Hyouka:Volume 3 Chapter 3-2

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3-2 Wild Fire

029 - ♥07

As my long hair was in the way, I had it tied at the back of my head.

I had always wondered why The Cooking Club has a "The" as a part of its name.

That question was instantly answered by its president.

"Something unfortunate happened with the old Cooking Club, leading to its disbandment. So we re-registered under this new name instead."

They seem like they've been through a lot.

Having been invited by Fukube-san, I was now participating in The Cooking Club's tournament "Wild Fire." While it has a strange name for a tournament, upon participating, one would quickly understand why such a name was used. The Wild Fire tournament does not take place in the Home Economics Room, but outside on the track field.

The tables forming the makeshift kitchen counters were quite narrow, and use of water was to be limited. Cooking fire was provided by two-legged stoves on each counter... It is certainly strange in appearance, but on the other hand, it also meant any observer would instantly know what it was.

Besides, as this tournament involves teams of three people...

"Mayaka-san sure is late."

The deadline for accepting entries has finished, and there's only three minutes till 11:30, when the tournament would officially commence. Yet Fukube-san was surprisingly calm.

"Each team member has twenty minutes, so we'll just put Mayaka last. If she still doesn't come in 40 minutes, then guess that's too bad. We're only here to promote ourselves anyway, so it doesn't matter whether we win or not."

While he's quite right, I still continued to glance towards the field entrance.

A male student's voice spoke from behind us.

"Doesn't matter whether you win or not? That's hardly fun at all, Fukube!"

Could he be a friend of Fukube-san? I've not seen him before.

Though Fukube-san was usually energetic, perhaps even he was getting exhausted from being so active during the tournament, because he sounded quite indifferent when replying to his friend.

"Nah, we'll be giving our all."

Though his friend did not seem to mind a bit and smiled.

"At any rate, this rule of having three people on a team is great! Even if my cooking isn't up to snuff, I'll still be well covered by the other two teammates. Still, no one person can win it alone, so you gotta plan ahead accordingly."

"Isn't that the same for all team tournaments?"

"Anyway, have you found yourself some good teammates? Just so you know, Team B has got Suhara, who's the son of the chef of Miraku on Main Street."

"Ah, so I've heard."

"And I'm on that team."

Fukube-san gave an ambiguous smile.

"Wow, that's great. May the best team win then."

Just as I thought, something does feel strange. The Fukube-san that I know would have been more sociable. Still, his friend remained in good spirits and returned to his team. I gently called out to Fukube-san.

"Fukube-san... are you feeling all right?"

The person who turned around was the usual Fukube-san,

"How am I feeling? I'm feeling superb! I feel like making some of Fukube's Seafood Fried Rice today!"

Looks like I've been thinking too much into this. I smiled.

"I'll be looking forward to it... I don't know if I'm getting this wrong, but we're only allowed to cook rice from scratch. If you're going to make fried rice, wouldn't you have to cook last in order to properly prepare?"

Fukube-san doesn't look too lively. As expected, perhaps his exhaustion is beginning to show on his face.



An impressive crowd was gathered, about a hundred to two hundred, perhaps even more. To think we're going to cook dishes in front of this many people... This feels a bit embarrassing.

"Um... if Mayaka-san is to cook last, who will cook first then?"

"Hmm? Chitanda-san, I did say we're gonna make rice, so maybe you should cook first."

"But it'll take more than an hour to prepare the rice, that would be too..."

I wasn't able to explain myself properly, but perhaps Fukube-san realized it from my gaze.

He replied, "Fine, I'll cook first. Guess that's it for Fukube's Seafood Fried Rice. I can make that anytime!"

Oh no, you don't really have to say it so clearly.

Beside the makeshift kitchen counters was a podium, where The Cooking Club's president walked on and began to explain the rules. With a loud voice, he began to introduce the participating teams.

"We have a total of five teams who've entered the tournament, but as we only have four counters, only the first four teams to apply get to compete for the Wild Fire Cup.

"And now, the teams themselves. Entry No. 1: Team Ajiyoshi!"

It was a team with three third year male students. I took a glance at them and noticed two of them had quite long fingernails. Could it be that they rarely cook?

"Entry No. 2: Team Fata Morgana!"

It was the team Fukube-san's friend was in. One of them looked quite calm and reserved. Perhaps he's the chef's son from Miraku.

"Entry No. 3: Team Astronomy Club!"

Huh? It seems there's another club who thinks just like Fukube-san did and participated. One of their members waved both her arms to greet the audience... We've met her before—it was Sawakiguchi-san, who was dressed in her usual chignon hairstyle. Oh, she even threw a kiss to the audience. She seems like a tough opponent.

"Entry No. 4: Team Classics Club!"

Fukube-san pumped his right fist into the air. I was at a loss for what to do, but still, I decided to bow respectfully to the audience around us.

"The rules have been well explained in advance. Each team is to make three dishes. Ingredients are available in the basket in the centre of the field on a first-come-first-serve basis. We often get cases of participants only getting rice, so please plan what you need beforehand. If the ingredient basket has run out, you are allowed to procure ingredients within the confines of Kami High. We have the Gardening Club cooking sweet potatoes today, you know?"

Oh, I see. As the ingredients are first-come-first-serve, it would be better for the first contestant to prepare the ingredients for his teammates as well. I'm glad that Fukube-san is cooking first, as I would easily get overwhelmed by too many choices.

"And now, first participants, on your positions..."

"Well, I'll be going."

Fukube-san waved his arm and headed towards the tables making up the makeshift counter. The four counters were set up in such a way that they surrounded the ingredients in the centre.

The Cooking Club president raised his voice from the podium.

"Wild Fire: START!"



The ingredients Fukube-san procured were three cups of rice, one bag of dried sardines, a bit of frying oil, a bottle of sweet vinegar ginger, four blocks of tofu, half a radish, three spring onions, six potatoes, a bit of black sesame seeds, 200g of sliced pork, one pack of sweet prawns, and a packet of potato starch. As for seasonings and spices like miso, soy sauce, wasabi, chili pepper, it seems like there is no limit on how much we can use them.

Fukube-san thought deeply for a bit before proceeding to boil a pot of water. Using the time the water takes to boil, he began to cut up the spring onions. Taking one of the three spring onions he'd procured, he began to chop them up into many tiny bits, though not as fast as professionals would chop them. It hardly looked hazardous. He next took out the dried sardines. Ah, so he's preparing miso soup.

Observing from the podium, The Cooking Club president began commentating on behalf of the audience.

"Oh, looks like Team Classics Club sure are thorough! They're slowly taking out the intestines of the sardines one by one! This is a very important step!"

After taking out the sardines' intestines, he began cutting up the radish into smaller pieces.

Wait, Fu-Fukube-san! There's no problem with how you cut up the radish, but you've forgotten to peel its skin! But team members are not allowed to speak while their teammates are cooking. The radish! The radish! I tried to motion my body in order to let him know... The radish!

After cutting up all the pieces, he finally seems to have noticed and took out a peeler. Oh dear! He's peeling the skin off the small pieces he just cut one by one! But if you do that, they'll become too dry by the time you put them into the hot water!

After peeling off the radish skin, he placed the dried sardines aside... Though as he'd taken care of its innards, it shouldn't smell anymore. Fukube-san next turned his attention to the sliced pork. He walked to the centre to obtain some miso paste. Of the three types of miso: red, white and koji, he had chosen white. By now, even I knew what he was planning to make, and it was not plain miso soup. He now held a miso soup spoon in his left hand and a regular spoon in his right.

Twenty minutes passed and on the stove of our kitchen counter was a pot of pork miso soup.

"Twenty minutes is up! Please swap places now."

Fukube-san ran back towards where we sat, and the first thing he said was, "Didn't go as well as I thought!"

"The peeling of the skin?"

Fukube-san shook his head.

"Yeah that as well, but if I'm to make pork miso soup, I shouldn't have spent so much time taking care of the sardine innards! That took up a lot of time..."

He was right, we cannot afford to waste that much time.

"I-I'm counting on you, Chitanda-san."

I nodded.

Please leave it to me.



030 - ♣10

And just when I was wondering how Chitanda-san's cooking would fare...

She's fast! Not just in her movement, but in how she manages to get the knack of things as well. Despite the narrow space around her, she moves as though she has many limbs. Even the commentator is astounded.

"What on earth is going on with Team Astronomy Club's second member Sawakiguchi? Just what is she making? ...Whoa! Look at the superb way Team Classics Club's Chitanda is slicing the radish skin!"

Before time, the radish skin has been peeled into what seems like a long thin sheet of paper. She next placed the spring onion on the chopping board while preparing the sweet vinegar ginger. How does Chitanda-san manage to move so swiftly when she's usually quite meek, I mean, gentle?

Using the thin radish pieces, she wrapped them around the spring onions and ginger before placing them on the dish. That's one dish complete. Damn, and it's only been two minutes since she started.

It was then that Chitanda-san suddenly stopped moving, for about ten seconds. Just when I realized what was going on, she began moving frantically again. "Ah yes, the rice." Phew, that's the Chitanda-san I know.

Though she had only started to wash the rice, the way she washed it was incredibly thorough.

"Team Classics Club sure are taking their time to polish their rice... They're generously using up every ounce of the six litres of water allocated to them! In order to bring out the best taste in their rice, the Classics Club are cutting no corners with their resources! Look properly, that's the way you wash your rice, by slowly draining the water with your hands!"

She was gentle, yet fast. Upon deciding on the amount of water to be used, she brought it to boil and then turned her attention elsewhere.

"...Team Ajiyoshi has finished their second dish of miso soup. Are they planning on making a variety of miso soup? Meanwhile, it seems Team Fata Morgana's teriyaki is going smoothly!"

Chitanda-san's movement became more and more intense. She wrapped the tofu with a cloth and placed it in a bowl, then sprinkled salt and sugar on it while warming up the frying pan. No, she wasn't simply warming up the pan, she was frying the black sesame seeds with oil. She then placed and spread the tofu evenly across the pan. The commentary went ballistic.

"Oh my, Team Classics Club is making giseyaki! I am so moved to tears by Team Classics Club's Chitanda!"

Sounds like a dish I've never heard of before...

Chitanda-san next began to peel the potato skin while occasionally turning to tend to the frying pan. After peeling the potato skin, she took the tofu out of the pan. It now had an impressive colour as she placed it on the chopping board. Cutting up the tofu, she placed it on another dish. That's the second dish completed.

I could already smell the sweet aroma coming from the roasted sugar as well as the fried sesame. I was lost for words, indeed, I felt like eating that myself!

"...A sweet scent is coming from the dish of Team Classics Club! How formidable, for them to impress just by scent alone!"

Meanwhile, a sweet smell of roasted soy sauce came from Tani-kun's team.

"Team Fata Morgana has also finished their teriyaki. The colour looks superb. One cannot think of these people as mere students. Just who are they?!"

You're dealing with Lady Chitanda Eru, daughter of the Chitanda farming clan! Remember her name!

There was no time to wash the frying pan. As soon as she filled the pot with water and brought it to boil, without waiting she went straight for the sweet prawns, speedily removing their shells. She then turned the fire down when the rice began to boil. And when the pot of hot water started boiling, she threw in the sweet potatoes. Taking some radish, she began making wasabi sauce. Yup, guess that's the way to prepare sweet prawns.

Meanwhile, she briefly cleaned the bowl that held the tofu a while ago and placed the starch in it. I wonder what she's up to now. Feeling curious, I decided to look on.

Though the potatoes were now boiled, she didn't discard the soup right away. Using a pair of chopsticks and the miso spoon, she skillfully scooped the contents out. After draining them of moisture, she placed them into the bowl holding the starch and began grinding them with a mortar. Was she good at making food that involves grinding stuff? Starch and boiled potatoes, just what was she making? Cooking sure is complicated. People who possess the most surprises are the most interesting after all. I'm very looking forward to this. Taking the white stuff that emerged from the bowl, she wrapped them with a cloth and began squeezing them into lumps. She then dumped the lumps back into the soup.

"It seems Team Astronomy Club is continuing with their Avant-Garde cooking, I pray for the health of our judges... Whoa, Team Classics Club has just made imo-mochi! This Chitanda is extremely skillful! But, are they going to be okay?"

Imo-mochi, huh? I like that a lot. By the way, how much time do we have left? Looking at my watch, we still have two minutes. But wouldn't the commentator say something about the time if we're short on it?

Looking at the kitchen counter, I see a row of dishes being lined up, as well as a row of utensils, and the dishes now being prepared, and then the ingredients...

"AHH-~!"

I yelled. And instantly,

"Whoa there, Team Classics Club! No talking is allowed."

Damn, this is bad.

That's it, there's still time to let her know! This is really bad. Chitanda-san has made a grave error. But can it be resolved? I crossed my arms over my head to indicate to her that she's making a mistake.

Chitanda-san seems to have noticed my gesture, has she realized?

She gave a gentle smile and crossed her arms as well.

"..."

Looks like we're unable to communicate at all.

It's useless. Even if she were to realize, nothing could be done about it.

The imo-mochi began to boil inside the pot. Placing them on a small plate, she applied some soy-sauce over them.

And right on cue, "Forty minutes is up! Please change with your final member now," said the announcement.



"How do you think I did?"

Despite moving so swiftly, Chitanda-san showed no signs of fatigue and smiled. As for me, I smiled back, knowing I could never do what she had accomplished.

"You were amazing, Chitanda-san. I never knew you could cook that well."

Chitanda-san said shyly, "Is that so? I really like cooking."

"Yeah, I can see that. But..."

"But?"

Her expression became clouded.

"...Did something go wrong?"

The Cooking Club president commentated,

"Team Classics Club's final member has yet to appear! And to think they performed so superbly until now..."

"Chitanda-san, this is a three-person team."

"Of course. I'm worried for Mayaka-san."

"No, even if she had come..."

I pointed towards the makeshift kitchen counter that Chitanda-san had just worked vigorously on.

On there was a pot of cooking rice, radish rolls filled with ginger and spring onions, giseyaki, imo-mochi, sweet prawn sashimi and pork miso soup.

Chitanda-san looked lively, as we were looking at her masterpieces. Yet... she first looked right, and then looked left again. Then she covered her mouth.

"...OH!"

Even if it were a joke, it was hardly funny. The only ingredients remaining were a radish with its skin peeled, and a little bit of spring onion left behind. It was as good as trash.

Hahaha, sorry about that, Mayaka.



031 - ♦06

If I had had more time, I would have drawn it better, but even if this was speed drawing I would still prefer to get it perfect, and so I ended up re-doing the fine details that I wasn't too happy with over and over again. I realized it was past the time I promised to meet up with Fuku-chan, but if I don't fix the shape of this eye over here, it'll look way too unbalanced.

That said, it wasn't easy just deciding where to redo. With all my resolve, I worked on those parts with my pen and eraser, and time flew by before I even realized.

"I'm done!"

Kouchi-sempai raised her eyebrows and looked at the drawing of a smiling girl.

"It doesn't look completely alike, but it's good enough," she muttered.

During these two and a half hours, we've drawn five standing portraits and eight facial portraits. While its not a number to brag about considering our speed, it's still quite a lot. Though I was mainly in charge of erasing any defects I see as well as completing the unfinished parts of the drawing, I really must go now. I was told I could still make it if I arrive at 12 noon, but it's now been over ten minutes since then.

Rolling up the posters, President Yuasa said, "Thank you Ibara. I'm really sorry to take up your time, even though you had an appointment."

As president, she didn't need to do any drawing, and was mainly involved in handing the completed drawings over to the sales booth to display. I gave the president my respects and duly bolted out of Preparation Room No. 1.

Instantly, I was engulfed by the atmosphere of the Cultural Festival. The whole corridor was covered with advertisements and decorations, as well as students walking about in a relaxed manner. I sped through the gaps that they created, it was in these moments that my small figure came in handy.

While I could not pay attention to the time as I was so busy drawing the posters, like the Quiz Club's tournament yesterday, I could hear what was going on at the track field from the speakers.

"...Team Ajiyoshi has now begun preparing dessert by peeling the apple skins. But is this how you peel apple skins? They're making an interesting shape out of it! Team Classics Club's final member has yet to appear..."

I slid across the corridor to make a turn around the corner, leaping through flights of stairs that were pasted with posters. Having to change into my outdoor shoes by the shoe lockers was bothersome, and I took off at once upon putting on my shoes. At the end of a line of white posters was the dazzling light of the sun. There was a crowd gathered on the grounds, and I caught of glimpse of Chi-chan, who was pointing towards me. This was the first time I've seen her tie her hair behind her head.

Just as I was thinking that, the crowd suddenly turned their gaze in unison towards me as the speaker shouted, "Oh! Could that girl in casual clothing be the final Team Classics Club member? Will she make it?"

For some reason, the crowd began to applaud. It was at this moment that I realized what I was wearing. That's right, I was still in my cosplay attire...

I felt my body heating up. I really wanted to grumble. I don't want to do this dressed up like this! That does it, if it has to be like this, then it can't be helped.

I rushed towards the tournament venue to where Chi-chan was. Fuku-chan raised his arm and motioned towards a guy on the podium with a mic.

"Judge! As our member is late, we request permission to explain the situation to her!"

The guy looked a bit troubled, but then spoke through his mic.

"Keep it short," he said.

Fuku-chan probably had thought of keeping it organized beforehand as he began to speak quickly.

"There's rice being cooked in the pot on the right, it should be just about ready. There's pork miso soup in the pot on the left, all you need to do is heat it up. As for the ingredients..."

Chi-chan looked as though she was about to cry... Has Fuku-chan been bullying her?

"I'm so sorry, Mayaka-san!"

"....Besides the stuff left in the kitchen, you're only allowed to procure items within the school grounds. I'm really sorry you're always given the short end of the stick, but you'll have to figure out how to make something out of those. We're counting on you."

He gently pushed me from behind towards the makeshift kitchen.

I first took care of the rice. The fire was set on low, and the pot made a hissing sound due to the lid blocking the steam from getting out. I noticed a cloth nearby, so I stopped the fire, took out the lid and covered the pot with the cloth. This should take care of it for now. Now, what should I make?

"...Eh?"

Ummm.

How should I say this? There's nothing except what you'd call trash. All I had was a radish and small pieces of chopped green onions. Onions and radish... What can I cook with that? Or fry it with?

Surrounded by the four makeshift kitchens was a basket in the centre of the ground. I could see a tube of wasabi in it. I though maybe there was something useful in it, so I dashed towards it to have a look.

...The only ingredient I could find was a shoddy-looking onion small enough to fit into the palm of my hand. Besides that was just a few blocks of ice... No matter how you look at it, there wasn't much.

On the other hand, I looked at the dishes we had made, and saw we had made quite a lot of amazing dishes. There's no way Fuku-chan could have made that, so it must have been Chi-chan. Wow. There's no way I could beat her. But the problem now is what dish I should make alongside all these impressive dishes. If I make something strange, Chi-chan's efforts would have gone to waste.

A sliced radish, chopped pieces of green onion, and a shoddy-looking onion... What is this? Some sort of riddle? I remained motionless while staring at the chopping board. I now knew what Fuku-chan meant by me drawing the short-end of the stick. The commentary from the guy in the podium was getting quite irritating.

"Team Classics Club looks like they've come out of the frying pan and into the fire! They've run out of ingredients. If their last member is unable to submit anything, their entire score will be zero. Is this the end for Team Classics Club?"

What should I do?

...Just what can I make?



032 - ♠09

"Team Classics Club looks like they've come out of the frying pan and into the fire! They've run out of ingredients. If their last member is unable to submit anything, their entire score will be zero. Is this the end for Team Classics Club?"

Just what on earth are they doing anyway...

From the Geology Room on the fourth floor of the Special Block, I could see what was going on on the ground. Or rather, I could hear what was going on in the Wild Fire tournament. While I have no idea how a three-person team could manage to use up all their ingredients after the second member's turn, I did know that Team Classic Club's second member was a certain Chitanda Eru, so I was hardly surprised.

I muttered softly, "What're you gonna do?"

Saying that, I did not mean "What is Ibara going to do." Rather, it was whether I was going to swallow my pride and help Ibara out of her predicament, cover for Chitanda's error, and help out on Satoshi's promotion.

The answer was clear from the beginning.

No.

...Anyway, this is them fooling around. Moving from the window, I returned to my seat and began fiddling with the paperback that was so boring I stopped reading halfway.



[150 COPIES REMAINING]



033 - ♣11

Chitanda-san had undone her hair knot and reverted to her usual long flowing hairdo, and was now constantly whispering while looking at Mayaka.

"What is Mayaka-san going to do with these few ingredients? ...I'm really curious about it."

And just whose fault was it anyway?

But as this is Chitanda-san, I was unable to give her a proper retort.

Mayaka remained frozen on the spot. If it were me, I would have just taken the spring onion, radish and onion and fried them all together without giving it a second thought, but Mayaka would probably have none of that. She'd probably be thinking such a strange dish would merely be an eyesore in contrast to Chitanda-san's dishes.

While I wasn't particularly concerned with how the other teams were doing, I did take a glance at Team Fata Morgana, considering how Tani-kun seems to want to treat the Classics Club as his opponents. Taking the baton from the chef's son, it was now Tani-kun's turn to cook... Omelette rice? That's a pretty hard dish you've chosen, good luck there.

Mayaka simply stood before the makeshift kitchen with her arms crossed. If it were me I would have just raised my hand and surrendered, but Mayaka wasn't the sort to give up. And she's probably exhausted from the work with the Manga Club as well. The commentary boomed.

"It looks like Team Classics Club is out of their (...TOSHI!) wits. Only ten minutes now remain, is counting down the time all they can do now?"

Hmm? I thought I heard something from within the commentary. Was it calling for me?

Just when I thought I was imagining things, Chitanda-san, whose hearing was far superior to mine, began looking around her.

"I think I heard someone call out your name, Fukube-san."

"Huh? You think so too?"

"Team Astronomy Club's dish can no longer be called a dish from this world! As befitting of their name, even their dish seems to come from outer space! By cooking banana within a stew, an indescribable scent is emanating from their pot!"

Banana stew, sounds interesting, but.

"Excuse me, could you be quiet for a moment?"

The Cooking Club president frowned for a bit, but put down his mic and asked what the problem was. It was at this moment I could hear clearly.

"SATOSHI!"

It was Houtarou's voice, and it came from afar. But where?

"There! The club room!"

I turned my head around.

Following the direction Chitanda-san pointed, I saw the Geology Room on the fourth floor of the Special Block. And unbelievably, there was Houtarou waving his arms!

For Houtarou to actually bother to shout from out of the window to support us, that's unthinkable, as he would be the last person to do such a thing. Besides, Houtarou wasn't one to slowly attract the attention of more and more people.

"...What the...?"

"...Who's that?"

The crowd began to mutter.

"He seems to be beckoning you to come over, Fukube-san," Chitanda-san whispered.

Really? Hmm, from the look of it, it does seem like Houtarou is beckoning for me to come over rather than waving at me. He continued to shout.

"Satoshi! Come here! Right below!"

What would prompt the energy-saving Houtarou to go through so much trouble to do this?

Mayaka stared at the fourth floor with her mouth wide-open. For that Houtarou to call out to me, it must be something urgent.

It's a rare sight, but something must be up, so I said to Chitanda-san, "Well, since he called me over, guess I'll go have a look."

A hundred metres separate the makeshift kitchens at the grounds and the Special Block. Dashing towards there, I looked up and cupped my hands over my mouth.

"What's up?"

"Here, catch!"

Houtarou seemed to have something in his hand. Catch? Catch what? Without even time to think, Houtarou tossed something out of the window. Whoa! At least let me prepare...

I managed to catch a glimpse of something falling.

That said, it was difficult to judge the distance of something falling from right above you. As it fell from the fourth floor, it fell right into my arms at quite a considerable speed.

It was pretty heavy, but it was a nice catch, if I do say so myself. But what's this?

"...T-this is!"

Within my arms was something unbelievable. How on earth did Houtarou get his hands on this?



034 - ♦07

Fuku-chan came running back with a yellowish bag in his arms. And without saying anything, he tossed the bag over, which I instinctively caught. Is this what Oreki threw at him?

Where did Oreki get this? On the bag was written "weak flour."

Looking flustered after running all the way back, Fuku-chan gave me a thumbs-up gesture. The guy commentating on the podium shouted.

"An incredible development has occurred with Team Classics Club! It's true that you're allowed to procure ingredients within the school grounds, but for them to acquire wheat flour!"

The worrying can come later. Wheat flour, with spring onions, radish and onion, and then...

A completed picture flashed within my head, as well as the steps to get there.

Let's do this.



035 - ♣12

Mayaka began to move.

Pouring the flour into a bowl, she then filled it with water. She took some ice cubes from the basket in the centre and placed them into the bowl as well. She next began heating up the frying pan and poured oil into it. She cut the chopped spring onions into even lengths, as well as chopping up the round onion and shredding the radish with a shredder. She then began to fry something.

"Team Classics Club is now gathering the prawn heads that Chitanda took off a while ago. What is she planning to do with them?"

Sweet prawn heads... while they aren't exactly inedible, what's that got to do with the flour?

As I tilted my head in puzzlement, Chitanda-san quietly whispered, "...Kakiage."

That's it! Looking at the makeshift kitchen, Mayaka was indeed making kakiage.

Using these seemingly trash-like ingredients, Mayaka was able to make them shine. She had just breathed new life into this "trash" and given it a new name: "kakiage." Mayaka had basically just lectured us on how to never give up! This is not trash! Anyone is capable of shining! Long live Mayaka! In fact, we're all amazing! I felt as giddy as a grade school student.

Dipping the vegetables and prawn heads into the dissolved flour, she heated up the oil. However...

"You have five minutes remaining!"

Can she make it in time?

Mayaka seemed to be searching for something. What is it? She should be pouring oil over the kakiage by now.

After looking around the utensils tray, she glared at the president on the podium and shouted, "Hey, Cooking Club! At least prepare a ladle!"

Oh yeah, there didn't seem to be a ladle. It was really bothersome when I was making the pork miso soup, I had to make do with a spoon. The president frantically instructed one of his female members to go find one at once. The girl began looking around for a ladle. Hurry up! Any ladle would do, there's no time! In the end, she managed to borrow a ladle from another team that wasn't using it and handed it to Mayaka. Dammit, that's a minute gone!

Mayaka snatched the ladle from the girl and began pouring oil over the kakiage with it. A sizzling sound began to form as she did so. She next moved very swiftly, shredding the radish, heating up the pork soup and mixing the soy sauce with sweet wine before putting them into a bowl of rice... Rice?

"Team Classics Club is catching up really fast! Can they make it? One minute remaining!"

Perhaps feeling anxious because of the commentary, Mayaka kept looking at the pan of oil. The next few seconds were excruciatingly long and silent. And suddenly, the autumn sun was blocked by a pair of chopsticks, as she placed the kakiage on top of the bowl of rice and sprinkled the shredded radish on it.

"Come on!"

"Time's almost up!"

"You can do it!"

The audience cheered her on. Even they were fired up by Mayaka's persistence.

"Mayaka-san..."

Even Chitanda-san sounded tearful.

As expected of Mayaka. I'm so proud of you.

"Time's--up!"

Placing a final piece of topping, Mayaka had completed her kakiage bowl rice, and right on cue, the Wild Fire tournament came to an end.

I have no regrets. No matter what the result is, I have no regrets.



(Team Classics Club's dishes are as follows.
1st member - Fukube Satoshi: Pork miso soup.
2nd member - Chitanda Eru: Vinegar ginger radish roll, giseyaki, sweet prawn sashimi, imo-mochi.
3rd member - Ibara Mayaka: Kakiage bowl rice. )



036 - ♥08

Mayaka-san's skills brought us back from the jaws of defeat. Not only was she adept in the use of the knives, but to think of making kakiage at such a desperate situation was simply amazing. I then looked towards the fourth floor at the window of the Geology Room. I don't know how Oreki-san got his hands on the bag of flour, but he is a very perceptive person. Perhaps he is able to foresee events before they even happen. While I could not see him at the window, I still bowed towards his direction in gratitude.

Within the thunderous applause, Mayaka-san returned to her seat. The cute-looking beret hat on her head and the heart shaped brooch on her chest attracted a lot of attention. Yet despite her adorable appearance, Mayaka-san didn't seem too pleased.

Reminded of my own mistake, I felt like I should at least apologize to her, yet the first thing that came out of her mouth was, "It wasn't fried enough!"

"Well, it's not like we had the time to. It was still great, though."

Fukube-san tried to console her, but she did not seem satisfied

"There was no ladle! They've got shredders and peelers, so I thought they would also have a ladle. That's a minute wasted. If it wasn't for that, I could have fried it better. I'm such an idiot, I should have thought of using something else in place of a ladle during all that time!"

"I must sincerely apologize for that."

A person said while emerging from the side. It was The Cooking Club's president, who was commentating on the podium a while ago. While he maintained a comical personality on the podium, right now he was sincere as he apologized to Mayaka-san for the oversight.

"We did check to make sure we had all the utensils needed... We even doubled-check just before the tournament."

Fukube-san stood between them and mediated.

"Well, I did find it odd when I was making the pork miso soup. I should have raised this question when it was my turn, as I had more time then."

"...I guess so."

By saying that, it seems Mayaka-san has accepted the president's apology.

"But it's amazing for you to manage to fry something even under such conditions..." As the president continued the conversation, I decided to have a look at the makeshift kitchen, as I was feeling curious about why a utensil would be missing from the tournament itself.

The judges had begun sampling the dishes, and everyone's attention was on them now. After ingesting the Astronomy Club's greenish brown dish (or perhaps bamboo-coloured), one of the judges closed his eyes and leaned skyward. I don't think I would be curious about what that tasted like. While I do not quite agree with the quote "ignorance is bliss," I decided to be flexible for today at least.

The utensils were placed inside a cloth-covered tray. Inside were utensils which none of us had used neatly lined up next to one another, like bamboo skewers, lemon squeezers and barbecue spatulas. Yet a ladle ought to be one of the most basic kitchen utensils; was it be just a mere error?

It's not like I was expecting something, neither was I looking for any irregularities. I was simply lifting up the tray to have a look when,

"Oh!"

A greeting card. And under it was an opened copy of the pamphlet "Kanya Festival Guide." Where have I seen this before?

Could it be? Could it be?! I quickly turned around.

"Fukube-san! Mayaka-san!"

And shouted towards them both. By this time, the president had returned to the podium to continue with his duties.

"Hey, Chitanda-san, seems like that president really admires you."

Admire me? No way, but I hardly even know him. This would be troubling. No, more importantly,

"Take a look at this, under the tray."

"What's this?"

Mayaka-san casually picked up the card, yet upon taking a glance, her expression stiffened. Written on it were a series of words which I had expected to see:


The Cooking Club has lost its ladle.

Juumoji


"This is..."

Fukube-san's eyes began to sparkle. I instinctively spoke upon seeing the card.

"The same as the Fortune Telling Association!"

"The same as the Go Club!"

Eh?

My eyes met with Fukube-san's, which had widened. I probably looked just as startled as well.

Only Mayaka-san remained calm. The page which the opened copy of "Kanya Festival Guide" was showing was the page featuring the list of participating clubs, just like the one Kaho-san had shown me. The page which had the following "The Cooking Club - Cooking battle 'Wild Fire' on the School Grounds on Day 2 at 11am! Seeking participants."

Mayaka-san first looked at Fukube-san and then towards me and slowly said, "So, what's this all about?"

She asked what this was all about.

...So what was this all about?

I once again exchanged glances with Fukube-san.



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