Even though Kinoshita was always fashionable at school, she was even more dazzling and gorgeous in her private life.
「You’re going to the buffet?」
I nodded, and she murmured, 「Oh, really?」 as she peeked inside the buffet hall.
The room was captivating, full of twinkling sweets lined up inside.
「Wanna go here too, Yui?」
Kinoshita wasn’t alone. She was with a man in a suit who looked about 30 years old.
She introduced him as Honjou-san, a close friend of her cousin, and I gave a light bow in greeting.
「Yui, how about we have tea here?」
「Huh, did you guys not have lunch as well?」
Honjou-san shook his head, saying that they’d already eaten somewhere else.
「Well, I still have room for one more piece,」 he said.
What a shocking thing to say. If you only have room for one piece, you shouldn’t go to a sweets buffet! I thought. I couldn’t say it since he was a stranger, so I firmly kept my patience.
We ended up entering with them, and a table for four was available at our turn. A staff member asked if we wouldn’t mind sitting together since we were acquaintances, although Mizuhara and I could use it by ourselves if we wanted.
I wondered if it was alright to sit with someone I didn’t even know, but Kinoshita said she certainly didn’t mind, so we wound up sitting together.
The two of them weren’t that hungry, taking just one or two slices of cake, and then drinking some strong black tea.
Meanwhile, sitting in front of them, Mizuhara and I started a 90-minute long competition.
Honjou-san was rather talkative, and kept speaking the entire time. Mizuhara and I did make some polite responses to whatever he was saying, but we were in a daze the entire time we ate, and were almost silent. Kinoshita’s phone kept vibrating and she started replying to her emails, fingers tapping on the screen.
Honjou-san often brought up topics to discuss with Mizuhara, since they were the two men at the table. But Mizuhara was making a beeline for the sweets, so he slipped out of a few conversations.
「Do you have a license, Mizuhara-kun? You must be longing for a car at your age. Oh, by the way, I’ve been in that car that has a horse emblem on it. You know which car I’m talking about?」
「I don’t, since I have no interest in horses,」 Mizuhara replied, not even making eye contact as he ate his mousse. Honjou-san, who was jingling his keys around his finger, made a cramped-looking face.
It was obvious Mizuhara wasn’t listening to half of what Honjou-san said, so I elbowed him slightly.
「Not interested in cars, huh? That’s strange.」
Mizuhara’s sole interest was sweets, especially in this situation.
「What about suits, Mizuhara-kun? A man should have at least 10 suits. The one I’m wearing is an Armani suit, by the way.」
Mizuhara suddenly let out a small laugh at that. I elbowed him again since it was so rude.
「I just remembered that time you mistook Armani for ‘Animal’.」
「You’re laughing at me?!」
「There’s pasta on the side menu. I always feel like drinking wine when I have Italian food… Do you like wine, Noda-san? I’m fully qualified to be a sommelier – a wine expert. I can answer any question about wine. What year it was made, where the grapes are from, how it was manufactured… Do you think I’m kidding?」
Mizuhara was doing ridiculous things, adding chocolate mousse to the chou a la creme since it didn’t have enough cream. I couldn’t lose to him eating two things at once, so I quickly got some cake too.
「Noda-san, why don’t you tell me as many brands of wine as you know? I’ll prove that I’m being honest. You can even suggest wines that aren’t major brands like Beaujolais, Dom Pérignon, or Romanée-Conti.」
「I don’t drink wine at all, so…」
Mizuhara brought some double-scooped ice cream. Though I didn’t want to fill my plate again, I went and got three scoops out of rivalry, challenging him. I got one scoop of vanilla, one scoop of strawberry, and one of green tea.
「You must know at least one kind.」
「…Red and white?」
Wine didn’t taste that good to me, so I never drank any.
It seemed like Honjou-san expected a different answer, so I looked at Kinoshita for help, but she was typing out an email.
As a last resort, I elbowed Mizuhara.
「Rose,」 he said. Honjou-san shrugged and gave a strained smile.
「What’s in this chocolate cake?」
Mizuhara had a pensive look on his face as he ate the chocolate cake. Speaking of which, I hadn’t tried the chocolate cake yet. Chocolate was too sweet, so I was trying my best to avoid it at the buffet.
I picked up a small bit from Mizuhara’s plate and tasted it. 「Ah, this. It’s ginger chocolate cake. I think there’s ginger, cinnamon, and rum inside. If it tastes too bitter, why don’t you try adding some vanilla ice cream on top?」
「We still have 30 minutes left, so you can go slowly now.」 Honjou-san showed Mizuhara his watch as Mizuhara stood up. He showed me his watch too, though there was a big clock inside so it was really unnecessary to be concerned about.
「It’s a Rolex,」 whispered Kinoshita in my ear.
「Huh? What? Which cake?」
I didn’t understand what she was saying but I still left my seat in search of it since it sounded delicious. There was also freshly made tart, so I just had to get there as soon as possible. Different kinds of tart were being rotated right as they finished baking, so they ran out right away.
As expected, Mizuhara was there.
「I don’t mean to brag, but I’m great at lateral jumping.」
There was no other option but to split the tart in half.
I ate the entire main cake myself. The rave reviews I’d been hearing from everyone were no lie, no matter what cake you chose it tasted absolutely delicious and I couldn’t get tired of it.
「Are you guys going to shop here after you’re done?」
At Honjou-san’s words, I looked at Mizuhara. Though I didn’t have any plans after this, I’d finally come all the way here and I was just going to go home afterwards.
「I think there’s a lot of stores that’s difficult for students to shop at. I was buying some chocolate for White Day today, I have to buy at least 20, you know, so I had Yui choose. I still had to get Yui some chocolate too, you see.」
「Ah, it’s fine. I’ll just do some window shopping.」 I’d eaten too much, so I wanted to walk a little. I’d already prepared for White Day, so I had nothing I wanted to buy.
Kinoshita said, 「Why don’t we go together?」 as she typed on her phone, but that was just out of courtesy. The shops Honjou-san would go to were just jewellery shops or brand shops, and I had absolutely no interest in that.
「How about I pay? It’s not that big of a sum.」 Honjou-san yet again said something shocking, and showed us a black credit card.
When Mizuhara declined, he said, 「Do you have a credit card? I’ve had dozens since my student days.」
Mizuhara took out his wallet and peered into it, murmuring, 「Let me see…」 There were several cards lined up inside.
They weren’t credit cards, but telephone cards.
「You don’t need those, you have a cell phone!」
「I specially ordered these customized cards. I’ll never give them to you, even if you really want them.」
On one card, some elves were making jelly rolls. It was really cute, they were joining forces to desperately roll the jelly.
On another, elves were hiding in a heap of sweets. It was really funny seeing them camouflage into the sweets.
Another card had elves hiding sweets behind their backs, using forks and spoons to scare off a menacing cat. Though they were protecting the sweets, I think the cat was actually aiming for the elves. It seemed to be instinctively interested in what was moving.
I’d seen all of these cards. He said he’d ordered them, but he actually designed them himself. They looked too perfectly made, and I fixedly stared at them.
「…Since it’s your birthday, I’ll give you just one.」
Mizuhara reluctantly handed a card to me, although I wasn’t staring because I wanted one.
I still accepted it. It was the card that had an elf tired out from making sweets, so he’d put a spoon in his bed and was dozing off. A human hand the size of an elf was placing a handkerchief over it so it wouldn’t catch a cold.
It had a heartwarming, healing effect to it.
As promised, Mizuhara had treated me to a buffet, and after idly messing around, I went home.
I was in a good mood, but once I got on the internet and saw all the emails I’d received from companies or job-seeking sites, my mood immediately dropped.