I initially planned to spend my Friday with some relaxation. However, as I lay down on my bed, I don’t know, and I can’t explain why, but I just had this urge of opening my e-mail . . . and I was shocked! Some people actually donated to me!? FOR REAL!?! With excitement and, yeah, guilt, I abruptly rose up from my bed and grabbed my laptop.
I want to thank Kelly Roachelle, Christophe Niel, and Miss C E Murkin for your generous donations! Although it’s for “Hero Suddenly Proposed”, I want to thank you because it pushed me to finish this chapter. *teary eyed* Oh damn, I want to sob right now! It’s just . . . it makes me feel like what I’m doing until now is not unappreciated at all. To those who left comments since day one (and the era of Hanashi Oba-san), thank you also, guys! You all are the best! And let’s not also forget those readers, who even though don’t leave any messages, silently supported me. Haha, how presumptuous. I don’t know what everyone’s circumstance is, but really, THANK YOU, EVERYONE!
Without further ado~~……
P.S. Sorry, but I really suck at translating polite and honorific speech (keigo). (-人-)
Kano Goes to the House of the Hazekura’s
My affirmation made the expression of the woman slightly grim. I have a bad feeling about this situation.
Trying to vanish that feeling on my chest, I praised the bouquet she has in her hands.
“What beautiful flowers you have.”
“Ah, this…… Because Soushun-san’s birthday is drawing near, I brought him these. Since I have a license in flower arrangement, I occasionally bring the flowers I made here…… Can I go inside?”
“Ah, yes…… Please go ahead.”
The woman walked towards the temple with the feeling that she’s doing what she liked. I followed her and went back to the temple office, falling into silence.
“Hello, Shouji-san. Please let me arrange this flowers.”
As soon as we returned to the office, the woman spoke to Shouji-san. Shouji-san, who was already finished with writing goshuin, came between the woman and me.
“Ah, Arikawa-sama. Thank you for your continuous support…… Kuzuhara, this is Arikawa-sama, a parishioner. Arikawa-sama, this is the assistant chief priest’s betrothed, Kuzuhara Kano.”
After the introduction, the woman named Arikawa looked at me and smiled stiffly.
“My name is Arikawa Yukari. I am a parishioner, and since our house is located in the same neighborhood as the temple, I have been intimately acquainted with them for a long time.”
Receiving her polite greeting, I also introduced myself.
“I’m Kuzuhara Kano. I am in a relationship with someone, so I’m sorry for coming to disturb you. Please take care of me.”
“Same here…… Shouji-san, may I start now?”
After smiling at me, Arikawa-san turned to Shouji-san. Judging this situation, I think this woman also likes Hazekura-san.
That’s expected…… Since Hazekura-san is a fine man…..
After Ikemoto-san, another woman who has feelings for Hazekura-san appeared and I felt downcast.
When I gave the cloth bundle to Shouji-san, I realized that Hazekura-san is nowhere to be found. Huh, did he go somewhere?
Glancing around as I searched for him, Shouji-san suddenly stood up.
“Yes, please, Arikawa-sama. Kuzuhara-san, actually the assistant chief priest is searching for something in the storehouse and I’m going to help him. You can contact us using the phone here. Please call us if you have any concerns. Well then.”
“Ah, yes. I understand.”
Shouji-san seems to be in a hurry, so as soon as he lowered his head towards me and Arikawa-san, he left the temple office.
Leaving the two of us alone here, what kind of ordeal is this……?! [T/N: Shouji doesn’t want to be caught in the crossfire. Good decision! XD]
On one side was Hazekura-san’s girlfriend. While the other person was someone who likes Hazekura-san. No matter how one sees this, isn’t this awkward?
Arikawa-san sat gracefully on the floor of the temple’s office and silently arranged the flowers. While I was wondering if it would be better to say nothing or to talk to her, Arikawa-san broke the silence. [T/N: *grabs popcorn*, *leans on the fourth wall* Ohhh, this is getting interesting.]
“……Are you going out with Soushun-san?”
Whoa~, so straightforward……
Immediately after nodding my head, her flower scissors emitted a loud “ka-chink!”, echoing in the room.
“Is that so……”
Lowering her eyes, Arikawa-san placed the scissors on top of the newspaper that was spread on the floor. She then raised her face and stared straight at me.
“Going out with him, you are considering marrying Soushun-san, right?” [T/N: Huh, what are you? Hazekura-san’s mother -in-law? *rolls eyes*]
“I-I haven’t decided on that yet.”
“But that is Soushun-san’s intention, right?”
I was rendered speechless by Arikawa-san’s unrelenting questioning.
I began to say but couldn’t continue.
It’s true that Hazekura-san is hoping to marry me. But I still cannot give him a reply.
Arikawa-san watched me silently for a while. Soon after, she sighed loudly and spoke again.
“Then I’ll ask you. Do you have the resolution and the preparedness to marry into the temple? Do you have any experience with flower arrangement, dressing up and calligraphy? The bride of the temple is, so to speak, the manager of the chief priest. From the health management of Soushun-san, who is your soon-to-be husband, to the management of his schedule, these are all the jobs of the bride. In addition, in the absence of your husband, you will protect the temple in his stead. And if you have children, of course you’re also in-charge of child rearing. In other words—what I would like to say is that, with a little resolve, you are not fit to become the bride of the temple.”
My insecurities were pointed out to me again. Unable to retaliate, I bit my lips. At the sight of me, Arikawa-san sighed again.
“I do not like you nor hate you. However, if you are going out with Soushun-san with shallow feelings, then I recommend that you break up with him. Otherwise, as a parishioner, I won’t acknowledge you.”
In the end, I couldn’t refute most of her words.
I really like Hazekura-san, but even if I am really not confident, I would have been able to declare clearly that “I’m ready!” if I really wanted to marry him.
However, I do not have the preparedness to speak clearly like that.
The door of the temple’s office opened with a rattle, breaking the heavy atmosphere of this place. Then, I suddenly caught a glimpse of a young woman’s face.
“Excuse me. I’m going to visit a grave. May I borrow a pail?”
“Yes. Please allow me to show it to you now.”
Arikawa-san got up before I could answer. Acting like someone who was accustomed to it, she got out of the temple’s office while guiding the woman.
Then, another middle aged man appeared and greeted, “Good afternoon.”
Hearing my response, he immediately turned towards me. But the man looked at me and tilted his head.
“Oh? Isn’t there any man today? The chief priest and Shouji-san?”
“I’m sorry. They are not available right now…… Do you need something?”
“Yes, I wanted to ask something about the memorial service. Young lady, are you a parishioner?”
“No, today, uhm…… I came to help.”
“Is that so? Thank you for the hard work…… Err, Yukari-chan, isn’t it?”
In the middle of our conversation, Arikawa-san came back. Seeing her, the man’s expression relaxed. Arikawa-san also immediately noticed the man and spoke with a smile.
“Hello, Ishige-san. What can I do for you? Unfortunately, the chief priest and madam are not at home today. Soushun-san and Shouji-san are currently at the storehouse.”
The man’s eyes widened.
“Eh, Soushun-san? So he came back! I haven’t seen him for a long time, but I’m sure he’s handsome as usual.”
“I still haven’t seen him yet. But I also think he hasn’t changed.”
“Soushun-san is now in his mature years, so it would be nice if he could marry you, Yukari-chan! Your father will be happy for sure!”
“Please stop it. It’s going to annoy Soushun-san…..”
I became overwhelmed by the feeling of alienation as I stare at the two of them hit it off.
Somehow, it felt like I became invisible……
I glanced at the flowers Arikawa-san arranged. The flowers that are beautifully arranged on the simple earthenware looked striking even to my untrained eye.
Although Hazekura-san said many times that he liked me, Arikawa-san may be better suited to be his fiancee, and I felt this heavy feeling weigh me down as I stare at them vacantly.
In the end, because of the absence of the chief priest, the man went home saying, “I will come back.” Arikawa-san, who saw off the man, collected her things and turned to me.
“I may have said too much earlier. But those were my true thoughts. Please choose the best decision for yourself. Well then, please excuse me.”
After a brief bow, Arikawa-san left the temple’s office. The moment she was out of my sight, I suddenly felt tired.
——Damn, I’m so tired…… The moment I thought I could sit down in a chair, the sliding door of the temple’s office opened again.
“Excuse me. I’m from Ikemoto store.”
Ikemoto-san appeared out of nowhere. I jumped from the chair I was sitting on.
“Ah, Kuzuhara-san, hello. I’m sorry for surprising you. I heard from a customer who visited our store earlier that Soushun-san has returned today, so I came to deliver his favorite kuzu mochi. So, where is he……?”
As she said that, her eyes wandered around the room in search for him.
“Hazekura-san is searching for something in the warehouse right now. Shall I call him?”
“No, it seems he is busy—More importantly, I just passed by Arikawa-san. Did she also come here?”
“Yes. So you also know her, Ikemoto-san. How should I say it…… she’s a very levelheaded person.”
Ikemoto-san handed me the paper bag and replied “yes” with a nod.
“The Arikawa family is a famous distinguished family in this area. The daughter Yukari graduated from an elite all-girls school…… Among the parishioners, she is the one who was deemed as the top candidate for Soushun-san’s marriage partner. And had always been.”
So that was really the case, I agreed.
“……I can see why. She is a very sophisticated woman.”
I felt more depressed with what I said. Noticing my mood, Ikemoto-san patted my shoulder.
“Why are you getting disheartened? It was Hazekura-san who wanted to be with you, right? Please have more confidence in yourself. Okay?”
Ikemoto-san said with a smile, trying to cheer me up.
“Yes…… Thank you very much.”
Feeling encouraged with what she said, I somewhat smiled.
After sending off Ikemoto-san, Hazekura-san and Shouji-san came back.
“Kano-san, I apologize for making you wait for so long. It took me time to find something . . . I heard Arikawa-san came to visit, but has she gone home already?”
“Yes, she made this beautiful flower arrangement. She’s a great woman, isn’t she?”
Because I still haven’t snapped out of it yet, I couldn’t look at Hazekura-san’s face so I averted my eyes.
He called my name. Not good, this person is perceptive. He’s going to find out soon that I’m depressed.
I raised my face and showed him a slight smile.
“Oh, that’s right. Ikemoto-san came just a little while ago and left something for you, Hazekura-san. Kuzu mochi, she said.”
“Ikemoto-san did…..? Is that so.”
Hazekura-san took the paper bag and stared at my face with scrutiny.
—Ah, geez…… Don’t look, don’t look at me…… He’s going to know that I’m pretending to be fine……
I casually glanced at the watch in order to evade Hazekura-san’s penetrating gaze. About an hour has passed since I came to this temple. If he’s going to ask me to stay for another hour, I might want to leave this place with vehemence.
“I’m sorry, Hazekura-san. You did everything to invite me here, however I must go home now. I’m going back by taxi so please don’t worry.”
Saying so, I lowered my head and immediately grabbed my bag and headed towards the office’s door. However, he caught my hand, stopping me.
“Please wait, Kano-san. What happened while I was not around?”
Looking up at Hazekura-san with a serious expression, I emphatically shook my head.
“No, nothing happened……”
Then Hazekura-san grabbed me by my shoulder, turning me towards him.
“Don’t hide it from me. Please tell me what happened. You seem different just now.”
Really, Hazekura-san is either perceptive or sharp-witted. But I don’t have any intention of spilling what Arikawa-san told me. Because for my sake, she told me her thoughts. If there was a problem, then it was me who did not properly think about the future.
“It’s true. Truly, nothing hap……”
“Looking at this obstinate lady, it makes me remember the first time we met. You were attractive but……”
Hazekura-san forcefully grabbed my waist. He then lifted my chin with his thumb and forefinger, bringing my face closer. [T/N: A kabedon is good too. *dreamy sigh*]
“You trying to leave, I just can’t let it pass.”
As soon as he said that, he pressed his lips against mine.
Hey—……!! At this place!? Not minding me, who kept on blinking in surprise, Hazekura-san kissed me even more deeply.
Hey, Shouji-san is still nearby……! When I glanced at him, I saw the astonished expression of Shouji-san. [T/N: Uhh, Kano-san, why don’t you focus on the kiss?]
AAAHHHH—!! He’s watching us after all!! Ah, give me a break!!
I protested and was able to break the kiss. Hazekura-san’s eyebrows wrinkled.
“You don’t have to show me how you dislike it.”
“Please mind the time and place…..! Don’t shock me like that.”
When I stole a glance at Shouji-san again, he was sitting in his seat as if nothing happened. [T/N: Poor Shouji-san. But, Hazekura-san, what happened to your “gentleman decorum”? XD]
—Oh, I guess we look like a couple to Shouji-san……
Hashikura-san grabbed the car key beside to me.
“Kano-san, if you want to go home, let me send you. Please let me at least send you home……”
With the previous kiss draining me of my energy, I readily agreed to be sent home by Hazekura-san. Going out of the temple after saying goodbye to Shouji-san, we spent a quiet time inside the car for a while.
Depression resurfaced once again. However, having no conversation at all is really hard. I made up my mind and talked to Hazekura-san.
“Hazekura-san, do you still want to make me your wife?”
He glanced at me and replied without changing his expression.
“I told you many times…… you’re the only one I love. Since I proposed that we can date without the intention of marriage, I avoided talking about it, but…… I still want you to become my wife. Of course, I understand your hesitancy of marrying into the temple…… But still, I’m hoping that you will spend your future with me.” [T/N: Awwwww…]
Hearing about his feelings once again, I was at a loss for words.
“……I’m sorry but I cannot give you a definite answer yet. Please give me a little more time.”
“Of course. What I said was just my feelings.”
Hazekura-san replied with a gentle smile. Seeing how much he cared for me, my heart ached for him and I continued to apologize.