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There I was, in the middle of biting into it. There Wakaba-chan was, staring at me in shock.
She was the first one to say anything, but she was obviously at a loss for words.
I was in a worse state, having fallen into complete panic in my mind. My heart was beating uncontrollably.
What was I going to do. Why. I had always been so careful not to let anybody I knew spot me.
Why had I assumed it was impossible for any Zui’ran student to be at this tiny festival. Any other time I would have taken care to eat it somewhere nobody would see me.
I had been stupid beyond words. What was I going to do. Somebody from Zui’ran had seen me!
“Ummm…. What a coincidence?” she said a little awkwardly.
“…Indeed …it is.”
An ojousama frozen in the middle of biting into ikayaki? I must have looked so unbelievably stupid! Aaaahh! Why did you lose to your gluttony, Reika! You were too caught up in nostalgia, you idiot!
One by one, I could see the faces of the students at Zui’ran. Serika-chan, Kikuno-chan, Ayame-chan, Ru’ne-chan… All the members of the Pivoine. The President. Ahh! If Youko-sama found out about this I was done for! The shame of the Pivoine! Images of an enraged Youko-sama flashed before my eyes…
“Umm, are you okay?” she hesitantly called out while I was drowning in negativity. Oh right! I had to silence her!
Wakaba-chan immediately stood at attention.
“Could you, perhaps, keep quiet about this…?”
“By ‘this’ you mean what happened today?”
Yeah, that we met today, or rather about how you caught me biting into stick of ikayaki…
“Ummm… Just, everything in general…”
“…Mmm, I don’t really understand but… okay. Got it. I won’t tell a soul about what happened today!”
Really!? She really wouldn’t tell anyone!?
“Yeah! It’s a promise!” she nodded firmly.
“Thank you! It’s really a promise, okay? I’m believing in you!” I stepped forward towards her.
“Y-Yeah,” she back-pedalled in the face of my intensity.
Still, she gave me another nod.
Alright! If she was anything like the manga’s Wakaba-chan then I really could trust her! Definitely! Probably! Or more like I’d have to trust her if I ever wanted a good night’s sleep again.
“Well then, please excuse me,” I said.
For now I just wanted to get away. I was keenly aware that she was not going to forget the sight of the ojousama fleeing with the half-eaten ikayaki in her hand. I was more than ready to forget about reality.
After forcing myself to smile at her, I was about to leave when she stopped me.
“Wait, Kisshouin-san. Are you going to go home looking like that?”
Looking like what?
The sauce from the ikayaki was all over the breast of my white dress! Gyaah! And there were even specks of it on the skirt!?
“Nooo, what is this! Aahh! What am I going to do!?”
I hurriedly took out a handkerchief from my bag but it was hopeless. Maybe I could soak it in water. Or better yet, buy some bleach… God, I had some on my hands too! And everything was made even harder because I was still holding the damned ikayaki. Aah, I wanted to cry…
“…Um, Kisshouin-san. How about you come to my house? I think we can get rid of the stains if we’re quick…”
Eh-!? Wakaba-chan’s house!? Ah, no, that couldn’t be a good idea, could it?
“No, it is no problem, thank you. I will take a taxi home,” I turned her down with a veneer of fake calm.
But I’d be in trouble if I came home looking like this. Okaasama and the rest of my family would find out about my gluttony today…
“It doesn’t look like no problem to me… It’ll be really quick, so how about we just give it a wash and then you can go home. Okay?”
“We can still get the stains out if we go now. Okay?”
Under Wakaba-chan’s strong persuasion I ended up going after all. How did this happen… So much had happened that I just didn’t want to think about it anymore…
Apparently Wakaba-chan had been on the way home from somewhere and just happened to pass through there. Some girl in a white dress had been looking like the very picture of a rich girl, so naturallyit caught her eye. And that girl had turned out to be me…
“Was I very noticeable…?”
“You could say that~”
Holy crap… Don’t tell me that other people had noticed me too? I thought my clothes were pretty casual for a dress.
Wakaba-chan was kind enough to walk in front of me, in order to hide the stains. I was still quietly wondering what to do with this ikayaki in my hand.
After walking for a little while longer, Wakaba-chan turned her head to me.
Her house was your everyday cake shop.
Not the fancy pâtisseries that the kids of Zui’ran frequented. Just your normal, average cake shop. With things like strawberry shortcakes, chocolate cakes, mont blancs and the like at 200~300 yen each and even cream puffs for 150 yen it was the very picture of a cake shop for commoners.
The only difference was that the taste of the cakes was a well-known 10/10.
When I read the Kimidol manga I often wanted to try the cakes from this cake shop. They were just drawn so beautifully after all. And right now that cake store of my dreams was right before my eyes!
“The entrance is at the back.”
I circled around the back with her and she opened the door to let me in. I was idling while she was busy with that and happened to look to the side. Sitting there was a bicycle with the front half completely bent out of shape.
Huh? Wasn’t this the bicycle that Wakaba-chan rode to school that one time? Ehh…? What the heck happened to it!? Was she okay!?
Wakaba-chan noticed what I was looking at and smiled.
“Ah, that,” she laughed, “During the summer break Kaburagi-sama’s car bumped into me and it broke, haha.”
She got hit by Kaburagi’s car!?
“Bumped…? Were you okay!? Were you injured!?”
“I was fine~ I was trying to pull over to the curb when the car hit from the side. It sent me flying away with my bike but I jumped off so I got away with just some bruises and scrapes.”
“That sounds like a huge deal to me.”
I mean, just look at the shape the bicycle was in…
Wakaba-chan just laughed and welcomed me in.
“Please excuse the intrusion…”
“Yes, yes, come in~ I suppose getting out of those clothes should come first, huh. I’ll go grab a change of clothes, so could you head to the laundry room to change first? Ah, what are you going to do with that?”
Wakaba-chan pointed at the ikayaki in my hand. What indeed.
“Well, for now I’ll just hold onto it for you. You can wash your hands over here. Ummm, right, clothes, clothes…”
Wakaba-chan ran off further into the house with my half-eaten ikayaki and came right back with clothes for me.
“Just tell me when you’re done changing. I’ll give your clothes a wash when you’re done.”
I accepted the clothes with a bow, but at that very instant my stomach growled!
Just let me disappear already.
“It’s already 3 isn’t it. Have you eaten lunch yet? I could make you some yakisoba or something?”
“No! You have been so much help already!”
“I haven’t had lunch either so why don’t you eat with me while we wait for your clothes? Oh, I suppose you don’t eat stuff like yakisoba, huh…”
“No, I do!”
I loved that stuff. I had actually planned on eating some after I finished with that ikayaki.
“I’ll go make some then! What were you going to do with that ikayaki? What if I cut it up and put it in?”
“Please take care of it…”
“Got it~” she smiled brightly before clothing the door to the laundry room.
I changed into the T-shirt and elastic waist shorts.
It was funny.
I was here in the house of Kimidol’s protagonist. It somehow didn’t feel real. My knowledge of her was one-sided and before today we had hardly exchanged a word.
“Doesn’t suit me…” I muttered as I looked in the mirror.
The horrible combination of the T-shirt, shorts, and ringlets just depressed me.
When I left the room and called out hesitantly, Wakaba-chan came running.
“I’ll take care of those stains then.”
“Eh-, are you using the washing machine for just one piece of clothing!? Think of the electricity and water bills!”
It was so wasteful! And I felt really bad for imposing too! Just running the stains under the tap would do!
“Electricity? Ummm, the sauce is pretty much everywhere though, so I thought washing the whole thing would be better. Would that damage the dress though?”
“I honestly do not care about that…”
“Then I’ll just stick it in the wash. Don’t worry! I’ll use the dryer too!”
With practised hands, Wakaba-chan sprinkled stain remover on the stains before putting the dress in a net and starting up the washing machine.
“Let’s eat while we wait.”
“I truly am sorry for causing you trouble…”
“Ahaha, it’s fine, it’s fine~”
I followed her into the dining room and then was treated to Wakaba-chan’s homemade yakisoba.
“Sorry for not having anything better. I’m not sure that it’ll suit the tastes of an ojousama like you.”
“Goodness, that isn’t true! I shall be helping myself then.”
I could see the sliced up ikayaki in it. Thank you, Wakaba-chan.
I took a bite of the food. Oh, this taste!
“Is it okay? Think you can eat it…?”
“It is delicious,” I answered her as I gobbled it down.
The taste reminded me of the cheap 3-pack yakisoba that I often bought in my old life. So nostalgic.
This would definitely never appear on the Kisshouin dinner table. Even if we did have yakisoba by some chance, it would definitely be some sort of refined dish from a high class Chinese restaurant. God, I loved this sauce so much!
In the blink of an eye it was gone. Hahh, thanks for the meal. Afterwards I gulped down the barley tea that Wakaba-chan gave me. So nostalgic…
“It seems you ended up taking care of me from start to finish…”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Wakaba-chan cheerfully sipped her own barley tea.
For a while we were silent.
I voiced the thought that had been bothering me all this time.
“Um, how… do you think of school?”
It might have been a weird way of putting it, but I couldn’t exactly say ‘Are you being bullied?’ now could I.
“How? Um, what do you mean?”
Yep. It really was a vague question.”
“Ummm… I suppose that I am asking what you think of your life at Zui’ran.”
“It’s pretty great I guess?”
I mean, don’t you get badmouthed and tripped and soaked with water every day!?
Was she just answering that way to avoid worrying me? She wasn’t just acting tough was she?
“Yes. I’m really lucky to have gotten into Zui’ran.”
I had thought for a moment that she might have been making a jab at me, but Wakaba-chan smiled without any deeper meaning.
“Isn’t it though? I get to use those amazing facilities and take high-level lessons, all for free, right? Not only that but to even get paid scholarship money for getting high marks… Uku-”
Wakaba-chan’s mouth curved into a grin.
“For the mock-trials the other day, I got the best results I ever had. Just between you and me, the bonus money that they gave me for that…”
Wakaba-chan brought her hand to her mouth to stifle the laughter. …Apparently it was quite a lot.
“A school that pays you money just for studying. It’s the best school ever.”
I honestly thought it was the worst school ever for buying good grades with money, but whatever.
“I mean, even I think it’s impossible to hit the digits that I want before graduation, but if I tried hard enough, maybe half of it would be… Ukukukukuku!”
Wakaba-chan couldn’t control herself anymore and began laughing uproariously.
Digits!? How many digits did she mean?! Just how much money was Zui’ran paying scholarship students?
“Umm, but… are there not other matters…? For example, the badmouthing…” I asked awkwardly.
“Oh, I don’t really mind it,” she answered without missing a beat.
“Eh-, you do not really mind it?”
“Yes. I mean, it’s nothing physical, right?”
Um, but it totally was. Like they physically splashed water onto her and hit her with balls and stuff.
“Does it not hurt? Being treated that way…”
It was only now that Wakaba-chan looked like she needed to think about it.
Wakaba-chan was even bolder, and even more shameless than I could have ever imagined──
“Then, just one more question. About being hit by Kaburagi-sama…”
I finally asked what I had been wondering since I got here.
“I’ll go grab a change of clothes, so could you head to the laundry room to change first? Ah, what are you going to do with that?”
Usually I’d put this stuff at the top but coming out of a cliff-hanger this time, it wasn’t appropriate. The laundry room she was talking about was actually the changing room in front of the bathroom.
“Japanese housing typically has multiple rooms for what in Western housing is the bathroom. Separate rooms for the Japanese toilet, sink, and ofuro (bathing room) are common. Small apartments, however, frequently contain a tiny single bathroom called a unit bath that contains all three fixtures. A small sink may also be built into the top of the toilet tank – there is a tap, with the top of the tank forming the sink, and the water draining into the tank – which runs during the flush cycle; this is particularly common in mid-20th century buildings. The room with the sink, which is called a clothes changing room, usually includes a space for a clothes-washing machine. The room containing the bathtub is waterproof with a space for washing, and often for showering, adjacent to (rather than in) the tub. As a result, bathwater is neither soapy nor dirty, and can be reused. Many washing machines in Japan come with an extension pipe to draw water from the tub for the wash.”