Mellow sunlight illuminated all that was outside the window; after the cold had finally dissipated, the first day of March had finally arrived, starting the season with a celebrated warmth.
Toujou Basara and Takigawa Yahiro were seated opposite one another on a table in a café; Basara appeared to be hesitating, wanting to say something but not knowing if he should, wearing a rather grave expression on his face—something that caused Takigawa to let out an unrepressed sigh.
“Oh, come on. You’re really going to put me up to the burden of listening to you talk seriously? I’m here to relax, you know.”
Basara shrugged, beginning to explain with the same leaden expression. “I know, and I’m sorry. Still, this is something that I really can’t talk to anyone else about other than you.”
Takigawa’s eyebrows creased together. “Whoah, whoah, you’re going to ask me for a favour again? Even after the whole fiasco with the Demon Realm’s come to an end?”
“What do you intend to give on White Day?”
“Huh?” Takigawa didn’t know when he opened his mouth, before he looked at Basara’s serious expression once again.
He then knitted his eyebrows and clutched his head with his hands; his body shivered for a moment before he hugged his stomach and burst into an explosive fit of laughter.
“Seriously, White Day? You wanted to talk to me about White Day, Basachi?”
And he laughed so hard that tears started to pool onto the corners of his eyes.
“…Damn, I thought I was gonna die laughing, you know.”
Ten minutes had passed; Takigawa had since calmed himself from his outburst of laughter, wiping away the water that reflexively spilled from his eyes.
“Well, I didn’t expect you to laugh that hard, but I understand why you did.” Basara said, taking in a deep breath. “Be that as it may, though, I really haven’t the slightest idea what to give on that day. I didn’t have any relationships that warranted celebrating such a day last year, after all.”
“And now you’ve become the master of the Toujou harem,” Takigawa said, looking somewhat amazed as he took a sip of his coffee. “Still, I don’t see why not. I’m down for giving you some advice on the situation. We’re good buds, after all. On one condition, though—”
The cheery expression that he maintained up until some time ago suddenly disappeared, and he suddenly shot a cold, piercing gaze at Basara; he now spoke to him not as Takigawa Yahiro, but as Lars, a member of the Demon Realm.
“You’ll have to listen to what I have to say too. Give and take, you get what I mean?”
Paying no mind to Basara’s more cautious state, Takigawa cut to the chase.
“I got some chocolate too.”
Basara could only blink at Takigawa’s revelation.
“I…I see. Is it someone you know well at school? Or is it from a childhood friends of y—no, to my knowledge you don’t have anyone like that. The Demon Realm doesn’t actually celebrate Valentine’s Day, after all.”
“Ah, yes, that’s right. That was how it was supposed to go, until I happened to receive chocolate from a certain older sister…from Leohart’s older sister, Liala-sama.”
Basara couldn’t find the words to speak. He could feel a chill run down his spine and could not stop the fear from taking over him upon remembering her.
Liala was the elder sister of the current Demon Lord, Leohart; contrary to her gorgeous and tender appearance, however, she appeared to possess some dubious power and aura with such unknown limits than what her looks might suggest.
“I have no idea what went on in her head back then,” Takigawa clutched his forehead. “Was it a threat for me to never double-cross her? Or did she have something else in mind? Did she put some weird magic that even I couldn’t detect in those things?”
Basara could only look at the distressed Takigawa with pity.
“I don’t know what’s worse. Having to eat one-of-a-kind chocolates as scary as the ones she gave, or not eating them.”
“…I guess you should eat them.”
Basara knew it was very rare for Takigawa to appear this scared of anything.
“Well, that said, I’ve been concerned about how exactly I should be repaying her too. This is a matter of life and death for me here.”
“I feel bad for you, really.” Basara really sympathized with Takigawa for his ordeal.
“Sigh…I just hope I can just pass with a White Day sweet or something like that and settle this peacefully.” Takigawa grumbled, standing up from his seat. “Well, I guess we should get going. We’re now two guys looking for a present for White Day.”
“Yeah. I’ll be counting on you.” Basara followed suit and left his own seat, as the two stepped out to fight a battle that they have never experienced before.
Basara and Takigawa no longer felt worried; a department store featuring a special corner for White Day was set out before them.
“Well, there’s that, for starters. Hey, Basachi. You’ve received chocolate from folks apart from Naruse and the others, huh? Sinful, aren’t you?”
“They were obligatory. I’d say I’ve been more on the receiving end when it comes to favours recently, though.” He remembered the conspicuously written words of “It’s Obligatory!” written with Rikka’s heart and soul on the chocolate ganache she gifted him.
A variety of goods related for the occasion was now set out before them; there was a wide selection of confectionery, daily necessities, clothing and other items for them to choose from. Regardless, this made it all the more difficult for them to decide on a gift, before the two put their attention to a particular corner decorated with a theme of blue and white.
“How about some macarons? Those are quite standard, aren’t they?” Basara said, pronouncing the particular subject with difficulty.
“Those are too substantial, don’t you think?”
“So you’re looking for something a girl would want to eat?”
The duo crossed their arms and thought hard.
“Well, Basachi, I guess I’ll go for name brand chocolate. Doubt it’ll go wrong, right? There’s gold on it, after all, which is quite coveted in the Demon Realm.”
“No, I don’t think I’d use it personally…”
“You hold nothing back.”
The two guys continued to argue among one another.
“Besides, don’t you think we’d be overdoing it if we returned an obligatory Valentine’s gift with name brand chocolate of all things?”
“I know it sounds unexpected, but that’s exactly why I’m choosing it. It’s more likely to invite gratitude or obligation if we give such an expensive present.”
“A cake would have a tough expiration date, huh. I wouldn’t want to bother anyone with that.”
“I see you’re still attentive to such minor details. I guess that means cookies aren’t exactly a good choice either.”
“You’re quite picky when it comes to how filling a particular food is, huh?”
“I simply value practicality. I suppose a deluxe item would suffice?” Takigawa said.
The two had been wandering aimlessly around the particular corner for tens of minutes; even so, the two had only managed to criticize and pick on the available choices and had yet to properly decide on a gift.
“I thought you’d be more dependable when it comes to things like this. You have experience, after all.” Basara muttered reflexively.
“…No, apart from the fact that what you said was just plain rude, don’t you think it’s weird that you’re saying this to a Demon of all people?” Takigawa said with a sour expression.
“…Sorry. I just didn’t know what to say.” Basara said, reflecting on his mistake as he went about in search for different goods.
“Hmm?” Takigawa muttered, his gaze turning toward the bookstore they passed by earlier.
“It’s not like either of us came here with enough information in mind in the first place, right, Takigawa?”
“I guess that’s a good way to put it, Basachi. True enough, that’s one way you can judge our situation.”
The two then headed toward the bookstore; naturally, the two went to read a magazine publishing a feature on White Day within a corner where they were the only two male customers among a sea of more common female customers.
“We saw a lot of different types of sweets earlier.”
“Aren’t those things the best option for the occasion?” Takigawa nodded, turning a page. “‘Fashionable Sweets White Day: Host a Private Party in a Cake House’. …Now that’s expensive!”
“In other words, it’d be like renting stores or restaurants for a birthday party. Celebrating White Day in a hotel or something like a White Day tour is also an option, I guess.”
“Well, good for you, isn’t it, Basachi? You could host a harem party and be done with it, no?”
“Well, for one, we’re talking about a party for high school students here.”
“In your case, Basachi, you’ve got the folks at your place and from school as well, huh…considering you’re not really interested in being repaid, you’ll have quite the burden on your hands. Still, I don’t see why you shouldn’t just go with it, problem solved. Just go with a harem party. Thinking about it any further’s just a pain in the ass.”
“You’re right. What about you? Do you plan on inviting that older sister of yours to a party?”
A moment of silence passed before the two let out a simultaneous, dry laugh.
“Well, let me put it this way. I guess these will do the trick, huh?”
Takigawa casually picked up something and placed it upon Basara’s head.
Basara stared at Takigawa with a pair of white cat ears on, evidently puzzled; Takigawa splurted as he pointed at him.
Looking at his reflection in the mirror provided inside the store, Basara finally realized what Takigawa had done to him.
“No, this just looks plain weird on me.”
“I think it suits you quite well, Basachi. Pfft!”
“Don’t say that while you’re laughing your tears out! Well, why don’t you put it on and send a picture to that dear older sister of yours, why won’t you?”
Basara took another pair of cat ears and attempted to put them onto Takigawa’s head; in response, Takigawa stopped by clutching his arm with a movement faster than the eye can follow.
“Come on, put it on, Takigawa.”
“Not a chance. You won’t make me do it, Basachi.”
Both of their eyes were starting to look a bit serious; they appeared to be evenly matched.
“If you think it looks good, here’s a cat tail, Takigawa.”
“Oh? Well, good for you, huh? You can just put it on and let the girls enjoy a spectacle of you meowing for them. What do you say, Basachi?”
Basara glared at Takigawa at very close proximity.
“Come on, Basachi. Are you really serious about this?”
“We agreed that it was going to a joke, right? So why don’t you just follow through with it already?”
The atmosphere between the two was nearing bloodthirsty levels by the minute.
Basara and Takigawa turned toward the united voices that addressed the former with their cat ears still intact.
It was Naruse Mio; and beside her, Maria was present as well. Mio had seen the two of them in a situation she couldn’t believe, while Maria was taking pictures of Basara and Takigawa with her cell phone on continuous shooting mode. Diverting her line of sight, Mio quickly snatched away Maria’s phone and promptly deleted the photos the latter had taken.
“What in the world is going on here—!? There are many explanations I can come up with for this scene right here!”
Mio wordlessly stared at Basara beside the shrieking Maria; as he anticipated, she turned away from him a moment later.
“E-Even if you’re doing something like that….I understand completely, so keep at it…” Mio murmured, her cheeks tinted with red and her eyes downcast.
“What kind of misunderstanding is that!?”
“Basachi! Are you gonna follow me or what?” Turning around, Basara discovered that Takigawa was about to run away ahead of him.
“Seriously, Basachi, follow me!”
Before he could stop him, Takigawa had already disappeared; he had definitely made a run for his life.
There were no more outs for Basara, who was still wearing his set of cat ears; in his arms was also another pair of cat ears and tail that were left behind.
Taking a fleeting glance at Mio, he saw that she appeared to be extremely guilt-ridden.
“No, really, it’s really not like that.” Basara could not look any more horrible as he said so.
“…I do wish you had just discussed this with me from the start, though…” Mio could only give Basara a wry smile.
Basara, Mio and Maria were heading home after leaving the department store.
“You don’t exactly discuss about a present with its recipient.” Basara said, embarrassed.
“I understand how you feel, but…you’ve always been so considerate when it comes to us, so why can’t you rely on us at times like these?”
“I did end up having to rely on you after all.”
Basara was holding a paper bag he got from the department store; within it was a beautifully decorated and tightly sealed box of marshmallows. The marshmallows within came in a variety of colours and flavours that were added to them.
“You’re not me, after all, Basara,” Basara could not find himself refuting Mio in the face of her prideful expression as she puffed up her chest. “Still, the truth is—” Mio’s expression suddenly changed to that of an innocent one, as if she were a child that was hiding something. “I was also confused as to what to get you for Valentines at the exact same spot, too.”
“Is that so? You seem to appear as if you’re used to making choices like that today, though.”
“Well, I’m the recipient in this case. That’s different.” She said, looking toward the box of marshmallows Basara was holding, “Besides, I had advice from someone else when I was picking out your gift. That’s why you don’t have to feel bad, Basara.”
“…So that’s how it is.” Basara said, narrowing his gaze. “Still, I appreciate it.”
“Mmm. Me too.” Mio leaned in close to Basara, feeling slightly embarrassed. “Thank you for your return gift, onii-chan.” She gave off a dazzling smile as she looked upon her brother with upturned eyes, as Basara gently stroked her head, making a ruffling sound on her hair.
“By the way, Basara-san, just what kind of aphrodisiac would you like to put in those marshmallows? I’m always available for consultation!”
“I guess I can leave the leftovers to you.” “Oh, come on, now that’d just be mean.”
The coincidental timing of which the two siblings’ voices’ overlapped one another’s was a fine spectacle.