“Alright, students! For those of you who are unaware, Kofuku-ji became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. And that magnificent five-story pagoda is not only a symbol of the ancient capital of Nara, but it is also Japan’s second tallest wooden pagoda. Sadly, the pagoda is only open to the public about once every five years or so.” Kuroda-sensei explained with great enthusiasm as we all stood in front of the East Golden Hall of Kofuku-ji temple, the first destination on the second day of our school trip.
“Second? Then where’s the tallest again, Yuyo?” Kyashii muttered as she tightened her grip on my right arm. We were separated from the rest of our friends since she was walking at such a sluggish pace.
“It’s housed in the To-ji temple in southern Kyoto.”
“Ohh, I see. Umm... I think I now have strong feelings about visiting Kyoto again one of these days.”
“Hmm… You were that interested in checking out the tallest wooden tower?”
“No! I just want to have some fun there. Kyoto has much to offer.” She pouted.
“Well, if you really wanted to, you could go whenever. It’s not all that far from Osaka.”
“Maybe we can go there together sometime. Umm... Perhaps during our summer vacation?”
“. . . .”
I gave her a blank stare. It’s incredible how spontaneous she is.
“What… I know that look already.” Kyashii mirrored my gaze.
“So, you can guess my response to that, can’t you?”
“Yes, and it’s a yes, right?” Kyashii lifted an eyebrow at me.
“Nah-uh... Wrong. And here I was, thinking you knew the answer. It’s a resounding no, Kyashii-chan.”
“Hmph! That’s only your initial, thoughtless response. If I keep pressing, you will ultimately change it; thus, the answer remains a yes.” She scowled.
I made a quiet laugh. That’s how confident she is, huh?
However, she is probably right.
Uhm... Now that I think about it, isn’t that always the case? Every time I say no to her, she gets more and more insistent until I finally give in.
I wryly shrugged as we followed the others inside the hall. “Pushy Kyashii...”
“Whatever! It’s true, though.”
I could only smirk and start looking for Minori and the others.
“Aren’t we better off joining Minori and the others there rather than being separated from them?” I pointed my thumb in Minori’s direction after catching sight of her along with Tomoka and Nazumi-san.
“Heh? Nothing in particular. Besides, I think we’ll have more fun together during this school trip when we’re with them than just by ourselves, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Saying something like that… Does that mean you don’t like being alone with me, even just for the time being?!” Kyashii’s face turned hostile in an instant.
“Huh?! Just what are you saying? That’s not what I meant at all. I mean…. Uhh...” There was such an intense glare from her that I ultimately decided not to finish what I was trying to say. “R-Right! On second thought, forget it! We’ll just join them later. Ha-ha...” I couldn’t help but let out a nervous chuckle at her menacing gaze.
Scary… She just went completely off the deep end in a tick.
Uhh? Ignoring that for now, I find it strange that every time Kyashii gives me that look, it keeps making my stomach drop. I don’t remember this had ever happened to me before until yesterday.
Hmm…? Is my reaction to her huffiness changed since I haven’t spoken to her for a while? Or perhaps it’s her menacing nature that has leveled up?
“Hmph! That’s what I thought. I like that better.” Kyashii’s dark expression grew lighter as she tightened her grip on my arm even more.
And she hasn’t let go of my arm since we left the hostel. I almost get the impression that she’s keeping an eye on me for something.
“So, for the afternoon’s activities, we are free to wander around the area we are visiting today. Where would you like to go, girls?” Minori posed the question as we finished lunch at one of the restaurants outside the temple. It took us until lunch to catch up with them.
“I’m good wherever!” Sitting alongside Minori and Nazumi-san, Tomoka answered cheerfully between sips of her drink.
“Basically, we’re free to go wherever we want, right, Minori?” Kyashii asked with excitement.
“Certainly, Kyashii-chan. It sounds like you’re thrilled; do you already have a few great spots in mind?”
“Umm... Nothing specific. There isn’t much I know about the area.”
“Then what makes you so worked up?” I asked despite myself.
“Ehh?! It’s because we’ll finally be able to talk about things in a less crowded setting.” Her glance at me was ice-cold.
“Huh? Talk about things?”
“Yes!” Kyashii’s eyes widened as she stared at me.
“Ohh~… I get it, Kyashii-chan. We’ll let you and Yuyo talk about it then.” A delighted giggle echoed from Minori.
Did I leave something out? “Sorry, I don’t follow. What were you two talking about again?”
“Goossh! Minori, don’t you think Yuyo is totally unbelievable?!” Kyashii pulled a face at me before turning to Minori.
“She can be as blind as a bat at times, Kyashii-chan. I’m sure you already know that.” Minori beamed at Kyashii before she turned her big smile on me. “Yuyo, remember the interrupted conversation you had yesterday?”
Oh! That’s right.
Uhh... Now that Kyashii and I are already on speaking terms, I’m not sure why that matter keeps slipping off my mind. It seems a bit odd.
“R-Right… Yes, of course.” My smile was struggling.
“Just a second! Do you mean to tell me that I can’t be with Yu-chin this afternoon as well?!” Tomoka whined. “Mikami-san sure is keeping Yu-chin all to herself today. Please leave some for her wife too. How about it, Mikami-san?” She asked with a mopey look on her face.
“No.” Kyashii tersely replied, her eyes narrowing at Tomoka.
“Boo! As it turns out, my rejection streak is far from over. Aah~, how awfully unlucky of me!” Tomoka sulked as she clutched her cheeks. “Hana-chan, I beg you to persuade Mikami-san to allow me to spend time with my wife too.”
“A-ha-ha… B-But I think they need to have that talk, Tomoka-chan.” Nazumi-san said in a hesitant tone.
“Oh well, I guess I don’t have much of a choice. Then... Before we part ways for the afternoon, I’d like to collect something on the dare last night. Yu-chin~, I won since that was daring, riigghht?” Tomoka briskly flashed a giddy grin at me.
In less than no time at all, Minori slapped the back of Tomoka’s head right before I could say anything.
“Ack! Aww!! That hurts, class rep! Holy smoke, you really pack a punch!” Tomoka wailed.
“Mizuno-san, you have the unmitigated gall to claim that ice cream after what you did last night? How about I freeze you until you become ice cold, then churn your frozen remains into ice cream?” Minori intoned calmly with a sinister smile on her face.
Ah-re?? There is an air of ominousness in Minori’s remarks and aura.
Hmm? Hold on…
Now, that’s kind of weird.
At this instant, I can’t help but draw parallels between Minori’s behavior towards Tomoka and Kyashii’s demeanor towards me. In most cases, Kyashii and Minori are likely to fly off the handle even when the situation isn’t serious enough to warrant bursting a blood vessel.
Heeeh... I wonder...
“It was a joke, class rep! Sure, I know that. It was just a test to see if I could still get Yu-chin to buy me ice cream!” Tomoka grumbled. “That’s such a downer! Oooh, how unjust of the world to leave me with friends who reject me endlessly and take pleasure in inflicting physical pain on me.” Her whining tone was puckish.
“Ara~… I suppose the world’s just dishing out exactly what you deserve, Mizuno-san. Keep your antics in check, please.” Minori maintained that sinister smile as she looked at Tomoka.
“That’s yet another verbal assault from you, class rep! Waaah! Hana-chan is the only one here who isn’t trying to hurt me. I’m so glad you’re here with us, Hana-chan~...” Tomoka feigned a sniff after wrapping her arms around Nazumi-san.
“Hmph!” Minori sneered before turning to me. “Yuyo, please don’t feed your illegal wife any ice cream.”
Pfft! Illegal wife?
“Hey! How rude! I’m not an illegal wife! I’m Yu-chin’s only wife!”
“No matter how you spin it, you’re illegal, Mizuno-san.” A glare flashed across Minori’s face.
“It’s okay, Minori. There’s no way I’m giving her that ice cream.” I chimed in with a grin.
“Waah! Not you too, Yu-chin! Why?!”
“Uhh… Well, take a look at Minori.” I could hardly contain my laughter when I saw Minori’s eyes starting to flare with rage at Tomoka.
“Yes! I agree with you, Yu-chin! Make sure you don’t give me any ice cream at all costs.” Tomoka inched closer to Nazumi-san. “Hana-chan, do you think Kamiwaki-san is a witch or maybe a voodooist?” I heard her ask in a whisper.
“Ara~! I believe I heard you say something, Mizuno-san?”
“No! Nooo… Of course not, class rep! I didn’t say anything! Not a thing!”
“Pfft! Keep your hair on, Minori.” These two had me in stitches.
“Umm… So, where do you plan to go after this?” Kyashii asked abruptly.
“Ooh… It seems like the Isui-en garden would be a nice place to go. Nazumi-san mentioned it to me earlier.” Minori replied. “How about you two?”
“I guess we could find a park near here that’s not so busy.” Kyashii turned to me. “What do you think, Yuyo?”
“Huh? Y-Yeah... I’m fine with that.” A sense of unease gripped me.
Since Kyashii seems earnest about this talk, I can’t help but feel that discussing weighty issues in such a setting can be unnerving. Although I know I’m not in the wrong here, I find myself becoming tense for no apparent reason.
“All right, then. Umm… Will you be okay, Hana?” Kyashii asked.
“I am, Kyashii. Please don’t worry. I hope you and Shibasaki-san can sort things out.” I could see Nazumi-san’s curious gaze at me.
My only reaction was to smile at her. It’s not that I can’t stand being around Nazumi-san; it’s just that there’s always been something a little enigmatic about her demeanor towards me, making it awkward for me to strike up a conversation with her.
“Thank you~. So, shall we head out now, Yuyo?” Kyashii asked.
“Ahh… Sure.” I made an awkward smile. “We’ll go ahead first, guys. Minori, please send me a message in LIWE before four o’clock, okay?”
“Sure, Yuyo. We’ll already be at the deer park by then. We’ll meet you there. Good luck.”
“Huh? What for?”
“Nothing. I figured you might need it. See you later... Please be safe, you two~.” Minori ended up giving us a sneaky grin.
“See you later, guys.” Kyashii beamed as she snatched my arm and dragged me out of the establishment.
“So, where to?” I asked Kyashii, who seemed busy looking at her phone for a while now.
“Based on this online map, there’s a torii gate nearby. I think there isn’t much activity around the gate. That’s where I’d like to go.” Kyashii looked around. “Umm... Let’s take the first road ahead and see if we can see it from there.” Her sense of direction is way better than mine.
“Uhmm... How about we talk about your explanation while walking?”
“My explanation?!” Her eyes flashed a murderous glare.
“Uhh… Y-Yes? What’s up with that glare? Besides, that’s what we’ll be talking about anyway, right?”
“Originally... However, don’t you think you owe me one as well?”
“Haah?! What do you mean?”
“That’s why I wanted a place where I could talk about things. I need to ask some questions, and I have some words for you, Shibasaki Yuyo.” Kyashii said in a solemn voice.
Uhh... Why does she just call me by my full name with that tone?
Arrgh! Now my nerves are getting the best of me! Did I do something that needs more explanation? And ask me questions about what?
Sheesh! Really… What a pain...
Torii gates are a well-known Japanese cultural symbol. You can usually find these tall, parallel gates painted in vermillion at Shinto shrines.