Once I made it home, I dropped onto the sofa.
After what happened, we went back together to the clubroom in silence only to say our goodbyes. During all that, it was so awkward and embarrassing that we couldn’t find the words to say anything.
Yukinoshita left first by telling us she’d return the key to the room. I fled to the bicycle parking area and Yuigahama briskly made her way to the bus stop. It felt like we had only exchanged a few words at most between the three of us.
Today’s events flashed by in my head as I sank into the sofa.
Why the heck did I go and blurt out all that embarrassing stuff…?
Ahhhh! I wanna die! I wanna die soooooo much! ! I don’t wanna go to school tomorrooooooooow! You some kind of idiot!? You some of kind of idiot!? You idiot! You big idiot! Aghhhhhhhhhh!
As I screamed internally, I tossed around on the sofa. Of course, it wasn’t a very big sofa, so after about three and a half turns, I was on the floor.
The impact from my fall caused our beloved cat, Kamakura, to come flying out from underneath the nearby kotatsu in surprise. He noisily skittered around the room before making a run for it like the Zvezda1.
Watching our cat scamper off like that while on the floor ended up looking a lot more dynamic than I had imagined. Because of that, worthless thoughts like how cheetahs were cats and how Peter was Ikehata Shinnosuke2 filled my head.
I continued laying on the floor with my face to the carpet.
“…I want to die.” I murmured with a quiet voice.
Flashback trauma came in two stages. For the first stage, you were met with a high pressured impulse of destruction. In the following stage, you were assaulted by a low key feeling of melancholy.
I’d cycle between violent writhing and sudden stops like a puppet having its string cut over and over again. Just when I thought I was close to death, I’d go back to thrashing about like a cicada when I realized I was still living. I was an insect.
After a brief moment of suffering from the bouts against myself, I threw in the towel. I let out a big sigh and rolled over on my back. Komachi must’ve came into the living room just now as my eyes met with hers as she stood in front of the door with a disgusted look.
“…What’s wrong with you, onii-chan?” Komachi asked, sounding both appalled and frightened. I, however, wasn’t in the mood to banter with Komachi at this moment, even if she was my adorable little sister.
I averted my face. “Leave me alone. Your big brother is in the middle of an identity crisis right now,” I said, slowly and gloomily.
Komachi sighed in exaggeration. “Listen up, onii-chan.”
I turned my head and looked at her when she spoke to me in an upright tone. Then, she closed her eyes half way and formed a caret with her mouth. Wearing that bizarre expression, she ran her mouth.
“Identity? I mean, really? When people parrot things like individuality and personality, most of the time they don’t even have either of those. Besides, having some kind of perk doesn’t mean squat in terms of individuality.”
As weird as her face was, she was actually saying something unusually sound. You can’t be serious. It’s just like she said. I somehow found myself convinced. Her face and her tone was kind of irritating, though.
“Hey Komachi-chan, being awfully crass, aren’t you? That’s not very polite, you know? Also, your face is weird.”
I gave her a stern and proper retort as remonstration when she suddenly started taking a coarse tone with me. Calling her weird caused Komachi to snap as she tapped her temples, overplaying her wroth as she opened her mouth.
“…It’s an impression of you, onii-chan.”
“Not even close…” I said, but I never did reflect on my own characteristics. No way, was I always that irritating? The truth hurts after seeing myself so objectively for the first time. I mean, didn’t I, like, give off a more intelligent, cool, and nihilistic impression? No?
Huh, now that’s funny… You’re not pulling my leg, are you? I groaned from the light shock. Komachi came over and sat on the sofa.
“I dunno what happened, but it’s a little too late to be trying to fix up your twisted personality now, trashii-chan. Okay, trashii-chan.”
She fiddled with my feet as I lay on my with her own feet as she spoke. I was totally getting the trash treatment. But then her feet suddenly stopped. She rested her elbows on her knees with her cheeks in her hands and giggled with a smile while looking down at me.
“But I also happen to like you a lot that way, onii-chan. Ah, that scored me a ton of Komachi points right there!” She exclaimed, ending with the finest Komachi smile she could offer. Ohh, the way she’d say more than she needed to in order to hide her embarrassment sure resembled someone.
“…Gee, thanks. I happen to like myself this way a lot, too. That scored me a ton of Hachiman points right there.”
“Real funny…” Komachi said, stunned.
I ignored her and stood up.
Eventually, I made up my mind. I’m sure I’d agonize and suffer from recalling the events of today tomorrow night. Further down the line, I’m sure I’d even squirm from the series of flashbacks about it, too.
But that’s fine with me. That’s the past that led to the creation of who I was now, someone that Komachi said she’d like quite a lot. Just don’t go calling a person’s memories something like scars. They happened to be one of my charming points.
I think I’ll definitely be able to come to like this charming side of me that’s full of charming points.
× × ×
It was the following morning after finally accepting my situation with a little groveling at home.
I woke up at the usual time, had my breakfast, and rode my bike to school.
Or that’s how it usually went, but the closer I got to school, the heavier my pedaling became. Ultimately, I slipped into class at the very last second just before the bell.
Okay, this isn’t going to work, after all… If one day was all it took for me to sweep the recent events under the rug, my personality wouldn’t have turned out like this.
I complained in my head—though not to anyone in particular—as I continued laying forward on my desk. Anyway, I was being super cautious of approaching Yuigahama due to the absurd embarrassment that’d overcome me.
That being said, it looked like Yuigahama was particularly concerned about me during morning homeroom and class because our eyes would meet sometimes.
Every time, I’d break our locked gazes and I’d assume a sleeping posture.
What, why’s this happening…?
I thrust my head into my notes and repeated Buddhist chants as though I was in a state of sleep paralysis. During the break, I’d go to the bathroom and the vending machines. During the noon, I’d eat my lunch at the usual spot while mumbling about how cold it is.
But today, the clock I always thought would take forever to make its revolutions felt surprisingly fast.
By the time I noticed, it was after school.
And so, the time had finally come.
But if I dawdled around in class for too long, Yuigahama who was chatting with Miura and the others might invite me to go to club together. I can’t have that, I mean really, it’s like, you know, embarrassing.
She, however, didn’t approach me for the entire day, either because she could tell from my attitude or that she had the same thoughts as I did. Either way, it’s a different story once it was after school.
So before she had the opportunity, I left the class.
I sluggishly traversed the hallway from the school building to the special building.
Honestly, my feet felt far heavier than it did the following day after confessing and getting turned down in middle school. Thinking back, I think I was pretty composed mainly because I had a general idea of what kind of reactions I’d get; that being, either making me the butt of their grand jokes or pretending to act cheerful and act as it wasn’t funny to them, but turns out they couldn’t hold themselves back and laughed out loud instead. I get the feeling I wasn’t getting ignored at all back then.
If things just turned out that way this time, it would’ve been easier for me.
But I just couldn’t fathom what kind of responses those two would give me.
I eventually arrived in front of the clubroom as I thought and walked my way here. I should’ve been going at a slow pace, but was the room ever this close? Typically, I’d take a look outside the window on my way here, but it didn’t catch my attention today.
I stood in front of the door and sighed… I want to go home. The thought ran by in my head. I, however, was the one who asked for their help. I didn’t have the option to withdraw.
After bracing myself, I slid open the door.
The door was unlocked and the room was filled with light due to the sun still high overhead. The curtains were drawn open. The unused desks and seats were piled on top of each other, but the unchanging desk with three seats around it was still there, no different from usual. Sitting in one of those chairs was Yukinoshita.
She lifted her face from the book she was reading. Wearing her typical and unchanging composed expression, she opened her mouth.
Her reaction had been far more normal than I imagined it to be that I was caught off guard. Perhaps it’s a case of the person in question being the only one bothered while everyone else wasn’t. It’s the prime example of being overly self-conscious.
Relieved by her response, I took a seat diagonally from her and took out a book from my bag. I opened it to my bookmark, but couldn’t remember the content at all. I flipped back pages until I came across familiar words.
It looks like I’d finally be able to get some actual reading done after a long time.
The peaceful time where Yukinoshita and I didn’t say anything continued on. Occasionally, I’d hear the sound of turning pages and coughs. But the unusual number of coughs started to bother me. I looked up and Yukinoshita coughed one more time before speaking up.
Yukinoshita coughed once more to hide her cracked voice. She made a brief glance at me in examination, but when our eyes met, she looked away.
“…Um, could you tell us where and when we’re going today?”
That’s right. I lost the timing to talk about the event when I came into the room, but currently, I had requested the Service Club to help with the Christmas event. I had to fill them in on the details. But we were short one person, so we should probably wait for her first.
“Oh, right… Mind if we wait for Yuigahama first?”
“…I suppose so. There’s no need to explain twice, after all,” Yukinoshita said with a small voice and dropped her eyes back to her book. Thereon, she stayed quiet as did I. It looks like this time of silence was going to continue on for a bit longer.
But the quiet room was eventually filled with the loudly opened the door.
Coming in with an energetic voice was Yuigahama.
When we all exchanged our greetings, Yuigahama contently smiled and headed for her usual seat. After we made it to her seat, she contemplated for a moment and then scooted it over. The seat looked apparently lighter than I thought it’d be.
Once she finished adjusting her seat, she giggled while sitting down.
Yukinoshita let out a mumble with a problematic voice. She moved her seat away, only for Yuigahama to adjust her seat to cover that gap.
“…Um, Yuigahama-san… could you give me a little more space?” she said, modestly.
Yuigahama’s expression clouded. After the distance opened up again, she placed her hands on her knees. “Ah… Okay, I guess I should…”
“Um, I didn’t mean it like that…”
Yukinoshita tried to speak up after seeing Yuigahama’s behavior, but then went quiet.
Their interaction was rather uncomfortable. Just watching made me feel exhausted.
Well, we did have those empty exchanges for a while now, and we even had that dispute yesterday. It might take a little more time we could act as friendly as we did like before. Although I’m talking as if it didn’t concern me, I also wasn’t sure what the correct way of interacting with them is.
As of now, I wasn’t sure what the right answer could be, but I want to believe that our time in the present was far more alive than it was when frozen. For now, I just needed to do what I could.
In trying to find the chance to speak to the two, I ended up clearing my throat several times.
× × ×
After I gave the two a brief rundown of the Christmas collaboration event as well as the current situation, we made our way to the community center as scheduled.
The only conversations we had in the room and on the way to the center were just related to the event. I had the feeling we had talked a lot more during our empty exchanges…
I pushed my bike while the two walked behind me. It took us a moment for us to arrive at the center and that’s when we saw Isshiki at the entrance. She seems to have been waiting patiently for me today.
I locked my bike at the parking area and headed towards Isshiki. Upon noticing us, she had a look of surprise. She then shot glances between the three of us.
“Yui-senpai and Yukinoshita-senpai…? W-Why are you two here?”
“Yeah, I asked them for help,” I said, briefly.
I went into the community center and Isshiki followed me with a nod. Yukinoshita and Yuigahama entered after her.
“Huh, I see… Ah, right, we really could use the help.” Isshiki popped a smile to Yuigahama and Yukinoshita.
Yuigahama smiled back with a “yahallo” and said, “Hey Iroha-chan, we’ll see what we can do!”
Similarly at her side, Yukinoshita nodded. “It sounds like things aren’t going so well.”
“Yes, it really isn’t,” Isshiki said, and handed over the convenience store bags to me. She gets used to this pretty fast, I thought and obediently took them off her hands.
In doing so, Yuigahama and Yukinoshita abruptly stopped in place.
I turned around to the disappearance of their footsteps and they were both fixated on the bags. Yuigahama had a look of bewilderment while Yukinoshita had a chilly gaze.
“What…?” I asked.
“No, it’s nothing.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s nothing, nothing at all.”
Yukinoshita removed her gaze in an instant and Yuigahama had a strained laugh as she shook her hand in front of her chest.
With those two giving me uncomfortable stares, we climbed up the stairs. Yuigahama restlessly looked around in curiosity and Yukinoshita walked in disinterest.
And then, we arrived at the location of the meeting, the Training Room.
“Thank you everyone for your hard work,” Isshiki said in an easygoing manner and entered the room. We followed her in and the attention of the room was focused on Yukinoshita and Yuigahama.
Isshiki made her way to Tamanawa to discuss something, likely about how she was able to enlist more helpers for the event. He nodded back to her coolly.
In the meantime, I placed the bags onto an unused seat and emptied them onto the table. Yukinoshita and Yuigahama who had been watching me as well as the members of the Student Council gave me a hand.
Yuigahama poured drinks until she let out a surprised, but small voice. Ahead of where she was looking was Orimoto. In the same way, she had rounded eyes and looked at the three of us.
Oh yeah, I totally forgot Orimoto was here… I became anxious about Orimoto’s reaction now that they met face to face again.
However, she didn’t approach us and simply bowed back in response. Yuigahama frantically returned with her own bow while Yukinoshita stared back at her.
Well, it’s not like they have good impressions of each other… We were already confused as it is about how to act around each other, so throwing Orimoto in the equation made it more impossible. Quite frankly, I completely had my fill of it all.
“Anyway, let’s sit…” I said to Yuigahama and Yukinoshita.
“I suppose so.”
The two nodded, and I took my usual seat. Yuigahama sat beside me and Yukinoshita occupied the seat Isshiki would normally sit at. I wouldn’t expect any less from Yukinoshita-san for taking the seat of honor as if it was natural.
When Isshiki came back to find her seat occupied, she became confused. “H-Huh? My seat…”
She paced back and forth around Yukinoshita while mumbling. Upon noticing Isshiki, Yukinoshita tried to leave her seat.
“Ah, I apologize. The seats must’ve been decided in advance.”
“Oh, no, no, that’s fine, no problem. I’ll feel more calm if I sit over there, anyway,” Isshiki said, stopping Yukinoshita and sat in the open seat next to the vice president.
Once everyone took their seats, Tamanawa went to the same moderator-like spot. He then opened his MacBook Air and made a sweeping glance at everyone.
“Is everyone here now? Alright, let’s get started,” he said.
After issuing his command, everyone bowed with a “thank you for your time” and the conference began.
The plan today, for sure, was to decide what we were going to do for the Christmas event… supposedly. I already gave the reminder to Tamanawa beforehand and on top of that, we had a day off. If we didn’t reach an agreement on what to do by today, we were really in trouble.
Kicking off the conference was, of course, the one manning the moderating post, Tamanawa. He spoke to Kaihin Sogo’s Student Council and they started distributing printouts.
“After processing the BRAINSTORMING we did the other day, I did some thinking. I produced a RESUME, so give it a read.”
It looks like the meeting was canceled yesterday all so he could make these papers.
The resume was titled, “A Christmas Concert Event.” Details outlining his plan were listed below the title. This felt more like a plan proposal than a resume, but I decided to ignore that and read on.
A CONCERT EVENT will be held that encompasses all kinds of GENRES of music in order to conceptualize the theme of “Connecting Music of Today.” The CONCERT will be comprised of five different sections starting with classic, rock band, jazz, hymn, and gospel. Plays and musicals focusing on the theme of CHRISTMAS SOUNDS will be performed in between the CONCERT. This will result in an ALL-GENRE CHRISTMAS EVENT that can effectuate the greatest SYNERGY possible between music and theater.
…I did a quick skim of the paper. But on my next read, I decided to take it much slower and read. However, what was written didn’t change.
Hey, hey, this isn’t anything remotely like a universal proposal. This was just a chimera. It certainly did take into account every opinion that was raised.
On the minutes, they had orchestra and classical written down. I’m guessing that’s a question of scale there. They also had hymns and gospel. I’m not sure what makes them different, but since they wrote it down, I’m assuming they’re not the same thing… As for the rest, they were mostly written as is. Just a glance and they made up the body of the proposal.
Regardless, the volume had inflated to ridiculous levels due to every opinion being incorporated that it didn’t seem doable at all.
“Thoughts?” Tamanawa asked, though not anyone in particular.
In response, everyone either went “Ohh, that might be totally cool” or “Sounds like a blast” or “That’s pretty exciting.” They sounded optimistic, but by no means did that mean they were all in full agreement.
Perhaps the reason why they could only be so vague about their answers was because of how opinions weren’t allowed to be rejected in all the brainstorming sessions we had until now. Either that, no one was earnestly thinking of anything.
Though at this rate, we weren’t going to ever come to a decision. This was the time to guide everyone in a way to whittle down what we’d do for the event while pointing out what was realistically doable and what was not.
“This has gotten a bit out of hand here. Also, do we have people who can play music?”
“Indeed. That’s where we should consider OUTSOURCING,” Tamanawa answered, not hesitant. It’s as though he had anticipated my question.
“There are PRIVATE CONCERT DEPLOYMENT SERVICES we can coordinate with for the classical and jazz music. We also have students at our school that can handle the band components. We should be able to pull through if we request cooperation from our theater club to handle the plays and musicals. And lastly, the gospel… I suppose we can ask the church?”
His answer was THE DEPENDENCE ON OTHERS.3 Can you really call this our event…?
It’s not like outsourcing wasn’t bad. It’s very common to leave the undoable or specialized things to the appropriate people rather than trying to ignorantly tackle them by ourselves. If there weren’t any problems with entrusting those to others, then by all means.
The only thing left was to consider how realistic his plan really is. I reflected on today and the date and opened my mouth.
“So, do we know what the schedule is like for those deployment services?”
I doubt they’d come at the drop of a hat on the day before the event. Besides, weren’t jobs of that nature typically booked during the Christmas season?
“That’s what we’re going to confirm.”
No, look, you’re supposed to do that way ahead of time… What are we even talking about here? Rice cakes in the sky?4 Are you sure we’re not talking about a worthless illustration about rice cakes becoming personified into a moe character, “Mochimi-chan (big breasts)” or something?
Seeing my objection in my expression, Tamanawa added. “I simply wanted to procure a CONCENSUS with everyone here first. By acceding on a GRAND DESIGN, we can, for the first time, begin to contemplate what things we should choose to OMIT.”
“CON… OMI?” Yuigahama tilted her head. Well, I’ll leave explaining those words to her later. It’s more important to figure out how to deal with this meeting.
I approached him from a different angle.
“If anything, is this even something you’d see from high school students? I get the feeling we’ve been off the mark since the beginning.”
“That’s why we’re making it about ‘today.’ We just need to annul the IMAGE of high school students IMPRINTED with STEREOTYPES by exhibiting what they look like today, don’t you think?”
“PRINT, STEREO… IMAGE?” Yuigahama tilted her head once more. Well, let’s leave explaining those words to her la—no, she should at least know what image means.
Anyway, putting aside the explanation for Yuigahama, the real problem was Tamanawa. I honestly wanted to just tell him upfront to “look at reality,” but saying that to someone who wasn’t looking was absolutely pointless.
If there’s something I could do, it’d be to loosen him up and have him give up as I pinpoint out the realistic walls and hurdles that would be too difficult to overcome.
For such a situation, I had a card up my sleeve.
On the other day, I prepared and handed a sheet of balances to Tamanawa. I calculated the expenses of the business concerts. I carefully checked over the numbers and asked him, “If we make transactions with third parties, what are we going to do about the budget?”
According to what I calculated, the market price for a single performance would run up to about thirty to forty thousand yen per hour. If they’re also needed for the classical or jazz music, the price would double or triple. On top of that, increasing the number of performers would also blow up the costs. And for gospel, the cost was different there as well. If we’re looking to do everything on this plan proposal, our current budget just wasn’t enough.
But Tamanawa’s answer didn’t change from before.
“That’s why we’re holding this conference in order to make that possible,” he said.
Now, there was no longer anything else I could say.
The plan that Tamanawa proposed wasn’t bad itself. If we had the time, the human resources, and the money, then it’s a great plan. Perhaps even doable.
But our situation was missing all three of those components.
I went quiet and no one else raised an objection. The conference then transitioned to a discussion of how they could make his plan a reality and how they should acquire a larger budget.
After settling on what to do with the budget, they’d start talking about how to cut down on the event and relax. But by the time they relax, it’s likely they’d have to whittle the event down even more because there wasn’t enough time.
I could imagine that scenario so easily that I let out a small sigh.
× × ×
After the conference ended, I was dead tired.
Ultimately, the things we were going to do weren’t decided in today’s conference either and it was postponed for later deliberation. Christmas was in a week and tomorrow was Saturday. Taking that day off was a rather painful loss of time.
Yukinoshita who was next to me was feeling disheartened as well. She placed her hand on her temple as if trying to suppress a headache and let out a sigh.
“That was more than I imagined… Have you been having that kind of conversation all this time?”
That’s what I answered, but in reality, it was a lot worse. But “the present time” came to mind, it was actually some progress. When I looked back on things, an unpleasant smile spilled out on my face.
“The discussions weren’t completely in line with each other at all, so just watching was irritating…”
“Yep… It felt like they weren’t listening either.”
When Yukinoshita said so in annoyance, Yuigahama nodded exhaustedly. But Tamanawa wasn’t that kind of guy. Having watched him recently, I had come to understand that quite well.
“If he didn’t listen at all, then we would’ve been better off… But because he forcefully tries to include things after only partially listening to things, things just stray off course even more.”
“Aah, yes. That’s right…”
Isshiki agreed with a sigh.
In that heavy atmosphere, Yuigahama energized herself, hoping to turn it around, and faced me.
“So, what should we do?”
“…I don’t have a clue.”
I answered honestly. Frankly, there was a part of me that thought if everything was decided in the conference today, we could’ve jumped straight into our jobs and things would have worked out for the better. I had the expectations that we would’ve made some significant progress even if everything wasn’t completely decided. But now that the lid was taken off, this was what we got.
As I fell into thought about what to do, Yukinoshita stared at me and murmured.
“…So there’re things you don’t understand too.”
“What, are you being sarcastic? Of course there’d be a load of things I don’t understand.”
When I answered her by reflex like before, Yukinoshita stuttered with her words.
“I didn’t mean it like that, um…”
As Yukinoshita said that, she looked away from me and lightly bit her lips. She then dropped her gaze.
If this was in the past, then this should’ve been a meaningless exchange, but now it was rather awkward. I couldn’t seem to get a good grasp of this distance.
Unable to stand the mood, I scratched my head.
“…No, my bad. I want to do something about it, but I really don’t know what to do.”
“…I’m not criticizing you.”
Yukinoshita answered in a small voice while still facing down.
Yuigahama watched us timidly and broke in between us.
“W-Well, let’s just think about what we can do. Okay?”
“I suppose so.”
When Yuigahama said so, Yukinoshita lifted her head. She then lightly crossed her arms and softly placed her hand on her chin. Taking that posture, she slowly began to talk as if trying to confirm something after getting her thoughts in order.
“First, I think what we need to consider is dropping the scale of the event to something realistically possible…”
“Mmm. Even if you say so, what happened earlier is how things are so…”
Isshiki spoke, reflecting on the earlier conference. Given how things were going now, we couldn’t exactly pick the choice to reduce the scale of the event. That was probably something Yukinoshita saw and thought. Isshiki nodded back.
“Then that means we need to think about the extra additions to the budget. There’s the expense if we go in the direction of ordering a concert and even if we went with student bands, we’ll have to quickly secure time and a location for practice. As for the location, the music room would work, but if it’s too difficult, we’d have to rent a studio and that would factor in as an expense as well.”
When she said that, I realized. Aah, we needed to calculate the costs not only for the day of the event but the costs from the beginning too…
“So in that case, the estimate’s going to keep on increasing…”
Not to mention that the activities weren’t settled on so we couldn’t do any preliminary calculations either. We’re completely cornered here.
In the time I thought, Yukinoshita continued with her thoughts.
“As for what’s left, I suppose that’d be regarding how to secure the expenses. We can have the school deal with it or split the costs and after that, we could look for other sponsors from somewhere as well, but given how much time we have left, that may be difficult.”
“Yeah, we only have a week left after all.”
This week limitation was harsher than I thought. Even if the events were decided, the schedule didn’t seem very doable.
In the end, we had to do something about the conference or we wouldn’t see any progress otherwise.
“Realistically, they should be taking from the student council budget, but I don’t think they’ll allocate any according to this proposal and plan…”
Yukinoshita looked at the distributed resume created by Tamanawa and she was writing something with red pen as well as drawing lines. The resume which was touched up and had memos was suddenly plastered in red.
Yuigahama who was watching Yukinoshita doing that made a “howaah” sound as she looked with respect while Isshiki was watching in awe mixed with fear and withdrawal.
Well, I understand. In this short of a time, she organized the problematic points and proposed a detailed plan. That’s Yukinoshita for you. It was likely that there wasn’t a person at this school who could surpass Yukinoshita in regards to practical affairs like this.
Still, even with Yukinoshita here, she looked like she couldn’t easily think of a solution. When she made a big “X” mark on her own memos, she let out a shallow sigh.
“However, I don’t think that’s the issue. There’s something more fundamental…”
The person in question didn’t seem too convinced, but for me, it was some progress. At the very least, we had something we could do right now.
“Anyway, let’s try the things you came up with just now. For now, we’ll talk about the money issue at school. We’ll check if we can follow through with extra additions to it.”
I said that, stood up, and Yukinoshita looked up at me with a slightly apprehensive expression. To see Yukinoshita lacking in confidence was quite rare that I was a little bewildered.
When I asked her, Yukinoshita abruptly turned away.
“No… I thought perhaps you had already came up with the same idea.”
“No, not anything that concrete.”
“I see… I’m glad to hear it then.”
After saying that, Yukinoshita stood up as well.
In any case, first was money… It was a Christmas event, yet the first thing we were going to do was talk about money. There were no dreams, were there?
× × ×
We left the work of supervising the elementary students and updating the minutes to the other staff members and the four of us, three from the Service Club and Isshiki, returned to school. We needed to consult various things with the supervisor in charge of this collaborative event, Hiratsuka-sensei.
We entered the faculty office and went up to Hiratsuka-sensei. Upon making it to her, Hiratsuka-sensei was doing paperwork. That’s rare. Every time I visited her, this person was always eating something or watching anime or something.
When I called her, Hiratsuka-sensei lifted her head. She then looked at me and then at Yukinoshita and Yuigahama behind me and grinned.
“Hikigaya. Looks like you did your homework.”
“We didn’t get any homework for modern Japanese.”
I would like it if you could stop with those expressions that could cause misunderstandings. When I spoke, Yuigahama sighed and rubbed her chest.
“I knew it, that was close. I was super surprised there.”
After Hiratsuka-sensei cheerfully laughed, she rotated her chair and adjusted her body towards us.
“Anyways… what’s the reason for your visit?”
“Yes… Isshiki-san, explain.”
Isshiki was completely unprepared up until Yukinoshita spoke and she was overly surprised.
“You’re the person in charge, aren’t you?”
With a sudden and slightly sharp stare directed at her, Isshiki groaned. W-Will she be okay…? This was late, but I was slightly worried about the relationship between these two. I thought about how maybe I should follow her up, but Isshiki took a step forward.
“Ummm, sensei, we’d like to discusus something with you…”
“Fumu, let’s hear it.”
After that, Isshiki gave an outline of the things up until now and talked about the current plan and the pending problem which was money. Yukinoshita and I would follow up on the portions that seemed vague or didn’t make any sense.
When we finished talking about most of the things, Hiratsuka-sensei fell back onto her seat and crossed her legs.
“So, first is the issue with the budget, huh…”
When I replied, Hiratsuka-sensei nodded and then spoke.
“It looks like all of you don’t understand what Christmas is.”
When I tilted my head wondering what she was talkin’ ‘bout, Hiratsuka-sensei hit her hand as if something came to mind.
“Why don’t I show you what I mean?”
After saying that, Hiratsuka-sensei grabbed her bag that was left on the side of her desk and rummaged through it. And then she pulled something out.
As she went “ta-dah!” by herself, Hiratsuka-sensei was waving around weird looking papers. The corners were folded and the papers were crumpled, but on closer inspection, they were apparently tickets of the sort.
“Those must be Destinyland tickets…”
Yukinoshita took a glance and revealed what it was. When she said that, I took an even closer look and on it was a small illustration of Pan-san.
Haaan, that does remind me, it was something like that. By the way, regarding the tickets you used for admission, they didn’t actually call it tickets. Destinyland was preached as the “The Land of Dreams” so the required ticket to enter was actually called a passport. They were rather meticulous about the details.
Yuigahama looked at the tickets raised high and let out her voice with a “ohhh”.
“What’s this about? There’re even four of them…”
When Yuigahama asked her, Hiratsuka-sensei instantly dropped the tickets and showed an unpleasant smirking smile.
“Aah, I kind of won it somehow at an afterparty of a wedding… Two times on top of that… I was told ‘you can go by yourself two times!’ twice…”
A tear was about to run down my cheeks from listening to her.
Wait! How could you say those kinds of things! If it’s Hiratsuka-sensei, it might just be so fun after the fourth time that you could go for the fifth time with your own money! If I was careless, I just might even go together with her on the sixth time. I mean really, someone please take her already or a lot of things would be bad.
When I looked at Hiratsuka-sensei with moist eyes, at some point, Hiratsuka-sensei was biting on the filter of the cigarette in her mouth.
“I’ll give these to you so get some studying done. The Christmas there is quite magnificent, so it should serve as a reference. Also… it’ll be a breather.”
She abruptly gave us a smile.
Well, there really wasn’t anything we could do right now. Since it’d serve as data and a breather, it’s not necessarily the case that it’d be completely pointless.
Still, if we’re talking about making use of this efficiently, then we might as well just sell it off for money… Or so I thought, but with Isshiki and Yuigahama making a commotion out of it, I couldn’t say it.
“Is this really oookay? Thank you very much!”
Isshiki was acting merrily, but I wasn’t too happy. I ended up spitting out the reason.
“Why at a time like this when it’s so damn packed…”
“That’s true, it might not be for me too…”
Yukinoshita nodded in agreement. Well, she didn’t seem like she’d like noisy places and crowds very much.
But there were people present that loved these festival oriented places. Yuigahama looked at us with a discontent face.
“Eeeeh? C’mon, let’s gooo.”
“You’re underestimating Destiny during winter, aren’t you? The blowing winds are super cold and it’s on the coastline.”
“To add, congestion and long lines are also an issue.”
Even after what I and Yukinoshita said, Yuigahama wouldn’t back down.
“Eeeh… Ah! But, but, Pan-san! They have “Pan-san’s Bamboo Fight”5 there! You know, you even said you’d be okay going when we watched that DVD that last time!”
Yukinoshita reacted to the word “Pan-san”. She averted her face unnaturally like the grinding of rusty joints.
“…We can go whenever we want, so there really isn’t a need for us to go when it’s so crowded.”
Seeing Yukinoshita’s clumsy demeanor as an opening, Yuigahama pressed even further.
“C’mon, c’mon! Since it’s Christmas, then things will be all Christmas-like, right? It was like that in ‘Haunted Campus.”6
“Not at all. This year’s Bamboo Fight will be in the normal way. Although, in the first place, it has never been adjusted towards Christmas before. Originally, it’s an attraction that’s regarded highly throughout the world.”
With a momentary flash of light in her eyes, Yukinoshita shut down Yuigahama’s attack. Yukinoshita’s words were a lot stricter than normal. Was it that? She couldn’t forgive offhand knowledge of Pan-san or something…?
Yuigahama stuttered in response to the spirited Yukinoshita, Isshiki next to her was withdrawing, and Hiratsuka-sensei was looking at her in interest. Although I was aware that Yukinoshita liked Pan-san, it was a little frightening. My voice slipped out.
“You sure are detailed…”
“This much is common knowledge.”
As she said that, Yukinoshita abruptly looked away. Her cheeks were becoming red as if she was embarrassed by her fervent speech. Which land was that common knowledge in? The Land of Dreams?
Yuigahama’s argument was completely destroyed by Yukinoshita, but even so, she didn’t give in and pulled on her sleeve.
“C’mooon, let’s gooo.”
But it looked like introducing Pan-san had the opposite effect as Yukinoshita was obstinate. In turn, Yuigahama’s voice grew weak. In place of that, her hands that held Yukinoshita’s sleeves squeezed even harder.
“…I want to go together with Yukinon. I mean, recently we’ve been kind of like that and it’d be a waste too, so…”
When she said that, Yukinoshita quickly looked downwards. If it was like always, then Yukinoshita would’ve surrendered immediately to Yuigahama’s wishes, but she was acting flustered. It looked like she didn’t know what to do.
…As expected, things wouldn’t be that easy, huh?
The things you lost wouldn’t come back. It made me fully realize.
Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, and I as well were trying to gauge the distance.
Uhaa, these guys are so bothersooome. Well, the one who’s the most bothersome was me though! But, well, I was the one at fault for letting things turn out like this. In that case, I’ll at least take responsibility for that.
I scratched my head and I mobilized my knowledge regarding Destiny.
I couldn’t have you underestimating my knowledge of Chiba. When it came to things related to Chiba, I was the man who was on top of things. That applied to the Destinyland of Tokyo as well. If I was in a class of people from Chiba and was asked “Destinyland is Tokyo? Chiba?”, then I’d answer in a falsetto, “It’s the Land of Dreams. Haha!” By the way, the answer to that quiz was Chiba.
As I dug out the knowledge regarding Chiba and Destiny, a light bulb went off in my head.
Yukinoshita tilted her head in response to my words.
“Won’t they have Christmas versions of Pan-san there? So along those lines, I want to pick out a Christmas present for Komachi…”
There was the possibility that Yukinoshita would have normally completed the thought if it was just simple goods. But with the pretense of choosing a present and the season restriction, then it was somewhat different.
Yuigahama’s face brightened up as if reading behind my intentions.
“Ah, that sounds good! We should all go and choose!”
Yuigahama grabbed Yukinoshita’s hand with both of her hands. When she did, Yukinoshita gave up on resisting and relaxed her shoulders.
“…If that’s how it is, well, there’s not much we can do.”
Yukinoshita looked at Yuigahama who was innocently happy with a smile, but she suddenly looked my way. She then asked with an earnest expression.
“So Komachi-san likes Pan-san?”
“Eh…? Aah, pretty much.”
“I see. I didn’t know that. In that case, choosing a present might be a little difficult…”
As she said that, Yukinoshita looked happy somehow. She might have been thinking that she was able to make a Pan-san comrade.
…Oh crap. I just made up a random reason on the spot, so it might be a good idea to tell Komachi to study up on Pan-san… W-Well, I’m sure Komachi will be able to dig up a conversation somehow! I believe in her! I’m sure Yukinoshita’ll get super mad if Komachi gets a Pan-san quiz wrong, but if it’s Komachi, she’ll be okay! Onii-chan believes in you!
As I apologized to Komachi in my head, I could hear a low, groaning sound. When I looked, Isshiki had a duck mouth and looked at us with half opened eyes.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nooothing. I was just thinking abooout something.”
Even after asking her, Isshiki abruptly looked away in disinterest. After that, she turned towards us again as if something came to mind.
“If anything, we’re going to go with the four of us here?”
Now that she said it, that’s true. There were four tickets and this would’ve been the most natural, but thinking about it some more, being the only guy was kind of rough… I looked at Hiratsuka-sensei wondering if we could avoid this and she made a broad smile.
“Well, since it’ll be you four collecting data, then it seems right.”
“No, but the thing is…”
When I was going to refute her, Yukinoshita crossed her arms and tilted her head.
“I have a year passport so one of the tickets won’t be necessary.”
Listening to the information regarding Yukinoshita’s year pass, Isshiki quickly became energetic.
“Ah. Then, it’ll be okay to call one more person, right? We can have a good balance that way toooo.”
Isshiki smiled. Looking at that smile gave rise to an unpleasant premonition.
“Who do you plan on calling…?”
“It’s. A. Secret.”
Isshiki straightened her index finger and winked. With that annoying feeling to her, Isshiki didn’t look like she was planning to answer the question which also caused me to realize who she was planning to call.
× × ×
It was the next day on Saturday and I was out since the morning.
I was out for the purpose of collecting data at Destinyland. It took about twenty minutes to get to Maihama Station by train which was where we would be meeting. It was only times like these where you could envy the people of Chiba. Also, the people who said “doesn’t everyone at Chiba have their Coming-of-Age ceremonies at Destinyland?” and got envious were typically the people from Urayasu9 City. It was something that didn’t concern a good majority of people living in Chiba.
While I had those thoughts in mind, the train would jolt and the landscape of Destinyland flew into view from outside the window.
I slipped out a small “…ooh” in response. Once you saw the White Wall Castle and the active volcano spewing out smoke attractions, it really did get you worked up even if you didn’t have any prior interest to coming.
When I arrived at my destination, Maihama Station, I buoyantly hopped off the train. Even starting from the station, things like the departure chime was distorted to something Destiny related and the unique shape of the clock got you excited. Being shown all of this made you want to have fun at Destinyland at a moment’s notice as soon as possible.
After leaving the ticket gate in an uplifting mood, the meeting place came immediately into view. I restlessly darted my eyes around wondering if everyone was here yet and a voice called out to me.
Don’t greet people like that here… I didn’t have to confirm to know who it was. When I looked over, Yuigahama who was wearing a bobbing knit cap was waving her arms.
The tension must have gotten to her as she was carrying her beige coat in her arms. She was wearing a long knitted sweater with a long muffler around her collars and her hands were covered with mittens. It looked like she was properly fitted against the cold. But the mini skirt she was wearing with leggings underneath looked a little cold. But she might have taken that into account by wearing some sort of fluffy short boots of the sort to balance things out.
On the other hand, her standing neighbor, Yukinoshita, was firmly wearing a white coat with the collars popped. Her black gloves were dressed with fur and her tartan muffler looked warm. Yukinoshita was wearing a somewhat short pleated skirt, but was wearing black tights and long boots which didn’t give the impression she was cold.
“Oh, you guys are early.”
I walked up to the direction board they were standing in front of and greeted them.
“Arriving early five minutes before the designated time is standard conduct in society.”
Yukinoshita said nonchalantly. Yuigahama nodded in turn.
“Right, right, Yukinon was really early too. I thought I was here early myself, but Yukinon was the first one here.”
“…I just didn’t want to deal with the crowding train.”
Yukinoshita abruptly turned her face as she answered. When she did, her black hair that clearly contrasted against her white coat fluttered.
Yukinoshita was totally looking forward to Destinyland, wasn’t she? She’s so earnest…
Well, anyway, now the three of us were gathered.
“It’s just Isshiki left, huh?”
“Ah, if you’re talking about Iroha-chan, she’s over there.”
When I looked in the direction Yuigahama pointed, Isshiki had just left the station’s corner shop. And in addition to her from behind was someone else. It was Hayama Hayato.
…Well, that was expected. It’s Isshiki we’re talking about here. She probably did this and that like crying and adamantly clinging onto him to get him to come.
So it looked like it would be the five of us going around today.
Or so I thought when the person who appeared from behind Hayama was Miura. And after her was Tobe and Ebina-san.
I pressed against my eyes and I confirmed again the scenery before my eyes.
Yuigahama and Yukinoshita ←Makes sense.
Isshiki and Hayama ←Makes sense.
Miura, Tobe, Ebina-san ←Doesn’t make sense.
What’s this about…?
“Hey, why the heck are those guys here too…?”
I looked at the two looking for an explanation of this unexpected visual. When I did, Yukinoshita’s gaze inched to Yuigahama whose shoulders twitched in response.
Yuigahama squeezed and tapped her knit cap as her gaze wandered. It looked like that was her substituting for fidgeting with her bun hair.
“I-I mean, we had plans of going out anyway… B-Besides, I can’t just be Iroha-chan’s only friend! I’m stuck in between two rocks, you know!”
Yuigahama held her head. After that, Yukinoshita let out a short sigh.
I wanted to sigh too, but there was something else I wanted to say first. I glanced at Yuigahama who was groaning with her head in her hands.
“Now, don’t you go taking them along just because you can. You’ll take care of them right?”
“I-I really will, okay!”
Yuigahama shot her head up and said. Yukinoshita, who was watching her, spoke up.
“Then that should be fine. It’s not something we should be too concerned with.”
Yuigahama seemed deeply moved somehow as she looked at Yukinoshita, but you know, just now, it was that, she was actually just declaring that it had nothing to do with her…
“I guess, but still…”
As I said that, there was something else that slightly bothered me. For now, this was probably something I had to mention.
“Yuigahama… don’t bother with trying to support them or anything.”
“Ah, okay… Right, I guess.”
After she said that, Yuigahama made a gloomy expression and faced downwards.
Right now, we weren’t mature enough to be sticking our heads into other people’s problems. That’s why we would definitely end up being mistaken about a lot of things. I thought this was something I had to mention for sure.
Yuigahama was fiddling with her knit cap as if she was thinking about something. Her gaze was still facing downwards, but seeing how she was acting, I was aware that she understood it as well.
“…Well, not much we can do since they were called already. This works too since we can get them to help with collecting data and taking pictures.”
In reality, I wasn’t really expecting much, but I said so anyway. When I did, Yuigahama finally lifted her head.
Yuigahama looked like she was forcing her smile a little. Yukinoshita who was watching her combed through her hair and directed a slight smile at Yuigahama.
“If we’re going to collect data, it’d be a good idea to decide on how we’ll go around.”
Yuigahama’s face quickly sparkled.
“Ah, that’s for sure! What should we ride first?”
“Well, maybe that…”
I looked in the direction of the train stationed at the platform of the Keiyo Line.
“The train!? You’re totally ready to go home!?”
As we were talking, Isshiki and the others met up with us.
“Senpai, good mooorning to you.”
I returned a small greeting to Isshiki. Following right next to her was Hayama who spoke to me with a meek smile.
The words we exchanged were short. But our exchanged gazes compensated enough for that. I was trying to ascertain what was it that was hidden beneath that smile of his while it felt like Hayama was trying to see something inside of me.
When I was thinking those things, a sudden chill ran up my spine.
Huh!? Killing intent! No, rotten intent! Sensing that suspicious presence, I quickly turned around and Ebina-san was making a rotten smile. But when our eyes met, she quickly suppressed that rotten intent and cheerfully waved her hands.
“Huuuh? Hikio’s here too?”
From behind Ebina-san was Miura who showed her face, taking a peek our way. There, Tobe who was standing next to her exploded into laughter.
“Nah, nah, Yumiko, Hikio’s waay too hilarious. It’s Hikitani-kun anyway.”
They’re both wrong though…
“Since we’re all here now, shall we get going?”
After Isshiki looked around and said, we all began walking.
We stood in the line waiting at the entrance, exchanged our tickets into passes, and went inside from the entrance gate.
When we made it to a plaza of the sort, my voice slipped out.
The front that peeked from the gate had a gigantic illuminated Christmas tree. There were western style buildings lined up along the street with the White Wall Castle in the background.
It was as if we were in a movie. And there was a spectacle that I noticed that was used in movies with a Christmas motif. Suddenly, several movies came to mind. But for some reason, the first movie that popped in my head was “Home Alone 2”. Now that’s weird. I was pretty sure I watched a lot of other movies too…
For the time being, we still had the issue of collecting data, so I took out my digital camera from my blouson and noisily snapped pictures.
At the same time, the girl group was squealing as they started lining up behind the queue in front of the Christmas tree to take pictures. Yukinoshita who was next to Yuigahama looked distressed as she was stuck in the middle of them. It looked like she wasn’t very used to that kind of mood. Of course, since Hayama was in the guy group, we had no choice but to line up as well.
And then, there was Tobe who was even louder than the girls. He lined up behind the girls, looked up at the tree, and screamed out.
“Uoooooh! The tree’s amaaaazing! Totally getting pumped up hereee!”
Hayama looked at Tobe with a wry smile.
We waited for a little bit before it was finally our turn to take a picture. It looked like the staff of the park would handle taking the pictures for us, so I was fine for now.
After a group picture, various other pictures were taken: one with all the girls, one with just Hayama, Miura, and Isshiki, one with Yukinoshita and Yuigahama, and so forth. While watching them, number permutations and sequences came to mind.
Eventually, they finally finished taking pictures and when I started walking thinking we could finally get going, Yuigahama approached me with a cellphone in one hand.
“Hikki, thanks for waiting.”
Next to her was Yukinoshita sighing as if just taking all those pictures was tiring. Was it that? Was her soul sucked away?
There, Yuigahama grabbed Yukinoshita’s hand. She then pulled on my muffler. When she suddenly pulled on me, I stumbled forward. Yuigahama’s face was close. And facing opposite from me was Yukinoshita’s surprised face.
And then there was the sound of consecutive shutter snaps. One was from Yuigahama’s cellphone and the other was from Ebina-san who was standing a little further away.
“Yuiii, I took the picture.”
“Ah, thank youuu.”
When Yuigahama took the camera from Ebina-san, she pressed on the buttons to check the images.
“Don’t go taking pictures like that…”
Both Yukinoshita’s and my voice overlapped. Yukinoshita’s eyebrow was raised and she looked a little upset. But in face of that, Yuigahama spoke with a nonchalant expression.
“I mean, if I asked you two, you both probably wouldn’t let me take the picture.”
“No, not really.”
If anything, letting me know would’ve been better. If I was mentally prepared at least, I could’ve gotten a better picture taken. My face was red in that picture we took just now so it was kind of bothersome.
“…Nevertheless, that’s not a good reason to be taking pictures however you please.”
Yukinoshita let out a sigh. When she did, Yuigahama felt despondent as if she thought she did something wrong after all.
“I-I’m sorry. I’ll ask next time.”
“I-I’m really sorry! Yukinon, wait for meee!”
Yuigahama ran after Yukinoshita in a panic. Yukinoshita’s pace gradually slowed down and eventually the both of them were walking side by side.
I was watching them from about two steps behind.
The feeling of distance that those two had always been trying to figure out was likely how it used to be.
× × ×
Space Universe Mountain10. That was the space mountain.
We were going to line up for the space mountain, one of the three biggest coaster attractions.
When we arrived in front of the dome of SpaMt (Space Universe Mountain in short), Yukinoshita crossed her arms and bended her head to the side.
“This wouldn’t be much of a reference since there isn’t a very Christmas feel to it, wouldn’t it…?”
It was very typical of the hardworking Yukinoshita to remember the reason why we were here; that is, we were here to collect data that would serve as a reference for the event.
But next to her was Yuigahama who didn’t look like she was thinking too hard and pointed to the side of the dome.
“Ah, but, look, that area over there is decorated with a wreath… So let’s line up!”
“That looks like something you can see everywhere else, isn’t it…?”
True, what Yuigahama was pointing at was the Christmas wreath that was common in Destinyland. It could be seen all over the place too. But it completely became the reason to line up for SpaMt.
No, well, Hiratsuka-sensei said this was a breather too, so it’s not like that’s a bad thing or anything…
Yuigahama looked at Yukinoshita with puppy dog eyes and Yukinoshita let out a sigh, eventually giving in.
“…Haa, just this time only.”
After that, Isshiki who was lined up at the front turned around.
“Well, whatever attraction it is, I think we’ll probably only be able to ride them once anyway, so why not?”
“Yes, for the time being, I thought it would be better to have a broader look on things.”
Aah, so that’s what she was aiming for. I was convinced after she said that.
So today’s course was something Isshiki had cooked up.
After taking pictures, we would ride on the Pirate Kings of the Caribbean. From there, we would take the Black Thunder Mountain FASTPASS which would rapidly go around, arriving at the Tomorrow Never zone. And then after that, we would likely head to a different zone.
Often, many people from Chiba tend to think too much about how they would go about visiting the Destinyland attractions. They would take into consideration of the most efficient routes suited to their own preferences in order to comply with their goals. Not only might this be due to experience, but also due to their geographically advantageous mindset that Chiba individuals had.
Since Yukinoshita gave in, we began lining up for SpaMt.
At the front of the line was Hayama and the others while at the farthest back was Yukinoshita and Yuigahama. The seating arrangement of SpaMt was two per seat so the line naturally became double file.
“Yukinon, let’s ride together, okay?”
“Y-Yes… Will this really be of any use at all?”
It looked like both Yukinoshita and Yuigahama were ready to ride together.
Umu, I wasn’t sure if they were completely like they were before, but their relationship seemed very tender.
At the same time, the front was an illustration of hell.
The line was supposed to be double file, yet there was a spot where it was clearly triple file.
It was Hayama and to his left and right were Miura and Isshiki. Both Miura and Isshiki would assertively talk to Hayama while shooting each other restraining looks.
Since I was in the back, I couldn’t see Hayama’s expression, but I got the feeling he was making a troubled smile.
Miura and Hayama’s relationship didn’t seem so awkward though, possibly a result of the Destinyland effect.
Though, behind them was a guy groaning.
“What am I gonna do, what am I gonna do!?”
Tobe was grumbling about something to himself. But he eventually looked determined and plunged himself towards Hayama.
“Haayaato-kun! Let’s get on together!”
When he energetically ran in between the three, Miura and Isshiki gave Tobe a sharp look.
“Tobe, you know…”
“Tobe-senpai, you’re in the way♪.”
Miura’s eyebrows closed in together with an angry look and Isshiki had a grinning smile while saying something cruel.
Uwaah, that area looks like a frozen wasteland… Just watching made it cold over here…
Still, today’s Tobe wasn’t backing off. He slapped his hands together and paid his respects to the two.
“Eh, ya knoow, c’mon, like that’s a bit out there for me? Seriously, SpaMt is super scary, really. Er, seriously, I’m beggin’ ya here!”
I really wanted to just say “Nice Coupling”11 to them, what with that amazing unison there. And as you’d expect, Tobe whined even more. But a saving hand was extended to him.
“That’s fine with me, Tobe. Let’s ride it together.”
It felt like I could hear the lines “oooh, my kindred spirit” as Tobe hugged Hayama. Miura looked at that with eyes saying “Hayato, you’re so nice…”
If you were just watching here, then you’d see Hayama as a nice guy, but considering the entire situation from above, that actually wasn’t the case. The one who was helped was Hayama and in a different meaning, Miura and Isshiki as well.
Tobe, what a nice guy… If this was a movie version, he’d be an even nicer guy.
As I looked at them in admiration, Ebina-san slid towards the back before Tobe had threw himself up there with his influence. She then abruptly showed a smile.
“Tobecchi, he sure has it rough.”
Although she wasn’t saying it like it was somebody else’s problem, those words were clearly from someone who had taken a step away from that area. Was Ebina-san still the same as she was from that field trip? Did she still have that same unchanging sentiment back during that moment?
I ended up wanting to check that with her and slipped out a question.
“I guess… Why don’t you go help him out?”
Ebina-san worried for a little bit and dropped her gaze to her feet.
But she only did that for a little bit and when she quickly lifted her head, her glasses nicely gleamed.
“Fufufu, this is where Hikitani-kun should go help out Tobecchi, right? Aah, if I start now, I might be able to make a paper in time for the Winter Comiket!”
“It’s because Hikitani-kun said something weird.”
The words she replied with were cold. Even after looking at Ebina-san’s face, I couldn’t see the depths of the shine in her eyes behind the lenses.
“Hikitani-kun, don’t you have other things to worry about other than us?”
There wasn’t a need to confirm what she was indicating. That’s why I stood there without answering. After that, Ebina-san tried her hand at humor despite being aware of that.
“Like Hayato-kun for example!”
I instantly refused and Ebina-san happily laughed. She then withdrew her smile and quietly hid her voice.
“…About that time, sorry.”
Just when I thought what she was blurting out and asked her back, Ebina-san spoke in an extremely small voice so she couldn’t be heard from behind.
“Was it perhaps because of what happened back then that things seem kind of strained?”
“…It has nothing to do with that.”
That field trip was just one of the many triggers since I thought we would’ve been in this situation eventually. It wasn’t Ebina-san’s responsibility as it was ultimately my decision.
“Glad to hear that then.”
“It doesn’t seem strained on your end, huh?”
“…Uh huh, thanks to you.”
Ebina-san readjusted her glasses with her finger. I didn’t see it slip off, but it looked like she was adjusting something.
On that note, we didn’t talk about anything in particular and quietly stood in line.
It’s not always the case that the things said were the truth.
That was something I came to know from her request.
And even if you thought you knew, there were still times you would end up overlooking something. I learned that just now as well.
Surely enough, Ebina Hina had probably said another lie.
× × ×
When we got off SpaMt, I was unsteady on my feet. I didn’t feel anything when we were getting spun at a high speed, but I was assaulted by the feeling of gravity setting in. Was this what they called the Reconguista in G12?
Of course, that feeling didn’t apply to only me as the others were in the same boat although on different varying levels. And amongst them was Isshiki who was going “fueee…” in a pathetic voice as she staggered.
Someone was holding onto Isshiki’s hand.
“T-Thank you very much…”
Isshiki smiled and gave her gratitude and the other person let out an annoyed sigh.
“Like seriously, are you okay?”
“Ah, it was Miura-senpai, huh…?”
Isshiki’s smile disappeared instantly. After that, Miura gave her a plastic bottle in a panic.
“Eh, your face is totally blue, isn’t it? Want water?”
“I’ll be, okay, but… Thank you very much…”
Isshiki gave her thanks in stutters with a shocked look and took the bottle.
…Miura’s a good person.
Though, Isshiki was probably aiming for Hayama to nurse her back. But in the face of Miura’s motherly instincts, I guess that didn’t work…
As Miura took care of the staggering Isshiki, we started to move again.
The SpaMt area had a lot of popular attractions so the crowd was outrageous. And in that crowd was one more person who was staggering as she walked. Yuigahama didn’t overlook this and spoke to her.
“Yukinon, are you okay?”
“I’m fine… It’s just the crowds of people are getting to me…”
Was that really being “fine”…? Well, I could understand how she was feeling. I was getting sick and tired of this crowd myself.
Although I was worried whether she’d be okay later, Yukinoshita made a complete recovery by the time we got to the next destination.
Oh, I get it now! The next attraction was “Pan-san’s Bamboo Fight”!
This Bamboo Fight as duly noted by Yukinoshita had nothing to do with Christmas, literally saying “what the heck’s this Christmas mood in Destinyland, who cares about that, Chinese New Year is more important!” As such, this event wouldn’t prove to be much of a reference, but Yukinoshita didn’t voice a single complaint and lined up. No, no, that’s fine too…
The line was rather long, but upon using my technique, “Space out in earnest” from my special skills, the waiting time didn’t bother me.
Eventually, we made it into the building and I let out a sigh to the warmth.
“Okay, so how should we ride this?”
When Yuigahama said, Isshiki and Miura were readying their forks. Even though Isshiki was indebted to her earlier, it looked like she wasn’t in the mood to give in just yet. Tobe also readied himself as well.
But worrying about Tobe was pointless.
Judging from at the gourd shaped ride moving at the front, it looked like it was a three to four person ride.
So that meant the Hayama’s group of three were decided. As I was thinking about the remaining groups, it was almost our turn.
Yukinoshita called to Yuigahama.
“Shall we get going?”
After she answered, Yuigahama lined up next to Yukinoshita.
Well, that’s right. Yukinoshita’s been with Yuigahama the entire day so far. As such, it was natural for those two to ride together in this Bamboo Hunt13.
So that meant I’d be riding with Tobe and Ebina-san, huh…? No way, that sounds super awkward. Although it was a lie, it was still a group consisting of someone who confessed and his supposed love rival. As I was thinking “would it be okay if I went on the ride alone? Please tell me, Yukipedia-san.”, Yukinoshita was gallantly about to board the ride.
Following her was Yuigahama. But she then turned around towards me, shuffled her way to me, and grabbed my sleeve. She then pulled me towards the ride while she was facing downwards.
“Hi-Hikki, hurry up.”
“Eh, wai, I’m going on with Tobe and…”
I wasn’t the least interested in riding with Tobe, but that slipped out of my mouth.
“That’s fine. There’re people waiting behind us too.”
Once she said that, I had no choice but to get on board. The door to the ride closed and the lady in charge waved her hands and watched us off as she said “Welcome to the Bamboo Fight world.”
The ride moved inwards towards the darkness and as it progressed, red and orange lights suddenly burst out. It might have been because of the light source that Yuigahama’s side profile as she looked downwards was dyed in red. She then looked at me with upturned eyes. Thanks to that, even I got a little embarrassed.
The order of seats was Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, and me, but I tried as much as I could to move to the edge and Yuigahama was trying to create some distance as well. Though because of that, the remaining space caused Yukinoshita to be pressured.
Yukinoshita let out that single word.
Yuigahama then moved over to my side. I tried to make up for how much she moved in my direction by moving towards the edge. But that’s why our distance didn’t change all that much.
The ride still continued in the meantime and we arrived before a big screen.
On the screen was Pan-san running left and right and then, there was an overflow of plushy Pan-sans filling the interior of the attraction.
The ride we were on responded to the movements of all of the Pan-sans and it moved inwards to the attraction.
“Oooh, this is pretty amazing…”
When I voiced my honest impression, Yukinoshita’s voice flew out.
No whispering allowed… Just how into this were you…?
Still, as I sat there in silence, the occasional bumping of our elbows and arms because of the violent jolts of the ride really bothered me. It really was bad for my heart.
Halfway through, nothing in the attraction found its way into my head as I was simply trying to free myself from mundane thoughts.
× × ×
After getting off of “Pan-san’s Bamboo Fight”, there was a Pan-san shop in the immediate area.
Hayama and the others who got off first were waiting at the entrance of it. Following right after us was Ebina-san and Tobe.
“Maaan, Pan-san really is the bomb!”
Tobe had an extremely blissful smile probably because he was able to ride together with Ebina-san. But there was one more person with a radiant face.
It was Yukinoshita.
She let out a deep “mfuu” sigh in satisfaction. She most certainly did get her fill of it, after all…
“Hey, Hikki. There’s a Pan-san shop over there, what should we do?”
Yuigahama who was half a step behind poked my back and asked. I directed my gaze at the Pan-san shop without turning around.
Well, I did say all those things to Yukinoshita so I needed to look for Komachi’s present here.
“Sorry, I’m going to do a little shopping here.”
I said to Hayama and the others and Isshiki burst into giggles.
“Eh, senpai, you’re going to buy something from here?”
“…A present for my little sister.”
Why are you making such an amused face, Irohasu…? You didn’t need to go through the trouble of pointing it out. I already knew that the Pan-san goods didn’t fit me, jeez.
“I see. Then, what should we do?”
Hayama asked the others. When he did, Miura abruptly looked away from the Pan-san shop to the exit.
Ebina-san let out a puzzled sound and questioned her.
“Are you sure, Yumiko?”
“I mean, isn’t Pan-san’s eyes like not cute at all? I totally want to see Sassy Cat Marie-chan14 instead.”
Sassy Cat Marie was one of the many Destiny characters popular with the girls. She was something like a pink cat.
For her to choose a more girlish character instead of being interested in Pan-san, Miss Totally was quite sly! I guess she really did like the color pink, huh? I, too, like the color pink as well.
As I stood there in admiration, next to me was an individual emitting an incredible cold aura. It goes without saying that it was Yukinoshita. Her frozen over eyes were fixed on Miura. Not good, Yukinoshita’s super mad. At this rate, the only thing I could see this turning into was Miss Totally breaking into tears from having her arguments completely refuted in about thirty minutes.
“Things won’t be good at this rate…” As I thought that, Isshiki took a step into the Pan-san shop and grabbed the closest stuffed toy.
“Reaaally? Something like this is cute too. Right, Hayama-senpai?”
The one Isshiki asked was Hayama, but for some reason, Yukinoshita was nodding with her eyes closed. Well, what she was referring to was her own cute appeal and not Pan-san’s though.
But thanks to Isshiki, Yukinoshita looked gratified. Her cold aura began to retract itself.
“Anywho, if we’re not buyin’ anythin’, then we better line up for lunch. Looks like it’d be totally packed.”
Tobe snapped his fingers and spoke. Seeing him do that was annoying, but what he said was a fascinating proposal. What a good guy. He’s still annoying though.
Still, the idea of them lining up for us while we were shopping made me a little reluctant. That’s why I decided to check with him.
“…You okay with that?”
“Aah, no problem. Hikitani-kun, ya got your hands full right? Like choosing a present for your sister? Take your time.”
“Sorry about that.”
I lightly bowed my head and Tobe waved his hands saying not to worry about it.
“No problem, no problem. Hayato-kuun, let’s goo!”
When Hayama answered, Tobe accompanied him outside. If Hayama was leaving, then so would Miura and Isshiki. And Ebina-san who didn’t seem particularly interested in Pan-san followed after them with an “okay, see you ahead”.
Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, and I were the three remaining at the Pan-san shop.
Yukinoshita looked at me and Yuigahama as she carefully folded her muffler she took off.
“Well then, shall we choose a present for Komachi-san?”
“Yeah. That’ll help. Let me know if you have anything you recommend.”
“Yes. I’ll see what I can find.”
When she said that, Yukinoshita familiarly went inside the Pan-san shop and began scouring for things. She was extremely dependable, but she didn’t need to put so much effort into it… Well, I was the one who asked so I didn’t have the right to complain.
But leaving the entire thing to just Yukinoshita made me a little apprehensive. I’ll try looking for something too… First, I reached out to the closest shelf. Yuigahama stood next to me as I was staring at the Pan-san in Santa clothes.
“I’ll help pick one out too.”
“Sorry. Honestly, I’m not sure about choosing something from my own interests.”
“If it’s Komachi-chan, I think she’d be happy anyway.”
“No, we’re quite similar. She’s the type to clearly say what she likes or doesn’t like.”
“I see. Then we better try our best and pick the right one.”
After that, Yuigahama eyed several things like stuffed toys, blankets, puppet keychains and other things. Still, weren’t there just too many Pan-san merchandise here…? There were already quite a variety of plush toys as it was.
“Komachi-chan’s present, huh? Did you ever ask her what would be good?”
Yuigahama asked as she looked at the puppet Pan-san as if it was something rare.
“I did hear her out, but they were things like book gift certificates or gift cards…”
“Ah, aaah… Ahaha…”
Yuigahama had a shocked and troubled smile. This was the reaction from hearing about a money certificate. I guess I couldn’t really mention the third wish of a house appliance after all…
Yuigahama grabbed a puppet she seemed to have caught an interest in and played with it. With that puppet, she would go “ey!” while grabbing my hands and obstructing me. Eeey, that’s super annoying, super cute, and embarrassing to the point it was getting in the way. It really was embarrassing so I would like for you to stop.
When I brushed off the puppet, it was then thrust in front of my face and moved weirdly.
Once my eyes met with the eyes of the puppet Pan-san’s, Yuigahama started to talk in a strange voice.
“…What does Hikki-kun want for Christmas, I wonder?”
She was trying to imitate Pan-san it seemed. She didn’t sound anywhere close at all, seriously. Besides, what’s Hikki-kun about? It was too amusing that I tried to answer with a half-smile.
But just when I was about to talk, the events from the other day flashed in my head. Because of that, I choked on my words.
Yuigahama tilted her head thinking the sudden born silence was odd and looked up at me. When our eyes met, she realized something and raised a small voice.
Yuigahama’s face then instantly turned red.
She probably remembered the same thing. The words that I said that time.
I pressed against my cheeks and mouth with my right hand in embarrassment and looked away.
“I don’t really…”
Yuigahama pulled back the puppet and quickly went to put it back in its original place.
Both of us looked at the merchandise in silence for a moment. As we did that, increasing amounts of people filled the Pan-san shop. It looked like it was a party of tourists. Seeing that, Yuigahama opened her mouth.
“It really is packed, huh?”
“Well, it’s that time of the season. I’m surprised they felt like coming given the season. I wouldn’t even if I had the chance…”
I looked over the shop that started to get crowded and I let out a sigh. As expected, it’s because it was Christmas that every nook and crevice in the park was packed with people and even as you walked and walked to your destination, it was still littered with people. It was tiring.
“But it’d be nice… if we could come here again.”
When I turned to the pausing voice, Yuigahama was caressing a big plushy.
“You can whenever. It’s pretty close, too.”
“That’s not what I mean…”
Yuigahama shot glances at me as if hinting at something as she said that. It pricked my chest and that irresponsible promise I made at the Culture Festival came to mind. Since the Athletic Festival, field trip, and student council election followed right after, that promise was still on the backburner.
I wonder just how much of our distance had changed since taking that one step over the line?
I extended my hand out to the big stuffed toy that Yuigahama had been petting for a while now and spoke as I looked at its face.
“…Well, Destinyland during this season is kind of rough, but I wonder how the nearby new one is, huh?”
Yuigahama lifted her head and looked at me.
“Destinyland’s fine too as long it’s not crowded.”
As I thought to myself there was probably a better way to say it, I couldn’t find the right words.
Even so, Yuigahama answered in a small voice.
“…Over there, might be, a bit more, quiet maybe.”
Yuigahama looked downwards and nodded.
After I looked at her with a side glance, I hit the head of the plushy and went to a different shelf.
Her voice returned to being bright again and she followed behind me.
“Well, what to choose, huh?”
I said in a demotivated voice. So with this, the conversation was over. I’ll fulfill the promise during the continuation of this. After that, Yuigahama called to me in an energetic voice as if answering to that.
“Ah, Hikki, how does this look?”
When I turned around, Yuigahama was wearing a headband with dog ears. It looked like merchandise of a recurring dog character that appears in Pan-san with its ears flopping over.
She looked at herself in the mirror going “waah” as if not caring about my opinion even though she asked for it.
“Ah, this one might fit Yukinon. Yukinooon.”
When Yuigahama called her, Yukinoshita was full of Pan-san merchandise in both hands.
“Which one might Komachi-san like, I wonder?”
Yukinoshita looked anxiously at the Pan-san goods in her hands. U-Um… You didn’t have to be that serious about it, okay?
Yuigahama who had the headband in both hands hidden behind her back stood in front of the worrying Yukinoshita.
“What is it?”
In the moment she tilted her head, Yuigahama placed the headband onto Yukinoshita’s head. The headband with cat ears that Yukinoshita wore was apparently from another recurring character in Pan-san. She had a blank look.
And Yuigahama then stood next to Yukinoshita without a moment’s delay.
“Hikki, take a picture, a picture!”
- Sekai Seifuku: Bōryaku no Zvezda ↩
- Shinnosuke Ikehata ↩
- JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure parody of Dio Brando’s Stand, THE WORLD or also ZA WARUDO ↩
- The idiom is “castles in the sky”. Adjusted it to rice cakes so it follows with the following sentence. ↩
- A parody of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt maybe? ↩
- A parody of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction ↩
- Non Non Biyori ↩
- Nyapasu – “Nen pasu (年パス)” means “year pass”. ↩
- This might be a pun on the word jealousy which is “urayamashii”. ↩
- A parody of Space Mountain at Disneyland. ↩
- Buddy Complex ↩
- Gundam Reconguista in G ↩
- A parody of Pooh’s Hunny Hunt ride at Disney Land. ↩
- A parody of Marie from AristoCats. ↩