“Yuu-kun, sorry to keep you waiting!”
Seeing Kanade coming out of the house, I gasped and stood there stunned. Seeing me like that, Kanade tilted her head and asked, “What’s wrong?” with a curious look on her face.
“No, no. Kanade was so cute in her yukata that I just stuttered a little.”
I unintentionally told her honestly how I really felt, without using any indirect words. Kanade’s face turned bright red and she turned her head down. I was probably as red in the face as Kanade.
Today was the day we were going to a summer festival for a party, just the two of us, as we had promised on the day we were eliminated from the tournament.
By the way, Kanade looks really cute in her yukata. Her hair is usually styled in a casual way, but today she wore it up in an updo, making her look more mature than usual. I felt a slight tingle in my chest at the sight of the different Kanade.
“Hehe. I’m glad to hear you say so. Yuu-kun came in a yukata too, didn’t he? …You look cool too, Yuu-kun.”
Kanade looked up at me and complimented me, her face reddening again.
Is she trying to make me die of a heart attack? I was somewhat frustrated, so I suppressed my heart pounding and responded as normally as I could.
“Thanks. So, let’s go to the festival.”
The summer festival held in our town was a relatively large-scale event, centered around a large shrine, with the entire neighborhood as a pedestrian zone. The festival is held on a relatively large scale, with a large shrine at the center and the entire neighborhood as a pedestrian zone.
On the road leading to the shrine grounds, strong men carrying large portable shrines could be seen parading around, so even people from a little further away made the effort to visit and participate in the festival.
“How long has it been since I’ve been to a summer festival with Kanade?”
“Oh, I don’t know. The first year of middle school? It’s been so long since I’ve been to a summer festival with Yuu-kun, I’m so happy.”
“Yeah, I’m happy to be here with Kanade too.”
Ever since I started dating Hazuki in the second year of junior high school, Kanade has always been reserved for us and went with another friend.
I was thinking about this when I saw Kanade walking next to me, and I felt her hand waving louder than usual as she walked, as if she was really happy.
“Yuu-kun. What shall we eat today? I want a chocolate banana and fluffy shaved ice!”
“I think I’ll have yakisoba and takoyaki. I wonder why they taste so good when eaten at festivals, by the way? If I ate it outside of a festival, I would think it was nothing special.”
“There’s quite a bit of festival magic. I end up doing things I wouldn’t normally do, like target shooting, because I get so excited.”
“So, are you going to do it again today?”
“Heh heh, you caught me. I’m going to get the prize today!”
“Do your best in moderation. Oh, it’s almost time to see it.”
As we approach the temple grounds, the vermilion lanterns float in the air, and the energy emanating from the colorful food stalls undeniably raises my spirits. It seems that Kanade did the same, looking around with a twinkle in her eye as she let out a “Wow”.
Kanade and I went into the precincts of the temple to enjoy the summer festival from the bottom of our hearts.
The highlight of the festival was probably when Kanade finally dropped the prize she was aiming for in the target shooting. However, the moment after receiving the prize, she mumbled, “Why did I want this?” I’ll pretend I didn’t hear her mutter.
I pull Kanade, who has suddenly stopped, to the edge while supporting her so as not to interrupt the flow.
“I’m sorry. I think I broke the strap of my sandals.”
“Really? Well, the festival is almost over, though, so let’s get going home.”
I said, “Come on, hop on,” as I got down on one knee and turned my back to Kanade. However, Kanade didn’t seem to be moving at all, so I turned around and saw her face was bright red and her hands were wriggling.
“What are you doing?”
“Yeah, I mean, you know, a piggyback ride is…”
“Don’t worry about it! Although I’m retired now, I’ve been working out in the club until the other day, so I’ve still got a lot of strength left in me!”
“Ugh, that’s not what I meant… Well, can I ask you a favor?”
“Don’t be shy. Come on, come on.”
Kanade put her hands on my shoulders and leaned down on my back.
She is a small person, so I don’t feel that much weight. I think I can make it home.
That’s when I thought so. I felt two soft objects hit my back.
Huh? What’s this soft feeling?
Kanade is the type of person who wears skinny clothes… But still, I didn’t expect them to get so close to me. Is this what being a childhood friend is all about?… To say the least, my childhood friend is the best…
“Yuu-kun. I’m not too heavy, am I? I’m sorry I made you carry me on your back.”
“I’m fine! Thank you, Kanade!”
I gave Kanade the biggest smile of the day.
“What? Thank you?”
“No, don’t worry about it, it’s just me speaking to myself!”
Kanade was a bit nervous, but soon smiled softly and thanked me, saying, “Thanks to you too.”
We could hear the bustling summer festival crowd behind our backs, and we were basking in the afterglow without opening our mouths to speak to each other.
On the quiet night street, all I could hear was Kanade’s breathing as she rested her chin on my shoulder.
“Hey. Do you remember when Hanaka-chan fell down and hurt herself and Yuu-kun had to carry her home on his back?”
“Hmm? I think I did, but I don’t remember much.”
“I see. At that time, Hanaka-chan who was being carried on her back by Yuu-kun looked like she was in a lot of pain, but I was impressed by the look of relief on her face, which left a deep impression on my mind, so I remembered it.”
“I see. Does Kanade feel safe now?”
I asked her jokingly, in my usual tone.
“Yes. I feel very safe.”
When she said that, her arms were tightened in my embrace. I wish that she would never let go of my arms.
I wondered what Kanade was thinking right now.
I couldn’t help but wonder.