Friday, June 8, 2012

Prologue (l)

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Male Voice: "Wait one moment! If I may, Nagaoka-sensei, I would suggest to avoid any hasty assessments of this particular situation."

A new actor just made his triumphant debut on the scene, and knowing him I'm not sure if I should be happy or worried. The flamboyant guy that just addressed Nagaoka without showing in his tone and actions the least hint of humility is this school's president of the student council, a true oddball among oddballs.
His name is Kuon Kubota and in middle school we even used to be friends. Things however changed about the time we became high schoolers and in the end we practically severed any ties we previously had.
We never happened to be put in the same class and at this point it never will. Not like I really miss him or anything. Don't misunderstand me, he's an okay guy for the most part, but his attitude is really hard to deal with.
He's always been a strange guy, but growing up made him even worse and he started to harbor ambitions he didn't use to have. That led him to become interested in the politics of the school and in the end he managed to get elected as the president of the student council. He can be very persuasive at times, but in most cases it's just that people prefer to agree with him quickly rather than being held in a long conversation with him.
Despite that I heard he's pretty popular and people admire his contagious overconfidence and optimism.
Let's take for example the situation at hand, everyone is decidedly intimidated by Nagaoka and no one would dare to interrupt him. No one... except Kuon Kubota.

Nagaoka: "Kubota, this isn't a matter that pertains you. I will..."

Kuon: "Ooh nooo! No, no, nooo!"

Nagaoka: "W-what... Kubota! Are you interrupting your teacher?!"

Kuon: "Nagaoka-sensei! There's absolutely no such thing as a matter involving students of this school that doesn't pertain the president of the student council: Kuon Kubota!"

Nagaoka: "You... a-hem! Certainly you have a point, Kubota, but as much as your concern is appreciated it's not up to you to decide how to deal with the clear insubordination of two students!"

Kuon: "As you've just said, Nagaoka-sensei! I, Kuon Kubota, recognize that!"

What... does that even mean?

Kuon: "How-ever! That is only true as long as the insubordination you seem to have mistakenly assessed actually took place!"

Nagaoka: "Mistakenly assessed?! Kubota! I have no time to waste, and I won't listen to excuses trying to cover up an obvious fact!"

Kuon: "Obvious fact! Why, my dear Nagaoka-sensei, what is obvious is that my comrades have been victims of unfortunate circumstances that led to this sad misunderstanding!"

Nagaoka: "Kubota!"

Kuon: "It is without doubt that all the circumstantial evidences suggest that these fellows have been fighting! How-ever! Is there any tangible proof? Is there on their bodies any sign that any kind of violence had occurred?!"

Nagaoka: "The facts speak by themselves! The crowd of students that gathered around here and the clamor that could be heard throughout the school is proof that something major happened! And when I arrived on the scene, at the very center of everyone's attention there were none else but Oda and Baba in what was an unequivocal scuffle! I will not believe that they were merely playing around in a friendly manner, especially when it's known that they've been fighting in the past!"

Kuon: "Braaavo, a sound reasoning indeed! How-ever! This is all the result of those unfortunate circumstances that I, Kuon Kubota, from the very beginning tried to bring to light!"

Nagaoka: "Explain yourself, Kubota, and make it quick! My patience is running out."

Kuon: "I will get to the point briefly. The cause of all this commotion is not to be attributed to Oda of 3-A and Baba of 3-D! They were in fact just unrelated passersby that happened to find themselves near someone who was by far more deserving of such universal attention!"

Nagaoka: "You'd better not tell me that it was you, Kubota!"

That was my thought exactly! He's narcissist enough to lie and claim that he gathered everyone's attention just by being here basking in the sun!

Kuon: "Of course not, my dear Nagaoka-sensei! Though I won't deny that it would be indeed pretty logical to assume that it was I, the president of student council, that aroused the school's masses to such extent!
But alas the real center of everyone's attention was... Yuu Azuma!"

What in the world are you thinking, Kuon?! There's no point in saving us if that means using Azuma as a scapegoat!
Nagaoka seems to be quite surprised by such declaration. His attention is suddenly drawn by the ballsy girl who stands not far from us, the way he looks at her tells me that he didn't even notice her until now.

Kuon: "Yes! The reason everyone was focusing on this place was because the school-wide famous and popular Yuu Azuma decided, right here, to confess her eternal love to that girl standing next to her!"

Meito: "What?!"

Yuu: "What?!"

Baba: "Win!"

Nagaoka: "Whaaat?!"

Kuon: "Please, do not make those surprised faces! Love is ubiquitous and knows no limits! It's a flower that can blossom even in the harshest environment! What there is to be so flabbergasted about if it tied two healthy girls who are still in the age of turbulent passions and throbbing hearts?!"

Nagaoka: "Yuu Azuma, Is that true?! Did you confess to that other girl?!"

Yuu: "That's a lie, Nagaoka-sensei! I merely made her acquaintance!"

Nagaoka: "Kubota! What..."

Kuon: "Aaah! The circle finally closes, everything is clear at last!"

Nagaoka: "Uh... aaah?!"

Kuon: "It appears that there wasn't just one misunderstanding, but two! The often worshiped Yuu Azuma was seen talking to a mysterious nameless girl! Instantly rumors about the unusual event spread everywhere! And the more they spread the more they were embellished and exalted! And the more the truth was enhanced the more attraction it lured! Indeed this was a phenomenon not unlike the chain reaction of a nuclear bomb! A meltdown of passions and forbidden loves!"

I just can't believe this guy...
But it seems it's having some kind of effect on Nagaoka. Right now he's holding his head in exasperation as if trying to quench a ferocious headache.

Girl: "By the way, my name is..."

Kuon: "No, mysterious nameless girl! Don't say it!"

Girl: "Eh, why?"

Kuon: "Because a mystery in order to preserve its appeal and beauty must not unveil itself!"

Girl: "Oooh... uh..."

Nagaoka: "Kubota..."

Kuon: "How-ever!"

What now?!

Kuon: "Practicing dangerous sports outside of the designated areas is a gross violation of the school rules! As the president of the student council I demand that Oda and Baba receive an adequate punishment for their thoughtless actions! And I just happen to be in dire need of manual assistance for matters related to my duties. With your consent, Nagaoka-sensei, I intend to make them work the whole day for the student council as a way to repay their crimes by contributing to this noble institution!"

That was actually a smart move. There's no chance that Nagaoka will let us off the hook without a word, but if some kind of punishment is given, in this dubious situation, it might work well for everyone.
The teacher seems to be evaluating the proposal with care. In the end he sighs heavily, a clear sign of resignation. Kuon's preposterous plan worked, I would have never bet on it.

Nagaoka: "I am really not sure what's going on here, and you really tried my patience today, Kubota. I expect that you'll take responsibility for these two delinquents, and I expect you'll show as much determination in straighten them up as you did to defend them."

Kuon: "It goes without saying, my dear Nagaoka-sensei!"

Nagaoka: "Very well..."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prologue (k)

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"Leave that girl alone, Baba!"

That's what I wanted to say, but, to my surprise, someone beat me to it.

Hitomi: "Ah! It's Yuu-chan!"

Yuu-chan? I think I heard that before...
Ah, of course! She means Yuu Azuma, a second year student and yet another member of the female basket club. She's probably the tallest girl in the school, which is why she was promptly recruited. I don't know much about her, but she's famous for being rather masculine both in appearance and in behavior. That caused a certain group of girls to nickname her "Prince Yuu".
I've heard some funny stories. They told me that she has many female fans that admire her or that even have a crush on her! They told me that two or three girls even went as far as confessing and asking her out, but she always politely refused.
I used to think they were crazy, but after what I've just witnessed I can't make it a laughing matter anymore.
That Yuu Azuma girl is manlier than all the boys in this school. Except me, I mean...
Still, while the attitude is right, does she really has what it takes to get that idiot Baba in line? I sincerely admire her courage, unlike that other girl she knows who she's going against, but it's futile if she ends up becoming the next damsel in distress.
Baba seems to be indecisive about what to do for a moment. Then he lets the first year student go and moves to face Azuma with a revolting smirk.

Baba: "Look at this, isn't it the famous Prince Yuu? I always wondered, why is a prince wearing a skirt? Mu he he he!"

Yuu: "You'd do well to keep your mouth shut and give me your camera without any complaint."

She's got guts! That voice and tone are absolutely terrifying. It's quite easy to forget she's a girl and a year younger to boot!
Baba's expression has changed from amused to irritated. And that's not the only thing. A lot more students are gathering now, attracted by this unusual confrontation. Azuma's fan club must be on the move, they surely wouldn't miss the chance to see their hero in action.
This is bad, if they start throwing fists, it could get ugly. There's not much chance to keep the story under wraps at this point.

Baba: "Why don't you make me, dyke!"

Yuu: "I take it that that means you're refusing to listen to reason."

Baba: "Listen to whom? I hear nothing!"

Yuu: "Very well..."

She steps forth. Baba doesn't move, but I know him well enough to understand that he will attack soon. That beast won't think twice about hurting a girl who's about half his total mass.
Damn, he's charging! He jumps forward while swinging a right arm that's as huge as a ham.
My body moves by its own will, I can't watch anymore of this, I must stop him!
But I barely manage to make a step or two that something incredible happens. Azuma moves aside just a fraction of a second before being hit. Rather than stop her opponent, she grabs his arm and forces it move forward while at the same time she blocks his foot with her own. The inevitable result is that Baba loses his balance and ends up crumbling on the ground with a powerful thud.
The crowd explodes in a choir of surprised cries. There's even students watching the scene from above through the classrooms' windows. The Azuma fan club's groupies are squealing like there's no tomorrow.
That was just awesome. She took him down so easily and she barely touched him. I'm getting more and more impressed by that girl.
Baba is staring at the ground with a dumb expression. He's so fat he can't even turn his head to see what his opponent is doing. He has no choice but trying to stand up first, and for someone as heavy as him, it's a complicated maneuver. This would be the perfect chance for Azuma to finish him off, but she doesn't move at all. She's waiting for him to get up and face her.
Admirable indeed, but she's going to regret it! She can't hope for her trick to work twice, not even Baba is that stupid! He won't charge at her as he did before and he won't lose his balance again so easily.

Yuu: "Are you still willing to fight?"

Baba: "What are you talking about?! I haven't even started!"

Yuu: "Take a look around you. You won't get away with it, if you touch me."

She's right, she's damn right. All these students around us are making too much of a ruckus, a teacher is bound to show up pretty soon. Even Baba must have realized it at this point. He's looking left and right and I see he's sweating more than usual.

Baba: "Well then... I'll be on my way. But it doesn't end here, Prince of dykes! One of these days I'll get you!"

Yuu: "Not so fast!"

That idiot!

Yuu: "You still didn't give me your camera. I'll have you surrender it before you leave."

Baba: "What did you say?"

Yuu: "Surrender it, if you don't want to get in trouble."

Baba: "You... who the hell do you think you're talking to?!"

This is bad! Baba lost his temper, he will act before thinking and he will strike again. In fact, he's moving, he's dangerously approaching Azuma. At this rate he'll get suspended for sure, but I can't just let a girl pay the price for it. In addition she'll get in trouble too, Wakamatsu won't let this slide without any disciplinary sanction. There are way too many people here that can testify she provoked him. Even if she's absolutely right, she's the one who stopped him when he already decided to go on his way.
I have to make a decision quickly. Thanks to Azuma's intervention the setup changed, Baba is now facing the opposite direction and he's not paying attention to anything else. I can get there before he reaches his opponent without letting him notice. There's no time for hesitation, I move.
Like I imagined, Baba is too enraged to realize I'm already behind him. He raises his arm to strike again, and that's exactly the chance I was waiting for. I grab him from behind and lock him as much firmly as I can. Baba is strong, but so am I, in this position he won't be able to free himself... or so I think.
I once again hear the cries of the crowd, they are probably excited at this new development, but I think I also heard some girls yelling that I shouldn't ruin their Prince's awesome moment.
Hitomi just called me stupid, I can't say she's wrong, I really am doing something incredibly stupid right now.
But it's all right, Wakamatsu only warned us about fighting. I'm not fighting right now, I'm not throwing fists or kicking and neither is Baba. I'm just pinning him, this doesn't qualify as fighting, right? Right?
Damn, I'm just pathetically deluding myself here. I'm screwed! I'm so screwed!

Yuu: "You are... Oda-senpai..."

It looks like Yuu is surprised and worried. She must have heard about me from Hitomi.

Meito: "Quickly, take his camera! I won't be able to hold him much longer!"

And more importantly, the fastest you do it, the faster I can run away before a teacher sees me.

Baba: "Gwaaargh! Odaaa! It's you, Odaaa! I'll kick your ass! I'll kill you this time!"

I realize now that I have underestimated his strength. I could have as well tried to pin down a raging bull. I'm still holding onto him, but he can lift me from the ground like nothing! I act before he can manage to throw me away by wrapping my leg around his. This should give me more stability, but I'm not really sure for how long I can resist.
Given the situation, with Baba jumping and moving all around, it would be quite difficult to take his camera, but Azuma is a basket player, this is a joke for her. She easily retrieves the object of contention from Baba's pocket. It's going well, maybe I can get away with this! It can't take that much to delete all those nasty pictures. Just select the option to delete them all, Azuma! There's absolutely no point in being considerate to this poor excuse of a living being...
So I'm saying mentally, but Azuma isn't deleting the pictures at all! She isn't even looking at the camera's display! What the hell is she thinking?!
And then I realize she's approaching the girl that started it all. She takes her hand and stares directly at her eyes.

Yuu: "Are you all right?"

Girl: "Uh... y-yes..."

Yuu: "Here, take the camera. You've been wronged and it would be fitting if it were you to straighten things up."

Girl: "Y-yes... th-thank you..."

Azuma answers with a benevolent smile and delicately places the camera on the girl's hand. The first year student is completely astonished. She looks at her savior with dreamy eyes and reddened cheeks. It's as if I'm looking at a typical scene from a shoujo manga, except this is real and the perfect, handsome man is actually a girl. I can almost see their faces encircled by entwined roses and surrounded by glittering lights.
I'm so captivated by such idyllic scene that for a moment I forget where I am, what am I doing and the dangerous situation I'm in. That causes me to loosen my grip. This would be the perfect opportunity for my sworn enemy to free himself and turn the tides around, but unsurprisingly he's even more enthralled by that view than I am.

Baba: "Ooh... Yuri flag!"

The retarded and perverted comment wakes me from my stupor. I reinforce my lock with renewed strength.

Meito: "What the hell are you trying to imagine with your deranged mind?!"

Baba: "Shut up! You were thinking the same thing!"

Meito: "No, I wasn't!"

Baba: "Yes, you were!"

Nagaoka: "What's happening here?"

My blood freezes.
The usual constant chattering of hundred students suddenly disappeared. Everything fell silent.
It's as if time itself stopped.
I slowly turn my head in the direction where that voice came from, praying with all my strength that I won't see Nagaoka, but another teacher. Everyone would be good, everyone except him and Wakamatsu herself. But it was a male voice, so it certainly couldn't be Wakamatsu. The problem is that I'm pretty certain I discerned Nagaoka's voice, but one can hope. As long as I don't actually see him with my own eyes, I can still hope. That's why I'm turning my head slowly... slowly... slowly...
And when I finally see him... all hopes are lost.
So I nonchalantly detach myself from Baba, and pretend everything is perfectly normal.

Nagaoka: "I thought you two learned your lesson the last time, and I thought you understood well what would have happened if you started it again."

Meito: "Uh... Nagaoka-sensei! You're misunderstanding the situation. Me and my buddy here were just practicing some wrestling moves. He asked me how do you do a... a full rear lock and I showed him. Right... Baba?"

I hope he's smart enough to understand he better play along with my lie. I have attacked him first, but he should know well that neither Nagaoka nor Wakamatsu will give a rat ass about who started what.

Baba: "Right... what Oda said..."

Nagaoka: "Do you really believe you can fool me?! You must be thinking that I'm a complete idiot!"

And here folks you finally understand why of all the teachers that could have seen us Nagaoka was the worst. No matter what we tell him, he will assume we were fighting.

Nagaoka: "This is very regretful, I suppose that unfortunately severe punishments are required for you two to learn discipline."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Prologue (j)

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I find myself reflecting on what Sumomo said earlier. What is Hitomi to me? She's an annoying brat, she's mischievous and diabolical, she constantly takes advantage of me and never misses a chance to tease me.
She drives me mad, she frustrates me, she bothers me, she humiliates me, she shocks me, occasionally she makes me laugh. There's no way I really like all that, but I guess I developed a sort of addiction to it. What if the daily vexation was to end all of a sudden? I think my life would suddenly feel empty and boring.
It's funny. I can think about my life without Sumomo, but I can't think about my life without Hitomi. In the end we've always been together, my world wouldn't be the same without her.
Lost in these thoughts, I almost fail to notice that Sumomo has taken her cell phone out of her pocket. It's a Sonic C406s, I need to take note of that and add it to my Sumomo's facts list. As for the cell strap...

Meito: "Uh... Sumomo... what's that?"

Sumomo: "Uh, this? It's Alpaca-kun! Isn't it cute?"

Meito: "..."

Super cute... The hell with you, Hitomi! You tried to rip me off! How is that thing even remotely cute?! I don't know which is worse, the alien cat thing or the camelid with a middle-aged man face. Is this what girls like these days? I don't understand...
Talking about the alien cat thing, it seems that Sumomo is having problems at removing it from Hitomi's cell phone. Her perfectly polished nails aren't really apt for the job. I don't want to let her risk breaking one, so I stop her.

Meito: "Leave it to me, I'll do it."

Sumomo: "Oh, thanks, that would really help me."

I take the two phones and with the care and seriousness of a surgeon I begin working on the cell strap transplant. I can't see Hitomi's face, but I'm pretty sure she's even more displeased now. Maybe causing Sumomo to ruin her prided nails was part of her little vengeance, and I just busted it.
It might be a reckless move, but I decide to probe her mood by making her a question.

Meito: "By the way, Hitomi, what's this alien cat thing supposed to be?"

Hitomi: "Uh? You mean you don't know?"

Meito: "I have absolutely no clue."

Hitomi: "How could you forget? He's a character of a show we used to enjoy when we were kids."

Meito: "I don't remember any anime like that..."

Hitomi: "It wasn't an anime! It was a puppet show!"

Meito: "Oooh? Really? It's funny how easily one can forget these things. Sumomo, do you remember it?"

Sumomo: "I'm not really sure... I think I remember the show though. I have vague memories of it."

Meito: "Here, done."

Sumomo: "Ah, thank you!"

Meito: "And here's your cell phone, Hitomi."

She grabs it brusquely from my hand. I think that by talking I made her even angrier.
I'm wondering whether it's the case to smooth things over or let her be until things fix by themselves, but then a girl yelling not far from us catches my attention."

Girl: "Hey you! Don't think I haven't noticed what you just did!"

I don't think I've ever seen her before, she must be a first year student, however I know the person she's yelling to quite well.

Meito: "Baba..."

Girl: "You just took a picture with that camera, didn't you? Don't deny it, I clearly heard the sound!"

Baba: "So what if I did? Do you have a problem with that? Get lost!"

Girl: "What did you take a picture of, you shameless pervert?! You don't normally use a camera at ground level, you don't point the shutter up!"

Baba: "I use my camera however I want! Fuck off, slut!"

Girl: "You're scum! You're a filthy low angler! You'll give me your camera now and I'll cancel your indecent pictures myself!"

That girl doesn't know who she's talking to. There's no doubt now, she's a new student, and unfortunately she hasn't learned yet that there are people in this school you shouldn't mess with.
I'm sure everyone around here noticed what's happening, but they're looking the other way, some even ran away. There's a few that are curious enough to watch from afar, but no one has any intention to interfere.
I have more or less understood what just happened. Baba sat on that bench over there near the back entrance of the school. He chose that spot because there's a constant flow of students walking back and forth. Naturally what he's interested to are the female students.
From that strategic position he can place his camera at low angle so to get all the panty shots he wants. This is not the first time he's done that, but usually the girls just say nothing and walk away in shame. Those who know him take care to walk as far as possible from him, some started wearing shorts or bloomers under their skirts. That's why Baba hadn't done this in a while, but with the new year, new unaware students came and that means he can resume the hunt.
As for what he does with those pictures... well, he masturbates to them, that's the kind of person he is. I can only imagine the disgust his victims feel at the thought. Baba is a well known otaku, but not the kind of otaku that simply immerses himself in his favorite hobby. Those are respectable persons in comparison. He doesn't like anime, manga, games in general, he only likes those that specifically stimulate his fetishism, and he's on a pathological level. He's one of those disgusting guys that buy schoolgirl's used panties, saliva and urine.
That being said, don't make the mistake to think he's a weakling. Baba is a towering, walking mound, 1.93 cm. of pure fat and sweat.
And now this huge mass of filth is standing in front of a girl that failed to realize how huge and threatening he is. There are indeed some girls that show no fear insulting guys twice their sizes in spite of the great disparity in strength. That's because they know they are protected by the unwritten rule that forbids raising hands against them. There's no doubt that that one who dared facing Baba belongs to this group, but she's bound to learn a harsh lesson if things get ugly. You can't expect a guy that knows no morality nor shame to be bound by such rules.

Baba: "What did you just say?! Say it again, if you dare!"

Girl: "I said that you're scum... you're a pervert..."

She's beginning to understand that she's in trouble, and yet she doesn't feel like backing off. She's looking around, probably wishing for someone to step up and help her. Damn it... I can't stay here and watch any longer!
I make up my mind and stand up. I will face that damn Baba again, there's no other choice.
But before I can move I realize something is blocking me. When I turn my head I see Hitomi's hand grabbing me by my shirt.

Hitomi: "Don't. You'll get in trouble again."

Sumomo: "Meito-kun, I know how you feel, but considering your past you can't take such risk."

Damn! I know where they're coming from, I know! But still, how am I supposed to pretend I'm not seeing what's happening?! How can all these guys around me do it? Doesn't this injustice make their blood boil? How can they stand it?!

Baba: "You pissed me off! You really pissed me off! If you want me to take a picture of your panties that badly, then I'll take your skirt off and I'll take a lot! I'll take a lot of them!"

Girl: "You... you wouldn't dare! That would be a crime! A crime!"

Baba: "Mu he he he! There's no crime, if no one talks."

Girl: "Are you insane?! You can't do this! And there's a lot of witnesses!"

Baba: "Then, why don't they help you?"

Girl: "That's... that's... help! Help me! Somebody help me!"

Baba: "It's useless, they are all chickens! Now be a good girl. If you raise your skirt by yourself and let me take a few pictures, I'll forgive you."

Girl: "There's no way I'll do that!"

Baba: "He he he! I like it when the gals are so shy."

Girl: "Stay away! Don't come closer! Kyaah!"

Baba just grabbed her arm. That huge and sweaty hand is so massive that it could break it at any moment.

Baba: "I'll do a lot worse if you don't comply! You'd better do it quickly!"

Girl: "No... no! I'm sorry! It was my mistake! Just let me go!"

Baba: "Too late! You really pissed me off! You need to apologize properly!"

Girl: "Stop! You're hurting me! Aaah... it hurts! Stop it!"

Baba: "Raise your skirt."

She's about to cry, her face is completely red. She doesn't want to do it, but she's scared.
I have no doubt, she will yield! Crushed by feelings of shame and humiliation, with tears flowing from her closed eyes, she will raise her skirt in front of that disgusting Baba.
Screw it! Forgive me, Hitomi! Forgive me, Sumomo! I don't give a damn about the consequences! I'm going there now and I'm going to kick Baba's gigantic ass into the next week.
I remember Principal Wakamatsu's warning, if she hears we fought again, she will suspend us both from school for two months. If that were to happen, I might even have to repeat the year. But Baba would be suspended too, and the school would be at peace for a long while. In the end it wouldn't be such a bad trade off.
That of course means that I need to sacrifice myself, but I always thought there's no greater accomplishment for a man but to sacrifice himself for the sake of a woman. You may think that I have an anachronistic view on the world, but since I was a kid I always admired those western knights from the tales of King Arthur. This is the way of a true man. I won't show my shoulders to my dreams and ideals! I am Meito Oda, and this is what I am! Denying this would be the same as denying my very self!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Prologue (i)

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I can tell just by looking that Hitomi isn't pleased.

Hitomi: "Useless man, try one of these egg rolls!"

I'm sure that any normal food would just taste horrible now that I have experienced Sumomo's cuisine. Reluctantly I reach for one of Hitomi's egg rolls. It doesn't look bad, but it's just plain and boring.
I swallow it in a single gulp. As I suspected, its taste is as mediocre as how it looked.

Hitomi: "Hey! You need to chew it more! You can't appreciate the sophisticated flavors of my bento if you swallow everything like a pig!"

Sumomo: "Meito-kun, eat one of my shrimp in tempura. Open your mouth..."

Whoa! She's offering to feed me with her own chopsticks! Is this for real?! Is it really all right for me to accept this? Those are the same chopsticks that she just put in her mouth, the very same that were touched by her lips and her tongue!
This is no good! This is psychological warfare! I can't possibly resist something like that!

Hitomi: "Uaaah! Sumomo-chan, that's not fair!"

Sumomo: "Uh? What's the matter? Why do you think it isn't fair?"

Hitomi: "It's not fair because it's not fair! You're trying to corrupt the judge!"

Sumomo: "Isn't offering my food part of the challenge?"

Hitomi: "That's not the issue!"

Hitomi has a point, but I don't care! The fear to lose this rare chance completely sobers me up. Why am I even hesitating? I quickly grab the tempura shrimp with my teeth from Sumomo's extended hand.

Hitomi: "Aaaah!"

Another explosion of pleasure in my mouth. The tempura was fried to perfection and complements the unique savor of the shrimp nicely.

Hitomi: "You need to eat my chicken now! My chicken!"

Meito: "Don't rush me, there's only so much I can eat at a time."

Hitomi: "You were a lot quicker with my egg roll!"

Sumomo: "Meito-kun, be sure to eat one of my fried hanpen, they are the most delicious part of my bento."

Meito: "Oh, sure! Don't mind if I do..."

Hitomi: "What?! You haven't eaten my chicken yet! And you need to eat the veggies too!"

Meito: "Whoa, wait! Stop pressuring me!"

Sumomo: "Fruits are important too, you can't call it a complete meal without them."

Hitomi: "What did you say?! Are you pointing out flaws in my bento?!"

Sumomo: "Oh no, I'm sure it has an absolutely perfect ratio of rice, proteins and others."

It is me, or is it getting hot all of a sudden?
In the end what was originally supposed to be a relaxing lunch with friends was turned into an all out and hectic war. With all this tension in the air, my stomach is going to have cramps for sure...
Anyway I somehow manage to survive the ordeal, the fried hanpen with cheese was indeed a groundbreaking experience.
My hunger quenched and my soul sated, I bite the last bit of my sliced apple reveling in this rare moment of calm and happiness. The food is finished and I can finally relax... a bit...
The two girls are silently looking at me, obviously they are waiting for a verdict. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if I wasn't feeling their burning stares on me, but this is still better than being constantly pressured about eating this and that.
Anyway, no point in delaying this. I clear my throat.

Hitomi: "Wait a sec, useless man, we need to talk!"

Meito: "No! I already know what you want to talk about!"

Hitomi: "It's important! You'll regret it, if you don't listen!"

Meito: "Why can't this wait for later?"

Hitomi: "It can't!"

Sumomo: "It's all right, Meito-kun, I trust you."

How can someone maintain their mental stability when they hear a cute girl saying things such as that?! This psychological warfare is too hard for me to handle!

Hitomi: "S... see? Sumomo has no qualms about it, so just listen to what I need to say!"

Hitomi grabs me by my neck with her right arm and takes me aside. I no longer have the strength to oppose her, so I just let her have it her way without complaining.

Hitomi: "You know, I have a lot of pictures from the time we were kids."

Meito: "I know... so what's your point?"

Hitomi: "I have a special folder named: 'useless man's most embarrassing moments'. It's incredibly funny!"

Meito: "Kh... why are you bringing it up now?!"

Hitomi: "Absolutely no reason!"

You devil! I knew you'd try to blackmail me from the beginning, but this time I won't yield to your cheap tactics!

Meito: "Well, thanks for the info! Is that all? If so, then I'll announce the winner of this context."

Hitomi: "Not so fast, useless man! I still need to tell you the important bit."

Meito: "What is it now?"

Hitomi: "To be honest, I don't really care about Sumomo's cell strap..."

Meito: "What?! Then why did you specifically ask for that? That doesn't make sense!"

Hitomi: "I'm just saying that when I'll win, I'll give it to you, since I don't care about it all. I just wanted you to know."

Stop everything! A sudden realization strikes me. Of course, I should have expected that from such a diabolic woman! She planned it all from the beginning! When Sumomo challenged her, she knew she had no chance to win, but her pride couldn't allow her to withdraw. So she quickly elaborated a strategy to turn the tide in her favor at the very end. She accepted the challenge at one precise condition, and that condition was for the winner to get the loser's cell strap! But it wasn't something that she wanted, it was something she knew that I wanted!
This is amazing, Hitomi, I am truly impressed and I have a higher opinion of you now. I used to think you were just a thug and a bully, but now I know that you are indeed an evil mastermind! One day you might even become one of those super villains from the american comics! You have come far, I'm proud of you!
Okay, Meito Oda, you need to assimilate this new important information and think how to proceed now.
There is no doubt that Sumomo's bento was by far better than Hitomi's. If I wanted to give my honest and impartial opinion I would declare the winner right now without any hesitations. The problem is that I never intended to be honest from the very start!
Sumomo is the girl I love, so I really want to make her happy. If I would let her win, she would certainly rejoice. Conversely she might become sad, if she had to relinquish her cell strap. I don't know how much she treasures it. What if it's important to her, what if it's a gift from her...
Wait, there's no way she would have accepted to wager it, if it was that important. Unless she was absolutely sure to win. Was she? She doesn't know how I feel about her, she has no reason to believe I will definitely choose her. She isn't the type to be so overconfident about her skills either.
It's probably safe to assume she doesn't care about winning that much, unlike Hitomi she's a very easygoing person. She would take her loss with fair play. Conversely Hitomi would definitely rage and get her revenge on me. There's no telling what she could be capable of, if I made her brilliantly planned strategy fail.
And then there's to consider what I would gain from either decision. Let's say I choose Sumomo, I would probably gain a few points, but it would be ultimately useless and I don't think our relationship would significantly improve or worsen in either case. Now let's say I choose Hitomi, I wouldn't need to worry about her retaliations and on top of that I would gain Sumomo's cell strap. It would become a precious memento for me, something that I would treasure and that would always remind me of her.
One day our paths will divide, but something that belonged to her will remain with me, forever...
Think carefully, Meito Oda, is this what you really want? It isn't just a matter of deciding the winner of an ultimately meaningless challenge. Sumomo said she trusted me, would I be able to face her without feeling guilty, if I were to betray such trust? And what if she finds out that Hitomi bribed me and I let her corrupt me? That would be a most terrifying scenario!
I need to come to a decision. The two girls are staring at me again, I can't make them wait forever.
It's time to declare my verdict.

1) The winner is Sumomo.
2) The winner is Hitomi.   

Wait, what am I doing?
This isn't something that I should reason about, this isn't something that I should coldly analyze. This isn't one of those turning points that can go either way. There is one and only one possible decision I can make, and I've been a complete idiot for hesitating this long. This isn't a matter that I can choose, it's already settled.

Meito: "Sumomo, you're the winner."

I said it.
It was the right choice. Deep in my heart I know it was, I feel relieved.
Sumomo raises her arms to the sky in celebration and her face brightens with a wonderful smile. There can't be a better reward for me than this.
Hitomi looks shocked, she must have been pretty confident that I wouldn't have missed such a rare chance. She thought that she knew me well enough, and that I couldn't possibly surprise her anymore.
She was wrong.
People are not that predictable, no matter how well you know them. Hitomi is learning an important lesson today. But that goes for me too. If you asked me a while ago, I would have stated with confidence that Hitomi would be yelling at me now and that she would be already actualizing her vengeance.
I was wrong.
Hitomi looks just a bit disappointed now. I don't sense any real anger from her.

Hitomi: "Well, whatever! I didn't prepare this bento anyway, my mother did. So it wasn't my real cooking skill on trial."

I knew it!

Meito: "I'm glad it was your mother's cooking, I wouldn't be alive now if it was yours!"

Hitomi: "What?! That's rude!"

Meito: "Honestly now, have you ever cooked anything before?"

Hitomi: "Of course I did!"

Meito: "What? Instant noodles? Ramen cups?"

Hitomi: "I can cook rice!"

Meito: "With a rice cooker?"

Hitomi: "Don't think it's that easy! You wouldn't understand, you've never tried!"

Meito: "You mean you've messed up at cooking rice even with a rice cooker?!"

Hitomi: "S-shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"

Sumomo: "Ha ha ha! The two of you really get along well!"

Hitomi: "Eh?!"

Meito: "What?!"

Sumomo: "Am I wrong?"

Meito: "The way I see it we are like cat ad dog. We are completely incompatible!"

Hitomi: "What the useless man said. I hang around him only because I can take advantage of him."

Meito: "Kh... Wait! Didn't you just contradict yourself?! If you take advantage of me, that means I'm of use of you!"

Hitomi: "Not nearly enough... that's why you're an useless man."

Meito: "See?! How can I get along with someone like that?!"

Sumomo: "But to me, it looks like you're having a lot of fun!"

Meito: "Nope... unfortunately it's not fun at all..."

Hitomi: "It's fun!"

Meito: "Eeeh?!"

Hitomi: "It's a lot of fun teasing him!"

Meito: "That's completely one sided!"

Sumomo: "But in the end you keep hanging out with her, so I think that deep down even Meito-kun thinks that this is fun."

When she says it like that... I almost believe it...
Is that the truth? Do I unconsciously enjoy the constant bickering? Does that mean that I also like being mistreated and insulted? Wait! What the hell am I? A masochist?!

Meito: "No, no, no! That can't be!"

Sumomo: "Anyway, Hitomi. Can I have it?"

Sumomo smiles and extends both her hands forming a cup toward Hitomi. My childhood friend seems quite displeased, I guess she really doesn't want to part with her cell strap.

Meito: "A promise is a promise. You lost the bet, you need to pay the price!"

Hitomi: "I know! I know!"

Reluctantly Hitomi pulls her cell phone out from her pocket and drops it in Sumomo's hands.

Hitomi: "It's a bother to remove a cell strap, so do it yourself."

Wow, she really took the loss in a bad way. She turns her back to us and starts looking in the distance with  an annoyed and bored expression.
I look at Sumomo and then I shrug my shoulders. Sometimes Hitomi can be pretty childish, and by "sometimes" I mean "fairly often".

Monday, June 4, 2012

Prologue (h)

<-prev

Sumomo: "It's a sunny day, let's eat outside in the courtyard behind the school."

It's a nice suggestion and we both welcome it. There is a small area just between the school's back entrance and the gym with a lot of benches and trees. That's the ideal place to eat bento and relax during the warm season.
Unsurprisingly the place is pretty crowded, but we manage to find a free spot for us to sit and enjoy our meals. Normally this would be the time when cherry trees are in full bloom, but this year they blossomed unusually earlier and at this point they have already lost vitality and splendor. A pity, it would have been a perfect day. So much for Teramoto's predictions, anyway!
I sit between the two girls so I can pick food from either bento. Frankly, I couldn't care less about Hitomi's food, and beside I'm pretty sure she's not the one who prepared it. However it would be rude to eat more than one third of Sumomo's and I need the calories, so I'll gladly oblige. It is also my duty as a judge to sample both cookings, not like I plan to be impartial, but I need to keep the appearances at the very least.
Hitomi's bento's box is a dull light blue standard model, it already looks unappetizing and she still hasn't opened the lid. Sumomo's box is a lot more classy, painted in a nice shade of lilac and decorated with various floreal motives.

Hitomi: "All right, let's do this properly! First: the presentation of each contestant's delicacy. Let's begin with mine! VoilĂ !"

Hitomi abruptly removes the lid with a lightning movement of her hand.

Hitomi: "As you can see, this bento offers abundance of what is the Japanese staple food of excellence: rice! Garnished with a single but juicy umeboshi. The vast selection of side dishes varies from delicately cooked egg rolls, delicious small bites of black pepper flavored chicken breast, simmered daikon radish and konjak and nutritious broccoli dipped in soy sauce!"

This isn't bad at all, in fact my mouth is already watering. However, how can I put it, this food lacks in fantasy, variety and creativity.

Sumomo: "Then, I will humbly present what I prepared."

Differently from Hitomi, Sumomo opens the box with calm, elegance and care. This adds more to the suspense and raises my expectations. I revel in the anticipation for the grand reveal.
And finally the treasure chest is open and it's almost as if a stream of golden light was released to illuminate this grey and sad world. Truly, if Pandora's box was meant to contain and trap all the evils of the world, Sumomo's box is certainly its benevolent counterpart.

Sumomo: "For today's meal I prepared a bed of sushi rice with a topping of salmon furikake, garnished with nori and pickled daikon."

The garnishing and the topping were carefully placed so to form the image of a butterfly.

Sumomo: "I have then made a small serving of tempura shrimps and fried hanpen with cheese. As for the vegetables, here is a mix of simmered carrots, bamboo shoots, burdock and taro with green peas and black beans."

The carrot rounds are cut and carved in a way to resemble small flowers.

Sumomo: "As a final touch, I prepared a few apple slices mixed with raspberries and blackberries."

I see that Sumomo mastered the traditional art of cutting apple slices in the form of little bunnies. Each one is also skewered by a wooden stick so to make it easier to eat them.
What can I say? This is a vision that would move even the most hardened of hearts. Such care and love! Such delightful composition of flavors and colors! Even if I wasn't so biased towards Sumomo, even if my judgment wasn't clouded by my unyielding love, I would undoubtedly reach a final decision right at this very moment. There is no need to sample the food! It is already clear who's the most deserving of being the winner of this context!

Hitomi: "My my, Sumomo-chan, your bento is totally unbalanced! Don't you even know what are the right proportions? There should be 4 parts of rice, 2 of proteins and 1 of veggies. But look at that! It seems clear to me that you went quite overboard with the proteins!"

Sumomo: "Hmm? Is that so?"

Who the hell cares?!

Hitomi: "Be sure to consider that when you'll reach your verdict, useless man."

Meito: "The participants will refrain from trying to influence the judge's decision."

Hitomi: "Eeh! What... what's with that attitude?!"

Sumomo: "*giggle* *giggle*"

Meito: "Let's get this started! I'm hungry!"

Sumomo: "Here, I have a spare pair of chopsticks you can use."

Uuuooh! Sumomo's chopsticks!

Hitomi: "I'm digging in!"

Sumomo: "I'm digging in."

Meito: "Me too!"

I decide to start with Hitomi's rice. There's a lot of it and since it's pretty plain the risk of food poisoning shouldn't be too high. I'm one of those persons that prefer to keep to most delicious part for last.

Hitomi: "Aaah! Leave the umeboshi alone! That's mine!"

Meito: "How can I judge your rice if I don't eat the only umeboshi in there?"

Hitomi: "That's precisely because there's only one you can't have it!"

Meito: "I totally don't get you, since when you like sour and salty stuff?"

Hitomi: "I like umeboshi in my rice, okay!"

Meito: "Okay, I'll just take a little piece of it..."

Hitomi: "Don't contaminate my food with your chopsticks! Here, this is your part of the rice, the rest is mine."

Meito: "You really don't know how to schmooze your judge, don't you?!"

Hitomi: "What's with that, useless man?! I expect you to only consider the food and nothing else!"

Sure thing, Hitomi, you can count on that!

Sumomo: "Here, have some of mine, Meito-kun."

Meito: "I will gladly oblige."

I take a lump of rice from Sumomo's bento's box and I bring it to my mouth while taking care as to not let any of it drop. The salmon furikake melts in my mouth and sends shivers of pleasure to my tongue. It's simply divine! All the many flavors blend perfectly with the rice and create a fantastic symphony of tastes.
This is the most delicious furikake I ever ate!
I'm restraining myself from expressing my joy with words, I don't want to spoil the moment when I'll declare the victor, but apparently my face is speaking for itself.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Prologue (g)

<-prev

Obnoxious Girl: "HITOMI GOTSUJI!"

We all turn our heads towards the girl who just barged in and yelled at us, and when I say "we all", I mean everyone in the classroom.
I know who she is, unfortunately I know her well. She is Kagami Hibari from 3-B, the president of the basket club. There is no doubt whom she came here for, she even yelled her name loudly enough for at least half of the school to hear.
How do I know her? Well... there's the fact that the ace of our female basket team happens to buzz around me all the time and therefore I more or less know all of her friends from the club. But more importantly, Hibari was one of my previous classmates, and the worse part is that she's Teramoto's sidekick number one.
For some reason we never really get along well and for a whole year we've been at each other throats. You can imagine my displeasure in seeing her here.

Hitomi: "Yo, Kagamin, what's the matter?"

Kagami: "Today is super special intensive training day! I came here to make sure you wouldn't forget!"

Hitomi: "Ugh... super special intensive training day?! Why can't we take it easy?"

Kagami: "Aaaah! I knew it! I knew it! You had forgotten it already!"

Hitomi: "It's not like I forgot, that's the first time I hear something like that..."

Kagami: "Uggaaah!! I told you yesterday during club! Did you listen to anything that I said?!"

Hitomi: "Hmmm..."

Hitomi: "Hmmm..."

Hitomi: "Hmmm..."

There's no point in trying so hard to remember, Hitomi, you obviously didn't pat any attention to your club's president at all.

Hitomi: "What did we talk about yesterday again?"

Like I thought.

Kagami: "Why is that you never listen?! Never! Never! Never! Never! Never!"

Hitomi: "Anyway what's the super special intensive training for?"

You don't need to repeat that ridiculous list of random adjective each time.

Kagami: "Isn't it obvious?! We need to get back in super shape to impress our potential new recruits!"

Hitomi: "I'm already more than impressive as I am, I don't need to train."

Kagami: "I won't let that happen! You're my precious super ace of my super team! I'll make you even more super than you are! If I'd let you do what you want, you'd surely go in... super slacking off mode!"

I swear, if she says the word "super" again...

Hitomi: "Does that mean that we'll train until late? I don't want that, I have stuff to do after school."

Kagami: "We'll keep training until six o' clock!"

Hitomi: "No way!"

Kagami: "Uggaaah! Why not?! It's a very reasonable time to end club activities!"

Hitomi: "I want to get done with it by that time, and I need at least 15 minutes to take a shower and get dressed."

Kagami: "Fine! You can take your leave at 5:45!"

Hitomi: "Deal!"

Kagami: "Sigh... why do you always act like a super spoiled brat?!"

She said it again.

Meito: "Okay, now that you're super done here, why don't you go back to your super classroom?"

Hibari turns her head and begins staring at me with a blank expression as if she only noticed me now.
Actually it's not "as if", I can tell from her stupid face that she really didn't notice me at all.
It seems that her brain is having some difficulty at assessing the situation, but as she makes progress in assembling data and connecting informations her eyes and her open mouth slowly widen more and more.

Kagami: "AAAAAAAAAHH!!!"

Meito: "What?!"

Kagami: "What the hell are you doing here?! Stupid Oda!"

Meito: "What am I doing here? What are you doing here! This is my classroom!"

Kagami: "Eeeeh?! Since when?!"

Meito: "Since the beginning of the school year! How couldn't you have noticed all this time?"

Kagami: "Shut up! I thought you were skipping school!"

Meito: "Are you for real?!"

You might not believe it, but the president of the female basket club, who's standing in front of me, is incredibly short. She's almost as short as Junko and that means I'm almost twice her size. Right now we probably look like an oddly matched pair of comedians.

Kagami: "Uggaaah! I told you to shut up! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!"

Meito: "Get the hell out of here already..."

Kagami: "Hmph, I'll be going! Your stupidity would infect me, if I stayed here any longer."

That's my line!

Kagami: "Hitomi! Don't forget you have a super special intensive training after school! Don't be late!"

Hitomi: "Yeah, yeah..."

Kagami: "Hmph, stupid Oda!"

She walks away while glaring at me with resentful eyes. And she keeps walking, and she keeps glaring at me. And, let me tell you, walking while not watching were you are going isn't the smartest idea. When Hibari finally turns her face ahead, she does it just in time to crash it violently against the door.

Kagami: "UG...GAAAAAAH!!!"

That's the president of the basket club for you, godlike reflexes!
I can't even laugh to that, it's just too pathetic...
Now, I must be honest, when she's on the field she's a pretty good player. As long as she doesn't get distracted or she isn't particularly nervous, she's pretty much unstoppable. While Hitomi with her stature makes a strong "power forward" and an exceptional shooter, Hibari with her small frame and natural swiftness is the perfect "point guard".
However it appears she needs to enter into "match mode" in order to take advantage of her talents, and that takes her a few seconds. Normally she tends to be a total klutz. My theory is that her brain can only operate under well defined conditions.
One thing is for sure though, her head isn't going to get any better if she keeps bumping it everywhere. From the look of it, she must have hit it pretty hard. She's holding her forehead with both hands and I see a few tears flowing from her eyes.
She turns to me with an expression filled with shame and frustration. Her face is completely red.

Kagami: "S... s... stupid Oda!"

Meito: "Why am I stupid now? I haven't said or done anything!"

Kagami: "You... you're just stupid! You don't need a reason!"

Meito: "That doesn't make any sense!"

Kagami: "See! You just don't get it! Ha ha ha ha! Stupid! Stupid!"

Meito: "Get out! Get out already!"

Kagami: "I'm going! Who wants to stay here anyway?!"

Meito: "Then go!"

Kagami: "I'm going!"

Meito: "Good! Don't hit your head again! We need the door in one piece!"

Kagami: "Uggaaah! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!"

And, while repeating "stupid" over and over, she finally leaves.
Ladies and gentlemen, what you've just seen was Kagami Hibari in one of her best performances! Applause, please!
I'm not sure if you have realized it by now, I don't want to risk that you'll remain with the doubt, therefore let me say it with perfectly clarity: Kagami Hibari is a total moron.
I'm not saying it with malice or to disparage her, I'm just stating a fact, everyone knows that for a certainty. Her grades are even worse than mine, that says it all. At least I have the excuse of not studying, but she? She actually tries her best, and her best is still less than my worst.

Sumomo: "Hibari-san sure is a funny person, isn't she?"

Oh, my angelic Sumomo... your soul is so pure! You always look at the good side in every thing!

Hitomi: "She would be funnier if she wasn't always bossing me around! But I admit it's very funny when she and the useless man argue like little kids!"

Meito: "Kh... you're more of a little kid than I am!"

Sumomo: "At any rate we should start eating, time is running out."

Sumomo's words suddenly brings me to a terrible realization. I hurriedly look at my watch and as I feared the hands moved faster that I imagined. This is terrible!

Meito: "Uoooh!!! Damn it! All is lost! It's too late now!"

Sumomo: "Uh? What's wrong, Meito-kun?"

Meito: "All is wrong! It's a tragedy! This is the final line for me... I won't survive to see the end of this day!"

Hitomi: "Stop being so melodramatic and tell us what's the matter already, useless man!"

Meito: "You don't understand... I can already sense the excruciating pain growing inside of me, soon it will devour my entire existence..."

Hitomi: "I have no idea what you're talking about, talk like a human being!"

Meito: "The only way to cure my disease was to reach the cafeteria before everyone else, so to conquer the most sought commodity of this school! But it's too late now... the war has already started and it would be meaningless to join it now. I have no choice but to face pain and starvation all by myself... forgotten by friends and foes..."

Hitomi: "Aaah... so that's how it is... Why couldn't you simply say that you lost your chance at getting the best food from the cafeteria? Come on, go there already, useless man! There's bound to be leftovers for you to eat, you won't die."

Meito: "That won't do! The leftovers aren't enough to soothe my pain!"

Hitomi: "Hey... give it a rest, you're scaring me."

Sumomo: "I see! I've got a wonderful idea!"

Hitomi: "Uh?"

Meito: "Hmm?"

Sumomo: "We have brought our bento from home, right Hitomi? If we both share some for Meito-kun, there should be enough for the three of us."

Praised be Yahweh, Allah, Amaterasu, Brahman, Ahura Mazda, Azathoth or whoever created this universe! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! A world where I can receive the blessing of Sumomo's homemade cooking must be indeed the best of all possible worlds! I'll never be grateful enough for making this dream a reality!

Hitomi: "No way!"

Don't you dare destroying my happiness, Hitomi!

Hitomi: "Why do I need to share my food with this useless man? Didn't you hear what Kagamin said? I have a super special intensive training in the afternoon, I need all the energy I can get."

Damn you, Hitomi! Hibari too! How dare you disrupting my dreams! And why do you keep repeating that ridiculous list of random adjectives each time!

Sumomo: "Hmm... you have a point."

Meito: "Hey, hey... wait! Wait a second! Hitomi, you can't fool me! I know you always bring more food than you can eat! Do not underestimate the knowledge of a childhood friend!"

Hitomi: "Well... so? What's your point?"

Meito: "Kh... come on! Do me a favor just for this time!"

Read between the damn lines, Hitomi! You should know why I'm insisting so much!

Hitomi: "What's in it for me?"

You damn female devil! You commodifier of dreams!
This is no good. If I can't come up with something quickly, not only I will lose a once in a lifetime chance to savor Sumomo's homemade cooking, I will also end up starving for the rest of the day!
Please, think of something! Think of something! Think of something!
I'm about to lose any hope when I hear the sound of a single clap.

Sumomo: "I see, I've got a wonderful idea!"

My savior! My heart, once again filled with hopes, basks in a sea of divine light.

Sumomo: "Why don't we turn it into a challenge? My cooking skills versus Hitomi's cooking skills. Meito-kun will be the judge! What do you think, Hitomi?"

Genius! Sumomo you're a genius! There's no way Hitomi will turn down a challenge like this! This is simply brilliant! What will you do now, Hitomi?! Mu ha ha ha! Refuse the confrontation, if you dare, but that would be the same as admitting defeat! However, even if you accept, there's just no way for you to win! Today I will finally teach you how bitter is the taste of defeat! Come on, let us hear your answer!
Hitomi grins. I see, she isn't the kind of girl that can abandon herself to despair, but that's just perfect for me!

Hitomi: "All right, challenge accepted."

Yes!

Hitomi: "But if it's a challenge, then we need to bet something. What do you say, Sumomo-chan?"

Sumomo: "Looks like fun... as long as it's something reasonable, it's okay with me."

Hitomi: "What about your cell strap? I always liked it, it's super cute."

Sumomo: "Oh no, your cell strap is a lot cuter than mine, I always envied it."

Hitomi: "Then... it's decided!"

Sumomo's cell strap? Come to think of it, I've never seen her with a cell phone in her hands. Of course I've never had many chances to see her outside of the school grounds. She is a model student, she would never use a cell phone here.
I want to see it... I want to see Sumomo's super cute cell strap!
As for Hitomi, if I remember correctly, she has a sort of strange alien cat. How is that thing even remotely cute? I'm sure Sumomo was just trying to be polite.
At any rate, not like there was any chance to begin with, but there's simply no way I can let Hitomi win now.