Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko's homecoming at Mitsukawa High School was more emotional - and happy - than she reckoned on. Yuriko's been drafted into selling calligraphy scrolls for the writing club.

Volume 5, Issue 13

"Stranger Than Fiction"

Yuriko's wrist ached, but she kept signing scrolls until the last student wandered off with her new purchase happily clasped to her chest.

Shaking out her hand, Yuriko sighed heavily and leaned on the edge of the table. She sensed Sayaka standing next to her and looked up at the girl.

"One more and you can take a break." Sayaka handed her a particularly nice scroll, the parchment highlighted by delicately tinted orange and red paper. Yuriko glanced at the verse but didn't recognize it. Picking up the brush once more, Yuriko signed her name and handed the scroll to her sempai with a laugh.

"Who's that for?" Yuriko asked.

"Me." Sayaka said with a pleased little smile.

"Oh. In that case, give it back to me." She reached out for the object and turned away slightly as she thought about what to write. She brushed on a few words, then blew on the ink a little and waited for it to dry before handing it back formally. Sayaka read it quickly, then bowed deeply, unable to articulate her thanks. Yuriko bowed in return, smiling at the girl.

"I didn't recognize the verse," Yuriko admitted. "Who wrote it?"

Sayaka looked up with an evil grin. "You did." She glanced out of the side of her eyes and back at the blonde. "I think you deserve a break now - anyway, we're practically out of scrolls!" She gestured towards the table, where Midori stood, idly browsing through the few remainders.

"I heard," Midori said preemptively with a laugh. "It looks like you managed to sell them out. Autographed calligraphy seems to be all the rage today."

"Yes, and I'm exhausted," Yuriko whined.

"Come on then - we'll go get some lunch." Midori said. "That is, if your president will allow it."

Sayaka smiled at the woman, "I think we can hold the fort down. Go feed her - she still has some hard work to do for us tonight."

Protesting comically, Yuriko found herself led away by a placatory Midori. They located an empty table in the main "cafe" - the gymnasium - and seated themselves. A waitress from one of the classes asked them if they'd like to place an order, or if they wanted to peruse the different kiosks themselves. Yuriko ordered two sodas and offered to pick up bento for them both.

"I promised I'd stop by anyway - the basketball team's running that table."

"I remember," Midori said. "Go ahead, I'll stay here - take as long as you need. I promise not to fade away from hunger."

Yuriko smiled her thanks at the author, and wandered off to find the right kiosk. It wasn't that hard to find it - the girls themselves stood rather taller than at the rest of the tables. The line in front of the table attested to the quality of the food. Yuriko joined the line, greeting the students around her cheerfully.

As she moved closer to the table, Yuriko could see that the team had set up an effective assembly line process. Examples of combinations available lined the counter where Mikan took orders, passing it to Emi, who filled the box. Last in line was Kaori-buchou, who was neatly arranging the food, then garnishing and decorating the boxed items. Several of the other team members were in the back making rice balls, frying shrimp and chicken and doing other cooking-related tasks. Yuriko's stomach growled loudly as the scent of fried shrimp wafted its way towards her.

At last it was her turn. She didn't want to hold up the line, so Yuriko ordered one fried shrimp and one eel bento, then chatted with Mikan and Emi as they made it. She watched as rice balls and fish were laid into the box, along with the various tidbits that made a bento so much fun. As the boxes moved on, Yuriko greeted the team captain pleasantly, and was surprised to see the girl flush slightly.

"Welcome back," Kaori said, as she busily re-laid the items in the boxes, placing flowers and paper decorations around the food.

"Thank you," Yuriko said sincerely. She watched as long, nimble fingers took a few pine needles and laid them in a distinctive pattern across the top of one of the bento boxes. Kaori looked up from her handiwork as she handed the boxes over...and froze.

Yuriko stared at the top box, her mouth hanging slightly open in surprised recognition. The pine needles lay lightly, spreading over the rice balls as if they were newly shed in an early winter snow. She lifted her eyes slowly, not quite willing to see what she thought she was seeing.

At last her eyes met Kaori's, and in that instant, there was no doubt in her mind. The two women stared at each other, time stopping as they locked eyes. Yuriko could barely breathe. It was so obvious - even the little note with the hadn't fallen from Mikan's locker at all, but from the one that stood next to it...from Kaori's. In that moment Yuriko was finally able to put a name to the emotion that lay so dark and heavily in the team captain's eyes - the one that kept her so cold and remote. Fear. And Yuriko hadn't recognized it at all.

Mikan's voice, rising a little above the crowd noise called out a final word to the blonde. "Hey, Yuri-kun, did you ever figure out who it was that was making those lunches for you?"

Yuriko snapped herself out of the moment and, reaching for the bento boxes that Kaori held out over the counter, she turned to the other girl with a cheerful smile. "Nope!" she lied. "I guess it'll just have to remain a mystery." She turned back to the team captain, lowering her eyes and bowing deeply. "Thank you very much for the lovely lunches, Kaori- buchou," Yuriko spoke slowly and carefully. When she stood upright once more, Yuriko noted the splotches of color on the team captain's cheeks. Without waiting for an answer, she turned and walked away.

Midori was watching her face intently when Yuriko returned. "What happened? You look like you saw a ghost."

Yuriko gave her a wan smile. "Let's eat first - I'm famished. Then, if it's okay with you, I want to show you the view from the roof."

Midori nodded seriously. "I'd like that." She took a bite of her bento and moaned with pleasure, echoing Yuriko's own happy noises. "This is wonderful."

"It certainly is. I have a lot to thank those girls for." Yuriko said, and tucked in enthusiastically into her lunch.