“I’m still winning,” Yuto said, looking proud of his accomplishment. He took a bite of his sandwich and leaned back in his chair to look smugly at his companions. The weather was nice enough for all of them to eat outside at the café.
“But you cheated,” Yamada complained. He pulled a crumpled up sheet of paper out of his pocket and pointed to one of the rules written on it. “Get an autograph from a sempai,” he read out loud. “Yabu doesn’t count.” He looked to Keito and Chinen to back up his complaint, but they both just looked indifferent to the situation.
“Technically Yabu is a sempai.” Yuto turned to grin at Yabu who was sitting at the next table over with the rest of his bandmates. Yabu paused mid-chew as he realized he was the topic of conversation, blinked a few times in confusion before shrugging and turning back to focus on whatever story Daiki was telling.
Yamada stabbed at his half-eaten salad with angry jerky movements. “You’re cheating at the scavenger hunt and I don’t like it.”
“I’m still winning though,” Yuto repeated.
When Keito had jokingly suggested earlier that a scavenger hunt would be fun, no one had any idea how competitive Yamada and Yuto were going to get. It had started off as a joke as they made up a list of things to find or do. Take a picture of the ugliest shoes you can find. Tie a superhero cape on a clothing store mannequin. Find a flower in an unnatural place. But then the checklist got weird and much more complicated. Help an old lady cross the street. Try on a Lolita dress. Annoy a convenience store clerk. And so on. They ended up recruiting BEST to accompany them on their quest to ensure proof that no one was cheating. Currently, they were all taking a lunch break and tallying up the scores so far. Yuto was one point ahead of Yamada. Chinen had just a few points less than them, and Keito had only attained three points, putting him firmly in last place. The goal was to check off as many things as they could before their 5 o’clock deadline that evening.
“It looks like our lunch break is over,” Chinen said as he stood up and stretched.
Yamada jumped up as well, a devious look appearing on his face. “I think our sempai should pay for lunch.” And without giving Yuto time to argue, he grabbed his scavenger hunt partner, Takaki, and dashed away.
“Heeeey,” Yuto whined at the unfairness of the head start. While he was distracted, Chinen had vanished with his partner Inoo, and all that left was Keito being dragged down the sidewalk by Hikaru and Daiki. Hikaru childishly stuck his tongue out at them as he left.
Yuto turned to Yabu who was still sitting at the table. “Well, come on Sempai, go pay so that we can get moving.”
“Let me finish my sandwich first.” Yabu looked completely unconcerned about anything other than the food on his plate.
Yuto resisted the urge to bang his head on the table.
“I say we just ditch the whole thing and go to the beach,” Takaki complained. “The weather is so nice today.”
Yamada looked up from his list and glared because he’d gotten stuck with someone who wasn’t taking the competition seriously. They were wandering down some random street in Harajuku as he tried to decide which item to complete next. “No, I want to win!”
“It’s just a scavenger hunt.”
“I’m not gonna lose,” Yamada vowed. He clenched his fist dramatically like he was a determined character in an action anime series.
Without warning, Takaki grabbed the list from his hand. “I think it’s time to cross Lolita dresses off the list then,” he declared, and pointed to the clothing store in front of where they were standing together on the sidewalk. It was all frills and lace and tiny top hats.
“All right then,” Yamada said. He pushed up his sleeves and looked like he was about to walk on stage to perform the fiercest ballad of his life. “I’m ready to put on a dress,” he announced, startling the two ladies working in the store.
It wasn’t long before Yamada was decked out in full Lolita fashion. He had the dress along with some lacy gloves, frilly socks, fancy boots, and a parasol to match. Yamada twirled the parasol a little as he examined the look in the mirror.
“I think I… pull this look off really well?” He sounded kinda shocked.
“It flatters your hips,” Takaki said, even though he was only half-paying attention. He was busy trying on all the top hats in the store.
“Quick, take my picture so we can move on to the next thing.”
Takaki sighed and tore himself away from the hats to snap photographic proof that Yamada had completed that part of the scavenger hunt. After that was taken care of, Yamada hastily changed back into his own clothes. He didn’t want to lose to Yuto or Chinen and have to hear them rub it in his face for the next month. (He didn’t have to worry about Keito, of course. The odds of him winning the challenge were slim at best.) He grabbed his phone to check how much time he had left and saw he had a group message notification.
“Why did you send this picture to everyone?” he asked Takaki.
Takaki had just purchased a top hat and shrugged. “So we can all be jealous of how nice you look in drag?”
Yamada looked at the two responses the picture had already received so far. Chinen had sent a taunting we did that hours ago slowpoke and Hikaru had sent something rather vulgar that he wished he could unsee. Yamada quickly sent an angry-looking emoji in response to Hikaru before resuming his look of fierce determination.
“Please put this dress on hold for me,” he asked one of the ladies at the cash register. “I might buy it for my sister later.”
“Your sister?” Takaki scoffed. “Riiiiiight.”
“We’re the same size!” And Yamada made a face mirroring the emoji he’d just sent Hikaru.
“Ha!” Hikaru laughed and put away his phone. “Yamada got mad.”
No one was really paying much attention to Hikaru at the moment though. Daiki was busy trying to drag Keito into the convenience store. Since Keito had been failing hardcore at the scavenger hunt the whole time, Hikaru and Daiki had taken it upon themselves to help him out.
“Come on, it’ll be really easy to mark off annoy a convenience store clerk and then we can start on something else,” Daiki coaxed him. But Keito just shook his head frantically.
“But I don’t want to. It’s rude!”
“The scavenger hunt was your idea,” Hikaru pointed out. He grabbed one of Keito’s arms while Daiki grabbed the other and they both dragged him inside.
“I was only joking that looking for all the things Yabu misplaced would be like a scavenger hunt. Things got out of hand after that.”
Daiki just waved his hand and rolled his eyes at the excuse. “You don’t have to be rude,” he explained. “Just go talk to the clerk in English and pretend you don’t understand Japanese.”
Keito sighed in resignation because Daiki at least had a good point, and he figured the English practice couldn’t hurt. Daiki and Hikaru had already taken up their positions by the magazine rack, sneakily observing him from behind some magazines. He could have sworn Hikaru was giggling.
Keito decided to keep it simple. He’d simply ask the cashier to explain a food item to him. He picked up an onigiri and placed it on the counter. He asked in English what it was and what was inside it. The cashier looked startled and confused at first but then slowly tried to explain the rice ball to him in English as well. But every time he would finish, Keito would follow up with “really?” and “why?” just to be annoying.
This went on for a good twenty minutes before the clerk ran out of different ways to say “rice ball and seaweed.” He’d finally snapped. The clerk picked up the phone and said something about the police, and that’s when Keito knew that he’d passed the challenge and also had a good chance of getting arrested.
Keito pushed the onigiri towards the clerk and threw his hands up to surrender. He slowly backed away a few steps and then dashed out of the store. Daiki and Hikaru followed behind him as he ran down the sidewalk.
“Why are we running?” Daiki asked.
Keito just pointed to the police officer some distance behind chasing after them.
“Oh no, we don’t want to visit you in prison,” Hikaru said and started running faster.
“I’m forfeiting the rest of this scavenger hunt. I don’t even care anymore,” Keito announced even as he struggled to catch his breath. He wished he had worn better shoes in case something like this happened.
“You can’t say it hasn’t been exciting though,” Daiki added brightly as they all continued to sprint away.
Meanwhile, in a shoe shop in Ueno, Chinen and Inoo were trying to cross off two things on the list at once. Find an ugly pair of shoes and Get the biggest discount on something at a store. Inoo was technically not supposed to be helping but he was having entirely too much fun picking out ugly shoes that Chinen wasn’t going to stop him.
“How about these with the spikes all over them?” Inoo held up a pair of black shoes with silver spikes almost covering the entire thing. “Wouldn’t wanna get kicked by them, yeah?”
Chinen shook his head. “They aren’t nearly as ugly as the puke-colored ones you picked up earlier.”
“You’re right,” Inoo agreed as he placed the spiky shoes back where he’d found them. “Those shoes really did look like someone had vomited on them. We should go back and get those. You can totally convince the shopkeeper for a discount based on how hideous they are.”
Chinen leaned against one shelf of shoe boxes and crossed his arms. “What would I do with puke-colored shoes though? I’m not wearing something that looks like that.”
“Hm…” Inoo tapped his chin and thought about it. “…Yuto collects shoes, doesn’t he?”
Once that problem had been solved, they tracked down the shopkeeper to start haggling down the price. Technically Inoo wasn’t supposed to be helping out with that either, but Chinen wasn’t going to stop him. The shopkeeper couldn’t keep up with both of them shooting rapid-fire questions at him, so eventually they persuaded him to sell the shoes for 75% off.
“We did pretty good,” Inoo said, looking pleased. But that look quickly faded from his face as soon as he glanced at the ugly shoes again. “Ugh, put them back in the box so we don’t have to look at them anymore.”
Chinen closed up the box but then had another idea. “What if Yuto or Yamada manage to get something at an even better discount?” Chinen definitely did not want to deal with having to listen to the winner of the scavenger hunt rub it in his face for the next few months. (Keito still didn’t count.)
“Ooh you’re right. We can totally do better than 75%.”
“Where were those spiky shoes you had earlier? It’s time to level up our haggling game.”
Inoo grinned. “Oh Mr. Shopkeeper…”
While the rest of the scavenger hunters were dealing with their own searches, Yuto had had a relatively nice afternoon for the most part. Once he’d finally gotten Yabu away from the lunch café, they got to work checking things off the list again. It was all quite easy until Yuto tried to do the help an old lady cross the street one. He apparently kept choosing the wrong ladies because they all kept getting offended at his offer and then whacking him with their purses or walking canes.
“Don’t laugh,” Yuto pouted as he went back to where Yabu was waiting after another unsuccessful attempt.
“But it’s funny!” Yabu was laughing so loudly that people passing them on the sidewalk were side-eyeing him.
Yuto rubbed his arm where the last lady’s heavy purse had hit him. “I think I’m gonna bruise.”
Yabu looked over the list again. “Maybe you should try something less hazardous to your health. How about… hm… take a selfie at the top of Tokyo Tower?”
Yuto agreed since they were nearby anyway. But unfortunately for him, they discovered that the elevator was going through maintenance repairs when they got there. The only way up was via the stairs. All six hundred of them.
“This shouldn’t be too bad,” Yuto said, hands on hips, surveying the steps in front of them. “We’ve both got long legs.”
“Thank goodness for that.” Yabu began his ascent, taking two stairs at a time.
Neither of them, however, were prepared for the sheer amount of steps and quickly tired out. About halfway there, Yabu gave up and sat on the stairs and clung to the railing for dear life, as if he was afraid he would slide all the way back down to the bottom. “Go on without me,” he said as he pressed his cheek against the cool metal of the stair rail. “Goodbye cruel world.”
Yuto didn’t even respond to that. He just plopped down right beside Yabu and stared down at the orange stairs. This felt like a good place to contemplate life and the universe. Or at least to contemplate why his legs ached so much even though he exercised regularly. The two of them remained there until someone climbing the stairs passed by, giving them suspicious looks for blocking half the walkway.
With a lot of coaxing, Yuto managed to get himself moving again while dragging Yabu along as well. And after what seemed like an eternity, they made it to the top.
“We should win a prize just for making it here,” Yabu said, trying to catch his breath. He looked around as if someone would be standing nearby passing out goodies.
Picking out the best view of the sprawling city below, Yuto quickly snapped a selfie with his phone (while Yabu snapped a photo of Yuto taking a photo because “if I had to climb all those stairs, I’m at least going to be useful dammit.”)
As soon as Yuto was done Yabu clapped his hands and turned back to the stairs. “Onto the next thing then.”
But Yuto just frowned as he checked the picture on his phone. He made an unsatisfied face. “The lighting isn’t good in this one. I should take another one.”
“That doesn’t matter. A photo is a photo.”
Yuto made a scandalized face and gasped. Yabu could have just admitted to kicking puppies and Yuto probably would have made the same face. “Excuse you, a photo is art.” He repositioned himself for another selfie attempt after he changed the filters and settings on his phone. He wished he’d brought his nice camera with him but he hadn’t really been expecting to need it when he left the house that morning.
The next photo was better but still not as good as he thought it could be. The lighting was still washing out the colors and the background was a little out of focus. Yabu leaned over his shoulder to examine the new picture and express his approval.
But Yuto wasn’t convinced. “No, I can definitely do better. What if Yamada or Chinen take better photos than me? I can’t lose to them and have to hear them run it in my face for the next month or more.”
“What about Keito?”
Yuto just gave him a skeptical look and waited for Yabu to think more about what he’d just said.
“Yeah okay,” Yabu nodded after a moment. “What was I even thinking?”
“Alright,” Yuto began, readjusting the settings once more. But, of course, he wasn’t satisfied with the result again. Yabu just sighed and looked for a place to sit. Once the camera man was focused on photography, no one could drag him away.
“He’ll probably run out of memory on his phone before he’s happy with his picture,” Yabu muttered quietly and watched as Yuto posed again. Yabu pulled out his own phone and checked the group message. “…is that Yamada in a dress?”
The whole group met up again at the same café they had eaten lunch at earlier. Everyone looked kind of excited about figuring out who the winner was and what ridiculous things they managed to accomplish. Well, everyone except Keito who refused to sit with them. Instead, he was sitting alone in the corner, looking angry while eating crepes.
Yuto looked extra happy when Chinen and Inoo handed him a bunch of shoe boxes as they took their seats at the table. He didn’t mind that they were hideous. The two of them explained that they’d become so good at bargaining that they’d actually got the last pair for free.
“And we’re also banned from ever shopping there again,” Inoo added, looking unconcerned as if he got banned from stores all the time.
As they moved on tallying up the scores, Yuto showed off his Tokyo Tower selfie proudly.
Yamada squinted as he examined the screen. “It’s kind of a crappy selfie though.”
“No, it’s art!” Yuto looked offended and glanced around the group to agree with him, but no one did. “Look at the lighting and the focus.” He listed off a bunch of technical terms about the specifications of the camera settings and what that meant. They quickly tuned him out.
“You can only see your left eye and half of your forehead in this photo,” Chinen pointed out.
“Haven’t you ever heard of the Rule of Thirds?”
“Whatever that is, it doesn’t apply to your face!” Yamada continued to argue.
Takaki cleared his throat to interrupt the argument and hopefully end it. “So… can I go to the beach now?”
“No,” the entire group answered in unison. Takaki pouted and put on the top hat he had purchased earlier. He pushed it down low enough to cover his eyes so he could take a nap instead.
“So how did you guys do?” Chinen asked, turning to Daiki and Hikaru since Keito wasn’t speaking to anyone. “Why’s he so mad anyway?”
“Oh, he’s just upset that we almost got arrested,” Daiki answered.
So Daiki and Hikaru explained just what had happened and gleefully shared the videos they’d recorded in the convenience store and while they were running away. Keito just shifted in his seat as he tried to ignore all of them. And after they were done laughing about that, they finished totaling up everyone’s scores.
“A three-way tie?!” Yamada exclaimed in disbelief.
“That sucks.” Yuto frowned.
“So none of us won.” Chinen said. And then he smiled. “Oh well. It was still a lot of fun. Isn’t that right, Keito?”
Keito turned around and gave them all his worst glare as he declared, “we are never ever doing this again.”