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1. Host and hostess clubs are a type of night-life entertainment business model. The hosts and hostesses make conversation with patrons and make them feel appreciated, flattered, and/or loved.
Part of how they make money is by encouraging their patrons to buy drinks, the more expensive the better. There’s a bit of a joke about the most successful hosts and hostesses selling gallons of Dom Pérignon.
2. Japanese Buddhism is strongly influenced by Mahayana branches of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is one of two main existing branches of Buddhism (the other being the older Theravada), known for the belief in staying in the cycle of reincarnation to save all sentient beings.
3. In Pure Land Buddhism, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, they practice chanting Namo’mitābhāya Buddhaya, or Namu Amida Butsu in Japanese. The first word, Namu, is commonly used the way Amen might be.
4. A mountain-dwelling version of Buddhism called Shugendou emerged in Japan as a syncretism between Vajrayana, Shinto and Taoism in the 7th century, which stressed ascetic practices. One of its ascetic practice was Sokushinbutsu, the practice of Buddhist monks observing asceticism to the point of death and entering mummification while alive. This practice was perfected over a period of time, particularly in the Three Mountains of Dewa region of Japan, that is the Haguro, Gassan and Yudono mountains.
5. The legend of the “Straw Millionaire” (わらしべ長者, Warashibe Chōja), also known as “Daietsu” or the “Daikokumai”, is a Japanese Buddhist folk tale about a poor man who becomes wealthy through a series of successive trades, starting with a single piece of straw.
I received a message from Oniisama while I was on the way back from Wakaba-chan’s. Apparently Imari-sama would be coming over.
This was my chance to give him his souvenir!
I was in my room choosing what to give him when I received news of their arrival, so I quickly left to greet them.
In the spotlight of the entrance area, Imari-sama was resplendent, like the newly arrived protagonist of a stage play. He was actually so dazzling that I almost shielded my eyes for a moment.
“Good evening, Reika-chan.”
Since the star of the show had waved his hand at the audience, it was my responsibility to give respond with a bright smile.
“And Oniisama, welcome home.”
Having greeted them, I moved onto the topic of the souvenirs.
“Mmn, I heard from Takateru. He actually said that he’d bring me them, but how could I not receive them in person when you put in the effort to choose them for me?” He narrowed his eyes a little cheekily and said, “And so here I am, see?”
To the side, Oniisama grumbled. “Seeing a grown man acting cute is sickening.”
“But could it be that you went out of your way just for this?” I asked.
“What do you mean ‘out of my way’? I wanted to see you too, Reika-chan.”
The Chief of the Casanova Village was in top form tonight.
Even though I knew it was just Imari-sama being Imari-sama, my heart couldn’t help but skip a beat.
“Well thank you. Let me bring them here now!”
“There’s no need to rush. I’ll just wait in Takateru’s room.”
On the way out I swear I heard Imari-sama say “That hurts!”.
I noticed the wine bottle and plate of cheese on the table as I arrived at Oniisama’s room with the souvenir.
“I hear this cheese is another one of your souvenirs, Reika-chan,” said Imari-sama. “Takateru brought some out first. Was that okay?”
“Of course. I cannot guarantee that you will like it, but please do help yourself,” I replied.
Wine glass in hand and sprawled back against the sofa, Imari-sama beckoned for me to sit by his side. No sooner had I done so did a bottle cork come flying at him.
“Mmmn, this is good stuff,” he praised.
That was the Chief of Casanova Village, for you; all wine and cheese.
The namesake himself was known for Roquefort cheese and Chambertin wine, after all. Apparently he boasted that they were ‘an excellent thing to restore an old love, and to ripen a young one,’ but unfortunately the cheese we were eating was not Roquefort.
I mean, blue cheese stinks, right? What if by some chance the packaging broke inside my suitcase?
That’s why I made the choice not to buy any in the end. I like cheese, but I’ll pass on the smell of blue cheese, thanks.
And sure, I can understand the wine, but you’re telling me that after eating something as aggressively smelly as that cheese you’re going to romance it up? I don’t see it at all.
Which brings me to another mystery, which is that at some point in time one pioneering Frenchman had to have seen blue mould on cheese, and become the first to try eating it.
Literally, some person out there came across an intensely smelly piece of mouldy cheese, and then took it as a challenge.
I guess being a gourmet means sometimes putting your life on the line, huh?
While continuing to ponder the human condition I handed Imari-sama his souvenirs.
“It is but a trifling thing, but if it pleases you…”
“I wonder what it is. Ah, a golf marker? And not a bad design, either!” he praised. “And look at this one. Thanks, Reika-chan. I’ll definitely use them the next time I play.”
Thank goodness. It looked like he was happy with them.
I had actually gotten caught up in the mood and bought markers decorated with Trevi Fountains and Colosseums. When I got back to Japan though, I figured that someone with taste as good as Imari-sama wouldn’t want something so tacky. Looks like it was the right choice.
It was a waste to just throw them out though, so a while back I gave them to Otousama. He was so happy that he gave me more money for my allowance.
I’m Straw Millionaire Reika.
“Hey Takateru, since we may as well, how about coming out for a round of golf with me next time we’re free?”
“I’m busy. Go on your own.”
“Wow, what a cold guy. But yeah, I love these. You’ve got great taste, Reika-chan.”
I laughed a bit to pretend I was flattered, but the truth was that I was the type of person to buy Colosseum golf markers.
The ones Imari-sama received weren’t picked out by me at all.
What happened was that while I was agonising over what to pick for him, Enjou came over and said, “What about these ones?”
Apparently Enjou’s got great taste.
When I handed over the other souvenirs, Imari-sama made a fuss and exaggeratedly praised each and every one. Since he asked about my trip though, we ended up in a normal conversation, gesturing back and forth, and the happier I got as I recounted the trip, the more fun he seemed to have as well.
Oniisama looked disgusted. “Go home already.”
Imari-sama didn’t seem the least bit discouraged though.
“Say, back when you two were my age, your class trip was to the same places as mine, no? Which places stood out to you?”
Imari-sama hummed in thought. “I don’t think the places made as much of an impact as how we spent our time there.”
“I think what matters the most on a trip are the connections you make,” he said with a smile.
In contrast, Oniisama’s expression looked a little stormy.
“Oh, I know,” continued Imari-sama. “So I was in Takateru’s room for the whole trip, see? One night I just sneaked out a bit, but when I sneaked back in the morning I found him already awake and giving me the coldest stare.”
“Back in the morning…? Where on earth did you go?”
“Ah-, you wanna hear it?”
“Don’t listen, Reika. Your ears will rot.”
Imari-sama, what kind of unhealthy things have you been engaging in…?
“That reminds me, one time Takateru kicked me out of the room with nothing but the clothes on my back in the middle of the night~”
“That’s because you kept whispering ‘je t’aime’ and ‘mon amour’ into your phone in the middle of the night.”
Imari-sama, you were getting involved with the local women…?
“On the last night of the trip, Takateru strangled me and said ‘I’ll seriously kill you’. The look in his eyes that time was completely serious~”
“…Just how much of your crap do you think I’d cleaned up by that point? I don’t even want to remember it.”
From the way he spat the words, you could really see how much Oniisama had gone through…
“But hey, class trips are all about spreading your wings a little, right?” Imari-sama turned to me. “Reika-chan, lots of your classmates did the same thing, right?”
“I cannot say. At the very least there was nobody like that in my class. Everyone observed curfew.”
“Why of course,” I confirmed. “Everyone was accounted for, five minutes before the curfew.”
“That’s something else.”
The class rep of Imari-sama’s day must have had it rough.
Wait, hang on.
Don’t tell me that the class rep back in the day was Oniisama…?
“Come on, don’t be so mad, Takateru,” cajoled Imari-sama. “To begin with it’s not like you practice everything you preach either.”
“Eh-, is that so, Oniisama!?”
Gosh, Oniisama, what did he mean?
I have to ask Oniisama later.
Snapping out of it, I just realised that Imari-sama had one arm around me like it was the most natural thing in the world.
The way he unconsciously did that is as good a sign as any into the sort of life he’s been living, isn’t it? But still, now that I’d noticed the arm――even though he himself didn’t mean anything by it――I couldn’t help but be too conscious to relax into the couch anymore.
Oh, and now my heart was thumping.
Oblivious to my situation, Imari-sama gracefully sipped from his wine glass and visibly savoured the taste. As I glanced from the side, I couldn’t help but sigh in appreciation at the sight.
Imari-sama was really so cool. This was the charm of an adult~
Noticing my enchanted gaze, Imari-sama gave me an alluring smile, and because I was too young for wine, Oniisama poured me some herb tea.
Eh? What was this, some host club? Club Kisshouin!?
“Oh? Reika-chan, that’s a cute pinky ring you have.”
As expected of Imari-sama. Never missing the details of the accessories a girl had on.
“Ah, this ring? It’s part of a matching set that I bought with some friends in Paris.”
It was proof of our friendship, so I’d been wearing it all this time.
What use were boys? I had girls with whom I had formed strong bonds of friendship!
“Oh? Let’s have a look.”
Imari-sama deftly took my hand and brought it close to his face. For whatever reason, Oniisama’s room was a little dim and atmospheric today, so Imari-sama wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.
“This room is a little dark. Shall I turn on some lights?” I offered. “Why are only the shaded lights on?”
“Hm? Isn’t it fine? In soft lighting a woman’s beauty stands out more, don’t you know?
Squeee! Bring me the most expensive wine in this club!
“Oi, stop getting handsy with other people’s sisters! Come over here, Reika.”
This time it was a metal toothpick for the cheese that came flying at Imari-sama. Oniisama, you were definitely aiming for his eye just now, weren’t you?
Imari-sama kept his eyes on my hand, once again unfazed.
“Well, well. A lovely ring worn by a lovely flower, Reika-chan. It’s perfect on you. Very cute.”
Imari-sama’s mature charm was too much. My heart wouldn’t stop thumping. Bring me all the wine in this club!
“T-Thank you very much,” I stammered.
“Actually this is perfect. Here, for you.” Imari-sama placed a small ribbon-wrapped box onto my hand.
I opened it to find a cute, angelic bottle of nail oil.
“It just suited you so well that I accidentally bought it. May I? I’ll put some on for you.”
He took my hand and hummed to himself as he carefully coated each one of my nails with the rose-scented oil. My heartthrob meter was about to explode.
The Chief of the Forever Alone village, outrageously being treated like a princess by the opposite sex. It was so much more than I could handle that it felt like my ectoplasm was going to float out of my mouth…
“Hey Reika-chan, did you know? There’s a little charm, you see. If a man gives a woman a silver ring on her nineteenth birthday, her happiness is guaranteed. When it’s your turn, I’ll give you a wonderful ring like none other.”
Nuuoooohhhh! It happened! My heartthrob meter was broken! My bankbook, my signature, I’ll give you whatever you want! All of the money I was given by the tanuki belongs to you!
At this rate, was all the money I saved since I was a child going to be taken away by this #1 Host!?
Don’t tell me that Imari-sama would be responsible for my downfall!?
That was when the #2 host languidly left his seat, came to stand behind the sofa Imari-sama and I were seated on, and then tore our hands apart.
“Reika, turn on all the lights and move to that couch instead.”
Oniisama’s frosty voice lifted the spell cast on his little sister.
After turning on every light I could find I sat back on the sofa Oniisama had been using.
“Hey, Imari. How about we visit Mt. Yudono next weekend? I’ll give you a ring as a parting gift.”
“Eh-, are you going to force me to mummify!?”
“Here’s your last drink. Enjoy it.”
I watched as Oniisama gripped Imari-sama by the head and forced him to drink from the bottle. It looked like Imari-sama would be reaching enlightenment this weekend──
You must save all sentient beings, Imari-sama. Namu~
When I returned to my room I tried for some last-minute cramming.
After the class trip quite a few couples moved to the Fulfilling Romance Village. But while they were getting their heads filled with romance or whatever, I was going to reach 10th place!
First was reviewing my weak point, maths.
After solving a few questions though, I got stuck. Ummmmm~ How did you do this one again?
I opened up my textbook with one hand, only to notice the rose scent from earlier.
Come to think of it, I had to water the anti-pigeon roses I planted on my balcony.
It’d be nice to grow some other plants too.
Wakaba-chan’s house had a herb garden, didn’t it? Maybe I could try growing some and making some home-made herb tea~
I wondered what herbs would grow next season, so I went and researched it before bed.
“My bankbook, my signature, I’ll give you whatever you want! All of the money I was given by the tanuki belongs to you!”
She was actually offering her bankbook and her jitsuin.
“In Japan, a personal seal (inkan/hanko) is often used instead of a signature as official verification in certain situations. Especially for important documents, many people use an officially registered seal called a “jitsuin.” You may register your personal seal at the municipal office in the ward (or city, town or village) where you reside.”