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There is a Japanese superstition of hiding your thumbs when seeing a hearse, especially amongst children, supposedly to protect your parents from an early grave. The reason is because the thumb in Japanese is literally called ‘parent finger’.
The Phantom of the Opera is a novel about a deformed builder guy, who is really good at singing. He tutors a Swedish songstress named Christine, who he goes crazy over, and whose childhood friend and love interest is a handsome vicomte named Raoul. Stuff happens, love triangle.
Our first destination was London.
At first we all went to the usual sightseeing locations together. The Big Ben,
the Tower of London,
Westminster Abbey, among other places.
For most of us they were all places we’d visited countless times in the past but it was a different experience when you were here with all o f your friends.
At the Buckingham Palace, my group and I had quite a bit of fun taking photos of the Changing of the Guard.
Mister horse, you ran past too quickly~!
They looked just like those toys soldiers. As I faintly wondered just how capable they actually were, I smiled to myself about just how foreign this place felt!
London Tower was scary and I ended up hiding my thumbs without thinking. It was Satomi-kun’s fault for telling me those stories when I was in Japan…
Eh!? They were taking photos here!?
Was I going to be okay…?
I couldn’t hide my thumbs if I was making a peace sign…
“Next up, you’ll be able to see the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge from your window,” said the tour guide as we rode the bus.
The London Bridge… Somehow just hearing that name was enough to play the nursery rhyme in my head.
“Kisshouin-san, are you feeling okay?,” Satomi-kun asked in concern. “You’re swaying.”
Oh gosh. Apparently I was rocking back and forth to the song in my head.
“Say, Satomi-kun? When you hear the words ‘London Bridge’ does it not bring that Mother Goose song to mind? You know the one, London Bridge is falling d──”
“Ah, the one about child sacrifices?”
Why would you bring up something so scary just as we’re crossing it!?
I’m a coward, okay!? Stop it already!
Look! I’m hiding my thumbs again thanks to you!
Before this I had been thinking of buying a copy of Old Mother Goose’s Rhymes as a souvenir. I didn’t think I would now…
These were supposed to be nursery rhymes for children so why were the contents so brutal?
Taking an axe and giving her mother and father forty and forty-one whacks…
How on earth did the children of Great Britain fall asleep to these?
Thanks to Satomi-kun scaring the crap out of me, while my roommate Kikuno-chan was in the bath I took the chance to purify the room with salt.
Sorry about the floor, Kikuno-chan.
The main event for my group during our free day was going to be a musical.
Since that was happenig at night though, before that we were going to do a little shopping and then have some afternoon tea.
We weren’t lacking in things to buy.
Maybe I’d get those rocking horse ballerinas this time around.
Not that I was going to wear them outside, if I did buy them. Walking around in heels like that was too scary for me, so I’d just try them on at home.
Hmm, to buy or not to buy…
Aaah, but more importantly I wanted aromatic candles and essential oils too!
And of course some English tea for a souvenir.
Some pretty books in English too.
I could get Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass for Mao-chan.
Maybe Peter Pan for Yuuri-kun.
Yukino-kun had wanted Old Mother Goose’s Rhymes as well, but was it really okay to get him a book filled with songs about murderers and psychopaths…?
Oniisama liked English brands, so I wanted to find him something too.
Oh, cute cufflinks locked-on!
Maybe I’d buy some ties too!
Haah, shopping is bliss.
When there were too many bags to carry we popped down to the hotel before heading out for more shopping.
After that was what everyone had to try while visiting Britain: afternoon tea.
We passed by a few places that brought out their desserts on plates, but what I really wanted to try was eating from one of those 3-tiered silver stands!
It was like being a princess! I wasn’t going to compromise on those 3-tiered stands!
Appearances were important.
“This scone is quite good.”
“It really is. It goes perfectly with the jam and clotted cream.”
Great Britain had a reputation for disgusting cuisine, but the food we had seemed crazy good. Maybe it was the atmosphere.
Atmosphere was really, really important, after all.
Scones weren’t exactly a big thing in Japan, but I think after today they’d be a big thing with Reika.
Maybe I could look for a place that did nice scones once I got back home.
Nobody had to know that I actually preferred the biscuits (scones) from a certain American chicken fast food restaurant.
They never gave enough maple syrup though.
…But wow was this jam and cream combination proving itself a formidible adversary to a maiden’s stomach.
I wasn’t the sort to run and hide from an enemy though.
Damned scone, prepare yourself!
“This is so fun~” sighed Ru’ne-chan. “NY and LA are nice too, but Europe is just…”
“I know, right~?”
“Europe is my favourite as well.”
I could understand why they all agreed.
I mean, Europe had castles and ancient cityscapes, fantasy and cute cakes, wasn’t it just a girl’s dream come true?
Serika-chan suddenly sighed.
“But it would be even better if Kaburagi-sama or Enjou-sama were here…”
Right. What was missing from this fairytale atmosphere was a Prince Charming.
Apparently those two fit the bill for her.
Their looks were the only thing going for them, so I supposed they qualified in that department at least.
“Afternoon tea with Kaburagi-sama and Enjou-sama…!”
“Goodness, if it were me I’d be too nervous to eat!”
“Me too! I wouldn’t have eaten more than a bite of the sandwiches from before.”
“Right? Don’t you think so too, Reika-sama?” one of the girls asked me as I was busy duking it out with the scones.
“Eh? Ah, well, I suppose?” I offered.
I suppose if there was a boy I liked nearby, I wouldn’t want to look like a glutton either.
“But you must spend time with them all the time in the salon, don’t you?” Kikuno-chan asked.
“That’s true. Having tea with them must be everyday for Reika-sama. I’m so envious. What are they like in the salon?”
“Tell us, Reika-sama~!”
Hmmmmmm. I mean, they just drank tea and ate food like normal people, I guess.
Not that I could say that without disappointing the girls.
Being the considerate friend that I was, I decided to help out with their fantasies a little.
“They do not do anything special,” I began. “I suppose they just spend time together like we are now. Kaburagi-sama sometimes plays the piano if he feels like it, so we occasionally have the privilege of enjoying that with our tea.”
Their dreaminess meters filled up at once.
“What about Enjou-sama?”
“Hmm. He often smiles as he quietly drinks his tea. Most of the time he spends his time chatting with Kaburagi-sama. As you all know, the two of them are very close. When Kaburagi-sama plays the piano, Enjou-sama stands by him to enjoy the music. I have even seen them leaning against each other’s backs while reading.”
“A world with only the two of them…”
Well, that last bit actually happened during primary school, but it’s not a lie since I never specified when.
My group stared into space together, no doubt daydreaming about it.
While they were distracted, I got back to my scones.
Don’t rush, Reika.
There’s still the cake monster waiting for you at the top of the tower.
“I wonder what the two of them are doing now…”
“I heard that they were going to watch a soccer game…”
Oh? So that’s what they were doing.
“We can relax then, since it’s just boys that went to that.”
“Yeah. There are lots of girls who are planning to worm up to them during the trip after all.”
“It’s especially bad when one of the outsiders try it!”
“I wonder where they’re going when we get to Paris. Touring Paris with them would be like a dream come true.”
“It would, wouldn’t it?”
…In Paris and Rome, Kaburagi was planning on touring dessert stores with Wakaba-chan though~
You better keep the tag-alongs away, Kaburagi!
After we finished up the cake at the top-tier of the platter, we began talking about where to go next.
“We’ve already done our shopping, so what should we do now? We could just rest here.”
Everyone was a bit tired from our earlier shopping but since we were already here I wanted to have some fun.
“Say, since we still have time until the musical, what if we went to the British Museum?”
It was Ayame-chan that suggested this.
The British Museum?
Come to think of it, it was what she was looking forward to the most the whole trip.
I wonder if we’d get to see a cat mummy.
“Good idea. Shall we go?” I asked.
It was a shame to be parting with something as dreamy as afternoon tea, but we had to get going now.
When we got off the taxi we had called, I saw some other Zui’ran students here and there.
Since we didn’t have anything we wanted to see in particular, we all sort of just walked about as we chatted.
“Hmm? Hey, isn’t that…?”
I looked in the direction that Kikuno-chan pointed, only to find Wakaba-chan, Fellow Stalking Horse, and a number of other boys and girls.
So they were here too.
Her bag was strapped to her chest so there was nothing to stop Wakaba-chan from excitedly taking photographs or taking notes.
Sometimes Fellow Stalking Horse would point at an exhibit and say something to Wakaba-chan, which she nodded at in return.
They seemed to really get along.
“Takamichi-san seems awfully friendly with Mizusaki-kun, doesn’t she…” Serika-chan commented.
“They are in the Student Council together, after all…”
The girls were just staring now.
Oi, stop that, guys!
I hurriedly moved them along before Wakaba-chan noticed.
“Ah, Kisshouin-san,” said a surprised voice.
I turned to find Class Rep, Iwamuro-kun, Miharu-chan and Nonose-san in front of the Rosetta Stone.
“My! You all came here as well?” I asked.
So these four were spending their free day together, huh?
Kuh-! So envious…!
“Mhm. The British Museum never gets old.”
The four of them nodded together.
Wow, they really got along.
Mn, the happiness of a disciple was the happiness of their master.
And I was happy but… it was a little vexing.
Wakaba-chan was with a mixed-sex group as well.
Now that I was looking, I could spot other mixed-sex groups from Zui’ran here and there.
It was nothing surprising. We were a co-ed school after all.
So why was it just me that was in a girls’ school!?
After talking to them I found out that the quartet were going to watch the Phantom of the Opera as well.
Not a surprising choice for a blushing maiden like Class Rep.
“Also, the four of us were thinking about going on a boat tour of the Seine once we get to Paris. Right, guys?”
Two couples going on a boat tour down the Seine… Well wasn’t that just romantic.
I was so damned jealous.
…Fine then. Whatever.
I’d already been on one with Oniisama, so there!
And one day I’d definitely find a boyfriend and do the same!
After some parting greetings I watched the four of them leave.
“The Seine. How nice…”
The girls happened to overhear me and thought I was interested in the river itself.
“In that case let’s go on a boat tour too!” they suggested.
Mm. Thanks, girls…
There was still some time until the musical began so we decided to eat dinner first.
But we had eaten quite a bit during afternoon tea, so we weren’t exactly starving either.
Oh, I know!
“Say, how would you all feel about trying fish and chips?”
Fish and chips were like the national fast food here in Britain.
I knew of it, but I hadn’t had the chance to try it before. After all, every time I’d been here I was with family, so eating something so plebeian was out of the question.
It was something I’d wanted to try for the longest time~
Would the girls go for it?
“Fish and chips…?” came the bewildered response.
“Yes. I have seen it mentioned in quite a few books, so I have always wanted to try it,” came my excuse.
“Ah, so that’s why. I’ve seen it mentioned too, but I’ve never tried it before.”
“I might be a little curious…”
“Since we are in the right country for it,” I said, “why not try some?”
Yay! Fast food in London!
Since we obviously had no experience, none of us were sure where to find some, which was why we decided to try looking it up.
In the books I’d read, fish and chips were something that came wrapped in newspaper that you could eat in a park and such.
In the place that we chose, though, apparently it would come to us on a plate.
Fish and potato chips were big favourites of mine, so I was curiously looking forward to it.
But when the food came…
It was literally just some fish, and some chips.
…It kind of made me wonder if they couldn’t have prettied this up a bit, or at least made them bite-sized perhaps. It looked a bit low effort. Also there was a lot of it…
B-But perhaps it would taste good! It was so famous after all!
I took a bite.
…It tasted as average as it looked.
Considering that this was their national food I guess the rumours about British food were spot-on…
Long live Japanese commoner food.
Um, sorry, girls.
Bellies filled with grease, we returned to our hotels to change.
Geh, my stomach was bulging a little because of the food…
I reminded myself to stretch before going to bed tonight.
We arrived to a crowd of Zui’ran students.
It was a popular story after all.
Plus, tomorrow we’d be going to Paris where the real Palais Garnier would be. It was a must-see then!
It wasn’t long before the musical began, and it was wonderful.
The venue wasn’t that big, but the stage was close so it was crazy immersive.
I was completely enraptured.
And when the falling chandelier scene happened I couldn’t help but scream, even though I knew it was coming.
Eh? No! Christine!
Don’t cry, Phantom!
Phantom, you’re the Chief of Paris’ Forever Alone Village, aren’t you!
Since you’re a fellow village chief, let me give you a hearty round of applause.
When the musical finished, even when we left the venue I still felt like I was in a dream.
Everybody else seemed to be under the same effect.
Going to a performance was the right choice! Aah, I felt like breaking into song now!
On the way back to the hotel I spotted Class Rep in tears about it, and Miharu-chan stroking his back.
I spent the whole day moving around, so I was beaat~
The moment we got back to the hotel I stepped on the golf ball I brought for rolling over my acupoints.
Haah! So good!
At this point I’d probably be comfortable walking around with it strapped to my foot. Slowly though.
Roll roll roll~
Haah~ The Phantom of the Opera was great. Sad ending, though.
Today I was sharing a room with Serika-chan.
While she was in the bath I channeled Christine and sang quietly.
At some point I started getting into it and began dancing randomly as well.
I sang a little louder.
While I was happily singing and posing at some point my eyes made contact with Serika-chan’s, who had at some point come out of the bathroom.
──She saw meeeeee!
But then Serika-chan silently closed her eyes before suddenly walking towards me and gently taking my hand.
Clad in her bathtowel cloak, Phantom Serika beckoned songstress Reika into the darkness.
Let us dance! Laaa laaa~ Lalalalala~!
And that was how the two of us, hand in hand, sang together as we made our way into the bowels of the Palais Garnier.