Chapter II-2: Dissipating Storm, Tangerine Sunset, and Afternoon Tea

Ei’s left arm leaned on Shou’s shoulder as the other reached for the doorbell button by the gate. Seems that it is good to be this tall after all, Shou thought enviously.
Not before long, a youthful female voice said, “Hai hai. Who is this?”
Ei called to the speaker, “It’s me! I fell over that pothole in front of the Kawanos’ house!”
A surprised voice returned, “Oh!? I’ll be right there…” then the intercom terminated with a click. In half a minute, a woman around her early-30’s with identical hairstyle as Ei scurried worriedly towards them.
“Mom!” Ei called.
“Come on in and get that wound dressed! It’s easy to get an infection like this!” Ei’s mother hurried them in. She turned to Shou and said, “Thank you for taking Ei back. Are you her classmate?”
Shou thought that addressing her as “Missus” or “Auntie” might be unfitting, as her appearance seemed too young to comfortably fit with the title. “Yes, I’m Ogasawara-kun’s classmate Tachibana Shou. Good day to you, umm…Ogasawara-oneesan.”
She heartily laughed, “Big sister?”
Shou’s palms sweated as he embarrassedly replied, “Well…calling you Aunty seems…a little…”
“I’ll take it as a compliment then, thank you! My name is Mizuki. You may call me Mizuki-neesan if you please.” she nodded with a smile for the child’s smart flattery.
After Shou and Mizuki’s efforts, Ei’s wound was swiftly taken care of and she changed to her casual housewear. Shou was about to leave when Mizuki said, “Today’s Friday, I suppose that you’re not in a rush for homework then? How about joining us for afternoon tea?”

“Umm…okay.” Kousei Tachibana’s doubtful agreement transmitted into Shou’s ear through the telephone receiver. “Remember don’t play too late. If that will be all…” The other side reminded once more and put down the phone.
After Shou put down the telephone, Ei’s voice called from the kitchen, “Shou, you ready yet? We’re by the kitchen.” Shou turned a few corners and found the Ogasawara mother and daughter seated by a delicate white French sidewalk-cafe style coffee table. Beside the iron frame table, a glass wall takes in the crimson sunlight from the backyard. Shou sat himself beside Ei in a white floral-patterned iron frame chair with cushions and looked around. He complimented, “Your house is very beautiful, Mizuki-neesan!”
Mizuki smiled as she poured tea for the children, “This is all the work of Ei’s father! He is an interior designer.” Shou raised his eyebrow to show interest, even though he had no idea what an interior designer was, and added several cubes of sugar after giving his tea a sip.
Mizuki changed the topic toward the two children. “Ah yes, what’s the occasion today? I usually don’t see you come this way?”
Shou laughed dryly as he embarrassedly explained, “Heheh…well, today Ei was…”
“Shou!” Ei flushed madly as she stopped him.
Seeing her daughter’s reaction, Mizuki grew even more curious, and asked Shou even more intensely, “Shou, what happened today? Mizuki-neesan wants to know…” Faced with two opposite requests, he hesitated a while before following his own preference — Tell everything in blunt truth, no matter the consequence!
“Oh…well, I sort of annoyed Ei today, so she really wanted to teach me a lesson. But then, who would just stand there and let someone beat yourself up? So I didn’t bother waiting for my sister and decided to make a run back home. At that time she tripped and fell…and I just happened to find your place. I guess that Ei must be very angry at me now.” Shou summarized the afternoon to Mizuki, ending with an apologetic nod..
She appeared to remain calm, “Ei was beating people up for no reason again?” This was when Ei became frightened, for the accusation was now obviously pointed in her direction.
“No! I was…because…” She uttered in defiance, losing the energy as she realized that the argument was against her favour if she said ‘because he tore up my note in class’. She cowered and spoke not another word, nibbling on a cookie slowly like a rabbit. Crying inside, she condemned Shou for being heartless.
Shou noticed her silent anger: After all, she is one of my own best friends! The more he thought about it, the more uneasy he got. “Well, as for why Ei wants to hit me, it’s probably because I saw the sensei noticing her passing notes to Jyun in class. I didn’t wanted them to be consequenced, so I took it away…”
You’ve just made things worse, Shou!
“…But I took a peek at what they were writing before throwing it out, so Ei was angry about that. I suppose that it’s also my bad, so can Mizuki-neesan forgive her for this time?” Ei stared at Shou, surprised, as he continued to speak in her defence, a new sense of gratitude now convoluted with the original feelings of guilt.
Shou also originally expected Mizuki to scold her daughter, but not only did that not happen, she instead laughed and asked, “Ha~…I wonder what they were talking about then, since Shou stopped them?”
Shou and Ei both started to speak, but then stopped upon noticing the other. Then they spoke together again, “You go first.” The two grew confused stared blankly at each other, not knowing who should start.
Some sounds came from the front door as the door opened and a beautiful tenor sang out, “Mizuki, I’m home~~” Mizuki and Ei both stood up and headed for the door, and Shou followed them to take a look.
A handsome man in his mid 30’s in a dark green shirt, white pants, burgundy necktie and indigo wireframe glasses was gracefully taking off his leather shoes by the front hall. Mizuki brought a pair off slippers for him and said, “Welcome home, Takakage my dear.” Ei echoed the greeting, “Welcome home, Dad!”
Shou bowed toward the man, “Good day to you, Mr. Ogasawara!”


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