Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
Contrary to my turbulent days of summer vacation, the mood looming over the station was peaceful. Normally, students would fill this place to the brim, but classes were (thankfully) canceled due to some anniversary. Today, Kurosaki and I were going to the mall. Since I arrived too early for our 2 PM rendezvous, I just chilled and watched the crowd of people flow.
The streets hustled and bustled. Little kids happily held onto their parents as they toddled along the road. Office workers hastily marched around, phone in hand, hoping to make it in time. A woman held onto their man, both visibly head over heels for each other.
When I observe people, I sometimes enjoy guessing their backgrounds, emotions, and thoughts. Doing that makes me feel as though I live a life other than my own.
While my eyes perambulated the mob, they caught sight, rather they were caught by a figure that stood out among all others. She wore a black summer knit and donned brown pants. Her inwardly curled bob prevented her pale neck from being too exposed, and its second, much flashier color served as a distraction from her exposed shoulders.
Her cat eyes met mine and she broke into a corner-to-corner smile. Joyful, she sprung in my direction, waving her hand.
“Senpai~! Good morning!”
“It’s noon already, but morning.”
“My morning starts just when I see my senpai! Um, did you wait for long?”
“Nah, I just got here as well.”
With a textbook reply, we headed to a shopping mall just outside the station. Normally, when she wore a uniform, she was just another chirpy high schooler, a bit too beautiful for her own age. Today’s outfit, though, was a bit more mature than usual. Thanks to her witty style and nice face, she could pass as a college student rather easily. Her clothes were so thin, her badonkas swayed as she walked, and even though she was by my side, I could see them from the corner of my eye.
“I wonder where you’re looking at~?”
“No, no, I’m just thinking how neat and pretty you look today, Kurosaki.”
“Hmm… I’ll leave it at that. Well, you look cool… too.”
“I’m glad, thanks.”
I didn’t lie, but it seems I managed to escape from certain doom. In the meantime, we arrived at the entrance of the mall and looked up at the info map.
“I wanna go to the arcade, but I also wanna go to Castle Records and Advant as well.”
“There aren’t many customers, so let’s just take our time and walk around.”
The first place we visited was Advant, or Advance Avant-Garde. It’s a bookstore that carries many subcultures and niche items. Even though it’s called a bookstore, it’s also a popular store that delights the young with its mysterious, yet abundant lineup of anime goodies and obscure foreign snacks. We made the effort to visit the place from time to time.
“Senpai, senpai! Captain Avocado’s new book is out!”
“Oh, that movie hooked you, eh Kurosaki? —Wait, 3200 yen?! That’s expensive!” (TL: 3200 yen is roughly 24 USD.)
“Ooh~ they have cherry-flavored cola! Wanna try?”
“Eh…? Does it taste… good?”
“Maybe it’s popular overseas? I don’t know.”
We enjoyed Advant after a while without doing so and finally left the place. By the way, cherry-flavored cola is rather tasty.
The next stop was Castle Records. As you could probably guess from its name, it’s a major CD store that carried a wide range of artists and songs, from popular mainstream titles to indie gems. The store always burst with activity, and bands often held events there to promote their albums.
“Oh, speaking of which, did you buy the new Saba Fiction album?”
“That’s a no-brainer. The bonus video of their live performance was so good it made me wanna go to their concert one day.”
“Ah, I get you! Their use of lighting was breathtaking, don’t you agree? If I could yoink two tickets, we could go together!”
“Mhm, of course!”
Saba Fiction is the band that brought Kurosaki and me together. They had a reputation for creating genre-defying music, and the band often incorporated elements of rock, pop, EDM, and various other styles into one, attracting many.
The song I listened to the day I met her was called Crisis. Unusually for the band, which used subdued and subtle tones, the song was a powerful rock ballad with a powerful message about life. Listening to it would usually lift me up, but at that time my future looked so bleak not even that song could sweeten the bitter. Now that these awful feelings disappeared, the song’s come around to be my favorite one from the band.
After a while, we wrapped up the talk. Excitement still lingering, she grabbed my hand and led me to an arcade. As we walked together, I wondered why her ears suddenly turned rose-red.
“C’mon, senpai! Let’s play as much as we want!”
“Don’t get too excited and trip.”
The staple of arcade games is the crane game, after all… Not air hockey. What? I’m only saying this because I’m bad at air hockey? Pfft, never! Moving on, we both put our money in and grabbed what was needed.
“I won’t lose!”
“What a coinkidink, me neither. Do you dare to stop my special killer shot?”
“Oh no~ Please don’t hit me with that~!”
And thus began the battle of the fates, one which would decide the survival or destruction of the universe!
“Yay! You’re weak, senpai!”
The result was an overwhelming defeat. Even an elementary schooler would’ve put up a better fight than me. Stop! Before you say anything, this was not my real ability. It was a highly sophisticated, technologically advanced trap. Imagine the moment Kurosaki bent down to hit the disk—Y’know what? I won’t say another word. I was just defeated by, um, my instincts. Yeah, something like that… Ugh, I’m embarrassed now, let me change the subject.
“Kurosaki, you told me you’d wear a maid outfit for me, right? It says here you can rent them right next to the photo booth.”
“Eh?! W–wait a minute, um… I’m not ready yet.”
“I see. Too bad…”
No matter how much she may be herself, wearing a maid outfit must still be embarrassing. I’m sure apart from this rather superficial thing, girls have many other things to be prepared for.
“Ah, but I wanna go to the photo booth!”
“Mkay, let’s go then.”
“Oh, for real?!”
I invited her to get inside the booth with me, which surprised her enough that her jaw dropped. We were finally in front of the Purikura¹, which is rumored to be its most popular version around the world. I know how to use them since I came here with Asakawa in the past, so I just inserted a 400 yen coin in and selected a color. (TL: 3 US buckos.)
“…Why do you know how to use this?”
I glamorously dodge her knives-for-stares, adjusting myself in front of the machine.
“Thank you for using Paruru today! First of all, the camera—” The machine played a message.
I adjust the camera so the two of us look just right. Since our heights were not so different, however, I barely had to do anything.
“S–senpai, is my smile okay?”
“Stiff as a rock.”
Kurosaki was nervous for some reason. Hmm, maybe she’s never been to a photo booth with a boy before? Well, as the senior, I’ll take the lead here. I should act confident to make her feel secure.
“Put your hand on your chin!” The machine started its instructions.
“L, like this?”
“Yup! Pull your chin and look up!”
“Now, give ‘em a peck on the cheek!”
“Kurosaki, I’mma borrow your cheek!”
“Last one! Give ‘em a bear hug!”
“Wait senpai! My heart, my heart!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll lead the way!”
“Why are you in this weird mode?!”
…Three minutes had passed, and I left the booth satisfied, almost glistening. Meanwhile, Kurosaki left while looking dead-tired.
“Okay, now the graffiti.”
“…What you did inside there was s*xual harassment.”
“Pururu told me to do all those things, I’m innocent.”
Thanks to my expert, precise actions, a collage of natural and glam photos was lined up on the screen for our choosing.
“Oh, we both look amazing in these pictures.”
“Ah, you see the one with the hug? I was right after all, wasn’t I?”
“…I’m happy to be hugged, but my heart can’t take it.”
Even though she said that Kurosaki couldn’t hold back her subtle smiles. While we printed more pictures and had a blast fawning over them, the end of our session was finally nigh.
“I’ll take that one.”
“Oh, that one’s funny. I’ll take it as well.”
The one we both ultimately chose was the one we were hugging. Even though it was a moment that happened in real life, the fact a small piece of paper could hold such memories made me feel sheer wonder. After a short while, our stickers were ejected.
“Hehe, I’m glad I got to see you after such a long time, senpai.”
“Let’s take even more awesome pictures next time, then!”
“…I mean, yeah, but let’s do more normal poses next time.”
She was in a great mood, treasuring our little photo inside her phone case. After this, we enjoyed the last moments of this unexpected holiday to our heart’s content.
1 — It’s a photo booth that prints out cards and stickers of the resulting photograph, which are then traded among friends.
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