Chapter 11:

Chapter 11: What Happens On a Date May Surprise You, So Try to Be Prepared for Anything!

Love Bites

When the Hero Show ended, Daisuke had expected that Mochida-san would go back to her normal quiet, reserved personality. He was still stunned by how excited she’d gotten during the show, it had just seemed so… not her.

But Mochida-san still remained energetic even after the show had finished. In fact, without the show to provide her with any sort of release it seemed like that energy was just filling her up even more, and she was springing around excitedly.

“That was so amazing!” Mochida-san gushed. “Ramen Rider-sama was so cool, defeating all those villains! Did you like it, Oishi-san?!”

She was looking at Daisuke as the two walked through the shopping center, and her eyes were shining brilliantly with excitement, nearly blinding him.

“It was okay,” Daisuke admitted, forcing a smile to his face. Honestly, it wasn’t really his thing, but Mochida-san had loved it so much that he couldn’t bear to disappoint her. “You seemed to have a lot of fun.”

“I loved it,” Mochida-san sighed wistfully. Her smile took on a more gentle quality, and the calming gaze he was used to seeing from her returned to her face. “I really had a lot of fun… especially because you were there with me.”

Daisuke blinked, surprised.

“R-Really?” He asked. She nodded eagerly, unbridled joy seeping into her face again.

“Normally when I come to see Hero Shows, I bring my little brothers,” Mochida-san said, her voice taking on a more quiet, measured tone like what Daisuke was used to hearing from her. “I don’t have… many friends in class. And the few friends I do have, I don’t… I don’t feel comfortable telling them that I enjoy stuff like this.”

She turned to him and gave him a smile that was steeped in sadness, Daisuke’s heart aching at the sight of that face.

“Hero Shows are for kids, after all,” she said sadly. “I know that people would think I’m a weirdo for liking them. But… you didn’t think of me as strange, Oishi-san. You just watched it with me without saying anything. That really meant a lot to me.”

Daisuke winced. There she was again, putting him on a pedestal. How did she keep seeing the best in a complete loser like him? He hadn’t enjoyed it. He had been ruthlessly mocking the show the entire time, he just knew better than to say anything.

He didn’t deserve such praise from the sweet lips of Mochida-san.

“And then, when you saved me from that monster, I knew that you were a hero just like Ramen Rider-sama,” Mochida-san said, her face turning red. She held her hand over her chest. “Oishi-san… of course you would accept me for who I am. You’re my hero, after all.”

Mochida-san’s kind words pierced Daisuke like an arrow. He wasn’t a hero. “I-I didn’t save you!” Daisuke protested. “Ramen Rider did!”

“But Ramen Rider-sama only got the energy to stand because you were cheering for him!” Mochida-san said. “So really, you’re just as much of a hero as he is, Oishi-san!”

Desperate to change the topic, Daisuke began looking around for a restaurant they could eat lunch at. “Mochida-san, do you want to get a bite to eat?”

“Yes, actually, I am feeling a little hungry,” Mochida-san agreed.

Daisuke began looking for a restaurant that she would like. Some trendy café, or maybe a pastry shop.

Daisuke once again found his expectations completely shattered by Mochida-san. She had turned down his offer of going to a café for eating at a RcRonald’s instead. Meat that was more fat than meat, slathered in grease and cheese and oozing juices, it was the last sort of place he expected the dainty Mochida-san to eat at.

And he certainly was amazed that she had ordered a cheeseburger with THREE patties.

“This is just the best,” Mochida-san sighed, taking a bite of her burger. It was a sight to see, Mochida-san grasping her giant burger in those tiny and soft little hands. Daisuke couldn’t believe she could open her dainty mouth wide enough to even fit that thing in. But somehow she managed.

“I’m glad you like it,” Daisuke complimented, pushing past his initial shock and biting into his own burger, which was far more conservative with only a single patty. “I certainly wouldn’t have expected you to eat at a place like this.”

What the hell are you saying?! Daisuke cursed at himself. How could he have said something so insulting to a sweet thing like Mochida-san?! “Not… not in, like, a bad way or anything, it’s totally fine to like RcRonald’s, I was just surprised is all, don’t worry!”

Needless to say, the idea that Daisuke was supposed to be discouraging Mochida-san from wanting another date had completely slipped his mind by this point.

“I just love it,” Mochida-san admitted, blushing sheepishly. “If… if you can keep it secret…”

She looked around and leaned in closely, whispering to him. Her whisper was so soft and faint Daisuke could barely hear it.

“I actually have a really big appetite,” she admitted. Daisuke was stunned, her words struck him right at his heart. Her voice was so sweet and delicate!

Mochida-san looked at him warily, and he wondered if she was afraid that he was going to judge her. But he could never make her disappointed like that, not a chance!

“That’s totally fine!” Daisuke assured her quickly. “As the son of a restaurant, I think having a hearty appetite is a great thing!”

Ueda-san’s face flashed through his mind, and he quickly dismissed it. That was NOT what he meant at all.

“Sometimes my mom gets mad at me from taking too many samples from our shop,” Mochida-san admitted, giggling a little.

“My dad does the same thing with my sister,” Daisuke agreed with a laugh. “Back when she was a kid she was always sneaking food off of the plates!”

Mochida-san gasped in amazement. The look of gleeful surprise on her face brought a smile to Daisuke’s lips. He hadn’t expected to be enjoying this date so much. He hadn’t expected Mochida-san to be this outgoing when he first met her, it was honestly surprising how easily she seemed to let him in.

Then he remembered why, and he felt his good mood crash as he sobered up, brought down to earth. The only reason she was this outgoing towards him was because she thought that he was a hero, someone who she could put her absolute faith in and he would never disappoint her. But he was just a normal guy, someone as great as Mochida-san deserved a real hero.

They finished off their burgers, and Daisuke was astounded that she had managed to finish hers off. Where the hell does she put that much food in such a small body?! He asked in disbelief. The two left the restaurant and continued walking through the shopping center.

Daisuke found himself wondering what exactly they were supposed to do now. This “date” had been under the pretense of going to watch the Hero Show. Well, they’d watched it, and now they’d eaten lunch. So in theory, it was over and they should be going home, right?

Daisuke glanced at Mochida-san, who turned and looked up at him, smiling innocently. She seemed to have no desire to end it things. Why?! Is my company really worth so much? Daisuke wondered in disbelief.

“So, Mochida-san, do you, um, want to do anything else?” Daisuke asked. “Anywhere you’d like to go?”

“Oh, um…” Mochida-san blinked, surprised. Had she not been paying attention? Apparently, Daisuke was such a boring date partner that Mochida-san had zoned out.

“…Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention,” Mochida-san admitted. She gave Daisuke a flustered smile. “I was too busy admiring you, Oishi-san…”

Ugh! How can she have such a cute smile while saying things like that?! It isn’t fair! Daisuke doubled-over in pain, his heart pierced by Mochida-san’s bewitching grin. She was too perfect.

“Oh! What about the bookstore?” Mochida-san asked, pointing down the way towards a bookstore. “Do you mind?”

Daisuke didn’t mind at all. It would be the perfect change of pace. As they headed into the bookstore, he thought about Mochida-san. She had mentioned that she spent her mornings in the library. A cute little faerie reading alone in the library, the images it conjured up were the sweetest thing he had ever seen.

Daisuke wondered what sort of books Mochida-san liked to read. She definitely gave off the air of a girl with her head in the clouds, a fan of fantasy stories and fairy tales. The other most likely thing he could think of was that she would like romance novels. Considering how much she idolized him, it made sense that she would be a fan of romance. But now that he thought about it, she might be the kind of girl who read philosophy or poetry, considering her thoughtfulness. Or maybe even the deeper science fiction.

Needless to say, he didn’t expect her to walk straight for the manga section. And not the shoujo manga, either, she was headed right for the battle shonens.

“Oishi-san! They have Volume 17!” Mochida-san said, turning to Daisuke and holding up a copy of Nut Hero Macadamia. “Can you believe it?!”

“W-Wow, really?” Daisuke asked. Of course it made sense. Considering how much she loved Hero Shows, the idea that she would like battle shonens about superheroes should not have been that far of a leap. “That’s great!”

“I know, I’m so excited,” she said, already flipping it open and beginning to read. The way her face lit up as her eyes shot across the pages was captivating. Rather than finding a book of his own, Daisuke was satisfied just sitting back and watching her.

When she finished, she turned to Daisuke, and her eyes widened. She turned bright red and raised the book up in front of her face. “W-Were… were you watching me the whole time?” She asked.

“…Sorry,” Daisuke said, averting his eyes in embarrassment. “You were so engrossed in reading that I just found myself looking at you. You must really love that series, huh?”

“It’s great,” Mochida-san said, nodding excitedly, lowering the book and gazing down at it. “The way the author writes the characters, the way they struggle to become heroes… it’s my favorite series. Honestly, it’s the reason why I…”

Her voice trailed off and she glanced uneasily at Daisuke. Her cheeks were flushed and her lips trembled, and for the first time she was looking at him with something other than adoration. She seemed almost unsure; there was uneasiness in her eyes.

“Oishi-san… can I tell you a secret?” Mochida-san asked quietly. She looked hopefully at him, her eyes showing how much she wanted to talk, but also reflecting fear as well.

Daisuke could still feel Ueda-san’s gaze piercing him, but her presence wasn’t as close as he had felt it before. He felt guilty. Mochida-san’s secret probably would not stay secret, but at the same time he didn’t want to tell her that no, she couldn’t tell him. That would probably hurt her a lot, and he didn’t want to do that. Daisuke hoped that even if Ueda-san heard what Mochida-san said, that she wouldn’t care, being a faminean.

“Yeah, of course,” Daisuke promised. Mochida-san sighed in relief, and then the look in her eye hardened, like she had built up the resolve to do something hard.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Mochida-san insisted. “I know that you wouldn’t, because you’re my hero, but I still want you to promise that you won’t laugh, or judge me, or tell anyone. Can you do that for me, Oishi-san?” The look of faith she gave him stirred Daisuke’s heart. He knew he couldn’t betray that face.

“I promise,” he assured her. She sighed in relief.

“My hero,” she whispered. Then she took a deep breath, and in a voice barely above a whisper she told him her secret.

“I want to be a mangaka,” she said. “I want to write my own shonen manga someday.”

Daisuke was stunned. That was the last sort of dream he expected from Mochida-san. A novelist, certainly, but an author of battle shonen?

“I’ve been practicing my drawing skills in the library every morning,” Mochida-san revealed. “I want to get really good.”

“That’s… wow, that’s really something,” Daisuke said, nodding dumbly at her words. At least it seemed that Mochida-san wasn’t taking his confusion as an insult.

“I’ve always loved battle shonen,” Mochida-san murmured, staring admiringly down at the manga in her hands. “Even when I was little, I always thought that the heroes were so cool.” She glanced shyly up at Daisuke, fidgeting.

“I’m not… very good at expressing myself,” she admitted, like it was some big secret. “Ever since I was little, there were all sorts of things I wanted to do… I wanted to be able to tell my friends that I wanted to play this game, or go to that restaurant, but I was so scared that they would say no. I didn’t… have any courage.”

“Unlike me, heroes are so brave and courageous, stepping in to save the day every time.” Her words were sad, but her smile and voice were warm with nostalgia. Mochida-san’s eyes twinkled at Daisuke. “Just like you, Oishi-san.”

Another wave of guilt passed over Daisuke, one that was too large to overcome. He couldn’t handle it anymore. All the praise Mochida-san was laying on him, the way she admired him, thought of him as a hero, he couldn’t bring himself to deceive her any further.

“Mochida-san… please don’t,” Daisuke said, shaking his head. He could feel himself start to sink. “Please don’t call me a hero.”

Mochida-san blinked in surprise. “Wh-What? Why not?”

“Because I’m not a hero,” Daisuke insisted. “I’m not, I’m just… I’m just some guy.”

Mochida-san stared quietly at him, her face filled with confusion. Daisuke knew that this wasn’t enough. He had to tell her everything.

Well, not everything. But as much as he could, to make her understand.

“When Ueda-san said that I saved her… that wasn’t the truth,” Daisuke admitted. “She was making fun of me. I didn’t save her. I can’t… I can’t explain what happened, because it’s a secret. But please believe me, I didn’t do anything to help her. I haven’t done anything worthy of being praised.” Daisuke looked away. He was certain that Mochida-san’s face must have fallen into shock and despair at the fact that he wasn’t what she thought he was. And he didn’t want to see the light go out of her eyes. “Please don’t think I’m some sort of hero, Mochida-san. I can’t save anybody. Relying on me to make everything better… that’s pointless.”

Daisuke had nothing more to say. He closed his eyes and waited. He didn’t know what he waiting for. For Mochida-san to cry? Maybe slap him across the face and yell at him for being a liar? Whatever abuse she would hurl at him, he knew he would deserve it.

But when Mochida-san’s hand touched his face, it wasn’t to strike him. He felt her soft fingers run across his cheek, so warm and gentle that it felt like the tickle of a feather. She turned his head towards her and he opened his eyes warily.

But the scornful face of Mochida-san he imagined was nowhere to be seen. She smiled at him with warm understanding.

“I don’t care about that,” she whispered, shaking her head. “You’re still a hero, Daisuke.”

Hearing her say his name like that made Daisuke’s heart stop in his chest. Was this… was this real? How could she still be looking at him with such kind and loving eyes?

“I told you before, I love heroes because they’re so brave and courageous. They’re willing to stand up for themselves and help people because they know it’s the right thing to do. Even if they’re scared, they still do what they need to do,” Mochida-san said. “And that’s why you’re a hero in my eyes, Oishi-san.”

Daisuke didn’t understand. “But… But I… I didn’t do anything.”

Mochida-san shook her head. “You did. Ueda-san was taken by those thugs, I saw it, too. And I thought about calling the police. I knew something bad was happening, and I froze. But then I saw it. You ran in with a baseball bat to save her, Oishi-san. Like a real hero. Even though you could have gotten hurt, even if you were scared, you went to save someone.” Mochida-san’s gaze was filled with nothing but admiration. “I could never do something like that. I could never be brave and rush into danger like that.”

That’s… but Daisuke hadn’t even done anything. How could she think he was a hero because of something small like that?

“And you kept trying,” Mochida-san continued. “You kept showing me you were a hero. You gave me my handkerchief back. You bought me lunch. You walked me home, to keep me safe. You’ve only ever been patient and understanding with me. You’re exactly like the hero I’ve always wanted to meet, Oishi-san.”

“I’m not,” Daisuke said, shaking his head. She couldn’t be letting him off the hook like this, she couldn’t actually think he was a hero! “When we were watching that Hero Show, I didn’t enjoy it at all! I thought it was really dumb and lame! You were talking about how happy you were that I accepted you for it and watched it with you, but I was incredibly embarrassed the whole time!”

“…Oh,” Mochida-san said, a look of sadness passing across her face momentarily, before her smile returned to its full brightness. “I thought you liked it… you didn’t say anything.”

Daisuke swallowed, not sure what she was smiling about. “Well, of course I didn’t say anything. If I told you how I really felt, then it would have hurt you.”

“So you endured something uncomfortable for my sake, and pretended to enjoy it so that I would have fun and feel accepted?” Mochida-san asked.

“Yeah, I know, it was really shitty to lie to you like that-“

“It was heroic,” Mochida-san insisted, shaking her head. “You could have left at any time. But you didn’t. You stayed with it, smiled, and even participated, because you knew that I loved it and you wanted me to have fun, right?”

“Yes, but that’s not being a hero, that’s just-!” Daisuke couldn’t understand it. How could she be so positive about how horrible he was?

“It’s being a hero to me,” Mochida-san said, smiling. “Thank you, Oishi-san. I’m sad you don’t enjoy Hero Shows the same way I do, but rather than you enjoying them, the fact that you accepted me loving them and watching it with me matters so much more. You’ve seen so many sides of me that I was always afraid to show people… and you never thought badly of me. You’ve only ever looked at me with kindness and acceptance. Thank you.”

The warmth in her eyes, the sweetness in her smile, the kindness in her voice, it was all too much. Daisuke couldn’t say anything else.

Mochida-san walked out of the bookstore with a smile on her face and an increase in esteem in Daisuke’s eyes. He stared at the girl walking ahead of him in amazement. He knew that she was a kind and sweet faerie, but to think that she would be so accepting of someone like him…

Daisuke was so distracted with his thoughts about her, he didn’t pay any attention to his surroundings. Mochida-san herself was rather bubbly too. She turned back to look at him, her smile bright and sunny.

“Oishi-san, I was thinking, we could-oh!”

Not looking where she was going, Mochida-san bumped into a rather large man.

She turned around, stunned, and quickly apologized. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to!”

Daisuke took one look at the man and new this was going to be trouble. For starters, he wasn’t alone. He had three other guys with him, all of them towering over the dainty Mochida-san, and even Daisuke as well.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, they were all muscular, and Daisuke could see tattoos peeking out from their sleeves. The largest man, who Mochida-san had bumped into, glared down at her from behind a set of sunglasses. Nearly a mountain of muscle, his shaved head and scarred face gave him an intimidating presence even frightened Daisuke, who desperately hoped that Ueda-san was somewhere close by.

If someone looked in the dictionary for a picture of “yakuza”, these guys would be in it.

“You think an apology is going to cut it?” He gruffly demanded, holding up an ice cream cone and gesturing at his suit. “Thanks to you clumsiness, I’ve got ice cream all over my new suit!”

It was the most clichéd scene Daisuke had ever been a part of, but unlike the Hero Show this morning, this was real. Mochida-san was petrified, staring up at the men, her lips quivering as her face went got even paler than normal.

“I-I really didn’t mean to,” she stuttered. “I’m so sorry…”

“I said sorry doesn’t cut it!” He snapped. Mochida-san flinched, frozen in place with fear. The other customers in the shopping center were giving them a wide berth, not wanting to get involved.

“Hey, boss! Now that we look at her, she’s pretty cute!” One of the other men, a guy with tanned skin and bleached hair, laughed. “Maybe she can work off her debt in one of the shops.”

Mochida-san gasped, her face going ashen.

“Hmm, that’s a pretty good idea…” the leader mused, stroking his chin.

Daisuke wasn’t about to let that happen.

“No way!” Daisuke shouted, stepping between the giant man and Mochida-san. “It was just an accident, and she apologized!”

What are you doing, Daisuke?! He was shouting at himself. Are you some kind of idiot?! This guy is going to tear you apart!

He felt Mochida-san cling to the back of his shirt, and he realized it didn’t matter. His life was forfeit already because of Ueda-san. If he could keep Mochida-san safe, that was more than enough.

“Oh, so a brave guy like you, standing up for your girl?” The bald crook chuckled. “Fine, I admire your guts, kid, not used to seeing such courage in such a brat. Tell you what, if you pay up right now, then we’ll let her off. Just pay me 300,000 yen and we’re good.”

Daisuke blanched. “That’s… I don’t have that kind of money!”

“Well, then it looks like we’ve got a problem then,” the guy said, lumbering closer to him and cracking his knuckles.

Daisuke’s fight or flight instinct kicked in, and he grabbed Mochida-san’s wrist.

“Mochida-san, run!” He shouted, turning and running from the yakuza as fast as possible. He could hear the pitter-patter of Mochida-san’s tiny footsteps behind him, and the angry shouts of the yakuza in pursuit. He didn’t let them distract him, though, he just focused on Mochida-san’s wrist, hot in his hand, and on running as fast as he could. He didn’t stop until he had fled the mall completely.

Out of energy and hearing no trace of the yakuza, Daisuke released Mochida-san’s hand and collapsed onto a bench. He had run all the way to the station with Mochida-san in tow, and didn’t have the strength to go any further.

Mochida-san stood over him, her face red with excitement and her eyes wide in amazement. She was just as exhausted as he was, letting out adorable soft little gasps.

“That… that was…” Mochida-san managed to get out, wiping the sweat off her brow. “That was more than I’ve ever run…”

“We managed… to get away…” Daisuke panted, glancing up at her. She caught her breath, and stared down at him with a smile. She sat beside him on the bench.

“That was really brave of you, Oishi-san,” she whispered softly down to him.

Brave? What the hell was brave about it? He had just run for his life.

“No, it wasn’t, I just…”

“You stepped up in front of me and kept me safe,” Mochida-san insisted. “And you ran.”

“Well of course I… ran…” Daisuke panted. “I wasn’t… gonna fight those guys. We needed… to get away… to safety…”

“You kept me safe,” Mochida-san reminded him, giggling. “I was so afraid that they were going to hurt me, but you came in to save me just like a hero, Oishi-san.”

Daisuke shook his head. “No, I’m not a hero, I’m just a coward, I-“

She leaned down and placed a kiss on his cheek. The feeling of her lips pressed against his skin was like nothing he’d ever felt before. All the joy and comfort he found in her smiles, the warm touch of her fingers that made him sigh, none of it could be compared to the rush that shot through him in response to Mochida-san’s kiss. Daisuke’s mind stopped working. It was too much. He had never felt like this before.

Mochida-san became his entire world for those brief seconds. And when she pulled away from him, she still remained close to his heart, her bright eyes shining down on him with adoration.

“You are a hero.” Her soft whisper warmed his ear. “You’re my hero.”