Mio and Miki.
The time is 0:15 am, deep into the night.
It’s also the time when Bar Shine is closed.
Inside the bar are the owner, Miki, and a regular customer, Sasaki Mio.
Normally, customers aren’t allowed to stay this late, but Sasaki, who is acquainted with Miki, is allowed to stay after hours.
Permission has been properly granted.
“Uwaa…even if you confess to me like this, I don’t know what to do…you should have just said it directly if you were practicing…” Mio complains and collapses, resting her head on the counter with her face bright red.
“Oh dear, Mi-chan got hit.
And it was her own suggestion too.”
The scene takes us back a few dozen minutes.
“Sasaki-san, could you please accept this letter?”
“Huh, uh, sure…”
It was after bartender duties were finished, and Toma had changed into his regular clothes before leaving the bar.
“Please read this letter after I’m gone.”
Is this a confession?”
“This letter is my confession.
You’re always teasing me, Sasaki-san, so it’s a small return.”
Mioi had asked for a confession, but that wasn’t something you could force on someone who had someone else they liked.
If they were already in a relationship, confessing could cause trouble.
As a result of Toma’s objections, Mio threw a curveball: “Let’s practice confessing.”
If it was practice, then anyone could do it.
Toma, who had been subjected to it from start to finish, executed his confession using a letter instead of conveying his feelings directly.
Mio was probably expecting a direct confession, so she was taken aback.
It’s not often that you see Mio’s expression like this.
Toma was happy that his plan had succeeded.
“Why not just say it out loud…the confession…?”
“Even though it’s practice, saying it directly is…embarrassing.
That’s one of the reasons why I wrote a letter…”
“If it’s practice, you should muster up the courage…”
“I’ll muster up the courage when I’m serious about confessing.
This is just practice…”
Toma hands over the confession letter and conveys his true feelings, then turns around to say goodbye to the two of them.
“Well then, Miki-san, Sasaki-san, excuse me.
Thanks for your hard work.”
“Thank you again today, Toma-chan.
You worked hard.”
“T-Thanks for your hard work…”
This is a story from a little while ago.
“So, what did it say on that confession (temporary) paper?”
“I can’t say it out loud… it’s too embarrassing.”
“Well then, let me see it.”
Ignoring Mio, who was still hiding her face and trembling, Miki took the open letter.
As she read the contents, she broke into a grin, showing her white teeth.
“Well done, Toma-chan.
You didn’t write anything too lame.”
The letter confessing his feelings was concise and summed up in about 100 characters.
“I have been interested in Sasaki-san’s graceful manners for a while now.
I cannot surpass the drinks that Miki-san makes, but I will make some with my feelings put into it.
Please drink it next time and give me a reply.”
The words were written in a neat, calligraphy-like script.
“It was probably just too embarrassing for him…there’s a trace of the word ‘love’ crossed out in the ‘feelings’ part.
He was probably trying to write ‘made with love’.
Miki calmly analyzed the letter Toma had written.
Meanwhile, Mio slowly sat up, her cheeks still flushed and a dazed look in her eyes.
Occasionally, she would smile to herself.
“Mi-chan, can you still drink alcohol? It’s a low-proof grapefruit cocktail.”
“Yes, I’ll have some, thank you.”
“Okay, let’s talk over drinks.
The drinks are on the house.”
Miki placed a cassis-grapefruit cocktail in front of Mio, creating a space for conversation.
The “closed” sign was hung conspicuously on the door of the bar.
Unless there was some kind of mistake, no customers would be coming in.
It was the perfect place to have this kind of conversation.
“But well, you’ve found a troublesome opponent, haven’t you, Mio-chan? I think you’ll have a hard time with that type of person.
Or have you already been struggling?”
“Did you figure it out, Miki-san?”
Mio confirmed that Miki had taken a sip of her cocktail, then took a small sip of her own.
The slightly tart, refreshing taste spread throughout her body.
It was just right for her flushed body.
“I hate to say this to you, Mio-chan, but if you’re serious about Toma-chan, you need to be prepared for the consequences.”
“It’s related to what I said earlier about ‘having a hard time’…”
Using a cocktail stirrer to mix the drink while making the sound of ice and glass clinking, Miki sets the stage:
“Just because someone is kind to everyone doesn’t mean they’re only kind to you, Mi-chan.
So, there might be times when you feel uneasy.
It’s important to be prepared for that.”
“It’s tough for someone as me…”
Perhaps due to the alcohol she had been drinking for the past few hours, Mio’s normally mature face puffs up like a child’s.
Given Toma’s personality, what Miki is saying is not wrong.
It’s both pleasant and unpleasant that the person you like is kind to everyone.
“In addition, because he’s too serious, he’s quite inflexible, you know? I think he’s the type to follow proper procedures to develop a relationship.”
“I think so too…”
“When Toma-chan started working here, he stayed after work every day to memorize the names of the drinks and learn their characteristics.
He grew so quickly that he really helped the store out… He’s really serious, isn’t he?”
All of the conversations these two have when they’re alone revolve around Toma.
He won’t realize this until much later.
“But… you’re really serious about him, Mi-chan.
You even made him go through a mock confession.
Honestly, you’re head over heels for Toma-chan, aren’t you?”
“U-um… Yes, I am…”
Mio isn’t usually this straightforward.
It’s because she trusts Miki, and the alcohol probably has something to do with it too.
She wanted to confirm something through the mock confession.
The difference between being confessed to by Toma and being confessed to by another man.
And… her own feelings.
The result was immediately apparent.
The moment she read the letter Toma gave her, her chest tightened so much that she couldn’t breathe.
Her heart throbbed wildly, and her entire body still feels hot and she can’t shake it off.
Her mind is blank.
Even though she knew it was a mock confession, she couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear with happiness.
This is something that only happens with Toma’s confession…
“I’m so shallow… to fall in love just because he helped me a few times.
But before I knew it, I found myself chasing after him every time… Because I love him, I tease him…”
“That’s okay, that’s what love is all about.
There’s nothing strange about it.”
Looking at Mio now, Miki narrows her eyes as if reminiscing about the past, and takes another sip of her drink.
Miki must have gone through a period similar to Mio’s.
“So, Miki-san, what do you think of Toma-kun?”
“What do you mean? Like, as a man?”
“Well…I guess it’s like his level as a man?”
“Hmm… If I didn’t have a husband, maybe I would go for Toma-chan.
I could offer him a special bonus like paying for his college tuition, you know?”
“Hehe, just kidding.
Don’t be so surprised.”
“I have a wonderful husband, you know.
When I was struggling with the business and the shop was in trouble, he supported me.
I can’t betray him.”
It’s hard to imagine from her usual self, but Miki is also devoted.
She only shows this side of herself when she’s with Mio.
That’s why she’s allowed to stay even after the shop is closed.
“But…I think Toma-chan is a wonderful man if I can say those words.”
“Y-yeah, I think so too…hehehe.”
Everyone is happy when they are praised by someone they like.
Mio’s face was bright and blushing.
“Oh my, are you already acting like his girlfriend just because I praised Toma-chan?”
With a grin from Miki, Mio realizes what she was doing and massages her cheeks with both hands.
“Come back…come back…Quickly…”
Her face was so relaxed, like melted marshmallows, that she couldn’t put any strength into it.
“If you showed that to Toma-chan, I think you could attract his attention immediately.”
“Oh, I couldn’t show him that… If he finds out how I feel, I won’t be able to come here anymore…”
“Mou, Mii-chan, you are really innocent.”
Miki had been looking at her with kind eyes, thinking about their youth, but now her impatience was awakened.
Can I have Toma-chan’s letter?”
“No, you can’t…”
Even without much thought, Miki should have realized that it was strange for her to receive this letter, but her thinking was dulled by alcohol, and Mio easily fell for it.
“Well then, what are you going to do with that letter?”
“I’ll keep it locked in my drawer… It’s a love letter from someone I like…”
Mio received Toma’s confession letter from Miki, and she neatly folded it along the creases.
She then carefully put it in her bag.
“Oh my, you’re going that far… I’m rooting for you, Mi-chan.”
Blushing like a ripe tomato, Mio lowered her refined face, trying to hide her embarrassment…
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