Waking up I opened my eyes to sunlight streaming through my window. Blinking sleepily I yawned and stretched, feeling an unpleasant grittiness in my mouth. Ugh, yeah, drank too much. As I got up to head to the bathroom I noticed Shaeula was no longer there, having already left. Once I had rinsed my mouth, washed my face and cleaned my teeth to get rid of the taste of stale alcohol, I headed downstairs, to where my sister and Shaeula were hunched over her mobile phone by the breakfast table, listening to some sort of pop music.
On seeing me my sister waved at me cheerfully. “Oh hey big bro, finally up, you sleepyhead? Mom was going to call you, as breakfast is nearly ready. Or…” she grinned. “… I get it, just like those anime you like, you were waiting for your adorable little sis to come and wake you up. Well, no such luck for you I’m afraid. Such a shame!”
“Yeah, yeah, good morning to you too.” I had to smile. “So, what are you looking at?”
“Oh, it’s an idol group that is really popular at the moment. I was just showing Shaeula. They are performing in Tokyo on Christmas Eve. I wish I could go… still, they are way cool, and beautiful. The outfits are pretty too…”
“I see.” Idols huh. Wouldn’t have pegged my sister for a fan of those. Still…
“You don’t seem too enthused big bro. Wow, I’m shocked. With your taste I would have thought you’d be all over cute girls. Well, maybe Eri-chan, Shaeula and I are enough for you? Oh, you are making me blush.”
I rapped her head with my knuckles gently as I sat down beside her at the table. She pouted for a moment before giving me such a sunny smile I was momentarily taken aback. What’s got into her today?
“You know, I don’t say this enough big bro, but… I’m really grateful you are my brother, and for everything you do for me. Seriously, thank you. And you know… I am going to move to Tokyo like you did when I graduate, and I’ll be living with you then. No objections okay? After all, you live with Shaeula already, right? So how can you turn your adorable sister who loves you very much away?”
“Indeed-indeed.” Shaeula piped up. “His house is quite… modest in scope. However soon we shall secure a residence of size and splendour worthy of us-us and you will be most welcome.”
As my sis hugged Shaeula, who tried to throw her off, I shook my head. Yeah, seriously, what has got into my sister? Still, if she does come to Tokyo it would be better to keep an eye on her, especially now… “Enough playing at the table.” My mom warned as she started bringing in our traditional breakfast, rice, soup and side dishes all being lined up. “Your father won’t approve.”
“Yeah, I get it mom.” My sister agreed, releasing Shaeula, who straightened her clothing and sat on her cushion. Soon my father joined us, and we had a lively breakfast, talking about the baseball game yesterday and the upcoming festival. Once we were done Shaeula held out her hand to me. I looked at it, then her, a bit puzzled.
“I require money. We have much to prepare-prepare.” She told me, so I took out ten thousand yen and handed it to her, only for her to scoff at me.
“Do not be stingy. You can not expect me to make do with such a meagre fortune. Be generous, as my master should be-be.”
Really now? Over laughter from my mom and sister I let her empty my wallet. As she did so she waved one small hand, and I felt the breeze wash over me, fortune favouring me. With that done she turned to my sister. “Come then Aiko. We must meet with Eri and acquire what we need with all haste-haste!”
With that and barely a goodbye my sister and Shaeula left the house, leaving me rather nonplussed.
“Oh poor little Aki, did they leave you behind? Don’t feel too bad, you can help your mom clear up the dishes and we can have a nice long chat!”
After some catching up with my parents I opened up my phone and began to gamble, figuring that was why Shaeula had left me with her blessing. Of course, she might have just felt guilty that she emptied my wallet…
I quickly accumulated decent gains, and over the course of the day put nearly six thousand pounds into my account via several different online casinos. Still, just doing this was a bit boring, so I alternated it with some exercise until I heard the voices of Shaeula and the girls. They sounded pretty excited, chattering away. I wonder what they could have needed all that money for. It isn’t as though our town has much in the way of shopping options…
Going downstairs I could hear my mother too, talking loudly. Sliding open the door… I paused.
Wow, that’s… quite the transformation.
Shaeula, my sister and Eri-chan were fully dressed up in gorgeous yukata, their hair had been done elaborately and pinned with ornate hair sticks, and they had extremely impressive makeup applied. Whoa, they look like idols. I had seen Shaeula’s yukata before, as I bought it for her, but just where did the girls get theirs?
As I stood there, mouth open, my mom burst out laughing. “Looks like it is mission accomplished girls, Aki is totally floored by your beauty. I must say Goto-san really outdid herself. She’ll appreciate the extra money too I’m sure. Everyone wins, right?”
“Uh… yeah.” I managed to say. “You all look… well, stunning, I guess. I see where my money went now, but I didn’t think you could get such nice things in our little backwater.”
Preening at the compliment my sister gave me a thumbs up. “Wow, nice compliment big bro. You’ve definitely got better with the ladies since moving to the big city. That was almost smooth. Try it again without the ‘I guess?’ though. We are clearly the three most beautiful girls in town.”
“You win.” I smiled at her cheek. “You three are definitely gorgeous. I’ll have to keep an eye on you to fend off all the guys who will try to hit on you at the festival.”
“As if anyone would dare after the way you put Kenji-san in his place.” My sister scoffed. “I wonder if he’ll go through with it and throw away his dignity on stage? I wouldn’t put it past him to bail…”
Meh, I don’t really care whether he does or not. Enough people know so he won’t bother my sister again. Looking at Eri-chan with her hair bound around a hair pin decorated with cloth cherry blossoms and matching roses in a very adult fashion, I let out a little whistle involuntarily. “You know, I’ve never seen you looking like this Eri-chan. You don’t normally bother with much makeup, do you? It makes you look quite a bit more mature.”
Eri-chan nodded gently, her face red, though unlike our usual exchanges this time she did not look away. “I thought… that if I was to go around the festival with you, I should look more an adult. I want… to match you better, big brother.”
Shaeula grunted in disapproval. Eri-chan glanced at her, bowing her head apologetically. I don’t get it…?
“That Goto woman was quite skilled indeed-indeed. She reminded me of one of our court attendants. There was quite the selection of fabrics and accessories, and her skills with this make up-up are remarkable.”
“Court attendants.” My mom chuckled. “You sound like a princess. Not many countries have those any more, though Britain still does, and I guess the daughter of our Emperor here might count…”
Shaeula was about to speak again but I interrupted her, just knowing it was going to be about being an actual princess. “Yeah, I bet the yukata and accessories cost a ton, to say nothing of that makeup. You do still have some of my money left don’t you Shaeula? You can’t have spent it all, surely?”
“Don’t worry big bro. we still have enough left to enjoy the festival. I have to admit, my hands were starting to shake when Shaeula spent all that money on us… but then she told us you’d be happy if we looked nice, so I decided that it didn’t really matter, right Eri-chan?”
Eri-chan agreed. “I’m really grateful that you’d spend so much money on me. I love this yukata, the one I have for festivals… isn’t this nice at all. Thank you big… err Akio. We… we can use the money left, can’t we?”
Akio huh? I felt a shiver as Eri-chan, looking surprisingly mature and devastatingly cute, called me by my name with no honourifics. Seeing my stunned stare, Shaeula was snickering crudely, while my sis and mom were also laughing at me.
“Sure.” I said, ignoring the good-natured mockery. “My treat. We’ll be enjoying the festival together anyway, right?” Luckily I had some extra money in my luggage, as getting cash in town was a pain, especially around festival time, when the few ATM’s we had in town would usually run dry.
“Yeah, you kids go and have fun.” My mom said. “Your father and I will go around by ourselves later. Oh, to think the day would come when my little Aki was going around the festival with so many beautiful flowers….”
“Fascinating. So this is one of your Japanese festivals, is it-it?” Shaeula said, looking around with interest at the many stalls that lined the approach to the temple. Though it was still early the crowds were already picking up, and we were starting to attract a few curious gazes.
No wonder. The girls are all stunning right now. Everyone is in their best finery for the festival, but I don’t think anyone looks as good as these three. I feel a bit shabby in comparison. I had changed myself, into a fashionably plain yukata, and my sis had sorted out my hair, so I didn’t look bad, just a bit overshadowed…
“Come on Shaeula, don’t run off.” My sister held her arm. “Big bro would be upset if you got led away by some strangers…”
“I can take care of myself, as you know-know.” Shaeula complained, but she allowed herself to be turned back towards us. Her eyes then lit up as she saw a stall selling cotton candy. “Oh, Akio, what is that-that? I would like to try some if it is food.”
“It’s definitely food, well, a sweet anyway.” I went over to the stall-holder, a middle-aged man who was giving us a warm look. “Give me three of these for the girls.” I asked, and he quickly dipped sticks in the cotton candy machine, creating three large balls. “There you go. Extra large for the beauties. I’m envious. So which one are you aiming for at the fireworks?”
As the girls waited for my answer I merely shrugged it off with a laugh. Passing them the cotton candy I was thanked by my sis and Eri-chan, while Shaeula tucked straight in. “Yes, this is indeed rather sweet-sweet.” She agreed, munching on it, her small cheeks stuffed like a squirrel with nuts.
“Wow, O.M.G. Can you be any cuter?” My sister gushed, and Eri-chan was also smiling. We continued to banter along, moving between the stalls, getting other traditional fare such as shaved ice, noodles and various dishes made from the leftovers from the baseball game. Soon only Shaeula was still eating, washing down her food with several beers we had bought her (and it was quite the ordeal convincing the stall-holder she was old enough to drink…). Now we were looking at a stall selling plastic masks, Shaeula pouting at the selection.
“This is most disgraceful. Why is there masks for foxes-foxes and none of glorious weaselkin? I refuse to wear such a mask, it reminds me of that scoundrel Duke Vulpatrius.”
“I don’t know who that is, but there are plenty of other nice masks here. Why not try on this one?” my sister said, picking out a cat mask for her. Soon we had all bought some cute masks and were about to move on when Yae-san and Rika-san arrived.
“Oh wow, I’m feeling a little outclassed here Rika-chan.” Yae-san said as she saw the girls all dressed up.
“I know what you mean, Yae-chan.” Rika-san agreed. “We’ve put a lot of effort into our outfits, but we can’t match that…”
Rika-san and Yae-san were indeed all dressed up in decent yukata, their blonde hair arranged prettily, but their style was indeed inferior to the three flowers I was with. Still, now with the five of them I was really standing out…
“Maybe that’s why Akio-kun wouldn’t give you your date during the festival?” Rika-san teased her friend, and Yae-san pouted in mock-anger.
“Hmph, Aki just wants to do it right, I’m sure. You wouldn’t back out on me now, would you Aki? After all…” she sighed then, looking a little annoyed. “I had to give Masaki-kun the push. I guess guys our own age are no good after all, it’s all about older, more mature men. He started getting all insistent about us going out together, and he wouldn’t even apologise for betting me on that stupid wager. Ugh, he is just the worst. ‘I didn’t think I’d lose, it was a sure-win, easy money!’ he said, as if that makes it any better… ‘I did it for you, why can’t you see that?’ … sure you did. I know I’m not smart, but he must really think I’m dumb. Luckily I found out he was useless before we went too far…”
“Hey, too much information there Yae-chan!” her friend advised her, and I had to agree. “Anyway…” Rika-san continued, looking at the girls. “They look like Yukata from Goto-san’s place. I looked at them, but even renting them was pricy. Did… did Akio-san pay for them for you?”
Yae-san was also waiting for my answer, eyes bright. Before I could speak my sister piped up. “He sure did. And we didn’t rent them, we bought them! All the accessories too. All Eri-chan and I had to say was ‘please big bro, we want to look our best for you!’ and he pulled out a whole stack of yen for us to go shopping with. He bought Shaeula’s too, from Tokyo no less!”
Looks like my sister is having a good time teasing them. Maybe they are better friends than I thought? I am not sure how to feel that Yae-san keeps calling me by a nickname though. I had only spoken to them a few times before this visit home. We aren’t that close. Damn that stupid wager…
“Oh man, I am so jealous.” Yae-san admitted. “Ai-chan and little Ri-Ri get all the luck.” She peered at me, head tilted seductively. “When you take me on our date you’ll treat me too, right? I’ll definitely make it worth your while.”
“There’s no point to having a date now.” Eri-chan broke in. “If you have broken up with your boyfriend, surely that is loss enough for him. Dating you now would be pointless for Akio.”
Everyone froze for a moment at her unexpected assertiveness. Shaeula, who had put the mask over her head, leaving her face visible, stepped in. “Eri, all oaths must be upheld-upheld. To break given word is to defile the self-self. Akio will give her this date-date, and as expected from my master, it will be magnificent indeed-indeed.”
“Oh, you are just too adorable.” Rika-san went to hug Shaeula, but she dodged aside, graceful even in her yukata and geta sandals.
“Yeah, I love the way she sometimes calls him master.” Yae-san agreed. “It’s such a cute way of calling someone a senpai.” She then turned back to me. “I’m looking forwards to it. But until we have this date I’m technically your girlfriend, so don’t leave me hanging, okay Aki?”
“Monday then. I was planning on taking the girls into town to do some shopping for our trip, so if you come along I can take you out afterwards.” I gave in as there was no way I could break my word, Shaeula would not tolerate it. I’m not insensitive, I’ll give her some good memories to soften the blow of her break-up.
My sister was hugging the pouting Eri-chan, who was directing a very… intense… gaze at Yae-san. As Yae-san thanked me, moving in for a hug like Rika-san had, which I also dodged, Rika-san piped up. “We seem to be drawing a bit too much attention. Shall we head up to the main shrine? There are a lot of games and stuff to play up there. Besides…” she smirked fiendishly. “Kenji-san will be up there somewhere, ready to pay for his idiocy…”
“I don’t care about that.” My sister shrugged. “All right, against my better judgement you can hang out with us…” she told them. “But come the fireworks… you better keep clear, okay?”
Yae-san and Rika-san exchanged a look. “Oh, so it’s like that is it? I guess today is the day.” Rika-san said, glancing behind me.
“I’ve still got a shot, haven’t I, Aki?” Yae-san had grabbed my arm while I was distracted, pushing it into her decent chest. Damn, yukata barely conceal anything, I can feel her… assets.
“I’m still a very attractive girl, and I’m not shy, I’ll show you how fun it can be to go out with a younger girl who knows what to do.”
“All right, enough of that!” my sister complained, tugging at Yae-san’s other arm. As we bickered good-naturedly we were definitely drawing too much attention, so we continued up the steps, reaching the temple plaza.