We all sat down and welcomed Madam Kaburagi.
“Thank you all for participating today! This detox plan is the course that our hotel has the most confidence in, and we recommend it one hundred percent.”
With that, she came around and greeted each guest with a fabulous smile on her face. Maihama-san had chosen her seat to make sure Mrs. Kaburagi would notice her. She was really too easy to read.
The hotel staff came out to explain the details of the course to us. Besides the difference of eating macrobiotic foods, the itinerary was more-or-less the same as the fasting course. Basically a lot of visits to the beauty salon, and some elegant exercising at the gym.
I thought it was a waste to be spending time here instead of on my summer cram school course but Okaasama’s orders were absolute. I resolved to study while we weren’t doing anything.
After the explanations we had some free time so Maihama-san immediately sidled up to Madam Kaburagi. Sales time, huh.
As for me, since Okaasama was chatting to some women I assumed were her friends, I went to chat with Akimi-san instead.
“We’re together again, Reika-sama. I’m really glad that I have somebody my age to talk to.”
“I feel the same way. And we will be eating this year, so I feel a little more hopeful this time.”
We chatted peacefully for a while when Madam Kaburagi came over with Maihama-san in tow.
“Reika-san! And Akimi-san too! Thank you for coming! I’m glad to see the two of you here today. And you in particular, Reika-san. You wouldn’t come to any of our parties so I’ve missed you.”
“Gokigen’yoh. I will be in your care today,” I said after standing up.
“It has been a while, Kaburagi-sama,” followed Akimi-san.
“Reika-san, how has school been? That boy Masaya won’t tell me a thing. Please tell me all about it instead.”
“Well… Nothing truly comes to mind but… Masaya-sama constantly tops the exam scores, and seems to have fun each day with his friends.”
“Really? We’re talking about that unsociable boy of mine, aren’t we? Are you sure he hasn’t caused you some kind of trouble? If he does something brusque be sure to tell me.”
“Masaya-sama being brusque is unthinkable. Why, the other day when it rained he played Chopin’s Raindrop…”
“My! That boy did something like that!?” she laughed happily.
Maihama-san glared at me venomously while I spoke about a side of Kaburagi that she didn’t know about. Don’t hurt yourself over there.
While I was talking one of the staff members came looking for Mrs. Kaburagi.
“I’ll be having dinner with you all later. We can continue this then.”
“I understand. I will be looking forward to it.”
When Mrs. Kaburagi left, Maihama-san spat out a parting line before leaving herself.
“You’d better not get too full of yourself just because Masaya-sama’s Okaasama likes you a little bit, okay!?”
Akimi-san looked a little frightened.
“…Um, is that okay, Reika-san? You’re being glared at quite a bit…”
“Nothing at all to worry about. For some reason that girl seems to have arbitrarily designated me her rival.”
Akimi-san looked at me with sympathy.
“I see… It must be rough…”
It wasn’t though. If she wanted to squawk at me whenever we met it was no skin off my back. Of course, if we went to the same school this would be an entirely different matter.
Since Okaasama was heading back to our room now, Akimi-san and I promised to talk more later, before I followed after her.
They told us that before dinner we were free to go on a walk or exercise, so I made for the gym. It wasn’t really in my nature to sit there, impassively forging my muscles with the gym equipment, so there wasn’t much of that going on. Still, I decided to at least try the exercise bike for today.
I was just heading towards it when Maihama-san came along. Eh-, this girl was going to do it too? She noticed me too, and frowned.
Ah well, I thought, nothing to do with me. Following the instructor’s advice I set the weight and then started biking. Oh! This was kinda fun!
On the bike next to mine, Maihama-san started pedalling faster than I did. She glanced at me and then shot me a victorious sneer. Annoying.
I began pedalling faster than she did. This is my win!
But then Maihama-san increased her speed again. Grrr! I won’t lose to you!
The two of us started crazy pedalling like real athletes.
I could hear Coach Mihara in my mind.
“Don’t lose to yourself!”
“You can do it!”
The two of us kept our pace. We ignored the instructor’s calls for us to stop and continued pedalling away. Uryyyaaahhh!
But for some reason Maihama-san suddenly stopped and got off the bike.
“Aren’t you taking this a bit too seriously, Reika-san? Your hair is a mess. It’s unsightly. I don’t know why you’ve one-sidedly decided this was some competition but I’m not going to play along.”
Haahh!? The one who started this competition was her! And she was soaked in sweat herself! Coach! This girl ran away because she was about to lose to herself!
“Wooow, look at how hard you’re breathing. That’s just sad.”
She was putting up a tough act as she mocked me but she was breathing harder than I was. It was rare to meet a woman who so perfectly fit the word ‘boomerang’.
Since the instructor was looking pretty nervous, I decided to take my leave.
“You seem like the one who has been pushing herself,” I began, “There are bags under your eyes, you know? Oh wait, my mistake. Excuse me for my impertinence, Maihama-san, but would it not be better to invest in some waterproof mascara?”
While Maihama-san was taking out her mirror in a panic I used that opening to escape the gym. Hoooohohohohohohohoho! Relying on mascara even though you’re just a high school student? You only have yourself to blame, fool. Now then, Ms. Instructor, please show me to the next machine!
At dinner Maihama-san had lost the mascara and was using fake eyelashes instead. I see. So her weak point was her eyes. If she caused too much trouble I’d rip those stupid eyelashes off.
I turned to her and fluttered my naturally long lashes. How’s that? Jealous?
Before we began eating, there was a lecture on macrobiotic theory. Lots of foods were forbidden, and following the theory closely would be too hard on a white rice lover like me. I loved it. I loved it so much that I had considered buying a rice cooker to keep in my room. Yamagata Dashi on white rice…A regional dish from the Yamagata region named ‘dashi’ (no relation to the stock). Generally minced vegetables, other leafy greens, and soy sauce etc.
I wanted some of that now. Pickled food was amazing.
The madams around me seemed pretty impressed with it all but high society was filled with gourmands. It was impossible for them to change to a macrobiotic diet. Surprisingly though, the shy Akimi-san was listening passionately and even asking questions.
When the lecture was done we changed venues for dinner. I had come in expecting something like the vegetarian meal I had during the middle school trip, but it was actually really delicious. I suppose I should have expected this from a hotel owned by the Kaburagi. High standards in all things, huh. The madams seemed to be enjoying themselves as well.
Since we weren’t just starving ourselves on drinks, this time the conversation was a lot more lively too. Even I was talking a little.
Akimi-san was trying one dish after another, and sometimes even asking the chef questions about it. Who knew she was actually interested in this stuff.
Even after we were done eating she kept asking questions and taking notes with a pen in hand. Mrs. Kaburagi who had planned this course, seemed quite pleased that she was interested, and ended up joining in on the discussion.
When it seemed to be finished, I called out to her.
“Ah-, Reika-san. What’s wrong?”
“You were quite passionate just now. Did you have an interest in macrobiotic foods?”
“Yes. I got to learn about some very interesting things. I’m glad that I came today.”
Huh! Last year she was so unenthusiastic that she was hiding and eating snacks. She had come a long way.
“Akimi-san, shall we have some tea? If possible I would like to hear about this too.”
“It would be my pleasure, if you’re fine with me.”
The two of us moved to the hotel’s tea room.
“Actually, the truth is that I’m interested in cooking.”
“Yes. My major in university was in that field too, and I planned to become a chef of some sort…”
I was a little surprised that somebody shy like Akimi-san had such clear ideas of what she wanted in life. Plenty of rich girls just prepared to get married.
“Do you mean to open your own restaurant?”
“No, I’m nowhere near that talented… I just think it would be nice if I could teach at a cooking school one day…”
Akimi-san gave an embarrassed smile.
“That’s why I’m trying to learn as much about cooking as I can. This macrobiotic cuisine was just some of it. I’m actually enrolled in a few cooking schools, you know?”
She began to happily tell me about the different kinds of flavourings and broths used around the world. Apparently she was also a collector of soy sauce and ponzu.
“It’s because I’m like this that I’m fat, isn’t it…”
“Please do not think that way. I myself would love to try your food one day.”
“Really? I’ve still got along way to go though, okay?”
I was glad to have somebody so responsive to talk to this time. I wish she had opened up to me a bit sooner. Maybe I would have enjoyed last year too. Then again, it would have been some new form of torture to talk about food during a fasting course.
When I returned to my room, I realised that Umewaka-kun had sent me an email.
“Everyone wishes you were here doing the summer course with us. Beatrice is more or less back to her ideal figure, so let’s decide when to meet next week.”
Attached was a picture of Beatrice kissing him on the cheek.
I decided to give my all too. I wouldn’t lose to Beatrice.
The next day during the stroll and yoga sessions, I was swamped by housewives asking about Kaburagi. Come to think of it, this happened last year too, didn’t it~ These aunties loved hearing stories about youths.
“Reika-san, are you close with Masaya-san?”
“No, not particularly.”
“My. But that’s not what the rumours say. I’ve heard that you two are quite close.”
“Masaya-san sounds so dreamy~ If only I were a bit younger.”
“Goodness! You’re scandalous. But me too.”
“I know, right! Uhuhu, it seems like we’re all fans of Masaya-sama.”
“You are too, aren’t you, Reika-san?”
They still hadn’t run out of energy yet.
As for Maihama-san, apparently she was jealous when some of the madams joked about my being perfect for Kaburagi.
At some point she tried to trip me, but I jumped over it without a word.
Suiran or Yurinomiya, small fry were all the same.
One person’s recipe for Yamagata Dashi