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Today was my long awaited visit to Wakaba-chan’s.
As usual she had come out of her way to meet me at the station.
“Over here, Kisshouin-saaaaan!”
“Wakaba-chan! I’m here!”
I passed through the ticket barriers and trotted over to her.
“I do apologise for imposing on you right before the mid-semesters.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I’ve been waiting for you to come over again!”
We exchanged a grin.
Wakaba-chan had her fringe pinned up today. Whoa, was this a challenge to the Rococo Queen!?
“Your forehead is out on display today,” I noted.
“Mmn. My fringe has been getting a little long, so I thought I’d pin it up today.”
“It looks cute.” I casually played with my hair to bring attention to the curls.
The Rococo throne belonged to me alone!
The weather was pleasantly sunny today, so we chatted as we enjoyed a stroll back to her house.
“It feels like some time since we’ve just had a chat like this,” I realised.
“It does, doesn’t it? We had the class trip too.”
While I did catch a few glimpses of her on the trip, with all the other people around we hadn’t had a chance to just be ourselves and hang out.
“How did you find the trip?” I asked.
“It was crazy fun!”
Her eyes lit up as she began telling me about how she just had to see the British Museum, about how she saw a cat mummy, about how exciting it was to behold the mysteries of the Rosetta Stone, and other like stories. One by one she enthusiastically went through her impressions of the displays there.
Come to think of it, I had spotted her there with Fellow Stalking Horse.
“You know, I think I do recall catching sight of you and Mizusaki-kun,” I noted.
“Yeah, we went together,” she said. “Mizusaki-kun said he’d been before, so it was a great help to have him guide me.”
“Yeah. And man, the desserts I tried in Paris were delicious… And wow, the tiramisu in Rome! And the gelato from this shop near the Piazza di Spagna!”
Ahh yes, part of the walking tour of Roman desserts with Kaburagi.
“Kaburagi-sama was your guide for Rome, no?”
“Yup. We didn’t just visit the places I wanted to try. Kaburagi-kun introduced me to a whole lot of other places too!” she related.
I watched her happily count on her fingers as she told me about each of the delicious sweets in Paris and Rome.
Hmm. So in Britain, a tour of the British Museum with Fellow Stalking Horse, and in France and Italy a dessert tour with Kaburagi then?
…This was shaping up to be a class trip with quite a few romantic encounters for her, wasn’t it?
Spending your free hours with boys―that was making the most of a co-ed school, right there.
I mean, there were rumours about me having cake or going shopping with Kaburagi and Enjou, but unlike those nonsense rumours Wakaba-chan was living the real thing.
Uuuh, stop it, Reika! She’s your friend! She’s your treasured friend!
But I couldn’t help it! The jealousy, and the envy in my petty little heart were too much for me control!
It sounded so nice! It sounded so nice!
I was already in a co-ed school, so I wanted to make nice memories too.
I wanted to have gelato with a boy, and go sightseeing with him, just like Wakaba-chan…
So why had my high school life turned out like this!?
We were definitely attending the same school, so why!
The dark swamp in the heart of the Forever Alone Village was beginning to stir, from it bubbled a cursed miasma.
“Hmm? Is something wrong, Kisshouin-san?”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Ah, well, you were just frowning really hard just now. And uh, your expression was a bit…”
Crap, did all that show in my expression?
“I’m sorry. I was trying not to sneeze. I think there was some pollen.”
I took out a handkerchief from my bag and made a show of dabbing at my nose.
“Ah, is that what happened? I guess we’re not quite done with that season yet. Are you okay?”
Wakaba-chan was showing genuine concern over my half-baked excuses.
I apologised to her in my head and reflected. Wasn’t being a true friend about being able to celebrate their joys like your own?
Sorry, Wakaba-chan. I’ll purify the swamp in my heart.
“I’m fine. Continue? It seems like you’ve had quite a bit of fun with that sweets tour you were planning.”
“Yeah! You know, I actually did quite a bit of research with a guidebook and all that, but Kaburagi-kun just knew so many places that weren’t even in there,” she said. “He introduced me to so many places. Man, people who are well-travelled are something else, huh~? Every place he took me to was delicious!”
Given how many times he’d been to Europe since he was a kid, he knew where all the good shops were. Kaburagi really did make the perfect guide.
“But it wasn’t just taking me around. He’d also point out little tidbits, like that this store was in this or that film, or how this chocolatier chain didn’t have a branch in Japan yet.”
“I see. That was nice of him.”
With the library date, and all the time they spent together in the Student Council, it was starting to feel like Kaburagi was losing the lead to Fellow Stalking Horse. But apparently Kaburagi had a secret weapon in the form of a sweet tooth because after just this one trip he was back in the game.
“Did you go anywhere else?” I asked.
“Hmmm, well you see, in Rome I went with some friends to a supermarket near Roma Termini and bought a bunch of sweets. They were selling all these products that import grocery stores in Japan sell!”
Oh, a supermarket in another country? That was something I wanted to see too.
It was a bit too plebeian to invite my group to though.
I was worried about our safety too. Still, now I was wondering if I should have been a little more adventurous.
“The atmosphere and the products were completely different to the supermarkets here,” she marvelled.
“Really? That does sound interesting,” I said.
“Yeah, it really was!” she nodded.
Looking at her, Wakaba-chan seemed unusually enthusiastic about foreign supermarkets.
I guess it meant that the effort I put into teaching Kaburagi about commoner supermarkets was just that much more worthwhile.
At least now if she ever talked to him about the differences, like she was to me now, at least Kaburagi would be able to keep up.
“Oh, I just remembered but Kaburagi-kun came over to buy a cake yesterday,” she recalled.
That guy! And after all the times I stressed to him that the exams were close, too!
To think he’d come here under the pretext of buying cake!
Oh my god. Thank god he came yesterday. I very nearly bumped into him.
At times like this it was a pain that her family owned a store, since it just meant a convenient excuse for him.
“I’m a bit shy about selling our cakes to someone with such a refined palate though.”
“Oh my! I think the cakes your family sells are delicious. Have a little confidence!” I insisted.
“Thanks. Kaburagi-kun said something similar too. That it was ‘simple, but pleasant’.” She laughed a little shyly.
Wakaba-chan seemed happy enough, but oi, Kaburagi, can’t you choose your words a bit better?
“Ummm, and also…”
She looked a little hesitant to continue.
“Ummm, you see… As a change of pace, Kaburagi-kun suggested that we go somewhere after the tests.”
He was moving damn fast! What incredible initiative!
“Ah-! Of course, just as another friend who likes sweets,” she quickly explained while flapping her arms about. “It’s really not anything else, okay!?”
Wait, wait, so he’s ‘another friend who likes sweets’…?
This was exactly what Enjou meant by being treated like a girl friend she tries desserts with!?
Kaburagi, could your expert knowledge on all things sweet have backfired!?
“I wonder about that~” I hummed.
Deny it all she wanted, I saw her blush a little when I said that just now.
“It’s true…” she mumbled after a little while.
Ehh~ But did this mean that Kaburagi’s behaviour had clued her in a little bit about his crush on her?
Ah well, not like my pondering would get me an answer.
Hmm, plus looking at how she was reacting now, was it fine to conclude that she wouldn’t be entirely bothered by such a crush?
So he actually had a chance?
But in that case…
“Wakaba-chan, how has school been recently?” I asked.
For a while the harassment had died down, but it was back again after the class trip, right?
After all, I’d heard about mud being rubbed onto her shoe locker recently.
“Eh? There hasn’t been anything noteworthy,” she said.
“Really? If there’s anything that’s bothering you, don’t ever hesitate to tell me, okay?”
“Thank you, Kisshouin-san!” Her smile was bright like a sunflower.
When we arrived at Wakaba-chan’s house I handed over the souvenir stationery I bought for the kids.
“Thanks, Cornet,” said Kanta-kun.
“Thanks, Coro-chan,” parroted the twins.
You’re very welcome.
“Oh yeah, Cornet. Want some?” Kanta-kun brought out a box of jelly cubes dusted in some white powder. It kind of reminded me of gyuuhi.
“Isn’t it fine? I’m just assigning her her quota.”
I wasn’t sure why, but Wakaba-chan and Kanta-kun seemed to be quarelling over what was in the box. I wonder what these cute little things are.
“What are these?” I asked, to which Wakaba-chan looked a little awkward.
“They’re turkish delights,” she explained. “The truth is that my sister loves the Chronicles of Narnia and kept saying that she wanted to try turkish delights too. That’s why when I was in London I bought some, but…”
“It’s so disgustingly sweet that I get goosebumps just thinking it,” Kanta-kun spat when Wakaba-chan trailed off with a helpless smile.
Oh, I see.
So basically they didn’t know what to do with them all, so they tried to feed them to me.
I was getting the impression that the way this family treated me was getting worse and worse.
“It would just be such a waste to throw them out, so we’ve all been trying our best to finish them,” she said.
“I’m done with them,” said Kanta-kun.
“I got excited and bought a large box, so they just won’t disappear…”
I hummed in thought, before taking one of these cute little gems for myself.
“Count any that Cornet eats under my quota,” Kanta-kun declared.
“That’s cheating, Oniichan!”
The siblings began to argue again over these supposedly too-sweet confections.
Was it that bad?
It looked like gyuuhi though.
Maybe just a nibble.
I nodded at Kanta-kun without a word.
Nuuuoohhhh, it was so sweet that my tongue was going numb. And the flavour was overwhelming.
It was red so I thought it’d be strawberry-flavoured, but the cloying air-freshener taste in my mouth was rose!
Somebody had taken rose jam and somehow made it even sweeter.
I took a gulp of tea to try to swallow the thing.
“Kisshouin-san, would you like some more tea?”
My mouth could still taste the sweetness.
As expected of foreign sweets. Such power…
Hmmmm, but couldn’t there be some trick to eating these…? Oh, I know!
What if instead of sugar I used this turkish delight for my tea?
It was black tea, and I’d heard that Russians put jam in theirs, so wasn’t this just a variation?
I imagined dropping one of these cute desserts into a cup of tea. Wasn’t it quite fashionable?
Uhuhu, it was in the little details that a person’s good taste was revealed.
No time like the present.
I plopped one into my cup and began whirling it around with a spoon~
Spin, spin, sp-… Huh? That was weird.
It wasn’t dissolving at all.
Jam dissolved right away, so how come?
Geh, and now it was stuck to the bottom of my cup-!
Ugeh, and the white powder hadn’t dissolved either and was floating to the top!
It was kind of gross-!
I tried stirring faster, but that just made Kanta-kun take notice of me.
“What the heck are you doing, Cornet?”
He peered over at what I was doing.
“Ummm, you see, I thought that instead of using jam…”
“Uwah, stuff is floating at the top! What the hell are you doing, Cornet!”
Uwah, you’re being too loud, Kanta-kun!
Look, now everyone else is looking over too.
Literally all of their eyes were on me now.
Aaah, I wanted to bury myself…
“Ah, well, I thought that instead of jam I could try…”
“Mmmn, I see, I see. But what now? I know you just got this cup, but should I get you a new one?”
Wakaba-chan’s kindness was just making it worse…
“Don’t play with your food, Cornet. You’d better take responsibility for that.”
I tipped both the transmuted tea and the jelly stuck at the bottom into my mouth and destroyed the evidence.
Sigh, this time was a failure. Happens to the best of us from time to time.
Hmm, but what else could we use this for then?
“Oh, I know. Say, what if we added it to curry as a secret ingredient? I think it’d add just that extra complexity.”
“What if we dissolved it and served it with pancakes or…”
“Then what about boiling-”
Kanta-kun just shot down every one of my ideas without mercy.
And here I was, trying to help them.
“Maybe I’ll make some annin tofu to wash out the taste,” he said, and stood up.
I wanted to learn the recipe, so I volunteered to help.
Hmm, so the ingredients were agar jelly, milk, sugar, and…
“Oh! What if instead of sugar we used the turkish delight-”
“Vetoed! Vetoed! Vetoed!”
Aah, don’t give me such an icy stare, Kanta-kun. I’ll stop talking.
“I said, when they say ‘one cup’ they mean exactly ‘one cup’!” roared Master Kanta.
Despite all of that, the annin tofu we made was delightful.