Surprisingly, Hasegawa brought her to her room and not his. Hina sat down on the sofa and Hasegawa placed a cup of coffee in front of her.
“Have you calmed down?”
“Sorry. I was a mess.”
Hina lowered her head and stared at the brown liquid containing milk and sugar. Although her eyes are still red from crying, the tears have stopped already and there’s even a disconcerted smile on her lips.
Hasegawa sat down beside Hina and peered at her worriedly.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“It’s not a big deal…”
Hasegawa called her name sternly. His gaze was gentle with a trace of worry.
Hina reluctantly sighed.
“It’s really not a big deal, and it may just be my imagination..”
Even so, is it really okay? Thinking so, Hina then relayed what happened this morning.
Looking up at Hasegawa who was in deep thought while holding his chin in his hands, Hina heaved a sigh.
“The pile of trash could be a child’s prank and even being chased could possibly be just my imagination but..”
“There’s that possibility but… it’s still scary, wasn’t it?”
Hearing his words, tears welled up at Hina’s eyes. While fighting the urge to cry again, a big hand stroked her head gently.
As if the heat from his big hands transferred to her, Hina’s face burned hot. Wiping a fallen teardrop, Hasegawa sighed softly.
“It’s okay to cry…”
“I won’t cry anymore!”
After saying “Is that so?”, Hasegawa gently smiled. Seeing that faint smile, Hina’s face burned again, but for a different reason than a while ago.
“But if it wasn’t just in your mind, it’s a cause for concern..”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s possible that you have a stalker..”
“N-No, no, no way! That’s impossible! I’m not popular, and aside from you, the last time I got confessed to was in university.”
As if shivering in fear, Hina shook her head and denied that possibility. However, Hasegawa deepened his voice in a warning tone.
“Even so, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a possibility at all, right? In any case, you should take some precautions.”
“If you find evidence that you indeed have a stalker, you’ll have to seek the help of the police. But it would also be great if you can take defensive measures yourself such as changing room keys, etc. It’d also be a good idea not to let yourself be alone as much as possible. It’s fine if you’re alone at work or at home, but if you’re commuting around or something, it’d be best to bring someone along.”
Hina couldn’t help but agree to his reasonable suggestions. However, finding someone to commute with is hard. Telling someone “I might have a stalker so I want you to accompany me.” is quite awkward. And if she was mistaken, it gives others a reason to label her as a delusional woman.
“Let me accompany you during your commute. You have to endure going alone on days off though…”
Hasegawa suggested matter-of-factly. Hina blinked then shook her head.
“No, no, that’s not a good idea. You don’t have to bother, I can ask someone else living near my house. And I’ll be taking the same route home as much as I can!”
“If we’re talking about proximity to your house, aren’t I the closest? And even if you take the same route home, you could still be followed just like a while ago, right?”
Indeed, no matter how many times one walks around that dark road, it’s still the only way to her apartment. Recalling what happened today, going home with someone is certainly a sound idea. It’s even more reassuring since Hasegawa is a man.
However, seeing that Hina’s face looked troubled, Hasegawa assumed that she disapproved of his proposal.
“What’s wrong? Are you displeased with me?”
Staring at her sharply, Hasegawa asked. Hina slowly raised her head fearfully. Then she shook her head from left to right.
“It’s not like that. I mean.. Aren’t the salespeople busy during this time? You have a lot of projects on hand, and as a sales support, I don’t want to be another burden to you…”
“How can you think about work right now? Besides, it’s me who want to help you so…”
“That’s also another reason!”
Hasegawa leaned closer as her voice faded to a whisper. Hina continued.
“No, I mean, I haven’t given my reply to your confession so I just thought I shouldn’t take advantage of you…”
Hina felt both guilty and ashamed after saying it. She really didn’t want to take advantage of his kindness.
“Well then, how about this. Every time I accompany you, we’ll have dinner together. You’ll feel safe and assured when you go home and I can use it as an excuse to woo you. What do you think? It’s a win-win situation for both of us.”
“Eh? But that’s…”
“What is it? Anything else you’re displeased with?”
She wanted to ask if he possibly doesn’t enjoy eating with her but decided against it after catching his eyes.
“I don’t really mind eating with you, and there isn’t really a disadvantage for me… but are you really okay with that?”
At Hina’s inquiring tone, Hasegawa continued to contemplate in silence. After a while, he mumbled a reply that was so low it may not have reached Hina’s ears.
“I’m glad that my favorability has gone up.”
“Nothing. I was talking to myself. Of course I don’t mind. I’m happy as long as you feel that you’re not at a disadvantage. Well then, we’ll be in each other care for a while?”
As Hina replied, Hasegawa’s lips curled up in a smile.
“Then… it starts today, right?”
“Oh? But today I bought food… eh?”
On the way home, Hina bought a bento at the convenience store. She remembered buying it but couldn’t recall where she placed it.
As she looked for it around her bag, Hasegawa lifted the plastic bag that was beside Hina.
“Are you going to eat such a messy meal? You also like this?”
The bento had become rather messy inside the plastic. Was it due to impact from running? The lid became undone and some of the rice and side dish spilled out from the plastic.
After receiving the plastic bag, Hina placed it down.
“…It’ll be a waste so I’ll just eat whatever I can.”
“Then, let me help you. In exchange, help me with my meal as well.”
Hina nodded without thinking.
From then on, Hina and Hasegawa started coming to work together.