BD Premium Collection, short story 2 A Doll’s Kimono by Raikaku Rei

Another look into a day from Homura’s life.

A doll’s kimono by Raikaku Rei

When Yata passed through the door of the bar HOMRA, he was greeted by Anna, rushing to him with some red cloth in her hands. Drawing right before him, she came to a sudden halt.

Yata blinked. “…Hey, Anna. What’s the matter?”
"This". Raising the cloth she held, Anna presented it to Yata. Upon a closer look, the cloth turned out to be a red kimono. "I want you to put this on me", Anna said very seriously, leaving Yata with an indescribable expression on his face, very similar to the one he made once before when he had drank noodle sauce mistaking it for barley tea.
"Huh?"
"I want you to put this on me", Anna repeated the same words with the same tone. Yata’s face turned even sourer.
"…Ask Totsuka-san or Kusanagi-san do that for you".
In reply, Anna only silently shook her head.

"They both are out at the moment", Kamamoto, busy behind the counter with something, answered for Anna.
Yata stared at Anna in bafflement. “Why do you even wanna put on a kimono?”

The one to answer this question was, again, not Anna but Kamamoto, drawling out, “Yata-saan”, in a slightly astonished tone. “Today is the Dolls’ Festival*, you forgot?”
"Aah… Now that I think about it, Totsuka-san mentioned something about throwing a Dolls’ Festival party for Anna. Where the heck he gone to when he was the one to suggest it in the first place?!"
"Well, in the morning, he said he had some minor business to take care of and had Kusanagi-san give him a ride. That’s why I’m making sushi rice for the party in his place, see?" Kamamoto lifted a big rice bucket, showing it to Yata.

Yata twisted his lips, staring at the rice, then looked down at Anna.

There was no one else in the bar - the others all were either out or hadn’t come just yet. Kamamoto had his hands full with cooking, that was probably why Anna decided to ask Yata. On his part, Yata, although a little bewieldered by such treatment, considered Anna someone important to him and wanted to comply with her wishes to the best of his ability. But putting a kimono on her equaled having to change a girl’s clothes…

Anna, holding the bright red kimono in her hands, regarded Yata, who still didn’t give her any kind of answer, somewhat anxiously.

Saying neither yes or no, Yata mumbled, “…What’s with that kimono anyway? Since when do you have something like that?”
"Tatara made it for me".
"Totsuka-san made a kimono? Did he take up yet another new hobby?"

Yata frowned, at which Kamamoto raised his finger. “Don’t you remember? When we went to buy Anna some clothes, Totsuka-san said he suddenly felt an onslaught of creative urges and bought some cloth to make a dress similar to Anna’s”.
"Ah, right… I remember now".
"But the same evening, he happened to watch some historical drama and got excited about kimonos, ‘Kimonos are nice, don’t you agree?!’"
"Hm?"
"In the end, he made a kimono out of the cloth he bought for a dress".
"What kind of turnabout is that?" Not to mention that from the looks of it, the kimono Anna held had some tricky embroidery adorning it. For something started on a stupid whim, it sure had a fair amount of skill and meticulousness wasted on it.

Yata shifted his stare back to Anna’s face. She must have sensed his hesitation because she was standing with a despondent face, hope dying as she half-expected a rejection. “…I just wanted to put on this kimono and show it to Mikoto”.

Those words decided Yata, filling his heart with resolve. “Alright”.

"Yata-san?!" Kakamoto cried out hysterically, shocked to the bottom of his heart.
"Kamamoto, you’re coming too".
"Eh? But I still need to cut carrots into stars and make shredded egg garnish—"
"I said come!" Yata dragged Kamamoto, who held a carrot in his hand, away from the counter by force, because, being terribly insecure, he felt that staying one on one with a girl and changing her clothes was definitely out of question.

***
"Yata-san, have you ever helped anyone put on a kimono?"
"Doncha underestimate me, Kamamoto. I was a part-timer at a supermarket for some time in the past".
"Huuh…"
"My job included wrapping the end-of-year presents, and I got fairly good at it, if I say so myself".
"…And?"
"And that’s what we need", Yata stated resolutely, but Kamamoto squinted his eyes, not really getting it. "Yata-san?"
"What I mean is we just need to wrap Anna in that kimono, simple as that".
"Your ways of thinking are so unconventional, Yata-san!"

Yata, Kamamoto and Anna went to the second floor to Anna’s room. To Yata, the entirety of the bar HOMRA was something akin to his home, but he’d almost never been to Anna’s room. A bed with red curtains canopy, small cute things lined on the shelves - the room was decidedly girl’s, and, finding himself in its space, Yata was assaulted by uneasiness, but, resolving himself, he rolled up his sleeves.

"W-Well then, first…" Yata stopped mid-sentence, stiffening.

Kamamoto looked at him questioningly, tilting his head to the side. “Yata-san?”
"First… remove… remove… your… clothes…" Strangely enough, Yata broke out in sweat. No, he didn’t say anything weird, he was sure. To put on a kimono, first one had to take off the clothes one was wearing. Despite the logic being flawless, Yata felt endless shame and guilt, and his face burned. "K…" Something inside Yata hit its limit. "Kamamotoooo!" He reached out to a much taller Kamamoto, put a hand around his neck, locking him in a headlock, and forcibly dragged him out of the room.

"Y-Yata-saan! What are you…?! What’s happened?!"
"This… This is no good! Absolutely and totally no good!" Once in the corridor, Yata lowered his voice and pressed Kamamoto vehemently.
Kamamoto nodded with a subdued face. “Well, yeah, probably no good”.
"That’s what I’m saying!"
"…But what is mainly no good about the whole deal is your reaction, Yata-san. Kusanagi-san and Totsuka-san have no problem changing Anna’s clothes. Your being so flustered over a 10 year old girl makes you seem a lolicon".

Upon hearing those words, Yata punched Kamamoto in the face on a pure reflex.

"Hurts!" Kamamoto wailed miserably and clutched his head.

This wouldn’t do. If Yata were to escape now, he’d be labelled a lolicon who deserted in the face of the enemy.

Yata took a deep breath forcing his heart to calm down, balled his hands into fists and turned to Anna’s room with newfound determination.

When the two returned to the room, Anna was waiting for them, having already taken off her usual clothes and put on a simple white underkimono beneath the red kimono. “…What happened?”
"N-Nothing" Yata replied nervously, averting his eyes. "Wrap yourself properly in the front", he continued, taking the obi lying on the bed.

When Anna asked him to help her put on the kimono, she probably meant that she could not tie the obi herself. That is, all Yata needed to do was to tie that obi around Anna’s midsection.

Except Yata froze again for a while, this time with the obi in his hands. “…Kamamoto”.
"What is it?"
"Take the end of this obi and wrap it around Anna".
"What?"

Yata grabbed Kamamoto by the lapels and yanked him down to his eye level. “If I have to do it, I’ll have to be close to her when I’m wrapping it, and it’ll look like I’m hugging Anna tightly!” He whispered, face reddening.

Kamamoto’s eyes held pity when he looked at Yata. “Yata-san… Probably the worst about your situation is that you’re consciously and too acutely aware of such things…” Kamamoto heaved a sigh and meekly took the obi. “Alright, Anna. Wrap the front tightly and raise your arms a little so that we don’t end up tying the sleeves”.

Holding the obi, Kamamoto started trotting around Anna, wreathing it around her in the way he frequently saw it done in historical dramas, getting something like the reversed version of ‘A~re~’** as a result.

"A-Alright. Now, to tie this obi…"
"…Can we even say we put it on properly…?"
"Shut up! I’ll tie the butterfly bow, and we’re done!"

Yata took the ends of the obi and pulled, making it fit tightly around Anna. He gathered all the delicacy he possessed and earnestly tried to tie a cute butterfly bow, but for some reason the bow ended up being vertical.

"Huh…? Why it turn out vertical…?"
"Yata-san, as I said, we did it the wrong way from the start. Look, the hem is dragging along the floor".
"Huh? This kimono is just too big, then!"
"No, that’s not the point. Usually a kimono is adjusted in accordance with a person’s height when they put it on, as far as I know".

As Yata and Kamamoto were talking, Anna suddenly turned to look back at them. Her already white skin even paler, she was pressing a hand against her belly as she said in a weak voice, “My belly hurts”.
"Geh?! We probably wrapped the obi too tight. W-Wait a little, I’ll untie it…"

Yata pulled at the obi in a hurry to loosen it, and nearly at the same time Anna tried to turn to him. As she did, she stepped on the hem of her kimono that was dragging along the floor, causing her to lose her balance and lurch backwards. Yata promptly tried to support her, but, due his being preoccupied with the obi, his posture wasn’t all that balanced either, and it only led to more harm.

In the span of the next moment several happenstances occured simultaneously: Anna toppled over, falling to the floor face up; Yata, being dragged down by the obi, collapsed after her and, in an attempt not to crush her, pushed his arm against the floor; Kamamoto cried out, “Ah!”; and finally, the door to the room opened, and a low voice said, “Hey”.

"…What the hell are you doing?" the same, all too familiar voice drawled unhurriedly but weightily.

With a stiff movement of a very rusty mechanism, Yata slowly turned his head to look at the source of the voice. In the doorway stood Suoh. Having opened the door, he now stood unmoving, brows furrowed, incomprehension on his face.

As Yata saw that expression, his current situation finally dawned on him: he was hanging over Anna who lay prostrate on the floor, and one of his hands was clutching her obi.

His face turned bloodless. “I am really sooooorryyyy!” In the next moment, Yata jumped off Anna and knelt before Suoh, bowing deeply to him.

"Yata-saan! You chose an awful moment to prostrate yourself! It makes it all look like you really did something to feel guilty about!!!" Kamamoto, desperation warping his features, moved back and forth between Yata and Suoh in panic.

"Huh?" Suoh cocked his head in confusion, not having the slightest idea about what was going on.

***
"Oh no, it won’t fit! It won’t fit through the bar’s door, Kusanagi-san!"
"Are you really stupid? Why did you set it up on the street?"
"Because I want it to be a perfect debut, and for that it has to be fully assembled when they see it! And anyway, I don’t remember you protesting to my setting it up on the street, Kusanagi-san".
"…Can’t be helped, then. We’ve already taken it apart once, so now once more…"

Hearing loud voices outside the bar, Yata, sitting on a chair not far from the door with his head hung, sluggishly raised it. Weakly, he stood up and went to open the door.

"Ah! I thought so. Yata! What happened? Why so down?" As the door opened, a smiling Totsuka came into view.

Looking at what was behind Totsuka’s back, Yata’s eyes windened. “That’s…”
"Heheh, nice, right?" Totsuka proudly puffed his chest out, and at the same time Anna peeked from behind Yata. As she raised her eyes, sensing the strange unmoving presence outside the bar, a light sigh escaped from her. There stood a beautiful doll stand with ornamental dolls on it.

The seven-tiered doll stand was covered with a red carpet. The dolls, sitting on it, looked a bit old but well-kept and lovely. They made the whole set, too - with three ladies in waiting, five court musicians, the minister of the right and the minister of the left.

"Where did you get it?"
"Tanaka-san from Sanchoume let me have it. Ever since his daughter got married, he didn’t know what to do with these dolls, so".
"Tanaka-san… Who’s that?"

Totsuka, who casually made friends wherever he went, had numerous acquaintances they hardly knew anything about.

Kusanagi smiled wryly and shrugged his shoulders. “He just came to me first thing in the morning and demanded to drive him somewhere outta the blue. I had no idea what he was planning”.

Yata looked down at Anna. She was staring at the doll stand with her big eyes positively sparkling and her perpetually emotionless face showing evident signs of joy.

"By the way, Anna. You yourself look like a doll", Totsuka said with a grin and Anna gave a nod, cheeks stained red ever so slightly.
"Mikoto helped me put this kimono on".

That’s right, in the end, Yata was useless. Too flustered to maintain his very ability to think straight, he was escorted out of the room by Kamamoto, and Suoh was the one to retie Anna’s obi.

"…I’ve been hesitating as to should I point it out and ruin the moment, but, uh, that’s not the right way to wear a kimono".

As it stood, Suoh’s skills at kimono-dressing turned out to be on the same level as Yata’s, meaning that the hem of Anna’s kimono was still dragging on the floor and the butterfly bow was vertical. Moreover, it seemed Anna also asked him to do her hair, and the result was Anna’s long silky hair arranged in a bun on top of her head. Only, rather than being ‘arranged’, it would have been more appropriate to say that her hair was ‘trussed up’, ‘wrested up’, or ‘hoisted up’, and the shape of the thing that was supposed to be the bun looked a lot more like a human silhouette writhing in agony.

But Anna seemed satisfied anyhow and even smiled slightly. “It’s alright”.

"Good grief". Seeing Anna’s smiling face, Kusanagi could only flash a weary grin and go inside the bar. Totsuka followed Kusanagi, leading Anna by the hand.

"Heey, whoever’s free, help carry the doll stand inside. Bring in the dolls first, then fold the stand… Oh, Kamamoto. That sushi rice looks pretty tasty".
"Hehe, the taste is guaranteed, Kusanagi-san!"
"Whadda…? Who was it?! Who bought this sake?!"
"I took this one because I don’t like sweet sake".
"So it was you, Chitose?! Today is the day when you’re supposed to wish Anna healthy growth! Don’t even think of drinking today!"
"Greetings! I bought the cake for the Dolls’ Festival!"
"Oh, Shouhei. Good job. Bandou not with you?"
"San-chan said he was gonna buy crackers, nose glasses and stuff like that".
"…Just what kind of party does he think we’re gonna be having…?"

While Kusanagi was busy managing the preparations for the party, Fujishima and Eric were bringing in the dolls one by one. Eric curiously looked over the dolls as Fujishima explained about the Dolls’ Festival to him.

As Totsuka together with Dewa pulled away the table to make space to set up the doll stand, Totsuka called out to Suoh who was standing farther away not looking very happy. “King, what’s with the long face?”
"…Anna’s getup, redo it".
"Ahaha! Anna seems content with the way it is, though. It’s a new original style ahead of the times!"

Yata somehow had nothing to do except to watch his cheerful-looking gangmates when Anna found him with her eyes all of a sudden. Pulling up the hem of her kimono in order not to step on it, she quickly trotted to where Yata was and called his name. “Misaki”.

Yata didn’t like his first name, but when he heard Anna say it in her clear, quiet voice, oddly enough, it didn’t sound that bad to his ears.

"Thank you".

Yata had already learned to sense the ups and downs of Anna’s reserved emotions, so he knew right away those words of gratitude had been said with sincere joy. He rubbed the space under his nose feeling somewhere between uncomfortable and ticklish.

"Happy… Dolls’ Festival?" He murmured while trying to remember if that was the right thing to say on the day of the Dolls’ Festival.

Notes
* Dolls’ Festival (Hinamatsuri) or Girls’ Day is a day to pray for young girls’ healthy growth and happiness; held on March, 3 (wiki for more info).
** ‘A~re~’ (or allez) (「あ~れ~」) is a rotating disk one stands on and rotates to wrap the obi around oneself.