Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu:Volume2 Chapter7
 Chapter 7
After getting through the ticket-barrier, I saw that the streets were filled with people.
It sounds a little weird to use such a commonly-used literary description, but I really couldn't think of anything better to describe what I was seeing. At nine o'clock in the morning of August the 17th, I was standing in front of the International Exhibition Centre station that was on the sub-line of the Rinkai high-speed rail line.
Anyway, no matter where I looked, all I saw were people, people and more people. Just how did they manage to assemble so many poeple here? This place was literally bursting at the seams with the sheer amount of people. The amount of people at the shopping district was already extremely high, but this makes the shopping district look almost empty. This exceedingly chaotic assembly of people really reminded me of groups like Black Dragon and Sea Iguana. (TL Note: Don't ask me, I have no idea what those groups are either -_-)
And that's not all.
"......It's really hot."
Even though it was still quite early in the day, the sun's rays were already shooting down on all directions like laser beams. Add the heat-reflecting properties of the asphalt road and the number of human 'heat sources' in this place and--How do I put it......In other words, it was so hot, I could literally feel myself wilting under the heat. Although I really wanted to use the hose of the fire-truck parked nearby to hose down the masses, but I resisted the urge to do so. In a country that has one of the highest population densities in the world, it is generally frowned upon to complain about the number of people around you. And now and I mention it, I seem to be part of the crowd, so I'm really not in any position to complain.
"......I guess I should start walking." I mentally prepared myself for the crowd as I stepped out, trying as hard as I could to avoid knocking into people. I slowly made my way past the ridiculously crowded bus interchange, walked over the small bridge that was obviously over-capacity, and started to climb past the mountain of people on the steps. I could see the strange-looking structure that looked as though it had an inverted pyramid on top of it in the distance. The place that they call the 'Tokyo Big Sight' was my destination, and also where I was supposed to meet Haruka.
Right, as to why we're meeting in a place like this. Because we lived in the same direction from the Big Sight, I had suggested that we meet along the way, but Haruka insisted on meeting at the Big Sight itself.
"An event like this starts from the moment you wait for the other person. Don't you think that it'll be really exciting to meet at the place itselt to soak up the atmosphere? It'll feel like something good will happen."
Haruka explained. I guess it's the same sort of reasoning that every activity you do before you get home is part of a long journey? (I don't really understand) Well, I don't really understand Haruka's way of thinking sometimes (......most of the time?), but since it didn't really made a difference to me, I agreed to Haruka's arrangement without much thought. And then, after about five minutes of forging my way forward in the crowd.
It looks like I've finally reached the entrance of the Tokyo Big Sight, but......
It looked like a ridiculously long queue has already formed up outside the entrance. The queue looked like a drunk anaconda, and I couldn't see where the head of the queue was. All I could see was that the queue had split up into several rows that extended towards the parking lot.
......Hmm, wasn't the the event supposed to start at ten? I confirmed the timing on the 'Summer Comiket Map' that Haruka had given me. Haruka had wanted to meet at ten o'clock sharp, but after the Akihabara incident last time (The item was sold out), I suggested that we meet not five minutes, but an hour before the opening time, but--
--It looks like I've been too naive in my planning. Haruka, who had reached before me, ran over to me with tears in her eyes.
"W,What do we do, there're so many people......"
Haruka didn't even have time for her usual morning greeting as she looked at the people around her, her voice a significant amount of decibels higher than normal.
"T, To ensure that we don't fail this time, I even came a little eariler than our meeting time, but it was already like this......"
Well, I can't say I'm too surprised about that. It's quite obvious that a queue of this magnitude didn't just magically form up in the last ten minutes.
"T, Then I might not be able to buy Neko Bus Station's book......Even though Yuuto-san has agreed to come to the Summer Comiket together--" (TL Note: Neko = Cat)
Haruka's voice was trembling as she spoked. On a side note, the Summer Comiket seems to be some kind of free market for books and CDs, and a book by a group named 'Neko Bus Station' seemed to be Haruka's top priority today.
"W,What should I do......"
"Well, why don't you calm down a little first."
I attempted to get Haruka, who was panicking a little, to settle down. As usual, Haruka's rather weak in dealing with such sudden situations.
"......Anyway, we should join the queue. It looks like there's only one entrance."
I wasn't fully aware of the whole situation, but it looked like the only thing we can do is to queue up with the rest of the people.
Haruka and I walked to the back of the queue, which seemed to stretch to the other end of the horizon. We still hadn't managed to catch a glimpse of the front of the queue.
......Just what time had the people at the front of the queue started queuing? On the other hand, one good thing was that despite the length of the queue, it was extremely neat.
"What should we do......Would it be alright, would we be able to get to 'Neko Bus Station'......"
Haruka, who was standing beside me, had been mumbling under her breath as though she was reciting Buddhist scriptures for a while now. Hmm. Although I really want to tell Haruka that it'll be alright, but looking at the amound of people in front of us, it probably won't be very persuasive......To be honest, even I was beginning to despair.
Just as I was trying to think of how I should comfort Haruka,
"Hey, are you referring to the production group, 'Neko Bus Station'?"
Suddenly, the bespectacled guy who was queuing in front of us (for some reason, he was also equipped with colorful fan) turned to look at us.
"Ah, y, yes."
Haruka nodded in response.
"Hmm, it'll be a little difficult to get their new publications from this position, since we're quite a distance behind the front of the queue."
"Just as I had feared......"
Haruka put a hand to her forehead as she looked as though she was about to faint. Her face was deathly pale as she looked like the seer who had just foreseen the end of the world. Looking at her reaction, the bespectacled guy hurridly attempted to calm her down.
"B,but even then, I think it should be alright."
"......Eh?" "It'll be a little difficult, but if you hurry, you should be able to get a copy."
Haruka took a step forward, her aura so overpowering that the bespectacled guy took a step back in surprise.
"Well, I guess so. If this was any of the previous comikets, then you wouldn't stand a chance. But they're the super big wigs this year, so they'll have printed significantly more of their works to sell."
According to this guy, we still have a chance, even though I don't understand the big wig reference. Did he mean the big wig supermarket of books? (TL Note: Because of Yuuto's stupid random referencing (which aren't even funny in the first place), I'm forced to use a comparatively more awkward phrase (big wig) so that the two sentences link up -_-)
Haruka had a relieved look on her face as she sat down on the ground. I'm really relieved too, looks like we'll be able to avoid the tragedy of our previous trip to Akihabara. I patted myself on the chest as we patiently waited for about an hour.
"The Summer Comkiet is now open. Participants, please walk in orderly."
We heard the broadcast from the speakers that were spread out all over the place. Looks like the Summer Comiket is finally open.
"Yuuto-san, it has finally began, hasn't it."
"Yes, it has."
The queue finally started moving slowly, like a lumbering African elephant. At the same time, we heard the ground rumbling in the distance.
"--? What is that sound?"
"I have no idea. Could it be some kind of construction work?"
The two of us looked to the direction that the rumbling was coming from.
"Ah, that's the first rush of the Summer Comiket opening."
The bespectacled guy turned to us once again.
"Summer Comiket opening......"
"......First rush?" What's that?"
To put in simply, that's the sound of the footsteps of the people who are already inside. Individual footsteps may not make much noise, but because everyone wants to get to the booths as quickly as possible, they literally make the ground shake with the force of their running.
"But the announcer had just told everyone to walk orderly......"
"Well, everyone are willing to give up their lives to get the books that they want. And it's not very likely that you'll continue walking slowly when everyone around you is running."
The bespectacled guy smiled sheepishly. In other words, it's like how 'If everyone runs the red light, then there's nothing to be afraid of' (not a very apt analogy, I'm afraid). Which means what I thought sounded more like the roar of a monster, or the battle-cry of a certain silver alien superhero who's fighting alien monsters is actually the sound of people running.
......Looks like we've come to a really intense place. The slightly uneasy feeling that I'm getting from the rumbling footsteps of the people further in front of us seemed to signal that the road ahead of us is fraught with difficulties. The events that followed proved that for once, my gut was right.
"......W,we're finally in."
The two of us breathed heavily as we looked at each other. It was already eleven when we finally got into the exhibition centre.
......Even though the 'Opening rush' was a little too intense, but I was rather surprised that it took us an hour just to get in. Although I hadn't expected to get in early, but an hour was really too much. And looking back at the queue behind me, I couldn't see the end of the queue......Once more, this is a really intense place.
"Well then, what do we do now?"
"Right. I would like to go over to Neko Bus Station's booth first."
Haruka immediately responded to my question.
"Because saving the most enjoyable activity for the last didn't work the last time, I think we should make it the first item on our agenda this time round."
I could see the flames burning in Haruka's eyes. Looks like she's still strung up over what happened the last time.
"And then, the location of Neko Bus Station is......"
Haruka opened up the 'Summer Comiket Map'. Just like the 'Shopping guide' the last time, all the major locations and the timetable for going to the locations were clearly denoted on the map.
"It should be over here."
Haruka said as she went over to an escalator with me following close behind. According to the Summer Comiket Map, our first destination was a exhibition hall named East 1. On a side note, even after looking at Haruka's map, I had no idea where East 1 was. Even though the Summer Comiket Map was extremely detailed (At least Haruka seems to think so)......Personally, I think Haruka's the only one who can actually read and understand the map. To be a little more detailed, I could only see a bunch of Arikabes standing in a cemetary. (TL Note: Arikabes can be literally translated as 'Grey Wall Demons')
"Speaking of which, is admission free?"
I asked Haruka as we made our way towards East 1. Usually, such a big event would require an admission fee (about maybe a thousand or two thousand yen), but I haven't seen anything that looked like ticket booths or admission gates.
"Ah, yes, admission is free."
Haruka looked intently at the Summer Comiket Map as she answered me.
"I've heard that for the earlier comikets, you had to buy an official catalogue before you were allowed entry, but right now, it's completely free. I guess the organizers just want to encourage more people to come for this event?"
"Don't you think that it's better to share happiness with as many people as possible?"
Haruka ran towards the elevator with an innocent smile on her face. On the other hand, I do think that the sharing is a little too extreme. There was a tunnel at the end of the elevator. The tunnel was about thirty metres wide, and had an extremely high ceiling (I would estimate it at about fifty metres in height), and looked more like an exhibition hall than a tunnel. The tunnel split off into smaller paths at both sides. To my right was East 1, 2 and 3, while East 4, 5 and 6 were on my right. Looks like most of the exhibition halls for the Summer Comiket are within this area.
"There really are a lot of people here......"
Even though the tunnel was extremely large, but it was stuffed to capacity with people. There were people weaving through the crowd, there were people calling their friends on their cellphones, and there were even groups of people who had sat down on the ground, looking as though they were having some pre-battle briefing. What I was seeing was a literal representation of people being 'packed like sardines'. It was so crowded that even a dog would have gotten kicked if it had tried to move. Any movement could result in an accident.
Just as I was thinking about how easy it would be to knock into someone, Haruka gave a surprised shout as one of a three person group who were walking in a line knocked into her.
"I, I'm sorry, are you alright?"
The guy who had knocked into Haruka quickly turned around to apologise.
"Y, Yes, I'm alright. What about you?"
"Ah, I'm alright too."
"That's great......I'm really sorry."
Haruka bowed her head as the three guys walked off apologetically.
"Haruka, are you alright?"
"Yes, this is nothing."
Haruka smiled like a playful puppy as she answered me. Even though I had though that the collision looked rather painful. It looks like Haruka's surprisingly durable. And speaking of durable, Haruka didn't have a scratch on her after half the bookshelves in the school library came down the other time.
"Shall we go, Yuuto-san?"
But Haruka only managed a few steps before......
This time, she collided with a concrete pillar that had been hidden by the crowd.
"I, I'm really sorry. I wasn't really concentrating on what was in front of me. I'm really sorry."
She still hadn't realized that she had walked into a concrete pillar as she continued to apologizing.
Hmm. Even though it was exactly Haruka's fault for not looking at what was in front of her, but also because there were really too many people around. It would be extremely easy for us to get separated in such a crowd if this continues. Haruka doesn't have a cellphone, so it'll be practically impossible to find her again if we get separated......And it's not like Nanami-san is here to use her mysterious tracking ability either. Which was why.
There was only one solution for the problem at hand.
"Yes? What is it?"
I slowly stretched out my right hand towards Haruka, not because I wanted to do something perverted, but because I didn't want us to get separated, yes. Haruka looked at my outstretched right hand as though it was a rock from the moon, her eyes wide with amazement, before saying......
"Umm...... Doggie handshake?"
I grabbed Haruka's left hand with my right hand.
Haruka slanted her head to the side.
"It's not that......Umm, how do I put it, your hand......"
"? The other one?"
Haruka placed her right hand on top of mine.
......I'm begging you, please stop linking everything with dogs.
"That's not what I'm trying to say. You see, it's really easy to get separated in the crowd like this, so to prevent us from getting separated from each other......"
Haruka finally understood what I was trying to say, as she started blushing furiously.
"No, I, I'm not trying to hint at anything here, t,this is just to prevent us from getting separated."
"......A, Ah, r, right."
Haruka shyly took the hand that I offered her.
"P, Please take care of me......"
I felt the softness of Haruka's skin in my hand. Her hand was as smooth as marble. I held her hand a little tighter, and felt Haruka holding my hand back lightly.
"Y, Yuuto-san's hand is really big."
Haruka smiled as she said. S, She's really cute...... I desperately tried to hold down the sudden urge to hug her, as I didn't have a good reason to do something like that in reality, and also, I didn't really dare to do something like that. I would probably get arrested for something like that. Hmm, I don't think that would be serious enough to warrant an arrest right? Ah--What am I thinking about.
"W, Well then, we should get going. The books might be sold out if we don't hurry."
I tried to cover up my embarrassment by changing the subject. And just like that, the two of us stepped into exhibition hall East 1--
In a sense, we had stepped into a completely different world. In a hall that was about one-fifth the size of a school gymnasium, numerous booths that were made up of rectangular office tables and foldable chairs were lined up (the regulars seem to call the booths 'circle spaces'). Looking down the line of booths, it seemed as though there were about a thousand of them, and huge amounts of books and CDs were stacked on top of each table.
"Please take a look at our newest book!"
The 'circle spaces' were surrounded by people holding up handmade advertisement boards, giving out fliers, and asking people to take a look at their booths.
"Ah, please give me a copy of this."
"Sure, that would be five hundred yen."
The people working at the booths were either busy attending to the customers or counting their earnings. Monstrous queues were also forming up in front of some booths.
"So this is the Summer Comiket......"
The light-hearted atmosphere felt like that of a school festival. Whether it was the people working at the booths or the people buying from the booths, they were all extremely busy with something. But one thing they all had in common was the smile that they wore on their faces.
In a moment, I too was swept away by the atmosphere. The 'Summer Comiket'......because it was held at such a formal place (The Tokyo International Exhibition Centre), I had expected a more business-like atmosphere.
"This is incredible......"
Haruka looked like a person who had lived her entire life near the equator seeing snow for the first time. The two of us looked around in awe like two people from the countryside who had gone into a big city for the first time. I suddenly remembered something.
"--Hey, Haruka, don't we have something more important to do?"
According to that bespectacled guy, we already had a bad position in the queue. Which means that we really couldn't afford to stand around like this.
"! Y,You're right. We've got to get to 'Neko Bus Station'."
In response to my reminder, Haruka whipped out the Summer Comiket Map violently as she looked for the exact location of our destination (she had no problem with using only one hand, as her single hand flew over the pages of the map).
"Hmm, let's see, we're at the entrance of the East 1 Hall, so......"
Haruka was still holding on to my hand as she looked around, her cute actions reminding me of a squirrel looking for food. Although it's not a very nice thing to do while Haruka is hurridly looking for the right direction, but I couldn't help but be mesmerized by how pretty she was. To be honest, I've been having another problem since a while ago. Quite a few people were staring---No, many people were staring. Some people looked at Haruka and I from afar, some turned aroud for a second look after walking past us, while some even stopped to blatantly stare. Of course, they were looking at Haruka, not me. For your information, Haruka was wearing a white summer dress with a matching white cardigan over it, topped with a straw-colored had on her head, giving everyone a perfect representation of the style of a lady from a rich family. Well, a girl as beautiful as Haruka would be the centre of attention everywhere she goes, so I wasn't very surprised by the looks we were getting. Even though I wasn't surprised......But Haruka seems to stand out even more than usual in this space that was unusually detached from our usual reality. --Like the white swan in the middle of a crowd of Brown-eared Bulbuls......? Hmm, how about the only stalk of white Lilium in a field of Dandelions. (Actually, I think both analogies are quite suitable.)
Just as I was thinking of analogies,
"Ah, that is!?"
Suddenly, I felt a strong force pulling on my right hand. Immediately after I felt the force, Haruka shot out like a bullet.
"H, Hey." "I found it! 'Neko Bus Station' is over there! Ah, there are so many people queuing up already--We should quickly get in line as well."
The force that was pulling on my right hand was like trying to pull up a rock bream that had bit into the end of a fishing line.
"Hey, wait up."
"Hurry up, hurry up."
--Looks like Haruka's up to her usual antics again. I only just remembered that Haruka had the tendency to disregard everything around her when she sees someting that she really wants. It's a small miracle that Haruka started to act like that only now in a place that was practically a treasure trove to her.
"H,Haruka, I understand how you feel, but we really don't need to be in such a hurry."
"N,No. If we don't hurry, then they might be sold out."
Haruka sprinted like a cheetah while dragging me along behind her. Haruka was moving at about 8.5 times her normal speed as she weaved through the enormous amount of people and inanimate obstacles that stood between her and 'Neko Bus Station'. She was simply unstoppable.
"J,Just where are we going?"
"There, we're going towards that booth in that corner."
Haruka pointed towards a booth at one end of the hall. There was still about fifty metres between our current position and out destination.
......Hmm, is it even possible to see the books that were placed on the booth fifty metres away in such a chaotic hall? Well, at least I can't do it. I looked at Haruka.
"I,If we don't hurry......"
The look in her eyes mirrored that of an eagle that had locked on to its prey. By the intensity of that look, it was probably a huge eagle too. I really wonder where the cute squirrel from a few minutes ago had disappeared to. I thought to myself as I attempted to keep up with Haruka as she half-dragged me towards the booth. What kind of situation am I in? Summer holidays. Shopping while holding hands with a stunningly beautiful girl. Although it sounds really romantic, but reality couldn't be further from that. The romantic atmosphere was nowhere to be found......But then again, I'm really happy to be able to just hold on to Haruka's hand (what an innocent boy).
When we finally got to 'Neko Bus Station', what awaited us was......another queue.
"......Don't tell me we're going to have to queue again?"
"Well, it sure looks that way."
It was a queue that was about thirty metres in length. Although it wasn't as long as the queue that we were in outside the exhibition hall, but for a single queue, it was quite long. And the queue didn't just confine itself to the interior of the hall, as it stretched towards the huge doorway (probably used to move large objects?) leading out of the exhibition hall. As the popular booths would always get extremely long queues, the queues usually stretched towards the exit out of the hall so as to not as to clog up the already crowded exhibition hall. Well, it really would be extremely frustrating if a long queue like that was snaking around the interior of the hall. And so, Haruka and I took our place at the back of the queue outside the hall.
Unsurprisingly, the summer sun was extremely hot. The sunlight stabbed into the top of my head mercilessly, its uv-rays made more deadly by the thinning of the ozone layer in the atmosphere. For a modern person who grew up in air-conditioned rooms like me, my body's ability to dissipate heat was extremely low, which made standing under the sun like this torture. Haruka look at me worriedly as though I was the classmate with low-blood pressure who could faint at any moment.
"Yuuto-san, are you alright? You don't look good......"
"I'm fine, it's just a little hot out here."
"......I see. That's alright, but--"
Well, the main problem was the sun, so...... Looking at the length of the queue, an optimistic estimate would put our waiting time at about ten minutes......I think (personal deduction). No matter what, it shouldn't take us more than twenty minutes.......Probably (personal deduction). Although it was torture to be standing out in the sun like this, but I shouldn't have any problem with it if it's only about twenty minutes--
"Ah, the two of you over there."
--That's what I thought. But I was too naive. I was as naive as the grasshopper who hopes to survive winter without building up any supplies of food. A staff member who was in charge of the queues ran over to us.
"That's no the end of the queue--"
"It's like this, we actually split up the queue into a few sections so as to not cause too much inconvienience to other people. Which means that this isn't the end of the queue. For your information, this is the segment that leads directly to the booth."
"......So, where is the end of the queue?"
The staff member pointed to......a spot that was about sixty metres from where we were. It was a little far, but I managed to spot a sign that said 'End of queue' there. Of course, the space between our current position and the 'end of queue' sign was as concentrated with people as a sausage was with meat.
"......You have got to be kidding me."
The staff member gave us a professional smile as she answered. I felt as though all the strength was sapped from my body in an instand......I would have wanted her to tell me that it wasn't true, even if she was just pulling my leg. Beside me, Haruka answered for the two of us.
"Ah, I see. We'll be going over now."
She told the staff member without any change in her facial expression whatsoever. Speaking of which, Haruka seems to have come mentally prepared to queue till the end of time.
"Well then, we better get going, Yuuto-san."
Looks like I have no choice but to brace myself for the long, long queue ahead. Now I know exactly how the carp on the cutting board feels. And so, Haruka and I became a member of the approximately ninety-metre long queue.
"It's really how......"
I'm really no match for the heat of the summer sun.
"Yuuto-san, are you alright? You're sweating like crazy......"
Haruka tried to stem the never-ending tide of sweat that was washing over me with her handkerchief. -Rub Rub- I felt an expensive-feeling material on my cheek, along with a soft fragrance. I also felt the softness of Haruka's hand through the fabric......Her touch feels really good.
"Ah-Thank you. Haruka, are you feeling alright?"
"Yes, I'm perfectly fine." Haruka nodded her head, her straw-colored hat bobbing up and down together with her movement as she continued a little smugly.
"I'm really resistant to heat because the animal fortune teller says that I'm a Koala bear."
"And Koala bears live in Australia, in the southern hemisphere."
......No, I really don't see the link between the two.
"Shouldn't the properties of my body mimic that of Koala bears if the animal fortune teller says that I'm a Koala bear? Isn't that how it works?"
Haruka blinked with an innocent look in her large eyes......Looks like she has had a complete misunderstanding of the animal fortune teller.
--Anyway, whether Haruka is a Koala bear or not is not the point. Just as she had said, Haruka's face was extremely cool. Even though she has spent the same amount of time under the sun as I have, but there wasn't a drop of sweat on Haruka's skin that seemed to have the color of shaved ice. In other words, the area around Haruka has a comparatively lower temperature......Looks like this is the second rule of the world that concerns ladies from rich families after 'Ladies from rich families don't sweat. This should be the rule where 'Ladies from rich ramilies are always cool' right?
"? What's wrong, Yuuto-san?"
Haruka slanted her head to one side like a white penguin from the south pole.
This isn's something that I should try to get to the bottom of. Let secrets remain secrets, just like many things in this world are. After coming to this conclusion (or rather, avoiding the issue altogether), I opened the can of Pet-Bottle Juice (One for 200 yen, tourist attraction-pricing). Just as I was drinking that can of exhorbitantly-priced juice,
"Ah-, look who's here......"
Suddenly, a familiar voice flew into my ear. That voice was so powerful that it simply sliced through the crowd.
It can't be...... I only know one person (other than Ruko) who is in ownership of such a powerful voice. I looked in the direction of the voice with a sinking feeling--
"Could it be Yuuto? It's Yuuto right?"
I saw my childhood friend of more than ten years coming towards where I was, both of his hands weighed down by numerous paper bags, but...... I hurriedly looked away (turning my face away so as to hide from him), but it was too late. My childhood friend (male) -- Asakura Nobunaga shouted happily as he waved the mass of paper bags that he was holding in both hands.
"Ah-, it really is Yuuto. Why are you in a place like this? Could it be that you're interest in our path has finally awakened?"
"Ah-, no, it's just that......"
I stuttered as I attempted to hide Haruka behind me so that Nobunaga won't notice her. It would not be a good thing if Haruka and I were to be seen together like this, and the place where we're at makes it even worse. Because this concerns Haruka's secret, trying to avoid such a meeting would be the best course of action so as to avoid the inevitable deluge of questions and misunderstandings.
"You don't have to hide it--I see--You've finally come over to our side-"
The only silver lining in this dark, dark cloud was that Nobunaga didn't seem to have noticed Haruka's existence.
"Hmm-, although I never doubted that you would eventually come over to our side, but I hadn't expected you to come to your senses so quickly. This is such a touching moment! So-So- what have you bought already?"
As usual Nobunaga chugged along at his own pace as he started on yet another of his long monologues. He seems to have grossly misunderstood something, but correcting him would only make things more difficult than they already are, so I think I'll just leave it like this.
"Well, I've already bought the newest publications of 'Fuji Tsubo Machine' and 'Twinkle Heart'-. Of course, I've also gotten the Neko Bus Station's new publications. To be honest, for a first-timer like you to be queueing up at this booth, it shows that you've got good taste, Yuuto!"
Nobunaga rambled on.
"Ah, speaking of which, did you know-? It's basic knowledge, but every single product that is sold here are made by the circle members themselves-. We call these Doujinshi, because these are made by people who have a common interest. Which is also why this event is completely different from a normal business exhibition--"
Nobunaga showed no signs of slowing down as he continued to drown me with the finer points of otaku culture.
"--Well, anyway, my main target for this event is 'Hani Tora'. Of course, there are many other books that I'm going to get, but this is my top priority. Ah, by the way 'Hani Tora' is the abbreviation for 'Hanikami Triangle'--. You should also remember that 'Hanikami' is written in hiragana, while 'Triangle' is written in katakana so you don't get it wrong. Also, 'Hani Tora' has already had two seasons. Even though I'm really attached to the first season's 'Clumsy Girl Aki-chan' and 'Useless Girl Megu-chan', but recently, 'Cat Girl Mia' has started to grow on me as well. Even though her cat ears and cat tail is really cliche and over-used, but I think that it's quite a unique choice in the context of the show. I guess this is what they call the 'full circle' effect. Just like how the suspect of a crime returns to the scene of the crime? Well, you get my point, and anyway, she's really popular right now. Ah, but it's not just that. Other characters like 'God|Little Girl Sakura' have also been introduced, another overused cliche where a three hundred year-old god is trapped in the body of a little girl, but because she looks really cute with her twin-tales, so it's alright. And she's also a bit of a 'Tsundere', which makes it even better. Oh, and there's one more person that you cannot forget, 'Spirit Bird Chizuru', who's the the air-headed, older sister type. She may be air-headed, but a pretty older sister's really nice isn't it--. I would also rather have that kind of older sister than the rude younger sister that I have now. I'm really jealous of Yuuto for having such a pretty older sister. And also--" (TL Note: I had actually translated 'Hanikami Triangle' into english for the earlier chapters as 'Shy Triangle', but because Nobunaga was going into the specifics for writing the title in Japanese, I had to use the romaji version instead.)
Anyway, Nobunaga continued in this vein for a while longer. (Otaku-encyclopedia mode) About three more minutes passed. Nobunaga rambled on in one single breath with the intensity of a pony chasing a carrot that was being dangled in front of it as he completely ignored my reaction. And he continued to ramble......Hang on, just how large was this guy's lung capacity? He couldn't be breathing through invisible gills could he? And also, I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, and he didn't even stop to explain the otaku-specific terms before shooting them at me. The only part which I remotely understood was the part about older sisters......But even though I understand what he was saying, I really wonder if he's normal for wanting something like 'that'.
"And then, there's still some more of this--"
"Ah-, stop, stop!"
I quickly cut Nobunaga off before he could go into otaku-encyclopedia mode again.
"Hmm, what? The good part's only just beginning--"
Nobunaga gave me an irritated look. If I let him go on like this, then it'll be nightfall before he finally finishes talking (real-life experience).
"Ah--, I'm really grateful for your professional explanation, but don't you have someplace that you have to go?"
"Now that you mention it--Ah, that's right!"
Nobunaga suddenly shouted.
"I, I remember that I still have things that I need to buy. Even though I really want to educate you more about 'Hani Tora', but I really must go over to 'Operation Battlefield'-"
"Ah, don't mind me."
Actually, I would really want you to go.
"Ah, really? Then I apologise for having to go off so hurriedly-"
"Yes, see you, Yuuto, Nogizaka-san."
Nobunaga bid us goodbye as he threw himself into the crowd.
Did he just say 'Nogizaka-san'? I wanted to ask him about it, but Nobunaga had already disappeared into the crowd.
I don't know how to put this. But even though I've known him for more than ten years, he's still quite a mysterious person...... And so, as Nobunaga was in otaku-encyclopedia mode, we were steadily moving forward in the queue. And finally, we were about four, five people away from the booth.
"Just a little more......"
Haruka became increasingly excitable as we neared the booth.
"Are we not there yet......How many more people are in front of us......Can we really get the book......"
Haruka mumbled the questions that a child would ask Santa Claus as she peeked in front of us with her hands clasped in front of her chest. She's really looking forward to buying that book isn't she? Is there a special reason for why Haruka was so excited about that book? After I asked her about it,
"I really like the Neko Bus Station's artiest. I've been a fan of that artist ever since I saw his illustrations in a megazine......That's why I'm looking forward to buying his work so much today."
Haruka answered. I see where she's coming from now. Now I understand why Haruka's so excited about this. And so, we queued for about five more minutes. Finally, the long queue was over.
"I, It's finally our turn."
We finally stood in front of Neko Bus Station's booth-- But a figure suddenly cut in front of us from the blind spot of the attendent like a ninja.
That figure was a plump guy in a T-shirt who had his face hidden with a baseball cap. He snatched the three books that were on the table with the agility of middle-aunties at a supermarket time-sale, threw one thousand five hundred yen onto the table before running off. All these happened in less than twenty seconds. Because it all happened so quickly, we were all a little stunned.
Suddenly, Haruka let out an exclamation.
"R, Right, the book......"
Haruka snapped out of her stunned state as she took out her purse. But-
"Ah, I'm really sorry, but the previous customer just bought the last few books."
Haruka's expression froze.
"W, What do you mean......"
"I, I'm saying that we're sold out. I'm really sorry, looking at how you've queued up for such a long time......"
"S, Sold out......"
Just as the attendent had said, the table was completely empty, save for the advertisement board and the sample book. The people who were behind us in the queue were already starting to walk off.
I finally got a sense of what had just happened. The guy who suddenly cut into the queue. How he hurriedly bought the last books. The sold-out booth.In other words......He had cut our queue? So he just snatched up the last few books from right under our noses? I see......No, how could something like that happen!? I couldn't help but question the attendent.
"I'm sorry, but is there really no more stock!? And that guy had just cut our queue!"
"Yes, that guy wearing the baseball cap who just ran off......"
But I didn't get the answer that I was looking for. Not that I'm surprised, seeing as that person had cut in from the attendent's blind spot......
"I'm really sorry, but we're sold out, so please return......"
"How could you do this, but......"
"......Yuuto-san, it's alright."
Seeing that I wasn't about to let this issue go, Haruka attempted to stop me.
"It's......alright. I'll, give up."
You really wanted that book didn't you? Is it really alright for some person to just cut in and steal the book that you would have been able to buy? Haruka shook her head lightly in response to my question.
"I'm really angry about it. But even if I'm angry......Yuuto-san will seem like the bad person if we carry on like this."
She was right. If I can't prove that the previous customer had cut into the queue, I would simply look immature and unreasonable to the people around us. But to give up like this......
"......It's alright. I understand Yuuto-san's feelings."
"......I get it."
Even though I don't agree with her, but because it's what Haruka wants, I have no choice but to let go of the issue.
"......I'm sorry for being so rash."
After apologising to the attendent, the two of us walked away from the 'Neko Bus Station' booth.
"Ah, the two of you over there! Please wait!"
As Haruka and I walked along the fringes of the exhibition hall, someone called out to the two of us. Looking back, I saw a brown-haired man who looked to be a little older than the two of us walking over. When he finally made it through the crowd to where we were, the man breathed heavily from the exertion as he said,
"Ah, I'm glad I was able to catch up with the two of you. I almost lost you two for a moment there."
"......Umm, is there a problem?"
Looks like he's looking for the two of us, but I don't remember seeing him anywhere. From Haruka's reaction, it doesn't look like she recognizes him either. The two of us were a little confused.
"Ah. How do I put it. Well......here."
The man took handed us some books as he tried to explain what he was doing. The a blue-haired girl was on all three cover illustrations on the books. Huh, what's with the books?
"T, This is......"
Beside me, Haruka sounded as though she couldn't believe her eyes.
"T,This is......the new publications. Neko Bus Station's new publications."
So...... I looked at the man standing in front of us. He looked a little embarrassed.
"I saw what happened just now, how that strange guy cut in front of the two of you. It's really not your fault, since it all happened so quickly. Because there were so many other customers around the booth, we couldn't make it up to the two of you in front of the other customers. I'll feel really bad if the two of you go home empty-handed even though the two of you queued up for such a long time in the sun."
"How do I put it, I'm really sorry to have caused the two of you such unhappiness......As such, I will be very happy if the two of you would accept this."
He said as he handed Haruka the books.
"Umm, eh, eh?"
Haruka looked as though she had just been tricked by a fox as she looked at the books in her hands before looking at the man's face.
"T, Then, how much is it......?"
"Ah, you don't have to pay. It's one of our back-up copies."
The man winked mischievously at us.
"B, But even so......"
"It's really alright."
He replied. Looked like this man's connected to 'Neko Bus Station' in some way. He obviously isn't the booth attendent, so...... But no matter what, someone who chased after us just because he saw how someone had cut our queue must be a good person.
"T, Thank you very much. I will really cherish this."
"Please do, I will be very happy if you do."
"T, Then, if you're willing to leave your name--"
Haruka tried to say as her the ringing tone of a cellphone drowned out her sentence.
"Ah, excuse me."
The man answered his cellphone.
"Hello? Yes, that's right. Ah, I see. Yes......Yes......I get it, I'll be right back."
The man got off the conversation.
"I'm sorry, but I really have to go back."
"Ah, I see."
"Then, I'll be taking my leave.--I will continue to work hard at my art,so please continue to support me."
"? Hmm......Yes. Thank you very much."
Haruka bowed deeply. The man bid us goodbye with a light wave of his hand as he left. In the end, we still didn't know who he was. Just who could he be?
It's been three hours since Haruka and I entered the exhibition centre. After 'Neko Bus Station', the two of us queued for five more booths, and also went around to take a look at the western halls. Since we've gotten most of her targets, Haruka was now happily looking for buried treasure in the other exhibition halls (of course, I was walking around with her).
"Yuuto-san, this is really cute isn't it?"
"Mm, Ah, I guess so." I answered ambiguously. Asking like me something like that was as good as asking a wall for its opinion.
"It is right? ---Yes, I've made up my mind. Excuse me, could I have this?"
Haruka paid 500 yen for a book with a girl in a western dress on the cover. This was something that I've seen a couple of times before already.
"Thank you very much-"
Under the gaze of the booth attendent, Haruka and I left the booth.
"That was a good buy."
Haruka smiled happily as she remarked. She really looks content.
To be honest, I don't really know what's so great, and I really can't tell the difference between these things, but since these things make Haruka happy, they're great. (What an irresponsible way of thinking). "Ah, over there-"
And once again, Haruka had seen something interesting and ran off towards it. Ah, not again. As I chased after her, I looked around the hall. Although it has already been quite a while since the exhibition halls opened, the tide of people showed no signs of abating. Conversely, the exhibition hall looked to have become even more crowded. The hall looked like a giant hamster theme park. People walking around with paper bags in their hands, people who were queuing quietly, people who were holding up advertisement boards or shouting advertisement slogans, and......Maids. A Maid-san. I'm not using this uncommon term not for the sake of rhetoric, nor am I trying to make a political statement. Because there was really a Maid-san walking around the hall. On a side note, there wasn't just Maid-san's walking around. Miko-sans in traditional costumes and waitress-sans, men in karate costumes, and there was even someone in a black costume who looked like a demon.
Ever since a while ago, I've been seeing such people walking around. These people are probably the same type of people as the cat-ear maid-sans in Akihabara right? Even though I was a little surprised at first, but I've gotten used to it by now. Looks like I've underestimated the power of human adaptability. I looked around once more, feeling like I've unravelled the secrets of the world. See, there's a smiling Maid-san who's taking pictures over there--
--Hand on, isn't that......
"Ah, this is bad-, go under cover."
"What's the point, he's seen us already."
That familiar-looking maid-san hurriedly turned around and disappeared into the crowd after noticing my gaze. Beside her, I seemed to have caught a glimpse of a twin-tailed figure that looked a bit like Haruka......
......Speaking of which, those two probably know about the existence of the 'Summer Comiket Map'......
Since we're on this topic, I'm really not surprised that the existence of the 'Summer Comiket Map' was sniffed out. Or should I say, there was a hundred and sixty percent chance that the two of them would be able to find something like that. Taking into account their past actions, I really won't be surprised if the two of them were following Haruka and I today. In other words, this was similar to what we did with Hazuki-san the other day--
"......Well, I guess I'll just leave it like that."
Because I felt that I would probably be bogged down in a swamp of possibilies if I continued to think about this, I wisely decided to think of what I just saw as an illusion. Of course, not like I can do anything about the two of them in a crowd like this. I shook my head as I tried to focus my thoughts on something else-
I saw a familiar-looking male-female group over at that side. One half of that familiar-looking group was a wild-looking guy who, just like Haruka, looked completely out of place at an event like this. Beside him was a quiet-looking girl who was walking beside him in small steps like a little puppy. Aren't the two of them from our class--Sendai and Yatsusaki-san? Although there was quite a bit of distance between us, but it's really hard to mistake that kind of facial features for anything else. Sendai Keiji was a short-tempered, violent, aggressive guy who was the natural enemy of otakus. People call him 'Mad Dog'. Yatsusaki Setsuna, on the other hand, was a shy and weak-looking girl who couldn't even talk to people without blushing. She is affectionately (?) known as the 'Lord Hachi, the Loyal Puppy'. Other than Haruka and the three idiots, who, for a variety of different reasons, stood out in our class, the two of them were also stood out due to either positive or negative reasons. The two of them looked to be deep in conversation as they disappeared into the crowd.
......This was also an illusion, right? That was the only rational explanation I could come up with. It was already an extremely unblieveable scene for the two completely different people like those two to be walking side by side, but for the two of them to be walking together in such an event was practically a miracle. Because putting Yatsusaki-san aside, 'Mad Dog' Sendai-san was the natural enemy of otakus, so his appearance in a place like this was as impossible as a vampire singing gospels in the middle of a church with a rosario to his chest.
It must be the unusual place that I'm in that's making my brain go wonky. Yes, that must be it. There's no other explanation. I (forcibly) persuaded myself that it was indeed the case.
Haruka called out to me, as she pointed in a certain direction. Looks like she's spotted something interesting again.
"This, This way."
I walked over to her.
"What do you think? This looks quite goo--"
Haruka suddenly stopped speaking as she completely froze in place.
As I got closer to Haruka, her eyes had practically disappeared as she squinted at the book in her hands, while a steady stream of steam was shooting out of the top of her head. W, What's wrong? Did Haruka just break down?
"Haruka, what's going on--"
I quickly got over to take a look at the book in Haruka's hands--
The reason for Haruka's reaction was immediately made crystal clear. The reason being, the book had a lot of exposed skin. The characters in the illustrations rarely wore any clothes, while some illustrations were clearly adult-material......Well, I guess by now it's clear that it was that kind of book.
Haruka was in a state of complete shutdown. I guess this proves the myth that ladies from rich families have absolutely no immunity towards such things right? Something that's the complete opposite of a certain sexually harrassing music teacher who give stacks of adult megazines as birthday presents.
"......A, Anyway, let's go someplace where you can calm down."
A brief survey of the area showed that most of the booths in our immediate vicinity were selling adult material. Looks like we had accidentally wandered into a place where we shouldn't be. After taking the book off Haruka's hands, I gave the surprised-looking attendent a sheepish look before ushering Haruka out of the area. However, the exhibition hall was still full of people, and it was hard enough to move through the crowd, let alone finding a quiet place to calm Haruka down. Which was why the two of us were making our way out of the exhibition hall--To that tall building that looked like an observatory (it seemed to be a rooftop exhibition hall). Of course, I was the one who thought that going to someplace high was a good idea, although I would like to believe that this has nothing to do with the old adage 'Smoke and something likes high places'. (TL Note: If I remember correctly, the 'something' in this saying refers to proud people, which means that the saying basically implies that people who like high places are inherently proud. Random Person 1 Note: It is 'Smoke and Idiots like high places'.)
"Haruka, are you alright?"
Haruka replied me in a small voice, sounding like a weak baby rabbit. I could hear her muttering 'I, It became like that, and t, this, became like that, ah, waaaaa......' from time to time......Looks like it's quite serious.
"......Well, why don't you have a drink first. Would orange juice be alright?"
I took out the can of orange juice (the 200 yen per can tourist attraction pricing) and handed it to Haruka. Under ideal circumstances, I would rather buy a nice, cold can for Haruka, but I really can't leave her alone like this right now.
"E, Excuse me......"
Haruka took the can from my hand and started drinking in small sips. As I had expected, she was probably feeling a little dehydrated after letting off so much steam just now.
"It tastes really nice......"
After sipping her way through about two-thirds of the can, Haruka stopped drinking.
"Thank you. I feel much better now."
I took the can of orange juice and drank the rest of it as I was also feeling a little thirsty.
"Yuuto-san, what's wrong?"
Once I thought about it, didn't Haruka just drink from this can? In other words, Haruka's lips have just touched the can, and since I've also drank from the can, doesn't that mean that we've had an indirect kiss...... I looked at the can in deep thought. Hmm, to drink or not to drink, that is the question--
Just as I tried to make up my mind like how a theatre director would make up his mind,
Haruka suddenly exclaimed in surprise at something that she saw.
"Yuuto-san, doesn't it look like quite a number of people are gathering over there?"
"Ah, Ahh, it sure looks that way."
I covered the can with a plastic cap (what a useless person) before looking in the direction that Haruka was pointing at. Haruka was looking at the middle of the square, and after taking a closer look, it did seem as though there was some kind of event going on.
"What could they be doing? Probably an event......"
Her interest piqued by the crowd of people, Haruka walked towards the centre of the square. Although I had a bad feeling about it, but I had no choice but to follow her. And so, what awaited us in the middle of the square was--
......How should I put it. What was in the middle of the square was, in a way, out of this world. A female demon with feathery wings (she also happened to be showing a lot of skin) was sitting on a chair with her legs crossed, while a cat-eared maid strolled by with a broom in hand, only a small distance from a pink-haired girl making 'V' signs with both of her hands. There were also female knights posing in medieval armour, as a girl in a sailor high school uniform smiled, her hair an impossibly bright color. Also, every single one of them were literally surrounded by guys with cameras happily snapping away as they chatted with the girl.
What I was seeing was really out of this world, has the sun finally melted my brain?
"Wow~That's 'Princess Spring Onion' from 'Magical Dinner', and that's 'Sergeant Cinnamon' from the 'Milky Way Afternoon Tea War'."
In stark contrast to my lost expression, Haruka's eyes glittered as she looked around excitedly. Even though we had come out here to take a break, but it looks like the opposite has happened.
"W, Well, do you mind if I go for a closer look?"
Haruka looked like a cat who had just discovered cat powder as she looked at me expectantly. As expected, I just can't bring myself to reject her.
"......Sure, just take care of yourself. I'll wait for you here."
"Yes, thank you very much. I'll be going now."
Haruka answered me before making her way towards the cosplayers.
She seemed to have remembered something as she suddenly came back.
"I'm sorry, but could you hold this for me?"
Haruka took off her cardigan and straw hat and handed them over to me, probably thinking that they'll be a more of a hindrance in the crowd.
"It's probably a bit of a burden......"
"Don't mind me."
It's not like the cardigan and straw hat were large objects or anything......At least, they seemed small in comparison to the three bulging paper bags that were beside me.
"Well then, thank you for holding these for me."
Haruka's cardigan still had Haruka's warmth on it as I took it into my hands, as my heart started to pump a little at that feeling.
"I'll be going now."
Haruka said to me before skipping into that other world like a fish in water---
She was surrounded by a few camera-holding guys almost immediately.
"H, Hey, you."
"W, Would you be willing to pose for a picture?"
Haruka had a confused expression on her face as the guys moved closer around her.
"Hmm, could it be that this is your first time?"
"A Summer Comiket debut? Ah, don't worry, it'll be over in an instant. It won't hurt or anything."
"......(Silently moving closer)"
Why do I feel some sort of killing aura from what they were saying? And speaking of which, why were they surrounding Haruka? Even if pretty girls like Haruka are always the centre of attention, but this is ridiculous!
"Oh, isn't that a cosplay of Haruna-sama from 'Nocturne Girls School Lacrosse Club'?"
"That's rare. Isn't that the Ojou-sama (lady from a rich family) character?"
I heard the guys around Haruka talking among themselves.
"I have to admit, she really looks like Haruna."
"I know, right? This cosplay's famous for being extremely difficult. I've seen other versions, but they all looked really fake."
"Could it be that she's a real Ojou-sama?"
"Hah, that's impossible. Why would a real Ojou-sama come to a place like this. Anyway, let's go for a closer look."
The guys laughed among themselves as they edged closer to Haruka.
......I seem to have finally understood what was going on. In other words, after taking off her cardigan, Haruka just happened to look like a certain anime character (also an Ojou-sama), and so the people around her mistook her for a cosplayer. Hmm, normally, such a coincidence would never happen, but because Haruka was an Ojou-sama herself, I wasn't very surprised at how she resembled an Ojou-sama character. Just as I was thinking about the current situation, the camera-toting guys and the audience (mostly guys) around Haruka was steadily increasing. And of the entire crowd, the three people who had initally started talking to her were moving even closer.
"Hey, Hey, what's your name? Ah, your cosplay's really good, so I'm really interested in knowing your name."
"Could I have your address so that I can mail the photos to you?"
"......(Silently moving even closer)"
"No, umm, I'm......"
"Oh, she looks exactly like Haruna-sama when she's unsettled!"
"Yes, this is beautiful!"
"......! (Silently moved)"
The three of them continued to chase Haruka for answers, while everyone else around them were starting to walk away after seeing how their presence was unsettling Haruka.
"C, Come on, just your name--"
"Your cellphone number too. Ah, I won't mind your email adress either."
"......(Silently taking out his cellphone)"
The three of them clung on to Haruka like evil salesmen.......This was going too far. I don't know about the rules of this world, and I don't want to spoil Haruka's happy mood, but there was a limit to my endurance. I won't just stand aside as those people continue to unsettle Haruka.
"--Ah-, excuse me."
I forced myself between the three of them and Haruka, as the three of them looked like three hungry wolves who were closing in on a young deer who had lost its mother. The three of them gave me really angry looks, but I simply ignored them.
"Ah, Y, Yuuto-san." Haruka looked extremely relieved at my timely intervention, and I could even see the tears of joy forming up in the corners of her eyes......If I had known that this would be her reaction, I would have done this earlier. Now I kind of regret waiting for such a long time before intervening.
I took Haruka's hand in mine and turned to walk away. But.
"H, Hang on. What are you trying to do. We're taking pictures here you know. Don't meddle with something that you don't know about."
"You should stop blocking us."
"......Disappear (really small voice)"
As expected, the three of them were extremely unhappy. Well, the three of you aren't exactly in a position to complain, I thought, but because the three of them looked to be really unreasonable, I chose to ignore them and simply walk away.
"I, I told you to stop!"
But we weren't able to just walk away. Haruka was stopped in her tracks as one of the guys grabbed her on the shoulder. These three are really irritating. Looks like we won't be able to settle this peacefully. Whether it was for the two of us, or whether this was the wrong thing to do, I couldn't just let them get their hands on Haruka like this, as I lifted up the paper bags that I was holding in my other hand (which contained books, fliers and posters, among other things' to swing it at the three of them.
"Why don't the three of you stop what you're doing right now-"
But before I could swing the papers down at the three of them, a voice from the crowd sounded out.
"It's really obvious that she doesn't want you to take her picture. The three of you have taken it a little too far."
While Haruka and I were tussling with the three of them, a small group of people had gathered around us. And it wasn't just the people who were looking at the cosplayers, as the cat-eared maid and the female knight were also here. Everyone looked at the three guys who had surrounded Haruka with cold gazes.
"That's right, they've been harrassing her since just now. I saw everything."
"Should we call the organizing staff?"
The three of them, who had been as aggressive as cockroaches in the summer, suddenly realized that they were completely out-numbered.
"D, Damn it, I'll remember this!"
"I'll remember your face!"
"......We'll be back for revenge (small voice)"
The three of them ran away from us after throwing down cliche lines that small-time gangsters usually use. I have to admit though, they ran away really quickly.
"......Fuu." Well, at least the problem seems to have been solved for now. Just as I breathed a sigh of relief,
"The three of them have all been blacklisted, so you should be careful."
One of the people in the around around us (the cat-eared maid) said to me.
"They're notorious for harrassing shy-looking female cosplayers. You did a really good thing back there, standing up to them."
"That's right, I was impressed."
"Well, but not everyone who's interested in cosplaying are like them, so I hope you carry on cosplaying."
Well, even though Haruka wasn't what they thought she was (cosplay?), but the care and concern that they were showing us really made our day, as Haruka gave them thankful looks.
"Well, see you around. Let's do this (cosplay) again next time."
After waving goodbye, the cat-eared maid and the other cosplayers left.
"They're really nice people right......"
"Yes, they are."
I honestly think so too. In today's society, even if someone were to faint in the middle of a busy street, there may be no one willing to help him. But for a moment there, I felt like a part of the solidarity and warmth that modern Japan had lost was found again (a little exaggeration there). After that incident, Haruka and I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering from one booth to another, and also taking a look at the various events that were happening around the exhibition halls. Four o'clock in the afternoon. We safely got to the end of the Summer Comiket. 'As of now, the three-day Summer Comiket is over. Thank you very much for your participation', the announcement echoed through the exhibition hall as Haruka and I started on our way home.
"......Please don't tell me we have to queue again?"
"......I, It looks like it."
We were standing in front of the International Exhibition Centre station. There seemed to be more people than I had seen when I came here in the morning. Even though the crowd would be split into taking the Rinkai high-speed rail and the Yurikamome, but it wasn't exactly a surprise to see that the number of people that could flood an entire exhibition hall would be able to flood the train station as well. (TL Note: Unlike the normal high-speed rail, the Yurikamome is an automatic rail system with no operator on its trains.)
"......Shall we go?"
"......I, I guess we should."
It took us fifteen minutes to get our tickets, twenty minutes to get to the boarding platform from the ticket-barrier, and twenty more minutes to squeeze onto one of the incoming trains. All in all, it took us about fifty-five minutes just to get onto the train at the International Exhibition Centre station.
After pushing and squeezing our way into the train, what awaited us was even more chaotic pushing and squeezing.
"H, Haruka, are you alright?"
"I, I guess......probably......"
Haruka answered painfully. Well, I guess it's quite obvious that the train was a lot more passengers than its legal limit.
To make Haruka a little more comfortable, I supported my body against the door of the train with both of my hands, but it was almost impossible to push against the combined weight of the other passengers. Because of the rocking of the train, the weight pressing onto my back came in waves. I barely managed to stem the first two waves before the third wave went over the limit of my endurance. The amount of space that I had managed to keep between Haruka and I disappeared--
Due to the natural law of physics, my body came into intimate contact with Haruka's body--looking as though I was embracing her.
Haruka's beautiful features were right in front of my eyes. I also felt something soft pressing up against my chest. C, Could this be......
"A, Ah, I'm really sorry."
Even though Haruka was the one apologizing, but I felt like I should be the one apologizing. And then, the fourth wave of force smashed into my back. As it took me by surprise, my arms instinctively wrapped themselves around Haruka as they looked for something to grab on to.
"I, I'm really sorry!"
In response to Haruka's soft exclaimation, I really wanted to take my hands around her, but the weight on my back prevented me from making any kind of movement. Argh, what should I do? I felt like a Cicada trying to wriggle out of its old skin.
"I, It's alright, so......"
Haruka looked up at me.
"Eh?" "I, I'm alright. I was just a little surprise at the sudden movement, but I'm not feeling uncomfortable."
Even though it was her first experience in such a crowded train for Haruka (actually, this was my first time in such a crowded train as well), Haruka was smiling at me, even though she was obviously in an uncomfortable position.
Looking at Haruka's smile, I felt as though I had just received an adrenaline shot, as power coursed into my arms once again.
Haruka was initially a little surprised, but then she acknowledged my action with a soft 'Mm' before burying herself into my chest. Haruka's body felt really soft, as that sweet fragrance found its way into my nostrils once again. I was holding Haruka in my arms. Ah-, maybe it's not that bad after all. I won't mind the ridiculous amount of people in the train, as long as I can have Haruka in my arms......But just as I was thinking along those lines, the pressure on my back suddenly vanished.
"Osaki--, Osaki--, passengers who want to get of at this station, please hurry up."
Looks like we've reached the train interchange already, even though it didn't feel like any time had passed at all.
"Ah--, e, excuse me!"
I quickly let go of Haruka as I was harshly dragged back into reality.
"Ah, n, no, it's alright."
No......What did I just do? Even though there were situational factors at play, but to hug her in the middle of a crowded train...... I guess the only rational explanation for this would be that we were still caught up in the excitable atmosphere of the Summer Comiket. Probably.
An awkward silence descended upon the two of us, as the ambience sounds around us seemed to have become several times louder.
"B, But......" And then, Haruka opened her mouth.
"But I......didn't dislike it."
"I, If it's Yuuto-san, then I don't really mind. On the contrary, my heart--"
She stopped for a moment, looking as though she was too embarrassed to carry on.
"My heart was beating a little too fast."
Haruka said to me. The expression on Haruka's face as she said that was the cutest that I've ever seen. For a moment there, I felt like I had felt a bit of true happiness. And just like that, our Summer Comiket trip that could be described with the word 'chaotic' 80% of the time, ended on a happy note (especially for me).
After sending Haruka to the train station closest to her home (I had wanted to send her to her door step, but Haruka said that I only needed to send her to the station), I started on my way home.
"Ah, fancy meeting you here, Onii-chan~"
The timing of these two people were impeccable.
And the two people I am referring to is, of course, a certain twin-tailed girl and a maid-san.
"What are you doing in a place like this~? Ah, could it be that you went on a date with Onee-chan?"
"Ah, it's so good to be young~"
I glared at them with my eyes narrowed, for they were stating the obvious.
"Ah, Onii-chan, what's with those scary eyes~. What's wrong?"
"Like the eyes of a dog with rabies~"
"......It's been a long day for the two of you too."
I replied with an oblique reference.
"Eh? W, What are you talking about? Nanami-san, do you understand him?"
"No~, not at all~"
The two of the looked away suspiciously. Did they seriously think that they weren't discovered?
"--Well, about that."
After a while, Mika finally looked at me with a sheepish look.
"Just as we feared......you saw us?"
"......Did you seriously think that I didn't see the two of you?"
In a way, it's a really big problem if they really thought that way.
"Well, about that~"
"Since Yuuto-sama had looked directly at me~"
Mika and Nanami-san finally admitted their actions with sheepish expressions on their faces. Looks like they've finally decided to face the music.
"......Well, I'm hoping for an explanation."
Mika had a strange expression on her face as she explained.
"There was--something I was a little worried about."
"Worried about what?"
Although I hadn't expected a valid reason, but it looks as though there was a reason for the two of them following Haruka and I.
"Of course, we were also just a little interested in whether Onii-chan would be able to safe escort Onee-chan to the Summer Comiket and back."
"Well~, your performance was rather acceptable this time round, since you actually manage to hold hands with Onee-chan. But I felt that you would probably be able to take it one step further~"
"Exactly~. You should have at least gotten her to hook her arm in yours. That's elementary knowledge~"
"Because of the excitable atmosphere of an event like that, so even if you take it a step further, Onee-chan probably won't mind it~" "And that's what we commonly refer to as the 'High Bridge Effect'~" (TL Note: The 'High Bridge Effect' comes from a study that was undertaken as part of the two-factor theory of emotion. In the context of the novel, it refers to the fact that because Haruka was in an excitable state of emotion after the Summer Comiket, any feelings that she could harbour towards Yuuto would be amplified.)
And as usual, the two of them started to ramble off topic again......
"---So, what is it that you're worried about?"
To prevent the two of them from going further off-topic, I decided to cut off their rambling.
"Hmm? Ah, right."
After giving me a surprised look, Mika returned to a serious expression. Looks like she had really forgotten about what she had wanted to say for a moment there......
"Well, I'm probably being a little too sensitive here, but......Onii-chan, did you happen to spot any suspicious people who seemed to be following the two of you around? Really big men who look like security forces?"
"No, other than Mika and Nanami-san, I haven't really seen anyone else who seemed to be following us......"
At least, I don't remember seeing anyone like that. But then again, I've been looking at a lot of strangely-dressed people today, so I really can't say for sure. Mika seemed to be deep in thought as she answered me.
"......I see. But even if I don't think he'll go that far, but it's Oto-san we're talking about."
I seem to have heard a really inauspicious word. Oto-san......Could she be referring to the man who looks like a mafia boss whom I had met in London?
Mika made a small sound as she continued to think about the issue.
"--Well, let's not think about this right now."
"What do you mean."
After piquing my interest with that inauspicious word, you now tell me to not think about it amymore? Mika wagged a finger at me in response to my disappointed expression.
"Don't mind it, guys who don't know when to let go of things won't be popular you know~. Ideally, guys should be as steady as Peking Ducks before they're shipped out."
What kind of example is that.
"Anyway, you're going home right? We'll give you a lift."
"I'll go get the car~"
Nanami-san mimed holding the steering wheel as she grinned at me. Even though they were probably changing the subject......But, I guess I'll just let it go.
"No, it's alright. I'll just go home by train."
I still have to buy food for Ruko on the way back, and I have a straight train back home, so I didn't take them up on their offer.
"I see. Goodbye then, Onii-chan."
"Zai Jian~" (TL Note: Zai Jian is chinese for goodbye)
The two of them said their goodbyes (although I don't know why Nanami-san had to say it in chinese) as they walked off. I looked them for a moment before turning around to walk through the ticket-barrier into the station. Well, even though I'm a little concerned about Mika's father, at least the day's activities are over. And speaking of which, I'm feeling quite tired. After making dinner for Ruko, I'll retire early for the night--
--Or so I thought.
Because most things do not go according to plan in life.
I had just gotten home after buying some discounted 80 yen chicken from the supermarket when the phone in the hallway sounded as though it was waiting for me.
The voice on the other end of the line was the voice of the energetic girl whom I had just said goodbye to a little while ago.
"Onii-chan, this is really bad! Onee-chan, Onee-chan has......"
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