What I was surprised by first when I entered the dining hall was the background noise.
If we’re talking about my old school’s cafeteria, that place had been a confined space for which hungry students rushed screaming ‘That please!’ or ‘This please!’ at the auntie, all the while the ‘chattering’ around us was hella noisy…
That ‘ambient noise’ (I heard that voice actor term from Ery) was different here.
It was calm and felt ’rounder’, a pleasant experience for the ears.
Maybe it was the way they used their voices, or their word choice, or maybe their topics. I didn’t hear a word of ‘don’t you love that actor’ or ‘how do you like xyz-cool-guy’.
The floor was vast. A deep red, high-class, carpet was spread across it and, on the opposing side, the wall was made completely out of glass.
Encumbered by the soft light which peaked through from the green garden, the ojou-samas sat at the round tables all smiling.
The second they became aware of my presence—— the dining hall fell dead silent.
RUUUUUUUUUUUSTLE—! Like a u-turn from how it was before, they stirred in a big commotion.
“The commoner.”, “He is…”, “Oh my!”—Could be heard from numerous tables.
I was walking across the marble floor, guided by Arisugawa-san, all the while being stared at by ojou-samas from kindergarten to junior college.
I felt as if their stares were licking me all over from top to toe.
“That’s how a commoner walks…”
Eh?! You’re looking that hard?!
Being way too nervous I, “GA—!” tripped.
“He stumbled in his steps!”
“Did this have a certain significance, too…?”
We reached a high class round table.
Arisugawa-san and company had their chairs drawn back by the dining hall maids and sat down. I sat down by myself, as I always did.
Again, a slight uproar. The smaller children tried to imitate me while the maids tried to stop them.
Even after I’d sat down, their ‘my curiosity is endless!’-gazes remained locked onto me and were stabbing me in the back.
Then the maids came handing over the menu. My fingers stiffened on the leather-covered menu with the high class touch to it.
With two menus, a western and an eastern one, it felt like the western was chosen more often. Even though it wasn’t even written in English, it had many dishes I’d never heard of. The heck’s ‘shinjou’?
A maid glanced at me.
“…! E-Ehm… Then I’ll have the Japanese menu.”
“My. I’ll take the same then, please.”
Arisugawa-san said. And so the other ojou-samas followed,
“Me too.” “Me too.” “The same as Kimito-sama.”
It wasn’t just our table, I could hear them from all around ordering the Japanese choice.
Eh? Because I…?!
The maid bowed and stepped back.
*sigh*… I corrected my posture on the chair. The cushion had a superbly fluffy feel to it.
On the other side, Arisugawa-san smiled elegantly.
What’s with this calm atmosphere… Aren’t people usually more hurried and restless in the morning?
“Be that as it may, I was surprised.”
Arisugawa-san started the conversation.
“For Aika-sama to be there.”
“Ah, well, we kinda met by chance…”
“It’s the first time that I’ve seen Aika-sama being with someone. More than anything, she seemed to have… opened her heart.”
That’s because she doesn’t really care about me.
“Which means that we really do have our share of shortcomings to us, doesn’t it…”
She hung her head. She looked like a lonesome flower in a vase.
——No, that’s not it.
She just doesn’t want to get hated by you all.
I thought about saying it for a second, but I got the feeling that I shouldn’t speak of the deeper reasoning of someone I’ve only just met, so I stopped.
“It might be just me, but I don’t think it’s anything like that. She probably has her reasons. ——So please don’t hate her.”
She stared at me in puzzlement.
“Why would I hate Aika-sama?”
She asked bearing a terrifically innocent expression.
“Eh, well… because it makes you feel super bad when she runs away every time you call out to her? Without any real reason, that is. ‘What’s wrong with her?’ …Or something? No?”
With a bunch of question marks above her head, she slowly inclined her head.
Touching her forehead with her finger, she looked like she was thinking hard, going ‘Hmm, hmm…’.
Eh, did I say something that confusing…?
She clapped her hands together.
“I see, it’s like that, isn’t it? …I’ve completely understood.”
She nodded slowly a few times,
“Putting this aside, Kimito-sama, regarding commoners…”
“Eh?! We’re done already?!”
I tsukkomi’ed before I knew it.
After Arisugawa-san got exceedingly bashful—— she expressed a smile like a white rose.
“Just being told by Kimito-sama that we’re not being thought of as an unpleasantness by Aika-sama is putting me at ease.”
A pure white rose without even one dirty spot.
“If this is the case, then we will surely be able to become friends.”
…Really, I’ve still underestimated her.
That’s—— what they call ‘different upbringing’, huh?
“Reiko-sama is our aspiration!”
Toujou-san said from the right. She was an attractive and cheerful girl – just like an idol.
“Yes, without doubt.”
Mizuho-san agreed from the left. A spectacled girl with the feel of a library committee member.
“It’s always said that Reiko-sama has never hated or gotten angry at anyone. If there was one thing I could wish for, then it’d surely be to become a maiden as pure as Reiko-sama!”
Toujou-san said and sent a gaze full of admiration to Arisugawa-san. If I were to put it cheaply, she was like, ‘LOVE-LOVE BEAM!’.
I see now. So even these young ladies have people they look up to.
“P-Please stop it already. Aah, what’s keeping our meals, I wonder.”
Arisugawa-san hid her embarrassment… They really exist, huh… these kinda people.
——If it’s like this, won’t it be simple?
It got me thinking. Just by giving Aika a little push, she should easily fit into this class.
“E-Ehm… I was told something about an explanatory meeting after this, but I haven’t heard any details?”
Thereupon—— Arisugawa-san and company exchanged meaningful looks.
“N-No, it’s nothing.”
“You’re not hiding something, are you?”
“I-I’m not hiding anything—”
I stared at her.
Thereupon, Arisugawa-san’s cheeks blushed, casted her eyes down, and got all fidgety.
With that kind of amusing reaction, I started grinning before I knew it. And then the cooking finally arrived.
Is that what they call kaiseki? They served a variety of food little by little from a multi-tiered, black lacquered box. Of course it wasn’t like I had never seen anything like this before, but for some reason it felt different from a dish after dish kind of course.
They made me eat cup ramen in my room yesterday, saying it was ‘out of consideration’, but now… now I’m finally able to get my hands on some shiny celebrity food…!
A cup ramen (Mini – Soy Sauce) was put in front of me.
“Please forgive me for keeping you waiting.”
Kujou-san said looking down on me with her cold gaze.
“Wait, why cup noodles?!”
“Out of consideration for the commoner.”
“Commoners don’t eat cup noodles all day every day, you know!”
“Why are you looking annoyed now?! …Anyway! Give me the usual too!”
“Did you just click your tongue?! You totally did, didn’t you?!”
“Well then, shall I remove this?”
When I tried to say ‘yeah’——
I realized the ojou-samas were staring at the cup noodles intensely.
“Kimito-sama… what is that?”
While Arisugawa-san was eagerly observing the area around the lid, she made her nostrils twitch.
The surroundings were also ogling the cup noodles with a vigor that they seemed close to bending their upper bodies forward. Not just that——
The whole dining hall had gone silent.
“…It has a curious scent. Is it… food?”
“You don’t… know cup noodles?”
“Do you know ramen?”
“Um… from hearsay…”
“It’s instant—— It’s a sort of trivialized cooking. You can eat it just by adding hot water.”
“””””Just by adding hot water.”””””
The surroundings repeated in unison.
“With that you’re done cooking?”, “Impossible!”, “Why are so many characters written on that vessel?”
They exchanged whispers here and there.
“We eat that quite often.”
I said, and when I tore off the lid——
“It really is food! It has ingredients—!”
“This is shrimp… What are those yellow and brownish things?!”
“What kind of device might be able to prepare such a result just by adding hot water?!”
They asked while their eyes glittered in wonder.
“…Wanna try eating it?”
Everyone in the dining hall stood up.
Immediately following, the young ladies came back to their senses and exchanged glances.
“S-Souko-sama, please, after you.”
“…! No, Yumika-sama, if you would…”
Arisugawa-san took the cup noodles gently into her hands as if they were some kind of treasure,
“Let’s share them together! Those who want to try to eat them, please step up!”
“As expected of Reiko-sama! Such wonderful chopstick technique…!”
They were lining up, tightly packed, for a cup of noodles worth 500 yen which was placed on top of the table.
Arisugawa-san put her long chopsticks into the cup noodles and—— scooped one noodle with unmatched accuracy.
After she checked the yellow, meandering noodle with a quick look, she submerged it in the container with a refined movement that seemed like a part of a dance.
The surrounding more than 100 ojou-samas watched attentively being all excited.
The additional young ladies who had just entered the dining hall also gasped and kept adding to the crowd.
Ah, even Aika came.
Arisugawa-san suddenly stopped the chopsticks. She had a complex expression.
Toujou-san, who was assisting her, said anxiously:
“Reiko-sama, the amount we’d need to share them with everyone…”
“We’ll be fine. ——Split the noodles in half.”
“I see! If we do that, we can spread them to everyone!”
“I’ll prepare a chopping board and kitchen knife!”
The chopping board was put on the table, then returned the already served noodles and lined them up one by one in a straight manner.
The noodles that still remained in the cup were also lined up after the soup was properly dried off of them.
“To be able to line them up so systematically and such beautifully…”
“As expected of Reiko-sama.”
Arisugawa-san checked on the people count and grabbed the kitchen knife.
“We’re going to half… no, we’re going to cut them into three pieces.”
She put her fingers next to the noodles, barely touching them at all, and after some kind of tension had built up in the air for a brief moment—— the kitchen knife forced its way through.
She bundled the noodles and cut them in approximately three centimeter pieces.
“How’s she so skilled…?!”
While being showered with admiration, Arisugawa-san served the cut noodles in bowls.
“I’ll help too!” “Me too!”
“Thank you so much, everyone.”
The ojou-samas divided the labor and put the now small noodles one each into bowls and distributed them.
And hence spread them to everyone.
“Please, everyone, enjoy them as you would in a buffet.”
Taking the bowls and chopsticks into their hands, the ojou-samas got all the more excited.
“So this is what commoners call ‘cup noodles’, is it…?”
“Aah, how might it taste?” “I’m looking forward to it!”
Aika was also staring at her bowl in excitement.
And then the ojou-samas carried the noodles almost simultaneously to their mouths.
When they closed their eyes to savor them—— it got silent.
Slowly… their expressions clouded.
They then opened their eyes and exchanged gazes with their neighbors, seemingly troubled.
In this faltering atmosphere,
“They’re cold, soggy, and smell weird!”
Aika’s straight-forward impressions echoed.
“Wait, they don’t even look like before, do they?!”
It’s as Aika says… I thought.
Translator notes and references