Graduation came before I knew it.
The weather was nice on that day.
I was wearing a hakama, which I’m unaccustomed to. As I was about to get my degree, I became fully aware that I was graduating, and began to feel a little lonely.
I may never see my friends here again. Saying goodbye had an even deeper impact on me, and I made my handshakes firm and resolute.
「Yo! Noda, congrads.」
「This is from all of us!」
The club members gave me a huge bag that hits my face.
Why is this so huge? I peeked inside and saw heaps of cheap candy. What’s with this graduation gift?
「I mean, you’re probably gonna get lots of flowers.」
「Yeah, from lots of girls, huh.」
……I can’t let that slide.
「They’ll probably go up to her blushing and saying, please take this!」
……I won’t let that slide.
Because of that, they dismissed the idea of flowers. Instead, they decided to each give me some candy they thought I liked.
Thanks, but put more thought into it.
Now I have to carry a bag like Santa Claus while wearing a hakama.
「Noda-san, congratulations on graduating. Are you pleased with our gift?」
Kinoshita-san asked me, looking concerned.
Honestly it was a bother, but I was happy regardless.
「Have this too. We made it together. Tada!」
He proudly presented a handmade book.
The title “The Actions and Words of a Sensational Girl” was written with a magic pen.
「If you read this, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a girl!」
「I made this part! She’s squeezing her breasts while looking uneasy with puppy eyes! Every guy would get sensitized!」
I tried it out since he took the effort to draw it.
「……You should be squeezing your breasts, not mine.」
While we were fooling around like that, I heard a girl scream.
I look up.
Michel is holding a large bouquet of flowers.
I never thought flowers would suit anyone better besides him. He smiles brightly and gives me the bouquet.
There were many types of adorable pink flowers, but I could only recognize the tulips and baby’s breaths.
「I am still far from worthy of you, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up. Please remember that.」
He whispered to my ear, and I blushed.
As I’m stumbling upon my words, someone pats my back.
「Congrats. I brought some flowers for ye too, but I dunno if this is a good time.」
Nonomiya-san presents a small bouquet of marguerites while staring in awe at the large bouquet of flowers Michel gave to me.
I accept her gift gladly.
After that, I received flowers as presents from girls I knew and didn’t know as well.
「Sagiri, that’s a lot of stuff you’re carrying.」
Mom came to my graduation ceremony.
There was some space in the corner of the assembly hall that was used as a changing spot. I went there to change out of my hakama to a party dress for the celebratory party.
Mom decided that she would take my hakama and the flowers home, but it was definitely too much for her.
My hakama was simply too bulky. As I wondered what to do, Mizuhara noticed me and approached.
I thought he wanted something from me, but I was wrong.
He thanked Mom politely. He hadn’t forgotten about thanking her for the souvenirs from France.
Mom also wanted to thank him personally, so this was a good opportunity.
After greeting her, Mizuhara looked at the stuff I’m carrying in surprise.
「What’s in that huge bag?」
「Cheap candy and snacks.」
I told him all about it. They really thought I would like it, so I didn’t really want to put it to waste.
「Can you carry all that stuff home?」
I was holding the bouquets of flowers with both hands. It made me look like a wreath on a grand opening for a store.
I wondered what to do with the flowers. It would have been weird to bring them to the celebratory party, so I thought about going home first. There was also the option of leaving them in a coin locker at the train station, but they were flowers after all…….
I stared at the flowers in thought. Just then, Mizuhara picked up the large bag of candy.
「If it’s just for a bit, I can leave it at my place.」
「Eh?! Really? Thanks.」
His place is nearby. I told Mom about it, so she brought my hakama and the flowers home for me.
Naturally, I went to Mizuhara’s place with him. We hadn’t talked since we were at the airport.
And it was months since I went to his place.
Seeing that nothing in his place had changed, I felt relieved somehow.
「If you want something to drink, make it yourself.」
I took out two mugs and scoured the drawers for black tea.
Inside, I saw a purple package and took it out. The words Lavender Tea were written on it.
He must have bought it in Hokkaido.
「So, how did it go with your brother’s wedding ceremony…… and your parents…?」
It was difficult for me to ask, so I stumbled a little.
「Not much has changed.」
Following the ceremony, they exchanged greetings with the other side of the family.
Mizuhara took part in various meetings, where he had many opportunities to interact with older people. He was efficient in that way.
His mother was overjoyed when he went there, and wanted to talk about a lot of things with him. However, because she had to manage the hotel, she didn’t have much free time.
His father had his head buried in his work because of the wedding ceremony, since he had to provide hospitality to the other side of the family, who had traveled a long distance. He couldn’t spend much time with Mizuhara either.
As usual, Mizuhara didn’t care at all, and went to Sapporo to hunt for sweets.
Besides the wedding ceremony, they didn’t get much of a chance to spend time as a family.
「Then I guess nothing much has changed,」 I said. Mizuhara kept silent for a while, then took out a book from a bag he had left on his bed.
The Elves and the Shoemaker.
On the cover of the book was the title, accompanied by an illustration of elves, drawn with a soft touch.
「The elves in this book……」
It’s similar to Mizuhara’s drawing.
I opened the book. It was a story that everyone had read at least once.
「My father gave it to me when I was coming back. This book is the same as the one from before. It went out of print, but he had somehow managed to obtain it.」
He said with a hesitant voice while touching the elves on the cover with his fingers.
「The bag that held this book had its color faded away. I thought maybe he had always wanted to give it to me long ago.」
I took a closer look at the bag. The color had indeed faded, and the top was wrinkled.
There were traces of it being gripped tightly.
Mizuhara remained expressionless, and stretched out the top of the bag.
I heard from Mizuhara that his father was a taciturn and stubborn man. Even though he regretted his actions, he might have found it difficult to express it to Mizuhara.
I shared my thoughts with Mizuhara, who stopped touching the elf illustration.
「I often had nightmares when I was at home. When that happened, I didn’t want to talk to my father.」
Thinking about the trip home must have been the reason why he had nightmares and couldn’t sleep. I became concerned.
「Did you have nightmares this time?」
「I did. You were in them.」
He replied. What kind of dreams were they, and what the hell did he mean?!
「It was when you made Neapolitan, and when you turned around, you looked like a serial killer having a bloodbath. You tried to cover up your failure, smirking while holding the kitchen knife.」
「……That did happen before.」
I was only boiling pasta and adding some dressing at that time. I still wonder how it happened.
「Dad fell ill just recently, and I tried making some rice-porridge. Just when I was about to finish it, it exploded. Mom saw that and laughed so hard, saying that it was just like popcorn. I laughed it off too and cleaned it up, but how exactly did I manage that?」
「How should I know? I pity your father.」
Saying that, Mizuhara threw some Hokkaido snacks at me. I caught them all.
The butter sandwich and langue de chat were really good. I grinned happily, satisfied with the snacks.
Mizuhara looked disgusted. In any case, I’m glad he made some progress with his family, no matter how slight.
「Huh? Aren’t you going to eat? This orange peel chocolate is the best! And there’s lots of cream in this cream pie.」
I wondered if his appetite was still bad, even after his brother’s wedding ceremony.
I stopped and looked at him curiously.
「I want some madeleines.」
Madeleines? I didn’t see any on the table.
I wondered if they were in the baked snacks I got today. I tried looking, but the wrapping was too much and I couldn’t open it.
「Mizuhara, lend me a pair of scissors.」
He pointed to the second drawer.
I opened it and saw a bunch of stationery packed neatly.
I was about to take the scissors when I saw a brand new calculator.
It’s the same calculator I was holding on to because I didn’t know who it belonged to.
Is this a popular product? It’s a lot easier to use than the one I had, but wait. ……Don’t tell me….
「……Uh, um. Was it you who lent me your calculator for the bookkeeping test……?」
I twitched my face at the possibility. Mizuhara looked at the calculator I was holding.
He didn’t respond, but I was pretty sure. Silence usually means yes.
「Ehhh! You were taking the same class too, right?! Did you take the test without a calculator?!」
The shock made my face look like the painting of The Scream. I was shaken to my core.
「It wasn’t that big of a deal. I aced it anyway.」
He replied plainly. How could anyone ace a test without a calculator???
「I-I’m surprised you noticed……」
There were over a hundred students taking the test in the auditorium.
「You were easy to spot.」
It’s true that I was making a scene. I’m the one who didn’t notice him.
It was an emergency, so I couldn’t afford to pay attention to my surroundings.
Leaving that aside.
「Sorry! And, thanks.」
I opened the box of snacks and checked it. Fortunately, there were madeleines inside.
「I-I don’t think this will suffice as thanks though! Or as repayment for the calculator!」 I babbled as I presented the madeleines.
「I don’t need it.」
For some reason, he flatly rejected my offering.
「Eh?! Why? You said you wanted to eat some madeleines……」
「I don’t need it. What I want to eat is your freshly baked madeleines.」
「I want to eat freshly baked madeleines.」
Still looking away from him, I accepted his request.
I was about to say that I would make it for him right away, but I couldn’t afford to get my dress dirty.
「I am attending a celebratory party today. Would you mind if I made some on a different day?」
I asked politely, and he simply nodded.
After that, we spent time drinking some lavender tea before I went to the party.
It was a usual day, but I enjoyed it a lot for some reason.