He was always kind.
Even when things didn’t go well between them, he never raised his voice at her. He always seemed to shine as he carried his dreams on his back. She was very proud of him.
“Was that your ex-boyfriend??”
His words drew her reeling mind back to reality. When she lifted her head and looked around, she realized that they have already arrived at their apartment lobby. It also seemed like they have been there for a while.
“Well, was he?”
Hasegawa impatiently asked again, as if urging her to answer. Hina absently nodded and a beat later, he heard her say, “Yes.” His brows furrowed slightly as he unlocked the door of the lobby. Afterwards, they hopped onto the elevator together.
“I’m sorry for acting on my own.”
“Huh? About what?”
“He probably wanted to get back together, didn’t he?”
Hearing the dejected tone in his voice, Hina finally realized what Hasegawa was talking about.
“No, I was actually trying to refuse him. It’s fine.”
“Is that so…”
The rest of the elevator ride was filled with silence. Only the sound of the motor could be heard. Hasegawa was still holding her hand and Hina felt prickly at the touch.
When they reached her door, Hasegawa finally let go of her hand. With that warmth feeling instantly gone, Hina stared unconsciously at her hand.
Then she opened her eyes in shock.
“Ahh! I didn’t get to buy a bento, Hasegawa!”
“Ah…” Hasegawa also muttered in realization.
They left the convenience store in a hurry so neither of them were able to buy anything.
“This is bad! I have nothing to eat at home tonight! Ugh, it’s annoying to go back to buy now!”
Hasegawa smiled at Hina who was hugging her head in distress. There was no trace of the dejection in his face a while ago.
Hina also looked characteristically brighter than before.
“I only have potatoes and onions in my house right now. Even if I wanted to make something, I don’t have enough… I guess I have to go back to buy after all-”
“I have carrots and beef. Are they enough to make curry? I think I also have the spices for it.”
At Hasegawa’s suggestion, Hina’s face lightened up in delight.
“That’s good! Oh but it’s a pain to cook rice now…”
“I was going to say it’s not that much of a pain but I’m also tired today. If you’re okay with instant rice, I have about 150 grams we could share…”
“Great! Let’s just have that!”
Hina smiled while clapping her hands. Then she opened her door.
“Let’s meet in your room in twenty minutes?”
“If you’ve tidied up properly, we can also stay in your room, right?”
“Doing a spot check is not allowed!”
Announcing it like some sort of a slogan, Hina dashed into her room. Watching her back, Hasegawa slightly arched his brows.
“You changed clothes?”
At Hasegawa’s question, Hina looked down at her clothes as she was taking off her shoes at the entryway. She was wearing a hoodie and loose pants, which were a lot more casual than what she wore earlier.
“Do I look bad? That dress was pretty expensive so it’d be a waste if it gets ruined.“
“No, it’s just… Had I known you were going to change, I would’ve looked at you more earlier…”
Hasegawa then went on to prepare the food. Similarly, Hina also stood next to him.
“What about it?”
“It’s your overall look today. It was different than usual and I was quite surprised to see you in a cute dress.”
Hasegawa placed emphasis on the words “different than usual”. Hina pouted her lips as she took out the potatoes and onions in the plastic bag.
“…Then are you giving up?”
“Give up? Ms. Katsuragi has a good sense, doesn’t she?”
“Then that means you aren’t giving up on me, doesn’t it?!”
Puffing in frustration, Hina glared at Hasegawa. Seeing her reaction, Hasegawa raised the corners of his mouth in a smirk.
“If I compliment you more, will you turn red again?”
“I-I won’t! If anything, I’m the type who thrives on praises!”
Hasegawa grinned, as if planning something mischievous.
“Is that so? Well then… you were gorgeous, Hina.”
Hasegawa drew his face closer, close enough to hear his breath in her ears.
Hina jumped and held her ears while shooting daggers at Hasegawa. Her face flushed as expected.
“Look, it turned red.”
“That was cheating!”
“Cheating, you say… But you started it, remember?”
After calmly saying so, Hasegawa asked Hina to get and prepare the instant rice. She did as asked and subsequently bellowed, “That’s- Thanks for that compliment!”
“I’m not really good at lying so I can only say what I genuinely thought. Today, you were really lo-”
“Thank you v-very much!”
He was about to shower her with more flattering words so Hina quickly cut him off.
Come to think of it, Hasegawa can be pretty shameless. While watching the instant rice cooking in the microwave, Hina stretched her flushed cheeks lightly.
The curry was ready in no time.
Hasegawa’s culinary skills were superb, like he was performing in a cooking program on television.
Hina eyed the dishes and prepared the plates. Even without using curry paste, the curry dish was still oozing with a fragrant aroma.
Appreciating the luscious view of the dishes on the table, Hina sucked in her breath.
“You can do anything, can’t you Hasegawa? Cleaning and even cooking… For sure, you’ll be a good bride-”
“…In that case, will you be my bride?”
“Please ask someone else.”
Saying with a smile, Hina sat directly across Hasegawa, whose face contorted into a frown as he crossed his arms.
“For goodness sake, what is it that you dislike about me? I did brace myself for a long-term battle but at least, I’d like to know the reason why you keep refusing me.”
Hina was about to put a spoonful of curry in her mouth but stopped halfway and frowned in contemplation. She didn’t expect the conversation to turn in this direction. After thinking for a while, she put the spoon back on her plate.
“…You want to discuss this now?”
“Yes. By all means.”
Hina inwardly groaned as wrinkles formed between her brows. She answered in an almost whisper.
Hina’s face stiffened at his seemingly furious tone.
“Tell me the specific reason. If you dismiss it as ‘just because’, I’ll get angry.”
Hasegawa’s piercing glare made Hina’s body tremble in fright. There was no way she could wiggle her way out of this.
“Well… your ideal standards are just too high. It’s impossible for me to reach them.”
“That’s fine. I’ll do something about it. When there’s a will, there’s a way, right?”
He said to leave it to himself but Hina shook her head in disagreement.
“No, it’s not! …The way I am now turns you off, right?”
Hasegawa’s eyes opened in surprise but after a while, returned to normal.
“…I never thought about it.”
Seeing that their conversation was turning into a farce, Hina suddenly felt weary and dropped her eyes in resignation.
How could he not think about it first? She could never fathom Hasegawa’s train of thought after all.
“In the first place, what’s with that notebook? The one you showed me before. I was honestly taken aback by that…”
“Oh, that’s my life plan. I’ve had it since elementary school so it’s a bit rough around the edges…”
At Hina’s surprised voice, Hasegawa tilted his head in doubt and crossed his arms. He didn’t understand why she looked so baffled.
“Oh, it’s like a list of my course of action. Things like what I want to do when I reach a certain age, the qualifications I need to take – I wrote everything I needed to do to be who I am today.”
“That’s.. quite amazing.”
As Hina mused over how much of an excessive perfectionist he was, her face looked like she was put off. Hasegawa leaned a little forward. His face carried a hint of dissatisfaction.
“Just now you were put off, weren’t you?”
“…How did you know?”
“I know that look. Everyone who has seen my notebook had the same reaction.” Hasegawa said as a matter of fact. “In any case, isn’t it a waste to live life without a plan? Don’t we only live once? I don’t want mine to be in vain.”
“So then that ideal type…”
He probably wanted his other half to be both his lover and best partner in life. But even a woman who has abandoned love won’t be satisfied to be a simple housewife…
Perhaps that’s why Hasegawa persistently tries to bring Hina closer to his ideal. She still can’t sympathize but somehow she feels like she could understand Hasegawa’s thoughts better.
Looking at Hina lost in thought, Hasegawa heaved a small sigh. Then he furrowed his brows in a frown.
“After all, there comes a time when your partner no longer has feelings for you, doesn’t it?”
“Your partner…?” Just as she asked what he meant, Hasegawa turned his eyes away.
“Do you know how long romantic feelings last?”
“Four years. After four years, people start losing interest in their partners.”
She only uttered a syllable but Hasegawa furrowed his brows deeper.
“Isn’t it scary? The moment your lover turns cold? It’s best if you break up but… if you’ve got kids, won’t they be pitiful?”
Hasegawa expressed with a hint of sorrow. Before Hina could say anything, he continued.
“If I choose a woman close to my ideal type, even if she loses interest in me, staying together won’t be as painful. I’m confident I can play my role as her ideal husband and even if she has an affair, I can just turn a blind eye.” He said with an air of indifference. Hina cocked her head to the side as she assessed.
“If the mom cheats while the dad plays the ideal husband, don’t you think the child will still be unhappy even if they don’t divorce?”
“You think so?”
“Of course! Even if you say the romantic feelings are gone in four years time, not all couples in the world get divorced in four years, right? In fact my parents are still lovey-dovey to this day. Even I wonder how many years I’ll be married. So you don’t have to beat yourself up about it.”
Hina’s bright voice somehow perked up the dark atmosphere around Hasegawa.
“Oh, could it be you’re stupefied? You may think I’m a foolish idiot, but that’s what makes life fun, you know! You should also loosen up a little, Hasegawa. Even if unexpected things happen and they bring you suffering, but after a number of years, it will become a memory and might even turn into just a funny anecdote in your life.”
Seeing the smile on her face as she spoke, the gloomy expression on Hasegawa gradually disappeared.
“Huh? What do you mean? Amazing how foolish I am?”
“No… Thank you, Hina.”
Hina tilted her head in contemplation as she tried to think of what his gratitude was for. Meanwhile, Hasegawa brightened up and started digging on the already cold curry.