It was the summer break in my second year of high school.
Osanai-san came to my house on the first day of the holidays.
I heard the doorbell ring in the evening. Thinking that it could be some sort of solicitation, I went out to the entranceway to see Osanai-san standing there, with a bicycle which had its saddle lowered all the way to the limit next to her. She already looked young, but since her outfit was a glittery tank top and a pink beret, there was a decisive deviation between her appearance and her actual age… her casual attire always seemed to be some kind of disguise.
Under her black hair, Osanai-san looked up at me silently.
As I was wondering about her purpose for coming here, she slowly showed me a map.
“Kobato-kun, do you know what this is?”
It was obvious enough that I could tell what it was in one glance. It was a map of the town. However, it had some notes written on it. Red marks were imprinted on the map in various locations, with what seemed like proper nouns written next to those marks. At first, I couldn’t tell what they were for, but it hit me as soon as I saw the name “Humpty Dumpty”. I answered in a voice mostly filled with exasperation.
“It’s a map denoting the locations of sweet shops, right?”
Osanai-san gave one small nod, then tilted her head slightly.
“Yes, but not exactly.”
“What do you mean?”
She looked at me with an earnest gaze, as if she was telling me a secret.
“This is the thing that will influence the fate of my summer…”
“‘Osanai’s Summer Sweet Collection’!”
I slowly closed the door to the entranceway.
Contemplating about how I should spend the first night of the summer break, I was about to return to my room when the doorbell rang again. Once, twice, thrice. With a sigh, I returned to the entranceway. Osanai-san neither pleaded her case, nor reproached me for my actions, but silently proffered the map to me again.
“Um, I don’t hate sweet things, but I’d really like you to understand that I don’t like them as much as you do, Osanai-san.”
Osanai-san’s clouded over in an instant.
“Won’t you accept this…?”
Well, I don’t have a reason to forcibly refuse it.
“Fine, I’ll take it.”
“Good. Let’s go to a shop tomorrow, then.”
Eh? Gawking, I pointed at myself.
“Me? With Osanai-san?”
I couldn’t understand. Why would I go to a western confectionary with Osanai-san?
It’s not like I had never gone to eat something sweet with Osanai-san. In fact, that was quite a common occurrence. But I could not understand why she would purposely invite me during summer break.
You might be able to say the same for other personality types, but to have the petit bourgeois style is established in the human relationships with other people. The human relationship between us as fellow second-year students is mostly concentrated within the school, and our mutually beneficial relationship was consequently confined to school. Osanai-san and I were often together in school, but we almost never met up on holidays. Not to mention that there was no necessity to meet during summer break. In fact, we never saw each others’ faces during last year’s summer break.
“What’s the matter? Do you have a reason for this?”
I asked. Osanai-san lowered her voice and responded.
“To complete this year’s summer plan… I need someone like you, Kobato-kun.”
I couldn’t see why I would be needed for completion of the Sweets Plan, but declining her request without having figured that out would be exceedingly atrocious. Frustration must have crept into my countenance. It’s not good to display my habit of wanting to contemplate about something without hesitation when conversing with Osanai-san. As I was unsure of what to do with the strong urge to ask her what exactly she was planning, she looked up at me, tilted her head and spoke in a voice that could fade at any moment.
“You don’t want to go?”
If you put it that way…
“No, it’s not that I don’t want to go.”
A gentle smile appeared on Osanai-san’s face.
“I see, that’s good… right, see you tomorrow at one, then.”
She then handed me one more piece of paper. Looking at it, I was left speechless.
|Osanai Sweets Selection – Summer|
1. Cecilia – Summer-Exclusive tropical parfait
2. Tinker Linker 1 – Peach pie
3. Muramatsu House – Candied apple (<- Take note of when it goes on sale!)
4. Ouan – Two-flavor ice cream combination (<- Black sesame and soymilk)
5. Roadside Station Kira Park – Special sundae
6. La France – Peach mille-feuille
7. Berry Berry Sanya-dori shop – Frozen watermelon yogurt (<- With fresh cream topping)
8. Right Lane – Yellow peach parfait
9. Asuka – Ujikintoki2 (<- Note that it has coarse red bean paste!)
10. Jeff Beck3 – Mango Pudding
Honorable mentions (Note that these also include non-summer-exclusive products!):
Little Red Riding Hood – Rare cheesecake
Alice – Grapefruit tart
Plantagenet – Ambrosia cake
Kasuga Confectionary Blacksmith Town Direct Sales Office – Ohagi4 (<- Obon-exclusive5)
Lemon Seed – Canelé (<- Only for takeaway)
Corn Fork – Zitronen6
Humpty Dumpty – Panna Cotta (<- Still banning myself from going there…)
Canossa – Black tea sable
La Roche – Original cookie set
Camellia Garden – Warabimochi7
Tea Time – Chocolate Chiffon
Earl Gray 2 – Tiramisu
Sweet Spring – Anmitsu8
Lex Talionis9 – Half and half cream puff
Guinevere – Pineapple waffle
Ginsendo – Shiratama dango10
Triangle – Peach roll cake
Tricolor Matsunami Building Shop – Savarin11
Cafeteria Kagawa – Grape pound cake
Moonstone – Baumkuchen12
…How should I even react to this…
She can’t possibly be saying that we’ll be going to every single one, right?
The next day. Since Osanai-san had said that we would be meeting at one, I’d been making preparations so that I could leave on time, but I received a message from her that was nothing if not impudent.
“Sorry, but I’ve become unable to leave the house. Please buy two mango puddings and four grapefruit-topped charlottes from the tenth shop, then bring them to my house. Sorry.”
That’s not something that can be consolidated just by having the word “sorry” at the beginning and end of the text. I wonder if Osanai-san had expected this when she came over to my house yesterday? If that was the case, it means that I was being used as an errand boy, but well, I wasn’t particularly annoyed by that. It was common for Osanai-san to make use of me, as it was for me to make use of her.
The thing that annoyed me was the intense, sweltering heat. The “Osanai Sweets Selection – Summer” marked out 30 shops. According to the ranking list, the one in tenth place was “Jeff Beck”. I had never been to that shop, but I was grateful that it was built on the way from my house to Osanai-san’s apartment. If it was located on the other side of town, there is no doubt that I wouldn’t even feel like moving my legs. That was how hot it was today.
With the Japanese Archipelago being surrounded by high-pressure systems, the temperature was surpassing 36 degrees when I left my house at twelve noon. In the case when it is sunny all day round, the hottest point of the day is usually at about two in the afternoon, so it would probably get even hotter from this point. The saving grace was that the heat was simply dry, with not much humidity in the air, but the back of my neck was completely drenched in sweat as I pedalled on my bicycle.
While looking at the map, I searched for “Jeff Beck”. Since it had a French flag waving in the air, as if to appeal, “There’s a Western confectionary shop here!”, it didn’t take me long to find the shop. The eaves and signboard were new, and the shop had beautiful cream-colored walls, but judging by the faded condition of the galvanized-iron roof, I inferred that it was remodelled from an old building. Not that any of that mattered. The important thing was that the shop had a functioning air conditioner.
But that was a needless worry. Western confectionary shops deal with lots of fresh confections, so they have to operate in cool spaces, just like supermarkets, for food hygiene purposes. After manually opening the sliding door that looked like an automatic door, I took a handkerchief from my pocket and wiped my sweat, relieved by the gush of cool wind that blew out.
The first thing to hit my eyes was a pudding in a magnificent orange color. That would be the mango pudding. On the other hand, behind a tag with the word “Charlotte” on it were a line of white, triangular cakes. It looked like the whole cake had been cut into eight pieces, but it was not enough. There were enough mango puddings, but there were only three pieces of the Charlotte. Osanai-san had requested for four.
A woman in an apron appeared from the interior. I asked her a question.
“Excuse me, but if I wait, will the cakes here be replenished?”
The shop employee cast a sharp glance in my direction, then answered bluntly.
“Everything here is all we have.”
I see. Then again, I didn’t have much time to spare with the agreed time of one o’clock, so I wouldn’t have been able to wait, even if they did replenish the cakes. Since I couldn’t buy what was not there, I bought two mango puddings and three Charlottes. No matter how weirdly Osanai-san was acting, she wouldn’t tell me to buy something that didn’t exist.
For how unfriendly the store clerk was, she adeptly packed the two types of cake in paper boxes. With a sideward glance at that process, I typed an email to Osanai-san.
“I’ve bought the cakes.”
“Thanks. I’m looking forward to them.”
I didn’t write that there were fewer cakes than she ordered, but that was simply because I was slow at typing. We would be meeting soon anyway, so I could just tell her then.
Even after I kept my mobile phone, the store employee was still packing the cakes into the boxes. It sure takes quite a bit of time, huh. I wonder if I can take anything here, I thought as looked around at my surroundings. A basket next to the cash register was filled with complimentary pocket tissues, apparently as an advertisement to a local credit union. Since I was currently holding nothing, I extended a hand, thinking of taking some.
“Thank you for waiting.”
At that moment, a voice called out, causing me to withdraw my hand. The cakes were distributed into two boxes, a box for mango puddings, and a box for Charlottes.
With this box size, I could easily fit two of them in the front basket of my bicycle, but a box that could hold all five cakes would be quite difficult to squeeze in. While the shop employee was not very friendly, she was a really considerable person, I thought.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Karen Kronenberg, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- This is almost certainly a reference to Twinkle Star Sprites, a scrolling shooter arcade game which features twin fairies, Tinker and Linker, whose weapon is Peach Fairy.
- A Japanese shaved ice dessert made with shaved ice on the bottom, drizzled with green tea syrup and topped with red bean paste.
- Also the name of an English rock guitarist.
- Rice ball coated with sweetened red beans, soybean flour or sesame.
- Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. During Obon, people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars.
- I think this is some kind of lemon cake.
- A kind of Japanese confectionary made from warabiko (bracken starch) and covered or dipped in kinako (sweet toasted soybean flour).
- A kind of Japanese confectionery, which is mitsumame dessert (boiled beans, cubes of agar gelatin, and other delicacies with molasses poured on) covered with bean jam.
- Latin for Law of Retaliation. This concept is derived from the Mosaic law “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.”
- A type of mochi made with shiratamako glutinous rice flour, which is made from mochigome (glutinous short-grain Japanese rice).
- A light ring-shaped cake made with yeast and soaked in liqour-flavored syrup.
- A kind of spit cake from German cuisine. The characteristic rings that appear when sliced resemble tree rings.