Chapter 8:

Noriko's Requiem

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

Seven Years AgoBookmark here

Bookmark here

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

Open windows in the crowded classroom invited bright sunlight in, along with 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. Bookmark here

Isolation didn't bother me; I was used to being a pariah. The hard part was simply being looked at as a pariah. Three long years of no significant social connections would soon end—three years of desperation trying to figure out my place in the world.Bookmark here

Honestly, all I desired was solitude, and maybe something else.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Chatter chatter, blah blah, tweet tweet. Bookmark here

I reached into my satchel bag and slipped out a light novel. Books had been a favorite escape of mine, where they instilled a reason to look away from everything else.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

That’s when I remembered something from years ago: a girl’s silhouette in our library. I had 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.Bookmark here

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

Perhaps the book was just an excuse. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

*Bookmark here

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

There was only one person I wanted to see. Bookmark here

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 was my cope, among other reasons. Bookmark here

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

As I hiked the stairwell up, myriad 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? We're going our separate ways soon anyway. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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. Bookmark here

“Just wanted to talk about something,” I said with a pouty blush. Bookmark here

“Finally gonna confess to me?” Bookmark here

“N-No! Don’t be stupid.”Bookmark here

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

“I don’t need it.”Bookmark here

“Even if we graduate soon?”Bookmark here

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

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

My face puffed up in anger, but that genuine smile of hers could sooth anyone's negativity away.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"Hey, Kazuma."Bookmark here

"Yeah?"Bookmark here

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

"Born? Because our parents fucked."Bookmark here

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

"I'm not following." Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

"Yup."Bookmark here

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

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

"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.”Bookmark here

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

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."Bookmark here

"Hmmm?"Bookmark here

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

"Let's kill ourselves," she said.Bookmark here

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