February’s chocolate making story. The original j.a.panese text is kindly provided by .
Valentine’s Day Ever After by Suzuki Suzu
“Ah,” the surprised voices overlapped.
It was 3 in the afternoon, and there weren’t many pa.s.sengers on the train connecting the School island with the mainland, which was why the two noticed each other right away. One was a beautiful young woman in a suit, and the other was a lovely girl in a red furred coat. It was pretty much impossible for them not to notice each other.
The two - Awashima Seri and Kushina Anna - came closer and sat down at the almost same time.
The doors closed and the train rolled into motion.
Awashima was inconspicuously throwing glances at the girl sitting next to her. Now that she thought about it, she might not have had a chance to observe the girl this upclose without any rush before. After all, the clan Awashima belonged to was at odds with Anna’s clan. It was pretty safe to say that the two hardly even had an opportunity to talk to each other.
Anna’s red eyes shifted slightly, taking in Awashima.
Awashima gave a start. She wasn’t the bashful type, but being before a king was a different story. Even though the Slate had been lost, it didn’t change the fact that Anna was the Red King even now.
“…Well, if you think about it, it’s only natural that we ran into each other like this. This is the only train that runs at the perfect time to make it to the meeting.”
As Awashima said that, Anna nodded and turned to Awashima again. “Thank you for coming.”
Awashima’s eyes widened slightly at the grat.i.tude openly expressed to her face, but then her lips stretched in a smile. “You are welcome. But I admit I was surprised when Kusanagi-kun called only to hand the phone over to you.”
“I didn’t know your number.”
“Is Kusanagi-kun in the know?”
Anna shook her head. “It’s a secret.”
It was hard to guess what Anna was thinking from her always expressionless face, but Awashima had a feeling that this once she kind of knew. Anna may have been a king, but she was also a girl hitting p.u.b.erty. Until the right time came, she naturally didn’t want anyone to know.
“Are you sure I’m the right choice though?”
“Yes, you are. Or rather, there is no one else.” Anna’s small hand rummaged through her bag, taking out a book. Eyes on the book’s cover, she said quietly as if talking to herself, “It’s hard to figure it out from just the book. It’s better to have someone who knows how to do it.”
The t.i.tle of the book, proudly written on the cover, read ‘Chocolate making for dummies’.
“I want to make some chocolate for Valentine’s Day, so I’d like to enlist your help.”
When she first heard the request over the phone, for a moment, Awashima’s thought processes halted.
“Wh-Why me?” Awashima then asked a justified question. Sure, she and Kusanagi maintained a good-natured relationship for information exchange, but she barely ever even spoke to Anna.
After a momentous pause on the other end of the line, Anna finally replied in a small voice, “…Because I can’t help worrying if it’s just Neko.”
If Anna’s laconic train of thought was to be elaborated on, it would look like this: Valentine’s Day was right around the corner, and consequently, Anna, in an effort to thank the Homura members for everything they had done for her, wished to give them handmade chocolate. The problem was, she had obviously never made chocolate before, and she wanted for her initiative to remain secret for the time being. Luckily, Anna’s good friend Neko was willing to cooperate, but she, too, had zero experience at cooking. So the last piece of the puzzle they needed was someone experienced, if possible… With that as the guiding principle, Awashima was selected.
It made sense. Anna’s scope of relationships was limited to Homura. If she were to search for someone outside of that circle, it would be among other holders of supernatural powers, namely, either Neko from White Rice Party, or Awashima from Scepter 4. And expecting anything out of Neko’s cooking ability was ill-advised at best and downright reckless at worst, which Awashima, too, was perfectly aware of.
After a pause, Awashima agreed to the request.
The only thing left was to find a suitable place and choose a suitable time. For the time, Awashima’s off-duty day was picked. It was much harder to find the place though. The Red King waltzing into the HQ of the Blue clan just to make some chocolate would create a big issue. Then again, doing it at bar HOMRA would be the same as telling the whole world about Anna’s chocolate making plans.
In the end, at Neko’s suggestion, they settled on a cookroom found on the School island.
Awashima squinted, listening to the train rattling and clacking along the rails. Slanting rays of westering sun crept in, with the line of sea horizon visible through the train window.
“How is your clan doing these days?” Awashima asked suddenly, although the question had been prepared from the start. She wanted to ask what Homura’s present state looked like from the viewpoint of its king.
“Everyone is still busy. Not that much time has pa.s.sed since the incident, it appears superpowers are still in effect and haven’t really disappeared yet. There are still those who cause trouble, so we do things like tracking and catching them.”
“I see. You’re like us then. Although we’re mostly busy with social remedial measures first and foremost.”
Come to think of it, Awashima suddenly remembered, just a few days ago there was a case in Shizume-chou with a strain wrecking havoc that caused Scepter and Homura to b.u.t.t heads. The two clans were allied when it came to opposing Jungle, but getting along in practice appeared to be every bit as hard as it looked, if not more.
Awashima glanced to her side at Anna, Anna gazed at Awashima as well. As their eyes met, Awashima had a feeling she understood the thought lurking in the depths of those red eyes - the girl must have remembered the same incident.
“What became of that person?”
In the end, the ones to apprehend that strain were Scepter 4 troops.
Awashima shrugged her shoulders, choosing her words carefully. “In accordance with the enacted procedure, he will be on probation for a while. He was reasoned with and warned sternly, so I think he has calmed down a lot now.”
Anna gave a sharp nod and remained silent for while, before finally uttering, “These things will keep happening, I think.”
Awashima couldn’t tell if the girl meant clashes between their clans or outbreaks related to the increased number of super power holders.
Except Anna, gazing Awashima in the eye with her red eyes, kept speaking dispa.s.sionately, “But we are no longer enemies.”
“That’s why, although it may be strange of me to say what I’m about to, I’m looking forward to working with you.”
The words were loaded with her feelings. But Awashima wasn’t in the position to answer them. She was only an executive officer, not the boss. Still, it was probably possible for her to answer Anna’s feelings within the limited scope of what she could influence. That’s why Awashima replied, “Indeed. For the time being, let’s start with today’s chocolate making.”
Hearing that, Anna chuckled and smiled.
'She’s such a cute girl when she smiles, like a flower,’ Awashima had a sudden thought.
“…Why are you here?” Awashima asked, shocked.
The young man in an ap.r.o.n, namely Yatougami Kuroh, answered with much chagrin, “Where do you think this place is? This is the School island, the dominion of White Rice Party, moreover, the cookroom of it. My not being here would be much more shocking.”
The reply was full of confidence, making Awashima instantly consent that yes, that was likely true.
Next to Kuroh, there stood Neko, also in an ap.r.o.n, staring at Awashima with a measure of apprehension. Although they both partic.i.p.ated in the joint front not too long ago, Neko, as a strain, still couldn’t help being on high alert around Scepter 4’s people.
Keeping Neko in line, Yatougami informed the present like it was nothing, “Neko went and said she wanted to use the cookroom, and when I asked what kind of joke that was, she said it was for making Valentine’s chocolate. I couldn’t stand the thought of a bunch of amateurs messing up my precious sanctuary, so I offered my help.”
“Muh!!! We won’t mess it! Even I can make a chocolate candy or two!”
“…In that case, allow me to ask something: for starters, how are you planning to melt this chocolate?”
“That’s obvious! I’m gonna put it in a pot and light the fire! Easy peasy!”
Yatougami ma.s.saged his temples like he was trying to relieve a bad headache, and closed his eyes. “That’s what I’m talking about. I’m sure now you understand my feelings of extreme aversion at the thought of letting her handle anything.”
“I suppose I-I do,” Awashima admitted. “You have my sympathies.”
“Uh-huh,” Yatougami nodded in reply and pointed to a spot not far from the kitchen counter. There, 3 more ap.r.o.ns were sitting, beautifully folded. “In any case, as long as you’re here, I expect you to follow my instructions. So first, put on an ap.r.o.n and wash your hands. Everything else comes after that.”
“Understood.” The one to nod with all seriousness was Anna, who wasted no time in taking an ap.r.o.n and putting in on over her clothes.
Seeing that, Awashima let a wry smile curve her lips. It looked like there was no need for her to come here in the first place.
“By the way, is the Silver King well?” she asked Yatougami, and his expression softened just a little at the question.
“Yes, he is,” he nodded. “Alive and kicking. Although some still look his way with curious eyes, he’s much closer with the students now.”
“I see. Nothing less from him, I suppose.”
“Neko, too, is very excited to have Shiro eat her handmade chocolate, so, while I’m sorry to trouble you, I would like you to help. Keeping her in check all by myself is a tall order…”
“Hey, hey, Anna! Let’s melt this chocolate already–!”
“Neko, that’s wrong. First, you’re supposed to warm it up over hot water.”
“Hot water? Like, we need to splash some on it? Leave it to me!”
“Hey, stop it! I just told you that’s not how you do it!” Yatougami’s expression underwent a drastic change as he stalked towards Neko. Sensing danger instinctively, Neko jumped up and took off running all over the kitchen counter.
Watching the turmoil unfold, Awashima chuckled as she put her arms through the sleeves of the ap.r.o.n.
After much ado, the chocolate was finally complete with some difficulty.
“Hehen! How do you like it, Anna, Kurosuke? My chocolate looks yummy, right!” Neko boasted, throwing her chest out with pride and satisfaction. Her mouth was stained brown, and that was obviously because she didn’t pa.s.s any chance to take a lick of the chocolate that was still in the process of being made under the pretense of taste-testing. It took quite a while to stop her, which was within Awashima’s expectations.
The chocolate Neko made was apparently shaped as a cat’s face. In truth though, the mold came out too warped, and it was impossible to tell if it was supposed to be a dog’s or a cat’s face. Oh well, knowing the Silver King, he would probably eat it without making much fuss about the shape.
“Hmph. A so-so result.” Yatougami, who took it upon himself to fill the role of the teacher, was making his own sharp looking chocolate, too. His was jet black truffles with no trace of gloss. All the ten-odd pieces were perfectly uniform in both shape and color. Awashima was sincerely astonished inside at how he even managed to produce something that good while having to reign in Neko all the time. This young man certainly could give many women a run for their money.
As to the main organizer of the meeting, Anna…
“It looks very lovely.”
“Yes. Such a beautiful red,” the girl said and smiled, looking delighted.
What she was making was pale red strawberry chocolate. Ten-odd pieces of it, adorably round in shape, were lined up on a tray. They were all different in size, but that only made them more charming. All that was left was to wrap each up.
“Will you give one to Kusanagi-kun, too?” Awashima asked, and Anna gave a small nod.
“I’ll give it to Izumo, and to Misaki, and to Rikio and to the others as well.”
“They will be happy to receive it, I’m sure. Kusanagi-kun might even cry from happiness.”
Awashima pictured how that suave bartender would wipe his eyes quietly and that made her let out a chuckle. Anna probably thought the same as she, too, was m.u.f.fling her giggles.
“This is for Eric, this is for Kousuke, and this one…” Anna was counting up the pieces one by one until her gaze stopped at one of them. It was oval but big, and Anna rolled the red piece carefully with her finger, narrowing her eyes. “…is for Mikoto and Tatara.”
“…” Awashima was lost for word, all she could do was stare down at Anna’s white hair.
The previous Red King Suoh Mikoto and his friend Totsuka Tatara were no longer in this world. And yet, despite that, Anna still made chocolate for them. Anna wanted to make her first handmade chocolate for her precious friends - and to her, that probably was the essence and true meaning of Valentine’s day. She couldn’t possibly exclude the two from the circle of the people she cared about.
Anna’s expression was hidden behind her bangs, and Awashima couldn’t see it. But she could hear that quiet voice say, “They can’t eat it, but I will give it to them anyway.”
“Indeed. They, too, will be happy to receive it, I’m sure,” was the only thing Awashima could think of to reply, really.
Suddenly, Anna looked up at her. The girl took one piece of strawberry chocolate from the tray and held it up to Awashima. As Awashima blinked in surprise, Anna explained embarra.s.sedly, “…This is for you, Seri.”
“You helped me today. This is to thank you.”
For a short while Awashima only stared at the red piece of chocolate, but then took it with a smile and put it into her mouth.
“…How is it?”
Awashima rolled the piece inside her mouth, tasting it. The sweetness of chocolate blended with the acidity of strawberry just right, pleasantly filling her mouth. Swallowing it, Awashima showed a broad smile. “It’s delicious. Very.”
Anna breathed out, seemingly very relieved. “I’m glad.”
“Ah! Not fair! I wanna eat Anna’s chocolate too!” Sharp sighted Neko raised her objection immediately upon discovering the scene and rushed to Anna at full speed. She pulled Anna into a full body hug, and Anna, fighting her surprise, managed to rea.s.sure her, “D-Don’t worry. I’ve prepared one for you and for Kuroh too.”
“What? You even made some for me? No, but…”
“You don’t want it, Kurosuke? Then I’ll eat your share for you!”
“I-I didn’t say I don’t want it! Hey, stop it, quit stuffing your face!”
The kitchen was starting to get noisy and hectic once again.
Watching the tumult out of the corner of her eye, Awashima contemplated how since she got some chocolate on Valentine’s Day, she would have to respond in kind on White Day. And this time, she would take the initiative and get in touch with those concerned herself, she decided.
T/N: the proper way to translate the t.i.tle would likely be something like ‘Valentine’s Day after the Worldwide Super Power Awakening Incident‘, but it’s so d.a.m.n long and clunky, so I decided against it. Judging by the t.i.tle, I doubt Suzuki-san cared much when she named this story of hers anyway.