Teen Heart Manga Stories presents:
a Dear My Shoujo production
'One girl is company. Two girls are trouble. Three girls are a potential nightmare.' Or so Natsuki always confidently claimed.
Hiroshi reflected on that comment as he made his way home with his impromptu entourage. He made nervous glances around as they reached the shopping districts. Azusa-san walked quietly, Kurusugawa, skipped, swinging her schoolbag in wide arcs, nearly hitting trees, and other pedestrians. And Matasuwa-san... Matasuwa-san always seemed to know when he was looking in her direction, and answered him with a glare that would freeze a lava-flow. How had it come to this, he asked himself again and again in the awkward silence of the long walk to 'home'. Oh yeah, his agreeing to give Azusa-san cooking lessons.
Chapter Two: "Chocolate Confessions"
The bells summoning students to after-school clubs completed their chimes as Shirogane Hiroshi approached the gate where his 'pupil' for the afternoon waited, Azusa Kumi-chan. He greeted other students in passing as they swept by him on bicycles or at a much brisker pace than he was taking. When he reached the gate, however, all his momentum vanished.
Azusa-san was there, as she promised. Only she wasn't alone. Hiroshi looked stunned, seeing three girls waiting at the school gate. Other students stared at them as they passed on by.
"Eh...Kurusagawa-san? Matsusuwa-san? What are you doing here?"
"It should be obvious, Shirogane-kun,' Naoki said, placing severe emphasis on the honorific, "We heard that you were going to teach our Kumi-chan to make chocolate for Valentine's Day," -here, Kumi blushed-"and we want to be taught also." Her voice was flat and cold as steel, emotionally conveying the exact opposite of what her words actually said. Hiroshi had the feeling that Matsusuwa-san was as unwilling to learn as Azusa-chan was willing.
Hiroshi bit back a gulp. From Azusa's other side, Hachiko leaned over and laughed, "That's right, 'sen-sei'. Yoroshikune-Onegaishimasu!" He felt control of the situation -if he'd ever had it- rapidly receding from his grasp. Hachiko at least, looked eager, or maybe she just wanted free chocolate.
"A ha ha. of course. The more the merrier." Hiroshi laughed nervously. He looked from one girl to the other. "Ah, if you could excuse me for a moment, though," He said, bringing out his phone and .
"What are you doing?" Matasuwa demanded harshly.
Hiroshi looked up from his cell. "I'm calling my mother, what does it look like I'm doing. I need to let her know to expect more guests." he said answering her challenge evenly. "It wouldn't do to just barge in on her unexpectedly with this many people."
The call connected, and Hiroshi spent the next minute talking first to one of the cooks, and the to his mother, who agreed quite enthusiastically -too enthusiastically, Hiroshi thought as he hung up- to the additional number of guests. "Well, that's taken care of. I suppose we should..."
Suddenly, Hiroshi went stumbling forward, as he was slapped by a large hand from behind, attached to a voice that sounded an awful lot like Natsuki. "I leave you alone for one minute, and look what happens, they multiply! Good thing I decided to come keep an eye, on you."
"Don't tell me you also.."Hiroshi started
"Nah..there's no reason for me to learn the secrets of chocolate making, I've got you for a friend. I'm just here to ensure good, clean fun."
"Don't you have somewhere to be though?" Hiroshi asked.
"Nope. Unlike you, I'm in the Go-Home-Early Club" and never miss a meeting."
Matasuwa divided her glares between himself and Natsuki, seeminly able to make it look like her whole baleful attention was given to just one of them. The glare shed off just like water off a dog in Natsuki's case. For a brief moment, Hirsohi found himself envying his friend's ability.
The shops they passed gadually increased in size and eloquence, until finally they stood before an imposing brownstone faced buidling that formed the apex of a triangular intersection. What stopped Hiroshi though, wasn't the size of the building, for passing by it day after day had inured him to it's charms. No, what stopped him was the large bill-board sign in garish pink white and green.
'Enjoy Valentine's For that Special Someone' in English, no less. Hiroshi groaned inwardly. Just that morning the display had been completely different.
"wawwhhhhh...you live here?!" Hachiko squealed as they came to the front of the shop.
"well, actually we live upstairs, above the shop" Hiroshi said, pointing to the upper stories.
"But this...this is Chocolate Confessions..practically the most famous confectionery shop in the prefecture, if not the whole country!" Hachiko blurted.
"I suppose we held that distinction once," Hiroshi said, scratching his head in perplexity at Kurusugawa's outburst.
But, really, we aren't quite as
"we don't like to advertise the fact...otherwise, people would besiege us with orders we couldn't possibly fulfill. You see, we don't have all that large a staff anymore." The sound of his own voice made Hiroshi cringe again.
"Okay Shirogane-kun, we'll help you keep your secret" Kumi said. "Won't we, everyone?" She said, turning around to face her friends.
For some reason, Hiroshi found himself blushing."Ah, its not really a secret, more of a desire to keep things low key."
"Well, anyway, we'll help you maintain your privacy," Azusa-san said, with a note of finality in her voice that Hiroshi found strangely charming.
"Well, make yourselves at home, while I let Okasan know were here," Hiroshi said, going behind the counter, and leaving the three
Hachiko went into aesthete mode as she took in the gleaming copper bottomed implements hanging by the wall, the crystal clear display cases with the lace dollies, and simple, pure scent of chocolate! Her eyes even began to sparkle with the reflected light of the countertops
"ohh, Shi-chan..what's this, bringing friends over? how lovely."
Hiroshi cringed again for the third time, and found himself blushing at his mother's choice of name.
"As if you didn't know. These are the classmates I told you about. Azsusa Kumi-san, Kurususgawa Hachiko-san, and Matasuwa Naoki-san. We're just going upstairs to make chocolate."
"Now now, we can't have that, messing around such a cramped kitchen with all these cute girls...oh, hi Na-kun" she said waving to Natsuki, who waved back nonchalantly from his favorite stool. "Now, I have just the most darling aprons for you three to wear so you don't get dirty...and Hiroshi,..remember the only things edible here are the sweets."
"okasan..." haruki huffed in an exasperated voice, clearly embarrassed by his mother's antics. Azusa-chan just stood back and laughed, joined in by Hachiko. Naoki, sighed, straining to be civil.
His mother, Hiroshi noted as he brushed past the curtains, waylaid Natsuki at the door and directed him elsewhere. Hiroshi mentally thanked her, then put it out of his mind as he prepared for the greatest challenge of his young life, the art of teaching chocolate making to girls. High School girls at that.
Hiroshi stood on the other side of the table, facing the girls with arms crossed. He looked them straight in the eye with an intensity that caused small blushes to creep across their faces. "Now before we begin," Haruki said, "I must ask: how well do you know him? Because, you see, your feelings for him will be a good gauge for the type of chocolate you want. And this goes for all three of you" he added, pointedly looking at the other girls.
Naoki and Hachiko looked down, almost as if embarrassed. Kumi looked at him funny and answered. "I don't."
This elicited small gasps from the other two girls, and it was Hirsoh'si turn to look at Kumi funny. "But, if you don't know him, how do you know you like him? I mean it seems kind of silly, not to mention strange to say you like someone when you don't know him. I know I would feel awkward if a girl I did not know suddenly came up and professed to like me. I mean what qualities do you admire about this boy? Ah, I only ask this because it is important for the shape of the chocolate. You see, the chocolate we make here will convey your feelings no matter what: sincerity, uncertainty, bitter, sweet, hopeful, longing, and whatnot."
Kumi and the others looked down, again. "I don't know. I just know that I have to give him the chocolate." The other girls nodded in agreement, apparently allowing Kumi be their spokeswoman.
Hiroshi, noting the distress in her words, backed down. "Oh, don't get me wrong...I'm not saying you can't make the chocolate, only that the shape of your feelings goes a long way toward defining the final form of your chocolate. You want to give him chocolate as strong and sincere, as pure a mixture as you're capable of. The stronger, and more sure your own feelings, the more grounded they are in knowledge of him, the better the chocolate. Remember this: The Chocolate Knows. That's the secret of the White Kiss, you see. The chocolate knows the sincerity, or lack thereof, of the feelings of the giver toward the receiver."
"In other words, love the chocolate, and the chocolate will love you back" Okasan said, sticking her head in the doorway as she passed through. The girls jumped at this. Hiroshi slapped his hands down on the table.
"Okasan!" he exclaimed, sending up a small cloud of white where his hands struck the marble. disturbing the sprinkled flour.
"Just passing through, dear. Just passing through, so don't mind me." okasan said. Hiroshi was not convinced, but nodded anyway. "It also imposes an obligation on the giver, as well as the receiver, so treat them well Shi-kun. But, you might want to go easy on the Philosophy of Chocolate, at least with beginners, ok?" Hiroshi cringed at his mother's gentle rebuke. "yes ma'm."
"Good boy. Carry on young ladies and gentleman. I look forward to wonderful creations from all four of you."
"Wow, I feel that we're in the presence of the Kami of Chocolate." Hachiko breathed. Naoka rolled her eyes. Azusa-chan kept her eyes on Haruki expectantly.
Haruki noted all their reactions
"Good. Now, any questions?"
"Yes, where's the chocolate?" Hachiko asked.
Hirsohi looked baffled for a minute, casting eyes on the table between them, then realized Hachiko's mistake, and explained: "Well, you did ask me to teach you how to make chocolate, so we're making it using the materials here on the table."
Kumi and the others stared at the table, and all the ingredients laid out, as well as mixers, bowls, ladles and spoons. They looked at each other, then at Hiroshi, then back down at the table.
"Waahhhhh" the girls exploded. Hiroshi blinked, confused by their reaction. "You said you wanted to make chocolate, didn't you?" They nodded. "Well then, this is how you make the chocolate. These are the ingredients: clarified cocoa butter, cocoa powder, eggs, milk and cream, sugar, assorted spices..." He rattled off types and names pointing at each one in turn.
"But, don't you just take it out of a package and melt it?" the smaller girl, Hachiko, asked.
"So ka, you thought we used chocolate off the shelf, did you?" All three girls nodded in the affirmative. Shirogane glanced at them [with a sweat-drop] "Sorry to disappoint, but we've never used premanufactured chocolate. It's all hand-made, Just like we're going to do."
"You mean we have to make it from scratch?" Hachiko asked plaintively, apparently become the spokesman for the group.
"You were expecting to just take some and melt it over a cookpot?" Hiroshi asked. Hachiko nodded her head vigorously.
Hiroshi laughed, "But, where's the skill, and love in that?"
"We don't know how to do that..?' is what you're thinking. Well, that's why you're here. So saying, he went over to the rack of aprons and slipped one over his uniform, before returning to the tables. "First things first. Everyone grab a apron from the rack, then wash your hands."
What should have been a simple 30 second maneuver, however, turned into 5 minutes of 'ohhing' and 'ahhing' on the part of the girls -even Naoki couldn't resist small smiles of pleasure. Eventually, Kumi turned around wearing a pink apron with a large strawberry on the front. Hachiko bounced up to the table wearing a white and brown striped apron with two large chocolate cupcakes on the front. And Naoki...Naoki turned around with a puffed out face and a penguin on a field of blue, as if daring Hiroshi to laugh, or even comment. he wisely chose to do neither, (though for some reason, he found all three of the choices suited their wearer exactly.)
Every so often Hiroshi would glance over at the girls to see how they were doing, if they needed any help. And just about as often one or another of the girls would look up, and catching his eye, immediately turn away or look down blushing, and the giggling would start from the other two. The first few times he would hurried turn a blushing back to his work, which caused the whole group to giggle. After the third time, He just shook his head and bent back down to his task, the blushing all but forgotten.
Most of the time, though, he wound up catching Azusa-chan's eye, and found it harder to look away from those eyes. He ended rubbing his eyes a lot From time to time, Hiroshi's mother would peek in, to make sure ever everything was all right, and that caused everyone to laugh as soon as okasan was out of earshot. So, by the time the first batch was ready for the ovens, the tension was all but forgotten between them.
"All right, that's probably enough for today," Hiroshi called out eventually, noting how late it was getting. "When you come back tomorrow we'll be able to work some more on the smoothing and the flavoring. But for now, thank you for all your hard work."
"Ehh,, we're stopping? But we haven't finished yet!" Hackiko said, looking up from where her hands were stirring the bowl.
"Well, there's not much more we can do tonight. It's best to put it aside. You don't want to get too tired when working with the chocolate, it might take in the tiredness and reflect badly in the taste. besides, it's getting dark, and I don't want your parents to worry about you being out at night." Hiroshi answered. "And actually we may need two more days to get it right. I plan to have you at least try one more batch, for extra practice."
"Golly..such a stern taskmaster you are!" Hachiko complained.
"Ehh? I am?" Hiroshi said, confused. Even Kumi giggled hearing this.
Hachiko leaned over and patted Hiroshi on the head, like a mother comforting a lost child. "I was only joking Shirogane-kun. But, it really is a lot of work though, making this chocolate. And you do this every day?"
"We have to, otherwise we'd run out of chocolate."
His mother chose that moment to come in. "Shii-chan, are you still lecturing? Its getting awfully late. Be sure to escort them home properly."
She handed each of the girls a small wrapped package. "For all the trouble my son put you through today. I hope he hasn't scared you off. You're welcome any time."
"Oh no, okasama!" Hachiko exclaimed, speaking for the group, "Shirogane-kun has taught us many worthwhile things! I feel honored to be taught by him, and I know the others do also."
"Is that so?" Hiroshi's mother said, placing a hand to her heart. "To think that even my son..."
"Okaa..san!" Hiroshi yelped. "Anyway, just return your aprons, and I'll clean up after I return."
After a chorus of good-byes, the quartet set off for the train station, ending the night.
The next day, after school, all three girls were back at the gate. and right behind them was Natsuki. The walk to Chocolate Confessions was a little less ominous, but only a little, as Matasuwa-san still sent glares his way, whether or not he was looking. He could feel the laser-trained prick of her eyes, so he wisely chose not to add to the small-talk going on between Azusa-san and Kurusugawa-san.
His mother met them at the door, with a big smile, and an errand for Natsuki, who complied with an obvious reluctance.
"Okay today we'll pick up where we left off." The girls gave a chorus of "Hai" and collected the same aprons they wore yesterday, which had been cleaned and pressed by his mother, as a surprise for them. It appeared to have worked, since the girls took time to "ooh" and "ahh" over them all over again. With that, they got to work again.
The girls seemed not as they had the previous day, perhaps due to finally acclimatizing themselves to being at Chocolate Confessions. Or not, Hiroshi amended to himself, as Azusa-san nearly tripped over nothing, bringing over a bowl, Kurusgawa-san managed to splatter more of the mixture onto the countertop than into the pan while gazing around her with eyes that got larger by the minute, and Matasuwa-san's chocolates all manged to come out the same, bizarre lightening shape, which caused a little twitch to Hiroshi's eyebrows. But, as with yesterday, he often found his eyes straying over to where Azusa-san was. And as with yesterday, his mother found many excuses to 'check in' on them.
By the end of the day, everyone was exhausted, but agreed that much progress had been made, with only two minor burns reported. Hiroshi waved goodbye as the girls went out the door, causing the bells to jingle. After a minute the bells jingled again, and Hiroshi looked up expectantly to find...Natsuki in the doorway.
"You were expecting maybe Azusa-chan?" he said with a smirk.
"Baka! Of course not. What do you want anyway?"
"Just coming to check in on the almighty sensei."
Hiroshi sighed. "I'm not 'almighty sensei', Na-kun. And the girls are doing well, thankyouverymuch."
"That's all you have to report? I'm disappointed in you." Natsuki replied.
Hiroshi ran up to his erstwhile friend and pushed him out the door. "Goodnight Na-kun. I'll see you tomorrow", he said with clenched teeth, as he pulled down the shade and hiding Natsuki from view.
The third day they were still all there, which at least said something about their commitment, or Naoki's commitment to keeping an eye on Hiroshi. He tried to put that aside as he led them through the streets. "Matasuwa-san, you don't have to force yourself to make the chocolate you know," Hiroshi said in what he thought was a friendly. "I came to learn, and that's what I'll do!" She growled in response, forcing him to back off.
At the end of the day, he gathered the girls together. "For complete beginners, I think you did fairly well."
"But, our chocolate looks so weird, compared to yours." Azusa-san said mournfully.
"Heh, you should have seen my first attempts at making chocolate then, or you wouldn't say that. And remember, you've only been at it for 3 days, I've been at it for nearly 10 years, under my father, and then my mother..." There was a slight hesitation at mention of his father before Hiroshi continued, "well my mother is a stern taskmistress, don't let her face fool you. So, I prounce you all graduates of the first ever After-School Chocolate Cooking Lessons."
"Ehhh? First ever?" Azusa-san cried out in dismay.. "Ahh..if I'd know that, I wouldn't have troubled you for..."
She was interrupted by Hiroshi's mother popping of a party cracker which landed confetti everywhere, which surprised everyone. Even more surprising was the tray of drinks and sweets wheeled out."
"Dame...no regrets for what transpired these past three days are allowed, Azusa-chan!" His mother chided her, and Azusa-chan hung her head briefly in embarrassment. But, Hiroshi's mother wasn't done yet:
"As a symbol of your accomplishments, please accept the aprons you've been using for the past three days as our gift to you. We'll wash and press them again. I look forward to hearing about the results of your efforts on Valentine's Day." The girls were thrilled and embarrassed at the same time, and bowed deeply to Hirsohi's mother.
As they raised up, Kurusugawa Hachiko turned around and spread her arms wide..."Ahhh...what a great feeling this is!" As she completed her spin, she waited for a response. When none was forthcoming, she glanced back at her two friends, who stood with hands clasped together, again. She tried again, making more comments about how great an experience the lessons had been. Silence was her only response.
"O, Shirogane kun, we're going out for karaoke to relieve the stress of all this chocolate making, we never dreamed how serious you have to be about it. We want to thank you for teaching us, so will you join us? Please?" she finally cried out, rounding on Hiroshi when it looked like Kumi was not going to say anything, even after a nudge from Naoki.
Hiroshi glanced at his watch, and hesitated before answering."Thank you for your offer, but I must decline. Its not that I don't want to, only that I really need to help okasan in the ..." Hiroshi started to say, when his mother cut in.
"Oh nonsense, Shi-kun, you do more than enough around here. I can surely spare you for one day..The waitresses and I can handle it. Run along and have some fun now. If you still feel guilty, you can always invite the girls to help out sometime. We can always use cute wait staff!" Okasan teased. Hiroshi felt his ears go red, as the Girls struggled to keep from laughing.
"Then its settled then, Shi-kun!" Hachiko laughed, grabbing Hiroshi by the arm..."its Karaoke time!" Still laughing gaily she ran off, pulling a very uncomfortable looking Hiroshi behind her.
Naoki shrugged her shoulders and followed, leaving Kumi by herself. Uncertain and shy, she just bowed deeply to okasan, and "shuresimasu" and hurried to catch up to the others.
Oksan looked at the retreating figures with a sad smile, lingering on the third girl, when one of the cooks came up..."tencho, we're running low on sorbet"
"Oh good heavens" okasan said, running back into the kitchen, not without a last backward glance at her son.
"He'll be allright, tencho" the cook replied.
"Oh, I'm sure of it" Oksaan replied with a silly grin as she closed the door. "But, he really needs to think about continuing the family line."
I think I'm love with Shi-kun." Hachiko confided as they left the karaoke bar and Hiroshi had seen them to the station before departing for home.
Naoki turned on her friend. "you only say that because he owns a sweet shop."
"Well, there's that too." Naoki sighed and turned around. But Hachiko was too caught up in her fantasy to notice.
"Can you believe it though, the famous White Kiss, made by a student at our school! It makes me all giddy!" Kumi, looking back at her friend, glowing in the light of a lampost, could only shrug her shoulders.
"I mean, just knowing that I know who makes the White Kiss is a like a dream come true." Hachiko finished her
"Hen na" was Naoki's only reaction. Clearly, she at least, had not thawed to to Hiroshi, or his charmed chocolate.
-end chapter two-
Tsuzuku / To Be Continued
A/N A/N In order to get back on a regular posting schedule, I am forcing this chapter out, warts and all, so please consider this a Beta Edition. Hopefully any kind soul who reviews it will point out what I missed, and I can clean it up before next month's release of chapter three, tentatively scheduled as "Old Tricks" Please be patient with me as I (re)learn the the art of storycrafting. As always, Storynotes and Updates can be found at : myforums/Yuuenchi/742030