「Thank you for waiting」
Early afternoon on a weekday, in the Miyagi household in a tranquil residential district.
Kotone and Youran, who had visited there, were greeted by one of the mistresses in a maid outfit, Mio.
「We’re so sorry for suddenly barging in like this」
Upon entering the entrance hall, the eldest of the three sisters, Kotone, lowered her head with an apologetic expression. To her side, the twintailed Youran imitated her, lightly lowering her head.
「I have heard from Aoba-sama concerning this. Please, do not worry about it」
「Then, sorry for rushing things, but I want to begin quickly. He’s buying time, but I don’t know how long he can hold」
Mio made a sour face for a moment in response to Youran’s words.
It was clear that she still did not think well of Taiyou.
Nevertheless, she slowly nodded, motioning to show them to the back of the estate.
Mio had guided them to the Miyagi household’s kitchen.
It was a kitchen, bigger than that of the typical bad apartment’s, kept tidy and in order.
There were many food ingredients on the table in the middle of the kitchen.
「The preparations are in order. We can begin at any time」
Youran thanked her, going to the opposite end of the table with Kotone.
Kotone and Youran had come to the Miyagi residence in order to learn cooking from Mio.
Last night, as Kotone and the others had proposed, they had thought to throw a welcome party for Shirokiyami.
Shirokiyami was not yet Taiyou’s bride, but he planned for her to be such.
Thought she had moved into Taiyou Castle, she was in a sense still an “Okyaku-san”, so in order to get along better with her, Kotone and the others proposed a welcome party, approving it unanimously.
As they were discussing what specifically they should do, there was a proposal that they make the food for the welcome party with their own hands, and Aoba recommended they try Mio’s cooking techniques.
Furthermore, Kotone and the sisters proposed that they make the food based on what they were taught, and Youran volunteered, asking that she please be part of it as well.
That was why Kotone and Youran had come to Mio to learn cuisine.
「We’ll start from the preparation of the vegetables」
「I just have to cut this, right?」
Youran took the knife in her hand, standing before the cutting board.
「The way you’re holding that……could it be……」
Kotone inquired timidly.
After all, the way Youran was holding the knife was precisely how an amateur would do so.
No matter who saw, it was clear that she had never cooked even once.
「Bingo. I’ve never so much as cooked in my life」
「Because I’ve never had to do that until now. There’s never been a necessity for me to cook」
「It’s fine, let me do it」
「Cause if I make having no experience into an excuse, I won’t even be able to do anything today. And plus I did come here because I wanted to do it」
「So let me」
「……Understood. But there isn’t much time, so let us do it together」
「That’s true. He might get killed as we’re squabbling」
「I-I don’t think it’ll be THAT bad」
Considering what Taiyou was currently doing, this line would clearly not be a joke.
The two of them stood next to each other before the sink, washing vegetables, cutting them, and beginning to prepare each one.
「It’s fine, I just cut myself a bit. See, just a bit」
「Mhm. Umm, it might be good for you to hold kitchen knives like a cat. Please curl your fingers」
「Like a cat……like so？」
「Yes, that is correct」
「Like a cat, like a cat――Ow-」
「……It is the first time I’ve laid eyes on someone cutting themselves while holding it like a cat」
「Well it can’t be helped. This is my first time」
「Are you all right, Youran-san? Please show me！」
「It’s fine, this is nothing」
「Like a cat, like a cat」
Treating herself in a simple manner, Youran challenged it again.
Unable to just watch, Mio began giving specific advice.
「Rather than pressing the blade down, if you slowly pull it back to you from within, the blade will not slip and your hand will not get cut」
「Pull it back……Like this huh」
Youran concentrated on the knife, doing as instructed.
She was inititally holding it in a dangerous manner, continually cutting her fingers, but with the advice of Kotone and Mio, she gradually improved.
By the time they were able to actually begin cooking, there was now enough leisure in the air to chat.
Youran glanced at Mio, asking her something nonchalantly.
「Hey, is it alright if I ask you something？」
「What might it be？」
「Who’s loved the most out of all the women in this household？」
「……What might you be referring to?」
When Mio asked her that, her voice sounded slightly sharp this time.
「Well, there’s three “wives” in this household, right? Won’t there be another one coming around spring of next year? Who’s going to be loved the most out of those four, is what I’m asking」
「What do you intend to do with that information？」
「Nothing really. Just curious」
Youran asked while moving her hands.
「By the way, you know, in our household, the most loved one is this girl named Shirokiyami. After her are this girl and her two sisters, and then someone named Kohaku, and then…sorry to say this but――Aoba is fourth, and the last one is me……I’d say that sums up the order」
Perhaps because she had been asked such a question, or perhaps because Aoba was ranked fourth.
Either way, she was making an unpleasant face as they looked at her.
「Uhh, I don’t think that’s the case……」
Kotone followed up apologetically.
「I think so. After all, I wouldn’t underestimate the way he looks up to you guys」
「Looks up to us？」
「Yup. I don’t really know much, but the way he aspires to the three of you is just…Sometimes he mentions the sound of your souls and whatnot」
Kotone lost her words.
「Incidentally, in my actual home, see, Adashino’s mother was at the very top. Far away and the best. My mother was a legal wife……not the main one though, just a “legal one”. So about that…well, in terms of the extent of affection, she wouldn’t even be in the top five」
Youran said, turning to Mio.
「Isn’t there a lot like that here and there? I mean, if you’re in a different household than normal. Although I’m sure there’s a lot of variety in normal households as well. So I was just wondering about this household」
「There is no need to answer」
Not particularly minding, Youran backed down easily.
Just as she had declared beforehand, it seemed to be out of mere curiosity.
「By the way, I don’t refer to you three as……ah- oops, I said you three. But I don’t generally refer to you guys as “three people”, you know」
「Uh-uh, that’s fine. “Three people” is fine as well」
「I also don’t want him to “get angry” either」
Youran said further, regaining her composure.
「See, I think of you guys and Shirokiyami as…”the two of you” as his women of destiny」
「And I also feel that Aoba has the potential to become a woman of destiny」
「Of course. She is Aoba-sama after all」
「Mhm, right. Welp, guess that’s all there is as far as destiny goes」
She seemed to be quite indifferent, but there was the slightest hint of abandonment mixed in.
Youran said an unexpected statement in response to that.
「I believe that you are also the same」
「But you don’t even know me that well. Sorry, but in regards to investigating you guys――」
「I would know from watching you」
Mio said as if admonishing a spoiled child.
「I can see that without investigating it. I believe that at the point where women have gathered under one man without any discontent or grumbling, they are all women of destiny to that man」
「……That’s quite the reasoning there」
「I speak from experience. If we are to trace back logic from the foundation, nearly all cases are the same」
「……You think so?」
「I think so！」
Kotone said in a loud voice.
「We’re all people that Taiyou-san likes, so of course we’re all Taiyou-san’s soulmates」
「And that’s quite the reasoning too」
「But is that not the most important thing?」
Mio asked with an earnest expression, questioning what else would be.
「I think so! Suzu-chan and Kaza-chan are also saying the same thing! Youran-san is Taiyou-san’s soulmate！」
Hearing Kotone affirm it with such emphasis, Youran spoke with a faint voice, her face slightly changing color.
They were on Hirose Bridge that connected Oriyakata Town with Seikaen Town, which was the riverbank were he had spoken to Youran for the first time.
That was where Taiyou and Shirokiyami were facing each other alone.
「I’ll defeat you today for sure！」
「Acting like it doesn’t concern you！」
The day was still young, and there was a lot of time to work with.
Out of all previous ones, this was a fight of the highest difficulty to him, and it was about to begin.