Kase has a bad habit: he tends to come off as a bit ruder than he ought to, and this gets him into more than his fair share of fights. He’s quite lucky, though, in that his neighbor Shibu will always show up just in the nick of time to step in and defuse the situation. In his latest run-in, he’s just told off a man for tossing his cigarette butt on the ground in front of Kase’s shop, and Shibu must talk down the man after Kase riles him up. Shibu reminds Kase that it’s all well and good to lecture others, but he really needs to stop picking fights like this. He’s not a child anymore, after all.
Kase: “…It’s his fault for littering.”
Shibu: “Be that as it may, keep picking fights like this and you’re going to wind up hurt.”
Kase: “I’ll be fine.”
He’ll always have Shibu to come running to his rescue, after all–that’s how it’s been since they were sempai and kouhai back in high school, and while Shibu doesn’t deny this, he nevertheless asks Kase to take a bit more care. Kase insists that the fact that Shibu always comes to save him is one of the things he likes about the guy, and when Shibu seems to shrug this off, Kase reflects silently that he means it–means it quite seriously, in fact: in the love sense.
But Shibu is far too dense to really get that Kase’s feelings have surpassed affection and drifted into romantic over the years. No matter how often he admits that he “likes” Shibu, he never quite seems to understand the underlying intent.
Kase recalls that he ordered tofu from Shibu’s family–and while Shibu hands over the delivery with a self-deprecating admission that he hasn’t quite reached his grandfather’s level of skill in making the tofu yet, Kase reminds him with a soft smile–
Kase: “Mmm…but, I love the tofu that you make.”
Shibu is pleased, and they part ways. Lying in bed that night, Kase reflects on his muddled feelings. He doesn’t consider himself gay, and he doesn’t particularly feel like he wants to do all of the date-like things that most heterosexual couples do. But all of his efforts to impress upon Shibu how he feels keep getting brushed aside. He’s satisfied, though, just being able to stare at Shibu’s strong, broad back–perhaps rather than romance, this is just really serious feelings of friendship?
The next day, it seems that Shibu’s air conditioning unit is on the fritz; seeing as it was purchased from Kase’s store, he’s sent out to do a little maintenance on it. It’s the first time Kase’s been to Shibu’s home since he realized his feelings for Shibu…and he’s understandably a little nervous.
Kase: /My heart’s kinda racing here… I mean, not in a dirty way. My intentions are wholly pure!/
But when he steps inside…
Shibu: “Eh–?! Kase-san?!”
Kase awkwardly reminds that he’s here to fix the air conditioner, and the girl who’d been embracing Shibu quickly brushes past him and out the door. There’s a pregnant silence, and Kase invites himself inside to attend to business while Shibu watches helplessly, face flushed with shame.
Internally, though, Kase is a mess–what the hell was that?! Has Shibu always had a girlfriend? What the heck was she doing holding on to him like that in the middle of the afternoon?
Shibu brings him a drink, apologizing for asking him to come out to fix the AC in such hot weather. Kase explains that the unit is too broken for him to fix–and that it’ll have to be sent off for repairs. But given how old the model is, it’ll probably just be cheaper to buy a new one. Talking shop like this defuses the situation a bit, but it’s still awkward, and Shibu comments on his strained demeanor, wondering if he’s feeling all right. All Kase can see, though, are the woman’s fingers pressing into Shibu’s back as she held him tight. He’s realizing something very…very bad about himself.
Shibu: “Wha–are you fainting?!”
No–he just had to try it, had to see what holding Shibu felt like. He holds on for dear life, burying his face in Shibu’s shoulder–before abruptly confessing with a flushed face.
Kase: “I–I…I–I love…you!”
Kase: /It’s the first time…I’ve ever told him properly…/
But his fairy tale confession doesn’t go as planned–and Shibu shoves him away abruptly, telling him to let go. Kase does so, quickly turning on his heel with a flippant apology as he excuses himself. It’s exactly the reaction he should have expected–a perfectly normal one. He’s just been dumped–but he should have seen it coming. He’s a guy, for one, and he does nothing but cause Shibu trouble, for another. He’d just been lying to himself, he’s realized, saying all he wanted to do was look. He’d wanted to touch too.
When Shibu shows up the next day with a tofu delivery, their interactions are curt and short, but as Shibu turns to leave, Kase calls him back, opening his mouth to apologize for his actions. But Shibu cuts him off, professing unfinished business he needs to take care of, and can Kase wait until some other time to discuss things? Kase agrees, and while Shibu does pause just before leaving, looking as if he wants to say something, nothing comes of it.
Kase steps outside later for some fresh air–but a man smoking in front of Shibu’s tofu shop distracts him. When he confronts him, as per usual, tempers flare and things quickly escalate to a fist-throwing fight. But just when a fist comes flying Kase’s way, Shibu steps in as per usual, softly chiding Kase for goading the man on. The man quickly makes his escape while he can, and Kase angrily shakes off Shibu’s hand on his arm, complaining about Shibu being late in coming out to stop him this time.
Shibu gropes for words to explain himself, but fails–instead grabbing Kase’s wrist and jerking him into the shop…where he promptly embraces him tightly.
Kase: “Shibu…? What’s going…”
Shibu: “Shut up…”
He apologies for avoiding Kase–he just couldn’t bring himself to accept that what was happening was really happening. Kase isn’t quite following–doesn’t Shibu have a girlfriend? Naturally, it wasn’t quite what it seemed; it was only a regular customer of the shop’s who’d confessed to him out of the blue and hugged him. He hadn’t reacted at hall when she’d done it–but when Kase did the same thing only moments later…it’d been bad. Bad how?
Shibu: “Felt…like my heart was gonna explode.”
Kase: “…You should’ve just exploded then, you jerk”
He complains that Shibu never responded to any of his confessions before, and Shibu explains that he could hardly take any of them seriously. But there’s a brand new AC unit in the room upstairs–and they really ought to take advantage of it. They do, with vigor–so much so that they still wind up drenched in sweat, despite the AC.
Afterwards, Shibu once again lectures Kase on not picking fights with strangers, but Kase is more interested in how delicious the fresh tofu is and reminds Shibu that he loves the long-suffering side of him that continues to put up with the quirky Kase.