Case of the Spring-Exclusive Strawberry Tart Chapter 3: How to Make Delicious Cocoa (Part 1)

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Chapter 2 Part 4 | Contents | Chapter 3 Part 2

It was a Sunday when I spotted Osanai-san in town.

Osanai-san and I do have a reciprocal relationship, but it did not extend to codependence, and we were definitely not inseparable lovebirds. We would hang out after class to eat a dessert, or browse through some books, but we had never made plans to go out on a weekend. Both of us wouldn’t be averse to it if one of us brought it up, but none of us would think of sticking together meaninglessly.

I was drifting around aimlessly in town on a bright Sunday in May, when a girl I thought I’d seen before appeared from a mobile phone dealership. After studying her face a while more, I realized that it was Osanai-san. You might be wondering why I couldn’t differentiate between “someone I thought I’d seen before” and “someone I often see” when I’m usually next to Osanai-san in school, and the main reason is Osanai-san’s clothes.

When Osanai-san is wearing her sailor uniform, it helps to hide her presence, and brings to mind words like “gloomy”, “plain” and “dull”. But today, she was wearing a pink tank top, a white lacy shirt on top and cream-colored denim pants that stopped at the knees. Her amasogi hairstyle was hidden by a plump leather hat, making it inconspicuous. It was a style that seemed to say, “I’m usually an energetic high school girl, but I’m in a state of ennui today.” Even if she was seen by a classmate, they wouldn’t be able to tell that it was Osanai Yuki in a quick glance.

The difference in image was so great it was as if Osanai-san was wearing a disguise. In fact, she might even consider it as a disguise herself. Us petit bourgeois are too self-conscious.

Having perfectly seen through her disguise, I approached her from behind. However, I didn’t get far with my sneaking, and my quarry unexpectedly turned around when I was a few meters away from her. I wasn’t thinking of surprising her, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to be surprised myself. With the leather hat worn low over her eyes, Osanai-san put on a thin smile.

“What a coincidence, Kobato-kun.”

“Yes, you’re right.”

I was still shocked that she knew I was approaching her from behind. Reading my expression, Osanai-san showed me something in her right hand. It was a mobile phone. It was a flip phone, and was opened up, but was not turned on.

“I could see behind me by looking at the monitor.”

“Eh? You can see just with that?”

The phone monitor was black, as is usually the case, and didn’t reflect much light. Even if you tried to use it like a mirror, the reflections should be too blurry. Osanai-san shook her head.

“I thought someone was approaching, so I looked there.”

Her finger pointed at a cleanly-polished show window, on which Osanai-san and I were reflected. Yeah, as usual, she has great eyesight. That doesn’t sound like a compliment, so I won’t say that out aloud.

After feeling a bout of admiration, I realized that the phone Osanai-san was holding was different from the usual one. I pointed at it.

“Ah, you changed your phone.”

Osanai-san nodded, folded the open phone and showed it to me again. It had a cold, ivory color and was considerably thin. It also had a camera lens affixed on it.

“Oh, it comes with a camera.”

For some reason, Osanai-san looked a little embarrassed.

“My old phone was way too old, so…”

“Mine’s a lot older than your old one, though.”

“Ah, sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”

No, I’m not hurt from that at all. I smiled and shook my head.

“So you came here today to buy a phone?”

I asked, but Osanai-san’s face clouded over.

“…Well, there’s that, but…”

“Hm? Is there something else?”

“No.”

She shook her head lightly.

“I thought I would feel better if I did some shopping.”

She murmured. I tried thinking for a while, but I couldn’t figure out why she would be feeling down. Quite some time had passed since that case of the spring-exclusive strawberry tart, after all.

“What’s the matter?”

“I was called to the Student Counselling Office two days ago.”

“Yeah, now I remember.”

Come to think of it, Osanai-san had been called over via the schoolwide broadcasting system. At that time, I’d wondered why the peaceful Osanai-san would be called to the Student Counselling Office, but I soon forgot all about it.

“Did you do something to make them mad at you?”

She shook her head.

“No, but they asked me all sorts of questions… about the bicycle.”

“Bicycle? The one that was stolen?”

“Yup. It was found at a weird place, they said.”

“Isn’t it good if it was found?”

“Rather than found, it was seen.”

Osanai-san replied with a painfully troubled expression on her face. I was about to stop her and say that it was alright if she didn’t want to talk about it, but before I had the chance, she soldiered on.

“There was a case of burglary last Sunday. My bicycle was seen there.”’

“…The eyewitnesses saw it there?”

With a nod, Osanai-san started speaking quickly.

“In Hondo-chō, the apartment of a student called Io Kibe was hit. There was an election on that Sunday, right?”

Right, the election’s over. Come to think of it, it’s been quiet, with no more election cars driving around.

“That apartment was apparently burgled in the thirty-minute window that the student was out making their vote. Their official seal was stolen, but their bankbook was fine, so they suffered almost zero damages. It was during that time when my bicycle was seen. Some meddlesome… sorry, some observant neighbor thought it strange that some youngsters seemed to be acting as lookouts by the roadside, so that person memorized the number on the bicycle license seal.”

You need a bicycle license seal to be allowed to ride a bike to Funa High. Not that I would know, since I always walked to school.

“There was an inquiry by the police, who found my name using the bicycle license seal number, and called me to the Counselling Office.”

“Did they treat you like a burglar?”

“No. I immediately told them that my bicycle was stolen.”

I might have been overthinking it, but I felt that Osanai-san’s face was colored with a little irony as she spoke. As if spitting out the words, she continued.

“I was scolded for having my bicycle stolen. I felt down after that, so I felt like going out and doing some shopping.”

Well, that does happen.

It was a sunny day, and it was a little hot. I checked my watch to see that it was just past one o’clock. If we continue getting exposed to the sun’s rays in May, the effect of the ultraviolet rays could be frightening. Using my hand to block the sun, I spoke with a smile on my face.

“I see. It’s good that you get to shop to your heart’s content… but before that, how about taking a break somewhere cool?”

Osanai-san didn’t immediately respond to my suggestion, but also used a hand to block the sun, then peered into my eyes, until her gaze finally dropped to my feet.

“My feelings are hurt..”

Ah, seriously.

Then again, it was rare for the modest Osanai-san to coax me into doing something, and while her feelings weren’t exactly hurt, I could tell that she was certainly pissed off. This is a good chance to show my magnanimity. Be that as it may, I should have come here with more money in my wallet.

“…Fine, I’ll treat you.”

“There’s a place with delicious homemade yogurt nearby. The fruit sauce there is wonderful.”

Osanai-san responded without a moment’s delay, though she didn’t have a particularly ecstatic countenance, then adjusted her hat, pushing it further into her head. It seemed that she had planned to go there already. Osanai-san herself probably understood that compared to shopping, eating something sweet had a greater effect on brightening her mood in general.

However, to tell a long story short, our plan regarding Osanai-san’s favorite yogurt sauce was temporarily put on hold. Soon after we started walking off, my way-too-old phone received an email with the contents:

“You’re free, right?”

It was from Kengo. While walking, I sent him a reply that did not conceal any truths.

“I’m walking.”

“So you’re basically free. I’ll invite you to my house. Come over.”

I raised my eyebrows. It was rare for Kengo to make an invite on a day off. I had no particular reason to decline, but it should be fine to treat Osanai-san to some yogurt first.

“I’m walking with Osanai-san. Later.”

A few moments passed.

“That’s even better. I have to thank her for that case about the paintings a while back. How about coming over together?”

Oh, right. Osanai-san was believed to be the one who dealt with the case of the two paintings. Hmm, what should I do? I’m fine either way. This isn’t the only chance for me to eat a sweet dessert with Osanai-san, after all. The question is whether Osanai-san is willing to come along.

During that exchange, while I had slowed down my walking pace to type those replies, Osanai-san had gone a few steps ahead. I called out at her back.

“Hang on a moment.”

Osanai-san turned her head around.

“Kengo asks if we want to go to his house.”

“…Is that so? See you next time, then.”

“He specifically asked if you would like to come as well.”

Osanai-san’s eyes became unexpectedly wide.

“Me too?”

“Yes… If you don’t want to, I won’t force you to.”

I thought she would be troubled over this, but without a moment’s delay, Osanai-san recovered from her state of surprise and immediately nodded.

“Yup, I’ll go.”

“Oh, really? He asked us to go over right now, so are you fine missing the yogurt?”

“Yup. Is that no good?”

There was no reason for it to be a bad thing, but it was a little unexpected. Osanai-san is a relatively shy person, and I can’t believe she would throw away the opportunity to be treated with yogurt.

“So, where is Doujima-kun’s house?”

I told her the approximate location. Osanai-san thought for a while, then asked if we could stop by her house. Now that I think about it, Osanai-san’s house is indeed on the way to Kengo’s.

We left the shopping street, and as Osanai-san had wanted, we stopped at her house, where she spent about ten minutes getting a change of clothes. The tank top was replaced with a turtleneck, the denim pants had turned into a long skirt, and the leather hat had disappeared. She was now wearing a plain appearance. In other words, Osanai-san’s disguise was off.


Chapter 2 Part 4 | Contents | Chapter 3 Part 2


Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Slush56, Jen Murph, _Maki

Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Anna, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, Kevin Kohn, Jaime Cuellar, Yazmin Arostegui, Mikaell

Thank you very much for all your support!

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