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I hate work. I hate life. Usually by this time of year my work is winding down.
This year it’s winding up, and now that I have a work laptop with VPN I’m apparently expected to just worry about work over the goddamned weekend too.
Except the guy who I was told to ask to fix the data hasn’t done anything all weekend because he’s overworked and his kids are probably still sick, so tomorrow I have to go in and explain that no, nothing has reprocessed over the weekend.
I was tempted to just fix it myself because it didn’t look too hard, but if I buggered it up it’d cause even more problems. So instead I’ve just been agonising about it all weekend.
And that’s about where my life has been. Also Code Vein.
At least the next chapter is half done.
Mary-san, urban legend.
That day the girl was moving houses, so she threw away an old doll of Western-make named Mary.
That night her phone rang.
“It’s Mary. I’m at the garbage collection…”
Frightened, the girl hung up, but the phone began ringing again.
“It’s Mary. I’m at the corner of the tobacco shop.”
Eventually the call came that said, “It’s Mary. I’m in front of your house.”
Although the girl was scared, she gathered her courage and opened her front door, but nobody was there.
Just as she felt relief that it must have been somebody’s prank, the phone rang again.
“It’s Mary. I’m behind you.”
And so I made my way to my clubroom.
It was a shame that my interest in wool felting had died down a little because there wasn’t anything I really wanted to make now. Without anything better to do I began making rounds around the room to see how my club members were going.
There hadn’t been any problems when us 3rd Years were away on vacation, and everyone was having fun today too.
I spotted a group of new 1st Years chatting happily while they worked on their craft projects, so I made my way over.
“Gokigen’yoh, everybody. Is there everything all right? If anything is troubling you, as your Club President I encourage you to approach me,” I said with my best smile.
Unfortunately they reacted by stopping everything they were doing and huddling together timidly.
I felt a bit like a sheepdog herding some innocent lambs…
“My, is there any need to stand on ceremony like that? We are all fellow club members, so just make yourselves at home.”
These kids have been members for about a month now, but to my chagrin they weren’t warming up to me, despite opening up to all their other upperclassmen.
This wouldn’t do. I was supposed to be the approachable club president.
I’m not a sheepdog, girls~ My wool might be a bit long but I’m just a cute lamb like you~
I took a seat nearby to signal that I wasn’t intending on leaving but the girls just openly gawked at me.
Yes, that’s right, I’m staying.
Smile at max power, I examined what they were working on, one by one.
“What is it that you girls are making?” I tried, to which they reacted by hesitantly showing me their craft work.
“My, a quilt,” I exclaimed. “Do you already have plans for it?”
“Yes, I was thinking of making a cushion cover…”
“How splendid! Are these the designs? How lovely. I look forward to seeing how it looks when it is finished. Do try your best.”
I turned to the others. “And are you two girls working on embroidery?”
“Yes… Umm, I was cross-stitching a book cover.”
“Me too…” added the other girl.
“I see. Stitching for your book cover. How wonderful. Are you making matching covers?”
“No, I was using this design…”
“And I was using this as a reference…”
I looked at the designs they were holding out. Ooh, how cute.
Cross-stitching was on the simple side of handicrafts, so maybe I could do it too.
“Perhaps I should give it a go,” I mused.
“Eh, you, Reika-senpai?”
“Yes. Seeing your work has made me interested in trying it for myself.”
“I see… Reika-senpai, your speciality lies in needle felting, isn’t it?”
“Well, I would hardly call it a speciality but…”
Mostly it was just stabbing a needle into something for stress relief, and because I had nothing better to do.
“Felting is fun but recently I have been looking for something different to tackle. Might you have any suggestions?”
The 1st Years exchanged a glance. Then the girl with the quilt suggested, “Then how about tatting?”
“Natori-san here is actually great with lacing, and she’s working on tatting lace right now. Right, Natori-san?”
“My, is that so?”
I watched as the smallest and shiest girl amongst them panic at the sudden attention. I see.
In her hand was the boat shuttle that she was using to weave her lace.
“So weaving lace is your speciality?”
“Eh? No, I’m not good enough that it’s a speciality yet… but… yes, I like lacing. Ummm, my grandmother taught me…” she mumbled. “I wasn’t good with anything except for the crochet hook, but then Minami-senpai said that… if I like lace so much then I should try other methods as well, and he taught me tatting lacing.”
“My!” I exclaimed. “Minami-kun did?”
To think that our only male club member wasn’t only skilled with embroidery but was a lacing expert too!
And not only were his skills incredible, he knew how to look out for his underclassmen as well.
Maybe I’d just found my best candidate for next Club President!
I reminded myself to see what the Vice President thought of this.
“In that case might I trouble you to teach me?”
“I couldn’t! How could I possibly have anything to teach you, Reika-sama…!?” Natori-san exclaimed in horror.
Regardless, I picked up a weaving shuttle and some spare thread and just waited.
As the Club President, it was important that I interacted with my club members.
“What are you making now?”
“I, I’m working on a beaded lace hairpiece for a dog…”
“Goodness, a hairpiece?!”
Natori-san held out a number of five-petaled flowers made from beads and lace. The flowers were being joined together to form the hair ornament.
“How lovely~ Please do allow me to help!”
What comes to mind when I think of lacing are useless white quilts that you’d find in a granny’s house, but the hair accessory on this design sheet looked really cute.
A handmade hairpiece for your pet dog, huh?
If I mentioned this to Umewaka-kun he’d probably try it himself.
After calming Natori-san down I had her teach me tatting lacing.
In short the only real difference was whether you were using a shuttle or a crochet hook, right?
I’d already used a crochet hook to knit a doll before, so I’d manage. Easy peasy.
──I was a fool for thinking that.
It was crazy hard…
The threads used for lacing were really thin so it was a real pain to unlace the parts I got wrong.
Still, since Natori-san was trying her utmost to teach me, it wouldn’t do to quit now.
Ah, I missed a hole. Do over!
“So, have you been adjusting to the high school environment?” I asked while struggling with the lace. “Please feel free to talk to me about any worries you might have, whether it concerns handicrafts or just your school life in general.”
In fact, I’d probably give better advice if it didn’t concern handicrafts.
The girl who introduced me to tatting lace turned to Natori-san.
“Say, Natori-san? Since Reika-senpai offered, why not talk to her about it…?”
“My. Does something trouble you? If there is anything I can do to help, I would be more than happy to assist,” I offered.
Natori-san lowered her gaze and seemed to struggle with whether she wanted to speak up or not, so her friend did so for her.
“The truth is that Natori-san has had some trouble getting closer to her classmates.”
“Some trouble…? Is she being bullied!?”
If that was the case then this was huge.
As the Club President I couldn’t just sit by while my precious members were being bullied!
If people were picking on her then I’d descend upon their classroom and teach them some manners, starting with the ringleader of the scoundrels who thought they could harass my cute kouhai!
I was getting ready to declare war when the girls must have noticed something because they began to frantically tell me that nobody was being bullied.
Oh. She wasn’t? We could still attack them first though?
After a bit of explanation, the story was as follows.
Even though Natori-san was an External Student transferring in from another school, a stroke of bad luck saw her down with a flu right after our school term began.
Thanks to that she missed the class trip for bonding with the Externals. It was the same class trip where the Externals had to perform a side show for the Internals, meaning that she had missed bonding with the other Externals too.
By the time she was coming to school again the class trip had already resulted in a number of cliques forming, so it was hard for her to even get a foot in.
Of course, things might not have been so bad if we had some other club members in her class.
After all, we had quite a number of new club members this year.
Unfortunately she was suffering from bad luck again, because she was the only entrant from her class.
“It isn’t so bad at lunch because I can have lunch with my friends in the club, but between classes I just sit at my desk alone…”
“That does sound awful.”
“And also… If people keep seeing me alone, I’m worried they’ll wonder what’s wrong with me…”
If there was just one loner in the classroom, you’d start to wonder if she had no friends, or if people hated her, or if she was being bullied or something, right?
“I can certainly understand how you feel,” I nodded to myself.
The girls looked a little startled. Did they think it wasn’t something I worried about?
The truth was that every year I still got nervous about class changes.
Thanks to attending Zui’ran since primary school, you could say I got along with a lot of people. Certainly the chance of being in a class with a friend was high for me.
That didn’t mean that I didn’t agonise about the off-chance of being stuck in a class on my own. Worse yet, what if I ended up in a class filled with girls from Tsuruhana-san’s group?
Geez, it was something I worried about every day, okay?
I think everyone goes through something like this.
“Reika-sama, what do you think she should do?” her friend asked, while stroking the her back reassuringly.
“Well…” I hummed.
It would be best if she could be more proactive in talking to her classmates, of course, but the problem was that she couldn’t do that.
Hmmm, then what if we addressed the fact that she was alone between classes…?
I recalled the time in my past life when I was being ignored by my classmates.
“Perhaps this calls for a book,” I suggested.
“A… book?” she asked.
“Yes, a book. At least with a book you can present your lack of interaction as voluntary and deliberate. And they are a wonderful way to pass the time. Of course you could do the same with a mobile, but then you risk the chance of appearing like an addict.”
I think back then I might have been using my little sister’s book about Japan’s most haunted locations. No idea why I had chosen that of all things, but it turned out to be pretty interesting.
Before long I was using every break between periods to devour that book. Classmates who were drawn in by its title came over to read it with me, which was a plus as well.
They stopped ignoring me after that. Thank you, Japan’s Most Haunted.
Oh. Or could it be that my obsessing over ghost haunts was beginning to creep them out, so they stopped ignoring me out of fear?
“Ideally you would be getting to know your classmates better, no? In that case I would suggest a best seller, and see if that attracts the interest of anyone.”
I couldn’t exactly suggest a book about haunted locations, so it had to be something else that would draw attention.
“I understand. I’ll bring a book tomorrow.”
Pleased at her willingness to listen to me, I began to list more suggestions.
“Paying some attention to your accessories might help. A pen or a pouch with a lovely design is signalling to your classmates that you have an interest in these sorts of things, and might draw girls of like interests,” I explained. “Perhaps some hand-made accessories too. It would be telling everyone that you are a member of the handicrafts club, and with some luck might begin more conversations.”
And if it went really well, could I maybe even bag some new members!?
“I understand. I’ll do my best tomorrow!” Natori-san clenched her fist around her weaving shuttle.
Mhm! Do your best!
“But I would never have thought you would give such specific advice, Reika-senpai,” she added.
“I was surprised too,” her friend added.
I laughed. “Huhu, I hope this has been of some help.”
If you couldn’t start the conversation, then you had to bait in people who would. I called it the fly trap method.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to see what topics everyone else thought would be interesting. I decided to find out.
“So what topics do you 1st Year girls find interesting?” I broached.
“Interesting? Hmmm, well we’ve only just entered Zui’ran so we share what we’ve learned about the school.”
“There’s so much we don’t know.”
“Right, right. Especially the Pivoi-… Ah!”
Hm? What’s this, what’s this?
She cut off midway, but I heard ‘Pivoi-‘ in there.
“Were you about to say ‘Pivoine’?” I asked.
“Ah… Yes. I’m sorry!”
“You can talk about it,” I assured them. “I take it that you girls have some interest in it?”
They all gave me meek nods.
I suppose it must have seemed like some sort of mysterious organisation to the normal students.
In that case, what if they used it as more bait for making friends?
“Well, I may not look like much but I am in fact one of its members!” I revealed.
“…We knew that of course.”
“…You’re the most famous one.”
“…I’m not sure if anyone doesn’t know you’re in it.”
Let’s try that again.
“What is it that you would like to know? I cannot divulge personal information about its members, but I would be happy to answer any other reasonable questions.”
At once, their faces lit up.
And so while we all worked on our handicrafts, they listened with rapt gazes as I regaled them with talk of our salon and other safe topics.
Maybe Natori-san could use this too.
But as the conversation ran its course, naturally the conversation turned to their topic of greatest interest: Kaburagi and Enjou.
“They were so mature, and so radiant. I didn’t think people like that really existed so it was a real shock.”
“‘Out of reach’ was made to describe people like that.”
“And Kaburagi-sama had an air befitting of his name as the Emperor of Zui’ran.”
The 1st Years recounted as they gazed dreamily towards the sky.
I could understand where they were coming from.
From afar, Emperor certainly did seem cool and competent. The type of guy you’d fawn over.
But on closer inspection, all you got was a useless rich boy with no consideration, common sense, or delicacy.
And that ‘Emperor’ nickname actually came from a primary schoolers’ cavalry battle.
Still, I’d feel bad for destroying their dreams so I decided to phrase it as ‘His hobby is horse-riding’.
“Oh, I know! I actually brought some baked goods from the Pivoine salon just now. How about we share them!”
Maybe they’d even be able to brag about having tried food from the Pivoine.
I opened my bag to grab them when I noticed some faint vibrations inside. My mobile?
I guess it must have fallen further in while I had been using the bag to exorcise myself.
I really hadn’t noticed the vibrations at all.
I checked my messages.
In the Sender’s column was, line after line, ‘Kaburagi Masaya’.
‘I’ve got something to talk about. Come to our usual meeting place.’
‘Are you not here yet?’
‘You’re late. What are you doing?’
‘Contact me immediately.’
‘Where are you?’
‘I’m heading to your clubroom.’
‘I’m almost there.’
Nooooooooooo! Stay away, Mary!
I tossed the cursed phone onto the desk, but just as I stood up the clubroom door opened with a bang.
“Kisshouin! How long are you going to make me wait for!?”
A ferocious black carnivore barged into my gathering of gentle lambs――!