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“I’m late. Sorry.”
A ripple of noise and excitement, particularly amongst the girls, ran through the kids as Kaburagi made his dashing entrance.
Today he was wearing mostly all black so he gave off the impression of resplendent black quartz.
No, Mao-chan, being entranced is bad! Yuuri-kun is still right next to you!
Kaburagi made a beeline for Yukino-kun.
“Happy birthday, Yukino. Here. Your present,” he said as he handed it over. “I bought some cake too.”
I realised he was holding a bag from a cake store in his other hand.
Wakaba-chan’s cake store.
“Masaya, don’t tell me you were late because you went to get that?”
What the hell!?
He came late to the party because he wanted to go meet Wakaba-chan!?
Or was it that he went to pick up the cake only to forget the time with her?
Either way, he still used the birthday cake as an excuse to go meet her!
Yukino-kun opened up the cake box with his mother.
“Oh, a snowman.”
It was a simple white birthday cake with strawberries on top.
Written right in the middle with chocolate was ‘Happy Birthday Yukino’, and to the side was a little meringue snowman.
“You like snowmen, don’t you? They asked me if I wanted anything else on the cake, so I had them make that for you.”
“Wow. It’s cute.”
Since we had the cake anyway, we lit up another set of candles on it.
The fancy cake from earlier was delicious, but if I had to say, simple strawberry birthday cakes like this were my favourite.
We began to sing Happy Birthday again.
I was doing my best to sing, but Kaburagi just clapped.
“Happy Birthday, Yukino-kun!”
The cake wasn’t all that big so each portion was smaller.
Since I was an adult I left the strawberries for the kids.
Even though cream with strawberries was delicious.
Even though I loved that stuff.
I was an adult after all.
Yukino-kun was being adorably conflicted about whether or not to eat the snowman.
I totally understood how he felt.
When I saw the little Reika-chan figure I couldn’t bear to eat it either.
In the end it had actually met the new year from the inside of my freezer.
I wonder how long meringue lasted…
The cake from Wakaba-chan’s family store was delicious even without the strawberries!
Maybe I’d buy some the next time I was there.
“Yuki-chan, why don’t you open your present from Masaya-san?”
“Mm. Wah, it’s heavy.”
As it turned out, Kaburagi had gotten him a large book of Escher’s art.
“I chose it since you seemed interested in Escher. Something to look at the next time you’re bedridden.”
How could he bring up being ‘bedridden’ on a birthday!?
Yukino-kun didn’t mind the ill omen though.
He just thanked him before fervently examining the book.
I wondered though.
Could it be that Kaburagi actually liked gifting books to people?
I remembered getting an anthology of Heine poems from him.
His father had a rare book collection too.
Maybe he was influenced.
“Would everyone else like to look too?” asked Yukino-kun.
“Sure,” I answered.
So we sat down next to him, as he skimmed through the book.
“This is making me a little dizzy,” his mother commented at some point, so she left.
Before long the other kids went off to play the board games I brought, or video games on the big screen t.v., so Yukino-kun shut the book and joined them.
Maybe I would join them.
But Jenga was too nervewracking even though I was the one to bring it, so perhaps a nice boardgame.
The Kaburagi family were celebrating the birth of new children again, this time a pair of twins.
“Your family sure has a lot of children…” I muttered.
“Masaya-niisama has a big family,” said Yukino-kun.
“Scamming the government for money, Masaya?” laughed Enjou.
“Shut it and send over the gifts already,” Kaburagi replied.
“Oh my. I seem to have found oil in my back yard.”
“That’s amazing, Reika-neesan! Next is Masaya-niisama’s turn. Oh, Masaya-niisama, your investments suffered a huge loss.”
“What the hell! This roulette has to be broken somehow!”
“Whatever, Masaya. The bank is waiting. Pay up.”
“Huh. So I get to seize property from one player?” mused Enjou. “Masaya it is then.”
“Haah!? Why the hell did you pick me!? Pick the person with the most money instead!”
“It was a process of elimination. The criteria was the one I’d feel the least bad taking from.”
“Ah, I get to seize property too~” Yukino-kun exclaimed. “Please pay up, Masaya-niisama.”
His Majesty the Emperor was bankrupt.
The two Enjou brothers had mercilessly squeezed him for everything he had.
Kaburagi was in a terrible mood, but since Yukino-kun was having fun it wasn’t an issue.
Kaburagi looked like he was about to steam though.
What happened to the cool-headed and capable Emperor that everyone talked about?
You could really see people’s personalities by playing these sorts of games.
Kaburagi who boldly displayed the money he had on hand.
I, who hid my fortunes from view with a handkerchief.
Enjou who kept his money in plain view, but probably had secret stashes elsewhere.
Speaking of Enjou.
“I was surprised that you knew about these sorts of games, Kisshouin-san,” he said.
“Really?” I asked.
I suppose I did wonder if it was a bit too commoner before the party.
I wasn’t much older than my little sister in my old life so we used to play games like this a lot.
And for New Years when grandpa’s family, and all our cousins and stuff gathered, we’d all play board games or card games as well. It was really fun.
It was harder playing these games with siblings further from your age, so I thought it was fair if I indulged in these once in a while.
“One more time!”
“Running away, huh.”
“I’m not running away! I’m just sick of children’s games, that’s all.”
“You’re the most childish one here though.”
Kaburagi just clicked his tongue and stomped off.
Since the sucker of the game had run off, the three of us began playing peacefully with the new children who had come along.
At some point I heard shouts of amazement.
It turned out that Kaburagi had become a hero in Jenga.
“I won because of careful analysis and the courage to take a risk,” he proudly explained.
The fun passed in a flash, and soon it was time for the party to end.
They were all in primary school so it wouldn’t do to stay out late.
I was getting ready to leave too, when Enjou and his mother thanked me for coming.
“Thanks to you the party was even livelier. Thank you for coming today, Reika-san.”
“Yukino was overjoyed too,” added Enjou.
Yukino-kun himself came to thank me too.
“Thank you, Reika-oneesan,” he said with an angelic smile.
“Thank you very much for inviting me. I had a wonderful time. Goodbye for now.”
“Come play again.”
“Come again, Reika-neesan.”
With the children all gone, only Kaburagi was left.
Apparently he wasn’t leaving yet.
“Gokigen’yoh, Kaburagi-sama. I will be taking my leave first,” I said, meeting at least the bare minimum of etiquette.
“Yeah,” he said without lifting his head.
He was locked in a battle with the puzzles rings.
He was even frowning.
Kaburagi, that one’s aimed at experts, so I really don’t think you’ll get it tonight…
The Enjous saw me off at the doorway.
I was about to get into the car when another car arrived in front of the house.
From inside the car stepped Yuiko-san from the School Festival.
When she noticed me, she gave me a soft smile before walking towards the Enjous.
I got in my car and left.