I want to learn the secrets of maneuvering skillfully between two girls and maintaining good relationships among them, just like a romantic comedy protagonist. I want to create an atmosphere where they trust each other despite their banter. How can I pull off such amazing feats effortlessly?
Sitting on a school bench, sandwiched between two beautiful girls, it should be an enviable situation, but being treated as a trophy in their battle of wits leaves no room for me to rejoice.
“Well then, I will start!”
Hihara Karen opens an adorable red box. Inside are fried chicken, scrambled eggs, shumai dumplings, and takoyaki. The last two are probably frozen food, but they still look well-prepared. There’s a roughness to them, but that’s what makes them charming. It feels like a homemade bento.
“How about it? Looks delicious, right?”
“Yes, it looks very delicious.”
“Well, I woke up early to make it, so it’s only natural.”
Her slightly bashful demeanor is cute. It’s a universal truth that a tsundere girl being shy is adorable, and the fact that she put in effort to make the lunchbox even though she’s not good at cooking enhances her cuteness even more. It’s the synergistic effect of these two truths, the pinnacle of cuteness.
With these two truths combined, she reaches the utmost level of cuteness.
“Well then, it’s my turn.”
However, there’s a boss-like aura as if she’s about to crush everything from above. Gindou Kohaku .
She nonchalantly takes out a stacked bento box.
“W-What is that?!”
“It’s a stacked bento box. Is there something wrong?”
“You brought New Year’s dishes?! You wouldn’t normally put that in a lunchbox!!!”
“Eh? Is that so?”
“You know exactly what I mean. Stop playing dumb…”
While I couldn’t be more grateful for this situation, it’s clear that Hihara Karen is here to establish her dominance.
As a guy, I’m ecstatic. It’s the realization of a man’s dream right in front of my eyes.
However, considering the context of rubbing it in as a rival, I can’t genuinely be happy. Right now, I want to resolve the discord between them, even if it’s just a little bit.
Gindou Kohaku opens the bento box. As soon as I saw what’s inside, both Hihara Karen and I were left speechless.
“I may have gone a bit overboard, but this is normal for girls to do, right?”
Fried chicken, hamburgers, potatoes, shrimp fry, omelet, salad, curry pilaf. It was a bento box filled with colorful and universally appealing dishes, like a children’s lunch.
It looked so delicious that I swallowed a gulp of saliva.
Hihara Karen compares her own bento with Gindou Kohaku’s. She’s up against a tough opponent.
Popularity polls, undefeated. Always in first place. She’s a perfect girl.
“Well then, shall we start the bento battle?”
“Uuu… I-I guess so.”
Hihara Karen realizes her impending defeat and shrinks back. At this point, Gindou Kohaku already has a confident expression of victory.
“Then, I’ll have Hihara-senpai’s bento first.”
“Sure… please enjoy.”
I pick up a piece of fried chicken with my chopsticks and put it in my mouth. Mmm, it’s delicious. It’s slightly burnt, but I don’t mind that at all. I actually like the burnt flavor.
“It’s delicious. I can feel the effort put into it.”
“Ah, yeah, thank you.”
“Uhm, let’s see the others.”
After having seen Gindou Kohaku’s cooking, I don’t know how to react anymore.
Aah!! it’s incredibly delicious!! It would be too obvious and awkward.
“It was delicious.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
Awkward. Hihara Karen’s bento was delicious, but now it’s her bento, I can feel the pressure from Gindou Kohaku’s aura, urging me to say it’s delicious. I can’t wholeheartedly praise it.
“Well, next is mine!”
She’s probably better than her, but this time, I’ll try to make it a draw by force. I can’t fix their animosity in this situation. At least, I need to maintain the status quo.
I put a piece of fried chicken into my mouth. It’s cold, but tender. And it’s delicious. It’s… too delicious.
She really is a perfect superhuman.
“Please try the others as well. I made them delicious.”
“Okay, I won’t hold back then.”
The hamburger is delicious… What is this? It’s incredible.
“Please try the omelet too.”
When I break the omelet with my chopsticks, the yolk oozes out. It’s half-cooked. There’s no way this wouldn’t be delicious!!
I put it in my mouth. This egg!!! It’s so good. The yolk is overflowing in my mouth!!
“The shrimp fry and salad are also well done. Please keep eating.”
Both of them were incredibly delicious. The curry pilaf was also exquisite. She must have made it for me because I mentioned that I like curry. Since I tasted every dish, I have to announce the result.
“How is it!? Izayoi-kun. Which bento did you like better!?”
I think it might be better to be straightforward and say it, but now, how can I play it off? If it’s only about taste, Gindou Kohaku’s bento wins by a landslide, but determining superiority… it feels unpleasant somehow.
Hihara Karen declares while looking at her own bento.
“I lose. It wasn’t even a competition. I’m embarrassed. I thought I might have a chance to win.”
“Hihara-senpai, it’s not like…”
“You don’t have to worry about me. It’s only natural that my bento is overshadowed by hers. It’s nothing special.”
She says with a trembling voice, about to close her bento…
“Wait a minute!!!”
I took her bento away.
“Hey, give it back. Since the other bento won and is delicious, you don’t have to eat mine.”
“No, I won’t return it. And based on my arbitrary judgment and bias, the result is a draw.”
Both of them exclaim in surprise at the unexpected judgment.
“Izayoi, don’t worry about it!! I dislike that outcome more!!”
“I’m not worried. It’s the result of a strict judgment based on my own bias.”
“How can her bento and mine be a draw!?”
Her question is valid. However, it’s a draw.
“Indeed, if we evaluate only the taste of the bento, Gindou-san’s victory might be certain.”
“As I thought… of course it is.”
“But this competition is not only about taste!!! The one who determines the victory or defeat is me, so I have my own criteria, the Izayoi Special Points!!!”
“”Izayoi Special Points!?””
Once again, both of them are surprised. Normally, you wouldn’t bring such a thing into a cooking competition, but since I’m the judge, it doesn’t matter.
“Yes. First, I’ll ask Hihara-senpai. Do you really do household chores every day?”
“Eh? Y-yes. I occasionally slack off, I guess. Yeah.”
“I see. Now, based on that, let’s move on to evaluating senpai’s bento. In terms of taste and appearance, it falls short compared to Gindou-san’s bento.”
“Yeah, I suppose…”
“However, at the same time, there’s a point where you excel. Can you guess what that is?”
“Eh? Where could it be??”
“Do you really read light novels and manga, Senpai? That point is the gap between someone who lounges around at home, neglects household chores, and leaves their clothes lying around, and yet still makes a bento. It’s the Gap Point!!!!”
“W-Well, that’s true. N-No, I do household chores. I mean, I don’t just leave my clothes lying around…”
“Senpai, it’s easy to imagine that you’re incredibly lazy and incapable of doing household chores, so there’s no need to cover it up.”
I know that she’s a messy Otaku-type beauty. She manages her books and merchandise properly, but her clothes are scattered around, and I know she can’t do household chores at all.
That’s why the Gap Point is high.
“Senpai’s bento is a wonderful creation consisting of a gap and effort, no less than Gindou-san’s bento. Therefore, it’s a draw.”
“You make a compelling argument. It’s cute and moe when a girl who’s bad at cooking makes something. I understand.”
“That’s right. Just by having a girl who’s a tsundere, lazy, and incapable of doing household chores like Senpai make a bento, it’s worth as much as a dish made by a three-star chef!!!”
“Are you complimenting me? Just now? It’s starting to irritate me.”
“Of course, I’m complimenting you. So, with that, it’s a draw, and this competition is over. Thank you both for the lovely bentos.”
For an impromptu idea, it turned out pretty well, didn’t it? I really wanted to mend their relationship, but the timing was off this time. I’ll have to wait for the next opportunity.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Suddenly, Gindou Kohaku raises her voice, and I flinch in surprise.
“Why on earth!!! How can you say it’s not my victory!!! How can that amateurish bento that looks like a school play performance be just as good as mine or even surpass it?!!”
“W-Well, it’s more like a gap…”
“That’s not part of the evaluation criteria!!! Do you have any idea how much effort I put into making this bento!!! I double-fried the chicken because you said you like it crispy, I used a mix of expensive pork and beef for the hamburger that I wouldn’t normally buy, and I used excellent ingredients for the shrimp fry and salad!!! The omelet is half-cooked!!! And as for the curry pilaf, even though you said you like curry, I thought it wouldn’t be suitable to put it directly in the bento, so I made it into a pilaf and included it!!!!”
“Why is it a draw!!! I can’t accept it!!!”
…This didn’t go as I expected. I thought that this situation would flow with a sense of “I will seize victory next time and show it.”
“It’s a draw. Accept it because that’s what Izayoi said.”
“No way! My bento is definitely better!! Even a three-year-old could make yours!!! The fried chicken is burnt, and the scrambled eggs? You can’t even make tamagoyaki, and you even included frozen food!!! A bento of such low quality should never be a draw!!!”
“Too bad. But it’s a draw!!!”
“Ugh… Izayoi-kun!!! Please reconsider!!! We can’t end it like this!!!”
Somehow, it ended up becoming chaotic. Gindou Kohaku is very dismissive.
Um, I need to wrap this up nicely.
“Well, um, Gindou-san’s bento is also three stars…”
“I won’t accept anything less than five stars!!!”
“But in terms of taste and appearance, Gindou-san’s was better…”
“But it’s still a draw, right!?”
“Why is that!!!”
“But the taste and appearance are the best in the world!! No, in the universe!!”
“But it’s still a draw, right!?”
“Why is that!!!”
I’m sorry, but this time it’s a draw. Granted, Gindou Kohaku’s bento was superior in terms of quality, but it’s based on my arbitrary judgment, so it’s a draw. This should be the least contentious, right? I think so, right?
I’m starting to feel a little uneasy.
“Gindou-san’s bento was truly amazing. It’s a miracle and a stroke of luck to be able to eat such a bento!!! It was really, really good!!!”
“But it’s still a draw, right!”
“It’s not a draw, um… both are winners!”
“It’s the same thing!!!”
I couldn’t deceive her well. Maybe I failed. But I can’t bear to see Hihara Karen sad either. In the end, I’m just a worthless person who can’t pretend to be impartial.
Both of them are amazing people whom I admire, so I want them to get along if possible. But it seems difficult, so I intended to minimize the friction, but it is not going well. Maybe it would have been better not to leave the outcome of the competition undecided.
“Please have some more!! If you do, your thoughts might change!!”
“Izayoi, you won’t change the conclusion, right? It’s despicable to retract what you’ve already said.”
Now, let’s do my best as members of the organizing committee in the afternoon!! But before that, let’s enjoy the two bento boxes together.