December 25 2022
Hikigaya Hachiman's Path to Reformation
A Fair in Amsterdam
It's the first time I've been to a farm-based Fair and seen farm animals and equipment out in the open like this. The closest thing that comes to mind was the trade convention that Yui and I went to some time before my flight. Lars and Tess are with us, and, to my not-so-obvious surprise after spending some time here in Amsterdam, I'm the only Asian person walking around with an umbrella.
I don't understand how these Dutch people can stand this heat… I feel like I'm going to die and turn into dried fish to be showcased in a human zoo…
The girl beside me flashes a smile with her bluish-purple eyes, "You sure took your sweet time."
"Of course." I reply haughtily like an esteemed Ojou-sama like Luvia Edelfelt and raise my nose at her, "I have sensitive skin and get sunburned easily. Spending half an hour in the van reapplying sunscreen and moisturizer is a necessary sacrifice."
Tess laughs and so does Lars beside her. "Do you always do that?"
I nod, "Yeah whenever I go out or play tennis and football."
Ahead of us, Lukas and 'Ria with their little sister in tow start checking out the different booths and stands. With so many people around, her fear of strangers becomes all the more apparent. She looks anxious with her eyes darting to and fro and hops away when a bypasser gets too close to the trio. I can see her little hands clutch tighter to her brother every time she does so.
"So what's the plan today?" Tess asks Lars.
He shrugs, "There's no plan. Wait, why are you asking me anyway?"
"Dunno, I just assumed you had one. What about you Hachiman? Where do you want to go?"
"Why are you asking the foreigner... I have no idea about this place."
The older girl puts a band under her chin and closes her eyes in thought. "By process of elimination, that leaves me in charge! Follow me!" She exclaims and drags us by the arm to a booth selling dairy products with free samples being given out.
"We're not gonna tag along with those three?" Lars gestures to the de Mer siblings.
"No, we'll just get in the way. Let them have their sibling bonding time with their little sister." The blonde replies without looking. Lars and I share a glance - I'm surprised that she thought of this considerate act. On the other hand, I'm a bit disappointed that I can't hang out with them together.
The farmers greet us warmly as we go over their goods. Tess, to our embarrassment, slowly starts going goblin mode and greedily stuffs her mouth with the free samples but thankfully Lars is here to keep her in check. I notice that he barely tasted any of the dairy products and decide to ask him about them.
"I'm lactose intolerant," He replies to my astonishment. "I mean, small amounts are fine."
I taste a small cheese with a toothpick impaled to it. "Wow, really? What happens if you overdo it?"
Tess answers for him with a goofy ah grin on her face, "His stomach growls like a dog and he spends an hour in the toilet making noises like a cow."
"Sounds rough…" I say and drink from a paper cup filled with chocolate milk. I'll have to remind myself not to overdo it as well. God knows what'll happen… I'm scared just thinking about it. Thank God the de Mer household has a bidet…though the toilets in my motherland are still way better. My skin crawls at the thought of using toilet paper and nothing else…
The Dutch farmers are pleasantly surprised when they find out that I can speak their native tongue. They were so amused, that they gave me cartons of milk, a lot of cheese and half a box full of yoghurt. I thought that declining their generosity is rude and so accepted their goodwill graciously. I take some photos with them, as well as with Tess and Lars and we go back to the van with our haul.
"They sure gave you a lot of stuff. Those guys are generous with tourists. I hope they don't go out of business." Lars comments as we finish putting everything in the van.
"Hm… What if I pretend to be a tourist from Italy…" Tess says out loud and starts talking to herself in that foreign language. I can distinctly hear her heavy Dutch accent which completely messes up her act and reveals herself to be the imposter. Add that to the fact that she's still a beginner at it…
Lars rolls his eyes at her behaviour, "Stop that. You're not fooling anyone with that sussy acting."
She sighs dejectedly and tells me to do my best to get more free stuff from the vendors. That's a scummy way to say it but is a funny thought nonetheless.
Next, we go to the petting zoo where baby animals were being held. There are mostly children with their guardians here. We buy some animal food and feed the calves, foals, chicks and kids. Since it's allowed, we climb over the steel pen and Lars immediately pets a baby cow from a species with a lot of reddish furs. I can't blame him, the baby cow is super adorable.
Tess losses her balance as I'm helping her down and I instinctively lurch forward to catch her. She may be taller than me but I'm heavier built compared to her slim and lithe form as expected of a ballerina. I do catch her but the uneven grass causes me to fall with her over me. Time slows down as I see her face over me, and I twist at the last moment just as I feel the soft grass on my back.
Y-Yabai! That was too close for comfort! I nearly had my first kiss taken from me! And I DO NOT consider that time with Rumi since she's still a kid!
Tess sits up on my lap with her voice full of alarm, "Hachiman! I'm so sorry! My sandal slipped on the fence! Are you okay?!"
"Y-Yeah, I'm fine…" I blush at our position since she's basically straddling me. Why is this series of events commonly seen in shitty ecchi light novels happening to me?! Is some eldritch God from the Outer Realm writing my fate and destiny for their amusement?! If there is, then please stop! It's not funny when you're on the receiving end!
"Moo…" A pair of calves walk up to me and sniff my hair before licking me affectionately as if to make me feel better. They must have seen me fall and thought that I hurt myself.
Tess gets up after Lars quickly comes over to us and helps me up as well. Thankfully, my shirt didn't get dirty since the grass is relatively clean and dry.
"I told you to be careful…" Lars sighs while she's apologizing and bowing to me profusely. He had bonked her on the head for her carelessness which almost got the both of us hurt. The place where he hit her is comically red and swollen like in those cartoons for children. Hmm, with her exaggeratedly bowing that low, I can clearly see the only thing on her that isn't slim and slender…make that two.
Dutch women dress really dress differently from Japanese women huh… Yumiko will certainly fit in here. Maybe I should bring her with me next time…
"It's fine." After easing their concerns, we go back to petting and feeding the baby animals. I buy juicy apples for the calves that came to my rescue and their tails wagged as they receive the sweet treat. We snap a few photos and then move on to the next area.
I've seen my fair share of horses from policemen on horseback to the odd carriage for tourists in Tokyo. But the one that Tess and I are riding on is a beautiful and powerful working mare. She is the pride of her owner and is nearly two and a half meters tall. Lars is riding on the mare's offspring around the track while being guided by the owner's son.
"She's beautiful isn't she, Hachiman?" Vittoria Russmoni turns her head to me and grins. We're wearing full safety gear with helmets and protective pads on. She's handling the reins since she has experience with this. Her pretty purple-blue eyes shine with adventurous excitement and a smile is gracing her lips. I can tell that she's enjoying this and I have to agree that I'm feeling the same.
"Yup, she's gorgeous." I nod and return a smile.
We go around the track as the majestic beast goes into a trot before slowly going faster. It feels amazing with the wind against my face as I feel every moment the horse's hooves hit the soil. With it, the fragrant perfume coming from Tess fills my nose. It's not strong since if it were I would already be sneezing with a massive headache. It's just right, just like my Mother's.
The horse goes faster and I'm forced to put my arms around her slim waist to balance myself. I'm still having fun but I'll admit that I'm feeling a tad bit scared. Another sensation is felt - pain. Every time I hop on the saddle and go back down, it hurts a certain part of me that only my fellow males can understand. Tess doesn't seem bothered, it looks like she's stepping on the leather foot straps to keep her butt from hitting the hard saddle. I imitate her stance but fail to do so since if I do, I'll have to let go of her and that might cause me to lose balance.
After what felt like an eternity, the mare's master sounds a whistle and we go back to him at a slow and comfortable pace. I manage not to collapse on the ground despite the pain in my loins. Tess is all smiles as she hops down the beautiful beast and rubs her neck and under her jaw. I sit down on a nearby bench after some photos were taken and am quite thankful that I'm still alive.
Lars sits beside me, his face and neck pink from the sunlight. My wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves prevented me from facing the same fate. I do feel sweaty though.
"Are you okay, Hachiman?"
"No. That mare made me go through cock and ball torture…fucking hell man…" I mutter to myself in Japanese before switching to Dutch.
"Yeah, it was amazing! I want to go again!" I say sarcastically but he doesn't seem to have understood my true meaning.
"I know right? Let's go again!"
"NO!" I exclaim too loudly, "No, no it's fine hahaha… I'm feeling hungry. We should go have some lunch." I say and hide my displeasure with a forced smile. After returning the equipment and taking a short break, we eat a nearby food stall. They have rice dishes on their menu which is a huge relief. Tess and I eat beef with stir-fried vegetables and curry while Lars had a lame vegan salad.
He looks at the both of us with a look of horror. "Are you two seriously eating beef…?" Tess and I share a glance with our mouths full and shrug.
"You want to taste?"
"It's pretty good tho." She and I agree and start talking about the surprisingly tasty dish. Lars calls our attention once more by clearing his throat.
"We were literally playing with baby cows not long ago. Isn't it too heartless to immediately eat that?" He says and points to our food.
"Sorry, I don't really think about this stuff," I admit with all honesty. Food is food and it's different when the animal is alive. I do treat them with respect when they're still breathing as one should, but at the end of the day, they'll end up on our plates one way or another.
"Me too." With Tess's ending remark, the matter is settled and Lars stopped talking with that topic in mind. Though the more I ponder his words, the more I realize that he's right in a way. This is something Hannibal Lector or Patrick Bateman would definitely do, psychopath-ish. Not gonna lie, what I did is a bit fucked up and I'm sure my friends at home will agree. Well, maybe except Yoshiteru.
The next part of the fair that we go to is the area where they showcase the large vehicles used as farming equipment. Unfortunately, we aren't allowed to drive them so we go inside and take pictures instead. There's also a propeller plane on display and Lars yells in excitement upon recognizing the aircraft.
"Woah! An Antonov An-2!" He exclaims and hops inside. Tess and I read a large poster beside it. Apparently, it's a Soviet-built multipurpose utility aircraft that can be outfitted with numerous roles from military to civilian, more so on the latter. This one is used in crop dusting. since it's more efficient to do it by air. Now that I think about it, the Aviation Enthusiasts Club in school has a model kit similar to this. I'll have to ask them when I go back.
"Huh, and they made over twenty thousand of these and are widely used all over the world. I guess you learn something new every day."
"I guess so," Tess says beside me. We're currently waiting for Lars to finish taking photos of the plane from every angle. I didn't know that he was interested in planes.
"It even has the same name as Anton. Well, without the "-ov". A shame that we couldn't bring him along."
"He always wanted to be a pilot you know. Once he graduates from college this spring, he'll enrol in a flight school. Well, that's what he says anyway. It's hilariously ironic since when we were kids, he was very afraid of heights. Even looking down from small bridges over the waterways in the city made him feel weak and queasy." She says with a laugh.
"What's the course that he's pursuing? I never got the chance to ask him." I reply.
"Civil Engineering, just like our grandfather who immigrated here from Italy. While I'm studying Financial Management!" She says proudly and puffs out her chest. Lukas is taking Marine Engineering and 'Ria's is Agricultural Sciences if I'm not mistaken. They chose really important-sounding paths. I should learn from them and ask them for advice. In a year's time, I'll have to make the same choice.
She asks me what I want to be and I tell her that I'm still unsure myself. Tess asks me lots of questionnaire-like questions while Lars continues taking photos of the plane. They were mainly about my hobbies and interests a few of which she already knows since we talked about them before and through texts every night. She hums in thought after we were done as I wait for her to bestow me with arcane wisdom.
"I've got it!"
"So what have you decided for me?" I ask amusedly.
She turns to me with stars sparkling in her eyes. "You should be a paediatrician or a teacher!"
To my surprise, her answer is exactly the same as my friends back at home and she laughs smugly when I tell her about it. "As expected of my intuition and people-reading skills! They're always on point!"
We continue talking until Lars finally comes back. For a little snack, we go have some ice cream. Lars declines because of his lactose intolerance thing but Tess and I have vanilla-flavoured ones. It's amusing since the farmer shows us the cow that the milk came from whose name is Safie and it tries licking my hand when I pet it. We hang around the area for some time, just talking and watching the people pass by. Lars mentions something I couldn't quite hear and walks off after winking at me.
Tch… This guy…
Is he still trying to set me up with Tess…? I swear, he has way too much free time…
The girl of interest turns to me with an expectant look. At this distance, I can clearly see the freckles on her face which came out after spending too much time under the sun. "Hachiman, do you know what day tomorrow is?"
"Yeah, but do you know what we're doing?"
I pause for a moment when I realize that she's testing me. Her gaze reminds me of Haruno whenever she does her little mind games which she loves doing.
"We're…going to your University so I can watch you practice ballet..." I say slowly while choosing my words carefully. Tess claps her hands and is seemingly satisfied by my answer.
"Bravo! You remembered! And here I thought you forgot since you didn't mention it these past few days…" She muses and continues, "Do you mind sending me a photo of a valid ID like your passport? I'll need it to ask for your visitor clearance."
"Okay, it's in the van. I'll send it to you later."
We both go quiet since we expected the other to make a follow-up. What happened were several seconds of awkward silence of just staring and waiting. I was about to say something to break the silence when she thought the same.
We pause and then the cycle repeats itself.
"Okay, I was-"
"Are you free-"
I cover my face with my left hand. This is getting embarrassing and it's reaching my tolerance threshold. Tess laughs awkwardly also in the same position as me. She handles it better than me and pats my arm which helps me get a hold of myself.
"As I was saying… There's a nice teahouse near my place that I've always wanted to go to but never had the time. Do you… want to come with me…?" She says with a small hopeful smile.
"But it's perfectly fine if you don't! I'll understand if you're too tired to come! I know about your anaemia since you told me about it! It doesn't have to be tonight!" Tess quickly adds to not make herself too presumptuous and demanding.
I clutch my heart, "Hng-!" My weakness! That cutesy act is way too cute! That hopeful face followed by denial with a hint of paradoxical body language! She has no idea how cute that is. Komachi and Isshiki do this frequently and it's super effective against me! Younger girls are so good at this, but older Onee-sans still have a formidable charm to them too!
And that's why they're still the best…
"Y-Yeah… I'll come with you…" I reply, still catching my breath and calming down my excited heart (and appetite since I haven't had some tea ever since stepping foot here in the Netherlands).
Tess beams happily. The smile that she sends my way is brighter than a hundred stars exploding at the same time, it's so bright that I have to cover my eyes lest I go blind. The positive energy emanating from her hits me. It burns away my unnecessary edginess and cringy memories and fills in the void with Onee-san energy and vibes. For a moment, I achieved enlightenment equal to that of Buddha.
I feel so happy, accomplished and complete, that if my life were to end right now, I'd have no regrets.
"Great! It's a date then!"
Merry Christmas to everyone reading this! I hope everyone is staying warm, it's colder than usual where I'm at!
I don't really have much to say except that I'm still busy catching up on events in FGO, Genshin Impact, Azur Lane and Blue Archive. Oh and I recently made a crossover with Genshin Impact, check it out if you're interested!
Anyway, I'll try updating before the New Year, so citizens of the universe, send me your energy!
Goodbye and stay safe!