Because of my grandma’s influence I’ve enjoyed handicrafts since I was young. Whenever winter came I would always begin to knit with her. Anything simple enough to make, I made. Whenever I finished something I could show it to everyone, and it really made me happy when they praised me for it.
My favourite had to be embroidery. Creating a complex design with nothing but thread took a lot of hard work. It was hard to describe just how fulfilling it was when I completed one.
But it wasn’t long before I found out that boys were mocked for doing these things. I was teased quite a lot in primary and middle school because of it. I didn’t join the Home Economics Club in middle school for that reason. I figured that I could just do it at home.
I hadn’t planned to change my mind in high school either. But Suiran was my first choice and I went to their school festival to scout it out. The moment I laid eyes on the wedding dress centrepiece for the Handicrafts Club, my heart was stolen.
I heard from others that the club had worked together to create it. I wondered if I could make something like that too if I joined…
After desperate study, I managed to get accepted. It was overwhelming just how incredible the facilities were compared to any other school I knew.
In my middle school I had been one of the more well-off students, but the wealth of the Internal Students was a different order of magnitude. And the students called the Pivoine were simply beyond comparison.
I had heard stories about them before entering. About how not only were they wealthy, but they held the power at school. There was a room called the Salon that was exclusive to them, and it was unthinkable to cross them because they could do anything they wanted without consequence. According to the rumours, if you angered one they could torment you until you dropped out of school… It was frightening. My own grade supposedly held ten of them. I realised that I had to avoid their attention or else…
Despite the trouble I had adjusting to a new school, I was ready to visit the club that I longed for.
Completely as expected, the club was nothing but girls. I wasn’t sure what to do, and considered giving up on it after all.
But the new model of embroidery machine had gotten hold of me. I was a firm believer of manual embroidery but I wanted to try all of it! The weaving machine seemed like fun!
I happily listened to all the senpai speak about handicrafts. I would probably be made fun of again, but I really wanted to join.
At some point I noticed of a row of torso mannequins in the back of the room. By chance I caught sight of a full mannequin wearing our uniform.
My curiosity drew me over. What lay beyond was an intricately made life-sized doll of a girl with ringlets. Or so I thought but she was alive! She was a human! Eh? Why on earth was she sitting there, I wondered.
The girl didn’t notice me and never lifted her head. Upon closer inspection I realised that she was absorbed with stabbing something with a needle. Eh… A voodoo spell…?
She seemed like a dangerous person… I wondered if this club was actually suspicious…
While I was stuck watching with my heart thumping in my chest, somebody called me from behind. I couldn’t help but let out a small shriek.
“Is something wrong?” the Club President had whispered.
“Umm… Who is that person?” I whispered back.
For a moment I saw her eyes swim.
“That’s a member of our club from 2nd Year.”
…I fearfully asked just one more question.
“Just… what is she doing?”
We were talking right beside her, but Ringlets-senpai was completely engrossed in her work. Actually it was like she couldn’t hear us at all, and continued stabbing obsessively at the figure in her hand.
“Ohh. We call that needle felting. It’s a crafts technique that’s been pretty popular recently. You stab wool with a needle to create shapes out of it.”
So that’s what she was doing. I had no idea.
The President had moved one of the torsos out of the way, and called out to Ringlets-senpai who looked up at us in blank bemusement.
She had the face of a doll as well.
“This is a 1st year who’s come to see our club. I think he’s interested in your needle felting, Reika-sama.”
Suddenly, Ringlets-senpai’s face lit up.
“This is needle felting, where you use a needle to make things. It is simple and fun, you know? This is the red panda I am making. Look!”
She held out the figure in one hand to show me, but instead of looking like a red panda on two legs, it really just looked like a voodoo doll to me…
But she told me “Please do join our club!” and her smile was so bright and happy that I couldn’t help but smile back.
“Reika-sama might seem unapproachable at first, but once you talk to her you’ll realise that she’s very kind and loves handicrafts a lot. You won’t have to worry, all right?”
The club had a rather odd senpai in it, but the club members seemed to freely enjoy themselves which is why I made up my mind to join.
Never would I have imagined that the funny senpai I met was actually a member of the Pivoine, and one of the most powerful people in 2nd Year──
Not long after the term began, Kisshouin Reika-senpai became well-known amongst my grade as well.
There were a number of famous senpai at our school, and the most famous amongst them was the Emperor, Kaburagi Masaya-senpai. The first time I saw him I was overawed by his presence and charisma. Amazing, I thought. This person who people called an emperor was like a different existence to me. He brought the words ‘ruler’ and ‘conqueror’ came to mind.
Kisshouin Reika-senpai was included amongst those celebrities. She was the daughter of the Kisshouin family, and was the leader of the largest faction of 2nd year girls. It was said that if Kaburagi-senpai was an emperor, then Kisshouin-senpai was an empress.
When I heard that story I finally realised what an outrageous person I had gotten entangled with, and couldn’t stop the shivers.
How could that have been a voodoo doll. There was no need for voodoo. If she wanted she could erase anybody she wanted with ease.
I didn’t know what to do. How could I have known that an unassuming club like the Handicrafts Club could have had a Pivoine member. And not just any Pivoine but the Empress of all people. People had told me that if a Pivoine ever bothered with a club, then the girls would almost always join the Flower Arrangement Club or the Tea Ceremony Club…
After realising the truth I was terrified for a while. But despite my apprehensions, Kisshouin-senpai always attended the club with passion, and was always enthusiastic about participating. She might have been clearly different to everybody else there, but she seemed strangely at home to me.
“Your embroidery is amazing, Minami-kun. I already know you will shine during the school festival,” Kisshouin-senpai smiled brightly at me like always.
Thanks to that, before I knew it I was replying to her normally. When I mentioned that I was thinking of embroidering a tapestry for the school festival she praised me and cheered me on. I asked her what she was planning on doing, but her expression turned troubled and she told me,
“Actually, I might really like handicrafts but admittedly I am not very good at them…”
“What’s your favourite technique?” I asked, and it was, as expected, needle felting.
I asked her why she couldn’t just go with that then but she was worried that it would look pathetic next to the rest.
“Then why not use needle felting to make something wonderful that you can be proud of?” I asked.
I held out my hands and gestured something large enough to hold in both arms.
Senpai’s face immediately lit up.
“I shall go discuss this with the Club President at once!”
With that, she flew off.
…She might have been a member of the Pivoine, but Kisshouin-senpai really wasn’t scary at all, was she.
At least that was what I thought. One day I was being harassed by boys from my class, and was being mocked for enjoying handicrafts again. They had done this a lot since finding out what club I had joined. I spent each day nervous that it would finally escalate into bullying.
I had hoped that I could just endured it. But when they snatched the bag with my tapestry in it I couldn’t bear with it any longer.
It was at that moment that Kisshouin-senpai appeared.
She was like a different person to the senpai who attended club activities with a carefree smile. Kisshouin-senpai confronted my classmates head-on, and gave them a terrifying warning with a smile. Panicked by the appearance of a big-shot from the Pivoine, my classmates ran with their tails between their legs.
I was really happy when she said that I was important to her.
And just a moment ago she had the same aura of a ruler that the Emperor did. It was so cool.
I decided that until she graduated I would follow her all the way!
When we entered the classroom, senpai had transformed into her usual self completely.
With a new pair of men’s socks in her hand, she said to me,
“I want to embroider a tanuki on these, so could you please help?”
Why tanuki on socks, I wondered, and asked her as much.
“To harass a lying tanuki,” she replied.
After I taught her how to do it, she muttered,
“None of the socks will escape…” as she began embroidering some mysterious creature onto it.
I supposed that a commoner like me would never understand the taste of a noble…
The next day I was summoned by Kotou-san from the class next door. Kotou-san was a famous External Student who entered during middle school. Despite that she was bold and unrestrained, and back when she made an enemy out of scores of Internal Students she shot back,
“Not only do you second-rates have worse marks than me, but you have less money as well! A half-baked rabble like you have no grounds to complain!”
At the end of it all she even formed her own faction. She was scary. And I had no clue why she had called me out…
While I was standing there filled with anxiety, Kotou-san raised her chin haughtily and declared with equal arrogance,
“Well, if you’re Reika-san’s kouhai then I guess I have no choice but to protect you too. If anybody bothers you, report to me. I’ll crush them!”
Surprised, I asked her why she was doing this only to find out that shockingly, Kisshouin-senpai was her cousin. I commented that they must have gotten along well, but she denied it and yelled at me instead.
With Kisshouin-senpai and Kotou-san behind me, the boys in my class had all gone quiet.
Speaking of Kotou-san, although she was wilful and had a strong ego, she was the type to protect her own. Thanks to that, she had a lot of companions, both boys and girls. Now it looked like I was set to be one as well.
One day she gave me an order.
“Reika-san has been getting fat recently. Shop Boy. Go and let her know that she’s getting fat.”
Naturally there was no way I could say that!
I flat-out refused, but instead she replied,
“Then I’ll go tell her!”
before trying to rush out of the classroom.
“Noooo! Please don’t!” screamed a number of my classmates. Somehow they succeeded in stopping her but now Kotou-san was pouting.
“But Reika-san…” she sulked.
She really did love Senpai, didn’t she?
Anyhow, I wasn’t exactly happy about it but she gave me the nickname ‘Shop Boy’.
It had all begun with this.
“So your name is Minami Raita? Then it’s Minarai(Apprentice) for short, isn’t it. From today on you’re Apprentice.”
I told her that I didn’t want a nickname like that.
“Oh. Then since you’re an apprentice, Shop Boy it is.”
That was how I was stuck with something even worse… Urgh…
But oddly enough, it seemed like people started talking to me more after I turned into ‘Shop Boy’.
Because I had Senpai and Kotou-san, nobody used me as a gopher even though I was a Shop Boy, and everybody remembered me now too.
I guess in that sense being a Shop Boy wasn’t so bad then…?
My new friend, who was oddly well-informed, told me a rumour. Apparently the Emperor had given Kisshouin-senpai a love poem anthology, and had played her a song on the piano. Not only that but his best friend, Enjou-senpai, had shared an umbrella with her on the way home, and had gotten a gift too, and she was just living an incredibly splendorous life. That was Kisshouin-senpai for you~
When I looked out the window I think I saw Senpai and her friends being attacked by a flock of pigeons. But I must have made a mistake. How could that have happened to Kisshouin-senpai?
The senpai in the Student Council often worried about Externals like us. The other day they told me,
“If you end up in trouble with any of the Internal Students, and particularly any of the Pivoine, please come and talk to us.”
I threw out my chest and replied,
“I have Kisshouin-senpai so I’ll be fine!”
“I was really happy when she said that I was important to her.”
To clarify, the line she originally used in chapter 125 was literally,
‘Minami-kun is my club’s daiji na kouhai’
Daiji literally translates to important, but to simplify the explanation it can generally be taken as meaning ‘valuable’ (e.g. in the sense of strategic or exhaustible resources), ‘precious’ (e.g. in the sense of friends, family, or a loved one), or somewhere in-between.
The joke is that (although she obviously doesn’t really mean it) she’s treating him as a valuable war asset, but he thinks that she’s saying that she and the club cherish him as a member.
“Minami-kun is somebody very important to my club.”
“I was really happy when she said that I was important to her.”
was how I tried conveying the ‘misunderstanding’. What do you think?