It was a treasure, many delicacies in one bento box. He didn't know what he had done to deserve such a fine prize, but at the moment he didn't care.
Rinne felt like he was walking on air, and if he hadn't been raised to be so polite and courteous by his grandfather, he might've kissed Sakura Mamiya on the lips right then for the generous act of good will. Sakura Mamiya was really an amazing kind person to do such a thing for him every day, bringing him a bento.
His mouth watered just thinking about it.
That was why he would never ever let Jumonji touch his bento. When it came to things involving money, or free things, Rinne got serious.
The dull chopping sounds of the knife against the dull cutting board matched the ticking of the round clock on the wall. Once the yellow omelet had been sliced neatly into four squares, the next omelet was sliced quickly into the same four squares.
Sakura put down the kitchen knife and wiped her brow with the edge of the sleeve. Humming to herself she looked up at the time and then nodded to herself, using chopsticks to place the omelet squares into two small bento boxes. She went to the counter and took out some wieners and carrots to add to the collection of lunch items, knowing that he would probably appreciate having a more balanced diet. It was probably difficult to live off of instant noodle cup ramen and shrine offerings.
Once she was done preparing the wieners and vegetables, Sakura proceeded to warp the bento boxes into some cloths she picked up from the store. Then she took off her apron and slippers, went to her room to change into her school uniform, and got her bag and two bento boxes, ready to go the school.
"Rokudo-kun will probably like the extra omelet today," she commented to no one in particular.
To anyone else who was observing, it might have appeared that she was talking to herself, a common misconception associated with Sakura Mamiya. Being a girl gifted with an ability to see spirits, it was a common affair for her to chat with the undead, something she didn't always like. But at times, she was content with her strange sight; it was interesting to hear some spirit's stories, like the spirit of an old ramen shopkeeper who had enjoyed telling her the best way to cook noodles.
Other spirits, well, that was a different story.
Since she met the sort-of shinigami Rinne Rokudo, she had more than her fair share of strange spirits besides from the friendly ones. She didn't mind it though; it seemed to be another occurrence in her life she had come to accept as easily as her sight.
At the moment, Sakura was actually talking to a small black kitten that had emerged from the gate at her house. Instantly the kitten reverted to his true form, enthusiastically waving.
"You are as generous as always, Sakura-sama. You don't happen to have any extras for me, do you?"
"You know," Sakura said casually, fishing a bit of omelet from her own bento to give to Rokumon, "if you weren't so cute, I don't think you could get away with this so easily."
"Humans are just suckers for a pretty face."
That, Sakura had to agree with.
The day was still young and Sakura felt that it just might be one of those school days where she went to class, talked to her friends and ate lunch normally as always (except when there was an exorcism she helped Rinne with, those were more interesting days… which had become increasingly more constant in her life). However, this would prove to be neither a 'normal-school' day nor a 'normal-exorcising' day.
Let's just say, there were days when Rinne and Tsubasa did not get along as well as they normally would—intentional or not.
She had no sooner walked down her home-street with the happily munching cat, when Tsubasa had come running up beside her, that bright puppy look on his face. The exorcist always got up just in time to walk Sakura to school, he took great delight in their 'alone' time together. Sometimes he would try to rub it into Rinne's face, saying that he had the 'advantage'. Now, what kind of 'advantage' Tsubasa was going on about, Sakura had no idea.
"Good morning, Tsubasa-kun," Sakura nodded.
By her side, Rokumon steamed. The cat seemed to have the notion that Sakura was Rinne's woman, and did not take a shine to the exorcist very often. He hopped onto Sakura's shoulder and glared at the exorcist.
"Mamiya-san," Tsubasa cheerfully voiced out, "how are you this morning?"
"Fine, thank you."
They continued to chat about school assignments and any news. Rokumon continued to glower at Tsubasa, sending him messages of doom with his mind.
"Mamiya-san," Tsubasa noticed how her bag seemed to be heavier than their other classmates, "would you like me to carry that for you?"
Sakura blinked, "You mean my bag? It's alright, I got it."
"What do you have in there, anyways, besides from your schoolwork?" He inquired curiously.
"Not much other than the usual. Like you said, school work, my gym clothes, my lunch…," Sakura listened the items off the top of her head. "Why do you ask?"
The exorcist tried to suppress a blush, which came when he and Sakura held eye contact. "Oh, it seems as though your bag is a bit heavier than everyone else's."
"That's because it is," Rokumon chose that moment to speak up, a smirk growing across his face. "Sakura packs a bento for Rinne-sama too."
There was a pause as Tsubasa began, almost, frothing at the mouth with absolute horror. The look of pure shock plastered on his face seemed akin to utter loss and depreciation, much to Rokumon's pleasure.
Regaining his composure, Tsubasa grasped Sakura by the shoulders dramatically, desperate. "Mamiya-san! Don't tell me that you and Rokudo have reached first base?"
"Er… this is all just a serious misunderstanding…," Sakura tried to say to him.
As usual, Tsubasa was overreacting and making things up about her relationship with the red-haired shinigami.
"I demand that you make a bento for me, as well!" Tsubasa proclaimed loudly, as if proclaiming his love to the world.
He had not noticed, in his zealous actions, that Sakura and Rokumon had already continued without him towards the school, chatting about the weather.
When he did notice, he chased after than, with cries of 'Mamiya-saaan!'
"Are you sure we should've left Tsubasa-kun behind like that? He seemed pretty upset," Sakura noted, after allowing the cat to fly her to school in little under five minutes.
She had to admit, it was fun, flying with Rokumon. Maybe if she gave him milk every day, the cat would offer her more rides to school. Sakura wondered briefly if Rinne would come too. It would be nice to come to school with her classmate in the mornings. Maybe she would ask him and Rokumon some time.
They were standing in front of Sakura's locker, where she was putting away her shoes and getting out her indoor pair. Rokumon purred with ease at the base of Sakura's bag, which was on the ground by the lockers. Other than some of the teachers, not many students in Sakura's class had come in yet. There were other upperclassman gathering their books for their first classes, but other than that, Sakura and Rokumon were free to talk with ease.
Of course, she still got stares from those that were there, talking to a cat. At least it wasn't because they thought she was talking to herself.
"Don't worry about it. He's an idiot anyways. He'll catch up. Eventually," Rokumon cackled. "I better get to work on that curse doll for him… Rinne-sama will definitely praise me…"
Sakura decided it was best not to ask. Rokumon was cute, but sometimes he was a little on the extreme side…
"Well, I'll see you later, Rokumon-chan. Thanks for flying me to school," Sakura nodded to him.
"Give Rinne-sama all your love!" Rokumon sniggered happily.
Dismissing the comment, Sakura ventured up the stairs to her class. Her heart had beat just a little bit faster from Rokumon's teasing comment, but she decided it was nothing. Once she was at the door to her classroom, she opened it to greet her red-haired classmate with a bright smile.
"Good morning, Rokudo-kun," she told him.
He looked up from a cardboard box full of pink paper roses and gave a slight nod. This was accompanied with that customary look in his eyes, the one that was indecipherable with its depth and fire. Most of all, his eyes felt calm, like a red sea.
"Good morning, Sakura Mamiya," he returned to his work, added rose after paper rose to the pile of paper flowers.
An amicable silence came upon them. The occasional rustles of paper as Rinne added more flowers to the cardboard box were soothing. Sakura went to her desk, beside Rinne's, and sat down. Right away, she reached into her bag and pulled out the second bento box, placing it on the only part of the shinigami's desk which was clear of flowers.
Rinne's eyes lit up, as the shinigami immediately felt touched upon this gesture of kindness.
"Sakura Mamiya… you really didn't have too…," he said a bit shyly.
"I know. I like making you lunches. It's no trouble," Sakura told him quickly.
She wondered how often people offered him any kindness. It seemed, yet again, as another proof of Rinne's harsh lifestyle as Sakura watched Rinne reverently place the bento into his own bag, as if it held some kind of treasure. It was really amazing, and almost heartbreaking, how easily touched he became when he received something as simple as lunch.
His brow creased in worry, "But surely it must take up some time to make all of these delicacies…"
"Not at all," Sakura didn't know what to think of his word choice of 'delicacies', "I like making simple things, because it's faster to prepare. It's nothing special."
She had blurted out the last part without really thinking. Sure, it was nothing special to her… but to Rinne it was probably a different story. Wincing, Sakura checked to see if she had offended Rinne some how by her careless comment.
At the moment, Rinne seemed to be crying tears of joy at her bento, not really paying too much attention to her.
Sakura smiled sheepishly. Same old lovable shinigami.
Classes had gone on as expected. When Tsubasa had arrived at the bell, it had been too late for him to demand answers from Sakura or Rinne about the 'bento'. The exorcist steamed and glared daggers at Rinne throughout all of class, but the shinigami was too relaxed to notice.
The time came for confrontation at lunch time, when Rinne and Rokumon were sitting together at a bench, saying their blessings before proceeding to dig into the bento. Sakura had gone to eat with her friends Miho and Rika on the roof. She had gone to the lockers, waving good bye to the shinigami and cat. That was when Tsubasa stormed over to Rinne, eyes lucid as he held his own homemade lunch.
Not that it mattered to Tsubasa. What mattered at the moment, was Sakura's home cooking.
And it was currently sitting on Rinne's lap.
Rinne looked up at Tsubasa, calm, "What is it now, Jumonji?"
Over the week, Tsubasa had had some random outbursts of challenge towards Rinne. Sometimes Rinne rather disliked Tsubasa for it, he considered him a rival… somewhat. But mostly, the exorcist was a good friend—sort of—if you didn't count the misconceptions and jealously over Sakura Mamiya that Tsubasa was prone too. Mostly, they could get along. Mostly.
But the exorcist had a way of annoying Rinne.
He was looking forward to eating a good lunch, so Rinne wasn't too big on patience at the moment.
"You…. I challenge you for that bento!" Tsubasa declared loudly, "It does not deserve to be tarnished by your hands!"
"Are you kidding? This is Rinne-sama's bento!" Rokumon growled before his master could answer. "Go eat your own lunch!"
"But it was made by Mamiya-san, and for that reason, I will not lose to you!"
"Oh yeah? Rinne-sama can take you any time, any day just name the competition!"
"Mamiya-san's bento and love belongs to me!"
The bickering duo did not notice Rinne's increasing impatience and annoyance. The shinigami was currently breathing slowly, trying to calm his nerves. But it didn't hide the unmasked irritation in his voice as he glared at Tsubasa.
"If I remember correctly, it was made for me. I intend to eat my lunch in peace, thank you," Rinne deadpanned.
If he had been in a more rational mood, he may have been appalled to know that this statement sounded as if he were staking claims onto Sakura Mamiya. Which he was not. At all. Even if he really did enjoy her bentos.
Tsubasa was put into a stupor of shock for the second time that day, face losing colour and becoming pale as a sheet. Rampant thoughts rushed through his head. So it was true after all? His first and true love Sakura Mamiya had made a bento specifically for Rinne? Did that mean she had feelings for the shinigami after all? Had he lost?
"Darn you, Rokudo, I will earn back my precious Mamiya-san's love even if it kills me!" Tsubasa challenged him.
However, neither Rokumon nor the shinigami he was addressing were giving him any mind. Rinne had already opened the carefully wrapped bento box and was savoring the taste of the fluffy sweet omelet against his lips. He was giving off that annoying vibe Tsubasa hated, the one that screamed that he was better than the exorcist (or maybe it was due to Tsubasa's delusions…).
Rokumon was enjoying his own canned food, most likely coaxed from some of the more sympathetic teachers at the school.
"Sakura-sama's cooking is superb, isn't it, Rinne-sama?" Rokumon leered, purposefully egging Tsubasa on.
Rinne, enjoying the bento too much to care, merely gave an absentminded nod, though he probably didn't have any idea what he was agreeing too. He reverently put another piece of omelet into his mouth, enjoying the taste.
Tsubasa was not the type who let his emotions go unacknowledged. Angrily, ("How dare that impudent shinigami ignore me, he thought.) he swiped at the bento on Rinne's lap, stealing an omelet swiftly and shoving it into his own mouth cheekily.
Ah, it tastes like heaven! Tsubasa thought, over exaggerating the simple taste of the omelet merely because it was prepared by his Mamiya-san.
It was like someone had flipped on a switch. Not a very good switch. Rinne's face automatically darkened, an intense glare given to the oblivious exorcist which only matched the wrath of a devil.
NO one cheated Rinne of a free meal and got away with it.
Even if it was just one piece of omelet (one piece of his previous bento, actually).
"You… spit it out right now," Rinne was holding the scruff of Tsubasa's shirt, a threatening gaze in his eyes.
He really unforgiving on those who wasted money, or food, or anything for that matter.
"Too late," Tsubasa smirked at him victoriously, licking his lips, "I must say that it was very delicious. I think I'll steal some more now…"
Taking the threat to his lunch at hand, Rinne pulled out his trusty shinigami scythe and whacked Tsubasa on the head with the blunt end of it. He frowned at Tsubasa, the threat to his peaceful lunch, menacingly.
Now, Tsubasa was not one to lose challenges. Instead of lying on the ground and moaning in pain from the bump on his head, he got up and threw his sacred ashes.
"I will get that bento from you, Rokudo, if it's the last thing that I do!"
Rinne dodged the spice scented cloud of sacred ashes quickly and swung his scythe relentlessly at Tsubasa's feet. His eyes were narrowed, alert, as if he were fighting another evil spirit. When Tsubasa leapt over the scythe swing and landed behind the shinigami, in order to back hand him, Rinne kicked him down with his leg.
Then Rinne proceeded to hit him several times on the head with his scythe in good measure. It was a bad habit of his that he had carried since childhood, and usually reserved for devils such as Masato or his idiot debt-inclined father Sabato. Nevertheless, Tsubasa's wounds did not seem to deter the exorcist, as he pulled out a bible and chucked it at Rinne's face. Rinne saw it coming and craned his neck to the side, dodging it easily.
But Rinne did not happen to see the wire that Tsubasa had pulled out with his other hand from his black jacket. Using this opportunity to his advantage, the exorcist quickly whipped the wire around Rinne's body to tie him in place. Surprised, Rinne fell over, struggling in his binds. His shinigami scythe clattered onto the pavement beside him. Rokumon ran over to his master, getting to work on setting him free in a hurry.
While this was happening, the shinigami and cat duo were helpless as they watched Tsubasa stroll over to the neat little bento, which was sitting on the bench, and pick it up triumphantly in his hands.
"It's mine!" Tsubasa proclaimed gleefully, picking up his own pair of chopsticks that he had gotten from his bag to munch on the remainders of Rinne's lunch.
"Oh no you don't!"
Rinne had barely managed to get free from the wire, with Rokumon's help, and at Rokumon's outburst he tackled Tsubasa onto the ground. The bento went flying into the air, but Rokumon, light on his feet, was able to catch it.
"I got it, Rinne-sama!" Rokumon cried out, running into the school field, "I'll bring it home!"
"Good job, Rokumon—ah!" Rinne felt Tsubasa hit him in the jaw.
The shinigami and exorcist were wrestling on the ground, each one trying to prevent the other from leaving in a flurry of sloppy punches and kicks.
Finally, Tsubasa pushed Rinne roughly and got up as fast as he could, chasing the crafty black cat across the school yard. Behind him, Rinne chased after, not about to let the exorcist get the best of him. His better judgment was clouded by his indignant anger at having his bento taken from him.
Nevertheless, there were a group of boys playing soccer during their lunch time. Rokumon had chosen to run across that particular field, knowing that the chaos of determined athletes might distract a certain exorcist from being able to catch him. Rokumon held the bento tightly above him, scuttling between a mesh of feet and grass.
"Get back here!" Tsubasa threw out more wires, trying to trip the black cat.
However, some soccer players scooted past him, while he was trying to run across the field. Some of the players knocked Tsubasa over, yelling about trying to get to the net.
Rinne caught up just in time, running past Tsubasa and jumping over several soccer players.
"Hurry Rokumon!" He urged the black cat, as they ran to the abandoned old school building.
Tsubasa would not let them pass.
The exorcist threw more sacred ashes, distracting all of the soccer players on the field. Cries of 'what's-going-on' and 'who's-there' echoed in the midst of the smoky diversion. Now Tsubasa was free to track down his rival once more.
His zealous enthusiasm for Sakura's home cooking made him run even faster towards the black cat. He didn't care if he pulled a muscle by accident; he just wanted to beat that darned Rokudo.
He was gaining on them.
And to Rinne's misfortune, Tsubasa chose that moment to leap up and tackle them both. Rokumon's tail was caught between Tsubasa's fingers, as Rinne crumpled under the weight of the exorcist in indignation.
The bento went flying into the air, up in the sky…
…and it fell, splat, on the ground, its contents dirtied by gravel and dirt.
All three of them paused in horror.
No! Mamiya-san's cooking! Tsubasa lamented in horror.
He did not notice Rinne's homicidal aura. When he looked up, to see Rinne standing over him with a vicious gaze, Tsubasa knew then that it was never a good idea to mess with Rinne and his free things, or money.
His screams could be heard all over the school.
And thus, Tsubasa never tried to steal a bento from Rinne again ("He's poor, it's probably his only meal a day," he had blabbed loudly, trying not to wince at his bandaged wounds.), even if it was made by Sakura Mamiya.
By the end of the lunch period, with only five minutes to go, Rinne had retreated to the old abandoned school building, drowning in his depression.
"All that food… what a waste…," Rinne sighed regretfully, as if he had lost a very important friend to him.
Sympathetic, Rokumon, sitting on Rinne's shoulder, patted him on the head, "There, there, Rinne-sama… There's always tomorrow."
It didn't matter though. Rinne felt guilty for wasting Sakura's time. She had made that bento for him, and now it was splattered on the ground. A waste. He looked down remorsefully at the empty bento box he had picked up from the ground. The least he could do was clean it up for Sakura. Somehow, he hoped to make it up to her.
He should've known better than to waste any food.
The door swung open behind him. Sakura Mamiya walked in.
Rinne nonchalantly hid the empty bento box behind him. He hoped she wouldn't notice. But her words shattered those hopes.
"I heard that Tsubasa tried to steal your lunch," she said casually.
The guilt tripled.
"Sakura Mamiya…," he paused. He didn't really know what to say next, or how to convey his apologies. He stood uncomfortably under her gaze, which had not changed at all. The shinigami had expected some bits of anger or disappointment from her. But there was none. It confused him greatly.
If someone had ruined a lunch that he had worked hard to make them, he would be angry at them for wasting his time.
But instead, Sakura sat down on the floor beside him. Her own bento box sat on her lap. It was still uneaten… as if she had known.
She held out a riceball in offering, "Want to share, today?"
For a minute he was speechless. Then, tensely, he accepted.
Maybe the wasted bento hadn't been such a bad thing after all.