Chapter 198

She glanced at her shirt and pants as she lay on the bed, she thought her attire was perfectly decent in front of a guest, but now they looked very awkward on her. She crept carefully to the closet, there was a shirt inside that she recently bought. A white shirt decorated with little droplet shapes, she grabbed the shirt without much thought.

‘Hold on.’

She stopped when the shirt was halfway out of the closet, she felt like she’d be losing at something if she changed now. Maru would definitely smile at her saying she looked good if she changed, sure. That’s fine. But that would mean that she changed just to look good in front of him, that wasn’t fine.

‘Well, whatever. Who cares.’

She put the shirt back into the closet, Maru was the one who came unannounced. She had no reason to be polite or be all dressed up, but just as she was about to step outside, she ended up seeing herself in the mirror.

“...Was this shirt always this stretched? Ugh, these pants look so worn out. It looks like I’ve worn this for years.”

Her eyes widened as she analyzed her clothes, they looked tired as heck. Her hair was a complete mess, she even had eye boogers, and worse, a red streak running right past her left cheek. She looked back at her bed in surprise, there was a very thick string laying on the pillow.

“Crap.”

The line refused to go away even when she puffed her cheeks, it still looked clear after she rubbed the hell out of it.

‘He saw this, right? He totally saw this.’

“Agghh….”

She suddenly didn’t want to go outside. At the same time, she felt a lot more annoyed at Maru. He should’ve told her that he was coming! She could’ve at least washed her face, washed her hair, change her clothes, and maybe even do her nails…

She flopped down on the bed in the hopes that she’d fall back asleep. Alas, after six hours of sleep, she was as awake as ever. A knock came through the door as she sighed on the bed.

“Whatcha doing inside?”

It was Maru, his kind voice sounded incredibly irritating right now. She didn’t respond with a frown on her face.

“Food’s done. Aren’t you hungry?”

Hmph. I’m not going to respond no matter what you do, she thought. What kind of a guy shows up to a girl’s house unannounced? Her mom was worse, actually. How could mom bring him in without a second thought? He clearly didn’t arrive just now either, judging by his movement in the kitchen. Mom clearly had the time to tell her about it, but she didn’t.

“I made some chicken nuggets too. I know you like them.”

Now, how did he know that? She glanced at the doorway, thinking of how Maru would be standing on the other side was a little bit funny. Once the initial surprise of him being here went away, she started feeling thankful that he came here for her. How’d he figure out she was sick?

“I got some strawberry ice cream, too.”

Her ears perked up at that, she just couldn’t resist the words when she heard it. After all, she’s been craving it since she woke up. She felt saliva pooling up in her mouth, the smells of frying oil intensified through the door as well. Nuggets, nuggets. She loved eating a piece of it over a spoonful of rice.

“...Is it a stick ice cream?”

“Nope, tub.”

“Did you get a lot?”

“Two pints, just to be sure.”

“What about the soup?”

“Kim soup.”

“What the heck is kim soup?”

“My secret recipe.”

“Ugh, sure it is.”

“Anyway, come out already. Mother’s getting kind of sick of waiting for you.”

“Excuse you, but she’s my mom, not yours?”

“Are you an elementary schooler or something? So childish!”

“Yeah! So what if I am?!”

She realized how pointless it was to stay in her room like this, she knew that she’d go out to see him eventually. There was no way she could stay annoyed at someone who came all the way to see her. It was just… she was a little regretful that she didn’t have time to prepare. The red line on her face was still there, it’d probably stay for the next couple of hours. In the end, she settled for a change of clothes. She changed into that shirt in the closet. She didn’t want to look so unkempt in front of Maru, so she changed into a cuter pair of pajama pants as well.

She carefully opened the door, Maru wasn’t in front of the door anymore. She stepped towards the kitchen as if nothing had happened, her mom was staring at her a little strangely.

“...Give me food.”

Maru scooped her a bowl of rice on the spot. It felt weird. A boy? Giving her rice? At her home?

“Have some water first.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

She grabbed the cup of water Maru handed her. It was warm, warm enough to make her feel comfortable inside. She glanced up at Maru. He was staring at the cup, clearly waiting for her to drink it.

“Oh, you’re so lucky. You have a boyfriend who cares so much about you.”

She almost spat out the water mid-drink, she put the cup down and glared at her mom. The woman was grinning ear to ear.

“Why couldn’t you wake me up if you knew he was coming?”

“How could I? You were sleeping so well. You try waking up your sick daughter when you become a mother. I bet you wouldn’t be able to do it.”

She wanted to refute, but she just couldn’t. So she changed her target to Maru.

“You’re also at fault. You should’ve called if you were going to come.”

“I did.”

“Not mom, me.”

“Of course I did. Check your phone later.”

“......”

Both of them had perfect alibis. What the hell? Why couldn’t they just lose for once? She stabbed a nugget with her fork and put it in her mouth in annoyance, the crispy, juicy nugget immediately made her feel a bit better.

“Maru,” mom called out.

“Yes, mother?”

“You don’t have to be so nervous. You’re making me worried just looking at you.”

“...Ha, haha.”

Nervous? How was he nervous? He was talking as casually as he ever was with her! Upon second thought, she looked closely at Maru. Now that she looked at him, he looked a bit more stiff than usual. He was speaking a bit faster as well, his smile was a lot more awkward as well. His arms were glued to his thighs and his back was as straight as a rod. He looked pretty comical like this, actually.

“Hmm, so you’re nervous?”

Finally, something she could tease him on. Just watching his nervous self was very fun. To think just a single sentence from mom could shake him like this… What was so scary about her mom anyway?

“Are you blackmailing him, mom?”

“What kind of a person do you think I am? I’ve been pretty kind to him. Maru, have I ever made you feel uncomfortable?”

Maru rotated towards mom with a snap.

“Of course not. Mother’s been very good to me. You allowed me to come over when I called you. I am very thankful for that. You must have been a little surprised when I announced my visit. No, you must have been very surprised.”

Maru clearly wasn’t speaking like normal, he was jabbering about as if he didn’t know what he wanted to say. She laughed a little without even realizing it, mom laughed too.

“You find my mom super difficult to be around, huh?”

“Eh? No, not really.”

“Good lord, I’d never have known you to be afraid of someone. Mom, can you tease him a bit more? This is a seriously rare sight coming from him.”

Mom immediately told her that was a rude thing to do to a guest. Despite saying that, she looked very deeply at Maru. The boy flinched like a student under a teacher’s gaze during a test.

“Alright, kids. Get eating. We can talk after that.”

Maru immediately picked up his spoon and started eating, it was almost as if she was looking at a well-trained dog.

‘What the hell’s up with him?’

For now, she picked up her chopsticks as well.

* * *

‘This is terrible.’

Maru prepared himself a bit before coming, but mother was as scary as ever. He was reminded of when he first met her in his previous life, they talked long enough to make him worry that the marinated beef he brought over as a gift was going to get over-marinated. It felt like an interrogation, no, worse. He was just getting censured, the fact that he was getting cold sweat just thinking about the conversation he couldn’t remember was proof enough of that. He could just imagine the scene in his head. Mother must’ve asked him numerous troubling questions and he must’ve had a wild time trying to come up with a proper answer.

“Relax, be comfortable.”

The voice came as mom started doing the dishes, Maru jumped up from his seat volunteering to do it for her. He sounded like a new recruit in the army, not that she allowed him to help. Maru sat down with a frown, ‘shutting right up’ as one could put it.

“You look like a trained puppy.”

She spoke to him with a big smile on her face. She was cute and pretty, yet he couldn’t help but feel that she was more of an enemy than an ally today. He totally had the lead when he came to the house earlier, too.

“So when was the second time you guys ever kissed?”

A terrifying question shot towards him from the kitchen, even she froze up in the middle of eating ice cream at that question. Maru felt a little amused looking at that, but became instantly terrified upon realizing who the question was directed to.

“No denial? So you guys did do it, huh?”

“M-mom!”

She frantically ran into the kitchen. Good job, wife! But even she was no match for her mother's words. She came back with a face as red as a beet, she looked so sad getting back into her seat. What in the world was said to her?

“We enjoyed the fruit you gave us last time. I’m sorry for the late thanks.”

“It’s nothing, mother.”

There was a plate in mother’s hands as she walked into the living room, three apples and six tangerines. It was a lot of fruit for just three people, but mother started cutting the apples with a smile regardless. Maru swallowed a little as he watched her peel off their skins, she’d probably stop after two pieces. Same with mother. Then the rest…

“Have a lot.”

“...Of course.”

“You like apples?”

“Very much.”

“Oh, good. You can have more, then.”

Maru felt his eyes twitch from under him. Three apples, six tangerines. He knew mother didn’t like leftovers. Maru steeled himself, preparing to wage war against the fruits in front of him.

* * *

“How could you just eat all of that?”

“Sometimes, you have to make sacrifices for your own survival. You wouldn’t know since you’re still young.”

“Gosh.”

She looked dumbly at Maru sitting next to her. He had two bowls of rice. Now, he was eating a ridiculous amount of fruits. He just kept eating and eating since her mom kept handing over more and more to him, she rifled through the contents of the fridge in the kitchen. Mom often got stomach aches, so they always had a supply of digestive medicine in the fridge.

“Here, have this.”

“...Thanks.”

Maru’s mouth reeked of apples. The boy popped open the cap and chugged the medicine in an instant.

“Phew, I feel better.”

“You know these don’t work right away, right?”

She took a hand and stroked Maru’s back gently, she always felt better when mom did it for her when she was sick.

“Feels good,” Maru said with a grin.

She slapped his back as hard as she could.

“It’s already nine.”

“I should head home.”

Maru slowly got up from his seat. Mom had gone to a nearby cafe to finish her work.

“Want me to take you?”

“You’re the sick one, so you better not think about going outside. Just go to sleep.”

“You know you look sicker than me right now, right?”

“Yeah, I know, I know.”

Maru stepped towards the front door with a hand over his stomach, she looked at him silently before remembering a question.

“How did you know I was sick?”

“I know you have a habit of trying to hide it when you’re hurting. Just tell me if it hurts. You have someone who can help you.”

“How’d you know that?”

“I’m your boyfriend. Of course I’d know.”

Maru waved his hand as if he was joking, she felt a bit sorry after noticing the worried tone in his voice.

“Get home safe.”

“Yup. You go to sleep already, too. Be sure to keep warm.”

“I’m not a kid, you know.”

Maru grinned as he turned around. The front door opened and cold air blasted into the house for a second, she crossed her arms as she watched Maru step outside. The door started closing behind him. Just before the door almost closed, she heard a voice from behind it.

“You look good in that shirt.”

And with that, click.

She could feel her lips start to curl up.

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