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A suikinkutsu (水琴窟, literally “water koto cave”) is a type of Japanese garden ornament and music device.
Ever since that day, Kaburagi seemed to think that he couldn’t protect Wakaba-chan without gaining proper control over the Pivoine.
He seemed a little more aware of his position than before.
Only a little more though.
Still, Enjou helped him out where necessary, so the era of President Kaburagi was finally here.
The day of graduation for Youko-sama and the third years had come.
I wasn’t so optimistic to think that things would calm down because of that.
The elitists in the Pivoine were still strongly influenced by her.
Even if Kaburagi had a lot of support because of his charisma, I doubted it was so easy to deal with the antipathy towards Wakaba-chan.
Actually, the more people liked Kaburagi, the more they would disapprove of a commoner External Student as his girlfriend.
If you can’t be with the person you adore, then you wanted the person they chose to at least be somebody so wonderful that you could never compare.
It was a self-involved line of thought, but plenty of people thought that way.
I mean, in my opinion it wasn’t anyone else’s business who somebody had feelings for, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t understand at least a little.
If Oniisama introduced some strange lady as his girlfriend I really doubted I could be so magnanimous as to accept her.
In fact I’d definitely get in her way.
Also I’d probably be disappointed about how little taste Oniisama had.
Ah, no, no, I still believe that Oniisama will bring home somebody wonderful, okay?
While I was thinking about that, the ceremony had continued.
Kaburagi walked to the podium.
He was giving the farewell address this year.
Since he was the President of the Pivoine as well, he was perfect for it.
He looked really dignified up there, voice projected through the auditorium.
Graduates, younger students, and even some of the parents were sighing in admiration.
From the outside he was outstanding after all.
A shame about the inside.
Given that the majority of Zui’ran students stayed here most of their schooling life, there wasn’t much in the way of crying at either the primary or middle school graduation ceremonies.
On the other hand, that meant that the high school graduation signified a separation with some of the same people you’d grown up with, so here and there you could hear sniffling.
Now that the ceremony had finished, people were leaving the auditorium.
“Youko-sama, congratulations on graduating.”
Other members of the Pivoine were also handing flowers to the upperclassmen in it.
“Thank you. Everyone, please take care of the Pivoine after we’re gone.”
We nodded obediently.
Alumni sometimes still showed up at parties, but this was still the end in a lot of ways.
“Reika-sama, I hope that you’ll support Kaburagi-sama as well. Please lead the girls of Zui’ran.”
Although in my opinion supporting Kaburagi was Enjou’s job.
Ah well, just nod along, Reika.
Kaburagi was wearing a rare smile as he and Enjou congratulated our senpai on graduating, much to their delight.
No matter how deplorable he might have been, Kaburagi was still the son of a distinguished family.
He knew how to do at least this much.
As for Youko-sama, the members of the Pivoine who particularly adored her had gathered around as she instructed them on something or other, before leaving the school.
Right on the heels of the graduation ceremony were more tests.
I know it might not have looked like it, but I really did my best.
Every day I secretly exhausted myself studying.
I had asked Wakaba-chan when she studied, and she told me usually in the morning and evening on the train.
Desperately, I even went out of my way during the weekend to study with flashcards on the train.
Ririna who had great grades without trying had also mentioned studying on the car to school.
Did the movement from transport help you remember things or something?
All it did was make my drowsy.
Anyway, the point was that I studied really hard, okay?
All for the sake of regaining my glory on the ranking boards.
To be honest I was actually pretty depressed about my marks dropping back in Term 2.
I had been really hoping to get good marks near Christmas.
Because I could use them to get Christmas presents.
Not that my family didn’t buy me presents every year.
But that wasn’t what I wanted.
I wanted Oniisama to say, “Reika, here’s a present for trying so hard on your tests.”
I love being praised.
I really got a wake-up call when I saw the rankings without my name.
‘Why are you messing around during the most important tests of the year?’ I thought.
That’s why I studied like mad this time.
White Day was coming up soon, after all!
And the results of all that effort?
I just barely made it…
The wall of rank 25 was too crazy for me.
I mean, I suppose 29 counted as pretty decent at Zui’ran, but I’d have a hard time measuring up at a national school.
Over the next year, students everywhere else were really going to kick into gear to study for their university entrance exams.
I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to a national university or Zui’ran’s.
Although considering how little I liked pain and effort, Zui’ran was looking pretty attractive.
Plus, Kaburagi wasn’t my enemy at the moment, and neither Otousama nor Oniisama seemed to be doing too badly at work.
Maybe I could change up my goals.
I had my end-of-year report card sandwiched in my textbook as I waited for Oniisama to come home.
When he did, he had company in the form of Imari-sama.
Ah, but then I couldn’t boast about my marks in front of him.
I was planning on ‘accidentally’ letting it slip from my textbook.
Ah well, Plan Textbook could wait until tomorrow then.
“Good evening, Reika-chan. Thanks for the Valentine’s chocolate. It was great!”
“Gokigen’yoh, Imari-sama. Thank you instead for the wonderful return gift.”
“No, no, it was my pleasure. You’re great at making desserts, aren’t you. When I think about how Takateru gets to eat your delicious, love-filled chocolates every year I start to get pretty jealous.”
Guhuhu, thank you, Wakaba-chan, Kanta-kun.
I know that was half flattery, but compliments are so nice to hear.
Although Oniisama looked like he had eaten something bitter.
“Anyway, the reason I’m here today is actually because there was something I wanted to give you,” he said, before presenting me with a bag. “Here, it’s a little early, but Happy White Day.”
“Goodness. You have already given me something wonderful for the Valentine’s chocolate! Is this all right?”
“Of course it is.”
Oh! Honey candies from that famous honey store.
“These are acacia candies and eucalyptus honey candies! They look wonderful.”
“You like honey, don’t you, Reika-chan? That’s why I thought about going with these. Do you like them?”
“I love them. Thank you!”
“There’s actually one more thing.”
Imari-sama placed a square box onto my hand.
I opened it up to find a silver ball inside.
Some kind of modern art?
“What is it?”
“My, my, what indeed? Pick it up and give it a shake.”
I did as told, and the globe chimed melodiously.
“They call it a spherical music box. It chimes when you shake it. Sounds great, doesn’t it?”
“It does. It sounds like a suikinkutsu.”
I shook it against my ear.
Aah, it was so lovely.
“You have exams this year, don’t you? When you’re tired, give it a listen. Okay?” he smiled as he tilted his head.
This was truly what it meant to be the village chief of the Casanova Village.
I was going to hold this when I studied!
“If that’s all, go home,” Oniisama said coldly, before shooing him out.
You should at least get your friend some tea, Oniisama.
The next day, I executed Plan Textbook, and not only did I extract a White Day present from him, he also promised to take me out to eat sometime.
But he didn’t say on White Day.
Don’t tell me you’ve actually got a secret girlfriend you’re hiding from me?