2020-08-22 - Balance For A Home! Can You Handle An Egg?!

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Title: Balance For A Home! Can You Handle An Egg?!

Whiskers on Kittens, the cat cafe of Harajuku's very own Cat Street, is holding a promotional egg-and-spoon race in Yoyogi Park to raise funds for local animal shelters. Mikoto promptly volunteers her friends to help. All they have to do is get their egg to the finish line! It's for cats, so it can't go wrong, right?


Mikoto Minagi, Nori Ankou, Niramo Umokeshi, Eri Shimanouchi


Yoyogi Park, Shibuya

OOC - IC Date:

2020-08-22 - 2015-09-22

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

DID YOU KNOW: Cat Street has a cat cafe now? It's true! Whiskers on Kittens is a fairly recent addition to the trendy fashion of Harajuku, but it's a great place to drop in and get a milkshake and some catcakes after a hard day of retail therapy.

Its staff roster is somewhat diminished today, though, because over in Yoyogi Park, in a part of Shibuya still quite close to the fashion capital of Tokyo --

Yua and Kichi, calico and black ladies respectively, have been selected for this manoeuvre due to their tolerant natures. Yua and Kichi are also cats. They're out in harnesses today, helping to represent Whiskers on Kittens in their very first CHARITY EVENT: Balance For A Home!

In bright colours over Yoyogi Park, that banner flies high. There's a table stacked with artfully-balanced HARDBOILED EGGS, though some look a little stranger than others. There are also a stack of spoons, beside it. Each egg has been carefully decorated with little mushroom ears and a little mushroom tail. These... are miaowieggs, crafted to represent the beneficiaries of this event.

For you see, Whiskers on Kittens... is raising money for Tokyo's local animal charities.

Once upon a time, Yua and Kichi didn't have a home, either..!

As soon as the proprietor of the business - a friendly blond American fellow named Jorey Jace - thought of the idea, he congratulated himself for being so enormously clever and organised everything at once. And as soon as regular patron Mikoto Minagi heard about his plans, well, obviously she approached all her friends with endless enthusiasm to join in. (As for the eggs, well... Mikoto might have volunteered a couple of ideas of her own.)

The premise of Balance For A Home is simple. Participants will race up and down a length of the park - while balancing eggs atop a tablespoon. For each round they complete, they'll switch their eggs for new eggs..! All the participants will receive FREE VOUCHERS, good for one Sundae Beam, with any toppings they'd like, to thank them for joining in and helping to raise money for the charities.

But how does a fun event like that raise money...?

Well, not every boiled egg on that stack... is strictly a boiled egg.

There's an egg clearly made of jelly balanced there, wobbling back and forth. Another egg has been cut in half. (The mushroom-ears and tail suggest a CURLED UP CAT.) A third egg has two bits of zucchini sticking out the bottom, making it even more precarious - a cat balancing on its hind legs! That one, there, is clearly one of Whiskers on Kittens' famous NEKOTATOS, bigger than the eggs around it. And... is that a chocolate egg, already sort of melty in the late summer heat?! To make matters even more complicated, one of those spoons has a spring between the ladle and the grip, while another is entirely flat. The spoons have gimmicks, too.

That's right: enthusiasts of this event get to vote for THEIR FAVOURITE HANDICAPS to make the race more interesting! With money! Capitalism, ho! (The racer who is given that handicap is random, though - no choosing who gets what complication.)

Each unique egg - plus the standard miaowiegg - is also available at a nearby SNACK STAND for extra cash, which might explain why they all look so delicious when their balancing situation is so precarious.

This late in summer, there's at least a cool change in the air, a nippy breeze curling in from the ocean. But the sun is shining in a clear sky, and Jorey Jace is, naturally, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, one hand holding Yua and Kichi's leads. (The leads are also Hawaiian.) A lot of the youth who have showed up are still in their school uniforms, because it's a Tuesday afternoon. But equally, there are a good amount of people in this crowd who are wearing THE FINEST IN HARAJUKU FASHION, because, well - Whiskers on Kittens is a Harajuku store, after all's said and done. Fashionistas have pride.

Some of the people here will be volunteering themselves for the races, which is free, because Jorey isn't a monster and he knows kids have fun with egg-and-spoon races. Others have come just to watch - or for the chance to get their friends to balance jelly eggs on spring spoons, which does involve a donation, but it's at a rate the youth of Tokyo can afford. There's a certain demographic who showed up entirely to pet some cats, and Yua and Kichi are serving as faithful ambassapurrs, strolling around on their long leads to rub up against people's legs and headbutt petting hands. Yua, in particular, seems to be having a merry time tangling people up in her lead as she weaves around them. Don't trip!

The diminutive MIKOTO MINAGI is one of those volunteers, and she's spread the news amongst her friends. With no respect for the traditions of Harajuku, she's here in her school uniform, rocking back and forth on her heels as she waits for everyone to gather up.

Some of the friends she recruited for this event, of course, are Mai's school friends: Chie Harada and Aoi Senou. The former is a girl with shoulder-length grey hair and glasses, well-known in Ohtori in her role as one of the FOREMOST RUMOURMONGERS OF THEIR AGE: if there's a story out there, Chie has heard all five versions of it. Aoi, with long brown hair and a friendly round face, isn't quite as worldly as her best friend - but she's deeply supportive, and, it turns out, keen to the world of romance.

They're seated at a card table, with a portable microphone between them. One might get the distinct impression, from how different their setup looks to the rest of the tables here at Balance For A Home, that they brought this in entirely independently.

Jorey thought it was a great idea, and so...

"We've got some hot contenders turning out today!" Chie declares, into that microphone, which doesn't crackle or pop because really, they're Ohtori students, of course their equipment is top-class. "But will they be able to stand up against the curveballs we've got set up for them..?!"

Aoi turns the microphone towards her, without really looking at it, because she's looking out at the crowd. "I know everyone's going to be doing their best today," she replies, smiling. "We've come out for a great cause!"

"IT'S FOR CATS," Mikoto calls over to her, entirely without the benefit of a microphone. (One wonders if she really needs one.)

Chie grins a little, shaking her head, before she tilts the microphone back to herself to amplify the message: "That's sure right," she confirms, as Aoi gestures towards the feline staff of Whiskers on Kittens with a 'ta-daa' flourish of her wrists. "This event... is for cats!"

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori Ankou is fond of cats.

Who is not? Well, she is especially fond of cats, in some ways, in no small part due to the influence of Mikoto Minagi. It is a good thing to help people, too, and on some level Mikoto has had this subtle influence on Nori: Nori has come to think of cats as citizens of Tokyo (if, of course, with different responsibilities and hangouts) rather than meandering animals.

And Nori Ankou is also AkaMira even if she has not decided to make this like an official event or anything. Nonetheless Nori is here in a pair of comfortable black hakama pants with a red ribbon stripe up the back of the trews and a cotton blouse, along with tabi-style sandals and two ribbons which have been used to tie up that long smooth black mane into



two shapes

not oxhorns

not dumplings

But with a careful fold and a certain amount of accomodation for our friends the Scottish Fold:

It is a cat-ear hairstyle.

"Miaow," Nori Ankou says, as she side-eyes a jelly egg.

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

When Niramo happen to first hear the news that Mikoto had apparently signed her up to help at an event, she was a little miffed about it. That is, until she learned about the business that's running it and what it's actually for. She didn't even know there was a cat cafe in the area, but Mikoto knew about it...then again, it really did make sense that Mikoto of all people would know.

And it was a charity for cats! She may not be allowed to have a pet herself, but she feels like it's the right thing to do to go along with it to thank Mikoto.

Niramo managed to pull a somewhat fashionable outfit together accidently out of clothing you could find at almost any chain brand store, let alone a store that could be found in Harajuku. A navy blue tee-shirt with a black cat licking at a half-melted chocolate popsicle and a pair of beige shorts, worn sneakers and a dark green ribbon kept her ponytail straight. While Niramo could have just stayed in her school uniform, she felt it would be really weird to help at a cat charity without something cat themed to show for it.

The Juuban ravenette is eyeing what once was a chocolate egg with trepidation, wondering if her shirt was an omen. "These eggs...some of them can't be legal, right?" And that's just flat out ignoring the 'spoons' being voted on by the public. Forget running with some of these eggs, walking is going to be almost impossible at this rate!

Thankfully she's not alone in her vocal complaints, even if the voice that just spoke didn't speak in Japanese. "I hear you, Nori-san..."

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri's arrived with Mikoto earlier, though she's been spending most of her time with Yua, as she scritches the harnessed cat behind the ears. "It's been such a pleasure getting to know you, Yua-san. But it looks like it's time for the event to start..."

Dropping her bag casually with a thump/thump of books in the holding area, Eri Shimanouchi stepping up to the eggsortment at the table. She hasn't changed since school, still wearing the mustard vest and grey skirt that marks her as an Ohtori girl in Yoyogi park. "Hmmm! Hm! Hm!"

As she listens to Mikoto's exuberant call, she has a silly smile on her expression. "Mikoto-chan raises a good point... since it's for cats. Perhaps I should have Yua-san decide for me."

Crouching down, she clasps her hands together, her smile sweet, "Yua-san. Any thoughts? Do I need to bring you up to the table to choose for me?"

Eri then turns to Chie, who is presiding, offering her her smile, "Is it okay if I bring Yua-san up to the table to pick? Whichever one catches her interest is the one I want to balance for her."

Assuming she gets the 'okay' she raises the cat up to the table, seeing which direction the cat sniffs. Of course she won't let her close enough to actually take a bite.

"Choose well, Yua-san. I'm dedicating this race to Akiko-chan."

Wait, who is Akiko-chan? Anyone who knows Eri has never heard her mention such a name before... ever.

As a Juuban girl notes the eggs that they can't be legal, Eri smiles broadly and says, "Of course they're legal. They're all within reggulations."

Nori 'Miaow's' and suddenly her head swivels slightly, to stare at the model. With a blink of her eyes through her glasses, she comments, with a note of a tease, "I didn't expect this event to bring out actual catgirls..."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori nods to Niramo gravely. And then she raises one hand in a slightly paw-like manner towards Eri, adding interstitially, "Please --"

"I am a cat *lady.*"

Somewhere Batiste sits bolt upright.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

The calico, Yua, headbutts Eri's hand and purrs her affirmation. She's less vocal than Kichi, but no less affectionate.

"We're hearing some trepidation from the contestants," Chie says, with a grin which suggests she's enjoying it all just a little too much. "And... what's this?! One contestant wants to have a cat choose her fate..!"

"I'll allow it," Jorey calls over, since he isn't that far away. It's entirely possible he's letting it slide all because of that pun.

"But what happens when you leave your life in the hands of a cat..?" Aoi wonders, head tilting up as her finger taps her chin.

Mikoto isn't thinking about that question, though, because she heard a miaou and she turned around and her eyes became very VERY wide.

"Girl who's a cat! Girl who's a cat!" She declares, happily, on seeing Nori's earfold buns, only for Eri to remind her what the word actually is. Nori, helpfully, corrects her. Mikoto cheers, a fist pumping to the air. Enthusiastically: "Lady! Lady! Lady!"

She's just as enthusastic as she turns to Niramo, and Niramo's great cat shirt. "It's challenge, Niramo! We gotta do it for the cats!" As if on cue, Kichi, the black cat who - as Nori knows - just loves being brushed, wanders up to weave around Niramo's legs. Her challenge may now be: avoid tripping over Kichi's lead.

A moment later, Mikoto registers what Eri said before her catgirl comment. "Wait..." she says, in a more level and slightly baffled tone, "who's Akiko?"

Throughout all this, of course, Yua has been snif-snif-sniffing the eggs as she dangles. She passes over the chocolate egg and the jelly egg; cats aren't terribly fond of sweet things. No, the egg she keeps sniffing... is the egg cut in half, the yolk exposed. Snif snif snif, but luckily she's well-behaved enough not to try and reach out and nibble. She's a worker at a cafe, after all!

"Well," the woman manning the table remarks, "it seems she's made her selection. Now, let's see..." She checks the tablet on the table - there are cat ears on the tablet, and it's exemplary of the high-tech ordering system Whiskers on Kittens employs - and flashes a thumbs-up to Jorey.

"It looks like they're ready to start!" Aoi announces, as that woman waves the contestants over. "But what difficulties will they face in their first lap...?!"

Chie takes over, entirely naturally. "Shimanouchi-san has gotten ahead of the pack with her cat gambit - she's balancing the sleeping cat egg! Cutting half of it off might give her a real advantage in this first round..! Especially since - oh, it seems she's got a normal spoon!"

Next, the attendant proceeds to hand Niramo a BENDY SPOON, with a spring in the middle. The miaowiegg she gets is standard, but the spoon will bounce up and down unless she balances very well...! "We're really going to get to see Umokeshi-san's flexibility in this round," Chie goes on. "Juuban knows her as the one girl who's always showing up to her Cooking Club stand every week, but will she be able to balance a spoon with a spring..?!"

"Oh wow," Aoi exclaims, as the attendant hands Nori her apparatus. "The glamourous Ankou-san is balancing... a cat egg made out of jelly! If she drops that, the consequences for that outfit could be awful..! At least her spoon is normal..."

Next up is Mikoto - and the spoon she's handed is only half a spoon. Because halfway through, it flattens out... into the tines of a fork! "What?!" Aoi gasps. "Goodness, Mikoto-chan is racing with a spork! Is she really going to be able to keep the egg from falling off?"

There's a STARTING LINE by the egg table, and there are flags across the length of the park between two trees to indicate when runners ought to turn around - it's not a long lap, in consideration of people who want to participate who don't enjoy gym class that much, but it ought to be sufficiently challenging while balancing their passengers.

"Once the contestants finish their lap," Chie says into the microphone, "they'll report back to the table for a new challenge! There are three laps in total! Good luck!"

Jorey pulls out a whistle, and...


They're off..!!

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Eri is the recipient of a face that just screams surprise at first, before the pun slowly dawns on her, causing a loud groan. Not one born from exasperation like some would expect, but the fact Niramo didn't think of it first! Shaking her head, the Juuban girl waves a hand. "Okay, that was a good one. Might have to reuse it later..."

Nori's correction manages to have Niramo giggling for a few moments. It really seems like everyone is in a good mood for today, then!

Especially Mikoto, who is quick to reaffirm that they need to do this for the felines! "You're right, after all. Hopefully today will help a few cats find a-eeh?" Having felt something furry brush past her leg, Niramo goes to back up a little while looking down. This, along the lead around one of her legs causes--


--predictable results.

Niramo rubs at her back from the ground as she gives Kichi a pointed look. This air of grievance is kept up for a few moments before she sighs and reaches over to scratch Kichi along the back of the cat's ears. That's where cats like being scratched, right? "Fiiine, I got the hint, kitty."

Niramo manages to pull herself free of the lead in time to become the proud receipent of a spring-loaded spoon. The egg is normal...well, compared to the rest of the eggs, but the spoon is really going to make her work for it! And...wait, how did she know about that?! "I...I just want the Cooking Club to put up a good face, that's all!"

The walk towards the starting point is enough to let Niramo know that her prediction was coming true already about her spoon, as with each step it would jiggle wildly. "Wow, did they really make all these spoons just for this?" They had to, right? There's no way someone could actually eat with this...right?

The egg is in position and...the whistle sounds off! She hasn't been in a race like this in a few years, but maybe the old strategy still works? Niramo sets off with a somewhat hurried step, right hand holding that jiggling spoon very ahead of her. Breaking out into a run isn't going to happen at all, unless she wants to send her egg into orbit. Balance is even more important right now, and the weight of the egg was helping out- "No no no, don't you dare fall off!...at least we don't have to hold the spoons in our mouths."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori Ankou's spoon is able to secure that jelly egg BUT AT WHAT COST?

She takes a deep breath and lets it out, holding the spoon out before her with poise and ease, the majority of its arm resting on the palm of her hand. It is a turned posture that she has practiced, as if she were holding a fan or some other accessory.

And she is able to keep her arm loose enough to avoid changing direction and to walk forwards with the egg only wobbling slightly as she takes each long, graceful step! Her long legs work to her advantage!


There are two downsides.

One is that she's not that fast... and the effort of this is, despite the hint of autumnal sharpness in the air, making her start sweating, her neck damp already as she tries to breathe carefully and avoid making her face contort into an expression that reveals the effort.

The other is...

... it's not that fast.

The cat egg wobbles at her, menacingly. :3 Even so, Nori's legs mean she is able to make headway. Is this against the spirit of the event!? Or perhaps she's letting the others get lulled into a false sense of sec-purr-ity...

"Every spoon has its bowl," Nori says to Niramo, as if quoting. then, 'don't tempt fate!'

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Thanks!" Eri says to the Gaijin proprietor, as Yua chooses her fate.

"Hmmm?" Eri's gives Niramo a look of false innocence, "I have no idea what you mean." The little twitch at the corner of her lip might give her away though.


Eri lilts at NoriNeko, with a tone that indicates she doesn't really think it was a mistake at all.

Mikoto though asks her an important question, and Eri simply smiles and leans down to Mikoto, whispering, "A cat I've never met... and have met, at the same time."

She then returns back to her standing position, leaving it mysterious what that means. After Yua makes her selection - Eri puts her down, "Thank you Yua-san for your wisdom." And takes up the spoon, and the half cat egg - that implies its sleeping. "My. This feels very advantageous." The girl says with a smile. "It seems Yua-san chose well."

Eri puzzles through the match up of Niramo's bendy spoon, and Cat Lady's jelly egg. And Mikoto's... spork.

"She might surprise you." Eri notes of Mikoto. And of Niramo, she puts her opposite hand to her cheek, "Oh my, that is important. What would people say if a member of the cooking club didn't know how to handle an egg?"

Her tone is such that it's nigh impossible to know if she's being serious or not. Perhaps Ohtori girls are simply SUPER INTENSE about eggs?

Balancing her spoon parallel to the ground, she waits until the whistle bleets its shrill note, and Eri takes off in a fast walk. "One-two-one-two-one-two-one-two-one-two." She says in rhythm, trying to keep the spoon from jostling overmuch.

She's not an athlete, nor does she have perfect balance, knowing fully well her limitations, so she's taking this as quickly as she can without trying to push her sleeping cat falling off the tune.

In time though, the words change even if the rhythm does not.


Is she saying that she's the cat bus? Well... she is transporting a sleeping cat.

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Niramo rolls her eyes with the practice ease of something that has been done quite a lot. "You'll be surprised just how many people don't know how to crack an egg. It's normal for someone to waste about a half-dozen eggs when they get a crack at it."

Nori's quote would get a questioning frown if Niramo didn't have to focus every scrap of her attention to make sure her spoon doesn't become a diving board for her spoon. "I...guess so?" What does spoons and bowls have to do with anything?

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

'Mrow??' Kichi asks, a little alarmed, as Niramo goes THUMP. She headbutts poor tangled Niramo to give her encouragement for her upcoming task. Or just because she's level with her now. Cats are mysterious.

"Met and not met... how's cat met and not met...?" Mikoto whispers back to Eri, going a little crosseyed as she tries to puzzle it out.

No one tell her about Schrodinger.

Soon enough, Mikoto bounds off from the starting line--!!

Only to have to wobble on one leg as she realises her egg is getting PRECARIOUSLY CLOSE TO THE TINED EDGE OF THE SPORK. "Waaoooh!" She yelps, as she wobble-wobbles to get it back under control.

Luckily, it wibble-wobbles back into the cavity of the spoon, not out into the air. "Safe!" Mikoto chirps, as she continues jogging towards the flags. Not quite as fast as she'd started out...

"They're not wasted!" She calls, cheerfully, to Niramo and Eri, entirely blind to the interschool politics going on between them. "Cracking eggs is fun!"

"Looks like Mikoto-chan managed to salvage a precarious start," Chie opines, from the Announcer's Desk. (The Announcer's Desk is still, by the way, a foldable card table. Chie and Aoi are both clustered together around it. They're making it work.) "Meanwhile, Umokeshi-san looks to be employing a distance strategy... she's holding that spoon so far away from herself!"

Aoi, who is petting Yua as they speak, adds: "Ankou-san's height is a real advantage, but it looks like Shimanouchi-san has an interesting strategy! Is she... timing herself to a beat?! Wow!"

"It's to be expected," Chie adds. "Umokeshi-san might be the reliability star of Juuban's Cooking Club, but Shimanouchi-san has been making waves in Ohtori with her newfound cooking skills! You know, they say she's learned how to cook for a mysterious new boyfriend..?!"

"That's so romantic!" Aoi adds, with enthusiasm. "I wonder who the lucky boy is..?!"

"Now that's one question I can't answer," Chie says. With a sly smile, she adds: "Maybe she'll give us an interview after the competition..."

... Ohtori girls are, apparently, Like That.

"But look!" Aoi interrupts her best friend's plots, gesturing to the starting line (which is also, more or less, the finish line). "Even though she wasn't hurrying along so fast, Ankou-san is neck-and-neck with Shimanouchi-san coming back..! Who could have predicted that?!"

"That's the power of a model's height," Chie marvels.

And so, the two of them will get their new challenges first. Nori will find herself given a tablespoon with a familiar Nekotato balanced on it - it's larger than an egg, so it's going to be a challenge to keep balanced. Meanwhile, Eri will find herself given something which isn't quite a tablespoon to balance her miaowiegg on her... it's a cake shovel?! It looks a little like a trowel, but it's designed for food, not dirt. The edges are more raised than a spoon's - but it slopes down, to a flat edge, and if she's not careful her egg will tumble right down the slide and onto the ground.

Niramo and Mikoto, when they get to the finish line, will find themselves equipped with different challenges too. Niramo will find herself given a normal tablespoon - with a chocolate egg on it! It's a little melty in the summer heat... which might really be a blessing in disguise, helping keep it on the spoon. Meanwhile, Mikoto's spork is traded out... for a shamoji, a rice paddle, which is a flat spoon made from bamboo used to serve rice. There's only the slightest inward curve to this spoon, so the key will be keeping it in the middle..!

The second lap begins..!!

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Holding the spring spoon so far from herself is actually working out surprisingly well. Keeping it reasonably straight and center is allowing the hydralic untensil to to stay somewhat even, but trying to increase her speed to catch up with Eri and Nori almost sends her mushroom-decorated egg flying into a bush. Slow and steady doesn't win the first lap, it seems.

"They're wasted when half of the contents of the bowl is shell, Mikoto-san. We all have to start somewhere, though!" Then again, Niramo doesn't remember getting stuck on egg cracking. It was the stirring...

The commentary from the two Ohtori assistances are pretty distracting as well, with a noticeable blush coming to her cheeks from the slight praise. She just happen to keep an eye on whatever half-baked plan some of the less experience students try to cook up. Octopus ink spaghetti isn't quick or clean, so don't try cooking it for a lunch rush! It's common sense!

When Niramo finally trails in after Eri and Nori, she is quick to swap out her spoon for the new untensil and makes a face when she notices just how melted the dessert egg was already. Ugh, chocolate is so messy and sticky and...wait...that could be her saving grace. Giving her spoon a few experimental twists and turns just to see how secure her egg is, Niramo starts to run after the leaders of the pack!

"You two are making eggcellent timing, but i'm going have to poach your lead!" She doesn't like to run like this if she can help it, but it's for a good cause! Short as she is, Niramo is eating up ground quickly with her steps. She just have to keep an eye on the ground and not trip on any sudden roots! "I really wasn't sure about the gimmicks at first, but omelettinâ this slide!"

It seems like with the sudden burst of confidence comes a surge of puns in its' wake.

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Don't worry about it." Eri says to Mikoto's question. "I'll tell you later."

As Chie announces her newfound cooking skills, Eri beams with pleasure until... she mentions.


And Eri just snerks. The motion causing her to stumble, and suddenly she slows down just to catch herself. Her cheeks just faintly pink in the aftermath. Though she's smiling so hard to herself.

Perhaps there's something to the rumor after all by her reaction!?

As the first lap completes though, she trades out her spoon for a... cake shovel?

Eri looks at it with a ??? expression.

"Is this a gardener joke?" She whispers to herself. "Or a cooking joke... or both?"

Either way, she tries to carefully balance the slope of the shovel to keep it her egg from sliding down. As she starts lap two, she tries to imagine

"My what a thing to say." She responds to Niramo idly, "Are you sure you want to suggest poaching anything from me? In some parts of Tokyo..."

The sharp look in her eyes is mildly intimidating.

"... they used to shoot you for that."

Perhaps a remnant of her old self?

Either way, perhaps her psychological warfare will put her in the lead???

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

cat bus cat bus cat bus cat bus

Nori keeps on moving forwards as commentary erupts. She doesn't do more than continue looking poised until such time as she crosses the finish line and they get the power of a BRIEF REST! Nori sags at the shoulders as tension breaks, wiping her forehead on a laced cloth and smiling slightly and sidewise at Eri.

And then she is given the terror of

NEKOTATO. (Part cat. Part spud. All wonder.)

upon a more or less conventional spoon, although this one is at least not going to be nearly as hard, or so NORI ANKOU THINKS. She grasps it carefully, breathes out, and attempts to hustle it up for a moment before the cat-tato NEARLY LEAPS OUT.

Nori swerves, overbalancing to keep it in place.

Which means it's going to fall the other way!

And this wobble bobble continues until Nori hears Eri speak - she almost jumps - and the potato begins to topple FORWARDS.

And that is when Nori runs, because sometimes you have to outrace your failure. Or your potato.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Why'd it be shells..?" Mikoto asks Niramo, utterly baffled, as if she can't imagine failing such a divine task as CRACK EGG.

"Whoa!" Chie exclaims, as the second round shows Niramo pulling dramatically ahead. "It looks like Umokeshi-san is making her challenge work for her! The chocolate's melting to the spoon..! Is anyone going to be able to challenge that speed?!"

Jorey, still holding the cats' leads, is laughing up a storm in the background, because he heard those puns. In an instant, it's clear who named all the dishes. Those are his pun crimes.

Speaking of crimes: Eri Shimanouchi. Mikoto is having a merry task balancing her egg on the shamoji, and it wobbles precariously close to the edge as Mikoto slows to look over to her. "Eri, egg poaching is cooking! It's different!" She offers that clarification so genuinely that it might be difficult to tell whether Mikoto really is confused as to how much Eri knows about poaching eggs.

... well, she definitely missed the psychological warfare.

"Mikoto-chan is really getting slowed down a lot by that rice paddle," Aoi announces, with a little thrumming in the background because Yua has since jumped up onto her lap and is busy purring. "But somehow, it hasn't fallen off yet! I'm surprised she knows how to handle something like that..."

"Well, she is helping Mai-chan make breakfast these days," Chie remarks. "And as the Animal Care Club's newest member, she's definitely motivated to make a good showing here! After taking years to decide on a club, I happen to know there are quite a few sporting clubs who are disappointed they missed out - particularly the golfers..."

"Eto... have you ever seen Mikoto-chan playing golf?" Aoi asides.

"Not with my own eyes," Chie admits.

But there's disaster striking, in the field--!! Nori is rapidly losing control of the NEKOTATO SITUATION, and Aoi gasps, as she calls attention to it. "Look! Ankou-san is hurrying along so quickly! Is her potato,"

"Nekotato," Chie interjects,

Aoi corrects herself: "Nekotato going to fall over?!"

"Maybe speed will win over balance!" Chie remarks, as Nori runs. Because, indeed, she manages to get to the finish line - not quite as quickly as Niramo, but certainly she's up there.

MEANWHILE, AT THE EGG TABLE: A trio of rowdy boys snicker to themselves as they poke at the eggs. The attendant finally notices what they're doing, and waves them away, but she doesn't have time to look at what's happened: because here are Nori and Niramo! Niramo will receive what looks to be a normal egg on a normal spoon... has she, perhaps, Lucked Out? Though, that ear does look a little strange...

As for Nori, she is given...

... a simple, elegant pair of chopsticks.

She'll need to hold her miaowiegg firmly until the finish line..!!

When Eri and Mikoto find their way back to the egg table, they'll find themselves with new challenges, too. Eri is given custody of Cat Rearing On Their Hind Legs, propped up onto its tall side with two pieces of zucchini. Meanwhile, Mikoto is given... a teaspoon, and a normal sized egg.

"Maybe it is jokes," Mikoto remarks, to Eri, in belated reflection on her cooking/gardener joke combo. "I think they're saying I'm short..."

Still, she'll valiantly try to balance that egg..!

It's only after the third lap starts that the true nature of Niramo's egg becomes clear, with a snicker from that trio of boys: the ear of her miaowiegg lights up, and - it's a sparkler! There's a sparkler in her egg! It's throwing sparks of light, and this time she doesn't even have to be the first one to exclaim:

"Whoa! That can't be tournament-legal! Somehow, Umokeshi-san's egg is sparkling..!" Chie gasps, as she points out the sabotage. "Will she be able to handle that?! Things are really getting exciting now...!!"

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

As Niramo speeds on by Eri with the power of puns, she naturally listens in as the Ohtori student retorts and...well, it's certainly a good thing her chocolate egg is sticking to her spoon like it is. Niramo stumbles but recovers herself just before she jogs right into a tree, and she's eyeing Eri over her shoulder as she moves on ahead. "Y-yeah, Mikoto-san has it right, it's egg poaching. I rather not be shot, thank you..."

It's not just the race that Niramo wants to stay ahead and away from Eri now...

Nori is managing to catch up with the sole Juuban student with a very haphazard balance between running and keeping the...'egg' in place, but Niramo is able to finish the second lap first! She doesn't notice the difference in her egg and lets out a sigh of relief as she starts her third and final lap.

While she can't just charge down the path like she could with the chocolate egg, luck is finally on her side. "Right, time to win this and take home the prize!...wait, I don't remember what the prize was..." Was it even revealed, or is the real prize the eggs she carried along the way?

Niramo is a little more on edge after Eri's possible threat and comment, and the rainbow sparks firing from her egg is sudden enough to cause her to throw her egg away! But...doesn't she need that to win? Panicked, Niramo chases after the airborne fire-egg with a waving spoon.

Miraculously, the short ravenette somehow manages to catch the egg back on the spoon, but a spark hitting her wrist causes her to cry out in pain and fling it away again! This quickly turns into a bizarre game of catch and release, with Niramo zig-zagging around the park after her egg. She's going to be a major problem for the other racers, as it's seemingly luck that has her following the flags now. "If I find out who made this egg, i'm making sure they get it bac-ow!"

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri just smiles at Mikoto as she glimpses Nori's gait picking up the pace, "Oh is it? I had no idea."

... She absolutely knows how to poach an egg...

"I'll have to look that up after the race." As she feigns innocence. Now normally she doesn't lie to Mikoto.

But a white lie perhaps is fine from time to time when it's very very funny to her, and only serves to make just herself look bad.

Niramo though if she looks back at her, might get the sense that perhaps she was more serious than meets the eye.

Eri just catches a glimpse of the three boys retreating, lofting an eyebrow. Though she doesn't have time to consider it, as her egg is switched out for an cat balancing on its hind legs. "Oh dear... this is going to be more difficult to balance." She notes, as she tries to angle the cake shovel a bit more away from being sloped down, before taking off on the next lap.

"You might be right about that." Eri says to Mikoto, "At least it isn't too me-" And that's when the sparkler goes off from Niramo.

"Well... strike that thought." She says, with a sense of mild astonishment.

Eri is mostly focused on the race, but, perhaps she's scanning the crowd for a glimpse of those three boys.

"If there's a cherry bomb hidden in mine then someone is about to have a very bad day."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Nori almost falls forwards but throws out one hand and--!!

"Safe," Nori breathes, the nekotato unfallen. She swaps out again, but she is honestly starting to look a little haggard after two rounds of relatively near misses. That said, looking 'slightly haggard' is pretty much standard model appearance so it is not immediately available.

At the sudden hiss of the sparkler - Nori calls out, "Is that really alright?!" But she has a pair of chopsticks and a miaowiegg. She grips the egg. Easy enough. Except -

Oh no, Nori thinks. Her pinky is already starting to ache, to throb a little bit. Can she really...

She doesn't have a choice, Nori thinks. She sucks in a deep breath, lets her lips thin in determination, and begins to jog while twisting her wrist to raise the miaowi up in the air! It's going to get breeze and is that really okay for cats!? Well, they may not be as prone to stick their heads out of car windows... but is that just because they don't get the opportunity??

"Ah! Umokeshi! Be careful!" Nori cries out at the clear sign that Niramo got a spark on her -- but -- "Such determination," she says, in momentary awe, before realizing she's stopped jogging and resuming doing so. She looks at Eri as she speaks -- and the jog turns into a genuine if egg-wobbling run.

Nori is not sure exactly what a cherry bomb is. But she recognizes one of those words, and she doesn't like it.

<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Yup!" Mikoto chirps, to Eri, on the matter of egg poaching. She doesn't suspect a thing, because obviously Eri is innocent. It says right there: innocence.

As for the terrible crime of this event, it's not hard to find who the culprits are; they're pointing and laughing, after all.

"Eeeh?!" Mikoto yelps, as she sees Niramo bouncing back and forth. She almost unbalances her miaowiegg, but manages to catch it at the last moment. "That's too mean!"

"I don't think that's part of the show, folks!" Chie is thinking on the same track, evidently, though she has has a microphone on her side.

Well, those boys were laughing... until Jorey walks up and scruffs one of them by the collar. (He's handed the cats' leads over to Aoi, of course.)

"Now might I ask what you're doing messin' around with my event...?"

(He's still kind of, just, ridiculously polite, but foreigners are taught a particular way of speaking Japanese, after all.)

Niramo, rushing along, is naturally the first one to the finish line - though perhaps more through luck than intention. Luckily for Niramo, a waitress from the SNACK STAND is hurrying over at the same time, with two things: one, a portable fire extinguisher, and two, a little handheld first aid kit. She puts out the egg - with an assurance of, "Really, don't worry about it!" - and she'll help patch up the sparkler-sparks which landed on poor Niramo's skin. Waitresses sure are talented..!

"Looks like they're managing to help Umokeshi-san out there," Aoi comments; she, a little more awkwardly, wasn't really sure whether they should be commenting over that. "What a relief! Are the others going to come in...?!"

"We've got Ankou-san coming up next," Chie replies. "I think I heard her say something about determination over there, and she'd certainly know how to recognise it: I've heard she spends long hours in her photo-shoots, trying to get things just right!"

"Shimanouchi-san isn't too far behind," Aoi says. "Despite her challenges, she's making good time!"

Chie chimes in: "She sure is! But, wow - Mikoto-chan looks like she's going to drop her egg!" And, in fact, Mikoto is having a merry time trying to balance an egg on a teaspoon while hurrying along, because she's paying so much attention to what's going on at the finish line and so little to her egg.

But, somehow, she manages to make it back..! After Eri, but that's okay. It's for cats.

After giving those boys a terrible talking-to, Jorey Jace makes his way back to the finish line, too. "Terribly sorry about that, Miss Umokeshi," he says. "That wasn't a planned part of the event - but please feel free to come by the cafe, and I'll be happy to render you a free lunch. Eh, render? Is that right..?" He waves a hand, smiling. "Don't worry, don't worry!"

Gesturing to everyone, his smile grows wider. "You've all been a great help," he says. "We've managed to raise a lot of money for the shelters! I hope you'll join me to raise more funds for them some future time, maybe!"

And so, Chie announces throughout the crowd: "Even if things got a bit dicey, it sounds like Balance for a Home was a big success...!"

'Miaow,' Yua says, into the microphone, as if the efforts of these girls have moved her to speak. Perhaps this... is the secret of cat approval.

(Or perhaps she got scritched in just the right way.)

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The egg in question may not be a nekotato but the game of solo hot potato is causing a ruckus for the race! While Niramo still wants to win, with how much she's juggling trying to keep this sabotaged egg from hitting the ground, it'll be lucky if she manages to get it over in one piece!

She just manages to catch it again before the sparking egg is covered with white foam and breaking Niramo out of her panic. "Huh?" Twisting around, Niramo catches sight of Nori, Eri and Mikoto behind her, and with her being right next to the finish line... "Wait, I won?!" The victory is almost worth getting burned repeatedly over.


Niramo eyes the troublemaker trio for a moment but gives a pained smile towards the cat cafe proprietor. "I'm used to burns from cooking, but wasn't expecting it during a race! And I was planning on stopping by later on, anyways, so thank you!" And while she can't give those troublemakers the egg she promised them... "And maybe our new friends can help out at the cafe to make up for today?"

Honestly, the race itself was a lot of fun despite the...troubles that popped up. At least the animal shelters are going to be doing very well after today. "I'll be glad to help out again next time. I'm sure Mikoto-san will let me know beforehand."