I’m Spying on the Heroine in an Otome Game World 6221 min read
Volume 4 | Chapter 14: December (Down) – Part 1
It’s New Year’s Eve.
I decided to visit the shrine today with the classmates I’ve gotten close to and stay until midnight for New Year’s to come.
The said members of this group include me, Yumi-chan, Kyouko-jou, Maria-jou, and Iinchou. Of course, Kyouko-jou and Iinchou called out to our other friends, so I think a few more will gather as well.
Kazu-nii made a really mixed expression when he heard there will be boys coming. Personally, I think he should be feeling the opposite, don’t you think? We will be visiting the shrine in the middle of the night, so it’ll be much safer if boys were around.
When I reached our meeting spot, Yumi-chan, all prepared, was smirking as she welcomed me with the four members of Neo Candle.
Today Yumi-chan’s dressed up with a down coat and a fluffy hat, which looks both cute and warm. She kind of makes me think of some small animal.
As for me, I obeyed Yumi-chan’s request and wore my hair up. The hair tie I was using today is what I received from Katsuragi-kun as my birthday present.
I caught a cold the morning after the Christmas party. It’s only when my fever went down that I opened the box and found a braided hair tie with tassels. I have to say it was too traditional to wear with my school uniform, but it was very cute.
Still, I have to say…… It’s cold. Hey, isn’t there something strange with this? Isn’t it way too cold? My neck is bare with no protection. As such, I tried to fight back by wearing a scarf to save my neck.
“Where are the others?” I asked.
“We just arrived too,” Yumi-chan replied before she gazed at the entrance of the station.
Itou-kun, a member of Neo Candle, opened his mouth and said, “Niimi, it’s rare to see you tie up your hair when it’s not gym class.”
“Ah. It doesn’t suit me?”
“N-No, I’m not saying that at all!? I’m sorry if I rubbed you the wrong way. That’s not it. What I wanted to say was…” Itou-kun started to mumble and chew on his words before continuing quietly, “Y-You’re c……”
That’s when Maria-jou appeared. Kyouko-jou followed after her like she was her attendant, but the most important thing was! Maria-jou’s! Outfit! Kimono! She’s wearing a kimono!
“So cute!! Uwaaaaaah!! It suits you a lot, Aikawa-san!” I couldn’t help but cry out with joy.
She’s probably wearing what you call a furisode. It was made with red cloth with large flowers in full bloom, making the kimono very glamorous. Every once in a while, there will be clouds and folding fans in the design too. Maria-jou was also wearing her hair up with a large hair ornament.
I think she’ll suit the kimono even more if her hair was black. Her hair was a bright chestnut colour — still, Maria-jou was a very beautiful girl, so it was fine.
My eyes caught sight of Itou-kun, who was opening and closing his mouth repeatedly when I looked at him properly. Come to think of it, he was on the verge of saying something earlier.
When I stared at him, he laughed before looking the other way. What did he want to say?
No, more importantly, Maria-jou is dressed in a kimono!
“R-Really, thanks?” Maria-jou said with red cheeks.
Kyouko-jou next to her laughed triumphantly. “You know, Maria tried to walk here dressed up in her kimono. I grabbed a taxi and picked her up instead.”
Kyouko-jou, good job. Maria-jou has no athletic sense, so there’s a possibility of her tripping and falling over.
“Come to think of it, you wore a yukata back during the summer festival too. Aikawa-san, are you able to dress in a kimono by yourself?” I asked curiously.
Maria-jou tilted her head. “I can’t wear it myself but… I know a bit on how to care for a kimono. Obaa-chan has a lot of custom-made kimono, which she hands down to me.”
She really is rich. She won’t say she has another furisode ready for her coming-of-age ceremony, right?
I can’t imagine a more glamorous kimono, but Maria-jou’s grandmother will need to lead a long life to see Maria-jou’s coming-of-age ceremony. I hope she makes a full recovery soon.
“I’m really glad we’re doing a midnight shrine visit instead. The hospital doesn’t allow visits during this time either so…… I plan on seeing my grandma early in the morning on New Year’s,” Maria-jou said.
“She’s gotten a little better, right?” Kyouko-jou asked.
“Yeah. I can’t relax yet, but Obaa-chan has been recovering these past few days,” Maria-jou replied with a bashful smile. Damn, she’s so cute.
I see. So that’s the reason why we’re doing a midnight shrine visit instead of an early visit on New Year’s day.
“That’s good to hear,” Iinchou naturally included himself into the conversation. “Good evening. It looks like we’re missing Tsuchiya-kun?” He asked as he turned to Maria-jou.
“Ah, I’m sorry. It looks like Tsuchiya-kun can’t make it,” Kyouko-jou answered instead. “It seems like his family’s New Year’s cleaning hasn’t wrapped up and he can’t get away. I was planning on inviting him with me to pick up Maria at the beauty parlor…”
What a pitiful guy. He can’t even see Maria-jou all dressed up in a kimono. When I think about it, I can’t help but feel Tsuchiya-kun has bad timing in a lot of things.
I thought about taking a picture and sending it to him, but I don’t know Tsuchiya-shounen’s email address. Actually, does he even have a cell phone? He does have one, right? I mean, he’s not Katsuragi-kun.
“Is that so? That’s too bad,” Yumi-chan commented.
“I messaged him saying that Maria’s wearing a kimono,” Kyouko-jou reported with a smirk. “I bet he’s regretting it so much right now, biting a handkerchief and holding himself back.”
Yeah, no, I don’t think he’ll bite a handkerchief angrily like that. Well, I’m sure his emotional state will be something similar. And, Kyouko-jou, she was rather mean as she didn’t take a picture and attach it with her message. I bet it’s quite tortuous to learn about the kimono but not being able to see a thing.
I pitied Tsuchiya-shounen in my heart as Iinchou took a second look at me and glanced up. “Niimi-san, you’re wearing a traditional hair tie today. Is it because it’s New Year’s Eve?” He asked me.
“Hm? Ah, yeah……. Everything will be ruined if it unties, so don’t touch it, okay?” I told him to be sure before laughing. “My neck gets cold when I wear my hair up, but I thought it’ll be nice for my shrine visit.”
“I see. In that case, how about trying up only a part of your hair? Just because it’s a hair tie doesn’t mean you have to tie all your hair up, right?”
Hm, he has a point. As for whether or not it looks good on me, I won’t know unless I try. I should experiment when I return home.
“Iinchou, you seem to know a lot about girl’s hairstyles?”
“……I don’t know a lot,” Iinchou replied with a tired smile. “I just have information about the types of hairstyles each capture target likes,” he confessed with a quieter voice.
“Incidentally,” I questioned, “Who likes this partially tied-up hairstyle?”
“………Come to think of it, Matsumoto is late too. He even told me to meet up with everyone first,” Iinchou complained.
Matsumoto-kun is a member of the baseball club and is good friends with Iinchou.
Iinchou clearly changed the subject and his cheeks were slightly red. Could it be that he likes that hairstyle?
“Oh yeah, Niimi-san. Do you remember if Aikawa-san tripped during the summer festival?” Iinchou suddenly asked with a lowered voice again.
“Huh?” I widened my eyes with surprise. I thought about it before shaking my head. “I only saw her for a few minutes, so I don’t know. At the very least, she didn’t trip when I spotted her. She was very cute in her yukata.”
“I see.” Iinchou pondered for a moment before he gazed at Maria-jou dressed in a kimono once more.
“No….. I might be overthinking it. I just thought that she might have not triggered the [Geta1 Strap Breaking] event yet. No one knows what will happen to the events that didn’t trigger now with the game being over. It’s rather troublesome, if I have to say.”
I glanced down at Maria-jou’s shoes.
“I don’t think those are geta, but ordinary traditional sandals,” I pointed out.
“……You have a point. She might have also worn those on the summer festival, making the event not happen.”
“Iinchou, if your memories are vague then no one will be able to tell at all,” I couldn’t help but say tiredly. “Well, let’s have everyone pay attention. Aikawa-san’s wearing a very beautiful kimono, so everyone will be dejected if something does happen.”
“Niimi-san, you really don’t ask things like ‘Whose event is this?’ in times like this,” Iinchou commented.
“Do you want me to ask?” I tilted my head, questioning.
Iinchou smiled. “No… Let’s remind Matsuri-san since it looks like she’ll be with Aikawa-san the whole day. She also understands quite well about Aikawa-san’s lack of athletic ability.”
Now that all the capture targets’ stones have disappeared, I think anyone triggering their events will be fine. I mean, it’s not a bad thing for the ex-capture targets to date freely. And even if some girl triggers an event, it’s not like the boys’ affection rates will be forced to rise up.
We waited for a while and Matsumoto-kun…… and Katsuragi-kun showed up.
Katsuragi-kun was wearing traditional clothing. I wasn’t surprised by this, but I was surprised by his appearance because I didn’t know he was coming.
On the other hand, Yumi-chan and Iinchou seemed to know. They were greeting Katsuragi-kun normally.
I called out to Katsuragi-kun and Matsumoto-kun as well. “Good evening, you two. Also, Katsuragi-kun, happy birthday. ……If I knew you were coming today, I would have brought your birthday present with me…” I couldn’t help but smile bitterly. I didn’t think I would meet him today, so I left it at home.
“No…… Thanks,” Katsuragi-kun said as he stared fixedly at my hair. Eventually, his cheeks turned slightly red before he shifted his eyes away.
“Ah? This? Does it suit me?” I asked with a bright smile.
Katsuragi-kun nodded. “……Y-Yeah. It’s good.”
I guess he meant, ‘I’m glad I gifted something that suits you’. Katsuragi-kun is actually pretty easy to understand. However, he is also lacking in words.
I see. Yumi-chan knew Katsuragi-kun was coming today, so she ordered me to tie up my hair. I gazed at her and she was smirking as she looked at us. Yumi-chan made an expression like she succeeded in a prank, but I would have done it voluntarily if I knew he was coming, you know? I mean, I think anyone will be happiest seeing their gift being used by the person they gave it to. Ah, but it’s possible that I might have been reluctant to tie up my hair because it’s cold.
Alright, it looks like everyone is here. We all started to walk to the shrine together.
Now then, let me announce today’s schedule.
Midnight shrine visit is another type of visiting the shrine on New Year’s. Basically, you visit the shrine on New Year’s Eve and stay past midnight to greet New Year’s day.
In other words, we, too, are going to spend time in this shrine until midnight. Every one of us brought hot drinks and dressed up properly to keep the cold away. However, it is late in the night in winter, so it’s cold. And as we will be staying past midnight, I feel a little safer with having the boys with us.
Our three main objectives today are: worshiping at the front shrine, pulling our fortunes at the shrine office, and buying charms (if interested).
Still, I found myself opening my eyes wide when we reached the torii of the shrine. There was a long line from the hall of worship to the torii here. There were basically four neat lines of people here. This shrine was a normal one and wasn’t famous at all….. I underestimated the popularity of midnight shrine visits. Who would have thought they’ll be so many people?
To add to that, it was much darker than I thought. The train station was bright, so I didn’t notice. Here on the shrine grounds, there were only small torches on the left-hand and right-hand side lit.
“We might have to line up for a while. What should we do? Pull our fortunes first?” I asked Yumi-chan.
She pondered for a bit before answering, “Hmm… But, judging from the amount of people, it’ll take an hour to reach the front shrine to worship. I think we should just line up.”
“Well, we’re here with friends. Time will pass by in flash if we chat,” I nodded in agreement before lining up at the end.
Maria-jou, dressed in a kimono, will be most at risk, so we surrounded her. Well, I mean, it’s pretty dark. Knowing Maria-jou, she’ll trip soon or later.
We are a large group of 4 girls and 7 boys. We occupied three of the lines together.
Still, I have to say, it’s really dark — to the point that I can’t see my feet at all.
The trees on the grounds made it even dimmer. If the people I knew weren’t around, the shrine would be eerily enough for me to want to step back.
……Umm, it’s okay, right? No, it has to be okay. I mean, this is a shrine. Things that are dangerous and shouldn’t be seen will be purified by this shrine. Yup. …There are no ghosts, right?
I secured a spot next to Yumi-chan and straightened my back to check how the line was progressing. However, even after standing on tiptoe, I couldn’t see anything at all. It’s not like I was that short either. Katsuragi-kun, on the opposite side of me, could probably see the front shrine without straightening his back at all.
“I wonder if I could even read my fortune after getting one. Isn’t it too dark to read?” I mumbled.
“There should be lights inside the shrine office,” Katsuragi-kun said.
“Huh? Really? Can you see?”
“Yeah, there,” Katsuragi-kun replied, pointing his finger. The problem was that there’s too many people, so I couldn’t tell what he’s pointing at.
He also noticed this too and closed our distance to take my hand. Katsuragi-kun lifted my arm to point at a certain location.
“……It’s that way,” he murmured with a low voice right near my face.
…….Ugh… Katsuragi-kun’s voice really resounds. Hearing it so close and suddenly makes me feel like my head will go crazy.
A-Also, Katsuragi-kun. Umm… Could you please stop gripping my h-h-hand!? His hand was strangely warm, so I couldn’t help but feel restless.
“You can’t see?” Katsuragi-kun asked curiously.
I desperately shook my head. “I-I’m okay. So, could you…” Could you please let go of my haaaand! Also, please don’t whisper into my eaaaaar!!
Yet it doesn’t look like even a fragment of my thoughts conveyed to him.
“Shiori?” He called out.
Ahhhh!! Isn’t he kind of unfair to say my name at this timing? I’m still not used to it either. I wonder if it’ll be better to ask him to call me with my last name for a while longer.
“I-It’s nothing. So, my hand…” Could you please let go~ I implied with my tone.
Katsuragi-kun was startled and looked down at his hand.
It looks like he did this subconsciously. Well, a natural airhead like Katsuragi-kun would do something like this. However, his reaction immediately afterwards seemed slightly out of character.
He let go of my hand in flash and stiffly looked the other way. Is it just me or his cheeks are red too?
“……S-Sorry……” He apologized.
No, well, it’s fine. I know you did that out of the goodness of your heart.
I let out a deep sigh to calm down my heart before gazing at my surroundings once more.
The line moved up a bit, but it looks like there’s still quite some time before we reach the end.
Yumi-chan guessed it’ll take an hour, and she missed the mark. It took two hours before it was our turn to worship.
I took out a 100 yen coin from my wallet and threw it into the offertory box. I clapped my hands in prayer and made a wish.
Now then, about the wish though…
……I wonder what god is enshrined at this shrine and what kind of benefits they offer. Unfortunately, no matter how I try to recall, it was hopeless and I couldn’t remember a single thing. If I was going to make a wish, I should make one that corresponds with the enshrined god. It looks like I didn’t prepare enough for this shrine worship.
As such, I decided to pray: ‘I wish my math grades will be a little bit better.’
I’m a student, so it should be just right.
No, I’m serious. I’m begging you, God. I really don’t want to take supplementary math lessons next year.
“What did you pray for?” I asked Maria-jou curiously since she seemed really serious.
Her cheeks suddenly flushed red. “U-Umm… It’s a secret,” she replied.
Yup, what a cute answer. I decided not to question any further. You prayed for success in romance, right? Do your best.
She’s likely thinking about Tsuchiya-shounen, yet that guy can’t come because he hasn’t finished cleaning up. How miserable. I could see why Maria-jou might want to pray to God.
“I prayed, hoping my sewing skills would get better,” Yumi-chan said as she made a fist.
I think a wish like that is more suitable for Tanabata as it originated from a festival where seamstresses prayed for further improvement of their needlework. I’ll tell Yumi-chan this the next time Tanabata comes around.
“I prayed I could find more scoops,” Kyouko-jou commented. “I want to be a reporter in the future, but I think working for my dream on a daily basis is also important.”
I see. It’s a rather Kyouko-jou-like wish.
“What about you, Shiori-chan?” Yumi-chan asked me.
I replied honestly, “Academic success. I hope my math grades will be a bit more acceptable.”
“I think Shiori-chan’s wish has the least amount of dream,” Yumi-chan said.
Incidentally, the boys all kept quiet about their wish. It seems to be a secret, so they didn’t tell anyone. Katsuragi-kun also looked the other way.
Oh, but Itou-kun said his wish out loud when he clapped his hands in prayer, so everyone probably knows. “I wish I would get better at playing my bass,” he said. I’ll pray that his wish will come true too.
The members of Neo Candle still continue with their band activities even after the Cultural Festival ended. They also had great success during their Christmas concert. I’m sure they will also perform in next year’s Cultural Festival.
Neo Candle has actually proposed submitting an application and forming a light music club. They have invited me too, but I wonder what I should do. I feel like I don’t mind participating to help out with odd tasks here and there.
Alright, I started to recall an old children’s song with the lyrics of ‘There’s no fear on your way but maybe some on your way back’ when we finished worshipping.
I thought about pulling my fortune next, but I found myself being pushed by the endless number of people behind me in line and lost sight of everyone else. I had my guard down because the lines were neat and one-way. Who would have thought the exit line was a complete mess and jammed with people?
This was when…
Snap! My hair got caught with something behind.
I couldn’t help but scream out. “O-Ow! H-Hey, stop…!
“Ah, sorry!” The other person quickly apologized to me in a panic.
More importantly, let go! My hair! My hair! It really hurts! You’re pulling my hair! Ahhhhhhh!!
Tears built in my eyes as I gripped my hair. I held down where it tangled so that the other person couldn’t pull it any longer. The other person was slowly trying to untangle us, but it seems like my hair got caught in some button. It’s dark, so they probably can’t see their hands either. I can’t blame them.
“Please don’t move for a bit,” I called out to the other person before I tugged my hair. I think a couple of hairs broke. Ow. I think I’ll visit a beauty parlor in the near future to trim my hair.
Finally, I let out a sigh of relief before I bowed my head to the other person.
I saw the other person properly for the first time and it turned out to be Iinchou. I couldn’t tell it was his voice because of the pain.
My hair broke away and fell down in a mess. Damn it, it’s all disheveled now. I don’t think I can fix this with my hands. I need to find somewhere and check with a hand mirror…
“…!” I paled when I touched my hair with my hand.
Iinchou was planning to apologize again, but I quickly shouted, “Don’t move!”
My hair tie, which was secured on my hair is… That red tassel hair tie was gone. It probably got untie when my hair got stuck and fell down. It’s way too dark here and I can’t see the ground properly at all. On top of that, there were people going left and right. I won’t be able to squat down and search carefully.
“W-What’s wrong?” Iinchou asked.
“My hair tie! Did it get stuck on your button? Or did it fall down!” I took out my cell phone and shone light with it to the ground. However, all I could vaguely see were shoes, legs, and gravel that made up the ground.
This is bad. This is beyond embarrassment. I mean, I immediately lost a gift someone gave me.
“Ah…” Iinchou, too, shone his cell phone left and right. He looked around restlessly before he realized something and called out to me. “Niimi-san, it’s on your shoulder. …Stand still for a bit.”
Iinchou approached me with the light of his cell phone before reaching his hand to my shoulder. I could feel the tension in the air and found myself gulping.
“Is it on top of my scarf? Should I take it off?” I asked.
“No, it’s probably…… Closer to your neck. Are you alright with me loosening your scarf?”
He nervously touched near my neck. It feels really ticklish. I tried to hold back as Iinchou’s fingertips touched the back of my neck.
“Hyaaaaa!” I cried out with shock. My body also flinched.
U-Ugh… Why are his fingers so cold? I thought it was ice. Wear gloves, damn it. Also people shouldn’t do tests of courage in the middle of the winter. Not that I want to do it even in the summer.
I couldn’t help but glare at Iinchou.
He made a mixed expression as he looked the other way.
TL note: Maria’s hair colour on the cover is clearly blonde, but it’s chestnut in the text!
On the side note, Shiori crushes Maria’s flags, and Shiori crushes her own flags because of Maria’s cuteness…