“Oh Fujimiya? That’s a surprise.”
After school, Amane dropped by at the game center, inserted a note into a coin exchange machine, and heard a voice he was not really familiar with.
He slipped the coins into his wallet, turned around, and saw Kadowaki standing there. It appeared the latter came to the game center for some fun too, for his hand was in the wallet as he stood behind Amane.
“Strange seeing you here, Kadowaki. What about club activities?”
“It’s a rest day. Will be bad to be burdened every day after all.”
He was the ace of the track team, but he did not devote all his time on it. According to him, he could not not compromise on rest.
Once he was done exchanging his money, Amane retreated to the side. Kadowaki too inserted a note into the machine.
2000 yen went into his wallet, and once he spotted Amane looking, he chuckled.
“I thought you would be an honor student or sorts. Shocked me to see you here though.”
“I do visit a game center from time to time, but I don’t really want to waste money, so I won’t really come here unless there’s something.”
“Hm, then why today?”
“I’m here to play the crane game. Someone asked me to get a doll.”
On the contrary, it was Chitose who showed Amane the game center website, and went all “Looky look, don’t you think Mahirun will like this~?” Having considered how Mahiru had been a little dejected recently, Amane came to the game center, hoping to catch a doll for her.
Looking at the photo Chitose sent the last time, it appeared Mahiru did not have many decorations in her room. Amane wanted to use the chance to buy Mahiru a cute doll, and provide a few friends to the bear doll.
“Can you catch one?”
“Yep. I’m good at this.”
The crane in this game center were rather strong, and easy to grab with. Once he figured out the object’s center of gravity, its positioning, and the manner to grab, it was unexpectedly easy.
It was due to Shihoko teaching him tricks in elementary school. “See, put the crane here, and it grabs it. Over here, pull the hook into the label, and voila.”
Amane managed to learn some strange knowledge and tricks due to his mother’s showcase of her meaningless myriad of skills.
Kadowaki looked surprised, and Amane led him to the crane area, saying that they should try everything. He casually slotted a coin into a machine with lots of bunny dolls.
Given the arm grip and positioning, it appeared one coin would be enough. There were instances where it was impossible to grab without spending hundreds of yen, but this crane should be fine.
Amane did not really understand, but it appeared the bunny doll was a character from a certain work. He aimed at the head and the body, and the head was then lodged in the arms. Its body was dangling, but with his head hanging on, the crane managed to hold onto the doll.
All he had to do was to move the lever away, and the doll would naturally fall into the exit.
Thud, the bunny fell. Amane took it out, and waved it gently to Kadowaki, “Wow.” who looked impressed.
“The crane arms of the game center here are rather sturdy, and the shopkeeper will teach anyone how to use it if you got any issue. This shop is a good place for beginners.”
“So that’s why Itsuki and the others say this is a good place?”
I see. Kadowaki nodded understandingly.
“Just to ask. This for someone?”
“Yep. That person really took care of me. I intend to give this as thanks.”
Amane was not lying.
He simply never mentioned that it was Mahiru. It was a fact that he was taken care of by her; it was a fact that the gift was an appreciation of her daily help.
“You’re really hardworking, Amane. I think I understand though.”
“Well, you’re delicate and gentlemanly, and will casually help others out.”
“That was just a coincidence.”
“It was, but you helped me out. That bag the last time, for example.”
Once again, Kadowaki showed a hearty smile to express his thanks, and Amane found himself strangely bashful.
It was not anything important, yet it appeared Kadowaki remembered. Amane always had a shopping bag, and did not intend for Kadowaki to owe him a favor.
“…Anyway Kadowaki. You done eating all the valentine chocolates?”
Amane asked Kadowaki, partially to hide his embarrassment from being thanked so openly, and partly to answer his own doubt. Kadowaki then gave a grim look.
“Ah…don’t mention it to others, okay? I ate all the ones that were bought.”
“You didn’t eat the handmade ones?”
“…The handmade ones? Well…hmm, they did put in effort, but.”
“They aren’t delicious?”
“No, some added hair, and some added stuff that obviously should not be inside chocolates.”
“What sorcery is this…?”
It was understandable if they were accidentally mixed in. From Kadowaki’s tone however, it seemed to have happened a few times, clearly deliberately.
Amane had an impression that certain spells of the past included body parts. If the same idea was applied for chocolates, it might be unbearable to those who were forced to eat them.
“I do receive some complimentary ones too…this always happens to me, and it’s scary, so I always insisted not to accept handmade stuff. People still give them to me though, so I would accept them before returning. As for those who disguised it as bought stuff though, I’d just have to say sorry…I guess.”
I can’t accept handmade stuff when so many have weird things mixed in. Kadowaki muttered away with a sad, hopeless face. Amane too had to sympathize.
“…Being a popular guy sure is tough huh?”
“It’s unbearable how I’m still envied because of this…not like I want to be the popular one. I’d rather not be popular than suffer through this.”
“Man, I agree.”
“It’s scary right? Smiling girls giving me sweets and food with strange stuff mixed in them?
Amane nodded as it was really reasonable.
Typically, a girl’s handmade item was really valuable, but it represented fear to Kadowaki. It was pitiful how many times he experienced what was supposedly a rare event.
“Maybe the best solution is to get someone, so that nobody will chase after me…but I’m scared that she’ll get bullied.”
“…Envy sure is scary.”
Kadowaki seemed to be at wits end as he dropped his shoulders. It appeared he was completely worn out.
His standing posture really invoked much sympathy, so Amane grabbed a large packet of potato sticks from a nearby crane machine, and gave it to him.
“Well…you can look for Itsuki and me if you need to talk. Eat up. Cheer yourself up.”
“Thanks for that…it’s tough…”
Kadowaki clearly looked frustrated, and Amane truly felt that it was not easy being popular, nor was it something to be simply happy about.