Following my guidance, Tamaki looked around the shops with curiosity, observing the merchandise.
While Hotoya Village was prosperous, it was primarily focused on farming, so there were few actual shops.
Onitsuki Village was significantly different in that regard, with nearly half of its population engaged in occupations other than farming.

 ”Oh, this is cute!”

 ”This is…
a wooden carving.
It's a very nice ornament.
A hina doll, isn't it?”

 ”Oh, that yakitori looks delicious…”

 As Tamaki and Suzune examined the sundries shop, Iruka was drawn to the aroma of the sauce and headed towards the yakitori stall.
By the way, the hina doll ornament they were looking at is a common item called “Wooden Carved Hina Doll” that can also be obtained in the original game.
It earned the nickname “Holy Hina” among fans due to a miracle that occurred during a certain live playthrough.

 ”Hey, can you pay for this?”

 ”I already told you, I'm not paying…
Wait, are you eating it already!?”

 As I tried to warn Iruka about her demand, I ended up yelling at her.
She had come over holding a skewer of yakitori (chicken liver with sauce) in each hand.
Moreover, the shopkeeper who had accompanied her was cheerfully asking for payment.
This is ridiculous!

You're quite something.”

I'll pay for it.”

 Realizing the situation, Suzune and Tamaki quickly rushed over.
Suzune looked exasperated, while Tamaki had a wry smile as she took out coins from her wallet.

 ”Oh, thanks.
As expected, Tamaki.
As a token of appreciation, I'll give you one.
…A man can't let a woman pay in a chance encounter, you know?”

 Handing a few copper coins to the shopkeeper, Iruka handed Tamaki one of the skewers as if it were an extra, making a sarcastic remark towards me.
Excuse me, when did this become a chance encounter?

 ”Oh, Tamaki, they also have delicious salt-grilled ayu fish…”


 As Iruka finished devouring the yakitori, she pulled Tamaki's sleeve and lured her away.
Tamaki, wearing an indescribable expression, was taken away by Iruka.

 ”It's hard to tell who the master is in that pair.”

 ”I apologize for the trouble caused by my foolish companion.”

 I muttered, and Suzune beside me let out a deep sigh.
And she continued.

 ”I understand that she has quite a bit of freedom over there, but please excuse me.
I will speak sternly to her.”

 ”Will she actually change if you speak sternly to her?”


 Suzune averted her gaze from my remark.
Yeah, that's what I expected.

 ”…Well, I have to admit, she is reliable when it comes to physical strength.
It's true that she has helped me in my work.”

 ”…I apologize for the trouble she cause.”

 In the awkward atmosphere, Suzune, who repeatedly apologized, was trying to defend her.
Regardless of our sibling relationship, I sympathized with her.
After all, foolish family members are more troublesome than enemies.

 ”…Well then, should we go after them?”

 ”Yes, let's do that.”

 Feeling the awkwardness, when I suggested that we follow Tamaki and the others, Suzune agreed.
And just as we were about to walk together…
my wrist was grabbed.


 For a moment, I thought Suzune had grabbed my hand, but it wasn't her.
She, too, looked at me with a dumbfounded expression.
We both turned around together.

 ”Hey, hey…
Didn't you just mention something about a chance encounter?”

 In front of us stood a creature.
A beast no a person with bloodshot eyes and a fierce glare…
no, that's not it.
I recognized that appearance.
It was one of the background (mob) characters from the original story.
I think the name was…

 ”Right now, Onitsuki Valley Village's only teahouse, the Hanamizuki House, is offering a 30% discount on all items for chance encounter customers…!!”

 Those words felt like a curse.
They were filled with an unwavering determination to not let us escape.

 ”Um, umm…?”

 ”How is it!? Isn't it a great deal!?”


 ”Right, isn't it!? That's right, isn't it!? It's a massive bleeding service, isn't it!? Then there's only one choice, right!?”

 The girl in front of us shouted as if she was screaming.
Both Suzune and I were rendered speechless by her forcefulness.

 ”Then, let me guide you, esteemed customers!!!!”


 With that declaration, Suzune and I were taken away…

* * *

 The Hanamizuki House, the only teahouse in Onitsuki Valley Village, serves as a stage for various events in the original scenario, such as information gathering, stamina recovery, and mini-events.

 This teahouse mainly sells dumplings, rice cakes, and green tea, and it is said to be popular in the village due to the owner's daughter serving as the poster girl.
Although Momiji (椛), the poster girl, is a mob character with limited appearances and not available for romantic pursuit in the game, she is remarkably designed with unnecessary beauty.
She resembles a lovely big sister in a Kapogi's outfit.

 ”Here is the menu of our main store.
Please feel free to order whatever you'd like.
No, order something!”

 …And it was hard to believe that this demanding staff member with bloodshot eyes was the same person.

 ”Haha, hahaha, well…”

 Both Suzune and I could only force a wry smile as we were seated.

 (I see, something strange is happening here.
She was supposed to be a teasing big sister-like character even with the protagonist…
Wait, is it because of “her”?)

 I was perplexed by the mysterious deviation from the original work, but when I glanced at the shop across of the “Hanamizuki House,” I understood the reason.

 There was a cafe.
An unmistakable Nanban-style cafe.
There was a long line outside.
The air was filled with the aroma of black tea, coffee, and sweet Nanban confections.
I had heard that ever since the Tachibana Trading Company opened a branch in Onitsuki Valley, a new cafe funded by the company had also opened.
I see, they were stealing customers…

 ”Dear customer, you shouldn't be cheating with other shops like that,” said the poster girl, forcefully moving my head.
Right in front of my eyes, I saw the face of Momiji.
Her broad smile was eerily terrifying.

 ”Alright! Alright!! I won't look anywhere else!! That's why my neck hurts! It hurts!! Let go of me!!”

I apologize, dear customer.”

 With a smile, the poster girl released her grip on my neck.
I thought my neck, my very bones, were going to break…!!

 ”Um, well…”

Suzune, just order anything for now.
I'm begging you.
I'll pay for everything.”

 ”No, I have to go back to young lady…”

 ”For the sake of my neck, please.”


 Suzune immediately agreed to my concise but desperate plea.
As I observed the smile on the poster girl's face, she carefully placed the order from the menu.

 ”Yes, thank you for your order!”

 Just as the poster girl, humming a tune, was about to dissapear into the depths of the shop, Suzune leaned in and whispered in my ear, suggesting that we should escape while we still had the opportunity.
However, I declined the idea.


 I show the example of refusal by standing up.
The moment after, the poster girl froze, pausing with her foot raised before disappearing into the back of the shop.
Well, she was in a position that could be pounced on from behind at any moment.
And the humming had stopped too.


 Then, as I sat back down again, the poster girl resumed her humming and disappeared into the back of the shop.

 ”That's the situation.
Do you understand?”

 ”Yes, very well.”

 Suzune accepted my warning, her face turning pale.
Yes, I like obedient kids.

 …Well, to defend the poster girl, the tea house sweets were indeed delicious.
The dangos came in three flavors: red bean paste, sweet soy glaze, sesame, and edamame.
The rice cakes was also excellent, with both red bean and roasted soybean flour variations.
The bitterness of the green tea paired well with the sweet Japanese confections too.

 ”It's delicious, isn't it?”

 ”Yes, it is.”

 As Suzune and I observed the village street, we silently enjoyed the tea sweets.
When our mouths became too sweet, we washed it down with green tea.
Especially Suzune, who couldn't easily eat sweet things due to her gender and position, maintained a composed attitude, but her eating speed revealed her enthusiasm.

I'm sorry.”

 ”It's alright.
Here, take it.”

 Both Suzune and I reached for the last skewered dumpling, filled with red bean paste, almost at the same time.
I offered the last one to Suzune, along with the plate.


 ”It seems my mouth has become too sweet from the red bean paste.
It's not like I absolutely have to eat it.”

 ”I see.

 Reluctantly, but driven by her appetite, Suzune reaches for the dango.
As she takes a bite, I notice her relaxed expression.
Seeing that, I also relax my expression.

 ”But still…”

 As I gaze at the café sitting across from us, I ponder.
Despite how delicious it is, traditional sweets like this tend to be dominated by red bean paste.
It's inevitable for people to grow tired of them.
Suzune aside, it may be quite natural for the people in this village to go to the café.
This place advertises a 30% discount, but I wonder if they are facing any financial challenges.

 (This is troublesome…)

 I didn't want this tea house to go out of business, as it serves as a small event venue and a source of information.

 (And maybe, the opening of that café across from us is because of my butterfly effect?)

 The “Hanamizuki House” itself has been in the village for two hundred years, passed down through generations.
If it were to close down, both Momiji and her family might be left in dire straits.

 In this era, in many cases, occupations and businesses are hereditary.
There is little freedom in choosing a profession, and it's difficult to make a comeback once people deviate from the established path.
It may have seemed like a joke, but from Momiji perspective, she may genuinely be anxious about her future.
Falling into a cycle of family separation, drowning in debt, and ending up in a brothel is all too common in this world.

 ”Well, there's no helping it…
Girl, the bill.”

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