Ch 12 Kimono
The train ride took 20 minutes.
By the time we arrived at the famous Jingu Shrine, it was almost time for the new year to begin.
Even though it was the middle of the night, there were more people there than at the shopping mall the other day.
I took out my smartphone from my coat pocket and turned on the screen.
The display showed 23:58.
“It’s about time… Ageha?”
When I called out to Ageha, who was walking alongside me, hand in hand, she caught a spot on the side of the road.
A number of food stalls lined up along the road as if it were a festival day.
All that Ageha sees is food: takoyaki, frankfurt, and baby castella…
“Are you hungry already? Didn’t you have New Year’s Eve soba?”
“That’s outrageous! That makes it sound like I’m all about the food.”
“I see, I was wrong. Then you don’t have to buy anything.”
“… Haru-kun’s bad.”
Miffed, Ageha’s lips twitched.
Her reaction is so obvious that I can’t help but laugh.
Then she became even more grumpy, so I apologized and said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“It interferes with worship, so I’ll buy some on my way home. Oh, look. The year will be changing soon.”
I said as I held the display up in front of Ageha.
The buzz around me gradually increased.
The countdown begins.
30, 29, 28…
Suddenly, I felt a strong grip on my hand.
I looked over there and saw her looking up at me with a big smile on her face.
I smiled back at her, and her smile deepened.
Ten seconds before the countdown, we join in the countdown.
Although most of the people around us are people we have never met before, there is a strange sense of unity at this moment.
We had just passed through the torii gate at the very front of the shrine.
Even the people at the food stalls lining both sides of the wide, long approach leading up to the main shrine also stopped to join in the countdown.
“3, 2, 1–“
And then – the year dawned.
A ground-shaking cheer erupts from the surroundings.
I turned my gaze to Ageha and opened my mouth.
“Happy New Year. I look forward to working with you again this year.”
“Happy New Year, Haru-kun! Nice to meet you too! For everything!”
“I know that sounds a bit implied, but yes, it’s nice to meet you.”
The footsteps, which had slowed down a bit during the countdown, are back to normal again.
The stall holders also raised their lively voices, making the crowded grounds of the shrine even livelier.
I walked through the crowd, alone with Ageha.
The hand-watering basin was, as expected, crowded with people, as usual.
Quite a few people gave up waiting in line and headed straight for the main shrine.
“What do you want to do?”
“Of course I’m going. I have to purify my body and soul before asking the gods!”
Thinking that I was ready to ask for a favor, I lined up at the hand-watering basin.
After standing in line for a while, my turn finally came.
However, there was only room for one person.
I, who was standing in front of her, took the ladle in my right hand first and purified my body and soul according to the etiquette.
After finishing my turn, I handed it over to Ageha, who was waiting behind me.
She picked up the ladle with a small murmur of thanks, but her brow furrowed in annoyance.
I wondered what was wrong, but I soon found out why.
Put your hands behind your back and lift up both sleeves of the kimono so that they don’t get wet.
People who wear kimonos on a regular basis or who have worn kimonos in the past may know how to keep them dry in such situations, but I guess she has no such experience.
I felt like I was getting a lot of stares from people around me, but I didn’t care and kept supporting her.
However, it is hard to stay in this position.
And more than anything else, in this position, the eyes are drawn to the neck of the usually hidden Ageha, and it’s a bit daunting.
When I looked away as much as possible to avoid looking at her, her face tilted forward.
I rinsed my mouth and finally let the water run down the handle of the ladle and put it face down in its original place.
“There you go.”
I remove my hands from both sleeves, take out a handkerchief, and hand it to Ageha.
She took it silently and turned her head down and wiped her wet hands with a quiet gesture.
“I love your kindness, Haru-kun…”
“… See, we are getting in the way of people… Let’s go.”
I grab the handkerchief back from Ageha and join the line to the main shrine.
As she walked along, pulled by my hand, she became completely silent.
… After all, it’s no good to mislead a girl’s confession.
“You know what?”
When I called out to her, she looked up.
I scratch my cheek and say to her eyes, which are shaking with anxiety.
“Well, it’s not that I’m not happy about your feelings.”
At my words, Ageha’s face froze for a moment as she gazed at me blindingly.
… No, this. It’s really embarrassing.
It’s not really my style.
But I guess she’s always telling me how she feels about me.
If that’s the case, I shouldn’t run away from it.
Even if you can’t accept her goodwill head-on, you can’t just fake it.
The expression of Ageha’s face gradually changes.
The corners of her mouth relax and her eyes soften.
To my favourite expression of Ageha.
“Maybe you fell in love with me?”
“I’m not in love.”
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