The Mystery of the Stolen Bento
By: Koorino Megumi
This is for my friend Mura, and there are no real spoilers. Enjoy!
I can't remember the last time I was this happy. Well, maybe that's not exactly true. After all, the hot chocolate Narumi-san made for me a few days ago did what it always does and made me want to--and choose to--start singing. But still, right now I'm at least as happy as I was then. And why, you might ask? What could be so wonderful in my life as to rival the happiness that a cup of homemade hot chocolate can bring? Today, Narumi-san has brought me an ultra-special, personally-prepared bento! How can one not be moved to tears at the sight of the fluffy rice, the golden scrambled eggs, the sausages carefully cut to look like little octopuses with the kindness of Narumi-san's heart? Every item is just so scrumptious and has so much care in it that I can hardly contain my excitement at the thought of eating it.
Unfortunately, he let me peek at it before school (Rio-san, Asazuki-san, and Takamachi-san all saw it, too, how jealous they must be!) and I have to wait another three hours until lunch.
OH THE INSANITY! How will I survive, you, dear readers, might ask? Fear not, for the mighty Yuizaki Hiyono can stand up in the face of even this, the gravest of crises. I must simply remind myself of the mouth-watering goodness that awaits me, the light at the end of the tunnel, the reward for those who are patient...
...in short, I can't concentrate, and Narumi-san should be glad I'm too good of a friend to steal a lunch (a lunch made for me, anyway) without permission or I would have eaten it already.
But in all honesty, this whole situation is a little fishy. Narumi-san always makes me food when I help him out, but ever since we took care of that last Hunter, things have been strangely quiet. I know Narumi-san thinks better of me than he pretends he does (oh, the cruelty I must endure!), but he's not the type of guy to make me a bento one day without some sort of motive behind doing it. Especially since I usually steal his, anyway. Really, I should think about what reason he might have for...
...stomach...growling...must wait...three hours...Narumi-saaaaaaaan, whyyyy must you torture me so?
I am Yuizaki Hiyono, and I am strong enough to wait until Narumi-san willingly gives me the lunch he made with the warmth of his heart. I am Yuizaki Hiyono, and I am strong enough to wait...
...waaaaaaaah, I need lunch now!
Noon has FINALLY arrived! At the moment, I am taking the stairs two at a time, pounding my way up to the roof, where I shall find Narumi-san and his super-special, made-for-Hiyono-with-love bento.
The bento is there, sitting on the ground all alone, calling to me, Hiyono, Hiyono, I am just for you! Eeeeat me! Enjoy the balance of saltiness in the eggs and how the rice melts in your mouth and...
...and where is Narumi-san, and why would he leave the lunch behind to taunt me while I wait for him to give it to me? ...and how long will he be gone? If I open it just for a second, maybe he won't notice one little sausage missing-
"Waiting for your lunch, too?"
The voice pulls me from my thoughts, and I turn in surprise to find Takamachi-san leaning against the railing. "Hi, Takamachi-san!" I greet her cheerfully, "What are you doing here?" I blink, looking around. "Is Asazuki-san here somewhere?"
Takamachi-san laughs. "No, it's just me." Then she grins. "He's buying me some bread."
"You're not quite the only one up here!" pipes up a small voice from behind us both, and I turn to find Rio-san perched on top of the door to the roof, swinging her legs over the side. She waves, but somehow, as seems to be common for Rio-san, this causes her to slip, and she falls to hit the floor hard, her eyes tearing up immediately.
"Rio, you know you shouldn't climb up to places like that when you can't balance," scolds a third new voice as Asazuki-san emerges from the stairway, offering Rio-san his free hand and helping her up. Rio-san stumbles as she stands, putting a hand to her side to steady herself and kicking out reflexively--sending my bento skidding across the ground toward the edge of the roof!
The horror. The sheer, palpable, heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat, makes-you-go-weak-in-the-knees horror. It feels like one of those slow motion scenes in an action movie as I shout, "Noooo!" and dive for my precious treasure. You know the moment--when you know what the result will be before the hero even tries to jump for the save. And yet I have to make the attempt. Just look at what's at stake!
But to the utter surprise of all those concerned (which may just be me, but honestly, how can anyone not be concerned about a homemade bento?), the personally-prepared delight hits a rock just short of the railing and is knocked sideways, sliding to a stop about an inch from its doom.
I, on the other hand, hit the ground. Hard. I would gladly sacrifice my elbows, knees, and palms for Narumi-san's homemade bento, but sacrificing them just to fall short and watch a rock do my job for me is, admittedly, a little discouraging.
But! I shall not despair, for the scrumptious, heart-warming, super-special treat is STILL LIVING. And thus the world is allowed to continue to turn and the sun to rise and set, and I can pull myself up (nursing my wounds just a bit) and retrieve that little box that makes my mouth water.
And find that it is open. Did Narumi-san leave it open for me? Dare I consider that it has been sitting here the whole time, permission to eat already granted, waiting for me, and I didn't take it?
...okay, maybe not. Because it's EMPTY!
I can't wail hard enough. I need a spontaneous, dramatic thunderstorm NOW.
Okay, let's try that again, snapping my fingers this time. Angsty thunderstorm, start!
...the sky is too sad to mourn! The whole earth is crumbling and stilling in its grief because MY BENTO HAS BEEN EATEN!
What thief could do such a thing? What scum, what low-life of the earth would ever dare to-
And then I remember that I'm surrounded by Blade Children.
"It'sgoneit'sgoneit'sgoneit'sgone!" Someone needs to stop me before my throat goes too raw to shout out any accusations.
A small piece of my heart wants to believe that the Blade Children could not possibly be so low as to steal a heartfelt, homemade bento from the wonderfully sweet, uber-cute, very deserving Hiyono. I mean...don't I have enough blackmail on them to prevent that? I certainly do for everyone else at Tsukiyomi Academy...
Ahem. But the evidence points to it! "The melody of logic" and all those beautiful sayings that Narumi-san has.
Speaking of which, where is Narumi-san? Did he hide somewhere to torment me and accidentally fall asleep? Did he find the stolen bento and run home to make me a new one so that I wouldn't have to suffer the horrible, nearly-death-inducing misery that I now feel?
...I need to stop screaming, or I really won't have a voice anymore. Funny thing, though. I've been so busy panicking that I almost forgot I was doing it!
"Would you calm down already?" Asazuki-san is shaking me slightly, the bag of bread he was holding safely transferred to Takamachi-san and Rio-san nowhere in sight.
"It's gone..." I weakly gibber one last time before collapsing to my knees, staring at the open, empty box that a rock saved only so it could break my heart.
"Uh...yeah. But Ryouko's got some bread she could-"
Quite suddenly the rock is bouncing off Asazuki-san's head as Takamachi-san shouts a threat and I continue to stare rather blankly at the box of my shattered dreams. Asazuki-san shouts something back, but then he starts waving his hand in front of my face. "Hey, Hiyono-chan, you in there?"
"She'll snap out of it."
It's a new voice again, but one that is certainly not "new" to my ears. Ohhh, how I know that flat, unsympathetic voice! In a flash, I am on my feet again, whirling on the figure who is just emerging from the staircase, Rio-san beside him. "Narumi-san, how can you act so cold?" I demand, my voice wavering between anger and despair, "The lunch that you took so much care to make for me has been stolen! Your heart must be weeping right now."
"Actually, I only made that lunch so it would get stolen."
Narumi-san gives me a look. "Just what I said. Someone's been stealing my lunch lately--someone besides you." He eyes me, but I am in far too much shock to smile innocently and simply continue staring at him instead. "So I decided to make something special that the criminal would never be able to resist, let all the suspects see it, and leave it out where it could be taken."
"You...you...you..." I sputter, although it's surprising that I can get anything out with my jaw where it is on the ground.
"Very good, otouto-san!" Rio-san declares, grinning at him, "Your lunch was stolen just like you wanted, and you have all the suspects here, right? But...do you know who did it?"
"I will in a minute." Narumi-san looks around at each of the three Blade Children, eyes narrowed, and then he turns to me. "What did you see when you got here?"
I blink, thrown off for a moment by the sudden question. Actually, I'm feeling pretty thrown off in general right now. Is it really true that he only made me lunch to solve a crime? It makes sense, but...it was a bento...all for me... Narumi-saaaaaan, how can you be so horribly cruel?
For a second I consider not helping him this time, but then I remember just whose bento one of the Blade Children took, and since I doubt I can solve this without him, I decide to let him off the hook this time. But he'll be hearing it! And I'm sure in a day or so I can find some blackmail that will make Narumi-san sorry. But I guess that would only work if he actually cared what people say about him...
...why is everything going wrong today? All I wanted was some rice and egg and sausage prepared with care in a nice little box just for Hiyono!
"Takamachi-san was by the railing, waiting for Asazuki-san to bring her some bread," I recount, putting a finger to my chin thoughtfully, "And Rio-san was sitting above the stairs."
Narumi-san nods, and I can almost see the wheels in his head turning, taking in everything I've said and putting it together. Oh, how amazing Narumi-san is! It almost makes it hard to stay mad at him. "When did you notice the food was missing?"
"When Asazuki-san got here, Rio-san was startled and fell, and while Asazuki-san was helping her up, she tripped and kicked the box (and it almost went over the edge, but a rock just barely stopped it!), and then I grabbed it and saw it was empty..."
Narumi-san nods again. "What order did you three arrive in?" he asks, this time addressing Takamachi-san.
"Kousuke and I came up from class together. She was already here," Takamachi-san replies flatly, her eyes holding the same challenge that Rio-san gave. I blink for a moment, glancing at Asazuki-san and seeing a glint in his eyes, too, and I realize that Narumi-san's own investigation has become another test. Those Blade Children never stop, do they? I wonder if they started stealing his lunch for the same reason...? But I'm not worried about whether or not he'll pass because he set all this up himself, and it's Narumi-san, so of course he'll succeed!
And if he doesn't, I'll just get him to make me another bento. But I believe in him!
Narumi-san is quiet for a moment, but then he nods, smirking faintly. "None of you were ever alone with the lunch. The obvious answer would be that two of you stole it together, or someone let you do it, but that would be too easy. It doesn't make sense, either--the same situation hasn't happened on every day that my lunch has disappeared, and you're too independent to pull something silly like this together. So the question is: which of you stole the lunch, when, and how did you do it so even she didn't notice?" He gestures at me, and I look to him in surprise. Did Narumi-san really say what I think he just said? Someone stole the bento while I was watching? But how is that possible? I never took my eyes off of it!
"I was watching the bento the whole time, Narumi-san," I state. I am not doubting him, but he's leaving me in horrible suspense, and I have to know what happened! "When was it taken?"
"When Rio fell."
My eyes widen. Of course! When else would everyone's eyes have strayed from the bento?
"Makes sense," Asazuki-san pipes up, "But you're still not saying which of us did it."
I frown, thinking. If it happened when Rio-san fell, that means Asazuki-san could have done it because he was right there. But he had a bag of bread in his hand... Unless he somehow dumped the bento into the bag? Or wait...Takamachi-san is really fast, so maybe she came up beside us while we were distracted and took it without anyone noticing? That would have been hard to do, though--we should have heard her moving. Maybe Rio-san...but wait, Asazuki-san was grabbing her hand then! Then how...
My thoughts are interrupted as Narumi-san smirks again, getting that serene look that comes when he's solved something. "The melody of logic always plays the notes of truth," he states, and my heart begins to pound. "The one who stole the bento...was you!"
I turn. And stare. And turn back to Narumi-san. And back to the culprit. "But how?"
"Yes, otouto-san, you shouldn't point that finger at me unless you're ready to back it up," Rio-san says, smirking at him, "How did I do it?"
Narumi-san doesn't even flinch. "The whole thing was a set-up from the start. You were sitting up there just so you could fall when you had a good excuse and steal the bento without anyone thinking you were doing it. When you tripped, you made it look like you kicked the bento, but really you had found an empty bento box after you saw mine this morning and hidden it in your pant leg so that you could grab the real bento and hide it behind you until you had a chance to put it in your backpack. Then, when you went to get me, you were able to hide it somewhere else."
I am still staring, but now the shock is beginning to turn from horror to excitement. That...all makes sense. Oh, Narumi-san, I always knew you were amazing!
...but where is my bento now?
Rio-san smiles cutely, looking cheerful. "That's a very good theory!" she declares, "But where is the evidence? Even if you find the bento somewhere else, you can't prove that I put it there."
Narumi-san just smirks back at her. "It was a good plan," he concedes, "But you made one mistake."
Rio-san tilts her head. "Oh? What went wrong?"
"You tried to kick the fake bento over the side, but it was stopped by a rock. Trying to get rid of the fake bento isn't a very good idea for a Blade Child--you like to face your enemies head-on, and this way, the fact that the bento was stolen might not even be noticed, not to mention you would have been yelled at for ruining it. So why do it at all?" Narumi-san strides over to the empty box, picking it up. "Because the box reveals the culprit!" He turns it over, exposing the bottom, where a picture of a tiny rabbit is still visible, despite the marker that has been drawn over it. "You didn't have a chance to buy a bento, and that would have been pointless to do just so you could steal one, so you used your own lunch box. You didn't want to cut a hole in it because that might have been suspicious and noticeable if the box was picked up, but you couldn't hide the rabbit any other way, so you decided to get rid of the box. But you failed, Rio."
Rio-san just stares at him for a moment, and then she sighs, still smiling. "Very good, otouto-san," she declares brightly, "You beat me again." And she opens her backpack, revealing...
...you have to be joking. Was she that confident that Narumi-san wouldn't search her things? Is this another trick? Are my eyes deceiving me? Is Rio-san really holding my bento?
I snatch the box out of her hands before anyone can say another word, opening it up and unable to keep my eyes from watering as I gaze inside. "Food made from Narumi-san's heart..." I mumble. "Itadakimasu!" And I pick up one of the tiny, octopus-shaped sausages and pop it into my mouth, sighing in bliss.
"Heh, someone's happy," Asazuki-san says, "Nice try, Rio, but it looks like he got you again."
Rio-san pouts. "Just wait till next time!" she declares, "I'll win for sure next time!"
"Uh-huh, in your dreams."
"Kousuke-kuuuun! You lost to him, too!"
"Don't remind me."
"Kousuke! I thought I told you to leave those two alone."
"I have, I have! Just once before we..."
The other voices fade into the background as I enjoy my lunch. But I can't help but notice when Narumi-san rolls his eyes and turns away from me, heading over to the railing.
"Narumi-san? Where are you going?" I ask, following after him, bento in hand.
He gives me a look and sits down. "I'm going to take a nap. Enjoy your lunch."
As annoyed as I am at him for abandoning me (and setting all this up in the first place!), I can't help but beam at him for those words--and take another bite.
...and then I am hit with a sudden urge to break out in song. Well, no reason not to, right? "Mado no soto...kirakirakirari!"
Narumi-san groans and covers his ears with his hands, and I laugh, continuing to enjoy my ultra-special, made-just-for-Hiyono-with-love bento.