Chapter 1:

Our Second Meeting

Why I Write

“Afternoon, Yukimura-senpai! Fancy meeting you at the library.”

I could only describe my tone as very, very ‘not casual’.

In a manner some would describe as ‘extremely unnatural’ and others ‘unnerving’, I pulled back the seat opposite the most beautiful girl I knew and sat down. I made sure to smile.

“Oh, it’s you.”

It was a colossal waste of effort, because her gaze never left the paperback in her hands.

She’d met me once beforehand—a week ago, on my first day of high school. That day, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom, romance was in the air, and I actually managed to talk with her for five minutes. What I’m trying to say is she definitely knows my name.

Hello, I’m Mizuhara Kohei.

Hello, I’m your student mentor.

We exchanged LINE IDs after a very brief introduction, and then she said she’d text me to sort out the finer details of the tutoring schedule. I didn’t really care. I was just happy that the first number I got in high school belonged to a girl, and shortly after—like after two minutes of staring at her display picture on the bus—I convinced myself studying one-on-one with a girl basically counted as a date.

And so, I changed my mind.

Studying, is like, super important.

“My midterms are coming up,” I said.


“I need your help… to prepare.”

Calmly turning a page, Yukimura Kiku replied.

“How charming. Do you think this studious charade will win me over just because I’m in a library reading a book? That’s profiling. Policemen in America have gotten in trouble for that.”


If she seems angry at me, it’s because of the tutoring thing.

As a student, and furthermore a student who placed great importance on his studies, I did the responsible thing when my tutor no-showed on her promise to text me: I made first contact. Even though she specifically instructed me not to do that, I did it twice. Maybe three times or more. I also may or may not have written an essay on how badly I wanted to meet her.

To study, of course.

She didn’t reply, of course.

And that’s why I coincidentally ran into her at the library.

“I’m serious, Senpai. I want to do well at this school.”

Her book snapped shut with a resounding clap, and then she looked me in the eye. I learned at that moment some gazes are so piercing they drill holes into your psyche.

“Listen carefully, you.”

“My name is Mizuhara.”



Her voice sounded like the mellow timbre of a piano, except the pianist in control was obsessed with satanic tritones.

You-kun, you are a disgrace to this school. The male gender. No—you are a disgrace to mankind.”

“That’s a bit extreme. And mean.”

“But it’s completely warranted. You barely got into this school through the appeal process, and yet you’re lazy. Decent looking, but a sleaze. Worst of all, you think that you can turn this tutoring programme into your masturbatory rom-com fantasy.”


You know, whenever my father scolds me in the third-person singular tense, all I can think of is how annoying he sounds. Now that the comment was from the prettiest girl in my school… not much difference, actually.

Didn’t she just call me decent looking? I’ll focus on that.

“Character is not something you can decide based on such a tiny amount of interaction,” I said.

“I trust my intuition. It’s correct about fifty percent of the time.”

“And the other fifty percent?”

“I’d rather be wrong than even briefly consider the slight chance you might be an actual human being.”

I wasn’t sure which was more shocking—her blatant admission that she saw me as an animal, or the fact she referred to a 50/50 as a ‘slight chance’.

“But I am. And that last part about me having a ‘masturbatory fantasy’ is pure paranoia.”

I heard a very adorable sound—like a girl forcefully holding in a sneeze. It was Yukimura scoffing.

“Good try, but Tsujimoto-san told me about you. About your master plan, too."

“So you can refer to people by name!”

“Shush, You-kun.”

Tsujimoto Mari. An ex-classmate from middle school, childhood friend, and someone who joined the Literature Club on day one—ran by President Yukimura. More importantly, she sold me out to my tutor.

Mari is a snake.

Girls are made of sugar, spice, and everything nice, right? To give you an idea of what Mari is like, she’s the result of someone forgetting to buy paprika for a recipe. Panicking, they replace the paprika with 30 heaping spoonfuls of honey, and the final result takes the form of a girl—with brown, shoulder-length hair, and a voice so saccharinely sweet it turns the air into cotton candy. In other words—

“Trust me on this, but you can’t trust Mari.”

Yukimura’s brows furrowed. “You look stupid when you lie. Or is today Opposite Day? If that's the case, then you look stupid when you tell the truth as well.”

“Is it really that weird that a student wants to study?”

“Nonsense. I might have believed you if I didn’t know about your master plan. Since I do, I am very aware you’re one of those high-level creeps whose only clues about social interaction come from gal games, and it betrays your pathetic attempt at appearing noble. Extremely revolting.”

“What is that bolding even supposed to suggest?!”

“Shut it, pervert. Before I commit unspeakable horrors against you.”

Even though there was nothing sensual about the way she said it, something about a cute girl calling me a pervert and threatening to commit ‘unspeakable horrors’ sat wrongly with me. And by wrongly, I meant that it felt a bit good and a bit weird. Mostly good. It’s a euphemism.

“Say that again,” I said.

There was an emphatic slam of a book onto a wooden table.

“I dare you to say, ‘Say that again,’” said Yukimura, sayingly.

“Fine. But don’t you feel that maybe allowing opposite-sex pairings was for a reason? That it might be the government’s way of combating the declining birth rate?”

“That could be taken as sexual harassment.”

“No, it’s a genuine question.”

“Then it’s genuine sexual harassment, You-kun.”

Yukimura fanned open her paperback, and judging that I was either too perverse or uninteresting for her tastes—proceeded to continue reading English non-fiction. It reminded me that she was several standard deviations above the norm for intelligence, or possibly just lived overseas before. Not that I can actually recognise enough English to tell if it was fiction or nonfiction. She just gave me the aura of an elitist who goes, Fiction is not really reading.

Now that I think about it, I have no idea what Yukimura is made of. Maybe ghost peppers and a circuit board? Zero sugar, of course.

She was an ideal student—so ideal, in fact, that everything under the sun from swimming to singing to insulting adolescent boys was trivial to her. But nobody is perfect, and my interaction with her helped me confirm a sneaking suspicion I’ve had ever since I heard the rumours about Kitazawa High School’s Ice Queen.

“You don’t have many friends, do you?” I asked.

“You resort to negging girls when they turn down your advances, don’t you?”

The fact that she understood the term ‘negging’ suggested her mind was in a dark, dark place.

“Senpai, you have a very large vocabulary for describing pick-up artistry, and it worries me.”

You-kun, you have a very lecherous look on your face, and it worries me.”

“Imitation is the highest form of—”

“I know what you’re thinking,” she interrupted.

“And what would that be?”

“You’re thinking of what I would look like completely naked. Disgusting.”


She was quite far off. Both her deduction and the wavelength she operated on was off. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised looking at a girl for any reason as a man in this day and age is often misconstrued as ogling—so maybe she did have a point. I decided to change the subject.

“What book are you reading?”

“How to !@%^ and &*%#.”

“Again, please, but in Japanese.”

“How to Classically Condition your Friends and Other Social Tricks.”

So it was nonfiction. I guessed as much from the title length—then again, light novels have titles that are literal sentences nowadays. Nonfiction and light novels are becoming more and more alike since they both feel the need to beat their premises into the heads of readers from the very start. And neither contain any semblance of plot.

“Your choice of book does explain your thought process,” I said.

“That I am sagacious and well-read? Of course.”

“What does sagacious even—nevermind. I meant that your odd reading diet has warped the way you think about the world. Or maybe not. Maybe you were already weird, and therefore you naturally gravitated to weird literature that made you even weirder. Like a vicious cycle of weird.”

“Chicken and the egg,” she said.


I felt quite smart making that observation. But then she sighed.

“Unfortunately, you’re wrong. I read whatever I can get my hands on. I only picked this up because I’ve read everything else in the school library. And of course, I’m not weird.”

“Even those books?”

“You mean the ones with cover art so explicit you can’t believe it’s not smut? With heroines so flirty you wonder how hard the author is projecting? The ones where the main characters are as stupid as you, You-kun? Yes, I have. All of them. My personal favourite series was [redacted for copyright purposes].”

“If you dislike light novels so much, don’t read them.”

“I have nothing better to do,” she said, flipping a page.

In other words, you can’t make friends. 

I almost said that. But it did feel like we were getting closer—so it felt too odd to force out that quip.

During our short silence, I realised that I’d been looking at Yukimura’s face for a rather long time, so I decided to focus on something else. Maybe it was awkwardness, or maybe it was out of fear—her features are so sharp, I reckoned my eyes would get cut if I stared at her sheer angularity for too long. She is very pretty, though.

I also realised I was having fun.

So, I looked to my right, and pushing my vision to its fullest extent I sighted a girl with brown, shoulder-length hair.

Frolicking into the school library.

Tsujimoto Mari.