VOLUME 1: 16
Chapter 4 “Summer☆Twinkle”
It happened several days after we returned from Wakkanai.
Aaaaaaaahhh— I didn’t knowwwwwwww—-
I didn’t shout it out loud, but in my mind, I was in the same pose as Munch’s “The Scream”.
Ever since entering high school, my life has completely changed. In particular, it started to get really busy, and the pace of my life seemed to increase.
I was so busy that, although I could remember the falling of the cherry blossoms, I could not recall what flowers started to bloom around our house after that.
I was busy with school and the part-time job at MAHO-do, but I soon got used to it. As I was so tied up with my own affairs, I felt that I was missing out on lots of other things.
“That’s how it’s always been,” Ai-chan commented without hesitation.
Ai-chan is cool like that.
It’s true; my life has always been brimming with events and happenings.
To think that I had been looking forward to slowing down and becoming a calm young lady once I entered high school.
By the way, about a week ago, Hazuki-chan came to the MAHO-do and greeted us with a “Hello”. Hearing Hazuki-chan’s voice, Ai-chan immediately asked,
“What’s wrong? Hazuki-chan, are you feeling unwell?”
“Hmm, maybe it’s just the period before a test? High school is just full of tests and exams.”
“I know, I know. We just pulled through a really painful entrance exam, and yet we’re still taking exams now. It’s so cruel,” I complained.
It was from then on that Ai-chan started to notice that Hazuki-chan was not being her usual self.
Sadly, I thought nothing more of it, even when I noticed that Ai-chan did not return a smart retort to my complaint.
“Ai-chan’s track activities are tough too, right?” Hazuki-chan continued.
“That’s because I’m a freshman, so there are lots of things to do.”
“The number of my violin lessons have increased too, so I’m sorry for not coming to the MAHO-do much.”
Then, Hazuki-chan was worried about what Ai-chan and I would think, so she did not say anything more.
But the smile she showed us was so weak.
The hydrangeas were blooming in beautiful colours; purple tinged with a lonely shade of blue.
It was raining today. MAHO-do was quiet with no customers.
Ai-chan and Hazuki-chan were given breaks from their track and violin lessons, so the three of us managed to get together for the first time in the past two weeks.
In order to cover up the smell of rain which had permeated through the store, we made tea and cookies, whose delicious smells that wafted through the air.
“Oh no, no customers will come in this rain,” Majorika said gloomily.
We had switched off most of the lights inside the store, and the lack of sunlight even on these first days of summer made me realize how dark it truly was.
“Let’s have a heart-to-heart talk, shall we?” Majorika suggested, and Hazuki-chan finally spilled it all.
The scream in my mind that I talked about at the beginning was because of this.
I was so unobservant. It had started during those days when we were searching for Onpu-chan.
“…It started with a few classmates who kept on sneaking glances at me,” Hazuki-chan said with a sigh as she returned her cup of tea to its plate.
“I didn’t know why, and they always looked away quickly when I spotted them. I’ve tried asking, but they never gave me a clear answer.”
“Well, that’s dubious,” Ai-chan commented.
“Maybe they were just looking at Hazuki-chan normally,” Lala suggested.
In actual fact, Hazuki-chan was being targeted by the Karen Girls’ Academy’s Ura Site.
Those who had been with Hazuki-chan through middle school knew her well. A cute and reserved girl, she is also slightly an airhead. As can be deduced from her appearance, she is a gentle, good-natured, and refreshing high school girl. Therefore, we had thought that no one would believe in those rumors.
“Everyone knows that Ura Sites nowadays are just full of lies,” I said.
“Everyone just writes irresponsibly to vent their own frustrations. They will soon tire of it,” Ai-chan added.
“Resorting to bullying to vent your own frustrations is just deplorable,” Majorika stated, looking bored.
However, we knew that she was not as unconcerned as she appeared to be.
Majorika has always been good at hiding her feelings.
As for me, I had skipped school a few times too. However, most of those were purely because of personal reasons, such as not wanting to study for a test, or feeling sleepy because I had stayed up too late the previous night watching television, or when we had to run marathons during PE lessons.
It had all been for myself.
I felt that I had really been too easygoing. Misora High School probably has its own Ura Site too, but I was not interested in it, nor do I believe in the rumors written there.
And because that is how I was, even if I saw someone in class feeling downhearted, I would assume that it was because she was just tired, like me.
I did not even realize that Hazuki-chan, my best friend, was affected by it.
“Haaa~ I hate myself~,” I said with a sigh.
“What are you talking about?” Ai-chan asked.
“I mean, Hazuki-chan is suffering so much, but I didn’t even realize it. I just feel so pathetic…”
“Doremi-chan, Ai-chan, I’m sorry. I myself assumed that all this would blow over soon,” Hazuki-chan apologized with a bow.
“What are you saying? There is nothing Hazuki-chan needs to apologize for,” I protested.
“That’s right. Hazuki-chan is the victim here,” Ai-chan added.
Finally, Hazuki-chan smiled, but tears immediately started to flow from her eyes.
Flustered, we offered our handkerchiefs and tissues to Hazuki-chan.
“Thank you… I just feel so relieved.”
Hazuki-chan pulled out her own handkerchief from her pocket and wiped away her tears.
“We may be in different schools and not be able to solve the problem, but just come talk to us if anything happens. We’ll definitely help you out!” Ai-chan said.
“That’s right, Hazuki-chan! As long as we think about it together, we may come up with good ideas,” I added.
“Yes…” Hazuki-chan said as she nodded repeatedly.
As the day progressed into darkness, it grew quieter and we could hear the sound of the rain. It had been more than two hours since we came to the MAHO-do, so Majorika encouraged us to go back home.
Just then, Majorika looked out the window and tilted her head to the side.
She thought she had seen someone passing by outside the window,
“Maybe it’s a customer.”
So saying, she opened the door, but there was nobody there. The sound of the rain grew louder due to the open door.
“It’s totally dark outside, but it’s not even that late yet,” Ai-chan commented.
“You’re right. It somehow makes me feel hungry,” I added.
Hearing that, Hazuki-chan giggled,
“Doremi-chan, you never change.”
“Seems like Hazuki-chan is back to normal,” Ai-chan said as she gave Hazuki-chan a thumbs-up sign.
“That’s right. You’ll soon grow tired of me,” Hazuki-chan replied.
“Exactly. Unlike Doremi-chan, there is not much to make fun of about Hazuki-chan, so my jokes just run out really quickly,” Ai-chan lamented.
“Wha-… Ai-chan, that is so mean!”
We tidied up the crockery, thanked Majorika and Lala, and hurried on our separate ways home.
I wish for the online posts about Hazuki-chan to disappear. Looking up at the dark sky, I wished upon the stars hidden behind the rain clouds.
At that time, we thought that the posts on the Ura Site were just pure slander, and that all these unfounded rumours were just gossip that just happened to be attached to Hazuki-chan.
However, they did not disappear. In fact, more were posted every day.
“Hazuki-chan, do you have any friends in class who are your allies?”
“Yes. There is a girl who told me about this whole thing. That was how I found out that I was being targeted on the Ura Site”
The girl was Hazuki-chan’s friend and classmate Mukai Riko, who came in from an external high school.
Most of the students who enroll in Karen Girls’ Academy, especially for the music faculty, come from the affiliated middle school. Mukai-san, who was a frivolous girl, became good friends with Hazuki-chan when she joined the school and got to know everyone.
It was probably because she looked out for Hazuki-chan.
“Mukai-san told me that she definitely didn’t believe in those posts.”
“Those forums are just full of lies, so there’s no need to bother about them,” I assured her.
“That’s right; you don’t need to read those posts,” Ai-chan added.
We felt a little relieved, hearing that Hazuki-chan had a friend and ally in class.
Since we were in different schools, we could not know what was happening to Hazuki-chan, apart from what she chose to tell us.
“That Mukai-san is a good girl, eh? Do introduce her to us next time,” Ai-chan said.
“Yes, yes, I want to meet her too,” I agreed.
“Alright, I’ll talk to Mukai-san about you too,” Hazuki-chan promised.
With that, we parted for the day.
This was what Hazuki-chan told us.
She has friends in class, as well as Tamaki Reika, even though she is in a different course. Outside school, she has us, her best friends since elementary school, and Majorika and Lala at the MAHO-do. With all this, she is happy.
The person who wrote about her on the Ura Site must be someone who did not have so many friends. That person was probably just jealous of Hazuki-chan. If they wanted to speak ill of her, they should have confronted her directly instead of doing this.
I am a simple person, so this was the only conclusion I could come to.
I myself had been envious of Hazuki-chan’s talent with the violin, as well as of her family background, but I love my own family, and Hazuki-chan’s talent with the violin was all due to her hard work.
As I grew up, I’ve learned to read kanji that I could not as a child, and subjects like English and classics had stopped sounding like nonsensical magical chants to me.
I may not know the best way to live life yet, but I had learnt so many things, and met so many people.
When I was young, I used to be envious of other kids and often said things like “She’s so lucky” or “That’s not fair” or “I want that, too”.
If I had voiced my thoughts out, they would surely have turned into horrible words, like those that were now reflected on the computer screen, no matter how simple-minded they actually were in the first place.
Ignoring the posts on the Ura Site, Hazuki-chan attended school as per normal.
However, verbal communication about the Ura Site seemed to have spread around, and Hazuki-chan received more unwanted attention, even from the students of other classes.
Even when she came to the MAHO-do, Hazuki-chan was full of sighs.
“That’s it!” Ai-chan shouted suddenly as she drew out her mobile phone. “There’s only so much we can discuss among ourselves, and that’s not enough. I think it’s best that we consult an expert”
“An expert… You mean the police?”
Quickly pressing some keys on her phone, Ai-chan then pressed it to her ear. “Ah, Onpu-chan, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
She had called Onpu-chan.
After quickly updating Onpu-chan on the situation, Ai-chan said, “Yes, it’s that site. We feel a little uncomfortable with it. Hazuki-chan has been attacked, so we want to identify the culprit. Please help us”
Shutting her phone, Ai-chan told us, “Onpu-chan said that she will look at the site posts and e-mail Hazuki-chan about a suitable way to deal with the problem”
“Really? That’s right; Onpu-chan is an expert on these kind of things,” I said.
“Yes, Onpu-chan had been the victim of so many rumours,” Hazuki-chan agreed.
We were satisfied with this conclusion.
At any rate, we cannot forgive anyone who writes slander about our friends.
“We can quickly resolve this issue with magic,” I suggested, but Hazuki-chan shook her head.
“I hope to solve this problem on my own, as much as I can. I have Doremi-chan and Ai-chan on my side, and even though using magic will be easy, this whole issue may have arisen because I myself had done something bad. So please wait it out a little.”
I agreed with Hazuki-chan’s reasoning.
No real harm had been done yet, and the contents of the online posts were just unfounded lies.
“I understand, Hazuki-chan. However, don’t push yourself too hard,” I said.
“Thank you, Doremi-chan and Ai-chan.”
After thanking us, Hazuki-chan left for home.
However, an incident occurred just a few days later.
“I don’t want to go to school anymore,” Hazuki-chan exclaimed as she threw open the door to MAHO-do, crying as she ran up to Ai-chan and me.
“Hazuki-chan, what’s wrong?” I asked.
Hazuki-chan sobbed, unable to answer.
“Don’t tell me—it’s the Ura Site again, isn’t it?”
Hazuki-chan nodded violently in response to Ai-chan’s question.
“What is this?” Ai-chan exclaimed.
“This is horrible…” I added.
We borrowed a computer from Majorika and accessed Karen Girls’ Academy’s Ura Site.
The posts this week were not just limited to slander.
“It must be this.”
A photo attached to one post showed Hazuki-chan and her boyfriend Yada-kun.
The photo was dimly lit, as if it had taken during the evening, and a love hotel could be seen in the background.
“We just met unexpectedly, and stopped to chat…” Hazuki-chan explained the situation regarding the photo, frustrated.
Yada-kun had been on an errand to buy some ingredients for his part-time job, while Hazuki-chan was on her way home after a violin lesson. They had met each other along the way and stopped to chat.
“The post is full of rumors about how the two of you were caught exiting the love hotel!”
“You’re right. Look at all these other posts, claiming that they witnessed the incident themselves,” Ai-chan commented, her head tilted to one side as she read the posts fervently.
“What? Have you discovered something?” I asked as I moved out from behind Ai-chan to read the posts. Yes, there truly was something strange about the contents.
“All these posts seem to imply that the poster was following behind Hazuki-chan,” Ai-chan concluded, just like a detective. She then stood up and paced the room, looking more and more like a detective. Turning around, she asked,
“Hazuki-chan, you don’t spend much time alone when in school, do you?”
“No. As Onpu-chan told me, I’ve tried to remain in the company of others as much as possible.”
With people around her, it would be easy to prove that the online posts’ claims were nothing but lies.
That was why Onpu-chan had advised her to stay in the company of lots of people when she was in school.
We also helped out by meeting up with her on days when she had to work, so that we could come to the MAHO-do together.
“The contents of those posts are just clumsy rumors. However, it seems like the poster knows that you work at the MAHO-do, and also your daily schedule,” Ai-chan said.
“Yes. They also seem to know know when you are free, and when you go out to play with us,” I added.
“Even about Yada-kun too. Although the two of you had met up unexpectedly, they still managed to take a photo. I don’t think Hazuki-chan even told anyone about him,” Ai-chan said.
Someone was definitely stalking Hazuki-chan.
“And that’s not all,” Ai-chan warned.
Ai-chan was referring to the fact that the poster knew which road Hazuki-chan was going to take to go home after her lesson, and that she would leave for home right after the lesson had ended.
“You are being marked even on days when you have part-time work, and on your rest days too,” Ai-chan concluded.
“Yes, yes,” I agreed.
“Which means…?” Hazuki-chan asked, with an anxious look on her face.
Yes, all these information could easily be presumed, but only those who were close to Hazuki-chan would know so much about her. Aside from the days of her violin lesson, few would have known about her boyfriend or her part-time job at the MAHO-do.
We waited for Ai-chan to continue speaking.
“Time for a decoy strategy,” Ai-chan winked as she gathered us close.
There was nobody but Majorika and Lala around, but it felt like a true secret strategy meeting.
This might sound bad because Hazuki-chan was the victim here, but I felt slightly excited.
“Get it? Doremi-chan, Hazuki-chan, I’m counting on you”
Hazuki-chan and I nodded.
I strongly felt that we would definitely solve this problem.
We promptly sent an email to Onpu-chan to update her, but her response was slightly evasive.
She said that to go searching for the attacker was probably not the best idea, but if that could stop the bad posts and the Ura Site, it would be for the best.
I totally agreed with her.
Two days later, right on cue, Hazuki-chan’s classmates brought up a suitable topic of discussion, as she told us on the day of our part-time job.
They asked her about her plans for the upcoming summer vacation.
Hazuki-chan did her best to act normal and played along.
She told them that she had plans to go to the beach with some friends, and would be going to check out some swimsuits in the shopping mall in front of the train station.
Right after lunchtime, Hazuki-chan sent me a mail to update me on this, and I immediately spoke to Ai-chan.
“Alright, they’ve been baited,” Ai-chan announced, just like how Dad would say it.
Either way, it was great. Now we had something unusual to do after school.
“Tell her to say something more provocative that can cause rumors,” Ai-chan told me.
But aren’t swimsuits provocative enough already?
I met up with Hazuki-chan after school, and we entered the shopping mall together.
Ai-chan was relatively unknown amongst the students of Karen Girls’ Academy, so she just had to put on a pair of glasses to disguise herself before standing in a corner near to the swimsuit section to wait.
Of course, we pretended not to know her.
Lala tagged along as a back-up as well, disguised as a white cat.
Hazuki-chan and I chatted about random things as we held various swimsuits up against our bodies.
There were numerous girls around us, but Hazuki-chan did not recognize any of them.
And then, to make for a provocative photo, we moved to the corner where sexy swimsuits, which Hazuki-chan would never pick, were on display.
“Hazuki-chan, how about this?” I asked as I held a black bikini up against Hazuki-chan’s body.
“Oh no. Doremi-chan, that’s too sexy,” Hazuki-chan, who was getting into the mood, replied with embarrassment while wiggling her hips.
It was then that we heard the shutter sound of a mobile phone camera.
Turning around, we saw Lala rushing over to the spot where Ai-chan was hiding.
However, Ai-chan quickly dashed past the section where we were standing.
We took that a sign and quickly returned the swimsuits to their racks, hurrying after Ai-chan at a distance.
Ai-chan was chasing after a girl, who was rapidly walking away.
She was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, with a cap pulled over her face, so even Hazuki-chan could not recognize her.
As it was evening time, all the shops around were crowded with people.
“The culprit has escaped outside,” Ai-chan called to us.
There was a large traffic junction outside the mall, and the people exiting the train station and waiting to cross the road were steadily increasing.
“There’s no mistake. The one who took a photo with her phone’s camera was a girl about our age. Either way, let’s chase after her,” Lala said.
We nodded at her words and dashed through the crowd, with Ai-chan in the lead.
“That’s her!” Ai-chan cried out, and grabbed onto the arm of the girl wearing the T-shirt.
“What are you doing?!”
That high-pitched voice, and those overbearing words.
Curly hair under the cap. Yes, it was Tamaki Reika.
“What? Tamaki, what’s with this fashion style?”
Usually, Tamaki would never be dressed this way, so it was extremely rare to see her in these clothes. We were shocked too.
Seeing us, Tamaki appeared flustered. With her arm still in Ai-chan’s grip, she looked around us.
“…Oh, now look what you’ve done…”
So saying, she suddenly calmed down.
Then, noticing our gazes upon her, she continued, “What is it? What do you want from me?”
Ai-chan immediately let go of her arm and apologized, “Sorry, we mistook you for someone else”
“Fujiwara-san and Harukaze-san too?… Just what is happening here?”
I quickly explained the situation, “Doesn’t Tamaki know about the Ura Site? Aren’t you in the same school?”
“Oh, that?” Tamaki asked as she looked at Hazuki-chan. “Those rumors are spreading through my class too, but I’m just not interested. Are they still going on about it?”
“It’s been really vicious lately. We’re trying to catch the culprit today”
Tamaki flicked her curls to catch the wind as she said, “Only a defeated loser would write about those things in such detail. If they have so much energy and time, they should just spend it on more violin lessons or something”
So saying, Tamaki left.
I felt that Tamaki was being her usual self, but in the midst of the confusion, I missed the chance to ask her why she was dressed so ordinarily.
Too bad… But there’s no time for that! The culprit had escaped~
As I tried to get my breath back, I said, “Either way, we’ve learnt that there really is a girl following Hazuki-chan around and taking pictures of her”
Ai-chan, who was getting her breath back too, added, “That’s right, she’s working alone. As Tamaki Reika had said, we need to stop the culprit from writing more untrue things”
“We need to use magic this time,” I concluded.
Hazuki-chan nodded in agreement.
We proceeded to the rooftop of the shopping mall and transformed into witch apprentices. We then summoned Magical Stage.
Without Hazuki-chan taking part, we got Lala to bring Majorika over to help us out.
If Hazuki-chan took part in the spell, our promise to the Queen to never use magic for our own benefit would be broken.
With Hazuki-chan watching over us, Ai-chan, Majorika and I shouted our spell with feeling,
“Protect Hazuki-chan from the vicious posts on the Ura Site!”
“It would have been better if we could just make the posts disappear,” Majorika said.
We nodded in agreement. Ai-chan and I then returned to our normal forms, and bid goodbye to each other for the day.
When I reached home, I immediately turned on the computer. There were no new posts.
A mail from Hazuki-chan arrived, saying that she had checked out the site immediately after reaching home too. Her name was steadily disappearing from the site as new posts about other things came in.
That’s great. This way, Hazuki-chan could finally get a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we managed to find out who the culprit was, but it was a fact that Hazuki-chan refused to accept.
Since morning, Mukai-san had looked sickly, and had finally collapsed. Hazuki-chan brought her to the sick bay, and there, Mukai-san had spoken out in her delirium,
“Stop… Everyone, Fujiwara-san is a bad girl…”
Not knowing that a concerned Hazuki-chan was just beside her, the sleeping Mukai-san spoke these words several times.
“I didn’t want to ask her about it…”
Hazuki-chan, who took a break from violin lessons after school, whispered tearfully when she came to the MAHO-do.
Ai-chan and I went on to comfort her.
I mean, it was a name that everyone had probably thought of at some point in time.
However, everyone thought that they were probably mistaken.
Our magic had not only stopped the vicious posts, but the pain which should have been Hazuki-chan’s had returned to the original culprit too.
However, we could not confirm that Mukai-san was the culprit just through magical spells, so we went to see her the next day.
Hazuki-chan called Mukai-san out to a park nearby, and we all sat down, Hazuki-chan directly opposite Mukai-san, Ai-chan and I on opposite sides of her.
“What are you doing to our best friend! Taking on an anonymous persona and writing those huge lies; shouldn’t you know better about what’s right and what’s wrong?!” Ai-chan started ranting in her Kansai dialect.
“…I know nothing about that,” Mukai-san obstinately denied.
“You were there 2 days ago, at the store selling swimsuits outside the station, right?” Ai-chan continued.
Mukai-san’s expression changed.
“I was the one who chased after you. If you want to prove your innocence, show us your mobile phone”
So saying, Ai-chan quickly grabbed Mukai-san’s phone, opened it, and pressed several keys.
“How do you prove your innocence with this?”
The phone’s display showed a photo of Yada-kun and Hazuki-chan.
Most of the other photos in the same folder had Hazuki-chan in them too.
“…But…” Snatching her phone back, Mukai-san glared at Hazuki-chan.
“Fujiwara-san, you’re too much. Why are you so blessed?! It’s only fair that you suffer a little misfortune!” Mukai-san shouted as she gripped her phone tightly.
“But those online posts were so cruel. Did you know how much it made Hazuki-chan suffer?” I countered.
“That’s right. Now’s not the time for you to be defiant,” Ai-chan added.
“…Wait,” Hazuki-chan stood up suddenly and stopped us.
“Mukai-san, could you please tell me why you did that?” Hazuki-chan asked in her usual kind voice, and tears appeared in Mukai-san’s eyes.
“I’m sorry… I knew I was doing something bad, but… I just couldn’t stop myself”
Mukai-san finally started to explain.
Ever since she was a child, Mukai-san had always aimed to become a violinist. She had wanted to enter Karen Girls’ Academy at the middle school stage, but her father’s company had gone bankrupt, and so she had no choice but to attend a public middle school.
To help with family finances, her mother took up part-time jobs, and Mukai-san took over managing the household. Through her father’s hard work, the company was reestablished successfully and Mukai-san managed to enter Karen Girls’ Academy at the high school stage.
However, Mukai-san had already missed out on three years’ worth of lessons. The difference in skills compared to her classmates who had been concentrating on their violin lessons the whole time, especially Hazuki-chan who had been her first close friend, was obvious.
Hazuki-chan had approached Mukai-san out of a genuine wish to become friends, and everyone could immediately see that she was a good girl, but that had stirred up feelings of jealousy in Mukai-san instead.
“Only the students who graduate with top scores from Karen Girls’ Academy and receive recognition from university professors have the privilege of using those violins, right?”
“The Stradivarius violins… I’ve heard that the top students get to borrow one to use as their own instrument for their four years of university education,” Hazuki-chan said.
“S-Stradi…?” I fumbled.
“Stradivarius,” Hazuki-chan replied helpfully.
“What’s that? Something amazing?” Ai-chan asked.
Hazuki-chan gave a wry smile.
“It’s the most famous of the famous instruments in the violin world. The best ones cost more than one hundred million yen”
Ai-chan and I looked at each other.
We knew that violins were expensive, but…
“If I had one, I would secretly sell it off,” Ai-chan said, and even Mukai-san smiled a little.
Thus, irritated and impatient at being left behind in so many ways, Mukai-san soon thought of harassing Hazuki-chan.
That was when she wrote a slanderous online post on the school’s Ura Site, purely out of amusement.
She did not name anyone at first, but after getting to know Hazuki-chan more, including her family background and part-time job, Mukai-san started to personally target her.
The posts slowly got more specific in content, and writing them helped to ease her mind.
“Your part-time job seemed fun, and you have such good friends and a cool boyfriend… All the things which I don’t have…”
The posts slowly escalated and she soon lost control.
“Mukai-san, did you enjoy writing those posts?” Hazuki-chan asked, and Mukai-san looked up in surprise.
“The sound of Mukai-san’s violin is totally different these days. When you first entered high school, it was a bright and gentle sound, but nowadays, it sounds really murky. You’ve sensed it yourself, too, haven’t you?”
Even Hazuki-chan had tried to immerse herself in the piece when playing her violin, and not think of anything else, but she could not do so.
“Mukai-san, that’s not right,” I finally spoke out. “I don’t know much about violins, but isn’t music supposed to bring joy to people? If you don’t play it with your heart, the music won’t reach out to others, right?”
“She’s right. It’s only music when you enjoy it,” Ai-chan added.
“That’s right, Mukai-san. I’m not your rival. There are so many seniors and students from other schools all over the world. You’ve worked so hard to come to this school, and if you can’t enjoy it because of small things like this, your parents will surely be sad,” Hazuki-chan said as she reached out and took Mukai-san’s hand. “Right?”
“Fujiwara-san…” Mukai-san held onto Hazuki-chan’s hand with both of her own. “I’m sorry… I’m really sorry.”
Teardrops flowed one after the other down her cheeks.
We decided not to pursue the matter any further.
We have already found out the reason, and as long as the posts stop, all would be well.
And most importantly, Hazuki-chan had forgiven her.
“It’s getting dark,” Ai-chan commented.
“We still have to work tomorrow,” I said.
“I’ll come by once my lessons have ended,” Hazuki-chan said.
We stood up, as if nothing had happened.
“Mukai-san, you should hurry home soon. Your family will be worried,” Ai-chan said.
“Eh…?” Mukai-san looked shocked at the sudden end to the conversation.
“Mukai-san may think that Hazuki-chan’s life is filled with only good things, but that’s surprisingly not the case,” I said.
“She has troubles with her boyfriend and family too. We’ll leave it up to Hazuki-chan to tell you about it. You’ll be surprised,” Ai-chan added.
So saying, we left the park, leaving Hazuki-chan and Mukai-san alone.
If the two go on to become good friends, they will have much to share with each other, but Hazuki-chan would probably continue to have a tough time.
Her family is so overprotective that it becomes restrictive, and Yada-kun can be a little uncaring too, either because they have been friends for so long, or because he is just shy.
However, she is definitely better off than me, since I do not have a boyfriend.
Yada-kun and Hazuki-chan, jazz and classical, trumpet and violin. Despite specializing in different music genres and instruments, they still share the same love for music, and that surely gives them things to talk about.
Furthermore, both aim to become professional musicians, so I’m sure that becoming true lovers is just one natural step towards those dreams.
Oh well, who cares about my opinion?
“Hey, they didn’t have to say those things out loud…” Hazuki-chan seemed shocked by our sudden departure.
“They’re great friends. Fujiwara-san seems a little different from your usual self in school too. I really do envy you,” Mukai-san said.
“Mukai-san is my friend too. Can I call you Riko-chan instead? Do call me Hazuki,” Hazuki-chan said with a smile.
“Thank you, Fuji… Hazuki-chan.” Wiping away her tears, Mukai-san looked Hazuki-chan in the eye as she called her name.
Mukai-san gets to know another side of Hazuki-chan that I don’t, the side of her that she shows at Karen Girls’ Academy, and that makes me slightly envious.
However, it’ll be great if we can become friends with Mukai-san someday.
The same goes for Onpu-chan. No matter how far apart we are, friends will remain friends.
And that is how we slowly accumulate more friends.
We had part-time work at MAHO-do the next day as well. While waiting for Hazuki-chan to arrive, I updated Majorika and Lala on yesterday’s events.
The two had been worried about Hazuki-chan the whole time too, so my recount gave them some peace of mind and relief.
After hearing about the Ura Site incident from Tamaki Reika, Yada-kun went into a panic and rushed to look for Hazuki-chan.
As the online posts on the site had already disappeared, this caused some misunderstandings between the two. Hazuki-chan suggested that they stop seeing each other for a while, in case some schoolmates spotted them together and started more rumours.
His concern about Hazuki-chan might have been a little too excessive, but his appearance on the scene was really too late.
Hazuki-chan’s explanation of the incident seemed to have eased his concern, but as her boyfriend, I wish he would at least have noticed that Hazuki-chan was not being her usual self.
And then, Yada-kun also told me how Tamaki had been concerned about Hazuki-chan as well.
It seems that Tamaki had gotten a boyfriend, and her selfish personality had undergone a change as a result.
Well, I’ll write more about that later.
Although she still speaks to us in her usual tone, Tamaki has always been a beautiful girl, and if her personality takes a turn for the better, along with her reputation as a student of Karen Girls’ Academy, won’t she become super popular?
That somehow irritates me a little.
“Oh well, summer vacation is coming, so I’ll be taking a gamble on meeting new people!” I told myself with determination.
“Shut up, Doremi. Get to work.”
And I’ve pissed Majorika off again.
This happened days later, when the incident with Hazuki-chan had died down.
“Ehh—! Tamaki came to the store?”
“What’s with your loud voice?” Majorika quipped.
As I had some stuff going on in school, I had arrived late to work.
Tamaki knew that we were doing part-time work here, but still,
“We didn’t inform her of our work schedule. So, what did she want from us?”
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong,” Majorika corrected me as she pointed to the corner where the mobile phone straps were displayed. “She came to purchase some straps.”
As this was the MAHO-do, we did stock lots of charms and power stones amongst our goods.
All these goods were imported from the Witch world and catered to human customers, so they do possess some powers of their own.
Tamaki had bought a strap with an azure stone charm attached, known as lapis lazuli, for herself.
Our straps are cute, all with different stones and came in different designs.
Now that I’m looking at them, there does seem to be fewer straps on display. Could it be?
With my finger, I pointed to the left end of the shelf that held the straps, and moved it slowly over to the right end.
“Since we’re talking about Tamaki, she must have bought everything in sight!” I concluded.
“She only bought two. It’s just that without you girls here, there was no one to replenish the stock,” Majorika cut me down readily.
To think that I had anticipated her to agree, I was a fool…
“Sorry we’re late”
It was evening, and Ai-chan, who was now sunburnt from all her activities, and Hazuki-chan, who had ended her violin session early, came in together.
Immediately, I updated them on Tamaki’s visit.
“That’s really quite a surprise…” Hazuki-chan said.
“What do you mean?”
Hazuki-chan, who had been kneading the magical clay with her fingers, stopped and pondered for a moment before speaking. “I had been so caught up with my own affairs, so I did not notice it then. But I’ve come to realize now that Tamaki-san does seem different… It’s as if she has grown up.”
Following Onpu-chan’s advice, Hazuki-chan had quickly rallied for Tamaki to become her ally at Karen Girls’ Academy, but Tamaki had taken no interest in the Ura Site. She had told Hazuki-chan not to bother herself with useless things like that.
At that time, I felt that Tamaki was a really cool girl.
“…That…must be it,” Ai-chan slammed her fist on the worktable with a DON! and stood up.
“…It must be that!” DON! Hazuki-chan hit the worktable and stood up too.
Well, I couldn’t lose out.
DON! I slammed my fist on the worktable and stood up… But what is it?
“It’s love!” Majorika declared as she suddenly appeared.
I was the only one who was shocked.
“She stealthily came to buy straps, so it must have been embarrassing for her.”
That might have been true.
“Our goods here are the real deal, and have gotten popular through word-of-mouth. Tamaki may have a problem that our goods can help with, so she could have come in all seriousness,” Ai-chan said.
Shouldn’t Tamaki be buying branded goods if she wanted to give someone a present?
Why did she choose to buy MAHO-do’s straps?
By the way, I didn’t know that Ai-chan was so interested in other’s love affairs.
Ahh… She’s been through it herself too.
“What’s wrong, Doremi-chan? Why are you so motionless, like a Maui statue?” Ai-chan teased.
Oh, leave me alone.
At this moment, my life story unfolded within my mind like an album.
So much has happened in such a short time.
Fun things, tough times, even things which normal people don’t get a chance to do; I’ve got to try it all.
Everyone’s the same too… Ehh? My album doesn’t have any pages on love… Am I so unattractive?
“Tamaki beat me to it —!” I shouted as I stood up.
Ai-chan and the others seemed to understand my heart’s cries.
“It’s alright, I don’t have a boyfriend, too. I’m in the same boat as Doremi-chan all this while,” Ai-chan comforted me.
“That’s right. I think there are many people who like Doremi-chan,” Hazuki-chan added.
What was that?!
Hazuki-chan, who has a boyfriend, and even Ai-chan too, they’re all too calm.
They seemed so mature now, doing things that high school students do. Plus, they had also found things which they had a passion for.
“Fufuu, this is making me feel impatient~” I complained.
“Doremi-chan, you should seriously focus on MAHO-do,” Ai-chan advised.
“That’s right. You come up with all the designs, make cute cards… You’ve worked hard,” Hazuki-chan added.
“Our sales have increased all due to the POPs made by Doremi-chan,” Ai-chan continued.
However, I didn’t feel comforted.
Oh, do you know about POPs? Those of you who had worked at supermarts or convenience stores should know about them.
Our job is not just about tagging the goods with price tags and arranging them. For example, the lapis lazuli picked out by Tamaki is known as a stone that brings luck and love. So, we also write descriptions of our goods on cards and stick them on. We call those POPs.
Customers who frequent MAHO-do read the POPs before making purchase decisions, or puzzle over what to buy. This makes their shopping experience joyful, and that makes me glad.
I’ve gone off-topic again. It seems that it’s really true that Tamaki has a boyfriend now.
Speaking of which, when we met Tamaki while chasing after and losing Mukai-san, she was dressed in a weird way.
This is not the Tamaki we know.
A few days later, in the afternoon, Hazuki-chan reported for work full of energy. Upon seeing me, who was already here, she flipped open her notebook, just like a detective.
“Tamaki-san seems to have gotten a cat as a pet recently,” she reported.
Next, Ai-chan opened the door and slapped me hard on the back, saying, “The name of Tamaki’s boyfriend is really funny. He’s called Masamune.”
“Ouch… That’s quite a traditional name,” I replied.
“He’s the one-eyed dragon, just like that Date Masamune, the military commander from the Warring States,” Ai-chan added.
“Eh, do you think his parents are history maniacs?” I wondered.
“That’s not true. Masamune is the name of the cat. Her boyfriend is a senior from Doremi-chan’s school,” Hazuki-chan corrected us.
“Really? I heard that he had a really beautiful OL girlfriend, and though he rejected Tamaki because of that, she’s still persistently making her move on him,” Ai-chan said.
“Isn’t it true that he works at a host club, and so goes home with his customers?” Hazuki-chan asked.
“Host club? Just how old is this guy?” Ai-chan countered.
“Alright, where did you two get all these information?” I asked as I came between my two excited friends. This could go on forever.
“Erm, Tamaki-san has been leaving school early these days… So I heard about all these from her good friend Shimakura Kaori-chan,” Hazuki-chan replied.
“What? Kaori-chan? Then half of that would have been exaggerated. How about you, Ai-chan?”
“The senior of my track club’s senior’s friend works as Tamaki’s home tutor…”
“Your senior’s senior’s friend?… Isn’t that too far a connection? Alright, I’m dismissing what you two have said,” I concluded.
I mean, Tamaki isn’t one who can keep secrets.
If she really has a boyfriend, I’m sure she would boast about it. She must have been attracted to his looks. Tamaki is a cute girl herself, and confident too, so I think she will make a move on a guy if she likes him.
“Guess we still don’t know the truth,” I said.
“Since Tamaki-san hasn’t told us about it, maybe it’s because it isn’t a serious relationship. It seems to me like she’s troubled by the issue,” Hazuki-chan said.
“If she bought our strap, it means that she hasn’t confessed to him yet, right?” Ai-chan stated.
We looked at each other.
If she were really in trouble, I would definitely wish to help her out somehow. Yes, I felt regret at being surpassed by her, but I was still curious. This could even become like a study of love for my own reference.
“Alright. Chatting here won’t get anything done. Hazuki-chan, go ask Tamaki herself. If her boyfriend is really a senior at our school, I’m sure someone would know about it,” Ai-chan said.
Tamaki had been really cool about Hazuki-chan’s incident with the Ura Site, saying that she had no time to gossip… Now that I thought about it, maybe it was because the same thing was happening to her.
When Hazuki-chan asked her about it, Tamaki readily shared her story.
It happened when Hazuki-chan was thanking Tamaki for her support with the Ura Site incident. Maybe Tamaki wished for someone to know about her troubles too.
“Well… It’s true that she likes a Grade 9 senior from Doremi-chan’s school. He’s quite a suave guy, a little of a bad boy, quite tall…”
“H-Hazuki-chan, but what is his name?” Ai-chan pressed.
We were gathered in the MAHO-do again.
We had closed up shop, and after cleaning up, we had gathered at the table as usual.
We normally spent the time sticking price tags and bar codes onto items, or thinking of cute POP designs, and we usually enjoyed ourselves.
But once Hazuki-chan started talking, her hands stopped working.
“Yes, his name is Tachibana Kyouhei. Do you know him?” Hazuki-chan asked.
Upon hearing the name, our expressions changed, and Hazuki-chan, noticing it, frowned as well.
“We know him by name and face. I don’t really know him personally, but he gives me the creeps,” Ai-chan said.
“Yep, me too,” I agreed.
I have seen him around school.
Though I would not call him suave, his eyes are frightening. Plus, he is unapproachable. And because he is tall, there seems to be too much of him. However, I could not think of any rumours about him yet. I mean, he is from a different year, and since we had just started high school, we had not had any contact.
Hazuki-chan took out her notebook and assumed the air of a detective again.
“Firstly, his name is definitely Tachibana Kyouhei-san.”
“So he’s not Masamune afterall?” Ai-chan asked.
“Masamune is the name of the cat that she received from him. That cat is injured, so until it heals, Tamaki-san has been leaving for home right after school to look after it,” Hazuki-chan explained.
The cat is a Russian Blue owned by one of Tachibana-senpai’s friends. It had been born with sight in only one eye, so that was where the name Masamune came from. Because of this weakness, it often lost out on its mother’s milk to its siblings. Therefore, it grew up to be a small cat, and would have died if it had been cast out into the wild.
Tachibana-senpai had taken the cat in to look after it himself, but the apartment he lives in does not allow pets, and after he was discovered, he had been keeping it in the nearby park and feeding it regularly.
One evening, Tamaki had witnessed the cat being bullied by children while on her way home, and had saved it and brought it to a nearby animal hospital for treatment.
“It so happened that the hospital is owned by the cat’s original owner. When Tachibana-san heard that the cat was injured, he rushed over, and that was when he and Tamaki-san met,” Hazuki-chan finished.
“Yes, that is such a cliched meeting~,” I commented.
Really, it is just like the story of some old-school shoujo manga.
“The bad boy and the rich girl? What a great pairing!” Ai-chan seemed to be thinking the same thing too.
It was probably chance that Tamaki saved the cat, but I was amazed that Tachibana-senpai happened to be at the hospital at the same time.
“Truly, the students who attend Karen Girls’ Academy are mostly rich young ladies, so he probably won’t have gotten to know her otherwise,” Hazuki-chan said.
With those frightening eyes of his, I would have been scared had he looked at me, even if I did not know that he is a senior. I might even have dashed away.
“That’s our Tamaki. She’s never been afraid of anything,” Ai-chan said.
If Tamaki was here, she would definitely have gotten mad and replied “That’s rude!” to Ai-chan’s comment.
According to what Hazuki-chan heard, Tachibana-senpai had spoken to the doctor at the hospital while Masamune was being treated, about how he had often brought it, which was often ill, in for treatment. He also told the doctor about its partial blindness, and how it would be dangerous to keep him out in the wild, and how he had been searching for an apartment that allowed him to keep pets, and was planning to move.
Knowing only his face and name, we thought of Tachibana-senpai as a “scary guy”, but to Tamaki, he would have seemed like the best “gentleman”, and that must have been when it started.
We had gossiped and judged him based on our first impressions, and that isn’t a good thing.
I realized that, apart from the fact that we had not posted our thoughts online, we were no different from those posters on the Ura Site.
Hazuki-chan’s incident had not taught us anything.
Still, I felt that Tachibana-senpai must have some peculiarities.
Following Tamaki’s wishes, we began to find out more about him.
It was partly because we were curious, but also because Tamaki was worried.
He had seemed more rough than usual lately, and appeared to show no interest in girls.
Although he met up occasionally with Tamaki, it was mostly about the cat.
During the weekends, she had spotted him exiting a building near the train station in the evenings. Was that his workplace?
We found out that the place was a bar operated by a tenant, so it was hard for us young girls to drop by for a visit, but it seemed like it wasn’t a host club after all.
Also, Yada-kun’s workplace was nearby too, so we managed to get some information from him.
As a senior in school, he had been attending all his lessons regularly and seriously.
And rather than being mixed up with delinquents, he was a lone wolf, often appearing hostile.
“He looks at people in a frightening way, and he is quite a big guy too. So he must seem like he’s looking for a fight, even when he really isn’t”
“No, no, he isn’t.” With that, Ai-chan resolutely cut down all of Tamaki’s concerns.
Because if he really got into fights, people wouldn’t have dared to start all those rumours about him in the first place.
And so, young lady, you don’t have to worry…
It was the day when the announcement for the rainy season was made.
“Tachibana-san lives together with his mother. He feels that Masamune is really like him, so he thinks it’s cute. How should I say this? It’s nice that his personality does not fit his looks. It appeals to my maternal instinct!… So she says,” Hazuki-chan said, imitating Tamaki’s voice.
“What? That girlish side isn’t like Tamaki at all. It’s like she’s someone else,” Ai-chan said as she scratched her head.
I was relayed all these latest news through mail and phone calls. “Well, that’s because she’s in love… Even so, it makes me feels weird inside.”
“I know, I know,” Ai-chan agreed.
It seemed as if Tamaki wished to have a date with him without the cat as an excuse. However,
“She says that even when they meet up about the cat, it’s only for a short while before he goes off to his part-time job. And though he replies to her messages, he changes the topic whenever she brings up the idea of them going on a date together during their free time,” Hazuki-chan said.
“Tamaki’s being really aggressive here,” Ai-chan said. After some thought, she added, “Actually, this might work out.”
Ai-chan was referring to the fact that there weren’t any girls around Tachibana-senpai who were like Tamaki, trying to connect with him without any bashfulness.
That’s true. Tamaki was mature and not like a high school student at all, plus she gives off a reckless vibe, too.
“That’s why. Isn’t she afraid that he’d back off, worried that she’ll get too involved with him?” Ai-chan asked.
“Tamaki-san did mention that he’s been avoiding her lately. She’s worried that she’s become a bother to him,” Hazuki-chan replied.
“Is it because she’s been stalking him, dressed in a very un-Tamaki-like style?” I asked.
“Hmm, that’s partially it, but she did so because she heard some rumours that he has a beautiful OL girlfriend,” Hazuki-chan said, tilting her head to the side.
“He probably treats Tamaki like a little sister, after all. That OL beauty must be the real deal,” I concluded.
“Huh, that rumoured OL beauty? That’s probably fake information passed around by those in his workplace. More importantly, has there been any more news?” Ai-chan asked.
The next day after school, Ai-chan and I were heading to the MAHO-do.
The instincts of a girl in love could be really sharp sometimes.
Ai-chan and my phone started ringing at the same time.
“…! It’s from Tamaki. What? Meet you now at the school gates? At Misora High School, not Karen Girls’ Academy?” I spoke into the phone.
“…! What’s wrong, Hazuki-chan?! What, meet you outside school?” Ai-chan was talking on her phone too.
Though we were just outside the MAHO-do then, we turned around and headed back to school.
“Took you long enough!” We had run all the way back, and this was all Tamaki had to say.
“What’s wrong, you two?” Ai-chan asked.
“I don’t know. It seems like Tamaki-san needs to see Yamaki-sensei here…” Hazuki-chan replied.
“Please get Yamaki-sensei out here. Hurry!” Tamaki urged.
W-w-wait a minute.
“A-N-Y-W-A-Y, I’ll explain when you get Yamaki-sensei out here! He’ll definitely come if you tell him that it’s about Tachibana-san,” Tamaki shouted in frustration.
Tamaki could be really frightening when she’s agitated, and we felt slightly cornered, so we dashed to the staffroom and managed to get Yamaki-sensei outside.
“What’s with you girls?” Leon asked as he was pulled along by the arms by Ai-chan and me.
“We don’t know ourselves…” Ai-chan replied.
“Our friend told us that you’d understand if we told you that it’s about Tachibana-senpai… They’re at the school gates,” I added.
Hearing that, Leon stopped in his tracks. “What, Tachibana?! What’s wrong with Tachibana?” So saying, Leon’s expression immediately turned grim.
When we brought Leon out, Tamaki wasted no time with a greeting, and immediately started talking about Tachibana-senpai’s current situation.
“Tachibana-san has been keeping his promise to Yamaki-sensei, and hasn’t been talking to his old gang anymore. However, he just told me that there’s one final thing he has to settle with them…”
It seemed that Tachibana-senpai’s old gang had found out about his close relationship with Tamaki.
And then, because of the cat, Tamaki’s parents also got suspicious, and they found out about Tachibana-senpai as well.
“I’ve tried explaining to Papa and Mama, but they don’t understand. Recently, they’ve been sending me to and from school, and I’m not allowed to go out alone. And Tachibana’s messages have turned curt lately, and he doesn’t answer my calls…”
To come here today, she had to lie to her parents that she was going to the MAHO-do to visit Hazuki-chan.
She had wanted to locate his address and know more about what was going on.
Yamaki-sensei, who had been Tachibana-senpai’s homeroom teacher in his freshman year, seemed to have spoken to him lots of times.
Recently, Tachibana-senpai had found something he wanted to do, so he had decided to break away from his old gang, and came to discuss the issue with Leon. Leon had listened with concern, and had promised to become Tachibana-senpai’s ally, and had given him advice on how to break away from the gang completely.
I realized that Leon was really a great teacher, and I had passed my judgement solely based on looks again.
Knowing only bits and pieces of the story, we still managed to piece it all together. So, we followed Leon and Tamaki to Tachibana-senpai’s apartment.
“It’s dangerous for you girls, so please go home,” Leon adviced.
“No! I’m involved in this, too,” Tamaki refused to let go.
“We’re Tamaki’s friends. If anything happens, we’ll all run like crazy, so let us come along too!” I added. We couldn’t leave Tamaki alone. Between us 4, we’d surely come up with something. Either way, Tamaki was set on going, and should the time come, we still had our magic to save her and ourselves.
There was a really beautiful lady standing on the road outside Tachibana-senpai’s apartment.
“Ah, Tachibana-san! Where’s Kyouhei?”
Ehhhh—! Leon had called her Tachibana-san.
Since Tachibana-senpai stayed with his mother, that means… Tamaki turned slightly and whispered, “That’s Tachibana-san’s mother. I only found out recently too.”
“Mother?… She’s so young and beautiful. She could be mistaken for an OL beauty,” Ai-chan said in a daze. Tachibana-senpai’s mother was a real head-turner, just like a model, a beauty.
She’s really so different from my mum. If I looked closely, I could guess that she was about 40 years-old, but I would never think that she had any children of high school age.
No wonder Tamaki used to feel that she was “beaten”.
Tamaki moved toward Tachibana-senpai’s mother and introduced herself. “I’m Tamaki Reika. Tachibana-san has been acting strange recently, so I got worried and called Yamaki-sensei out here.”
Tachibana-senpai’s mother seemed shocked at Tamaki’s explanation. “So you’re Tamaki-san? I got a call from Kyouhei just now, saying that his old gang had kidnapped someone called Tamaki. I was just going to look for him!”
“But where is he?! I’ll go, too. It’ll be alright once he knows that I’m fine, right?” Tamaki insisted.
Just then, a large motorcycle approached us. Stopping right before us, a woman clad in rider’s gear got down and demanded, “Let’s go, Shouko.”
She took off her helmet, and we were faced with another model-like beauty.
Wait, she’s not a model. Isn’t she Yamaki Minako, that charisma model who had been adorning the front covers of all those housewife magazines these days?!
“What? Is this some battleground for beauties?” Ai-chan asked, but Leon had stepped forward.
“Minako, why are you here?”
“Oh, my dear, were you worried about me?”
Minako? My dear? We leaned out from behind Leon and stared at the charisma model.
“Ehhhhh—?! You’re sensei’s wife—?!”
Leon turned around at our rude statement, trying to hide his embarrassment.
It was truly beauty and the beast… Or rather, beauty and the reptile.
“Well, if we go together, I think we’ll clear things up faster than if Shouko goes alone,” Yamaki-sensei’s wife declared as she walked over to Tachibana-senpai’s mother. The two beauties conferred for a second, and then smiled at each other.
Putting on a helmet, Leon got onto the bike behind his wife, and the two left.
Left behind with Tachibana-senpai’s mother, Tamaki was of course the one who felt left out… “Hey, why did they leave me behind?!”
Then, looking at us, who were staring dazedly after the bike, she continued, “What are you all staring at! Let’s give chase!”
With that, she turned and walked towards Tachibana-senpai’s mother, probably to ask her for the location.
Watching Tamaki, Tachibana-senpai’s mother giggled.
“Mrs. Tachibana, please be serious”
“I’m sorry. I’m sure the issue will be resolved soon, but let’s go,” she said as she hustled us into her car.
Gripping the steering wheel, she suddenly said, “I’m sorry for laughing just now.”
With that, she told us that she got to know about Yamaki-sensei and Tachibana-senpai’s promise because she and Yamaki-sensei’s wife were cousins.
In the past, Yamaki-sensei’s wife worked as a charisma model while she was a student at Karen Girls’ Academy. Tachibana-senpai’s mother was also a model then, but the two were now skilled beauticians.
They often fetched Tachibana-senpai to and from school, so the rumours about him probably started because they were such beauties.
And while I wished for Tachibana-senpai to be safe, I braced myself to be prepared to use magic just in case, as I gripped my apprentice tap tightly in my pocket.
When our car pulled into the parking lot, we saw Tachibana-senpai and Mr and Mrs Leon facing off against a group of scary-looking boys.
The tension of this charged situation was really strong.
There was nothing we could do but hold our breaths and stay in the car. Only Tamaki pulled open the car door and stepped out, “Tachibana-san, I’m alright.”
With that, she dashed out and put herself out in the middle between the two groups. She was a reckless person, but this was too extreme.
And that was not all…
“You people are too extreme, using me to lure Tachibana-san out like this. If anything had really happened to me, the Tamaki group will not keep quiet!”
Her voice did tremble a little, but she had said it.
What’s with this confidence? That’s definitely our Tamaki.
She had spoken well against these scary-looking boys, her words hitting them like bullets.
But that’s not the time to be saying that!
We flew out of the car as well, and stood in front of Tamaki, as if protecting her.
Just then, Tachibana-senpai’s mother spoke up belatedly from behind us. “True friends will become your power in tough times. It’s great that Tamaki-san has three such friends.”
We turned around to see her smiling.
Good for you, Tamaki. His mother had become your ally in such a short time.
Tachibana-senpai should calm down now at the sight of Tamaki. It was a good idea for her to come along, after all.
The only reason he came to confront these people was to save Tamaki. However, he still seemed to want to get even with the gang.
His old gang slowly advanced upon us, chewing gum in their mouths and smirking.
Immediately, Tachibana-senpai swept us behind him, and stood between the gang and us, together with Leon and his wife.
“Tachibana, this is all your past coming back at you. You do understand that, right?” Leon spoke quietly but firmly, and Tachibana-senpai nodded.
“Shut up, old man.”, “Tachibana, you’re hanging out with your parents and girls now? That’s so uncool.”
Wow, they’re so scary.
You guys were the ones who lured a single guy out using a high school girl, and then gathered here in a group waiting to confront him. So who are the real cowards?
“I don’t want such a huge and frightening-looking son!” Leon shouted in a booming voice, totally different from his quiet tone just now.
“W-wait, Yamaki-sensei, what are you saying! Now’s not the time to come up with smart retorts,” Ai-chan cried.
Hearing Ai-chan, the gang started sniggering amongst themselves.
“Oh, now you’re being laughed at by high school kids.” So saying, Leon’s wife unfolded a coat that was in her hands, and placed it upon Leon’s shoulders over his white shirt. Isn’t that the coat worn by delinquent biker gangs in the past?
“Y-Yamaki?…” The gang members looked at each other and started to whisper amongst themselves.
“What is happening?”
“That’s an old biker gang coat. Look, there’s lots of words embroidered on it,” Ai-chan pointed out.
Wearing his biker gang coat, Leon advanced upon the gang.
For some reason, the gang started to back away.
“This biker gang coat is not just for show,” Leon shouted as he turned on his heel and showed the back of the coat to the gang.
—”Disregarding opinions, Misora Bakuretsu Gang, Third Generation Leader, Yamaki Rokurou” was embroidered at the back.
Things had gotten crazier all of a sudden.
“Can it be? That legendary…”
The gang was whispering again. What were they saying?
I heard them say the word “legendary”.
“We’re sorry!” With that, the one who looked like the leader of the gang suddenly prostrated himself on the ground.
This was my first time seeing someone prostrate himself in real life. Then, like an avalanche, all the other members bowed down too. All of them were trembling.
Leon grabbed the arm of the leader, pulled him up, and appeared to whisper something to him. The leader then gathered all the gang members, and the group disappeared from the parking lot in a second.
I think the expressions of our faces then were all variations of shock.
Maybe you could understand the mood better if I described that it felt as if Mito Komon had just brought out his seal case.
It was a long time later when we heard from Leon about this world that we did not know of, where that coat was a symbol of each generation’s biker gang leader.
Either way, it was definitely a mistake to judge anyone by their appearance or what rumours say about them.
For example, we no longer thought that Tachibana-senpai was nothing but a scary-looking senior.
Plus, Leon and his wife were so cool too.
“So, what now?”
It was several days after the incident when the three of us had the chance to gather together in the MAHO-do.
After the usual chores of closing up shop, cleaning up and sticking on price tags, I asked, “So are the two of them getting along well?”
I really wanted to know.
“Well, they’re taking it slowly for now. Tachibana-senpai is studying really hard to become a vet, and he’s busy with the part-time job too, so they don’t really get to meet up often,” Hazuki-chan explained.
Well, that was unexpected, I guess.
And it seems like Tamaki often tells Hazuki-chan about lots of things now.
“A vet? There’s really so many unexpected twists in this story,” Ai-chan commented.
“Tamaki-san has been wondering if she should apply to the same university as him, so she is really studying hard these days,” Hazuki-chan added.
Ahh, I’m so envious.
Will it be my turn to star in a love story soon?
Maybe I’ll bump into some hunky high school boy round the corner one day on my way to school.
“Doremi-chan, just keep on thinking about that, and you’ll get your own boyfriend soon, too,” Hazuki-chan said.
“That’s right. Maybe he’s been beside you all along,” Ai-chan teased.
These two can really read my mind sometimes!
Hehehe, I hope I can really come out on top someday…
The hydrangeas that had bloomed in MAHO-do’s yard had now wilted together with the end of the rainy season.
And in the coming summer, as the sunflowers grow tall and bloom, I will definitely find my boyfriend.
1. Ura Site – “Ura” translates into “under”. Many Japanese high schools have their own Ura Sites set up by students, which are kind of like online forums for everyone to keep updated on events and happenings, and also to trade gossip. One major problem with Ura Sites is that students use them as a platform for cyber-bullying, by spreading rumors or blatantly insulting the victim. Read more about Ura Sites here.
2. A love hotel is a type of short-stay hotel found around the world operated primarily for the purpose of allowing couples privacy for sexual activities.
3. A Stradivarius or Strad is one of the violins, cellos, and other stringed instruments built by members of the Stradivari family, particularly Antonio Stradivari, during the 17th and 18th centuries. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it. The name “Stradivarius” has become a superlative often associated with excellence; to be called “the Stradivari” of any field is to be deemed the finest there is. The fame of Stradivarius instruments is widespread, appearing in numerous works of fiction.
4. Bakuretsu – Explosive
5. Mito Komon was the alternate identity of powerful Edo period daimyo Tokugawa Mitsukuni, who roamed the countryside disguised as a commoner to catch and punish corrupt officials. His seal case was the proof of his real identity.