“What’s the emergency?” Hikaru asked as he and the rest of BEST gathered on Inoo’s doorstep. They’d all received an urgent message from Inoo and rushed right over to see how they could help.
“I’ve got a fever…” Inoo began slowly with a serious face. “And the only prescription is… more cowbell.” He cackled at his joke and at the annoyed looks on his bandmates’ faces.
“Have you been watching Saturday Night Live reruns again?” Daiki asked.
Hikaru had already turned around to leave. He stuffed his hands into his coat pockets and hunched his shoulders as he walked down the steps. “I’m going home.”
“No wait!” Inoo called out. He waved his arms frantically at them all. “It’s the day after Valentine’s day!”
“So?” Yabu asked.
“We’re going shopping,” Inoo explained without any room for argument. “All the best chocolate sales are on the day after Valentine’s.” Inoo stepped onto his welcome mat and locked the door behind him. “Takaki will drive.”
“I will?” Takaki looked confused but searched his pockets for his car keys anyway.
“What makes you think we want to go buy chocolate?” Hikaru said. “Maybe I got a whole stash yesterday just waiting for me at home.”
“Let’s be honest,” Inoo began as he began to walk towards where Takaki had parked his car. He wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “None of you got any chocolate yesterday, did you?”
There was an awkward silence as each one of them glanced uneasily at each other. “…no,” they all grudgingly admitted.
But then Takaki found his keys and added, “Well, actually, my sister let me test some she made for her boyfriend.”
Yabu piled into the backseat of Takaki’s car with Hikaru and Daiki. He ignored the two of them as they argued over the seatbelts for a brief moment. “Did it taste good?” he asked.
Takaki made a disgusted face as he adjusted the rearview mirror. “Actually it was horrible. I feel sick just thinking about it again. Forget I said anything.”
Inoo made himself comfortable in the passenger seat and waited impatiently for Takaki to finish adjusting all the mirrors. It was taking forever, so he turned around to face the guys in the backseat. “So I think we can all give chocolate to each other. I’ll give some to Daiki. He’ll give some to Hikaru. Hikaru can give his to Yabu. So after that, Yabu can give his to Takaki. And then Takaki will give chocolate to me. It’ll be like one big chain of chocolate. A chain symbolizing our bonds of friendship forever.”
“Isn’t it more like a loop than a chain?” Yabu asked as he scratched his head.
“I think you’ve been spending too much time with Chinen lately,” Daiki added.
“Shut up and enjoy our bonding time,” Inoo demanded. They were finally out on the open road.
“Yes,” Takaki agreed. “Shut up so I can drive.”
“You should have turned left two blocks ago,” Inoo said. And suddenly there was a flurry of complaints about Takaki’s driving from the backseat as well.
“If you don’t stop complaining, I’ll just drive down to the beach and forget the chocolate,” Takaki threatened. He adjusted his mirrors again at the stoplight.
“But it’s cold and I don’t have my swim trunks,” Yabu protested.
Inoo banged his head against the window in frustration.
They ended up at the 100 yen shop which sort of defeated the purpose of Inoo’s plan to take advantage of the after holiday sales but by this point, he was just grateful they’d made it anywhere. In the car earlier, Daiki had started singing 99 bottles of beer on the wall but he only made it down to 93 bottles before Hikaru tried to smother him with his jacket.
“Oh look at all the choices,” Yabu exclaimed when they found the bin of leftover chocolate in the middle of the store. “And look,” he pointed to the sign, “everything is half-off or more.”
“…that still makes no sense,” Daiki muttered to himself.
“I think this may be every kind of chocolate ever made,” Inoo said as he shifted through the multitude of boxes. Some of the flavors looked delicious while others looked disgusting. He picked up a box that looked to be like some sort of chocolate rip-off of those weird jelly beans from Harry Potter. The package advertised flavors like miso, shrimp, parsley, and bacon. But he quickly dumped the box back into the bin as soon as he saw natto listed as one of the flavors. Who the heck wanted natto flavored chocolate? Ew.
Daiki picked up a box and read the label. “This one says it’s got salted caramel in it. I wonder if that actually tastes salty.”
Hikaru took the box from his hands to look closely at it. “Someone should get this for Takaki and tell him it’s beach-flavored.”
“Bleach flavored?!” Yabu exclaimed, grimacing at what he’d misheard.
“Nobody would make something bleach-flavored,” Hikaru said, whacking Yabu on the head with the box. “Put in your hearing aid, old man.” He dumped the box into the basket Yabu had picked up to hold all their purchases.
“Did somebody mention the beach?” Takaki asked from the other side of the bin. He was currently up to his elbows in bon-bons.
“Forget the beach,” Inoo said, reaching into the sea of chocolate again. “Look at this miraculous monstrosity!” He pulled out a giant box labeled Super Amazing Chocolately Golden Deluxe. It had all these fancy, flashy designs on it along with words proclaiming the chocolate inside to be equivalent to “the nectar of the gods” and so forth. There were even sparkles on it, catching the light at the right angle to blind them temporarily. They all crowded around Inoo and the box with wonder.
“Wow,” Daiki leaned forward for a better look. “It’s so shiny.”
“It has everything you could ever dream of in here,” Hikaru added, looking mesmerized.
“There’s like three days worth of calories in one bite,” Takaki pointed to the nutrition label on the side.
“Don’t ruin the moment,” Inoo complained. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the bright box. “Oh look, it’s 82% off. What a steal!”
“It’s a 100 yen shop for goodness sakes,” Daiki growled in frustration. “Why would they even do that?!”
“You should never question a good bargain,” Hikaru said as he picked up another couple of different boxes to throw into Yabu’s basket. There were just too many good deals to pass up on. But then he realized that Yabu was nowhere to be found.
“Hey, where’s Yabu?”
The rest of them looked around but he wasn’t in sight. The only people they could see were old ladies shuffling around the aisles, saying hello and gossiping with each other.
“We should find him,” Inoo said. “He’s got all our chocolate.” And he didn’t want to lug the giant deluxe chocolate box around all day. It was freaking heavy.
“And he’s got my car keys,” Takaki added.
They all paused to stare at Takaki who offered no explanation other than a nonchalant shrug.
It took the four of them thirty long minutes of searching each aisle of the store (and lots of dodging old grannies who wanted to pinch their “cute cheeks”) before they found Yabu near the back corner. He waved as he saw them coming, completely oblivious to how worried they were about being unable to find him. Hikaru whacked him on the top of his head again with another box of chocolate.
“We were this close to getting a manager to call your name over the speaker,” Daiki said with his hands on his hips, looking exactly like an exasperated mother who was about to give a stern lecture.
“Guys look!” Yabu exclaimed, still oblivious. He held up a handful of dark sunglasses that he’d stashed in his basket and put one of them on. “They’re having another half-price sale on sunglasses again too!”
“But whyyyy?” Daiki screeched, forgetting whatever lecture he was about to launch into. He just could not understand why a 100 yen shop would have discounts on anything when 100 yen itself was already super cheap.
Takaki grabbed a pair and put them on with another shrug. “You can never have too many sunglasses.”
“What do sunglasses have to do with Valentine’s day?” Inoo asked.
“Absolutely nothing,” Yabu said with a grin.
“It’s best not to question these things.” Hikaru ushered Inoo and the rest of the group towards the checkout counter. It didn’t take them long before they were all crowding back into Takaki’s car again, discussing how lucky it was that they’d gotten all that chocolate (and sunglasses) for so cheap.
“This was a pretty good idea,” Yabu said after another squabble about seatbelts in the backseat. He opened one of his chocolate boxes and took a few bites.
Inoo nodded, satisfied with how it had all turned out. “You all owe me a really nice White Day present now.”
Hikaru reached forward and whacked him on the top of his head with a box of chocolate.
“Weren’t you supposed to turn left back there?” Yabu asked Takaki even though it was hard to understand him with a mouth full of chocolate.
“I’m driving this car, not you,” Takaki complained and defiantly kept driving in the wrong direction.
“How about a song for the road?” Daiki said and took a deep breath, but Hikaru crammed a few pieces of chocolate into Daiki’s mouth before he could begin.
Trying to ignore all the commotion in the car, Inoo banged his head against the window again. “I hate how much I love you weirdos,” he said. But really, it had been a fun day with his friends.