The busy period of December passed, making way for the new year.
For the karate club’s annual visit to the shrine, we’ve decided to visit on the 4th at Arioka-senpai’s request.
I agreed that the 4th would be better since the first three days is usually packed with people. Arioka-senpai responded, saying that he needed to go to work on all of those days. It was according to his convenience after all.
It’s fine for us since we’re still college students. It must be tough for him as a working adult.
Then he told me that he’s an event consultant in his company.
His job is to provide support by suggesting plans for events such as ceremonies, presentations, second wedding parties, and alumni reunion parties.
Anyone would want his job. It’s such a great position!
In any case, we decided to meet at the shrine on the 4th.
We’re meeting up at a less crowded entrance. It’s rare for Kinoshita-san, but she told us she’s going to be a little late.
There may be cellular interference if I go in, so I’m waiting outside.
「We shall hereby hold this year’s Resolution Presentation Meeting in order to spend our waiting time meaningfully.」
Arioka-senpai had been working for three days straight, but he still seems so energetic. He’s eating soy sauce flavored rice crackers while drinking some sweetened hot sake. It’s all rice.
「Me! My goal this year is to make my girlfriend happier than anyone!」
One of the club members is the first to raise his hand. That’s a good goal, if he had a girlfriend.
I’m trying to be generous by not shattering his dream this early in the year, but the other club members started arguing with him, telling him that it’s not a goal, but a delusion.
「Me! My goal is to graduate from college and from my position as a generic character!」
The same thing happened again, as they told him that both were impossible for him.
It’s only the new year. I want them to stop fighting, but it’s cold and I don’t want to take my hands out of my pocket.
「Everyone, new year resolutions are annual goals. They should be something you can realistically achieve in order to maintain a high level of motivation. Let’s try again.」
He’s eating one of the rice crackers while looking at the arguing club members in disbelief.
「Then what’s your resolution for this year, Arioka-senpai?」
「Me? To be promoted to a director.」
He’s the worst out of everyone.
It’s cold, so I bury my nose in my scarf around my neck.
「It looks like it’s going to snow.」
Michel moves next to me while looking at the sky, which is a little cloudy.
Even within this crowd of heavily dressed people, he still stands out in the shrine.
I think he would still attract people’s attention even if he wore simple clothes, but his clothes are still stylish as ever, even during the new year. I just noticed that it’s gotten slightly less cold.
He’s standing windward, blocking the cold wind for me.
I thank Michel, who smiles happily.
「Now let’s hear Noda’s resolution!」
Arioka-senpai points a rice cracker at me as a makeshift microphone.
「To not waste my time. But it’s already ruined thanks to your Resolution Presentation Meeting.」
I’m pointing at the club members who are now throwing pocket warmers at each other.
There’s a local TV station nearby. I wish they won’t film these idiotic college students.
「I see, I see. You can regain lost money, but not time.」
「Such wise words.」
He nods exaggeratedly and gives me the rice cracker.
「What about you, Michel?」
He points a bottle of water at Michel.
Michel puts his hand in front of his mouth in thought.
「Well…… To not give up.」
He answers while smiling.
I accidentally swallow the rice cracker and choke on it.
「Noda couldn’t crack a rice cracker!」
「Oh my-! Don’t make puns on New Years!」
「Someone get a drink!」
「Is sweet bean soup with rice cakes okay?!」
They’re going to kill me. I manage to get a warm can of coffee and deal with the problem.
「Sorry. ……I just…」
Michel apologizes while patting my back. I wish he would stop saying such loaded things that could cause misunderstandings.
Kinoshita-san just came in running. She’s wearing a bright red kimono.
She really is a Japanese woman.
She looks pure and beautiful while wearing the kimono, which makes her seem even more modest than usual. The way she looks when she walks is cute as well.
I don’t have to say it, but the members are getting really excited.
「Sorry I’m late.」
Kinoshita-san’s cheeks are a little red from the cold. She apologizes in a steamy breath.
Her hair stick chimes while she’s bowing her head in apology, adding a cute sound effect.
「Wow, what a beauty……」
Even a girl like me is being captivated by her beauty. She’s so gorgeous that even the club members are admiring her as if feeling the same way.
「Michel, do you like it? You said that you liked kimonos before.」
Kinoshita-san asked Michel shyly while showing it off to him.
Michel is studying in Japan because he was charmed by Japanese culture, so he likes traditional clothes.
「It suits you very well.」
When Michel and Kinoshita-san are together, it feels like a drama movie.
Even then, it’s good that we’re all here. We’re getting in line to worship at the shrine.
It’s more crowded than expected. We ended up waiting for more than 40 minutes.
The pathway is somewhat curved, so everyone was in a straight line at first, but over time it strayed off.
「It’ll be difficult to find anyone who gets lost. Make sure to confirm everyone’s here.」
Arioka-senpai’s the one who said that, but he was the first to get separated. While I was complaining about him, the other club members started to disappear as well.
……I got lost too.
After praying for a smooth transition to society and tossing a coin into the donation box, I went to the side path to avoid having to push and shove against the crowd.
I thought that it would be impossible to look for everyone else among the crowd, but I found them quickly.
Kinoshita-san was easy to spot, and not in a good way because she was looking flustered in the crowd.
Michel and Arioka-senpai were talking a little ways from her, and they were easy to find as well.
「Oh, that looks good. Did you buy it at the fried squid stall?」
I was attracted to the fragrant smell of fried soy sauce as they came to me.
「I’m tempted to buy some assorted dango, but the yakisoba and okonomiyaki sound good, and the fried corn seems to be getting popular. I wonder what I should get.」
I’m trying to be economical by picking just one main dish.
Sadly, I think the rental prices have gone up recently.
Arioka-senpai is looking at me speechless. Wait, why?
He starts messing with my hair again. It’s all over the place.
「What are you trying to do?!」
「Your obliviousness is almost praiseworthy.」
Both Arioka-senpai and Michel are giving me a wry smile. I still don’t get it.
「Shall we go and buy some?」
Michel points a finger at Arioka-senpai’s fried squid.
I nod, but I still can’t put a finger on this weird feeling.
I’m about to ask Arioka-senpai what happened when he says:
「Michel, about your earlier question.」
「Of course, I don’t simply think of her as my junior. Noda’s like a younger brother to me. No, more than a younger brother to me.」
They’ve started a strange conversation.
Arioka-senpai is an only child. Why would he think of me as a younger brother?
On our way to buy some fried squid, I try asking Michel what their conversation was about, but he’s evading the question. What the hell?
We eat the fried squid on the way back. When we meet with Kinoshita-san, who’s holding on to a bunch of cotton candy. She shares some with us.
All the club members bought one each from a stall because they thought it suited cute girls. They gave it all to her.
Why would they do that!
The fact that she’s stiffly holding a bunch of cotton candy, which she received from a bunch of rowdy boys, makes me want to stay away from her, even as an acquaintance.