It’s the day before the school festival.
Mizuhara and I are heading to the store that’s letting us borrow their kitchen.
The name of the store is Bûche de Stage.
Even though it’s in an inconvenient location, it’s still popular and clears its stock of Western-style confectionery almost everyday.
I wondered if it was really okay, but the store manager Maruta-san was happy to help.
「We’re really sorry to bother you while you’re busy.」
I apologize profusely.
「I’m always glad to be of assistance if it’s a request from Mizuhara-kun.」
He replies decisively.
Maruta-san puts an effort into making his Western confectionery look artistic.
I can see that each of the snacks are carefully made.
The taste is perfect, and each of the snacks are unique and tasty looking.
Yet he says that there were absolutely no customers on the grand opening day.
The problem is the location.
There’s some walking distance from the station. On top of that, the train schedule is sparse.
One of his customers is none other than Mizuhara, who is willing to spare any amount of time, effort and money for sweets. He fell in love with Maruta-san’s confectionery with just one bite.
As a member of some committee I don’t know about, Mizuhara holds a key position and has a voice in it as well. Maruta-san is willing to help on any event organized by the same committee, so Mizuhara uses this chance to gain his assistance.
「You’re even going to attend the event?」
「I can obtain a lot of information that way. Your store is going to become the headquarters for the Underground Sweets Conservative Party, after all.」
The Underground Sweets Party is made up of guys who love sweet things, and who feel oppressed by society.
It seems that there are many guys who live without the right to free speech due to the image of masculinity still upheld by society.
「I’m in the Sweets Liberal Party, but I attend the Conservative Party’s events too. It’s a good opportunity to obtain information that isn’t public on the internet.」
Mizuhara uses his connections to appeal to various factions.
Also, he’s convinced Maruta-san to participate in a competition broadcast on television. There was no way Maruta-san could win first place, yet the publicity on TV brought him tremendous results.
His store became famous overnight, and his confectionery was the perfect response to the attention. Thus, he’s managed to clear his stock nearly everyday despite the inconvenience in location.
Overall, Maruta-san may be really capable, but it seems like he owes Mizuhara a huge debt of gratitude.
Because of that, he seems willing to listen to our absurd request.
It’s rare for Maruta-san to leave his store closed on Saturday.
Apparently he’s changing his weekly holiday next year due to overwhelming demand, but today happens to be convenient as a holiday.
「You’ll simply bake the cookies. I’ll take the finished ones and distribute them into the bags. I’ll count the overcooked ones and let you know the number of cookies you need to remake.」
「Okay. But I’ll say this first. Don’t eat the ones that aren’t failures.」
「What are you talking about?」
I can’t take it for granted that the failed cookies are all overcooked ones that Mizuhara declares. In fact, it’s more than likely he’ll eat some in secret and include them among the failures.
Even if they’re out of shape, he’ll probably still eat them, saying that freshly baked cookies are the best.
That was exactly what happened with the trial cookies. Most of them ended up in his mouth.
I emphasize my point again to Mizuhara who seems to be ignoring what I said, and begin making the cookies.
I thought I was prepared for it, but it was really tough.
It felt like I was making a lifetime’s worth of cookies. We worked all the way until it was almost dawn, and I even started hallucinating halfway through.
Even with the help of Maruta-san who finished making the pound cakes earlier, it was still a monstrous amount.
Seeing the sunrise should have been an impressive sight, but it made me anxious instead.
I baked, and baked, and baked.
Whenever a cookie lost its shape even just slightly, Mizuhara would gobble it up saying that we couldn’t sell it. All I could do is continue baking with all my effort.
I ended up falling asleep in Maruta-san’s store.
I feel apologetic for all the trouble I caused him.
「Hey, wear this for today. It will help promote our sales today.」
「Uh~ I’m sleepy…」
I shake off my drowsiness and take the bag that Mizuhara hands to me.
The other day, Mizuhara told me to wear a white Kobi-T, black pants, and a plain apron during our sales.
I could get the pants and apron easily, but I had no idea what he meant by a white Kobi-T. As I stood there looking lost, he offered to let me use the one he had.
I quickly wash my face and tidy my hair, then change my clothes.
I take the stuff out of the bag that Mizuhara gave me.
I see two off-white T-shirts, each with an elf printed on it.
「You meant Elf T-shirts?! Wait, I’m supposed to wear this?」
When I go to the dining area in the store, I see Mizuhara waiting, already wearing the same shirt.
We’re going to sell the cookies wearing these lame shirts.
I don’t know how to react to Mizuhara’s relaxed look while wearing that shirt.
「Don’t you feel embarrassed, Mizuhara?」
「About wearing these shirts…」
He looks genuinely shocked from what I said.
「I think you should be even more embarrassed wearing your old shirts. They looked so worn out you could wear them to death, and yet you’re feeling embarrassed wearing these shirts? Now you’re shocking me to death.」
「You’re going too far!」
We don’t have time to argue, so I reluctantly wear the elf shirt. Then I wear a parka over it and zip it up all the way.
I want to pat myself on the back for bringing that large apron.
If I put on the apron, the childish T-shirt with an almost three-dimensional nose would surely make me stand out.
We arrive just in time as the school festival begins.
I prepare for the cookie sales while Mizuhara is going through formalities with the festival executive committee.
I put 30 bags of cookies into the elf cart.
I thought it would be more efficient to walk around with more cookies in the cart, but Mizuhara limited me to 30 bags, saying that having fewer bags will make customers think our cookies are popular, so they would want to buy more.
I move to get more cookies every time I manage to sell 5 bags.
Mizuhara attached the elves to the cart.
I felt bad for only being in charge of making the cookies, so I offered to help, but Mizuhara turned me down.
「Why are you putting a string around the elves’ necks? It’s going to make it look like you’re hanging their corpses on the cart!」
I thought that attaching a string around the necks and typing them to the cart would be the best way to secure them.
It’s true that it made them look lifeless, but I hadn’t given it much thought because their faces looked happy.
「You’re like a kid hanging upside down…」
Mizuhara mumbles to himself while removing the elves and redoing the task seriously.
This guy has OCD.
「Pin these permission badges somewhere visible.」
「Yeah, it’s for 3 people.」
I hold the cookie cart in my left hand and loosen the money pouch from my shoulders.
I pin a few sweets badges and the 3 permission badges on my apron.
We have the option to sell the cookies in crowded areas together, or sell them separately at different locations.
There are few customers in the first two hours, so we have to rely on our research and advertising on the spot. The research was done by Mizuhara, and our route is subject to change in the afternoon depending on the current situation.
We decide to act separately for the first two hours.
It’s 10 am sharp. We’re headed to our respective areas.