Chapter 7:

My Parents Have Put Me at My Limit.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

I head home by myself. I know on a usual day Ayame would come along, but her empty-headed chatter is the absolute last thing I want to hear right now, especially when I’ve just had my confidence brutally shattered by the so-called “Bakery Idol”- who is also, somehow, the student council president. How on earth did she get anyone to vote for her?

As I'm passing by the small park where the faded red slide is still taking its place of honor amidst the trees, I notice a little girl in the swing, going higher and higher with an expression of pure joy on her face. There's an older man behind her, pushing her- he must be her father. I exhale rather harshly. My dad never did this with me.

I turn onto the shopping street and the smells of restaurants and the bustle of a Friday evening start to reach me. I feel my phone buzz in my pocket. It's Tatsu. Hey, dude, are you feeling alright? I don't want to bug you, but I'm wondering if there's anything I can help you with... And deleted. He wouldn't get it even if he knew.

Nakamachi-dori is the biggest and best shopping street in this area...or it used to be until the half dozen malls around here opened up. Now, it's just a bunch of izakaya and food stalls and stores run by old people who are too stubborn to retire, and the only customers are fellow old-timers, drunks and people who think that they're sticking it to the man by refusing to shop at the malls, even though they're full of local stores themselves, and the franchises are run by locals too. Heck, Wagashi Ryukeishou on this street has another store in the South Mall...However, there are enough old people and drunks in Japan for the street to still do pretty good business, and it's packed again today.

After I spend a few minutes elbowing past the scores of old men who are already halfway to puking at 5 pm on a Friday, I finally make it home. Just the same as always. Fairly normal-looking on the outside, it could be mistaken for any ordinary middle-class family's home until the door gets opened. I sigh as I open the door. Maybe my mom actually had to run an errand today and I can get a few minutes in peace...

"Welcome home, Haruto!" Aaaaaaaaaaand she's in the ProKore outfit. There goes my dream.

That costume is honestly the worst of the lot- it's from a kids' magical girl anime, but it's gaudy even by their standards. It's pink and white and the sleeves are so puffy that they stick out about a foot and the skirt takes up a whole doorway and there's SO MUCH GLITTER that it gets in the food. The last time she wore this while making dinner, the Hamburg steak sparkled, and if that wasn't bad enough, I had to listen to her recite the whole "Lyrical, Miracle, Pretty-" whatever chant every time she stirred the sauce, and she stirred it with the cheap plastic wand toy that lights up too. She hasn't worn it for a while, so I hope she forgot about it...but I was dreading the day she'd remember, and it was today.

"You're home early!" my mom chirps. "Kaede got home a little while ago too. Something happen?"

"Uhh, cultural festival planning..." Crap, that just slipped out...I didn't even mean to say it, it just happened...I didn't want to mention it...

Now she's all up in my personal space, her eyes sparkling. "What is it? What are you doing?"

"Uhh...a play. Yeah, that. A play." That must have sounded really fishy, because she makes a quizzical expression and cocks her head.


"I have no reason to lie about this, Mom..." Actually, I have every reason to.

I still feel like I haven't convinced her, because she just nods her head. "Ok. Well, we're having Pretty Lyrical curry tonight. It'll be ready in about 15 minutes, so come on down and taste all the magical flavor I put in it!" She beams like she's really proud of making instant curry with a frozen katsu and rice from the cooker. I still, to this day, have no idea what the difference between regular curry and my mom's "Pretty Lyrical" curry is. Is it that you have to be as annoying as possible when you make the second? Will hers automatically give you food poisoning?

I finally make it upstairs- Kaede's door is shut, so I feel like it's a bad idea to try and go say hi, since she'll probably just shoot me a glare and be cold to me, and she probably heard me come in anyways. Still, I wish that one of these days she would come greet me, or at least act like it wasn't painful for her to be in the same room as me...

That manga that Ayame forcefully decided she was going to give me is still on my desktop, unopened. I know I'm going to have to read it sooner rather than later, because she's going to pester me every day until I do, and if I tell her that I'm not holding to the terms of her bet and I'm not touching her stupid Mikono, she'll pout and sulk until I look like the biggest jerk in the entire school.

I haven't even read manga for I don't know how long, what- 5 years? Where do I begin? I quizzically pick up the first volume and look through it. It's just a few pages, I'll read just enough to where Ayame will get off my case and never look at it again...

"Haru-kun! Kaede-chan! Honey! Pretty Lyrical Miracle Dinner Time!" That's my mom's voice from down the stairs...wait, has it been 15 minutes already? I'm already on chapter 4!

I think I lost myself for a second there, because this was pretty easy to read- the art is actually pretty good, it's not cutesy or anything, just a bunch of pretty landscapes. There's nothing that kiddie about the story. It feels just like a sci-fi book, but with pictures- it's about an ordinary girl who gets a psychic message from someone claiming to be a messenger from the future, telling her that her inadvertent actions in the present day caused a nuclear apocalypse, and she's trying to fix her mistakes before they get out of control. I'm not sure Yuuko should just blindly trust that Rairon guy who's sending her the messages- for one, how can she know he's who he claims he is? Maybe he's actually trying to get her to CAUSE the apocalypse? Maybe...holy crap. I was turning into an otaku for a second there. It felt like I was in a trance or something, like I had my brain taken over by Ayame...but if all manga are as easy to read as that one, I see why people become otaku...No, dammit! I am never going to turn into one of those gross perverts, and I'm never going to give Ayame the satisfaction of knowing she made me one! I can already see that smug cat smile in my mind's eye. Ohhhhhhh, Haru-kuuuuun? You liked Mikono-sensei? How about another manga? And then she’ll give me something that’s filled with boobs and tentacles. I am NOT allowing that to happen to me.

Ayame's beloved manga must have taken more time away from me than I thought, because when I emerge from my room, my little sister is already seated and my dad's just reached the bottom of the stairs. He looks so disappointed.

"Darling, you really shouldn't wear that," he sighs. For the first time in my life, I agree with my father. "You know Kore Pink is the worst one, right?"

"Huh?" my mom replies bluntly. "Do you have something against short girls with flat chests, Tomoyuki?"

You are not a girl, Mom. The rest of that description fits you, and you may look like a small child, but you are middle-aged. My headache is already coming back, and the inevitable argument over magical girls will definitely make it even worse.

"Uhh, no, no! I love lolis!" He waves his hands and then suddenly catches sight of me and immediately looks like a guilty dog. My sister gives him an impressive side eye, but only for a second until she puts her hand on her chin and sighs.

Thankfully, Mom and Dad don't keep the stupid argument up through dinner. They instead chat about their phone games and all other sorts of otaku stupidity while us kids just eat in silence. Or, I say eat, but there's so much glitter in the curry I'm not touching it. I don't know if it's poisonous, but I'm not taking any chances on visiting the ER tonight.

And then, just as I'm getting ready to excuse myself and shut myself in my room, my mom says something that makes my stomach drop.

"By the way, I heard your Cultural Festival was coming up! I know about Haruto-" she strikes a sly grin in my direction, "but what's your class doing, Kaede?"

"Romeo and Juliet. I’m Romeo."

My heart sinks. That's nearly the EXACT SAME THING I told my mom my class was doing. Damn it, Kaede, you just made it that much harder for me! I know it wasn’t a convincing lie…or an original one…but you’ve gotta give me some breathing room!

My mom squeals in delight. "I can't wait to little Kaede dressed up like a prince! We need to go to the fabric store tomorrow- you already know your measurements, right? I've got the perfect idea for you-"

"Ehh, it's no big deal, and Romeo isn’t a prince, just a nobleman…" my sister replies with a nervous laugh. Even my dad looks a little worried about my mom's sudden outburst.

"And Haruto, you're coming too! I already have the design worked out in my head for you as well! I can't wait, I can't wait!" She's in heaven.

Wait...does she know?! How could she have found out?! My headache is pounding at this point, and my heart is starting to race.

Calm down, Haruto. Of course a play has costumes, and you already told her that’s what your class is doing. That's what she's talking about. I'm fine.

"Thanks for the offer, Mom...but my class is making the props and costumes for the play themselves...And I’m only part of the backstage crew…" I try to look as apologetic as I can.

"I'm not talking about the play!" my mom beams. "Your class is doing a crossplay maid cafe, aren't they?"

A chill sweeps over my entire body. "You're getting me confused with someone else...We’re just doing a play. Like basically everyone. Not original at all. Don’t worry about me."

"Oh, Haruto, no need to be so bashful!" my mom exclaims with pure glee. "I know you wanted to surprise me...but Aya-chan already spilled the beans about it, she was so excited about the idea she came up with...sorry, I should have just played dumb and let you tell me, but I was so excited when I realized Kaede was going to be dressed as Romeo and I couldn't help it...anyways, tomorrow we're going to the fabric store and picking out the material for your costumes! Kaede, your design is going to be based off Moonlit Sky UR Raya-kun! And Haruto, yours is even better because Raya-kun wore a maid outfit during the Cultural Festival event and I'm going to base it off that!" she squeals.

“Mom, I don’t think Romeo looks like that…” Kaede giggles nervously.

Why the hell would Ayame tell her that?! What is wrong with her?!

My headache now feels like I'm being squeezed by a vise. I'm certain I'm at my limit. Even my dad looks a bit concerned.

"My Haru's just like Raya-kun, my Haru's just like Raya-kun...kyaaaaaa!"

And that's it.

That little comment, even though it's pretty innocuous on its own, even when I've heard both my parents say far more annoying and perverted things over the course of my life, was the end of my rope. An improbable series of misfortunes aligned to make it the final humiliation on top of the most humiliating day I've ever had.

And I'm simply not going to take any more.

"Mom," I say, "could you please shut up?"

The tone of my voice must be so shocking to her that she does.

"You know, just one of these days, I'd appreciate it if you actually cared about me. Or even faked it! 'How was school, Haruto?' 'How's your practice going?' 'Are you studying hard?' 'Congrats on your midterm grades!' 'What are your plans for this weekend?' ‘How are your friends?’ Have you EVER bothered to ask me any of those? That's the reason why I didn't want to tell you about the Cultural Festival, because you don't care that I'm working hard, or that my class wants you to support them...the only time you're interested in me and my life is when there's something going on that's just like THAT FUCKING GACHA GAME!"

My mom's look of shock has been replaced with a thousand-yard stare. If this wasn't entirely her own fault, I'd feel sorry for her, but it is. So I don't care.

"Do you know how much money you've spent on those stupid idols? You know, sometime I'd like to go on a vacation somewhere, or flower viewing, or to a sports game- you know, something that normal families do? But we never do, and you know why? Because you've used all that time and money on Sparkle! Do you think I like it when you dress up like a catgirl and meow, or dress up like a maid, or dress up like a Kore? Do you think I want you to keep doing it? What I want is for you to be a normal mother WHO ACTUALLY CARES ABOUT HER SON!"

I can see my dad open his mouth to say something and before he does, I keep going.

"And don't you start. You're just as much at fault as she is." By now, the blood's pounding in my head and I can barely even think straight and even my sister is staring at me speechless, but I don't care. 16 years of frustration is all coming out in one moment. "Every day I have to deal with you and Mom being off in your own little world and running your mouths about anime this and anime that and acting like a couple of annoying teenagers and the only time you bother to care about your own children- me and Kaede both- is when you're embarrassing us! Of all the fathers I could have had, I could have had one who works hard to provide for his family and is a good role model for his son but instead I got a fat, disgusting, perverted otaku who doesn't even know what being a parent is because he doesn't realize how the real world works outside anime and video games! I swear you even got the concept of being a parent from one of your manga! I bet you'd be a lot happier if Ayame was your child instead of me and then you could all spend your days happily yapping away about your 'waifus' and your gacha pulls and this and that but just because I'm not the perfect nerd son you've always wanted in your light novel happily-ever-after fantasy or whatever the hell doesn't mean I deserve to be humiliated by you every single day of my life! It doesn't mean I deserve to put up with both of your crap, and IT DOESN'T MEAN YOU GET TO TREAT YOUR OWN CHILD THE WAY THAT YOU DO!"

The only sound that follows is my heavy breathing, echoing like a rolling wave in the silence of my family's home. I have nothing else to say.'s more like I can't say anything else even if I wanted to. I'm completely empty. I've poured out every bit of anger and humiliation I've let stew for years and there's simply no more words that can make their way up from my heart.

It feels like the silence hangs like a cloud for hours, even though it's surely only a few seconds. Then, as the pounding in my ears subsides, I hear the clock on the wall ticking, and, much fainter, my mother's sniffles.

Enough. I'm not going to let her make me feel like the bad guy over something that's obviously her own fault. I stand up and push the chair so quickly it slams. "Thanks for the meal. I'm leaving. It's none of your business where I'm going. Don't come looking for me and if you even think about calling the cops or my school I'll make damn sure you'll never see me for the rest of your lives."

I storm up the stairs, but...there's another dumbass I need to deal with. I open my phone and quickly fire off a text.

Ayame, what the hell were you thinking?!

Huh? Did I do something wrong?

Don't play dumb with me. Why did you go behind my back and tell my mom about the festival?

I wasn't trying to be sneaky! She just texted me and wanted to know if you were okay, since you seemed upset lately but you weren't telling her then I just mentioned it before I realized it...and you never told me you didn't want her finding out...

So I'm the bad guy, huh?

No! I don't mean that! I just wish you would have told me! That's all I meant!

Don't play innocent. I'm not stupid. You know my parents just as well as I do, and you know exactly what would happen if you told my mom about the cafe.

I'm sorry, Haru...I swear I didn't mean it...

Then you never should have suggested that horrible idea in the first place. I have nothing else to say to you right now.


I didn't expect anything else from my parents, but hearing it from Ayame is like a knife in the back. Outside of my family, she's probably the person who knows me the most...maybe even more than them. And she should know how embarrassed and humiliated my parents make me. Heck, I complain to her all the time about them, and no matter how grouchy I get, she always still listens, even though she loves them like they're an aunt and uncle or something. I thought she was at least empathetic enough to understand me, even if she didn’t agree with my thoughts about my life.

That's probably the fastest I've ever packed my bag. I just stuffed a couple sets of clothes and my uniform in there. I won't be back for a while, but these will last. I quickly peek in my wallet. ¥20000. That's good enough for a weekend's worth of convenience store food, at least.

As I turn to leave, one thing catches my eye. It's the seven volumes of The Color of My Heart, the first with the dog-ear where I had stopped. I don't have any reason to honor my bet with Ayame anymore, do I? But...I really do want to figure out if Rairon was lying. At the very least, it will keep me occupied.

I stuff them in my bag and rush out the front door before anyone can say a word to me about it.

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy