It’s the end of September with a mix of the remaining summer heat in the autumn breeze.
「Let’s go on a blind date!」
「Chii-chan… What’s up?」
Chii-chan sounded desperate over the phone.
She started working in April, and I’ve been busy with job hunting, so we’ve held off on blind dates.
She still wants a boyfriend even when she’s working. She’s been actively participating in drinking parties in her company.
「I think I found someone, yay!」
I wonder what kind of person it is.
I sounded coarse just now, so I stop asking more questions for now.
「Do you know anyone who can join us for the blind date?」
「Eh? A lot.」
The karate club members, and other male classmates who are looking for girlfriends.
「Ah… Those guys… I’d prefer a working guy, if possible.」
「A working guy…」
The only person I can think of is Arioka-senpai.
I’ll send him a message just in case. He should be busy, and it’s highly possible he already has a girlfriend.
I don’t know much about his private life, but I’ve seen him get intimate with pretty ladies.
He replied saying that he’s coming, so I give Chii-chan a call.
She definitely sounds excited.
It’s an hour before the blind date. Chii-chan asked me to meet her in the restroom in the department store.
The last time she did that was in middle school. I walk in and see her waiting for me.
The restroom is rather big, and has separate booths with enough space for makeup and changing clothes.
Chii-chan has her hair braided on one side, with a flower pin on top.
She takes out various tools from her makeup pouch and plays with my face
「Yup, that looks good. You look cute now. Let’s go!」
She’s really into this.
I follow her to our destination.
She points to a store, which looks far too classy for a college student.
The guys inside look cool, and the girls look elegant and mature.
So far, my blind dates have been easygoing, but maybe too much. I haven’t gone on too many blind dates in the first place, so I’m starting to get nervous.
I thought that I could relax more with Arioka-senpai around, but he’s wearing a suit, and is making formal business greetings with other people.
Sometimes, I wish he would stay childish at times like these.
The interior of the store is elegantly decorated with antiques, and I can hear some relaxing music from the speakers.
I take a seat as calmly as possible.
The waiter hands us the menu for drinks. I’m shocked by the prices.
It’s a 2-hour All-You-Can-Drink at the drinking parties I usually go to, so it was mostly worth it.
Even soft drinks cost 800 yen. The realm of adults is far beyond my reach.
They’re happily discussing which wines will go well with the food, and even discussing if they should get bottles, while I’m just staring blankly at a line on the menu that mentions the service charge.
I’m too scared to look at the prices for the main course.
Do I have enough money?
「What’s wrong, Noda?」
He probably noticed me looking uncomfortable.
I’m mouthing the words that I don’t dare to say.
「Brain? What’s wrong with your brain?」
I shake my head and start to whisper.
He still doesn’t get it, and we keep going back and forth.
I’m getting impatient.
「I said I’m broke!」
I finally said it.
I didn’t intend to shout, but everyone heard me and starts staring at me.
I look down dejectedly.
「That’s all? I thought you were so quiet because you borrowed a tiger, but you were just feeling uncomfortable outside your turf.」
「How do you even borrow a tiger…」
It’s dimly lit inside the store.
I don’t want anyone looking at me if my face turned red in embarrassment.
「Well, it’s not right to let girls pay for their food.」
「And you’re still a student, Noda-san. Drink whatever you like.」
「Is there anything you want?」
They’re recommending drinks and cocktails to me, but I’ve already attracted so much unwanted attention.
I was thinking about ways to turn them down nicely when Chii-chan tells them that I don’t drink. Arioka-senpai turns the page on my menu to the page with soft drinks.
I’m trying to decide between oolong tea which goes well in any situation, ginger ale which sounds like an alcoholic beverage, and San Pellegrino which sounds cool, even though I don’t know what it is.
Alright, I’ve decided.
「I’ll have a San Pellegrino.」
「That’s just carbonated mineral water.」
I change my mind right away.
Why does it cost 600 yen just for water?
I decided to enjoy a nice dinner and pay back Chii-chan or Arioka-senpai later.
The appetisers look interesting, and the portions look pretty big. I’m tempted to try the organic vegetable salad, which even has vegetable based dressings.
I ordered some pasta with unprocessed seaweed and mushroom cream sauce. It’s tasty.
I’m not familiar with table manners, so I watch and learn from everyone else.
Next on the course is white fish sashimi. There are thin slices of bell peppers, arugula, scallops, and shrimp as well, making it a colorful plate.
I don’t know what kind of fish I just ate though, I add in a whisper.
The wine steward smiles at me while pouring wine on the side.
He kindly introduced himself.
I bow my head politely.
Now he’s the one looking confused.
「It’s carpaccio of suzuki, meaning sea bass.」
He corrected himself.
I just realized that he was talking about the fish.
I’m a little embarrassed, but no one’s teasing me. Maybe it’s a common mistake.
「That was Suzuki Carpaccio. You may call him Paccio for short.」
…No one, except for Arioka-senpai.
I can’t shake off my nervousness so I’m just listening to their conversation, but they’re being considerate to me as they casually include me in the conversation.
We had lively conversations, and I was able to experience a little bit of adult life and enjoy some delicious cuisine. It wasn’t a waste of my time at all.
Chii-chan who was sitting besides me, as well as Arioka-senpai who was sitting in front of me, chimed in during conversations when I had trouble, so I was able to relax toward the end.
After we finished eating, we managed to make some small talk. Then came the time to leave.
I mentally prepared myself for the total price of the food.
I tried to look for the bill on the table, but everyone started to leave.
Chii-chan told me that we were leaving, and pulled me along by the arm.
I left the store wondering who paid for the bill.
Everyone was waiting outside.
I was shocked to find out that the guys paid for everything.
I was getting a heart attack just thinking about paying for my own, but the guys paid double.
Chii-chan thanked them for the meal. It’s like she’s used to being treated to meals.
I, on the other hand, was stuck on what to say.
「You can treat us next time.」
The guys said.
I replied enthusiastically.
They were planning on going to a bar, so I said goodbye.
I can’t hold my liquor, so there was no point in going.
They were a little worried about me going home, but it wasn’t that late, and there was a train station nearby anyway.
I told them I was going to be okay, and waved goodbye.
All of us exchanged phone numbers. I sent them a message telling them thanks.
Chii-chan and Arioka-senpai told me to give them a ring once I got home just in case. I sent them a text message.
I invited Arioka-senpai who ended up treating me to the meal, so I included an apology and a thanks in my message.
I was tired from the blind date, but it was a new experience for me, so it wasn’t all bad.
But something happened.
Since that day, the relationship between Chii-chan and Arioka-senpai became weird.