mai nods saying it’s really hot everyday, so she wants to go somewhere during the summer. Upon hearing this, Mori immediately invites both of them to go out. He knows good beaches or pools not many people know about, but Miki refuses. Why does she have to show HIM her new swimsuit before her boyfriend even gets to see it? She bought it to charm her boyfriend after all. Mai mentions that Miki’s bikini is wonderful though, and she thinks Kazuki will surely be happy to see it. Miki replies that Mai should’ve bought one too, since there was a sexy and cute red tartan bikini with lots of lace. Since Mori is a healthy young boy, of course he shows a healthy reaction: “…huh? Sexy… and cute? …by the way, what kind of swimsuit was that? Ahh, but you don’t have to answer if it’s hard to say!” Both Mai and Miki don’t mind though. Miki explains that the design is a bit “dangerous” on the chest area, and when Mai says she was embarrassed when she tried it on…
Mori chokes and starts coughing as he tries to brush off the thought, while Mai quickly rubs his back. She asks if he’s alright, and he assures her that he’s fine… though he’s still as red as a tomato. 8D After taking a deep breath, the poor thing manages to calm down and grins. Putting that “sexy and cute” image aside, summer vacation is almost here. They should play around and visit interesting places! Miki nods and asks Mai to play with them. If they play a lot, she’ll feel better. Knowing that they’re trying to cheer her up, Mai feels really touched and accepts their invitation with a smile. The three of them continue eating their cold ice cream under the summer sun after that, making plans for their summer vacation.
By the time they go home at dusk, Mai is feeling a lot better. It’s been a while since the last time she talked and laughed that much. On the way home, she notices a woman leaning against the wall. There are large shopping bags at her feet, and she looks really sick… so Mai rushes over to ask if she’s alright. The woman assures Mai that she’s okay. She only feels a bit dizzy, maybe because she bought too much things. When the woman smiles, Mai feels like she has seen this smile somewhere before. It feels familiar. Mai then takes the shopping bags on the ground and asks if she’s allowed to help. Despite her looks, she’s actually pretty strong—she can help carrying the bags. The woman feels bad, but Mai asks her to rely on her. It’d be bad if she forces herself, because it might worsen the illness. The woman eventually gives in and accepts Mai’s help, and Mai gladly carries the shopping bags all the way to her house… which turns out to be the Suoh family’s house. Mai is really surprised, and realizing what this means, she then asks if the woman is Issei’s mother.
The woman asks if Mai knows her children, and her question is answered when Akira and Kiito comes out of the house. Upon seeing Mai, they both run towards her and clings onto her legs. They haven’t seen her since Christmas, even though they’ve been waiting for her to come and play. They tried asking Issei about her, but he always says she’s busy and won’t contact her for them… so they’re glad to see her now. When Mai gently pats their heads, the woman smiles saying she often hear about Mai from her children. Just as Mai expected, the woman then introduces herself as Issei’s mother. Issei and Jiou told her that Mai helped them on Christmas, and she’s been thinking of expressing her gratitude ever since… but she never thought that Mai would help her too. Issei’s mother then apologizes in behalf of her family, but Mai quickly replies that she’s been troubling them as well—since Issei was tutoring her for a while. Issei’s mother laughs and asks if Mai ever got irked since Issei is really serious and neurotic, but Mai smiles she never felt that way at all. In fact, she didn’t have to attend any supplementary lessons thanks to him. Issei’s mother is relieved to hear that, and she invites Mai to come inside. They have a delicious cake baked by Issei and Aoi, and she wants Mai to have some.
At first Mai politely refuses, but Akira and Kiito immediately stop her from going home—she has to stay with them for a bit longer. Besides, their older brothers and Aoi would get angry if they let Mai leave like this. They explain that Aoi is playing at a friend’s house at the moment, while Jiou has club practice and Issei is—of course—at work. After thinking for a while, Mai eventually decides to accept the invitation. It seems like Issei’s mother is still feeling sick, so she’d get worried even if she goes home. Besides, Akira and Kiito might feel lonely… so she’s going to stay with them until Jiou or Issei come home. After carrying the shopping bags inside, Mai asks Issei’s mother to get some rest in her room. She helps doing some chores with and Kiito after that, and knowing that it’d be hard for Issei’s mother to get up, she also helps cooking curry for their dinner. Not too long after that, Aoi returns and helps out in the kitchen.
After they’re done preparing dinner, Mai goes to wipe the table in the living room. She notices a picture on top of the TV, which turns out to be a family picture. Issei looks a bit younger in the picture, and there is only one person she doesn’t recognize. It’s a man who looks like an older version of Issei, and soon Aoi comes to tell her that it’s their father—isn’t he good-looking? Mai nods saying she didn’t know because she has never met him before, and Akira mentions that she has to go to the hospital if she wants to meet him. Kiito explains that their father has been hospitalized for a long time due to an illness, and they can’t see him that often either… because he doesn’t want them to see him in such a state. Mai feels really sorry for them, but Aoi says she doesn’t have to. It’d be a lie if they say that they’re not lonely without him, but they also have their mother and big brothers—they’ll be okay. They’re doing their best together, and Issei also said that their father’s illness will be cured one day. When Mai pats their heads and praises them for being so smart, the triplets look really happy. Jiou returns home by the time they’re done cooking dinner, and since their mother is feeling a lot better by then… they have dinner together as happiness fills the air around them.
Later on that night, Jiou says he’s going to walk Mai home. Issei’s mother asks him to guard Mai properly, and she also asks Mai to visit them again next time. Aoi isn’t honest as usual, but the triplets also ask her to come again—they’ll be waiting. They love Mai’s curry a lot, and they want her to cook for them again. Just as they walk out of the front door, Mai and Jiou run into Issei—who just came home from work. Issei is really surprised to see Mai coming out of his house, and his expression turns stiff when Jiou informs him about what happened to their mother. The dizziness was caused by anemia due to lack of sleep, and Jiou assures him that their mother is fine. She got enough rest thanks to Mai, so he doesn’t have to worry. Issei is relieved to hear this, and he thanks Mai for helping them again. When he smiles at her, she can feel her heart racing wildly. It must be because she hasn’t seen that smile for so long. She tells him that she didn’t do much though. Instead, she asks him to praise the triplets since they did their best to help her. However, Issei tells Jiou that he’ll walk Mai home. He asks Jiou to stay with their mother inside, since she might push herself too hard if they leave her alone. Jiou nods before thanking Mai for today, and she leaves with Issei after saying good night to him.
It’s been a while since Mai walked together with Issei, so she feels nervous on the way home. She has no idea what to talk about, and she feels uneasy because this is their first conversation after his rejection. In her heart, she has a mixed feeling of wanting to run away and wishing to stay with him. After desperately searching of a topic, Mai tells Issei that she saw their family picture earlier. She thinks he looks exactly like his father, and he smiles saying people often say that since a long time ago… but actually all the children in the Suoh family resemble their father. Issei thinks Jiou is the one who bears the strongest resemblance, while their mother says it’s Issei. Their personalities are completely different though. Mai says she already heard a lot from Akira and the others. She hopes their father can recover and leave the hospital soon, but Issei’s expression turns sad upon hearing this. The next second, it vanishes and changes into a calm one… which doesn’t show his emotions at all. She can sense the same rejection aura as the one she got back in that alley.
Issei explains that his father has been going in and out of the hospital for a long time. His father is away from home most of the time, and he knows that his younger siblings must be lonely… but it will end soon. He’ll get introduced to a good doctor, so his father should be able to recover. Mai is relieved to hear this, but the relief only lasts until Issei mentions that he has to attend an arranged marriage meeting in return. Mai slowly stops walking out of shock, and Issei turns around saying she has met the woman before—it’s Nikaido. Her father is a famous doctor, and she’s going to introduce them to each other. The meeting was suggested by Issei’s superior, who knows about his father’s condition. Issei has no intentions of turning it down, and he thinks he’s going to marry Nikaido. As he says these words, he’s staring straight at Mai. It’s as if he’s waiting for her to answer. When she tells him that it feels “wrong” to get married for that kind of reason, he only shows that sad smile saying there are arranged marriages like this—though a student like her probably won’t understand. It’s another sign of rejection for her.
Mai is aware that she’s indeed a kid who doesn’t know anything about an adult’s arranged marriage, but still… it feels wrong to her, and it’s got nothing to do with age. Here, she remembers what Rui said before. There must be something that she can only do at this moment. Mai then grabs Issei’s arm, asking why he always smiles with that painful expression. He denies this again, but she points out that he does have that expression. Even now, he seems to be in pain as he talks about “his superior’s order” and how he’s accepting the arranged marriage “for his father’s sake”. Does he think this is really the right decision…? She wants to tell him that if it’s causing him to suffer, then maybe he made the wrong choice. However, Issei brushes Mai’s hand away and asks her to mind her own business. This has got nothing to do with her. Mai doesn’t give up though. She answers that even so, she just can’t leave Issei alone. It’s true that she’s a kid who doesn’t understand how things work in the adult world, but is it okay to choose who to love and marry like that? It’s just like a duty. They should communicate through their hearts and fall in love first before moving on to marriage.
Before Mai could even finish, Issei cuts her off saying that’s prejudice. As he looks at her, she can only see determination to reject everything in his eyes. He tells her that this is how things work in the adult world, and it’s something she can’t understand. That’s why no matter what she says, he trusts his own decision. He believes she’ll come to understand this once she grows a little older. Issei then turns around and starts walking ahead of Mai. He has never left her behind before, but now the distance between them keeps on growing larger. Can’t her words reach him because she’s only a kid…? Can’t she do anything to close this distance between them…? Mai holds back her tears as she follows Issei back to her mansion, and he says goodbye after thanking her for today. As she watches him walking away, her tears start rolling down and fall onto the ground. He decided to get married for that kind of reason. He rejected her because she’s just a kid. None of her words can seem to reach him. Everything feels so painful for her.
Why does he choose who to love in such a way?
Isn’t the person you love is the one you want to be with?
Mai doesn’t want any of this. She doesn’t want Issei to accept the arranged marriage. All these thoughts finally lead her to the answer she’s been looking for. The reason why she let out her feelings regarding his arranged marriage. The reason why she’s in pain and tears. The reason why her heart is always racing in front of him. It’s all because she’s in love with him. The realization is meaningless though, since he’s going to marry someone else. She feels really stupid to get heartbroken upon realizing her own feelings. She can only stand in front of the mansion, unable to stop her tears.
One week after Mai realized her love for Issei, the closing ceremony comes. It’s summer vacation starting from tomorrow, but she can’t seem to share everyone’s excitement. When Miki asks about her plans, Mai says she’s not going anywhere. She’s just thinking of doing her best at work. Mori thinks that’d be boring and reminds her about their promise to play together. He then asks when they should go out, but she only apologizes saying she’s not in the mood to play right now. Mori is clearly disappointed, but he smiles and asks Mai to contact them if she feels like it—both Miki and him will rush over to see her. Mai nods before thanking them. They don’t ask why she’s feeling down. They’re simply waiting for her. She feels so happy to have such good friends, so much that she nearly cries.
• AUGUST •
Under the blue summer sky, Mai sighs as she stores the broom at Kamizono Shrine. It’s summer vacation, and yet she still can’t get over her broken heart. Mori and Miki tried asking her out several times hoping it can cheer her up, but she doesn’t feel like it… even though she knows that nothing will change no matter how long she weeps. It took a long time for her to realize her own feelings, so maybe she also needs quite a lot of time to recover. This is her first love and heartbreak. She doesn’t know what to do. Tears flow out of Mai’s eyes when Issei appears in her mind, but she quickly wipes it off and tells herself to cheer up. She also feels bad because even at home, her family is worried about her. Mai decides to take the first step by eating lunch, and she informs the head priest that she’s going out for lunch break. They’re having a nice weather today, and Mai is thinking of having lunch at the park when she hears some footsteps coming. She approaches it thinking it might be a visitor, but it turns out to be Yousuke instead. It’s been a while, as they haven’t seen each other ever since the amusement park trip.
When Mai asks if he’s been busy, Yousuke sighs and complains that he’s been going out for business. For the last few months, he doesn’t have any day off and gets a bunch of overtimes instead—he wants charm in his life! On the bright side, he found a good cake shop during his trips and invites her to visit it together next time. Yousuke’s cheerfulness gradually makes Mai feel better, and this naturally brings a smile to her face. Yousuke actually came to see Kyouga, but Mai tells him that Kyouga went out earlier. He mentioned that he’s meeting a shrine follower today, so she thinks he’ll return at night. Yousuke has expected this to happen though, and he says he’ll come again after making an appointment with Kyouga… but he notices something upon looking at Mai. Her eyes are red. Could it be that she was crying? She quickly denies this saying it was only because of a yawn, but she gets shaken when he asks if it’s because of Issei’s arranged marriage. He smiles saying she’s really honest. Her feelings are always written all over her face, though he loves that side of her. She asks him not to tease her, but he assures her that he’s serious.
Yousuke, you’re such a smooth talker. ヽ(*´－`*)ﾉ
That aside, Yousuke thinks Issei is truly a hopeless fool. Issei himself should know that he’d only suffer by making that decision. It’s a good thing to be serious, but Yousuke finds this really dumb. When Mai asks if he knows about Issei’s arranged marriage, Yousuke explains that Nikaido has been spreading the news in their office. It can’t be helped though, since she’s been interested in Issei right from the start. Since Issei is a serious person, “the current him” won’t refuse a superior’s order. Most likely he will really marry Nikaido. Different from Issei, Yousuke says he’d definitely refuse that kind of marriage. If you’re not happy, there’s no way your partner can be happy—they should prioritize their feelings above all else. Mai quietly lowers her gaze as she listens to this, clenching her fist as she confesses that she doesn’t want Issei to go on with the arranged marriage. She instantly regrets it and tries to take it back, but Yousuke gently pats her head. He tells her it’s alright. He didn’t hear anything. He didn’t know what she just said. Yousuke then tells Mai that she’s the only one who can change that super stiff and serious Issei. That’s why he thinks she should pay no mind and do something for Issei.
Mai says she’s only a kid who can’t help Issei like Nikaido does, and she thinks she’d only trouble him… but again, Yousuke asks her not to worry about that. She should be herself. There’s no way she’d become a nuisance, though he admits that Issei might be a bit hard to deal with. Mai feels bad knowing it must be painful for Issei, but Yousuke tells her not to mind—it’s his own fault. He believes that if she takes action, she might be able to save Issei. She should have more confidence and charge forward, because he likes it more when she’s smiling. Mai smiles upon hearing this, and to help cheering her up even more… Yousuke invites her to go to Siesta together. They currently serve shaved ice with various kinds of ice cream on top as a limited menu for summer. Since she’s on lunch break, he’ll pay for her meal and shaved ice. She feels bad and tells him that she has a lunch box, but he lightly replies that it’s alright. In fact, he’s super excited to treat a high school girl to lunch. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ She can’t say anything in return, and so he takes her to Siesta—which isn’t too far from Kamizono Shrine.
When Yousuke and Mai enter Siesta, Mori (who works part time there) is extremely shocked to see them together. Especially since they’re holding hands LOL. Yousuke teasingly asks if he’s jealous, and he also tells the poor guy not to disturb his date with Mai. Mori protests saying Mai would never agree to have a date with Yousuke, but he gets interrupted when a customer calls him. Before walking away, Mori warns Yousuke not to do anything weird to Mai—he’ll never forgive it. This is actually rude because Yousuke is a regular customer at Siesta, but can you blame the poor thing? ((´∀`*))ヶﾗヶﾗ As they sit at a table for two, Yousuke tells Mai that he has to visit various places for work. He’s pretty tired too, so both of them should eat some sweets and recharge. Mai feels really encouraged by Yousuke’s smile and kindness, and they eat lunch together after that… but just when they’re enjoying their shaved ice, Issei suddenly walks into Siesta with Nikaido.
Mai is surprised and quickly ducks to hide herself. At first Yousuke is confused, but he frowns upon seeing Issei and Nikaido. They sit at the table on the other side, which is separated from Yousuke and Mai’s seat by a decorative foliage. They can’t see Mai thanks to the plant, and she doesn’t want to see them either… but she also gets curious and keeps glancing at them. Nikaido heard that Siesta has delicious shaved ice, so she’s glad to be able to come here with Issei. On the other hand, Issei says he doesn’t really like sweets. He won’t eat the shaved ice, but Nikaido doesn’t mind—she only wanted to visit a café with him anyway. After ordering shaved ice and a cup of coffee, Nikaido starts talking to Issei. She seems to be enjoying it a lot, and while he doesn’t talk much… he smiles at her from time to time. Mai can feel her chest hurting, so much that it feels painful to breathe. It hurts to see them together, but she also realizes that they make a nice couple. They’re both mature and good-looking. She knows she shouldn’t think like this, but she can’t help it. The only thing she can do is to stare at the ground.
However, the situation completely changes when Yousuke asks Mai to open wide—with a loud voice. The moment she lifts her head, he shoves a spoonful of shaved ice towards her. Of course she’s confused, but he only says he really admires this situation. If she’s willing to help, then his dream might come true. Since Yousuke already helped cheering her up, Mai wants to help him back in return. She agrees and opens her mouth, but before she can eat from the spoon… Issei comes over and asks what they’re doing. He doesn’t look amused about this, but Yousuke only tells him not to disturb them. After telling Yousuke not to force Mai to do questionable things, Issei asks Nikaido to wait for a while. He has to talk to Mai. Nikaido clearly isn’t happy to be left behind, but ignoring her protest, Issei silently grabs Mai’s arm and takes her outside. There, he looks at her with cold eyes. Since she’s wearing her shrine maiden outfit, he points out that she’s supposed to be working. Mai explains that she’s on lunch break, but Issei replies that it’s not a good thing for her to leave her workplace and play around with Yousuke like that.
Mai can only apologize to Issei. It’s true that she’s on break, but maybe she was too carefree—it can’t be helped if he thinks she’s just playing around. As Mai does some reflection in her heart, she suddenly feels Issei’s fingers touching her cheek. Her heart starts pounding loudly. When she calls his name in confusion, he opens his mouth to say something to her… but suddenly, the door swings open and Nikaido walks out to cling onto him. She definitely looks upset, and she tells him that it’s enough. They should go to another café. He doesn’t think it’s necessary since she hasn’t even eaten the shaved ice yet, but she says she wants to eat something else now—forcing him to keep her company. Issei sighs as Nikaido continues to pull his arm, but he eventually agrees. Before leaving, he tells Mai not to play with Yousuke anymore and go back to the shrine. Mai only nods, and she watches as Issei walks away—linking arms with Nikaido.
As soon as they leave, Yousuke also comes out of Siesta. He looks surprised, but he admits that Nikaido’s ability to take action is pretty impressive. Mai thinks maybe Issei is angry because she disturbed them, but Yousuke shakes his head. The one who made Issei angry is probably him. Yousuke smiles as he pats Mai’s head. He promises to talk to Issei later, so she shouldn’t look so down—it’ll put her cuteness to waste. She can only nod and apologize. The sight of Issei and Nikaido walking side by side is hurting her. When will she be released from this agony? As she thinks about this, Mai bites her lips and endures the pain.
At night, Issei is working alone after everyone goes home—just like before. He’s checking the documents from his subordinate, and after that he also needs to make three proposals. He sighs upon thinking about how busy he is, but right now he feels grateful. If he’s busy, he won’t think about useless things. Sadly for Issei, his peace comes to an end when Yousuke appears to greet him. Aside from commenting about how diligent Issei is to work until late hours, he also notices that Issei seems to have way too many tasks lately. Without even turning to face Yousuke, Issei says it’s simply because he has to multitask… and so Yousuke responds to this by sitting on Issei’s table, sending the documents there to fall onto the floor. Issei actually knows that Yousuke is angry. He’s only pretending not to notice.
Issei then asks Yousuke not to sit on his desk like that, but Yousuke doesn’t answer. Instead, he tells Issei that he doesn’t like getting involved in other people’s love life… but he just can’t ignore this. Issei decides to just ignore this, and Yousuke asks if he’s fine after leaving Mai in tears. When Issei coldly answers that it’s got nothing to do with him, Yousuke grabs his shirt and roughly pulls him up. Then he tells Issei not to mess around. Men who make women cry are the worst. If he doesn’t want to become even worse, then he has to apologize to Mai. However, Issei gets angry too upon hearing Yousuke’s words. Why does he have to receive all of this insult? Especially because Yousuke doesn’t know anything. Issei snaps back and tells Yousuke to shut up. Whatever he does has got absolutely nothing to do with him. Yousuke laughs saying if he gets angry just by hearing that… then he shouldn’t do things that would lead to this situation in the first place. If he can’t even do that, then he shouldn’t bark so hard.
Issei can’t say anything in return, only gritting his teeth as he slaps Yousuke’s hand away. Yousuke sighs saying Issei is so hopeless. Before leaving, Yousuke warns Issei that he’s seriously the worst if he gives up on Mai like this. As he glares at Yousuke’s back, Issei tells himself that he’s not wrong—he has to give up on her. He’s fine with this choice. Over and over again, he whispers that his decision is not wrong… as it’s the only thing he can do for now.
• SEPTEMBER •
Once summer vacation is over, it’s time for a new semester at school. During breaks, everyone are having fun sharing their experience during summer vacation… except for Mai. In the end, she didn’t contact Mori or Miki at all. When Mori asks if something happened, Mai apologizes saying she was super busy at work and didn’t have any time to play. It might sound like an excuse, but it’s not a lie. In the end, Mai spent her last summer vacation in high school working at Kamizono Shrine. She came to work everyday, and it was a really busy period since a lot of visitors came during summer vacation. She feels glad though, since she didn’t have time to think about Issei. She never thought she’d be so grateful to receive Kyouga’s arrogant orders. Mori seems like he has something to say, but then he smiles saying it can’t be helped then. Takuto asked him to help out at Siesta, so he also spent his summer vacation working five days per week. It’s nice that he received income. He just feels a bit sad that work ate most of his summer vacation. Mai thinks she should have made some time to play with them, and Mori nods saying he would have taken a break from work too. They probably would have a more satisfying summer vacation.
Mori doesn’t give up though. He blushes and tells Mai that maybe it’s not too late to have fun—they can go to the movies or karaoke from now on. The change of pace might be able to cheer her up. Mai realizes that Mori has a point. If she plays to her heart’s content, maybe she will feel better. Maybe she’ll be able to forget the painful sight of Issei and Nikaido walking together. Mai is about to accept Mori’s invitation, but sadly for the poor guy… Miki soon comes to inform Mai that Fumiya is looking for her. It seems like he wants to ask her something important, and he wants her to come to the infirmary after school. Mori flops onto his desk upon hearing this. When Miki asks if he’s taking a nap, he cries out in despair that he’s just shocked by how terrible his luck is LOL. At this rate, he might have to buy a charm from Kamizono Shrine. Miki feels sorry for Mori, but she doesn’t think buying a charm would help… and this causes him to punch his poor desk as he cries even louder. ｡ﾟ(ﾟﾉ∀`ﾟ)ﾟ｡ｱﾋｬﾋｬ
After school, Mai goes to the infirmary and finds Fumiya there—along with Rui. It seems like they’ve been waiting for her, though she didn’t expect to see Rui as well. Fumiya apologizes for calling her so suddenly, gently asking if she doesn’t have other things to take care of. Rui reminds him that even though they have known each other for a long time, Fumiya shouldn’t call Mai’s given name at school… but Fumiya doesn’t care and tells Rui to shut it. After making sure that Mai has time to talk, Fumiya asks if she met Issei lately. When Mai says she hasn’t seen Issei since last month, Rui nods saying it seems like even Mai got shut out. Fumiya sighs saying Issei is so dumb. He’s strangely stubborn and serious. Just how inflexible can he get? Mai reluctantly asks if there’s something wrong, and Fumiya explains that he met Jiou at the park not too long ago. From Jiou, he heard that Issei always carries all the burdens by himself. He won’t let his siblings do anything about their household or their father. To make things worse, their father’s condition dropped before the surgery. Issei is nursing him without getting any sleep, and he also goes to work on top of that.
Rui wonders if Issei is holding back from asking his siblings to help, but Mai doesn’t think so. Issei’s family always help each other in need, so it’s strange for him to work alone. Fumiya shares Mai’s opinion. If they leave him alone, Issei might collapse even before his father does. Fumiya actually doesn’t want to ask Mai to help with something like this, but Kyouga said she’s the only one who can open Issei’s eyes… and so he asks if she can tell Issei to reduce the amount of burden he’s carrying. Mai is surprised. If she’s allowed to, she wants to say that to him. Even if she has to use force, she wants him to get some rest… but she shakes her head. She can’t do it. Issei already has a fiancée, so that person should be the one who supports him. It’s Nikaido’s role, because she will eventually become his wife and support the family with him. However, Rui asks Mai to be honest. Her consideration is reasonable, but right now… she can be honest in order to save him. Besides, is it really alright for her to give up on him?
Mai holds her breath when Rui asks if she loves Issei, but then she nods and confesses that she does. She doesn’t want to deny her feelings for him, and she can’t stop it either. Rui says that’s why he doesn’t want Mai’s love to end like this. No matter how much they get hurt, it’s just too sad to kill your feelings without even conveying it. Rui admits that he actually doesn’t want Mai to give up. Her heart is so straightforward and he doesn’t want her to bend it. Fumiya feels the same way, as he wants Mai to always be herself. The fact that Issei is torturing and making her cry—even until now—is irritating Fumiya to no end, but he has to admit that Issei isn’t a bad person… and Mai knows this too. Issei is a serious person who will carry out his decisions until the end. He’s a good big brother who truly loves his family. He’s kind and clumsy at the same time, and she feels peaceful when they’re together. As she thinks about this, she puts a hand on her chest—as if she’s embracing the feelings inside of her.
Since Rui mentioned common sense and such before, Fumiya is actually surprised to see him supporting Mai’s love. He thought Rui would tell Mai to give up. Rui nods saying common sense is indeed important, but he doesn’t like it even more when his student is crying or suffering. Fumiya has known Mai ever since she was really young, and he knows that she’s a really good person. That’s why no matter what happens, he will always support her. Even if the world doesn’t approve of their relationship, he will approve. He will tell her that she’ s right, so he wants her to do her best. Their support give Mai the courage she needs, and her heart gradually feels lighter. She realizes that up until now, she didn’t know that love is not something you can let go of that easily. She was hiding her feelings to protect herself, afraid that he would reject her because of Nikaido. If she really wants to forget him, she has to end this properly and move on. Even if he doesn’t choose her, she wants to tell him how she feels. She needs to tell him that she loves him. She truly wants to help, even if he rejects her. Until she can convey her feelings, she won’t give up on this love. Mai then says she’s going to try visiting Issei, and she leaves after thanking Fumiya and Rui—both sending her off with a smile.
Well… in Fumiya’s case, he’s also thinking about what kind of curse he should put on Issei. (ʘ‿ʘ✿)
After work, Mai makes some onigiri at home and rushes to Issei’s place. The onigiri are special, since she filled them with his and his siblings’ favorite food. She’s hoping that eating something delicious might be able to cheer them up, and after that she will try asking if there’s anything she can do for them. However, when Mai presses the interphone… the one who opens the door is Nikaido. Mai is surprised, and Nikaido is clearly not happy to see her either. When Nikaido asks if she needs something, Mai takes a deep breath and hands the onigiri bag to her. She explains that she heard about Issei’s father, so she made some food for them. Nikaido doesn’t reply. Instead, she angrily glares at Mai and says she finally understands. Mai’s trying to disturb her relationship with Issei, isn’t she? Nikaido then walks up to Mai and tells her to leave. Issei is going to marry her, and Mai is a nuisance—an eyesore. Besides, Mai is just a high school student. She probably has the wrong idea, but there’s no way that Issei would take a kid like her seriously. Nikaido then makes it clear that she won’t let Mai see Issei. She won’t allow Mai to give him anything either. Then she tells Mai to leave right away.
Oh, is that a challenge? Hold my flower. (ʘ‿ʘ)ノ✿
Mai trembles upon hearing this, but she can understand Nikaido’s feelings somehow. She knows Nikaido is doing this because of her love for Issei, but the same goes for her. She loves him too… so she replies that she won’t leave. She can’t leave until she hands the onigiri to him. Of course Nikaido gets angry, and she asks if Mai is aware of how selfish she’s being. She’s trying to give Issei some food in front of his fiancée’s eyes. There’s no way Nikaido would let him receive things from other girls. Nikaido raises her voice as she tells Mai that she loves Issei. She wants Mai to stop this nonsense, shouting at her to leave. Of course Mai knew that Nikaido would get angry, and she also knows that she’s being really selfish… but she feels that if she backs down here, she will never see Issei again. Once again, Mai tells Nikaido that she will not leave until she can deliver the onigiri. Nikaido can’t believe that Mai is saying this to her, and she asks if Mai is seriously in love with Issei. Mai knows it’s probably wrong for her to answer that, but she doesn’t want to lie no matter what. She apologizes and tells Nikaido that they’re the same—she loves Issei too.
Upon hearing Mai’s confession, Nikaido scoffs saying she understands. Now she knows that Issei won’t become her fiancé because Mai is getting in their way. That’s why he won’t accept their engagement no matter how long she waits. This really surprises Mai, and she asks what’s going on between them. There’s a sound of someone opening the door here, but Nikaido is too angry to notice. As she continues glaring at Mai, Nikaido explains that Issei hasn’t even come to their arranged marriage meeting. He’s been busy with work and taking care of his father, and this leaves Nikaido in trouble. She already announced their marriage to their co-workers and friends. What would happen to her if the marriage gets cancelled? She will only get humiliated. If they’re going to get married, they need to make a decision as soon as possible. They need to take care of a lot of things, such as bridal salon and invitations.
However, Mai only frowns at Nikaido’s answer. Why does she keep thinking of herself? Why doesn’t she try to help Issei when he’s having a hard time alone? For the first time, Mai feels anger rising inside of her. Then she points out that Nikaido is wrong. If she truly loves Issei, isn’t she supposed to stay with him and give him support? Isn’t she supposed to wait for him…? Nikaido immediately raises her hand to slap Mai, yelling that she’s being so impudent even though she’s just a kid. Mai closes her eyes, but Nikaido’s hand never makes it to her cheek—because Issei has grabbed it from behind. Nikaido tries to twist her way out of this and quickly pins the blame on Mai, but Issei says she doesn’t have to explain anything. He already knows the reason. After releasing Nikaido’s hand, Issei turns to Mai and gives her a cold stare. It’s been a while since they saw each other, and she notices something different from him. Before she can figure out the reason, Issei tells Mai that he doesn’t need any food. Even if she brings something for him, it will only become a nuisance for him. He wants her to leave. Issei then turns around and goes back inside without saying anything else, and Nikaido follows him after flashing a victory smile to Mai.
The rejection feels painful, but even more than that… Mai is concerned about how pale Issei is. That, and how he expressionless he appears to be—as if he has erased all emotions in him. She realizes that it must be painful for him, and yet he suffers alone because he can’t tell anyone. Can’t she do anything for him? Just then, Jiou and the triplets come out of the house. Aoi immediately clings onto Mai’s legs, while Akira explains that she hates that “old hag”. Nikaido only cares about Issei. While she acts nice in front of him, she’s really cold towards his siblings. Kiito doesn’t like her either, because she does absolutely nothing to help Issei. Aoi then tells Mai that Issei keeps working alone. Even if they want to help, he refuses and says he’ll do everything by himself. Since Mai came here, Jiou knows that Fumiya already told her about what happened. She probably noticed this earlier, but Issei is really forcing himself. He takes care of work, their household and their father, all by himself. He won’t let them do anything, only asking them to protect and support their mother at home. They know it’s important, but they’re worried about him. They wouldn’t be worried at all if Nikaido supports Issei, but she’s just not that kind of person.
Jiou lets out a heavy sigh. Mai doesn’t know what to say to them, but then Aoi looks up at her and admits that she thought Mai is Issei’s girlfriend. That’s why she was so thorny towards Mai. Issei always looks like he’s truly enjoying himself in front of her, showing an expression he never wears in front of his family. Aoi doesn’t know why Issei is pushing Mai away like that… but she starts sobbing as she asks Mai not to hate Issei. Aoi’s wish is shared by Akira and Kiito, and both of them start crying as well. As Jiou comforts them, Mai smiles and asks them not to cry. They don’t have to worry—she’s fine. It seems like she’s really bad at giving up. Mai is actually surprised at how calm she is, maybe because of the determination in her heart. She assures them that she will never hate Issei, no matter how much she gets hurt. Even if her feelings are rejected, she loves him. After patting the triplets’ heads, Mai gives the onigiri bag to Jiou—asking them to cheer up after eating her special onigiri. Before Mai leaves, Jiou asks if she will come to visit them again… and she says she will. She can’t leave Issei like this, and she’ll try looking for something she can do. That’s they shouldn’t give up either, and they should keep asking him to let them help. She’ll do her best too.
While Jiou and the triplets are talking to Mai, Issei brings Nikaido to the living room. He reminds her that she’s an adult, and she shouldn’t get so emotional in front of a kid like Mai. Nikaido says it’s impossible, and she nearly mentions that Mai is in love with Issei too… but she stops herself and says it was because Mai was so insolent. Issei points out that it’s not a reason to slap Mai though, because using violence to silence someone is the worst. He then asks her to never do something like that to Mai ever again. Nikaido looks hurt for a moment, probably because of the anger in Issei’s voice. The next moment, her expression changes as she glares at him—asking if he’s seriously in love with a high school student. He can’t answer that question, and he has no intentions of answering either. Nikaido frowns and angrily shouts that Issei is an adult. Isn’t he aware of the large age gap between him and Mai? It’s just wrong! Upon hearing this, Issei only smiles saying Nikaido is right. He agrees with her opinion, and that’s exactly why he’s trying to forget Mai. In fact, he’s been telling himself the same thing. Repeatedly.
For Issei, throwing away everything to get Mai is not an option. No matter how much he loves her. Even if he can’t forget her. Even though he might be hurting her right now, it’s only for this moment. He wants to protect her, but that wish can only be fulfilled by throwing away his feelings for her. He no longer has the recklessness to break through everything just for the sake of love. Issei apologizes to Mai in his heart. Just as Yousuke said, he really is the worst. He then turns to Nikaido and asks her to prepare to leave. After all, he brought her home because she said she wants to visit his father in the hospital. He’s going to prepare some change of clothes now, and he wants her to calm down by the time he returns. Nikaido quietly says she understands and sits down in the living room, while Issei leaves to the second floor.
It’s already dark when Mai reaches Kamizono Shrine. The visiting hours are already over, so she rushes to Kyouga’s house inside the shrine grounds. Not too long after she calls out to him, the door slides open as he walks out with a super annoyed expression. He complains about how she comes out of the blue just to call him with such a loud voice, and she quickly apologizes. She will pay him back through work later, so she needs him to share his knowledge. Kyouga frowns as Mai explains that she went to see Issei, and that he didn’t look too well. It seems like he could collapse any moment, and yet he refused her help. As much as she wants to help, she knows that forcing him to accept would only drain him even more. It’ll only be a nuisance for him. That’s why Mai wants to help Issei in secret, but she can’t think up of anything… and so she needs Kyouga’s help. Even though his personality is 100% terrible, he’s quick-witted when it comes to this kind of things. (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ Kyouga protests that the “terrible” part was unnecessary, but also says that Mai’s decision is not bad at all. He reminds her that his advice comes with a high price, but she doesn’t mind. She wants to help Issei no matter what—even if he treats her like a nuisance.
As Mai bows down to him, Kyouga smiles saying both Issei and her are so troublesome… but his voice is surprisingly gentle. When she lifts her head, she finds him looking at the direction of the sanctuary. Then he asks if she remembers about the two-colored cosmos. Mai recalls that they grant blessings for health instead of love, and Kyouga nods saying he went to ask his father about that. He wanted to know if they really healed his grandfather, and apparently the effect was real. His mother and older brother were also there to witness the recovery, which means his father wasn’t lying about it. He got scolded pretty hard for doubting his father though. ｡ﾟ(ﾟﾉ∀`ﾟ)ﾟ｡ｱﾋｬﾋｬ At this point, Mai already knows what Kyouga is trying to say. He’s telling her to look for a two-colored cosmos and give it to Issei’s father as a charm. If his father’s health improves, things might be easier for Issei.
However, Kyouga also tells Mai that it will be hard to find a two-colored cosmos among the regular ones. Not to mention she needs to get into the pond as well. It’s not that cold in September, but the sanctuary is surrounded by woods. The temperature there is quite low at night. The water in the pond must be cold as well… but even so, she has no intentions of giving up. It won’t be an easy task. There’s the possibility that she won’t be able to find it at all, but then he says things will be different if her determination can reach their god. Their god is supporting love after all, and he will surely guide her to find one… but it’s going to depend on her determination. When Kyouga asks what she’s going to do, Mai answers that she’s going to do it—she’s going to search for a two-colored cosmos alone. He looks satisfied upon hearing her answer, and he pats her head saying it’s just as expected from their shrine maiden. The only one who can change the course of fate in this love is her. Kyouga then sends Mai off with a grin, telling her to get their god on her side. She smiles and nods before running off towards the sanctuary.
…but then again, there’s no way Kyouga would leave Mai in trouble right? (*´艸`*)ｧﾊ♪
At 1 AM, Issei is still working in the office. It feels like he’d fall asleep if he closes his eyes, so he keeps them open. Everyday his mother and him take turns to watch their father. He also takes care of their household, and nothing at work is behind schedule. He’s doing great, but his fatigue has been building up as well. It’s not a laughing matter, since this is his first time spending his days without much sleep. Issei knows that he couldn’t sleep not because he’s busy with work and taking care his father, but because he’s rejecting Mai. He loves her and wants to treasure her more than anyone else, but he has to kill his feelings and shove her away. Issei’s arranged marriage meeting with Nikaido has been decided. If he attends it, he won’t put his superior to shame. Once his father gets better, he’ll be able to take the surgery as well—everything will go well. It’s the best option, and yet his heart is betraying him. Over and over again, Issei’s heart is screaming for Mai. He already decided to give up on everything for her sake, but he’s still yearning for her. He wants to make her his, so much that it’s driving him insane. Even if his heart is ordering him to be honest, he just can’t accept it.
Just then someone puts something on Issei’s desk, and he turns around to find Yousuke grinning beside him. Yousuke comments that Issei looks really terrible right now, but Issei has no energy to reply with his usual sarcasm. Instead, he only asks why Yousuke is still at the office at this hour. Yousuke explains that he’s working overtime too, since he’s nearly done promoting to a huge company. That’s not a reason for him to visit the PR department floor though, so Issei asks him to leave. Issei still has to prepare materials for their client, and he doesn’t want Yousuke to disturb him. On the other hand, Yousuke really wants to bug Issei. He already gave a warning before, and yet Issei is still pushing Mai away. At first Issei wonders how he found out, but then he realizes that Yousuke has a large information network. He probably heard from Kyouga or Fumiya. Issei only asks if there’s a problem with that, and Yousuke asks if he really wants to stay the worst. Does that mean he won’t regret it even if Mai is taken by someone else…?
The thought stirs up a burning emotion inside of Issei, and he finally snaps. There’s no way that he won’t regret it. He wants to make her his, and he won’t allow other men to lay a finger on her. He’s been lying to his own heart all this time, doing things that end up hurting her in the end. Jiou and the others forced him to eat her onigiri before going to the hospital, and he noticed that she filled them with his and his family’s favorite food. He could feel how much she cares about them. That time, he wanted to chase after her and apologize. He wanted to hug her, and yet he couldn’t do it. Due to the age gap between them, they won’t become a good couple—it’s wrong in terms of common sense. Even if they share the same feelings, it will end up hurting her future. She will receive insults for dating a man who’s much older than she is. Issei has been saying this over and over again, but Yousuke points out that he’s underestimating Mai. Mai’s future lies in her own hands. It’s not something that Issei should control. It wouldn’t be a problem if he made this decision because he finds it risky to date a high school student, but his argument makes it clear that he’s just using her future as an excuse to avoid rejection. That’s what makes him the worst.
When Yousuke asks if he still doesn’t get it, Issei realizes that Yousuke is right. He was only running away. He kept on saying that he doesn’t want to hurt Mai, but in truth… he was only protecting himself. He was afraid that she’d reject his feelings because of the age gap, so he used her as an excuse and changed his course. Issei quietly admits that he really is the worst, though Yousuke thinks he’s not that bad—he came to realize it after all. Yousuke then asks what he’s going to do now, but Issei’s phone starts ringing before he could answer. The display screen says “Kamizono Kyouga”. Relieved that it’s not from the hospital, Issei picks it up and Kyouga gets straight to the point: “Mai is doing her best alone for your sake.” Kyouga then explains everything about the two-colored cosmos, and Issei gets chills down his spine upon learning that Mai is searching for it in the pond. She came to the shrine right after leaving his house, which means that she’s been in the pond for more than 6 hours. Issei then asks why Kyouga allowed Mai to do such a thing, but Kyouga answers that it was her decision—he has no right to stop her. This should show the difference between their shrine maiden and a “chicken” like Issei.
Kyouga then warns Issei that this is his last chance. He should take Mai’s hands. If he doesn’t, their god… or rather, Kyouga himself will give him a divine punishment that’s more painful than death. Kyouga ends the call without even waiting for an answer, but Issei knows that’s just how he is. He loves abusing people and lives the way he wants to, but when they truly need help… he will always lend a hand. He’s actually a man who’s kinder than anyone else. As Issei gets up from his chair, Yousuke grins saying it’s been a while since he saw that “damn cheeky” face. Yousuke asks if he has made a decision, and Issei nods saying he’s blessed with great friends and co-workers.
Yousuke: “Huh? What’s this? Suoh is being honest, it’s disgus…”
Issei: “Shall I punch you as a token of gratitude?”
…and so Yousuke sends Issei off, promising to take care of the remaining work. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Meanwhile, Mai is still searching for the two-colored cosmos. She changed into her shrine maiden outfit to encourage herself, and she’s been searching nonstop for hours… but she still can’t find it. Mai’s fingers have gone numb due to the cold. She’s drenched from head to toe, shivering from the chilly temperature. Earlier, she fell into the pond due to the fatigue and the slippery ground. She has sneezed countless times, but she keeps on searching. She won’t give up. She’ll definitely find the two-colored cosmos for Issei. Even if he might reject her again, she wants to help the person she loves. Even if it’s just for a bit, she wants to make things easier for him. In order to do that, she doesn’t mind staying in the water for hours. She might catch a cold and get sick because of this, but for his sake… she wants to carry it out until the end.
As she glances around, Mai suddenly feels dizzy. She slaps her cheeks and tries pulling herself together, but the dizziness won’t go away. The scenery around her is swirling in her eyes, and eventually she can’t keep her eyes open any longer. She doesn’t have time to collapse, and yet her consciousness is gradually fading away. She can feel herself falling backwards, and her body can’t seem to resist. The only thing she can do is to think about how she’s going to fall into the pond again… except it never happens. Instead of the cold water, she feels a comfortable warmth supporting her from behind. The next thing she hears is Issei’s voice—asking her to get a hold of herself. When Mai opens her eyes, she finds Issei right in front of her. She wonders if this is a dream, but he tells her that he’s real. When he angrily asks what she’s doing, her consciousness fully returns. Mai then asks why Issei is here, and he explains that Kyouga already told him everything. He asks her to get out of the pond first, but she refuses and runs away from his arms. She has decided to search for the two-colored cosmos, and she’s not leaving until she finds it.
However, Issei tells Mai that’s enough. A person who was about to faint earlier shouldn’t say something like that. He admits that her feelings make him happy, but it’s impossible for a cosmos to heal his father’s illness. It’s meaningless even if she searches for it. Mai insists that her search is definitely not meaningless, and Issei asks her to listen to him already. He’s worried about her, so she shouldn’t be so childish. Much to his surprise, she snaps back and asks if there’s a problem with her being a kid. She knows he’s doing this because she’s worried about her health, but she can’t stop her feelings. She doesn’t want to see him, the person she loves, suffering alone anymore. Mai admits that she wants to help Issei like Nikaido does, but since she’s a kid… this is the only thing she can do for him. That’s why she won’t give up. Even if he hates her, she won’t leave the pond until she finds the two-colored cosmos. Mai then wipes her tears and turns around to continue her search, but Issei hugs her from behind—begging her to stop already. Just like her, he doesn’t want to see the person he loves struggling alone.
Mai can’t believe her ears, but Issei tightens his arms around her. He then confesses that he’s always been concerned. He’s a part of the working world, while she’s still in high school. The world won’t approve that kind of relationship. It’s not considered as normal. Even if he doesn’t mind, he doesn’t want people to talk bad about her… so he put a distance between them. He tried to forget her. He repeatedly rejected her too, and he kept telling himself that it’s for the best. But in the end, he just can’t do it. After releasing Mai, Issei turns her around and looks straight into her eyes. Then he tells her that he doesn’t care about age gap or common sense anymore. He doesn’t want to lie any further, and finally he confesses that he loves her—so much that he can’t stand it. Issei then puts one hand on the back of Mai’s head and gently pulls her over for a kiss. The kiss is light, but it’s soon followed by a much more passionate kiss—one that she has never known before. ﾟ+.(*ﾉωヾ*)ｬﾝ♪+ﾟ
When Mai pulls back for a bit to take a breath, she accidentally pushes her hand against Issei’s chest… and this brings him back to his senses. He turns red upon realizing what he just did, then he lets go of her hand and quickly moves away. He nervously apologizes to her, explaining that he couldn’t stop because of how much he loves her. LOL OH ISSEI. (((壊ﾟ∀ﾟ)))ｧﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬﾋｬ Issei averts his gaze as he mutters that he’s truly the worst, and Mai doesn’t know what to say to him. She’s thinking about how to answer when she notices an unfamiliar flower near his feet. It’s a cosmos with pink and white petals—the two-colored cosmos! Mai gently picks it from the ground, while Issei seems surprised by the sudden discovery. Not to mention he’s still feeling awkward after the kiss. (｡-∀-)ﾆﾋ♪ When Mai happily says his father’s illness will be cured, Issei gives her a wry smile… but it’s no longer the sad smile from before. It’s more like a troubled smile because he doesn’t know what to say. Since they’ve found the cosmos, Issei says Mai doesn’t have to stay here anymore. Without further words, he lifts her up and carries her princess-style. Of course this causes her heartbeat to go out of control. She asks him to let her down since she can walk by herself, but he refuses. He knows her legs are unsteady at the moment, so he smiles and asks he to stay still. She can’t say anything in return. That gentle smile of his is foul play for her.
From there, Issei carries Mai all the way back to Kyouga’s house. After letting her down, he calls Kyouga and asks him to prepare the bath and some change of clothes. Kyouga seems to be annoyed to have his sleep disturbed, and Issei apologizes for intruding… but then he rages over the fact that Kyouga actually went to sleep while Mai was busy searching for the cosmos. ｱﾋｬﾋｬ｡ﾟ(ﾟﾉ∀`｡ﾟ(ﾟﾉ∀ヽﾟ)ﾟ｡´∀ヽﾟ)ﾟ｡ﾋｬﾋｬ Issei tells Kyouga to come out right now, and soon Kyouga walks out looking terribly pissed—warning Issei to remember this later. Issei says he will. If it can stay in his memory, that is. Since it’s around midnight, Mai feels a bit reluctant to ask if she can borrow the bath and some clothes… but Kyouga only tells her to be quick. If she dares to trouble him more than this, she should know what’s going to happen. Knowing that she shouldn’t argue with Kyouga when he’s super pissed like this, Mai apologizes saying she’ll borrow his bath and clothes… and she’ll make it quick. ヽ(*´ー`*)ﾉ Before entering the house, Mai gives the cosmos to Issei saying his father will definitely get better. She feels relieved when he accepts it with a smile, but then she feels a certain someone giving her a killer glare… so she rushes off to take a bath LOL.
After taking a warm bath, Mai feels refreshed and changes into a yukata prepared by Kyouga. She goes to search for Issei and Kyouga , but she only finds Issei sitting on the porch—staring at the cosmos in his hand. When she approaches him, he asks if she has warmed up properly. Mai nods saying her head feels clear after the bath. She asks where Kyouga is since she needs to thank him too… but apparently Kyouga has gone back to sleep after flooding Issei with every insult he could come up with. After inviting Mai to sit beside him, Issei explains that he received a call from the hospital when she was taking a bath. It seems like his father’s condition has stabilized. They’re going to monitor his health for a while, and he can take the surgery after that. Mai is extremely relieved to hear this, and the happiness leads her to hug Issei from behind. He still can’t believe it, but maybe it’s really the blessing from the two-colored cosmos… because for the last few months, his father’s condition has never improved. Mai believes in the cosmos though, as well as the fact that her wish has been granted by the god of Kamizono Shrine. Her tears start flowing out of relief, because now Issei and his siblings don’t have to worry anymore.
As she tightens her arms around him, Mai asks Issei not to endure everything alone anymore. She wants him to realize that everyone is worried about him—his family, his friends and of course herself. They love him, and they will never blame him if he asks for help. Her voice trembles as she confesses that she wants them to do their best together, and he reveals his feelings in return. A long time ago, he was encouraged by her. He thought that he has changed since then, but now he realized that he basically didn’t grow up. He was crushed by the fear of losing his father, as well as the sense of responsibility to support his family. He thought that if he shows his weakness, his family would only get worried. If he shows that he’s having problems with his personal life, he would only trouble the people at work. That’s why he endured it alone without telling anyone, but he didn’t know that it was hurting the people around him. In the end, he only caused himself to suffer alone. He feels pathetic.
However, Mai tells Issei that he’s not alone anymore. He has her, and she’ll always stay with him. As she puts her head against his back, he gently holds her hand and thanks her. Because of her, he can realize his own weakness and the kindness of the people around him. He’s no longer alone, because now he has someone who will stay by his side. Issei finds it hard to believe how fulfilled he is right now, and Mai nods saying she feels the same way. They hug each other for a while after that, as if they’re giving warmth for each other.
Several days later, Issei takes Nikaido to a restaurant after work. He booked a private room for them, so there’s no one around them. She doesn’t have to worry that someone would hear their conversation. He apologizes to her and asks her to cancel the arranged marriage, explaining that he can’t forget Mai after all. Issei is aware that his actions ended up hurting both Mai and Nikaido. He’s going to explains this to his superior, as well as apologizing for turning down the suggestion. Nikaido avoids meeting Issei’s eyes, but she asks what he’s going to do about his father’s surgery… and he answers that he’s going to search for another surgeon. One of his friends is an infirmary doctor, and he might be able to help by using that connection. Nikaido sadly asks if he wants to be with Mai that much, and Issei firmly says yes. He doesn’t want to lie anymore, knowing that more lies would only hurt Nikaido even more. Nikaido falls silent for a while, and then she asks what would he do if she doesn’t forgive him. What would he do if she refuses to cancel the arranged marriage? Issei answers that he will continue apologizing to her, until she can forgive him. Until she’s willing to cancel the arranged marriage.
Next, Nikaido asks what would Issei do if she asks him not to see Mai until she can forgive him. He replies that he won’t see her. Issei is the one who has to pay the price of hurting Nikaido, but he knows that Mai will ask him to share the burden. Upon hearing his answer, Nikaido finally smiles. She knew he would say that—it’s just like him. Nikaido then apologizes and says it was all a lie. She only wanted to be a bit mean to him, and she agrees to cancel the arranged marriage. Back during the confrontation with Mai, she has realized that Issei is truly in love with Mai. She also realized that she completely lost to Mai as a woman, and that’s why she couldn’t give up. Nikaido is on the verge of tears, but her smile remains beautiful. She confesses that she really did love him, so for the last time… Nikaido asks Issei to allow her to help with his father’s surgery. He asks if it means he doesn’t have to change the surgeon, and she’s still smiling as she nods. Issei is surprised, but he accepts the help and thanks Nikaido—truly from the heart.
• OCTOBER •
After school, Mai is chatting with Miki and Mori in the classroom. Mai notices that Mori has been feeling down lately and asks him what’s wrong, but the poor thing says it’s just because autumn is the season of ennui. He’s obviously heartbroken LOL. Miki feels really sorry for him, and she asks him to cheer up. She’ll feed him something delicious next time. He responds to that by flopping onto his desk and mutters: “… My love… Goodbye…” (´；ω；`) Mai is about to ask what he just said, but Miki quickly stops her and changes the subject. Miki is glad to hear that Issei’s father’s surgery went well, and Mai smiles saying Issei’s family is really happy to receive the good news. Two days prior, Issei’s father took the surgery. It was successful, and he’s doing good after the surgery. At this rate, he should be able to leave the hospital soon. It seems like the two-colored cosmos charm is really effective, and she feels grateful to the flower. After seeing the result of the flower, Kyouga has been searching for more two-colored cosmos in the pond. He’s planning to use them to make health charms, but he couldn’t find any. It’s probably impossible for him, even if he’s the head priest of the shrine. |ω・`)ﾌﾟｯ♪
Mori soon gets up and mentions that Takuto told him about Issei’s arranged marriage. He’s worried that Issei might be cheating on Mai, and he asks if she knows about this. She thanks him for the concern, but there’s nothing to worry about. Issei already talked to the woman involved, and she agreed to cancel the arranged marriage. Mori is relieved to hear this, because despite his broken heart, he’s wishing for Mai to be happy. She feels really touched and starts tearing up, and she can see that tears are welling up in his eyes as well… though it’s probably because of a different reason. Miki is glad that everything worked out well in the end, but she does have things to say to Issei. She cracks her knuckles as she says this, and Mai can only ask her not to bully him too much.
Miki has club today, and since Mori is helping out another club, Mai ends up walking home alone. She doesn’t have work today, so she’s thinking about where to go when she notices a bunch of girls squealing by the school gate. It gives her an intense case of déjà vu, but before she can recall anything… she hears a familiar voice calling her name. That’s when she finally notices that Issei is waiting for her at the gate, and he seems relieved to see her. When Mai runs up to him and asks why he’s here, Issei explains that he finished work early today. His superior gave him the permission to go home immediately after, so he came here to ask her out on a date. Issei’s words send all the girls around them to scream in envy, and Mai feels so embarrassed her face is burning… but then she answers that it makes her happy. (人´∀`)☆゜’・:* He kept rejecting her before, so she always smiles whenever he’s seeking and accepting her like this. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s super embarrassing to get a date invitation in front of the school though, so Mai quickly grabs Issei’s hand and takes him into a quiet alley far, far away from school.
Once they’re alone, Mai says she’s happy that Issei is showing his love through action… but she would be even happier if he also thinks about their surroundings. Issei laughs upon hearing this, and he promises to keep that in mind. It’s just that he’s so happy to become a couple with Mai, much more than he expected. If he thinks about it calmly, maybe he wanted to take early precautions against the guys around her—he wanted them to know that she already has a boyfriend. He suddenly feels so pathetic, but she shakes her head. She can feel his desire to keep her to himself, and of course that makes her happy. ﾟ+.(*ﾉωヾ*)ｬﾝ♪+ﾟ Upon hearing this, Issei suddenly moves closer and lightly kisses Mai. She’s really surprised by the sudden attack, but he says it’s her own fault for being so cute. She laughs since it’s so unusual for him to look so mischievous, but then she reminds him not to do something like that again. She’s happy that he’s asking her out, but she also wants him to pay attention to their surroundings. Or at least to a certain extent.
Issei blushes even more. He admits that it seems like he can’t control himself when it comes to Mai, but he will be more careful next time. Mai finds this cute, and she smiles as she holds Issei’s hand—asking where he’s going to take her today. He smiles upon hearing this. It’s the smile she loves. The smile of the man she loves. Issei then lifts Mai’s hand and drops a kiss on her ring finger. He can’t help it since she’s really cute, and he promises to be with her forever. The kiss is the symbol of his vow. Since it was on her ring finger, of course she knows what he’s trying to say. Her heart is pounding loudly, and she can feel heat rising to her cheeks… but she answers that she feels the same way. She’ll always be with him. He looks surprised when she kisses his ring finger in return, but then he smiles at her. He asks where she wants to go now, to which she replies that anywhere is fine as long as they’re together. They firmly hold hands as they walk side by side, confirming that their path is endless—leading far into their future.
• GOOD END 1: Future Promise •
Mai is down with a cold and has to rest at home, even though it’s a holiday. Her fever is gone, but she’s still coughing nonstop. She’s really disappointed, because she was supposed to meet Issei today. It’s been around 4 months since they started dating in September, and they’re doing great. Not too long ago, they watched the sequel of the movie they watched in April and had a meal at a restaurant. From time to time, he’d go out of control when expressing his love for her. Even though it’s embarrassing for her, she has to admit that it makes her happy. It’s been a while since he got a day off, and she wanted stay with him as much as possible… so she feels stupid for catching a cold. Issei is always busy with work, and Mai would be lucky if she can see him once a week. It’d be a lie if she says she’s not lonely, but she’s fine with it since he calls her everyday. He’s really cool when he’s working, so she doesn’t want to disturb him. She doesn’t want to become a burden.
Mai then wonders what Issei is doing today. Maybe he’s resting at home…? She doesn’t think the triplets would leave him alone though. Just then she hears a knock on the door, and she wonders if Chisato has returned. Her parents are out on a ラブラブ date today. At first they didn’t want to go because they’re both worried about her, but she forced them to go—because she has learned the importance of spending time together. Chisato wanted to stay at home to nurse her too, but since she keeps on coughing, she told him to go to work instead. Everyone is supposed to be away, and yet she hears another knock. When she asks who it is, Issei’s voice is heard from outside. She chokes and starts coughing out of shock, and he quickly rushes inside to ask if she’s alright. Chisato was worried to leave Mai alone at home, and he asked Issei to check up on her… so he flew straight from the office. He tells her that it’s okay to rely on him at times like this, but she points out that he was busy with work last week. She heard that he’s been staying up late for several days, so she wants him to get enough rest. He smiles saying she’s always so considerate about his work, but he wants her to call him during times like this. He doesn’t want her to be alone.
After patting Mai’s head, Issei asks her to change her pajamas if she’s sweating—he’ll wash them for her. He’s also planning to cook something nutritious for her, but she stops him and says he doesn’t have to do that much. She tells him that she’s not sick anymore, but he insists that it won’t do. If she drops her guard just because she’s recovering, it might actually worsen the cold. Jiou also caught a cold not too long ago. He went to club practice saying he’s already fine, and it came back to him. Mai feels bad since Issei’s also busy taking care of his family, and she asks him not to feel responsible in front of her… but he reminds her that she’s different from Jiou. As her boyfriend, it’s his role to take care of her. He doesn’t feel any strange responsibility when it comes to her. However, he’s ready to carry her future on his shoulders. Mai wonders what that means for a moment, and it finally dawns on her—Issei is proposing to her. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Issei then sits back down on Mai’s bed, asking if she’s planning to enter a university. When she nervously nods, he asks her to marry him after graduating from university. ﾟ+.(*ﾉωヾ*)ｬﾝ♪+ﾟ He knows it’s too early since she hasn’t even graduated from high school, but a new life and new encounters are waiting ahead of her. He feels insecure. He knows she will never betray him, but he wants a promise—an eternal promise for the two of them. As Issei gently touches her cheek, Mai smiles at him and says yes. After all, she wants to be his wife. Upon hearing this, Issei pushes Mai down to her bed and kisses her. He assures her that it’s just a kid, but also admits that he won’t let her go that easily. He gives her a deep kiss right from the start, and her consciousness in engulfed by him. When he says that he loves her, she replies that she loves him much more than he does. He chuckles saying their match will never end for the rest of their lives, but they can always confirm their love for each other at this distance. When Mai nods, Issei smiles and leans in for another kiss—a sweet kiss for their future vow.
• GOOD END 2: Adult Relationship •
Mai is waiting for Issei at Siesta, and she’s determined to ask him something today. Christmas is coming up, and there’s one thing she’s worried about. He never does anything beyond kissing. He has given her normal and deep kisses countless times, but he never goes further than that. It makes her feel that there’s a distance between them. Since he’s an adult and she’s a kid, maybe he’s adjusting himself to her level… but it only makes her feel insecure. She tried asking her friends at school, but she ended up getting even more confused. That’s why she decided to ask him directly, as embarrassing as that will be. She wants to feel relieved. Not too long after that, Issei walks into Siesta and orders a cup of American coffee. Takuto finds it unusual that he’s not ordering a blend, but he feels like drinking a light one today. Issei then joins Mai at her seat, and soon enough Takuto comes with his coffee—as well as telling him to do his best. Of course Issei is confused, but Takuto only grins and walks away… because Takuto knows what Mai wants to talk about. In fact, he was the one who told her to ask Issei directly. When Issei takes his cup and starts drinking, Mai takes a deep breath and asks: “Suoh-san! Do I lack the charm that makes you want to push me down!?” ﾌﾞ━｡:+((*´艸`))+:｡━ッ!!!!!
As the response, Issei instantly spits out his coffee and starts coughing. He asks why she suddenly comes up with such a question, and he turns red when she explains the reason. Issei averts his gaze for a while, and he answers that Mai doesn’t have to worry. She’s really charming, so much that she can completely destroy his reason in the blink of an eye. He never knew that she would feel insecure because of this, and he apologizes to her. He should have told her what he’s thinking about, and so he tells her that he wants to marry her. This completely blows her mind. Mai can feel her cheeks burning, but Issei continues. She is still in high school, and she’s also planning to enter university next year… so he wants their relationship to be healthy and moderate. Saying that he doesn’t want to do those things would be a lie, but he wants to treasure her and her future—he’ll hold back for her sake.
When Mai asks if he can hold back, Issei blushes saying she’s really bold today. He nervously says that if she doesn’t mind, he’d like to increase the amount of kisses. Mai answers that she doesn’t mind. If Issei is holding back for her, then she’ll also endure the embarrassment for him. After an awkward silence, Issei asks if he can do that right away. Mai’s question makes it sound like she’s “inviting” him, and he admits that it’s… quite painful for him. If you know what I mean. She closes her eyes when he leans in to kiss her, but the strong scent of coffee reminds her of their current location. Mai immediately says they can’t do it here since people are looking, and just as she feared… she finds Takuto quietly watching them with great interest. He quickly averts his gaze when she looks around LOL. The next moment, Issei whispers that he’ll kiss her a lot once they’re alone. Her heart starts racing wildly, but her answer has been decided. She asks him to kiss her, and he blushes even more when she says that she loves him. He smiles saying he loves her too, and it doesn’t seem like he can win against her. After that, Mai and Issei start discussing about what they should do from now on. It won’t take too long until they can have their time alone. It will come soon enough, because time passes really fast when they’re together.
• NORMAL END: For You Who Fell in Love •
While Mai is busy with life and the search for a way to help Issei, he actually went to attend the arranged marriage meeting with Nikaido. His father’s surgery went well, so they’re going to plan the wedding once his health stabilizes. After learning about this from Kyouga, Mai receives the permission to take Issei into the sanctuary—she wants to put a proper end to her love. There, she finally confesses that she loves him. She loved him more than anyone else. He looks surprised for a moment, and he smiles saying her feelings make him happy… but he can’t accept them. He already has someone else, and she knows it too. He then wishes for her to find a boyfriend who is around her age. She wants to say yes, but tears are rolling down her cheeks. She can’t say anything. Mai knows that it will end like this. She knows Issei is going to marry Nikaido, but it still feels painful. Her heart is shattered into pieces, and she can’t ignore the pain. Mai can only apologize, and Issei gently wipes her tears before kissing her on the cheek. Then he tells her: “… Now I can forget everything. So please, forget me too… Please. Be happy… Goodbye.”
Issei then leaves with a sad expression, and Mai knows she will never see his back again. It’d only remind her of her feelings, along with the pain that comes with them. In order to forget him, she should never see him again. Mai watches until Issei’s back completely disappears from her sight, tearfully saying goodbye to him.
• BAD END: I Want to Grow Up •
After Issei rejected Mai during her visit, she never receives any chance to see him again. She tried sending mails and calling him to ask for the reason, but he never answers. She even asked Chisato and Kyouga to help, but never receives a reply. After a while, Mai eventually receives a single mail from Issei. He says that he doesn’t have time to play with high school students anymore. She might get in the way of his work, so he won’t see her anymore and thanks her for helping him up until now. There’s not a single trace of Issei’s kindness in the cold mail. Since he stated that he’s busy, Mai knows she shouldn’t disturb him anymore… so she closes her phone. He must have gotten tired due to her lack of composure, and she can only blame herself for what happened. After taking a deep breath, Mai talks to Issei in her heart: “Someday… When I have become an adult who can stand beside you… Can I see you again?”
The cosmos in the pond are gently swaying, as if they’re trying to encourage her.
Wow, that was rather long and intense. *ﾟДﾟ)*ﾟдﾟ)*ﾟДﾟ)ｴｴｪｪ Since Issei is such a serious person, the age gap becomes a huge obstacle between him and Mai. I really like how they deal with that though. Kyouga was right when he said that Mai is just a kid, and even she admits that she doesn’t know what Issei has to deal with in the “adult world”… but there are things she can realize exactly because she’s a kid. I think it’s a nice touch, because there are things you lose and forget as you grow up. The comparison between a kid’s and an adult’s perspectives is really nice too. Despite what she says, I think Mai is really mature for her age. Even during the argument with Nikaido, she can defend her opinion without being offensive. She also cares a lot about Issei’s family, and I think that’s what he needs the most from his partner in life. On the other hand, Issei… please… LOL. At some points I get a bit irked because of how he treats Mai, but his dilemma is understandable too. He turns adorable once they start dating, and since everything works out well in the end… I guess I don’t mind that much. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
That was a good, healthy drama, and Tachibana’s voice acting is as amazing as ever. ヾ(*´∀`*)ﾉ♪