An Ambiguous Relationship.
The last day of the Haru High School cultural festival, September 24, Sunday. I woke up in the morning, after getting ready and eating breakfast, headed towards my school. My mood was very good today since my family was coming to visit. They had come day-before-yesterday as well, but unlike last time, my father will be accompanying my mother and brother this time around.
I picked up Chiaki on the way and headed towards school while chatting about this and that. We reached school shortly after and gathered in our class to strategize about our last day plans. I had already visited all the classes across the three years, so I wasn’t keen on roaming around. There was this rumor that Takumi would be free today and would be visiting other classes since he couldn’t for the past two days, so maybe I’ll just wait for him in my class.
My mother already informed me that they will be eating at Redundant Restaurant since no other establishment could compare to their food to prestige within the whole academy. During the last two days, when talking about the popularity rankings, they had slid up to the second position and competed with the student council for first.
The only reason that the student council’s relaxation center could compete with class 1-E’s restaurant was that eight of the most outstanding students in the school gathered together to form the student council. Normally, student councils in schools perform very limited functions and don’t have the kind of authority that they’re portrayed out to have.
However, Haru High School is a bit different. The main reason being the sheer number of students. Fifteen-hundred students across three years sure is a startling number, and as such, the eight students selected to serve as the leaders of these many students are naturally not ordinary. The student council in Haru High School wields considerable authority and is a genuine decision-making entity that influences the lives of the entire student body.
In fact, in very specific cases with certain circumstances, the student council’s authority can outstrip the school’s. One such specific case would be bullying. Now normally, the school would either decide to suspend the student or to leave them be if the case isn’t too severe. However, in cases where a student’s psychological state is involved, the decision is left up to the student council. The student council has full authority to either expel, suspend, or set them free, and the school can’t interfere, but if the student council decides to free the concerned individual, they have to take the responsibility of their behavior after the said decision.
One President. Two Vice-Presidents. Two Auditors. Two Treasurers. One Secretary. This is the structure of the Haru High School student council where the president wields the highest power in the school. Currently, the structure is matriarchal with five of the members, including the president, being females.
Takumi’s sister, Kawashima Miyuki, is one of the two Vice-Presidents under the leadership of the single-most popular student among the fifteen-hundred others, Kitora Aiko. From what I’ve heard, she was the beauty pageant winner the year before last, but then she didn’t participate last year, ‘allowing’ Takumi’s sister to win it since she was busy with student council duties.
I’ve only heard praises and never any complaints when her name is mentioned. I’ve seen her before on many occasions since she addressed the students during the welcoming ceremony and the farewell ceremony before the holidays. The only thing I could discern from her superficial appearance was that her beauty was breathtaking. I mean, I classified Kawashima-senpai as ‘extraordinarily beautiful’, but damn, Kitora-senpai is something else. When I first saw her, even I, as a girl, fell for her a little. Is that cheating, but I didn’t meet Takumi at that time… Ugh, whatever.
Since the day was Sunday, the people coming in were naturally more than the other days, and as such, we had our hands full all morning. At about eleven in the morning, a certain trio of students entered our cafe, and instantly, froze me in my tracks. I left what I was doing to rush and wait on the guests who had found themselves on one of the many tables in our humble cafe.
“Minami, Takumi, and Aoki-kun… You guys finally decided to show up, huh?”
I said as I approached their table with two menus and wiping cloth in my hands. I cleaned their tables once again before placing the menus before Minami and Takumi.
“What ‘Minami’, isn’t it ‘Lady’? And the same for Takumi. Shouldn’t you be calling him ‘Master’?”
Minami said while looking at me with a complacent gaze. Her fingers gently rubbed against the menu as she saw me struggle with a devilish grin on her face.
Ever since they entered our class, I hadn’t looked at Takumi directly, and this was the reason why I couldn’t. I didn’t mind showing him my current self since everyone said I look pretty but calling the one you love ‘Master’! What kind of hellish torture is this!?
“It’s fine. We all are friends, aren’t we?”
Takumi’s calm voice dispersed the strange tension between Minami and me. It seemed like his voice had soothed all my worries. I shifted my eyes and looked at Takumi. My voice couldn’t help but go soft.
“What would you like?”
I asked while opening the menu for Takumi to see.
“Does Princess know how to brew coffee?”
Still calling me ‘Princess’, huh? Well… I heard that he never calls anyone with a nickname, not even Minami, so him calling me ‘Princess’ might be somewhat of a signal.
“Then I would like a coffee brewed by Princess herself, and sandwiches as well, if you don’t mind.”
Saying so, he smiled at me while looking me in the eye. My cheeks grew a bit hot as I averted my eyes and jotted down his order on the notepad with a little heart by its side.
“Mm. What would you guys like?”
“Wait… Can’t we also get coffee brewed by you?”
Aoki-kun asked while showing an incomprehensible grin.
“No. I am very busy and can only brew for a single person.”
“Oh~ Is that so? Okay, then. I’d just take a non-princess coffee and some pasta.”
He said while chuckling, which made the other two laugh as well.
“I’d take the same as Takumi. Ah, of course, ‘non-princess’ coffee.”
My eyebrows were twitching uncontrollably as I barely managed to muster up a reply.
“O-Ok. I’ve received your order…”
After that, I went to the kitchen and demanded to brew a cup of coffee and make some sandwiches. The kitchen staff was reluctant at first but then agreed after a bit of ‘sweet’ persuasion.
“Here is your order.”
I said while pacing all their coffees and food on the table, retrieving the tray. I waited for Takumi to take a sip.
As soon as he said this as if thousands of butterflies had invaded my stomach, I felt light and tingly. As I was about to return to the kitchen, a person from outside the gate said in a loud voice.
“Kobayashi-san! You can take a break now!”
It was the boy managing the desk and shifts.
I replied, and as I was about to go and get my stuff, Aoki-kun abruptly spoke up.
“Since you’re free, why don’t you join us? A chair is free after all.”
I froze up and looked at Takumi with an expectant look…
“Sure. Four are better than three after all.”
I nodded. I went to the changing room and changed back into the school uniform. After that, I timidly took the last seat around the table and got my friends to brew me a coffee as well.
The table was a square with chairs on the four sides. And heavens bless me, I was sitting in front of Takumi. His eyes and mine were on the same level. I couldn’t help but turn fidgety at the sight of him calmly drinking coffee and munching on sandwiches. At one point, all the voices around me faded away and Takumi became the sole existence in my eyes. His every action, every movement, every gesture, each one was strangely elegant and mature, it was like I was in presence of a nobleman or something.
Suddenly, I felt pain in my leg as Minami, who was sitting on my right, tried to subtly grab my attention.
‘What is it?’, I asked with my eyes, to which, she panicked moved her eyes in Takumi’s direction, instructing me to turn my eyes in my front, and as soon as I did, I was astonished to find that Aoki-kun and Takumi were looking at me with a complicated gaze.
At this very moment, I realized that I fucked up.
My elbow was resting on the table with my chin placed on my palm. My lips were slightly parted, forming a grin, and of course, my whole countenance was focusing on Takumi. My hair was falling on my shoulder and my body was slouching on the table, making me look like a maniac. I could feel a bit of moisture in the area under my lower lip, signifying that I was drooling.
I urgently straightened my back and wiped my lips with the back of my hand. I brushed my hair with my fingers and coughed before picking up my coffee cup.
Involuntarily, my voice rang out, and when I looked up with redness reaching my neck, all three of them looked like I was something unredeemable.
My shoulders lightly trembled as I realized that I had heavily embarrassed myself in front of the one person whom I always wanted to show my best side.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter that you embarrass yourself in front of a hundred people, however, when your image reduces in the eyes of someone who you cherish this much, it breaks your heart.
My shoulders were trembling and so were my lips, I did my best to restrain my tears. I just couldn’t look Takumi in the eye, if I did, I knew, I’d bawl out like an infant.
“Umm… Hey… Uh, yeah! Hey, Sawa-san! Can I get another cup of coffee?”
“Sure! I’ll bring it right now.”
After that, I breathed heavily for a moment and then adorned with a smile, I raised my head to face the others.
When my eyes locked on to Takumi’s face, I could see the corner of his lips curl up. At that moment, I felt like I had made the best decision of my life.
After the events that occurred within my class, Takumi and the company left to stroll and visit other classes since they had to open their restaurant for lunch. Among all the food-based projects, class 1-E’s restaurant was statistically the best and was set to win the inter-class competition. Who knows? Maybe they can overtake the student council and receive the crown?
I continued to work at the cafe, and as the time neared one-thirty, I received a call from my mother.
[Hey, Miya. Sorry for being late. Your father says that he is hungry and wants to eat lunch. Should we come to your cafe, or…]
“Let’s just go to Takumi’s restaurant. It’s what you want anyway, right?”
[Fufu, what are you saying Darling?]
“Sigh… Just come, I’ll get Minami to sneak us in.”
Ending the call, I contacted Minami and begged her to get us a table. To which, she agreed, but strictly informing me that I owe her a huge favor. After my embarrassing display today, I had somewhat redeemed myself. As such, I was quite confident in visiting Takumi. One thing I noticed was that Minami was very unreserved with Takumi today, or rather, unlike her usual timid and quiet self, she was unrestrained and expressive in front of Takumi. I wonder what brought on this change.
I met up with my family at the school gates and escorted them to our building. My father was rather disinterested in everything related to what was happening, he didn’t even want to come, but one sentence and glare from my mother was enough to override all his objections.
I led them to class 1-E with rather light steps, and as if seeing through me, my mother tenderly smiled at me, causing me to drag my feet with a blushed appearance.
Around two-thirty, a family left the Redundant Restaurant with satisfied faces and most probably satisfied bellies. Minami came out soon after and escorted us in. We were welcomed by the legions of women in suits and the lone male waiter, Aoki-kun. Takumi, on the other hand, seemed extremely busy, and as such, greeted us with a gentle smile and a bow.
We ordered food and drinks, and while we were enjoying some of the best dished we had ever tasted, a sudden crashing noise reverberated in the previously jovial and happy room.
There were around forty-five people present in the room. Including the guests sitting on the eight tables, the waiting staff, and the cooking staff. Since it was such an abrupt disruption during such a positive atmosphere, the eyes of everyone present drifted toward the source of the sound.
And there she was… Apologetically cleaning up the spilled drink and fallen food.
“Takumi, it’s really fucking hard maintaining this huge house!”
Fumiya exclaimed while munching on the sandwiches I had prepared for today’s breakfast. Sitting on my right, Miyuki also nodded vigorously.
“What are you guys talking about? We literally have the most advanced artificial intelligence technology embedded into this house. On top of that, all the mechanical cleaning equipment in this house are all the most advanced technology within the industry. We just have to clean some nook and crannies where those machines can’t reach.”
“Yeah, that’s the problem. This is a multi-billionaire’s mansion. How many ‘nook and crannies’ do you think there are? Yesterday, this bitch and I spent five hours just cleaning the ground floor.”
Miyuki scowled at Fumiya’s wordings but nodded again.
“So, what do you guys want? We’ve only lived here for like six months so I can’t just move out, and I don’t want any maids and such in my house.”
“Didn’t your company people come to clean this house once? Fumiya told me about it.”
“There are only ten or so people who know about where we live, and I just can’t get them off work and make them clean my house like that, you know? They’re valuable assets to me.”
“Then… What do we do?”
“We have way too many rooms left… I’ll invite some people over to stay. They’ll help you with cleaning.”
“Wait… You don’t mean…?”
Miyuki stared at me slack-jawed.
“Yep. Those three. They’re currently cohabitating, but I had already promised them that after the construction finished, I’d let them stay with me. However, due to the hectic situation, we just didn’t have the time. Since the situation has calmed down a bit, I can finally talk to them about it.”
I felt Miyuki grab my shirt’s sleeve.
“But… Why… Why those three? I don’t mind Riku-nee, but why Akane-san and Kyoko-san!?”
“You know better than I do, Miyuki. Those three are the most important people to me in this world. Nothing can triumph my care for them.”
“But why? You made them… All three of them were nothing, nothing. Akane-san and Kyoko-san would’ve already been dead if you didn’t have a sudden surge of compassion. As for Riku-nee, I don’t mind her.”
Miyuki was looking into my eyes with a serious expression… What should I do with this spoiled girl?
“Miyuki… Yes, they are important to me and I love all three of them. However, I love you the most, and you should know that. Why are you getting jealous?”
Instantly, Miyuki’s face turned red as she averted her gaze and stared into the distance.
“W-W-What!? I-I am not getting j-jealous or anything!”
“Fine. Then I’ll give them a call.”
I picked up my phone and dialed Kyoko’s number. After just a few rings, she picked up.
“What’s going on over there?”
[Umm… Akane’s making breakfast. Riku is preparing our schedules and handling appointments, and I am looking over all the transactions that happened during the last twelve hours. Hey, did you know, our Canadian branch just invested three million dollars on a new project? It’s a group project with some of the other companies in Canada.]
“Hmm… I’ll check it out when I come over. Make sure to get an explanation from the branch head and do a thorough follow-up on this. If there’s anything suspicious, we’ll take actions accordingly.”
[Okay~! By the way, why did you call?]
“Oh yeah, do you guys wanna move in?”
[Wait! Are you for real!? Are things finally settled down?]
“Yeah. It’s fine. You can start packing your stuff today, it’ll take a week at most to move in.”
[Okay~~!! Yay~ I am so happy~! I am sure Riku and Akane will be thrilled! Thank you Takumi~! I love you~!]
“Just don’t trip.”
[I am so happy~~!! It’ll be just like the old times~! But this time, the situation is trillions of times better! I can’t wait~!]
I smiled as I ended the call. Listening to her, I involuntarily went into flashback mode as some painful yet fulfilling memories flashed through my mind.
“Old times… huh?”
Following our departure from our home, we reached school and began our work for the day. However, we stopped at about ten-thirty since we hadn’t gone to stroll around much often. Minami grabbed me, and I grabbed Fumiya, as we visited all the classes on our floor, and soon after, we visited Princess and had an interesting experience.
During lunch, the Kobayashi family came over and took their seats after greeting me with a smile. It was obvious that Princess’s mother and Princess herself were rather fond of me, however, Princess’s father seemed one of those doting types.
While time flowed like normal, people talked among themselves as they enjoyed the delicacies of our restaurant. Suddenly, for the first time, a loud noise rang out in the confined space, alerting all those present.
“I-I am s-sorry.”
After the staff saw what had transpired, they just bitterly smiled and let it go. The two plates and glasses that broke were just hard plastic and didn’t amount to much, as for the food and drinks that had spilled, just the cute and apologetic look on the clumsy girl’s face was more than enough to make up for it.
Nobody batted an eye as she was done with cleaning up. However, a certain dissatisfied voice came from one of the eight tables in the room.
“Hey! What is this!? This girl dropped my food and spilled a drink on me, why isn’t she apologizing?”
My eyes focused on the table from where this voice originated, two men were sitting on the table, both clad in normal shirts and pants. The one who said this was a man who appeared to be in his thirties, with short black hair and narrow eyes. Just a look at him and one could tell that he was one of those single at thirty-five types. The food and drinks she was carrying was for that table as well.
The ‘spilled drink’ he was talking about was a bit of white foam of milkshake clinging on to the surface of his pants, which, with one swipe of his hand, could easily be cleaned.
“I am sorry, Sir. It was my fault, and I apologize for my clumsiness.”
Anyone looking at this scene could easily guess that man’s motives. Minami was a beauty, and a foreign-looking one at that, so it was natural that a person like him would try and assert dominance at this stage.
“What ‘sorry’? You spilled my drink, threw away my food, and dirtied my clothes. Do you think a sorry will do the trick? Huh?”
The man had already stood up and was standing in front of Minami. His height exceeded hers by fifteen centimeters, so he looked like a predator looming over a prey. However, in the face of his intimidation, Minami remained calm.
“As I said, Sir, you have my apologies, what else do you expect me to do?”
Her voice was growing cold by the second. I wonder how someone as timid and shy as Minami is standing up for herself in this situation.
Unbeknownst to Takumi, only one thought currently filled Minami’s heart, providing her with indescribable amounts of courage.
“Takumi is watching. Takumi likes courageous girls.”
She continued to repeat these words in her heart and remained standing with a calm countenance and cold expression.
While I witnessed their argument, Nakano-sensei tapped my shoulder and said in a solemn voice.
“Go, Kawashima-kun, help her.”
I realized that the situation was getting out of hand, and as such, I decided to make a move rather than watch from the sidelines. I placed my hand on the platform and jumped over the wall separating me from the rest of the world. I walked over to Minami’s side, gesturing to another girl to come over, I retrieved the broken utensils Minami held and gave them to that girl.
“Sir, we’re sorry for the inconvenience, so please sit down and we’ll have a complimentary dish added to your current order as an apology.”
I said while standing in front of Minami, covering her with my body. He was a bit taller than me, so I had to tilt my head a bit upwards to look him in the eye.
“Heh!? And who are you? I was talking to that girl, know your place and go wash the dishes.”
“Sir, I am the chef of this establishment, everything that this lady just spilled was prepared by me, so unlike someone who didn’t even pay for the food such as yourself, I have a valid reason to get angry. And as such, I request you to please sit down and enjoy the food and stop blaming our staff.”
My voice had turned cold and deadpan, listening to which, his eyebrows twitched, however, he didn’t back down.
“It doesn’t matter! That girl spilled juice on my pant, how do you plan to reimburse me!? Is this the kind of restaurant this is?”
About twenty seconds later, I retracted my hand and placed the tissue on Minami’s hand.
“What are you talking about, Sir? I don’t see any stains or such on your clothing. If there is anything else, please do tell. If not, sit down and eat.”
I could hear people getting chills from my cold voice.
“Huh!? What do you think you are doing, huh? Is this how the students of this school behave? I am truly disappointed! I am someone with a very high position, and you have wasted my precious time! I have connections with the higher-ups of your school, I could get you brats suspended!”
I could hear a chuckle from the corner of the room, but I decided to ignore it.
“Is that so? Then I represent my class in apologizing to you for wasting your precious time. And to not waste your time further, allow me to escort you outside, so that you could spend your time more efficiently.”
I said while extending my left arm towards the gate. I could tell he was out of tricks as his face was red and his shoulders were trembling.
He fished his phone out of his pocket and said in a threatening voice.
“I have connections with the board chairman of the school. If I call him now, not even your principal will be able to save you from being expelled!”
As soon as he said ‘board chairman’, the image of a certain old man drifted in my head. I lowered my extended arm and looked at him.
“Board chairman, is it? Sure, do contact him.”
“Y-You’re not going to bluff your way out of this you disrespectful brat!”
As he placed his phone beside his ear, my sleeve was pulled by a timid and worried Minami. I just smiled and nodded, and after I did, her smile returned and she just stood by my side.
“Mashima-san… Yeah… Hello, yeah, a long time… Well, you see, I was here at your school for the cultural festival… Yeah, yeah, I was here and this brat who doesn’t know how to respect elders is being conceited and having an argument with me… Yeah, do make sure he knows his place.”
He handed his phone over to me with a complacent smile.
[Child, what is your name and which class are you from?]
His voice wasn’t enraged or irritated in the slightest, rather, it was very gentle.
“Kawashima Takumi, class 1-E.”
As soon as I said my name, I could hear things falling from the other side and Mashima-san groaning with pain. I waited for a few seconds before an extremely apologetic voice came from the other side.
[Sir… Listen, I don’t know what happened… But please allow me to apologize. Sir, that man in front of you works in your company. He was the one in contact with me concerning the donations to the academy. And as such, he’s just a bit conceited, please forgive him.]
“Is that so?”
[O-O-On other matters… May I inquire how your sister and you are enjoying our humble facility? I am honored that someone of your status is attending our school. Please do tell me if there are any changes you’d like in the current situation.]
“No, it’s fine. As for us, we’re fine as well.”
Leaving it at that, I handed the phone back to that man and looked at his expression change.
“No… No… Oh! I am sorry… I will get out right now!”
After ending the call, he looked at me with a horrified expression and deeply bowed.
“I am sorry. I shouldn’t have done what I did.”
He walked over to his table, place a bill under the tissue box, and left with his friend in haste. After they left, all eyes focused on me and looked at me like I was some kind of alien specimen.
“Sorry about that, everyone. Since that gentleman was kind enough to leave us a ten-thousand-yen bill, allow me to make you all a complimentary dish.”
I just returned to my initial position and resumed cooking.
At about four-thirty, we completely closed the shop. The ingredients were exhausted, and so were the staff, and as soon as the last customers left, I was swarmed by all the girls in the classroom. Since I was in the chef’s circle, I had no way to escape.
“Kawashima-kun~ You were so freaking cool~!”
“Yeah~! That guy was harassing Minami-chan, and you stood up for her like a pro!”
“No wonder Minami-chan lo-buh”
“Hehe, there was a mosquito on your abdomen! By the way Kawashima-kun, good job!”
As I was being surrounded by all the ladies in the class, suddenly, the door was flung open from the outside. And as soon it did, the chatter died down and the girls made way for the sudden guests to approach me.
“Hey~ Takumi~ I am here!”
One of the two visitors was my dear sister, and who she brought with her was someone with a very good reputation inside the school. The girls all lowered their heads as the duo came over and stood in front of me, the impregnable wall separating us of course.
“Takumi, Takumi~! I told her about you and she said she wanted to meet you! Sorry, we couldn’t come before. We were su~per busy. You can-”
“Miyuki, stop making noise.”
I said to the extremely excited Miyuki, to which, she ended up glaring daggers at me.
“It sure is an honor to have the esteemed student council president come meet me. My name is Kawashima Takumi, nice to meet you.”
I said while extending my hand toward the woman in front of me. I have seen Kitora Aiko before since she gave the welcoming speech, however, it’s my first time meeting her. As for the title of the prettiest girl in the school, she sure deserves it.
Dyed silver hair falling to her waist, a perfectly shaped face with smooth white skin and perky nose. Long eyelashes and green-bluish eyes, a perfect body with a narrow waist and bulging curves. No wonder she is at the top of literally everything. Unlike most girls in the summer, she was wearing a tie instead of a ribbon.
She looked at me with narrowed eyes before extending her soft hand, and after a gentle handshake, her honey-like sweet and mellow voice entered my ears.
“Miyuki here has spoken a lot about you. I wanted to see what kind of a brother would someone of Miyuki’s caliber would have.”
I was thoroughly observing her expression since I sensed some abnormalities in the her expressions.
“Is that so? Then please do tell, do I match up to her descriptions.”
“At ‘first glance’, you don’t. What are your opinions about me, let me hear them.”
“Well… ‘The prettiest girl in school’, ‘most popular person in school’, ‘most powerful person in school’…”
I took a glance at everyone who still had their head lowered. After this, I looked into her eyes and said.
“…I’d say you deserve them all.”
She was taken aback. She took a moment to calm down.
“Oh? Looks like someone here has some guts. Aren’t you cute?”
I smiled and extended my hand toward her tie in a flash. And before she had time to react, I pulled her so that our cheeks were slightly touching.
“Listen, I don’t mind. However, if you push too much, it ain’t gonna end up nicely. I hope you understand what I am saying, Sister-in-law”
Saying so I released my grip and pushed her lightly. Unlike her initial calm and cold demeanor, she was gasping for breath with a red face, her shoulders were trembling as she alternated her gaze between Miyuki and me.
“Takumi, what did you do? What did you say to her? She’s very precious to me, you can’t just act like that with her!”
Miyuki reprimanded with a serious gaze.
“She’s very ‘precious’ indeed. I am sorry for my earlier conduct, please do take care of my sister, Kitora-senpai.”
After that, without saying a word to me. Aiko tactically retreated while still glaring conspicuously at me.