Chapter 1:

Welcome to the Easy Money Club

Easy Money Club


"We're going to make a club."

Assuri Ainomegami, daughter of one of the school's benefactors, proudly declared this to me after our first day of high school.

"Look, thanks for taking care of me for these past two years... but I don't know if I can just join a club right off the bat." I stood looking at her, her curly brown hair puffing around her cheeks.

"Well," she said, "I've already talked with the student council and the headmaster, they said they would approve my club, but would revoke the application if we didn't have five members at the end of the month. We have two so far, so we just need three more!"

"Hey now, slow down a bit. You still haven't told me what kind of club. And are you including me in this member count?"

"Of course! We're friends, aren't we?"

"I guess, but shouldn't you have come to me about this first?"

"That's what we're doing now."

...

"Besides, it's not like you were in any clubs in middle school, right? Were you planning on joining any now?" Assuri had a smug look on her face like she had already won the argument.

"Well, no but."

"Then it's settled. Welcome to the Easy Money Club!"

"Fine," I sighed, "I need to repay you anyway for all the help your family has given me. If it weren't for them, I probably wouldn't be going to this school. Plus, we are childhood friends after all."

"Great! I leave recruitment fliers in your capable hands." And with that, Assuri bounced gleefully out of the room.

The "Easy Money Club" as she called it was more or less an affront to all that was good in the world. Basically the low down was this: She was set to inherit her father's company but under one condition - that she fulfil a certain right of passage that her family has done for generations. This rite of passage was fairly cut and dry: Earn 100 million yen during the course of her high school career. I assume that this price has been inflated over the years. Basically, she decided the easiest way to do this would be to make a club, that way she could use some of the school's funding in order to have a starting point for her goals. The problem first problem, however, was making the flier. How was I supposed to advertise a club where the members would basically be pawns?

"Just put something to get people interested."

"Right..."

"I have a room already that we will make our clubroom. Meet me there during lunch period tomorrow."

The next day, I met Assuri near a small room next to the old science lab. They had moved the science lab to a new wing of the school, so this area was mostly used for storage.

"This will be our club room!" Assuri opened the door. The room was packed full of old boxes and equipment. "The school said we could do whatever we wanted with the stuff in here."

"It's a mess. Are you sure this is where you want to have the meeting room?"

"Absolutely. It stands for what our club is all about!"

"The 'Easy Money Club'?" I was still skeptical of the name.

"Exact! Gaining something for nothing, and having it become your profit! That's the definition of 'Easy Money'!"

"I guess that makes sense." We spent the rest of the lunch period cleaning up the room a bit. Assuri began sorting some of the more interesting looking things on the shelves. Not sure what she was going to do with those. After classes we returned to the club room. By the end of the day, it was looking like a "proper" room. We even had a table and chairs set up in the middle like a typical club room should. We even found a small coffee maker that we cleaned out. I took some time on my tablet to draft up a flyer for the club. I tried to make it sound more similar to an economics club rather than some ploy for wealth or world domination (though that is probably more the way Assuri would have described it.)

"That's perfect! Get it printed!"

"Eh, you barely looked over it."

"That's fine. The school library should still be open, so go get them printed and hung up! Then we should be able to get some new club members tomorrow! Besides..." She turned towards me. "If you made it, then I'm sure it's great." I couldn't help but feel a bit happy from this praise.

With that stream of confidence backing me up, I printed the flyers and hung them around campus. The next day, I went to the club room after classes. A boy came running out of the room crying as I approached. What did she do... I sighed as I walked into the club room.

"Welco- oh, just you."

"Rude."

"Well, I'm expecting new members. You're a member already, so there isn't much need to welcome you."

"I see." I went over to the coffee maker and poured myself a cup. I added plenty of sugar though, so I don't know if it could still be considered coffee at this point. "Why'd you scare off that other guy?"

"Oh, that wimp. He didn't meet my criteria."

"What criteria is that?"

"A maid."

"A what?"

"A maid, silly. A maid! I've decided that our third club member has to be our maid!"

"You're like rich, right? Don't you have any maids at home?"

"As if. Daddy only hires butlers. Something about not wanting to be accused of affairs or something. But I read in a book that a high school club needs a maid! She attracts more club members and brings in more of a crowd when we do activities."

"I don't think those are the kinds of crowds that we want. Plus, wouldn't that be kind of crappy to do to someone?"

"We'll have their consent, of course. Hence why the wimp left. He didn't want to consent. I don't care if they are male or female though, I just want them to wear the costume." Assuri pulled out a rather thrown together looking maid cosplay. "I made it last night. What do you think?" I could see some of the stitching and the skirt was rather short. But other than that, it definitely looked like a maid costume.

"Well, let me know if you get someone to wear that." I sat down to sip my coffee. Like that was going to happen.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. "Ah! Come in." Assuri shouted. A girl appeared in the doorway. I had recognized her from my homeroom class, she sat a few seats in front of me. Her hair was a similar burnt brown shade to mine, though she had it tied back into a single braided ponytail. "Welcome!" Assuri exclaimed.

"Ah, Excuse me, my name is Kotori Hayabusa. I'm here about your flyer."

"Perfect! Hayabusa, would you mind wearing this?" Assuri held up the maid costume to her.

"Eh! I-I guess I can. But, I..." She gave a glance over to me. I smiled at her reaction and stepped out of the room. A few minutes later, there was a knock from the other side and I entered. Kotori had been transformed into a cosplay maid. Her face was flushed red, which I couldn't blame her for. The skirt barely covered much of anything. "H-how do I look?"

"Like a maid, I guess." She seemed rather nonplussed at my answer.

"You look amazing, Hayabusa!" Assuri said, grabbing her in a big hug. "You're welcome to join our club!"

"Oh, but, that's not why I'm here..."

"...then why did you let her change you into the costume." I gave her a questioning glance.

Kotori blushed and tapped her index fingers together. Yeah, I'm not gonna dig further into that one.

"Your flyer... it... it has a typo." She handed a flyer to Assuri.

"What! You idiot! How could you mess up on something so simple?" You're the one that didn't want to proofread it.

"I'm sorry our president made you dress up in that ridiculous outfit. You don't have to join our club, Hayabusa."

"No, I'll join. Just... be gentle with me, madam president." DEFINITELY not digging into that one...

"That's what I like to hear!" Assuri explained with a fiery passion I hadn't seen before. "A submissive maid is perfect! Welcome to the club! Do you mind if we just call you Kotori?"

"Y-you can just call me Tori if you like, that's what my friends call me."

"Tori it is! Do you know how to make tea? A maid should know how to make tea."

"I-I can try."

After a while, Tori had made us each a cup of tea. I was a bit leery of it, but I didn't want to seem rude. The president took a sip and gave me a thumbs up. She seemed absolutely elated. I went to take a sip from my cup as I looked up at Tori who had a weird look in her eyes. It's not poison, right? I haven't done anything to offend her, have I? Cautiously, I gulped and took a sip from the cup. It was bitter. Still though, we were one member closer to becoming an official club.

A week had passed and the "Easy Money Club" still only had three members. The president was rather mysterious, saying that she was looking for new members and ending up brining random items to put on the shelves in the room for some future endeavor. Then there was the anomaly to me that was Tori. After class, Tori would come straight to the club room and change into the maid outfit, followed by making a cup of tea. This routine seemed to be built into her already and she seemed to fairly enjoy it. What she didn't seem to enjoy, however, was my presence. Many days we were left with just the two of us sitting awkwardly in the club room until the school day was over: me on my phone and Tori reading a book. I had recently started playing one of those puzzle games with all the cute characters, though I would probably deny playing it if you asked me. Finally, something different managed to happen.

"We have a new member!" Assuri shouted as she threw open the door. She proudly marched into the room followed by another rather tall girl. Or perhaps the president was just short? Regardless, there was a significant height difference. That wasn't the only thing standing out about the new member though, it was her aesthetic. Hearts. Hearts everywhere. If Valentine's Day had a groupie, she would be that person. She had a heart-shaped hair clip holding her flowing black hair from her eyes. As well, she had a heart on her choker and her socks, and a chain coming from the belt loop on her skirt with a heart on the end.

"Hi, hi. My name is Kokoro Liebesherz. I'm a senior and 18 years old. It's nice to meet you."

"Likewise." Tori and I bowed to greet our new member. "So, how did she get you to join the club?" I gave Assuri a glare which she shrugged off nonchalantly.

"Loose lips sink ships I'm afraid," Assuri gave an unsettling wink, "but for now, let's just say that she will owe me a favor for my services."

"...Services?"

"Yeah, because she's 18!"

"Choose your next words carefully..." I had the number for the police typed into my phone. I wasn't actually going to call them, but it's something I have always wanted to do.

"I-it's not anything dirty, I swear." Assuri began to get flustered. "It's because of this." She showed me a website link on her phone.

"An auction site?"

"That's right!" Assuri seemed rather pleased with herself. "We have all this junk on the shelves, right?" No thanks to you... "Well, I thought about selling it to second hand stores, but that would take a while. Plus since we are still young they might get suspicious. So, I figured we should try and sell it online! But it turned out that you needed to be 18 years old to sell things on the site. That's what Kokoro here is for!"

"So you're using here."

"Give and take," Kokoro said calmly. "Don't think of it as using me, but rather making use of me in return for me making use of the president." Now that sounds even fishier! "Rest assured, we worked everything out ahead of time, there's nothing for you to worry about." No, I'm definitely worried!

We spent the rest of the afternoon making an account on the auction website and listing some of the items from the shelves. We even managed to sell one that same day! It was a rather old looking clock from a company that had collapsed in the 1970s. The problem came when we went to ship the item that next day.

Let's just say, shipping is a lot more expensive than we had originally thought, especially across the country.

"Well, we'll only have made about half what we wanted to sell it for after the shipping, but this gives us a good idea of what to do in the future." Assuri turned to me. "I'll leave you in charge of getting packing materials from now on. Find them cheap, okay?" Her reassuring gaze left me with confidence that I could do the job, but fear at what failure meant.

Kokoro and I walked home together that day, it turned out that we lived in the same direction. However, the topic I was most interested in at that time happened to come up. "I can tell you want to know the secret I have with the president, but I know you're hiding something as well. Why don't we share, if you're interested." I stood there beside the entrance to the park looking into those eyes full of curiosity. This might be my only chance to learn Kokoro's secret, but would it be worth giving up my own secret to her?

A.A. James
badge-silver
Bookmarked
You can resume reading from this paragraph.