Chapter 1:

Rejection, Followed by Confession

Aro-com: A Romantic Comedy

Chou put her elbows on her editor’s desk as she leaned forward on her tiptoes, her checkered-skirt pointed outward as her cottontail poked out above the waistband. The rabbit bounced up and down eagerly on the tips of her feet as her editor finally flipped to the last page of her manuscript before placing it down on his desk.Bookmark here

“Miss Usagi, this story is fantastic,” the editor began. He grabbed the finished manuscript off his desk and stood up, his tail swaying side-to-side as he walked over to the trashcan in the corner of the office. Chou’s heart sank as he dropped the document into the trash and walked back to his desk. “But it’s just not what we’re looking for this time.”Bookmark here

Chou bolted over to the corner and lifted her writing out of the garbage. “Where did I go wrong, Mister Fox?” she whined, sticking her tongue out in disgust as a rotting banana peel fell out from between the pages of her rejected manuscript.Bookmark here

“Well, your underwear, for a start. Floral-print is so last year.”Bookmark here

Chou hopped up and shyly took her seat next to the editor.Bookmark here

“Listen, Usagi, those underpants aren’t the only thing that’s ‘so last year’. Survival horror, isekai reincarnation, supernatural happenings at midnight, slice-of-life… You’ve been there, done that, and now your readers want something new, something fresh. You hear me?”Bookmark here

Chou opened up her document and sighed into its pages. “I thought a story about a girl being transported to a theater-inspired world and having to turn into her Mary Sue OC to save the day was a pretty unique story…”Bookmark here

“Ok, fine. Let’s say that story is a good starting point. But nobody wants to read 45,000 words of fantasy action these days. How about you could go for a more original cyberpunk approach? That’s all the rage with your target demographic!”Bookmark here

“Fuck off.”Bookmark here

“Ok, ok, not a fan of cyberpunk… How about instead Jackie is transported to a school to learn how to summon the demons, instead? Readers love highschool drama!”Bookmark here

“Fuck off.”Bookmark here

“Dammit, I thought that would convince her for sure,” the editor thought to himself. “Ok, Miss Usagi, you don’t want to write cyberpunk and you don’t want to write a school setting. I should’ve known those weren’t your style…” Mister Fox paused. “What about romance?”Bookmark here

“Fuck o-”Bookmark here

The fox cut Chou off. “Now, now, hear me out, ok? I am your editor. I know your writing better than anybody. I know your strengths. I know your weaknesses. I truly think you have what it takes to write the next romantic smash hit novel!”Bookmark here

Chou sighed and sunk into the chair before slumping to the floor. “But I’m aro,” she groaned, picking herself off the ground and slamming her palms on the wooden desk.Bookmark here

“Arrow?”Bookmark here

“No, ‘aro’. Aromantic. I don’t feel romantic attraction.”Bookmark here

Mister Fox sighed. “Are you… for real?”Bookmark here

“Uh, yeah?” Chou said. “Why would I lie about that?”Bookmark here

“Well, you’re a fiction author. Can’t you just make shit up?” the editor asked.Bookmark here

“You really think it will improve my story?”Bookmark here

“It will improve your chances of getting published,” Mister Fox assured his colleague, while not answering her original question.Bookmark here

“I’ll see what I can do,” the rabbit sighed, her ears drooping down as she hopped out of her chair and walked towards the office’s exit.Bookmark here

In the building’s main hall, Chou observed all of her fellow authors typing away on their computers, like worker bees trying to provide their queen with metabolic goo. But this was no ordinary honey feed. These workers were instead producing equally sweet words in order to win the favors of the editors, in hopes of having their stories published. Sheep, the lot of them. …Chou had never actually noticed how many of her coworkers were ovis aries before, even though she had been working in the company for a few years by that point.Bookmark here

“Can you believe this guy?” Chou chuckled, pointing her thumb at Mister Fox’s office door. “He wants us to write romance, lol.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, no shit,” one of the sheep replied. “That’s what sells, Chou.”Bookmark here

“Not you, too?” Chou groaned, trudging over to her station and getting to work on new novel. “He’ll see… Yes, this’ll be my magnum opus! I’ll shove this script in Mister Fox’s face! And then what will the fox say?”Bookmark here

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“Rejected,” Mister Fox sighed, throwing Chou’s revised script across the room and into the trashcan. “Ay, caramba, you really can’t write romance, huh, Usagi?”Bookmark here

Chou made a face which clearly said “I’d rather be at home watching anime in my pajamas”.Bookmark here

“Look… Miss Usagi… can I call you ‘Chou’? We’ve known each other for some time now.”Bookmark here

Uh-oh. Mister Fox was getting personal. Chou knew that whenever the editor started acting all friendly like that, he was about to say something that you didn’t want to hear.Bookmark here

“Maybe we should let you go?”Bookmark here

The rabbit kicked her seat to the floor, standing on her toes and placing her elbows on the edge of the desk. Chou tried her best to be intimidating as she leaned her face in close to the fox’s. Mister Fox’s expression didn’t change, forcing Chou to fall overdramatically to her knees.Bookmark here

“Now, wait, Chou, I’m not saying we’re gonna just up and fire you, or anything!” the editor assured her.Bookmark here

Chou lifted her head up with an “Mm?” and wiped the tearstains off her albino white fur.Bookmark here

“I’m just saying… maybe you should take a break until people want to read fantasy again? Maybe go back to college and get a literature degree?”Bookmark here

The writer rolled her eyes and let out a small chuckle, followed by a fake cough. “I’m sorry, you were saying?”Bookmark here

“Chou Usagi,” Mister Fox began, “right now, I don’t think your stories are profitable. I don’t like school or romance stories either, but that’s what our market research says readers want.”Bookmark here

“What about cyberpunk?” Chou asked.Bookmark here

“Are you kidding?! I LOVE cyberpunk!” The editor cleared his throat. “But, anyways, as I was saying – if you can’t write what our readers want to read, then you have no choice but to wait until your stories are back in vogue.”Bookmark here

“I see.”Bookmark here

The author left the office in utter defeat just as she had the day before. She knew she wasn’t going to write a cyberpunk or school story. She didn’t like them, and that was that. And, sure, she liked romance stories, but she just couldn’t write one with her (lack of) understanding of what it was actually like to be in-love. Chou fell to her knees as the realization slowly hit her; if she couldn’t get her novels published soon, she’d have to find another job!Bookmark here

“Why is fate so cruel?!” the bunny yelled into the void which was her employer’s office.Bookmark here

“Hey, Chou, you good?” a voice asked.Bookmark here

Chou turned around to find one of her few non-ungulate coworkers. A kind man and successful romance author who always put his friends’ feelings before his own; there was nothing cavalier about this King Charles spaniel.Bookmark here

“Oh, hey, Fumihito. What’s up?” Chou asked.Bookmark here

“Never mind me, what’s up with you?” Fumihito replied. “You look like you’ve been crying, I can see it on your cheek fur.”Bookmark here

Chou covered her cheek pouches with her front paws. “It’s nothing, see ya.”Bookmark here

“Wait, Chou— I already submitted my manuscript to Ms. Wright, so I was about to go clock-out and have dinner anyways. Wanna come with?”Bookmark here

The bunny thought for a second before deciding to take the pooch up on his offer. Anything would beat staring at a blank word processor document for hours while she thought up another unpublishable story.Bookmark here

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A waiter showed Chou and Fumihito to their table. All around them were happy couples enjoying a meal together. Chou looked around with confusion and intrigue, thinking that maybe she could use them as inspiration for writing romance.Bookmark here

“Uh, Chou,” Fumihito piped-up, “you’re staring.”Bookmark here

The rabbit girl swung her head around and locked eyes with her coworker, sheepishly rubbing the back of her brown-haired head. “I-I was just taking in the surroundings!” Chou couldn’t bring herself to tell her successful romance novelist colleague that she was having trouble coming up with amorous scenarios for her story.Bookmark here

The waiter returned with two menus and placed them in the middle of the table.Bookmark here

“Anything catch your eye, Chou?” Fumihito asked.Bookmark here

Chou scanned over the list, but the rabbit girl’s attention was diverted as soon as she saw the selection of alcohol. The rabbit girl was accustomed to drinking beer and wine, but she couldn’t help but question the idea of consuming alcohol when she was with a colleague. The thought of Fumihito spreading gossip in the office about her getting drunk left Chou's stomach churning. He may have had a heart of gold, but he also had a big mouth. Fumihito smiled, asking for the waiter to bring them some sparkling wine.Bookmark here

Chou shook her head, returning to the menu. "I was thinking I’d just have salad, actually.”Bookmark here

"Chicken salad?" the dog man asked.Bookmark here

"…You ever notice how fucked up it is that we eat chickens?" Chou rambled, "I mean, I know some chickens! My next-door neighbor is a chicken!"Bookmark here

“Oh, sorry. I was just thinking we could share it, is all.”Bookmark here

“Ok, fine,” Chou said, “that’ll lower the cost a bit.”Bookmark here

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Chou picked at her salad, still crestfallen about her inability to come up with a good story for Mister Fox.Bookmark here

“Hey, uh, Chou, what’s the matter, anyhow? You’re acting just like back in the office; is something the matter?”Bookmark here

Just as Chou was about to explain her plight, a series of cheers and clapping rang out through the restaurant. The bunny and spaniel turned around, prompting Fumihito to begin clapping and cheering as well.Bookmark here

“What’s going on?” Chou asked.Bookmark here

“Look there,” her coworker smiled, pointing to a man taking a knee while holding a ring-box to his beloved, “that guy just got engaged! Isn’t that just adorable?”Bookmark here

Chou narrowed her eyes and began clapping. “What’s the big deal? People get engaged all the time. It’s none of our business.”Bookmark here

Fumihito turned to the rabbit – raising one of his eyebrows which were a different color from the rest of his fur – before turning back to the happy couple, his tail wagging as the bride-to-be took the engagement ring and put it around one of her talons.Bookmark here

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“Thanks for the meal,” Chou smiled, grabbing her lilac jacket from off the coat rack and wriggling into it, one arm at a time.Bookmark here

Fumihito blushed as Chou’s skirted hips moved from side-to-side, half-relieved and half-disappointed when Chou finally stopped squirming, that he had not caught a glimpse of anything he wasn’t supposed-to have.Bookmark here

“I uh, really wish you’d have just let me pay for it,” the dog said.Bookmark here

“Nonsense,” Chou replied, “we both picked at the salad, so why wouldn’t I pay for my half?”Bookmark here

“Well, usually, when a boy and a girl have a meal together, the man pays, right?”Bookmark here

“What did he mean, ‘together’?” Chou thought to herself. For a second, she almost thought it sounded like he was talking about dating. “He’s probably just so used-to writing lovey-dovey schlock that he said that without thinking,” she shook her head, perishing the thought.Bookmark here

“You never did tell me what was wrong.”Bookmark here

“The proposal interrupted me,” Chou said. “Whatever, it doesn’t matter. I’m feeling fine now, thanks to you.”Bookmark here

“Oh, well, that’s a relief,” Fumihito smiled, his tail wagging as he placed a paw on Chou’s shoulder.Bookmark here

Chou hopped back as the King Charles puckered his lips. She didn’t even know dogs could do that! “What the fuck are you doing???” she stammered, placing a paw over Fumihito’s jowls.Bookmark here

“Oh, I’m sorry, you’d prefer not to kiss on the first date?” he asked.Bookmark here

Chou’s draw dropped. Date?! She must’ve misheard him.Bookmark here

“T-This wasn’t… this ISN’T a date, y’hear?”Bookmark here

Fumihito hid his face in his paws. “Oh, gods, oh, gods, oh, gods…” He peeped over his hands apologetically and bowed, his tail ceasing to move. “I’m SO sorry, Chou! This was supposed to be a date! You couldn’t tell?”Bookmark here

“Uh, no???” the bunny blushed, shaking her head and shutting her red eyes tightly. “Look, Fumihito, if you’re just trying to cheer me up, I appreciate it, but--”Bookmark here

“I’m not trying to cheer you up! Well, I mean, that wasn’t solely my intention! Chou Usagi, I have a huge crush on you!”Bookmark here

Chou stood silent, a mixture of confusion and shock enveloping her entire being. As the realization of the situation set in, the cogs in Chou’s mind started whirring. She couldn’t write romance. A well-liked romantic author was offering to date her. It was the perfect opportunity! If Chou dated Fumihito, all she’d have to do would be writing down her experiences and handing them in to Mister Fox; her inability to feel romantic attraction wouldn’t even be a factor! She considered the possibility of not telling Fumihito this, in order to make their dates more authentic, but she realized that would be a dick move.Bookmark here

“Listen, Fumihito,” the lagomorph began, “I’m… flattered that you like me in that way… for whatever reason.”Bookmark here

The dog man’s tail began to wag again as a smile swept across his muzzle.Bookmark here

“Buuut… Fumihito Inugami, I just don’t feel the same way.”Bookmark here

“Oh, I see…”Bookmark here

“But WAIT! There’s more! You see, I struggle to write romance, and Mister Fox wants me to write some sappy love story. So… If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to date you for inspiration.”Bookmark here

Fumihito pounced, knocking Chou to the floor as he hugged her. “Oh, thank you, thank you!”Bookmark here

“N-Now, hold on a moment,” Chou grunted, “there’s NOTHING between us, got it? I just need your help with writing a story, and this whole thing is off once I hand the manuscript to my editor, capiche?”Bookmark here

“R-Right, my bad.” Fumihito stood up and straightened his necktie. “I don’t know if you’re just playing hard to get, or what. But if those are your terms, then I agree.”Bookmark here

The mutt was just happy to be officially dating the girl of his dreams. And the bunny hoped that her plan to ensure her next novel was more romantic than the last would succeed.Bookmark here

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And so, the “romance” between Chou Usagi and Fumihito Inugami had begun.
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