Chapter 1:

Our Second Meeting

Why I Write

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

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

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. Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s you.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

Hello, I’m Mizuhara Kohei. Bookmark here

Hello, I’m your student mentor.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

And so, I changed my mind.Bookmark here

Studying, is like, super important.Bookmark here

“My midterms are coming up,” I said. Bookmark here

“And?” Bookmark here

“I need your help… to prepare.”Bookmark here

Calmly turning a page, Yukimura Kiku replied.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“......”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

To study, of course.Bookmark here

She didn’t reply, of course.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“Listen carefully, you.”Bookmark here

“My name is Mizuhara.”Bookmark here

“No.”Bookmark here

“Fine.”Bookmark here

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

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

“That’s a bit extreme. And mean.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“......”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“And the other fifty percent?”Bookmark here

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

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’.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“So you can refer to people by name!”Bookmark here

“Shush, You-kun.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Mari is a snake. Bookmark here

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— Bookmark here

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

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.”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“Say that again,” I said.Bookmark here

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

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

“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?”Bookmark here

“That could be taken as sexual harassment.”Bookmark here

“No, it’s a genuine question.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

“Imitation is the highest form of—”Bookmark here

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

“And what would that be?”Bookmark here

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

Ack.”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“What book are you reading?”Bookmark here

“How to !@%^ and &*%#.”Bookmark here

“Again, please, but in Japanese.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

“Chicken and the egg,” she said.Bookmark here

“Precisely.”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

“Even those books?”Bookmark here

“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].”Bookmark here

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

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

In other words, you can’t make friends. Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

I also realised I was having fun.Bookmark here

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

Frolicking into the school library.

Tsujimoto Mari.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.