Part 9: House of Sweets ~un petit nid~ (9)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Kase calmed down by the time they arrived at Agi’s apartment building. When Agi showed him into the living room, Kase became embarrassed that he had become so panicked.
Agi sat Kase down on the sofa and said, “Live here for a while,” while he continued to stand. Apparently he didn’t sit because his clothes were still covered in soot. Agi didn’t appear to be hurt anywhere, but Kase felt so terrible that he naturally turned his face down.
“Maybe it’s not very comfortable, but well, put up with it for now. They started hosing down the building afterwards, and your apartment is pretty close to where the fire started, so you probably can’t go back for a while. Your stuff is probably ruined too.”
Agi tried to reassure him, but that wasn’t what bothered him. Kase had put others at risk because of him, and he hadn’t thanked Agi properly yet. He was so embarrassed that he couldn’t raise his head.
“A-Agi-san,” Kase muttered softly with his head down.
“Thank you… For getting the shirt for me…”
His words were a little broken, but he managed to say thank you. How long had it been since he thanked anyone properly? He had always mumbled thanks under his breath or bowed his head silently,1 and his rusty language ability didn’t let him get his words out smoothly.
“Is the shirt that important to you?” Agi asked.
Kase wouldn’t have replied if there had been even a hint of curiosity in his voice.
“…I got it from my lover,” Kase answered honestly, and he immediately regretted it. It was shameful that he still had these lingering feelings for his ex, that he treasured the shirt that they gave him so much that he went into a panic over it. His ears were slowly heating up when a hand landed on top of his head. Kase raised his head in surprise.
“I see…” Agi crinkled his eyes gently and gave Kase’s hair a ruffle. “So you have someone like that too.”
“But we already broke up…”
“It doesn’t matter. Even if they’re no longer at your side, it’s fine if the things that are important to you stay important to you.”
The large hand carded through his hair. Kase forgot to slap it away because the sensation of the hand touching him had felt so pleasant. Agi gave Kase a few pats on the head while he was still dazed before pulling his hand away.
“Let’s see, for now I should go take a shower. I can’t rest like this.”
Agi told Kase to rest and relax as he liked, and then he left the living room. Before long, Kase heard the sounds of the shower running, and he shifted his position uncomfortably on the sofa.
For some reason, Kase tried touching his bangs. Agi’s hand had been large. Kase ruffled his hair and then combed it with his fingers. It was the first time that a stranger had done that to his hair. Even his ex hadn’t done that. Actually, Kase never had anyone who had done that to him.
It somehow made his chest hurt. Like it was tightening up inside, but Kase didn’t hate the feeling.
It was a sweet pain in his chest, like it had been stuffed with cotton candy.
Kase leaned back timidly against the soft comfortable sofa.
Chise was surprised to hear about the fire, and Rio for some reason shouted, “That’s amazing,” in excitement.
However, when Rio heard that Kase lost his home and was staying with Agi, he gave Kase one of the strawberries off of his plate because he felt bad for him. Chise told Kase that she had a friend who owned a second-hand shop and that she would ask them to give Kase a discount.
It was three days later when the real estate company contacted Kase and told him that the fire was caused by negligence of his neighbor who had been smoking in bed, and that he wouldn’t be able to use his apartment for a while due to the water damage from the hoses. When the representative started to say “As for what will happen next,” Kase thought that they would talk about reimbursement for the items in the apartment. Instead, he was surprised when he was told that he was responsible for the damages to the apartment from the fire and the water.
He was informed that there was a clause in his rental contract that stipulated that he had to restore the apartment to its original state. It didn’t matter if the cause had been someone else’s negligence. It had been so unreasonable that it rendered Kase speechless, but the representative had more to say. He had a special rider for fire insurance in his rental contract that gave him renter’s liability insurance, and the repairs to the apartment would come out of the insurance. Kase was relieved, but he let out a sigh after he finished the call.
He had escaped paying for the damages to the apartment, but he had to replace all of his household items, and if he was to move, then those expenses too. Could the fire insurance cover those expenses as well? If they weren’t covered, then it would be tough. He had been laid off, but he had found a part-time job before he went to the Hello Work office, so he hadn’t received any unemployment insurance. Kase regretted that he hadn’t waited the seven days for his application to be accepted before starting the job.
“You reported to the government office that you already had a part-time job?” Agi gave Kase a look of disbelief when he heard Kase’s news.
“They said that they would find out if I tried to hide it…”
“It’s obvious that it’s just an empty threat. Your eyes make you look like a thug, but you’re like a graduate, fresh out of school, naive to the ways of the world. Is your heart as pure as a swan?”2
When Kase silently sulked, Agi stroked his head with an “Aww, you’re such a good boy,” but he pulled his hand away before Kase could get mad and slap it away.
“Well, regardless of what I say, it’s not like it changes anything now. Anyway, hurry up and make lunch. It’s your turn today.”
Kase looked at the clock and saw that it was just before noon. The bakery was closed today, and according to the rotation, it was Kase’s turn to cook. He went into the kitchen, and for the time being, boiled some water in a pot.
It was the third day of his stay at Agi’s apartment, and strangely enough, Kase was able to live here without much awkwardness. He thought that it was because Agi had laid down the ground rules from the first day where there would be potential arguments between them.
At first, Kase had planned to stay at a hotel, even though it would cost him money. When he remembered the time when he had stayed with his uncle, he wanted to avoid living with others at all costs. The cousins that were his age had giggled at him and called him Freeloader behind his back. It mortified him so much that it made him grind his teeth.
“I don’t want help from other people,” Kase had said.
“No one’s helping you, don’t worry. I’ll collect rent from you, and we’ll be equal lodgers here,” Agi had said simply.
There were people who saw others suffering and would give them more compassion than they were capable of. But it would never last; their attitudes would cool towards them. From the beginning, Agi never gave Kase any more sympathy than was needed, and he had grabbed a calculator and started inputting numbers in it.
“The rent here is 140,000 a month.3 There’s the living room, two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, and toilet. 140k divided by six rooms is about 23k per room. I’ll clear out one of the bedrooms for you and add in the use of the shared spaces, so let’s make it 30,000 yen4 per month. What do you think? I’m not ripping you off here.”
Kase stared with his mouth open. This place was 5 minutes away from the train station, on the 11th floor of a building with automatic locks. Street noise from the outside barely reached the apartment, and there was a wide terrace with a sweeping view of the city. All this for 30,000 yen?
“What? You don’t look satisfied. Do you want to haggle over it?”
“No, it’s too cheap.”
“You think so?”
Agi looked happy for some reason.
“Then in return, you can do the housework for me.”
When Kase questioned him back, Agi gave a pained look around the apartment.
“Can’t you tell from looking at the place? I’ve always been terrible at cleaning and cooking. And I started a bakery on top of it too. Day after day, day in and day out, I polish the floors, wipe the windows, and make the coffee, and it’s enough to exhaust all of my housework abilities.”
Kase somehow understood. The apartment and the furniture were nice, but the cleaning wasn’t thorough enough, and the place looked cluttered.
“Well, it is pretty creepy if a 40-year-old single man’s home is too clean…”
Kase wanted to imply that it couldn’t be helped if the place was a bit of a mess, but Agi frowned instead.
“Wait, who’s a 40-year-old man?”
“I’m still only 38.”
Kase thought that there wasn’t much of a difference, but he didn’t say anything. But then Agi accused him, “I bet you thought just now that there’s not much difference,” and Kase replied, “Not really,” and Agi retorted, “You totally did.”
“To apologize, you can do all the housework. I was thinking about taking turns, but you can do it every day.”
“No way, I don’t wanna.”
“Fine, you can do it five days a week, and I’ll take the remaining two.”
“Fine, you take four days a week—”
“You’re such a brat. Fine, we’ll take turns.”
Kase had nodded without thinking, and before he realized it, he had agreed to live with him. Kase had easily fallen into his trap. When Agi had first told him to pay rent, it was probably to make Kase feel better about staying with him. However, there was no benefit to Agi in letting someone freeload at his home. Why would Agi do so much for him?
—It’s because he’s similar to Yuzuru, isn’t it?
Those were the words that Mutou had said that day of the fire. Apparently Kase resembled Agi’s childhood friend and Rio’s father, Yuzuru. The man had died before Rio was born. Mutou had also said that Agi felt a sense of guilt towards the man. Kase didn’t know anything about it, but maybe that was the reason Agi treated him so kindly? Maybe even when their eyes first met through the glass storefront of the bakery?
“Oh, pasta. Looks great.”
Kase suddenly felt a weight on his shoulder. Agi had rested his chin there to look into the pot. Kase twisted his shoulder in reflex, and Agi laughed as he moved his chin. Even if Kase didn’t like it, Agi didn’t care and initiated physical contact with him anyway. Kase wasn’t as surprised as he was at the beginning, but it was still bewildering when it happened without warning.
Next to the boiling pasta, Kase sauteed ground meat, tomatoes, and eggplant for the sauce.
“Put black olives in the pasta. And since it’s our day off, put in a ton of garlic too.”
“What? You don’t like it?”
“I’m going to the Hello Work office in the afternoon.”
“Hnn. So you’re going to the office? How’s the search going?”
Kase glanced over at Agi at the murmur.
“Well, there’s nothing you can do about the times now. It’s probably best to be patient,” Agi said breezily and started to season the pasta sauce. Salt, black pepper, and a little sugar. Pepper flakes and grated cheese. And for a hidden flavor note: soy sauce. They took turns cooking, but Agi was always in charge of the seasoning.
—Just work full-time at our shop.
For a moment, Kase thought that Agi would say that to him, and it embarrassed him that he had thought it.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- There are different ways to say ‘thank you’ in Japanese. ‘Doumo’ is what you would say to be polite, whereas ‘arigatou’ is what you say to show your gratitude. You often don’t hear people thanking store/restaurant workers with ‘arigatou,’ but it does happen. There’s no hard and fast rule, but it depends on the person. But very often they don’t say anything because the customers are above the workers, or they’ll say ‘doumo’ for politeness.
- In Japan, the swan symbolizes purity of heart.
- 140,000 yen – Approx. $1,400 USD.
- 30,000 yen – Approx. $300 USD.