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Chocolat (French pronunciation: [ʃɔkɔla]) is a 2000 romantic-drama film based on the 1999 novel Chocolat by the English author, Joanne Harris. It was directed by Lasse Hallström. Adapted by screenwriter Robert Nelson Jacobs, Chocolat tells the story of Vianne Rocher, played by Juliette Binoche, who arrives in the fictional French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent with her six-year-old daughter, Anouk. She opens a small chocolaterie. Soon, she and her chocolate influence the lives of the townspeople of this repressed French community in different and interesting ways.
It was a Monday.
The mid-terms were right around the corner, so every second was precious for our year.
And yet here I was, reading another blunt summons from Kaburagi.
‘Small meeting room after school.’
Why the heck was I being treated like some doormat? Do you truly believe that this lady is such an easy woman!?
When I stepped into the room, Kaburagi was already there, poring through some magazines with a frown.
This guy was treating this place like his bedroom now.
He jerked his head towards a seat.
“Well? Sit down,” he said self-importantly.
I couldn’t stand it and voiced a complaint.
“…Kaburagi-sama, I am busy as well. How many times must I say this before you understand?”
“I’m going somewhere with Takamichi after the tests are over, hence the planning I’m doing.”
So you’re ignoring me now?
“…But I am sure you said you would think about it after the tests.”
“That’s too long. No matter what you’re doing, it’s always crucial to plan and prepare well beforehand.”
Since Wakaba-chan agreed to a date when he went over during that weekend, I suppose he just couldn’t hold it in anymore.
…Study for your exams, damnit.
The results for this year would affect whether you could continue on to Pivoine’s university, you know? Geez…
And on that topic, I was in the middle of coming up with an English vocabulary notebook with the colourful and lovely stationery I bought in Rome.
The comments I was adding to the answer sheets were colour-coded so it was taking a while. Still, it was quite stylish to behold, if I did say so myself.
Aahh, I need to quickly go home and continue it. This isn’t the time to be messing about here.
“Would it not be fine to talk to some other human being about your love troubles? For example, your friend…?”
With a gasp, I slapped a hand over my mouth.
“Could it be that you actually have no frien-”
“I’ll destroy you.”
It was like he had little fires in his eyes! He’s going to destroy meeee!
I went a little overboard. I’m sorry. So sorry.
Gosh, people really do get angry when you confront them with the truth.
I glanced at the magazines he’d been reading.
Not one of them was a magazine I’d ever expect him to read; they were basically all gossip magazines for regular people, focused on trendy places or the latest fads.
In a sense, the fact that he was trying to match Wakaba-chan and read these to find out was proof of a little growth on his part.
That said, I wasn’t sure about the fact that the content was stuff like ‘Special! Dirt Cheap Ramen Eats for Foodies’… Don’t just walk into the store and buy every magazine you can see, Kaburagi.
Even back issues are fine, as long as they recommend good amusement parks or date spots, right? What are you going to do with these?
Oh ho? Is that okonomiyaki on that cover?
Let me have a look at that.
For the next few seconds I went silent and read.
“…Have you ever eaten ramen before, Kisshouin?”
“More foolish questions, I see.”
Who did he think he was talking to?
Gosh, I could go for some pork okonomiyaki right now. Ah, but seafood okonomiyaki was great toooo. Hmmm, maybe prawns, squid, and scallops…?
“I’ve never eaten at a ramen place like this, but it seems pretty popular.”
Crunchy potato sounded yummy too…
“I can’t comprehend the feeling of wanting to eat ramen so badly that you’d line up. The average place has you waiting for an hour.”
But of course you just had to have a monjayaki before leaving.
Aahhh, I could really go for a cheese monjayaki.
“Honestly it makes me wonder if they’re really that good.”
“Oi, have you been listening to a word I’ve said!?”
“Of course. I am all ears.”
It does, it does.
Kaburagi clicked his tongue.
“…Well? What is it you’ve been reading about that’s had you ignoring me this whole time?” Kaburagi moved to my side and had a look over my shoulder.
What the heck~ Don’t look~
“The hell? Okonomiyaki? Pass that here and give me a look.”
I was reading that first!
Apparently it was okonomiyaki that interested him now, because he took my magazine and started reading it himself!
“Have you ever tried okonomiyaki before, Kaburagi-sama?”
“I have, actually. I was overseas, and there was a branch of one of our okonomiyaki shops.”
Why would you go overseas to…?
Well, I suppose being fair it wasn’t as though the son of the distinguished Kaburagi family would have a chance to eat commoner food like okonomiyaki or ramen.
It wasn’t like I’d ever eaten okonomiyaki with my family either.
I’d been forced to secure my own supply through visiting street vendors.
At any rate, that was how I ended up giving Kaburagi a food lecture. I’d covered the war between the Light Broth Ramen gang and the Thick Broth Ramen clan and was in the middle of explaining the intricacies of okonomiyaki toppings when the door to the meeting room opened.
It was Enjou behind it.
“So this is where you were. What are the two of you doing together?” he asked.
“I’m coming up with a date plan for Takamichi,” Kaburagi explained.
Oh, come to think of it that was what we came here for.
My mind was entranced by okonomiyaki and I forgot all about it.
Enjou hummed. “I see.”
He scanned the magazines spread across the table, and read the titles one by one.
“‘Ramen So Good You’ll Pay to Line Up!’
“‘Cheap Eats for Foodies: A Comprehensive Study!’
“‘Cities You’d Most Want to Live In!’…”
Kaburagi and I were silent.
“‘Date plan’?” Enjou asked.
Enough already, Enjou.
Even the guy who brought that magazine is starting to get how ridiculous he was. Just look at his expression! Doesn’t that look like a man who just had his mistakes pointed out?
“U-Umm, oh look! A number of couples have submitted where they went for their dates.”
Kind person that I was, I changed the topic after finding something suitable on one of the magazines.
Kaburagi began reading with interest.
“What if you did as the couples in the magazine did? Meet up with her first, see a film, and then go to a café or out for lunch?”
“A film, huh?”
“That is what anyone thinks of for a date. See? Look at the ‘lovebird students’ column: ‘Going to the movies is great because you can go to a café afterwards and have fun talking about it!’.”
“I see. That might be good.”
Enthused with the idea, Kaburagi began checking which films were showing. Conveniently there were even recommendations for dates.
“Do you often watch films, Kaburagi-sama?” I asked.
“Yeah, I like them.”
Wasn’t this perfect then?
“Any genre in particular?”
“Hmm, I enjoy documentaries that follows an animal in its natural habitat. The magnificence of animals overcoming Mother Nature’s brutal trails is overwhelming. I often watch them at home for a change of pace.”
So Kaburagi was into nature documentaries. I guess it did suit him.
“But it does not look like any such documentaries are showing in cinemas at the moment.”
“No. Right now the most popular showing is this romance film.”
I began reading the summary of the movie he mentioned.
“Do you even watch romantic films, Krabugi-sama?”
Before Kaburagi could answer, Enjou cut in. “Contrary to appearances, Masaya likes love stories too.”
“My, is that so?” I asked.
“It’s true. He’s a romantic. Also rather than love comedies, he’s the type that prefers the traditional romances; the ones where the couple overcome setbacks together and live happily ever after.”
Maybe he was embarrassed about having that fact exposed, but Kaburagi didn’t look very happy right now.
“That makes this film perfect then, would you not agree? The forbidden love between a stranger in an insular village, and a young girl who lives there. I wonder if it is like Chocolat.”
“I liked Chocolat too. That was less of a romance and more of a drama film though.”
I see. So the boy who liked calling chocolate ‘chocolat’ also liked Chocolat the film. Since I was a person who called chocolat ‘chocolate’ I liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
But geez. So boys liked romances too, huh~?
“Could it be that you actually also watch romances, Enjou-sama?” I asked the boy who had been watching me and Kaburagi with a faint smile.
“Me? Gee, I’ve hardly seen any. To be honest I’m not sure what’s so interesting about them,” Enjou admitted. “Romances aren’t something you watch; it’s something you experience, right?”
The two of us turned to stone at his words.
“H-Hohoho. I see. Then what kind of films do you like to watch, Enjou-sama?”
“I like the classics. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The Tin Drum. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her…”
A horror film, a war film, and a crime drama.
…You could see glimpses of the type of person he was through his tastes.
I took a few steps away from him in my mind.
At any rate, Kaburagi and I looked through the magazine and hammered out the details for his date plan. I guess Enjou must have been bored or something because he grabbed the nearest magazine and indifferently skimmed through it too.
“Well, doing things this way isn’t exactly bad but…” I think was what he muttered.
“What was that, Shuusuke?”
“Hm? Ah, well, following a date course like this is fine and all, but I was just wondering if you’d really make a girl happy by doing so.”
Kaburagi and I glanced at each other.
“What do you mean?”
“Since you’re inviting a girl out, shouldn’t you be more focused on what she would find fun? In that case rather than following some stranger’s date plan to the letter, wouldn’t she have more fun if you tailored one to her own interests?”
He continued. “Even if you read these magazines front to cover, in the end you won’t find Takamichi-san’s opinion in there.”
…I see. Well, that’s what the experienced Chief of the Fulfilling Romance village says. What are you going to do, Kaburagi?
Kaburagi put down the magazine.
“Don’t just rely on manuals, Kisshouin.”
Wow, what a barefaced betrayal…!
What a guy.
He threw all of the the shame of relying on instructions onto me, and then had the gall to look like he was with Enjou’s camp all along! He was the one who brought these magazines!
He was the one who wanted a manual in the first place!
Wasn’t this making it out like I some unpopular kid who was the only one in the room without dating experience now!?
I’ve been on plenty of dates! Younger males, older males, you name ittt!
I was so angry that I decided to take some magazines as compensation.
I made a show of putting them in my bag. From his expression, Kaburagi seemed to have realised his miscalculation, but who cared about him?
If he was going to say all that, then perhaps this poor village chief――who was so devoid of imagination that she couldn’t come up with her own date plans――would like to know what the villagers of Fulfilling Romance would do.
“For reference I sure would be interested in hearing about the dates you have come up with yourself, Enjou-sama.”
If your plans are boring just watch how I sneer at you!
Enjou smiled pleasantly back.
“I wonder if anything I say would be useful as a reference. I’ve rarely been on a date where I did the inviting.”
God in Heaven! Please punish the Fulfilling Romance village with an ice age! Please turn their land of eternal spring into a frozen waste!
“Goodness, hohoho. Are you sure it is not because anybody you invited refused you the time of day?”
Enjou’s smile grew wider.
“Since the day I was born, not once have I been rejected.”
Off to Enjou’s side, His Majesty the Emperor was brutally punching some invisible foe.
That night, I received another bothersome message.
‘After the tests, take me for ramen and okonomiyaki.’
So I deleted it.
Accidentally turning on the stream too early.
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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.”
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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.
“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?
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.”
“What is it?”
“Why don’t you head out after lunch?”
“No, I’m heading there now. …I’m not a very patient man.”
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.”
“Long day today?”
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?”
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.”
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.
That expression was exactly the same as the one Wakaba had seen in high school, five years ago.
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.
“…That’s nothing to worry about. Answer my question.”
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.
Putting both of her hands on her chest, she entreatingly appealed to Wakaba.
“I beg you. Please let me remain here.”
“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.
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.
“It was a bit soon, but I went and listened to Haru Katsuragi’s story yesterday.”
“I had to accept his request to search for Reika Kisshouin.”
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.”
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?”
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’.”
“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?”
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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Today was my long awaited visit to Wakaba-chan’s.
As usual she had come out of her way to meet me at the station.
“Over here, Kisshouin-saaaaan!”
“Wakaba-chan! I’m here!”
I passed through the ticket barriers and trotted over to her.
“I do apologise for imposing on you right before the mid-semesters.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I’ve been waiting for you to come over again!”
We exchanged a grin.
Wakaba-chan had her fringe pinned up today. Whoa, was this a challenge to the Rococo Queen!?
“Your forehead is out on display today,” I noted.
“Mmn. My fringe has been getting a little long, so I thought I’d pin it up today.”
“It looks cute.” I casually played with my hair to bring attention to the curls.
The Rococo throne belonged to me alone!
The weather was pleasantly sunny today, so we chatted as we enjoyed a stroll back to her house.
“It feels like some time since we’ve just had a chat like this,” I realised.
“It does, doesn’t it? We had the class trip too.”
While I did catch a few glimpses of her on the trip, with all the other people around we hadn’t had a chance to just be ourselves and hang out.
“How did you find the trip?” I asked.
“It was crazy fun!”
Her eyes lit up as she began telling me about how she just had to see the British Museum, about how she saw a cat mummy, about how exciting it was to behold the mysteries of the Rosetta Stone, and other like stories. One by one she enthusiastically went through her impressions of the displays there.
Come to think of it, I had spotted her there with Fellow Stalking Horse.
“You know, I think I do recall catching sight of you and Mizusaki-kun,” I noted.
“Yeah, we went together,” she said. “Mizusaki-kun said he’d been before, so it was a great help to have him guide me.”
“Yeah. And man, the desserts I tried in Paris were delicious… And wow, the tiramisu in Rome! And the gelato from this shop near the Piazza di Spagna!”
Ahh yes, part of the walking tour of Roman desserts with Kaburagi.
“Kaburagi-sama was your guide for Rome, no?”
“Yup. We didn’t just visit the places I wanted to try. Kaburagi-kun introduced me to a whole lot of other places too!” she related.
I watched her happily count on her fingers as she told me about each of the delicious sweets in Paris and Rome.
Hmm. So in Britain, a tour of the British Museum with Fellow Stalking Horse, and in France and Italy a dessert tour with Kaburagi then?
…This was shaping up to be a class trip with quite a few romantic encounters for her, wasn’t it?
Spending your free hours with boys―that was making the most of a co-ed school, right there.
I mean, there were rumours about me having cake or going shopping with Kaburagi and Enjou, but unlike those nonsense rumours Wakaba-chan was living the real thing.
Uuuh, stop it, Reika! She’s your friend! She’s your treasured friend!
But I couldn’t help it! The jealousy, and the envy in my petty little heart were too much for me control!
It sounded so nice! It sounded so nice!
I was already in a co-ed school, so I wanted to make nice memories too.
I wanted to have gelato with a boy, and go sightseeing with him, just like Wakaba-chan…
So why had my high school life turned out like this!?
We were definitely attending the same school, so why!
The dark swamp in the heart of the Forever Alone Village was beginning to stir, from it bubbled a cursed miasma.
“Hmm? Is something wrong, Kisshouin-san?”
“Eh? What do you mean?”
“Ah, well, you were just frowning really hard just now. And uh, your expression was a bit…”
Crap, did all that show in my expression?
“I’m sorry. I was trying not to sneeze. I think there was some pollen.”
I took out a handkerchief from my bag and made a show of dabbing at my nose.
“Ah, is that what happened? I guess we’re not quite done with that season yet. Are you okay?”
Wakaba-chan was showing genuine concern over my half-baked excuses.
I apologised to her in my head and reflected. Wasn’t being a true friend about being able to celebrate their joys like your own?
Sorry, Wakaba-chan. I’ll purify the swamp in my heart.
“I’m fine. Continue? It seems like you’ve had quite a bit of fun with that sweets tour you were planning.”
“Yeah! You know, I actually did quite a bit of research with a guidebook and all that, but Kaburagi-kun just knew so many places that weren’t even in there,” she said. “He introduced me to so many places. Man, people who are well-travelled are something else, huh~? Every place he took me to was delicious!”
Given how many times he’d been to Europe since he was a kid, he knew where all the good shops were. Kaburagi really did make the perfect guide.
“But it wasn’t just taking me around. He’d also point out little tidbits, like that this store was in this or that film, or how this chocolatier chain didn’t have a branch in Japan yet.”
“I see. That was nice of him.”
With the library date, and all the time they spent together in the Student Council, it was starting to feel like Kaburagi was losing the lead to Fellow Stalking Horse. But apparently Kaburagi had a secret weapon in the form of a sweet tooth because after just this one trip he was back in the game.
“Did you go anywhere else?” I asked.
“Hmmm, well you see, in Rome I went with some friends to a supermarket near Roma Termini and bought a bunch of sweets. They were selling all these products that import grocery stores in Japan sell!”
Oh, a supermarket in another country? That was something I wanted to see too.
It was a bit too plebeian to invite my group to though.
I was worried about our safety too. Still, now I was wondering if I should have been a little more adventurous.
“The atmosphere and the products were completely different to the supermarkets here,” she marvelled.
“Really? That does sound interesting,” I said.
“Yeah, it really was!” she nodded.
Looking at her, Wakaba-chan seemed unusually enthusiastic about foreign supermarkets.
I guess it meant that the effort I put into teaching Kaburagi about commoner supermarkets was just that much more worthwhile.
At least now if she ever talked to him about the differences, like she was to me now, at least Kaburagi would be able to keep up.
“Oh, I just remembered but Kaburagi-kun came over to buy a cake yesterday,” she recalled.
That guy! And after all the times I stressed to him that the exams were close, too!
To think he’d come here under the pretext of buying cake!
Oh my god. Thank god he came yesterday. I very nearly bumped into him.
At times like this it was a pain that her family owned a store, since it just meant a convenient excuse for him.
“I’m a bit shy about selling our cakes to someone with such a refined palate though.”
“Oh my! I think the cakes your family sells are delicious. Have a little confidence!” I insisted.
“Thanks. Kaburagi-kun said something similar too. That it was ‘simple, but pleasant’.” She laughed a little shyly.
Wakaba-chan seemed happy enough, but oi, Kaburagi, can’t you choose your words a bit better?
“Ummm, and also…”
She looked a little hesitant to continue.
“Ummm, you see… As a change of pace, Kaburagi-kun suggested that we go somewhere after the tests.”
He was moving damn fast! What incredible initiative!
“Ah-! Of course, just as another friend who likes sweets,” she quickly explained while flapping her arms about. “It’s really not anything else, okay!?”
Wait, wait, so he’s ‘another friend who likes sweets’…?
This was exactly what Enjou meant by being treated like a girl friend she tries desserts with!?
Kaburagi, could your expert knowledge on all things sweet have backfired!?
“I wonder about that~” I hummed.
Deny it all she wanted, I saw her blush a little when I said that just now.
“It’s true…” she mumbled after a little while.
Ehh~ But did this mean that Kaburagi’s behaviour had clued her in a little bit about his crush on her?
Ah well, not like my pondering would get me an answer.
Hmm, plus looking at how she was reacting now, was it fine to conclude that she wouldn’t be entirely bothered by such a crush?
So he actually had a chance?
But in that case…
“Wakaba-chan, how has school been recently?” I asked.
For a while the harassment had died down, but it was back again after the class trip, right?
After all, I’d heard about mud being rubbed onto her shoe locker recently.
“Eh? There hasn’t been anything noteworthy,” she said.
“Really? If there’s anything that’s bothering you, don’t ever hesitate to tell me, okay?”
“Thank you, Kisshouin-san!” Her smile was bright like a sunflower.
When we arrived at Wakaba-chan’s house I handed over the souvenir stationery I bought for the kids.
“Thanks, Cornet,” said Kanta-kun.
“Thanks, Coro-chan,” parroted the twins.
You’re very welcome.
“Oh yeah, Cornet. Want some?” Kanta-kun brought out a box of jelly cubes dusted in some white powder. It kind of reminded me of gyuuhi.
“Isn’t it fine? I’m just assigning her her quota.”
I wasn’t sure why, but Wakaba-chan and Kanta-kun seemed to be quarelling over what was in the box. I wonder what these cute little things are.
“What are these?” I asked, to which Wakaba-chan looked a little awkward.
“They’re turkish delights,” she explained. “The truth is that my sister loves the Chronicles of Narnia and kept saying that she wanted to try turkish delights too. That’s why when I was in London I bought some, but…”
“It’s so disgustingly sweet that I get goosebumps just thinking it,” Kanta-kun spat when Wakaba-chan trailed off with a helpless smile.
Oh, I see.
So basically they didn’t know what to do with them all, so they tried to feed them to me.
I was getting the impression that the way this family treated me was getting worse and worse.
“It would just be such a waste to throw them out, so we’ve all been trying our best to finish them,” she said.
“I’m done with them,” said Kanta-kun.
“I got excited and bought a large box, so they just won’t disappear…”
I hummed in thought, before taking one of these cute little gems for myself.
“Count any that Cornet eats under my quota,” Kanta-kun declared.
“That’s cheating, Oniichan!”
The siblings began to argue again over these supposedly too-sweet confections.
Was it that bad?
It looked like gyuuhi though.
Maybe just a nibble.
I nodded at Kanta-kun without a word.
Nuuuoohhhh, it was so sweet that my tongue was going numb. And the flavour was overwhelming.
It was red so I thought it’d be strawberry-flavoured, but the cloying air-freshener taste in my mouth was rose!
Somebody had taken rose jam and somehow made it even sweeter.
I took a gulp of tea to try to swallow the thing.
“Kisshouin-san, would you like some more tea?”
My mouth could still taste the sweetness.
As expected of foreign sweets. Such power…
Hmmmm, but couldn’t there be some trick to eating these…? Oh, I know!
What if instead of sugar I used this turkish delight for my tea?
It was black tea, and I’d heard that Russians put jam in theirs, so wasn’t this just a variation?
I imagined dropping one of these cute desserts into a cup of tea. Wasn’t it quite fashionable?
Uhuhu, it was in the little details that a person’s good taste was revealed.
No time like the present.
I plopped one into my cup and began whirling it around with a spoon~
Spin, spin, sp-… Huh? That was weird.
It wasn’t dissolving at all.
Jam dissolved right away, so how come?
Geh, and now it was stuck to the bottom of my cup-!
Ugeh, and the white powder hadn’t dissolved either and was floating to the top!
It was kind of gross-!
I tried stirring faster, but that just made Kanta-kun take notice of me.
“What the heck are you doing, Cornet?”
He peered over at what I was doing.
“Ummm, you see, I thought that instead of using jam…”
“Uwah, stuff is floating at the top! What the hell are you doing, Cornet!”
Uwah, you’re being too loud, Kanta-kun!
Look, now everyone else is looking over too.
Literally all of their eyes were on me now.
Aaah, I wanted to bury myself…
“Ah, well, I thought that instead of jam I could try…”
“Mmmn, I see, I see. But what now? I know you just got this cup, but should I get you a new one?”
Wakaba-chan’s kindness was just making it worse…
“Don’t play with your food, Cornet. You’d better take responsibility for that.”
I tipped both the transmuted tea and the jelly stuck at the bottom into my mouth and destroyed the evidence.
Sigh, this time was a failure. Happens to the best of us from time to time.
Hmm, but what else could we use this for then?
“Oh, I know. Say, what if we added it to curry as a secret ingredient? I think it’d add just that extra complexity.”
“What if we dissolved it and served it with pancakes or…”
“Then what about boiling-”
Kanta-kun just shot down every one of my ideas without mercy.
And here I was, trying to help them.
“Maybe I’ll make some annin tofu to wash out the taste,” he said, and stood up.
I wanted to learn the recipe, so I volunteered to help.
Hmm, so the ingredients were agar jelly, milk, sugar, and…
“Oh! What if instead of sugar we used the turkish delight-”
“Vetoed! Vetoed! Vetoed!”
Aah, don’t give me such an icy stare, Kanta-kun. I’ll stop talking.
“I said, when they say ‘one cup’ they mean exactly ‘one cup’!” roared Master Kanta.
Despite all of that, the annin tofu we made was delightful.
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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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
…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…”
“It happened on a dark, rainy morning.”
“I had just arrived at the old assembly hall when I heard the rapping noises…”
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…”
Please no more scary stories, if that’s okay.
Fuyuko-sama was elaborating when Kaburagi came over.
“Kisshouin, we need to talk.”
“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.
“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?”
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.”
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.”
“Ah, and from now on please stop turning up unannounced at Takamichi-san’s house without prior arrangement. It is not very considerate.”
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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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.”
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!”
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.”
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.
“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.
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.”
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 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?”
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.
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?”
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.