Inside the bakery constructed on the side of the school cafeteria.
I only take lessons for the first two classes in the morning.
Then, I start preparing in the bakery in the third lesson.
「 Now then, how was that? 」
I peek into the window of the business-sized oven.
「 Huh, it didn’t go well 」
Repetition of work every day.
But it’s never dull.
I may be doing the same thing, but it changes slightly.
Or should I say that change is a necessity?
If you do the same thing every day, then you’ll get used to it and get better little by little.
But growing accustomed means, you become dull.
Therefore, it’s the same work every day, but I always try out something to come up with a new idea.
If it comes to my mind, I try it out, no matter how small it is.
It’s okay to fail.
Failure only increases my experience.
For a dumb person like me, it will never go smoothly for the first time.
I come up with an idea, try it out, notice my failures, and amend it.
It’s a look that someone like me can repeat.
Today, I changed the three types of bread this morning.
I thought that doing this will be much more efficient but,
「 I guess this is a failure 」
I can sense it as I check the swelling of the bread inside the oven.
This method of baking is a blow.
It’s not out of the question, though.
「 I’ll have Katsuko-nee check the taste, and if it doesn’t pass, this won’t show up on the counter 」
Well, I don’t think it’s that horrible.
「 That’s okay, I guess. I only had three types as a trial for today, but we can use the other variations 」
It had that effect.
Yeah, I’ll just test this out again next week.
I might try and experiment in the mansion over the weekend.
Anyway, I’ll ask for Katsuko-nee’s opinion.
Those were my thoughts as I look at the bread baking inside the oven.
「 What? You’re watching me silently since earlier 」
「 I mean, Nii-san’s making such a serious face 」
「 And so I started gazing too. Isn’t that right, Koyomi-chan? 」
Luna calls out to Koyomi-chan on her side, but…
Koyomi-chan doesn’t answer.
She comes closer to Ai’s mother, who sits next to her.
Ai’s mother also stares at my work with a confused face.
「 Are you not bored? 」
「 Not at all. It’s intriguing. Isn’t that right, Koyomi-chan? 」
「 …… 」
「 …… 」
What’s this atmosphere? So troublesome.
「 Nii-san, should I help you out? 」
Luna said, but.
「 No, I don’t need it. It gets jam-packed later, and Katsuko-nee’s coming to help out 」
Katsuko-nee went to the board-chairman room. It seems like there are some papers she needs to return to the mansion because it needs Minaho-neesan’s stamp.
「 I think you can go outside for now and look around the cafeteria. Don’t go out though 」
We’re still in the 4th period in our class.
No students are hanging out in the cafeteria.
「 It’s okay. I want to watch Nii-san instead 」
Koyomi-chan and Ai’s mother aren’t saying anything while sitting down.
「 Oh right. Should I prepare tea for everyone? 」
Luna said as she stands up, but…
「 Not now. This will be baked in a few minutes, and I’ll be moving around. Don’t get close to the work table while I do that 」
I need to continuously place out the pads outside.
It would be dangerous to have Luna move around when she’s not used to it.
「 If it’s tea, then we have a coffee maker and water boiler in the staff room back then, you three can go there and drink some 」
「 Eeh? But I want to see Nii-san work 」
「 No, you might say that, but I don’t think Koyomi-san and Kiyohara-san have the same idea. I think you three should wait on the other room 」
Only at times like this when Yukino’s not coming over to slack off.
If Yukino’s here, then I’ll leave the three to her,
This is a group that I’m not compatible with.
There are ten more minutes until lunch break.
「 Yes, I want to watch. Koyomi-chan, Kiyohara-san, you want to stay over here too, right? 」
Luna asks the two.
「 Ah, yes 」
「 I guess 」
Koyomi-chan and Ai’s mother replied in a small voice.
I wonder why these three came to my bakery,
That’s because it’s Friday today.
Ai’s father will come back to Sendai from work.
And so, we need Ai and her mother to return home.
A mail reached Ai’s mother saying, “I’ll return at the usual time” from Sendai.
I mean, that’s the only contact he’s done.
Ai’s parents have a cold relationship for real.
Ai’s father will leave his office in Sendai and reach our local area by 9pm.
Even so, we still need to clean up Ai’s house, since they were absent for the week.
There’s a need for bracing oneself for making contact with Ai’s father.
Therefore, once we’re done in school, we’ll head to Ai’s house right away.
We can’t just have Ai and her mother return home with only the two of them.
After all, there’s hardly any conversation between the parent and child in the mansion for the past few days.
From the mother’s perspective, I took away her doted child.
Furthermore, the daughter she wants to stay as a young girl is turned to a woman.
On the other hand, Ai was thoroughly trained to do things herself while everyone watches her change her life, where she leaves everything to her mother.
She probably doesn’t know how to make contact with her mother.
If she shows a face asking for help, then everyone will scold her.
「 Okay, sorry about that. I’m done with my job now 」
Katsuko-nee returns with a briefcase at hand.
I don’t know what to do with this group alone.
「 I’ll prepare the cash register. I’ll leave this side to you! 」
She washed her hand then head to the cafeteria.
It can’t be helped.
The oven says that it’s done baking.
「 Okay, let’s do this! 」
I open up the oven and take out the pastries.
「 Katsuko-nee, I’d like you to check some of this 」
「 Got it, I’m going 」
Our fight before the lunch break begins.
◇ ◇ ◇
Minaho-neesan’s the one who mentioned that we should show Ai’s mother how Ai works as a seller.
Showing the change before they return home.
And so, Katsuko-nee brought Ai’s mother before the lunch break to our school.
Luna’s here because of her Miko power.
She’s to monitor Ai’s mother’s mental state, and if the push comes to shove, then she’ll use her power to compel her.
Yomi is much better when it comes to that power, but…
The two of them know about Yomi’s power, and so it’ll only make them nervous if Yomi’s present.
Luna’s using her Miko power daily to train it, and so, she can use the same power, but not as strong as Yomi.
But, the Kiyohara mother-daughter thinks that Luna can only read minds, and so it’s just a perfect trump card that we can use when we need it.
Well, actually. Ai and her mother can’t defy us because of Yomi’s power, so I don’t think there will be trouble, but just in case.
Tsukiko can use both powers freely, but,
Tsukiko’s recently put on the Takakura shrine maiden’s mysterious atmosphere, that it gives out her presence.
It seems like Ai and her mother don’t like dealing with Tsukiko. It’s on the same level as Misuzu and Ruriko.
「 I’m here! Ooooh! Koyomi-chan’s also here! 」
Nei comes in first today.
「 Huh, you skipped out of your classes again, Ya-chan? 」
「 It’s okay, I’ll be back before the seventh period ends 」
As usual, what a free spirit.
「 I’m hungry! 」
Yukino also comes over before the chime.
I mean, in Yukino’s case, she can’t help but come in here secretly before lunch break.
「 Oh, you’re here too? 」
Yukino’s not surprised that Ai’s mother is here because she heard it this morning, but,
She’s astonished that Koyomi-chan’s also here.
「 Well, why not? It must be suffocating for you to stay in that house. I mean, it’s the blonde princess’ world during daytime 」
Margo-san’s in the US right now.
Nagisa’s got her shop, Katsuko-nee’s helping me out in the bakery.
Minaho-neesan’s at the mansion, but she’s working on Kuromori and Kouzuki SS’ data analytics.
That’s why, the mansion has Tsukiko, Mana looking after Agnes, Yomi, Luna, Koyomi-chan, and Mao-chan.
Mao-chan goes with Nagisa to the flower shop during the day, but,
When that happens…
Agnes becomes in control of the children.
Luna’s obedient, and Koyomi-chan’s accustomed to life with us, and so her heart remains closed.
「 I thought that she should breathe in the air from the outside. Besides, Koyomi-chan feels at ease when she’s with Kiyohara-san 」
Ai’s mother and Koyomi-chan are always together in the mansion.
The two seem confused with our lifestyle.
They seek each other.
AI’s mother wants a child to protect, replacing her daughter.
Koyomi-chan wants a person she can treat as a mother.
They have what the other lacks.
No, well, we try not to give them excessive contact to not let it become dependence,
Katsuko-nee and everyone monitors them, and they’re never alone.
「 We’ll bring her back to Kiyohara-san’s house too 」
Minaho-neesan mentioned that Koyomi-chan’s existence eases up Ai’s mother’s mental state.
She won’t break as long as she has someone she wants to protect.
「 That’s why I’m also here. I thought that Koyomi-chan might get lonely 」
Luna shows that she’s only here to play with Koyomi-chan.
「 I mean, Koyomi-chan and I passed the mock entrance exam, but, Agnes-chan didn’t 」
「 That’s why Agnes-chan’s studying in the mansion for today 」
「 Yes, Tsukiko-oneesama and Yomi-oneesama are teaching her 」
「 Right. Agnes-chan loves Luna-chan a lot. If you were in the mansion, she’ll chase after you and make an uproar 」
Luna wants to be separated from Agnes from time to time, and so she came with us, or so that’s the setting.
「 Okay, battle-ready! 」
Nei fires herself up and brings the pads I take out from the oven to the storefront.
「 Katsuko-nee, could you taste-test these three? 」
「 Sure sure 」
「 I tried to change the method from the usual, but it didn’t go that satisfactorily 」
I was explaining, and yet, Katsuko-nee tastes the next sample already.
There’s not much time before the lunch break.
Anyway, we take out everything from the oven.
I leave it to preheat as we’re still to place the second batch of pastries in the middle of lunch break.
A light cleaning of the oven inside, and bring in the pads of dough in line.
「 Should I help out? 」
Luna seems interested, but,
「 Sorry, I’ve got instructions to follow on which goes in first, and which goes where 」
Placing all that needs high or low temperature while baking.
I also need to consider the time required for baking.
Each of them has a planned out time before entering the oven.
「 You can watch for today. We’ll teach you Luna-chan later 」
Katsuko-nee says while eating up the failed products I made.
「 Let’s see, This three samples should go on sale as the cheaper products 」
「 No, if they’re a failure, don’t sell them 」
「 If we were to sell the usual with a lower price, they’d think of it as suspicious 」
It will be a problem if they misunderstand the cut in price.
The regular price of our products is calculated with the cost and earnings in mind.
「 If a customer were to ask, “why is it cheaper today?” Then we can just answer “Yoshida-kun failed on that one” 」
「 There are two things I’d like you to understand. The first one is that you must profit from what you do. This is your bakery 」
I can’t just dispose of it because I failed.
「 And as for the other one, you must sell the same quality products 」
「 There are people who are looking forward to the tasty version of this product. Therefore, you mustn’t think of lowering quality without thinking. Especially when you’re selling them 」
「 Therefore, don’t try this again. If you want to test something, then do it with items we’re not selling 」
Selling the failed products for 50-yen cheaper is a punishment for me.
「 Yeah got it. Tell everyone that I failed on making this one 」
「 Yes, you must feel embarrassed about it. And, don’t repeat the same mistake. That’s how you become a professional 」
Be ashamed and be better.
That’s why it’s okay.
「 The idea isn’t to blame, but the part where you tried it now. That’s all 」
Katsuko-nee’s smiling, but her eyes show strictness.
「 You’re right. Sorry 」
I shouldn’t just make changes because I had an idea on site.
「 You’re used to making pastries, aren’t you? That also includes selling off the ones you made. Because of that, you do stunts like this without thinking. 」
I was thinking of altering my daily work, thinking that it’ll get better, but,
I can’t change things that simply.
We’re selling these products to people.
「 Ojou-sama scolded me for the same thing back then 」
Right, this is also Katsuko-nee’s first time selling in a bakery.
「 Everything is a trade, that’s the basics of business. When you think that you’re accustomed to it, then you must warn yourself. The thoughts “This is like me,” or “I’d do this if it were me” needs to be put away 」
Katsuko-nee is talking about her experience during her time as a prostitute.
Katsuko-nee was like me just now.
Once you get used to the job, you’ll try to alter it for yourself and fail at it.
Or maybe, Minaho-neesan scolded her before Katsuko-nee failed.
I guess that happened too.
「 You’re still just at the entrance of pastry making, and so you should master the techniques to create varieties 」
「 Right 」
「 Besides, we already have those with the method you came up with 」
「 Huh? 」
「 Have you thought that someone else came up with this idea other than yourself? 」
I just have the idea, and someone’s already done it.
「 This is a lesson. That’s why feel the embarrassment for today 」
「 That’s right, Don’t forget that 」
「 I won’t forget what I’ve done back then either 」
I shouldn’t ask what she did.
「 It’s necessary to learn and remember that embarrassment! People who just laugh it off and repeat the same mistakes all the time, exist too 」
Nei shows her face inside the bakery and said with a smile.
「 That’s right, there are many people who move forward without taking the shame to their heart 」
I must engrave this.
「 Hey, it’s the chime already! Yo-chan, you need to move three times faster now! 」
「 Ah, yeah 」
I move around faster.
Katsuko-nee also helped out.
「 Be gentle, even when you’re in a hurry 」
「 Roger that, Katsuko-nee 」
Ai’s mother and Koyomi-chan stare at me while I work.
Luna and Yukino are also watching, but they have a different temperature.
Luna’s gaze has the warmth of the family, but,
Ai’s mother and Koyomi-chan’s eyes…
I think it’s a cold gaze, trying to measure me.
「 Hey, Yo-chan, don’t think of anything unnecessary for now! 」
「 That’s right, concentrate on your job! 」
「 Right! 」
I’ll concentrate on my work for now.
◇ ◇ ◇
「 That’s 270 yen 」
「 Thanks, see you again 」
「 Yeah, two of this? Got it 」
「 Don’t cut in the line! Go to the back! 」
The lunch break battle has started.
As usual, Katsuko-nee, Kana-senpai, and Nei stand in the front first.
Edie’s watching the line.
「 Yoshi-kun left-pad has only 13 and 9 left. 」
「 Got it, I’ll start up the second batch with those two! 」
Megu makes a round trip from the counter back to the bakeshop and cleans up.
「 Wow, that’s a lot of trouble 」
Yukino’s the only one eating up her lunch box inside.
Ai’s mother and Koyomi-chan…
After the second batch is baked and the counter could take a break, everyone will eat lunch in turns, and the two of them will do it together with Ai.
They’re not doing anything in this busy moment.
「 Ai… 」
Ai’s mother is watching the storefront through the laptop Katsuko-nee brought.
I don’t think we can show Ai’s mother and Koyomi-chan to the students in the cafeteria.
We can’t explain why are a parent and a 12-year-old girl are with us.
Even so, our bakery and the counter area is separated with just one wall…I mean, the door’s open, and so you can hear the voice of the sellers.
「 Ah, that’s 480 yen 」
「 Uuu, two of them is 370 yen 」
As usual, Ai only sits next to Nei and does the calculations.
She was nervous after knowing that her mother is in the bakery, but…
As soon as the work started, she’s focused on calculations.
We discovered that she has this much concentration just recently.
People aren’t just what they seem.
The first impressions are never correct.
「 Okay, the second batch is coming! 」
「 Okay! 」
I take out the pads from the oven and line them up.
Megu, Edie, and Nei come in to take them.
I bake the next group while at it.
「 Okay, the second batch is baked! 」
「 These are great as desserts after the meal! Come here and buy it! 」
「 It’s freshly baked. 」
It’s already about 12:30 in the afternoon.
Students who ate lunch in their classrooms come over to buy sweet pastries.
The number of customers isn’t as much compared during the lunch break, but still…
Customers keep on coming…
「 Okay, Kana-chan, Ai-chan, you girls can take a break 」
Ai always takes a break together with Nei and Kana-senpai.
If it’s Megu or Edie, Ai feels nervous.
「 Okay, let’s go, Ai 」
「 Uuuuu, okay 」
The two return to the bakery.
「 Now then, please eat lunch too 」
Kana-senpai brings out lunch boxes for them, including Ai’s mother and Koyomi-chan.
「 This is my first time meeting this girl, Nobu? 」
Oh, it’s her first time seeing Koyomi-chan.
「 Koyomi-chan is our cousin 」
「 Hmmm, I see. Then, I’m just asking… 」
「 Unfortunately, even this idiot won’t lay his hand on her 」
Yukino smiled wryly.
「 Looks like even demons like this man don’t get excited with this flat girl 」
「 Well, I guess. What’s your age? Are you in fourth grade? 」
「 Koyomi-chan is at the same age as Agnes-chan and me 」
Luna replies since Koyomi-chan stays silent.
「 Oh? I think it’s right within Nobu’s appetite? Come here. Ai, what are you doing over there? 」
Ai’s distancing herself from her mother.
「 U-Uhm 」
Ai’s mother looks confused too. She doesn’t know what to say to her daughter.
「 Ai, take this 」
I hand her a piece of bread from the pad.
It’s a freshly baked from the oven.
This one has a bad shape.
This is something we don’t intend to sell from the start.
「 Huh? 」
Ai looks at the bread in surprise.
「 Hand it to your mother 」
Ai looked at me and nodded.
「 U-Uhm, M-Mama 」
Ai hands the bread to her mother.
「 A-Ai? 」
The mother touches the freshly baked bread.
「 T-This…You see, I-I made this 」