Chapter 4: A Bird in a Cloudy Sky
Once they were back in Shinawara City, the two of them headed straight for the dirt cheap supermarket.
The eggs were on sale but the mentsuyu was slightly expensive. “You can fry eggs with the round frying pan at home, but this will be better for omelettes,” said Inaho, adding a square frying pan to the shopping list.
When she asked why he was so well-informed, he said, “It was written in a magazine in the library.” Inaho picked out something from the magazine corner beside the register. “Look, they sell it here too.”
It was a lifestyle information magazine aimed at housewives.
“Since it’s just the two of us living together, I thought it would be a good idea to brush up on this sort of thing.”
The mental image of an eight-year-old kid poring over this magazine in the library was strangely adorable. Yuki fought to contain the smile creeping up on her mouth. She didn’t want to undermine her brother’s enthusiasm by making him embarrassed. She had no doubt that, more than anything, Inaho taking the opportunity to memorise how to cook would improve the Kaizuka family dish repertoire immensely.
When they dropped by the clothing goods section on the second floor, Yuki picked out a cooking apron for Inaho.
“Oh, right. Toothpaste,” Inaho piped up as if it had just occurred to him. “Let’s buy new toothpaste. A different brand.”
“A different brand? But I thought you were crazy about the one you use now, Nao-kun. You always use so much of it on your toothbrush.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m crazy about it. I want to get rid of it, so I just use a whole lot at once.”
“Huh…?! Geez, quit being so obtuse. You should’ve told me sooner or else I wouldn’t have bought the same brand.”
“I thought Yuki-nee wanted it spicy…”
“Yes, but I thought if you liked it, Nao-kun, I could put up with it…” Yuki said, the truth finally dawning on her. This argument was completely pointless. After all, the miscommunication was born out of kindness.
The new toothpaste had a mint apple flavour.
They had tried to look for a flavour that was neither too spicy for eight-year-old Inaho nor too sweet for thirteen-year-old Yuki. If this one didn’t work out, they could just try a new one one next time.
It was more fun that way.
The person who halted the two of them on their walk home was none other than Inko, who seemed ready to burst into tears any second.
Slipping on an oversized pair of sandals, Inko darted over to them, her manner clearly different from usual.
“Inko-chan…!” Yuki exclaimed. “Something wrong? What’s the big rush…?”
“Geez, I was really worried!”
Yuki and Inaho exchanged glances without thinking.
“You left home so early and didn’t even come for dinner… I thought something happened—! Mum and Dad are super worried too. They’re at the police box right now.”
“Seriously?! They did that for us—?!”
“Anyway, come home. I’ll ring the officer and tell him I found you.”
Inko pulled her hand back quickly. “Geez, don’t vanish on us… I really was worried…”
“Sorry, Inko-chan. And thanks…”
“Oh, no. I’m just glad you two came back… that’s all.” She swung around suddenly. “But still—”
She grinned mischievously.
“You two will definitely get scolded! My mum and dad are scary when they’re mad. You’d better prepare yourselves!”
Thus, the two siblings were served an extra stern lecture along with an extra filling dinner.
“Chinese food is perfect after a long day.”
As per the Amifumi family’s mysterious tradition, the table was lined with a row of Chinese dishes. Even as she was setting down the plates, Inko’s mother wouldn’t stop telling them off.
They didn’t mind at all, though, probably because they knew she was speaking out of genuine concern for them.
“…so this sort of thing happens too,” Inaho muttered. Somehow, his face seemed kind of happy.
I’m pretty sure I look the same way, Yuki thought as she stuffed her mouth full of dumplings until her cheeks were ready to burst.