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The incumbent 5th Holy Sheeprabbit and Grand Arbiter of translation ethics across the universe. Enjoys eating sweet foods, translating simple Japanese stories, reading eroge, and rolling about in bed whilst emitting strange bird cries. Devout follower of Evil Gods Anri and Tilea. Translator at oniichanyamete!

Kenkyo Kenjitsu: The Reika-sama Chronicles 236 – Interlude

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Interlude: Timeskip

The ringing bell signalled the lunch break, and with that, the training drill was put on hold.

Wakaba spoke to Arima, saying that she wanted to talk to him before lunch. The two of them headed to the Senior Commissioner’s office.

“So, what did you want to tell me?”

“What I wanted to tell you was…”

From her bag, Wakaba produced the documents she received from Haru, as well as the leather briefcase of notes.

“What’s this?”

“A request from Haru Katsuragi, one of the Enjou Group’s lackeys.”

Arima received it with a suspicious look. His brows furrowed as he started reading the contents of the paper.

“What in the world is this guy trying to pull?

“Dunno.”

This was the first time Wakaba had seen the ever-calm Arima be irritated. That said, she wasn’t really surprised by the reaction.

“I can’t believe he’d try to take in the daughter of the Kisshouin family as a mistress. Does he not have the chivalry to take her in as his wife?”

“Yep, it’s unbelievable.”

It wasn’t that the taking in of mistresses by nobles was unheard of. However, in the view of Arima, who was brought up in an austere household, it was an act deserving of the highest scorn. Of course, Wakaba thought much the same.

“If I knew it was going to come to this, I should’ve given her my support earlier.”

“There’s not much we can do at this point.”

Reika’s father had incurred the wrath of the “Business Emperor”. If one were to rescue his daughter, their standing in high society would plummet.

“So, what should we do?”

“I’m going to go hear what this Katsuragi guy has to say myself. Takamichi, are you going to come with me?”

“No sir, I’ll pass.”

She didn’t state that her reason for not going was because, whenever she heard Katsuragi talk, she wanted to punch him mid-sentence.

“Then, I’ll be heading out.”

“Senior Commissioner.”

“What is it?”

“Why don’t you head out after lunch?”

“No, I’m heading there now. …I’m not a very patient man.”

“That’s true.”

Not trying to hold him back any longer, Wakaba watched as Arima left. All she could do now was pray that things wouldn’t go further south.

Wrapping up her day after finishing her afternoon exercises, Wakaba headed to the office.

On top of the desk was a memo from Arima, saying he left early. While thinking that this was an unusual occurrence, Wakaba put the memo in the box of unimportant matters.

Since all of the office work had been taken care already, Wakaba decided to go home herself.

Repair work on the bakery had started, and materials were brought in through the front garden. As work had ended for the day, a cloth was covering the materials.

When she entered the house section behind their storefront, Nacchan greeted her.

“Welcome back, Oneechan.”

“Yeah.”

“Long day today?”

“I guess.”

After asking her to prepare the bath and taking off her jacket before throwing it over the couch, Wakaba headed to her room.

“Oh, yeah, Oneechan.”

“What is it?”

“Miss Reika said she wanted to speak with you.”

“Has she gotten over her cold?”

“Yes.”

That being the case, Wakaba asked Nacchan to send Reika over to her.

Sitting down on her bed, she let out a loud sigh. She was relieved that she was finally in a situation where she could listen to Reika’s side of the story.

A few minutes later, Reika arrived. Hearing her light taps on the door, she invited her to come in.

Reika was wearing a one-piece dress that appeared to have been brought with her from her house.

After being offered a chair, Reika bowed her head deeply before picking a seat opposite Wakaba, this time around.

“I am very thankful that you took time out of your busy day to-“

“There’s no need for formalities. So, what did you want to talk about?”

“Ah, right. I wished… you… thanks.”

Right after she started to talk, a banging noise came from the door. Nacchan arrived with some tea.

“Ms.  Natsuki, I’ll take care of the tea.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes. Please leave it to me.”

Reika received the silver tray.

Shocked by Reika’s swaying upon receiving the tray, Nacchan immediately propped up the bottom of the tray.

“Hey, are you okay?!”

“Yes, I’m… fine.”

On top of the silver tray were a pot full of black tea, cups, saucers, little jars of sugar and milk, and a plate of cookies, nothing more. She was swaying from holding merely that.

Wakaba watched in amazement as she thought about how weak of a woman she was.

“Miss Reika, Wakaba-neechan drinks her tea with one cup of milk and three cubes of sugar.”

“Understood.”

Having the fact that she had a sweet tooth be revealed, Wakaba became embarrassed. As the daughter of a bakery, she was supposed to be the master of sweets, not the other way around.

While she turned her face away in embarrassment, her desk was completely set.

Reika poured tea into the cup with a very serious expression.

After that, she put in the milk and sugar. All the while, she squinted her eyes while looking at the small jars.

Basically, gyuuhi are a type of traditional Japanese sweet, like a really soft mochi, made of glutinous rice dough mixed with something sweet like syrup or sugar. (Gyuuhi also refers to the squishy and delicate glutinous rice dough ingredient used in these types of mochi, but that’s neither here nor there.)

That expression was exactly the same as the one Wakaba had seen in high school, five years ago.

“Y-You!!”

“Eh?!”

Banging her hand on his desk, Wakaba stood straight up.

Surprised, Reika dropped the jar she was holding in her hand.

Fortunately, it was the jar of sugar, and the contents just spilled out onto the plate of cookies.

As for the situation at hand, Reika narrowed her eyes and looked down. It was a harsh expression, similar to that of scorn.

The target of the expression was not Wakaba, but that of the sugar scattered about the desk.

After confirming that all of the sugar had spilled out, she lowered her brows and looked up at Wakaba with an apologetic look.

“I-I’m sorry.”

“…That’s nothing to worry about. Answer my question.”

“E-Eh?”

There was only one reason she would squint while holding items up to her eyes.

Wakaba asked her nervously.

“Does your eyesight… happen to be bad?”

Reika opened her eyes wide. Lowering her head slowly, she nodded.

With a thump, Wakaba leaned back onto her bed. That was the moment that speech, her actions, and her conduct all made sense.

Reika had not looked down upon Wakaba with contempt.

Wakaba realised that she was just trying to look at the face of someone far away.

The misunderstanding of many years was finally resolved.

“I am really sorry. I had intended to speak about it at some point but…”

“No, it’s fine.”

The reason had come to light, but her brain had yet to comprehend the situation.

Because of her own misunderstanding, she had employed Reika as a servant and had gone and done something outrageous. She became deeply troubled.

Regret washed over her as she thought more and more that she really should have just handed her over to Arima.

Seeing Wakaba’s face contorted in distress, Reika did the unthinkable.

Getting up all of a sudden from her seat opposite Wakaba, she came around in front of Wakaba, and knelt in front of her.

“Ms. Takamichi.”

Putting both of her hands on her chest, she entreatingly appealed to Wakaba.

“I beg you. Please let me remain here.”

“Huh?!”

“I do admit that my eyesight is not very good, and I am not accustomed to a servant’s duties at all. However, I will do my best!”

“No, even if you say that…”

“I wish to repay the favour that you extended to me, Ms. Takamichi. O-On top of that, I have nowhere else to go…”

Asserting this in a quivering voice, tears started flowing down Reika’s face. Wakaba thought that she was the villain now.

Though she wondered what she should do, the answer stayed out of her reach.

“…Let me think about it for the time being.”

“Yes. I apologise for stating my selfish desires.”

Thinking there was no need to give a quick response, she deferred her response by an hour.

Carrying the tray, Reika gave one bow before leaving the room.

Annin tofu (杏仁豆腐) or almond tofu is a soft, jellied dessert made of almond milk, agar, and sugar, allegedly eaten in China as far back as 2000 years ago.

Wakaba simply continued to stare at the closed door.

Without having come up with an answer, it was already a new day.

As usual, she got dressed, ate breakfast, and headed to work.

The first matter she attended to was having a talk with Arima.

When she opened the door to his office in the Police Headquarters, she spotted Arima, elbows on desk, his hands supporting his jaw, grim expression on his face.

The atmosphere wasn’t one where she felt comfortable asking what happened the previous day. But, after confirming it was Wakaba who had entered the office, Arima started talking on his own.

“Morning.”

“Good morning.”

“It was a bit soon, but I went and listened to Haru Katsuragi’s story yesterday.”

“Yes sir.”

“I had to accept his request to search for Reika Kisshouin.”

“Eh?!”

Because she had expected Arima to reject the request, Wakaba was shocked.

Wondering what could have happened, she waited for Arima to continue his story.

“If I had to describe Katsuragi in one phrase, I’d say he’s a low-life bastard.”

“I… agree completely.”

Arima had understood everything about the person, Haru. But then, why did he take the request? The mystery intensified.

First of all, Arima had wanted to know why the request had been made to the “National Public Safety Commission” that he led. The response was quite shocking.

“That bastard called our National Police Agency a group that wastes time doing training drills.”

“…That’s awful.”

He had said that he had taken it upon himself to pick Arima’s small group out of the assortment of bigger Special Judicial Police branches.

“He said that, in a way, it’s because he’s afraid of being found out by the Emperor.”

“Seems like it.”

“It seems that he hasn’t made a request to any group other than ours yet. Obviously, it’s forbidden to use one’s money to use knights for one’s motives. But, if we rejected his request, Katsuragi would obviously go to another battalion.”

“Did you take this request for the purpose of not searching for Reika Kisshouin?”

“That’s right.”

The aim was to pretend to take the request, while not actually searching for her and ultimately ignoring the request.

She was relieved that Arima hadn’t been swayed by money and the chance for prestige, but she quickly realised another problem.

“What if this request is discovered by the higher-ups?”

“At best, I’ll get demoted. At worst, I’d lose the right to be a policeman. If that happens, the passcode to the next chapter is ‘harvestdawn’.”

“What?!”

“You can find the link at the very bottom.”

Wakaba pointed out to him that if Arima reported the money and paper to the higher-ups, it’d be over for Haru Katsuragi.

“You’re right. The rotten policeman would be gone, and peace would return to the bodyguards. But what would happen to Reika Kisshouin’s honour?”

“That’s…”

If the heir to the Katsuragi Group were to be put on special trial, it’d be a matter of time until the reason was divulged.

If that happened, Reika would be greeted as a mistress, and the rumour that she was to be locked in a basement would be spread in a moment. That is what Arima predicted.

“I cannot save her. That’s why, I at least want to defend her honour…”

Incredulous, Wakaba listened to Arima’s speech, and put into words her biggest question.

“Sir, why would you go that far for an old enemy?”

“That’s we should do as officers of the law, isn’t it?”

“!”

――Save the weak, hold honour in high esteem, and vanquish evil.

The image of a police officer weighed heavily upon her mind.

Violently striking her chest, Wakaba suppressed her pounding heart. oniichanyamete.moe/2020/04/01/kenkyo-kenjitsu-the-reika-sama-chronicles-236/


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Kenkyo Kenjitsu: The Reika-sama Chronicles 235

Everybody, please check the FAQ first before asking me questions.
If it’s not on there, please feel free and ask.!


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This was first a week later than I intended. Then the night I was about to upload I had a blackout, and forgot that I had to upload until two nights later when I was lying in bed contemplating what a shitshow Disney’s Star Wars has become.


Enjou spoke to me when I arrived at the Salon after school.

“Kisshouin-san, apparently you went somewhere rather interesting yesterday.”

“…I see you were informed about that.”

Loose lips, Kaburagi.

I made a note to tell him again to keep our commoner lifestyle tours a secret.

“This morning he gave me a lecture about sample tasting, you know?” Enjou said.

The image of a smugly lecturing Kaburagi came unbidden to my mind.

“Kaburagi-sama has a very healthy sense of curiosity, so I had a lot of difficulties…” I admitted.

“Ahaha, you have my condolences,” he said, pushing the burden to me as he laughed at my suffering. What a hateful guy.

Thanks to yesterday’s trip I spent half my night in the bathroom.

Like the water on a beach, each time I thought the battle with my stomach was over it would come back with a fresh wave.

“As his best friend, could you not simply accompany him instead?” I said a little aggrievedly.

“It’s not like I’ve ever been to a supermarket either,” he easily rebutted.

I couldn’t argue with that.

“That said, a convenience store is one thing, but I’m surprised you go to the supermarket too. Masaya was telling me about how shocked he was when he saw how at home you were.”

Ugh, he hit where it hurt.

It’s because I keep a repository of family-pack snacks for supper. And convenience stores don’t do sales.

Not that I’d say that. Over my dead body.

“I have some interest in cooking so I like to pick my own ingredients.”

And that wasn’t a lie. I was in the middle of learning.

“Oh? I see, I see.” He made a little teasing humming sound.

“…What is it?”

“Hm? Nothing, nothing~”

Enjou just looked at me in amusement with a meaningful smile.

Uu, what the heck was that look supposed to be?

I hated that smile. It always made me feel like he could see right through me.

Damn this mind-reader!

Enjou’s smiles in the manga were never this sinister. Just what was it that made the real him’s smiles so different? Was it because his hair was black?

His hair was supposed to be honey-coloured. Was it because the colour change dyed his heart black as well?

“Have you ever thought about dyeing your hair a lighter shade?”

“That’s definitely against school rules.”

“…True.”

Mr. Enjou Shuusuke is a realist, not a dreamer.

I felt a little awkward all of a sudden and my eyes darted this way and that for an escape.

Thankfully I spotted Fuyuko-sama sitting off to the side on her own.

“Ah-! I had something to discuss with Fuyuko-sama so please do excuse me.”

“Of course. See you later.”

I turned my back to Enjou, who simply waggled his fingers in goodbye and watched me leave.

As for Fuyuko-sama, she was still sitting there with a serious expression, seemingly staring intently at her palm. Maybe a handful of sand…?

“Umm~ Fuyuko-sama…?” I said with some trepidation, but her face brightened happily the moment she noticed me.

“My! Reika-sama!”

“Gokigen’yoh, Fuyuko-sama. Might I impose?”

“Why of course, Reika-sama! Please, take a seat!”

Looking at how happily she invited me to sit, I began to think that perhaps my thoughts about her yesterday weren’t so off the mark. Maybe she really did want to become better friends.

“Fuyuko-sama, about yesterday…”

“Yesterday…? Aah! I see! You want to use the ouija board again!” she concluded. “I just knew you were interested. Of course you are more than welcome to. Please wait a moment!”

Guh! A sudden attack from the spiritual world…

“N-No, you misunderstand,” I said frantically when she began to pull a suspicious board out from her bag. “I wanted to apologise for suddenly leaving mid-conversation. It was terribly rude of me.”

Fuyuko-sama looked at me blankly.

“My, has that been weighing on your mind? You needn’t have worried, but thank you for your gracious apology,” she said easily and bowed to me.

I bowed back in return.

“By the way, you seem to have been staring at your palm. Might I ask why?”

“Oh my, were you watching?” Fuyuko-sama cupped her cheeks in embarrassment.

I already knew what it was about, so I decided to just say it.

“Might you have been palm reading?”

“No, I was training myself to see auras.”

Eh.

“…Auras?”

“Yes. You see, they say that if you keep watching patiently like this, you’re gradually be able to see auras. Well, they did say that it would be easier in a darker room though.”

“My…”

“I’m still only an apprentice shaman so I still haven’t mastered the ability yet, but I train like this whenever I have time. I do invite you to try it with me.”

“Ummmmmm~”

“If you concentrate, you’ll start to see the aura around your finger. See? Like this.”

…She really was up to the neck in the New Age occult stuff.

What was I going to do now?

I thought it was just palm reading so I figured I’d play along, but a lecture about auras was next level.

And she was an ‘apprentice shaman’…?

But I couldn’t let this discourage me. Fuyuko-sama had begun going into the meanings of the different aura colours, but I refused her as tactfully as I could.

“No, I think I shall pass. I have little talent in the way of these things.”

“My, is that so?”

She looked disappointed, so I quickly changed the subject.

“Ah, that reminds me. Fuyuko-sama, thank you for letting Kaburagi-sama know where to find me yesterday.”

Although I couldn’t deny that my actual feelings were more along the lines of ‘You shouldn’t have done that’, Fuyuko-sama had done so with the best intentions, so there was nothing else I could say.

“No, all I said was that you seemed to have gone to your club.”

“Is that so?”

“Uhuhu, you two do get along.” A little dreamily, she muttered, “Does Kaburagi-sama like Reika-sama after all?”

Ugeh.

“You misunderstand, Fuyuko-sama. He simply had some business with me yesterday, and sought me out for that reason. There are no such feelings between us.”

“Oh my. But everybody has heard the rumour that your relationship advanced during the class trip. The fact that the two of you left together yesterday has been whispered about all morning.

I couldn’t help the weird expression I was making.

I really didn’t need this.

I’d been putting so much effort into improving my romantic prospects too. That would all go to waste if a weird rumour about Kaburagi scared off the boys anyway.

I couldn’t think of anyone in Zui’ran who would be willing to butt heads to the Emperor to steal his girl.

Why? I’d already gotten rid of that accursed poetry book, so why wasn’t my luck in romance getting any better?

“Then is it true that your love is actually for Enjou-sama!?”

“No, no! That is a misunderstanding too.”

Huh. I always thought Fuyuko-sama lived in her own world, but surprisingly she might have actually been quite the gossip.

“Here, Reika-sama. This is a rose quartz, said to improve your fortunes in romance.”

There is a belief, particularly amongst New Age spiritualism, that precious stones have ‘energies’ that can be passively absorbed for positive effects such as healing.

…So she dabbled in crystal healing too.

What was scary was that I actually considered it for a moment.

People with weak minds were the most susceptible to this New Age stuff.

It took me a while but I eventually warded off the topic of romance.

Instead, I found myself listening as Fuyuko-sama spoke at excited length about the Seven Wonders of Zui’Ran.

Gosh, and to think this was the same quiet girl who rarely said a word. Apparently she was quite the talker herself, as long as the topic was right.

Eh…? There are human sacrifices in the walls of the old assembly hall, and they make tapping noises and tell you to leave!?

And more than one person had already heard this!?

What the heck! Scaryy!

“Actually, I’ve heard it myself…”

“Ehhh!?”

“It happened on a dark, rainy morning.”

“Waah…”

“I had just arrived at the old assembly hall when I heard the rapping noises…”

“Oh no…”

Zui’ran was established a long time ago, after all. What if it was true!?

P-Purification salt! Where was my purification salt!?

I think I could feel something behind me already!

Unaware of my inner turmoil, Fuyuko-sama continued to talk with a smile.

“I’m very happy to have been able to speak with you so much today, Reika-sama.”

“Eh? You are?”

“Yes. I’ve always wanted to talk to you like this. I’m very happy right now.”

Well then I was happy to hear that.

I took another look at Fuyuko-sama who was still smiling brightly.

While I could do without being invited too deep into the occult world, at that moment I thought it would be nice if the two of us could grow a little closer.

“Also, it is said that the Zui’Ran Forest has a secret bomb shelter, you see, and…”

“Oh no…”

Please no more scary stories, if that’s okay.

Fuyuko-sama was elaborating when Kaburagi came over.

“Kisshouin, we need to talk.”

Again?

“My apologies but I am in the middle of speaking with Fuyuko-sama,” I deflected.

“My, Reika-sama, please pay me no mind. I was just about done with my tea, so it was about time I left anyhow,” said Fuyuko-sama with sparkles in her eyes.

She really was into this romantic gossip stuff. Aaah, what an unwanted show of consideration.

“Enjou-sama…”

“Shuusuke’s gone home.”

Damn that guy!

Yet again he was pushing the troubles onto me and running away!

Kuhh! And what was I to do with this pent up anger I had for Zui’ran’s two selfish idols?

Ah. Of course.

At the very least I had to harass him. Kaburagi could share in some of the terror I experienced.

“Did you know, Kaburagi-sama?” I began. “Apparently rapping noises can be heard from inside the walls of the old assembly hall. Fuyuko-sama has heard it herself. The truth is that inside the walls, the bodies of those who were sacrificed are…”

“Sounds from inside the walls?” he interrupted. “Sounds like the water hammer phenomenon. It’s because of the hydraulic shock inside the water pipes. Every time somebody flushes the toilet or runs the taps hard and suddenly turns it off, the running water has nowhere to go and makes a noise because of the pressure. It might be because of the old plumbing that it’s so noisy. You should put in a request to school maintenance.”

“But, the human-shaped stains…”

“And we’re even getting water leaks already? We need someone from maintenance on that, fast.”

“…”

“…”

────Later that day, maintenance on the old assembly hall was performed at Kaburagi’s request, and one of Zui’Ran’s Seven Mysteries disappeared.

Fuyuko-sama’s enthusiasm for the occult waned a little.

*

*

And so I found myself in the small meeting room with Kaburagi again.

Honestly, should I just start keeping snacks and a tea set in here?

“Yesterday’s trip to the supermarket was well worth it,” Kaburagi said approvingly.

“Is that so?” I responded blandly.

His Majesty the Emperor then regaled me with how the taste of the snacks he’d seized from me were to his satisfaction. I also found out that apparently the curse I laid with my Third Eye bore no fruit.

“But! The trouble is that even if I’ve mastered the use of supermarkets it isn’t suitable as the location for a date. I was thinking of inviting her somewhere this weekend. Any thoughts?”

“Eh-, this weekend!?” I exclaimed.

Besides handing over souvenirs to Kanta-kun and the kids, I already had plans to hang out with Wakaba-chan on Sunday.

“It is almost time for the mid-terms, you know? Would Takamichi-san not be busy studying for her exams?”

Kaburagi frowned.

Ever since we’d come back from the trip, Wakaba-chan was spending a lot of time with Fellow Stalking Horse in her capacity as a Student Council member. Apparently that was what was making Kaburagi antsy.

Mmm. I also saw the two of them walking together rather companionably down the hallway today.

“Takamichi-san is a scholarship student. Would she not be troubled if you invited her out before the exams? What if for the moment you obtain her agreement to go somewhere after the mid-terms? You would also have all that time to plan the date.”

“…”

He didn’t look convinced.

Well fine. I’d just unveil the fruits of the research I did.

Moriyama-san from cram school was happy enough to share with me popular date spots for high schoolers.

“Amusement parks, movies, karaoke, arcade centres, bowling…” he repeated. “The amusement park and cinemas aside, aren’t the others too boring for a date?”

“But that is where regular high schoolers go for their dates.”

“Hmmmm…”

Admittedly I couldn’t picture Kaburagi in a karaoke booth and going wild singing.

“Incidentally, have you ever been to karaoke before?”

“I hate it. I only listen to music played live.”

Was this guy supposed to be some rock star musician?

“A veto to karaoke then. From my investigation it seems like the amusement park is the most popular choice. People do love the rollercoasters and haunted houses.”

“My family’s group has some ownership of some amusement parks. I’ll see what I can do.”

“…If you are planning on reserving the whole park, please do not.”

An amusement park with nobody in it was like a genre shift to horror.

Worse, the two of them riding a rollercoaster in the dead silence of the park was a different sort of horror.

“With what we just discussed as a reference, what do you think about preparing until the exams are over?”

“…Fine. I’ll think about it.”

“One other thing, please go to your best friend Enjou-sama for advice, not me. I have no doubts he would welcome the discussion.”

“Fine.”

“Ah, and from now on please stop turning up unannounced at Takamichi-san’s house without prior arrangement. It is not very considerate.”

“…Fine.”

Now then, I supposed that was my mission for today complete. Next I needed to hurry home and start studying.

I wanted to tell Kaburagi, still standing there and thinking about date locations, to stop daydreaming about romance and get to studying too. Of course, if I could remove even a single competitor it would be worthwhile, so I kept my mouth shut.

I will be heading home first then. Gokigen’yoh, Kaburagi-sama.

*

*

The lights were off.

I was already in bed when a thought occurred to me.

Poking my left hand out from under the covers, I held it aloft in the darkness and stared at my finger.

Third Eye, Awaken.

I couldn’t see my aura.


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Kenkyo Kenjitsu: The Reika-sama Chronicles 234

Everybody, please check the FAQ first before asking me questions.
If it’s not on there, please feel free and ask.!


Join the Evil God Army on discord!
https://discord.gg/0uufyDAsTZXQaMz1


Please contribute: http://kenkyokenjitsu.wikia.com

Also, thank you to Starcakez, Passerbyc, and the others editing the wiki!


I hate Costing. I intend to start translating again, but as you know, my plans rarely mean anything.


Since Kaburagi wanted to see a commoner’s supermarket I decided to pick a place far away, where the likelihood of bumping into someone from Zui’ran was nil.

We stepped through the automatic doors with a shopping basket. Kaburagi looked at our basket, and then looked at the other customers in the shop.

“We’re not using one of those?” He pointed at a shopping trolley.

“We are not buying anything bulky or heavy and have no need for one,” I explained.

He hummed in thought.

Although you couldn’t tell from his expression, I could sense some dissatisfaction in that sound.

Had he wanted to use a trolley? Damned child.

Stop staring at the customers who are using one.

“Well then, shall we head to the food aisles?”

I guided him further into the shop.

“See this?” I pointed. “Are the drinks here not cheaper than in a convenience store? Buying sweets are by far more economical in a supermarket as well.”

“Hmmm.”

He seemed a little lost.

…I bet the problem was that he’d never looked at a price tag before.

Suddenly, from the side, somebody held a small plastic cup out in front of Kaburagi.

“We have a new vegetable juice on sale~ Would you like a try~?”

Kaburagi looked at the young woman like she was crazy and started to frown. Oh crap…

I tugged him out of the way by the elbow.

“My, this seems delicious~” I said, taking the cup and drinking it.

“Wow, that was incredible. There was no bitterness to it at all,” I shilled and took a bottle of it. Then, with a smile, I left the place while pulling Kaburagi along.

“…What just happened?”

“That was a product demonstration. They hand out samples of food and drinks in order to encourage purchases. So just because they suddenly speak to you is not a reason to take an attitude with them!”

“Hmmmm.”

Did this guy really understand?

Just whose fault was it that I was now buying some vegetable juice I didn’t even want?

Oho? I smell something good cooking.

I was actually planning to buy some side dishes for a snack tonight, but I guess that’s out since I’m stuck here with Kaburagi.

Ahh~ That yakisoba looks nice though.

Maybe I ought to buy a microwave for my room. But then what kind of young miss would have a microwave in her room? That’d be weird, right?

Wha-, hey! Kaburagi!

Kaburagi was curiously wandering here and there, so I couldn’t even take an eye off him!

When I quickly went after him I found him caught by someone trying to sell ham steaks.

Let me explain to you exactly what I was looking at.

There’s a high school boy with an dignified and handsome face, and not the type you’d ever find in this part of town. In front of him is a middle aged lady cooking up pieces of ham like she’s ready to give them all to him, saying,

“Come on, mister! Eat up, eat up! This ham steak comes with a special sauce, so all you’ve gotta do is grill it up like this and it’s ready to eat.”

“Hmmm.”

Ah, he ate it.

“How is it, mister? Delicious, right~?”

“…Not too bad.”

Uuu, it was hard walking away without buying something after having a sample!

In place of Kaburagi who got talked into trying some food, I was the one who had to grab one of the vacuum-packed ham steaks.

At least give me some to try too…

After that Kaburagi was stopped by someone selling a season limited jam, someone selling yoghurt good for your digestive system, someone selling freshly baked garlic bread, and each time I ended up with more and more unnecessary additions to my shopping basket.

“Product samples, huh? So this sort of thing existed too,” he murmured admiringly between chewing his garlic bread.

“If it is product sampling you are looking for then department stores do so on their basement floors. It is not exclusive to supermarkets.”

It was just something I happened to mention in passing, but the next thing I knew Kaburagi was muttering “Department store…” to himself. Ah, I’d done it now…

“All right then. Next time we’re going to the basement floor of a department store-”

I cut him off and began tugging him.

“Oh my! Look! That, there, is the sweets corner~ There should be plenty of chocolate: your favourite~”

If I let him finish that sentence just now it would have been a real crisis.

Hmm, since I was here anyway, maybe I ought to buy some sweets and then head home. Oh! Lucky Turns were on special!

I put two packets into my shopping basket.

“You’re buying two?”

“This is the lowest I have ever seen it, so I am buying some extras.”

Maybe I could buy one more?

Oh dear, but these fried rice crackers were quite a steal too. Into the basket they go.

Mmmn, and what about these biscuits with cream between them. After all, the slightly bitter chocolate-flavoured biscuits just went so well with the flavour of milk!

Yeah, I’d just buy them all!

“…You look really practised. So you come here often?”

“Yes. For market research and the like. I am an advocate for getting your own hands dirty when it comes to these things.”

While I was shopping about for more sweets, Kaburagi wordlessly took the shopping basket off my hands.

“Eh…?”

“I’ll hold it for you.”

It actually occurred to the Emperor to hold someone else’s things!

Kaburagi, the guy with no consideration whatsoever, the guy who unhesitatingly used a frail girl (that’s me by the way) as his gopher, had noticed that I was carrying a heavy basket and decided to hold it himself.

Did anyone foresee a day such as this!?

Wow. Humans really never stopped improving themselves.

Still, if we wanted to be technical about this, normally you’d offer right after entering the store, huh~

While I was lost in the feeling of watching my unworthy disciple grow up, the boy himself had already walked off quite a distance. With the basket.

Waah-! And now he was throwing whatever caught his fancy into it!

A fish-shaped kitchen sponge? What dishes do you even clean!?

And what are you going to do with that mapo tofu marinade!

Put everything back right now!

This is exactly why I didn’t want a shopping trolley!

I took the shopping basket back.

“What’s that?” he suddenly asked.

Ah, the cup ramen section.

I glanced at the prices and just kept going. These noodles could still go cheaper.

The next area that drew his attention was the crowded fresh foods section. They were giving out melon samples here.

Spot the handsome young man behind the crowd of housewives, the staff member who was handing them out passed a toothpick with a sample on it to Kaburagi.

Not this again…

I was pretty much resigned by now.

“I’ve never seen this kind of melon before,” he muttered as he looked at the mountain of melons.

“It’s an Andes Melon, known for being sweet.” And cheap, a friend to commoners everywhere, I left out.

“Oh?”

The big sucker that he was, Kaburagi nodded thoughtfully as he tried a piece of it.

I sighed. While Kaburagi was enjoying himself again I picked out a pack of melon bites and put it into the shopping basket.

Aah, we’d have to finish the fresh food today…

After making a round of the store Kaburagi seemed more or less satisfied, so it was time to head for the counter. I was buying more than I’d planned…

While we were waiting in line I pulled out my points card. Kaburagi noticed and asked me about it.

“This is a points card for this supermarket. For every 100 Yen you spend, you receive a point in return. On occasion there are days when they give out five times the points too.”

“Hmmm.”

It was eventually our turn, so I was about to pay when Kaburagi stopped me from the side.

“It’s fine. I’ll pay.”

“Will you? Well then, I will pay you back later.”

“It’s fine.”

“Eh? But…”

“It’s thanks for coming here with me.”

Kaburagi flashed a quick smile, which had the girl manning the register flushing.

He didn’t seem likely to change his mind about it, so I decided to just accept his thanks this time.

“So let me have this.”

Those were my Lucky Turns! Mention that part beforehand!

I placed the shopping basket next to the counter and began stuffing our purchases into the grocery bags there.

“Do we pack the bags ourselves?”

“Yes. Supermarkets like these implement this sort of system in order to speed the process up.”

Kaburagi hummed in thought at that. After watching me work for a while though, he told me that he’d do it instead.

I guess it’s like how pre-schoolers like to play shop, huh?

I watched as he emptied out the bag I’d just filled and began methodically packing the heaviest items first, and then neatly putting the softer items on top.

“How conscientious of you~”

“You’re just too carefree. Look here. The bread is a little flat because of you.”

“…”

Kaburagi took the lion’s share of the snacks I’d picked out for myself. Oi! If you’re going to do that then take back this vegetable juice with you too!

What “I only drink freshly made”!

At least I managed to force the yoghurt into his bag. It was something else that he bought after having his interest sparked by samples. I figured he could probably do with it anyhow, since the curse I placed on him with my Third Eye back in the Handicrafts Club had to be reaching his intestines by now.

When we left the supermarket my sense of smell detected an anomaly. In the parking lot next to the supermarket was a smoking yakitori stall!

No, Reika. Kaburagi is with you right now. You mustn’t buy it. You mustn’t…!

“Mister~ I’d like the negima please!” I smiled widely, having run straight up to the yakitori stall.

“Coming right up! How many skewers do you want?”

Negima is a type of yakitori (grilled chicken) skewer that features spring onion and chicken meat.

I was firmly in the negima camp when it came to yakitori.

Naturally I’d order both salt-seasoned and sauce-seasoned. But then wouldn’t it be rude of me if I only ordered one each? In that case~

“Give me five of each, mister!”

“That’s five of each, so ten in total, coming right up!”

Uhuhu, they looked delicious. I watched him put the skewers into a paper bag.

“You’re a gorgeous little missy, so I’ve included an extra skewer of each for you.”

“Ehhh~!? You shouldn’t have! Thank you, mister! You’re the best!”

I took out the freebie and beamed as I waved him goodbye and left.

“I love you, mister! Thanks so much!”

Man, what a steal, what a steal.

Is this what they mean when they talk about the kindness of regular folks? Gosh, I wanted to start eating already.

“Oi…”

Geh! Kaburagi. Thanks to the allure of the yakitori I’d forgotten he was there for a moment.

“…What the hell did I just see?”

“…Whatever do you mean?” I tried.

“It’s like you turned into some whole other person. You said ‘I love you, mister’, what was that?”

“Why, learning to adapt yourself to the people here is just one part of what composes fieldwork, Kaburagi-sama.”

After my previous display Kaburagi looked at me like I was some strange creature.

Well, if it was for delicious yakitori I’d go any number of extra miles to appear friendly.

“…Kaburagi-sama, would you like some yakitori?”

“I would.”

There was a bench off to the side so we ate the yakitori there.

“This is pretty good.”

“Right? Have one of the sauce-flavoured ones.”

“Cheers. I’m getting a bit parched though.”

“Would you like some vegetable juice?”

“…I’m good. I’ll grab some tea from that vending machine. You want anything?”

“Then a tea for me as well.”

Thanks to the freebies I earned with my friendliness we ended up having six each, and when we finished that marked the end of our outing.

*

*

That night I received a rather cheerful message from Kaburagi.

‘That trip to the supermarket was genuinely fruitful. It was my first time trying cheap sweets too. Interesting flavour. I wanna try a different supermarket next time.’

I read the text in my room as I ate bread and ham and melon in between gulps of vegetable juice.

That lady was right. This roast ham really was good cold.

That night I woke up to my stomach disagreeing with me. Aaah, my curse had come back to roost…!


“It’s an Andes Melon, known for being sweet.” And cheap, a friend to commoners everywhere, I left out.


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Kenkyo Kenjitsu: The Reika-sama Chronicles 233

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Everything keeps breaking at work, but that’s okay. Only three weeks left until the holidays.

Come at me, fucking dickhead RPC shitcunt program!


And thus the idyllic scenery of lambs grazing in the sun was suddenly intruded upon by the fearsome black beast Mary──

As the sheepdog I was charged with protecting these lambs but before this creature’s savage gaze there was nothing I could do but cower.

Wait, no- wasn’t I supposed to be a lamb as well?

Ahem. The herd of harmless lambs (also known as the Handicrafts Club) was lost to panic and fear at the Zui’ran Emperor’s sudden appearance.

The little first years who had until a moment ago been praising this same Emperor were now petrified, wide-eyed, mouth agape.

Kaburagi spotted me and boomed, “Kisshouin! Didn’t I tell you yesterday to stop ignoring my messages!”

“Oh my, welcome to our humble club room, Kaburagi-sama. You must forgive me. Your messages only just arrived,” I replied with a feigned smile to try to protect my trembling lambs.

“How many times do I have to say it? You have a mobile phone for a reason.”

That’s what I want to ask. How many times do I have to say that you have to consider the other party too.

“Let’s go,” he said, apparently not even considering that I might refuse.

I put on my most apologetic expression as I bowed to him.

“I do feel terrible that you have come all this way, but I am afraid I am in the middle of some handicrafts. Unfortunately I will be unable to accompany you on this day.”

“…Handicrafts?” he asked.

“Yes. As you can see, this is the Handicrafts Club, and I am participating in club activities. I am also the President and therefore it would be inappropriate to leave on a whim.”

How’s that!

If you think it’s always going to go your way then you’ve got another thing coming, buddy. The world doesn’t revolve around you!

Unfortunately I was betrayed by my allies.

“Reika-sama, if you have business with Kaburagi-sama then would it not be better if you left?” said my Vice President, selling me out. “I will take responsibility for looking after the club in your absence.”

Next, all the other club members started chiming in too.

“She’s right, Reika-senpai.”

“Please don’t feel like you need to stay because of us.”

They were blatantly washing their hands of me…

The Emperor was alone right now so by all accounts this was their perfect chance to get close to him. So how come my club was filled with girls who would rather choose peace than take their chances?

I wouldn’t give in so easily though.

“I am afraid not. I myself am in the middle of something and it would hardly do to abandon this midway. My apologies, Kaburagi-sama.”

Hehe. How’s that?

I held out the proof in my hand like an imperial seal.

“What are you doing?”

“My kouhai wanted to make a bead and lace hair accessory for her pet so, so I am helping her with that.”

And with that I also got to casually flaunt having underclassmen. Ho ho ho.

“A hair accessory for a pet dog…?” he muttered before narrowing his eyes.

Chairs fell over and pencils clattered to the floor as Kaburagi stalked over to the 1st Years’ panic.

“…Where is it?”

“Hah?”

Kaburagi’s expression grew ever stormier at my lack of comprehension.

He stopped at our desk, and looked down at our work and took Natori-san’s beaded lace into his hands.

After examining the design documents and snorting, he sat down on the chair I had been using until recently.

“Give,” he demanded.

“Hah?”

I looked at his outstretched hand.

Don’t tell me…

Losing his patience with me, Kaburagi simply took the shuttle from me, lazily crossed his long legs, and then began nonchalantly knitting!

The Zui’ran Emperor was sitting there, knitting.

The sight of it was so surreal that the entire room was silent except for the loud ticking of the clock.

“You messed up this stitch here,” he commented.

“…It was too much work to redo it, so it was better to leave it,” I contended.

“Tsk, are you for real? And you’ve tangled the thread here.”

“…I am very sorry.”

And thus the Club President’s inadequacies were exposed for all the club to see.

How humiliating!

I had to keep myself from trembling in embarrassment.

Unforgivable.

I glared at my sworn enemy, and tried to crush his hair whorl with the power of my gaze.

Third Eye, Awaken!

Damned Kaburagi, I hope you’re stuck in the toilet suffering from the runs!

But he must have sensed something because suddenly he turned his head and gave me a sidelong glance.

“…What?”

“Nothing, nothing.”

Third Eye, Deactivate.

I watched Kaburagi easily undo a knot and smoothly continue knitting. Maybe he’d found the trick to it or something because he wasn’t even looking at the design sheet anymore.

“You are very skilled… Have you laced before?”

“As if. If you just do what the instructions tell you to, anyone can do it.”

He was taking all my effort for a joke.

Third Eye, Awa-… Wah! He glared at me!

How’d he notice?

“Kisshouin.”

“Yes…”

“Don’t stand behind me.”

Are you some kind of hitman?

While everybody in the room held their breath and watched him work, Kaburagi let out a small sigh and looked up at me.

“Done.”

In his hands was a little beaded lace flower, the result of his fluent and confident knitting.

It was carelessly tossed over to me, so I examined its handiwork.

Flawless.

Already I could hear my club members sighing in amazement.

“In so short a time..”

“As expected of Kaburagi-sama.”

I hated to admit it but it was a much better job than I had been doing.

I took Natori-san’s hand and placed the completed product on it.

“Eh…!?”

Her eyes were wide teary in disbelief and she shook her head at me, but I simply smiled fondly at her and shook my head in return.

After watching out silent exchange for a bit, Kaburagi came over and took it from her hand.

Pointing here and there he said,

“The crooked bits here where the wrong holes were used are her work,” Kaburagi jerked his thumb at me, destroying any remaining face that I had left as the Club President.

Absolutely unforgivable…!

While he wasn’t looking I’d slip the smallest bead into his shoes. Suffer the discomfort as you walk!

Natori-san reverently received the beaded lace flower from her Emperor.

She was now in possession of beaded lace knitted by the Emperor of Zui’ran himself, handed to her directly while speaking to her directly.

Even without the little tricks we came up with, Natori-san would definitely be the centre of attention for tomorrow──

*

*

“Right. Time to go to the supermarket,” Kaburagi announced.

This was what he had dragged me to the classroom to say.

I confirmed that the surroundings were clear of witnesses before I began my counter-attack with a smile.

“How many times must I say it before you understand that I have my own considerations? My schedule is simply filled after this, so I cannot accompany you.”

“What? You’re not gunna say that you have cram school or something, right?”

“Oh no. I have an appointment with my personal tutor today.”

What the heck is that look for?

How about you stop messing around so much and go study for a change?

The mid-terms are coming up, you know.

I opened my bag and retrieved the supermarket flyers I printed out last night.

“Here.”

“…What’s this?” he asked.

“Supermarket flyers. This should be enough for your purposes. Now then, take these, go shopping, and educate yourself.”

He took them from my hand and began studying them with great interest.

“Meat day… Fish day…?” he muttered to himself in thought.

Righto.

“Well then, please excuse me,” I said, and made use of his distraction to escape.

“…Just now I saw some baked goods in your bag,” he muttered.

I stood stock still.

“Those were from the Pivoine, weren’t they?”

“…”

It wasn’t as if there was a rule about bringing the snacks home with you or anything.

…I did still feel a little guilty though.

“Kisshouin.”

“…Kaburagi-sama, please allow me to accompany you on this trip.”

The President of the Pivoine smirked at me.

What an odious character. Mine, that is!

Damn my hateful gluttony!

Why did you have to bring some back with you, Reika!?

And why did you have to let him see them, Reika!?

Just barely managing to hide this complicated sense of defeat, I forced myself to change gears and began thinking about my trip to the supermarket.

On the one hand it made the most sense to take him to the luxury supermarkets in upscale areas like Hiroo or Aoyama.

Aaah, but then on the other hand, that would also make it that much more likely to bump into people we know, huh…

“What’s wrong?”

“Ah, I was simply wondering which store to visit…”

Taking my words at face value, Kaburagi took out one flyer from the stack and held it out to me.

“This one.”

I took a skim of its contents.

‘A bargain every day!’

‘Frozen products, half off!’

Basically it was promoting a discount supermarket for commoners. It was from a totally different world to him.

“Might I ask why this one in particular?” I inquired.

“Of the pamphlets you gave me, this one was the most enthusiastic in trying to sell things to me.”

“I see.”

Well, this one was far away, and the chances of anyone I knew spotting me was pretty much zero, I guess.

Haaah. What a bother…

“Haah…”

“What?” he demanded.

I hadn’t meant to do that aloud.

“Ah, nothing… By the way, I am surprised you knew to find me in the Handicrafts Club.”

“Oh, that? I asked some of your friends who were in the salon.”

“Friends?”

Hmmmmm.

Could it have been Fuyuko-sama?

“She told me that you two had been chatting but you had to leave for your club activities. Then she told me it was the Handicrafts Club and where to find it too.”

Fuyuko-sama, did you have to go out of your way…?

But I hadn’t realised that she knew I was in that club either.

We were in the same social circle but Fuyuko-sama always seemed lost in her own world. I’d never really seen her looking particularly close to anyone, myself included, so I assumed she hadn’t had much interest in us.

I suddenly found myself thinking about Natori-san’s situation.

Fuyuko-sama was a Pivoine student from primary school, and you could say she was part of the largest clique. In that sense she was as far from Natori-san as you could get, but…

Fuyuko-sama had come over to talk to me because she noticed I seemed to be worrying about something. I thought back to how happily she suggested using the ouija board together…

She always sits with our group but never starts a conversation on her own, just smiling in her dreamy way.

Because of that I figured that was just who she was, but maybe she actually wanted to talk more with us, but just couldn’t get the timing right.

At the very least she must have wanted to get to know me better, or she wouldn’t have tried so hard to start a conversation with me.

Well, this was just my conjecture though.

Still, if there was a chance it was true, then what I did earlier was rather cold, huh?

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing…”

I decided to strike up a conversation with her tomorrow.

…About anything other than the occult.

“Oi, Kisshouin! We don’t have time for this. Let’s go!”

“Okaaaay…”

“What kind of answer is that!? Show me some spirit!”

But first I had to deal with my current problem.


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Kenkyo Kenjitsu: The Reika-sama Chronicles 232

Everybody, please check the FAQ first before asking me questions.
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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.

Wonderful, wonderful.

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.

“W-We understand!”

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.”

“We understand…”

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?”

“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?”

“Eh!?”

“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.

A shuttle is a tool designed to neatly and compactly store a holder that carries the thread of the weft yarn while weaving with a loom.

“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!”

“Ehh!?”

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.

“No… Umm…”

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…”

“Aah~”

Of course.

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.”

“Huh…”

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?”

“…Yes.”

They all gave me meek nods.

I see.

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.”

Oh. Really?

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――!

 


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