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Evil forces conspired to stop me from finishing this chapter!
Kokkuri-san is basically just Japanese ouija boards.
The next morning I arrived to find the girls discussing something with frowns on their faces.
“Gokigen’yoh. Is something the matter?” I asked.
“Gokigen’yoh, Reika-sama,” Serika-chan replied. “Apparently, yesterday after school, that girl was in the car that came to pick up Enjou-sama.”
“The one from the School Festival.”
Yuiko-san, smiling and otherworldly, appeared in my mind.
After school yesterday… That was when I met Enjou and Kaburagi in the Petite salon.
Hmm, thinking back Enjou had suddenly taken a call, and it was why Yukino-kun suddenly had to go home. Ah, could that have been Yuiko-san that called him!?
So that’s what happened. His girlfriend had come to meet him at the gates so he pushed his annoying friend onto me and then happily went on his date.
No, hang on.
More likely he’d intended to push Kaburagi onto me anyway, that damned schemer, and that’s why he even came there in the first place!
What a horrible guy!
Just how much of my energy was sucked away after I was forced to listen to Kaburagi’s endless rambling about Wakaba-chan…
This is why I couldn’t stand the inhabitants of the Fulfilling Romance village! All they did was oppress my people!
“Is Enjou-sama truly seeing that girl?”
“I wonder if the rumours about their engagement are true.”
“Enjou-sama said they were simply relatives, but…”
“Have you heard anything from him, Reika-sama?”
Unfortunately I didn’t have the answers.
After all, it wasn’t like I could just ask the guy himself all these nosey questions… We weren’t all that close, after all.
Plus, no way was I going to have him think that I was so interested in his life. I’d lose all pride as a village chief if he thought I was envious of his village’s good harvest.
So yeah, even if they begged me to ask him, it wasn’t going to happen. I was aiming to be Zui’ran’s trendsetter, not its gossip columnist!
But more info on Yuiko-san came to me anyway.
It was during lunch break, while I was eating the salad that I was eating to watch my weight. Oh, right. And starting last night I’d begun doing push-ups too. Naturally because of the Kaburagi Double-Take at My Arms Incident.
Actually, after the talk about dates yesterday I ended up asking about what they did to diet as well.
At first they said stuff like ‘We don’t really do anything special’ but after I kept asking, they eventually admitted ‘Well, just a few push-ups before bed’.
I knew they were keeping in shape in secret!
So I replied, “Push-ups, is it? Perhaps I should try it myself. I have been a little conscious of my upper arms recently…”
“Ehh~ You’re so skinny already, Kisshouin-san. You don’t need to diet~”
“Kisshouin-san, you look perfect the way you are now~”
Naturally I couldn’t put any trust in their lip service.
And so the first twenty pushes I had done in a long while were so painful that my arms trembled, but I had to push on.
There was only one month left until it was time for summer clothes. Until that moment come, I had to work hard to exorcise the demons in my biceps…!
Ririna and her friends approached me after they had finished their lunch.
“Well? What do you think?” she asked and she held out her arm.
Glinting on her wrist was the watch I bought her during my class trip.
Apparently she had come here just to show herself wearing it.
“It suits you.”
“Huhu~” she hummed proudly. I could see the same emotion on her face too.
The watch I had picked was girlish, but in a design that would be fine to wear every day. It looked like Ririna was quite pleased with it.
After that her friends thanked me for getting them souvenirs as well. So I said that it had been my pleasure, and casually dropped that they were chocolates from a stylish chocolatier brand that hadn’t made its way into Japan yet.
Hu hu hu, if I wanted a firm hold on the position of Zui’ran’s trendsetter, I’d have to begin with individuals.
“Gosh, I just can’t stop wondering about it!” one of the girls cried in frustration.
Ririna looked over at the girls who were still talking about Enjou and Yuiko-san before turning to ask, “What are they talking about?”
“Enjou-sama and that girl from the rumours.”
“You know her too, Ririna?”
So even people in her year knew? Enjou’s popularity was impressive. Plus, there was a bespectacled information broker amongst her friends.
At least that was my reasoning before Ririna dropped a bombshell on her.
“I do, of course. After all, I went to primary school with her.”
My sudden outburst caused eyes to turn my way. Ah. I promptly tried my make myself invisible.
Ririna lived a little far away, and it wasn’t common for us to get students from that far out. But because her mother was a graduate of Zui’ran, and of the Pivoine no less, Ririna had grown up dreaming about our school.
Unfortunately for her, our primary school section had a restriction on how far away their students were permitted to live. In the end she unwillingly attended a famous local girls school instead.
“Ririna-san, could you please tell us about her!?” Serika-chan and the others pressed.
The request came as a whisper because they were mindful of the surroundings, but it was fervent all the same.
“Well, I don’t know her too well either,” Ririna warned, but she began talking anyway. “Yuiko-san was two years above mine. She was beautiful and refined, even back then.”
She was older than me!?
She had always seemed oddly confident and calm around us. To think it was because she was an upperclassman.
Dating an older woman even though he was just a little high schooler? That was potential for you. Potential as an applicant to the Casanova village, that damned Enjou!
“Plus, being as gorgeous as she is, she was very popular too. Even in primary school we heard rumours about all the boys that came to her middle school festival for her. There were plenty of them that waited in front of the gates for her after school as well.”
“That’s something else.”
“I spoke to her a few times myself, back in primary school. She was gentle and graceful, and everyone looked up to her.”
“The neighbouring schools began calling her the Miss of our school as well.”
With each response, the girls around me became more quiet and subdued.
“She was so popular that there were even a few kids who worshipped her like a goddess.”
For a moment, everyone glanced my way. Eh? What is it?
“Normally a girl that popular would have more than a few jealous enemies,” Ririna continued, “But strangely Yuiko-san didn’t have anybody like that. Maybe it was because she always looked so fragile and made you want to protect her.”
I could see it.
All of the girls, present company included, had been so harsh when it came to Wakaba-chan, but strangely I hadn’t heard anybody publicly criticise Yuiko-san in the least.
Maybe it really was that atmosphere of hers.
To bring up another comparison, Maihama Ema had stirred up a storm of abuse when she came to our festival for Kaburagi.
What happened to her, anyhow? I hadn’t seen her in a while.
I decided to ask Sakura-chan the next time we met up.
“The gentle and graceful type of beauty that stirs up the urge to protect her, huh…?” one of the girls mused.
“Well, she’s basically the exact opposite to Reika-san,” Ririna said.
What the heck? So are you saying I’m ungainly and nasty and the type to live as a loner then?
Well excuse me! I think I’d like that watch back!
While I sulked, Ririna placed a hand on my shoulder as she smiled at me kindly.
“Don’t you worry, Reika-san. You’re good in your own way too.”
You’re the last person I want to hear that from!
I smacked her hand right off my shoulder.
Speak of the devil.
No sooner had I left the cafeteria for my classroom did I come across Enjou, chatting with some other boy. Bird-brained Katsuragi, as it happened. If possible I’d have liked to avoid the noisy bugger.
But despite my best efforts at ignoring them and walking past, Enjou ignored my intentions and called out to me anyway.
“Kisshouin-san, thank you for yesterday. Yukino was absorbed in that book the whole way home.”
“Truly? Then it was my privilege that he enjoyed it so,” I replied under Bird-Brain’s crazy glare.
Well, not that I was the least bit intimidated. Well, I was, but because of the intensely expectant gazes from the girls behind me…
Besides which, that smile Enjou was wearing was… Was it just my bias speaking, or did that look exactly like the smirk of a man who had a gentle, graceful, beauty of an older girlfriend?
“I’d appreciate it if you could spare some of your time for Yukino again. He keeps telling me to invite you over.”
The words ‘invite you over’ had Serika-chan and the others riled up, but Bird-Brain’s expression just turned grimmer.
…This jackass was definitely enjoying this, wasn’t he? He deliberately used those words just to cause me trouble.
I’m sorry, but I’m not coming over, Yukino-kun. Your older brother is basically another pigeon to me. Damn you, Enjou! I hope you get pricked by a rose bush!
“Ah, it is about time to return to class…” I said to excuse myself.
I could hear Serika-chan and the others making sounds of dissatisfaction, but who would willingly get friendly with someone from the Fulfilling Romance village?
Say ‘No!’ to thoughtless mergers! The Forever Alone village stands alone!
I was kind of beat…
Everything was Kaburagi and Enjou’s fault. Yesterday I was being toyed around with by other people’s love stories. Actually before yesterday too. Haah…
Sweet things were best when you were tired. I could start my diet tomorrow.
After classes finished I headed to the Pivoine for some sweets in the time before club activities started.
I sat myself down on the usual sofa and enjoyed some spiced apple jelly. Yummy.
Jelly seemed simple enough to make, so I decided to try my hand at it when I had the chance.
Oh, and since it was apples, what if I made the compote base with cider instead of water?
Maybe the hint of bitterness would make the taste more mature and adult.
It was worth a try.
“Reika-sama, might I sit with you?”
I looked up and found Fuyuko-sama standing before me.
It was a rare thing for her to speak to me of her own accord, daydreaming and unassuming as she tended to be.
I offered her a seat, and she took it before peering at me with worry.
“Reika-sama, you look a little unwell.”
“Do you think so?”
Maybe my exhaustion was showing. The jelly hadn’t been enough. I had better eat some pastries too.
“You know, I have something with me that might help,” she said. “I came across the real thing while we were on the field trip.”
“My, did you buy some essential oils?” I asked.
In a rarely excitement, Fuyuko-sama searched her bag for a little before bringing out a board with letters and numbers on it, along with a little heart-shaped coaster with a hole in it.
Along the top of the board were ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ in English.
Ah, of course. Fuyuko-sama was one of them after all.
I knew I had seen one of these things before, and it was giving me nothing but bad feelings.
“…Ummm. What might this be?” I ventured.
“This is a ouija board! We can use this to communicate with spirits of the beyond. We hold this planchette on top of the board and ask the spirits a question, and they will borrow our hands to move the planchette to the ‘YES’ or the ‘NO’. They can use the alphabet and numbers down here too.”
…I was right to have a bad feeling. This was Kokkuri-san.
“Is this… Kokkuri-san…?” I asked her hesitantly, to which she replied “No, this is a ouija board.”
But the more I listened to her happy explanation of how to use it, the more it sounded exactly like Kokkuri-san.
For all that Fuyuko-sama might have looked like a Heian-era noble, her tastes in the occult were decidedly Western…
“You must have something on your mind. Come, don’t hesitate to ask.”
No, no, if I have something on my mind I’d prefer to discuss it with someone living!
It’s scary, okay. You shouldn’t play with these things lightly, you know!
I hear you can even get haunted, okay!?
“Oh my, look at the time. I am sorry, but I must simply head to my clubroom. Well then, gokigen’yoh, Fuyuko-sama.”
I grabbed a few pastries before ohoho-ing away.
For some reason the weight on my shoulders that the jelly had taken away was back again.
Wait, what if this weight was a ghost…!?
On the empty landing of the staircase I frantically smacked my back to chase away any evil spirits.