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.
Christmas certainly has a way of bringing excitement to people. Even simple everyday conversations that we used to have at school become much more enjoyable with all the jolly tunes and festive decorations.
Even the snacks that Akina brought seemed to taste twice as delicious, and I’m sure both of the girls felt the same way, too. With this happy atmosphere in tow, we talked more than usual and laughed together like there was no tomorrow.
As we talked about whatever came to mind, we naturally started sharing stories from the past. The stories went all the way back to our elementary school days.
“I see. I’ve always wanted to hear the story of how Haru and Shirahato-san met,” Akina noted.
“Yes. Haru-kun saved me when I was being bullied.”
“Mhm. I was pretty surprised back then. Those boys were picking on her like crazy,” I nodded.
Akina paused for a moment. “That takes a lot of courage. If I were in your position, Haru… I don’t think I would’ve done something like throwing myself at those twerps.”
“Back then, well… How should I put it…? I wasn’t very smart. I often acted before thinking.”
“I think it’s a commendable trait in this case. I really admire your strong sense of justice, I really do. You’re the same even now, aren’t you?”
“Even now…? Is that so?”
“Mhm. As it was with your encounter with Shirahato-san, it was in your encounter with me. You never cared about superficial things, be it appearance or the way others saw you. In fact, you just talked to me without a single thought for gains or losses, didn’t you?” She kept going.
“Well, yeah. Same for you.”
When I first met Akina, just like with Yuki, I didn’t know what others were saying about her. I only found out about the harsh comments from other boys after we became friends. Well, even if I had known, I wouldn’t have refrained myself from trying to become her friend.
“That’s what’s so wonderful about you, Haru-kun. Most people tend to judge others based on appearances or the way they’re perceived by people around them. But you don’t. You try to look at people’s inner selves and truly understand them,” Yuki added fuel to the fire.
“You’re right, Shirahato-san,” Akina continued. “I’m glad I got enrolled into our high school and that I ended up in his class. Thanks to that, my school life has been tons of fun.”
“Me too. I hope we can stay in the same class for three years,” Yuki smiled.
“I want that too. I absolutely don’t wanna be in separate classes after we’re up one grade.”
A warm smile crept up my face. “I want to be with you two, too. Ideally, for all three years.”
Having Yuki and Akina in the same class is truly comfortable. When I forget my textbook or don’t understand something in class, having these goddess-like beings by my side to lend me a hand is amazing. Once I experienced that comfort, I didn’t want to even think about being in separate classes.
“Should we make another wish at the New Year’s shrine visit next year? We’ll have to be generous with the offering money though,” I mentioned to Yuki.
“That sounds wonderful. Let’s have our wishes come true!”
“The New Year’s shrine visit? Are you two going together?” Akina asked with a different note in her tone.
“Yeah. We used to go together every year back when we were kids. Since Yuki’s back, I’m thinking we should go together as soon as the years flip.”
“I also wanna draw my fortune. I wonder what my luck will be like for this next year…” Akina sighed.
“Yuki always gets Great Fortune. Meanwhile, even if I do get something nice, it’s usually Mediocre Fortune at best.”
While listening to our conversation, Akina had a slightly lonely expression on her face. She seemed to be lost in thought, closing her mouth and falling silent. Just as I was about to ask her what was wrong, she looked up and smiled.
“I-I don’t know which shrine we’ll be going to, but when you go for the shrine visit, be careful not to catch a cold. You know, with so many people visiting, you two need to be careful… It would be tough to start the new year like that, right?”
“Mhm, let’s be careful. Gargle and wash our hands properly, right, Haru-kun?” Yuki nodded.
It was only for a moment, but Akina’s eyes looked a bit forlorn. Was it just my imagination, or was I overthinking? However still, Akina’s smile felt a bit forced, and I couldn’t help but feel she was making herself smile.
“What are you planning to do during the New Year holidays, Akina?”
“Well, I’ll probably just laze around at home. Rikka is going on a family hot spring trip from New Year’s Day, and I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Just laze around at home, huh?”
I couldn’t help but wonder if Akina was feeling lonely. I think I understand Akina’s personality. Despite the change in appearance she underwent during summer vacation, her essence hasn’t changed much. I’ve seen her being shy and unable to express what she wants to say many times at school. With just a little bit of thought, it was easy to see what she was feeling right then and there.
Akina wanted to go with us.
Thus, I reached out to that girl who tried but couldn’t say it out loud.
“If you’re free during the New Year holidays, would you like to come with us to the shrine?”
“Huh… You’re, you’re inviting me too?”
“If it’s okay with you, I mean. Akina, do you not want to?”
“N-no, it’s not that. I-I want to go!”
Hearing that response and knowing that what I had been thinking earlier was not wrong, I couldn’t help but feel happy, and a natural smile formed on my face. And it seemed like Yuki and I were on the same page.
“Haru-kun, you’re amazing. You managed to ask her out before I could even open my mouth.”
“You too, Yuki?” I looked at her.
“I could tell just by looking at her. I couldn’t just not invite her, yeah?”
“You as well, Shirahato-san… Are you sure you want me to go with you…?”
“Yes, of course. Let’s all go together!” Yuki beamed.
Upon hearing her friend’s kind words, Akina’s eyes seemed to glitter for a brief second. Then, hurriedly rubbing her eyes as if to hide it, she wiped away her shy tears. As if a small maelstrom had cleared, she grinned a bashful smile and gave a small bow.
“Well, if it’s okay with you, I’d really love to visit the shrine with you. Thank you so, so much.”
Yuki and I grinned warmly at each other, happy to hear Akina was also happy.
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