I’m Spying on the Heroine in an Otome Game World 2926 min read
Volume 2 | Chapter 8: August (Down) – Part 1
I jog every morning, except on the days it rains.
It’s tough to jog in the mornings of hot days right in midsummer, but I somehow managed to keep up with it. Running at night might be cooler; however, the idea of running on dark roads was a little scary.
As such, I was jogging again today in the early morning. There was a park near my home with a running course established for everyone. I don’t know how many metres one lap around this course is. In any case, there were many people, some of which were walking their dogs, so it was calm and peaceful.
When I spotted the grandpa I met often in this running course, I raised my voice to greet him. “Good morning~!”
“Oh, good morning, You are energetic today too,” Grandpa cheerfully greeted me back. He was running with his dog.
I’ve known this grandpa here since elementary school. We would see each other here in the running course, so he was more than a familiar face. At times, it feels like he thought I was his grandchild or something. Grandpa’s beloved dog’s name was John. As for Grandpa’s name, I still don’t know it yet.
“Your big brother’s not here with you again?” Grandpa asked me.
This big brother was, naturally, Kazu-nii.
“He started to live by himself, so I think he’s running in his neighbourhood instead,” I explained.
“Oh? He’s already at that age?”
Kazu-nii started to live by himself after he got his job as a teacher. In other words, it’s already been three years. Well, he’s always hanging out in his grandfather’s home and barely went back to his apartment though.
Incidentally, I’ve repeated this same conversation with Grandpa every time I meet him. Was Grandpa that interested in Kazu-nii?
Kazu-nii used to jog with me until I entered middle school. Nowadays, he doesn’t jog with me at all. On top of that, he normally travels around with his car. I think he should start jogging again to make up for his lack of exercise.
“It sure is hot today~”
Grandpa and I chatted about this and that. I also decreased my speed to match Grandpa’s pace. John was also soon going to be grandpa dog, so we all ran at a leisure pace.
“Come to think of it. The fireworks season has come again this year… Are you going to watch too, dearie?” Grandpa asked me.
The Fireworks Festival.
I haven’t made any promises to go there with anyone this year. Yumi-chan and I made plans to go to the summer festival at the shrine together though. Unfortunately, Yumi-chan turned me down with the Fireworks Festival by the sea since there will be too many people. I’m sad and lonely.
Well, I can peek at the fireworks from my home’s balcony if I actually wanted to see it.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t have any plans at the moment. If I feel like it, I might go,” I said.
“I suppose that’s how the young kids are these days. I watch the fireworks every year with my wife. And on that day, our daughter will be bringing our grandchildren home, so I’m looking forward to it.” Grandpa said with bright smiles.
“Also… are you interested in yukata, dearie?” He asked like something just popped up in his mind. “Since our daughter was coming home soon, we cleaned up the place and found her yukata when she was young. It’ll be a waste to throw away, if you don’t mind, would you take it?”
“Are you sure? For me to receive something so important.” We met in the mornings almost everyday but we still don’t know each other’s names.
“If a cute girl like you wore it then my wife will also be happy that she set it aside until now.”
I took up the smiling Grandpa’s kind offer and gratefully received the yukata the next day. To be honest, my wallet got lighter because of the pool I went to the other day. I didn’t have any extra money to buy a new yukata anymore.
I’ll definitely want to wear this yukata when I go to the shrine festival with Yumi-chan. I’m really grateful to Grandpa.
Now then, now then. This may be a summer vacation filled with joy, but I do have to study a little.
When I came home, I did my homework while Kazu-nii taught me.
“Kazu-ni~~~~ This formula isn’t fitting in. Why?” I begged for help.
“Because you’re using the wrong formula. Use this one here,” Kazu-nii said.
“…….In other words?”
“Think about the meaning of the formula. It’s not just a combination of symbols and actually has a reason.”
The rest of the subjects were fine. Classical literature, Chinese classical literature, modern, English, history, geography, biology, chemistry, and physics. All of them. I can manage them all with my own efforts somehow. Yet, math — you are the only one I can’t handle. Why!?
Meanwhile, Kazu-nii was despicably smart enough to teach all the other subjects.
“I was originally a liberal arts student. But I didn’t want leave a subject I was bad at and not improve in it, so I advanced into mathematics. That’s also why I can teach math in a comprehensible way that even liberal arts people can understand. You should be glad I became a teacher, Shiori,” Kazu-nii told me.
That’s what he said to me, however I still didn’t understand math. In other words, Kazu-nii wasn’t teaching in an easy, comprehensible way he claim he was doing.
“Ahhh, ugh… Break time~ I ran in the morning, so I’m sleepy~!” I dropped sharply down onto the living room’s table. I decided to change the topic to run away from the reality of math. “Ah~ Come to think of it, do you remember the grandpa with the dog? At the running course.”
“Yeah, John, right?” Kazu-nii nodded.
Well, no, the dog’s name was John. Oh, whatever~
“Grandpa said he was going to give me a yukata later,” I said.
“…….What was that?”
“A yukata,” I repeated myself.
“No, not that. I meant, why is he giving you one? You aren’t that personally close with him, am I right?” Kazu-nii asked.
“When they cleaned up their place, they found their daughter’s yukata. It’ll be a waste to throw away, so Grandpa said he wants to give it to me,” I explained.
Kazu-nii frowned slightly. This was his face when he’s on guard, cautious of something. But I don’t think that Grandpa was a bad person. I don’t see a reason to be cautious for just a yukata.
“Hmm…… Shiori,” he called my name.
“Call me when you jog tomorrow morning. I’m coming with you.”
Which lead to the next morning where I met Kazu-nii in front of my house.
It’s been a long time since we ran together. At the same time, it has also been a long time since I’ve seen Kazu-nii in running clothes and…… Uwaaah…
I feel like his manliness jumped up a grade. What the hell is this?
He was wearing some sportsmark T-shirt, jersey, and running shoes. It was the type of outfit that would look the same no matter who wore it. Yet, this same outfit on a good-looking guy was on a different level. It was a host(-like guy) ready to run. Kazu-nii also looked like some charisma trainer. The kind who would smile right next to some celebrity.
I stared fixedly at him, and Kazu-nii also scrutinized me.
“What?” I asked him.
“Shiori, you…… How about wearing some pants?”
Pants? What does he mean? Right now I was wearing a T-shirt and short pants. To finish off my running clothes, I was wearing short socks with running shoes. While I was at it, I put on sunscreen and wore a hat. Actually, what is he saying to these young, youthful bare legs of mine?
“You’re so rude~ I’m young, so it’s fine!”
“……No, but…” Kazu-nii had a complicated expression on his face. Since it was a pain, I decided I didn’t hear his earlier words.
Soon we reached the running course in the park and spotted Grandpa sitting on the bench along the course. Beside him was a grandma who I have never seen before. She was probably his wife. Of course, John was there with the two as well.
“Ooh, dearie. And your big brother is with you too. It’s great you could run with him again,” Grandpa called out to us.
Err, no, we’re not fighting or anything. “Good morning~” I greeted them.
“It’s been a while. I see John is cheerful too,” Kazu-nii greeted them with a refreshing smile.
“My, my,” Grandma said as her cheeks flushed at the power of that good-looking guy smile. “Grandpa, if a boy was coming too, then you should have told me. My, I should have prepared a present for a boy too. I wonder if he’s around Kei-chan and Yuu-chan’s age? Or maybe a little bit bigger?”
Grandma beamed as she handed a paper bag to me. “The yukata has an iris pattern and quite a good one. It’s an ayame yukata. Truthfully, I wanted to make my grandchildren wear them but they are all boys. My years are too short to look forward to grand-grandchildren I’m afraid.”
“From the nagauta1?” Kazu-nii bowed his head as he asked.
“Oh my, you are quite knowledgeable. Yes, that’s right, nagauta is my hobby. Fufufu, but there aren’t many occasions to wear a yukata in May like the song. My daughter, too, only wears yukata in the summer,” Grandma said.
Eh? I don’t understand what they’re talking about at all. What kind of conversation is this? I blinked my eyes rapidly. Grandpa calmly nodded as he patted John.
Crap, am I the only one not following this conversation? I sweated nervously in my heart and that was when Kazu-nii dropped his hand on my head, patting me.
“Could you tell me either your email address or cell phone number? I want to send a picture of her in the yukata to you,” Kazu-nii asked as he smiled, bowing his head lightly.
“My, that is quite generous of you,” Grandma said. She quickly took out her cell phone and exchanged numbers with Kazu-nii. It’s quite cool when the elderly folks can master cell phones, don’t you think?
The conversation came to an end with me not understanding a single thing. Once we finished jogging and returned back home, I asked Kazu-nii.
“What did you guys mean earlier?”
“Oh, Ayame Yukata2 is the name of a nagauta. There’s a theory the song was originally made to advertise and sell yukata with iris patterns. The song has phrases like ‘May 5th’ in it, so it’s not really a song about summer. In any case, she knew the nagauta and purposely chose this yukata pattern back in the day.”
There was a nagauta about yukata, huh? Actually, I don’t know a single thing about nagauta. They must be a fine, cultured couple, Grandpa and Grandma…
“It’s going to be a fine high-grade yukata. Can you dress yourself in this?” Kazu-nii asked.
“I can’t,” I declared clearly.
“Do you have plans on fireworks day?” Kazu-nii continued.
“I don’t but……”
“Then go to a beauty parlour and get them to dress you. Do your hair while you’re at it. It’s not often you’ll get a yukata like this, and I’m sure Grandpa and Grandma want to see you in it too.”
I’m fine with wearing it, but why on the day of the fireworks? Can’t I wear it when I go to the shrine festival?
And soon came the morning of the Fireworks Festival.
Kazu-nii booked an appointment at the beauty parlour before I even knew it. He also handed me the money, so I had no choice but to go there with the yukata. Do I really have to go so far just to take one single picture? However, it was also true that I have no idea how to wear it properly.
Kazu-nii also prepared a kanzashi for me for whatever reason. None of this was sitting right with me.
“The kanzashi needs to match the yukata. You have to use a good one or it’s going to be a waste,” Kazu-nii claimed.
Unfortunately, my hair was light in colour. On top of that, it was fluffy and light. Even if he prepared a kanzashi for me, I’m not a long black-haired beauty. I was quite reluctant at first, but when the hairdresser did my hair, it unexpectedly suited my yukata. The kanzashi Kazu-nii prepared was a perfect fit like it was custom-made for me.
Hmm… If I beg Kazu-nii, would he give me this kanzashi? You know, as an early birthday present or something.
“Hey, it suits you. Not bad, not bad,” Kazu-nii said to me as he smiled with satisfaction. He was also wearing a yukata today.
Kazu-nii was a good-looking guy with a host-like face, so he suited western clothing. Still, he didn’t look bad in a yukata either. He was tall, so he looked cool. His yukata was dark coloured, and judging by the fine material, it was high quality goods.
Kazu-nii quickly took a picture of me with his phone and sent it off to Grandma. Just like that he pushed me into his car.
“Let’s go,” he said.
But where exactly?
He eventually took me to the Fireworks Festival. It was taking place near the sea.
The plains of eastern half of Japan are littered with rivers here and there. As such, many places held their Fireworks Festival by the riverside. For the city we lived in, we held it by the coast lands and could see the fireworks quite well.
The roads near the Fireworks Festival grounds were either restricted or controlled. It was hard to reach by car. They had told everyone ahead of time to reach the area either by train or walking. This was only natural since there were too many people. If people tried to come by car, they would eventually cause traffic jams and get stuck.
Kazu-nii should also know this. I wonder if he took his car out of habit?
We managed to make it near the area, but as one expected, there was congestion due to the restricted roads. We had no other choice, so we stopped the car in a parking lot in the city. And from here, we were going to walk to the fireworks on foot.
“Kazu-nii, you’re so pushy,” I complained with a pout. That being said, I was already here. I might as well enjoy myself.
The fireworks begins at 7 PM and ends about an hour and half later. It was still before 5 PM right now, so there was more than enough time to prepare ourselves.
First, we need to secure a spot to watch the fireworks. Next, I want drinks and food to go with my fireworks. It’ll be useful to have a picnic sheet, and it’ll be even better to have a portable chair. Unfortunately, buying the latter right now will be difficult.
“Kazu-nii, if you wander around in a place like this, a student will spot you and it’ll be a pain,” I told him. For the time being, I handed him over a drink and sunglasses I bought at the convenience store.
“You……. Are you telling me to wear this?” Kazu-nii put on sunglasses. Now he was a good-looking guy with sunglasses in a yukata.
Ah, sorry. Now you’re like a celebrity who is trying to hide their true identity but you’re really hiding absolutely nothing. However, I couldn’t help but think that no one will recognize Kazu-nii like this. I mean, he was in a yukata. Even if they spot him, they’ll think he was someone else because of this unfamiliar attire.
Meanwhile, Kazu-nii reluctantly continued to wear sunglasses.
We walked off with the plan of buying food from the various stalls lined up in the area… Unfortunately, I was faced with the fact that my plan was nothing but a mistake.
First, there were too many! Way too many damn people! It was beyond the level of being spotted by someone we knew!!
The main grounds was a special space at the coast lands but it was already filled with people. On the roads were people sitting on picnic sheets spread without permission on standby on behalf of the rest of their families. If I look carefully, there were even parties happening on the rooftops of nearby buildings. Every so often there’d be people will poke out their heads from their apartments, waiting for the fireworks to start.
I predicted it was busy to some point. Yet, to think it was this congested. If I let my guard down by accident, I might even get swept away by the crowd.
“Shiori,” Kazu-nii called my name. He held my hand so that we wouldn’t get separated.
Jeez, he was treating me like a kid again. But Kazu-nii’s hand is big. When he covers up my hand completely with his like this, I won’t be able to run away.
Anyways the crowds were crazy enough that I couldn’t tell from one person to another. Still, I noticed a fight happening right in the middle of the road and found myself in shock.
Kazu-nii also opened his eyes wide, dumbfounded. “Why is Aikawa here?” He uttered.
That’s right. Maria-jou was there! And the two people fighting were Tsukishima-senpai and Tsukishima-bishounen.
This was what was happening in front of our eyes.
“Yuuki! I finally found you. What are you doing? We talked about how we were all going to Grandfather and Grandmother’s home today, didn’t we?” Tsukishima-senpai called out.
He pushed his way through the crowd to Tsukishima-bishounen who was surrounded by big sisters in yukata and looked like he was enjoying himself.
“…! Aniki, you can go by yourself,” Tsukishima-bishounen replied.
“I can’t. Do you know just how much Grandfather and Grandmother are looking forward to seeing you? They are really sad about how you didn’t come to see them last year.”
“Shut up. There’s no way I can do something lame like watching the fireworks at grandpa’s house when I’m already a high schooler!”
“Yuuki. Grandfather and Grandmother are healthy right now, but we don’t know what will happen in the future. Think of this as filial piety to your grandparents……”
“Shut up already! I only get one high school life! Why do I have to keep sucking up to Grandpa and Grandma? I’m sick of it already!”
I could understand both sides of the argument. Incidentally, two Tsukishimas were arguing right now but you can tell which lines are Tsukishima-senpai’s and which are Tsukishima-bishounen’s, right? The honour student’s lines were Senpai’s.
At this timing Maria-jou stepped in between them. “What’s wrong, you two?” She was wearing a modern cute-looking yukata with a large flower print on it.
“…!? …You are…” Tsukishima-senpai sounded slightly shocked. I imagine it was because the last they met, Maria-jou crushed the bread she was holding.
“Cheeky woman? Why are you here……” Meanwhile, Tsukishima-bishounen deflated, his anger dissipating. He looked up and down Maria-jou’s yukata figure and mumbled, “Hmm~”
Incidentally, the two Tsukishima were not wearing yukata. They were in normal casual clothing. Tsukishima-senpai was wearing trad style clothing like he was some British brand model. I couldn’t help think he could have worn something younger since he was still a high school student.
Tsukshima-bishounen was wearing the same brand but in a more casual way. Since he was like a beautiful boy out of a picture, I’m sure he would like a doll if he wore his clothes properly.
“Yuuki-kun, it’s a real coincidence to meet you here. Did you come to see the fireworks too?” Maria-jou asked with a smile as if though she didn’t notice the gloomy fight earlier.
“I could ask the same to you, cheeky woman. You’re all dressed up. Are you on a date with someone?” Tsukishima-bishounen.
“Unfortunately~ I have no plans~ But it’s the fireworks, so I thought I’ll wear a yukata and enjoy the atmosphere,” she answered brightly.
Amazing, she wore a yukata and came to the Fireworks Festival even though she didn’t have anyone with or waiting for her. It’s a risky feat that I could never do.
“Yuuki-kun, are you friends with Tsukishima-senpai?” Maria-jou questioned next as she tilted her head. Wait, what kind of question is that? Maria-jou, you know Tsukishima-bishounen’s last name. And their last name isn’t considered common, I would think.
“We’re brothers,” Tsukishima-senpai easily explained. “Yuuki, just come and show your face even if it’s for a few minutes. Grandfather and Grandmother wouldn’t ask you to stay the whole time either.”
“You’re so annoying…….”
“To your grandparents? What’s wrong, Yuuki-kun?” Maria-jou spoke to Tsukishima-bishounen with a kind and considerate voice.
At this moment, Tsukishima-bishounen came up with something. “Cheeky woman, I’ll show you the fireworks, so give me your time,” he said to her as he curved up his lips. Maria-jou blinked with surprise.
Tsukishima-senpai also looked astonished at the sudden turn of events. “Yuuki? What are you saying…”
“It’s freakin’ pain but I’ll show my face. But, Aniki, you deal with Grandpa and Grandma. I don’t want to talk to them,” Tsukishima-bishounen declared and grabbed Maria-jou’s arm.
Maria-jou staggered forward and ended up in Tsukishima-bishounen’s arms. Naturally, she panicked and flushed red.
“So light……” Tsukishima-bishounen muttered before he turned the other way. He pulled Maria-jou’s hand and walked off quickly into the distance. Maria-jou also followed after like she was being dragged alone.
“What is he trying to do?” Tsukishima-senpai grumbled in the end and continued after the two.
The big sisters encircling Tsukishima-bishounen raised up their voices to complain about being abandoned. However, no one paid heed to them at all.
Kazu-nii sighed loudly when the three couldn’t be seen anymore. It seems he had also held his breath and watched the event unfold.
“That surprised me. To think an event was happening right here,” Kazu-nii said.
“It was a brotherly fight… I guess, right? It feels like it didn’t resolve though.”
Rather than a fight, it was more like Tsukishima-bishounen one-sidedly snapping at his brother. Tsukishima-senpai probably didn’t see their conversation as a fight or mean to fight either. He only seemed worried about his little brother who was running into delinquency.
Come to think of it, Tsukishima-bishounen tried to blackmail money from me in the past. He hides it well in the academy, but he’s a delinquent for sure.
Maria-jou barged her way; however, she didn’t help resolve the conflict. Still, it looks like both the Tsukishima brothers will be paying a visit to their grandparents, so I’m glad the present issue was settled for now.
“I have no idea what the Tsukishima events are, so it’s bad for my heart… Still, since Aikawa went with them, I think we’re safe for the rest of the day,” Kazu-nii noted with relief. “But with that yukata, I don’t think she’ll gain any points with Tsukishima’s family, never mind the Tsukishima brothers themselves,” Kazu-nii added after some contemplation.
“Why? Doesn’t wearing a yukata to watch fireworks give a good impression? It suited her really well too,” I pointed out.
Kazu-nii looked at the yukata I was wearing and said, “I don’t know if a fine elderly lady who’d prepare an Ayame Yukata for her daughter will recognize that flashy pattern as a yukata or not.”
According to Kazu-nii, the email address he got from Grandma the other day was [email protected]…… Kazu-nii immediately thought, could it be? But he didn’t question or pressed the subject. However, when he matched what he knew and what he heard from the conversation just now, then oh my~ How strange~
Isn’t the home the Tsukishima brothers were heading to belongs to a grandfather and a grandmother with a dog named John?
“They said their grandchildren were coming to watch fireworks. Their names were Kei-chan and Yuu-chan,” Kazu-nii said.
Tsukishima-senpai’s name was Keiichirou and the little brother was Yuuki. Yes, that was true but…
“Didn’t Grandma look at you and say they were about your age?”
“When you’re that age, all young people look about the same.”
“Whoa. Can you say the same thing again after looking in the mirror? There’s no way you can fake your age by ten years.”
“……” Kazu-nii got a little bit depressed. He dropped his shoulders but he quickly made a mean face. “And here I was thinking I’ll match with your pace as a high schooler, but I changed my mind. I’m going to use my privileges as an adult.”
Kazu-nii pulled my hand forward until we left the crowded fireworks grounds and back to the parking lot. Currently, it was around 6 PM.
“Are we going home already? Didn’t we come to see the fireworks?” I asked, puzzled.
Kazu-nii answered me nonchalantly, “We’ll see it. Just at a different place.”
He made me hold all the food we brought as he drove his Ferrari for thirty minutes. There were traffic jams once again, so I don’t know exactly how many stations we passed.
Eventually, Kazu-nii stopped the car at some parking lot. There we could look past the handrails to see the sea. It was like a small tract of land here. The wind blowing from the sea felt good.
“This is a little-known place,” Kazu-nii told me as he took off his sunglasses.
“Wow. There’s no one here at all,” I said, looking left and right at our surroundings. When I looked down at the beach, I noticed there were a lot of people gathered.
“Shiori,” Kazu-nii suddenly called my name. He beckoned with his hand to come over, so I did just that. When I placed my hands on the handrails, Kazu-nii pointed in a certain direction of the sea. “The fireworks will come up from there. But it won’t rise up high in the sky here, so give me a break.”
“It won’t rise up high?”
“Skyrocket fireworks don’t actually fly that high. In a spot like this, you should be able to see it circular… In any case, fireworks were made with the idea the audience are looking from below. Be easy on me if the fireworks look a little bit off here and there.” Kazu-nii smiled after he spoke like he was making excuses for himself.
We waited for another thirty minutes.
The first firework in the sky was probably a few minutes after 7 PM. It wasn’t all that dark yet.
Bang! A flower firework bloomed in the dim evening sky.
“It started!” I couldn’t help but shout excitedly. I bent forward over the handrails. It was a little bit different from usual where I would look up at the fireworks. The size of the fireworks were bigger than what I could watch from home. However, I’m sure they would be even bigger if I watched at the Firework Festival grounds.
However, this seat here was unmistakably a special one.
Colour and sound lingered as more flowers bloomed after another as other fireworks scattered in the sky. Red, blue, green, and other colours flashed. Circles that remind me of sunflowers, weeping willow-like fireworks, and many more ascended up.
I watched in a daze and before I knew it, the sky had completely darkened. In that black night sky, only the fireworks shone brightly with colour. It was as if though only the fireworks and I existed in the world. It was a strange feeling.
“So beautiful……” I mumbled, afraid of the silence that could almost choke me. I spoke out loud as if I was trying to tell someone the world didn’t only include the fireworks and me.
I heard someone agree with me just next to me.
Just when was he there? Kazu-nii’s right hand was just next to my right hand. He also stood immediately behind me to the point he could envelope me completely. I could feel Kazu-nii’s warmth on my back and thought, it’s hot, so don’t stick against me.
“Hey, Kazu-nii……” I was going to turn around and protest. However, when he gripped my right hand, I swallowed my voice.
Kazu-nii’s hand was big. And it was warm. His fingers slipped between each and every one of my fingers.
“Don’t turn back right now,” Kazu-nii whispered quietly into my ear. “Give it all you have with what you can only do right now. If you don’t enjoy life as a kid while you are a kid, you’ll regret it later.”
What exactly did he mean by that?
“……So I should just look at the fireworks right now?” I asked for confirmation.
“Yeah,” Kazu-nii laughed like he was troubled. For a moment, Kazu-nii strengthened his grip. He grasped my right hand tightly before readily releasing me.
“Just remember the person you saw fireworks together with was me.”
I don’t know what he was trying to say to me. Yet, I felt his voice had a slightly disquieting echo to it.
□ ■ □
TL note: After our pool episode, it’s the fireworks episode. Next is our shrine summer festival episode!
- Nagauta, literally “long song”, is the traditional Japanese musical accompaniment of kabuki and classic dances.
- Ayame Yukata, that first played in 1859. It is said to have been made in commemoration of two famous nagauta players reconciling, and/or to also advertise yukata. The lyrics itself plays something like a commercial song with praises of the material, colour, and so on.