55. Festival
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The night has finally come. This is usually a quiet time because the streets are dark, and there are very few people has activity at this time.

However, that was an exception for tonight.

At the bottom of hill, exactly in front of the gate that leading to the direction of the shrine. The light of the flaming lantern illuminates the night sky and surroundings. People crowded while booths on the side of the road to the temple selling food or making some kind of prizes games. Everyone was cheerfully doing their own thing with their faces filled with blooming smiles.

This is the night the festival that people waiting for being held.

"Uncle, two ringo ame please!"

And Misaki, who was currently wearing a green yukata with a white floral print, was excited because it was a night that she looking forward too. Her hair was in a bun showing her neck, and she looked very fit to wear that yukata. Although she still felt uncomfortable to moving because it was the first time she wearing it.

"Ohh, Misaki. Long time no see, how long have you been here?"

Asked the uncle as he handed over her order. Misaki recognized the people from this village well enough, so she wasn't too nervous about this much crowd as she almost recognized everyone around. And this uncle was the one who often did business with his grandfather to buy the crops he had because he owned the shop. So she was familiar with him. And because he's such a passionate person and often speaks loudly, it's an easy way to recognize him even if he's trying to speak from a long distance.

"We've only been here 2 days. Summer break will probably keep us here for 2 weeks."

Misaki answered while accepting it happily.

"Hahaha, that's fine then. The city atmosphere must be stressing you out, so make sure you enjoy your time here. Ahh, as a welcome gift, I'll give you a discount."

Said the uncle kindly as he continued to smile and showing his teeth.

"Here's the money then."

He was a little surprised when he received money from someone else who was by Misaki's side. He didn't recognize it for a moment, but finally realized he was Misaki's brother.

"Gosh, Kazuto? Is that you? Hahaha! I almost didn't recognize you. Gosh, kids grow up fast, in just 1 year and you've grown that tall."

Kazuto smiled slightly wryly as he let out a small chuckle.

"Well, I'm almost sad that uncle didn't recognize me."

"Sorry for that, you surprised me after all."

After a little chat, they said goodbye to each other.

"I hope you guys enjoy the festival as much as you can!"

That was what he said when Misaki and Kazuto turned their backs on him.

"That uncle never changes."

"Hihi, that's right. His tone of voice makes me confused as to why he never has hoarseness."

They giggled a little when they talked about him because there are people like that. But, it's fun to talk to him because they will never feel bored, moreover, he is a friendly uncle.

"Let's go around again?"

"Let's go!"

Misaki and Kazuto continued their walk around the festival area.

They also played around in the booth area. It starts with catching fish with paper nets (Kingyo-sukui).

"I got 3."

Kazuto happily showed the fish he got. He gets 3 goldfish from 5 paper nets.

"...I only got 1."

Misaki sullenly showed what she got. It was just luck that she managed to take 1 because the paper net was completely torn off just as she put the fish in the bucket.

"Haha, I won."

Seeing Kazuto showing off his winning results, Misaki pouted even more.

“Hmph, it was just luck.”

"Yeah, yeah, I understand."

Kazuto replied by stroking her head and taking her to another spot.

There are lots of fun games at the booths during the festival.

Like shooting with a toy gun at a prepared gift (Shateki).

"Kuhh.. I lost again..."

"Hahaha, next time you need to learn from me for this."

Kazuto managed to get a teddy bear that was the size of Misaki, while Misaki herself got nothing but a box of milk.

And now ahe continued to stare at the furry thing with a look of hope and despair. Kazuto who understood her hidden hobby smiled wryly, and wondered how he was going to get her to take this doll because of her high pride(?). He only had 1 idea in hand after a long time of thinking

"Want to swap it?"

Misaki looked at him as she tilted her head in confusion.

"Swapwhat?"

"That, this doll with that drink, how is it?"

Misaki's eyes lit up slightly when she heard that. But it was only for a moment before her mouth pursed and she suddenly snorted.

"Hmph, so Onii-chan understands that this isn't an ordinary box of milk."

"Not ordinary thing?"

Now it was Kazuto's turn to be confused and curious.

"Yes. Because in the eyes of others, this is just a box of milk, but in the eyes of certain people, this is the key to making children grow tall."

... Doesn't everyone know that? Kazuto wanted to say it but kept his mouth shut tight because Misaki was trying to make the item she had being equivalent with a doll in his hand through words.

But honestly, he couldn't help but laugh at how cute his little sister was. He even saw that her ears were turning red even though her face was arrogantly explaining pointless things. She must be embarrassed.

"...So, O-Onii-chan will definitely grow taller and healthier. Yes! So this is the equivalent thing to exchange for that doll."

Misaki herself knew she was acting badly, but she couldn't help herself when she saw the doll.

...I mean, look at that majestic size and feathers! I want to hug it! I want to hug it!

That was her state of mind all this time.

"Okay, okay, I see. So let's exchange—pfft... Yes, ahem. Let's we swap then."

Covering his mouth to suppress a laugh, Kazuto handed over the doll and took the milk box and drink it immediately. He felt too full of sugar today.

"Ehehe.. As expected, this doll is soft. Hehe..."

Misaki who finally got the doll into her arms laughed in satisfaction as her expression softened. But seeing Kazuto's eyes fixed on her made hee hastily correct his attitude.

"Th-This, I exchanged it for this doll because Onii-chan wanted the milk, n-not because I like the doll, got it!"

She said as she hugged the doll tightly. Her words and actions were so contradictory that people would ask which one was true.

"Yes, I understand."

Kazuto nodded his head after managing to contain his emotions from laughing again.

After hearing Misaki make excuses, they continued their walk. And of course, wherever they stopped, they would buy something or compete for a game. And Kazuto still won it all above Misaki's score which made her despair.

"We're back."

After they were satisfied walking around, they returned to where their grandparents were sitting on mats on the grass. They calmly drank tea as their faces turned towards the stage that had been prepared beforehand.

When Misaki called out, they looked at their arrival with warm smiles before telling them to come closer.

"Ohh, have you had your fun? You guys seem to have got a big catch."

"I wonder if my grandchildren got them by robbing people or winning it."

Said his grandfather in a joking tone as he looked at the things they had made around them.

Misaki then chimed in while pointing at Kazuto.

"It was Onii-chan who stole all of that. I am the victim here because he forced me to bring his loot."

Then Kazuto looked at her with raised eyebrows.

"Stop making excuses in front of the jury. You're obviously still helping me, that's a crime. Self-defense is useless here."

"Objection... "

Their wordplay continued without end until they were silent from thirst.

On the other hand, people were also starting to gather because the stage event was about to start.

"Grandma, where's the sky lantern?"

"Here, take one for each. Aren't you guys going to watch the show here?"

asked her grandmother as she handed the folded lantern to Misaki. Lighting the sky lantern was part of the final event, so she was confused as to why her grandson wanted that now.

"We'll be watching from the other side. We'd like to play a little more."

Answered her while shaking her head.

"Okay, be careful then. When the show is over we'll be waiting in the truck. Have fun."

After getting her grandmother's permission, Misaki looked at Kazuto who was curious because he wanted to know where she was going to take him.

"Come on Onii-chan, let's go to an interesting place."

Misaki said with a big smile as she stood with a lantern in her hand.

"Sure."

Kazuto didn't refuse her invitation because he also had to take care of her. Who knows she will be lost.

---

"Where are you taking me, Misaki."

Kazuto finally asked her as they climbed the stairs leading to the top of the shrine.

Although this place is also decorated with lanterns that are hung up to the top of the hill where the temple is located, there is nothing quite interesting there.

Also he increasingly wondered why Misaki had bought a chandelier and lit it even though it was all well lit.

"Hmm, I guess this way."

But instead of answering, Misaki continued to lead until she finally turned off from the stairs, and go into the bushes and trees.

Through all of that, Kazuto was finally able to catch up with Misaki who was walking fast because her tiny body was able to get through it all.

"Gosh, where exactly did you take me."

Kazuto complained while cleaning the leaves and small twigs stuck to his clothes.

Misaki's steps slowed to wait for Kazuto.

"Good grief. Onii-chan, you should be a little patient when your little sister wants to surprise you."

"What kind of surprise do you really want to show me?"

Again, instead of answering, Misaki took his hand and led him through the last bush.

Brushing the branch that was about to hit his face to the side, Kazuto's facial expression became astonished as a sight unfolded in front of him.

"This...."

The sound of splashing water immediately entered his ears as he drew nearer. In front of him, a stream flowed through the top of the hill. The flow of this river is connected through a mountain spring behind the hill which explains its origin.

It wasn't that made Kazuto amazed, but the light of fireflies that glowed around him. Because it's summer, fireflies are more often seen in rice fields and rivers. But there won't be as many in this place.

This sight is very beautiful because the light flashing from the fireflies has a rhythm like music. In addition, this is accompanied by a dance that is taking place on a stage far below the hill. From here, thanks to the trees that don't grow too close to the river, they can also see the stage even though it's not very clear. They could even look at the stands that were standing from there. The panoramic light from the lanterns over there and the sparkling light from the fireflies here, together with the night sky and its speckled stars combined make them very spectacular.

Kazuto became wondering how Misaki could find such a good place to watch.

"Haha, I expected Onii-chan to make that face."

Misaki laughed slightly at Kazuto's gaping expression. Because in the past she had also made the same expression when she discovered this place. In the past, because he never got along with his younger sister, he chose to leave her with his grandparents and chose to go for a walk. And after stepping here or there like a cat, then he went to the hilly area to looking for something interesting until he found this place by chance. Unfortunately, he could only enjoy this place by himself without bringing any friends. That's why this time she brought Kazuto here so she wouldn't be alone.

After sitting together on a large rock, they quietly watched towards the stage where the dance performance was taking place.

Even if they can't hear the strains of the music that being played, they can still enjoy it in one or another way.

And after a long silence, Misaki looked up at the stars in the expansive sky.

A question suddenly appeared in her mind. This question is actually someone. would ask when gazing up at the stars above and is still a question that has no definite answer.

"Onii-chan, do you think we're not alone in this world?"

"Yes?"

Kazuto who was enjoying the show, hearing Misaki ask about something confusing made him tilt his head.

"I mean, in this universe, where there are billions to trillions of stars scattered, are there any living things like us live there among them?"

Misaki explained as she continued to stare up.

Kazuto thought about his answer while looking in the same direction as her.

After a short time had passed, he finally chose to leisurely sleep on a rock with his hands as a headboard.

"Only 5 percent of the oceans explored to date, and the rest is still a mystery. Earth itself still holds a lot of things that are unknown to humans. So, in this entire world, there must be places other than Earth that have an existence like ours who are sociable, and have the same concept of life as here."

Misaki and Kazuto then looked at each other coincidentally.

"And certainly, there are things that are not here and we don't understand that they know and learn."

Kazuto added confidently.

Misaki fell silent, but immediately laughed at Kazuto's belief in what he said.

"What? Even if this is a childish answer, but the theory of a universe that only has life like humans on Earth will never have a definite answer. So having this kind of belief is not childish."

Kazuto somehow became  embarrassed when his gaze returned to the sky. Indeed he answered honestly, and although this wasn't a joke, seeing Misaki laughing at him made him feel like he was really childish.

"No, I'm not laughing at Onii-chan's opinion. It's just that I don't believe that Onii-chan would answer it that seriously on a whim."

Kazuto could only cough because what she said was true, so he immediately distracted her by asking.

"Ahem... Alright. If you were to live in a world that far from Earth, where civilization isn't very advanced, and nobility and magic exist, what would you do?"

Misaki then answered in a trivial but enthusiastic manner.

"First, I need to have an important position, at least become a merchant or a noble. No, I will become a prince— I mean princess! After studying politics I will reorganize the nobility by removing corrupt aristocrats and raising people that have potential. Then I will advance my people regarding education by making schools for them, once that is done I will make things from Earth that can be useful. If it can be combined with magic, then that would be great! I will also learn magic so that can protect my kingdom! And…”

Seeing Misaki answer in an excited voice made Kazuto laugh.

"You'd be fit to be a writer."

Kazuto muttered without anyone listening.

"...After all my tasks are done, I will choose to live in a simple and peaceful place. As for Onii-chan, what would you do if you lived in the place you mentioned?"

"Me?"

Kazuto glanced at her for a while before answering with his eyes closed.

"Since my sister is a princess, then if it was me, I would choose to be a hero."

"Hero?"

Misaki had a confused look because she didn't expect Kazuto to take that role. She thought he would answer by becoming a prince or king.

"Yes. I will become a hero who will protect the princess and will always stay by her side. Since she has chosen a difficult path such as carrying out a revamp of the nobles, then there must be a scheme planned to put the princess in danger.  There is my role appears. I live and die for her, and no one is allowed to touch her. No room for anyone else."

That sounds like you're exploiting me rather than guarding it… Misaki thought.

But she felt it was natural because in all the stories she knew, heroes were there for the princess. So if the princess were to marry a hero, then everything he said would make sense.

... Wait.

Misaki narrowed her eyes feeling that something was wrong here.

...Did I just think about marrying him?

Ignoring the matter in her mind, Misaki looked down and saw that the event on stage had ended.

"Onii-chan, wake up. It's time to light the lantern."

"Is that so?"

Kazuto then stopped lying down and got up after Misaki's call.

The last event of all this was to light the sky lantern and fly it. This is considered as a sacred thing because it is a way for people to escort the deceased to go and part with this world.

Lighting up the sky lanterns they brought with them, Kazuto and Misaki waited for the signal from below to let go and let the lanterns fly.

"Now, Onii-chan!"

"Okay."

Seeing that everyone had taken off their lanterns, Misaki and Kazuto did the same.

As soon as the lantern slipped from their hands, it immediately lifted and floated upwards following the direction of the wind. Their lanterns merged with everyone else's, where theirs seemed to take the lead and asked the other lanterns to follow.

The twinkling of them adds to the beauty of the night sky which already has stars to paint the sky. The higher they flew, the more out of reach they became, until finally to the point where they were out of sight.

Misaki and Kazuto watched until it was all over.

Kazuto, who would never forget this moment, was taken aback when hier hand was suddenly held.

Then he looked at Misaki, who now had a stiff smile with a trembling body.

"T-The lantern is dead."

Kazuto then glanced at the lantern she was carrying, and sure enough it was dead. It seems that it died from being blown off by the wind once it was opened to light their sky lanterns.

And Misaki who was afraid of the dark now didn't know what to do but depend on Kazuto. Because there was a firefly light, she wasn't too scared. Otherwise, ,he might have been screaming hysterically while crying by now. However, the problem was with the trees and bushes they had to pass through to return later. It's dark in there if she doesn't bring a lantern.

"Haha, alright. Let's go home."

Kazuto laughed wryly and finally carried her on his back.

Luckily he brought his cell phone and used it as a flashlight to get back.

With that, the night of the festival had ended.

----

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