"Thank you for the polite welcome."
Charmed, Tomoya answered her goofy smile with one of his own.
A very peculiar atmosphere descended on the space where they stood; he didn't know what to say next.
She seemed to be even more flustered, though, and launched into an explanation that sounded more like an excuse.
"Oh, no, I don't work here. It's because of this showcase, because it's mine, and you're looking at it."
She seemed to be trying to say that she was the tenant of showcase No. 56 and had greeted him as a prospective customer viewing her work.
"Excuse me! Sorry for just coming right up to you like that! Here, this is me!"
Moving with uncalled-for briskness, she took a business card from her bag and presented it. Tomoya automatically took it.
Shinjo Ena nodded as though very pleased. It seemed reckless, handing over her card to some man she'd never laid eyes on before, but maybe this was an online nickname, not her real name. The card showed only the name, an e-mail address and the URL for Ena's website.
"Um, my name's Takahashi, Takahashi Tomoya. I haven't got a card."
Smiling, she said his name.
Everything she said came out loud. Sensing some kind of pressure, he said, "Well, see you later," and started to leave. Ena immediately hollered, "Tomoya-san! Do you have a little time? For a cup of tea or something?"
One question kept coming up: Had he just been picked up by a girl? Couldn't happen, he told himself, but as he was denying it, a different suspicion arose.
He'd heard of this: a woman approaches a timid-looking otaku on the street, invites him to have a cup of tea with her, and then talks him into buying her expensive jewelry or artwork. He was sure he looked like an easy mark and couldn't imagine another reason why a woman would go to the trouble of introducing herself.
"The Kyokuyodo Hot Tech series is so well done. I wish I could make something that good. Tomoya-san, are you going to exhibit in the Wonder Festival? This will be my fourth time . . ."
Then again, it seemed unlikely that a woman trying to peddle expensive artwork would go on and on about her own fascination with capsule figures.Listening to the one-sided conversation, he more or less figured it out. Ena was just happy that someone had come to see the figures she made. Tomoya knew the feeling, too. When you make a figure, you always want to know what someone else thinks of it. Ena must have overcome her shyness and summoned up all her courage to do this.
"Sorry, I'm doing all the talking."
An artwork-peddling schemer? Far from it. By now she seemed kind of cute. Tomoya smiled and picked up his coffee cup. Then he was kicked in the shins and very nearly spilled the coffee.
Trying desperately to look unconcerned, he glanced down. The backpack that had been left unattended for the past hour sat there in moody silence."Sorry, I should get going."
Squeezing the squirming backpack, Tomoya rose from his seat.
Copyright (C) Shokichi/Web Japan, English translation (C) John Brennan
Edited by Japan Echo Inc.