Chapter 3:

「Chapter 3: Ichika Tachibana Has a Sweet Tooth And Expensive Taste」

I Fell in Love, Now What?

Authors Note: To those who read my novel, sorry for the long wait, I was busy with work and had to rewrite it. But now, please enjoy chapter 3.

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"Are you excited?" Yuma asked with a stupid grin.

"It seems more or less like a pointless exercise at the moment. I doubt a box of chocolates will do much to sway Tachibana's affection."

Though my intent was still to make Tachibana fall in love with me, I thought that making my move only a day later was a bit too sudden. It's not like anything has happened between us that would have changed her opinion of me. I saw it as a bit pointless. But I guess that even if I presented Tachibana with a White Day gift, it wouldn't be such a big deal. She knows I'm in love with her, so anything I do that expresses that fact she won't find surprising.

"Either way, Haru, if you do this for her, you'll start with a solid foundation. What better way to win a girl over than with a gift. Chizuru certainly loves them."

"What do you plan on getting your bride to be," I teased. The train wasn't too far from the station closest to the mall now.

"Hmm, chocolates are a must. She loves them, probably more than me. Especially white chocolate."

"Anything else?" Maybe I could copy one of his ideas.

"Oh, she was complaining about her clothes not fitting anymore. Maybe I could get her some new underwear."

Why is everyone so obsessed with underwear now?! Did I miss a new trend? And we probably shouldn't be talking about something like this on a crowded train.

"Hahaha," he chuckled. "Why are you blushing? You look like a kid who just saw a suggestive scene in a movie."

I didn't even notice I was blushing. But once he pointed it out, I couldn’t help but break eye contact.

"Don't worry," he continued. "Of course I won't buy something like that for her. But just so you know…" He stepped closer to keep people from overhearing him. "This topic does come up in conversations between couples. You'll find out soon enough with Tachibana."

I was left appalled as the train pulled into the station and the doors opened, all the while Yuma gave a toothy grin.

“It’s a lot bigger than I remember. Did they remodel it?” I asked. Shopping malls weren’t really my thing.

“Do you have the memory of a goldfish? We came here a week ago.”

“You don’t say.”

After we arrived at Hiratsuka Station, we caught the bus that brought us to the shopping mall. Entering from the west entrance directed us to the main walkways of the mall. Looking around us, the various cafes, sweets shops, and department stores already displayed their White Day advertisements front and center.

Lined along the walkways, as Yuma had mentioned, were all sorts of White Day-related merchandise, stuffed teddy bears, heart-shaped accessories, brightly colored stationary, and of course, chocolate boxes. As for the restaurants in our immediate vicinity, the donut shop was offering a couple’s discount and the sweets shop had promotions for nearly all their inventory.

“Let’s just grab that one and go home,” I suggested, pointing at a random box of chocolates put on display at the department store.

Yuma shook his head at this, seeming rather disappointed. "The whole point of buying something for Tachibana is so that you can win her over. Do you think you'll be able to accomplish that with some generic chocolate?"

"But look," I said, grabbing the box of the display. "The chocolates are heart-shaped. How wouldn't that win her over?"

I was only half-teasing him. I mostly just wanted to leave and picked out what I thought were decent-looking chocolates. I thought making a move this early was pointless, but Yuma just looked at me as if I were a hopeless case.

"No wonder Tachibana rejected you so quickly," he muttered under his breath.

Taking his comment as if he were saying he knew better, I let him take the lead on this. "Okay, cupid. What do you suggest I get her then?"

"Well, chocolates are always a good choice. You just need to make sure you get quality ones," he emphasized, taking the chocolates from my hands and placing them back. "Other than that you can buy her some jewelry, lotions, perfumes, clothing, or flowers. There's a flower shop upstairs if you want to check it out."

"Flowers seem tacky. And that’s for like third dates," I opined.

"Well, if you just want something simple, we can just go with the chocolate idea. There should be a high-quality chocolate vendor somewhere here. Let's just start walking and see what we can find."

And we did just that. But with it being the day before White Day, almost every store had some sort of promotion involving gift chocolates. You didn't have to walk far before coming across a sweets shop with a bunch of them or one of those stores that only opened on certain holidays.

But every time I pointed at a box of chocolates, Yuma just flat out rejected my choices saying things like That one is too genetic or That one is too cheap. Like what does he want me to do, buy some Belgian imports?

But eventually, after keeping from wandering off after losing interest, Yuma spotted a vendor that he deemed worthy.

"Here's one. Let's check it out."

It was quite small, but that didn't stop plenty of people from filling it up. White Day advertisements were placed outside showing their product line and discounts. And by the looks of it, they looked pretty fancy and...expensive.

I was about to complain to Yuma that I wasn't willing to spend more than 2000 yen on chocolates when he stopped me from getting any closer to the shop.

"Hey, isn’t that Tachibana right there?" he said, guiding me with his gaze.

And lo and behold, in the midst of the busy shop stood the girl I had been rejected by, the girl I was here buying chocolates for.

"No no no. We are not going in there." I was about to turn away and leave but Yuma held me down with a tight grip.

"It's okay, Haru. If we bump into her, we'll just tell her that you're helping me pick out a gift for Chizuru. She won't even know you're here to buy her a gift." Then he put his hand on my back and directed us both toward the chocolate shop.

But as we got closer, as the image of Tachibana got closer, my heart started beating faster. It wasn’t because of some romantic feeling for her, it was just pure anxiety of seeing her again after being miserably rejected just yesterday. Just sitting in class with her today kept my mind from paying attention to our lectures. It was an agonizing feeling. And now I was walking straight toward her.

Once we were in the midst of the crowded shop, Tachibana, within shouting distance, I started getting cold feet when I saw her moving toward me. Feeling like I would get a panic attack if I continued, I turned to tell Yuma that I was leaving.

“M-maybe it’s best for me to leave. I don’t need to buy her chocolates.” But Yuma was nowhere to be found.

Suddenly, my phone buzzed in my pocket. Unlocking it I saw a text notification from no other than Yuma which read:


Sorry about leaving you alone. I just don’t want you to waste this opportunity alone with Tachibana. I’ll be looking for a present if you need me, but make sure to make the most out of this situation. ; ) You got me stuck with a girlfriend and now it’s time for me to do the same for you.

What!!! He betrayed me! I thought we were brothers. But what was Yuma thinking?! How could he think to leave me alone with Tachibana here? Was this revenge for setting him up with Chizuru at the festival?!

I gripped my phone ready to sprint out of the shop when someone lightly tapped on my shoulder.

“Haru? Didn’t expect to see you here.”

The darkest timeline, the one thing I didn’t want to happen. I tried to compose myself before turning around to face Tachibana. In a split second, I turned my anxious expression into one of mild surprise and confronted the girl who had just rejected me.

“H-heyy, Tachibana. Who would have thought I’d meet you here. What are you up to?” I struggled to keep my voice from quivering.

“Oh, nothing much. It’s just that Suzukuma had given me chocolates for Valentine’s Day, you know, the friend chocolates, and I wanted to give her something back. But I also wanted them to be extra special. I am trying to make her fall in love with me after all. I can’t settle for cheap chocolates.”

Wow. Who knew we were in the same boat. Still, it’s not like Suzukuma knew Tachibana liked her, so of course, they were friend chocolates. Same goes for me. But hearing Tachibana talk about her love for Suzukuma did kinda hurt even if she didn't mean it. It felt like something was beating up my heart.

“But even though I built up the courage to buy Suzukuma some chocolates, I’m still going to buy some for all our other friends.”

“Why is that?”

“I’ve told you this before. I’m shy with these sorts of things. I don’t want my feelings to be known immediately and to everyone. So I’m going to buy chocolates for multiple people to sort of camouflage my true purpose. But,” she said before giving a dry chuckle, “all those chocolates will leave a dent in my savings. Anything for love, though.”

Wow. And after declaring that I was going to win her over. Tachibana was way more committed than I was at winning over someone’s heart. She was acting like some lovestruck boy going to extreme lengths to hide her true passion for her love. And here I was, thinking about running away from my own crush.

“But what about you, Haru? What brings you here? Are you here to buy chocolates for another girl?” she said accusingly. “What a shame. I didn’t know you were that type of guy, Haru. Was your love for me really that shallow after all?”

Even though I knew she was teasing me—what with that big smirk plastered on her face, it wasn’t hard to tell—it was still making me feel guilty and a little embarrassed.

“No no no. I’m here to pick out some chocolates for my sister and mother.” I don’t know why I said that. It was the first thing that came to mind. But now that I mention it, my sister did give me chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I’m sure she would be excited if I bought her something. And might as well buy something for my mother as well.

“Oh? How sweet of you, Haru. It’s a shame, though,” she whispered, a bit downcast.

A bit panicked now, feeling as if I had said something wrong, I asked “What do you mean?”

“I just thought you were here to buy chocolates for me,” she said with a smirk. Apparently, she was only teasing me. “I do remember giving you some chocolate, so I thought that’s why you were here.”

I remained silent. Even though it was common courtesy to return a gift on White Day, I couldn't help getting nervous with her thinking that I was here to buy her a gift. It was one of those strange irrational fears that consume you whether you like it or not.

"Oh?! Or are you actually here for that?" She smiled. "Just so you know, I hate milk chocolate. White chocolate is fine but I prefer dark chocolate. So if you are going to buy me something, keep that in mind."

Can I not win against her? She was using the fact that I was in love with her against me. She effectively left me silent with every sentence she spoke.

"Come on, Haru. I heard you can sample the different chocolates here."

With that one sentence, she had my attention. I mean, free chocolate, who doesn’t like that?

I followed Tachibana to the counter where the chocolates were being displayed behind the glass. If I had to guess, there were at least fifty different varieties of chocolates on display, each with its own appeal.

“Which one do you think you’ll try first,” I asked, wanting to start a conversation.

With her face pressed up almost against the glass, she said “Hmm, they all look delicious, don’t they. But I definitely want to try something with dark chocolate.”

“Why is that?”

“It’s my favorite. White chocolate is fine, too, but I absolutely hate milk chocolate.”

“Well, my favorite is milk chocolate. Seems like we have opposing tastes.”

“And that right there is why I rejected you,” she said with a smirk.

We both laughed. But though it still hurt to keep being reminded that she didn’t have any romantic feelings toward me, a good laugh with her made me forget about it momentarily. Who knows, maybe that really was the reason.

“Ooo, that one looks really good. Excuse me, can we sample that one?” Within a blink of an eye, the employee behind the counter handed Tachibana the chocolates she had requested. “Here, try it with me.”

She handed me one of the samples; a dark coating of chocolate wrapped around a thick and creamy ganache. Obviously, we weren’t given an entire chocolate, rather it seemed to have been cut from a whole. While I stood around looking over the candy, Tachibana had already placed it in her mouth. She ate it so quickly that I questioned whether she took the time to savor the flavor.

“” Apparently, I was wrong because it seemed like Tachibana was about to melt.

With a reaction like that, now I was curious. I placed the chocolate in my mouth and chewed it slowly, making sure to get out as much flavor as possible from the tiny piece. I felt as if I would collapse right then and there. Its flavor was so extravagant that it overwhelmed my senses. I wouldn’t be surprised if my clothes were spontaneously torn apart.

“Di-did we arrive in heaven, Haru?”

“The fact that you don’t love me means that we aren’t.” Even delicious sweets couldn’t help me forget that.

She giggled. “Well, there’s nothing I can do about that. But this chocolate was so delicious that I might buy one for myself as well.” I couldn’t help but agree with that decision. I gazed at the display box to check the price and was left utterly disappointed.

“You might want to check the price first.”

“4500 yen! That’s almost all the money I brought with me!”

“No wonder you liked them so much. You have expensive taste. Not to mention that these are imported chocolates.”

Tachibana looked absolutely torn over the revelation. She really seemed to have enjoyed the chocolate. But there was no way that she could buy those along with gifts for her other friends.

"But I'm sure there are other options to choose from. They might not be as delicious but I doubt that Suzukuma will care. What matters are the feelings behind the gift." Wow. I really need to shut up from time to time. I mean, I was basically giving love advice to my crush for how to win someone else over. At this rate, I'd lose to Suzukuma in no time.

But at least it seemed like I managed to clear up Tachibana because her dismay soon dissipated and she looked again at the display case.

“This other one caught my eye as well.” She pointed at a pink-colored box with around a dozen assorted chocolates. Some were like the one we had earlier but there were also ones with caramel fillings and ones that were just solid chocolate. “I think I’ll buy that box. The candies still look high-quality but they won’t run me broke. Plus, the box looks cute. Izumi will probably like it.”

Tachibana let the woman behind the counter know her decision and she wrapped up the box in a nice packaging paper. But though the fancy one was specifically for Suzukuma, she still made sure to buy a few other gifts for the rest of her friends. When I saw the total price, I was shocked. Not even I had brought that much money.

Maybe I really shouldn’t try to win Tachibana over. Having now witnessed her spending habits firsthand now, I tremble at the thought of going on a date with her. I can imagine that she would order the most expensive things on the menu. She would leave the restaurant with a smile while I left crying.

“So, Haru, which one do you plan to buy me?”

“It wouldn’t be very fun if you were here when I bought your present. It wouldn’t be a surprise, then. Plus, I haven’t really decided on one yet.”

“You’re absolutely right. What was I thinking?” she said as she smacked her head. “Well, in that case, do you want to do something while you make up your mind?”

What do you mean by “Want to do something”? It practically sounds like she is asking me on a date. Wait. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. As I said, I’m going to try to win over Tachibana before she can end up with Suzukuma. And what better way to do that than on a date, no?

So, in the most confident voice I could muster, I asked “W-want to go...somewhere eat...something?”

Sigh. Yes, yes, I’m surprised she didn’t laugh either. If anyone else had heard that they’d think that I was a terrified kid telling their mother they got a bad grade on a test.

“Sure, I haven’t eaten since lunch. Oh, but can I choose where to eat?”

“That’s fine.” It really was because I had no idea of any of the restaurants that were in the mall. If she had left me to choose a location, I would have kept us walking all over the mall not being able to decide on something.

“Alright, then. The donut shop near the entrance has a promotion going on with a bunch of discounts. It’s one of my favorite places to eat.”

A few minutes of walking later and we had arrived. The moment we stepped past the boundary, you were hit by a melody of aromas; chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, cinnamon. Basically, every flavor that you can imagine coming from a bakery.

“I’ve never been here, how does it work?”

"Easy." She prompted me to follow her to the display stands where dozens of donuts were lined up ready to be picked and eaten. "Basically you take the ones you'd like and then pay for them at the register."

"Pretty straightforward."

"Well, it's supposed to be that way, dummy." She giggled. "But apparently they make it more simple."

"Hey! I've never eaten here, so cut me some slack."

"Too bad. Be prepared to be pulled taut because I have very little money left. And since you suggested going out to eat, I'm assuming you'll be the one paying," she said, revealing her plan with a grin.

This girl. If I wasn't in love with her, I would have walked out on her right then and there.

"Ahaha, don't worry. Things here aren't very expensive. I wouldn’t do something that mean to you."

"Alright, then. Which donuts are you gonna get?"

“Well, the discounts cover most of the donuts and pastries, so I can pick just about anything. Whenever I pass by, I usually get an old fashion donut or one of the cream-filled ones. But with the promotion, since they are 50% off, I can get twice the amount I usually get. And yet we haven’t even gotten to the specialty pastries and limited-time donuts. It would be a shame not to order at least one of them before they are gone forever.”

“You sure know quite a bit about this shop.” No kidding. She was examining every donut as if she were holding a magnifying glass up to them. No doubt she was recalling which donuts she had and hadn’t eaten in order to maximize her experience.

“Oh, but my dear Haru, one must always be prepared when coming here. There are just so many different opinions, and we haven’t even talked about the pasta they serve here.”

“Pasta?! I thought this was a donut shop.”
“Oh, Haru.” And with a hand on my shoulder, she said “They have transcended to a new plain of cuisine. Pastas are merely donuts that have assumed a different shape.”

Ok, was I sure this was the same girl I fell in love with?

“Ok, enough with the conspiracy theories. Just pick--”

“Ahhh!” Tachibana gasped and ran toward one of the displays. “These look absolutely delicious!’

I made my way toward where she was and looked into the display. Sitting there in all of its beauty was a chocolate-covered pon de ring topped with sprinkles and a hardened glaze. Oh?! The one next to it had a French-sounding name to it which caused me trouble when trying to pronounce it. It was a custard cream donut topped with roasted almonds.

Now I kind of wish I had found this shop earlier.

“Hmmm. The specialty ones are more expensive but they are limited time, so you have to try them before they are gone. And look, Haru, you can buy all the new promotional items for only 1400 yen. With the discount, that’s only 700 yen and it’ll fill us up both.” Tachibana looked really excited. She didn’t even look like this when she decided on the chocolates she wanted for Suzukuma.

Was it possible that Tachibana loved donuts more than Suzukuma or me?

But as I inspected the displays further, I noticed something that Tachibana wasn’t going to be too thrilled about.

"Look here," I said pointing at the promotional posters. In tiny print at the edge of one of them were the words *promotional products not eligible for discount.

"What?!" Tachibana's joy seemed to just deflate in an instant. "If they are not eligible for a discount then we must pay full price." Or maybe not. Her resolve to get her hands on those donuts only grew.

"What?! No, those are twice as expensive as the others and I still need to buy things after this."

"But, Haru, we must sample these while we can. It's not about the money, it's about the experience. Do you not remember the chocolate you placed in your mouth not too long ago? What if this is your chance to experience something like that again. Would you pass it up then?"

I stood silently for a second and looked her directly in the eyes. "Yes I would."

Hearing that, she instantly darted toward me, grabbed my shoulders, and shook me really hard while saying "Pleeeeeaaaassse, Haru. Do this one thing for me and I'll be eternally grateful."

What was she, some sort of donut-loving vampire?

"Okay, okay, fine." I pried her off my shoulders not wanting her to continue only to get dirty looks from bystanders. "This is what we'll do. If you really want the limited-time pastries, then you can choose the three of them, they are doing 3 for 600 yen after all. Or you can choose six of the donuts with discounts.”

“Okay… Different idea. How about we get the 600 yen box along with a few extra donuts. You can’t come here and order three.”

“What! N--” I was about to refuse her proposal when she gave me these irresistible puppy dog eyes. Along with her being my crush, how was I supposed to deny her request after seeing something like that? I’m a weak man.

“Fine, but hurry up and choose before I change my mind.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she squealed.

Seriously. I hope I never have to take her to a fancy restaurant.

While Tachibana took her time picking from the promotional pastries, I quickly chose mine. It wasn’t really a difficult task, I just chose the ones that looked the most delicious; a pon de ring, an old fashion, and a French cruller. Tachibana chose three of the regular donuts along with the promotional ones and we headed for the register.

“You better have not gotten anything too expensive,” I reminded Tachibana as we waited for the employee to ring us up.

“Don’t worry, most of them are 50% off anyways.”

Just then, the employee asked us “Would you two like the couple’s discount?”

What?! Did he think we were a couple?

“Of course, we would!” Tachibana sang.

“B-but, Tachibana,” I whispered, “we aren’t a couple.”

“Shhhh, they don’t know that. Do you want the discount or not.”

I thought about it, and yes, I needed to save money if I wanted to buy the gift for Tachibana, so this wasn’t the worst idea if no one was going to know. And, just maybe, I was secretly kind of happy that the two of us had been seen as a couple. Like a dream come true.

“I’ll take that blushing of yours as a yes.”

“Wait, I’m blushing?”

“Yep, and even more so now.” She laughed and grabbed the box of donuts after the employee was done packing them.

Sometimes it felt like she lived to tease me, first with our little conversation yesterday, and now with this If I didn’t love her, she would annoy me. But even things like this, which would usually be unpleasant and embarrassing, were welcome and made me like her even more.

We left the donut shop with each of us holding a box of donuts. Tachibana looked ecstatic, barely being able to keep herself from taking out a donut and eating right away.

“Well, Haru, it was fun hanging out, and I really appreciate the donuts you bought me. I would stay longer but I have to be home soon. Anyway, see ya tomorrow. Gift me something nice.”

She waved her hand and left through the exit. The shop was close to the western exit, so it was sort of the ideal place to say goodbye. Even so, there was one last thing I needed to do.

I looked at my wallet to see just how much money I still had left after our little detour.

"Good, I've got just enough left."

And so, I returned the way from which we came.

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"So, Haru, how was your little date with Tachibana?"

It was the next day, White Day, and Yuma and I were on the train on our way home from school. Sora got caught up with some girl so it was just me and Yuma today.

"Well, given that you left me alone with her, I was a bumbling mess. And also, it wasn't a date."

"Ahaha. Sorry about that. I saw the opportunity and couldn't let you not take it. But hey, you got her the box of chocolates, didn’t you?"

"Yeah, I haven’t spent that much money in a while. When I showed them to her today she almost passed out. She had really wanted them, so she made a whole scene about it. Good thing I found a less populated area or else the whole school would have known I had given her chocolates."

"Hey, but now you're one step closer to winning her over. You guys looked like a real couple at the donut shop after all."

"Wait, you saw us?!"

"Of course, I never left the mall. I was in the donut shop when you two walked in. I had bought a hat to use as a disguise."

"OK, that's kind of scary, to think of the lengths you'll go to. I wouldn’t be surprised if you somehow planned it all from the start."

Yuma grinned as the train entered the station and the doors slid open.

"Wait, explain yourself."

But Yuma was already out the door, only waving goodbye.

Tch, first Tachibana, and now him. Do those two have a conspiracy against me or what?

Not long afterward, the train reached Fujisawa Station and I stepped out into the crowd. But right after I had scanned my card and gotten past the gate, I felt a gentle tug on my shirt. I turned around to see none other than Izumi Suzukuma, cheeks red like a strawberry, not even willing to make eye contact.

“Oh? What’s up, Suzukuma.”

“Ah...umm…” Even though she pulled on my shirt to get my attention, it seemed like she didn’t even know what she wanted to say. But after failing to get words out of her mouth, she gave a quiet gasp as if she had remembered something and rummaged through her bag. She pulled out a neatly wrapped box and presented it to me with both hands. “Nishikawa, I… I love you.”

Character Trivia: The reason Tachibana hates milk chocolate is that she once ate close to half a kilogram of it in a few hours leaving her with a terrible stomachache. A week later she had to get three cavities removed.