By the way, “konchikichin” is the sound produced by the ohayashi that is a representative onomatopoeia of the Gion Festival, my ears did not actually hear that exact sound.
To me, it sounded more like “pyon-pyon kon-kon kan-kan-kan”.
Which part of that sounds like “konchikichin”, I wonder? But to be honest, since everyone says that the ohayashi of the Gion Festival goes “konchikichin”, I suppose that’s fine.
Speaking of the Gion Festival, it’s the most famous of the three big festivals of Kyoto. The city of Kyoto was for some reason revelling before the big summer event.
I’d been considerably looking forward to the Gion Festival, but… it’s a little different now.
An email that I’d suddenly received had thrown my heart into disarray.
I took a breath and stared at the yamaboko, of which construction had already started.
By the way, yamaboko are a kind of float. It consists of a mountain-shaped stand with things like hoko5 placed on it. During the actual festival, many yamaboko would patrol the city.
There are many sightseers every year. It’s probably natural to think of visiting Kyoto during cherry blossom season, during the season of red autumnal leaves, or during Gion Festival.
After taking yet another small breath, I stepped into Kura on Teramachi Sanjou, as usual.
The door bell inside the shop rang. At the same time, a voice called out.
“Oh, Aoi-chan, hello.”
In the café space was a handsome man waving his hand with a cheerful smile, and next to him was Mieko-san, who had a relaxed, joyful look on her face.
That handsome man was—
Yes, it was Akihito-san, the actor and the second son of the Kajiwara family that I’d just met about ten days ago at the Mt. Kurama estate.
“Wh-What are you doing here?”
“I came here to see Kiyotaka-chan. Well, he’s such a handsome man, but Akihito-san’s quite a looker as well. And he’s an actor, to boot!” Mieko-san rattled off excitedly.
I could understand Mieko-san’s excitement, for Akihito-san was certainly handsome.
He seemed a little, no, he considerably seemed like a playboy, though.
He was already twenty-five, and yet he still seemed like such a flirt.
In comparison, Holmes-san had a much more composed aura about him.
“I came here to represent my family in showing our appreciation for your help the other time. I initially wanted to come here earlier, though.”
A box of assorted confectionery was placed on the table.
“By the way, where is Holmes-san?” I muttered as I searched the interior of the shop.
“I was making coffee,” Holmes-san said as he appeared from the pantry at the back of the shop.
My breath was taken away upon seeing his figure clad in a dark blue yukata.
Holmes-san looks fantastic in a yukata!
His glossy hair, his beautiful nape. The yukata added some glamor to his usual image of a fine young gentleman.
W-What should I do, my heart’s beating so fast!
“I’ll prepare a café au lait for you, Aoi-san.”
Holmes-san gave me a slight grin, causing my heart to skip a beat.
Seeing me wordlessly stand on the spot, Holmes-san tilted his head in puzzlement.
“Anything the matter?”
“No, I was just surprised by your yukata.”
“Ah, that’s Owner’s orders. I’m supposed to wear a yukata in the shop until the Gion Festival ends. That’s the spirit of all salespeople in Kyoto, he says. That’s why my father also has to leave the shop in a yukata.” Holmes-san giggled.
I see. Nice one, Owner!
“Right, I was also asked by Owner to come here. This is for ya.”
Mieko-san handed me a paper bag.
“What… is this?”
“‘Get a yukata for our cute part-timer,’ Owner said. Ya should also wear this until the festival.” Mieko-san replied, with a mischievous smile on her face.
“Ehh? Me, wear a yukata?”
“Yup, it’s one of the yukata from our shop.”
Right, Mieko-san is the owner of a women’s dress shop in the same arcade.
“Since young people nowadays don’t know how to put on a yukata on their own, I made yours like a yukata for children6 and adjusted the length based on yer height. Try and wear it on yer own. I’d like to teach ya how to properly tie an obi, but I prepared a one-touch obi7 for now.”
Mieko-san excitedly proffered the paper bag, giving me no choice but to accept it even in my bewildered state.
“U-Umm, thank you. I’ll go change, then.”
Overwhelmed, I held the paper bag and trudged towards the changing area in the pantry.
“I sure came at a great time, to be able to see Aoi-chan in a yukata!”
Hearing Akihito-san’s barefaced words made me feel extremely embarrassed.
It’s amazing that he can say something like that so casually.
That part of him is probably also not to Holmes-san’s taste.
Picturing Holmes-san’s unhappy, frowning face, I relaxed.
Alright, let’s try putting this on.
I’ve worn a yukata a few times with friends when I was in Saitama, so I should be somehow be able to do it.
With those thoughts, I retrieved the yukata from the paper bag.
“…Wow, that’s cute,” I murmured. It had a distinct, flowery design of bright red dianthuses blooming on a white ground.
I never knew Mieko-san had such good sense. I suppose she is the owner of a Western-style dressmaker.
Umm, the front part of the kimono is on the right, I think? I thought as I put on the yukata.
Thanks to Mieko-san adjusting the length of the yukata, it was a lot easier to put on than I’d expected.
I attached the simple obi and straightened it.
“I-I’m done,” I quietly peeked out of the changing area.
“Wow, yer so cute — wait up, yer wearing it like a ghost.”
Mieko-san immediately commented upon seeing my outfit.
“Heh? Like a ghost?” My eyes opened wide.
“Aoi-san, the yukata is arranged wrongly.”
Holmes-san chuckled, causing my cheeks to heat up.
“Ah, I messed up. B-But, isn’t it ‘front right’ for a kimono?”
That’s why I arranged it like that.
“Aoi-san, ‘front right’ means that the right part is on the inside, from your perspective.”
Holmes-san kindly explained. Akihito-san nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s right,” then stood up and walked behind me.
“Or to explain it more simply, when the boy hugging you from behind can smoothly slip his hand in to touch your chest, you’re wearing it correct.”
Akihito-san held my shoulders and peeked at my face from behind.
“Lewd things can be done with a kimono, y’know?”
Akihito-san said with a meaningful laugh, as my cheeks burned.
M-My face is so close to Akihito-san’s face. As I thought, he’s such a flirt!
“Pardon me, but would you stop with the sexual harassment in our shop?”
Holmes-san instantly grabbed Akihito-san’s arm and twisted it.
“Ow ow ow! Alright, I get it, I get it.”
Akihito-san ran away from Holmes-san and stroked the arm that had been twisted.
“Ahaha, now now, Akihito-san, that ain’t okay. C’mon, Aoi-chan, go and fix yer kimono. It’ll be ruined if ya wear it like a ghost.” Mieko-san said while laughing.
“Ah, yes.” I hastily returned to the changing area.
Akihito-san is such a troublesome person.
But thanks to him, the right way of wearing a kimono has been firmly imprinted in my mind.
“When the boy hugging you from behind can smoothly slip his hand in to touch your chest.”
Holmes-san’s face appeared momentarily in my thoughts.
Ah, wh-wh-what am I thinking! I hurriedly shook my head and straightened my yukata.
“Man, Holmes-san, you’re such the jealous type.”
Hearing Akihito-san’s voice, my heart pounded. He was apparently having a lot of fun in this situation.
Eh…? The jealous type?
“It’s only natural, seeing that you were sexually harassing our valued part-timer.”
“Speaking of your part-timer, you’re going out with Aoi-chan, aren’t you?”
“Yes, she’s a student who comes here for part-time work.”
My heart ached as I heard Holmes-san smooth answer.
What he said was true, though.
“Hmm, fine. As I thought, yukata are great. That makes me want to wear one. And have a girl touch my chest from behind.”
“Why don’t you stick your own hand in?”
“You’re still angry about that, huh?”
Akihito-san retorted in a hurried voice and dropped a secret grin.
The edge in Holmes-san’s voice was certainly sharper than usual.
My condolences, Akihito-san. After all, Holmes-san doesn’t like arrogant, overbearing playboys like him, since he’s the same type as the person who stole his ex-girlfriend.
If he still hates that type of person today, I wonder he still has feelings for that girl?
My chest tightened a little as I had those thoughts.
Wait, what’s up with me?
I pulled myself together, went out of the back and said, “I’ve finished changing.” In response, everyone exclaimed, “Wow!”
“It looks amazing on ya!”
“Yep, you look really cute, Aoi-chan!”
Mieko-san and Akihito-san openly praised my outfit.
I wonder what Holmes-san thinks about it?
I silently turned to look at him.
“The yukata fits you well, and you look really cute.”
As we exchanged gazes, Holmes-san gave me a sweet smile.
“T-Thank you very much.”
Ohh–, my cheeks are so hot.
“It’s great, it’s great. Ya did dress like a ghost just now, but it seems yer good at puttin’ on a yukata. Now that my mind has been set at ease, I’ll be returnin’ to my shop. I’ll be workin’ on other pieces of clothing, so do ya best with that yukata, y’hear?”
Mieko-san gulped down her coffee, then hurriedly left the shop.
After Mieko-san left like a miniature typhoon,
“Wow, what an energetic old woman.”
Akihito-san commented with a cheerful grin.
“She’s the owner of a woman’s clothing shop operating in the same arcade, and is an old friend of my grandfather.”
Holmes-san placed a café au lait he’d prepared for me on the table.
“Since Akihito-san brought some konpeitō8 from Ryokujuan Shimizu, shall we have some tea?”
“Konpeitō from Ryokujuan Shimizu?” I asked, tilting my head in confusion.
“Oh, Aoi-chan, don’t you know? It’s the best, most famous konpeitō in Kyoto.”
Akihito-san answered with a triumphant smile on his face.
“Ryokujuan Shimizu is a long-established konpeitō specialty shop in Sakyo Ward. Established in 1847, it is an old store that has guarded the traditional technique of candy production for more than 150 years already. It has even received the ‘Royal Warrant of Appointment’ for producing top-quality konpeitō. They have various flavors, but all of them are delicious and have refined taste.” Holmes-san proudly replied.
“Seriously, that’s why you people with higher education are…” Akihito-san clicked his tongue.
“Talking about konpeitō has nothing to do with me having a higher education. Could you refrain from talking so aggressively towards me just because you have a higher education complex?”
“T-There’s no such thing as a higher education complex, anyway!”
Akihito-san raised his voice in irritation, but Holmes-san continued smiling.
“I apologize. That’s right, since you chose the path of entertainment, it would be good if you could get to the end of it. If such a complex does exist, it would serve as good spiritual nourishment for that path, I believe.”
Overwhelmed by Holmes-san’s smile and words, Akihito-san was temporarily lost for words.
“Y-Yeah, that’s right. I’ll take the words my father left behind to heart and become an amazing actor.”
The late writer, Kajiwara-sensei, had left Akihito-san with Hokusai’s ‘The Dragon of Smoke Flying Over Mt. Fuji’.
He was telling his second son that if he truly liked acting, he should go all the way.
“…Also, is Ayako-san alright?”
Holmes-san quietly asked.
On that day, Ayako-san had run out of the mountain villa during Holmes-san’s explanation of the inheritances.
The two of us had gone home without waiting for her to return.
I was curious, but it seemed that Holmes-san was also concerned for her.
“Ah, after I returned from sending the two of you to the station, Mom was already in the living room.
“After that, she had a talk with my elder bro.
“I heard that Mom broke down in tears after listening to the thoughts behind the aquamarine ring that Dad bought for her. She’d probably been living with guilt for a long time.”
As Akihito-san spoke, all we did was wordlessly nod.
“My parents were really close. We could see that Mom was the ‘perfect wife’, and Dad really cared for Mom, too. But perhaps because of their guilt, it became kind of complicated between them.”
Akihito-san took a deep breath.
…I could certainly imagine it being a complicated relationship.
“That’s a problem between the couple, and isn’t something that you need to be burdened with. The joyful figures you saw of them as a child were definitely sincere, I think.”
Upon hearing Holmes-san’s kind words, Akihito-san became speechless once again, and sprawled on the table with a plop.
“…Hey, Holmes-san, how old are you again?”
“I suppose I’ll need to buck up as well…”
I found myself agreeing with Akihito-san as he murmured while still lying sprawled on the table.
(On second thoughts, that was quite rude.)
After that, we engaged in silly, animated chatter as we enjoyed the high-quality konpeitō that Akihito-san had brought over.
“Come to think of it, Akihito-san, you’re not currently living in the Kanto region, correct? You’re staying here for a while, then?”
“Yeah, I have some work here. Also, since the Gion Festival’s starting soon, I figured I could relax and slowly take a look this year.”
“That sounds good. I hope you have a great experience.”
Holmes-san’s eyes narrowed in delight, as if he were the ambassador for tourists.
“The Gion Festival, huhh… my classmates all said they wouldn’t go, since it would be too crowded. They still happily went to the festival at Demachiyanagi Shopping Street, though.”
My comment caused Akihito-san to laugh.
“Ah, I know. That’s just how the local people are. When I was living here in Kyoto, I also wouldn’t purposely go to the Gion Festival.”
“That might be true, but as for me, I always want to get a good sight of each town’s yamaboko at least once. It’s known as the ‘moving art museum’, after all.”
While he was still smiling, Holmes-san spoke with a strong tone in his voice.
“Moving art museum?” Akihito-san and I instinctively asked.
“Yes. The Gion Festival originated from about a thousand years ago, and the yamaboko move around to cleanse the streets and protect them from disaster…”
Holmes-san selected a thick book from the bookshelf behind him, placed it on the table so that we could all see it, and flipped to a particular page.
On that page was a picture of a Gion Festival yamaboko that could be regularly seen now.
“This yamaboko has been stored by thirty-three neighbourhood associations from a thousand years ago. It might look the same as other yamaboko, but it’s totally different. Take a look at this.”
Holmes-san pointed at the yamaboko titled ‘yamabushiyama’ and ‘taishiyama’.”
The tapestry that decorated their flanks were definitely not Japanese no matter how you looked at them.
“Ah, this one seems somehow Chinese.”
“And this one seems Indian.”
Akihito-san and I commented as we stared at the photos. In response, Holmes-san nodded and said, “Correct.”
“This is a tapestry that was brought here during from China during the Ming Dynasty, and this yamaboko came from India. But the extremely interesting one is the yamaboko called ‘koiyama’.”
The picture he pointed at contained a tapestry that looked like it could only be from Europe.
It depicted a king who was wearing a crown.
“Is this really from Europe?”
“Even when it’s for the Gion Festival?”
Akihito-san and I exclaimed in surprise, while Holmes-san nodded.
“This is from Brussels-Brabant at the start of the 17th century… or in other words, it was made in Belgium. The design is from a scene in Homer’s Iliad, which depicts King of Troy Priam and Queen Hecube. This was brought in from Europe to Japan a long time ago, and has been used in the Gion Festival ever since.”
“Eh? But wasn’t that during sakoku9?”
“Yes, but Japan still did trade with the Netherlands during that time, so it is believed that this tapestry came to Japan through the Netherlands.”
“Why did the Shogunate only allow trade with the Netherlands?”
Akihito-san asked a question clearly unrelated to the Gion Festival.
That was just a normal historical matter.
However… as pitiful as it may seem, I was thinking the same thing.
Come to think of it, why was it that only the Netherlands was OK?10
“Speaking really loosely, it’s because they were the only ones who didn’t try to spread Christianity.”
Even as loose as Holmes-san’s answer was, it was too easy to understand.
“I see.” The two of us nodded.
“The ‘tsukiboko’ is draped with a carpet from the Mughal Empire.11 It was even displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a period of time.”
“The Metropolitan Museum of Art!”
“Also, it’s not clear where the ‘naginataboko’ is from, but it’s said to be from the Mongol Empire. There isn’t anything in the world quite like it.”
“For the tapestry from Brussels-Brabant as well as the carpet from the Mughal Empire, it’s a miracle that they were able to be kept in good quality for such a long time. That is because they were carefully stored by each neighborhood association from a thousand years ago, and only revealed during each year’s festival.
“During the festival, we can see brilliant artworks with great historical value that have been requested for loan by even the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It isn’t an overstatement to say that Gion Festival is a festival of miracles.”
Holmes-san spoke with a sharp gaze, causing me to feel overwhelmed.
That is, indeed… a “moving art museum”.
A museum of miracles. I never knew that the Gion Festival was so amazing.
“On top of that, there would be a different significance to participating in the festival, and since I live in an area where I can take a good look at it, I would definitely want to do that at least once.
“The yamaboko that patrol the towns are treasures filled with the emotions of townsfolk that lived a thousand years ago.”
My chest somehow started feeling hot.
“Well, thanks for the lecture. I think I can become smart just by staying around you, Holmes.”
Akihito-san said earnestly, causing me to spurt out.
After a little while, he turned to look at the wall clock.
“— Oh, look at the time. I have a rehearsal, so I think I’ll be going.”
“I’m acting in a play in Osaka. Come and see it if you’re free!”
He retrieved a couple of flyers for “Midsummer’s Night Dream” from his bag.
Holmes-san accepted the flyer and stared at it with great interest.
“So you’ll be playing Lysander, huh. It fits you well.”
“To put it simply, the role of a lady-killer.”
“Ah, I see.”
I agreed wholeheartedly. As usual, Holmes-san’s explanation was easy to understand.
“I would certainly like to see it.”
Akihito-san happily scratched his head in response to Holmes-san’s cheerful grin.
It seemed that it wasn’t limited to just kabuki. Holmes-san probably liked theater-going in general.
That’s also a form of art, after all.
“Ah, please do. See you next time, then.”
Akihito-san lightly raised his hand and made his exit from Kura.
After Akihito-san left, the interior of Kura, which had been quite lively, suddenly quietened down.
All that flowed in the air was a gentle jazz rhythm.
Holmes-san put away the reading materials, while I placed the empty coffee cups onto a tray.
“…As I thought, I can’t get used to wearing a yukata. I feel like it will make my work a lot slower than usual.”
I can’t help but be concerned about the sleeves. Should I tuck them up with a cord or something?
“We had you wear this out of our own selfishness, so there’s no need to force yourself to wear it.”
“No no, it’s fine. My classmate works part-time at a small restaurant and has to wear a kimono all the time. She still manages to work with all her might, so I’ll wear the yukata for the entire time period as well.”
After hearing my words, Holmes-san chuckled.
“It’s amazing that you’re so straight, Aoi-san.”
“Eh… straight, you say?”
“Yes. My father and I said that you just need to look after the store, but you believe that you should work properly as long as you’re getting paid, and keep looking for things that you can do to help. There’s a sense of aesthetics within you, and you always act according to it.”
“N-No, it’s not as great as that. If I take up your offer and do nothing but sit around in the shop while getting paid, I wouldn’t be able to stand the guilt, and more importantly, it’s boring to sit around doing nothing.”
Being overvalued like that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable.
“Also, I can’t say that I’m straight. I’m a soft person who can easily swayed by small things.”
I wiped the table with a cloth so that our gazes wouldn’t meet.
…Because I had the feeling that he would see through me if our eyes made contact.
“…You’ve recently been quite under the weather. Is anything wrong?”
Holmes-san questioned quietly.
…Ahh, he’s seen through me already.
A self-deprecating smile rose on my face.
I stopped wiping the table and lifted my head silently.
There were many people milling around on the other side of the shop window.
The quiet shop interior was like a completely different world.
As I hesitated to open my mouth, the sound of the doorbell resonated in the shop.
The person who walked in was a young woman in a dress.
She had a delicate figure and wavy hair that reached her shoulders.
While she gave off a cute appearance, her eyes showed signs of nervousness.
Astonished by her sudden entry, I was late in saying, “Welcome.”
Holmes-san said in surprise.
“H-Hello, Holmes-san.” She shrugged.
For a short moment, I could see bewilderment rise up on Holmes-san’s face, but in the next, he had his usual smile.
“Long time no see. I hope you’ve been well.”
Yes, that usual smile. No, it was probably a bigger smile than usual.
“You don’t have to be so polite to me…”
But in response to the woman’s weak words, Holmes-san narrowed his eyes and continued smiling.
“I hear that you’re married now. Congratulations.”
Could she be… I thought, but I gained conviction in those words.
That beautiful, cute person known as Izumi-san, was indeed Holmes-san’s ex-girlfriend.
With the flaky atmosphere about her, I was reminded of Saori-san, the Saiō representative.
“Actually, I have something for you to appraise.”
She hesitantly walked forward.
“Here, take a seat,” Holmes-san swiftly stood up and pulled over a chair.
Izumi-san shyly sat down.
The store was surrounded by a silent tension.
I wordlessly entered the pantry and started preparing some coffee.
Whenever Holmes-san was around, he would always be the one making the coffee, though…
For some reason, I didn’t want her to drink Holmes-san’s delicious coffee.
“As you said… I am married now.”
The words that slowly fell out of that woman’s mouth reached the pantry.
“Once again, congratulations.” Holmes-san’s calm voice could be heard as well.
“…Thank you. So, my aunt who lives in Kobe sent us some tableware as a congratulatory gift. When we got them, my husband said, ‘Get them appraised to see how much they’re worth.’ And then…”
The woman spoke as if it was difficult for her. I was actually quite surprised by those words.
By ‘aunt’, she meant her aunt, and not Izumi-san’s aunt, right?
He told her to appraise the tableware she received from her aunt?
I can’t believe it.
Well, perhaps he didn’t want to get rid of them, and was simply curious about their worth?
Realizing that I was putting on a bitter smile, I poured the coffee into a dripper.
The fragrant aroma spread around the shop.
“…Please take a look.”
Izumi-san softly placed a box on the table, while Holmes-san put on his usual pair of white gloves. Wanting to see the articles, I hurriedly filled a cup with coffee, then placed it on the table as well.
“Now, I shall examine it.”
Holmes-san carefully removed the lid of the box to reveal square plates with some scenery drawn on them.
They had a faint, dry tint and were definitely Western.
I wonder if Holmes-san can appraise Western articles? The shop had antiques from a variety of countries, but come to think of it, I hadn’t seen a Western artifact being appraised before.
“…It’s a Royal Copenhagen12.”
“Ah, I see. My aunt did say as such, but all we know about ‘Copenhagen’ is their yearplates13.”
Izumi-san replied with a bashful shrug.
All they knew about Royal Copenhagen was their yearplates.
Sadly, I could only say that I was just like them.
“Yes, you can see that Royal Copenhagen is so popular that they’re well-known for yearplates. They’ve been produced each year from 1908 without pause, after all.”
Izumi-san’s eyes opened wide in surprise as she heard Holmes-san’s fluent explanation. What, was it her first time seeing Holmes-san like that?
At any rate, I was secretly impressed that he knew so much about Western antiques.
“Actually, he said that Copenhagen plates always have a cobalt blue pattern, so perhaps this one is different?”
“Copenhagen may have been heavily influenced by Japan’s ko-imari porcelain, and are now best known for their cobalt blue designs with handwriting, but they have many other products. This is a piece from a series of designs with European scenery, produced over 60 years ago. If I were to put a value on it… these appear on the market quite often, so about twenty to thirty thousand, I suppose.”
“Twenty to thirty thousand…”
Izumi-san nodded, but she neither displayed joy nor showed her disappointment.
“It’s good that I know about it. It’s such a lovely plate. I’ll take good care of it.”
As if influenced by Holmes-san, Izumi-san bowed respectfully.
“Yes, please do that.”
I took a short breath, then turned my back on them and started dusting an area some distance away from them.
“Kiyotaka-san… that’s amazing. I knew you could do appraisals, but I never knew you were that good at it.”
“Well… it’s the family business, after all.”
“…Kiyotaka-san, you said, ‘Long time no see’ earlier, but it’s not the case for me.”
Izumi-san spoke with resolve. Instinctively, I stopped moving my hands.
“Eh?” Even Holmes-san was perplexed by that statement.
“I’ve seen you many times while passing by the front of Kura, and I’ve also been to the Kyoto University Campus… Ah, Kiyotaka-kun, it’s amazing that you’re studying there.”
“A-Actually, I, I’ve been thinking of breaking up with my husband for a while now. He keeps cheating on me…”
The woman looked down with a bright red face, but Holmes-san said nothing in reply.
It seemed that her husband’s arrogant, overbearing attitude wasn’t just for her, and his style didn’t change when engaging with other women.
“Whenever I found out that he cheated, he’d console me, saying that his love for just for me… and I’d always let it slide. But I’d always think of you, and how much I missed you. But I couldn’t possibly meet you after such a long time, so I always walked past without stopping.”
As she poured her heart out, Holmes-san continued listening without saying a word.
“…But I eventually became unable to forgive him any more for his cheating, and I said to his face, ‘Let’s break up.’ He wept and apologized, then suddenly said, ‘Please marry me.’
“At that time, I was overcome with emotion and nodded, but now that we’re married, I feel uneasy. I always wonder if he would continue cheating on me, and if he’s actually a good person. But more importantly, after we got married, Kiyotaka-kun’s face appeared in my head for some reason. You really treated me well, but I was young and stupid to be unable to understand that.”
As Izumi-san spoke, her body shook, and tears flowed from her eyes.
She exuded a faint helplessness that would stir one’s desire to protect.
My heart beat wildly as I observed that scene.
Holmes-san opened his mouth to say something, but at that moment,
“You don’t need to say anything. I know you’re going to call me an idiot.”
Acknowledging her words, Holmes-san closed his mouth.
She must be feeling quite uneasy after her marriage, so did she came here to vent those feelings?
But what else will she do?
In the silence that ensued, Izumi-san wiped off the tears in her eyes and took a short breath.
“…Kiyotaka-kun, do you still like waka poetry14?”
“Waka poetry, you say? …Yes, quite.”
I was thrown into confusion by her sudden, seemingly unrelated question.
“…I’d like you to take a look at this too. I’ll come over to pick it up the day after tomorrow, so please hold on to it till then.”
Izumi-san said as she retrieved a small box from the paper bag.
“The day after tomorrow?”
That would be the 15th.
“Yeah, I’d like you to take your time to look at it… It was made on a mountain in Shiga.”
Izumi-san quickly stood up.
“On a mountain in Shiga…”
Holmes-san frowned slightly.
Izumi-san stopped at the door, held it open, then turned around.
“Thanks for today. It’s good that I dared to meet you. Your yukata really suits you.”
Izumi-san spoke with a wide smile on her face.
“Thank you very much.”
And with that, Izumi-san left the store.
Holmes-san wordlessly opened the small box that Izumi-san had left behind.
In it was a matcha bowl. With a skin-colored base, it had something green drawn in its center…
“Is it a leaf?”
I instinctively asked, and Holmes-san nodded in response.
“…Yes, it’s mugwort.”
“Is it worth anything?”
I asked curiously, but Holmes-san didn’t answer, and only narrowed his eyes gently.
It seemed that he didn’t want to talk about the tea bowl’s value at the moment.
“Holmes-san, do you like waka poetry?”
As I changed the subject, Holmes-san let out a short chuckle.
“Well, I like it as much as the average person… That was the trigger for me getting close with her.”
“Waka poetry was the trigger?”
“Yes. During autumn of my second year in high school, as part of a school event, we went to Tōfuku-ji15 in Higashiyama-ku, which is well known for its maple trees.”
“As part of a school event…” I was quite surprised by that.
“Seeing the deep red maple leaves get washed away by the small river, she said, ‘Wow, that reminds me of that famous poem. Unheard of even in the legendary age of the awesome gods: Tatsuta River… Um, what was the rest of it again?’ And that was when I answered, ‘…in scarlet and the water flowing under it.’
“That was the trigger to her thinking of me as a guy who likes waka poetry, and her coming to like me.”
“…I, I see.”
Indeed, I don’t think anyone can resist it when a handsome guy recites the latter half of that poem, with the river stained deep red from the maple leaves serving as a wondrous backdrop.
“…I do like waka poetry, but I not such a big fan as she claims me to be.”
Holmes-san shrugged in embarrassment, then burst out laughing.
He’d probably answered because he just happened to know the answer.
“…Even so, women are easily swayed, huh.”
Holmes-san muttered to himself with the tea bowl in his hand. I took a breath.
“That, might be true.”
I’d also been swayed by something small in the past.
“Come to think of it, we were in the middle of our conversation.”
“I was saying that you seemed under the weather. Did something happen?”
“Ah… well, my old school in Saitama… umm, I heard that the school is coming here on a trip to see the Gion Festival.”
Holmes-san’s eyes opened wide in surprise.
“It’s a cultural excursion, or something like that. Anyway, I got a message from the group of friends I’m close with, saying that they want to meet me at the lobby of the hotel they’re staying at.
“In that group is the girl who used to be my best friend, and it’s really complicated because I might run into my ex-boyfriend there. But I really wanted to meet with my other friends, so I replied, ‘Alright, I’ll see you all there.’” After explaining the situation, I let out a mirthless laugh.
“…I see,” Holmes-san said as he slowly stood up.
“…That’s good, isn’t it? You still have those feelings of anguish inside you, right, Aoi-san? Now, you don’t have to go all the way to Saitama to settle it, since they’ve come here. It’s a good opportunity, don’t you think?”
My chest tightened as Holmes-san looked at me with a firm gaze.
“…Yeah, you might be right.”
“When do they want to meet you?”
“During Yoi-yoi-yama16 on the 15th at 7:30 at night. They’ll meet me in the hotel lobby along Shijo Muromachi Street.”
Yoi-yoi-yama, meaning the night festival two nights before the Gion Festival.
Lots of stalls would line up around the lit up yamaboko, signalling the start of the festival.
On that day, I would be working part-time at Kura until 7 at night, so I could head there right after work.
As Holmes-san said, it was indeed a good chance.
However, I couldn’t help feeling uneasy about it.
“…Even if you fret that much, it’s easier to do something than to worry about it.”
Holmes-san placed a hand on my head and gave me a kind smile, causing my heart to tighten.
At that moment, Holmes-san’s smartphone started vibrating.
After checking the display, he said, “—Right, there are some documents I need to deliver to the union. I’ll be back soon, so please look after the store.”
Retrieving a manilla envelope from a drawer, he quickly dashed out of the shop.
When I answered, Holmes-san had already disappeared, so I went to take a look at the tea bowl that was left on the table.
…The tea bowl with the mugwort pattern.
It had already been a few months since I started working at Kura. During that time, I’d developed quite a good eye for judgment, in my own way.
No matter how you looked at it… it was made by an amateur.
Did Izumi-san make that tea bowl, I wonder?
Did she want her work to be appraised?
“Kiyotaka-kun, do you still like waka poetry?”
She brought out the tea bowl after saying that.
It was made on a mountain in Shiga… huh. There’s probably a waka poem attached to it.
Yes, and that poem probably has some message behind it!
I quickly raised my head and immediately turned to look at the bookshelf in the store.
It had all sorts of material neatly arranged on its shelves.
First, I decided to pick out an atlas and check up the mountains in Shiga.
The names of the mountains were listed at the index in alphabetical order.
Mt. Ibuki, Mt. Kanaguso, Mt. Shirakura, Mt. Bungen, Mt. Oike… There were a lot more mountains than I thought.
“I don’t know…”
I looked down the list of Shiga mountains, but couldn’t figure out which one Izumi-san was referring to.
In the first place, Shiga is well-known for Shigaraki ware and pottery, so “being made on a mountain on Shiga” might not be a very useful clue. Now, time to look up information about mugwort.
Mugwort… It got its name because it can spread its roots out in four directions17. It has other names like mogusa18, yaitobana19, and is also called “sashimi grass” in waka poetry. That name is even used twice in two poems in Hyakunin Isshu20.
I muttered as I opened up a waka anthology this time.
Sashimo grass… Sashimo grass…
Finally, I found the two poems with the term “sashimogusa”.
“Depending with my life on promises that fell thick as dew on sasemo plants—alas! the autumn of this year too seems to be passing. — Fujiwara no Mototoshi”
It means… umm…
“You’ve said, ‘Please rely on me,’ and believing in those words, I continued living this evanescent life, but in the end, it couldn’t be fulfilled.”
Modern interpretation: I’ve asked you to put in a word for my son to be looked at for promotion, but your words were not taken into consideration. A poem written as a complaint.21
A complaint from the poet that he asked someone to use his influence for his son, but that influence fell short…
This poem definitely wasn’t it. What about the other one?
“Can I even say ‘I love you this much’?—No, and so you do not know of it anymore than of the sashimo grasses of Ibuki, my burning love for you! — Fujiwara no Sanekata”
Sashimo grasses of Ibuki… Mt. Ibuki, a mountain in Shiga.
With quivering fingers, I looked for the poem’s meaning.
“I love you so much, but cannot say it.
“Because I can’t say it, you don’t know about it.
My heart leapt.
I see, this is… this tea bowl is a confession, filled with all of Izumi-san’s heart and soul.
She must have thought that giving him a ceramic tea bowl with a waka attached to it would reach his heart, rather than saying something like, “I still love you, and I can’t forget about you.”
Just like the time when she fell for him after he recited the second part of the poem.
She wanted him to get her feelings after seeing the tea bowl.
And then she wanted him to accept those feelings.
She said that she would come over for his answer two days later, on the 15th.
Holmes-san should have instantly recognized her message upon seeing the tea bowl.
What exactly will he do?
He would be swayed after receiving a confession in the form of a sweet riddle from the woman he used to love, right?
“I love you so much, but cannot say it.”
With my forehead soaked with sweat, I gently placed the book back to the bookshelf. I was staring into space for a moment, when the store bell rang, and Holmes-san returned.
“Sorry, it took longer than I expected. You alright there?”
“Ah, yes. No customers came in, and the phone didn’t ring.”
I grinned with a duster in my hand, then slowly turned around.
— It would soon be the 15th, or yoi-yoi-yama, when the yamaboko would be colored.
Strangely enough, that was also the day when I would have to settle my problems.
It was the 15th of July, the yoi-yoi-yama of the Gion Festival (or the night festival two days before the main event).
With many sightseers coming over to see each street’s yamaboko, the city of Kyoto was more lively than usual.
On that day, I headed to Kura right after school, as usual.
Regardless of what time I reached the shop, I would always say, “Good morning.”
I did my usual greeting and showed my face, but an unexpected voice called out.
“Ah, Aoi-chan, yer here. I’ll help ya put on the yukata properly today.”
Apparently having waited for my arrival, Mieko-san vigorously pulled me to the back and helped me tie a lovely vermillion obi. The yukata was the one I’d received the other day, with red dianthuses blooming on a white ground.
“Yep, that should do it. Now it ain’t fallin’ off. It really fits ya, too.”
After helping me tie the obi in that cramped space, Mieko-san proudly nodded.
She was also wearing a neat, light purple yukata.
As expected of an elderly Kyoto woman. She looked totally accustomed to wearing it.
“Thank you, Mieko-san. Your yukata is lovely, too.”
“Thanks a lot. Ya really like the color, huh?”
“Yes, it really suits you. My yukata is also cute, so you must have good sense, Mieko-san.”
I said while touching the obi, but Mieko-san opened her eyes wide.
“Yeah, well, I might have good sense, but the one who chose yer yukata was Kiyotaka-chan.”
“Eh?” My heart pounded.
“I was asked by Owner to give ya a yukata, but I didn’t know the fashion of young folk, so I talked with Kiyotaka-chan, and he said this would fit ya. I thought something more flashy would do it, but ya do look great in this one. As expected, he has good judgment.”
Mieko-san explained cheerfully, but I looked down without saying a word.
After that, Mieko-san hurried out of the shop, leaving behind me and Holmes-san alone in the shop, as usual.
He was sitting at the counter, writing in the account book. Today, he as in a dark grey yukata and a black obi. The deep blue yukata from the other day was great too, but my heart skipped a beat upon seeing his appearance, which looked more mature than before.
Seriously, he’s just so suited to wearing a yukata. As expected of a Kyoto guy!
“…Was it crowded outside?”
Holmes-san gently asked, his eyes still on the account book. Coming to my senses, I lifted my head.
Even I knew that my face had turned bright red.
—After all, I was really happy that Holmes-san had chosen my yukata.
“Ah, yes. As expected of the Gion Festival.”
“Well, it’s already yoi-yoi-yama. By the way, Aoi-san, you’re going to meet your friends from Saitama today, right?”
My heart skipped a beat again, but to a different tune this time.
“Ah, yes. Umm, I’ll be meeting them at the lobby of a hotel called ‘Ryokuen’.”
“Ah, Ryokuen. That’s a hotel that has always taken in students on school trips since a long time ago.”
I nodded and took a glance at the paper bag on the counter.
That was the tea bowl made by Izumi-san.
“…Izumi-san will be coming over today as well, right?”
I put on a nonchalant face and casually asked the question I was extremely curious about.
“Yes, she said she would come over today.”
Likewise, Holmes-san lightly nodded, as if it wasn’t important at all.
Could it be that he didn’t notice Izumi-san’s confession?
No, it’s impossible for Holmes-san to miss that. He must have noticed it.
When he accepts the tea bowl, it would mean that he accepts her feelings. For better or for worse, all I could do here was watch.
And after that, I would have to meet with my friends from Saitama… Why did it have to be today, of all days?
—Time seemed to flow a lot slower than usual today.
The Sanjou Shopping Street was bustling with people, but no one stopped at the antique store Kura.
It wasn’t the type of shop for people to casually drop in, and especially so during an event.
With no customers entering the shop, time passed really, really slowly.
Izumi-san also didn’t seem to be coming.
Since there was the festival, Kura would close at 7.
(It usually closes at 8, but I suppose there aren’t any customers today.)
However, Izumi-san still hadn’t showed up even at 6:50.
…Why isn’t she coming?
Did she change her mind?
While I restlessly wondered if Izumi-san would appear, Holmes-san had his usual expression.
Could it be that they’d already contacted each other through email, or something like that?
Feeling distressed, I shook my head without thinking.
It was already 7.
“Ah, I… I should change out of my yukata soon.”
I said after taking a short breath, causing Holmes-san to look up at the clock.
“Ah, would you look at the time. Aoi-san, since it’s the Gion Festival, how about going there in your yukata?”
“Your friends are here for the ‘Gion Festival experience’, so they’ll probably be all wearing yukata.”
“Ah… you’re right.”
“And most importantly, you look great in it,” Holmes-san said with a grin, causing my face to reach boiling point.
“I-I see. In that case, I’ll go off like this. I have my purse, anyway.”
At that moment, the door bell rang — and Izumi-san appeared.
After she bowed hesitatingly, Holmes-san received her with a first-rate smile. Upon seeing that, my heart felt as if it had been stabbed right in the middle.
“Please, come in.”
“It’s really crowded outside, right?”
The two of them exchanged pleasant laughter.
Unlike the previous meeting, there was no tension between them… in fact, there was a good atmosphere about them.
I wonder if Izumi-san knew that the shop would be closing at 7, and aimed to reach just in time?
Perhaps she thought of enjoying the festival together with Holmes-san.
They might have even arranged to meet at this particular time.
In any case, I was not involved in this, and I had to leave.
“Ah, I… I’ll go off, then. See you.”
I nodded politely and escaped from the shop.
As soon as I left, my eyes narrowed in reaction to the hot summer air.
A huge crowd of festival-goers were strolling under the dim night sky.
There was still 30 minutes to the meeting time.
With a slow gait, I moved towards the hotel.
Was I feeling this heavy-hearted because I would soon have to meet with my former best friend and ex-boyfriend?
Or was it because I was bothered about Holmes-san and Izumi-san?
I was just unhappy with a lot of things… and I had no idea what I wanted to do, or what I desired.
Since I’m like this, I suppose it can’t be helped that I can’t find happiness.
With that thought, a self-depreciating smile appeared on my face.
The ohayashi went “♪ konchikichin, konchikichin ♪”.
Meanwhile, the brilliant yamaboko floated in the gradually darkening night sky, which was lit up by a multitude of paper lanterns.
That was typical Japanese scenery, but at the same time, it felt like so surreal, as if I had accidentally wondered into an alternate universe.
Thanks to my slow pace that was brought about by being unaccustomed to the yukata, it took me almost twenty minutes to reach the hotel which was not far away at all.
Checking that the name on the signboard was “ryokuen”, I entered the lobby.
It was a small hotel reminiscent of the Showa era, though it wasn’t especially Japanese.
As soon as I stepped into the lobby,
“Hey! It’s Aoi!” Jubilant cries reached my ears.
I raised my head in surprise, as my old group of friends came into view.
I searched for my best friend, Sanae, who had suddenly stolen my boyfriend, but failed to spot her.
While I felt relieved, I also felt nostalgic upon seeing the faces of my old friends. I relaxed.
As Holmes-san had said, they were all wearing yukata. It was really great that I was also in one.
“Long time no see, everyone!”
“You seem to be doing well here, Aoi!”
“Aoi, you look so cute in your yukata!”
They welcomed me with bright smiles.
I’m glad that all of them didn’t change. I’m glad that I mustered the courage to come here, I thought in my heart.
“Actually, Sanae and Takahashi really wanted to talk with you, no matter what.”
My heart leapt as my friend suddenly turned serious.
The next moment, my ex-boyfriend, Takahashi and former best friend, Sanae, appeared from behind a pillar, as if they’d rehearsed beforehand.
The two of them also had pained expressions on their faces.
Shocked by this sudden development, all I could do was listen as my heart thumped quickly and noisily. In fact, it was quite a feat that I was still standing.
The two of them approached me bitterly.
“I’m really sorry.”
They lowered their heads.
“…You might have heard about it, but we’re dating right now.”
As I thought, the fact that I didn’t want to hear caused pain in my heart.
“After you left, Takahashi and I felt really lonely, so we thought, ‘since we’ve both lost our precious Aoi, let us distract ourselves from our loneliness,’ and we started hanging out together.”
“No, it’s fine, I’ll say it. Aoi, I’m really sorry. I seriously loved you and Sanae, so when you were gone, I felt a great sense of loss… so to forget that loneliness, the two of us went out to places like karaoke…”
“I-It’s my fault. During that time, I fell for Takahashi…”
“No, I’m in the wrong here. I started being unable to leave Sanae…”
“I’m seriously sorry!”
As if in a competition for penitence, they bowed repeatedly.
“Aoi, at first we thought that their actions were awful, but we noticed that Sanae was becoming a little anorexic from thinking about you too much.”
“Yes, and Takahashi only started dating Sanae after drawing the line with you.”
Those other friends defended the two of them.
…What is this?
—Ah, I understand now.
That’s what it is.
They said they wanted to meet with me, but not because they wanted to see me…
But because they wanted to clear their own guilt.
There were no longer any “friends” here who were still thinking about me.
If I said, “It’s fine,” after seeing them bow and repent, they would be able to date without any reservations, right?
What should I do now?
The only way… is to forgive them with a smile on my face, right?
What would happen if I said, “That’s just your one-sided excuses! Think about how I feel after receiving such arbitrary apologies!”
This is just a farce, with the premise that I would forgive them.
Hiding the fact that I was trembling, I clenched my fists tightly.
I resisted the temptation to break down and cry, and instead put a smile on my face.
“I-It’s fine. It was impossible for us once we were separated, after all…”
I wasn’t saying this for their sakes.
This was for my sake, so that I would no longer be so miserable about all this.
“It’s honestly quite a complicated feeling to see my boyfriend and best friend go out, but… there’s no helping it if you two really like each other.”
I’ll give you the words that you want the most, so please, get out of my sight.
“Don’t worry about me, and have fun together.”
I probably said all that from start to finish with a smile on my face.
Those friends went “Wow” in admiration.
“Thank you,” Sanae murmured as tears formed in her eyes, while Takahashi stroked her head.
My interior of my mouth started feeling painful, and my nose started feeling blocked.
What should I do? I really feel like I’ll cry at any moment. That’d be so mortifying, so pitiable, so wretched…
“Aoi, you’re seriously cool.”
“Yeah, I think I’ve fallen for you.”
“Hey, shall we all go to the festival together, then?”
Someone suggested, probably influenced by the excited atmosphere.
Please… stop. I just want to get out of this place.
It was taking all my effort to hold back my tears, too.
“Come on, let’s go.”
It was at that moment when a friend held out her hand.
Holmes-san voice rang out in the hotel lobby.
I whirled around to see that Holmes-san was indeed there in his yukata, causing my face to turn as white as a sheet.
Why is Holmes-san here?
In my confusion, I could only hear the strong thumping of my heart.
“Wait, who’s that? He’s such a handsome guy, isn’t he?”
“A man in yukata is so cool!”
“An acquaintance of yours, Aoi-san?”
At the appearance of Holmes-san, my friends chattered excitedly.
“Ah… yeah, that’s right.”
I hesitatingly nodded, as Holmes-san quickly stood by my side and displayed a cheerful grin.
“Nice to meet you. My name is Yagashira Kiyotaka. You have my utmost gratitude for coming all the way from Saitama to see the Gion Festival.”
Holmes-san spoke exactly like an ambassador of tourism.
I wonder why he’s always shouldering the city of Kyoto and artwork.
“Er, are you someone related to the Gion Festival?”
Naturally, my friends asked a naïve question. In response, Holmes-san let out a short laugh.
“No, I’m actually a student studying ‘Philology and Cultural Studies’ in university. You all are high school students, right? If you’re interested in Kyoto University, please come over. I’ll show you around.”
Upon hearing those words, everyone placed their hands on their mouths, went, “Wait, a Kyoto University student?” “Amazing!” and looked at each other.
As I stood there dumbfounded, Holmes-san quietly looked at me.
He looked firmly into my eyes, as if reading into the depths of my heart.
“Have you all finished talking?”
“Shall we go to see the festival together, then?”
Seeing Holmes-san hold out his hand to me, I almost cried.
While the rest didn’t understand, Holmes-san…
He realized that I wanted to leave this place immediately.
The tears were seeping out, but I couldn’t let them fall here.
With a strong nod, I accepted Holmes-san’s hand, causing everyone to exclaim, “Woww!” with sparkles in their eyes.
“Wait, is that what it is, Aoi? So that’s why you were in a yukata!”
“I can’t believe you have a super hot Kyoto University student as a boyfriend! I’m so jealous!”
“And you’ll be all lovey-dovey in the festival! Tell us how it went next time!”
Everyone raised their voices in excitement.
While Sanae and Takahashi looked relieved, the somewhat complicated emotion that has risen up on their faces gave me a strong impression.
“Y-Yeah. Well, see you all next time, then!”
“Shall we go, Aoi-san?”
I took his hand and we started walking off together.
Takahashi, who had been silent up till now, vigorously stepped forward and grabbed my wrist.
“What is this? Why are you dating a Kyoto University student right after we broke up?”
Upon hearing Takahashi’s outburst, all of us, myself included, went “Huh?”
“What… are you saying?” I was about to ask.
“Hey, Takahashi, what are you talking about? You already have Sanae, don’t you?”
“You’re the one who backstabbed Sanae, too.”
“Exactly, and you’re regretting now that Aoi’s with a really hot Kyoto University student? What’s with you? I seriously can’t believe you.”
My friends gave Takahashi a reproachful look, causing Sanae to run away.
“Ah, wait, Sanae!” Takahashi hurriedly chased after her.
—What’s with this afternoon drama that’s continuing after that farce?
Having overcome my shock, a wry smile appeared on my face where an exasperated look had been.
At that moment, I could feel all the pent-up feelings within me vanish silently.
…Is this what they call an instant cool down?
But this is good.
With this, I can truly, truly say that… I’ve settled my past love issues without having to act tough about it.
Holmes-san firmly held my hand and pulled me out of the hotel.
We walked out to the main street which was bustling with festivities.
While still holding hands.
The light of the floating paper lanterns gently lit up the night sky.
“It’s too crowded here. If we go this way, we’ll be able to walk smoothly.”
Holmes-san said as he steeped into an alley.
It was indeed just like Kyoto. The small road, which was so narrow that only one person could pass through at a time, was a quiet, peaceful, emotional space, as if the throngs of people earlier was just an illusion.
“…H-Holmes-san, I’m surprised that you came for me.”
There was actually a lot more that I wanted to ask.
Like what happened with Izumi-san, and so on.
But that was the first thing that came out of my mouth.
Holmes-san quietly stopped moving.
“I was just curious. I thought that… you were crying.”
Those words pierced through my heart. He really… saw through everything.
“A-As expected of Holmes-san.”
I muttered. In response, he turned around wordlessly and looked down at me gently.
“I-I was at my limit. The two of them were arbitrarily repenting, and my friends were taking their side, so I felt like no one was giving a thought for my feelings… and that was when you came in, so I was really surprised.”
I was really saved by him.
“I-I gave them my blessings, but I said it while thinking, ‘This is not for their sakes, but for mine.’
“…This isn’t good, right? If I’m going to give them my blessings, I should say them from my heart, but I just couldn’t do it… But it’s fine. While I was effeminate and indecisive, it’s finally over. Thank you so much for being worried about me and taking the trouble to come over here and help me.”
As I looked down while trying to produce a smile on my face, Holmes-san took a deep breath.
“Ya don’t have to force yerself to smile. It’s impossible after something like that.”
Seemingly upset, he chided me in Kyoto dialect.
Surprised, I looked up to see Holmes-san’s frowning face.
“If they’d felt truly guilty towards ya and wanted to properly apologize, they wouldn’t have needed their friends with them. What they did was seriously disgusting.”
It was a really strong expression for usually calm and elegant Holmes-san.
From those words, I understood that even he could get angry.
—He got mad for my sake…
My gloomy heart lightened, and I felt a happy, warm feeling in my chest.
It was really great that Holmes-san came here…
I looked down for a moment, and a big hand softly stroked my head.
“…That must have taken a lot out of ya, Aoi-san.”
He kindly said. At that moment…
As if the floodgates had been breached, my tears flowed and flowed.
“Ya worked really hard, so it’s good to cry it all out.”
Holmes-san said as he gently patted my back.
Before I knew it, I was already sobbing into his chest.
It was really… really good to cry it out.
It felt really painful that the guy that I loved, my best friend and other friends were getting further away from me.
I couldn’t cry there. I definitely didn’t want to cry there.
But now, it’s okay to cry.
I could feel his gentle stroking hand, his warm chest.
I could smell a sweet fragrance from his yukata. I could see red lanterns, but they were blurred by my tears.
I could hear the ohayashi were playing a graceful tune, a small distance away from us.
Thus we went around looking at the yamaboko, then returned to Kura on Teramachi Sanjou.
Come to think of it, I’d left my uniform and bag at the shop.
The shopping street was quiet, and only Kura was lit up by the faint light of the lamps.
“—Here you go.”
As usual, Holmes-san had prepared some café au lait.
I held the cup in my hands, brought it to my lips and felt the deliciousness spread in my mouth.
I turned to look at the top of the counter. Izumi-san’s tea bowl was no longer there.
“…Holmes-san, did you notice the message in Izumi-san’s tea bowl?”
I asked, causing Holmes-san to open his eyes wide in surprise.
“Yes. I’m surprised that you noticed, Aoi-san.”
“No, that’s, I mean, well.”
It was difficult to say that I secretly looked it up because I was curious.
“So, um, how did you answer?”
As I changed the subject, Holmes-san quietly put down the cup he was holding.
“After receiving her teabowl, I thought that she would want a henka24, so I gave her one as a proper reply.”
A henka is a waka written in reply, right? As expected of Holmes-san!
“W-What was your reply?”
“‘With your caprice no more than a brief spring night’s dream, how I would regret my name coming, pointlessly, to ‘arm!’ I returned her the tea bowl with a twist on a poem by Suō no Naishi25.”
“…What does it mean?”
“The original poem is ‘With your arm as my pillow for no more than a brief spring night’s dream, how I would regret my name coming, pointlessly, to ‘arm!’ meaning ‘Because you let me use your arm as a pillow for a short moment as fleeting as a spring night’s dream, uninteresting rumors about us have surfaced, and that is quite a burden.’”
In other words, his poem means… “Because of your whims which lasted for a short moment as fleeting as a spring night’s dream, uninteresting rumors about us have surfaced, and that is quite a burden.” With that poem, he lightly rejected her.
As usual, he was elegant, but with a sharp edge.
(As expected of a Kyoto guy.)
“B-But weren’t you swayed by that? You used to love her a great deal in the past, and she just confessed to you with all her feelings, right?”
“Not at all. My love for her was certainly unrequited in the past, but it has already ended. Furthermore, I could see quite a lot of calculation and confusion in the lines of her tea bowl, which was made to look like it contained her deepest feelings. It told me that the rekindling of her love towards me was just a means of escape for her.”
“The lines…” I gulped.
“Yes. Just like for my father’s novels, the creator’s true nature cannot be hidden, and will always be revealed in their creations. I told her all of that, and also advised her to have a proper talk with her boyfriend and her parents if she was still hesitant about marriage, or she would regret it forever. After that, she pouted and left.”
“Oh… so that’s how it went.”
Naturally, Holmes-san was really calm.
Without being taken in by her fickle confession, he saw through it to read her true nature…
Well, to Holmes-san, his love for Izumi-san must have already ended.
That was what I thought, as a wave of relief washed all over me, making me a little bewildered.
Why do I feel relieved?
At that moment, the realization that I was crying my heart out into Holmes-san’s chest suddenly crossed my mind, causing my cheeks to instantly heat up.
“Aoi-san, is anything the matter?”
Holmes-san suddenly peeked at my face, causing me to instinctively turn back.
“N-No, it’s nothing, really.”
My heart was palpitating wildly.
What am I so nervous about?
At that instance, the door opened wide with a ring.
“Oh, it’s open! I suppose I did see a small light in the shop.”
“That must be Kiyotaka.”
Owner and Manager entered.
The two of them seem to have returned from the Gion Festival, and they were both holding paper fans.
Upon seeing us, Owner’s eyes widened.
“Ohh? What’s this? A young boy and girl doing something indecent in the dark?”
“Your mind’s indecent for thinking like that. That’s being rude to Aoi-san, isn’t it? I’ll go get some coffee.”
Unfazed, Holmes-san stood up and left the room.
On the other hand, my heart was about to explode, although I didn’t quite understand why.
Why exactly am I so nervous?
“Aoi-san, how was Yoi-yoi-yama?”
Manager asked kindly, causing me to come to my senses. I turned to look at him.
“Ah, yes. It was so dream-like and lovely.”
“This year’s festival was more extravagant than last year’s, after all.”
Holmes-san came out of the pantry holding a tray.
After he arranged the cups of coffee on the table, the door opened with a ring yet again to reveal Mieko-san’s energetic figure.
“Oh, everyone’s gathered here, huh. I managed to grab Ueda-san and Akihito-san at the festival.”
“Wow, the coffee smells great!”
“As promised, we came to see the Gion Festival.”
Ueda-san and Akihito-san clamorously stepped into the shop.
I somehow felt relieved upon seeing the usual faces.
“Holmes, make some coffee for us too!”
“Wine would be great as well.”
Holmes-san nodded and replied, “Fine, fine.”
“Aoi-san, would you like more café au lait?” He asked while looking at my face.
“Ah, yes please,” I replied, and my heart beat strongly yet again.
Really, why am I feeling so nervous?
It’s probably because I’d cried in his chest earlier.
Because Holmes-san’s wide chest, sweet scent and large hands were so gentle and warm.
Thinking back about it made my heart pound again.
Even so, I never thought I have such a refreshing feeling.
I’ve finally managed to settle the past, after all.
With the Gion Festival as a turning point, I’ve managed to bid farewell to the me who always only looked backward.
From today onwards, I’ll face forward and walk on.
Yes, that’s what I’ll do. I nodded, brought the café au lait to my lips and smiled.
Even as the night drew on, noise and laughter continued in Teramachi Sanjou.
—That was certainly an enjoyable, joyous moment after the festival.
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- Sounds like this.
- Group of performers who provide musical accompaniment.
- Refers to hoko yari, an ancient form of Japanese spear that came into use possibly during the Nara period, or 8th century AD.3 and naginata4A polearm originally used by the samurai class of feudal Japan.
- The main difference is that there is no kurikoshi, which is a part near the neck that allows the wearer to change the size of the neck. Also, yukata for children have shorter sleeves.
- An obi is the sash on a yukata that is quite difficult to tie. A one-touch obi is one that uses Velcro so all you need to do is wrap it around your waist.
- Japanese sugar candy which was brought in by Portuguese traders in the 16th century.
- The isolationist foreign policy of the Japanese Tokugawa Shogunate.
- I’m actually really surprised that Aoi doesn’t know this. I would expect it to be covered in her history lessons.
- An empire in the 16th to 17th century that ruled over a large part of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
- A Danish manufacturer of porcelain products that was founded in Copenhagen in 1775.
- Plates with the year of production printed on them.
- Classical Japanese poetry written in Japanese, in contrast to other poems which were written in Classical Chinese.
- One of the “five great Zen temples of Kyoto”.
- Yoi-yama are street parties held on the three evenings preceding the main float processions. Incidentally, they’re called Yoi-yoi-yoi-yama, yoi-yoi-yama and yoi-yama, with yoi-yama being the one right before the main festival.
- Mugwort in Japanese is 四方草 (Yomogi) which means four-direction grass when read literally.
- Artemisia princeps
- Paederia scandens Meriill
- A classical Japanese anthology of one hundred waka by one hundred poets.
- The poet’s son, Bishop Kōkaku of Kofukuji Temple, wanted to be official lecturer of Vimalakirti Sutra, which is a highly prestigious position that required having the right skills and connections. Unforunately, Bishop Kōkaku wasn’t so lucky.
- Mugwort was used in moxibustion, which is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy in which dried mugwort is burnt on particular points of the body.
- Fujiwara no Sanekata was a waka poet of the mid-Heian period. The poem was sent to a woman he was first starting to court, so it was a sort of introduction to her, since she didn’t know who he was.
- A poem in reply.
- Literally translated as “Handmade of Suō”, she was a female waka poet of the late Heian period whose real name was unknown.