Nanako put down her school bag and took off her shoes. She was glad it was Saturday. Not only would her dad come home earlier today, but he wouldn't work tomorrow at all too. He promised that he would have time for her on the weekends. He was able to keep this promise so far and he said he had a surprise for her.
The girl looked at her watch. Her dad would come home soon. Should she start cooking now or else it won't be ready in time.
She stopped moving. Something was strange. It smelled like food. Why did it smell like food? Normally she was the one who prepared food for everyone. It was like this for a long time and it didn't change when Marie started to live here.
Had Marie learned how to cook? Did someone break in to cook food?
She peeked around the corner into the living room. There was no one at the table. The TV wasn't turned on either. But there was someone on the sofa.
A girl. She had long black hair that was kept neat with a red hairband.
Nanako couldn't believe her eyes. She walked into the room to get a better look at the sleeping person.
"Oh, you are back already? How was school?"
She turned around. From her earlier position, she wasn't able to see the kitchen, but now Nanako could see the whole room. A young man was standing in front of the oven. He was holding a frying pan. He smiled at her.
"Long time not seen."
Nanako jumped forward and hugged him. "Why didn't you tell me that you would come to visit us?"
"I told your dad that we were coming back to Inaba for some time, but apparently he wanted to surprise you with that." He smiled at her. There were dark circles under his grey eyes. His hair was longer than usual too.
He wasn't here for quite a long time, but this didn't look normal. Not for him.
"Are you alright? You don't look healthy!"
He laughed and scratched the back of his head.
"Is it really that bad? Yeah, I should go see a barber sometimes."
The old sofa made a sound. The girl woke up. She looked around the room. Her dark brown eyes were half open.
"Oh, did I wake you up?" Yu chuckled. "Sorry Yukiko, I didn't want to interrupt your sleep."
The girl looked at him with hollow eyes. She had dark circles under her eyes too. Long strands of hair were hanging in her face.
"Nanako-Chan!" She suddenly stood up and ran towards the smaller girl. She kneeled down and hugged her.
"Nanako-Chan! It is so good to see you. How are you? How is school? How is your dad doing? Is Marie-Chan nice to you? Are Chie-Chan, Yosuke and Teddie visiting you often?"
"You are asking too many questions! Also, it's hard to breathe."
"Oh, I am sorry!"
The black-haired girl let her loose and stood up.
"Wow, Nanako-Chan, you have grown a lot."
"Thank you, Yuki-Chan."
Nanako smiled. Then she remembered something.
"Where is Marie-Chan?"
"Oh, she is taking a shower right now. She is getting ready for later. The others said they are coming over so we could eat together. I just wanted to make breakfast for me and Yukiko. I didn't expect you coming home that early."
"Oh, really? Can I help you?"
"Of course Nanako."
"Thank you, big bro!"
"Let me help too."
"No, no, no! That won't be necessary, Yukiko." The boy put the pan down and looked at her.
"You could make coffee. That would be nice."
"Come on. You never let me help to make food. Even in our apartment, I am not allowed to cook!"
"I know that you want to cook too, but..."
He put his hands on her shoulder and smiled at her.
"You know what I always say when you are in the kitchen?"
"You don't want us to die a horrible and painful death."
The two hugged each other and Yukiko mumbled into his shoulder.
"You are really mean sometimes, you know that? If I wouldn't love you, I would punch you right now."
"I am sorry. But look at it like this: The more training I get as a cook, the better I get. Doesn't the future manager of the Amagi Inn want a good cook who prepares food for the customers."
The girl sighed.
"I make some coffee."
"Thank you, honey. You know I love you!"
He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead and turned his attention back to the oven.
"Oh, you two are too cute!"
The three turned around and looked at the sliding door in the living room. Two people had appeared there. Chie and Yosuke.
"Oh my god!" Yukiko screamed out of excitement!
The two girls hugged each other.
"Oh my god Yukiko! How long has it been? You look as beautiful as always. How is the city life? How is your apartment? Is Yu treating you well? Did you learn a lot about management and stuff?"
"Thank you, you look great too. It is nice and Yu and I got an apartment in the middle of the city. It is really cosy and we have a lot of stores around us. Yu is nice too. But it is kinda exhausting. We don't have much money or time for stuff like..."
She grabbed a bunch of her hair. Her hair was long before, but now it was nearly reaching her legs.
"... like visiting a barber. I don't mind, I like long hair, but some people just look a bit... ridiculous."
She grinned and looked at her boyfriend. He and Yosuke were greeting each other like... like real partners.
Yu and Yosuke hugged each other.
"Man dude, you look like shit! Are you too poor to effort a haircut?"
"Says the guy who walks around in his Junes uniform! You look like you're an escaped slave from McDonald's!"
"We came here as soon as our shift ended! Didn't have time to change!
The boys let go of each other. Yosuke leaned against the fridge and watched his friend preparing a pan of fried rice. Yu continued the conversation.
"So... still working at Junes?"
"Yeah. I don't really know what else I want to do, you know? That way I can earn some money. And work is much more enjoyable since Teddie learned how to organize the storage rooms and stuff. He, Marie and Chie are helping me run the place, you know?"
"Haha, really? You know something is wrong when Teddie is one of your most reliable employees. By the way, where is Teddie? Isn't he living with you? Or did you throw him out so you had room for Chie?"
He punched Yosukes shoulder lightly and chuckled.
"Well, no. Actually, it's the other way around. I am spending a lot of time at Chie's place, so yeah."
He looked at Chie, who was having a lively discussion with Yukio.
"Teddie wanted to go shopping with Naoto and Kanji. They wanted to get some snacks and drinks for us. I mean, this is the big reunion of our group!"
"Yeah, you're right. It has been way too long."
"Did I tell you? I own a car now!"
"What really? How can your afford that?"
"WE were saving the money we earned from working at Junes, to buy US a car!" Chie exclaimed from behind."
"Oh come on Chie! Why do you have to ruin this moment for me?"
"Because that is nothing to be proud of." She turned around to talk to Yukiko. "He doesn't have any other bills to pay. He doesn't own an apartment or anything! He talked about owning a car for three months straight and then, one day, he tells me that he just spent ALL OUR SAVINGS FOR THE FIRST AND CHEAPEST CAR HE COULD FIND!"
"Did you really do this Yosuke-Kun?" Nanako gave him a worried look. "That sounds really irresponsible."
"Come on! Why is everyone hating me for my decision? I-" Yosuke noticed Chie's look, "- WE are the only ones here owning a car!"
He showed Yu and Nanako a picture on his phone.
"Yosuke-Kun!" The small girl's eyes shined with excitement. "This is such a cute little car! But didn't you always say a man needs a manly car?"
"Of course he needs that!" Yosuke smiled proudly. "And this car is the manliest car you can get!"
Yukiko, who tried to get a glimpse of the picture from her position at the table, raised an eyebrow.
"Why is it pink?"
"Because..." Chie sighed. "...that was the cheapest model he could find. Because of the colour and the smell.
"Wait. Smell?" The other girl looked at Yosuke. "Did you buy a second-hand car?"
"Yes, he did! And it smells horrible!"
"It smells like success, Chie!"
"It smells like dog hair, vomit and fuel!"
"Well, maybe that is just the smell of success?"
"Oh, you don't believe that yourself!"
The brown-haired girl sounded angry, but Yukiko could see a smile on her face. She leaned over the table and whisper, so Yosuke couldn't hear it.
"It's actually pretty nice when you are able to drive into the city whenever you want and have enough room to buy all the stuff you need. Can't do that with a motorcycle."
The two girls giggled and took a sip of the coffee Yukiko made earlier.
"Hey Yukiko," Yu gave her a sad expression. "Where is my coffee?"
"And where is my coffee?"
The group turned around to see three other people. A small girl with dark blue hair and a white blouse was the first person who entered through the sliding door. It was Naoto. She was carrying two heavy shopping bags. Behind her appeared a blond boy with blue eyes.
"Sensei!" Teddie launched himself towards their leader who nearly fell backwards into the hot pan.
"I missed you so much!"
"Yeah, I missed you too." Yu gave Teddie a small hug and tried to calm him down, but the boy didn't want to let go! He started crying.
"I am so happy to see you again! I thought I was all alone in this world! No one had time to do something fun with me! Everyone was so busy! And none of the people were Sensei!"
The blond boy looked at him with watery eyes.
"Don't worry Teddie, I will stay here for a while and we will all do something fun together."
Teddie nodded. Then he turned around to greet Yukiko, with the same amount of tears of course.
The last person who entered the house was a tall boy with black sweptback hair and a scar above his left eye. He was carrying even more shopping bags full of foods, snacks and drinks.
"Did you look out of the window. Someone parked an ugly as hell car in front of the house... Yosuke, are you okay? Why did you start crying?"
"This is just not fair!"
Kanji looked at Chie. "What's with him?"
"Fragile manly ego."
Yu put a hand on Yosuke's shoulder and tried to calm him down.
"He didn't mean it like that. Hey, why don't you help Nanako prepare the food that Teddie and the others bought? Teddie, you help too!"
While the three were preparing the desserts, Yu turned off the oven and put the fried rice to the side. It was meant to be Yukiko's and his breakfast. But his friends appeared so fast, it would be impolite to make food just for two people.
He turned around and looked at Kanji.
"You stopped bleaching your hair?"
"Yeah, it just looked kinda... unfriendly... I guess. I stopped bleaching it so I don't scare away the customers from the shop."
"But you didn't stop with the... how did you call it? A crowcut?"
"A sweptback crewcut with a widow's peak! And I stopped doing that for a few days, but I started it again because I thought it is just more fitting for me if my hair is like this, you know? Just my decision."
"I thought his hair looked stupid in its natural way, so I told him to do his hair like this again," Naoto commented while taking a sip of coffee.
"Well, yeah... but... I decided that you were right."
Seeing an over 180 cm tall man blush was a strange sight.
"Oh, that reminds me, what were you cooking there?"
"I wanted to make breakfast for Yukiko and me, but you guys appeared way too fast. There won't be enough for all of us and we don't have enough food for everyone in the fridge either. I am glad you guys went shopping before you got here."
"I wouldn't be too happy about it..." Yosuke frowned. He and Nanako eyed the contents of the shopping bags with a questioning look.
Teddie on the other side couldn't contain his excitement.
"I bought delicious pizza for everybody!"
"You idiot! You wasted all your money on frozen pizza! Why?"
Yosuke's face formed an expression that expressed more pain than anyone could feel in one lifetime.
"Because it is easy and delicious. Right, Nanako!... Nanako...? AH!"
The girl hit his head with one of the pizzas.
"Teddie! I thought we could make our own food together! Also, it is really not healthy to eat too much of that stuff."
"Well, wouldn't be that much of a difference for us."
"Healthy food is expensive, you know."
"If I didn't cook normal food, dad would only eat that stuff too." The small girl sighed and gave "big bro" a sad look. "How can adults be so irresponsible?"
"It's not a choice Nanako. It's the fact that an apartment and education don't leave much money for..."
His expression suddenly darkened.
A pizza box hit his face.
Nanako looked at him with a sulky expression.
"Take care of yourself, you dummy!"
The group chuckled.
"She is right!" Naoto gave him a warm smile. "You don't look so good." She pointed at his eyes. "Are you not getting enough sleep?"
"I try to, but we both don't spend much time in our apartment. I'm doing an apprenticeship as a cook, and Yukiko is busy with learning about gastronomy and management and such things."
"Sounds tough. How is your apartment? Did you find something nice?"
"It's okay. A small bathroom and a kitchen, that leads directly in the living-/bedroom. Our only furniture is a table, two chairs, a tv and one mattress on the floor."
"Wait, you two share one mattress?" Nanako looked at Yu in confusion. "Isn't that uncomfortable?"
"Oh no. You get it when you are older." Yukiko winked. Nanako was confused. Yu, however, was visibly shocked.
"Yukiko! How can you? She isn't even a teenager yet!"
Everyone laughed. Everyone except Nanako. She didn't know what exactly was so funny. Adults are weird.
The small girl was the only one who wasn't trapped in a loop of suggestive jokes. That's why she was the only one who heard the sound of the doorbell.
She walked out of the living room and opened the front door.
A girl with copper-coloured hair was greeting her. She kneeled down and hugged her.
She hugged the idol back and smiled. "You came!"
"Of course. I wanted to see you and so does everybody else. Is someone else already here?"
"The others are all inside making food."
"Oh really? What are they making?"
"Frozen pizza and fried rice."
She grabbed Rise's hand and dragged the confused idol inside!
"Hey, big bro! Rise-chan is here!"
"Hi, Rise!" The others greeted her with a smile.
"H-Hey." Someone greeted her with a soft voice.
Rise turned around and looked at Marie, who had come down the stairs to greet everyone.
The two looked at each other. Their faces turned red.
"Okay!" Rise exclaimed loudly. "I will go over there!"
She walked over to the other girls and started talking to them. Chie gave Yu a confused look and walked towards him, Marie and Yosuke were equally confused.
Marie walked towards the fridge and grabbed a can of soda.
"So..." Yu started and gave the drinking girl a soft smile. "You two are still not able to talk with each other?"
"What? No, no!" Marie whispered so the idol and the others, who were now sitting in the living room, couldn't hear them.
"We totally had a conversation! Didn't you hear?"
"Greeting each other and then fleeing in different directions doesn't really count as a conversation."
"Wait a minute!" Yosuke's eyes switched back and forth between Yu, Marie and Rise. "What's going on? Wait... are Marie and Rise...?"
Marie made a Shh noise to shut him up. Yu tried to explain.
"Well, yeah... it's kinda weird because they aren't able to talk with each other!"
"It's not that easy, you jerk!" Marie took a sip of her soda. "It's... complicated."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because you are not the kind of guy that can handle such information Yosuke! You aren't even listening anymore. I don't wanna know what is going on in your head."
Yosuke stopped listening. He just stood there with an absent look and a smile on his face.
"Why didn't you tell the rest of us?" Chie crossed her arms and gave him an angry look.
"Well, everyone knew about it except you two!"
"What? I get why you didn't tell Yosuke, but why didn't you guys tell me about it?"
"Because you are in a relationship with Yosuke! And people in a functioning relationship talk."
"What? What exactly is racist about that?"
Marie giggled: "The fact that you assumed they're in a functioning relationship." She noticed Chie's glare. "We are having a conversation about my love life! Am I not allowed to make a funny comment about other peoples love life?"
Chie didn't know how to reply and changed the topic.
"But it is pretty surprising. I always thought Rise would end up with Teddie."
The group looked at Teddie, who was trying to make one of the pizzas in a frying pan.
"Oh, I wonder why that never happened."
They watch how Nanako tried to prevent Teddie from burning himself at the stove.
"What are we doing about our food situation? We only have drinks, some snacks and those pizzas."
"Well, Teddie has spent a lot of money on these pizza margaritas, so we should eat them. We can use ingredients from the fridge as toppings. It is almost as if we are make our own food. Nanako, what do we have in the fridge?"
"Some soda cans, salad and butter."
"Well, that is not much. So we have to go shopping."
Yu exclaimed this with a loud voice.
The people in the living room stopped talking and gave him their attention.
Kanji tried to protest: "But we already went shopping!"
"And you failed! So let's go to Junes and grab some stuff we can put on these pizzas."
"Can we drive to Junes? Oh, do you have a car?" The idol asked with sparkling eyes.
"No. I don't have enough money for a haircut. Do you really think I can afford a car?"
Rise was disappointed.
"Okay. But promise me: When you buy a car, buy a cool looking car. A manly car. Did you see that pink ugly car someone parked in front of your house?"
"NO HE HASN'T. NOW LET'S WALK TO JUNES AND GET STUFF FOR THE PIZZA!"
Everyone stared at Yosuke. A single tear was running down his face.
"Come on. Let's go and get some stuff for these stupid pizzas!"
He stomped out of the front door.
"Man, what is wrong with him?"
"It's complicated. I'll explain it later. Now let's go!"
And with that, everyone left the house. While they were walking to Junes, they talked about all the things they wanted to have on their pizzas.
I want to protect everyone involved in this. That's why I will not mention any names in this conversation:
"I want pineapple on my pizza!"
"No! You are a sick bastard!"
"I want tuna!"
"Really? Isn't there a normal person around here?"
"What's wrong with tuna?"
"I want extra cheese on my pizza."
"Finally! That's a nice choice."
"I want eggs and spinach!"
"I want noodles on my pizza."
"What is wrong with you guys?"
"Isn't that the whole point of pizza? That you have a plate made out of dough and you can put anything you like on it? And in the end, you just eat it?"
"Well, yes, but no! This stuff here sounds just wrong!"
"No, it doesn't! You just have a bad taste!"
"Says the spinach-egg-pizza-person!"
"I want popcorn on my pizza!"
"Say that again and I'll punch you! You pizza abuser!"
And with that, the group was walking down the street, laughing and enjoying each others company.