"Where are you going, Haruka-nee-sama?"

"I'll only be gone for a while. I'll be right back."

"I don't believe that."

"Of course you can-"

She stopped when she turned around and realized she was talking to no one.

"Chiaki? Kana? Where did you guys go?" she asked with increasing desperation, already knowing the answer. She sprinted out the open front door and reached the bottom floor with an alacrity only possible in dreams. In the distance the two of them walked, hand-in-hand, growing ever farther away. For a moment, she watched them walk away.

"Wait! Come back!"

It was Kana who turned to look back at her. Despite the distance, Haruka understood what she was saying.

"Remember. It wasn't we who left you. It was you who left us."

"That's not true! Come back!"

She broke into a sprint, but they continued, impossibly, to recede into the distance. No matter how fast she ran, she couldn't-

The alarm sounded, a shrill whining tone she had chosen for its ability to wake her instantly. Every morning, she hated herself for that choice.

Her hand flew out, much faster than it did normally, and slammed the off button. The digital clock, tethered by its power cord, flew into the opposite wall before rebounding to the floor.


She jumped out of bed, for once instantly clearing away the allure of sleep, and hurried to pick up the clock.

Ah good. It still works.

She frowned at the new dent in its plastic coating, half an inch away from another dent a week old. The details of the dream were fading fast, but its emotional impact remained.

I don't have time to think about that now.

The clock read nine. She could afford to get up slightly later in the day on Saturdays, but it was still important that she get up before her sisters, and Chiaki usually never slept past nine thirty. She would never say it, but she often wished Chiaki would be just a little lazier, for her sake.

She changed quickly into the clothes she had carefully prepared for herself the night before, stepped into the bathroom, and perfunctorily brushed her hair and teeth. She paused on her way to the kitchen to glance in on her sisters, then triggered the rice cooker—filled with rice that had also been prepared the previous day. She downed a cup of water and began preparing breakfast.

Once she was satisfied that she could relax for a moment, waiting for water to boil on the stove, she stepped outside to stretch in the sunlight, and incidentally eye the day's weather.

"Ah! Another fine spring morning!" she said to no one in particular.

She stepped back inside, preparing to finish chopping the carrots and place them in the boiling water. It was nice no longer having to cajole and threaten Chiaki into eating carrots, she reflected.

She glanced at the kitchen clock. Nine twenty.

I can probably have Chiaki help with the potatoes, once she gets up. It won't be long now.

An hour later, having finished her breakfast and started dusting the living room, she was still waiting. It wasn't her style to interrupt her sisters' sleep on precious weekends, but...

Finally, Chiaki stepped into the room, rubbing her eyes and looking rather sheepish.

"Good morning, Chiaki!"

"Good morning, Haruka-nee-sama. Sorry for getting up so late."

"It's fine. It's fine. Don't worry about it."

As Chiaki sat down at the kitchen table to consume her food, Haruka thought about it.

Chiaki was doing this more and more often now. Haruka was also starting to catch her up late, quietly on the computer chatting with Uchida, or keeping Kana company in her own late night vigils. Just last week, Chiaki and Kana had started implying to her that they wanted a TV in their room, presumably to watch at night in lieu of sleep.

It probably wouldn't be that big a deal. Gone now were the days when she would have to harangue and browbeat and beg Kana into doing homework and studying. And Chiaki had always been reliable. However, it couldn't be good for their health to stay up so late, only to force themselves up in the morning scant hours later for school. She would have to find some way to turn them down. As for the other late night merriment...well, she'd just have to trust them to keep it under control.

That reminds me...

She strode into the kitchen and sat down across from Chiaki. She looked carefully, judging size.

Chiaki stopped, spoonful of porridge midway to mouth.

"Is...Is something wrong, Haruka-nee-sama? Why are you starting at my chest like that?"

"Oh nothing. It's nothing. You're fine for now."

But not for much longer. Maybe the next time we go shopping for clothes together...

"Fine for what? What are you talking about?"

"Ah, well, that is..."

The doorbell chimed.

Good timing!

"I'll get that! I wonder who it could be." she said, jumping up and rushing to the door.

"It's obviously-"

"Fujioka! Come in! I'll get you some tea."

"Ah, thanks. Oh, hi, Chiaki."


Chiaki looked down at him, sitting next to the kotatsu.

"Chiaki! Go get your sister up!"

"I'm already on it."

Haruka hummed quietly to herself, taking advantage of the hot water machine and newly bought spring tea leaves. It should brew excellently. It better, given how much she had shelled out for it.

As she was picking up the tea tray, she heard Kana show up in the living room.

That was fast.

Haruka paused just a moment. No need to interrupt them just yet. She listened.

"What's with you? I don't recall instructing you to arrive this early!" Kana berated.

"Well, you know, I figured..."

He really should know better, she thought to herself.

"Tch. Well, whatever. Just don't try to sneak any peeks while I'm changing!"

"I wouldn't dare."

Hearing Kana walk off, she smiled to herself, then walked into the room and set the tray down, placing the cups out. Chiaki was already securely seated between Fujioka's legs.

"Ah, no, that's okay. I can pour my own," Fujioka protested.

"No, no, let me." She started pouring the tea into his cup. "So where are you planning to take them for lunch?"

"Ah, well." He did that thing where he rubbed the back of his head. "I was going to let Kana pick a place."

"Tch. You've got to have more initiative than that! Pick yourself! Go for someplace romantic!"

Living vicariously through my siblings, she mused. I wonder what that makes me.

"Ah, well, but you know Kana..."

"Haruka-nee-sama. I was thinking. If the three of us are going shopping for the rest of the day, and you're meeting your friends, then what about Touma?"

Haruka stopped for a moment.


"I totally forgot about Touma," she admitted.

"Why not bring her with you? I'm sure she wouldn't have any problems with that."

"That's-well...I guess I have to now. She's probably already on her way."

The truth was, she didn't really want to expose her sisters, or any of their friends, to Hayami more than she had to.

"Let's go!" exhorted Kana, sliding into the doorway of the living room.

Quickly, Haruka glanced over Kana in her red skirt and stylish black jacket.

She's put quite an effort into thinking up her outfit today. And I've never seen those pink hair bows before...

"Not yet! You haven't even had breakfast yet!"

"I'll eat it right now! Give it to me!"

They watched as Kana shoveled the lovingly prepared meal down her throat. She then proceeded to drag the other two out the door.

"Good-bye! Don't stay out too late! Take good care of her, Fujioka!" She waved as they hurried along the railing.

"I will!" He said, turning and waving back.

She watched them walk away.

"I brought my own money, so you don't have to pay for me or anything."

Touma held up a small coin purse to demonstrate her point.

"That's nonsense, Touma. I can't allow that."

Touma shook her head in that serious way of hers.

"No, no, I definitely can't permit that."

Haruka sighed. This kind of thing had been so much easier when they were younger. As they'd gotten older, they'd simultaneously acquired more money—she herself had greatly raised Chiaki's allowance—and a newfound awareness that, socially, it was no longer acceptable to make free use of others' cash.

Still, they were too young for her to allow them to spend their own money. She could still remember going to the beach, buying everyone a round of cold drinks, and watching them happily suck away at their straws. Just where had those days gone...

"Haruka? You there?"

Touma was waving her hand in her face.

"Well, let's not worry about this right now, okay? We'll talk about it later."

Privately, she planned to pay for Touma before she had a chance to protest and, even if she did, she felt certain Maki and the others would weigh in on her side.

"Ah, okay."

They walked in silence for a while, Touma plowing down the street with a determined stride in front of her, dodging pedestrians, and wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the school soccer team, a pair of jeans, and sports shoes. Thankfully, she seemed to have recently dropped her habit of wearing those ugly oversized shirts.

It was a start, but her clothing still showed little sign of great thought or planning. Haruka suspected Touma just threw on whatever was in her closet and went with it. It wasn't really her place to criticize it, but that wouldn't do at all.

For that matter, she could now get a better look at Touma's bust, which she was realizing was already larger than Chiaki's. Hmm. Yes, that settles it. She would definitely have to speak to Natsuki about Touma's clothing, both inner and outer. It would probably work better to just speak to Touma herself, but she was making it a point recently to bar Natsuki from delegating these tasks to her. Touma was growing too distant from her brothers, they agreed, and no time like the present to start pulling her back in.


Touma had stopped suddenly at an intersection, peered outward, and turned around to face her. She suddenly noticed that Touma was already as tall as Kana. She would be a tall woman someday.

"What is it, Touma?"

"We seem to be going back into a residential district. Where are we going exactly?"

That doesn't seem right...

Haruka pulled a sheet of paper out of her pocket and peered at it.

"According to Hayami's directions, it should be easy to walk to the meeting point from my house, but this seems-"

Well acquainted with Haruka's fail points, Touma snatched the directions from her hand and glanced at them.

"Haruka, we shouldn't have turned right onto this street. It should have been left. We've been going the wrong way for fifteen minutes. See?"

Touma held up the instructions and gestured at them.

Not again...

"I'm so sorry..."

"No, no, don't worry. I go on long walks like this all the time."

"But you must be tired from the soccer..."

"No, I'm fine. I'm energetic. See?"1

Touma marched off back down the street, Haruka following with a crestfallen expression.

It was another twenty minutes before they reached the correct meeting point.

Maki, Atsuko, and unusually, Hitomi, were already there.

"Ah, Touma-kun came also?" said Maki.

Touma reacted a little at the "-kun," but said nothing.

Atsuko looked shocked, and kept looking at Touma like she couldn't believe her eyes.

"Is something wrong, Atsuko?"

"No, nothing, I just thought that-I mean, I always thought that Touma was-never mind, it's not important."

"Oh, is this one of your sisters? She's cute!" said Hitomi in her high voice, cutting in.

"Actually, I'm Natsuki's sister, Touma," said Touma.

"I decided to bring her too," said Haruka, telling a little white lie.

"Ah! Natsuki's sister!"

There was a pause as they all glanced briefly at Hitomi.

"Anyway, I'm sorry for being late," said Haruka.

"Don't worry about it! It's fine! We expected it," said Maki.2

"What does that-"

"Anyway, thanks for inviting me, Haruka-sempai!" Hitomi said, bowing slightly.

"You don't have to call me that. I graduated already."

"We tried telling her already, but she keeps doing it anyway," commented Atsuko quietly.

While the three of them commented on Touma, rubbing her head—despite her already being as tall as most of them-and telling her about how well she had grown, to Touma's slight embarrassment, Haruka took the opportunity to glance over their outfits.

Maki had shown up in a tank top and pants, similar to what Haruka was wearing, while both Atsuko and Hitomi had both gone with a long skirt and T-shirt. The colors were well-matched. It was good to see she wasn't underdressed for this.

Then she realized what was missing.

"Where's Hayami?"

"She called us to say she would go there separately," said Maki.

"I see."

They started walking off, Maki leading the way this time.

"You know, you look so mature, Haruka-senpai! I bet anyone seeing you walking around with Touma would think you were her mother. I'm so envious!" commented Hitomi.

"You know," said Maki. "That could easily be interpreted as you saying she looks old. Is that what you're trying to say, hmm?" She leaned with an evil smile in to look menacingly at Hitomi while walking.

"Eep! Well, you know, I didn't mean it like that!"

"Of course you didn't. Leave her alone, Maki."

Maki smiled mischievously, but backed off.

And just like that, they were there. It turned out the restaurant was only a block away from where they had met.

They looked up at the frontage.

"French? In a neighborhood like this?" asked Maki.

"Apparently the owner couldn't afford to open anywhere ritzy, so he decided to try opening here. There's some young star chef he thinks will rock the business once they get established, but no one believes in him since he hasn't even gone to cooking school. And then once they earn enough money, they can move. There was an article about this place in a magazine I read!"

Atsuko tagged on that last sentence in response to their inquiring looks.

"Well, he's on to something," said Touma, looking into the darkened windows. "The place is packed!"

"I wonder if we'll be able to get a seat," wondered Haruka.

"We can probably just get on some sort of waiting list. It's not like this place is all that formal. It's more like a café," commented Atsuko.

Haruka glanced at the number of people congregated around the front door. They would be here a while.

"Actually, isn't that Hayami-senpai?"

Hitomi pointed into the store.

Indeed, Hayami was waving at them from an empty table in the back.

"I deliberately got here early so we could get seats. The owner made a fuss about keeping a table empty at a time like this, but I pulled some strings."

"Strings? You?"

"You'll see what I meant. But you're lucky this table seats six. I didn't think you'd bring Touma-kun."

"Ah well…"

"Oh, you're really growing tall!" Hayami said as she turned towards Touma. "How are things going between you and Chiaki-chan?"

"What? Oh, uh…fine I guess."

"Good, good." Hayami walked behind Touma to pull back a chair for Atsuko. "And just remember, if things don't work out, you can always come talk to me for…advice."

Hayami seemed to be reaching down to grab something from her purse, but suddenly Touma flushed beet-red and jumped forward. Maki glared at Hayami.

It was always like this with Hayami. She had never been able to really place what was going on, but she always felt uneasy when any of her sisters, or their friends, were around Hayami. And they, in turn, seemed to be nervous around her.

As they all finally sat down, she heard Touma mutter to herself:

"Kana was right about her. She is dangerous…"

After they finished ordering, they fell in to the main purpose of the day: chatting and gossip.

"So Maki, how's that new job going for you guys?"

"Oh excellent! The two of us are the best sales team in the store. Atsuko reels them in and then I make sure they buy the goods!"

"I see…"

"Interesting," said Hayami. "I might just visit sometime."

"I'm not letting you leave unless you buy something," warned Maki.

Next to her, Touma put away her gaming device to talk to Hitomi, who apparently had a deep interest in Touma's daily life.

"Anyway, can you believe this girl?" continued Maki, grabbing Atsuko by the shoulders and pulling her over, almost spilling her tea. "Guys keep confessing to her but she keeps turning them down. I think it's been what, five so far? I'm so jealous!"

"I'm just not ready," said Atsuko, eyes downcast and cheeks flush. "I just don't want to commit to anything until I at least graduate from college. That's what I tell them."

"Oh leave her alone, Maki. There's nothing wrong with that."

Hayami excused herself to go to the bathroom.

"Speaking of which," Maki continued, "how are things going with Kana-chan and Fujioka-kun?"

"It's going well, I guess." She took a sip of her tea. "I have to kick him out of the house basically every night. They make a cute couple."

"Are you watching them to make sure they don't…you know?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, you know, they're a young couple, they're in love, there are hormones involved…"

"Maki!" She felt her cheeks redden.

"Oh? So you've caught them at it?"

"No! Of course not!"

Maki sighed, and put her tea cup down.

"Well, it's a valid point. You have to talk to her about it at some point. You can't keep putting it off forever. This goes for Chiaki-chan, too."

"I…I know that. But I just have to convince myself to do it. That's all."

There was an anomalous moment of silence as even Hitomi and Touma stopped talking.

"Anyway, have you told them yet what you plan to do for your future?"

"How can I, when I don't even know myself?"

"You should consult with them and tell them what you're thinking about. I'm sure they'd appreciate it if you included them in the decision-making process. They must be wondering, too. You've been graduated for nearly a year now and not a word about a job or college! You're being irresponsible."

They all—except Touma and Hitomi, of course—stared at Maki in disbelief.

"Are-are you okay, Maki? Did something happen?" asked Atsuko dazedly.

She looked flustered for a moment, then looked down, pressing her fingers together.

"Well, you know, I figured it'd be interesting to act serious every once in a while. And that's really what I think."

"She's right," Atsuko agreed. "For example, if you're going to try to get that teacher's certification, they'd certainly want to know. This goes double if you end up going to a foreign university like you were thinking."

Touma suddenly choked on her tea and started coughing into a napkin.

"I can hear you guys, you know…"


She brought her hands to her mouth.

"Sorry, I forgot you were-"

"Don't worry about it, I won't say anything."

Atsuko looked crestfallen, but the moment was broken when the waiter suddenly showed up with their food.

It was Touma who responded first, narrowly avoiding another incident with the tea.

"Natsuki?" she exclaimed.

I didn't know he worked! she thought. Does our school even allow this sort of thing? Did he get a waiver?

Well, it's not my place to ask, she decided, cutting short her own train of thought.

"Hello," he responded, setting the plates of food in front of them.

They merely looked at him for a few moments, then turned to look at Touma.

"What? Don't look at me! He didn't tell us he got a job!"

"Correction. I told everyone. You just aren't home enough to know even basic things like that!"

For several seconds they just glared at each other, the tension in the air palpable.

Natsuki didn't tell me things had gotten this bad! Haruka thought.

"Now, now," she said soothingly. "We came here to have fun! What a coincidence that we ran into you here, Natsuki!"

"Hayami didn't tell you? She came and told us beforehand you were coming."

"She did?"

"Us?" asked Maki.

"Ta-da!" interjected Hayami, suddenly appearing behind Natsuki. "I brought him!"

She turned and step back sideways, spreading her arms out to her sides in the necessary manner.

"Allow me to present to you, the star chef of this rest-"

"No one is there, Hayami," said Maki.

"What?" She opened her eyes and turned to look.

"Goddamn it, Hosaka. I see you back there! What are you doing just standing in the corner like that instead of following me? Another one of your insane fantasies?"

She marched over to where they now saw a man in a chef's hat, looking up at the ceiling with his eyes closed and doing something with his shirt.

"Kimochi Warui..." commented Maki. "Damn that Hayami! Catching me with my guard down."

"Hosaka? Hosaka is the star chef here?" said Atsuko.

"Who is this Hosaka?" asked Touma.

"He's Natsuki's best friend. You don't know him?" asked Haruka.

Touma shook her head.

Finally, the man showed up, pushed from behind by Hayami and with a fresh redness to his cheek where Hayami had slapped him awake.


He seemed uncomfortable for some reason.

"Come on! Don't you have more to say than that?" asked Hayami, slapping his back.

He seemed at an utter loss for words and began sweating profusely, and obviously.

Suddenly Haruka remembered the last time she had seen him.

"Oh, wow, it really has been a long time. Why didn't you come by more often? You're sweating so much, let me wipe it off."

She pulled out a handkerchief and reached over to the now catatonic Hosaka.

"Damn it Hosaka, now's not the time for this!" said Hayami.

"No!" He suddenly exclaimed, turning suddenly. "This isn't right! Conditions aren't perfect!"

He fled back precipitously to the kitchen.

"Don't wig out on me now, Hosaka! Come back here!" exclaimed Hayami, chasing him.

"Kimochi warui..." Maki reiterated.

"I'm going to go help her deal with Hosaka. You guys, uh, enjoy the meal." said Natsuki, looking back over his shoulder.

"O-okay." said Hitomi suddenly, whom Haruka realized was blushing. Touma, already eating her food, had her head turned, studying Hitomi carefully.

What bad manners! reflected Haruka. And what on earth is going on here?

Maki sighed, and Atsuko noted that Haruka was wearing her all-too-common overwhelmed expression. People around the room stopped staring and returned to their own conversations.

"Hmm..." commented Touma to herself, wearing a strange expression.

"Is something wrong, Touma-kun?" asked Atsuko.

"No, nothing. It's probably just my imagination. This is really good, though."

"Really, I'm surprised. I didn't even know he could cook," said Haruka, preparing to dig into her pasta.

"No, Haruka," said Maki, grabbing her hand. "You can't eat that."

"What are you talking about? Why not?"

"Because that's, uh, er...well..."

Maki wore a pained expression, clearly trying to come up with a reason on the spot.

Haruka ignored her and started eating.

"Actually...this tastes really familiar. But I don't think I've ever eaten anything he's cooked."

"Familiar?" asked Maki, who herself started to eat.

"Yeah, but I'm trying to remember where I've tasted this before..."

Maki's eyes flew wide open.

"Ah, did you remember something, Maki?"

Maki looked away, breaking eye contact.

"No, not at all."

Haruka wondered what Maki was hiding.

"I'm really impressed," said Atsuko. "Not bad at all. If only he didn't act so weird all the time..."

"No, Atsuko. You can't start thinking like that. That's dangerous," warned Maki.

Hayami emerged from the kitchen, a defeated look on her face and a fresh sauce stain on her pants.

"I couldn't get him to come back out. Sorry, guys."

"It's alright. He 's probably just shy..." said Atsuko.

She seemed to be thinking about something.

Touma finished her food and began eying the dishes around her.

As they began waving the rest goodbye, Hayami suddenly dashed forward with a parcel.

"Oh, I almost forgot. Here's a gift from Hosaka."

She held up a bottle in a paper bag.

"What is it?"

"Premium-grade sake."

"Oh I see."

At least she wasn't calling it "juice" this time. After the last couple of times, she and Maki had put two and two together. They had never confronted Hayami about it, but had agreed to be more careful around it. She wouldn't drink any of it, but considering it was a gift...

"Thank him for me."

"I will."

It would be useful when they had guests over.

Haruka and Touma began heading back.

"Are you sure you don't want to just spend the rest of the day with Natsuki? It would be convenient."

"Yeah. I'm sure."

"I see..."

Haruka watched Touma's back as they steadily marched forward.

"Is it really good to be spending all your time away from home?"

"I don't see anything wrong with it."

Touma didn't look back to answer.

"Still...Natsuki tells me he worries about you. Is that really alright?"

"Tell him not to worry. After all-"

Touma stopped dead in her tracks and spun to look at Haruka.

"I have you and Chiaki. That should be fine, right?"

Touma smiled and it was clear she was trying to defuse the conversation with flattery.

"But that's-"

-not really enough.

But she let the words die stillborn on her lips.

Why can't I say these things?

"By the way..." Touma began.


"That stuff you guys were talking about earlier, about you leaving the country, was it true?"

Haruka sighed.

"It's just something I'm considering. Maki and Atsuko really think I should and I do sort of want to go..."

She paused just a little.

"...but I don't think I can leave my sisters behind. I don't want to. It's too much for now."

"Then why not just tell them you're not going to do it?"

She looked into Haruka's eyes, searching for something.

"...it's because you can't really give it up, right?"

"It's just too early. I don't want to be..."

...so alone.

But she didn't say that either.

"It's okay. I understand. You need to watch Kana, right?"


"What Maki-san was talking about earlier. You need to make sure she doesn't do whatever it is you guys keep alluding to. What's so dangerous about it?"

"Why not ask Natsuki about it? It's his job after all."

"Is it now. Ugh, whatever. It's not a big deal."

But it is, of course.

They finally reached the housing complex.

They returned to find Kana and the others already back and, seated along with them at the kotatsu, Takeru.

Leaving Touma to sit on the floor and chat with Chiaki, she greeted him.

"Oh, welcome!"

"Ah, good day."

"I'm sorry for intruding."

"No, no. It's no problem. I apologize for not being here. Today was actually a pretty bad day to visit. If these three hadn't returned early, there would have been no one here. Actually, why are you guys back so early?"

"It's because of this idiot here," said Kana, gesturing at Fujioka with her thumb.

"I told you I was sorry already!"

"Hmph. Anyway, what is that you're carrying?"

"This? Oh, it's a bottle of sake I got from Hayami. Actually, that reminds me; let me pour you some, oji-san!"

"Ah, thanks, but I don't want to-"

"It's no problem! Let me get a cup."

When she stepped back into the room with the cup of sake, she accidentally eavesdropped a little on what Touma was saying.

"You're going to ask tonight? Why?"

"I'm just tired of not knowing," said Chiaki, who turned to look at Haruka.

"Oh, Haruka-nee-sama! Is it alright if Touma stays here for the night?"


"Well, there's no school tomorrow, so..."

Haruka briefly considered putting her foot down and insisting that Touma return home, but...

"That's fine, just keep the noise levels down this time, okay? And don't stay up so late! That goes for you too, Kana."

"I got it, I got it."

...she didn't do it.

"Anyway, isn't it time you be heading home?" said Kana, glaring at Fujioka.

"Kana! Don't be rude! Let him stay for dinner at least."


That night, after Takeru left, Haruka started sorting the dry dishes back into the cabinets. Touma had already unrolled the sleeping mat, and Haruka could hear the three of them loudly playing some sort of game in their bedroom.

She almost knocked over a cup on the counter.

"Hmm? A full cup? How did Kana miss this? She's so careless sometimes! I practically have to wash the dishes again after she does them..."

The strong smell of alcohol interrupted her grumbling to herself.

"...and Takeru didn't even drink more than a sip. I have to pour it out, but what a waste..."

She remembered the last time she had drunk some of Hayami's juice.

It wasn't bad...

She looked around to make sure no one was looking and drank the whole thing herself.

That's refreshing!

Hmm...I really shouldn't but...as long as I'm careful, it won't matter much. It might even help with the dreams.

Alright, another cup then.

She woke the next day with a splitting headache.

Why does my head hurt so much? What happened last night?

She tried to remember, and found she couldn't. Then she remembered why this experience was familiar.

New Years, the first time Hayami had showed up with her supposed imported juice. Numerous times afterward.

Damn it. How could I?

She looked at the clock.

11 PM? I need to vacuum! And breakfast!

She jumped straight out of bed, then staggered backward as the hangover hit her.

Okay, steady now...

She successfully changed, and walked out to head the bathroom.

"Oh, Touma, you're still here?"

Touma's eyes widened.

"Uh, yes. We all slept in. Since, you know. I'll be going soon. Haha."

She seemed nervous for some reason.

"I told you guys not to stay up so late...I don't even have the right to say that today."

After brushing her teeth-and noting her ghoulish appearance in the mirror-she found Chiaki in the living room, seated at the Kotatsu.

"Ah, Haruka-nee-sama. It's alright. We just had some snacks for breakfast and Kana is making curry for lunch. You don't have to strain yourself. Especially..."

Chiaki's voice dropped off, and she seemed unusually fidgety. What was going on here?

She had a flash of insight.

"What-just what happened last night? What did I do?"

"That was really impressive, you know," said Kana, sticking her head in from the kitchen. "Even I didn't know most of that stuff. I had no idea you were so knowledgeable."

"What-what did I say?"

"You don't remember? Ah, well, it's better that you don't."

"Kana! Just tell me!"

Kana ignored her.


1I'm reluctant to start using Japanese phraseology, but "Genki!" (Literally,"(I'm) energetic/healthy!" but often used like "I'm fine!") is actually the perfect phrase for Touma to say here. I've tried to convey a similar effect here in the English.

2Again, "Daijoubu" (Literally "Have no worries!", often used as "Don't worry about it!" and "It's fine!") is the perfect phrase for Maki here...