Chapter 43:

Unfair Demeanor

Couple That Can't Touch

The play had a science-fiction setting and a bittersweet ending, which was my favorite kind of story. Most of the Drama Club members acted decently and a few were very good. Even though it had a couple of problems—like the lack of a protagonist—I liked it overall.

Kawahara-san and I had to go to the cafeteria to get ready for the restaurant's reopening, whilst Suzuka, Rem-san, and Tarō-san stayed in the gym to congratulate Hashimoto-san and Tsuga-san.

We changed into chef's uniforms and began helping in the kitchen. The first step was to gather the ingredients and prepare them to be cooked, whether that meant to wash, cut, peel, or whatever else they needed. We began by cooking the stuff that took the longest.

It didn't matter if people were better or worse in any process, everyone had an important role. I was given the task of preparing one of the many sauces that was needed for the main dishes. But I had an objective in my mind; prepare something for Suzuka.

Orders started to arrive just a few minutes into our work. Barely any progress had been made yet. It was time to put into action all that I had learned and practiced.

I couldn't stop peeking outside to see if Suzuka had arrived yet. Once she did, I ran out of the kitchen and approached her.


"Koji? Aren't you supposed to be cooking?"

"I just wanted to tell you not to order anything. I want to make something for you."

Suzuka was speechless for a moment. "Understood," she smiled.

I ran back to the kitchen and came across one of the assigned Head Chefs. He didn't look very happy.

"You were outside?"

"Sorry. I needed to tell someone something."

"Fine. Don't do it anymore, we are too busy to waste time."

I nodded and he walked away. I thought of telling him that I wanted to cook something, but he probably would've said no. Instead, I looked around for someone to switch places with.

Fortunately, Kawahara-san was in charge of one of the main dishes.

"Kawahara-san, you know how to make the tomato sauce, right?"

"I do."

"Please switch places with me for two minutes."


"I want to make something for Suzuka."

"But I need to finish this."

"I'll finish it for you."

She stared at me. "Okay."

She walked towards my place and I stayed. I began working on both dishes at the same time. Luckily, Kawahara's dish was simple. As soon as I received an ingredient from someone else, I would add it. I focused on it not to delay the order.

Just as I had said, I finished in two minutes. However, it didn't go as smoothly as I planned. The same Head Chef approached me.

"Isn't Kawahara-san supposed to be making this?"

"Yes. We switched places for a couple of minutes."


"I wanted to make a dish by myself."

He looked at the dish I had made for Suzuka.

"That's not in the menu."

"I made it for someone specific."

"Did you really delay an order for that?"

"No, I finished the order first."

He sighed after looking at it. "I hope you didn't screw it up. Just go back to your place."

I nodded. I grabbed the dish I made for Suzuka and headed towards the door. But he stopped me once again.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"I'll take this to the person I made it for."

"You're not a waiter and you've already lost a lot of time."

We stared at each other in silence. We were at a dead end.

"I'll take that for you," Itō Riko-san—one of Sae-san’s friends—said. She was standing next to me, dressed as a waitress.

Disappointed, I had no other choice than to hand her the dish.

"Give it to Suzuka. She's sitting in the left corner of this floor."

"I'll do just that," she smiled.

She left with the dish and I returned to my place. I thanked Kawahara-san for helping me and she walked back to her place.

I was quite nervous. I had practiced the dish for a few weeks; I wanted to at least see Suzuka's expression when she tried it. But I was being too selfish, wanting to do many things over the club's reputation. It was already a miracle that I managed to do all of that without ruining anything.

Not even a minute later, some shouting came from the cafeteria. Everyone in the kitchen stopped what they were doing and walked out to see what was happening. I followed them. They were crowded at the door, but I was able to see over them.

In front of the kitchen, Suzuka was being helped to walk by Hashimoto-san and Rem-san. Just then I realized that the person that had shouted was Hashimoto-san. I ran towards them.

Suzuka's face was extremely red. She stared at the floor. Her breathing was short and heavy. She could barely walk.

"What happened?" I asked.

"She ate your dish," Hashimoto-san replied.

"Didn't you know that she's allergic to mustard?!" Rem-san shouted.

"What? Yes, I did. But what does mustard have to do with this?"

"Your dish had mustard in it," Hashimoto-san answered.

"No, it didn't."

"Yes, it did. How else would've she gotten like this?"

I raised my voice. "I swear it didn't have mustard."

"It doesn't matter now! She needs to be taken to the hospital right now."

I hadn't comprehended how severe her condition was. It was unfair that she had to go through something like that when it wasn't even her fault. But I had the ability to take her out of her pain. I just needed to withstand it.

"Let me help," I said.

As soon as I reached for Suzuka's arm, she moved it away.

"Don't… touch," she said between breaths. She glanced at me before looking at the floor again.

"She's right," Hashimoto-san said. "We'll take care of her. Go back to the kitchen and find out what happened."

They walked out of the cafeteria.

The entire floor was silent. Everyone stared at me, but I didn't care. I returned to the kitchen to avoid further trouble. I had to think about where the mustard could've come from.

The club slowly entered the kitchen. The four Head Chefs approached me.

"Araki-san, the dish you made was for her, right?" the same Head Chef—who had berated me for making an off-menu dish—asked me.

I nodded.

"Do you know what happened?"

"She's allergic to mustard."

"Did you put mustard on the dish?"

"There's not even mustard in the kitchen. None of the dishes on the menu require it."

"That's true. But where did the mustard come from, then?"

"I don't know. I…"

An image flashed through my mind. No one was near the dish except for…

"Koji-kun!" Sae-san shouted. She ran from the door towards me. "What happened? Suzuka looked very ill just now."

"Hey, you can't be here without a cap," one of the other Head Chefs scolded.

"I don't care."

"She ate mustard," I replied.

"Again? Doesn't she know how to read the ingredients or what?"

"I made something for her, it wasn't on the menu."

"You made something for her and not for me?!" she pouted, before shaking her head. "But, didn't you know that she was allergic to mustard?"

"I did. I wasn't the one that added the mustard."

"You weren't? Then who?"

I intently stared at her. "Sae-san, I need to ask you something."

Her cheeks flushed. "M-Me?"

"Where are your friends?"

"Eh? You mean Mino and Kanna? I was sitting with them just now. Riko is in your club, so she should be somewhere around here."

I looked around. Everyone stared at us. There was no trace of Itō-san. I headed outside the kitchen. The cafeteria looked a little more lively. Again, there was no trace of her.

"Sae-san, where were you sitting?"

She pointed with her finger. "Over there."

"I don't see your friends."

"What? They are not there anymore…"

It became more and more obvious that they were the culprits as the seconds passed. However, there was no proof with which to accuse them.

Suddenly, one of Narumi's friends—Kanna-san—approached us.

"Araki-san, Sae-chan, the principal wants to talk with all of us."

My blood started boiling. It was obvious what was coming.

We followed her through the school all the way to the opposite side. Sae-san chatted with her friend, oblivious of what was happening. I remained silent. Anything I might've said would've been used against us.

After a couple of minutes, we finally arrived at the principal's office. It was the first time I had to come here and it was not for something nice.

We stepped inside. Mino-san and Itō-san were already standing in front of Asuka-sensei—Kasen's principal. It had been a while since I was near someone with such an imposing aura. It was even more nerve-wracking knowing that she probably was going to be against Sae-san and me.

"Araki-san, Narumi-san, please come closer," Asuka-sensei politely asked with a deep voice. The last time I had heard her was in the Egg Hunt.

Sae-san and I walked forward. I glanced at Mino-san, but she wouldn't look away from Asuka-sensei. She knew what she was doing.

"None of us want to be here for something like this, so let's be honest in order to finish it quickly and in a peaceful manner. Okay?"

She glanced at Sae-san and then at me. I needed to stay confident.

"Asuka-sensei, I don't even know why I'm here," Sae-san giggled.

She stared at her. "Kozue Suzuka-san was given mustard, which she's allergic to. The only people that would've been able to do something like that is someone in the Cooking Club, who is in charge of the kitchen right now."

"Yes, but I'm not in the Cooking Club."

"Correct. But Oshiro-san and Itō-san approached me to tell me some interesting things. Itō-san, please repeat to them what you told me."

"Right away. I was in the kitchen when Araki-san wanted to give Kozue-san a dish he had just made."

In the middle of her explanation, we exchanged gazes. She quickly turned away from me in fear.

"H-He was cooking, so he wasn't allowed to leave. Since I was there and I was a waitress, I took the dish and gave it to Kozue-san."

"Did you see any mustard in the dish?" Asuka-sensei asked.

"No, but it could've been hidden beneath how much food there was."

"I see."

"But Koji-kun wouldn't do something like that!" Sae-san shouted.

I put my hand on her shoulder to signal her to shut up. Asuka-sensei hadn't asked us to speak. And it was better to hear the things they were attacking us with to build a better defense.

"Right," Asuka-sensei said. "Oshiro-san, please go ahead."

She nodded. "I saw Narumi-san placing a bottle of mustard in her locker a few minutes ago."

"What?!" Sae-san yelled.

Even I was shocked. I expected a lot of things, but not an attack that direct.

"Do you have proof?" Asuka-sensei asked.

"I don't think she has had time to throw it out, so it must still be there."

Sae-san was about to yell again, but I stopped her by putting my hand on her shoulder again.

"Let's not waste any time and head there at once."

We walked out of the office and headed to Sae-san's and I's classroom one floor above where we were. I remained confident but Sae-san didn't. Her face showed many emotions at once; anger, sadness, and fear. I couldn't blame her.

Once we arrived, Asuka-sensei asked Sae-san for her locker keys. She gave them to her. Asuka-sensei crouched down and unlocked it. The bottle of mustard was there.

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