Chapter 1:

A Starving College Student, in More Ways Than One

I Just Wanted to Focus On My Studies, but Now I’m Trapped in a Love-Hate Triangle With a Tsundere Ojou-Sama and My Sadistic, Princelike Dorm Mate (Neither of Whom Are My Sister)

I had hoped to leave love behind me when I entered college, but then I met her.

It was the first day of the second semester of my freshman year, and I had just taken a seat in the front row of a classroom when I heard a voice next to me.

“Commoner. Hey, commoner.”

At first, I thought she was talking to someone else, so I kept my face forward to make it obvious I was minding my own business. It was only when she poked my cheek with her folded silk fan that I realized she was addressing me.

“Commoner,” she said, “trade seats with me.”

Turning my head, I saw her for the first time and was taken aback by her beauty. Her large brown eyes appeared as though they rested atop her devilish cheeks, and her face was framed by tightly-curled brown hair, which spilled past her shoulders. Her red dress was modest, but it clung tightly to her abdomen, leaving no doubt that it had been personalized to her exact measurements and designed to show off her hourglass figure. A sweet, but not overpowering scent emanated from her, but her lips drew the most attention. They were small, but they looked so, so soft.

In every sense, she was the very model of a spoiled daughter from a well-to-do family, and by the way she was speaking to me, I could tell that family belonged to a political caste that I abhorred with all my heart. Despite that—no, perhaps because of it—my mind raced with fantasies of destroying that carefully crafted image, of tearing off that perfectly tailored dress, smothering her lips with my own, and making love to her so vigorously that her permed hair would become a tangled mess and her perfume would be drowned out by the suffocating odor of our sweat.

So long was I distracted by my thoughts that she poked me once more with her fan, to check if I was paying attention.

“Uh, sure,” I said, standing up. “I don’t mind, but may I ask why?”

You’re questioning me?” she scoffed, scooting in front of me as I passed behind her. “Know your place, commoner.”

She may have been blessed with good looks, but I could already tell she had an ugly personality.

“I earned my place here,” I told her, “and my name’s not commoner.”

“Of course it isn’t,” she laughed. “Oh, if you must know, this seat has better lighting. If I’m going to sit at the front, I simply must give the rest of the class the best possible view of my dazzling beauty.”

“Maybe you should sit in the back then,” I muttered.

“That probably would be for the best,” she mused, resting the tip of her fan on her chin. “I wouldn’t want to be a distraction. Next time, if you arrive before me, save me a seat in the back.”

“No thanks,” I said. “I like sitting in the front.”

“But you were the one who suggested it,” she shot back.

“I said you should sit in the back.”

“Look around, commoner,” she admonished. “Take a good look at our classmates. Do you really think any of them are qualified to sit next to me? And there are no empty seats. Honestly, I thought scholarship students were supposed to be smart.”

The desks were arranged in a grid, with each desk wide enough to accommodate two chairs, and a small gap between desks. Technically, she would still be sitting next to one of the other students, but she would only be sharing a desk with me.

“That’s a terrible thing to say,” I replied. “You shouldn’t just… judge people like that. And if you knew who I was, you should have addressed me properly.”

“I remembered your face from the award ceremony,” she explained, “but you weren’t impressive enough for me to remember your name. Now, I do hope that’s all from you. It’s going to be an unbearably long semester for us both if you continue your empty preaching.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but stopped when I noticed a small smile at the corner of hers. Was she baiting me on purpose? As I tried to decide how to respond, the teacher entered the classroom , cutting short our discussion.

Although the period was mostly spent going over the syllabus, there was a brief discussion of political theory near the end of class, and I tried to use it as an opportunity to demonstrate my superior intellect. Much to my chagrin, the woman sitting next to me held her own.

At the end of the lesson, she turned to me and asked, “What are you doing after this, commoner?”

“I have a classical literature class across campus,” I said, standing to leave. “See you next time.”

“What a coincidence,” she said, standing alongside me. “That’s my next class too. You can carry my bag for me.”

“Five-hundred yen,” I said, turning back towards her.

“Excuse me?” she said, her confusion clear on her face. It was one of the few times I would ever see her so flustered.

“I’ll carry your bags for five-hundred yen,” I elaborated.

“Commoner,” she chuckled, “my friendship is worth much more than whatever paltry sums you can extract from me in exchange for small favors.”

“Nuh-uh,” I insisted. “I don’t work for exposure. Exposure can’t buy me lunch.”

“Are you really worried about lunch?” She asked. “I thought they awarded you a full scholarship.”

“They did, and I’m very grateful for it, but it only covers tuition, a small room I share with three others, and one meal a day. I’m on my own for other essentials.”

“That won’t do,” she said, “If you skip too many meals, you’ll ruin your good looks. You’re more trouble than I expected you to be. Perhaps I should get someone…” She paused to look around the classroom, and the few remaining students all looked away, desperate not to catch her attention. “Just my luck,” she muttered to herself. “Must I do everything myself? Well, I’ll think of something. I always do.”

Without another word to me, she walked out of the classroom, leaving her bag on the desk. Because I’m such a kind person—and I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of it otherwise—I picked up the bag and followed her.

As I caught up to her in the hallway, we crossed paths with a couple of ROTC students walking in the opposite direction.

“Good day to you, gentlemen,” she said, covering her mouth with her fan as if hiding a smile, but from my vantage, I could see her face was expressionless, and I found myself staring, once again, at her lips.

“What is it?” she asked, noticing my scrutiny. “Did I forget to smile again? Do you think they noticed? I’ve been told you can see it in my cheeks.”

“I don’t think they noticed,” I said, “but I don’t think they paid you much attention.”

“You’re right,” she said, maintaining a blank expression. “That’s even worse.”

Most observers might have come away with the impression that she had a thing for cadets, or at least, craved the attention of good-looking men, but I knew better. Although they weren’t being overt about it, everyone with political leanings knew the goshujin caste was making a concerted effort to gain influence with the SDF.

Secretly, I was happy that her attempt had just failed, but I didn’t feel like rubbing it in, so we walked the rest of the way in silence.

As we arrived at our next class, we bumped into another student at the doorway. She was tall, with short black hair and gray eyes. I recognized her immediately by reputation: one of the school’s two freshman princes, Ibuki Carter.

The other freshman prince was, coincidentally, myself, but it was not a title I wished for. My tall stature and boyish good looks had won me a lot of admirers in high school. At first, I had thought this a blessing. Whenever I asked a girl out, she accepted.

But the relationships never lasted, and it eventually became obvious that the girls weren’t really interested in me. They were infatuated with my looks, or with the social status that came from dating the school’s prince. After they had their fun with me, they all dumped me for boys.

That changed my senior year, when I met a girl who genuinely had feelings for me. Even so, our relationship lasted a mere six months, until graduation. She broke up with me not because no longer cared for me, but because, in her words, “Girls can’t date other girls forever,” and part of growing up meant accepting that.

To this day, the memory of that breakup causes my heart to ache. I never expected her, of all people, to buy into such antiquated social norms. Because of that experience, I entered college resolved to focus on my studies, leaving love for later, when the women in my social group would be more mature.

“Please, allow me, Yoshino-sama,” Ibuki said, holding open the door and bowing to the woman whose bag I now held.

That’s when it clicked. The woman I was accompanying was Yoshino Lexington, daughter of the current finance minister.

“You see that commoner?” Yoshino commented. “Some people know how to be polite. Thank you, Ibuki-san.”

“Wait, she’s Ibuki-san, but I’m just commoner?” I complained, following her through the doorway. I was jealous. I had no idea why I was jealous, but nevertheless, I was undeniably jealous.

“That’s how it is,” Yoshino confirmed. “I’ll address you by name only after you’ve earned it.”

“I must admit,” Ibuki interjected, “the rumors of your beauty don’t do you justice, Yoshino-sama. It is a real pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“And I must admit,” Yoshino said, snapping her fan open and waving it in front of her face, “that the rumors of your flattery weren’t exaggerated in the slightest. Come, it looks like there are some empty seats in the back. You may accompany me.”

Once again, I scrutinized her face to see if the fan act was just for show, but this time I saw the small smile at the corner of her lips that I had noticed when we first met. My jealousy rose but was quickly replaced with relief. Yoshino had found another poor sap to make her companion. I was free of her.

Or so I thought. I followed the two of them up the aisle to a group of seats at the back of the lecture hall, and once Yoshino had sat down, I handed her her bag and attempted to leave, but Yoshino grabbed my sleeve and tugged sharply downward.

“Sit,” she commanded.

I tried to pull my arm away, but she held tight, and so with no other choice, I sat down next to her. She released her hold on me but placed her hand on my thigh and kept it there. Even though her attention was on Ibuki, if I tried to escape, she would know and, presumably, stop me.

“This certainly is a pleasant surprise,” Ibuki said, sitting next to Yoshino on the opposite side. “I never expected someone of your stature to take a class in this department.”

The study of non-Japanese literature had only been legalized a few years prior. Though they may have been reading these works in private, the goshujin caste was largely opposed to the de-Japaniesification of Neo Crystal Tokyo. It was an unusual choice for Yoshino to enroll so openly in this class.

“Oh, please,” Yoshino said. “If there were truly anything seditious about this class, it wouldn’t be offered by this university. Besides, I have an open mind towards these things.”

“How right you are,” Ibuki agreed. “Although I found some books in the library the other day that… Well, let’s just say your father wouldn’t approve of them.”

“Then you simply must point them out to me,” Yoshino said. “I want to read all of them.”

“Perhaps this afternoon then?” Ibuki offered. “If you’re free, that is.”

“Not today, I’m afraid,” Yoshino said, pulling her smartphone out of her bag. “Let’s exchange contacts.”

Again, I felt an ugly jealousy towards Ibuki, but I didn’t have time to dwell on it. Class was about to start.

“So that’s the famous Ibuki Carter,” Yoshino said once we were alone. I was again carrying her bag, but this time we were headed towards the goshujin dorms. “She didn’t seem as… dangerous as I had heard.”

“You never can tell with rumors,” I offered.

“It’s no mere rumor,” Yoshino said. “I saw the paperwork myself. She really did apply for a harem license, but if you ask me, she has no chance of being approved. She was too sloppy with her past loves.”

“And yet, you deemed her impressive enough to address her by name,” I pointed out.

“That’s not it,” Yoshino yawned. “Truth be told, there’s not much difference between you and her. She simply treated me with respect, and her family aren't goshujin, but they are wealthy, and that means a lot in modern society.”

“It’s about money?” I nearly shouted.

“Like most things in life,” Yoshino agreed.

“Yet here I am, carrying your bag for free,” I shot back.

“Are you still mad about a measly five-hundred yen?” Yoshino scoffed.

“I’m not mad, but my kindness has limits, you know. If this keeps up, I’m going to leave your bag behind.”

“Yes, yes,” she waved her hand dismissively. “Even Buddah’s face, only three times. That’s why I’m going to treat you to lunch.”

“Oh,” I said, perking up. “That changes things.”

“Indeed,” she agreed. “I suspect it will be the finest meal you’ve ever had in your commoner life, but we’ll be dining with my friends in the goshujin dorm, so you must be on your best behavior. Don’t speak unless spoken to, and when you reply, be polite. I suspect it will be terribly difficult for you.”

“I can be polite,” I told her. I didn’t really want to act subservient, but I was hungry. I would do almost anything for a free meal.

“Really?” she said, cocking an eyebrow, “because you’ve been terribly rude to me since the moment we met.”

“Only because you’ve been rude to me.”

“Hmph. A poor excuse.”

“I may have been short with you, but I switched seats at your request, and I’m carrying your bag. If you’re upset that I stood up for myself—”

“It’s not that,” Yoshino interrupted. “Are you really so dense? You’ve been constantly insisting I address you by name, but not once have you attempted to introduce yourself to me.”

“You didn’t introduce yourself either.”

“But you know who I am, and given our social standings, it’s incumbent on you to introduce yourself first.”

“Even though I’m not supposed to speak until spoken to?”

“I see, I see,” she said, fanning herself impatiently. “It was just a misunderstanding. Just ignorance on your part.”

Taking that as a cue, I cleared my throat and said, “Forgive me. My name is Alex Pierre. It’s an honor to meet you, Yoshino-sama.” Bowing deeply, I took her hand in mine and softly touched my lips to her knuckles. With a bag around each arm, I’m sure I looked silly doing it, but I thought it would ingratiate me to her.

“How presumptuous of you,” Yoshino said as I released her hand.

“I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,” I promised.

“Don’t be so hasty,” she said, hiding her face with her fan. “Just don’t do that to the others. And that name is no good. If any of them ask for your name, just tell them you’re not important enough to warrant their attention. They’ll know better than to push the issue.”

Although her mouth was hidden by the fan, I could see the evidence of a smile in her cheeks. But was it a real smile, or just a performance? I didn’t know, and it vexed me.

It was still on my mind when we entered the goshujin dorm. I followed Yoshino down a side hallway to the cafeteria. The goshujin dorm was smaller than the other dorms, but it still housed a few dozen students.

“Gokigenyou ladies,” she said, approaching a circular table where four other young women sat eating lunch. Yoshino flicked her eyes towards me, checking to see my reaction to her use of a Japanese word, but I only smiled back at her. “Please don’t mind the commoner. I’m sponsoring her this semester so the poor thing can afford to eat, but she’s under strict instructions not to bother you.”

“How noble of you, Yoshino-dono,” one of the ladies at the table said.

“Not really,” Yoshino said, sitting down as a servant pulled out a chair for her. “In all honesty, I’m doing it to repay a favor,” she lied, “and given how inexpensive food is these days, I’m getting the better end of the deal.”

“I’d say,” said another of the ladies. “She’s quite handsome for a commoner.”

Yoshino ignored the comment and rang a small bell on her table. A waiter quickly appeared to take her order.

“And have a plate of something made up for her,” Yoshino finished. “She’ll eat it in the kitchen, but don’t take her back there until I say so.”

With nowhere to sit, I had no choice but to stand behind Yoshino and watch as she and her friends ate lunch. It took what seemed like ages for Yoshino’s meal to arrive, but a large plate of appetizers—and mindless gossip with her friends—kept her occupied in the meantime.

“We’re going to perform a little ritual,” she announced as a waiter placed a large plate down in front of her. “So that the commoner here remembers where her food is coming from, I’m going to feed her by hand.”

She picked up a piece of sushi, placed it on her left palm, and held it out to me. Carefully, I reached out to take it, but was immediately reproached.

“No, no,” Yoshino clarified. “You’ll eat it directly out of my hand. With your mouth.”

A tittering of laughter broke out around the table, but quickly abated as all four of Yoshino’s friends focused their attention on me, curious as to how I would respond. For the sake of my dignity, I wanted to refuse, but the social pressure was palpable, and…

And there was something strangely exciting about the situation. Sure, I had kissed Yoshino’s hand only half an hour prior, but this somehow seemed much more intimate. My mouth would be mere millimeters from her palm as I chewed and swallowed. She would feel my breath on her as I engaged in one of the most primal of actions: eating.

I bent over and bit the sushi, careful to not brush against her hand or allow any bits of food to fall onto it. She kept her hand there as I pulled the sushi into my mouth, chewed, and swallowed.

When I was finished, I looked up to gauge her reaction. I was hoping to find her trying to suppress her embarrassment, but she appeared disappointed.

“Keiko-dono,” Yoshino said, “if I recall, you have a pet dog at home. Do you ever feed it like this?”

“All the time,” one of her friends replied. “He begs for it practically every day.”

“Tell me,” Yoshino bade, “when he eats, is he as tidy as my commoner?”

“No,” Keiko answered. “He slobbers all over me.”

“I see,” Yoshino said. “It appears we’re doing this wrong then. Let’s give it another try, commoner.”

This time, instead of placing the sushi neatly on her palm, she smashed it, rubbing it across the length of her hand, before holding it out to me. I tried to place my lips over the biggest piece and suck it into my mouth, but she closed her hand and pulled away. Unsure of what she wanted, and remembering that I wasn’t allowed to speak, I stuck my tongue out of my mouth and moved it slowly towards her hand. Nodding, she uncurled her fingers to allow me access.

At first, I took a small, tentative lick, afraid that she would change her mind. The bit of sushi that collected on my tongue was delicious, but her skin was so much tastier. Salty, but strangely sweet. I began to lick her hand with abandon, not caring if I got any food or not, occasionally licking up and down between her fingers in a suggestive manner.

Not once did she try to pull away. She pressed her hand to my mouth, and I could feel shivers run down her fingers. When I had finished the food, she finally pushed me away. Breathing heavily, I looked up at her and spotted the same small smile at the corner of her lips that I had glimpsed twice before. I was beginning to suspect that was her real smile.

“Quite vigorous, isn’t she?” Yoshino asked her friends. It sounded more like bragging than a question. “But Keiko-dono, isn’t this quite messy? How do you clean yourself afterwards?”

“Well,” Keiko said, blushing, “when I don’t have a towelette available, I just wipe my hand on the dog.”

I tried to move away, but I was too slow. Yoshino grabbed me by my hair and ground my saliva into it. Then she released me and wiped her palm across my cheek. The other girls roared in laughter, and Yoshino signaled for a waiter to take me away.

After I had finished eating my lunch, I was quickly escorted out of the dorm, where I was greeted by one of Yoshino’s maids. She explained that Yoshino had arranged for me to move to one of the private dorms for the rest of the year. I would have my own bedroom, and, more importantly, three meals a day. I was to gather my belongings and bring them to the entrance of my old dorm at 5:30 PM.

Everything about it seemed odd, but at this point, I was too emotionally drained to protest. Against my wishes, Yoshino had pushed her way into my life, managed to get me riled up, and then pushed me away just as suddenly.

There was no way I could endure such an emotional roller coaster every day, so I resolved not to let her have her way so easily next time.

At precisely 5:30, the maid arrived to help carry my things to my new dorm room. On the way, she told me that, although I would have my own bedroom, I would have to share a kitchen and dining area with one other student. There were actually four bedrooms attached to this common area, but the other two were currently unoccupied.

Given that I had shared a single six-mat room with three other young women for the entirety of the last semester, this sounded like paradise in comparison.

When we arrived at the dorm, the maid guided me to an elevator, which quickly took us to the top floor, and then down the hall to the corner of the building, where she knocked on a door.

“Coming,” a voice rang out from behind the door. My new dorm mate pushed it open from inside and greeted me with a smile, but I recoiled in surprise.

It was Ibuki.