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Ririna was a high schooler now. Despite my apprehensions, she didn’t go on a rampage like three years ago, and she didn’t have problems making friends either. To my surprise she was actually doing pretty well for herself. She had rounded up the External Students and was ruling over her own clique now.
And since she wasn’t just some External but my younger cousin, apparently even the Pivoine members in her grade couldn’t make a move against her. Using my name like that while I had no idea. What a terrifying girl.
I had asked her friends before to tell me if she ever went crazy again, but things seemed to be fine for the moment.
Although, I did receive one report before that she had butted heads with some underclassman. Despite my worries though, it turned out just to be Bird-Brained Katsuragi so I ignored it.
Later, Ririna came up to me breathing excitedly.
“I wasted that idiot!” she boasted, like some kind of thug.
Kind as I was, I decided not to mention birds of a feather.
Anyhow, I hoped she wouldn’t do anything to harm my reputation here.
In primary and middle school, the girls of my grade had only two major cliques; mine and Tsuruhana-san’s. Ever since we entered high school though, all of the new Externals were leading to a new, third faction being born. It wasn’t something you could afford to ignore.
Also Fellow Stalking horse was getting more and more popular amongst the girls. Even though we were both stalking horses, how come the guys were all avoiding me!? Wasn’t this unfair? I want to be popular too!
Not that I couldn’t understand the leader of the girls being frightening…
That’s what I had concluded, when a few days later I saw Ririna in the cafeteria surrounded by boys, giving me such a shock that I couldn’t stop trembling.
Why was it just me…
Wondering if there wasn’t at least one boy interested in me, my eyes darted around the crowd but every single boy I met eyes with looked away in fear.
Oh no… What if I was the Village Chief forever…
I had a ray of hope though. Mao-chan’s party was coming up.
After she invited me I checked my schedule, only to find out I was free indeed. When I told her she was so happy she started clapping. How much cuter could she get!
And what was even better was that Ichinokura-san would be coming too. Ichinokura-san who had treated me delicately like I was a princess. A ray of light to sooth the discomfort of my heart!
I was going at the exercise stepper like crazy to maintain his image of the dainty, delicate ojousama.
It was making weird noises, actually. Was it because I hadn’t used it for a while? Maybe it was too old?
Anyhow, I was exercising while watching informercials. Oohh… Some of these looked interesting…
Before I knew it, I was off the stepper and on the phone, ready to order.
Today was Mao-chan’s birthday party so the moment my classes were finished I rushed to her house.
The party had already begun at the Sawarabi household, and Mao-chan was surrounded by classmates.
“Reika-oneesama! You came!”
“Happy Birthday, Mao-chan,” I said as I held out my present.
It was pretty hard finding something for a little girl, but after a lot of searching I decided on a finely ornamented music box that looked like some sort of antique.
When you opened it up, a little prince and princess pair danced to ‘Someday My Prince Will Come’.
I had been really worried about whether she’d like it, but when she opened it up her eyes sparkled. Hahh, thank goodness.
“Isn’t that great, Mao-chan?”
Sitting next to Mao-chan was Yuuri-kun, the boy who rang the bell with her during the summer party.
It seems like Mao-chan didn’t need to wait for ‘someday’ since her prince was sitting beside her. Kuh-, so I lost here too…
Where was my prince candidate? I looked around but unfortunately he still hadn’t come due to work reasons. I had so carefully done my hair too…
Anyhow, apparently they had already done the cake cutting, because a waiter brought me a slice. I thanked him and then took a bit. It was delicious. Shockingly, Mao-chan’s mother had made not only this cake, but the rest of the food too. Normally people in the upper class left the cooking to full-time chefs or maids, or so I had thought.
I tried some of the other food next. All of it was just delicious. Not only did it taste like a professional’s, but somehow it had that touch of a mother’s home cooking, which just made it all the better.
The Sarawabi family was powerful enough to get Mao-chan into the Pivoine. There was no way that Mrs. Sarawabi couldn’t hire somebody else to do this. But her cooking skills were amazing regardless!
I was shooting the food a look of respect when Mao-chan’s mum, Inokura-san’s older sister, smiled at me and said,
“Cooking is my hobby.”
Her hobby, huh. How niice. I wasn’t very good at it. Well, not that I was terrible either.
In the future, if the Kisshouin family ever collapsed, the chores would probably all fall to me. I doubted Okaasama could cook. I’d never even seen her stand in the kitchen before. In that case, I had no choice but to do my best.
I wish Mao-chan’s mum would take me as a student.
My first act as a prospective disciple was to sample all of the master’s cooking.
At first the primary schoolers had kept their distance because they didn’t know me, but after seeing me happily chatting and eating with Mao-chan and Yuuri-kun they gradually warmed up to me. They started calling me Oneesama too. They were all so cute!
They all listened enthusiastically as I told them stories of my time in primary school. When I told them about how you could become a hero by winning Zui’ran’s cavalry battles, with glittering eyes one boy said,
“My Oniichan said the same thing! There’s a legendary man called the Emperor! Both me and Oniichan are aiming to be just like him!”
The children brought food to me, telling me how this or that was delicious, so I thanked them and tried it all.
The spinach quiche was yummy.
So was the meat pie.
Mmm, and the seafood paella.
Mao-chan and all the other cute little kids kept bringing me yummy dishes. Aahh~ I’m so glad I camee~
I was chewing on some bruschetta when Ichinokura-san came here from work.
“Haruto-niisama! You’re laate!” complained Mao-chan, but she hugged him all the same.
“Sorry, sorry,” he apologised, handing her his gift.
“Haruto-niisama!” she said as she held the gift. “Reika-oneesama came too!”
He discovered me surrounded by children.
“So you’re here too, Reika-san. Thanks for coming.”
“I am grateful to have been invited. I truly had a good time today.”
I gently dabbed away the tomato sauce on my lips and gave him a smile.
“Mao here kept telling everyone about how she hoped you would come, Reika-san.”
“I am honoured.”
Mao-chan’s mum came over with a plate of food.
“Haruto, you must be hungry after work,” she said, handing him the plate.
“Mind if I sit next to you?” he asked me. “Have you eaten too, Reika-san? Neesan’s cooking is pretty good, you know?”
“Yes, I had some. Your oneesama is truly a splendid cook.”
“You don’t seem to be eating all that much though…”
All I had in front of me was the bruschetta. After all, I had already cleaned everything else up.
“I ate more earlier.”
Speaking of which, I was supposed to be one of those girls without much appetite, wasn’t I. I was thinking of furthering that impression when an unexpected curveball was thrown at me.
“Reika-oneesan really ate a lot just now, didn’t she!” one of the children innocently exclaimed.
Maybe they had meant to support me since Ichinokura-san was doubting my words. They started talking about how I ate this dish, and that dish, one after another.
Ichinokura-san seemed dumbfounded.
I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself… Embarrasssingggg!* The small eater character transformed into a mega glutton!
“…I see. So you’ve eaten quite a bit, Reika-san.”
I wanted to run.
Thinking about it, I may have eaten more just now than any normal girl would. And at somebody else’s house too.
After thinking for a moment, Ichinokura-san smiled brightly.
“Then shall we go somewhere to eat together? I like people who can eat.”
The Heavens had not forsaken me!!
Thank god I was a such a glutton!
A few days after the party, when I went to the Petite Pivoine to hand over the photos, an angel of a boy greeted me.