Duran-kun and Kiyo-chan's Omake Theater!

(featuring the Kuga-Fujino family pets)

Natsuki Kuga was not having a good day.

The problems had started at school, where her chemistry teacher had informed her that, due to the pop quiz she had missed while cutting class the day before, she was going to be stuck taking a makeup test after-hours. Then her homeroom teacher had pointed out that her lack of any club membership could well make her ineligible to apply for the entrance exams to certain universities, regardless of her test scores, including Fuuka University—which due to its escalator clause didn't even require an entrance exam for Fuuka Academy graduates.

Since the homeroom teacher in question was Midori, Natsuki had just folded her arms across her chest and said, "Since when is 'HiME Sentai' not a club?"

"It's not an official school-sponsored activity."

"The only reason this school even exists is so there'd be an excuse to gather the HiME. How much more school-sponsored can you get? We even had an official faculty advisor: you."

"That isn't the point! Superheroines are supposed to maintain their secret identities at all times! We spring into the light as champions of justice, figures larger-than-life to inspire hope in the populace! We cannot allow the image of a hero to be tainted by reality. And it certainly doesn't go down on a semi-delinquent's college application."

"...This means I'm going to have to get Fumi to overrule you, doesn't it?"

"Young girls today have no respect for tradition," Midori had groused.

There had been a couple of other, minor incidents—breaking pencils, cell phone falling into the udon bowl at lunch ("This is what you get for cheating on Mai's ramen!" Mikoto had said), bruising her hand punching out a panty thief in the locker room—so that by the time she got home, Natsuki was working on a good old-fashioned case of crabby.

Thus when she opened the door and a cloud of steam washed over her, she figured that it was pretty much par for the course.

"Shizuru?" she called into the wall of white. "Shizuru, did we get mugged by the sauna monster or did a hot water pipe spring a leak?"

Happy barking greeted her voice and her dog bounded up to her. Idly, she gave Duran's steel head a few quick hello pets while repeating, "Shizuru?"

Duran took her uniform sleeve in his mouth and tugged.

"You know what's going on? Okay, lead the way."

He wagged and pulled Natsuki into the house. She was a little bit worried, since her girlfriend ought to have been home by now, but Duran's mood soothed most of that feeling. He'd have been a lot more agitated if Shizuru had, say, slipped in the shower and knocked herself out while the house filled up with steam.

So whatever was going on, it probably fell into the category of "typical, probably annoying weirdness" instead of "disaster." Small favors, she reminded herself.

Duran took her through the fog-filled house to the glass doors that led out back. She slid the nearest one open, setting off another rush of steam, and went out to find Shizuru Fujino reclining peacefully in a deck chair, a frosty glass of ice tea next to her.

"Ara, ara, Natsuki, the house must be full of steam. Why didn't you go around instead of walking through it?"

"Now someone tells me."

"I did text you," Shizuru said, pouting a little.

"Which goes to show the kind of day I've been having. Your text is buried under pork broth and fried egg."

"Oh, I see. I knew that Natsuki had been having trouble, but not the specifics."

"Huh, you knew?"

"Mai is a caring friend; she called to let me know. So, your family decided to prepare a special dinner for you, which is why the house is full of steam."

Natsuki just stood blinking for a second.

"Natsuki?"

"...Sorry; I just had one of those moments where I recognized the words but they don't really make sense, you know?"

Shizuru giggled.

"I think you should sit down and relax if you are that stressed."

Knowing good advice when she heard it, Natsuki parked her butt on another chair.

"Okay, so how does a special dinner equate to turning our house into a sauna?"

"Oh, that's simple. We're having monkfish a la Kiyohime."

Natsuki found herself blinking again.

"Monk...fish?"

"Yes, it is a very ugly but quite tasty fish."

"And Kiyohime is cooking it?"

Shizuru nodded.

"Yes. She prepares the fish with dill and mayonnaise for Natsuki's tastes, then places it under a bronze dish, which she superheats with her steam breath in order to cook the fish."

"I guess that explains the sauna."

Then she grinned.

"Bronze dish, huh? I'm surprised that she didn't use an actual bell."

"Well, she wanted to for historical authenticity, but there weren't any available in the right price range. You'd be surprised what a properly blessed Buddhist temple bell goes for, even in kitchen size."

"The price probably went up when you told them what you wanted it for. Too bad, really. I'd even watch one of those TV cooking shows to see Kiyohime roast a monk under a bell."

~X X X~

A/N: I don't know what it is, but the idea of Kiyohime-the-chef seems unbearably cute to me. Maybe it's the mental image of her wearing chef's hats while she cooks. Obviously, if you know the original legend of Kiyohime, her monkfish recipe makes more sense.