CHAPTER 6 – VALENTINE’S KNIGHT-SAMA
Only three of us turned up for work at the MAHO-do the next day.
Hazuki-chan had just received news from her teacher today that she had been selected to take part in a performance. I was really glad for her, and wished that everyone had been present so we could all celebrate together.
“I’ve been chosen as representative of the freshmen, so I have to work really hard from now till the performance date.”
Yet she was still as humble as ever. If it was me, I would have been dancing away with joy.
“I’m actually more anxious about performing together with the seniors. This is my first time playing in a real orchestra.”
Yes, it did sound really scary. Thanks to Yamaki-sensei’s wife, Mrs. Tachibana, and Seki-sensei, Karen Girls’ Academy had become quite a formidable school in my opinion. I was sure all of them would attend the performance. Besides, Hazuki-chan had been giving solo piano and violin performances since she was a child, so her joining an orchestra and performing under the baton of a concert master felt like a step towards adulthood. I would definitely support her all the way.
The previous day, Ai-chan had also sent us a mail, notifying us that she would be returning to school soon.
[After being in hospital and receiving advice from the coach, I aim to become a much better athlete.]
Yet despite the bright tone of the message, it somehow sounded a little forced to me.
Just then, the door reserved for staff at the back of the store opened, and Onpu-chan entered.
“I just came from visiting Ai-chan. Why did she seem so listless?”
“Oh, so she’s still losing sleep over the whole incident?”
Onpu-chan had run into the store, anxious and panting for breath. In addition to Ai-chan’s injury, she was also concerned over her lack of energy.
We then updated her on the situation surrounding Ai-chan’s injury, as well as our visit to her house a few days ago. After listening to our story, Onpu-chan seemed to calm down.
“I see. I totally didn’t know. I had to leave for London at such short notice that I couldn’t even inform anyone. And to think in those 3-4 days, I had been enjoying myself, shopping for souvenirs and all.”
“Oh no. Now Onpu-chan is in self-blame mode too,” Momo-chan sighed.
“You must have been on such a tight schedule, Onpu-chan, and I was thoughtless to make you worry so. I’m sorry.”
Oh, Hazuki-chan, you were having such a hard time yourself.
Suddenly, Majorika’s scolding voice rang out, as if breaking the solemn atmosphere.
“Hey there! What’s the point of you girls getting all depressed? Now get to work!”
“That’s right. Valentine’s is just around the corner, and there are lots of customers looking forward to tasting MAHO-do’s desserts. Didn’t you say you want to bring happiness to everyone, Momoko?”
It seemed like we weren’t the only ones worried. Majorika and Lala were too. The only thing we could do now was bake some delicious desserts. In fact, Momo-chan had been working hard to create a special gateau chocolat cake which we could all eat together to cheer Ai-chan up.
We started to decorate the desserts with Valentine motifs. While our elementary and junior high school student customers were unable to afford expensive, high-quality chocolates, the heart-shaped chocolate madeleine cakes baked using the mould crafted in Yuuna-chan’s workshop were perfect for them. I tried to wrap them up to look as cute as possible.
With Onpu-chan here, we worked hard at baking. Soon, we managed to sell everything, and closed up shop early.
“Do you think Aiko has been pus.h.i.+ng herself too hard about everything?”
Lala suddenly asked as she prepared tea for the group of us, as we sat around the table wrapping up desserts for tomorrow.
“Pus.h.i.+ng herself too hard?” I asked, not understanding what Lala meant.
“She must have been pus.h.i.+ng herself all this while to run as fast as she can.”
“And she broke the high school record because of it. She’s too awesome~” Momo-chan gushed.
“Oh…… I guess you’re right.”
Onpu-chan and Hazuki-chan nodded in agreement too.
“When I was a child idol, I could easily tell what the adults wanted from me, and sometimes, I put up an act just to please them. I only learned how to think for myself and a.n.a.lyze my own performance after going through many auditions.”
“Me too. I love the violin, and when I play it with my heart, it’s just so enjoyable, and it was easy to get better at it too. But now, I know that just loving it is not enough. I hope to absorb each piece’s image into myself and express it, so that everyone can feel the same way I do.”
I see, so they were talking about a balance between input and output. Did they feel this way because they had something they wanted to express?
“Yes. The me who enjoyed baking as a hobby is totally different from the me who is working to keep a store running,” Momo-chan added.
“I see, so is Ai-chan going through the same phase now?”
“That’s right, Doremi. Everyone would have to go through that many times throughout their lives,” Lala said.
“Even as adults, or witches who live hundreds of years, we’re all the same,” Majorika whispered.
It seemed like everyone had to look within themselves to find the answers to their problems.
“But Ai-chan must be having a tougher time because she’s losing sleep due to the injury.”
“I know. She must be worried about the spring meet.”
Hazuki-chan had prepared an aromatherapy pot, and was thinking of bringing it to Ai-chan today.
“What do you think of delivering that pot together with a performance on your violin, Hazuki?”
Lala suddenly asked as she stared at the aromatherapy pot.
“Huh!? Do you mean, with magic…!?”
But we had set a rule for ourselves. We wouldn’t use magic for our own gain.
“Aromas go well with a violin performance, don’t they?” Lala prompted again.
Oh! She probably meant for us to cast magic over the pot, not over Ai-chan. I looked to Majorika with s.h.i.+ning eyes, and she coughed.
“Aiko is an important a.s.set to the MAHO-do, so there shouldn’t be any problem with casting magic over a pot.”
Her worry over both Ai-chan and MAHO-do was real, she was just too embarra.s.sed to admit it.
“Well… I’ll play a piece that will help Ai-chan fall asleep… and also make her feel hopeful again. Maybe I’ll play Beethoven’s Violin Sonata?”
“You mean ‘Spring’? I love that piece!”
We quickly transformed into witch apprentices. Since Onpu-chan wasn’t an apprentice, she wasn’t able to join in, and she helped by plugging in the aromatherapy pot instead. Hazuki-chan got her violin, which she brought everywhere with her, out of its case and got ready.
Soon, the MAHO-do was filled with the refres.h.i.+ng tunes from her violin, invoking images of bright spring suns.h.i.+ne. Lots of musical notes appeared in the air, and were sucked into the pot.
“Well done, Hazuki-chan,” I exclaimed.
“It felt like we were taking an afternoon nap beneath a blooming cherry blossom tree,” Momo-chan added.
“It was a gra.s.sy field for me, with tiny swaying flowers,” Onpu-chan said.
With the performance over, we all applauded. Yes, it was a performance right from the heart. We all imagined different things, but it was a perfect piece to help us recall a warm spring. Personally, I’d imagined myself having a flower viewing party, while I stuffed my face with desserts.
I was sure it would work well to help Ai-chan relax.
The next day, Mr. Segawa fetched Ai-chan to school in his taxi. Thankfully, she was back to her usual self.
“h.e.l.lo, I’m sorry! I truly apologize for not being myself these few days,” she said as she bowed to all the cla.s.smates gathered around her worriedly.
“No problem. I took notes for you too, so there’s no need to worry about school,” Yuuna-chan added, an anxious look on her face.
“Thanks, I’m sorry to have troubled you, Yuuna-chan. My ankle is still all taped up, but I’m totally able to walk now.”
It was soon time for homeroom period, and we hurried back to our seats at the sound of Leon’s footsteps. He glanced at Ai-chan for an instant as he entered the room, then returned his gaze to face front, but I didn’t miss his expression of relief.
“You know, I fell into a really deep sleep last night. Was it because of the aromatherapy pot? It’s really effective. I even had a good dream.”
“What did you dream of?”
It was lunch time, and I’d grabbed Momo-chan and Ai-chan to sit down to eat our boxed lunches together.
“Hmm, well. I was on a field in a large park, running around barefoot and rolling in the gra.s.s. It felt really great. And there was this lovely music floating from somewhere… Played by a violin… Oh! Is it true that Hazuki-chan got selected?”
“She’s representing the freshman batch, but that means she’ll be busy with lots of practice until the performance date,” Momo-chan confirmed.
“Oh, that’s bad. I totally forgot. Tamaki would be so angry with me.”
It seemed like Tamaki had informed Ai-chan of the news of Hazuki-chan’s selection, and more too.
“Nagao-sensei, Tamaki, and her personal trainer came to visit me at my house. She told me… ‘Why don’t you leave the whole thing about shoes and trainings for the experts to worry about? You should just focus on your running, Aiko-san. Doing anything more is just useless’…”
Ai-chan sounded exactly like Tamaki as she related her story. It seemed like she felt the same way we did, but had voiced it out in her usual haughty manner. It was just like Tamaki, and I thanked her silently.
“It helped me to calm down and relax, and I had a great verbal battle with Tamaki too. And it’s true, I should leave things like worrying about my opponents and selecting the right shoes to Nagao-sensei.”
Ai-chan had conquered a small obstacle, and I hoped we’d done something to help her achieve that. I resolved to continue supporting her in the future too, together with everyone.
And just as the story was about to end on a happy note…
“What’s all this!?”
Ai-chan’s yell was the first thing we heard in school the next morning, catching me by surprise. It was Valentine’s Day, so we’d made plans to gather at the MAHO-do after work to indulge ourselves on Momo-chan’s desserts. I also planned to present my ‘Experimental Cake No.3’ to Kotake, together with a new sports towel. I would drop by his place on my way home at the end of the day.
“There’s more over here, from the other cla.s.s,” Momo-chan exclaimed as she came into the cla.s.sroom, carrying loads of chocolates.
“What’s happening here? This is a little freaky.”
Ai-chan’s desk was piled high with chocolates, cookies, sports towels and keychains sporting mascot characters.
“I have something for you too.”
With that, Yuuna-chan presented Ai-chan with a hand-woven bag. Other girls in our cla.s.s started to present their gifts to Ai-chan too, while the boys looked on with envy. I had no doubt Ai-chan unwittingly made a few enemies that morning.