「Thank you for waiting.」
Michel sits in front of me, and Arioka-senpai sits next to me.
I can’t think of anything to say. There’s an awkward silence.
Michel started the conversation.
「Did you make the cookies at that time as well as during the school festival, Sagiri-san?」
Michel gets straight to the point.
It’s a question, but all I hear is certainty.
「……Yeah, I’m sorry.」
I give my affirmation while looking down at the table.
There’s a long silence. I look up quietly.
Tears are streaming down Michel’s face.
「It’s like the Niagara Falls.」
「Hey… This isn’t the time to be calmly making metaphors! Here’s a napkin, Michel.」
I take a few napkins on the table and hand them to Michel.
I step on Arioka-senpai’s toes as he’s edging away from the table and pretending it’s not his business.
「It hurts! Also we’re standing out in a bad way. We look like villains who made Michel cry.」
I look around us and see averting gazes.
「Is that a love triangle? They seem to be fighting over the handsome guy.」
「They’ve both dated the girl, but are now deeply in love with each other, right?」
They’re making up their own stories.
「Michel, you’re a proud Japanese man, so stop crying. Unless it’s your parents’ or my funeral.」
「I’m a French guy.」
「You’re a proud French boy, so stop crying. Unless it’s your Maman’s or Patrasche’s funeral.」
「Was the Dog of Flanders set in France?」
「It sounds like France if you remove “der”.」
「Oh, I see.」
「Flanders is from Belgium.」
Michel gives us the facts with a husky voice.
I was almost convinced otherwise.
「Damn it, I feel like crying after thinking about Patrasche…」
The sight of a teary-eyed Arioka-senpai shocks me.
「Hey! I thought only French guys were allowed to cry over Patrasche!」
「I was Napoleon in my past life, so it’s okay.」
「How shameless can you get!」
Michel’s long, golden eyelashes are stained with tears, and his slim face is stained red. His handsome face is stricken with sadness.
Please stop this. Everyone’s giving us cold stares.
「But I got it all wrong… I was carried away by my emotions and became frivolous when I thought I met such a wonderful person.」
「No, I mean, I’m the one who’s sorry…」
I apologize on instinct, even though it’s not all my fault.
「Nello and Patrasche were also carried away to the sky where they’re frolicking about.」
「Please stop talking, Arioka-senpai.」
It’s frustrating when he’s talking about the Dog of Flanders while Michel’s trying to be serious.
「No. It’s my fault. Those cookies tasted nice and nostalgic, and the image of a girl floated to my mind. When I saw Yui, I thought it was her.」
Kinoshita-san fits the exact description of Miss Chocolat that Michel initially imagined.
「But I felt something was wrong when I started dating Yui. I have to talk it out with her.」
「Wait a minute. You know… well, it doesn’t mean much coming from me, but are cookies that important to you, Michel? Can’t you leave it aside and face Kinoshita-san as a person?」
Michel doesn’t agree or disagree.
「Back then, if I……」
He says something in a really soft voice, and becomes silent.
Michel wipes his tears and stands up, looking at me in the eye.
Seeing traces of tears in his eyes makes me hurt inside.
Michel gives me a gentle smile, saying that he was going to talk with Kinoshita-san, then leaves the cafe, leaving me confused.
「Wha-what’s with that fleeting smile? He’s not going to break up with Kinoshita-san, right?」
「Issues with romance ought to be resolved between two lovers. Among three, if it’s a love triangle. But otherwise it’s an ironclad rule. No good will come of it if you speak from the sidelines.」
「You’re really not one to talk, Arioka-senpai!」
I’m very sure he was enjoying himself, butting in from the sides.
And don’t pull it off with a whistle!
「Michel already consulted me about his troubles before all this. Even if he had not deduced that you made the cookies, don’t you think he should have a real talk with Kinoshita-san?」
There are two factors that surprised me from what he said.
The fact that Michel was troubled for a long while.
And the fact that he chose to talk to Arioka-senpai.
「It’s clearly the wrong choice on his part to consult you.」
「Do you think so? Are there any karate club members capable of discussing romance?」
I don’t think so.
I’m in the same position. In fact, the entire club consists of people who have never succeeded in relationships.
「But Kinoshita-san is a cute girl, and she’s feminine, and she’s kind, and she’s the ideal girl for Michel. Why would he be troubled? Is it that important for him to know who made the cookies?」
Then teaching Kinoshita-san how to make the cookies should solve everything, right?
「I cannot talk in detail about Michel’s troubles. It’s classified information, sealed with a privacy mark. But you know, Noda…」
Arioka-senpai lets out a long sigh.
「You should develop some judgment.」
「The world isn’t as simple as you might think. Well, I’ll give some indirect assistance in regards to things between Michel and Kinoshita-san.」
「No! You shouldn’t cut in from the sides either! Isn’t it an ironclad rule?!」
He’s definitely going to make things worse.
「Only for amateurs. But not for me. I’ll show you my specialty as a romance adviser.」
「No, I’m serious! It’s better to stay out of it. I’ll stop you if I have to!」
I threaten him with my advanced joint lock.
Arioka-senpai raises his hands in surrender, but he still has his confident smile.
「It’s more convenient for me if Michel and Kinoshita-san are able to maintain their relationship as a couple. I seriously intend to assist.」
That seriousness is what’s making me feel uneasy!
That aside, I don’t really know what to do except pray that things go well between them.
I’m really unfamiliar with subtleties, especially when it comes to romance.
I know nothing at all.
I send a message to Mizuhara, saying that romance is tough.
Mizuhara responds. Strawberry mousse.
- TL Note: The Dog of Flanders is an English novel about a boy living in poverty in Belgium. He saves a dog and names him Patrasche, and as his life becomes more desperate, he visits a cathedral to see a famous painting, then dies alongside Patrasche. ↩