Hikaru was irritated by it.
‘What am I? Poison? This is ridiculous. I was trying to do the right thing and make sure she was doing things for herself to make her happy and what happens? She gets mad and is giving me the silent treatment.’
Hokuto watched everything with a puzzled face. He tried only once to ask what was wrong. He never tried again, choosing never to bring the subject up ever again. “Okay, no need to bite my head off.”
“There isn’t a need to ask stupid questions.” Hikaru snapped. “You saw how she’s treating me.”
“Yeah, that’s why I wanted to know if you’re alright? But I won’t bother now,” with his hands up and palms displayed, Hokuto slunk out of their shared room and headed down stairs.
Hikaru snarled at the air before sighing and following.
Takashi didn’t say a word. He and Yuki were curled up on the lounge, watching over the others. “Be careful tonight.”
“We will be.” Ruby sweetly replied.
Hikaru was kicked in the guts when he saw her. He froze. The yukata was back, an elaborate bow sitting high above her bottom drew his attention straight away. As she turned slightly, he saw the slight flush across the top of her cheeks as she smiled.
Then she saw him. Her smile disappeared. “Mamiya-san.”
He gritted his teeth. “Ruby-san.” He wanted to tell her she looked pretty, but the words wouldn’t come out.
Hokuto rolled his eyes and herded them to the door. Once out in the warm summer air, he sighed dramatically. “Enough with this. If you can’t be nice to each other, I’m ditching you both.”
“Hokuto.” Ruby pouted. “Don’t be mean… we’ll be nice to each other. Right Mamiya-san?”
“Hmm.” It barely made it out of his mouth without sounding like a growl. ‘This is the worst festival ever.’
“Hey, I’m not late am I?”
‘Then again, there was always Chiyo.’ Looking the new arrival over, he felt a slight flutter of attraction to the woman. ‘Remember how you met.’ That did the trick, and he was feeling very fond of her all over again. “Not late at all,” he grinned and slipped in beside her.
“Good,” she sighed.
“Let’s go have fun,” Ruby slipped her arm through Hokuto. They led the way to the shrine.
Hikaru and Chiyo followed.
“How was your day? We haven’t seen you for a while.” Hikaru’s stomach was in knots as he asked her.
“I do have to work.” Plainly, she responded.
“What kind of work?”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Mostly laundry. Every guest house has to have the laundry done every day.”
“You should’ve told me, I could’ve been helping you.”
Still she was suspicious. “Why?”
“Hikaru.” she stopped in the middle of the footpath. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” his stomach gurgled. ‘This feels like dangerous territory.’ “I’m walking with you to the festival.”
“But you’re trying too hard to be nice.”
“I’m a nice person. We’ve talked before.” The irritation was starting to slip back into his tone. ‘Why is everybody determined to think the worst of me? I’m trying!’
“Yeah, but…” She bit her lip. “Never mind. Let’s catch up with the others.” She started to jog.
The festival was packed by the time they’d reached it. People walked down the aisle of stalls with barely any personal space to be found. Twinkling lights from the lanterns strung along the rooves of the stalls and through the trees made everything glow and look more magical.
“Let’s play this game,” Ruby smiled and pointed.
The four of them tried their hand at it, and then different game, and another, and another. They worked their way along the line of stalls. Winning small things. And then came a bear.
“Yay!” Hokuto hefted it into the air like a trophy. “I’m the best!”
Chiyo rolled her eyes. “If you were a gentleman, you’d give that to one of us girls.”
“But I won it.”
Ruby laughed and moved onto the next stall, this one laden with food. “Ohh, this looks great.”
Hokuto glared at Chiyo and remained fixed in his spot. “You know, it isn’t nice to always be demanding things of people.”
She gasped. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah.” He tucked the toy under his arm and stood his ground.
“I don’t demand.”
“You do. It’s rude.”
“Hey, I was making a suggestion. Isn’t it meant to be normal for a guy to win a prize for a girl?”
“In a manga.”
Hikaru backed away from them. “What is their problem?”
“I don’t know, but they’re missing out.” Ruby appeared at his elbow, four sticks jammed with chunks of food threaded on them, clutched in her hands. One was held to her lips, several pieces missing already. “So good.”
“Do I get one?” He tentatively enquired.
She gave him a stick. “Maybe I shouldn’t give them one, they might stab each other.” Glancing at him. “I’m still considering stabbing you.”
Hikaru didn’t respond in any way but to say, “Whatever.”
Something must’ve changed, she grinned at him. “Whatever.”
Hokuto and Chiyo growled more. They were drawing attention from the other festival attendees, but it was the stall holders who kept trying to shew them away. Slowly, they moved from in front of that one stall to the middle of the alley.
“This is ridiculous. What are they arguing about?”
Ruby shrugged. “I didn’t even think they spoke to each other.”
Suddenly, she lost her scowl, her lips parted and eyes widened as she looked to the person calling her name.
Hikaru and Ruby turned to see the same thing.