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Shichi-Go-San (七五三, lit. “Seven-Five-Three”) is a traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. Children are dressed up and then brought to a shrine for good fortune.
Hinamatsuri (雛祭り Hina-matsuri), also called Doll’s Day or Girls’ Day, is celebrated each year on March 3 when people pray for the happiness and healthy growth of girls. Families with young daughters mark this day by setting up a display of dolls inside the house. They offer rice crackers and other food to the dolls.
These dolls, often expensively made, are placed on stepped shelves covered with red fabric, and girls invite their friends to admire them.
The next weekend I used the excuse of buying cake to visit Wakaba-chan.
Her mum still remembered me, and greeted me with a smile.
“Oh my, welcome!”
“Good afternoon. Thank you for everything, last time.”
“Not at all! Thank you so much for the wonderful tea and coffee. Are you here to see Wakaba?”
“Yes, but I planned on buying some of your cakes as well. The ones I tried last time were simply delicious.”
“Really? Aunty was a little worried that it wouldn’t suit the tastes of an ojousama from Zui’ran.”
“That was not the case at all. They were fluffy, and sweet without being too sickening. I could eat any number of them.”
I had eaten two in a row when I got home. Then I waited a little while and ate the rest too. They were great…
I wondered what I would bring home this time.
“It makes me really happy to hear that. Wakaba still hasn’t come back from her part-time job yet, but she should be back any moment so come on inside.”
“Eh…? No, I really should not. I think I will head home for today. It was my fault for coming here unannounced. And to begin with my first goal was simply to buy some cakes.”
“Geez, you can worry about the cakes later. Do you have anything else going on today?”
“No, not particularly…”
As the Chief of Forever Alone Village, my weekends were almost completely free.
“Then just stay! You’ve already come all the way here. Don’t be shy now. Wakaba will be back any moment now. Okay?”
“It’s fine, it’s fine.”
After asking the other staff member to take over for a bit, she came out from behind the display counter.
Taking my hand, she rather assertively ushered me into the house.
As I headed in, I noticed an awfully expensive-looking flower arrangement in the corner of the shop.
I had a bad feeling about it.
“Kisshouin-san, wasn’t it? Come in, come in. Here, sit down!”
After sitting me down on the couch she even brought out some black tea.
“Sorry. Not only have I arrived unannounced, I am even causing trouble for you like this…”
“It’s fine! A friend of Wakaba’s has come all the way here to play, so this much is natural. Oh, I know! I’ll go message Wakaba and let her know not to go on any detours.”
“I truly am sorry,” I bowed again.
Not everybody had as much free time on their hands as I did, after all. I was definitely in the wrong here for showing up without checking with her first.
But since I was here to eat something and bring some cakes home too, I just thought it would be nice if we could hang out a little.
“Um, it is not much but…”
I held out the box of assorted karintou.
“Hmm? What might this be? Oh my, you didn’t need to. Thank you though. Oh! It’s karintou. How cute~”
There were different flavours like plum and chilli, and they were divided into cute little sacks. The presentation was great. It was one of my favourites.
Plus, part of the reason I choose these was because I wasn’t sure if it would be rude gifting Japanese sweets to a family that ran a cake shop.
“If my anklebiters spot these they’ll be gone in an instant. Aunty will make sure to hide them somewhere safe,” she said as she hugged the bag with mock protectiveness.
I liked this interaction. It reminded me of my mum from my old life.
“Wakaba’s shift finishes at 2 so she should be here soon.”
“Oh, I see.”
It was almost half past two when I checked.
“How is Wakaba doing at school? Is that girl doing alright at a school like Zui’ran?”
Ugh! She hit where it hurt. No way did she know how hard Wakaba-chan had it at school.
“Yes. Takamichi-san’s grades are exceptional, and recently she even joined the Student Council, you know? She seems to be getting along splendidly with them.”
“I see. I’m glad that she’s managing,” she smiled in relief. It hurt to see.
That was when Wakaba-chan came back. I heard her footsteps against the floor as she ran into the room, taking off her scarf.
“You said that Kisshouin-san came over?”
When she saw me sitting on the sofa, she smiled.
Her mother and I welcomed her home, and I apologised to her for intruding.
“Since you’re here now, I’ll be heading back to the store,” said her mum, so I thanked her again before she left.
“So what’s up, Kisshouin-san? Did you need something?”
“Well, no… I just wanted to eat some of your cake again because they were so delicious last time. Since I was coming here anyhow, I just thought it might be nice to see you, was all.”
“Oh okay. Sorry for making you wait then.”
“No, it is my fault for suddenly coming here… I had no idea you worked though.”
“Eh? Ahh, yeah. Just for lunchtimes on weekends at a family restaurant. That time when I met you I was coming back from work too.”
“Oh, I see.”
That time when I was biting into the ikayaki huh.
“Aah, I’m pretty hungry. I haven’t had lunch yet so I’m going to get some curry. If you haven’t had lunch yet, do you want some too?”
“No, but thank you.”
Wakaba-chan stood in the kitchen and began heating a pot up. It didn’t take long for the appetising smell of curry to waft over to me.
Uu… my appetite…
From the rice cooker, Wakaba-chan spooned out rice onto a dish, and then on top of that she put her curry.
Hauu, it looked so good.
“Do you want a bite too?”
A bite… Just a bite wouldn’t be too shameless, right?
“Then, perhaps just a bite, since you offered.”
And so Wakaba-chan placed two people’s worth of meals onto the table.
Carrot and large bits of potato in a curry sauce bought from the supermarket. Just a normal household’s meal. How I missed this.
I tried a bite. Yummy!
“It is delicious.”
“Yeah~ It’s because I left the vegetables to soak in the curry overnight. Aahh, food after a day of hard work is so good!”
We smiled as we ate.
“Still, working part-time is forbidden at Zui’ran, so it might be best if you did not go broadcasting that.”
“Oh, you’re right. I’ll take care!”
She really had to. It would be dreadful if her enemies found out.
“By the way, thank you so much for the shoes again. You really saved me. I tried washing those stained ones and it really didn’t help after all.”
“Oh I see. Please forget about that. I was never going to wear them again any how.”
I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away, but I didn’t want to wear them either. If anything I felt thankful that she took them off my hands.
“By the way, Takamichi-san, about what happened the other day…”
It was hard to ask, but I still brought up the tracksuit incident on that rainy day.
“Was that something that Tsuruhana-san and her friends had a hand in?”
Wakaba-chan had a troubled expression on her face.
When she went home that day she was wearing her uniform, which was soaked just like she said, but I was sure that Tsuruhana-san’s group was somehow involved. Despite some subtle investigations though, I never did get the truth.
“Umm, at lunch they called me out to the 1st floor emergency exit, said a bunch of things to me, and then shut me outside. Since the door was locked I couldn’t get back in, so I ran around to the front entrance. The rain was pretty bad though, so I guess I got kinda soaked~”
“So that was what happened…”
I had thought it wouldn’t be much worse than having a bucket of water poured on her. How could they have locked her out during the freezing November rain.
“Just so you know, this is just between the two of us, okay?”
“The two of us…? Are you not going to report them? You could talk to Mizusaki-kun about this.”
“Mizusaki-kun huh~ He was pretty persistent in asking what happened too, but I didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it.”
“It’s fine. Nothing really happened.”
Um, something did happen though.
“If things ever get too bad for you, I can have a word with Tsuruhana-san, you know?”
Although honestly she had even more influence than in middle school. Unlike back then, there was no guarantee that I’d come out on top. This newcomer was giving me just a bit of trouble.
“Ehh!? It’s totally fine. I wouldn’t want to trouble you. It’s fine, fine.”
“Are you worried about me? Thanks,” she beamed.
“If only Kaburagi-sama thought a little more about his actions…”
“Ahaha, Kaburagi-kun is a pretty funny person, isn’t he?”
“Kaburagi-kun?” I asked.
“Ah,” she exclaimed before covering her mouth. “Ummm, Kaburagi-sama said ‘since you use -kun with Mizusaki, do that with me too’ so…”
Kaburagi… You’re such a damned child.
“I’m sorry,” apologised Wakaba-chan, “I wasn’t thinking about how you felt.”
She must have misunderstood my frown.
“Eh? Why are you apologising? I was simply thinking about how much trouble he must be causing you.”
“Huh…? But, don’t you, you know, like him?”
“Hah? ‘Like’? Who are you talking about? Surely you cannot be speaking about Kaburagi-sama and I. Because if you are, you are very mistaken.”
“Yes!” I stressed.
This was important, so I was being extra clear.
“I see. I heard the rumours, so I was sure that…”
“Rumours are nothing to put stock in.”
“I see~” she nodded with newfound enlightenment.
“By the way, I noticed some rather gorgeous flowers in your shopfront. Could those be…”
“Ah! You noticed? Yeah, Kaburagi-kun gave us those. The other day he came here to buy cakes and…”
So he really was coming here! Curse that guy for conquering all the cakes before I did.
“So did he come back here, or…?”
“Oh no, he didn’t. But he has been here before a few times while we were working out the bike incident.”
Heh. I won.
Not only was I allowed into the house, I was even treated to curry.
“Umm, would you be all right with me coming to buy your cakes again?”
“Of course! You’re super welcome here!”
“And if possible, keep this a secret from Kaburagi-sama…?”
“Ahaha, then it’ll just be our little secret. Gotcha~”
After that we exchanged emails, and with newly bought cakes in hand, I hummed to myself as I made my way home.
I opened up the message I just received. Umewaka-kun sent me photos of Beatrice in a red kimono for her shichigosan. She even had chitose ame next to her. It was a proper shichigosan.
And wow, I never knew dogs wore kimono too. Whoa! Don’t tell me that that Dog Maniac made it himself? No, no, it couldn’t be.
‘Bea-tan is three years old! The kimono fits me, right?’
Yup, yup, it looks great on you.
The next photo was of my Bea-tan doll in a matching kimono.
Apparently Umewaka-kun was a broadminded man who did not distinguish between his real and adopted daughters.
Hmm, but shichigosan huh. At this rate he was definitely going to buy Beatrice a full set of dolls for Hinamatsuri.
May Dog Lover-kun and Beatrice live happily ever after!