After 20 minutes of driving, we arrived at the destination Mariko pointed to.
I mean, is this a hotel?
You know; this is a huge building, standing strong, but…
「 The 40th to 55th floors is the hotel in this building 」
「 The other floors are offices, shopping centers, hospitals, and art galleries 」
Oh, I see.
「 So, the bakery is in the hotel, that’s where you want to bring Nobu? 」
「 No. That’s not it 」
「 I’m bringing you to the hotel’s tea lounge 」
「 In that place, you can eat the same pastries the restaurant and room-service in this hotel serves 」
「 This is a foreign company’s first-class hotel. Their main office is in America and they are a business group that does trades around the world. Especially since this is close to the Japanese government offices and embassies. I heard that many political and business VIPs from the US and Europe stay here 」
「 Meaning, this hotel group serves the highest grade pastries in any of their affiliated hotels around the globe. They make the best pastries for people in countries where bread is their staple food 」
「 I see. It might be different from the Japanese pastries 」
In Japan, bread is still a snack between meals.
The idea of having bread as a proper meal and nothing else is not accepted yet.
Besides, we do eat pastries for breakfast or lunch, but…
There are hardly any people who eat bread every dinner.
「 Yeah, we have to try this 」
「 Okay, we’re going to park our car 」
Kudou-papa drives the minivan to the basement parking lot of the building.
「 If we’re parking here then we don’t need to leave Michi-san’s father here, right? 」
Up until now, he stayed with the car since the bakery is just close to the road.
Kudou-papa, our driver, had to stay behind.
「 Yeah. I guess. Kudou-san, join us and let’s have tea 」
Since he’s driving, I want to treat him with some coffee or something.
「 No, I’ll stay here 」
Kudou-papa said while smiling wryly.
「 I don’t have good compatibility with high-class hotels 」
「 Also, it’s a foreign company. I don’t even know if the old man Kouzuki’s face works on them 」
Oh, I see.
If it’s in a Japanese hotel, using the Kouzuki SS name will make them accommodate him in no time, but…
This is a foreign group hotel.
「 If a stinky guy like me goes with you, people in the hotel won’t look at you kindly. They might ask you to leave even before you could arrive in the tea lounge 」
Is that so?
「 I come with my father and mother but I never heard them say anything that impolite 」
「 That’s because you’re a young lady from a good family 」
Kana-senpai seems fed up.
「 Yes. I am Torii Mariko, so it should be okay. If you’re with me, then even Michi-san’s father can get in 」
If the people from the hotel remember Mariko’s face.
They might not kick out Kudou-papa, who’s our bodyguard.
Kudou-papa isn’t a guy that you can call a bodyguard.
How do I say this? He’s cold-hearted and suspicious-looking. Just as he said.
「 No, I won’t go. I’ll wait in the parking lot. So… 」
Kudou-papa looked at Haiji.
「 You should look after them 」
「 !!! 」
「 Hotels like this are an abode of demons. You need to be on guard at all times 」
「 O-Okay 」
「 No, I’m serious about this. You hear? 」
Kudou-papa smiled at Haiji.
◇ ◇ ◇
We use the elevator from the basement parking lot up to the 40th floor.
Mariko walks briskly and guides us.
「 Nobu, is it okay for me to be in this high-class hotels? 」
As soon as we entered the elevator, Kana-senpai asks me worriedly.
「 It’s okay. You, Kou, and Ai-san, was it? The three of you are wearing school uniforms. Haiji’s not wearing anything weird either 」
Haiji and Yomi are wearing a matching maid-clothing and apron.
They used it during the party for the young ladies last week and so it’s never vulgar.
It’s an elegant dress suited for the Kouzuki house.
Rather, our school uniforms are thin ones.
Kana-senpai is beautiful and has good proportions. Ai is also really cute.
They wear ordinary high school uniforms but they won’t lose when it comes to the first-class atmosphere.
As for me;
I think my school uniform is stunningly poor.
「 Hey, chest out Kou. You have to stay dignified, we’re in a high-class hotel 」
When I have to be with Misuzu at parties as Kuromori Kou…
Katsuko-nee prepares a new change of clothes for me and she fixes my hair.
Besides, Misuzu, Ruriko, and Michi are always by my side, supporting me in various ways.
It’s my first time going to a hotel wearing a school uniform.
「 It’s going to be okay, Sensei 」
「 Yomi’s with you in times like this 」
It’s helpful to have Yomi who has the Miko power with us.
「 Yeah. I’m relying on you 」
I smiled at Yomi.
「 Haiji, be sure to raise your caution to max 」
「 Certainly 」
「 Geez, Kou. This isn’t a place where you have to humble yourself. We’re just in a hotel 」
Mariko is amazed.
「 No, it’s a place we don’t enter most of the time so we’re cautious 」
「 But it’s the usual place for me 」
「 It may be for Mariko but for us, it’s a place where we feel out of place 」
「 Out of place? 」
「 Yeah. In places we go for the first time, our senses tell us “That’s dangerous,”…you won’t be able to tell what the cause of what makes your mind ring the alarm 」
That’s what we’re most afraid of.
「 Oh, so you think that way 」
「 I always do. If I’m alone then that’s okay but I can’t let everyone get into danger 」
I’m a man from a criminal organization, we have a lot of enemies.
Also, there will be people who’ll try to get involved with us on purpose.
I can’t let down my guard.
「 Yoshida-kuuun 」
「 It’s okay to be careful…but don’t be too tense… 」
「 Oh, you’re right. 」
I have to relax.
『 Pon~ 40th Floor 』
The elevator stops.
The door opens.
「 Wow 」
This is the 40th floor and yet this is a huge lobby in here.
「 Look! Look! Nobu, that tank over there has a lot of fishes! 」
Kana-senpai’s right, there is a large glass pillar standing behind the front desk of the hotel.
Dozens of fishes swim inside it.
Furthermore, the glass pillar is shining pale blue.
「 It’s beautiful 」
Ai stares at the huge aquarium.
「 This way. Stop staring and come with me 」
Mariko told us.
Oh, I guess getting surprised is a flop.
Our ordinary senses are exposed by the high-class hotel we’re not accustomed to.
Mariko goes to the tea-lounge on the floor.
She looks at the bellboy at the entrance.
「 Six people 」
She speaks dignified. Like it’s natural for her.
Then, we were guided to our seats without question.
「 Thanks 」
Mariko thanked the bellboy.
Yeah, she’s used to it.
「 As expected of you 」
「 It’s not a big deal. It’s just the usual 」
Mariko said, but;
「 Not you. I’m talking about the uniform you’re wearing 」
Kana-senpai speaks teasingly.
「 As expected, when they see that uniform for the school for the young ladies, they trust you immediately. As expected if your school. Not you 」
Kana-senpai knows Misuzu and Ruriko’s uniform.
I mean, Michi’s wearing that uniform all the time.
Mariko’s also a student at the same school so she knows.
「 Oh? You make it sound like I have no worth at all 」
Mariko is offended.
「 I didn’t go that far. I’m no demon to say that 」
Oh, sensing that this is Mariko’s home ground, she’s getting aggressive.
「 Let’s put that aside, and start ordering 」
I opened the menu and show it to Kana-senpai.
「 Wow, as expected of hotels. Their coffee and tea are expensive! 」
Kana-senpai’s right. The drinks are expensive.
「 You don’t have to worry about that. I’ll just have to use this card 」
Since this is a high-class hotel, I can use the black card Minaho-neesan gave me.
「 Oh, right. I guess I won’t care about it 」
Kana-senpai hugs my arm, getting spoiled.
「 Ah, Yoshida-kuun. Ai too! 」
Ai clings to my other arm.
「 Hey, you girls should stop doing that here. People are looking 」
Mariko warned them
「 Yes, yes, I know 」
「 Just one “yes” is enough 」
「 Yes! 」
「 Ai-san? 」
「 Uuu…I’m sorry 」
Putting aside that Mariko’s at the same age as Ai…
Kana-senpai is a year older than Mariko, but…
I guess she’s uneasy since this is an unfamiliar place to her.
「 I’ll take black tea, what about you Kou? 」
「 Then I’ll take the same 」
「 Then me too! 」
「 Ah…I’ll take the same 」
「 Yomi and Haiji? 」
「 I’ll also take black tea 」
「 Me too 」
Well, we just had coffee milk earlier.
Nobody wants to drink coffee for now.
「 Speaking of which, how was your experience with coffee milk? 」
If I recall, it’s her first time drinking, but…
「 That was too sweet. They could’ve lowered their sugar content 」
「 That’s why I would like to drink black tea this time 」
It seems that the coffee milk didn’t suit her taste.
「 !! 」
Mariko raised her hand and called the bellboy.
「 Six black tea. Also, bring in a pastry basket 」
「 Certainly 」
Mariko ordered the bellboy.
I see. So you receive the pastry in a basket.
「 Kou, see that there are no women in this tea lounge, right? They don’t use waitresses 」
「 Now that you mentioned it. Everyone in the tea lounge is all men 」
It’s all waiters.
「 It’s the proof of being a first-class. In Europe, men work in the food and drinks service. If you’re in a good restaurant in Europe, all people serving are men 」
「 Hotels pretty much have the same system of servants as those working in a nobleman’s house. And in Europe’s nobility, all the servants they have are men. Then, past 19th century, when it became hard to hire men, that’s when they started using women as maids 」
「 I don’t really care about the first-class or something but I prefer having waitresses 」
「 Oh, right. Ai and I will be waitresses at our school festival soon. We’re going to serve Nobu’s pastries while wearing tennis clothing 」
「 Why tennis clothing? 」
「 Because I’m in the tennis club. The tennis club is opening a cafe. What’s your club? 」
「 I’m registered in “Bible Reading Group,” and “Red Cross Service Organization,” but I don’t participate in their activities. Most of the time, I do research in equity investment with Momoko-oneesama 」
「 Momoko-oneesama? Who? 」
Kana-senpai asks me.
「 Is she a new girl? 」
「 No, no, not that kind of relationship. We did meet recently but that’s not it 」
Momoko-neechan isn’t my woman.
「 Err, she’s at the same age as Misuzu…Mariko’s senior 」
「 That’s right. That’s why I call her Onee-sama 」
「 I guarantee you. There’s nothing between her and Sensei 」
「 Yes, that’s right. Isn’t it, Haiji? 」
「 Yes, that’s right 」
Mariko said. Haiji also gave her a guarantee.
「 If she’s not a weird person then don’t mind her. Right, Ai? 」
「 Uuuu, yes 」
Kana-senpai and I replied.
「 If that’s the case then I’ll be sure to tell you. Isn’t that what I just did? 」
「 Yes…you’re right…I’m sorry…Yoshida-kun 」
Ai apologized with a small voice.
「 I’m sorry for doubting you too 」
While we’re having that conversation, the pastries and tea arrived.
「 It has a good color 」
「 And it smells good too 」
Ai and Kana-senpai speak their first impression of the pastry.
The basket has three varieties of round bread.
「 Well, try it out 」
「 Should we be putting butter in this? 」
They brought butter and a knife together with the pastry basket.
「 Indeed, but try it out as it is first 」
Right, I did as Mariko said and take one bread…
Then, I take a single bite.
Yeah, this is definitely delicious.
As expected of a global scale high-class hotel group pastry.
The other girls also take a bite, following my lead.
「 This sure is delicious 」
「 Yes 」
Kana-senpai and Ai check the taste spreading in their mouth.
「 But… 」
「 I get that this is delicious, I can tell that this is a first-class pastry…but somehow…I feel “is that all?” 」
「 Hmm 」
The two of them make a grim face.
「 Of course it is. This is what staple food bread means 」
「 The truth is that its pastry you eat together with the main dish. That’s why it doesn’t assert itself. This bread isn’t the conclusion of your meal 」
「 Just like white rice 」
You eat rice with other food.
If it’s just rice, it doesn’t have any taste, it’s incomplete.
If the rice asserts itself, then the taste of other food will be gone.
「 That’s right. Kou, but still, when eating rice with other food, it still needs to be delicious, right? Like, the quality of the rice itself, and how well it’s cooked 」
Right, you eat it together with other food, but…
It’s not tasteless.
Staple food should be as delicious as staple food.
「 First-class bread sure is delicious. However, it doesn’t compete with the flavor of other dishes. Instead, it has an effect of improving the taste of other food, right? 」
「 That’s true 」
「 In Middle Ages Europe, they put bread together with other food on the plate. You put a round flat piece of bread with a meat dish on top, then you soak the bread with the sauce of the meat in the end 」
「 To me, I believe that it’s fun to think about what kind of food you want to eat together with bread. If it’s this one, it would suit roast beef, red wine, and cheese 」
I see. I shouldn’t seek purely the taste of the pastry.
I should also think of what kind of food goes well with the bread I create.
「 It’s normal to think that it’s the customer’s freedom on how they want to eat the bread they purchased, but…I believe that the bakery can make suggestions to their customers, saying, “Please eat it like this.” 」
That way of selling is also possible.
「 This bread is different. Anyway, this one improves the other food 」
「 Now, try it with butter. Your impression will change 」
Adding butter changes the weight and taste of the bread.
「 I see. At first, you think that it’s just delicious but boring, but this has some depth to it 」
「 Correct. The bakery we first went through is certainly a high-class bakery but they push the pastry too hard that I’ve become sick and tired of it 」
「 As for the second one, I think that her life is bread. She completed just the bread that I feel like there’s something wrong 」
Bread is food that you eat together with other food.
「 As for the third one, it’s cute, but it lacks in development potential, right? If Kou’s going to develop a bakery business in the future, then I think that you need to look at the future, and propose a new form of bakery for the future 」
「 So that’s the “ambition” Mariko’s talking about 」
「 Yeah…somehow…the thing that’s much like us..is lacking..we can’t do that 」
「 Oh dear, isn’t that the young lady of Torii electronics? 」
Turning around, there’s an old man in his 30’s wearing an expensive suit.
「 What a coincidence meeting you in this place 」
The old man shows a snake-like smile.
He’s hairstyle is dressed younger than his age, it’s quite disgusting.
「 Oh, Matsuzawa-san, good day 」
Mariko forces a smile and greets the old man.