It becomes second nature for Yachiyo to observe others. 'Eavesdropping' sounds rather negative, but it's essentially what she does. She would rather have as much information as she can gather for any future need rather than come up short handed.
She doesn't remember when this habit first developed. By the time Yachiyo joined the Edels and granted the title of Frau Perle, she had already learned the backgrounds of the other Edels. Over the course of the year, Yachiyo became acquainted enough with the others that she knew of their general likes and dislikes, their habits, their hobbies, their weaknesses-
There was one who escaped from her, leaving too fast for Yachiyo to look too much into it. Thinking about it always makes something within her crack, so she files that thought back into the dark before it can become… something else.
That matters little, not when the younger sister claims the title of Frau Jade that was left behind not much later. At least, that's what Yachiyo tells herself.
The Board had given her the task of observing the Edels. In a way she has no choice but to pay close attention to them. The rest of the students at Siegfeld don't share the same priority.
Even so, Yachiyo can't help but listen in on a few conversations here and there once in awhile just to see if she can gather some more information.
Which is how comes to learn of a certain challenge that she immediately brings up to Akira.
"Noodle eating challenge? Where did you hear such a preposterous idea?" Akira demands.
Despite Akira's glare, Yachiyo's smile remains mischievous. "From a few girls I happened to pass by. It seems to be the new rave of the school."
Akira goes back to her paperwork, flipping to another set. "How inane. If they have the time to waste on something so frivolous, they should utilize it toward more practice instead."
"While I agree, I didn't tell you just for you to scare a few girls with your scolding. I thought you would be interested in participating yourself."
"Oh? And what makes you believe that? Do you think I have an interest in whatever prize is being offered?"
"Oh no, nothing of the sort. I just thought you'd enjoy eating what the challenge entails."
"I have better things to do than-"
"It seems the challenge involves eating an entire bag of instant ramen noodles as fast as possible." Yachiyo's grin is nearly large enough to split her face. "An entire serving of very spicy dry ramen noodles."
Akira's pen stops moving. She places it down perfectly on her desk and looks up at Yachiyo without a trace of her disapproving glare from before. "Oh? How spicy?"
"Enough to send grown men crying. Most people can't make it past the first five bites before downing an entire carton of milk."
Akira stands from her seat, pushing back the chair with a screech. "And where can I obtain such instant noodles?"
"I'll do you the favor of buying it for you. On one condition." Yachiyo winks. "I upload a video of you completing the challenge online. You may not care for the prize, but money is money. Why turn down an opportunity?"
"Very well. I will be expecting you in the dorm hall's kitchen tonight."
Yachiyo starts. "Already?"
"Why wait? This will be my dinner."
Yachiyo sighs, shaking her head with a rueful smile. "As expected of you, Akira-senpai. I'll be on my way then~"
Cooking, even if it's just instant noodles, will most certainly attract a few curious dormmates with an enticing scent as it is being prepared. It's all the more effective if the smell is a bit strange.
"Are you making food for Akira-san?!" Mei Fan demands.
Yachiyo is about finished making the noodles. All she has to do is completely stir the noodles so that the sauce is evenly distributed.
"It's just instant noodles. Akira-senpai agreed to accept an online challenge to finish these spicy noodles as fast as possible."
Michiru picks up the pack of ramen (now down to three of five) and squints at the foreign words on the black packaging. "Is this Korean? Oh, there's English on the bottom. 'HOT Chicken Flavor Ramen.' Oh! I've heard of this before! Akira, you're going to try the challenge?"
"So you've heard of the challenge too, Michiru-senpai?" Yachiyo asks.
"A lot of the girls are talking about it. They said you shouldn't try to eat it unless you can tolerate a lot of spicy."
"An eating challenge?" Mei Fan takes the pack from Michiru. "Hmph. It doesn't look that bad. I've had instant ramen from China that look worse than this."
"Oh? Do you want to try it, Mei Fan?" Yachiyo uses a pair of chopsticks to transfer the noodles from the pot to a bowl. "I made two packs in case anyone wanted to take the challenge with Akira-senpai."
Mei Fan shakes her head. "I already had dinner."
Yachiyo raises an eyebrow. "You're turning down a chance to compete against Akira-senpai?"
Mei Fan tenses. "No, that's not-"
Michiru hums. "Spicy food is Akira's specialty. I bet Akira would have a lot of fun if someone could keep up with her tolerance. Not a lot of people can eat with her."
Sometimes Yachiyo has to thank Michiru's closeness to Akira, even if she doesn't fully understand their relationship dynamic. Oh well.
"Then… if I can match Akira-san during this challenge-!"
Yachiyo grins. "You'll obtain the rare prestige of matching Akira-senpai's meals."
And she really values how competitive Mei Fan is in regards to Akira. It's almost (always) too easy.
"In that case, give me a bowl too!" Mei Fan turns to Akira. "That is, if Akira-san will have me?"
"Do as you wish. Yachiyo, I want my dinner."
Yachiyo makes sure to split the pot of noodles evenly between the two plates. With a pair of chopsticks on each plate, she slides one over to Akira, and the other to Mei Fan.
"Oh, before you start." Yachiyo pulls out her phone and holds it up to record. "Just evidence for the internet to know how amazing our Edels are."
"Hey Mei Fan, you don't want a glass of water or something?" Michiru asks. "Akira never needs one for these things, but you might want it-"
"No!" Mei Fan vehemently shakes her head. "This is a challenge, right? Then the terms should be equal!"
"That's not how it works for this one, but whatever you say."
"Okayyy~" Yachiyo clicks the button to start recording. "Taking part in the famous Korean Fire Noodle Challenge-"
"Is that really what it's called?! What an exaggeration!" Mei Fan exclaims.
Yachiyo ignores her, "-are two of Siegfeld Music Academy's very own Edels. On the left we have our Frau Platin, Yukishiro Akira. On the right, our Frau Rubin, Liu Mei Fan. Now, will our Edels overcome challenges beyond the stage?"
Michiru throws her arms up into the air. "Good luck! Don't cry too much!"
"Alright, you guys can start."
Akira makes a noncommittal sound but otherwise doesn't look too displeased as she brings the first batch of noodles into her mouth.
Yachiyo and Michiru watch as Akira and Mei Fan take their first bites. As expected, nothing extraordinary happens to either of them. The second bite yields the same results, as the third. It's actually rather… boring.
The dining room is silent except for the sound of their eating. It's otherwise quiet enough that Yachiyo would have missed the distinct sound of sniffles coming from one of the challengers if Michiru doesn't point it out.
"Mei Fan, are you crying?"
"Wh-What?!" Sniff. "NO. What-" Sniff, "-makes you say that?!"
"Well, Akira wouldn't cry from something like this. Plus, your tears are dripping into your noodles. Are you trying to dilute them? It's just going to make them taste funny."
"I'M NOT CRYING!!" Mei Fan exclaims, wiping her eyes in a futile attempt to clear her face. Except more tears replace the ones she wipes away. Along with another reason for dehydration.
Yachiyo bites her lip to hold back her laughter. "You know, Michiru-senpai. I think her sweat is also mixing into the noodles with the tears. Maybe Mei Fan is trying to invent a new flavor for the spicy noodles. Perhaps 'Super Salty Chicken' instead?"
"Hey Mei Fan, maybe you should stop."
"Huff. Huff. This… this is nothing!!!!!" She promptly shoves a quarter of the noodles into her mouth. But now there's too much for her to chew. All Mei Fan can do is let it sit in her mouth and let her saliva try to liquidate it with her minimal chewing.
Except the more it sits in her mouth and dissolves, the more the spice burns.
"Oh, now she's done it." Yachiyo giggles. "Will our Frau Rubin forfeit?"
Mei Fan slams her fists onto the table, making the tableware jump. Somehow Akira continues eating as if Mei Fan's detriment is none of her concern (it isn't). She simply picks up her bowl and chopsticks to prevent Mei Fan's strike from upturning her food.
One, two, three. Four quick chews later, Mei Fan completely swallows the noodles in her mouth down her throat. At this point her face is red enough that it can probably light a flame on its own.
"I can- I can do this!!!"
"You still have more than half the bowl left though," Michiru remarks. "You can't glare it away."
"Water! No, milk! Get me a glass of milk!!"
Yachiyo shrugs. "Can you get it for her, Michiru-senpai? I need to keep recording at least Akira-senpai. I doubt Mei Fan can keep going."
"I haven't given up yet!"
Michiru disappears behind her to open the refrigerator. She pauses a few seconds before grabbing the carton and closing the door.
"Just gotta get a glass now-"
Mei Fan suddenly strides up to Michiru, grabs the carton from her hands, and throws her head back to gulp the milk down from the carton itself.
Michiru stares at Mei Fan in surprise. "That works."
After drinking the entire carton down to the very last drop, Mei Fan chucks the empty container to the side and sits back down to continue eating. Even with her face puffy and red, tears pouring from her eyes, and her entire body drenched in sweat, Mei Fan seems determined to at least catch up to Akira.
"Oh! What are you four doing?" Shiori asks, coming up behind them with an empty cup and saucer.
"Just an eating challenge. The spice is getting to Mei Fan," Michiru replies.
Shiori looks from Mei Fan, who's back to eating the noodles at a moderate pace, to the empty milk carton on the ground.
"Did she… drink all of that?"
"Yep. Looks like she really needed it," Yachiyo says.
"I can keep going!" Mei Fan retorts.
"No, it isn't that." Shiori leans down to pick up the milk carton. "You see, it's… actually expired."
"I've been meaning to throw it out but I just keep forgetting. Um… Mei Fan-senpai, did you… really drink all of this?"
With her mouth stuffed with deadly noodles, Mei Fan gives a slow nod.
"Did you not… smell anything wrong about the milk?"
"Can she even with all that snot coming from her nose?" Michiru wonders.
"Or taste anything off?!"
"Well, I'm pretty sure those noodles destroyed her taste buds."
"Michiru-senpai was the one who gave it to her though," Yachiyo mentions. "Did you not check the expiration date?"
Michiru tilts her head to the side and taps her chin with her fingers. "I mean, going past the expiration date a little bit is fine right?"
Shiori holds up the container and points to the numbers clearly stamped on the carton. "Michiru-senpai, this milk expired last month."
Spit, noodles, and the last of Mei Fan's dignity shoot out of her mouth. Something builds in the back of her throat. Her hands fly to her mouth and she runs out of the room so fast that she overturns her chair.
Yachiyo moves her phone, now covered in Mei Fan's half eaten noodles, over to the remaining contestant in the room.
Akira places her chopsticks onto the empty bowl. She dabs the corners of her mouth with a handkerchief.
"Hmph. Wasting good food like that warrants a scolding later. Shiori, can you pass me a glass of water? I need to cleanse my palate."
As Shiori scrambles to grab Akira a glass of water, Michiru turns to Yachiyo and deadpans, "Is this what they call karma?"
"She should have turned her head a little more to the side. I'm not the one who gave her expired milk." Yachiyo tries not to grin, lest Mei Fan's food and spit get into her mouth. But she can barely hold back the laughter that wants to burst out. "Did you even check the carton?"
"Of course I did. Why is one month past the expiration date a bad thing?"
"Have you ever had expired milk?"
"No? Usually someone clears that out from the fridge."
"I'm sorry," Shiori cries, shoving the now full glass into Akira's hands and running out of the room to make sure Mei Fan doesn't die on the toilet.
Michiru points to the phone in Yachiyo's hands. "You should probably end that."
In the end, Yachiyo isn't allowed to post such a disgraceful video on the internet for everyone to see. The Board nearly have a fit when they find out what Yachiyo wanted to do.
'We can't have our Edels embarrass themselves like this!'
Or something along those lines. Yachiyo filtered everything into the unimportant section of her brain after they said, "Enter."
It turns out one month expired milk is more potent than any of them realize. As the details are too grim, let's just say Mei Fan had to use an IV drop after losing too many fluids and not retaining anything as she tried to remove the contamination in her body. She essentially had to skip an entire week of practice.
That was how the Board even finds out about the video in the first place.
But Mei Fan recovered! And that's all that matters.
"I am not traumatized," Mei Fan grumbles.
"It's okay to admit it," Yachiyo says.
"No! That would be… That would be too embarrassing to say!"
"So you mean you can eat those noodles again if the chance presented itself?"
Mei Fan huffs. "Of course. The first time was only terrible because of the expired milk. But if I had a chance again-"
Michiru enters the student council room. Under her arm appears to be a package.
"Michiru, where were you?" Akira demands. "We were just about to start the meeting."
"Picking up your package. Didn't you say you were looking forward to it?"
Michiru places the box onto the table and starts unwrapping it. Yachiyo keeps a close eye on the box as she does so.
(Something Akira-senpai was waiting for? I wonder what she order-)
Michiru pulls out a familiar package. The only differences are the color of the wrapping and a few words.
Beside her, Mei Fan tries to turn into a ghost.
Shiori gasps. "Oh! Is that…?"
Akira walks around the table and takes the red bag of instant ramen from Michiru. "I see it finally arrived. This saves me the trouble of choosing what to eat for lunch."
"HOT Chicken Flavor Ramen…"
"TWO TIMES SPICY???!!!" Mei Fan shrieks. Her eyes roll to the back of her head before she drops unconscious on her back in a way unbefitting of an Edel.
Michiru whistles. "That's some suuuuper bad trauma there."
"Wake her up," Akira quips. "We don't have time for naps."
"Hide your noodles then, Akira. Or I'm not letting you order the other flavors after this."
Just when Shiori the kind soul manages to wake up Mei Fan, the traumatized girl catches the last bit of Michiru's threat. "Wait, there are other flavors?!"
And then passes back out.
Yachiyo hums. "Now that you mention it, I remember hearing about that too. Supposedly the mala flavor is pretty good. I think it has a purple packaging."
"Let's try it all together some time!"
Shiori pales. Thankfully, Mei Fan is still unconscious.
Yachiyo chuckles. "I think… I'll pass."
In the end, Yachiyo makes the same report as she always does. Michiru is still the one she has the hardest predicting.
She makes sure to leave out the fact that she bought the noodle and goaded Mei Fan to eat it with Akira in the first place.
"Hm?" Claudine looks over Maya's shoulder. "What do you have there, Tendou Maya?"
"Ah, Saijou-san. I just received a peculiar package from Yukishiro-san."
"Yukishiro? You mean Yukishiro Akira from Siegfeld? What does she want?"
"A challenge, apparently." Maya digs through the rest of the cardboard box and pulls out a red package of what looks to be instant ramen noodles. "These are extremely spicy noodles strong enough to send Liu Mei Fan into hysterics. At least, that is what Yukishiro-san detailed in her letter."
"And what? She wants to challenge you to eat it?"
"It appears so. Her record seems to be at seven minutes, though she mentions that time was measured while eating at a leisurely pace and therefore inaccurate."
"Hmph. Do you plan to take the challenge?"
Maya brandishes the letter with a grin. "Why of course. I would never turn down a challenge from a fellow rival. Care to join, Saijou Claudine?"
"Oh why not? I won't turn down an offer to surpass you!"
"I warn you, the packaging states that the spice level is twice as spicy as a normal dosage."
"As you trying to dissuade me? I doubt it'll be that bad."
Three hours later, Nana opens the fridge to prepare to make some banana pudding. Except she finds the entire refridgerator devoid of a single container of milk.
"I'm sure I stocked up this week." Nana frowns. "Did someone drink all four cartons of my milk?"