Chapter 5:

Chapter 5: When Buying Lunch at the Cafeteria, Don't Get the Yakisoba Bread, Get the Anpan!

Love Bites

Since Ueda-san’s late-night visit, things had been tense in the Oishi Household. Daisuke’s parents kept giving him strange looks out of the corner of their eye, and at times his father seemed almost disbelieving of the fact that Daisuke could be close with someone like Ueda-san.

The next night, when Daisuke sat down with his family to eat their supper, it was hard to miss the pressure of their stares. No one said anything, but it was clear that everyone felt a little uncomfortable, and no one moreso than Daisuke.

Daisuke’s appetite was nonexistent after the events of that afternoon, when Ueda-san went over her proposition with him. The “Daisuke Oishi Breeding Plan” was going to be enacted starting tomorrow, and he was supposed to pick out three potential targets by the time he got to school in the morning. So he wasn’t exactly in the mood for a nice family dinner.

Still, he didn’t want to give off the impression like anything was wrong. So with a smile affixed to his face, he expressed his gratitude for the meal and ate what was put in front of him, before excusing himself to the sanctuary of his room under the pretense of studying.

Needless to say, schoolwork was the last thing on his mind. If Ueda-san had her way (and he was quite fearful that, in spite of his protests, she would) then his future was not to go to school and become a doctor or a lawyer as his parents wished, or even take over the family restaurant like his sister hoped to do one day.

Daisuke was pretty sure “breeding stud” was not something he could put on his future consultation forms.

So instead of cracking open his notes to get started on his homework, he focused his energies on a notebook of a different kind.

As Daisuke looked through the planning guide Ueda-san had made for him, he was shocked and appalled by the depths of the information she had enclosed. If Ueda-san was anything she was definitely thorough. Daisuke wondered if the data of every girl in the school was written here, certainly there were enough profiles for all the girls in his year!

Ueda-san seriously expected him to pick out three choices from this? How could he even begin to-

Wait, what am I doing?! Daisuke questioned himself, staring at the notebook in horror. He had been cowed into submission by Ueda-san, and had actually been looking through the notebook with the idea that he would actually find girls to seduce like she had ordered.

No, this was wrong. This was sick and wrong, he wasn’t about to give into Ueda-san’s filthy ideas. He closed the notebook and set it down, shaking his head in disbelief. Even if he could pick out three girls to start with, and even if one or more of those girls, for whatever reason, agreed to go out with him, he would be condemning her to bearing his children, children that would be sacrificed to the famineans for food.

He couldn’t do that anyone! There was no way he could go along with this whole mess! Tomorrow, he was going to go to Ueda-san and tell her in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t going to be scared, he wasn’t going to go through with this!

Rika already hated him, he wasn’t about to hate himself, too.

A knock on his door brought him out of his concerned planning of how to confront Ueda-san. He turned to the door, confused. He’d told his parents he didn’t want to be disturbed, so the only person who would be coming to him at this hour would be…

“Big brother? Can I talk to you?” Sakura’s small voice asked from behind the door.

“Yeah, sure, come in,” Daisuke said, taking care to quickly hide the breeding plan among his other books.

Sakura walked into the room, looking surprisingly shy and nervous. When they were kids, his little sister had followed after him with bright eyes going “nii-chan, nii-chan”, but over the last few years, she had been mean and rude to him, treating him like a nuisance.

It was strange to see that shadow of her former self in her face now, years later. Daisuke wasn’t sure what she wanted, and she certainly wasn’t forthcoming. She fidgeted around, her face flushed with embarrassment as her cheeks turned pink.

“Big brother… I wanted to ask…” Sakura mumbled. “Are you and that girl… Ueda-san… mom said that you two were doing something on your bed, was that…” She took a deep breath, and exhaled. “Are you two going out?!” She cried.

Daisuke was stunned. So shocked by what she’d asked that it took him a few moments to realize that he hadn’t answered.

“What?! Ueda-san?!” Daisuke exclaimed, his face turning bright red. She thought that they… well, of course that would make sense, giving what she had seen, but… “No, no, no way! Never! Ueda-san and I are just friends! We would never be going out, not in a million years!”

Sakura’s shy features fell away, and the harsh, scowling face she usually aimed his way quickly took its rightful place. “Liar! Then… then what were those marks on your neck that I saw this morning, huh?! I asked Hayacchi, and she said that those were… hick- hick…” She was turning a deeper and deeper shade of crimson as she tried to say the words, and Daisuke felt sorry for her.

“That was just… I slept on my neck weird!” Daisuke said, unable to tell her the truth but also not willing to let his beloved little sister think that he and Ueda-san were romantically involved! That would just make things even more confusing.

“…Really?” Sakura asked, looking suspiciously at him.

“Yes! Really! Look at Ueda-san!” Daisuke pleaded. “Do you think someone as beautiful and wonderful as her would actually be in a relationship with someone like me?! Ueda-san is an angel descended from the heavens! A goddess in human form, yet one who has transcended the boundaries of humanity! Such a glorious figure could never fall for one such as myself!”

…I can’t believe I’m saying something like this about a monster like that… Daisuke felt a stab of pain at his own words, referring to himself so pathetically. Forgive me for not being able to maintain dignity as your older brother, little sister…

Sakura herself was considering his words and stroking her chin. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously, as if trying to weigh whether or not what he was saying was the truth. Daisuke prayed that she would believe him; if she didn’t, then he might not be able to keep her safe from Ueda-san. If she started digging any deeper into their relationship…

“…Well, that makes sense,” Sakura admitted. Her face brightened into a big smile and she laughed. “Yeah! No way my stupid older brother would ever be able to get a girlfriend as pretty as Ueda-san! She’s truly a goddess…” Sakura swooned, dashing out of his room with a skip in her step. “Good night, big brother!” She sang out.

Daisuke felt a great swell of pity for his little sister. Please don’t get fooled… Ueda-san is no angel, she’s a monster.

As he stared at his open door, his conversation with Sakura remained in his thoughts. No, he couldn’t do it. If he went against Ueda-san’s breeding project, then she might eat Sakura, and their parents… No, no “might” about it. She saw humans as nothing more than food. She would devour his whole family without blinking an eye.

Daisuke curled up in terror when he went to bed that night. It wasn’t fair. Why did he have to find himself in this position? Having to worry about his family getting devoured by monsters if he didn’t submit to the cruel will of a monster like Ueda-san…

Unable to sleep with that thought in his mind, Daisuke pulled himself out of bed and trudged back to his desk. He flipped open the notebook and began studying it again.

Daisuke had not gotten much sleep last night. Before he had learned the truth of Ueda-san, school had seemed like the holiest of places, the promised land where every moment was pure bliss. Just the chance to see his goddess walking through the halls, or taking notes diligently at her desk, or even just eating lunch in the classroom, those precious moments had carried him into the building with boundless energy.

But Ueda-san had poisoned those flowers of joy at their root. Now Daisuke trudged onto campus exhausted and hollow, resigned to whatever terrible deeds Ueda-san had in store for him that afternoon.

He had not, in fact, come up with three names, no matter how hard he had tried. How was he supposed to pick which girl’s life he was going to attempt to ruin? Only a monster could do that, and Daisuke, pathetic and worthless as he may be, was at least not a monster.

He would just have to break the news to Ueda-san and pray that she was merciful.

This is going to suck, Daisuke groaned to himself. He made it to his shoe locker, when something caught his eye. It was a handkerchief. Seeing it immediately brought memories of that fateful day when Ueda-san had first caught his eye-- the day when everything changed, and for the worse. If he had not fallen for Ueda-san in that moment, then perhaps he would be going to class right now with his head held high and a smile on his face. For all he would know, Ueda-san would just be another classmate of his, and he wouldn’t have to worry about “breeding projects” or “human farms” or any of the countless horrors he’d learned of over the last two days that were starting to encroach upon his sleep.

The handkerchief stared up at him like a flag raised to acknowledge his surrender, and he wondered where it had come from. He took a quick look around, but didn’t see any girls in the vicinity. Someone must have dropped it earlier, then. Still, he couldn’t just leave it here, that wouldn’t be right. He knelt down and picked it up, to see if it had any distinguishing markings.

Unfortunately, it did not. But as he was turning it over in his hands, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye and raised his head to see what it was.

It was a girl.

If Ueda-san was a goddess of beauty, then the girl who appeared before Daisuke’s eyes was more akin to a nymph, or a faerie. She was small and delicate, with features so fine one might fear that a single touch could permanently crack that flawless porcelain skin. Her dusky hair glimmered with the early morning light, shining like a silken halo around her fluffy cheeks as she peered up at him from beyond the rims of her dark glasses. Her eyes were pools of chocolate, and to Daisuke they brought to mind the image of a doe in the forest. He feared if he said the wrong thing or moved too suddenly, this skittish-looking girl would turn and dash away, so reservedly did she hold herself. A red hue dusted her face as she opened her soft and supple lips, and when she spoke to him with the refreshing ring of windchimes Daisuke’s heart nearly stopped in his chest.

“That… handkerchief…” she murmured, but her eyes didn’t even give it a glance. They remained locked with Daisuke’s own, watering with hopeful expectation. For what, Daisuke couldn’t be sure. Words escaped him as he gazed deeply into those pools of molten brown, their warmth dispelling all worries of the day to come.

He finally found his voice, asking her “is this yours?” as he held the handkerchief out to the figure who was more wood sprite than girl. As he did, he was rewarded for his consideration with a look that could only be described as the blooming of the first cherry blossoms of spring. The face of his diminutive faerie lit up with colorful delight as she reached out to him, taking the handkerchief from him with small hands as soft as silk. His fingers burned where she brushed against him, but nowhere near as hot as his cheeks as he witnessed her face alike turning crimson.

“I knew you would,” she whispered, once more granting his unworthy ears the priceless treasure of her sweet voice. “My hero…”

Every cell in Daisuke’s body pleaded with him to speak, to ask her for her name, to not let this briefest of moments be the last he ever saw of this delicate elven maid who so captivated his thoughts with her sweet countenance. But it was sadly not meant to be. Her eyes drew wide as she looked further upon him and she let out a gasp like the chirp of a bird, and before Daisuke could call out to her she was gone.

“Karaage-san! I’m pleased to see that you’re off to such an eager start!” Ueda-san’s voice pulled Daisuke from the glade of the fae, cursing him to wander through the realms of mortals. He turned to Ueda-san, smiling falsely at him, and gave her a look of disdain.

“Good morning, Ueda-san,” he greeted her, trying to not seem so disappointed.

Ueda-san accepted the greeting, peering past Daisuke to try and get a second look, but Daisuke knew it was futile. His faerie queen was a distant memory, one he dispelled with regret. As he pictured that face, he knew he recognized it, staring up at him from between the pages of Ueda-san’s book. But his memories of the prior night were a blur, and all further knowledge had been lost to the fatigue of sleeplessness. What a fool he had been to forget the notebook on his desk, cursed to spend today waiting for the moment he could return home.

“Karaage-san, snap out of it,” Ueda-san said, snapping her fingers in front of Daisuke’s face. Her normally-radiant countenance had slipped for an instant to reveal the monster that lay beneath, but she quickly resumed her smile when he returned his attention to her. “So, who was that girl with the squishy mochi cheeks?” She asked. “Is she one of the three you picked out?”

Daisuke gasped. In his haze, he’d forgotten! Memories of his elven beauty were banished as he returned his focus to Ueda-san. “That’s… Ueda-san, actually, I was thinking… sorry, I couldn’t come up with any names!” He admitted, his face turning pale.

If Ueda-san was bothered by the admission of his failure, that displeasure did not make a single inroad on her smile. She looked at him as if he had merely apologized for forgetting her notes, a soothing expression of warm understanding on her face.

“No need to worry, Karaage-san,” Ueda-san assured him, her voice sweet as honey but just as thick and sticky with meaning. “We can discuss it in the classroom this afternoon, once classes are over.”

Her smile did not leave her lips, but Daisuke knew if he said one word other than “Yes, Ueda-san” that would change. And he very much did not want that, so he said exactly those words and no others.

“Excellent! Shall we go to class, then? I shall go first to prevent any rumors,” Ueda-san decided, walking past him and humming to herself.

Daisuke felt a shiver run down his spine, and followed Ueda-san towards the classroom like he walking to the hangman’s noose.

On ordinary days, Daisuke would eat lunch in the classroom. He could sit in privacy and gaze upon Ueda-san from afar, content with his own meager happiness.

But today, he could not get away from the classroom fast enough. People were still staring at him, whispers were still being spoken around him, rumors of his relationship with Ueda-san were filling the classroom as he tried desperately to make his escape.

He was grateful that Ueda-san had not decided to pull him aside once more and take him to the roof, choosing instead to eat lunch with her friends. If she had done so for a second day in a row there would be no escaping the rumors then.

As Daisuke rose from his seat and tried to put the rumors out of his mind, something caught the corner of his eye. In the doorway, peeking into the classroom, was a face that he had put out of his mind when class had begun, but now that it had appeared before him once more he thought of it vividly. The nymph from the morning stared at him, her one visible eye calling out to him like a fairy ring. He raised a hand to wave to her, and regretted it instantly. She pulled away with a gasp, disappearing from his sight, and he rushed after her, only to see that he needn’t have hurried so.

Unlike their past encounter, the delicate beauty had not fled from him entirely. She had merely drawn him out into the hall to join her, and now stared up at him with those same hopeful eyes as before. He wanted to greet her, he needed to greet her, but he couldn’t help but hold his tongue for fear that the wrong words would send her running once more. They had only just met again, he was not ready to part from such a sweet sight so soon.

“Oishi-san…” She opened those dainty lips to address him, and his breath fled from his lungs with joy. She knew his name?! He was certain he had never laid eyes on such a fair maiden before! One of such delicate beauty as though she were Titania herself, he could never mistake meeting such a vision of loveliness! Her voice was so soothing he nearly missed her words, they were spoken in such a gentle whisper. “I… forgot my money for lunch today… could you please… buy me some anpan from the cafeteria?”

The way her voice lilted at the end of her question made Daisuke’s heart skip a beat. Her words were so desperate, but she looked up at him with such a hopeful glimmer that he couldn’t see one trace of doubt in them, even as they began to fill with tears.

She had asked him for his help? This morning was assuredly the first time they had spoken, and yet that had been enough for her to come seek him out to ask for a favor? For a brief, horrible instant he wondered if this was a trap, if the sweet faerie who stood before him was in fact a monster like Ueda-san. But he cursed himself immediately for thinking such things. This delicate flower could not be so cold and cruel.

Nor could he be so cold and cruel as to dismiss her cry for help. In a world with heartless beasts like Ueda-san, only a monster would turn down the heartfelt plea of such a sweet and pure nymph. If someone so delicate and fragile would put her hopes in a nobody like him, he would do whatever it took to grant her request. If for no other reason than to prove to her and to himself that there was still good in this world.

“I would be happy to…” Daisuke said, his voice trailing off. “Excuse me, but I never got your name. I’m Daisuke Oishi-san, and you-“

He didn’t get the time to finish his sentence, because once more the nature sprite vanished from his eyes, swept away by a strong wind raised by the pounding of her tiny feet as she left him alone in the corridor.

Daisuke was unsure what to do, but he had been heading to the cafeteria anyway. It would be the first time he’d eaten there, and he’d heard the yakisoba bread was a delicacy. His appetite had already made a strong recovery after the past few days of malnutrition, and he resolved that this would be a lunchtime he spent without worry about Ueda-san and her plans.

When he got to the cafeteria, he was surprised by how lively it was. Filled with students eating lunches together, he suddenly felt very small and alone. But he pushed those thoughts aside and stepped forward, looking at the lines, when he saw something that made him frown. The line for yakisoba bread was quite long, and was right in front of him. If he wanted any, it would be best to get in now. But as he scanned the eating area he saw that the other side of the cafeteria was where the line for anpan was, and it was just as long as the line for the yakisoba bread, if not longer.

His stomach rumbled and he began to drool, and for a second he thought to forget his fleeting faerie. But then, he felt a heat on the back of his head, and turned to look at the students bustling in behind him. And that’s when he saw her, tucked behind the doors of the cafeteria and looking inside, gazing through the crowd of people and staring directly at him. Her eyes were big and hopeful, and he couldn’t let those eyes down. Without a speck of regret or hesitation he turned away from the girl and abandoned the yakisoba bread for another day, going to the line where the sweet anpan was being sold instead.

When Daisuke reached the front of the line, he realized, regretfully, that he had not brought much money with him. He had hoped to have enough to buy two anpan, one for himself and one for the elusive spritely maid, but he only had enough yen to get one. He purchased the confectionary and turned to leave, and to his surprise he nearly bumped into the maiden in question!

“Ah… ah!” Delicate lips parted in a gasp, the faerie princess gazed upon him with eyes widened in surprise. She said nothing, she only stared at him with the eyes of a nervous faun, ready to flee at a single misstep.

She didn’t ask. But of course she wouldn’t, such a sweet and lovely girl would not be so self-important as to assume he had bought it for her. But her eyes carried far more hopefulness than her words ever could have, and the hot look she gave him was impossible to disappoint.

“Here,” Daisuke managed to blurt out, holding the sweet bread out to her. When she saw he had granted her request, her already lovely features seemed to transcend the limits of beauty for a few precious seconds. Her small mouth stretched into a gorgeous smile so wide it seemed impossible, her eyes crinkling with delight reserved solely for him.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her soft voice barely audible over the bustle of the cafeteria. But at this moment she and Daisuke stood separate from the other students, together in a secret glade made for the two of them, where hers were the only words that reached his ears. “You’re my hero… again…”

To hear her call him hero for the second time that day made Daisuke nearly swoon with joy. All thoughts beyond those of the delicate faerie in front of him fading away in the gleam of her radiant smile. So thoroughly did he bask in the light of his reward for his sacrifice that he had not noticed that the mysterious doe had already departed, leaving Daisuke alone in a world that seemed so much less magical without her gentle light shining upon him.