Chapter 4

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"... Nice place."

[l/n] looks around while she takes off her shoes. I internally groan.

I thought that with the cafe I wouldn't have to worry about [l/n] knowing where I live, but here I am, letting her into my house. How did this happen?

Oh right. Let me catch you up.

It happened around the time the last chapter ended. I was just about to head to my room when my mom called out to me. "Why don't you invite her here next time, Ku? I'd love to meet her."

I hesitated. 'I don't think that's-'

My mom interjected quickly, probably knowing I'd oppose. "Have a heart, Ku. If she's new she probably doesn't have a friend."

When I thought about it, I didn't think I could handle sitting around the tempting smell of sweets for hours without being able to do anything about it. I hated to admit it to myself, but it was probably for the best.

So now we're here. At the living room table.

As we're unpacking our things, my mom opens the door with tea in her hands. Looking at [l/n], she smiles warmly. "You must be [l/n], I'm Ku's mother!"

[l/n] smiles faintly, apparently a bit nervous. "Nice to meet you."

My mom takes the unfortunate opportunity to get a better look at her. "Look at you! My Ku always seems to attract the loveliest ones!"

[l/n] just blinks before shifting her gaze elsewhere. "I don't know about tha-"

[l/n]'s sentence cuts off as a cup is placed in front of her. My mom's smile never falters. "You're just as reluctant as my Ku, I'm sure you two will get along great! Also I made some tea for you to enjoy while you study, I hope you like it."

[l/n]'s expression lightens at the sight of the warm drink. "... Thank you."

After giving me my tea as well, my mom takes her leave, closing the door behind her. "Enjoy your study date!"

When I look back at [l/n], she's already sipping her tea. However, the contented look on her face suddenly falters as she opens her eyes. 'Wait... Was calling me reluctant supposed to be a compliment?'

That's the part she's stuck on? I just know Teruhashi would've been rubbing the fact my mom said the word "date" in my face.

'Don't mind her. She's a bit overzealous at times but she means well.'

Damn it. I found myself trying to reassure her without even thinking about it.

To my surprise, [l/n] ends up reassuring me instead. "I think a lot of people would like to have a caring mother like that."

'I wouldn't be too sure.'

[l/n]'s brow furrows slightly. "What do you mean?"

I take a sip of my tea. 'Most of the people who've met her think she's nice, but they also think she's weird.'

Maybe so, but I'd rather not hear that from someone else.

[l/n] smiles warmly. It's faint, but it's there. A strange sight. "... I think she's lovely."

Maybe it's the rare expression, but somehow I'm inclined to believe her. Unfortunately, people usually say she's nice to my face but have other thoughts they keep to themselves.

I tune into her thoughts to make sure.

'I'm grateful for my grandma, but I can't help but wish my mom was like that. I kind of wish I could spend more time with her.'

Oh.

I can't control which thoughts I hear and I don't understand the context that well, but I feel like I went too far. Either way, she means it.

Learning that her warm expression is genuine gives me a weird feeling that I don't like. I break eye contact and open a textbook, a gesture that our chat is over.

She accepts it wordlessly and opens her sketchbook, along with a few references. We work quietly for awhile. Wanting to make sure she was doing her job, I decided to look at how her drawings were coming along. But using clairvoyance is out of the question, crossing my eyes in front of her for no reason would be too weird. Guess I have no other choice.

'How are your drawings coming along?'

[l/n] hesitates before turning her book around and sliding it my direction. I don't know much about art, so I can't accurately judge how good a drawing is, but the drawings were better than I expected. Obviously her skill wasn't as good as mine, but she was even better than Teruhashi. 'Not bad.'

[l/n] turns the book around and pulls it back in her direction. "... Thanks."

Somehow I find myself asking another question. 'Why do you like drawing anyway? I don't get the appeal.'

[l/n] fiddles with her pencil. "Honestly a lot of it I don't get either. I just think it's cool that people draw something as they perceive it. No matter how exact someone is with their drawing, it'll never be completely accurate or exactly like someone else's."

I guess I can understand that much. 'What do you like to draw?'

"I mostly like drawing faces with emotions that are hard to read. You have to study them more to understand what they're feeling, and sometimes you can't read them at all. I find that more intriguing than someone who is obvious with their expressions."

She does realize she's not expressive either, right? Then again neither am I. Wait-

That doesn't mean finds me intriguing, right? It sounds harmless, but with all the girls already causing me trouble I can't risk it turning into something else.

[l/n]'s eyebrow raises. She must've caught on. "You don't need to panic, I said intrigued, not obsessed."

... I'm starting to understand how she's so perceptive now.

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