Chapter 25:

Small Surprise

Couple That Can't Touch

Three boring days went by after Shōwa Day. I thought about what Kozue's mother told me; becoming independent as soon as I could, but what I couldn't take off my mind was the date.

Because she and her family were going to leave on Monday for the Kite Festival, we decided to have our date on Sunday. We could've chosen an earlier day, but we were unable to decide and ended up choosing the latest day possible.

I didn't want to admit it but, the closer the date came, the more nervous I felt. So much so that I struggled to even fall asleep. There were just so many things to take into account: what clothes to wear; give her a gift or not; if I invited her to eat, where would she want to eat? It didn't matter how many romance mangas I read to prepare for the date, they never explained how to do any of that.

Fujisaki-san knocked on the door as I finished changing into my clothes for the date—a black denim jacket with short sleeves, a pink t-shirt, black jeans, and gray sneakers.

"Araki-sama, Mura-kun is ready for you in the car."

"I'm going."

I opened the door. Fujisaki-san was still waiting for me.

"You know Father doesn't like you calling others like that," I said.

She stared at me and inspected me from top to bottom. "So, you went with my suggestions. I knew they would look perfect on you."

"I guess."

"What is that reaction? You need to be more confident!" she grinned and slapped my shoulder. "You might be handsome, but most girls want a confident guy."

"Am I handsome?"

"C'mon, don't be so modest. If I were your age, I would've already hit on you without shame. To be honest, this could be considered hitting, but it's weird and illegal, so I'm obviously not doing that."

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind."

"No problem. As long as you have a big heart, any girl will fall for you, so don't worry about your clothes. Not too much, at least, but you still need to worry about it because girls do have it in mind."

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

"Hello, Araki-sama," Moriyama-san interrupted, arriving from the hallway. "Fuji-chan, I hope you're not doing anything inappropriate for a maid, like hitting on your lord."

"Obviously I'm not! I'm just doing what you told me to do, which is being friendlier with Koji-kun—"

Fujisaki-san hadn't even finished her sentence when Moriyama-san slapped her head so fast that I didn't see her hand.

"I mean, Araki-sama…," Fujisaki-san corrected, rubbing her head.

"Good. Araki-sama, you look wonderful! I see you decided to stay with your usual hairstyle."

"Thanks. I tried some of the hairstyles you showed me, but I didn't feel comfortable with any of them."

"Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone, but you are already wearing clothes like these, it's enough for a day. Don't worry about your hair, I'm sure your partner will love your look."

I hope she does…

With no time to waste, I walked out of the house and got in the car with Yoshimura-san.

Since the theme park was located on the opposite side of the city, we had to drive through it. There was a lot of traffic, but not as much as there had been on Shōwa Day.

We got stuck midway, so there was not much else to do except to wait. Fortunately, Yoshimura-san predicted the heavy traffic and we had left the house an hour earlier than necessary for the date.

I looked out the window. The sidewalks were just as crowded as the streets. It wasn't a familiar landscape for me; I wondered how many people were used to walking or driving through it, or even seeing it.

"Araki-sama, do you want tips for your date?" Yoshimura-san asked.

Him asking that question took me by surprise.

"Why do you look so shocked?" he chuckled, looking at me through the rear-view mirror.

"I didn't expect that question from you. Do you have any tips?"

"Don't be like that, Araki-sama. I also was young once. I mean, I still am, but even younger. And I, also, had my popular phase among girls."


He nodded. "But I actually don't have any advice. You probably have heard this a hundred times already, but just be yourself and don't push it. You could act cool and lie about some little things; in the end, it probably won't work out. You could get lucky and find a great partner, but it'll most likely create a short, toxic relationship. I tell you from experience."

I'm kind of sick of toxicity.

"And don't get me wrong, you still need to approach people. You wouldn't want them to think that you're not interested," he added.

"Thank you for the advice, Yoshimura-san."

It was true that I had heard or read that advice many times. I thought I understood it but, every time I heard it again, it would make more sense even though it already made sense. I began to believe that I didn't understand it properly.

"By the way, how's everything going with Fujisaki-san?" I asked.

He suddenly started coughing incessantly. "I apologize, I gulped my own spit. What do you mean by that?"

"You like her, don't you?"

"What makes you think that?"

"Well, you have been with us six years and she arrived not even one year ago; your behavior has changed a lot."

He didn't reply as the car moved forward a little. "Don't worry about it, Araki-sama. Even if I were attracted to her, she's ten years younger than me."

"But you both are adults. Is that a problem?"

Through the mirror, I saw a smirk forming on his face before he started laughing. It was the first time I'd heard him laugh like that.

"I wish I still had the mentality of youth. It's fun spending time with you, Araki-sama," he beamed.


Why did he say that? And why did I stutter?

We finally managed to get out of the traffic jam and arrived at the theme park a few minutes later. What we didn't predict was how many people were going to be at the park; it was packed. The car queue wouldn't move and people couldn't walk without bumping into each other.

Instead of waiting in the queue, Yoshimura-san decided to pull over some distance back and drop me off there.

"I apologize for not taking you to the entrance, Araki-sama. We will take too much time if we queue," he said as I got out of the car.

"Don't worry. Thank you for driving me. I'll call you when the date is over."

"It's my job, after all."

I smirked and pushed the door so it would close, but he called me before I could shut it fully.

"Araki-sama! About your father…"

"I know. I won't ask you to lie, but since he doesn't care that much about me, he won't ask for a while. Tell him the truth when he does."

It seemed like Yoshimura-san wanted to say something, but stayed silent and nodded. I closed the door and he drove off.

Just then I realized my situation. I was alone in the middle of a jungle I didn't know anything about. There were so many people and when I finally distinguished that there were multiple queues, I didn't know what they were for.

What do I do? Should I ask someone?

My phone vibrated in my pocket. It was Kozue telling me she was going to be late because of traffic, something I had already expected so I wasn't upset or disappointed.

Feeling quite overwhelmed, I decided to walk away from the entrance and the crowd to breathe a little and wait for Kozue.

Fewer people were around as I walked more but, sadly, all the benches under the trees were occupied, so I had to sit on another bench. Even though the breeze was cool, thanks to the park being near the pier, the sun still burned a little.

I observed the park. It was themed after an entertainment company that made many cartoons and movies. They also owned many other franchises and companies that had their own works, so there was a lot of variation.

A slow half an hour passed and Kozue still hadn't arrived yet. In her last message, she said that she was getting out of the taxi to walk here. I began to worry a little.

During my waiting, there were several times that I felt like someone was observing me, but I was unable to pick out who it was among so many people.

Fortunately, Kozue arrived only five minutes later. She slowly walked towards the park and I approached to help her. However, as I got closer, I noticed something strange; she was carrying her little sister on her back.

"Kozue," I called as I arrived beside her. I wanted to say more, but she left me with no words.

Her hair was practically the same—pulled up in a simple ponytail—but everything else was different. I noticed some makeup around her eyes, her cheeks were pinker, and her lips shone a little. A purse hung across her torso from her right shoulder over her denim jacket and white shirt with colored stripes. Her skirt was white, too, and her loafers were brown.

"Oh, Araki-kun, there you are…," she panted, exceedingly sweaty, and let Yu-tan down.

It took a moment before my brain reactivated. "Are you okay? How much did you walk?"

"Only a few kilometers," she nervously giggled.

"Is your ankle okay?"

"It aches a bit, but nothing too bad."

For some reason, I felt a little upset at her. "You could've told me. I would've told Yoshimura-san to—"

"I said it's fine, don't worry."

I stared at her for a brief moment before Yu-tan shouted my name and waved at me.

"Hi, Koji!"

"Hi, Yu-tan. Why are you here?"

"Birthday gift!"

"Oh, it's your birthday?"

She shook her head. "Park is my birthday gift!"

"Her birthday is in a few days, exactly on the day of the Kite Festival," Kozue said. Then she bowed. "I'm very sorry. I promised her I would bring her for her birthday thinking we weren't going to the festival and that I would be able to save enough money to buy more tickets. I'm really, really sorry…"

I didn't blame her. However, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. The date was supposed to be for us alone.

"It's fine. The three of us will have fun," I replied.

"Yes, fun!" Yu-tan shouted.

Kozue smiled, but it didn't feel like a genuine smile.

"By the way, why aren't you queueing up?" she asked.

"Oh, well… I don't know what's going on, to be honest…"

She chuckled. "I see. We should get in line or it'll be noon by the time we get in."

"Don't you want to rest?"

"I'm okay. Come on."

She grabbed Yu-tan's hand and we queued up. All of the lines were the same length, so it didn't matter which one we chose. She then began explaining how every line led to the same place, just different booths.

As time passed, I noticed how Kozue struggled more and more to stay still. She would move around weirdly or even lose balance. I couldn't bear it anymore.

I asked the group sitting on the bench next to me, "Excuse me, could you let my friend sit for a little? She's struggling with her ankle and needs to sit down. Her little sister is tired, too."

"W-What are you doing?!" Kozue whispered at me.

"Oh, sure, no problem!" one of them replied and the three of them stood up. "We were just about to leave anyway, so we won't come back."

"Understood. Thank you very much," I bowed. The group walked away and the bench was free. "Please, sit down. I'll stay in the queue."

Kozue's cheeks blushed. She let out a long breath the moment she sat down. Then Yu-tan sat beside her.

We kept talking as I slowly moved away from them. There were a few moments of awkward silence but, thanks to Yu-tan, we found more topics to talk about because she kept mentioning things she saw.

Almost one hour passed and we were finally in front of the entrance. Kozue was right, it was almost noon.

"Can you hold Yu-tan's hand for a bit? I'm going to take the tickets out," she asked me. I nodded and grabbed Yu-tan's hand.

"Woah! Hand big and wet!" she shouted.


Kozue searched inside her purse for a little bit and took out three tickets.

"Done. Hold my hand, Yu-tan."

She held Kozue's hand and I let go of hers, but she immediately grabbed it back.

"I want Sis and Koji!"

Kozue nervously giggled, "You shouldn't grab his hand without his permission."

"It's fine, she can grab it," I said.

"Yay!" Yu-tan beamed.

The queue kept moving forward and we were almost at the booth.

"By the way, you could've asked me to buy my own ticket," I told Kozue.

"I know, but I invited you. I wanted to do it on my own."

"I see. But didn't your friends give you their tickets?"


The people in front of us stepped inside the park and it was our turn. We arrived at the booth and Kozue let go of Yu-tan's hand to give the tickets to the guy inside. Then he returned three, green wristbands and one of the tickets.

Kozue and I looked at the ticket, confused.

"Excuse me, we are three people," she told the guy.

"Kids under a certain height don't need a ticket," he smiled. He slid his hand out through the window and pointed to a sign on the wall. It was a drawing with a ruler on it. One of its lines was marked in a different color and Yu-tan was quite a ways beneath the mark.

Kozue didn't say a word for a few seconds. I looked at her face and she was deadpan.

I don't blame her.

"I-I see, thank you…"

"Thank you!" Yu-tan happily shouted, still holding on to my hand.

We stepped into the park so we didn't hold up the line anymore. The guy inside the booth then added, "Oh, I should also tell you that you can get a lot of discounts if it's your birthday!"

I could only imagine an arrow piercing through Kozue's chest at that moment, adding more salt to the wound. She covered her face with her hands, probably out of embarrassment or sadness. Possibly both.

I tried to cheer her up. "Don't worry, neither of us knew about that. I wouldn't have imagined it either."

She moved her fingers away from her eyes to look at me. Then she put her arms down.

"I think that's why Hisa and Rem gave me their tickets. I could've used two of them today for us and just one for me on Yu-tan's birthday. Well, we're already here, there's no point in regretting it now," she said with an uneven smile.

I smiled too. "Yu-tan, I didn't buy a gift for you."

"What? No gift?" she said, quickly getting sad.

"B-But I will buy a lot of stuff for you today. Just tell me when you want something."

"Yay! I like Koji!"

Kozue and I chuckled.

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