Petit Bourgeois Volume 5: The New York Cheesecake Mystery (Full Text)

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1

Osanai-san and I had an arrangement whereby we would protect each other from troubling situations, as well as monitor each other so that we do not break the oaths we’d made in our hearts. However, that pact was only effective in school on regular weekdays, and there was no precedent of me meeting up with her outside school on a holiday. Thus, I couldn’t help being surprised when, on a cool Friday in October, I was stopped in the hallway by Osanai-san during the lunch break and was asked the question, “Could you accompany me this coming Sunday?”

The afternoon hallway was filled with many students of the same grade going back and forth, and a few of them cast a glance at us with interest. It was convenient for this perception to spread, that Osanai-san and I were a duo, or in other words, dating. Bearing in mind that she could have a serious problem which required utmost secrecy, I lowered my voice.

“Trouble?”

But Osanai-san shook her head.

“It’s not like that. It’s just that I’m going to a Cultural Festival, and I want you to come along.”

Of course, it wasn’t the Cultural Festival of Funado High School, which we attend. Was another high school nearby holding their Cultural Festival on a Sunday? That was a topic I did not have deep interest for, so nothing came to mind.

“Cultural Festival? Which one?”

“Reichi Middle School.”

“Oh, a middle school?”

That was a name I’d heard before. If memory served, it was a school that was strong in Kendo and Judo. It was not located within the city, so we would have to travel a fair distance to get there.

“At this point, may I ask why you want to go there?”

To my question that presented the possibility of answering after moving to a different location, Osanai-san thought for a short while before giving a clear reply.

“To cut a long story short, one of the booths there is a patisserie.”

Huh.

I was a little concerned about whether going to a middle school out of the city for cake was fitting for our symbiotic relationship. If it was to simply share a meal, I would have no choice but to refuse. I would eat cake with Osanai-san on Sunday only if she needed some kind of excuse, and if my presence there would help in that regard.

I pointedly questioned her about that.

“Is there a point for me being there?”

“Yes.”

She instantly replied. If so, it was out of my hands. Osanai-san wouldn’t call me out for a reason like “It’s uncool if I’m alone”. There must be some circumstances to her request.

“I see. Fine, Sunday it is, then. Shall we decide on the details via email?”

“Alright.”

I turned on my heel back to the classroom, but another line was directed at me from behind.

“Um, Kobato-kun…”

I looked behind to see Osanai-san with her face brimming with anticipation, doubtlessly of a joyous experience.

“Y’know, at that Cultural Festival… there’s going to be New York cheesecake!”

As I returned a light smile, an image of the bloodless, tearless demons of Wall Street competing ruthlessly with each other in cheesecake futures trading appeared at the back of my mind. It probably wouldn’t come to that, right?


2

Reichi Middle School was a private school in Chikusa Ward, Nagoya. Looking at the map, there was a Reichi High School right next door, so it could be an integrated school.

On Sunday, we headed for our destination separately. If we’d met up at the station and taken the train together, I would have been able to thoroughly question her on the reason for dragging me out, but she was buying souvenirs and was apparently going there by a different route. I was wondering if I should wear my uniform, but Osanai-san had said nothing about that, so I chose a plain shirt and chino pants. I alighted at the Nagoya station, meandered around the underground section which had a three-dimensional structure I could not quite grasp, and finally got onto the subway.

A comforting autumn breeze was billowing when I went above ground from the station closest to my destination. Opposite the exit stood a bulletin board with a poster for the Reichi Middle School Cultural Festival mixed with notices for citizen forums, flea markets and the like. A large manga character was drawn in the middle of that poster, and every character in “Reichi Middle School” was written in a different color. Overall, it was quite a splendid poster, and even included a fitting slogan, “Take Flight And Go Beyond!”

I could only vaguely recall the directions from the subway station, but there seemed to be a good number of people heading towards the Cultural Festival, so I should reach my destination without getting lost if I just followed the crowd. Eventually, the path entered a residential area, and I started walking along a fence that was in a dull shade of brick red. Some green plants were growing on the inner side of the fence, leaving no gaps for anyone to peek in. That would have to be Reichi Middle School, or if not, a luxurious mansion.

Before long, the school gates came into view. Those severe metal gates were wide open, and a handmade welcome gate was installed within. This was apparently the 17th Cultural Festival, but that would mean this school had a surprisingly shallow history. Looking around, the chalk-white school buildings had an inorganic design that certainly made me associate them with the modern style.

After passing through the gates, the right side led to a sports ground that was one size smaller than the one at Funado High School, which Osanai-san and I attend. In the exact middle of that, some logs were arranged in a double cross pattern about a meter and a half per side, with a fire visibly burning within. It was quite like a campfire, albeit a little too big to be called that, though it wasn’t so intense that sparks were flying in the air. Even so, since the Cultural Festival is not a camp, it would be called Fire of Unity, Bonding Flames, or something along those lines.

On one of the white school buildings hung a banner with the words “Welcome to the Reichi Middle School Cultural Festival!”, as well as other signs that said “Handball Club – Tokai Competition Participant”, “Swimming Club – Nationwide Competition Participant” and “Judo Club – Autumn Tournament Participant”. I had never heard of any clubs that participated in a nationwide competition at my middle school. This particular school was evidently very enthusiastic about sports.

Now, I was to meet with Osanai-san near the school gates at two in the afternoon. That time would arrive in about two minutes, so it wouldn’t be strange for her to have reached already… Since it was a weekend, I could see numerous people who didn’t seem to be students here. There were also many kids who looked too small to be in middle school, and I could hear whoops of joy every now and then.

Osanai-san’s ability to hide her presence was quite something, but my powers of observation were not completely worthless. I’d spotted the tip of a pair of sneakers poking out from the shadow of the welcome gate. From what I could see, they were small in size, and hadn’t moved at all, as if the person wearing them was trying to ambush someone. As I thought about that poor attempt at hide-and-seek which was akin to an expert leaking water1, I slowly approached the gate.

“Thanks for waiting, Osanai-san!”

I sang as I peeped behind the gate.

But before me was a frightened girl whom I didn’t recognize.

“Eh? W-Who are you?”

“Not a suspicious person at all,” I was about to say, but my voice froze up in my throat. The girl tensed up even more, looking like she was about to scream, when at that moment…

“…What are you doing, Kobato-kun?”

From behind me came a voice that was bathed in cold, as if anticipating the season. I whirled around to see Osanai-san, who was clad in a white blouse with a round collar and a dull orange cardigan, tightly gripping onto a small Boston bag. She was standing with her hands on her hips, staring at me with half-open eyes.

“Well, I was…”

I started, but she ignored me and squatted in front of the girl.

“It’s fine. This guy doesn’t understand how others feel, but he’s not a bad person.”

That was quite an introduction, but it was true of Osanai-san as well. Case in point, wasn’t the other girl now confused as to whether she should feel relieved after listening to that? Confirming my suspicions, she walked off without saying a word. While watching her retreating figure, Osanai-san slowly stood up.

“Kobato-kun, I don’t think it’s good to frighten small children.”

“That wasn’t my intention… and by the way, you were watching from the beginning, weren’t you?”

“Watching what?”

She tilted her head and put on a puzzled face.

So Osanai-san really hadn’t seen anything… but that was only a brilliant act of innocence that would have fooled anyone but me.


From there, I followed Osanai-san’s lead.

There was no designated location for visitors to place their shoes, and no slippers were distributed to us, so we were apparently supposed to go into the campus with our bare shoes. A large mat was placed in front of the entrance, with a poster saying, “Please remove the dirt from your footwear.” I dusted my clothes to remove any dirt, but since Osanai-san showed no reaction whatsoever, I obediently scrubbed my shoes on the mat.

A poster filled with plenty of characters and decorative writing was placed in the hallway, serving as an informatory sign telling visitors what could be seen in each direction. The Reichi Middle School students who were wearing indoor shoes and the visitors who were wearing outdoor shoes were generally smiling. A table in the hallway had some pamphlets stacked up on top, so we took one each as we went past.

After closely looking at the map printed on the pamphlet, Osanai-san gracefully moved off without a word. I hadn’t asked where we were going, so I simply followed her from behind. Turning two corners and crossing a connecting passageway, we eventually heard a shrill touting call.

A female student wearing a navy blue sailor uniform that had a hint of green, a white apron and a bandanna was waving her hands, trying to attract customers.

“The Sweets-Making Association is running a cafe, so please come in!”

Certainly a straight name for a club.

Both Osanai-san and I kept a distance from extracurricular activities. We did our own activities after school, but never joined any clubs, so we were not used to such excitement. As expected, this was Osanai-san’s goal. She briskly entered the classroom, so I followed suit, nodding to the touting girl on the way in.

“…Wow.”

The interior of the classroom was shrouded in sweet fragrance that made me want to take a deep breath. Like the practical training room for home economics class, table mats were spread out on a neat row of preparation counters, and the other desks were divided into clusters. Since it was just the time for snacks, there were many customers, and students wearing bandannas were spiritedly moving around the lively classroom.

One of them broke into a smile as soon as she spotted us.

“Ah! Yuki-chan-senpai, you really came!”

Frizzy hazel-colored hair peeked out from the sides of her white bandanna, and freckles were scattered underneath her big round eyes. The last time we saw her, she was making a face like it was the end of the world, but today was a complete change. She now looked so cheerful that it seemed like she would leap into the air at any given moment. She was Kogi Cosmos, daughter of the renowned patissier, Kogi Haruomi. We got acquainted with her during a little incident a while back, but I didn’t know that Osanai-san continued communicating with her after that.

“Yuki-chan-senpai…”

I muttered without thinking, causing Osanai-san to glance at me.

“Problem?”

No, not really…

Kogi-san’s eyes were directed straight at Osanai-san, and they did not waver. Though I was standing right next to Osanai-san, she did not throw a single glance in my direction.

“As mentioned, I’ve brought Kobato-kun here as well.”

“How do you do? Long time no see.”

Kogi-san said, but still didn’t look at me. Without losing my smile, all I replied with was, “I’m absolutely fine!” Naturally, I couldn’t help but feel like obstinately returning the greeting.

“Are you busy?”

“Thanks to you, business is booming. There are a few empty seats though, so please follow me.”

We were led to a table by the window with a good view of the sports ground. Kogi-san, who was also wearing an apron, brought us some water in paper cups. While putting the cups on the table, she continued looking at only Osanai-san and never faced my direction for even one moment, causing me to feel worried that she might spill the water.

“Yuki-chan-senpai, you’ll be having that, right?”

Osanai-san gave an emphatic nod.

“Yup, the New York cheesecake. Two of them, please.”

“Would you like to have some black tea as well?”

“Yup, two cups.”

If she didn’t emphasize the number two, Kogi-san would probably neglect to bring a serving for me. After replying, “Got it!” with a nod, she headed to a corner where other aproned students were gathered. Watching her retreating figure, I asked a question to distract myself from the clamor of the cafe.

“…So we came here to meet Kogi-san, huh.”

Osanai-san wrapped her paper cup with her two hands, depressed it a little, then let it go back to normal before depressing it again, causing ripples to appear on the water surface.

“She invited me saying that she was making cakes for the Cultural Festival. Sorry that I didn’t have the chance to explain earlier.”

“So you invited me because you wanted to talk to Kogi-san with me?”

“It’s about right, but not quite.”

Osanai-san eyed Kogi-san, who was standing and working.

“After that incident with the macaron, I’ve been good friends with Kogi-san. She’s the daughter of a patissier I admire, but regardless of that, she’s a really good kid. Her relationship with her father is complicated, but she wants to be a patissier too. She made me cookies, and they were quite delicious. I told her to keep working hard.”

“Uh huh.”

“Kogi-san also idolizes me for some reason. She even goes as far as calling me her sweets master. She calls me on the phone at night, comes over to hang out on the weekends, and at one point, she even brought me to this special shop. I haven’t told you about Sakura-an2 yet, right?”

“Nope.”

“I’ll bring you there some time, then. Anyway, Kogi-san told me that she was going to make New York cheesecake with her clubmates at the Sweet-Making Association. She’s complained to me that even though she knows that the other members of the club aren’t aiming to be pros, she sometimes gets irritated by their difference in mindset. She calls me Yuki-chan-senpai, and recently she comes over by train on weekdays after school juts to see me. That’s why…”

Ah, to be so loved.

Earlier, Osanai-san had made a cruel accusation that I couldn’t understand how others feel, but I’m not averse to making deductions if it provides some intellectual nourishment. In other words, she brought me out on a Sunday because…

“You want to tell her that you have your own world, right?”

She doesn’t dislike Kogi-san, but Kogi-san isn’t her only friend, and she’s even “dating” someone, so she has no intention of being in such a deep relationship with Kogi-san… to make that implication known to Kogi-san, Osanai-san brought me along.

Thus, I could finally accept it. I hadn’t thought for a second that Osanai-san simply wanted to enjoy cakes with me on a Sunday, but I’d wracked my brains wondering about her intentions. That was certainly a facet of our mutually beneficial relationship. Now that she’d inconsiderately gotten a favor out of me, I would ask her to return it eventually.

A beaming Kogi-san returned, with cake and black tea on a plastic tray.

“Thank you for waiting. Here is the New York cheesecake and black tea set!”

Osanai-san’s tea already had milk in it. Kogi-san was probably trying to appeal that she knew Osanai-san’s tastes, but on top of that probably having the opposite effect, it also made her look somewhat pathetic. Her especial disregard for me was an expression of her desire to monopolize Osanai-san.

The cake was cut in a fan shape, and was pure white in color. I usually didn’t really like to eat sweet things, but I was at least familiar with cheesecakes. After staring at the cake in front of me for a while, I posed a question to no one in particular.

“Isn’t this No-bake cheesecake?”

“No.”

With fork in hand, Osanai-san stared at me like a hawk.

“So it isn’t. What’s the difference?”

“About that…”

She replied, looking at Kogi-san.

“…Perhaps someone from the store can explain it to you.”

Kogi-san became clearly flustered as the conversation was thrust to her. As if only noticing my presence at this point, she gave Osanai-san a look asking for help. However, Osanai-san kept quiet, so she capitulated and spoke in a subdued voice.

“No-bake cheesecake is not heated directly. New York cheesecake is baked in a water bath.”

“Baked in a water bath?”

Once again, Kogi-san glanced at Osanai-san, like she wanted to say, “How should I begin explaining to this person?” With a sigh, Osanai-san put down her fork.

“The cake materials are put into a mold.”

“Uh huh.”

“The mold is then placed in a vat… or a deep stainless steel tray filled with water, and that is heated in an oven. Baking in this way has the characteristic of giving the cake a moist feel.”

I could sort of understand, but there was one point I couldn’t get. What’s the point of baking the cake in this manner?

“You can check the moistness by eating it.”

Kogi-san got rattled upon hearing Osanai-san’s words.

“Ah, umm, we did work hard to make it, but whether it’s moist enough to satisfy Yuki-chan-senpai…”

Picking up the fork again, Osanai-san grinned.

“It’s fine. I’m looking forward to it!”

Hugging the tray, Kogi-san’s face turned red.

“I, I’ll get back to work!”

With that, she ran off. Putting aside the gratitude I had towards her for teaching me a new term, I threw an accusatory look at Osanai-san.

“Poor thing. You didn’t have to pressure her that much.”

“But I am looking forward to it.”

My advice fell on deaf ears.

In any case, there was tea and cake in front of me, and Osanai-san was waiting. Imitating her, I picked up my fork. Thanks for the food.

It was at the first step of sinking the fork into the pure white cake where I felt the difference. It was a lot harder than I imagined… or rather, more springy. It didn’t exactly push back, but had a shockingly satisfying resistance to it. Savoring that feeling, I slowly cut a small triangular prism from the cake, and moved it to my mouth.

…Woah!

Osanai-san and Kogi-san had used the word “moist” to describe the cake, but my linguistic sense would call it “dense”. The cheesecake was only mildly sweet, but it had a surprisingly relaxing texture, and I felt that there was a high density of flavor. It was interesting, and delectable.

Raising my head, I noticed that Osanai-san was enjoying her cake without regard for my impressions on it. Whenever she brought down her fork and moved a piece of cake up, a smile would appear on her face, like she was basking in joy. I felt a little envious that she could enjoy something to such an extent, and sorry for Kogi-san. As the person who made the cake, seeing such a blissful look on Osanai-san’s face should be her heart’s desire, yet she’d left out of some weird sense of modesty.

On the other hand, I also felt a little confused. I was surprised since eating a New York cheesecake was a fresh new experience for me, but that should not apply to Osanai-san.

“Hey, Osanai-san.”

I asked a question to Osanai-san, who was sorrowfully staring at her New York cheesecake which had so quickly dwindled in size.

“I’m amazed, it was so delicious. Even in light of how prepared you were for it, was it up to your expectations?”

Osanai-san tilted her head.

“You mean if it was delicious? Yes, it was.”

“More than anywhere else?”

I wasn’t quite convinced that a cheesecake from a middle school Cultural festival would satisfy Osanai-san. That girl liked both Japanese and Western sweets, would search for shops selling delicious desserts on her own two feet, and was not negligent in doing research. Due to budget constraints, she couldn’t possibly get to know the best tastes in the world, but there was no doubt that her tastes were fairly refined. Given that she knew such high quality sweets, was the cheesecake really that delicious to her?

Osanai-san precisely read the intention behind my question. She put down her fork and somewhat straightened her posture.

“Kobato-kun, that’s not it. Comparing a wonderful patisserie and a sweets-making club as if they’re on the same level is boring. It’s simply comical to think that Godiva3 is better when you’re eating a 100-yen bar of chocolate.”

“Is that so…”

“Yes, it is.”

She put some more enthusiasm into her speech.

“Just as a patisserie should be compared to other patisseries, it’s fine for a homemade sweet to be great relative to other homemade sweets, and for a dagashi4 to be tasty compared to other dagashi. It might seem cool to always look for the best like a seeker of the way5, but in reality you’re nothing but than a snob who always compares to past experiences no matter what you eat.”

“So you’re happy no matter what you eat?”

“Definitely not. I don’t like things that are not delicious, especially if corners are cut. That’s not nice at all… If I had to say something snobbish, this is obviously not the best New York cheesecake I’ve had. But it’s tasty, and no corners have been cut for it, and more importantly, I’m enjoying it right now.”

Filling her mouth with some more cheesecake, she smiled.

“That’s how it is, Kobato-kun.”


3

After we’d enjoyed the aftertaste of the cheesecake and washed it down with some black tea, Kogi-san joined us without her apron and bandanna, an uneasy look on her face.

“Umm, how was it?”

Osanai-san cheerfully answered.

“It was amazingly delicious.”

“Thank goodness…!”

Kogi-san clutched her heart, let out a breath and moved her face closer to Osanai-san, as usual without looking at me.

“I got someone to take over for me. I will be going to check out the Cultural Festival, so shall we go together, Yuki-chan-senpai?”

Osanai-san gave me a glance, and we made some subtle eye contact. Considering that she wanted to maintain a suitable distance with Kogi-san, should I accompany the two of them?

After thinking for a while, I stood up.

“Right, I’ll look around on my own, then. We can communicate by email later.”

Osanai-san’s purpose should have been fulfilled just by me going into the cafe. There should be no need for us to stick together at this point. Osanai-san apparently thought the same way, for she gave me a small nod.

Leaving Osanai-san in her seat, I left the home economics classroom after paying for my share. The girl who had been touting earlier was no longer outside. Perhaps she was now waiting tables in place of Kogi-san.

I could have gone home, but it would be befitting of a petit bourgeois to explore a little, especially since I had already taken the effort to come here. Thus, I unfolded the pamphlet I’d received near the entrance.

“Oh?”

A small piece of paper tucked in between the pamphlet pages fluttered to the ground in the hallway. I picked it up to read its contents.

The Judo Club’s public practice match has been cancelled – Cultural Festival Executive Committee.”

Looking at the pamphlet, I found that there was indeed such an event detailed there. I didn’t know the exact reason for the cancellation, but maybe someone realized at the last moment that it was a little strange to show off a practice match for the Cultural Festival.

At the gymnasium stage there was a class performing The Inugami Curse6, which I felt like watching, but unfortunately the show was already over. It was currently a little before three o’clock, and since four o’clock would mark the end of the Cultural Festival and the beginning of the Closing Celebration7, most events had already concluded.

The computer club was apparently doing an event called “Revival of the Famicom”. I’d heard about the Famicom8 but never actually seen one, so I was curious as to what it actually was. On the other hand, there was a classroom on the fourth floor that had been turned into a three-dimensional maze, and solving that maze would not go against my promise with Osanai-san to stop impertinently solving mysteries, so I wanted to test my skills there. Should I go for the “Revival of the Famicom”, or should I go for the three-dimensional maze? Unable to choose, I decided to toss a coin. If the ten-yen coin came up heads, I would go for the Famicom, if tails the maze.

With a crisp-sounding clink, the ten-yen coin flew up into the air. I grabbed it as it fell… or at least I tried to, but my hand spectacularly missed, and the coin started rolling down the corridor. Hurriedly, I chased after it. The coin eventually hit a wall and landed on tails. The maze it is, then.

I started going up the stairs to the fourth floor. Even on the vertical faces of the stairs were signs like “Haunted House 1-B” and “Alice in Wonderland 2-D”. It went without saying that the notice boards at the staircase landings were overwhelmed in a plethora of signs and posters. I was never involved with such events during middle school. I never had much interest for them, and it must have shown, for I was hardly invited to them. All I would do during the Cultural Festival was to complete the jobs assigned to me by my class.

“Here, have a balloon!”

When I reached the third floor, a balloon was unexpectedly thrust in front of me. I considered taking it, but it wouldn’t be good to explore a maze with my hands full, so I politely declined.

“Here, have a coupon!”

On the fourth floor, I was given a handwritten ticket. It was for a cafe by class 1-C, but they had unfortunately run out of snacks. Seeing that they were hastily distributing coupons, they probably hadn’t reached their sales goal, but this probably wouldn’t help much.

The classrooms of Reichi Middle School had windows built into the walls facing the hallway. The classroom with the maze had black curtains covering all the windows, giving it quite a serious feel. I approached a bored-looking male student who was wearing a headband and leaning against a wall near the entrance.

“Can I still go in?”

I asked a question as if I was entering a store which I didn’t know the operating hours of. The student straightened his back, a slightly relieved smile appearing on his face.

“Of course! Do you want to try it?”

I nodded, upon which he handed me a small torchlight.

“It is dark inside, so please use this when necessary. You can go for a time trial in the first round, so how about it?”

“I’m not sure, I feel like slowly looking around to see how it was made.”

“You can do that on the second round.”

“I’ll do that, then. Does the time start the moment I enter?”

“Yes. Ready…”

The boy took out a stopwatch as I put my hand on the classroom door.

“Start!”


The three-dimensional maze was quite interesting. They’d made cardboard walls, seemingly supported by tables and chairs, and it was pretty fun wandering down the narrow, dark passageways.

I felt that I was somewhat fast in traversing the maze, but my timing didn’t even break into the top. It was disappointing, but it couldn’t be helped. A flat maze would be fine, but quickly solving a three-dimensional maze for the first time depended too much on luck. It would probably be more fun to take the best timing out of three tries, though that would be painful for the maze administrators.

“Thank you very much!”

I left the maze moderately satisfied. It was already close to three, so the cleanup process would soon begin here and there. Meeting at two even though we were going to a Cultural Fesitval was too late, and there was too little time to fully enjoy… that said, it was likely part of Osanai-san’s calculations. If we arrived early, she would have to spend half a day participating in activities with Kogi-san, which is why she chose two o’clock as our meeting time.

Looking down from a window at the hallway, I saw the campfire burning with a deep red glow, right in the middle of the sports ground. Around the fire, some red objects were being moved around, probably buckets of water meant for fire prevention. Four planters with flowers growing in them surrounded the fire.

I’d heard of schools where the students gather around a fire at the Closing Celebration after the Cultural Festival, but I’d not experienced one before. While it was situated in the middle of the sports ground which presented a lower risk of the fire spreading, probably because the school management had warned the executive committee that problems could arise otherwise, lighting a fire in school is still a daring thing to do, but perhaps that is to be expected of a private school. Witnessing something like that gave me a small tinge of jealousy.

Two girls were approaching the fire. One of them wore a sailor uniform while the other was clad in casual clothes, and the latter was holding two balloons. There was someone distributing balloons earlier, but taking two was a little greedy.

Oh, wasn’t that Osanai-san?

That would mean the person next to her was Kogi-san. I didn’t know why the two of them were moving towards the fire, but perhaps Kogi-san wanted to let Osanai-san see it up close. As I silently watched, the two of them stood close to the fire and stretched their hands to the front. Chilly winds would certainly blow during autumn evenings, but I couldn’t think that they were trying to keep warm with a bonfire, so it was quite a bizarre sight.

Exactly what were the two of them doing?

As I was having that thought, a figure popped out from a corner of the sports ground. They were wearing a student uniform, meaning that they were a male student from this school. He was fast. Judging by his speed, he probably didn’t notice Osanai-san and Kogi-san.

I reached into my pocket to bring out my mobile phone, but calling her now would be too late. The two girls showed no indication of noticing the oncoming boy, and the boy was only focused on looking behind him. I wanted to open the window to warn them, but it was locked, and unlocking it took too much time.

They seemingly noticed each other right before the imminent collision. The girl in the sailor uniform whom I thought to be Kogi-san froze in place, while the person in the orange cardigan who looked like Osanai-san leapt back. The boy also finally noticed the two girls and changed course, but that resulted terribly.

A moment later, the girl in casual clothes was knocked aside, while the boy pitched forward and tumbled onto the ground. From here, I could see that the boy was quite well-built. It could be a serious matter being knocked into by someone like him. Turning around, I headed for the staircase in a trot.

I had only one wish, that Osanai-san was safe.

Because if she was injured, I would have to bring her back…!


4

I unfortunately got lost since it was my first time in this building, so it took me a few minutes to get down to the sports ground.

There was a wide ring of students around the campfire, and no adults who looked like teachers. Kogi-san stood stock still in the center of that ring, a dumbfounded look on her face. She was carrying a stick with some red objects skewered on it. Osanai-san was not there.

She must have gotten injured and was carried away to the infirmary. Kogi-san did not have a good opinion of me, or to be precise, she thought me to be a nuisance in her quest to monopolize Osanai-san, but she was the only one present who knew the situation. I ran up to question her.

“A serious accident happened, right? What happened to Osanai-san?”

Kogi-san just stared at me intently. She hadn’t made eye contact with me at the cafe, so it was the first time we were actually facing each other. Her big, round eyes had turned deep red, as if she had been forcibly trying not to cry.

“…You alright?”

“Y-Yes.”

Seemingly having come to her senses, she steeled her face. She looked around, then spoke in a stifled voice.

“Senpai was… taken away.”

“Taken away, you say? By whom? And where to?”

“I don’t know where she was taken. The person who took her away was… someone from my school, I think…”

At that moment, Kogi-san raised her voice.

“Yuki-chan-senpai was kidnapped!”

“Huh? Again?”

“Eh?”

Whoops.


As Kogi-san demanded an explanation to my careless utterance, I somehow managed to appease and persuade her to focus on the present situation rather than the past. She wasn’t very convinced, but agreed with my insistence to first decide on a way to save Osanai-san, and thankfully shelved her doubts for the time being.

“So, what happened? Calm down and describe the events that led up to this.”

I’d witnessed the boy colliding into Osanai-san, but it was better to have Kogi-san explain what happened from the beginning, since she was close by at the time. Thus I urged her to talk, leaving out the fact that I’d seen it happen as well.

“This isn’t the time to talk! We need to save Yuki-chan-senpai!”

“Of course, but… I don’t know where she was taken, so there’s nothing I can do if I don’t know what happened.”

While she bitterly complained that I was taking things too easy, Kogi-san must have realized that there was nothing else we could do, for she begrudgingly started giving her account of the events leading up to the accident.

“…After leaving the cafe, I went around the Cultural Festival with Yuki-chan-senpai. We received balloons, went to the Photography Club, looked at the Alice in Wonderland exhibition… After that, Yuki-chan-senpai said that she forgot to hand me a souvenir, so she gave me a beautiful cardboard box.”

Come to think of it, Osanai-san did say that she was buying souvenirs.

“I was really happy. I immediately opened the box, and there were translucent marshmallows that I had not seen before. They were colorful, like jewels. I said, ‘Marshmallows are eaten after roasting in a direct fire, right?’, and Yuki-chan-senpai looked out of the window and replied, ‘Let’s do that, then.’”

By “that”, she couldn’t mean…

“So the two of you went to roast marshmallows in this fire? Really?”

I was met with a faintly sheepish smile in response. I knew full well that there was no compromise to Osanai-san’s attitude when it came to sweets, but it seemed that Kogi-san was also quite a veteran in that field.

Looking at the campfire up close, it wasn’t as big as I’d thought. The logs arranged in parallel crosses barely came up to my stomach, and the fire was not burning high in the air. Well, there should be no danger in going close to it for the sake of roasting marshmallows, but… the planters surrounding the campfire had signs saying not to approach any further. They must have simply ignored the warning.

The red objects skewered on the stick in Kogi-san’s hand must be the marshmallows she’d missed the chance to eat. When I prompted her to eat them, she stared balefully at the marshmallows before devouring them in a mouthful and saying, “Delicious” in a subdued voice.

In any case, I now understood why the two of them went to the middle of the sports ground.

“We received dango skewers from a class running a Japanese-style cafe, and we walked to the sports ground after that. We went next to the bonfire while exchanging information about shops with delicious desserts, then we inserted the marshmallows into those skewers.”

I’d thought that the fire couldn’t be called a campfire since it wasn’t in a camp, but “bonfire” was certainly a better word for it.

“Just as we were about to roast the marshmallows, I suddenly heard running footsteps from behind, and Yuki-chan-senpai said, ‘Look out!’ I turned around to see that a boy wearing our uniform was charging at us while looking behind, and I couldn’t move… it all happened in an instant, so I can’t remember what exactly happened.”

I’d seen the moment of impact. Osanai-san had tried to dodge the charging student, but since he’d also attempted an evasive maneuver, their actions resulted in a collision.

“Before I knew it, Yuki-chan-senpai was knocked away, but she didn’t fall. Her hands were on the ground and she was spinning around, like she was trying not to fall.”

“Er, so you mean that Osanai-san broke her fall?”

Kogi-san tilted her head.

“Did she? I’m not sure.”

Well, it was at least clear that she hadn’t suffered a major injury.

“But because of her posture, her bag came open and its contents flew out. The marshmallows were also spilled onto the ground.”

Ouch… I could imagine what Osanai-san must have felt at that moment.

On the other hand, I was a little curious about some details in this recount.

“Osanai-san was holding onto the marshmallows? Even though they were a souvenir for you, Kogi-san?”

“Yes.”

She said, then sank into thought.

“But, why was that… She held onto them for me when we received the skewers, and it stayed that way, I think.”

“What was the marshmallow box like?”

Kogi-san spread her hands to fit the frame of her body.

“It was a round and flat cardboard box that had lots of fruits drawn on it… is that important?”

“No, I was just wondering if its size made it troublesome to hold onto after receiving the skewers.”

Probably thinking that I had just asked her a non-critical question, a dissatisfied look appeared on her face, but she did not put it into words.

“What happened after that?”

“The boy who ran into us took a big fall. He got up, shouted, ‘Sorry!’, and started picking up the scattered objects with Yuki-chan-senpai. I was about to help as well, when I heard some rough voices coming from the school compound. I turned around to see three other boys approaching us.”

I nodded, urging her to carry on.

“The boy who collided into Yuki-chan-senpai tried running when he saw the group of three, but he probably got hurt at some point during the accident and was limping. He was caught since he couldn’t go anywhere, and he got punched and kicked by the gang. I was worried about Yuki-chan-senpai, but I was surprised that something like this happened right in front of my eyes, so I yelled, ‘What are you doing!’”

“You did?”

“Of course. Isn’t that what anyone would do?”

How many people would raise their voice when violence suddenly breaks out in front of them? To be honest, I had no confidence that I would be able to do that in such a situation. Yet Kogi-san had lashed out at them. Perhaps she felt some sense of security from being in her own school, but that was interesting.

“What are you laughing at?”

“No… sorry, it’s nothing. Erm, sorry to interrupt you in the middle of your story, but you don’t happen to remember what any of the boys look like, do you?”

Kogi-san nodded, though she seemed a little uncertain.

“They were underclassmen, I think. The one who ran into us is a first-year, while the three who came in later are second-year students.”

“Why do you think that?”

“When the boy was punched, he said things like, ‘I am so sorry’ and ‘Please forgive me’, while the three other boys who were doing the hitting said things like, ‘You understand your position as a junior?’, so I can tell that they are in different grades. Also, if the gang of three are third-year students, I would have probably recognized their faces, so I think they are in their second year.”

That made sense. She hadn’t presented any concrete evidence, but Kogi-san’s observation seemed quite credible.

“For the record, could you tell me what they looked like?”

“Umm…”

Kogi-san stared into space for a while.

“The three of them looked rugged and I thought they were in some athletic clubs. One of them was taller, while the other two were average in height. All three of them did not have good faces.”

“You don’t need to mince your words.”

“I don’t like boys.”

Kogi-san declared, then stared at me, currently a boy as well.

“I see, thank you. So the trio chased after the first-year student, and you stopped them from punching him. What happened after that?”

“I’m not sure he is a first-year student, though.”

“Let’s just call him that temporarily.”

It would be difficult to talk about him without a provisional name. Kogi-san seemed to agree with that sentiment, and continued.

“After that…”

She started, but her face clouded over.

“The three boys said, ‘You’ve got nothing to do with this’, but they stopped hitting the first-year student. They talked to him while nudging his body here and there, and I thought they would begin punching him again, but the three of them suddenly turned to look at me. They pointed at me and moved closer to me, giving me a bad feeling about it… then they said, ‘Give us the CD.’”

CD?

“By CD, you mean for music?”

Kogi-san shook her head, frowning.

“I don’t know!”

Hmm…

A music CD could only have music stored within. However, if it was a writable CD, it could contain video, audio, aggregate data or even computer viruses.

“I did notice the first-year student holding a CD while running, but I obviously don’t know what is stored inside.”

That was understandable, but…

“What? You saw the first-year student holding a CD?”

She gave a light nod.

Did Kogi-san really see him holding a CD? Well, there was no way that three-man group could have made a mistake and chased after a boy who didn’t possess the CD they wanted.

“So I replied, ‘What are you saying all of a sudden? Have you lost it?’ The three boys turned to Yuki-chan-senpai and shouted, ‘Over there!’, then surrounded her. They angrily yelled, ‘You have it, don’t you? Give it up!’”

“What did Osanai-san do?”

“She said, ‘What are you talking about?’ Her lips were shaking, and she looked like such a poor thing…”

So she was afraid.

She might have been smiling, though.

“On top of that, they snatched away Yuki-chan-senpai’s bag and briefly9 searched it. I can’t believe they did such a thing!”

“Indeed… that’s terrible.”

“Even after they looked for it so persistently, they said, ‘It’s not there’ and they could have given up, but they still stubbornly maintained that she had the CD. I think that when the first-year student was being beaten up, he must have lied that he had passed the CD to Yuki-chan-senpai. If not, I can’t see why they so obstinately suspected her.”

Her theory was that the trio suspected Osanai-san because they were duped by the first-year student, but how plausible was that? I wanted to think about it, but Kogi-san rattled on.

“Yuki-chan-senpai said she didn’t know, but the three of them kept suspecting her, and in the end they wanted to take her away. I threatened to call a teacher, but Yuki-chan-senpai said, ‘I’ll be fine. Don’t make a fuss.’ So in the end, I couldn’t do anything… while senpai followed those three boys, as she was told!”

“She followed them as she was told? Not that they were dragging her away?”

I was met with a somewhat unexpected reply.

“Yes. The three boys said, ‘Come’ and just as they told her to…”

Kogi-san started tearing up again.

“It’s all my fault! I shouldn’t have suggested roasting the marshmallows!”

Then again, Kogi-san had only suggested roasting marshmallows, while the one to bring up roasting at the bonfire was Osanai-san. However, I did not point that out.

“Did Osanai-san say anything else?”

As I asked that question, she stared at me resentfully.

“She…”

But Kogi-san faltered.

I kept quiet without urging her to continue, and eventually she spoke in a clear voice, as if she’d made up her mind.

“She said, ‘I’ll be fine. Don’t make a fuss, it’s nothing.’ And then…”

“And then?”

“…‘Call Kobato-kun.’”

Ah, so she correctly predicted that I would stick around in the school compound after eating the New York cheesecake. However…

“But Kogi-san, you don’t have my contact number, right?”

“Ah, about that.”

A doubtful look appeared on Kogi-san’s face.

“She said you would come if I just called out for you.”

…I’m not a dog, am I?

Osanai-san must have meant for Kogi-san to use the school public address system to call for me. That’s what I want to believe, anyway.

Regardless of the means, Osanai-san had told Kogi-san to call for me. I’d run over on my own accord, but she must have considered my presence to be necessary in some way. What could it be?

Thinking about it normally, she could want me to save her from the clutches of the mysterious, violent gang of three… but that would be a little strange. I didn’t know the identity of those three, but taking a girl away on a day of the Cultural Festival when so many people from outside the school were present was not a peaceable thing to do. If Kogi-san had made a fuss and called for a teacher like she wanted to, the trio would probably have had no choice but to capitulate. So why did the abduction succeed?

The reason for that was none other than Osanai-san’s refusal to resist. She assured Kogi-san that she was fine, stopped her from calling a teacher, and went with the trio by her own will.

Seriously! We were bound by the promise to stop each other’s bad habits, but did Osanai-san forget all about it? Basically, she was telling me to solve the mystery. And that mystery was…

“Where did the CD go?”

That would just about sum it up.


5

As the October sun started to set, a cold gust of wind blustered through the exposed sports ground. Crackling sounds from the bonfire reached my ears, and while I was happy to get some warmth from the flames, my illuminated face was getting sizzled.

No one approached us in the middle of the sports ground. I’d thought that some other people would come after hearing the commotion, but my expectations apparently missed the mark. There should have been many witnesses, so did they all pretend that they didn’t see anything, in accordance with some petit bourgeois-esque principle of letting sleeping dogs lie? If so, I should have probably learnt from them.

Suddenly, the schoolwide public address system came to life.

The Brass Band will be perfoming in the gymnasium from 3:15. Those who wish to watch their performance, please head over to the gymnasium. I repeat…”

Indeed, I could hear the disjointed sounds of brass band instruments preparing for the performance over the autumn wind.

Kogi-san spoke.

“The CD? Didn’t the first-year student have it when he collided into Yuki-chan-senpai? I saw it in his hand.”

Was her theory correct? Did the first-year’s lie really cause the three boys to suspect Osanai-san?

No, I couldn’t think that to be true.

“That can’t be. The trio touched his body to check if he had the CD. As you mentioned, they poked his body here and there. And when they confirmed that it wasn’t on his body, they concluded that Osanai-san had it, by process of elimination.”

The gang of three checked Osanai-san’s bag, but didn’t find the CD. They probably wanted to check her body, but they couldn’t possibly touch a girl wearing casual clothes in broad daylight. They were probably thinking of ways to obtain the CD they thought Osanai-san possessed, like getting a female collaborator to conduct a search in another location, or somehow coercing her to empty her pockets.

“But… I don’t believe that senpai has the CD.”

I gave a light nod.

“I think so too. If Osanai-san followed the trio while she had the CD, it would be to negotiate with them. If so, she could do it on her own, and there would be no reason to call me.”

With a face that suggested she couldn’t quite follow my reasoning, Kogi-san asked a question in an uncertain tone.

“Umm, so basically, neither Yuki-chan-senpai nor that boy has the CD… is that what you’re saying?”

“Exactly.”

I paused a little for effect.

“Neither Osanai-san nor the first-year student has the CD on their body. That means it can be thought to be hidden by one of them.”

And it was hidden somewhere close by.

“So who hid it? Needless to say, it was Osanai-san. The boy had no opportunity to do it while he was being chased and punched.”

“…If we’re talking about opportunity, that boy was the one with the CD. How did he tell Yuki-chan-senpai to hide it?”

That was a good question. The first-year student had no opportunity to hide the CD, while Osanai-san didn’t have the CD.

Then, there could only be one answer.

“The boy handed the CD to Osanai-san.”

Kogi-san’s mouth went agape in surprise.

That was the only conclusion that could be drawn after organizing the events that had transpired in order.

“The first-year student running away with the CD collided with Osanai-san, and their possessions got scattered. At that point, the first-year student realized that he would get caught, so he promptly handed the CD to Osanai-san… and entrusted it to her.”

“That’s impossible!”

Kogi-san laughed in disbelief.

“I mean, I should have witnessed that moment, but…”

She said, but her words trailed off.

If her testimony was accurate, Kogi-san was about to retrieve the contents of Osanai-san’s bag after the collision, but turned around when she heard the coarse voices. Right after that, her eyes were on the first-year student who had started running away. She then saw him being subjected to physical violence by the gang of three, upon which she called them out, resulting in an argument.

“After the two of them collided, you didn’t approach them, so you were not constantly looking at Osanai-san and the first-year student. Is that correct?”

I asked for confirmation, and Kogi-san meekly nodded.

“How long were your eyes away from Osanai-san?”

After a brief pause, she replied, visibly frustrated.

“One minute or two… I don’t think it was as long as two minutes, but at least a minute and a half.”

“Handing over the CD would take ten seconds even by the most generous estimate. Saying, ‘Please take care of this’ would take five seconds. What did Osanai-san do after that? After seeing the three-man group beat up the first-year student, she should have realized that the CD was something important. Should she run? Osanai-san is quite quick on her feet, but trying to run in Reichi Middle School, a location unfamiliar to her, from three boys who seem to be from athletic clubs would be too dangerous. So, should she obediently give it up? That’s not a bad choice, and above all, it’s what a little citizen would do… but Osanai-san did not do that. She hid the CD such that it would not fall into the hands of the trio, and followed them on her own accord.”

Kogi-san looked down for a while, her cheeks illuminated by the bonfire. She was probably thinking that what I said made sense. Eventually, she spoke in an impressed manner.

“Even though it was suddenly entrusted to her, she didn’t just pass it on to someone else… That’s my Yuki-chan-senpai… she’s so brave…”

“Well, the marshmallows were ruined, too.”

“…Isn’t that unrelated?”

Who knows?

“But even if the first-year student had time to pass the CD to Yuki-chan-senpai…”

Seemingly thinking as she spoke, Kogi-san’s tone was cautious.

“It was right in the middle of the sports ground, and she didn’t even have two minutes to do it.”

Kogi-san didn’t know Osanai-san very well, and was not cognizant of her intellectual agility and initiative… Ninety seconds was definitely enough for that girl.

“There was enough time. The question is, where and how did she hide it?”

I replied while surveying the sports ground.


The brass band’s performance started. The music that could be heard from the gymnasium was Ravel’s Boléro. The timbre of flutes was carried by the wind, reaching my ears.

Being in an urban area, Reichi Middle School felt somewhat cramped, but the sports ground was spacious enough.

Estimating its size was difficult, but seeing that a soccer goal post was placed on each side, I could tell that it was at least big enough to play soccer in. The central area with the bonfire was currently devoid of people.

…Then again, we occasionally got looks from the direction of the school building or the school gate. Standing and talking to a girl right in the middle of the sports ground apparently drew a lot of attention to us, and while that was an undesirable situation for a petit bourgeois, the more significant point was that hiding places in this area were extremely limited. Besides the bonfire, there were only water buckets that were probably meant for fire prevention and planters which contained flowers that I had seen before but didn’t know the name of.

I couldn’t see any permanent lines on the sports ground, so they would have to draw white lines every time they did a hundred meter run or played soccer. Looking closely, there were some metallic nozzles placed here and there, but they were just hose bibs meant for keeping dust away.

There were six buckets placed such that they were surrounding the bonfire. They seemed to be made of tin and were colored red on their exterior, with “For Fire Prevention” written in white paint. All of them contained water of varying levels.

On the other hand, the planters were rectangular in shape and about one armful in size. A total of four planters were placed on each side of the bonfire, approximately two meters away. I asked Kogi-san, “What flowers are these?” and she instantly replied, “Marguerite and Alyssum.” The planters were densely covered by the blooming flowers, so I was unable to see the earth that should have been spread under.

“Hmm…”

As the main theme of Bolero was repeated, the instruments playing the melody were switched again and again. Some loud cheers unexpectedly came from the school building, and I turned around to see a male student lean out of a window and shout, “2-B is the best!” at the top of his lungs.

A short distance away from our position, some objects that looked like turquoise and amber gemstones lay on the ground. I went over to pick one up, only to have it deform in my fingers. They were probably the marshmallows Osanai-san had bought as a gift, though I had no confidence to eat one. They’d scattered when she was about to fall. That would mean that Osanai-san and the first-year student had collided here, about six or seven meters away from the bonfire. There was no question that the passing of the CD occurred around here as well.

I now understood the gist of the situation. I folded my arms and looked down, about to do a little thinking, when Kogi-san questioned me in a voice even sharper than before.

“Are you listening? I was asking how she could have hid something in the middle of this sports ground.”

“Ah.”

My arms still folded, I gave a half-hearted answer.

“I can currently think of four ways.”

Lifting my head slightly, I noticed that Kogi-san had her eyes opened wide. I waited to see if she’d had some sudden realization, but eventually, all she said was this:

“Let us hurry up and find it, then.”

Thus I racked my brains. If I could think of four ways to hide the CD, my desire would be to cut that down to one through observation and reasoning. However, with the consideration that Osanai-san was still in captivity, Kogi-san had a point in suggesting that we start from methods that could be readily investigated.

“Shall we begin?”

“Where should we start…”

Kogi-san’s voice was so full of gusto that it seemed like she could soar into the air. I felt bad for diverting her momentum, but there was something I had to know.

“Just tell me one more thing. The last time I saw Osanai-san, she was wearing a white blouse and orange cardigan. She was holding a bag in one hand and two balloons in the other. Was it the same when she was being taken away?”

Kogi-san shot me a quizzical look. She was probably wondering how I knew about the balloons, and if I’d secretly followed them around. I didn’t mind being misunderstood, but it would be troubling if I couldn’t talk to her any more.

“I saw the events unfold from the fourth floor.”

I added. Even so, she gave me an evaluating stare, before suddenly muttering, “Now that you mention it…”, seemingly having just noticed something.

“Where did the balloons go? Yuki-chan-senpai wasn’t holding any.”

“…Any differences besides the balloons?”

“I think she looked exactly as you described.”

“And to be precise?”

Kogi-san frowned.

“She had a bag in one hand, and was holding something else in the other hand. I’m very sure of that.”

I let out a small groan. Kogi-san’s eye for observation could be trusted, but that only opened up another mystery to be solved. Where could they have gone?

“But more importantly, if those four methods are not just something you said off the top of your head, we should start searching.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

With another half-hearted reply, I raised my head. I was curious about the disappearance, but now was the time to eliminate the possibilities. Using my hand, I indicated the entire sports ground.

“The first, and the simplest method is to throw. Osanai-san could have thrown the CD while the trio was distracted with the first-year student. It’s flat, so it can fly quite far.”

“…I see.”

That was a listless response. Kogi-san must have expected a more proper answer. Paying her no heed, I continued.

“The benefit of this method is that it’s simple to execute, but there is a problem. CDs are resistant to changes in temperature, but can be easily scratched. If the CD flies out of its case, and the writable surface slides onto the dirt, it could be severely damaged. Even so, there is the possibility that she chose to do that because it was an emergency, so we should search in an approximately twenty meter radius from where the marshmallows were scattered.”

Kogi-san nodded, though she did not seem very convinced.

“Got it. I will begin the search.”

While Kogi-san bent down and started looking around, I considered the other possibilities.

“Popcorn for sale!” From somewhere in the school, a cry could be heard. With the Cultural Festival ending soon, they must want to somehow get rid of the leftovers. I was thinking of purchasing some popcorn if they came over, but no one approached us while we were standing next to the bonfire, and I never heard that voice again.

As for the second method, was it possible that she hid it in the planters? Marguerite and Alyssum grow densely, so it would be a perfectly suitable hiding place. With only four planters, it wouldn’t take long…

Thus I searched the planters, but found nothing. On to the third method.

What about inside the fire prevention buckets? They just contained tap water, so even if you threw a CD in, anyone peering into the bucket can easily spot it. Conversely, it wouldn’t be seen if no one checked the buckets. CDs work fine even when they get soaked, so hiding them in water could be a good idea. If not, what about under the buckets? Size-wise, a CD could easily fit there.

Since there were six buckets, and given that I had to lift them up for a moment, it would be a little troublesome to check them all. As a matter of practicality, Osanai-san might not have had the time to hide the CD in the buckets on the other side of the bonfire, but given that I was already here, I might as well check them too.

…However, I found nothing. There was one bucket that had water spilled around it, making me think that it was recently moved, but I was unable to find the CD within or underneath it.

As I matched my footsteps to the repeating melody of Bolero, Kogi-san ran towards me, slightly out of breath.

“I was unable to find it. It might not have been thrown.”

Because I was thinking of someone else, my response was somewhat sloppy.

“Yeah, I suppose.”

“Hey…!”

Oh, crap. Sensing the remonstration in her voice, I hurriedly fixed my facial expression.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to make you do something meaningless. I just thought that it would be good to check just in case, even though the probability was low. I’ve also searched some other places, but I’ve found nothing.”

Kogi-san glanced at her wristwatch, then turned to look at the school building. The four banners were swaying in the gentle wind.

“We won’t find it by doing this! Isn’t it faster to ask around if anyone has seen the three boys?”

“Even if we do find them, we can’t just fight them with Osanai-san on the line. We need some cards to play.”

“That… makes sense, but…”

I could understand her panic, but it was still too early for that. I looked straight at Kogi-san and spoke.

“Think about it. Calm down and think. What was Osanai-san holding? Did anything go missing? I’m sure that will give us a clue. It’s too early to declare that we can’t find the CD.”

I was certain that a clue was hidden there, but I wasn’t sure how I could realize it.

“What Yuki-chan-senpai was holding, and if anything went missing…?”

Muttering those words, Kogi-san looked up at the autumn sky. I followed suit, drawn to the direction she was looking at, and spotted a bird that looked like a kite10 circling around high up in the sky, as the melody of Bolero swelled.


“The gang of three peeked into Osanai-san’s bag, and determined that the CD was not present. That was strange. Before pulling out such a heavy-handed tactic as abduction, shouldn’t they have searched her bag a little more thoroughly?”

Kogi-san openly showed her dissatisfaction.

“Are you talking about pockets? Since they determined in one glance that the CD was not inside, her bag is probably one that doesn’t have pockets inside.”

“No, I’m not talking about pockets.”

I looked down at the gem-like candies that were scattered on the ground. That was the souvenir Osanai-san had gone out of her way to buy. Even I could understand the disappointment of being about to happily receive that gift, only to have it wasted like that.

“I was referring to the marshmallow box.”

“Box…?”

Taken by surprise, Kogi-san repeated my words.

“If that box was in the bag, it would have been strange for the trio to say, ‘It’s not here’ after just a short peek inside the bag. Based on what you told me earlier, isn’t the marshmallow box big enough to fit a CD? They would have taken it out of the bag to check its contents, shaken it, or done some kind of action on it.”

“Maybe they wanted to slowly check after taking Yuki-chan-senpai away?”

“Even so, it’s strange that they declared the absence of the CD.”

After taking a breath, I continued.

“Basically, the marshmallow box has also disappeared.”

Kogi-san tilted her head.

“But doesn’t that make things more complicated?”

No, that wasn’t it. With this, I’d focused the problem down to one single point. Just one more step… but I couldn’t reach that one last step.

“Osanai-san told you to contact me, right? Can you remember what exactly she said?”

I asked, not with the intention to blame Kogi-san, but for the sake of confirmation, because if Osanai-san had left a clue, there was a good chance that Kogi-san had heard it. However, she looked down, seemingly hurt by my words.

“I didn’t hear anything…”

She muttered. I looked up at the sky. Was this girl naive, or was Osanai-san special for not getting hurt even though she regularly communicated with me? In any case, I’d done something wrong.

“Sorry, I wasn’t implying that you were hiding something.”

“Yuki-chan-senpai said, ‘Call Kobato-kun.’”

“Yeah, I remember. Anything else?”

“Besides that, she also said, ‘Ask him if the cake was delicious.’”

So she did leave a message!

To summarize, Osanai-san and Kogi-san were exploring the Cultural Festival, when the topic of roasting marshmallows at the bonfire came up, so they first procured skewers before moving to the sports ground, with Osanai-san carrying the box of marshmallows. They both inserted marshmallows into skewers and were about to roast them, but a first-year student ran towards them and collided into Osanai-san who tried to get out of the way. As a result, the marshmallows were scattered, along with the contents of Osanai-san’s bag. Going by the earlier deduction, it was at this moment when the first-year student passed the CD to Osanai-san.

A trio of boys chasing the first-year student quickly caught up to him, and after some violence, conducted a body search on him. Osanai-san probably used this chance to hide the CD. The trio confirmed that the first-year student did not possess the CD, then turned to look at Osanai-san, who had interacted with him earlier. Osanai-san did not resist, but told Kogi-san to call me, and also said, “Ask him if the cake was delicious.”

…There was no way it was unrelated. The CD’s hiding place and Osanai-san’s mysterious message were definitely somehow linked!

“By cake, she means the cheesecake, right?”

As if intimidated by my excitement, Kogi-san timidly nodded.

“I, I also think she was referring to the New York cheesecake.”

Osanai-san was hinting towards something about that cake. It was a cheesecake. A New York cheesecake. What could that something be?

That cake was white. It was dense. It was delicious. We talked about the best tastes. Were there any hints from that conversation?

Also, she told me how that cake is made. It is put into a vat, then an oven, and…

“…Kogi-san, you mentioned how a New York cheesecake is baked, right?”

“Eh? Um, in a water bath?”

That’s it!

The cake’s ingredients are put into a mold, and that is placed into a vat filled with water and heated in an oven. Before, I was unable to understand what effect that would have. I was slow on the uptake. Isn’t the purpose of a water bath clear as day?

“Kogi-san!”

“Y-Yes!”

I gave an order to Kogi-san, who was for some reason standing stiffly at attention.

“Go back to the Sweets-Making Association and bring some tongs… Hurry!”

“Yes!”

Without asking for a reason or showing any displeasure, she sprang into action and dashed off… was she perhaps the type of person who cannot refuse firm orders?

I hoped she wouldn’t push herself too hard, though.


6

The bonfire burned bright red in the middle of the parallel crosses, with some firewood flaring up every now and then. I simply watched the flames while listening to the sounds of Bolero drifting over from the gymnasium.

Kogi-san returned before three minutes had even passed, her breath ragged. With one hand on her knees, she held out a pair of tongs using the other.

“I’ve… brought it…”

“Thanks.”

I opened and closed the metallic tongs, making some clanging sounds, which I apologized for internally. With a sideward glance at Kogi-san who couldn’t even look up, I headed straight for the area near the bonfire where the marshmallows had scattered.

“Hiding something in a place which stands out more than others is a well-worn device. For that reason alone, it can’t be said to be very effective. Choosing a hiding spot that can be immediately found by someone who has a little more attention to detail banks on the element of surprise, so it is risky.”

A wave of heat washed over my forehead and cheeks. Ah, come to think of it, there was some water spilled around one of the buckets. Was that a result from someone drawing water from that bucket?

“However, it’s a different matter when the most conspicuous thing is the fire and the object to be hidden is combustible. Something that can burn cannot be hidden in fire, so there is no need to even think of searching it. I remember seeing a movie where something that floats in water is unexpectedly hidden in water, and it completely floated to the surface at the right moment. It was a cool movie.”

I stared at the fire, and eventually spotted a gap between some pieces of firewood. A gust of hot wind blew over, causing my eyes to narrow. Peeking into the gap, I spotted my quarry deep in the flames, and a grin naturally rose from the corners of my mouth. At the same time, the music coming from the gymnasium was reaching its climax.

“And if you think about it the other way around, things that are incombustible, or at least temporarily incombustible can be hidden in a fire, and even more so for a CD which is resistant to changes in temperature.”

Still panting, Kogi-san asked a question.

“But… there should be a limit…”

“Yes, there is a limit.”

I turned around with a grin.

“Exposing the CD to a temperature of three, four hundred degrees would be certainly reckless. So, what if it only goes up to a hundred degrees? CDs are also water resistant.”

After hearing the words “hundred degrees” and “water”, Kogi-san looked up.

“I see, so that’s why she mentioned the New York…”

She was quick on the uptake. Or was I just slow?

When baking a New York cheesecake, a water-filled vat is used for no other reason than to control the flow of heat. No matter how hot an oven is, even if its temperature is in the thousands, anything within water will not exceed a hundred degrees. That is because the limit of water temperature is approximately a hundred degrees, although that is dependent on pressure.

I inserted the tongs into the gap between logs.

Eventually, I hit an object, so I started slowly pulling it out… at that moment, I realized that a bamboo skewer was also missing from the scene. Osanai-san must have used the skewer to push the object into the fire, then tossed it into the fire when she was done.

From the bonfire, I pulled out the tongs. The object firmly gripped by the tongs’ claws was, of course, the marshmallow box, which was blackened and covered in soot.

“I should have asked for mittens as well.”

I muttered as I left the box on the ground and brought over a bucket of water. How much would the temperature fluctuate if I dumped the entire bucketful of water on it? Not wanting to take the risk, I scooped up some water with my hand and poured it onto the box, bit by bit.

“It’s just a paper box… but it was in the fire…”

“Fires are cooler at the bottom, and the kindling temperature for paper is unexpectedly high. About four hundred degrees Fahrenheit… how much is that in Celsius? Not to mention…”

Giving up on the frustratingly slow cooling process, I pinched the edge of my shirt in place of a glove and touched the box.

“If the box is filled with water, it should be a hundred degrees inside. It’s the same logic that’s applied to the New York cheesecake.”

Indeed, the box was filled to the brim with water. Since the box had been in the fire up until now, the water was naturally boiling hot. Right at the bottom, a CD in its plastic case shone in the colors of a rainbow as it reflected light from the fire and the sun. Pinching the case with the tongs, I dragged it out of the water.

“No doubt, this is it. We’ve finally found it.”

In summary, Osanai-san submerged the marshmallow box in one of the fire prevention buckets to fill it with water, put the CD inside, then placed the box in the fire, all for the sake of hiding the CD.

Kogi-san let out a deep sigh.

“…Yuki-chan-senpai thought up, prepared and executed that plan in only 90 seconds…?”

With another heavy breath, she murmured.

“Unbelievable…”

Kogi-san’s eyes would usually sparkle with fascination and goodwill whenever she talked about Osanai-san.

But this time, that was not the case. If I was not mistaken, the expression residing in her eyes at this point was close to that of fear.


7

The timbre of multiple instruments reached their peak, marking an end to the song. Applause could be heard from the gymnasium.

“I…”

After receiving the CD that was still a little warm, Kogi-san held it up to the sky.

“I thought that Yuki-chan-senpai attached the CD to a balloon and sent it up in the air.”

“Ahaha.”

It was interesting, but that method would not allow for retrieval of the CD. Osanai-san must have simply let go of the balloons during the collision.

“In any case, we can help Yuki-chan-senpai if we pass this CD to those three boys, right?”

With Kogi-san asking that question, I could tell that I had earned a bit of her trust… It pained me that I would probably end up betraying that trust.

“No way.”

I shook my head, causing Kogi-san’s eyes to widen.

“Osanai-san would be sad if we did that. If she wanted to hand over the CD like that, she could have done it on her own.”

“But that could be because she didn’t want to immediately hand over something that was entrusted to her…”

“It’ll be the same thing if we give up the CD. For what purpose do you think Osanai-san hid the CD in the fire and allowed herself to get caught?”

And to top it all off, why did she call me?

As Kogi-san hemmed and hawed in response, I made an assertion.

“Osanai-san was buying time. She hoped that I would find the CD with that time.”

“Why?”

“To check the contents of the CD, of course!”

Osanai-san was asked to hold onto the CD by the first-year boy, who was subsequently chased down and assaulted by the trio. At that point, her gift of marshmallows had already been ruined, the two balloons she’d received knocked up into the air, and finally, her prospects of eating another New York cheesecake before leaving looked to be going down the drain. She did not have enough discipline as a petit bourgeois to obediently hand over the CD.

The CD contained someone’s secrets. Wanting to find out about those secrets probably lies within the bounds of healthy curiosity. I’m not sure about using those secrets to exact revenge for her marshmallows and cheesecake, though.

“…I see.”

Kogi-san vacantly muttered.

Kogi-san admired Osanai-san as an elder sister who had similar interests. She might have experienced her sharpness first-hand during the incident with the macarons, but even I could tell while watching from the side that she thought Osanai-san to be adorable. But now, she’d caught a glimpse of her methods. Did she get a shock from that…?

“That’s my Yuki-chan-senpai!”

“Huh?”

“That’s right. Those three boys are clearly delinquents. Since they’re searching for it, the CD must contain records of their wrongdoings! She put her body on the line so that the evidence isn’t destroyed! Yuki-chan-senpai is really amazing!”

With the sparkles returned to her eyes, Kogi-san put her two fists in front of her mouth, as if she was struggling to withstand the strong surge of emotions from within.

Hmm, I suppose what she said was not wrong. The gang of three were certainly violent if nothing else, the CD probably contained some information that would be inconvenient to them, and Osanai-san gave herself up as a decoy so that the CD would not fall into their hands. All of those points should have hit the mark, so what was this subtle feeling that something was off…

“If so, then let’s go!”

“L-Let’s go?”

It was the first time I’d heard someone actually use the words “Let’s go” in speech.11

“I know someone in the computer club. If we let him handle it, we can watch any videos on the CD and even make copies. Let’s go!”


The Computer Club room was located somewhere in some school building. Being the last spurt of the Cultural Festival, it was unbearably crowded, and it was all I could do to follow Kogi-san, so I unfortunately lost my bearings midway. I guessed that we were on the third floor, but we could have very well been on the fourth.

The door to a room that looked like a repurposed empty classroom was ajar, and next to the door was a sign that read, “Revival of the Famicom”, but pasted on top was a piece of paper that said, “It has become unresponsive, so we are closed.” In other words, the Computer Club members were free, and we would be able to easily ask a favor of them.

Although he was still a middle school student, Kogi-san’s acquaintance from the Computer Club was a head taller than me, had a wide frame and was narrow towards the waist; an imposing man with an impressive physique. He sported an intimidating face, but had gentle mannerisms, even showing us to our seats and serving us barley tea. Additionally, he was the only Computer Club member who had remained in the club room. After hearing the situation and Kogi-san’s request to play the CD, he smiled.

“Sure thing!”

What a good person.

“A desktop is used for presentations, but you can use a notebook for something as simple as playing a CD.”

“I see. Well then, if you please.”

As Kogi-san handed over the CD, a puzzled look appeared on the Computer Club member’s face.

“…This CD’s kinda warm, isn’t it?”

Indeed, the CD was still warm, but the notebook read it without any problems as Kogi-san stared at the screen uneasily. Perhaps she was unfamiliar with computers.

“How is it?”

“It’s totally normal. As for what’s inside… there’s a video file named ‘Autumn Training Camp’. It’s only four minutes long. Quite a waste only that’s stored in the CD. Should I play it?”

Kogi-san nodded, and the video promptly started playing.

Projected on the screen was a wide space covered in tatami flooring, on which about ten males clad in dogi12 were standing.

“…Karate?”

The Computer Club member muttered, but we could immediately tell that was not the case based on what happened on screen. They grappled, shook and threw each other. It was the scene of a Judo practice session. Kogi-san piped up.

“That’s our Judo club, right?”

The free practice continued on silently. At some point, a tall boy wearing a black belt started grappling with another boy who was about two thirds his size and whose facial features made him look really young.

“Hey, is there no sound?”

Kogi-san asked, and the Computer Club member went “Oops” as he deactivated the mute function on the notebook computer.

A loud voice immediately reverberated throughout the room.

Show some spirit! Louder, louder, louder! C’mon, shout louder! Show that you’re serious!”

I instinctively pulled away, while Kogi-san, who had her face close to the screen, let out a shriek.

“Ah, my bad.”

Wincing, the Computer Club member turned down the volume.

The Judo Club member on the monitor who was told to shout louder desperately raised his voice. However, he might not have even gone through a voice change yet, for it was high-pitched and soft. He gripped the collar and sleeves of the black belt holder who looked like a upperclassman and tried shaking him, but the difference in size was too great.

Use more strength! Be serious! Louder! C’mon, louder, louder, louder! I told you to shout louder! You looking down on me?!”

With a shout that sounded more like a scream, the boy hit his opponent’s body, apparently trying to execute a move, but as expected, his opponent stood upright, not even wavering a little.

Put in some technique! What’s the point of recording if you’re going to be like this!”

The black belt holder yelled, and in the next moment…

I told you to show some spirit!”

The black belt holder gave an exceptionally loud roar and swung the smaller boy around. I didn’t know what the move was called, but the underclassman was thrown in such a vibrant manner that it was as if he’d done a jump, then landed on the ground with a heavy-sounding thud.

Oi, don’t you dare fall asleep! Can you take responsibility if the team loses because of you? Recognize your responsibility! Oi, wake up! Why don’t you go home if you don’t even wanna try? Are you gonna quit? Oi, I asked, are you gonna quit!”

However, the fallen boy remained lying flat on his back on the tatami flooring, not even trying to get up. If anything, he didn’t even move.

Um, senpai…”

A nearby club member said timidly and vaguely raised his hand. However, the one addressed as senpai didn’t look at him, instead turning his back and walking a few steps to the boy who had collapsed.

Don’t you dare slack off!”

Just when I thought he was about to turn around, he stepped on the collapsed boy’s chest and released a menacing roar.

“Hii!” I could hear a voice, but that probably originated from Kogi-san. At the same time, a dull, unpleasant sound came from the speakers, and a scream erupted from the collapsed boy. The screen also shook violently, conveying the agitation felt by the person recording the video.

The Judo Club member addressed as senpai raised his foot, ready to stomp down again. The boy lying on the floor weakly raised his arms, trying to protect his body. Even from the video you could tell that his face looked pale.

Senpai! This is bad!”

The other club member’s voice must have finally reached his ears, for he put down his foot.

I’ll leave it to you.”

Multiple people rushed to the collapsed boy, and one of them called out.

Bring him to the infirmary! Also call a teacher, he might have broken some bones!”

The boy addressed as senpai stood still for a moment, seemingly in a bad mood, but eventually noticed the camera and moved towards it.

Oi! How long are you gonna record this for! Stop it now!”

The screen shook fiercely a second time, then faded to black.


“I’ve heard the rumors.”

The Computer Club member said.

“The Judo Club’s coach was someone who gave careful guidance, and under him they became strong. However, he quit last year, so now the Judo Club doesn’t have a coach. Their club advisor knows nothing about Judo, so he hardly shows up to practice. As a result, the upperclassmen started a strict training regime, but if only that was all…”

“I’ve also heard about it.”

Kogi-san chimed in.

“I heard that accidents kept occurring. Even in this Cultural Festival, they were supposed to showcase a practice match, but it was cancelled due to an injury.”

The Computer Club member checked the details of the video.

“This was taken last week. Is this the injury that caused them to cancel their practice match?”

Not being able to get up after being thrown is a possibility for those who practice martial arts. One could lose consciousness after failing to break their fall properly.

On the other hand, causing an injury by stepping on someone that had already collapsed could not be said to be a training accident. It was a scandal.

With that, I could roughly understand the events that transpired today.

“The Judo Club were filming their practice session to check their movements, but they ended up recording such a scene. We don’t know if it was the person who recorded the video, but someone in the club thought of showing it to people on the outside.”

“To complain about the training?”

Kogi-san asked.

“Probably. That person wanted to let others know that the Judo Club had devolved to such a state. Since today is the Cultural Festival, people from outside the school are here, so perhaps they wanted to screen it somewhere to a lot of people. Even if they weren’t able to do something so daring, they could have planned to show it to the school principal, but some members happened to discover those plans today.”

“In any case, it was discovered that someone brought out the recorded video.”

“This school’s Judo Club is participating in the Autumn Tournament. There must be some members who think that it will be problematic if the video is made public before the tournament. That’s why it became a game of tag.”

“And the first-year student who was being chased collided into Yuki-chan-senpai…”

That would make the three boys who chased after the first-year student Judo Club members as well. Osanai-san had gotten caught up in some infighting.

Kogi-san held her head and placed her elbows on the table.

“Now that we’ve seen this… we can’t hand it to them. But we need to help Yuki-chan-senpai…”

“Who’s Yuki-chan-senpai?”

For some reason, the Computer Club member directed his question at me.

“Ah, she’s my friend, and she’s currently being held captive by the Judo Club. They mistakenly believe that she has this CD.”

The Computer Club member’s eyes widened.

“…Isn’t that seriously terrible?”

I wonder about that.

It would indeed be an extremely dangerous situation if the trio were just delinquents, but that was not the case. Now, how should I explain it?

“Let’s make a deal with the Judo Club!”

All of a sudden, Kogi-san sat up and exclaimed.

“We’ll use the school PA system to tell them to return Yuki-chan-senpai in exchange for the CD. Of course, we’ll make a copy of it, and, and…”

But at that moment, a voice rang out.

“There’s so need for that!”13

I whirled around to see a girl leaning on the open door, her arms folded and a defiant smile on her face. Each of us had a different response.

The Computer Club member yelled, “Who are you!”

Kogi-san cheered, “Yuki-chan-senpai!”

I quipped, “You mean ‘There’s no need for that’, right?”

Osanai-san gave a deep nod while maintaining that defiant smile, then corrected herself in a lower, calmer voice.

“There’s no need for that.”


8

The Cultural Festival would end at four o’clock, and the Closing Celebration would immediately begin. Everyone would gather at the sports ground to sing and dance around the bonfire. I felt like staying to watch that, but since they apparently needed to clean everything up by four, we left Reichi Middle School, lest we get in the way.

I listened to Osanai-san’s full account on the subway.

“I was brought by the three boys to a martial arts gym, where I was surrounded by about ten of them. They kept threatening me to bring out the CD, it was scary.”

She spoke with a nonchalant look on her face and the air of a kid saying that the haunted house at the amusement park was scary.

“But, I have this.”

The item she retrieved from her miniature Boston bag was… a student handbook.

“I thought it would be something like that. Still, I’m surprised you bring that around.”

“You wouldn’t understand, Kobato-kun. You wouldn’t understand the need to carry a student handbook around to prove that you’re a high school student.”

Right.

When I checked the CD’s video and saw the Judo Club’s practice, I predicted that Osanai-san would return safely. School clubs have the unique characteristic of disliking situations where outsiders get involved in their troubles. Of course, the extent differs from person to person, but it is the general trend, regardless of whether the individual in question is a teacher or student. In the face of a high school student who was not only from a different city, but also from an entirely different prefecture, or in other words, a complete outsider, I thought there would be a very low chance that Reichi Middle School’s Judo Club would resort to high-handed measures. I never expected Osanai-san to be holding a trump card in her student handbook, though.

“Even when they knew that I was a high school student, they seemingly didn’t want to believe it and called me a liar, but eventually they started wilting like green vegetables sprinkled with salt14. They asked me to show my bag one more time, and after I did so, they said I was free to leave.”

“I don’t think they didn’t want to, but they just couldn’t believe it.”

At that exact time, the train started decelerating as it approached the next station, so my voice was mixed with the brake noises and my murmurings apparently didn’t reach Osanai-san.

“…I thought that you would go somewhere you could access the contents of the CD after finding it, so I went to the Computer Club. I was behind you the whole time you were watching the video, but you never noticed.”

“Which explains the catchphrase?”

“I wanted to try it once.”

Ah, she wasn’t getting embarrassed.

As the train started moving off again, an announcement was made, informing passengers that the next stop would be Nagoya Station.

“But was that really alright?”

I asked, but Osanai-san looked puzzled.

“What’s alright?”

“What happened to the video.”

Osanai-san had said that she didn’t want a copy of the video, or the original CD. That honestly surprised me. I’d assumed that she would want to find the most effective way of using the video.

“The marshmallows were wasted, right?”

“Yeah.”

Staring at the pitch-black train windows, Osanai-san spoke as if it was nothing.

“I know what you’re trying to say, Kobato-kun. I wanted to go to the cafe one more time to eat their New York cheesecake, then give my thanks to Kogi-san before going home, but those plans got ruined, just like the marshmallows. It was really such a shame.”

As I thought, it was not the case that she didn’t mind all that happening. Despite that, she did not accept something that she could hang over the heads of Reichi Middle School’s Judo Club.

“So you decided to forgive them? That’s a noble act, Osanai-san. You’re becoming an excellent petit bourgeois.”

Osanai-san shyly hid a grin in response to my heartfelt praise, but also slightly turned away.

“Thank you… but you misunderstand. It’s not that I didn’t accept the CD, but I left it at the Computer Club.”

Unable to fathom her intentions, I silently urged her to carry on.

“There are computers in the Computer Club, the boy in the Computer Club currently doesn’t think highly of the Judo Club, and he has the incriminating video on hand.”

Ah, I see.

“So it might spread on the internet?”’

Running her fingers through her black hair, Osanai-san looked at the train window, although nothing could be seen from it. The pitch-black window reflected her side profile like a mirror.

“I think it will. I could feel the vibes.”

Vibes, huh…

If the video spreads, the name of Reichi Middle School’s Judo Club would be dragged through the mud, and they might not even be able to compete in the Autumn Tournament. However, after such a fall, things could improve for them. Their club advisor could attend training sessions more frequently, and they could get a new coach. Even in the worst case scenario in which the club gets disbanded, the first-year students would be able to escape that terrible environment.

The subway train decelerated as we neared Nagoya Station. Osanai-san probably hadn’t noticed that I was looking at her reflection on the window, or she would not have made that expression… with such a cold smile on her face. She murmured at her own reflection in the window.

“And that’s why I did nothing.”



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  1. An idiom referring to an expert making a mistake. As for why water is involved, it probably has something to do with the chōzu water absolution rite at Shinto shrines. It sounds like the word for “expert” and apparently people in the Edo period liked to insert puns in their idioms.
  2. Errata: This is the actual name of Ouan, the dessert shop with kuri kinton mentioned in Summer-Exclusive and Autumn-Exclusive. There was no hiragana written before and I assumed it was Ouan because that is the more common pronunciation. I’ve updated the web pages containing the offending word, but I’ll update the pdfs/epubs when there are more substantial changes (as there tend to be)
  3. A Belgian-based brand of gourmet chocolate.
  4. Cheap Japanese candies and snacks.
  5. Usually used to mean someone seeking spiritual enlightenment, but in this case means someone seeking perfection in a craft.
  6. A 1951 Japanese mystery novel by Seishi Yokomizo, and part of the Kosuke Kindaichi series.
  7. An event held on the last day of a festival, usually involving dancing and a bonfire.
  8. Short for Family Computer, and better known in the west as the Nintendo Entertainment System. It is a home video game console that was released in the 80s.
  9. It actually says “thoroughly” here in the original text, but that leads to some lines not making sense later on, so I took the liberty to correct this mistake.
  10. Not the object, but the common name for certain birds of prey
  11. Kogi was saying the phrase in English.
  12. Traditional uniform worn for training in Japanese martial arts.
  13. Osanai mispronounced her words here. I thought this was the closest, most natural translation.
  14. Meaning that they became dejected or crestfallen.

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