A pair of hand-knit, scarves or gloves.
「Are you sure?」
「Yeah. I'd rather make one. I don't know if I can do it well」
Chihiro smiled at Aika as she said this, perhaps to hide her embarrassment.
「If you can make it, that's great. ...Oh, but... Don't make anything with a heart pattern, that would be too embarrassing」
「I-I won't make something like that. It's embarrassing for me too」
Finally, Aika closed the topic by saying that she would discuss with Riko and the others to decide what to make.
She said that it would be a big problem if they wore the same thing, and if Riko and the others were willing to make it, they might be able to adjust the whole body.
It would be embarrassing, but if Riko and the others were willing to make it, it would be a great thing for him.
The unexpectedly difficult part was to find a bracelet, which was the main purpose of the trip.
The reason for this was that cheap and good quality chain clothing stores do not have many accessories.
So, inevitably, they went to grocery stores, as Riko had done before.
The rest was a matter of Aika choosing and Chihiro buying.
「...These things are pretty expensive, aren't they?」
「Don't worry about the price. It won't break easily, and I want you to choose the one you like」
「You say that, but...」
Either a discerning eye, or simply poor.
It seems that the price is not reasonable. It would be different if there was a design that she thought was perfect, but it seems she couldn't find such a design.
Just when they were beginning to ponder what to do.
Aika's face lit up when she saw an incoming call on her smartphone.
「Well, I emailed Riko-chan earlier, and she gave me some advice」
She suggested that they should go to a used store, in other words, a second-hand store.
If Aika doesn't mind buying things that have been used by other people, it's a good idea because sometimes a rare one-of-a-kind item can be found there.
This idea had never occurred to Chihiro and Aika.
「Shall we go?」
From there, they look around at the used stores.
They went into both large and small stores, and found that the stores had a wide variety of products.
In addition, the items are cheap.
It can't help but make them check out other items as well.
Although it is somewhat risky to buy tableware and clothes, the furniture, home appliances, and accessories seem to be good targets if one is careful about damage and defects.
Then, at one of the stores, they came across something.
Aika caught sight of an item and picked it up.
It's a thin bracelet made of metal. Silver in color. It's round on the outside and flat on the inside, and the finish is smooth on both sides.
It may not be pure silver, but it has the weight of metal, and there are no major scratches, peeling paint, or rust.
On the top, a small black stone shines.
The surface of the item is almost completely unadorned, and there is an exquisite pattern on the back side. A bit unusual.
「Do you like it?」
While she answered, Aika was transfixed by the item.
「The price is...」
The number on the price tag was not much. It was about the same price as Riko's choker. Considering the fact that it was used, it was moderate, but not unaffordable.
「Why don't you try it on?」
The design is not a complete circle, but rather has a little space on one side, so it is slightly movable.
Perhaps because of this, the bracelet fits perfectly on Aika's wrist.
Although it is made of metal, it is thin and does not look too heavy. The weight of the bracelet is also within the acceptable range for wearing.
The fingers of her left hand, the one without the bracelet, grasps her right wrist tightly.
...It was as if this bracelet had been waiting for Aika to find her.
Perhaps Chihiro wasn't the only one who felt this way.
「So, shall we take this one?」
Aika nodded, her cheeks slightly tinted.
After paying the bill at the register, he removed the price tag and handed it to Aika. She took it with great care and immediately put it on her arm.
「Chihiro-kun. I'll take good care of this」
She smiled and said, "Thank you is my line". But he was happy when she was happy.
And when they got on the train to go home, the sky started to darken a little.
It would be evening by the time they reached home.
「It's going to be winter now, so it's a pity it's hidden in your sleeve」
However, it is not noticeable even if it is worn in the school.
Besides, Aika said it was nice to be able to wear it without anyone knowing.
「Do you want to come by today?」
「No. Tomorrow we have school, so I'm going back to the dorm」
No dinner tonight because they had already eaten two meals out.
And when they arrived at the destination station, Chihiro walked Aika to her dormitory and split up.
「See you tomorrow, then」
「Yeah, see you tomorrow」
They waved to each other nearby, and almost pulled apart――the distance between them shortened again.
Aika turned around, jumped into Chihiro's chest, looked up and suddenly kissed him.
The kiss is brief, lasting only a few seconds.
She smiled mischievously and lowered her gaze slightly.
「I'm so happy, I really wanted to tell you that I like you right now. But, it's okay once in a while, right?」
He couldn't hold back if she said that much.
Chihiro impulsively hugged Aika and kissed her, feeling her soft body.
He kissed her for several times longer than before.
And when he gently pulled away, the girl's face was bright red.
「I'm sorry. I wanted to return the favor」
「G-Geez... I'm not used to this kind of thing, you know」
Aika whispered in protest and ran into the dormitory grounds.
Perhaps embarrassed, she didn't look back, but stopped in front of the door and waved again.
Chihiro waved back lightly and waited until she was out of sight before returning to the apartment.
「Welcome back. You're home early」
Maria came out into the hallway and greeted him nonchalantly.
「Oh. Maria and I were talking about the possibility that you'd stop by a love hotel」
「No no no」
Or should be?
「Well, Aika might say it's not worth the hotel bill」
「I'm glad you and Takatsuki-san seem to be getting along so well」
Maria smiles and averts her gaze.
He turned around to follow her, thinking that he had noticed something wrong on her, but there was nothing special there.
Rather, her words seemed to have a slight sting to them.
「What is it, Izumi-kun?」
But when Maria turned to face Chihiro, her expression was completely normal.
Seeing that, he didn't know what he should ask.
「Um... did anything happen while I was gone?」
「No, not really. ...Ah, no」
Maria said as she stood up, as if she remembered.
「I have a few things to do tomorrow after school. So, I might be home late」
Riko and Chihiro looked at each other as she disappeared into the bathroom to prepare for her bath.
「Did something happen?」
「No, not really」
Apparently, she really had no idea what was going on too.
And Riko's conversation turned to the photo of the bracelet that Aika had just sent.
Maria's attitude was normal, both at dinner and at night.
So, Chihiro had no idea what the discomfort he just felt was.