Osanai-san sat down properly with her eyes focused on the mango pudding, but she immediately noticed it.
“Oh? The Charlottes…”
I licked my lips.
“It seems to be a really popular item on the menu. There were only two left.”
Osanai-san’s eyebrows furrowed by just a bit.
“Yeah, Jeff Beck’s Charlottes are the best in town. But… I see, so they were sold out…”
She seemed to be really disappointed. Ah, that pains my heart.
“Thank you for the food.”
Taking a spoon, Osanai-san compared the mango pudding and Charlotte with a solemn gaze, then pulled the latter towards herself. Noticing that I was looking at her, she went on the defensive for some reason.
“Ah, I’m saving the best for last.”
She gave an explanation that didn’t serve to explain anything at all.
She didn’t seem to be holding any doubts. Of course, even Osanai-san wouldn’t be able to instantly tell in a glance that there used to be three pieces of cake. She was certainly a worthy opponent, but my surprise attack gave me quite an unfair advantage in this battle. Just as I was thinking about that, I was asked an unexpected question.
“Sorry for the long phone call. What did you do while you were waiting?”
Well, I ate the Charlotte and hid all traces of it. I wasn’t expecting to be suddenly asked a question that I couldn’t answer. Swallowing down my inner turmoil, I replied as casually as I could.
“Ah, yeah, I was just chilling.”
“Hm…? In this room?”
Osanai-san reached out for the air conditioner remote control with her left hand.
“Wasn’t it hot? It’s set at 27 degrees.”
It was definitely better compared to the heat outside, but it was certainly set quite high. So me feeling hot wasn’t due to the tension or excitement, huh. Osanai-san pointed the remote control at the air conditioner, which responded with an electronic beep, and the wind intensity increased. Enduring the sweat spreading all over my body, I was able to give a reply.
“I can’t possibly mess with the electronics in someone else’s house.”
“You didn’t need to mind that… But I suppose that’s how you felt. Sorry that I didn’t notice.”
It seemed that no doubts were formed from that topic. I felt relieved.
Osanai-san scooped up some Charlotte with a spoon, then took a bite. For an instant, she lit up in ecstasy. She spoke in a voice that seemed to come from the depths of her body.
“…This is actually delicious.”
“It’s really delicious. It might be weird to say this, but this is my favorite out of all the cakes you’ve recommended to me.”
That was not a slip of my tongue. I had cut a small bit of cake on the plate with my spoon. Like this, I could talk about my thoughts on the Charlotte. Osanai-san gave a small nod, then excitedly scooped up some Bavarois and brought it to her mouth.
“If you like this, I have other recommendations for you. Though they’re not in the Best Ten for summer…”
“Oh? You can tell me about them some time, then.”
She sipped on her coffee. Imitating her, I grabbed my coffee cup, but instinctively hesitated when I recalled the contents of the cup. However, it would be strange for me to place down the cup right after picking it up, so I naturally took a sip as well… Oh, it actually didn’t taste as terrible as I thought. It was just that a slight Japanese scent was somehow added to the coffee fragrance. The taste of coffee was so overwhelming that I couldn’t really tell that barley tea was mixed in.
I also pushed my spoon into the Charlotte. Now, let me enjoy it with peace of mind.
However, I wasn’t able to enjoy that bit of cake. Osanai-san had just somehow gotten some Bavarois on her chin.
She pulled out a paper napkin from the mango pudding box. Like a cat, she rolled her hand into a ball and wiped off the Bavarois. There was one paper napkin left in the box.
Horrified, a weird, muffled sound form at the back of my throat. She took one napkin, leaving one. That means that there were two paper napkins. I instantly swallowed down the piece of cake that I should have slowly savored.
Two paper napkins had been placed in the mango pudding box.
…If so, wouldn’t there be three paper napkins in the Charlotte box?
When I’d torn the paper wrapping from that box, I’d also removed the paper napkins, and piled them up on the table, at an area closer to my side. I would have been able to tell exactly how many paper napkins there were if I had just used one, but afraid of handling them poorly, I’d decided to leave them alone, resulting in this problem. I threw a glance, but it was difficult to judge the exact number of paper napkins in that pile just by looking. Did it have two, or three paper napkins? Even if there were really three paper napkins, Osanai-san might think that the store employee at Jeff Beck had put in one more than necessary… but can I rely on that?
Ah, seriously! I wasn’t given enough time, but what a blunder I made!
“It’s delicious, isn’t it?”
I smiled, and Osanai-san also grinned lightly.
“I wonder why it’s called a Charlotte?”
“Erm, a Charlotte’s a kind of hat. It might be difficult to tell when you see it in pieces like this, but the whole cake looks like a hat.”
“Oh, you’ve had a whole Charlotte before?”
Now, the question is how to deal with the paper napkins without Osanai-san noticing. Or should I leave them alone? Since I was moving my spoon while contemplating about this undercover operation and innocently participating in conversation at the same time, so the Charlotte quickly dwindled away without me being able to taste much of it.
However… the taste of the Charlotte was indeed only secondary.
While I was thinking, I put my fingers on the handle of my coffee cup and caused my fingers to slip. The cup tilted sharply, causing coffee to spill on the table.
The spilled coffee expanded in area, but its volume was a little larger than I’d hoped.
I apologized, then reached for the paper napkins, of course those from the Charlotte box. I grabbed the entire pile in one hand such that it was impossible to tell if there were two or three paper napkins, and used it to wipe the coffee.
“Ah, ah, please wait for a while.”
Osanai-san put down her spoon and tore open the seal of the unopened box of tissues. The paper napkins were already thoroughly soaked in coffee. I rolled them up in a ball in my hand. No matter what, she wouldn’t open up the ball and try to count the number of paper napkins.
With a few pieces of tissue paper, Osanai-san helped with the cleaning of the table. While there was more coffee than I’d thought, it wasn’t like the entire contents of the cup spilled out, so we were able to cleanly wipe off the coffee.
“It’s fine. The bin is over there.”
She pointed to an area behind me. I gathered the paper napkins and Osanai-san’s tissues, rolled them into a ball and tossed it into the bin.
With that, I successfully destroyed the evidence. But would she form any doubts over my awkward movements that made me think of a third-rate act? I was calm, but I still felt more than a little nervous about the superficial tricks that I was not used to. The air conditioner was working considerably better compared to earlier, but I still felt sweaty, so I took a tissue from the box that Osanai-san had just opened, and gently dabbed my forehead.
Surreptitiously, I stole a glance at her countenance.
She seemed to be indulging in the cake. Unexpectedly, her eyes were closed, and she was nodding a few times, apparently savoring the taste deeply. It would be quite sad if she didn’t get suspicious of anything… that was what I thought as I picked up my spoon again.
Finally, Osanai-san’s eyes opened, and she stared at the Charlotte by her hands.
“By the way, Kobato-kun…”
“There’s some kind of sauce hidden in this cake. I wonder what kind of sauce it is?”
I stopped moving my hands. My second Charlotte was still at the stage where the surface of the Bavarois had only been slightly shaved off. I hadn’t reached the sauce yet, so I could only answer like this.
“There’s a sauce? I haven’t gotten there yet.”
Osanai-san looked up, and our eyes met. She was smiling innocently. Generally, whenever she had that smile on her face, it could be assumed that she was either eating an exceptionally high quality dessert, or she had found some fuel for her vengeance.
I instantly felt a chill run down my spine.
“But… You’ve eaten it before, haven’t you?”
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, _Maki
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!