Kano Silently Contemplates
I wiped my tears and raised my head. Nothing will happen if I keep on crying. Right now, I should take action.
I slowly got up.
But then, what should I start with? Of course, it is tempting to ask Hazekura-san directly. The other person who could give me more details would be . . . Arikawa-san. She was brutally honest with me, so I’m sure she would…… Wait, but I don’t know Arikawa-san’s contact info nor her address.
No, before that, how will I face her when we meet…… Hmmm…… Then, folding my arms as I ponder, a certain person entered my mind.
That’s right, that person might know a lot…… But that person also likes Hazekura-san. I wonder if she would hear me out.
I hesitated for a moment . . . but I have no other choice.
I rushed out of the house quickly.
I headed to a Japanese confectionery shop near Hazekura-san’s home. Yes, it’s the Ikemoto’s store.
If it’s Ikemoto-san, who is also a parishioner of Hazekura-san’s temple, then I may be able to consult her. With that in mind, I immediately proceeded to the Ikemoto’s store from the train station.
As I entered the store, a few store attendants smiled and greeted, “Welcome.”
“Erm, is Hatsumi-san around? My name is Kuzuhara.”
“Please wait for a moment.”
When I asked, he smiled at me and went at the back of the store.
Perhaps she’s busy……
As I regretted why I went here on an impulse without making an appointment over the phone, I saw Hatsumi-san emerge from the back of the store.
She looked at me with a surprised expression.
“Welcome, Kuzuhara-san. You came to . . . shop, right? Is there something wrong?”
“I apologize for disturbing you. E-err…… Ikemoto-san, I want to consult you…… Can you spare me a few minutes of your time?”
Ikemoto-san was genuinely surprised at my request, but she looked around and immediately guided me to their house adjacent the store, and said, “Please come in.”
“So your store is next to your house.”
“Yes. As there were craftsmen who lived in the past, such structure was made…… Please wait in this room.”
The guest room is a Japanese-style room about eight tatami wide with a beautiful yard that can be viewed from the window. It was elegant.
After a while, Ikemoto-san came back with tea and sugared red beans.
“So what does Kuzuhara-san want to consult with me? Well, I have an idea what is about though……”
After Ikemoto-san put the tea in front of me, she sat down on a cushion and stared at me.
“Yes, it’s about Hazekura-san.”
I dared to narrate to Ikemoto-san what I need to do in order to marry into the temple, based on what was pointed out by Arikawa-san the other day. While I’m talking, she silently listened. And after I finished telling her everything, Ikemoto-san sighed.
“In other words…… you once decided to break up with him, but you want me to teach you the necessary skills because you want to try again?”
“Yes. With my current worthless self, I can’t stand next to Hazekura-san. I’m not like Arikawa-san, but what can I do to support him even just a little……?”
That’s when I noticed the change in Ikemoto-san’s expression. Her smile was long gone and her mouth has formed into a thin line.
“You’re asking me that?”
Ikemoto-san said in a cold voice and sneered.
Seeing the change in her, I nervously replied.
“I-I’m sorry for being insolent! Well……”
“I like your obstinacy, but Soushun-san is also an obstinate one. He will never give up his goal to marry you. I did not expect that his determination was this strong……”
Of course, Ikemoto-san said in a wry smile, putting her elbows on the table and sat in a relaxed manner.
Staring at the situation, I was surprised. What happened to her?
“Uhm, Ikemoto-san…… You’re like another person just now. Just what……”
When I unknowingly voiced out my puzzlement, Ikemoto-san took a sip of tea and looked at me.
“In the first place, I told Arikawa-san about you. Attracted by the looks of Soushun-san and have tried to approached him, she’s a nasty woman who settled herself on him.”
Wha……!! What the hell! Why did she trick me like that?!
“Why did you do that!?”
When I came to the realization, I shrieked and glared at Ikemoto-san. However, Ikemoto-san only put a sugared bean on her mouth.
“You don’t know this, but Soushun-san is a celebrity in this area. It’s enough that he is good-looking, but he’s also smart enough to graduate as the top of his class. Naturally, he is everyone’s desire. And if it’s Arikawa-san, she can’t help it but look down upon the woman with a questionable origin like you who casually snatched him away from her.”
—I did not intend to snatch him…… Overwhelmed by Ikemoto-san’s words, I unconsciously gulped.
“And yet, Soushun-san especially brought you to his house…… Even though I’ve always loved him, a woman he loved suddenly appeared and got engaged to him in no time? I didn’t like that. So I thought of breaking you apart!” [T/N: Whoa! Plot twist!]
At Ikemoto-san’s confession, my jaw dropped. Seeing my expression, she smirked.
“You know what, that day, Arikawa-san went to the temple to stop your engagement with Soushun-san. I personally think that you could not stand a chance against Arikawa-san, so I thought it would be good if you lost your confidence and split up with Soushun-san. But you’re really obstinate.”
Resting her chin on her hands, Ikemoto-san sighed.
“Dumped by you, I will comfort the heartbroken Soushun-san and from there, your engagement plans will be ruined.”
Hahaha, Ikemoto-san laughed drily. But I could not laugh.
I’ve been filled with anger from the start.
“After listening quietly, what the hell!? If you really liked him, you should’ve aimed straight for him without using underhanded means!”
Ikemoto-san frowned upon hearing my words.
“Don’t say it so easily. If I could do that, I would not have done this! Soushun-san only sees me as a daughter of a long-time acquaintance. If I confessed to him just like that, he would distance himself more from me. I don’t like that. I do not want to be hated by Soushun-san!”
Ikemoto-san turned away, pouting like a spoiled brat.
“You’re saying it with all your might, right!? I know you’re scared but…… your feelings will never be conveyed unless you tell the other person!”
“What’s this? You’re telling me as if you understood. What do you know about me? My feelings for him are already a part of me. You don’t understand it at all!”
After her tirade, Ikemoto-san glared at me. But I can’t quail either. I resolutely refused to back down. [T/N: That’s our girl!]
“Y-You’re wrong! I also like him!”
“But not as much as me! You were not around before. I’ve liked him for so long.”
“I don’t care about the time! I like him more than anyone! Even though I just met him, the depth of my feelings for him won’t lose!”
Catching our breath, Ikemoto-san and I glared at each other silently.
“.…..We’re not reaching an agreement.”
Both of us drank tea to moisturize our throat. Ikemoto-san, who placed her cup on the table first, said with displeasure.
“So what you said was true? Do you really want to marry into the temple? You don’t have to overdo it unless you’re confident. It will be difficult for you to start learning now…… if you like, why don’t you leave Soushun-san to Arikawa-san and me?”
Ikemoto-san replied in a sarcastic tone while she kept glaring at me.
After returning the teacup to the table, I stared straight at Ikemoto-san and shook my head.
Before I came to this store, my feelings were still somewhat wavering. I like him, but I’m not suited for him…… I was very anxious, I was irresolute. But—
“I’m serious. Anyway, I think Arikawa-san is a wonderful woman who is perfect for the temple, but I do not want to hand him over to anyone.”
Ikemoto-san’s eyes widened with surprise.
“I’ve decided. I won’t dither anymore.”
I declared, standing from my seat. Ikemoto-san only regarded me silently.
“I apologize for suddenly coming to disturb you. Well then.”
Bowing my head politely, I passed by Ikemoto-san and left the shop. And then headed towards the nearby temple.
“I know you’re scared but…… your feelings will never be conveyed unless you tell the other person!”
I want to tell him my feelings as soon as possible and before I knew it, I was running.
Running out of breath as I go up the stairs leading to the temple, I took up several deep breaths to catch my breath.
Suddenly, I realized that I came again without contacting first.
What to do…… What if he went out somewhere…… If he’s not there, then it’s pointless. But what if Hazekura-san actually came back?
Troubled, I wandered around the temple. Then, I remembered he comes here by car.
—That’s right, the car. He should be there if there is a car.
Turning around the parking lot, I saw the familiar black car of Hazekura-san.
Thank God…… Hazekura-san is here!
At that moment, my heart jolted. The more I tried to calm my mind, the faster my heart beat.
It is already dusk. There are no more worshipers to be seen. I went straight to the temple’s office, conscious of my noisy heart. Then I put my hand on the sliding door.
—Okay, here we go!
Calling out as I opened the sliding door, Shouji-san, who was the closest to me, looked back at me.
I heard Hazekura-san’s voice overlapping Shouji-san’s voice. He immediately came in front of me with an anxious expression. Shouji-san, who was about to stand up, silently observed us and sat down.
“What happened? Or could it be that you have something to tell me?”
His low mellow voice. I just head it a few days ago . . . but why does my heart beat so much?
I took a breath and looked straight at Hazekura-san. His eyes, which seem somewhat uneasy, stared right back at me.
“.…..Even though you came to my house last time, I was rude to you…… I’m sorry.”
“No, I came uninvited after all.…..”
I then gulped.
“I really like you.”
Hazekura-san’s beautiful eyes widened instantly.
“I am not suited for you who is the heir of the temple—That’s what I thought, so I tried to give up on you. But it was useless. I also want to be with you forever. But I have nothing. I came from an ordinary house, I can’t even do flower arrangement or wear a kimono……”
Hazekura-san, who silently listened to me express my true feelings, shook his neck many times with a serious expression.
“It’s impossible that you have nothing, Kano-san. I want to be by your side, Kano-san. I can be happy just because you are on my side, and that’s enough.”
This time I shook my head.
“No! That’s not true! At the very least, the way I am now, I am not confident to stand next to you. I don’t want to drag you down!”
When I frankly told him that, Hazekura-san giggled.
“That’s really like you. I remember the first time we met…… Yes, an unyielding woman who will not bend from her convictions. That’s you…… Then, why don’t we do this? I will teach you everything I can teach about living in this temple. Beyond that, you can find a place where you can learn properly, then keep on learning until you are satisfied.”
Hazekura-san smiled. Seeing that smile, I smiled as well.
I was coerced the first time we met, but this time he considered my feelings and offered me the best choice.
I am really no match for this person……
The moment I was about to smile and express my gratitude, my body was engulfed in his arms.
“It is I who wants to say thank you. Kano-san, thank you…… Just with you here by my side, I can be happier than anyone else.”
I could hear Hazekura-san’s kind and mellow voice beside my ear.
Oh, yeah—During the Bon festival too, he embraced me when I was about to crash onto him, and he called my name in this voice. Deep, but a little sweet voice.
I gently put my hand on his back and held him tightly. I closed my eyes ecstatically as I felt his warmth after a long time.
Just then, I heard an audible cough which returned me to reality.
“It’s good that you’re now in a better state, but isn’t it time for you to go, Assistant Chief Priest?”
Ooops! I forgot that Shouji-san was nearby.
When I raised my face from Hazekura-san’s chest, whether he was shocked or have gotten used to this, my eyes met with Shouji-san, who sighed.
Remembering the last time where he witnessed us kissing, I quickly scrambled out of Hazekura-san’s embrace. However, I was held more strongly, and I was embraced again in his chest.
What are you doing? But what I was about to say was blocked by his lips.
Pushing my lips a little more intensely, he left my lips for a moment, changed the angle and ravaged it. And then gradually tasted my lips deeply and sweetly.
It’s been a long time since we kissed, and I could’ve gotten swept away, but not right now!
……Hey, Hazekura-san! If you don’t stop, Shouji-san will get angry again…..!
Thud, thud. After striking his chest several times as a means of protest, Hazekura-san finally let go of my lips. Leaving me breathless, he smiled mischievously and whispered in my ear.
“It’s unfortunate, but I will hold back today. But please be prepared the next time we meet, all right? Kano.”
And he then blew a hot breath in my ear. At that moment, an electrifying shiver ran down my spine.
—Whoa……!! This is dangerous! A-And…… Just now, he called me Kano [without the -san]……!
My knees weakened and I was about to fall. Hazekura-san grabbed my arm and supported me.
“Are you alright?”
—Th-This person…… He absolutely knew it!
I grabbed his ear with my free hand and glared at him.
“Wh-What are you suddenly doing?!”
“You tried to leave me so that was your punishment.”
Hazekura-san replied with a beaming smile, and it was beautiful.