Baka to Tesuto to Syokanju:Volume12.5 Me, Christmas Eve and the Whirls of Conspiracies (Second Half)
Me, Christmas Eve and the Whirls of Conspiracies (Second Half)
"Well seriously, that was a cruel sight in the afternoon."
"Really? I was enjoying myself there."
It's night, right after the school activities have ended
Everyone's gathered at my house, celebrating the Silent Night.
"Baka onii-chan, thank you for inviting me."
"No no, I'm thankful that you're able to make it here, Hazuki-chan."
I pat Hazuki-chan on the head as she continues to thank me, and she closes her eyes comfortably like a cute kitten.
"Sorry about that, Aki, there's a lot of us here, and you had to invite Hazuki along."
"It's fine. Besides, the more the merrier."
This time, including the usual gang of me, Yuuji, Hideyoshi, Muttsurini, Himeji-san, Minami and Kirishima-san, there's also Kudou-san, Hazuki-chan and nee-san, so there's 10 of us. Looking at this, the living room's really dazzling right now. If the guys in our class is to see this now, Yuuji, Muttsurini and I will definitely be killed off by them.
"Aki, where do we place the gifts?"
"Ah, well, nee-san wants them gathered together, so can you put it there?"
"Okay. Come on, Hazuki."
Minami and Hazuki-chan are each carrying a wrapped gift as they head to the next room. Yuuji, Muttsurini and Hideyoshi pass by them, and walk towards me.
"This gift exchange really does give a Christmas feel."
"...Not bad to have such things once in a while."
"I'm looking forward to see the unique traits of the chosen presents."
Since we have a rare Christmas party right now, I thought of coming up with this gift exchange. The budget for each person cannot be more than 2,000 Yen, and they can buy whatever they want. I wanted to limit the budget to within 500 Yen because of Hazuki-chan, but Minami said "Don't worry, I'll give her some money to spend." So I left it to her.
"You handed your gifts to nee-san?"
"I just did."
Once she heard of my plan, my serious sister said 'in that case, there's a need to make sure nobody knows who prepared which present', and took up this role. Thanks to her, even I, as the organizer, don't know whose present is whose.
"Speaking of which, Akihisa."
"Hm? What is it, Yuuji?"
"You did mention that thing to Himeji before, right?"
Yuuji asks me, giving me a serious look.
And in response to that, I too give a serious look, answering,
"Well, of course...it's a matter of life and death."
Yuuji gave me a suggestion regarding today's gift exchange. I told Himeji-san beforehand that 'I want anything other than food'.
"If you didn't want it, she would have prepared something else."
"Especially since you have Akira-san making sure you have proper nutrition here."
"Yeah, thanks to that, Himeji-san doesn't have to worry about that."
The four of us laugh. Thanks to Yuuji, we can proceed to exchange gifts with relief.
At this moment, I see Himeji-san, who's returning after handing her gift to nee-san, talking with Minami.
"I put some handmade cookies inside."
"You made something, Minami-chan? I did too.."
The conversation between Himeji-san and Minami causes us to sink to the depths of hell.
"Wh-what's the matter with you guys, Muttsurini-kun, everyone?"
"Why are you covering faces and shivering, onii-chans?"
Kudou-san and Hazuki-chan are worried about us while we're crying. Looks like we're fated not to have a nice party today.
"Akihisa! Did you really tell her!?"
"I-I did! I told her 'we have food and drinks, so bring something else'!"
"...Then why did it end up like that?"
"The temptations of cakes and stuff is troubling~"
"...Sweets are different from savory food."
I can hear the conversation between Kudou-san and Kirishima-san giving me the answer. I-is it because of my poor choice of words...!?
"Well, it's Akihisa."
"Um, can't be helped."
"Nonono! This responsibility should be on Yuuji for not giving the right advice--"
"Oi Himeji! Akihisa wants to get your gift no matter what, so can you give some hint on the appearance?'
"Eh? A hint?"
"--Hold it right there Yuujiiii!! Let go of me, Hideyoshi, Muttsurini! I need to hurry and stop that idiot!"
"This is fate."
"...Just accept this obediently."
Hideyoshi and Muttsurini press me down while I'm trying to stop Yuuji. Is this the only moment when everyone's combination is perfect!?
"Ahaha. I'm happy that Akihisa-kun's thinking of me like this, but I think such cheating isn't right."
"That might be the case, but please understand that Akihisa's feelings."
"No, it's fine, because--"
"Give up already, Akihisa!"
"...You're being dishonest."
"It's not that kind of person, okay! This is a matter of my own life--"
"That's because I prepared one specially for Akihisa-kun."
"Well, Himeji-san, if possible, do you mind telling me the unique traits of your present?"
The moment I heard Himeji-san's words, I'm mentally prepared, and I ask her with a refreshed tone while Hideyoshi and Muttsurini are pulling me.
(He wants us to follow him to his demise!?)
Since my death's a done deal, I have to ask Himeji-san for the unique characteristics of her gift, and then I'll wait for Yuuji and the others to get that gift. As for why that's the case, we're buddies, sworn brothers.
We're to be born together on the same day, and die together on the same day.
"You can't do this, Akihisa-kun, Sakamoto-kun. This is considered cheating."
Himeji-san raises her finger to criticize me. That action's cute, but I can't forget the fact that she's trying to end my life here.
"Where is it?"
"No means no. A game is about following the rules so that it can be enjoyed, you know?"
Himeji-san leaves these words and turns away to leave to stop us from having such thoughts.
(((Saving my own life's more important than the rules...)))
And as we watch her leave, we're shivering in fear due to this death game that is about to happen.
The Christmas Party begins in such an atmosphere.
We're chatting away happily, eating the food that's crammed all over the table.
"Eh? Did you bake this one, Sakamoto-kun?"
"Yeah, I got here early today, so I borrowed his steam oven. It's an event food, so I added lots of spices to add flavor. Does it fit your tastes"
"Yeah. I didn't expect Sakamoto to cook such a large thing until it's so flavorful."
"Controlling the heat is as easy as adjusting the settings. If I have to mention any tips to this, you have to make a slit on the turkey, and then add sliced almonds and salt inside."
"...The breast meat isn't dry."
"I added butter and olives there, or else it'll be too bland."
The turkey Yuuji cooked does feel like it's a 'manly cuisine', but he really put in a lot of effort controlling the heat and flavoring. This guy's always good at making large portions of food and hot pot.
"Hazuki never thought you would be able to cook this well, big brother. Amazing~"
"You can quickly pick up on it if you help out often at home, pipsqueak."
"Seriously, Hazuki isn't a pipsqueak."
"Hahaha, is that so?"
Yuuji teases Hazuki-chan for quite a bit as he laughs. An only child like him is probably overwhelmed by cuteness when he sees a little sister character like Hazuki-chan.
"Did you make this bread-like sweet, Shimada?"
"Yeah, it's called Stollen. Back in Germany, we eat it during Christmas."
"A German pastry? Since you made it, Minami-san, I suppose it has a local flavor to it."
"I do like this one a lot~the sweetness and texture really is nice~"
Kudou-san digs into the sweet Minami made called the 'Stollen', giving a satisfied smile. This Stollen refers to a German bread filled with all kinds of dried fruits and nuts inside, baked and then layered with icing sugar. After it's done, it is left aside so that the flavor can be absorbed, making it sweeter. I had a taste, and it's true that the surface feels fluffy and crisp, while the inside is soft, and has a fruity flavor to it, which blends in perfectly with the sweetness, making it really delicious.
"So, did you make the rest, Yoshii-kun?"
Kudou-san eats the Stollen as she looks at the food on the table, saying this,
"Yeah, I guess."
"Akihisa-kun's good with this as usual."
"Nothing to complain about Aki when it comes to this."
"...Yoshii will make a wonderful bride in the future."
"I don't think I can be happy about this praise…"
Should I have gone for large food stuff like Yuuji did? Thinking about this, I look at what I did.
Smoked salmon and olives salad, Lasagna with shredded cheese and meat sauce between the layers, Quiche with bacon, wieners and ham, and I also tried making some Bagna Càuda. There's a lot of people here to eat, so I can try some cuisines I hardly try, so I'm sorta happy about this.
And while we're laughing,
"Speaking of which, Himeji, Shimada."
"What's the matter?"
"Do your presents need to be kept cold?"
Yuuji's ignites the start to the present hunt (shoving to each other?)
Normally, in such typical battles between us, the first one to attack will often be crushed by others. Even though this should be the usual pattern,
(Right, good going, Yuuji…!)
(Nice question there.)
(...Won't make it suspicious.)
This time, we're quietly cheering for Yuuji in our hearts.
Actually, we're in an alliance to collect intel right now. As for why that's the case.
(It'll be terrible if Shimada's sister is to get that one.)
(We got to make sure Hazuki-chan doesn't get to draw that…!)
(...That's not something that can be eaten by kids.)
As for why that's the case, it's because Hazuki-chan's around. Leaving aside the other girls who went through the purgatory of the black hot pot, it's too much to let her eat Himeji-san's cooking when she's so young. That's why we've decided to worked together to find Himeji-san's present, and then make sure Hazuki-chan won't draw it.
First, we'll work together to find Himeji-san's present. And then we'll betray each other.
"? My present?"
"? What do you mean?"
"No, well. Didn't you girls say that you made some good? If it's raw or something, won't it be ruined or something?"
Yuuji's smiling. It looks like he's really worried about their foods.
This guy's probably trying to get some intel. If they're to suddenly exclaim "Sorry, I forgot! I'll put it in the fridge no!", there's a huge chance that we'll get to see what the present is like, and even if we can't see, once it's refrigerated, we can hold it in our hands and find out. If we have something like 'it's okay, I got a coolant', we can also consider that.
"I'm fine. It won't be ruined.
This answer is to be expected. What we heard from the conversation was that Minami made 'handmade cookies', so there's no need to refrigerate them.
"Yes, me too."
Looks like Himeji-san's food doesn't need to be refrigerated either. Anyway, we got a hint.
"Then, any problems with how it's placed?"
"...There's a chance it's upside down."
This time, it's Hideyoshi and Muttsurini asking.
Himeji-san and Minami ponder for a little while,
"No problems at all."
"Me too. It's more or less okay, I think."
Now we have more clues. Even if it's tilted, I don't think it'll spill out.
Okay, now I should be asking from another direction.
"Speaking of exchanging gifts, I forgot to confirm this with you."
"What is it, Aki?"
"I intend to let everyone pass the presents around as the music play, so are your presents heavy?"
How about I ask about the size and weight?
"Um...mine's a little large, but it's fine."
We can't help but do victory poses in our hearts. Now we know Himeji-san's present is 'a little large, but it's not so large and heavy for Hazuki-chan to carry'.
The four of us exchange glances, and we nod. This is where we'll stop asking; if they're getting suspicious, they'll start to feel uneasy about moving the presents around, and it'll be troublesome if we end up doing a lucky draw.
"Oh yeah, Akihisa. I feel like having some coffee now. You mind if I borrow your kitchen?"
"Ah, I'll go brew some. I feel like having some anyway."
"Is it okay? I'd like to go too."
We call out in unison as we leave our seats. Our strategy meeting will be held in the kitchen. We have more than enough clues now.
"What do you guys think?"
"What else to think about?"
"Yeah, it's very obvious now."
The four of us are gathered in the kitchen, discussing. Based on what we got, we're exchanging suggestions on what the dangerous item might be.
- The item doesn't need to be refrigerated.
- The item doesn't come with a coolant.
- The item isn't heavy.
- The item's a little large .
Looking at these 4 hints, the food mostly likely here is--
(((--A Chiffon cake…!)))
Our eyes glow. Based on the information we obtained, the ingredient fees and others, we can guess that it's something similar to that.
The result of our teamwork allows us to obtain some critical information.
In that case, what's next is--
"Himeji-san's present is probably some handmade chocolate or something."
"No. It's probably a senbei box or something, right?"
"Surely it has to be mixed jelly."
"...It's definitely biscuits."
And then, everyone's trying to bluff against each other, vying for supremacy. The special job is done, and we're now enemies. This is an important battle on how to stuff the dangerous item to each other.
"It can't be senbei. This isn't the season for it."
"Won't the mixed jelly seep out if it's put sideways?"
"Biscuits can't possibly be this bad."
"...If it's chocolate, you have to refrigerate it."
Everyone's denying each other's ideas. Oh dear.
"Seriously? Everyone has different suggestions."
"That means we can't be sure of this."
"I'd say it can't be help."
"...We just have to leave it to luck later."
The four of us are giving each other the 'guess we got no choice look'.
"(Bam) nee-san! I guess I should take over hosting the presents after all!"
"We can't let you do that, Akihisa! Akira-san! Leave it to me!"
"What are you two say? I'd say that I'm most suited for doing this!"
"...This is should done by the quiet and fair me…!"
All of us are trying to be the first to get to nee-san, who has the presents arranged in the next room. We're tripping each other, pulling at each other's shirts, and after a long tussle, we manage to make it to her.
"It's fine. I can do it all myself."
That one line from nee-san caused us to return to the living room dejectedly.
"Now then, how about we start exchanging the presents?"
This line from nee-san cause us to be on thin ice. Every action we do from now on with be linked directly to Hazuki-chan and our lives, so this is to be expected.
"When I play the music, please pass the presents around to the one beside you. Once it stops, you may accept the presents you are holding."
Once she said this, nee-san switches on the radio power. I guess it's we're using that to play the music.
"I didn't know what kind of music I should play at first, but I chose a song everyone is very familiar with, and everyone can enjoy it."
"(Beep)! I'll sing a birthday song for nee-san! Haapppyy birsuday! Tooyooouu♪
A familiar singing voice can be heard from the music. Isn't that the birthday present I gave nee-san when I was in elementary school?
"Stop it, nee-san! This isn't something for others to hear!"
"But look, Aki-kun. Don't you see everyone enjoying this a lot?"
"(Snickers) That's quite some good singing there, Akihisa."
"(Snickers) Older sisters will be happy to receive such gifts from their younger siblings."
"(Snickers) Yoshii-kun really was cute back then."
It's inhumane to sacrifice me for everyone's enjoyment! Shouldn't everyone be part of the punishment so that everyone can enjoy it?"
"How about this CD?"
"No, I think this CD is better."
"Is this what baka onii-chan sang when he was younger? Hazuki-chan wants to hear this too"
"No, don't do that! Play another tune, please!"
"Really? I guess I don't have a choice then."
Nee-san tinkers with the radio, and switches the tone.
And then, a customary Christmas song echoes, one that can normally be heard on the streets.
"I'll sing the next one then! Jingle Bellsz♪ Jingle Bellsz♪"
--And again the singer is me.
"Erm, Akira-san. Akihisa-kun has been squirming and shivering over there with his head low for quite a while…"
"He's probably too anxious to receive the present that he's jumpy now."
This is...this is…!
"I can't leave the music to you, nee-san! I should be the one playing the music in the first place!"
"Oh, wait, Akihisa."
"Don't you you can get away with trying that in this mess."
"...Can't be careless here."
Tch! It was a perfect chance here!
Left with no choice, I can only head into the room to get a mainstream media CD, and I put it inside the player. In the meantime, nee-san brings in the presents from the next room.
"Now then, everyone. Please take a present, and once the music starts, pass it to your left."
All the members are seated in a circle, the presents put on the laps. The music is set to play until it stops at the set time. In fact, if I know when the music stops, I can control where the presents go, but…
"What's the matter, Aki-kun? Why are you looking at nee-san like this?"
"Ah, it's nothing.."
Nee-san's giving me that same old poker face again, and I can't tell how many minutes she set. That player isn't precise to the second, so I can only just try to dump the dangerous present to a certain person.
"Now then, is everyone ready?--Start."
She may have been a student who studied overseas, but nee-san's 'start' certainly sounds Japanese. And with this command, the music begins.
We start to pass the presents to the ones on our left, and receive the presents from our right.
"This really is nostalgic."
"I haven't done this since I was in elementary school~"
"Hazuki did this last year, you know?"
Himeji-san, Kudou-san and Hazuki are having their cheery conversation.
As for the 4 of us, we're widening our eyes, glaring at each other with eyes of one with a deep, deep grudge.
There are 10 presents, It's quite a few of them, but luckily, half of them are small enough to be lifted with one hand.
Amongst the 10, 5 of them are large boxes, but 3 of them aren't tall enough. If it's a Chiffon cake, it's probably a little taller. Himeji-san's present is probably one of the remaining 2 boxes then. One of them is green, and the other is red. Which one is the real one?
The green box is passed to my hands, and once I receive it, I hand it to the side. 'clack', at this moment, it sounds like a little box of something inside it.
(This is...well,it's definitely the red one!)
If a soft thing like a Chiffon cake or something else is put into the box, normally, it would be fastened down to prevent it from moving. It sounds like something hard, so I can guess that the green one is the safe one.
I sensed some presence, and so I lift my head.
At this moment,
Yuuji, Hideyoshi and Muttsurini immediately avert their eyes. These guys...they're watching me to see if I found anything dangerous!
Looks like those 3 have determined their target as the red one. Now all that's left is to push it onto each other. The key to winning this is to see who ends up with the red box in the end.
On a side note, this is how we're seated,
For me, as long as I can control the time, I'll just hand the bomb over to Yuuji when the time's almost up.
A relaxing, fast-paced song can be heard from the audio player.
And when I look at the clock, I see that 1 minute and 50 seconds have passed. In other words, if the time is set at 2 minutes, there's still another 10 seconds…!
The one holding the red present right now is probably nee-san. Looking at how things will keep up, it'll probably end up with Muttsurini or Kirishima-san. After Kirishima-san would be Hazuki-chan and Hideyoshi, and before her would be Muttsurini. Please let Muttsurini receive the present.
While the three of us, the safe ones, are planning,
The rhythm suddenly got faster, and everyone starts to pass the presents faster.
With 5 seconds left, the present passes Hazuki-chan.
With 3 seconds left, the present passes Hideyoshi.
With 1 second left, the present reaches me.
"Here, Yuuji, for you!"
"Woah hoo, my shoelaces…!"
"You aren't wearing it at all, right!? You aren't wearing shoes now, right!?"
And right when I'm about to hurry and pass off the box, Yuuji suddenly bends down, putting his hands on his shock. Y-you bastard! You don't want to take this one!?
The clock stops right at 2 minutes, and the red present still remains in my hands.
However, the tune continues. I-I'm saved…
"Well, this is for you, Yuuji. I know you aren't wearing shoes. Don't try and pull a fast one next time."
"Tch...I got it, Akihisa. That was just a little joke."
I warn Yuuji not to try the same bluff again, and he clicks his tongue, showing a smile so that the others won't find out. This bastard…! Don't think I'll forget about this…!
"I'd say, Muttsurini, it's a foul to use the remote there."
Muttsurini doesn't sound apologetic in his apology. This guy realized that he's in danger, and used the remote to forward the tune. I can't relax at all…!
The audio speed is readjusted again, and the presents are passed at normal speed. The next danger period is 3 minutes. If it's too long, we'll be tired, and if it's too short, we can't get excited. I can expect 3 minutes to be the most likely timing.
Right now, the time is 2 minutes and 15 seconds. It'll take about 5 seconds to pass a present around, so if I deduct that time from 3 minutes, divided by the number of people--
"1~ 4~ 3~ 7~ 6~"
Who's muttering some unrelated numbers there!? I can't count!
"?...what's the matter, Yuuji?"
"No. I just thought of counting out of a sudden.Don't mind me."
This guy...this guy's been getting in my way all this time…!
Well, even though I can't calculate it, I can at least guess where it's going to go. Looking at this pace--if we're going in this order, it'll be Hideyoshi, me, Yuuji and Kudou-san.
(--Eh? That means…?)
Suddenly an idea appears in my head.
Yuuji already predicted where the present will reach, and it's right near me.
(Speaking of which, if I'm in his position.)
Right when I'm letting some ideas swirl around in my mind, I try to pass the present to Yuuji, who's beside me.
"For you, Yuuji--ow…"
"Woah hoo, sorry, Akihisa."
Bam, Yuuji's elbow hits mine. Thi-this is…!
"Ow, looks painful…"
"Are you two alright?"
While everyone's attention on us, the present stops moving.
"Ahh, yeah, I'm fine."
Yuuji passes off the present to the next one.
At the same time, the game continues.
Wanting to be sure, I have a look at Yuuji's face.
At that moment.
This guy's giving me such a look, his lips curling in an evil manner. As I had expected!
After seeing Yuuji's expression, there's no doubt in me. This guy's definitely manipulating the time here.
If he can tell where it's going to me, Yuuji will definitely make sure that I end up doing it. Why do you say that I'm so confident of that? Of course that's because I'll do the same if I'm in his position.
The reason he knocked my in the elbow is to buy some time. In other words, if this keeps up, if nothing else happens, the red present will reach my hands.
--Right, if nothing happens.
We continue to pass the presents along with the rhythm.
And after circling around once, the red present reaches my hands again. Yuuji and Hideyoshi are staring at me with shocked eyes.
"Wh-what's going on…!?"
"Akihisa, you bastard…!?"
"Hm? What's the matter?"
It's no wonder why they're so shocked. The present that's supposed to be in Hideyoshi's hands is now in Hazuki-chan's hands.
"You bastard, you skipped a present, didn't you…!"
Yuuji glares me with vengeance.
Yup. Once I knew that Yuuji's manipulating the time, I use the chaos to keep the red present in my hands, and pass the present that was passed to me directly to Yuuji--simply put, it's a 'present swap'.
Right now, my safety can be assured. As for why.
"It's your fault for timing this too well."
"Damn it, you bastard…!"
Right now, the time's 2 minutes and 50 seconds, another 10 seconds till 3 minutes. The red present is now with nee-san.
There's still another 7 seconds; It's passed from Minami to Himeji-san. 5 seconds left, Muttsurini receives it. At the rate this is going...the dangerous item will pass by Hazuki-chan, and then it'll hit Hideyoshi. This is to be expected. The present that was supposed to reach me was switched by me, and it's a spot later.
Because of that, there's nothing anyone can do. Hideyoshi will receive the red present right at the 3 minute mark. Sorry, Hideyoshi! You got to blame Yuuji for not being willing to receive it. I'll go down to hell to meet you later, so before then, wait in peace…!
The clock placed by the living room is pointe at 3 minutes. If the time ends at 3 minutes, everything will be over!
...I gulp nervously, waiting for it to change.
And the music continues on.
"What the? It's not over yet?"
Now then, is the time set to 4 minutes? The presents continue to be passed.
The red present passes by Hideyoshi, and lands in my lap.
The music just so happens to stop.
"Okay, let's stop."
Once nee-san stops, all over us look stunned as we look down at the presents on our knees. I'm holding the red box, something I can't deny no matter how I look at it. The time's also 3 minutes and 2 seconds. What's going on?
"Oh deary me. Sorry to all of you."
Hideyoshi scratches his head, saying to us while we're look confused.
"--It's a very familiar tune, so I couldn't help but sing along."
That means that Hideyoshi has been singing ever since the tune ended!?
"I see. Hideyoshi-kun is good at singing after all."
"...It's true that I didn't feel that the music was coming from the player, but from beside me."
"Really? Hazuki can't tell any difference from the CD."
"Even I didn't figure it out."
"Don't praise me now. I'll be embarrassed."
Hideyoshi looks embarrassed as she pinches at her face.
"I was too mesmerized with the song, and I accidentally sang too much of it...well, it's fine, right?"
"Yeah. There's no need to be so fussy about it. It's fine."
"Yeah. Nobody will want someone else's presents like a spoiled brat. It's fine."
And it looks like they're trying to shut down my objection.
"It's fine, Hideyoshi."
"...There's no need to do this again."
Yuuji and Muttsurini beam as they give their thumbs up.
"Let's unwrap our presents now."
Anyway, everyone's present is decided, and it's now time to observe everyone's reactions of either joy or sadness...guess I got no other choice here. I'll just prepare to accept my doom. It is fated for me. Another one's nothing to me!
"I'll start opening my present then."
Minami unwraps it, and takes out the contents.
"Hm? is this a DVD?"
"Yeah. I'd say that I chose the 'Recommended Theater Performances DVD'."
Hideyoshi's present is a DVD with dramas inside it. It's really just like her.
"It's an all-ages work that can be shown to families. It's interesting, so please laugh to your hearts content."
"Eh~ it's perfect, Hazuki. Let's watch it once we get back."
Minami and Hazuki-chan looks rather happy. Even I'm feeling healed just thinking of them enjoying the DVD together.
"Eh? Hideyoshi and I nearly got the same thing."
"Hm? Did you buy a DVD too, Akihisa?"
"No, that's not it--But nee-san's present is from me."
"Is that so? I'll open it then."
Nee-san then unwraps the present.
Inside it are several books.
"It's the manga set I recommend. There's a lot of interesting ones, but the ones I recommend most are the stories where the underground monsters are captured and cooked into delicious food--"
There are women and a kid participating, so I chose about 3 copies of all-ages manga and put them in."
"I see. It's a cooking manga."
I never thought nee-san would get it, but despite how old-fashioned she looks, she does read them, so it's probably something she likes.
"I suppose that the hidden meaning in these lines is that you wish for me to start cooking, Aki-kun."
"No, the ingredients used here are all fantasy…"
I have a heartfelt thought that it's really a good thing that I didn't choose any actual cooking manga.
"Then it's my turn next--eh?"
Kudou-san reaches out to unwrap her present, only to stop.
"What's the matter, Kudou-san?"
"It's nothing. I just thought that I drew my own present."
Then what's the matter?"
"Erm...ah, it's Muttsurini-kun's right? How about you open yours?"
Kudou-san says as she watches the present in Muttsurini's hands.
Once he opens that present.
"Ahaha, it's the same present after all."
Kudou-san and Muttsurini have the same presents, digital photo frames. These photo frames can display digital photos on the screen. That definitely suits Muttsurini there.
"...Got to mention, that's from me.."
"I know right? It felt like it's something I would expect from you, Muttsurini-kun."
Both of them chose the same presents, and they manage to give it to each other. The chances of that should be really low here.
"I got it. Well, this is for the better, I think. I did choose this present based on my own preferences after all."
Kudou-san's beaming away.
"Eh? Do you like such things, Aiko?"
"Sort of. I do find cameras, little recorders and stuff very interesting."
I can't help but recall that peeping incident. Now that she mentioned it, Kudou-san does use such stuff…
"This is amazing Both of you chose the same presents and exchanged it. It's like you're a fated pair!"
"Eh? Really? What do you think, Muttsurini-kun?"
"...That isn't true."
"Ahaha. You don't have to be so embarrassed.
Kudou-san is definitely teasing Muttsurini here.
At this moment, Kirishima-san is probably affected by Hazuki-chan's words 'you're a fated pair', and she slowly reaches her hand out, putting it on her present.
"...I'll open it too."
Kirishima-san has a present the size of a pencil case.
Whose present is that? Just as everyone's wondering about this, Yuuji raises his hand unhappily.
"Ah, it's from me."
"It's just a coincidence."
"...The thing inside definitely goes well with me."
"Relax. That's impossible."
Kirishima-san probably felt some form of telepathy as she eagerly opens the wrapping.
Once she opens it, she find that it's a pretty looking paper knife.
"I found it at a convenience store. How about it? I think it's rather decent at this price, isn't it?"
Yuuji proudly mentions this.
However, I have a different opinion on Yuuji's present.
"Seriously...you can handle most of the stuff well, Yuuji, but you're so useless when it comes to such stuff."
"Hm? What do you mean, Akihisa?"
"No. A high school student, a girl, probably have no use for a paper knife even if she receives it, right?"
Yuuji gives a 'I dun goofed' face. He probably saw that it was nice looking, and forgot the nature of it. Amusingly, he was unexpectedly a romanticist when confessing to Kirishima-san.
"So-sorry about that, Shouko. I'll get you something else next time."
"...No, this will do."
Kirishima-san happily puts the paper knife in front of her chest.
"...This is, the best thing for me."
And then, she happily repeats here.
"You sure? I can take that and give you something else."
"...There's no need for that. This is what you found and like, Yuuji. And--"
She holds the grip firmly.
"--This is you informing me of your determination, Yuuji, 'If I have a mistress, use this to kill me'."
"Alrighhhhtttt I'm definitely getting you something else tomorrow."
I see. If I think about it this way, Kirishima-san definitely can use this paper knife. The cool flair really does suit her well, and it really has a lot of benefits, she can't really use cellphones, often have to deal with letters and books, and it can be used to assassinate Yuuji.
"...I'll go if it's a date. I don't want anything else."
"A date? What are you saying?"
Kirishima-san points at Yuuji's present, saying,
"Hm? What's with this?"
"...It's from me."
"...So I say, it's fated."
Yuuji, having this pointed out to him, silently unwraps it.
"A pair of tickets to a movie, huh…?"
"Thanks Shouko. I'll sell these important babies online."
"...We can watch it together."
"Wait wait wait! This paper knife isn't meant for you to do that!"
Yuuji has a paper knife right at his neck, and it's giving a chilling shine. He got movie tickets from Kirishima-san, and if he refuses, he'll be punished by her. I see.
"I really feel that there's a strong fate at work here."
"It's basically indicating Yuuji's future here."
"...No way to escape."
"Are you guys are saying that I'll be stabbed to death one day!?"
This is his destiny. Just as some living things get killed by their fangs piercing through their heads, Yuuji will probably be fated to die under a certain person's knife.
Hideyoshi gives a nervous look for an instant, and reaches out to the present. The reason why she's so nervous is because she got the green box. The danger is only second to that of my red box. There's also a chance that the box she's holding is the really dangerous one. If possible, I hope she gets it.."
"Hm? This is a muffle and a reindeer badge?"
"Ah, that's from Hazuki!"
"Aki-kun. Why do you look so disappointed?"
Well, I knew that…
"It can be used for this season. Thanks."
Hideyoshi places the muffler on her neck.
"It really does fit you, Hideyoshi-kun."
"Yeah. Nice fit for you, Hideyoshi?"
"Really? Thanks then."
(((--You're really like a high school girl.)))
I guess it's better not to mention our true thoughts. If we do so, Hideyoshi will either be angry, or dejected.
"But this muffler does look really impressive. Was the budget enough?"
"It's enough. The old uncle at the shop gave Hazuki an added bonus, and it's really nice too~"
The bonus probably refers to that badge. I never thought Hazuki-chan would buy such things. Once I have a thought that Minami may have helped her out, I'm starting to feel fuzzy inside my heart.
"It's my turn next."
Himeji-san is holding a box that's 15cm wide. What's inside it?"
"Erm~ this is...gloss, I guess?"
Muttsurini asks as he doesn't have an impression on this thing. Seriously, Muttsurini, you don't understand this thing?
"Isn't this something we normally hear in class, how to make our execution methods more gross?"
"You're stupid, Akihisa. This means a unit of dozens here, you know?"
"You guys, if you don't know, just say so."
I feel that I heard of that before, but…"
"Basically, it's something similar to lipstick, Muttsurini-kun."
"Right right, I was about to say that just now."
"Nearly got it."
"Well, if you guys say so, I'd guess that's it."
I see. Lipstick huh? I learned something now.
"So may I know who gave this present?"
In response to Himeji-san's question, nee-san raises her hand. Looking at this situation, I'm guessing she's the only one who would choose a lipstick.
"A professional makeup artist I know recommended this for me. It's targeted at teenagers, and doesn't have color, so it's rather decent."
"Wow…! Thank you very much!"
Himeji-san happily takes out the lipstick (is it a lipstick?). The other girls are staring at her present enviously.
"W-wait a sec, nee-san?"
"What's the matter, Aki-kun?"
"It's okay that Himeji-san just so happened to get this, but there are guys here, you know?"
"Yes, that is correct."
"But what do you intend to do if Yuuji, Muttsurini or me gets it!?"
"Kinoshita, it's useless to retort about this now."
"That's right, Kinoshita-kun. It's too late."
While I'm giving her the question 'how can boys possibly use lipstick', nee-san's giving me a confused 'why are you asking such a question' look.
"I think this isn't much of an issue…"
"I suppose that all of you will have more opportunities to cross-dress, Aki-kun."
I guess that us, who are unable to retort back on the spot, really went through lives far different ordinary high school boys.
"Anyway, what did you get, Akihisa-kun?"
"Hm? I'll open it now--eh?"
"? What's the matter?"
I can't help but turn to look at Himeji-san. She's giving me a stunned look.
Wa-wait a sec! This is weird! That question Himeji-san just mentioned, doesn't that mean that what I'm holding isn't her present?
"Ho-how can that be!?"
I frantically unwrap the present.
Inside the red box is,
"A cap...and cookies…?"
"Those are from me."
The present's from Minami.
In that case, that means the one who got Himeji-san's present is--
"Hazuki's present is from pretty onee-chan's then!"
"That's right, but it's embarrassing to be called this…"
What is this!? Hazuki-chan got the present! That's the worst case scenario here!
"? What's the matter, baka onii-chan?"
Hazuki-chan's holding a small package that can fit a book ticket. It's hard to imagine something so small containing a Chiffon cake or any other handmade food. Did Himeji-san only make some handmade food for me, and there's none here?
"Well, it's fine."
Hazuki-chan can't help but tilt her head in confusion. Too bad I couldn't bring Yuuji and the others for the ride, but I did manage to save a young life.
"Aki. Do you not want my present…?"
Minami's giving a conflicted face, looking at me worriedly. Oh, no no.
"That's not it. Not at all. What I was worried about is now settled."
"? What are you saying?"
"It's my own stuff. Don't mind."
There's nothing to worry. Again, I look at Minami's present.
Inside it is a cool looking, caramel-colored duckbill cap.
"Heh~ a cap? How about this, does it suit me?"
I immediately take it out, and fit it on me."
"Yep, it's fine."
"Ahaha, I'll be spoiled by those praises there."
The cap color feels unisex, and the size is adjustable. I'm guessing that Minami's tastes and feminine charms are rather high since she's able to choose such a present.
"But it's an outlet item, so there's a seam at the back."
Now that she mentioned it, I have a look at the back of the cap. It's true that it's in an obvious spot, but even so, nobody can see it when it's inside, and I really think it's not a problem.
"Thanks Minami. I'll treasure these well."
"I'll be worried if you treasure the cookies well though?"
The cookies are shaped as stars, fitting for Christmas. There's fruits and chocolates inside them, and they're really delicious. I'll enjoy them well.
"Now then, it's time for Hazuki's present!"
With an enthusiastic voice, Hazuki-chan begins to unwrap her present with glee.
While Hazuki-chan continues to do so, I whisper softly to Himeji-san beside me,
"What is your present, Himeji-san?"
"Erm, I gave her something a little big."
"Eh? But it looks very small here."
"Yes. That's why--"
Himeji-san looks at the package Hazuki-chan is holding.
"Wow, a Christmas card. Erm…'present exchange'?"
"Ah yes, the Christmas card is inside it for another purpose."
We've been had! We never thought of this before! She said that it's fine that it's large, and that's referring to how it can be given to that person later!"
"I'll go get it for you, Hazuki-chan. Please wait."
"Okay! Hazuki will enjoy it!"
Once Hazuki-chan's responded, Himeji-san proceeds to the next room to get the actual present. And while we're all watching, the four of us are,
(Akihisa, go for it!)
(I don't wanna! I got one for myself! Muttsurini should do this once in a while!)
(...The iron-stomach Hideyoshi should go.)
(This is the time for the strong Yuuji with strong resistance to take action!)
We're all pushing the responsibility of who's going to eat it. Looks like we got to snatch the present before it ends up in Hazuki-chan's mouth…!
"I kept you waiting, Hazuki-chan."
"Thank you very much."
Himeji-san hands the present over, and Hazuki-chan receives it with both hands.
(In that case, we're all going to die together. Once it opens, we're dealing with it!)
(No other choice here!)
(It can't be helped.)
"It's large. What is it?♪"
Hazuki-chan hums as she unwraps the present.
And appearing from within--is a large bear plushie.
"Wow~ Isn't this the bear P-san?"
All of us are dumbfounded.
"Didn't you say it's handmade?"
"Yeah. This is my handmade plushie, you know?"
Now that she mentioned it, I recall the conversation between Himeji-san and Minami.
"I put some handmade cookies inside."
"You made something, Minami-chan? I did too.."
It's true that Himeji-san never said that it was handmade.
"Really~ Thank goodness."
"...I was already mentally prepared to have hospital food for a week."
? Why are all of you looking so relieved?"
Himeji-san looks confused as she watches us relax. We thought things will get out of hand. It's really a divine joy that there's no homicide on Christmas Eve.
"Thank goodness, Hazuki-chan."
Hazuki-chan looks delighted as she hugs the plushie. In any case, thank goodness.
"But well, if we're to get the plushie, it'll be awkward for us."
Thinking about this, it's as what Yuuji said. Cute goes with cute, and if we got it, we'll be somewhat troubled by it.
While we're laughing away, Himeji-san tells us with a smile.
"It's fine. In such a situation--"
"I have another present prepared for this."
Bam, there's some box placed in front of us.
"Hi-Himeji-san, this is…?"
"This is a present if it's a boy."
She answers this, puffing her large chest proudly.
I see. This is to be expected of a careful person. She prepared that gift voucher and would have given different presents based on who that person is. She put in quite some thought into it.
But regardless of that.
We're all staring at the box in front of us.
"I say, Himeji."
"What's in this box?"
"Yes. I heard that boys don't like sweet stuff, so I made some Chiffon cake that's not too sweet!"
"Good for you, Akihisa."
"You're one lucky guy, Akihisa."
"No, I can't finish this alone. It's a rare chance, so let's tuck in, everyone."
"It's fine. I prepared another one just for you, Akihisa-kun!"
"You hear that, everyone? Thank goodness!"
"No no no, I think it's best for the both of you to share this love together."
"Of course! It's just an appetizer for you, Akihisa!"
"...and the taste will be different."
"Not at all! There's definitely the same things inside them, right, Himeji-san!?"
"No, there's definitely a difference.:"
Himeji-san shyly answers.
"What I'm giving Akihisa-kun is infused with lots of love."
This really is what they call the killing words, I guess.