Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story so Far: Yuriko, idol, actress and woman about town, having ended her first week in disaster, is facing her second week enrolled as a senior at Mitsukawa High. Things get off to a surreal start.

 

Volume 1, Issue 11

"The Mysterious Bento"

 

The day was simply beautiful, Yuriko thought with some irritation. The air was clear, the breeze warm, with an underlying hint of colder weather to come, and the leaves were brilliant shades of gold and red. So nice was it, that she asked the driver to leave her off several blocks away from the school. A walk would clear her head.

She checked her watch, noting that she’d be on time for cleaning duty. One less thing to worry about, at least. She took a deep breath, trying to settle her stomach and calm her nerves. It wasn’t like her to feel this way, at all. Maybe Sawako-sensei and his reign of terror was getting to her, after all.

The path to the school was free of distraction. Uto and his gang didn’t get here this early, apparently. Pity, some badinage might have taken her mind off her fidgetiness. She spotted the cameraman, Namba, leaning against the school wall, smoking. When he caught sight of her, he lifted the camera. Giving him a second or two to start filming, Yuriko pasted a smile on her face and waved at him. He didn't wave back.

She came closer, looked around for a moment and asked, "Where's, um..." for the life of her she couldn't recall the PA's name. Namba leaned away from the camera and gave her a crooked smile.

"Gone. New one should be here any minute."

"I called that one right," Yuriko laughed.

Namba nodded. "We all called that one." He paused the film, and lowered the camera. Leaning forward, he spoke sotto voce. "That math teacher of yours caught her later in the hall, too. Said some really harsh stuff. Watch out for him - he's a bastard, he'll look to hurt you if he can."

Yuriko made a face. "Yeah, I know it. Thanks for the warning though." She caught sight of a figure conspicuously not in uniform, making her way towards them. She was a late-stage Type 3 this time. Her hair looked as if it barely saw a comb, her eyes were already glazed and defeated first thing in the morning. Yuriko forgot her name instantly. Two weeks, tops. Namba pulled the cigarette from his mouth, dropped it on the ground and crushed it out. A passing teacher shot him a scathing look. Flushing slightly, he bent down, picked up the offending item and tossed it into a trashcan. Turning, he followed Yuriko and the PA into the school.

Opening her shoe locker, Yuriko found herself confronted with a bizarre sight. She cocked her head at a bento box, neatly tied in a lily-themed paper, that sat in front of her school shoes. How very odd. She pulled the box out, turned it around, then over, but there was no message to be seen, no note, cryptic or otherwise. Love letters were one thing, but love lunches? Yuriko shrugged, and slipped the box into her bag. Probably one of the kids in class trying to be nice.

She pondered the mysterious bento box as she headed to her classroom. Lilies. Whoever made it was clever, anyway. She slid the door to her classroom open.

***

Cleaning didn't take as long as she thought, but then, Yuriko was pretty sure the other kids were working doubly hard, so she didn't have to. Perversely, it made her want to hold up her end of the task. She attacked the floor with unusual vigor. With a laugh at her own contrariness, she thought that if she were half this motivated at home, she wouldn't need someone to clean the place for her.

She did manage to learn the name of the boy who had avoided Aya that day at lunch. Jun was his name, Yamazaki Jun. He seemed unremarkable, but Yuriko watched him surreptiously while she cleaned, wondering what lay between him and Aya. When cleaning was finished and the other students began to arrive, Yuriko saw Aya flush as she passed him, but neither of them made a gesture or spoke a word to each other. Yuriko found her curiosity piqued.

Sayaka and Aya entered together, and Yuriko greeted them. Noting that her "sempai" was yawning and looked a little tired, Yuriko teased her about her weekend on the town, but Sayaka bore it with good grace. Abe-sensei arrived, looking rattier than ever. Yuriko noticed deep bruise-like spots under his eyes, and a general pallor in his complexion. She turned to Sayaka to whisper, "Doesn't Abe-sensei look terrible? I wonder what *his* weekend was like." Sayaka giggled, but Yuriko noticed his eyes on her, and she pretended not to have been the cause of the girl's outburst.

***

Yuriko found herself staring down at the bento box from her locker. She looked up as Sayaka, Aya and a new girl, introduced to her as Mie, joined her at the table.

"Mie is in the writing club," Sayaka explained, "but she was out sick when you met us last week."

Yuriko introduced herself to the young girl, trying not to laugh at the stars in her eyes.

"I was so sad to have been out last week." Mie said, practically inaudibly. "When I heard you were coming to our school I couldn't believe it!"

Yuriko smiled pleasantly, ignoring the clenching of her stomach. Fangirls always gave her a weird feeling. It was nice to be popular, but there was something about the way they looked at you...like they possessed you. It was always kind of creepy.

Mie glanced down at the bento box in front of Yuriko and practically squealed with delight. "It's so cuuuute!"

Yuriko looked at Sayaka, who grinned a little nastily at her. "It is cute, Yuriko-kun...did you make it?"

Yuriko shook her head. "No. Actually...I was going to ask you if you did."

Sayaka shook her head, so Yuriko glanced at Aya, who looked puzzled.

"Where did you get it, then?" Aya asked.

"I don't know." Yuriko said honestly. "It was in my locker this morning when I arrived."

"Oooohhh, a mystery!" Sayaka said and clasped her hands together. "Who do you think it is?"

Mie pouted. "I wish I had thought of it. Oh, Yuriko-san, can I make you lunch tomorrow?" Her eyes fairly pulsed with hearts.

A little nonplussed, Yuriko begged off. "Um, I think I can handle it myself, actually, thanks."

"Maybe," Aya said in a hissed stage whisper, "Sawako-sensei left it and it's actually poisoned!" She laughed happily at her own joke. Yuriko lifted an eyebrow at her.

"The thought had crossed my mind," she said dryly.

"Well," Mie squeaked, "open it, open it! Let's see if it's as cute inside too!"

Yuriko shrugged and opened the wrapping, to find an average, plastic, bento box inside. She opened it and the girls crowded around, cooing at the nicely arranged rice balls, Vienna sausages and other delicious-looking tidbits.

"It has a nicely home-made look, but there is a sense of composition, too," Yuriko declared, "an almost expressionistic quality." The other girls laughed.

"Do you always critique your lunches?" Sayaka asked.

"My friend Mari and I do, yes. We got into the habit at the studio canteen. The food there is so...inedible, that it begs to be treated as a kind of post-modern nihilistic art form."

Sayaka and Aya thought this hysterical, but Mie simply gave Yuriko a puzzled, albeit besotted, smile. Yuriko sighed internally. "Let's eat, shall we?" she suggested.

***

It was a good lunch; Yuriko was impressed. Better than her own feeble attempts at cooking by far. When mealtime was over, she carefully washed the box, dried it and tucked the cloth inside. Placing them in her locker, she turned away, then had a second thought. Pulling out pen and paper, she jotted a note and stuck it in the box with the wrapper. "Thanks. It was extremely tasty and very considerate. Love, Yuriko." Whistling happily, she went back to class.

Continued