There is a song about hitting a pocket to make the biscuits within increase in number1. I had no recollection of hitting anything, but there was now one more macaron on Osanai-san’s plate.
However, she was not visibly pleased. No matter how expectantly she had been waiting to eat these macarons, she was hesitant to put one into her mouth when she didn’t know where it came from. It could have fallen on the ground and subsequently put onto her plate, for example.
“Did the waiter say anything?”
“And just to be sure, it wasn’t your doing, right, Kobato-kun?”
It was only natural for her to be suspicious. I was the one closest to the macarons, after all.
“Yup. In the first place, they don’t sell the macarons individually, so there is no way for me to buy just one.”
I used to enjoy solving mysteries. I liked it so much that it was quite a hindrance to my human relationships, so I made up my mind, and wished to never again speak as if I understood everything. But not counting that wish, I did not try to put any thought into Osanai-san’s additional macaron… because I couldn’t imagine the reason being anything other than a simple mistake on the waiters’ part.
“Shall I call a waiter?”
Without waiting for a reply, I raised my hand. But Osanai-san responded in a small, sharp voice.
“Wait! …Please wait. I don’t think it’s a mistake by the waiters.”
Indeed, it seems plausible for a simple mistake to cause the number of macarons to go from ten to eleven, but it is difficult to imagine that an employee at this store would not notice that three macarons had become four. Then again, many unexpected events happen in this world, which is why I thought it natural to first confirm with a shop attendant.
“Why shouldn’t I call a waiter?”
I asked in a straightforward manner, causing a slightly troubled look to appear on Osanai-san’s face. From that vague expression, I sensed irritation at me for not understanding something so simple, as well as frustration for not finding the words to explain it.
“Umm, of course I think that it is possible one of the waiters made a mistake, but I also think there is quite a low chance of that.”
I nodded to show my agreement.
“And if it wasn’t a waiter who made that mistake, someone else must have put it on the plate, right? That person was aiming for something when they did that.”
“If that’s the case, carelessly calling a waiter would arouse the suspicions of that person.”
I stifled a wry smile. That was just like Osanai-san.
Just as I wanted to correct my tendency to deduce, Osanai-san also wanted to rein in her personality. We swore to look out for and help each other, so that we could become petit bourgeois that wouldn’t cause trouble for others, little citizens who peacefully and harmlessly take the easy way out. Even if it meant going back on that promise, she was apparently unable to put up with being manipulated by someone else without knowing anything.
That pride was not related to the personality trait she’d promised to rein in. Thus, I did not tell her to stop being stubborn. I could easily imagine her state of mind after having her parade rained on, when the macarons she’d been waiting to eat were just in front of her, at the patisserie she’d rushed to after school. Even if her motivation was not wanting to fall into someone else’s weird schemes, I didn’t feel like scolding or stopping her.
“Fine, I understand. We’ll only call a waiter as the last resort.”
She responded with a light nod.
I studied the four macarons again. There was one green, one brown, one marbled and one two-tone. Osanai-san and I were facing each other, and from my position, the closest to me was the two-tone macaron, with the marbled and brown macarons arranged behind. The closest to Osanai-san was the green macaron. In other words, the four macarons formed a vertically long rhombus.
“So, which one was added?”
I calmly asked. Customers could choose three flavors in this shop. Rather than deciding what flavors she wanted beforehand, it would be more accurate to say that she’d come all the way to Nagoya just to try those flavors, so she should be able to instantly tell what she did and did not order.
However, she wordlessly stared at the macarons in front of her for a moment. She then slowly raised her hand and pointed at the green macaron.
“That’s pistachio. It’s exclusive for the autumn season starting in September, so they will probably sell it until November.”
She then moved her finger to the brown macaron.
“As you may know, this is marron2. It uses chestnuts from Nagano, and while I think it’s a little early for the season, it’s also an autumn exclusive.”
As for the marbled macaron, she had this to say.
“Coconut papaya. It’s for the summer season, but they still sell it in September. If the marron are running early, these are the remnants3.”
Finally, she pointed at the two-tone macaron.
“This is Kogi.”
“No, Kogi. It’s the special, eponymous flavor of Patisserie Kogi.”
I knew about the flavors, but I wanted to know which macaron was the extraneous one that Osanai-san hadn’t ordered. I opened my mouth to ask again, but I noticed that an aura of distress had wafted onto her eyebrows. Don’t tell me…
“You’ve forgotten what you ordered?”
A brief pause transpired.
Osanai-san gave her answer while focusing a steely gaze on the macarons, as if that would allow her to see the truth of the matter.
“I wanted to try the pistachio, marron, coconut papaya and persimmon today. But I really wanted to eat the Kogi. I’m interested because it’s a macaron that led to the success of Haruomi Kogi, and is always talked about when Patisserie Kogi is mentioned. However, it uses some ingredients that are difficult to prepare, so it was not supposed to be available in Annex Ruriko yet. I thought I would try the seasonal flavors, then come here again when the Kogi starts being sold.”
Now I understood why Osanai-san had spent so much time in front of the showcase. Her plan was thrown in disarray when she found her main goal right in front of her, when it should not have been on sale yet.
“I was torn. If I were to exclude one of the three macarons I was supposed to order, it would be the coconut papaya. But it’s summer-exclusive, so it might not be available the next time I come here. Likewise, the pistachio and marron are both autumn-exclusive, while the Kogi will become a regular product when the ingredient preparations are done. I didn’t know what to choose among the Kogi, which I want to try now but will be easily available later on, and the three other types which I don’t mind passing on compared to the Kogi, but might not be sold again if I don’t eat them now.”
Osanai-san sandwiched her head between her hands.
“I was definitely the one who made the order. I was really looking forward to it! But right now, I can’t be sure of what I gave up on…”
You don’t have to sound so mournful…
In any case, it was now clear that we couldn’t check with a shop attendant, and Osanai-san couldn’t remember what she had ordered.
If someone had intentionally added a macaron onto her plate, she did not want to play into that person’s hands. Ultimately, I would have to clearly demonstrate why the macaron was placed there. That said, it would be reasonable to treat figuring out which of the four macarons had been added as the first step of the puzzle.
Now, how could I determine the unwanted fourth macaron?
In my view, the key to this would lie in observation.
“Did my plate originally have three macarons, and a fourth was added?”
Steadying her voice, Osanai-san asked.
“Or was is that my plate was switched with another plate with four macarons? I can’t imagine since I wasn’t there when it happened. Which do you think it is, Kobato-kun?”
The two of us were bound by a promise, a mutually beneficial arrangement in which we would check on each other for our bad habits, help each other so that we would not fall back into those bad habits, as well as use each other as an excuse to get away from trouble. In light of that, was it problematic for Osanai-san to pose such a question to me?
…Well, it should be fine. No one else was around, and on top of that, this couldn’t even be considered a deduction. I sank into thought for a brief moment.
“I don’t think it would be the latter. If that’s the case, three of the four macarons would have to coincidentally overlap with your order, and the chances for that are too low. Even if it’s not a coincidence, the person who behind this would have to know what you ordered, and that can only be the waiter who took your order. They have no reason to give you a macaron on the house, and even if that were true, they would have said something to you.”
Osanai-san had apparently already thought up to that point.
“Exactly. So someone must have placed a macaron on my plate, right? Is there a chance for that to have happened?”
“Well, I wasn’t really paying attention to your macarons. I was more concerned that your things weren’t taken away…”
That said, Osanai-san’s seat was right in front of me, and under normal circumstances everything there should still be in my view. If someone tried to place a fifth macaron on her plate now, there was no way for me to miss that. Such a prank should be impossible if I didn’t get distracted for some reason.
As I went along that train of thought, one thing stuck out to me.
“When you were away at the washroom, my order was first set on the table. Yours came a short while later. I don’t remember how many macarons were on the table at that moment. But then the time signal suddenly rang out.”
“That clock over there.”
I pointed to the gigantic clock attached to the building on the other side of the road behind me.
“When it reached five o’clock, that clock started playing Oh, The Meadows Are Green at quite a loud volume. I was surprised by that, so I turned around and watched the small puppets chop firewood for a little while with their strangely detailed movements.”
I continued after a brief pause.
“If someone else did it, it must have been at that time.”
Osanai-san didn’t stir an inch, but suddenly tilted her head with a jerk.
“It somehow feels irregular.”
“It was a coincidence that I went to wash my hands, and a coincidence that you turned to look at the clock. That means the culprit happened to find that all the conditions had been met, and instinctively placed the macaron on my plate… It would have probably been fine if it were someone else’s plate.”
Since the time signal was so loud, it should be possible to predict with high probability that I would turn around as a result. However, it was purely by coincidence that the macarons reached our table right before five, so Osanai-san’s comment was valid.
“But the fourth macaron was procured before that, so there is an element of planning. That’s why it feels irregular.”
Come to think of it, there was indeed some strange feeling of discord, a difference in temperature, or a sensation of inconsistency. Osanai-san closed her eyes and sank into deep thought, as if she was trying to see into the mental state of the person obsessed with putting macarons on others’ plate, whom we had not even seen yet. But that only lasted for a moment, after which she let out a short breath.
“But let’s leave that for later.”
“First, we have to figure out which is the fourth macaron, or…”
“You’re right, that’s a good starting point.”
“I won’t be able to eat any of them.”
Ah, I suppose that’s a problem.
Osanai-san stared at the small plate again.
“If I were to place a macaron on the plate without you noticing, it would be furthest from you… right?”
She pointed at the pistachio macaron, but fully understanding that the statement was ill-founded, her words were lacking in confidence. I instantly disregarded it.
“We won’t get anywhere just by thinking. We need to observe.”
To be honest, I had already noticed an important clue to determine the fourth macaron. I could have explained it immediately, but I was waiting for the right time to show her the clue.
A waiter was approaching a table, carrying a tray that contained what look like a Tea & Macaron Set. I pointed with my index finger to bring Osanai-san’s attention to the waiter.
“Thank you for waiting.”
The customers were a couple of young women who seemed to be office workers, for they were both in similar suit skirts. With expectant eyes, they were gazing at the ordered items being placed on their table. The waiter put down the teapot, teacup, milk pitcher and sugar jar, then turned the small plate around slightly and placed it on the table as well. After watching the two customers break into smiles, Osanai-san turned to look at me.
“…Is it always like this?”
As expected, she instantly realized what I wanted to say.
We were talking about the action of rotating the plate, which the waiter always did before placing it on the table.
They did it because there was a need to, or in other words, the plates had to be placed in a predetermined direction, probably to show off the macarons, making them appear more palatable to the customer.
Now we were unable to see the direction of those macarons from where we were seated, but we didn’t need to. If the direction had already been decided, the macarons on my plate should naturally be in the correct positions. At any rate, I was still waiting to wash my hands, so I had not laid a single finger on the macarons or the plate yet.
Without waiting for that to be explained to her, Osanai-san was already staring at my macarons. In front of my eyes, at the front of the plate was the persimmon, while the banane and cacao were lined up at the back, forming an upside-down triangle. If arranging the macarons in an upside-down triangle facing the customer was how this shop did things, finding the fourth macaron required no thinking at all.
“…It’s this one, isn’t it?”
Osanai-san extended her right hand towards the pink-white two-tone macaron, which was Kogi Haruomi’s eponymous macaron, the Kogi.
“Just as well that I already gave up on the Kogi. I’ll be able to try it in the future without any problems, so it was the obvious choice…”
I wanted to let out a sigh.
I’d sworn to become a petit bourgeois, and I did not intend to break that promise. However, it felt somewhat disappointing seeing Osanai-san fall into a troubling situation while being unable to help her with only my cogitations and deductions, as observation became the deciding factor in this case. While I wouldn’t claim that seeing the truth with observation was always easy, it seemed that at this rate, nothing beyond our imagination would occur this time!
Osanai-san picked up the Kogi.
Suddenly, sapience returned to her countenance. She stopped moving her fingers, then started slowly shaking the macaron.
Was she inflicting some kind of ritualistic punishment against the Kogi, which had sullied the sacred plate of macarons? Even as I looked at her bemusedly, she continued shaking the Kogi around a few more times, before picking up the pistachio macaron and shaking it in the same manner, only to eventually mutter in stupefaction.
“It’s heavy. The center of gravity is weird.”
“The macaron’s center of gravity?”
She put down the pistachio macaron and put the Kogi in her palm. After an instance of what looked to be hesitation, she removed the top cookie of the two that made up the macaron, her face distorted with sorrow.
“What are you…”
I began, but involuntarily swallowed my words.
The contents of the fourth macaron was not just chocolate. There, a ring was catching the light, glittering in gold.
Assistants (Tier 1) : Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- It’s a children’s song called The Magic Pocket. Here’s a video if you’re interested.
- As you should know, this means chestnut in French.
- Osanai uses the terms 走り and 名残 which in this context mean “early-in-season” and “late-in-season”. I translated them literally here because they are special terms, but I don’t know the culinary equivalent in English. If you do know, please write a comment or send an email.
- Wheat is 小麦 (Komugi) in Japanese.