Spring. It is the season of meeting and parting.

Spring. It is the season when the cherry blossoms are at their best.

In Japan, where the turning point of the year is set at the season when cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the month of April has a very special meaning.

We watched the cherry blossoms fall when we thought they were in full bloom.

We see off those who have taken care of us, and without a moment’s pause, we welcome those whom we have just met.

In other words, it is the season to hold a welcome party while viewing cherry blossoms !

This is the Sannomaru Square in Joshi Park. In the Edo period (1603-1867), when the feudal lords lived here, this was literally the Sannomaru area, but today it is a grassy plaza where citizens enjoy playing catch and other sports during the day.

Especially in spring, the cherry trees planted along the outer border of the plaza are in full bloom, attracting many cherry blossom-viewing visitors.

After dark, the street lights and street lamps light up the area, creating a magnificent night view of the cherry blossoms in full bloom, making it a popular date spot. Of course, the park is also a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing.

Incidentally, Joshi Park allows groups to hold banquets if they apply and pay at the management office.

There is a group of people spread out on blue sheets by the rows of cherry trees at night, making a lot of noise. Or rather, it is us.

The people gathered there are students of Hokusei University. A welcome party was held to welcome the new students in April.

There are several blue sheets laid out, and the students are crammed so tightly together that their knees are almost touching each other.

“Well, everyone, have you received your drinks? No one under the age of 20 should drink alcohol !”

One of the organizers calls out to the crowd. The party is about to begin.

“Wow, there are so many people here ! They must all be from Hokusei University !”

I see the sign of the opening of the banquet, and the girl who is sitting upright next to me is excited.

She has shiny black hair with a red inner color, large frame earrings, and a flashy appearance. On the other hand, her small face and petite figure make her look young, and at first glance she doesn’t look like a college student. However, she was a high school student until just two weeks ago.

Her name is Azekura Ari san. She was a high school student until recently, but from this spring she will be a college student at the same university. In other words, she is my junior.

“I can’t believe we rented out a space in a park and had cherry blossoms as an appetizer at night…… College students are so mature !”

“Ari san, you shouldn’t drink alcohol yet, okay?”

The cherry blossoms lit up against the night sky after the sun had set.

The hustle and bustle of the crowd waiting for the feast to begin.

The extraordinary atmosphere made Ari san restless.

No wonder. It was a banquet held just after she was released from the stresses of exams and the social clutches that bind high school students. It would be a perfect event to tickle his curiosity.

I can’t help but be excited to be able to enjoy the party here.

However, I don’t want to get too wild. This is the time of year when many college students get into trouble with alcohol, so I have to keep a close eye on them.

Especially today, I don’t know many people in my circle. I have to make sure that the new girls don’t attract any unwanted people.

“Everyone, please pay attention !”

A male student who stood up quickly attracted my attention.

“Thank you for joining the Silk Road welcoming party today ! I am Koichi, the representative of Silk Road.”

When Koichi greeted the guests, he was greeted with a round of applause from the surrounding students. Behind him, female students whispered to each other, [Oh my God, he’s so handsome !]  Yeah, he is indeed handsome.

“Before we toast, let me tell you about the origin of the name of the Silk Road circle. As you know, the Silk Road is a trade route that connected Europe and China. It served as a major artery of economic and cultural exchange from ancient times to the Middle Ages.”

Shoot, this is getting serious. I thought this place would be more like a congenial, happy-go-lucky drinking place……

Everyone seems to be wondering the same thing as I am, or perhaps they are all mindlessly straightening their backs…….

Koichi san must have sensed the strange atmosphere as well, and his words were a little slurred and he gave a wry smile.

“Ah, I wonder what’s going on with this atmosphere. It’s like, [Is this a lecture on cultural anthropology?] But I’m sorry, but I have a habit of saying this every year, so please hang out with me a little longer.”

A small laugh, as if brought on by a ripple, comes from all sides.

Thanks to Koichi san’s joke, everyone’s shoulders seemed to relax.

After the air was relaxed, the greetings continued.

“We are a travel circle and go on a trip once or twice a year. The name of the group is [Silk Road] which means [Let’s travel around and eat delicious food together.]”

How appropriate.

I wonder if they all thought the same thing, and this time, I hear a squeal of laughter from the others.

“We all make a lot of noise, eat delicious food, and socialize with each other. The first president of the association named it after his wish to cherish each and every encounter and to make student life unforgettable. Whether you are here today for the first time or a member from last year, let’s carry on Ikuo san’s wishes and have an enjoyable campus life !”

Koichi san raises a can of beer with a big smile on his face.

Everyone raised their drinks in response. Canned beer, shochu, juice, etc……

Then they waited with bated breath for Koichi san’s words.

“Then–cheers !”

[ [Cheers ! ! !] ] 

The two words were blasted everywhere, as if in a dam. Everyone in the vicinity was clashing cans and sending each other big smiles. and a big smile on their faces.

“Kingo, cheers !”

A red can of Coke popped out from next to me. Ari san broke into smile.

Ari san has been with us since last fall. But even though the environment had changed, I was taken aback by a freshness as if we were meeting for the first time in a different world.

“Yes, here’s to you !”

But this is a pleasant change.

We had been college students and high school students, and I was helping her with her studies, but this spring we became seniors and juniors attending the same university.

However, the change in our relationship is not limited to seniors and juniors…….

Anyway, I made a toast with my junior. I touched the can of beer I was holding.

“Hey, hey, are you in any other clubs, Azekura san?”

The party started, and as soon as the friends on the same sheet finished introducing themselves to each other, a nervous boy suddenly asked. A crushed beer can was lying at his feet, and he was already holding the second one. He must have drunk it all in one gulp.

“I’m in the tea club.”

“Are you interested in an athletic club? If you’d like, come to our tennis club !”

The purpose of the question was to recruit. This time of the year is a recruiting war, so it is a common practice at social gatherings. Many of the clubs are loose, so it’s normal to have multiple clubs.

Moreover, female club members with good looks are welcomed wherever they go. Everyone really wants to be in contact with pretty girls. The opposite is also true.

“I’m glad you invited me. But I’ve already decided what else I’m going to do.”

“Eh, what are you going to do? Another circle?”

“Not a circle.”

Ari san’s gaze turned to me. 

And she smiled a smile that only I could understand.

I was surprised because it was unexpected.

Yes, there is another change in our relationship.

Ari san was a fan of mine who played in a rock band.

I was the guitarist on stage and she was the audience cheering me on.

But since this spring, that is no longer the case.

My heart pulses wildly and my chest heats up when I think about that relationship.

“I’m forming a band with him !”

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