Chapter 8:

Noriko's Requiem

My Government-Issued Girlfriend Can't Be This Cute!


Seven Years Ago


Chatter chatter, blah blah, tweet tweet—my high school's lunch breaks were just as monotonous as the background noise. 

Open windows in the crowded classroom invited bright sunlight in, alongside chirps from birds outside. The back corner desk was my dominion, and I sat in it like some anime character while everyone else gathered in their cliques. Innocent smiles while people ate looked like sneers.

Isolation didn't bother me; I was used to being a pariah. The hard part was simply being considered a pariah, like some outcast banished from society. Three long years devoid of significant social connections would soon end—three years of desperation trying to figure out my place in the world.

Honestly, sometimes I quenched solitude, and other times I loathed it. 

My black, buttoned-up uniform constricted against my chest as an invisible tightness made taking even small breaths difficult. It wasn't the uniform itself, but the school's atmosphere that constantly threatened to choke me out.

I didn't care that my grades and looks were only average, or that most girls I'd ever talked to eventually distanced themselves from me. I'd graduate and leave behind these bad memories, these blights, these trials by fire.

Chatter chatter, blah blah, tweet tweet.

I reached into my satchel bag and slipped out a light novel. Books had been a favorite escape of mine, since they instilled a reason to look away from the world around me. 

Isekai, an emerging genre, was growing in popularity and would likely soon be a phenomenon. The idea of escaping into another world sounded cathartic to me, and if someone looked past incessant harems and power fantasies in isekai, they’d simply find a nice break from reality—a distraction.

That’s when I remembered something from two years ago: a girl’s silhouette in our school library. I'd been searching through novels in the dimly lit room when an outline materialized in my aisle. Her figure was perfect, not just her body, but the way her tender hands plucked books from shelves like fruits. Long, silver hair crescendoed almost to the floor while a short skirt struggled to hide her heavenly legs.

It was rare enough to find anyone in the library, so a burning curiosity of what she was eyeing had driven me closer.

Or perhaps the book was just an excuse.

Hmmm? Can I help you?” she gently said.

I'd wandered too close. “Oh, uhhh, just wondering what you were reading, sorry.”

She smiled that day, and it felt like the first honest smile I’d ever seen.

Ah, I’m reading an isekai. Have you heard about them?"

*

I marched down the school hallway while lunch break continued. No one looked at me, just like I avoided looking at them.

There was only one person I wanted to see.

Apparently, she’d convinced the art director to lend her spare keys to the roof. During breaks it'd be just us two up there together, but the more I was with Noriko, the more I fell for her. Evading contact sometimes was my cope, among other reasons.

Graduation was approaching though, and the urge to confess increased day by day.

As I hiked the stairwell up, myriad of thoughts dizzied me. What if she's not there? Why should I bother? Sure she's my only friend and has even come over before, but how do I know she won't abandon me like everyone else? Like Mai? We're going our separate ways soon anyway.

With an assertive thud my feet reached the top floor. A door ahead was ajar, and I slowly pushed it open as bright light funneled around me.

A sprawling, rooftop terrace gradually materialized. Worn benches and potted plants dotted an enclosed area surrounded by tall, reinforced fences. I journeyed outside and looked around: only silence greeted me. But if she wasn't here then she'd be up there for sure.

I turned around and eyed the cube-like stairwell structure I emerged from. A mechanical unit on its side acted like a stepping block as I climbed to peek above.

Flat on her back, Noriko Mito basked in complete serenity as she watched clouds soar overhead.

"Hmmm? Oh, Kazuma," she said, looking over. "Didn't think you'd drop by."

Her radiant, lavender eyes sparkled even under cloudy skies. A tight uniform conformed to her curves, accentuating her long, silver hair while she lay on it like a mat.

“Just wanted to talk about something with you,” I said with a blush.

“Finally gonna confess to me?”

“N-No! Don’t be stupid.”

“Figures. You’ve never even tried asking for my number.”

“I don’t need it.”

“Even if we graduate soon?”

“It’s not like I like you or anything . . .”

Noriko burst into laughter. “Male tsundere! Male tsundere! No way! Hahaha!”

My face puffed up in annoyance, but that genuine smile of hers could sooth anyone's hostility away.

Noriko took a deep breath and exhaled. “Actually, you wanted to chat right? I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately; come lie with me.” She tapped the vacant spot beside her.

Do it, do it, Kazuma Nishikata! This is your big chance! I climbed up and lay flat beside her, both of us gazing towards a faraway sky.

"Hey, Kazuma."

"Yeah?"

A brief silence. "Do you ever wonder why we're born?"

"Born? Because our parents fucked."

"No, no. I mean like, philosophically."

"I'm not following."

Noriko tucked a locket of long hair behind her ear. "It's just that—I don't think my mind is in a good place right now, or maybe it never was."

I wasn't sure exactly how to respond. "Um, if there's anything I can help with just let me know, doesn't matter what."

"Thanks, maybe I'll hold you to that." She beamed another smile at me and sat up.

Further clouds drifted overhead, blurring the sun and casting a melancholic glow over us.

"Say, we've been friends since we were second-years, right?" she said.

"Yup."

"Do you think I've changed you at all since then?"

"Uhhh, I guess life isn't as mundane now?"

"Life . . ." Her jubilant eyes turned dim, like they were pained. "You probably already know, but I have issues being around people. I push them away even if they mean well. It’s just hard to trust everyone, so when they try talking to me, I run off to be alone.”

“Yeah. That’s how we met at the library; I liked hiding from people there too.”

Her hand on the floor inched closer to mine. "That's why I've opened up so much to you, Kazuma. Even though we're almost complete opposites in personality, we still see eye-to-eye. We've seen the ugliness of life, but now, I've been thinking of seeing the beauty of something else."

"Hmmm?"

Noriko's drained eyes looked over the horizon. A serious, but honest smile spread across her face as she looked in my direction.

"Let's kill ourselves," she said.