Accompanied by the clattering of heels, someone came to the entrance to receive us- A girl with blonde twin-tails, dressed in an undersized apron.
“Welcome to Yunosu Diner! Table for… Oya-? Nii-chan! You’re here!” Leaning forward with a brush of familiarity, her expression brightens up considerably.
The girl peers behind my back, and smiles.
“And this charming daisy is the cousin right? Nice to meet you, come now, let’s head inside first.”
“Sorry for having you do this so early…”
“It’s fine~ Sharon’s around to take the orders, so it doesn’t really matter if I sit out for a bit.” She pointed to a middle-aged woman in a similar apron inside, taking an order from an elderly man.
“Plus, you know, there’s not many people as you can see. I could do with some extra business since Nii-chan always orders a lot.”
The diner opens around this time, so not many customers had entered yet. Only a few regulars were seated, quietly tending to their own meals.
Having prepared for our visit in advance, Evie brought us to an empty table further inside as I had requested. When we were promptly seated Evie suddenly looks at us, her gaze brimming with suspicion.
“...Etto, Ruru…-chan, right? I’ve been wondering since just now, are you sure the two of you are related?”
Feeling a strange tension in the air, I quickly continued before Evie’s suspicion grew, “W-What do you mean by that?”
“Well, you know, the spiel you gave me yesterday… it’s still hard for me to believe that the two of you are distant relatives.”
Ruru seems to want to say something, but she doesn’t look confident enough and ends up swallowing her words. She’s strangely displeased by what Evie had said.
When I held her hand under the table, the girl’s face turns slightly red and her mood returns to normal. Playing it cool with a dry smile, I retorted:
“That’s rude... look, we have the same nose.” I brought Ruru forward, who had been previously stubbornly clinging onto my clothes at the back. Now she seemed to be a little more open and was already stealing glances at Evie from across the table.
“Alright alright~” Evie waves her hand casually, “I’ll leave it at that for now, aren’t you two here for breakfast. Let’s order first before we continue, ah, Sharon? Over here, over here~”
Sharon walks over at Evie’s call. Although I felt that it might just be me being self-conscious again, I noticed that the demeanor of the red-haired waitress had turned a little more modest as she approached our table.
“Why, isn’t this White-kun? This must be the first time I’ve taken your order here huh, since our poster girl here always does it for us~”
Evie turns her head away for some reason.
“Fufu, having a meal together with White-kun again while the boss is not here… how envious~” Sharon laughs while covering her mouth with one hand.
“Y-You got it wrong, we’re just friends…”
“Ehhh, so this lady gorgeous beside you is your girlfriend then?”
“This… ...” Although I wanted to acknowledge the fact that Ruru and I were now dating, I suddenly remembered the advice of the old lady from before and swallowed the words in my mouth.
When I looked, Evie was staring at me questioningly.
Somehow, I felt that the strange, symbiotic relationship Ruru and I shared… wasn’t something I should disclose easily.
“Don’t tease me, Sharon-san… Like you said, Evie’s the top waitress in Yunosu Diner who has many admirers! Because of how amiable and close she speaks to the customers here, I’ve heard that she’s amassed so much popularity that there’s a fan clu— umphh!”
“Yes yes, thank you for your detailed explanation~” Evie shuts my mouth with a red face, while Sharon chuckles lightly.
“Also, this girl here is… my cousin who just came from the countryside. I’m just taking her around to meet my acquaintances today.” Ruru nods timidly while clinging onto my arm, causing Sharon’s smile to grow deeper.
“P-Point is… I don’t think I’m suited for either of them. I’m just…”
“...I think White-kun is attractive enough of a man to pursue either of these flowers, you know?”
“Of course if you’d like, I’d be open for the taking too~” Sharon winks at me suggestively.
Ouch… Ruru, you’re pinching my leg a little too hard… Her eyes were looking at me, filled with grievances.
“...Haven’t you had enough fun yet, Sharon... Could you take our orders already?” Evie mutters in resignation.
“Fufu, I’ve gotten ahead of myself, haven’t I…” Sharon folds her hair back an ear, and smiles,
“So what would you all like to have for today?”
As I relayed my order to Sharon, I began to feel a sort of onee-chan vibe from the red-haired lady. Her words were slow, yet she delivers her words with a reassuring voice.
Although her beauty is outclassed by Ruru’s tempered looks, a woman like Sharon does have a more emotional appeal towards a certain group of men.
Sharon made small talk with me while taking down our picks for breakfast.
When she finally left and left for the kitchen while humming away, I noticed that Evie and Ruru were now staring at me fixatedly.
“...What, is there something on my face?”
“...Nii-chan… do you talk like that to everyone?”
Talk like… what?
“Haah, forget it.” Evie shakes her head with a sigh, and buries her face into her arms. “Nii-chan, you’re really incorrigible, aren’t you.”
“Master… how many more, mates?” Ruru whispers by my side dejectedly.
… ....You guys, don’t paint me out as the bad guy here. I’m sure I was just ordering normally.
Ruru’s quite reserved, so I wanted her to make more friends while she’s staying in the city.
That’s what I’d told Evie the day before.
“Uwaa… she’s eating so wildly, eating with her hands… we have utensils here though...” Evie mutters in awe.
But isn't that part of Ruru's charm? Seeing her like this brings a smile to my face. Ruru's really the kind of girl who eats devotedly.
...Why does a girl who can eat her meal so deliciously look so cute? Just by looking at her, my heart became filled as well.
As Ruru finished a plate, I handed her a handkerchief to wipe the oil stains around her mouth. The girl obediently held out her chin to make it easier for me.
Evie stares at me, somewhat dissatisfied.
“...But even so, your cousin really is pretty introverted around strangers huh. She’s hardly responded to me once since we met… Haah, what can I say. At the very least, the two of you are similar in that aspect.”
“Ruru’s had quite the bad experience with strangers you see, so I thought if it’s you…”
“Even if you say that...” Evie picks up a tomato with a fork and puts it in her mouth, pouting.
“She only reacts to nii-chan alone. Cousins, nee… from the looks of it, I feel like the two of you are more than just cousins though?”
I choked on a piece of food, and Ruru who notices it quickly pats my back worriedly.
“I say, Nii-chan…” Evie leans forward with her elbow on the table and suddenly asked,
“—Are you sure you two don’t have a special relationship instead?”
This time, Evie was looking straight at Ruru.
And Ruru… At first, she looks up at Evie nervously, but somehow… as if she’d seen through something, Ruru’s eyes turn resolute and she shakes her head,
“No, Ma— ...I-Itoko and Ruru, ...not lovers...”
I’m sure it must have taken a lot for Ruru to deny our relationship, her hands under the table were shaking… but she must have sensed that I was troubled and decided to lie for my sake.
“...I-Is that so… I’m sorry for asking something so insensitive… I was a little bothered by Sharon’s words earlier, so...” Evie apologizes bashfully.
“No… Ruru too…” Ruru looks at her empty plate and picks up her fork with a smile.
“Breakfast… enjoyed it.”
And then Ruru says nothing more, hiding behind me once again.
Evie on the contrary, took a step forward, closing the distance and pulled Ruru away from me exuberantly. “...Uuu! So cutee!!” Evie hugged her endearingly, their bountiful chests pressing against each other.
...What a welcoming sight.
Although Ruru looks unwilling, I could feel that with Evie’s amiable and approachable personality, it would only be a matter of time before the two became closer.
That’s right, friendships were forged over time. If Ruru had no one else besides me, I just had to form connections for her. Let her know that there are humans who are willing to be her friend.
Ruru stays silent and acquiesced to the waitress’ whims. Although subtle, I could see Ruru’s face beginning to relax gradually ever since the two girls exchanged that brief moment of skinship.
In the end, it all worked out somehow. ...If you'd taken into account that Evie had conveniently slid by the fact that I was a Stray, someone who wasn't born in this world. And that there was no way I could have a cousin.
Evie was just someone with that kind of character who was good at picking up on subtleties from her customers; glossing over the troublesome details and instead focus on the present. I've confided my troubles with her for a long time now, and I'm sure she understands that there are still some circumstances that I couldn't speak my mind about. That was why she hinted at me with that question from earlier.
The rest of the morning passed by peacefully. We enjoyed a refreshing morning meal together while chatting about daily happenings. Although Ruru was more focused on eating, she would still listen in at times and give one word replies during the conversation.
Personally, I considered that slight improvement a win. If she continues interacting with someone like Evie, I'm sure that she was get much better around others.
The food was more or less finished on our table. As expected of the diner, the food was superb as usual.
“Speaking of which, have those guys come after you ever since then?” Evie suddenly questions me.
...Ah, she’s referring to Mat and those guys who assaulted me before.
I looked to the side, and saw that Ruru had caught interest in the topic.
I didn’t want Ruru to worry about me, so I…
“Ruru, can I trouble you to pay for the food first?”
Ruru appears hesitant at first, but she nods and take the coins to the counter.
“Nothing,” Evie shrugs her shoulders and replies nonchalantly.
“I just thought you’re unexpectedly delicate in some areas. It just surprised me, that’s all.”
“... ...They haven’t done anything yet, but I’m sure they’re planning something. Even today, I’m taking a risk just by bringing Ruru out. But I can’t always hide forever.”
“I guess being an adventurer has their own share of troubles…” Evie shakes her head tiredly.
I clasped my fingers together and continued,
“Ruru’s very dependent on me since she’s the only person she knows in this city, and considering that I’ll be going to the dungeon in a week’s time, I want someone to take care of her…”
“Dungeon…? Have you told Ruru-chan about it yet?”
“No… that’s why… the real reason I…”
“...You don’t have to say any further, nii-chan.” Evie places a hand over mine, and smiles.
“Leave it to me. I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“... ...Thank you.”
“——Kyaaa!!” Just then, the sound of glass shattering could be heard, followed by a cry.
This voice… Ruru! Before I knew it, I had already left my seat—
Sharon pulls me over to the counter near the entrance,
“White-kun, your cousin… she’s in trouble!”
Ruru had fallen to the floor, looking down fearfully with a pale face. And standing before her was a couple who had just entered the restaurant.
...Vincent? And the woman that was with him…
What is going on exactly?