Episode 59: Stuffed Animals are Girlish
Stationery, accessories, stuffed animals. The first floor of the mall was filled with stores displaying different fashion and cosmetics.
Girls and couples were wandering all around, and among that milling crowd was the four of us, window shopping just like everyone else.
“Hmm. I can’t pick—”
After making our first pass around all the shops, Honoka fell deep in thought.
What important thing was she unable to make a decision upon?
That would be a gift.
“The party will be at the beginning of the week……? It may be a bit embarrassing at our age, but she would probably be happy over it.”
My ear caught Ranko’s quiet murmur as she cupped her chin into her hand and fell in thought. That’s right. Although the person herself never brought it up, the rest of us knew that Monday is Saki’s birthday.
Obviously I didn’t go peeking at information on the teacher’s desk to scout out the info. I simply did my research by taking a peek at her profile when we exchanged phone contacts the first day of classes. A really simple trick.
Since I knew how close it was, I made sure to tell everyone else about it as well. So now for the sake of surprising her on Monday, everyone besides Saki has gathered together the day before.
Truthfully I thought it better to do it yesterday……but Ranko had a small scheduling conflict, so we decided to meet together today instead. It worked out great for me though since I was able to spend an exciting day with the two little sisters of our group instead.
And so now here we are, pondering what to get as a gift. Honoka spun around from where she was standing and looked at all the stores around us.
“You can’t go wrong with accessories—”
“Saki seems like the type to be particular about them though”
“Then what about some nail polish—”
“Her nails are always sparkly……with decorations…….”
“She always has this sweet scent to her, so wouldn’t she already have a preferred perfume she uses?”
However every suggestion she threw our way was shot down by one of us. Saki is a very fashionable person, and while that does give us plenty of ideas, the fear of choosing something she won’t like or that will clash with her style is causing us to hesitate.
“We could always go with stationary……”
“That’d feel like we’re giving up…….”
“But we’re running out of options like this—”
A murky feeling settled between us as a frown settled on our faces.
“Sorry Honoka. You’re the one coming up with all the ideas.”
“Hmm. Well, nothing’s lost! It’s all for Saki. We gotta be careful in what we choose.”
Yet Honoka managed to remain cheerful, seemingly even enjoying this exhausting situation. It’s the kind of personality that is great to keep around because it keeps things from getting too dour.
“Oh! What about a cake!?”
“A-A cake? You mean bake one?”
“We’ll bake a cake or something like it……and give that as a present!”
“Honoka……can you bake?”
“Not at all!”
An immediate hurdle.
Our gazes uniformly passed over to the next person in line, Yuzuriha.
“No. I mean…..I could try…..but…..that……no.”
As for Ranko……
“I’m not good with detailed work like that.”
Which means the idea is dead on arrival.
“Oh well, I think it’s better to make cakes for Christmas anyway. For birthdays, we want something they can keep.”
“I see! So cakes are meant to celebrate God!?”
“That’s not what I……”
What is Honoka talking about now? I wish I could see her mind work in real time……
“You see— Christ was apparently born on Christmas Day! Isn’t that amazing!? So that’s why everyone makes cakes on Christmas. Because we’re celebrating God’s birthday—”
“I mean, the first year on our calendar is the year he was born.”
“Seriously!? Just who is this Christ guy really!?”
“That’s amazing! Just what you’d expect of a god—”
What standards is she using to define a god?
“Actually, something we saw before might just work out.”
A sudden bolt of inspiration popped out at me when I glanced around us.
“Eh? For Christ?”
“No, as a birthday present”
The other three all shared a look before turning their attention back towards me.
“What what? What would be good?”
“Finding something both fashionable and practical is difficult.”
“And something Saki would like too…..”
Nobody looked convinced. The fact that I won’t have to convince anyone away from some other gift is actually a relief.
I nodded and took a breath.
“It’ll be fine. It’s……”
We rifled through different items, and because we spent so much time sifting through and deciding which was cutest, it was already 11 by the time we were finished. For the convenience of our two dormitory students, we will be breaking up around noon today, so that gives us less than an hour together.
We lined up at the cash register. Since it wasn’t very busy today, all four of us got in line together.
“There’s no need to worry about the price right?”
Honoka spread out both her arms and looked out in the distance as if a goddess or angel had descended on the world.
“That won’t work. We have to split it up evenly.”
It came out to a little over a thousand yen per person. It’s a little painful on the wallet, but if it’s for Saki’s happiness, it is a cheap price to pay.
But the real reason why I made that decision…..it’s important that it feels like everyone chose this present together. It builds a sense of unity that’ll be necessary for the yuri harem project.
I collected money from everyone and did the math. Yuzurin mistakenly handed me a ten thousand yen bill, but I didn’t mind that……the power of money is truly terrifying……
Our transaction was finished just as soon as I seared the image of the two beautiful sales clerks into my memory. Honoka picked up our bagged item, and we all left the store together.
“We’ve hit it right on the mark with this—!”
Honoka kept stroking the bag as if we had found gold. Yuzurin seemed to agree with her soft giggles.
Ranko was smiling too, but there was an air of depression hidden there. What could be wrong……I’m not so thickheaded as to ask that. I know exactly what’s bothering her. But even if I have the answer, now is most certainly not the time to act on it. It would hurt her pride if I brought it up in front of everyone on her behalf.
For now, I need to keep timing in mind. I’ll bring it up when things are less hectic and she can speak at ease.
“It’s almost time for us to head back, so does anyone need to use the bathroom?”
“Oh, I might need to make a quick stop.”
Ranko and Yuzuriha raised their hands when I raised the question like a teacher leading a school field trip. Honoka gave me a shake of the head when I looked over at her.
“Then we’ll wait here on the bench for you.”
“See ya soon—”
We watched them go. Then, after walking Honoka to a nearby bench, I clapped my hands together when I suddenly remembered something.
“Sorry, there’s something I wanted to buy. Could you wait here for me Honoka?”
“Uweh— I’m all alone. ……Okay”
She nodded, although reluctantly. But it’s possible that she read the air earlier and has an idea that something’s up. Either way, it’s all going according to plan.
The sun was shining bright on the train ride home. It felt strange going home this early in the day and things were mostly quiet between us as our excess energy fought against the swaying of the train.
“Whoops. We’re the next station. Oh man—, I was wondering what we’d be able to find, but we managed to find something good. ……And don’t eat it on the way!”
Honoka struck her hand against the large shopping bag for dramatic effect.
“Who is going to eat it? And don’t go slapping a gift meant for someone else!”
She had a self-satisfied look at my response.
“But….Saki, will be happy……”
“Definitely. It’s girlish and cute…..doesn’t that make it perfect for her?”
Honoka and Yuzuriha were increasingly proud of what we bought Saki.
“I wouldn’t necessarily not agree with that”
“Which is it…….?”
“The two negatives make a positive, so she’s saying yes.”
“I need a translator…….”
Honoka is trying to start something again. Although it’s partially because she’s like this that I like her so much.
During this time the train gradually slowed to a halt, and we all lurched to the side.
“Then we’re heading back to the dorms— Byebye!”
“Until we catch a glimpse……at school once again……”
“Take care on your way home—”
“You’re not going to get lost are you?”
Honoka fumed at me as she and Yuzuriha made their ways out the door, yet she still took the time to wave bye even as she was yelling at me.
The door closed after them, and the train was soon back on its way. Ranko’s expression stiffened a bit as if Honoka and Yuzuriha had taken all the fresh air out of the car with them.
It was now just the two of us.