Final exams started at the end of January, leaving me almost no time to blissfully remain in that stupor that follows after New Year's celebrations. I managed to get through them somehow, panting for breath as they ended.
I was killing time in the club room when one of the members excitedly ran in. 「Hey! I got a huge announcement to make!」
I didn't think it was going to be that important, so I continued my game of Reversi with Arioka.
「Kinoshita isn't going to give out any obligatory chocolate for Valentine's day this year!」
「I casually asked her a while ago and she told me that there was a guy last year who thought her obligatory chocolate was a confession so this year she's decided not to give out any chocolate!」
On last year's Valentine's, Kinoshita had given out chocolate to people who'd helped her out. There were dozens of people who received the same chocolates, so it was obvious that it was obligatory. And yet, someone had still misunderstood.
He was convinced that Kinoshita liked him and gave him those chocolates as a confession, and for a while he acted like he was her boyfriend and followed her around like a stalker.
It had turned out to be a dangerous situation.
「No obligatory chocolate… Even though I was looking forward to Kinoshita's chocolates so much! …..Now we have no choice but to strive for getting love chocolate!」
「So that's how it's going to be now!」
「That's right! And this means, even if Kinoshita won't give out any obligatory chocolates, she'll still give out love chocolates!」
「No, no,」 I added calmly, but the members were now heated up and wouldn't stop.
「Last year's Valentine's was so sad. A failed harvest, a crop failure the like of which has never been seen before. No, actually, it was a rice harvest because Noda gave out salty rice crackers!」
「Rice at Valentine's?! That's impossible, why would anyone give out rice crackers on Valentine's?」
「You're the one who said you wanted to eat something salty since you had too much chocolate that day!」
「You should've known I meant nori! You can't seriously prepare rice crackers for this!」1
「This is the first time I'm hearing of such a sad, gloomy cracker.」
「Noda was the only one gobbling them up too!」
Even though the members slumped as they looked back at last year's Valentine's, they immediately recovered. They stealthily discussed something as they whispered, making their motto 「This year for sure!」
「We cannot repeat last year! Let's have a meeting to discuss strategies for getting chocolate!」
「Arioka, Michel, and Noda — the good-looking trio — aren't in our group this year. I'll tell Michel afterwards; the other two, please cover your ears and continue playing Reversi.」
They glared as they rejected us and sat firmly in a corner, discussing something.
「Valentine's day, huh?」 I'd just realized it was that time of the year already. Events full of sweets were always fun, but Valentine's day could be a bit troublesome, so precautions were necessary.
「They're just excited for the event, so they're coming up with their own interpretations to suit themselves, aren't they?」 I sighed, remembering one of my past experiences that overlapped with Kinoshita's disaster.
「What? Did you also go through something like Kinoshita?」
「Aah, yes. Though it's an old story.」 As I began, all the members looked at me. When I asked, 「What is it?」 they pestered me to start over and tell the story faster.
「I usually decline love chocolates, but I mistook one for a friend chocolate and got into trouble…」 I'd happily received that person's chocolates, so they misunderstood and thought I liked them back.
「……What are you saying?」
「It's not like Kinoshita's story, is it?」
「What are you talking about? We both exchanged chocolates, it's the same!」
「Nope, it's definitely not the same,」 the members complained, sitting in their circle.
Comparing university to high school, there definitely wasn't as much trouble anymore. It was a great environment for Valentine's day, since there weren't any shoe lockers or book lockers.
In my high school days, I'd push three pairs of shoes into my shoe box, lock my locker, fill my desk with textbooks, and stuff the crevices with tissues.
Even then, I found hidden chocolate. Even though I could tell it was expensive, the sender hadn't written their name on it, and my heart raced as I wondered just who it was.
「Ever since I became a university student, I got a small bag with a zip on it so I'm more relaxed now.」
「Shouldn't you just come with a bigger bag? You're gonna get a ton of chocolate again anyway,」 interrupted the members, who should have been discussing their strategy by now.
「If I came with a huge opened bag, people would put chocolate in it in the blink of an eye!」
「They won't, not usually! God, this pisses me off! You popular people piss me off!」
「Waah, imagine being worried over getting love chocolate, and even refusing it!」
「Any normal person would cheer! If I got love chocolate, I'd jump for joy!」
All the members were furious, saying angered words. I wanted to tell them to get back to their meeting.
「It's my turn this year for sure! I'll get chocolate!」
One of the members, burning up with enthusiasm, started to say something that he really shouldn't have said. 「If Kinoshita isn't going to give any chocolate except love chocolate, I won't receive any chocolate that isn't love chocolate either. Even if it's my mom giving me chocolate as she tells me to work hard, even if it's Noda giving me rice crackers out of politeness, I'll refuse, and then when I have no options left, I'll woo Kinoshita!」
The members erupted into applause and cheers, 「Hip hip hooray!」
「Good idea! And if you do receive any chocolate, every time you do just say, 'Aah, not again! I don't care about these things,' in front of Kinoshita, it'll be so cool!」
「Idiot! Receiving love chocolate is a one in a million chance!」
「That's right! We have the same chance as winning the lottery! I'll still accept any obligatory chocolate, though.」
It was a vague thing to say about the lottery, I couldn't tell if they really thought they could win or not. They started enjoying themselves, imagining, 「What would I do if I won the lottery?」 I thought it was strange that they'd turned receiving love chocolate from Kinoshita into winning the lottery.
「Let's have a meeting to discuss strategies for being popular with the ladies and get chocolates!」
「Let's make a list of cool things to say!」
There was no conclusion since Arioka wasn't in charge this time. With no one to keep the members on track, the conversation quickly strayed away from the original topic. It was the definition of a disorderly mob.
「Well, since you guys aren't taking any obligatory chocolate, I'll make them for my family.」 I already had to give out friend chocolate, and I wanted to get out of having to make obligatory chocolate.
「You make chocolate?」
Arioka had already found out about my baking habits at the festival. I moved closer to the members and quietly replied, 「I make some for my family.」
「Ooh! Well then, I definitely want to try some of those. I really liked those cookies from the school festival.」
Although I bought friend chocolate from the store, I'd make chocolate for my dad, grandfather, uncle, and Chii-chan with my mother. I often made sweets with my mother, but there was a different enthusiasm about it on Valentine's day.
「Got it! But please keep the fact that I made them to yourselves, alright?」
I gave a sidelong glance to the noisy members, lining up chocolate recipes in my head as I wondered what I'd make this year.
- TL Note: Nori refers to edible seaweed.