"Tomoe! What are you doing? If you are free, would you accompany me to the city? I've got some things I'd like to buy and afterwards I feel like having some udon!"
Tomoe was just about finishing sweeping the front yard when he heard Nanami's voice. He turned to see her at the shrine entrance, smiling expectantly up at him.
"The city, huh? How long's that gonna take? Have you even done your duties as a land deity?"
At that, Nanami's cheerful expression instantly soured. Geez, must he say it like that? I have been working hard, and I daresay I've improved a lot as compared to when I first started out. Can't I have a day to play?
"Eh Nanami-chan, you want to go to the city?" Mizuki appears behind Nanami, in his hands a lollipop she gave him a few days ago.
"Why do you want to go to the city? It's full of toxic gases and bad people – you may get hurt!" Mizuki took a side-glance at Tomoe, his eyes gleaming mischievously. "But of course, if you insist, let me accompany you there. I will protect you from all ha –"
Before he could complete his sentence, a broomstick came flying towards him, knocking him to the ground.
"Nanami asked me to go with her. You are going nowhere except shrine-sit here! Nanami. Hurry up and get ready. Let's make this quick."
"Mizuki! Are you okay? Gomen ne! I'll be back shortly, I promise to buy you something yummy to eat!"
And so, Nanami and Tomoe arrive in the city.
"Wahhh, the city! Tomoe! Don't you find the bustle of crowds and the hundreds of buildings amazing? Hahaha it smells of civilization!"
Ah crap, I shouldn't have said that. Nanami sneaks a look at Tomoe. True enough, he had a dark look on his face, silently trailing behind her.
"Ha..hahaha, but Mizuki's right! The air is too polluted here. Living in the mountain is still the best! I feel so healthy! C'mon Tomoe let's hurry!" Nanami reaches a hand out to Tomoe. I'll never walk out on you or the shrine.
Tomoe notably relaxes, and lets himself be pulled along by Nanami. A popular apparels store outlet was having a closing-down sale, and Nanami fully intends to exploit this opportunity and stock up her closet.
"Tomoe! Half an hour will do, I promise! Why don't you meet me at the udon stall just up ahead? I'll be done before you know it!"
He looks at her happy face, and fights back the urge to smile right back.
"..Hm, hurry on then."
She appears 15 minutes later, no shopping bags in sight and looking downright annoyed.
"All gone! Can you believe it? What's left are defected pieces beyond repair or extra-extra-extra larges! Gyahhh, how frustrating!"
Tomoe lifts an eyebrow in indifference. "Don't be so slow next time, maybe you'd finally get something. Here, your udon's coming, I've already ordered it for you."
Eh, how thoughtful, Nanami finds her bad mood disappearing, and her lips twist into a wide smile. "Thank you, Tomoe!"
"Wahhh, oishiii! Tomoe, don't you want some?"
I'm happy enough watching you eat.
He doesn't respond and sips his green tea nonchalantly.
"Uh, excuse me." A pair of middle-schoolers carrying a basket of flowers approaches their table. "It's Mothers' Day today, and we are raising funds for a school project. Would you like to buy a stalk of flower for your mothers?"
Tomoe was just about to chase them away, when Nanami hands them a 5,000 yen bill and picks out a flower.
"Thank you, what beautiful flowers! You've worked hard!"
"Uwah, the udon here is really good! You should really try some, Tomoe!"
Nanami keeps up her chatter and continues to stuff her mouth with udon, in an attempt to vanquish the dull throb starting in her chest. I shouldn't feel like this, I'm already used to being strong, independent Nanami, haven't I? Ah, it must be since Toshigami-sama gave me a photo of Mother that I've become like this.
She feels her eyes burn slightly. The flower she bought – a beautiful red carnation – was truly pretty; she was sure her mother would have loved it if she were still around. Ah, maybe I shouldn't have come out today at all.
She takes a look at the flower.
Happy Mothers' Day, Mother. She swallows another mouthful of udon.
Tomoe discreetly watches Nanami as he continues to sip his tea.
Darn those kids, reminding Nanami of her mother. He observes her face – it had on an expression he never wanted to see Nanami wear again.
Like that time when I went back to her consciousness of 12 years ago, recalling the time he saw young Nanami looking at a mother-and-child pair in a café. That look of yearning…
Don't show such an expression.
"Nanami. Wait here. I'll be right back."
Before she could respond, he gets up and leaves. If you make such an expression, I feel the need to do something for you.
Tomoe walks down the streets, clueless as to what he could get her to cheer her up. He spots a nearby group of students eating ice-cream happily. Ice-cream? Nanami did say she likes them. But…is there any other things? Something more special?
He walks around aimlessly for 5 minutes. Argh, this is such a pain, he grumbled inwardly. Then, something caught his eye. A mannequin decked in a leopard print bra and underwear.
A lingerie shop.
Huh, that looks like what Nanami bought the other time, and tried to hide from me. Hmm, come to think of it, her actions remind me of myself, having the need to hide my treasures from the rest of the world. Ah! So Nanami loves these stuffs, eh? I got it!
Triumphantly, he walks into the shop. And is greeted by rows and rows of undergarments. Some looked plain enough, some were close to nothing but mere threads – why would anyone waste money on so little fabric? he wonders – and others looked so complicated to wear, his head hurt.
"Welcome, mister. May I help you with anything?" the sales assistant of the shop came up to him.
"Uhm, may I know, which is popular among young ladies?" Somehow, he started to feel a little uncomfortable in there. His presence had somehow attracted the attention of all the girls in the shop, and most were staring and whispering to each other while eyeing him.
"Ah, OMG he's so cute!"
"My prince charming!"
Hm, are men usually not allowed here? Tomoe thinks to himself, wishing the assistant would return quickly with some choices so he could pick and leave. What a pain.
Thankfully, she returns soon enough. He looks at the pieces –
Do they cover anything?
He tries to imagine Nanami wearing them.
He feels his cheeks heat up.
"Right, I'll get this set. Thanks." Of course, the flower-patterned one.
"Ah, Tomoe! I was starting to wonder if you got lost!"
Nanami spots him from the distance and runs toward him. "So where did you g –"
Tomoe thrusts the bag toward her. "For you."
"Eh, a present? How come, it's not even my birthday. Wah, if you do this I will become willful…"
Nanami trails off and starts to blush when she realized what was in the bag.
"Wh-what's this? What's the meaning of this! Tomoe, you –"
"Don't you like this sort of thing? I thought you might like this…"
"To-Tomoe! Gah, it's just, it's just! You don't normally buy this sort of things for p-people!"
This is no good. He's getting me so flustered!
"Usually this sort of things are given or received by couples." She mumbles.
At this, Tomoe turns scarlet red.
"WHAT. Well, I didn't – Wait, don't get the wrong idea, I don't mean anything!"
Nanami feels herself grinning foolishly. It was rare to see Tomoe lose his composure like this.
"…It's only because you were looking so down –"
He stops himself, and watches her carefully.
Something tugged at her heart. Without thinking, she falls against his body in a hug.
"H-h-hey! What are you doing?!"
"Wait, just a little while. A little while will do. Okay, Tomoe?"
You're probably the only one in this world who truly cares about me.
"Thank you, Tomoe."
She pulls away, and smiles up at him.
"Let's go home."
I've always loved how Mikage Shrine is where two individuals tied together by fate are being brought together there, and what's so special about the two is that they can find no solace nor solidarity in their own worlds, except at the shrine (and of course, each other).
On a sidenote – for those who read the manga, don't you find Nanami's eating expression adorable? XD Seriously, it makes me hungry too. :/