Chapter 29:

Festival Games

Grace Dances Upon the Clouds


Haru couldn’t wait to see Kasumi in her yukata. He had seen the design but not her wearing it yet. His steps traced the pathway leading up to the local shrine over and over again. The distant booths served as the only distractions for his anticipation.

An invitation had been sent out to Daichi and Koichi. A group outing seemed like it would calm his nerves, but they had their own dates to spend time with. Go figure. At least, he wasn’t going to be the lone ranger. Something like that wouldn’t have bothered him before this year, when he could tell himself that it was fine as he lazed around his room.

“Did you wait long for me, Haru-kun?”

But now, he had someone waiting for-

“Wait, what are you doing here?”

A short ‘girl’ with glasses waved at him. Haru’s eyes were blinded by the reflected streetlamps in his vision, but he couldn’t be fooled. Roses took their place as the glare faded, just as he was tackled to the ground.

“What the hell, Megu? Did you have to force me down?”

“We’re close enough for you to drop the honorifics, aren’t we?”

“Only on a technicality.”

Haru sighed as he pushed Megu off him, who stood up to flaunt his rose-patterned yukata, glimmering with sequins. He struck a fabulous pose, making some nearby guys stare, but not Haru. He was one of the few that knew Megu was a guy.

Haru brushed himself off and stood up, a phone shoved in his face.

“Kasumi-chan told me to tell you that she’ll be a little late. Since I was planning to come anyway, I didn’t mind the extra service.”

“This isn’t the maid café. You aren’t getting anything from me.”

“Oh, we’ll see about that….”

The clatter of footsteps came within earshot.

“Sorry, I’m late!” Kasumi called from afar. She had been in charge of closing up the maid café before heading over.

Haru was about to take her hand, but Megu beat him to it.

“Come on, Kasumi-chan. Let’s head in like we always do. Every year.” Megu turned back and winked at Haru before dragging her toward the concessions. Kasumi just went along with the flow, leaving Haru stunned before he raced to catch up.

Haru soon understood what Megu meant before, as they lined up at the festival games. He knew when a competitive spirit was struck between rivals. Daichi and Koichi had done so with him so many times before.

Wordlessly, Haru and Megu marched up to a shooting gallery, invoking a silent duel. Who would get the better prize for Kasumi? That was what their faces declared.

Megu went first, plopping down a 500-yen coin. He took the flimsy cork gun and carefully aimed at a bubble tea plushie on the top row, the best of the stash. The cork sailed across the air, before bouncing off the face. It was immovable. Megu gritted his teeth and fired again, hitting the top right corner and causing it to wobble. It eventually fell right back in place, much to his dismay.

Seeing that it was futile, he aimed lower and struck a box of pocky, which felt like a consolation prize but better than nothing at all. He passed Haru the cork gun and shot daggers at him to do better.

“Alright, it’s time to do this!”

Haru pulled out a stack of 500-yen coins, twenty tall. He flicked the top one toward the shopkeeper and grinned as Megu shouted in protest.

“I call foul! Buying your way, you cheater!”

Haru placed a finger to his lips, and then, he whipped the gun forward. The cork flew from its chamber mid swing and hit the bubble tea plushie square on the top center. It bobbled backwards from the added momentum before settling back in place, pushed a few centimeters back.

Before the shopkeeper could get up nervously from his seat, Haru popped another cork in and swung – another graceful arc, a perfectly-timed release to smack the same spot. This time, the plushie edged backward before finally tipping off the shelf.

Reluctantly, a bell rang in the air, signaling Haru’s victory. The stack of coins, unused, was merely there to show how serious Haru was when it came to playing the game. But Megu didn’t know. He had never been to one of the -Chi trio’s arcade challenges.

The same thing happened for goldfish scooping as well. Megu managed to nab five, but Haru took the other fifteen that were present in the tank. Not to ruin it for the children, they returned all of them so the aged shopkeeper wouldn’t have a stroke.

And after Haru was unstoppable at pulling all the water balloons with the flimsy paper hook, Megu knew it was time to give up and cut his losses. They each kept one for themselves, Haru smugly handing Kasumi hers.

Kasumi laughed the entire time, unsure if it was at Megu’s expense or Haru’s skill. She hung back as the two of them battled it out.

“You two are such good friends. I’m glad,” she said at the end.

Megu was about to protest, but Haru wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

“Hey, you’re actually pretty decent, Megucchi. I will now formally induct you into our arcade challenges in the future. That is if you’re willing.”

Megu sighed and smiled. “Alright, you win this one, Sunshine.” And then, he drew close to Haru’s ear, his breath tickling it. “By the way, I’m gay.”

Megu patted Haru’s shoulder and walked back over to Kasumi, leaving Haru frozen.

Shit. I thought the BL thing was a disguise!

His teasing had been reversed in an instant.

Kasumi walked over and took Haru by the hand, tugging him forward. Megu grabbed his other hand. All three walked through the crowd, past the stands and up the stairs to the shrine. People were already starting to gather, likely to find a good spot for the fireworks. As Haru looked around for an empty one, Megu jabbed him in the side.

“Aren’t you lucky? Getting to watch the fireworks with a girl in each arm.”

Kasumi smiled, obviously getting the joke. And then, she pulled Haru towards her.

“No way, he’s mine. I won’t give him up, even to you.”

“Fine, fine. You two lovebirds have fun. I’ll go see if I can nab myself an ikemen, one that will make you jealous. Otherwise, getting this dressed up will be wasted.”

Kasumi stuck her tongue out at the retreating Megu, before pulling Haru along. They went past the buildings, up more stairs, and through many torii gates. At this point, the two of them were slightly winded. The crowds had died down, too far away and secluded from the main area of the shrine. A few adventurous couples made the trek before them, but there was enough open space to run around.

Haru’s eyes lit up at the vibrant city below them. A flicker of lights erupted just in time for the evening, the perfect transition of day to night.

“I come up here with Megu usually. But he cares enough to let you have this special moment.”

Kasumi flashed him a smile, making Haru’s heart pound. He looked the other way to hide it, but the telltale pulse in his hand gave him away.

“Gee, don’t I feel loved?”

“You should. Because you’re up here with me.”

Haru noticed that the pounding wasn’t just him. Kasumi looked beautiful in her wisteria yukata, and her heartbeat was begging for him to notice. All the distractions and games, there were none up here. Just a nice view as the first firework struck the sky.

Haru turned to look, but Kasumi held his cheek. Slowly, his mind understood the signal. He bent forward to finish what was started the other day. This time, he would be the one to approach.

He gave his first full kiss to her, under the sizzling sky.

By the time the fireworks were over, Haru wasn’t sure how much time had passed or how many had soared in the sky. He could only count the ones reflected in Kasumi’s eyes.

As they walked down the stairs to the front of the shrine, Haru pulled out his phone. On the top right corner, a notification from Yestube lingered. It had been there for days, but Haru had ignored it. He wasn’t exactly in the mood to be distracted from the festival date looming on his mind.

Curious now that the tension had eased, he opened his creator page and nearly dropped his phone.

42 thousand views?!

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