He knew that was rather paranoid on his part, but it was a normal trait to adopt given that he was indeed being targeted. But of course, in his case, he’s always been paranoid.
“──And start drying yourself already! Don’t blame me if you catch a cold!”
“W-Wait a moment!?”
Even when afraid, Shinichi couldn’t react properly to her.
She dried him off with the towel. It was a bit rough, but she seemed used to it, and despite how dripping wet his head was, it quickly dried.
Oddly enough, that evoked a strange sense of relief, reminiscent of his younger days after a bath.
Thanks to that, he was able to calm down and his fear began to subside.
“Hmm, yeah, I don’t think just drying you will be enough.”
But of course, with his whole body dripping wet, drying his head was a waste of effort in the first place.
“The Drier skill can only dry clothes too… Sister, can this kid use the bath?”
“Sure, you can use the washing machine too. It can’t wash and dry instantly like the latest models, though.”
“That’s more than enough. Thank you, Sister… Hey, isn’t there something you should be saying too?”
“E-Erm… T-Thank you.”
Shinichi had no idea how things turned out like this. He wasn’t even asked for his opinion, but it was also true that he was causing them trouble, so he meekly bowed his head.
The fact that he didn’t even think of asking her to accompany him was a testament to how bad his situation was, but of course, no one here could possibly know that.
“─────It still doesn’t sit right with me.”
“Fu fu, don’t pout.”
The young woman appeared somewhat dissatisfied with the situation, while the more mature Sister held back a chuckle.
They were sitting on the floor, facing each other across small tables meant for young children.
The Sister had a cushion to sit on, while the young woman didn’t. Nevertheless, her displeasure wasn’t about the seating arrangement; as this was normal for them.
If anything, she wished that the Sister would get a proper chair and let her handle this task. But she was an outsider herself, and it was clearly a poor idea to leave the children with an outsider alone.
“Take this, the power of the fifth blade!”
“Fire Blade Finisher!”
“Guaah, you got me.”
That’s why they watched over the kids as they played in the hallway.
Though, really, they were watching over the boy that the kids were treating as a toy.
The boy seemed to enjoy being thrown around, while the children too were happy to have a new playmate.
But the woman wasn’t happy, and a groan could be heard coming from her.
“Ufufu, I guess I can consider myself special for being able to see you make a face like that.”
“I mean, who else could see the Songstress of Dimensions make a sullen face? You’re always acting so cool, after all.”
Monica frowned at that, but she didn’t say anything.
They’ve known each other for a long time, and she didn’t feel like she could win against her in a contest of words.
“That’s right, just you…”
“Fu fu, but I wonder how long that will continue… Are you sure he’s not that kind of person to you?”
Then when she goes meek, the Sister goes and brings this up like a mother that keeps poking her head in her daughter’s love life.
Though Monica certainly wasn’t about to deny her role as a parent in her life, she’s been like this since the boy entered the bath.
“He’s not. As I’ve been telling you this whole time, this is my first time meeting that boy… Probably.”
“I just realized it awhile ago, but I feel like I’ve heard his voice somewhere before.”
But she couldn’t remember.
“Oh my, how strange.”
Monica thought so too.
Due to her profession or perhaps an innate talent, she has always been confident in her ability to distinguish sounds and in her memory. However, there was a certain haze that prevented her from recalling this specific memory.
Unfortunately for her, that only served to add fuel to the sister’s fire.
“My, how dramatic, a fated meeting with a person you remember only through his voice. I know it’s unbefitting of my age, but this old lady’s heart is going pitter-patter.”
“Sister! There’s no way I’d like such a rude guy!”
“Oh, but he wasn’t like that earlier, was he?”
After coming out of the bath, he apologized for the wariness and behavior he’d showed and thanked them for their help.
──Thank you so much for taking care of me despite being a complete stranger.
──I’ll be sure to pay you back eventually.
──I’m sorry for how unbecoming my attitude was earlier.
They had taken care of a stranger, who didn’t even have an umbrella when it was pouring so hard, so he said that it wasn’t right of him to adopt such an attitude and deeply thanked them.
──Huh? Ah, y-yeah. It was nothing special.
Monica had originally intended to complain, but she couldn’t anymore after he said all that.
The gratitude and apology she received had thoroughly disarmed her, preventing her from unleashing her complaints.
Had there been a trace of insincerity in his gratitude and apology, she might have given a word or two, but the boy was so sincere she couldn’t even get a word in.
Upon seeing that, the Sister just laughed. When the boy tried to leave right away, the returning children intercepted him, bringing about this situation where they couldn’t even introduce themselves properly.
“Anyway, he doesn’t matter. More importantly! I went out of my way to come here, yet they’re all just playing with him!”
“Frustrated to have your siblings taken from you?”
“The heck.. In the end, are toys and siblings the same? The newer one is better?”
“Fu fu, don’t sulk… That boy is just too good.”
In that regard, she could only groan in frustration. After all, it was true. There was no way for her to do what the boy was doing so effortlessly.
From the moment he played the father in make-believe to now playing the role of a menacing villain, he had been an active and indispensable part of their playtime.
The boy wore a pair of warm, caring eyes, almost as if that sharp gaze from earlier never existed.
He skillfully handled the children that even experienced staff struggled with.
He also successfully engaged the children that were typically more withdrawn.
However, for those children who preferred to play alone, he merely watched over them after initiating contact.
And when children tried to wander out of the play area or behaved roughly, he would firmly correct their actions, using a manner that wasn’t overly harsh.
Despite looking like he had just entered his late teens, he gave the impression of a seasoned child caregiver.
“…If it’s like this, he might as well just work here.”
The sister muttered relatively seriously, while the woman just groaned.