Chapter 51:

Influx Theft

Couple That Can't Touch

Since Sora-chan had started working at the bakery, Mom didn't need much help. While Sora-chan was a proper employee, I was simply being paid by Mom when I helped.

Hiring Sora-chan didn't make much difference on normal days. However, that drastically changed when summer vacation began. Having Sora-chan help for eight hours lightened Mom's and Dad's workload significantly, which meant they could more easily take turns to take care of Yu-tan.

Dad opened the door of my room.

"Suzuka. Suzuka," he repeated until I woke up.


"Can you come to the bakery today?"

"Of course she can," Mom said from far away. "It's a Monday in summer."

Half asleep, I grabbed my phone from next to the pillow and saw the time.

"It's seven…. Can I sleep more? I don't have school…"

"Just five minutes, okay?"


Suddenly, Mom came stomping to my room and yelled at me, "None of that. Come on, go shower. You're sweating like crazy."

I was already expecting that.

I had no other choice but to get up and take a quick, cold shower on a Monday morning of summer. Even after that, I was still yawning as we headed to the bakery. The sun had already come out. Most of the people wandering around were elders or adults wearing suits, probably on their way to work.

"Why do you need my help?" I asked Dad as we walked on the sidewalk. "Doesn't Sora-chan work today?"

"We've had many more customers lately. Even with Tadokoro-chan's help, we can barely keep up."

"That's awesome! But yeah, it means more work," I giggled.

We arrived a few minutes later and prepared everything to open for the day. Sora-chan arrived ten minutes earlier and we changed into the work outfit: a brown buttoned shirt and a red apron. I stood behind the counter and she stood on the other side, ready to welcome the customers.

However, ten minutes had passed and no one had come in. I was bored. My elbows rested on the hardwood desk and my hands supported my chin.

"Strange," Sora-chan said.

"What's strange?"

"At least five people should've come in already. I noticed that some of our regular customers walked by without so much as a glance in our direction."

"Maybe they are going somewhere and will come after."

"I don't think so. They usually come here first and then go to other places."

How does she know?! Is she Kawahara version two?

Dad stepped out of the kitchen. "Has no one come?"

I shook my head.

"Weird. At least five people would've come in already as they have in the last few days."

He thinks the same, huh?

"Well, we can't do more than to wait," he said and walked back into the kitchen.

Sora-chan and I were alone for a while. I knew she was indifferent about it, but I felt uncomfortable by the silence. We glanced at each other multiple times until I decided to try and break the ice.

"H-Hey, Sora-chan. You like painting, right?"

"I love it."

She says that without showing any emotion. Even less than Kawahara.

"That's awesome," I continued. "And you started working here to learn baking to be able to draw it better, right?"


"What will you do after you're satisfied with your skill?"

"I'll quit. I'm already getting there, thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Kozue letting me use their kitchen often, so I'm not going to take much longer."

"I see."

At least she's honest.

We stayed silent once again. I couldn't think about another topic except for the one that I had thought about often ever since I found out she and Koji had been in the same school. I had avoided asking because I didn't want to look like an intrusive girlfriend, but I was simply curious.

"Sora-chan, were you in the same class as Koji?"

"Yes, since elementary school."

"Really? What was he like?"

"I don't know. We only started talking in middle school when he complained about the dumb subjects. Other people made fun of him and spread false rumors to ruin his and his family's reputation. I was the only one that supported his propositions. The only one that raised her voice, at least. I'm sure there were more people that were scared to say anything against the school. I don't blame them."

Koji's already told me some things about that, but now I understand him a bit more. And this is the most she's talked.

"Was Koji always like that?" I asked.

"What do you mean?"

"You know; careless, direct, serious, explosive…"

"I wouldn't say he's careless. He takes his time to make decisions, it's just that he makes them quickly. Sometimes so quickly that it's not the best decision."

That's what I meant.

"About the other ones, he's practically the same as he was when I left," she continued. "But I haven't talked with him enough to be sure. Does he still get angry often?"

"Not often. But he explodes when he does. Did he before?"

"Yes, quite a lot."


"Suzuka-san, are you Araki-san's girlfriend?"

"I am. How did you know?"

"I've had my suspicions since the Club Fair."

Finally, twenty minutes after having opened, the first customer stepped inside. Shockingly, Sora-chan received him with a sincere smile. He was a regular, so he didn't need much help.

Dad came out of the kitchen to say hi as he handed me the money to pay for his stuff. He then told us about the new bakery that had just been inaugurated a couple of blocks away. I quickly connected the dots.

The elder left and Dad asked me to go inspect the bakery. I changed back into my normal outfit and headed to it.

When I arrived, I instantly recognized the brand in the sign of the storefront. It was a popular bread brand that had recently started to sell many other flour-based products, making its popularity grow exponentially.

I stepped inside. Although it was crowded, it was possible to walk without bumping into anyone. The place was huge, at least five times bigger than ours. There was a lot of variety and the prices were insanely low. Quite a few employees helped people shop and there were two cashiers to make things faster. Still, there was a long queue at both.

"Hello, young lady," a woman said. She wore a white shirt and a nameplate. "Are you looking for something? Or are you new to our products?"

Dad had asked me to buy the most popular thing, so I asked just for that.

"What is your flagship product?"

"Follow me," she smiled.

We walked into the most crowded corridor of all. People were queueing up just to grab the bread, not even to pay for it. The employee told me it was sweet bread with a special, secret filling.

It took me ten minutes to leave the shop. Holding the packaged bread, I headed back to the bakery. Dad, Sora-chan, and I took a bit of the bread and ate it; it was delicious. While the bread was nothing out of the ordinary, I couldn't describe the taste of the filling. It was sweet, but also a little salty. At first, it tasted like chocolate, then the flavor of many fruits struck my mouth: strawberry, pineapple, orange…. It was impossible to know for certain.

We all agreed it was delicious. Still, we knew we had better stuff and that it could get better. That was Mom's and Dad's talent. When they ate something better than their food, they would replicate it, make it better, and create something new from that.

Dad entered the kitchen to research and called Mom to tell her about it. Although a few more customers arrived throughout the day, Sora-chan told me it was nothing compared to the previous week. For me, it was normal.

Mom and Dad expected the influx to slowly go back to normal over the week, but it didn't. Only the regular customers—who had bought from us for years—kept coming. It was a hard hit for the bakery's earnings.

Fortunately, it wasn't enough to destroy our business. Still, the whole situation stressed Mom and Dad a lot. I hadn't seen them that stressed in months. There was nothing they could do to compete against a national brand. Even though they were able to replicate their flagship bread within a few days, it was very expensive to make without a production line. They had no other choice but to lower the prices and hope for the best.

Two weeks had flown since Koji was told to leave his house. He lived with Kawahara for a week until Hisaki was able to get a job and an apartment for both of them. Koji invited me over the day after they had moved in.

The building looked normal. I walked upstairs until I found the door with the number Koji had told me and rang the bell. He opened the door in a couple of seconds.

"Come in," he smiled.


The apartment was small, but enough for two people. There were two rooms, a bathroom, a narrow kitchen, and an empty living room. There was no dining room. The table was in the living room, with pillows for chairs; just as it was in my house.

We sat at the table.

"So, how are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm incredibly bored."

"I can imagine," I giggled. "You only kept some clothes and your phone. You can't even play your computer games."

"Yeah, don't remind me about it."

"You can't bring them here?"

"They never forbid me from doing it, but it would make the purpose of getting everything on my own meaningless."

"True. What are you going to do, then?"

"I'll look for a job. Hisaki has it hard having to pay the rent and buy food for the two of us. I need to help."

"Good. Where is he, by the way?"

"Working at the nearby veterinary clinic."

"Veterinary clinic? Really? I didn't expect that."

"Me neither."

We stayed silent. I looked around the room and it felt very empty, but I knew it wasn't going to last long.

"How is the bakery?" he asked. I had texted him about it during the previous week.

I sighed. "Not good. There's nothing much my parents can do."

"I know. Actually, I have an idea. There's something I haven't told you because I wanted to do it in person."


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