THIS IS A FAN TRANSLATION, THOUGH THE WEBSITE NAME…HAS MTL IN IT…
The night before the decisive battle
“How is it, Isshiki-kun?”
A slightly nervous-looking Touko-senpai stood by my side as she asked me.
“Mhm, it’s good. Very good!”
Those words were no mere flattery; they were honest praise. If this was the dish she’d present, I had no qualms with it.
Touko-senpai made a small, cute, girlish fist pump with a smile on her face.
Unlike her normal attire, she currently had her hair tied up with a single scrunchie and was wearing an apron. The way in which she clenched her fist in front of her chest while she bent her body made for an incredibly cute image of Touko-senpai.
“To think that you have only done this 3 times by now and you’ve already progressed this much! I expected no less of you, Touko-senpai!”
“Ehehe. It must be thanks to you. I’m sure of it.”
Touko-senpai answered with a more-than-satisfied smile.
It had been around 2 weeks since Touko-senpai had said that she wanted to be able to cook decently in preparation for D-day. On D-day, in other words, on Christmas Eve, all members of our group who had the availability and disposition got together and threw a party.
Touko-senpai had come over saying that she wanted to practice the dish she’d be presenting on the ‘girl’s handmade cooking’ that took place during that party.
“I’ll be practicing cooking over at my house, and I want you to taste it, Isshiki-kun.”
Having been told that, I headed over to Touko-senpai’s house while on cloud nine.
“There’s no one else here, so come inside.”
Without intending to, I found myself having these weird expectations after Touko-senpai came to greet me and told me that.
“This is a splendid house.”
I spoke my mind candidly having been invited into her living room.
The house itself was already large and magnificent from the outside, but a single glance inside made it clear that the interior itself was quite opulent, too.
“Well, I suppose that’s on par for the course? After all, both of my parents are working full-time jobs.”
“May I ask what your parents work in?”
“Both of them are doctors. My father is starting his own psychiatric hospital over in Tokyo, while my mother works in a hospital focused on cosmetic surgery.”
… Ha ha, so that’s why…
I found myself accepting this oddly fast.
“My parents apparently wanted me to follow after them and study medicine too, but I didn’t have any interest in being a doctor.”
“Given that both of your parents are working full-time jobs, how do you all tend to the housekeeping?”
“We have a housekeeper who comes 3 times a week. Also, my mother’s family’s house is very close by, so grandma comes over almost every day and takes care of the cooking and laundry.”
So that was the reason why Touko-senpai didn’t know how to cook, huh?
By the way, since I was an only child and both of my parents worked, I knew how to take care of just about everything from cooking to housecleaning.
I then remembered one certain thing.
“If I remember correctly, you have a sister 3 years younger than you, right? Is she not here today?”
“That girl doesn’t care about others and just does as she pleases. It’s impossible for us to know what she’s doing at any moment. I imagine that she’s out playing somewhere today, too.”
Wearing a smile which betrayed her worry at that, Touko-senpai came before me and presented me her dish.
“Well, take a bite and taste it. I want to hear your sincere opinion about it.”
That said, I had already predicted the results of the food that was before me with but a glance.
Honestly speaking, there was no need for me to eat it. The exceedingly black-looking karaage, a cake twisted into a deformed shape, and back ribs which had parts of them carbonized here and there. I guess the only barely passable looking thing was the nikujaga?
(TL Note: Karaage is deep-fried food [mainly chicken], and nikujaga is a meat and potato stew)
“Did you go for a blending of Western and Japanese foods?”
I off-handedly asked her, to which she replied with obvious lack of confidence:
“Yes, I wanted to try seeing which one was easier for me to prepare and thought to make both…”
I started by taking a bite of the nikujaga. That single bit was enough for my tongue to immediately tell me this was no good.
However you put it, this was too salty.
“How is it?”
Touko-senpai asked nervously.
“Uh, yeah, right. It sort of feels like it lacks in sweetness, sort of feels like there’s too much soy sauce…”
I answered in a vague, unclear manner.
Rather, more than a nikujaga, this was more like ‘meat and potatoes boiled with soy sauce’.
Touko-senpai pressed me to do so.
“Hmmm, you’re right. It’s likely that you didn’t use enough sugar or mirin. On the other hand, you instead went too heavy on the soy sauce.”
“… I see…”
Touko-senpai looked a bit dejected.
Next, I took the blackish karaage to my mouth. For how black it looked, I couldn’t get much flavor from it.
This blackness must have come from being overcooked in high-temperature oil. Perhaps it was because of that that the meat had been burnt to a crisp.
“I think this has probably been frazzled. Also, it would be better if you added more seasoning to the chicken…”
“Is that so…?”
Her voice had a clearly depressed tone, as I suspected.
Last was the back ribs which appeared to have been charred on the surface. That said, this was the worst of them all.
The moment I tried to cut it in order to eat it, a red fluid flowed from the inside.
Once I looked inside the cut I made, I saw that the part that was closest to the bone was raw.
Because these were pork back ribs we were talking about, eating them raw was unpalatable.
I spoke fearfully while looking at Touko-senpai’s reaction.
“Erm, Touko-senpai? These ribs, did you happen to take them out of the fridge and put them directly on top of the fire? Their surface has portions of it charred black, but the interior of them is still raw.”
Touko-senpai looked at it too and let out a small gasp.
“You’re right! I saw that their outside was already well-cooked, so I thought that they were ready by that moment.”
“I’m sorry to say this, but if you simply take out the meat from the refrigerator and don’t allow for it to get to room temperature before cooking it, there’s a high chance that something like this happens. Add to it that I believe that you probably didn’t preheat the oven enough time.”
“… I’m sorry…”
Touko-senpai was completely shrunk in dejection by now.
She was despondent to a degree that you couldn’t possibly imagine from her normal attitude.
“There’s no need to get so discouraged about this. Everyone starts out like this the first time. Cooking is something in which you get better by making mistakes.”
I said those things to the depressed Touko-senpai to cheer her up.
However, it seemed like Touko-senpai was way down in the dumps this time.
I had never seen her like this before now.
“Do you still have some of the flour that you used for the chicken and the karaage?”
Hearing that, I got up on my feet.
“Would you like to cook some together? I believe that at the very least you should be able to learn how to fry food.”
I went to the kitchen together with Touko-senpai.
“Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, season them, and then, I would say you should let them rest for around an hour. Although, lately, the karaage flour available on markets is well prepared too, so even if you fried them immediately after dipping them in the flour, it would still end up tasting good.”
Touko-senpai was attentively watching my hands the whole time.
“Something in between 170C and 180C is best for heating the oil. Once you have set it at that temperature, you wait around 4 minutes.”
I placed a few of the pieces of chicken that had been dredged in the karaage flour in the heated oil.
“If you place too many pieces at once, the temperature of the oil will decrease. Hence, you should place them 2 or 3 at a time and gauge the state of things…”
I then took out from the frying pan the karaage pieces which had taken a color like that of aburaage and lined them up in a tray aside, atop the oil draining rack.
(TL Note: Aburaage is deep-fried tofu)
“Strictly speaking, instead of taking them off the frying pan and putting them on a tray aside, it would be best to put a rack on top of the pan and let them drain the excess oil as they slowly cool down.”
“You’re taking them out of the oil with just this color? Isn’t karaage usually a darker shade of color?”
“That’s because we’re doing them with a seasoning based on salt and pepper. If it were a seasoning based on soy sauce, they would be taking a deeper color. Not to mention that the residual heat will cook them deep inside too.”
After leaving the karaage cool for around five minutes, we proceeded to sample them.
“It’s delicious! You were right! Despite them having been thoroughly cooked on the inside, the karaage are still very juicy!”
“You’ll end up over-cooking your karaage no matter what you try if you keep imagining the color of the karaage you see on the market. And once you do that, it’s extremely easy for the juices to dry up.”
Touko-senpai looked at me with sparkling eyes.
“Thank you, Isshiki-kun. I’ll try doing them the same way as you taught me.”
The menu for the second time I was called over was karaage, potato salad, and chiffon cake.
Compared to the last batch, the karaage had improved to a remarkable degree. The potato salad too had been superbly prepared.
The adhesive bandages that she had on her fingers of both hands spoke to the hard battles that she underwent to prepare them.
However, the chiffon cake was a complete failure.
“Is it a no-go like I imagined?”
Touko-senpai asked looking sad, apparently inferring my thoughts from my expression the moment I took a bite from the cake.
The cake hadn’t risen at all, leaving it hard, with a texture like that of an over-used sponge all over.
In addition, parts here and there had lumps of flour in them.
“There is no fluffy sponge-like feeling to it, as you can see. And there are also some lumps of flour in various places of it.”
I told her frankly about it. And Touko-senpai yet again found herself in low spirits.
“… What can I, do about that?”
“That’s not something I know… I have never made a cake myself.”
In this manner, I was finally able to delectably enjoy the sampling test of Touko-senpai’s home-cooking by the third time around.
The previous two times had a feeling to them closer to human experimentation than food sampling.
The dishes that Touko-senpai prepared for this round were pork back ribs, fried chicken-style karaage, potato salad, and a shortcake, all of which were quite pleasant. They were on a level such that you could sell them in a store without having to worry.
I could feel myself smiling naturally as I ate them too. Seeing that, Touko-senpai made a satisfied smile to herself.
Once I finished eating, I asked.
“You said you were going to present these for the cooking of D-day, right?”
All of a sudden, Touko-senpai’s expression grew serious.
“That’s right. However, before I do that, there’s one thing that I have to take care of.”
“And what would that be?”
“I have to talk and explain the situation to our president, Nakazaki-san, beforehand.”
I was confounded by that.
Nakazaki Junpei-san, who is our group’s president, is a dependable person on whom you can always rely, and a friend of Kamokura Tetsuya from their high school days, when they played in the same soccer club. In short, you could say that he’s someone who supports Kamokura. True to this description, Nakazaki-san was together with Kamokura at the store famous for its Indian curry from before.
“Is there any real need to tell Nakazaki-san about it? I mean, Nakazaki-san is someone that has been together with Kamokura-senpai since their days in the soccer club in high school, no? Don’t you think there’s a risk that he’ll instead tell of our plan to Kamokura-senpai?”
Touko-senpai too had a complicated expression.
“That may be true… But, if something were to happen during our plan, Nakazaki-san is about the only person who can control Tetsuya, no? Not only that, but he’s also someone who looks at things from an impartial perspective and who hates deviousness. He’s someone we can reason with. That’s why I believe that, if we properly explain everything to him, he’ll understand and support us.”
I pondered it for a moment.
“I accept. However, I have one condition: I’m going together with you. Or more properly, please let me be the first of the two to start the conversation and explain things to him. I would like for you, Touko-senpai, to join us after I call you over.”
These kinds of things must be difficult for a woman like Touko-senpai to speak of to others.
Touko-senpai nodded and extended her hand towards the green tea on top of the table.
“With this, we will at long last complete our revenge against those two. It’s been approximately two months since that happened, huh. It’s felt so long, yet so short at the same time.”
I stretched my upper body, arching my back as I spoke. Finally, we’ve come to the grand finale.
However, all Touko-senpai had to say was a soft, ‘That’s how it is’. Behind those words of hers, I got this feeling of there being some uncertainty to it as if she regretted some part of it.
… Could it be that Touko-senpai is having second thoughts about this?…
I found myself unable to let go of those worries while I looked at her drinking her tea in silence.
Two days passed since Touko’s homemade cooking sampling session. We were finally less than one week away from Christmas Eve.
I had called our group’s president, Nakazaki-san, to a family restaurant a short distance away from our university.
Nakazaki-san made his appearance about 15 minutes later than the time we agreed on.
“Sorry I came late, my bad.”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind. More importantly, did you do as I asked you to and didn’t tell anyone that you were coming here?”
“Yeah. You did say in your message that you wanted to discuss some personal matter and that you didn’t want other people to listen in on it.”
As he spoke, Nakazaki-san sat in the seat directly in front of me and ordered a hot coffee.
“And, what’s this talk about?”
Nakazaki-san started by asking me that.
“You are aware that I’m going out with Mitsumoto Karen, right?”
“Well, it’s hard not to. Karen’s a girl that stands out a lot.”
“Then, how about the person who is dating Kamokura-senpai?”
Nakazaki-san had a surprised look to him.
“Why is Kamokura coming up here?”
“I apologize. I’ll explain it all in a few minutes, but for now, may I ask that you answer my question first?”
“Of course, it’s Sakurajima Touko. She’s the ‘secret Miss Jouto University’ and the goddess of our group.”
I nodded silently.
“Well then, did you know that Kamokura-senpai and Karen are meeting regularly, alone the two of them?”
Nakazaki-san had a startled expression on his face.
“Hey. What do you mean by ‘the two of them meeting alone’?”
“Precisely what it sounds like. I mean that they’re in a man-and-woman relationship that goes beyond the boundaries of simple friendship.”
“Isshiki. Just what are you sayi…”
His coffee was brought over at that moment. For an instant, Nakazaki-san looked at the waitress with an awkward expression. Once the waitress had left, Nakazaki-san continued the conversation where he left off.
“Even if this is Kamokura we’re talking about, there’s no way that he’d lay his hands on the girlfriend of someone from our same circle, much less someone like you, who has been his kouhai since high school!”
“Do you not believe me?”
“I imagine you have some sort of proof.”
I took out my smartphone and displayed on the screen the very first screenshot of the message exchanges between Karen and Kamokura that I had found. I then held it out at Nakazaki-san.
Nakazaki-san looked at my phone and opened his eyes wide.
He slowly slid his finger over the phone, looking at each one of the screenshots, one by one.
“And that’s not all. I also have a photograph of the two of them entering Kamokura-senpai’s apartment together.”
Nakazaki-san stared at the phone without speaking a word for a while, before finally muttering.
“Kamokura, you idiot… If you already had that Touko-san… Why would you go and do that…?”
“Do you believe me now?”
Nakazaki-san returned my smartphone.
“So, what do you want to do now? You want me to tell Kamokura to stop cheating with Karen?”
“No, that’s not what I want.”
“Then, what is it?”
“I want to disclose this truth to everyone during the Christmas Eve party.”
Hearing that, Nakazaki-san went into a panic.
“Hey, wait a moment, Isshiki! Think it over again! It’ll be a big fuss if you do that!”
“I can imagine it will.”
“In the first place, what’ll Touko-san think if you make that kind of announcement in public? Have you even considered her feelings on the matter?”
“If you’re worried about Touko-senpai, she’s of the same opinion as me.”
I then raised my hand to call on a young woman who was seated in one of the innermost seats. It was a sunglasses-wearing woman. The woman stood up from her seat, came over to where we were and sat next to me.
She then took off her sunglasses. This was Touko-senpai.
“Nakazaki-san. I’m of the same mind as Isshiki-kun. I have no intention of letting this go unpunished. As such, on the day of Christmas Eve, I am going to stand before everyone, disclose these events and end my relationship with Tetsuya in public.”
“The same goes for me. I don’t have any intentions either to forgive Karen after she continued to deceive me all this time. I plan to expose the relationship those two have in front of everyone and then break off my relationship with Karen for good.”
“Even Touko-san too…”
Nakazaki-san appeared to be completely taken aback as he looked at my and Touko-senpai’s eyes in turn.
Before long, he let out a long sigh.
“It would seem that both of you have already firmly decided your course of action. I highly doubt that it’s my place to say anything to you.”
Touko-senpai and I nodded simultaneously.
“Moving on, why is it that the two of you decided to talk to me about this situation? I imagine you have some role you’d like me to play, no?”
Touko-senpai nodded once more.
“Yes, we would like you, Nakazaki-san, to hold Tetsuya back in case he starts making a scene. I honestly have no idea of what Tetsuya could be capable of doing after we have exposed his love affair with Karen and I officially declare I’m dumping him in public.”
Nakazaki-san simply nodded as if tired from this.
“I got it. Also, could you guys tell me if there’s anyone else who knows about this?”
“Yes. My best friend, Kanou Kazumi, and Isshiki-kun’s best friend, Ishida Youta, also know about this. We did discuss many things with them, after all.”
I cut into their conversation at that point.
“Nakazaki-san, please, we ask that you don’t speak a word about this to any other person. Otherwise, we run the risk of giving the two of them a chance to come up with some excuse.”
Nakazaki-san, however, fell into a deep silence with a complicated expression.
Seeing him like that, Touko-senpai bent her body forward.
“Please, we beg of you. We came here to talk with you because we trust you, Nakazaki-san. We thought that we had to explain everything to, at the very least, you, our president who has always remained impartial during the many events that the group organizes.”
Not giving him a chance to cut in, Touko-senpai continued.
“The truth is that Isshiki-kun was against us telling anyone about this, even you, Nakazaki-san. But I was the one who convinced him to do so by telling him that if it was you, Nakazaki-san, we could trust in you, that you were someone who we could reason with.”
Now that Touko-senpai had gone and told him all that, I could imagine that it was hard for Nakazaki-san too to say ‘No’. Even so, he could not give an immediate, definitive answer.
“I promise not to disclose anything of what you’ve told me. But, I also ask you to give me time to think about the matter concerning you declaring this in public at the party.”
He had a stern look on his face as he said that.
The deafening silence continued unperturbed for a while. All three of us were looking down at the floor with complicated expressions.
I felt that we might not be able to gain Nakazaki-san’s cooperation if things went on like this.
I sensed that one more extra push was necessary.
“Give me a moment. I gotta go to the restroom.”
Nakazaki-san got off his seat afterward. This was my opportunity to speak alone with him, just the two of us.
“Me too. I must have drunk too much coffee.”
Leaving those words behind, I followed after Nakazaki-san.
The two of us stood in adjacent stalls as we took care of our physiological needs.
“And, do you have something that you want to speak about with me?”
Nakazaki-san asked me as he closed the fly of his pants.
It would seem that he has surmised my intentions.
“Yes, I do. It’s something I didn’t want Touko-senpai to hear.”
“I imagined as much. Ok, out with it.”
“It seems like Karen is not the only girl on whom Kamokura-senpai is laying his hands. I saw him going to the love hotel district in Shibuya with another woman from our group.”
Nakazaki-san let out another sigh.
“Did you see who this other girl was?”
“Yes, though she’s someone who doesn’t show her face in the group often. It was a woman named Hirota Rumi, from the Faculty of Human Sciences.”
The instant I said that, Nakazaki-san turned to face me in one swift motion as if he had been shocked. He had his eyes wide open.
That almost exaggerated reaction of his startled me instead.
“Is that true…? Are you sure?”
Nakazaki-san spoke with a hoarser voice than before.
“Yes, I’m sure. Ishida saw it together with me, too.”
Overwhelmed by his current attitude, that was all I could answer to Nakazaki-san.
A short while after we returned from the restroom, we all left the store.
Nakazaki-san had a grim expression on his face the whole time.
Touko-senpai too was worried about if something had happened, but the atmosphere wasn’t one where she could ask about it.
Once it was time to part, Nakazaki-san left us with some last words.
“Concerning what we discussed today, I’ll contact you at a later date.”
After which he turned his back to us and left the place.
That same day’s night. It was midnight, precisely 12 am, when a call came to my cellphone. I looked at the caller ID and saw it was from Nakazaki-san.
“That thing that you told me about today, it was true after all. I heard it all from Hirota Rumi just now.”
The first words that came from the other side of the phone were those.
“Eh? Did you ask Hirota-san herself about it?”
I was startled by it. Was Hirota-san someone who got along so well with the other members of our group?
That said, Nakazaki-san’s next words took care of that question for me.
“Truth is, Hirota Rumi and I are going out. Rumi is not very enthused about actively participating in our group, and with us having gotten to know each other in another place, it’s not surprising that most of the members of the group don’t know about us, though.”
Hirota Rumi was Nakazaki-san’s girlfriend? However, what had flabbergasted me was not that.
“Then, does that mean that Kamokura-senpai has laid his hands even on your girlfriend, Nakazaki-san?”
Kamokura and Nakazaki-san had been friends since their high school days when they belonged to the same soccer club. He was the only person who you could say was a friend to Kamokura; the only one with whom he could speak his mind out.
To think that he would dare to lay his hands on the girlfriend of that important friend of his!
“That’s what it means, yeah. Though, unlike you, I can’t blame Kamokura for doing that. That’s because I had kept my relationship with Rumi a secret. I’m quite certain that like you, Kamokura didn’t know that Rumi was my girlfriend.”
Nakazaki-san’s voice sounded haggard. I was painfully familiar with the emotions he had at the moment.
“Be that as it may, I can’t allow Kamokura’s actions to go on any further than this. If I’m frank with you, this is not the first time that Kamokura’s gotten sexually involved with girls from groups he belongs to or his part-time jobs. It’s become a problem more than once before.”
So he’s done it before, huh? Not that I could be surprised by his philanthropy anymore, though.
“I have warned him over and over again, but Kamokura is not the type of person who listens to others. And now, it looks like having managed to end all those other times in a peaceful manner has backfired at us.”
Nakazaki-san made a small pause at this point before continuing.
“That’s why…I’m on board with the plan that you guys have come up with. Please go ahead and deal with this as you see fit.”
Those words betrayed the resolution that he had. He said them as if forcefully getting them out of his body.
“… Thank you very much.”
That was all I could say once I considered what Nakazaki-san must have been feeling.
Nakazaki-san reluctantly spoke once again.
“Well, I can’t exactly cooperate with you guys as openly and proactively as I’d like. But I do promise that if Kamokura makes a scene, I’ll stop him. There’s just one thing I’d like to say before. Please don’t resort to violence. Even if Kamokura does resort to violence himself first, you two must absolutely not respond to it with violence. That’s what I wanted to warn you about.”
That was my reply.
However… I wasn’t confident enough to say that I could keep that promise. I don’t really mind if I’m the one who he decides to punch. But if he dares to try and attack Touko-senpai, I promise to stop him even if it means risking my life!