On the 31st of December, I went to hear the New Year Eve’s customary temple bell rung at a small shrine with some friends who lived nearby, and then went to bed.
When it was 10 seconds to New Year’s, I went to my grandfather’s who lived beside us and had some celebratory food. Afterwards, Chii-chan and I went shopping at a new year’s sale.
I spent the 2nd of January exactly as last year, visiting shrines with my club members. They put on a little show for Kinoshita, offering 500 yen to the gods. Kinoshita was praying with her eyes closed, so I don’t think she saw.
I put in 5 yen, making a serious prayer to end my loneliness and help me find a job.
「Asking for wishes that even a god would have trouble granting, and only for 2.5 yen each! So shameless!」 the members interfered.
「Shut up!」 I said, escaping the crowd of people to find a food cart.
「Oh, Michel? Where is everyone?」
「They went to go get their fortunes from the shrine. I saw you were heading elsewhere, so I quickly followed.」
「Aah, sorry. I’d rather eat some takoyaki than get a fortune.」
「I like takoyaki too. It’s too difficult to turn back now, so why don’t we go get some?」
「Yeah, let’s. Besides, someone’s going to get a bad fortune and cause a fuss, it’ll just waste time.」
It wasn’t that big of a shrine, so if anyone walked a little further they’d see me. 「I’m heading to the food carts,」 I sent a mail to the members, and headed to the takoyaki stall.
「Huh, Michel?」 When I’d bought the takoyaki, Michel had left. I looked around worriedly, until I heard his voice from behind.
「Sorry, the pork miso soup looked good.」
He handed me a paper cup full of steaming hot soup. We tried to find a place to sit but there was a huge crowd everywhere, and we couldn’t find any decent spot. I decided to eat it standing so it wouldn’t go cold, but my right hand had the takoyaki and my left one had the soup.
I had no hand to eat the takoyaki with.
「Aah, can’t eat these sloppily. I’ll hold this, Michel, you eat half in the meantime.」 Drinking the soup, I handed the takoyaki pack to Michel, who quickly cut it up with a toothpick.
「There you go.」
He brought a takoyaki stuck to the toothpick to my mouth, and I instinctively opened up. There was a lot of octopus inside — the outside was crunchy, and the inside was so syruppy and thick.
After relishing it, I said, 「You can just eat it first, it’s embarrassing to be fed like this!」
No matter how busy my hands were, it was still embarrassing to be fed by someone. I told Michel countless times to eat it first, but he wouldn’t listen, saying, 「It tastes better while it’s still warm.」
Whenever he brought the piping hot takoyaki to my mouth, I instinctively opened up. We’d stand out even more if I argued further; not to mention, the octopus filling might disastrously fall out.
Even though he’d only eaten one piece, he’d continue feeding me half of my portion. He really is a gentleman, I thought once again.
「So there you are!」
Arioka came out of nowhere and snatched the takoyaki Michel was about to fed me. I felt like I’d been robbed, since it was the last one and I was really looking forward to savouring it.
「What are you doing?!」
I glared at Arioka but he didn’t even look at me. I fumed, drinking my soup and tossing the now empty packet of takoyaki into the trash can.
「Grazing freely is prohibited!」
「What do you mean grazing freely? I even mailed you!」
I checked my phone and saw 「Your mail could not be delivered」 on the screen.
「Where are the other members?」
「They’re at the shooting game, competing to win something as a tribute to Kinoshita.」
「Shooting, huh. Hmm, I’m going to go buy some chocolate banana, please go on without me.」 Although the members weren’t looking for fortunes anymore, I still prefered food to games.
「I’ll come with you since you don’t know where the shooting game is. Michel, go on ahead and tell them we’ll be a little late.」
「I don’t know where the shooting game is either.」
The members would probably move onto the ring toss game afterwards, so we took our time going around the food carts.
「Oh, this looks fun. What is it?」
Michel was curious about yoyo tsuri. Even though he knew what goldfish scooping was, it seemed he hadn’t heard of yoyo tsuri.[1. TL Note: yoyo tsuri is a festival game where you try to catch water balloons, i.e. ‘yoyo’s, in a pool with a hook attached to a piece of paper. The challenge is to catch them before the paper falls apart in the water.]
I was eager to show him some of my Japanese skill, but I was absolutely horrible. When we tried together, Michel managed to get two, so he gave me one.
「Looks like you’re bad at aiming at small targets, huh?」
「I’m still good at hitting targets as big as people, though.」
I finished my chocolate banana as I tried catching the yoyos. When we went to the shooting game, the members were all in high spirits. Even though they were probably disturbing the stall owner’s business, he was smiling since they kept losing money without winning any gifts.
「Noda, look! I got a packet of shiny erasers! Now I’ll find them even if it’s a blackout.」
「Now that you’re all set for blackouts, don’t you want something you can find in other situations?」
「Noda! I was so worried about you. I couldn’t see you at all.」
「Aah, sorry… I was just away for a bit.」
「Probably went hunting for something to eat.」
「I wasn’t hunting, I was buying!」
The members were great customers even at the ring toss game. The entire group was awful. 「This is for Kinoshita!」 one unabashedly shouted, receiving a warning as he threw a ring that landed in the shooting game’s stall beside us.
「This is so nostalgic, isn’t it? Would you let me have a try?」 Kinoshita pointed at the yoyo I was playing with. I unfastened the rubber band attached to my finger and handed it to her.
「Noda! Try aiming with my ring!」
As one of the members handed me the ring, I searched for a gift to aim at. As I realized they were all too expensive for me to actually buy, I spotted a cat plushy that looked like Deviina.
I decided to go for it. The ring flew like an arrow, making a beeline for the plushie.
「Oooh! Awesome! The plushie fell over!」
「No, that’s not how you do it! The ring’s supposed to land over the plushie!」
「I thought she made it at first too, but this isn’t the shooting game!」
The ring hit the plushie right on the face, pushing it to the ground. The members who still thought it was a shooting game started to cheer at first, then realized it was a ring toss and started booing.
「You have good aim,」 said Kinoshita, following me to return the yoyo.
「Gentlemen, a ring toss is when you aim from above. Let me show you an example.」
Arioka, who’d been spectating until now, took my place. He could easily handle everything, so I thought he could do it, when suddenly, the yoyo balloon I’d been playing with fell apart.
「Waah, what happened?!」
「It’s because you were treating it like a basketball, dribbling like that!」
「This is the worst… It’s so cold..」
The shirt I’d just bought at a sale yesterday was now sopping wet. 「You can’t hit a yoyo with full strength!」 the members said. They handed me handkerchiefs, but it’d probably been years since the last time they washed them. Crumpled up, they were difficult to use.
After I’d stopped groaning, I decided to go home early since my skirt felt gross stuck to my legs like that. It would have dried off fast if it was summer, but it might actually freeze in winter.
「See you tomorrow,」 I said, waving.
「This is for you!」 Arioka tossed the cat plushie to me.
Small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, its shameless expression fit Deviina perfectly.