Chapter 43:

Lend Her a Hand

Unconsciously Interested


PART TWO


“Err... It just occurred to me. Uhm, you see... Ezaki-san, since you are a guy, do you have any good suggestions on what would make a nice present for female friends?” My tone was somewhat hesitant.

Please don’t let him think I’m asking too much. It’s just that this is one of those instances where I find myself in desperate need of some ideas.

“Hmm?” Ezaki-san took an enthusiastic gander at me. “I might be able to help if you tell me who is getting the gift.” You can tell he is making an effort to conceal a smile.

Ah-re?

“Why does that have to be a precondition?”

“Shibasaki-san, when choosing a gift for a girl, it’s crucial to have a well-rounded understanding of who she is. For starters, it would be helpful to understand if she is a gyaru or a simple one who isn’t keen on flashy things.” Ezaki-san stuck his forefinger in the air as if he were trying to lecture me. “That is the barest minimum you should keep in mind when deciding on a gift.”

“I see. That does make some amount of sense.” Hmm... He sounded pretty confident in this one. Perhaps he has already given gifts to a whole bunch of girls? “How nice... You appear to be no stranger to this theme, Ezaki-san.”

“Huh?? …Yes, of course, Shibasaki-san. Aherm!” There was a brief pause while he cleared his throat. “It’s also expected that a high school guy like me is more clued up on matters like this.” He seemed to be trying to justify himself through head nods.

“Right... So, here’s the tricky bit. I couldn’t think of anything to give Kyashii and Tomoka as keepsakes. It would be easier if I could just buy something from a store, but in this case, they were hoping for something remarkable from my belongings.” For some reason, my smile came off as clumsy.

“Ohh! Now I see what you mean! It’s Mikami-san and Mizuno-san, huh?” Something about him just gave off an air of unexpected excitement. “This is incredible!”

Huh? Incredible? Is that a reaction to what again?

“Well... To put it bluntly, I have such a dreadful track record of giving gifts like that.” I puffed up my cheeks. “What do you think would be the most appropriate to give, Ezaki-san? A handkerchief, maybe?”

“No!!”

“Heh?” The suddenness and forcefulness with which he made his howl of objection threw me off guard.

“Aherm! Aherm! I mean... I’m sorry to say this, but Shibasaki-san, that is not a wise choice.”

What?

How terrible is it to give away a handkerchief you use yourself? I thought giving that thing away was a nice gesture. I see it in movies all the time. “Err… Why is that?”

“I say it’s too simple... Yes, that is overly simplistic! It will make a difference if it’s something that shows your affection for them.” A passionate tone echoes in his voice. “Say, something handmade, like a knitted scarf for Mikami-san and gloves for Mizuno-san.”

“H-Handmade?? Knitted??” Uhh… “Hold on... They were asking for something I already had, though.”

“Right. But I was assuming you had made something similar for yourself, Shibasaki-san. Or am I completely off base here?”

I tittered. “Please accept my deepest apologies for not living up to your expectations, Ezaki-san. My bare hands are hopeless with regard to knitting or other handicrafts. I wasn’t born to do that.”

“Oooh... Is that right? Mmm... But that’s all right, Shibasaki-san!” He sent me a smile of amusement. “So, if handcrafted isn’t an option... Ah! Then how about a necklace for Mikami-san and a friendship bracelet for Mizuno-san?!” He smacked his fist against his palm.

“. . . . .”

Uhh?

Just hold on a second...

Do I really have the right person to turn to for suggestions??

“Aren’t those two things too much to give as gifts to friends? I mean, there’s no special occasion or anything like that.” From what I understand, people usually give those for birthdays or other special occasions, right?

“I take issue with that, Shibasaki-san. There is no reason why you should wait for a certain occasion to give such gifts to your friends.” With a wave of his head, Ezaki-san expressed his disagreement. “It’s not about the circumstance; it’s about the thought we give them because we believe they deserve it.” He said as he reached into his pocket for his phone.

Ugh!

Let’s face it; he raises an excellent point there. It’s almost as if I was suggesting my friends are unworthy of such thoughtful gifts unless there’s a significant celebration.

Haaah…

I knew it... This is something I am inconceivably incapable of carrying out.

“W-Well, I guess you’re right... Uhh... But I’m not even sure if I have a necklace. I recall having several bracelets and other hair trinkets in middle school I never wore but still have up to these days. What’s your take on that, Ezaki-san?”

“Mmm-hmm? Mizuno-san would certainly appreciate a bracelet.” He simply nodded at me without glancing up from his phone. “But for Mikami-san, how about you give her something like this?” He then held the device up to my face, and on the screen was a blog post.

That must have been what he was reading a short while ago.

“Ahm, let me take a look. Please excuse me...” The font size wasn’t large enough that I had to lean forward to go over it.

Hmm...

It’s a relatively short article; I ended up reading it in no time. “Heh~. That’s quite engaging. Ezaki-san, you caught sight of that write-up in no time flat, huh?”

“Regardless of what it takes, you and Mikami-san are worth it.” He smiled slowly.

“Huh?? What? …Could you please elaborate on that?”

“I’m not talking about anything particular, Shibasaki-san. So... What are your thoughts? It seems like this would be a better gift for Mikami-san, no?” He gestured at his phone.

“I think so... The article seems fairly convincing. And it also asserted such a gift could never go wrong in a friend’s eyes. So... Yeah... I guess that’s what I’ll give Kyashii, then.” I affirmed with a soft smile.

“Alright! I’m glad to hear that, Shibasaki-san.” It appeared my response had pleased Ezaki-san.

I bend my head towards him. “Thank you so much for your help, Ezaki-san. I greatly appreciate it.” He caught my sincere smile. “Honestly, I was beginning to doubt my initial impression of you, but it appears you do know a great deal.”

“O-Of course, Shibasaki-san. Ahaha!” An effusive chuckle broke from him. “Not to mention that no matter what, I’ll do everything in my power to lend you a hand at times like this.”

“Those are incredibly generous words, Ezaki-san. Many thanks again.”

“Think nothing of it, Shibasaki-san. Anyway, you can be certain that whatever you decide, Mikami-san will cherish any keepsake you give her.”

“Yeah... Perhaps. And I hope Tomoka will as well.”

“Ah! Yes, of course. Mizuno-san appears to be the type who finds value in almost anything. She’s a nice person, after all.”

“She is. The same goes for you, Ezaki-san. You’re a good person. Thank you for always giving me a hand with things. So... Please let me know if there is anything else I can help with as well.” My hand was on my chest as I said this.

“Don’t worry about it, Shibasaki-san. I’m all glad you asked for my input on this. You can always turn to me whenever you have second thoughts over something you believe you can’t discuss with your friends, yes?” An encouraging smile stretched his lips.

“Got it!” I beamed at him. “An offer like that is hard to refuse, so I’ll take you up on that.”

Ezaki-san has been a great help to me in a number of ways, which is why I am truly thankful to him. He may have helped me with seemingly inconsequential things, but I sincerely appreciate his kindness toward me.

Although we do not have a particularly close relationship, I now feel more comfortable around him over time. I never felt awkward in his presence at all, but moments like this helped me feel more and more at ease with him.

And while I sometimes find Ezaki-san a bit weird, his strange nature has become less of an issue for me. When it comes down to it, I think everyone is eccentric in their own way anyway.


•──────•༻❁༺•──────•


“I’m home….” I muttered as I put my shoes on our shoe rack. At the same time, the sound of our television and a peal of rowdy laughter floated through the house.

Hmm?

It looks like my brother has not yet left for his part-time job.

“Yuyo, welcome back...” Sanji-onii greeted me as I walked by. “You got home a bit late than usual today, didn’t you?”

“I had to get something from the shop next to my school.” I showed him the smallish shopping bag in my hand. “Why are you still here, Onii-chan? Did you take the day off?” I asked while glancing at the TV. My brother is catching up with one of Japan’s most popular comedy shows. A series like that is such a huge hit with him.

“Not really. Manager-san has decided to give us the week off to prepare for exams.”

“Heh... That’s one nice workplace you’ve got there. But... Are you sure you will spend all that time studying, Onii-chan?” I snickered.

“Just who do you take your brother for, Yuyo-chan?” He chuckled at me with a smirk.

“A complete nobody.” I mirrored his expression.

“Okay, that’s fine with me.” He laughed. “What about you? Are you all set for your exams?”

“I plan to start going through my lecture notes tonight. I’ll also have my friends here for the group study this weekend, so yeah... I think I’m good to go in that sense.” I approached the staircase with a shrug. “Ahh… I’ve already told you about it, right, Onii-chan?” My gaze shifted back to him for a moment.

“Mmm... A group study, eh? How nice... It brings back my memories of high school.”

“What was that... It sure sounds like you’re already in your final year of university.”

Sanji-onii gave a suppressed laugh. “Anyway, is it safe to assume our house will be bustling with activity this weekend?”

“Pft! Yeah, I would say that. I hope we don’t get in your way, Onii-chan.”

“Relax, Yuyo, it’s fine. Ah… Wait! Will I expect your girlfriend to be here as well?” He instantly cracked a broad grin.

“Sheesh! I told you to stop calling my best friend like that.” I flashed him a wicked stare. “Nevertheless, to quell your curiosity, yes... Kyashii will be here.”

“Great! I can finally meet my younger sister’s girlfriend for the first time. Hmm? What do you say I make dinner for you and your friends, Yuyo?”

“Ehh?! Really?! Will you cook for us?”

“Certainly. Invite them over on Friday night, and I’ll have something ready for you.”

“Huh?? Friday night? But we agreed to meet on Saturday morning.”

“What could possibly go wrong with asking them to show up ahead of schedule? I’m going out on Saturday, but I’m free Friday night. You might want to invite them over that day, so I can make you dinner. In any case, I want to meet your friends.” Sanji-onii’s stern gaze abruptly fell on me.

“Oh. Okay. I’ll try to talk to them about it tomorrow. It should be fine to meet them on Saturday morning if they can’t afford to make it, though.”

“Brilliant! I’m looking forward to meeting them — most particularly your girlfriend, Yuyo.” My brother sent two thumbs up my way.

Tch!

Having given Sanji-onii a grim look, I silently continued my way upstairs. Guhh! I had enough of repeating myself to put an end to that girlfriend joke.

Well... Whatever.

It’s no longer my concern how everyone else labels my closeness to Kyashii—insisting they refrain from doing so proved to be an exercise in futility on my part.


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