"Yeah, do you want to go shopping together tomorrow if you're free?"
The nation's premier Onmyouji cultivation facility, the Onmyou Academy.
In the corridor of the Onmyou Academy dorm, Tsuchimikado Harutora was currently chatting with the student who had just passed by. She was Tsuchimikado Natsume, Harutora's childhood friend.
Natsume seemed like she had just finished showering. She wore loose baggy athletic clothing, with a towel wrapped around her head of dripping black hair.
She deliberately wore this rather large athletic clothing to conceal the curves of her body. However, the faintly red-tinged skin that was visible was tender and smooth, and the fine white neck exposed to the outside didn't seem at all like it would appear in this kind of place - the male dorm.
The wrongly-sized athletic clothing seemed to accent her childishness and willfulness. Maybe she wasn't used to this kind of dress, as Harutora saw her step on her own pants legs more than five times. He wondered how her true identity had managed to last this long without being exposed.
"Yeah? ......Oh, Sorry." Harutora noticed he was staring, hastily coughing a few times to conceal it. "Anyway, I've been studying almost the whole time since I came to Tokyo, and I've almost never gone out."
"Of course you can't go out, since you can't keep up with the curriculum."
"Uh, I guess that's true...... But I still haven't been able to buy things like clothes or furniture! Especially clothes, I haven't brought any winter clothes from home, so I'm out of clothes to wear already."
"You can wear the uniform."
"I'm talking about normal clothes! Also, I managed to leave home and come to Tokyo, but every day I'm either going to the academy or back to the dorm! I almost can't take it! I want to relax once in a while too!"
Harutora had only transferred into the Onmyou Academy half a year after Natsume, and he was originally an outsider with regard to Onmyoudou. Hence, he had to put more effort in to be able to keep up with the progress of the curriculum, and he lived a life of scrambling after schoolwork all the time.
Tomorrow was Sunday, so he didn't need to go to class.
"I want to go have fun, I want to go have fun!" He repeated forcefully, clenching his fists. His expression couldn't conceal his suffering.
This was the point of view of a perfectly healthy boy - Harutora believed this, but for some reason Natsume's gaze was a bit impatient, like a big sister staring at a belligerent child.
Then, Natsume sighed. She didn't seem helpless, nor did she show a wry smile.
"Okay, I'll come shopping with you."
"Really? Great! I'll have to sleep early tonight since we decided to go shopping tomorrow. Good night, Natsume. I'll see you in the dorm cafeteria tomorrow morning!"
Harutora's expression instantly became joyful and he walked back to his own room in high spirits.
Natsume watched him leave, a wry smile finally emerging on her face as she quietly said: "......I hope the weather's good tomorrow."
The weather was extremely sunny the next day.
Harutora arrived at the first-floor cafeteria ahead of time to wait. Once he saw Natsume appear, he said out loud: "No way?" and furrowed his brow.
"What's wrong? Did you wait long?"
"Well, I didn't wait very long......"
Harutora sized Natsume up from head to toe. Natsume couldn't help but look distracted, glancing at him with a "Huh?". She didn't look to be in a bad mood.
"......Why are you wearing the uniform?"
"Huh? Didn't you want to go shopping?"
"Right, I wanted to go 'shopping'! Not to the academy to take classes! Why do you even wear your uniform when you go out to have fun?"
Natsume who had appeared in the cafeteria still wore the specially designed, black Onmyou Academy uniform that resembled imperial clothing.
Harutora spoke impatiently and Natsume replied huffily.
"Wh, What's the problem, I just wanted to wear the uniform out."
"How can there be no problem, the Onmyou Academy uniform is so conspicuous. Also, how can we have fun like this?"
Harutora wore a T-shirt, jacket, and jeans. Though he hadn't particularly paid attention to his dress, the relaxed style suited him reasonably well.
"But...... I don't have anything else to wear outside." Natsume spoke distressedly.
"What? No way? Why?"
"Wh, Why......" Natsume tossed her head in offense, glaring at Harutora. Then, she suddenly lowered her voice, even changing her tone. "......Do I even need to say? I, I don't have male clothing."
With that, Harutora exclaimed "Oh", finally understanding Natsume's point.
Harutora and Natsume had been born in the Tsuchimikado family, a famous Onmyoudou family. Harutora was from the branch family, but Natsume was the successor of the main family. According to the branch family tradition, Harutora had to serve Natsume and become her shikigami.
On the other hand, Natsume obeyed the main family tradition and concealed her own gender - She dressed as a male to enter the Onmyou Academy to study, not allowing others to learn that she was a girl. Only her childhood friend Harutora and their classmate Ato Touji knew her secret.
Her saying this reminded Harutora that he had only seen Natsume dressed up back at home. She always wore athletic clothing in the dorm.
"B, But what did you do before? Did you wear your uniform every time you went out?"
"I never went out alone...... Even when I did, I was just going to the bookstore or the convenience store......"
"Uwah, what a lonely life."
"Th, That's none of your business! I came to Tokyo to become an Onmyouji. It's enough to wear my uniform, sleeping clothes, and at the most athletic clothes as well!" Natsume spoke agitatedly, clearly forcing herself. However, she didn't admit defeat, inviting solitude and loneliness instead.
"......O, Okay, why don't you come buy clothes with me today. I'll help you pick out some suitable clothes."
"What? Don't look down on me! Listen, I don't want to buy any clothes, and I don't like noisy places--!"
"Okay, okay, don't worry. I'll tell you what's popular now so that you won't lose face."
"Don't insult me! I'm not going anymore, since I oppose reasons like 'having fun' in the first place." Natsume pouted, her face flushed from anger.
It couldn't be told from her external appearance, but Natsume's personality was actually quite stubborn. Things would be bad if he got on her bad side.
"Alright, alright." Harutora hastily spoke up to appease her anger. "I'm not familiar with this area, and you lived here for half a year, so you should know better than me, right?"
"Why don't you just ask Touji for that kind of thing. He was originally from here."
"It seems like he has business today."
"......Business? He's not going with us today?"
"Yeah, but it's stupid to go shopping alone. Please come with me, Natsume." Harutora laughed to placate her.
Once the originally angry Natsume heard that Touji couldn't come, her face suddenly changed. Since the three of them had almost always moved together recently, she seemed to have believed that today would also be the same.
"......It's only the two of us today?"
"......Only the two of us are going to go shopping?"
"......Then th-this is a d--"
Harutora didn't hear clearly and asked back in confusion. "N-Nothing!" For some reason, Natsume blushed, turning her back to Harutora after saying that.
The small back facing Harutora seemed uneasy and anxious. Harutora's mind was filled with questions. He didn't know whether to speak up or not and could only silently watch Natsume's reaction.
Not long after--
"O, Okay! I'll go with you today, I have no choice!"
Natsume recovered her male tone, speaking up. She turned around, her mouth faintly curving up. Harutora secretly wondered whether he had just been over-thinking things.
Harutora didn't understand the sudden change in his childhood friend's attitude, but he didn't dare ask for a clear reason from the beaming and pleased Natsume. He just replied: "......Okay" and nodded his head obediently.
They didn't know that the dorm manager Fujino happened to be grinning in the corridor outside the dorm cafeteria, excitedly pressing her ear against the door to eavesdrop.
The Onmyou Academy was in the Shibuya district. Even though he had said they would 'go out to have fun', it was actually just a short walk.
After leaving the dorm, Harutora and Natsume first walked to the busiest district of Shibuya, the JR Shibuya Station.
This place was normally hustling and bustling, and it was even more packed on a sunny Sunday. The two were bathed in the autumn sunlight as they leisurely strolled through the crowd of people.
Harutora wore a refreshing smile, looking around the group of people on the road.
"As expected of Yashibu, the weekends are so busy."
"Y, Yashibu...... You sound like a weird foreigner. Don't say that, it's so embarrassing."
"Huh? It's embarrassing? But Touji said that people in Tokyo would say the names backwards......"
"Harutora, he was tricking you."
"Tricking me? So that's why Kyouko laughed? Tenma also looked troubled......"
"At least you should have noticed when no one around you spoke like that."
"But after I came to Tokyo, I actually heard someone else talk like that."
Kurahashi Kyouko and Momoe Tenma were classmates of Harutora and Natsume, and Ohtomo Jin was their homeroom teacher.
Harutora, whose mistake had been pointed out, frowned with a displeased face. Natsume sighed - giggling lightly.
"I-It's been a long time since we had fun like this, especially w-with just the two of us!" Then, Natsume spoke with a bit of bashfulness.
"Huh? --Oh, right. Since the incident in the summer, I always felt like it wasn't a time to play around...... How long has it been since we went out? We haven't played together since we grew up, right?"
"Haha, that's too much of an exaggeration. Before Touji came, we went to the fireworks festival--"
"Fireworks? When was that?'
"Two years ago-- Ah, no! I, I think I remembered wrong! Uh...... r, right! It seems like we didn't play together after we grew up. Ahaha, how nostalgic!"
For some reason, Natsume became flustered and suddenly laughed fakely a few times, pretending to be casual. Harutora furrowed his brow, but Natsume hastily changed the topic with a smile.
"R, Right, where do you want to go first! I remember you said you wanted to buy clothes."
"Huh? Let me think, I wanted to buy winter clothes and then help you find a few clothes...... I don't have much money on me, so all we can do afterwards is go to an arcade or a manga store...... What about you? Is there anywhere you want to go?"
"Me? I don't know much about these things, so you can decide."
"Alright then, we'll just stroll around Shibuya. It should be pretty interesting."
"Haha, that's right...... Strolling around leisurely is really like a...... date......"
"Huh? What did you say?"
"Nothing, I didn't say anything~" After saying this, Natsume walked in front of Harutora with light steps, her head of black hair and the pink ribbon tied in her hair prancing along with her steps. She was happy for some reason, her face with a joyous expression that seemed like she might lose control of the smile on her face at any time.
"Let's go find your clothes first."
"Huh? Thanks for what?"
"Eh? Thanks for leading the way......"
Natsume suddenly jumped in surprise after hearing Harutora say this.
"I'm leading the way? I don't go out very often, how could I lead the way?"
Natsume's eyes widened and she stressed this point that wasn't something to be proud of. Harutora could only shrug his shoulders unconcernedly.
"I don't mean for you to make recommendations. I mostly wear second-hand clothes, so it's fine if you just bring me to a place where lot of those kinds of stores would be gathered."
"I said I don't know! Also, I never go out to buy clothes!"
"What? How is that possible? Never mind male clothing, don't you have several female clothes?"
"Th, Those are all from mail-order......"
"Mail order? Why?"
"W, Why...... In stores, there are shop attendants who run up to ask you things......" Natsume explained awkwardly.
Come to think of it, Natsume was unusually shy, particularly 'in private' when she wasn't dressed as a male. "No way." Harutora scratched his head, seeming quite troubled.
"So that wasn't a joke, you're really completely unfamiliar with Shibuya?"
"I, I wouldn't say completely unfamiliar, I'm just not very familiar......"
"But you can't think of anywhere we could go, right? That sucks, I don't know if we can find a place by strolling around...... After all, this place is so big."
Harutora's luck was extremely poor, so he couldn't expect to randomly run into a secondhand clothing store suitable for him.
"......I, Is it that annoying not to know where to go?" Natsume looked at him anxiously.
"It should be resolvable, I think."
"Do we ask the police?"
"Police? We don't need to go through that much trouble. Let's just walk around the area first." Harutora smiled, beginning to walk again. Natsume silently followed behind him.
"......I really should have gotten Touji to come with us."
It was also Harutora's first time in a place as big a Shibuya. He mumbled with a wry smile, secretly reflecting on his hasty actions. Rather than shooting for the moon, he should have found someone familiar with this place in order to actually get results.
But, once this unintentional sentence reached the ears of Natsume behind him, her heart suddenly leaped, her steps went awry, and anger instantly flashed across her face, also leading to a haughty arrogance.
"......Th, This is all your fault for failing to plan. Even though you wanted to buy clothes, you didn't investigate which store you wanted beforehand, right?"
"I said, I thought I could ask you--"
"What's that supposed to mean? Are you saying it's all my fault?"
"Th, That's not what I mean."
"In the first place, it's all your fault for wanting to rely on others from the beginning. That way of thinking is way too irresponsible. That's why things go bad once something slips up."
"Uh, I guess......"
"Don't always think that everything will turn out well."
Her attitude flipped and her tone suddenly became acrid. Harutora, his face displeased, didn't get what had happened.
"......What are you mad about?"
"I, I'm not mad."