Did something just happen? I couldn’t remember anything.
I remembered entering the sizable supermarket close to the dorm by chance; while I was there, I saw the bentos became half-priced for a brief moment before losing my consciousness. The next thing I knew, I was lying before the Meat section.
I was definitely reaching toward a bento with a half-priced sticker on it. But, I could only remember up until that point… and nothing after that.
After staggering to my feet, I noticed about eight people having the same dazed look as me. Some of them seemed like they didn’t know what just happened; as for the people who seemed to have witnessed the “something” that happened in an instant just now, they were trembling with tears in the corner of their eyes… even though they were in different conditions, they all had the same color in their eyes.
The color of… fear.
In their lines of sight were four unconscious bodies prostrating on the floor.
What on earth happened here? They were just like me from just earlier, I thought as I tried turning my head around to look for any leftover clue. There was no more half-priced bento on the shelves and there were some people lining up for the register with half-priced bentos in their hands. Meanwhile, the dazed people standing before the Bento section were either empty-handed or had empty shopping baskets….
Something had happened. Certainly, something must had happened.
Right here, right in this place, in just a span of mere minutes.
Suddenly, my stomach growled. As I was trying my best to understand the situation, my stomach also became desperate. It was because I had two sweet buns and a carton of soy milk for lunch and it was already past 8 p.m.
Anyway, I need some food first. Need to get my brain some energy before trying to think of what happened here. I already had bread for lunch so something with rice would be nice… The half-priced bentos are already gone so I’ll have to try endure with just the leftover half-priced onigiris…
…While I was having such thoughts, the group that had been standing around this whole time had the nerve to head off with an onigiri and a side dish pack one by one. I reached for the last onigiri in a panic.
It was a Yamato Nadeshiko 1 showing off her bewitching black underwear 2 underneath her sexy transparent plastic clothes. The plum protected by the pure white cooked white rice under those thin pieces of clothes along with the word “Kishuu” in red letters were seducing me. The fact that it was “Kishuu” and not “Kii” was too erotic… no, it was too irresistible. 3
I swallowed my saliva as my hand grabbed onto the onigiri… What? This warmth.
The thing my hand grabbed was not the smooth wrapping; it was something soft… a hand. After a moment, I shifted my gaze towards what I was grabbing. First was the wrist, then the arm, the shoulder, and then finally, I met the eyes of a girl who was thinking the same thing as me.
Her short hair was tied in the back, her eyes were wide opened, and, her cheeks were flushed. Rather than calling her a woman, it was more fitting to say that she was still a girl.
From her school uniform and the color of her necktie, I realized that she was also a new student of the same high school. As if it was some kind of hand-me-down, the uniform was a few sizes too big for her, and the sleeve covered half of the small hand that was grabbing me.
How troublesome, I thought. If this is some kind of TV Drama then a narrator would be saying something along the lines of ‘At that moment, our drama started’ or ‘It was a fated moment.’
But, generally speaking, it would be picking up a handkerchief or a pair of glasses in a park or something in that case. Not at the Bento section of a supermarket while reaching for the same 100-yen onigiri (Kishuu plum). And that onigiri even had a half-priced sticker on it to boot.
What’s with this unneeded daily life realism.
“… Um, ah… H-hello 4”
From the greeting that the girl had to squeeze out, I knew that our conversation would just go nowhere. Even though our hands were intertwined this strongly, we couldn’t even say the same greeting to each other. It’s my fault, I told myself, for using a traditional Japanese greeting that doesn’t clearly convey its meaning in just one word unlike ‘Hello’ in English.
During the few seconds while I had the dilemma of whether I should use English as my standard language even if it was a subversion of the state, I began to squeeze the girl’s hand.
I didn’t say that; it was the girl. I had no idea how she came to that conclusion. Actually, I started thinking, perhaps that short apology was sarcasm and what she meant was something along the line of ‘You, hand over that 100-yen onigiri (Kishuu plum) with a half-priced sticker.’ It had to be some kind of provocation, right? I didn’t even expect her to also use her small-animal-like cuteness to make me lower my guard. So that was the so-called combo technique. It’s my fault. For using Japanese which one word can be interpreted in many ways even including ways for trickery. Even if it was a subversion of the state – omitted.
I let go of her hand, or rather, I loosened my grip and our hands separated.
She immediate took out a white handkerchief with floral pattern from her skirt’s pocket and held it out toward me. I started thinking once again, What on earth is she planning to do? It’s my fault. This white handkerchief – omitted.
“Um, your hand…”
“Ah, uh, my hand got you dirty… probably.”
I tried looking at my hand after she said that but it wasn’t dirty at all. As I was about to say, “No, it’s fine,” she frantically added,
“I used bleach to wash this so… Um, it should be … clean, I think”
She then unfolded the handkerchief and started earnestly wiping my right hand while mumbling “I’m sorry” and some incomprehensible things from time to time.
While that was happening, from time to time, I felt gazes from the surrounding people and thought, as expected, we’re really standing out.
My curiosity got the better of me and I scanned the spectators as the girl wiped my hand like a maid attending to a king during his meal.
I then met the eyes of a woman who was standing in line for the register. This time, it was someone who was fit to be called a woman. I wouldn’t say she was as tall as my 173cm; but, for a woman, she was relatively tall. Her neck-length hair was disheveled, and her bangs were purposely separated into spikes. Her black almond eyes that seemed to take in everything were strangely glowing under the effects of the lighting, in contrast to her pale skin.
Her expression coupled with her dark eyeshadow gave her a rather attractive or even exotic look… There was no one like this back in my middle school.
Her unapproachable aura combined with her mysterious gaze made me turn towards her without my knowing. To put it simply, when she entered my line of sight, her rugged boots, which matched neither her black stockings nor her high school uniform piqued my curiosity… probably.
She had beautiful slender arms and legs, along with somewhat moderate bust and hips… With those, she certainly gave the impression of a delicate woman, but those features were mismatched against her aura and attire. However, in spite of all this, it still fit somehow. With such a contradicting appearance, it was hard for anyone to look at her and not be interested.
However, an even simpler reason was that she was a beauty.
High school is truly different. And it’s not the difference between the names, middle school and high school. The true difference lies between children and adults. Yes, it’s the miracle of secondary sexual characteristics. Judging from her necktie, she’s only my senpai by one year; and yet, she looks much more mature than the girl wiping my hand.
While looking at that senpai, I declared with conviction that, the objective of over 90% males continuing to high school 5 is definitely to legitimately get close to older women.
When it was her turn at the register, the beauty shifted her gaze away; but, in just a single moment, her eyes seemed to be smiling. I was shocked. While her expression was a cause of my shock, the more shocking thing was instead inside her basket: a half-priced bento.
An object that was involved in that “something” from earlier, the half-priced bento, was in her hands. The same “something” that had knocked me out and sent me flying. How the hell did that beauty manage to get one? I wondered.
But that question evaporated from the pain coming from my right hand. Because the handkerchief girl had been scrubbing my right hand as if it was the sworn enemy of her father, that hand had turned bright red and the handkerchief was now in rags.
“Um,” when I tried raising my voice, as expected, she replied with an “Ah!” and withdrew the handkerchief along with her hands… Then, we stared at each other for a moment. Sorry, but there was no way our love story started with throbbing hearts. We were just awkward.
In the first place, the only thing we had in common was a single leftover packaged food, the 100-yen onigiri (Kishuu plum) with a half-priced sticker on that we reached for at the same time… We only had the same objective…
Saying, ‘Go ahead,’ and handing it over would be something a gentleman would do; but then that would be the same as pointing our how poor she is which is just rude, right? And if I just grab it then that would be outright rude. That being the case, my stomach wouldn’t forgive me if I just leave nonchalantly.
… Damn, I know I should give it up but I just can’t.
Suddenly, I heard a small growl. That embarrassing stomach’s noise came from the girl’s abdomen. Her face turned bright red but the fact that she didn’t walk away showed how much she wanted it, the 100-yen onigiri (Kishuu plum) with a half-priced sticker on.
When we were both having the dilemma of what should we do, it was during that very moment. An insolent fellow’s hand appeared out of the corner of my eye and reached for the onigiri (Kishuu plum) with a half-priced sticker on that we had been keeping watch on.
Humans are truly mysterious, I thought. My hand was already heading toward the onigiri by the time I managed to think “Ah!”. And if it’s her, she would also not let this opportunist go.
I moved as fast as the wind and grabbed the onigiri… along with something that felt like a woman’s small hand.
… 5 minutes had passed. I broke apart a pair of disposable chopsticks and opened the lid of a “Donbei Kitsune Udon 6.” The appetizing smell of bonito stock along with the white steam… And, sitting next to me was the figure of a girl unwrapping an onigiri.
Her name was Hana Oshiroi.
One would ask why I was sitting on the same bench in the park with her at night, and I wouldn’t deny that I was thinking about some sort of special one spring night romantic adventure, that sort of ulterior motive.
And the much simpler reason was to have a “meal.” In the end, we decided that the fairest solution was for both to each buy an instant udon bowl and then split the half-priced onigiri in half.
“Ah, uh, it’s Satou… You Satou”
“Ahhaahh, you just said it earlier too, I’m really sorry! …well, Satou-san, do you want the seed?”
“No, not really…”
The sound of seaweed ripping reached my ears as Oshiroi divided the rice and plum into two beautiful halves. And then, she stopped. She was frozen solid. She turned towards me after blinking for a bit as if she was scared of something.
“Eh, ah, um… I ended up touching it… I’m really s-sorry.”
I tried talking to her for a bit and learned that Oshiroi had some sort of complex about people finding what she touched disgusting. It’s a bit different than being a clean freak, I thought, maybe the opposite?
When I bit into the onigiri half that she handed to me, she seemed to be relieved from the bottom of her heart and started to eat her own share.
The aroma of seaweed that tickled the nose along with the sweetness of the rice that complement the bursting sourness of the plum, and then, the instant udon’s meaty and juicy deep-fried tofu and then elegant taste of the soup stock; I forgot about the girl sitting next to me during the short moment when I indulged in such pleasures. Our only point in common was something superficial like being students in the same school in the first place and it also didn’t feel like we were eating a meal together so the two of us didn’t have anything to say during that time.
However, I thought that not saying a single word until we finished would be really awkward so I tried asking her about thing from earlier. She should had been conscious unlike me at least, I thought.
“I don’t really know what happened either. You see, right after the half-priced stickers were put on, about ten people headed toward that section. Then, I thought about going too, but there were too many people so I got scared and stood still…”
I also remember up to that point, I started thinking. Perhaps I was one of those ten people she just mentioned.
“In just a blink of an eye… It was really in just an instant… In just that instant, the amount of people doubled. It was like they appeared from thin air
And then, right after I thought, “Eh?”, a male person was flung flying away from the group of people there. That person was probably Satou-san.”
Yeah, that was definitely me.
“I have no idea of what happened after that. By the time I recovered from the shock, the crowd along with the bentos had already vanished…”
I slurped on the udon’s broth while glancing at an apologetic Oshiroi who was saying “I’m sorry I couldn’t remember everything clearly.”
Based on Oshiroi’s story, whether I lost consciousness or not would had made little difference. I still don’t know what happened and we can only talk superficially about the thing that happened at that place.
“It’s still a mystery in the end, huh.”
“Mystery… It does sound like the kind of development a “man” would look for right”
Oshiroi said that while rolling the big and firm Kishuu plum’s seed inside her mouth.
“Ah, something like a duo of a muscular detective and his partner using their muscles to unravel mysteries through sheer strength, that kind of development would be nice”
I had no idea how detective and muscle would be related but the girl was looking at the night sky ecstatically for some reason. As if I was lured again, I also looked up at the sky.
While looking at the waning moon, I thought about the eyes of the woman who was standing in line for the register and the vibrant colors of the half-priced stickers.