Mizuhara signals with his fingers for me to follow him where we could talk in privacy.
I hesitate a little, but go after him without a word.
I have absolutely no clue how he found out, but things would be bad if I refused and word got out.
Mizuhara is leaving the school building and entering the library. I’m not interested in reading text, so I haven’t been here since orientation.
Mizuhara is going to the third floor, skipping past the second floor which was saturated with bookshelves and serious students.
「There are research labs on the third floor of the library. This is my lab.」
Mizuhara unlocks the door and welcomes me inside.
Only a handful of outstanding students are allowed access to the research labs in the university. I enter nervously, thinking that his smart appearance isn’t just for show.
Mizuhara turns on the lights.
The lab is about six jô in size and is overflowing with objects, making me feel claustrophobic.
[1. TL Note: 6 jô = 10.94 m² = 117.8 sq ft] At the end of a room is a desk with a computer on it. There are racks stuffed with books on both sides of the desk. There’s also a large trash can as well as three cardboard boxes.
On close inspection… I became speechless.
It’s the first time I went into a student’s lab.
From what I imagined, report papers with complicated phrases and math equations written on them would’ve been scattered around the room, and the bookshelves would’ve been lined with technical books.
There would’ve been a foreign thesis paper on the computer screen. On the desk would’ve been be a cold can of coffee and a bento box.
Compared to the shabby image I had, Mizuhara’s lab is a little too personalized.
On the desk is a cake box, cookie crumbs, and chocolate stains.
The racks are stuffed with books about snacks, guide books on delicacy stores, and national confectionery magazines.
Looking at the trash can, there are tall bags for tasty looking snacks.
As for the cardboard boxes piled up in the corner, they look like packages for snacks from overseas.
「You could probably tell from one look. I’m a Sweets Detective.」
「…That’s a genre I’ve never heard of…」
Mizuhara is pouring some black tea from a relatively small teapot into a mug.
It looks like he had prepared the teapot beforehand. Mizuhara rummages the drawer and pulls out a paper cup, which he fills with some more tea.
「I’ll formally introduce myself. I’m Mizuhara Eiichi. We’re in the same department, and on Monday mornings I sit behind you in General Economics class. It looks like you’ve never noticed though.」
「…………Even if you say that…」
General Economics is a mandatory class, so there are over 100 students during lecture. There are no seating arrangements, so students have to secure the front seats if they are serious about the class.
Credit is given as long as students attend lectures, so I always sit at the back even if I get here early.
My seat is different every day, so I’m tempted to ask, when exactly did you sit behind me?
「For over a year, I have been waiting for you to show up in class so I could sit behind you.」
He passes the cup of tea to me.
I know the cup is hot, so I use the sleeve of my shirt to hold it.
「Oh, don’t take it the wrong way. I haven’t stooped so low as to have fallen in love with you or anything. I’m more interested in the tasty looking snacks in that bag of yours.」
He’s putting marshmallows, chocolate, and macarons onto a paper plate and eating them.
Normally, wouldn’t you ask me if I wanted some too?
The plate is out of my reach, so it looks like Mizuhara isn’t planning on sharing the snacks.
「There’s always that captivating smell from your bag. Maybe I should try asking, gimme one~. No, I can’t possibly do something as shallow as coaxing her. Or maybe I should try stealing one… no, that’s indecent. God knows how much I’ve been distressing like this.」
Stealing is indecent…
Forget about decency, it’s actually a crime.
「The Sweets Prince’s Search for Miss Chocolat became news. I saw the sweets bag that the Sweets Prince was holding, and knew right away. It’s the same bag of sweets that I’ve always seen, that always has the fragrant smell of snacks that you put in. I did some investigating and found out that the bag isn’t mass produced. It has a unique Northern European design with a double ziploc that prevents moisture, and is only sold in certain kitchenware stores. It’s the same bag that was in the posted photo. Ah, I can’t hold it any longer! It’s the same bag that I thought about stealing from.」
Who would’ve thought someone would actually look into someone else’s bag for snacks.
As a college student, I’m busy with my studies and club activities, so I make snacks on Sundays. Since I can’t finish all of it in one day, I bring the leftovers to school and eat it when I feel peckish.
I don’t do it every time, and I never thought that the bag would blow my cover.
「I also knew that you were hiding the fact that you were Chocolat. Anyone in your position would predict that coming forward will eventually lead to a huge scandal. In this whole Chocolat case, I stand to gain the most. Without having to resort stealing, I can get the snacks I want through coercion instead.」
「Uh, I think coercion is just as bad.」
「I have only one demand. If you don’t want this to spread, you will bring me the snacks. You’re the one making them, right?」
「Yeah, but… Didn’t it occur to you that someone else could have made it?」
I bring the snacks to school, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m the one making them.
「It’s easy to figure out after observing for over a year. Also, you’ve been writing recipes in class instead of listening to the lectures. What are you taking classes for? Do you feel no shame for wasting the school fees your parents are paying for you?」
「Same goes for you for watching me all the time.」
I’ve been writing recipes and drawing decorations in class. To think he’s been paying attention not only to the bag of sweets in my backpack, but also to what I’ve been doing.
「Hmph. I’m on a totally different standing compared to you. I’m exempted from school fees, and the class is basic enough that I can afford to sit out. I’m only there for the attendance.」
What a sarcastic guy.
Using my superior athleticism, I snatch a macaron from the paper plate.
I stuff it into my mouth and eat it while Mizuhara uncontrollably yelps in shock.
「Hey you! That macaron is one of the top in the National Sweets Ranking. I won’t let someone like you have it!」
That pissed me off even more, so I snatch a marshmallow. Mizuhara contorts his face in frustration, complaining that the marshmallow took a month’s reservation.
After letting out a huge sigh, he puts the paper plate into the drawer and locks it, then puts the drawer key into a safe deposit box with a dial lock.
That’s going a little far… I’m more amazed than surprised at his obsession with snacks.
「But even if it smells tasty, it doesn’t mean it actually tastes good. Are you gonna tell me that you’ll spill the beans if it ends up tasting bad?」
Making snacks is a simple task.
Even if it tastes good, it’s probably only above average. Obviously, I can’t hold a candle to a real professional. The quality of the ingredients is different in the first place.
I get the flour, sugar, and butter when they go on sale in the supermarket.
There’s no way I can compare my snacks with national gourmet sweets.
「No, I’ll stop getting involved with you if it tastes bad, and I definitely won’t tell on you or cause you any trouble. It’s nothing personal, I’m only interested in your snacks. In the worst case scenario, I’ll simply curse my luck for wasting my time on a worthless person like you.」
「You won’t complain about me to your friends either?」
I’m relieved that the condition is simply to make the snacks regardless of taste, but at the same time, I’m annoyed with Mizuhara’s attitude.
He won’t tell on me or be mean as long as he gets his snacks, so he’s not really trying to be enemies, but his personality is still irritating.
「Nope. I don’t have friends anyway.」
「Ah, that’s why you have a messed up personality, huh.」
I don’t know if it’s because he has no friends that he has a messed up personality, or if it’s because he has a messed up personality that he has no friends. It’s a chicken and egg dilemma.
「That kind of relationship is beneath me. Bring the snacks to General Economics class next Monday if that’s okay.」
「That’s fine, but are you okay with anything? Tell me if there’s anything you don’t like. It’s not an issue about the taste, but there’s no point if you won’t eat it in the first place. So do you have a preference?」
Reacting strongly to what I said, Mizuhara took a sketchbook from the book rack.
There are scrap drawings, photos, and packaging of various sweets in the sketchbook. He has 3 of these sketchbooks.
Mizuhara scrutinizes the book, flipping the pages vigorously.
I wait while drinking the tea.
20 minutes have passed.
「Could you please decide soon?」
I snatch the sketchbook from Mizuhara as he’s taking forever to decide. I randomly pick something that looks easy to make.
「Well, I won’t expect too much from you. It’s highly possible that you’ll make something of your own caliber. Oh yeah, here’s the money for ingredients.」
「That’s strangely righteous for an arrogant and sarcastic guy like you!」
He gives me an envelope that says 3000 yen.
[2. TL Note: 3000 yen ≈ $27 USD] 「It’s fine. You’re helping me keep it a secret after all.」
I wave my hand and reject the envelope. Mizuhara gives me a questioning look.
「Aren’t you wearing those washed out shirts and reusing the same pairs of jeans a few days in a row because you’re using the money for ingredients instead?」
He’s the worst! Mizuhara. Has been looking at my snacks and also my clothes.
「I just find it a pain to go shopping for clothes! How obsessed with snacks are you to think that I’m poor because of ingredients?!」
In any case, I don’t need the money so I return it.
If anyone asks me if my snacks are worth 3000 yen, I’ll deny it outright.
It’s hard to understand a twisted guy like Mizuhara, but doesn’t it look like he’s having some expectation for my snacks?
He’s wanted to try my snacks for over a year. His feelings about it may have grown stronger than he expected.
Imaginations get inflated after all.
Dreams get bigger after all.
Looking at his research saturated with sweets, I sigh from the intense pressure.
There’s no benefit or loss whether the snacks are tasty or not. But it feels bad when I imagine Mizuhara compliment my snacks with a straight face on Monday.
He’s definitely having expectations!
Ugh… It’s the first time I’m stressed out about making snacks.