29. The main event at the park
When we headed to the special venue, we were greeted by a signboard with a picture of a long-eared cat.
“It’s a caracal. It’s sometimes kept as a pet, but I guess, only if it’s about the size of a medium to large dog.”
“It’s a cat, so that’s big.”
Of course, it was Yuko who explained it. At this point, she should be on a TV quiz show.
“Caracal specializes in hunting, so it has a beautiful body. And the fact that it’s on the board, there should be one inside.”
“I’m sure so. Then, let’s go in.”
The tickets prepared by Makoto and others included admission tickets to the botanical garden and this special venue.
Once inside, spacious cages where a wide variety of cats were put could be seen. Our eyes naturally gathered on Yuuko.
“The one here is an ocelot. I think you can find it in any zoo, so I think you already know that.”
“No, no, no, I don’t know.”
I mean, even if you have learned it once, you would soon forget that kind of info...
“The one in the cage next to it is a Bengal wildcat. It lives in the same area as the caracal.”
“Somehow, they all look dignified.”
“All wildlife is like that. But, as expected, there are no tigers, leopards, or lions.”
Yuuko guided us while giving commentary.
“Yuuko, what do you like best?”
“Hmm, if I’ve to say, maybe Pallas’s Cat? That stocky and plump figure is just so adorable.”
Makoto gave a slightly wry look. It seemed that she didn’t think Yuuko would give the name of a cat, which could be considered fat among the ones living in the wild. Probably she thought that Yuuko would mention the one with sharp eyes or look agile.
“It is, fluffy!”
As Rie said, Pallas’s cats were fluffy. It was fat and looked soft. Really, hard to believe that such a creature could live in the wild.
“It seems that because Pallas’s cats live in high mountain areas, they are vulnerable to infectious diseases. It’s hard for them to breed in lowlands due to their low immunity.” (Yuuko)
“Hmmm, even though it’s a wildcat.” (Makoto)
“But, I guess, because most of the other cats look dangerous, it really stands out….. By the way, Rie, what about you?”
“I guess, I like Clouded Leopard the most. It looks cool.” (Rie)
“Right, that one is really cool.”
The clouded leopard had a body like a small leopard, and could easily jump on trees.
“Clouded Leopards prefer to live in trees, that’s why the cage is tall, and there’s a playground inside.”
“It moves so fast.”
Rie looked happy.
Then, it was time to feed the recently born bobcat baby.
An attendant came in front of us and showed us the breastfeeding.
Needless to say, I was soothed by the scene of a baby bobcat drinking milk from a bottle.
“I guess, with this, we’ve seen everything here.”
“Right. Then, let’s go to the fountain. And, let’s take a rest there.”
As one could expect, there was a huge fountain in this park, and we decided to go there.
It was a normal fountain, so even if you threw coins into the fountain, you wouldn’t get a blessing or anything like that. But, for some reason, there was no end to people throwing in coins.
“Perfect, there’s just an empty bench. Let’s sit there.”
Benches surrounded the fountain. We sat in one of them.
Regular water sounds and soaring splashes. As I walked to the bench, I could faintly feel the water from the mist in the air.
“Today was fun”
When I said that, Makoto, Yuuko, and Rie smiled.
“Now that I think about it, the four of us have never been out together before.”
According to the memory, due to various things that happened during my first and second years, I started to distrust women.
Because of that, it took me several months to open up to them.
Naturally, we weren’t in a close relationship to keep in touch with each other during the summer vacation.
Even after autumn when we became close to some extent, I never bothered to go out together.
If I needed anything, they would buy it for me.
They would accompany me going to school and back home, but we never stopped by anywhere.
In the winter, when it was decided that I would go to a co-ed high school, I closed my heart again.
Surely, up until now, I only gave them a hard time. That’s why…
“I’m very grateful to the three of you. I thought that, I should use this opportunity to say this. You all spent your valuable time in the third year of middle school for me. Really, thank you very much.”
“No, it wasn’t much. Rather, we should be the ones to thank you.”
“It’s just as Makoto said. We were happy to be in the same group as Taketo-kun.”
“I feel the same way.”
“If that’s really the case, I’m happy. So, as a way of thanking you for what you’ve done so far, and considering the future, I’ve prepared something for the three of you.”
Even though I said I had prepared something, I was empty-handed. So, the three tilted their heads.
“Please accept this.”
I handed the cards I made for this day to the three of them.
I laminated them myself the other day.
” ―― Free hug ticket?”
On the front of the card, a large 「FREE HUG TiICKET」 was printed.
Below that was each of their names.
“There is an explanation behind it.”
The three quickly turned over their cards.
「This Free Hug ticket can only be used by the person with the name written on this. The holder of this ticket can request a hug from Taketo Souya at any time. The expiration date is, indefinite.」
“Eh… this is…”
“This is all I can give to the three of you. I hope we can continue to get along from now on. Well, you may have someone you like soon. And you may forget about me at that time. But, no matter what happens, as long as you have this ticket, I will accept you guys unconditionally. If you want a hug from me, come see me. This, is a pass for it.”
“No, I will never forget. There is no way I will ever forget!!”
“Thank you, Yuuko. You are always there to help me. Your path will surely shine brightly. If possible, I want to see it by your side.”
“Yes, yes. Always… together… (TEARY)”
“Thank you for always putting us together. It was because Makoto was the leader, so I felt safe. From now on too, can I continue to rely on Makoto?”
“Of course. Please always rely on me.”
“Your innocence and cheerfulness always saved me. I’m sure there’ll be a painful and unpleasant thing in the future, but, will Rie still smile like usual by my side?”
“Of course, I will always be with you.”
“Think of the card I just handed you, as proof of my resolution. Even if your hearts change, mine won’t. Absolutely, it won’t. That’s why, even after you have a different feeling, if I ever come across in your mind, and you still remember me, you can always come back to my side, I’ve made it indefinitely so that you can come back at any time. So please keep that card. That card, is proof that I’ll always be grateful to you.”
As I spoke so, large drops of tears fell from the eyes of the three.
TN: Join my discord channel if you want.