When they left the cosplay store, it was exactly noon.
Since it was a good time for the three of them to have lunch, Honoka brought the both of them along by saying 「there is a recommended shop」and was taken to the shop in question.
When they reached their destination, Ruri was dumbfounded, looked at the store’s signboard, then did a double take.
It was a ramen shop. Furthermore, it’s not the kind of shop with an elegant feel like 『Ramen that attracts women』that one would often see on television. Located in an elaborate alley, there is a small and little worn-out shop.
Ruri was wholly surprised because of Honoka’s recommendations which was quite different from her image.
On the hand, speaking of Honoka, her eyes sparkling brightly ignoring Ruri.
“What a relieved. Good thing it’s not crowded yet……Let’s go, if we don’t hurry, there will be a queue at lunch time.”
“Come on, let’s go Ruri.”
Chasing after Honoka, who was dashing through the curtains, Kazuma entered the shop while pushing Ruri from behind.
Although there wasn’t a line outside, but inside was packed. Honoka said that 『it will be crowded during lunch time』so this shop must be pretty popular.
Fortunately, some customers have left once they were done eating shortly as soon as they went in so they will able secure seats without have to wait for too long.
Then, after ordering this and that, it became a pleasant lunchtime.
Ignoring the noodles stretching out in front of her, Ruri was taken back and stared at『that』which Honoka ordered.
The ramen shop’s signature shop is called『Special Miso ramen』。A bundle amount of soup is poured into the bowl, on top of that, thick and curly noodles, and ingredients such as char siew* and menma* were literally making a mountain.
Even for the guy like Kazuma, is full just by looking at that size but Honoka was unfazed. On the contrary, that expression of holding the bowl with care uncontrollable was filled with delight and excited and slightly flushed.
Carefully placing her hands together, Honoka split the chopsticks in half with an experienced gestures.
Then she started slurping her stack of noodles as if she was attracted to it.
“Hmm…….delicious…….I’m in bliss………”
She slurped the noodles in one breath, together with chewing the ingredients. While her cheeks inflates like a squirrel, she smiled with a face that seemed to have gathered happiness from all over the world.
Ruri was staring with intense concentration at her profile.
Looking at Honoka’s appearance, Kazuma suddenly realizes.
Honoka’s glossy black hair. Since it was a bit of hindrance when she was eating despite it being long and beautiful, Honoka had to regularly slid her hair behind her ears.
However, it seems that if she look down a little, her hair would drooped from her ears. Because of that it makes a little harder for her to eat.
Just before Kazuma was going to say “Isn’t your hair in the way?”,
Ruri muttered. Towards Honoka who looked blankly sideways, she pull out a colorful hair tie from her bag.
She then stood up and went behind Honoka’s back.
“It’s fine! Just sit still!”
The troubled Honoka was push against her will, then Ruri tie her hair in one fell swoop.
“L-Look, it’s dirty if your food has hair in it………I don’t like that. T-That’s it.”
When Honoka turned around, Ruri looked the other way. The both of them haven’t open their hearts to each other yet so they probably didn’t know what to do in this situation.
Maybe it was the same for Honoka, she look away from Ruri as if she was lost for words.
“………..It’s nothing to be thankful for though.”
As if to ignored the awkward atmosphere, Honoka went back to eating her ramen. Ruri also return back to her seat and started eating her own ramen.
However, while doing so, it’s clear that the both of them care about each other.
Among the unprecedented mood, the three of them ate their ramen in silence.
……..On the side note, Honoka had consumed the previously mentioned ramen all of it’s entirety including the garnishes while leaving the bowl spotless.
“………..That’s a surprise.”
There is a small park near the ramen shop. Kazuma and Ruri sat on a bench as they waited for Honoka who went back to the store because she forgot something.
“Surprised?………..You mean Misaki-san?”
“Yeah……I didn’t know that Misaki-san have such a big appetite. Besides, when she eats, she have a completely different complexion that usual.”
While agreeing with her, Kazuma felt a little sense of triumph. Because, for Ruri, it was 『unexpected』to that side of Honoka and that was the norm for Kazuma.
He himself knew more than anyone, a little more about Honoka. That made him so happy that Kazuma unintentionally said how merry he was.
“That’s what makes Misaki-san cute. I really like watching her eat.”
Ruri suddenly gazed downward.
And then, she remained that way and didn’t raised her face.
When Kazuma who was wondering that was something odd about her and called out to her by saying: “Ruri?”
“Ruri? What a coincidence!”
The one who ran towards them was a girl in the same class as them who is often with Ruri. There are also several girls from their class behind her as expected. Apparently, it seems the chum group was hanging out and have fun.
“…………Wait, ah what? You’re with Odagiri-kun? Eh, what? You’re on a date?”
“Eh!? No way! Seriously?!”
“So you are dating after all! Geez, I wish you can tell us!”
The girl called Anri slightly titled her head, comparing Kazuma and Ruri. When the other members who came later started to get excited, Kazuma and perhaps Ruri became greatly flustered.
“I-I told you it is not like that! Kazuma and I are not──!”
“So you keep saying thatー!”
“You always one thing and another but you don’t look discontented at all. Just admit it, Ruri.”
“Yeah, we promised not to tell anyone for you.”
Because of their easy-going relationship, Ruri’s friends seemed to think that Ruri who was vehemently denying it was only acting 『shy』. Kazuma stood up in a hurry knowing that thing will go sour if this keeps up.
“No, you’re wrong. We are not alone in the first──”
Ruri’s voice drowned out Kazuma’s words.
Beyond that line of sight, Honoka was there before they knew it.
“Ah, M-Misaki-san……! It’s not like that, this isは──!”
“Eh?! No way, Misaki-san?!”
Ruri tried to say something but was interrupted by Anri and the gang.
Honoka just returned and probably wasn’t clear about the situation. With a perplexed face, she looked alternately at Kazuma and Ruri, then to the group of people.
“Misaki-san, you might think that dates and boyfriends are a bad idea but the both of them are serious. So don’t disturb them.”
“Since it is a mutual love, it’s not good to disturb them. Let’s leave them alone.”
“Please! Do it for your classmates!”
Apparently, the girls thought that Honoka would say something harsh with regards to 『Kazuma and Ruri dating.』
Everyone thinks that Honoka is honest, stern and………..a girl that is hard to get along because she is a honor student.
Then, Honoka who was pressurized by the girls, was unable to clear up the misunderstanding and looked down in silence.
Ruri was alarmed, standing besides Kazuma.
“You’re wrong! I beg you, please listen to me!”
He couldn’t remain quiet any longer. Kazuma ran over to Honoka and raised his voice to the limit.
“It’s not a date! Misaki-san was with us from the start! Ruri──Shinomiya and I are not dating! It’s a misunderstanding, all of it!”
Anri looked at Ruri for confirmation. As soon as Ruri nodded awkwardly, the girls have an uncomfortable look on their faces.
“Ah I see. I thought for sure that it was a date.”
“Sorry for jumping into conclusions. You too, Misaki-san.”
“Ah, well, I’ll be going then. Looks like we are disturbing you guys. Bye, Ruri.”
Ruri’s friends tied to leave in a hurry feeling unpleasant as one would expect.
The ones that were left behind were three people, Kazuma, Honoka and Ruri. The gentle atmosphere a while ago was a lie, now it’s gloomy and stifling.
“…………Sorry, I remembered I have something to attend.”
Ruri said that all of a sudden, looking down not seeing Kazuma and Honoka.
“I’m going home……….Sorry. I’m really sorry……….!”
Ruri sped off in a blink of an eye without having the time to stop.
Kazuma couldn’t chase after her while suspicious of her sudden behavior. That’s because he can’t leave Honoka alone in this situation.
Kazuma reluctantly put Ruri aside and called out to Honoka.
“I’m really sorry………… I didn’t explained fast enough………”
“No……..it’s not your fault, Odagiri-kun………”
Honoka said that, but her despondent expression clearly shows that she is still concerned about the words the girls said.
That’s why Kazuma used all his courage and energy and gently took Honoka’s hand.
He knew that Honoka’s body trembled a little.
“………..Isn’t time for a snack? Let’s go and eat something sweet. Together.”
Kazuma pulled Honoka’s hand and walked slowly even though he was so nervous his leg seemed to be trembling.
──Afterwards, Kazuma parted from Honoka and called Ruri, still worried about her.
However, she didn’t answer no matter how many times he called.
Since that day, Ruri has never show up in the club room after school.
TL: Chari siew is a popular way to flavor and prepare barbecued pork in Cantonese cuisine. It is classified as a type of siu mei (燒味), Cantonese roasted meat.
TL: Menma is a Japanese condiment made from lacto-fermented bamboo shoots. The bamboo shoots are dried in the sun or through other means before the process of fermentation. Menma is a common topping for noodle soups, notably ramen.