It didn’t take long for us to be seated when we entered the family restaurant.
Mizuhara sat on my left, Chii-chan right in front of me, and Arioka-senpai directly opposite Mizuhara.
「Um, I’ll introduce him. He’s Mizuhara Eiichi. My college friend.」
「Nice to meet you. I’m Sagiri’s cousin, Onitsuka Chisato. I hear you’ve been taking care of Sagiri.」
「Nice to meet you too. I’m Mizuhara.」
Chii-chan greeted him politely with a smile, and Mizuhara responded casually.
「I’m Arioka. We have met. I have collected your drawings in my album, and they have provided me with encouragement during my job hunt. It has been a while since then, but thank you.」
Their greeting was somewhat unpleasant, and their handshake just didn’t seem friendly.
I ignored those 2 idiots.
「Um, Chii-chan! I wanted to ask about the call this morning.」
She had the initiative throughout the entire phone call, so I seized my chance first.
「I’ll talk about my situation first then. I’m not dating Arioka-kun. We’re just good drinking buddies.」
She explained why Arioka-senpai answered her phone.
They were drinking at a bar the night before. Chii-chan heard something shocking, and ended up drunk because she drank too much too fast.
She has a high tolerance for alcohol, and she knows her limits. It’s rare for her to get drunk.
「He called a taxi for me and sent me home… but I ended up getting carsick and threw up on Arioka-kun just as he was helping me out of the car. I still feel really bad about it.」
「Don’t mention it. I have thrown up on Noda before. What goes around comes around. Even if it’s vomit.」
「Arioka-senpai, we’re in a restaurant here.」
The people next to our table are eating risotto. Arioka-senpai’s disturbing their meal.
「I asked the taxi driver if he could wait until I took her to her room, but he refused outright. What a cruel world!」
He said that he could make it for the last train, if not for his clothes. Chii-chan quickly offered to wash his clothes for him.
It would take about half an hour for his clothes to dry, and there were things he probably didn’t want to see, so he hesitated in entering her place, but the nights in autumn were very chilly.
They drank some coffee while waiting for his clothes, but they fell asleep because they had too much to drink.
「It wasn’t gentlemanly of me to sleep in a young girl’s room.」
「I’m also at fault for inviting you for a drink even though I was tired.」
「We’re equally to blame then.」
Chii-chan went over her usual limit, but Arioka-senpai drank just as much.
He was always being vague about his work life so I didn’t really know what was going on, but he must have his reasons for wanting a drink.
Working adults have problems that students probably won’t understand.
Now I know why Arioka-senpai answered Chii-chan’s phone.
They finished their story. Mizuhara didn’t seem to be paying any attention at all, instead scrutinizing the menu for desserts.
At least try to pretend you’re listening. And eat a main dish, dammit.
He gave me a disturbed look and shook me off as I tried to hint my thoughts by flipping over the menu.
「I’ll get the beef stew rice omelette.」
He had already decided on his main dish.
「I’ll have the fillet cutlet bowl.」
「Arioka-senpai, since when did you decide?! What about you, Chii-chan?」
「Not yet. I haven’t even looked at the menu.」
「Leaving Mizuhara aside, Arioka-senpai decided so quickly.」
We stopped talking and picked our food. We finished ordering and refilled our drinks.
It’s time for me to tell my story.
It was a really one-way conversation on the phone.
「Saa-chan, you remember coming home with your eyes swollen from crying? I was really worried since then. You were at Mizuhara-kun’s place, right?」
「You told me it was just a minor argument, but…」
I hadn’t cried since I was young, but she thought it was an argument that was serious enough to make me cry, so she became worried and helpless.
Mizuhara made a huge frown as if remembering the incident.
I tilted my head in wonder, and Chii-chan looked surprised too.
That day, when I finally cried after over 10 years…
「You were arguing with the iron.」
I was drunk.
A while back, Microwave had given me a pound cake. It was really delicious.
I was hungry, so I gave Mizuhara half of the cake and wolfed down my half of it.
I set down my fork, commenting on how tasty it was. I don’t remember much after that.
I had never gotten drunk on alcohol in a cake before. I was completely unprepared.
「Your face was really red, and you tripped on an iron. You told the iron that you weren’t hot enough for it, then suddenly threw yourself onto the ironing board and began crying.」
「We heard about it in the karate club, and in less than a week, it became a rumor about Noda getting drunk and tripping over a lion!」
「Shush! …Did I break the iron?」
I probably would have mistaken it for the washing machine and destroyed it instantly.
「No, you just kept crying about how you couldn’t make the iron hot.」
「……………………Well, there was a marshmallow sticking out in the front of the iron…」
「I had no choice. You could’ve stabbed yourself in the head, and there wasn’t anywhere I could put the iron.」
He hid the power cable and kept watch so I wouldn’t hurt myself.
When I sobered up, I noticed a giant marshmallow sticking out of the front of the iron. I thought Mizuhara was being weird.
But it was my fault.
「Sorry. I didn’t think I would get drunk on brandy cake… I tried to be careful……」
「That’s because you were starving and ate it all in one go.」
There was a lot of premium Cognac Napoleon mixed in the cake.
There was a line of caution saying that children and those with low alcohol tolerance should not eat the cake. I only saw it on the box after I sobered up.
I always did something when I got drunk, so I apologized to Mizuhara the second I woke up.
I asked him about the situation after that.
「It was just a minor argument.」
I never probed any further.
「3 of us have talked about our embarrassing drunk stories today, but Noda is the most destructive of us all! And it looks like Mizuhara-kun has suffered the worst from it.」
I talked about Mizuhara helping me with things like exams and job hunting in order to dispel the negative image Chii-chan had against him, but the incident about the iron seemed to be the most effective.
It was around 7 pm when we finished dinner, so we were talking about going to the arcade.
Arioka-senpai dragged Mizuhara along to play a fighting game, while Chii-chan and I went hunting for easy prizes in crane games.
「Mizuhara-kun’s an interesting guy. I was surprised when he said he didn’t think of you as a human though.」
I tried to help her get a prize, but I missed it.
Her favorite mascot was in a good spot too. What a waste.
「Well, I shouldn’t have asked it like that either. It’s just… now that I think about it, I was jealous of Mizuhara-kun. I’m sorry.」
「Huh? Why Mizuhara?」
Why would she be jealous of him? I let go in shock, and failed to get the mascot character again.
「Like, you would consult Mizuhara-kun whenever you had a problem. And even Arioka-kun knew a side of you that I didn’t. That’s why I felt a little left out.」
I didn’t tell her everything because I didn’t want her to worry about me on top of her job, but she felt left out because of that.
Actually, we became a little distant when she got a job, and I felt left out too. The fact that she started going out for drinks with Arioka-senpai more often made it worse.
「I wanna sleep over at your place next week.」
「Sure, of course.」
She won her favorite mascot character. We went to look for Arioka-senpai and Mizuhara, and found them arguing with each other.
They had been playing a co-op action game. Arioka-senpai was executing flawless combos, while Mizuhara kept jumping behind him.
It was the first time Mizuhara had been to an arcade.
He had never played an action game either.
「You can just provide some light support for now. Also, let me teach you how to use your character’s moves and playstyle.」
He explained how each button worked.
Game over. Arioka-senpai explained the controls.
Mizuhara did a running jump in the wrong direction.
Game over. Arioka-senpai explained the situation.
「You’re holding the joystick wrong.」
I thought Mizuhara was just fooling around, but he seemed to be taking it pretty seriously.
Whenever he was looking at the screen, his hand would move the joystick in the wrong direction.
Mizuhara was a complete noob who never touched a Famicom or GameBoy.
「I see. Alright. Let’s try an easier game. I shall teach you the ways of games, zombie Mizuhara! And you may call me Game Master Arioka.」
Mizuhara looked pissed off with a receipt stuck on his forehead like a talisman. Arioka-senpai pointed to a game and showed him the controls.
「They’ll probably take a while… I wanna play air hockey.」
「Why not. It’s been a while since I came to an arcade.」
They looked like they were enjoying their fighting games and shooting games, so Chii-chan and I enjoyed ourselves in other areas.
We were weird as a group, but the 4 of us have been coming to this arcade together once in a while.