Chapter 12:

My Friend is More Thoughtful than She Looks.

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

As we walk out of the teachers’ office and toward the club rooms, Saya breaks the silence. “Everything okay, Kaede?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve looked uncomfortable all week, and you were about to lose it on Mini-Moron back there.”

“Yeah, I was. Thanks for stopping me.”

“It’s what friends are for. Let me guess, something going on with your family?”

“How did you know?”

“There’s a rumor going around the high school that’s so massive it’s reached down here, too. Miku’s little ‘boyfriend’ is dating someone else. The emo kid Kouga from 1-1 and the hyperactive athlete Shiritori are a couple. Someone saw them come out of the same house together in the morning. I put two and two together and realized that if your brother is somewhere apart from you, and you’re acting so weird, there must be trouble.”

“He ran away, actually.” I have no reason to hide it, so I give all the details of what happened to my friend, my mom acting weird and my brother blowing up on her and then running away. If I didn’t tell her, she’d nose around and find out anyways, and I’d rather she hear it from my own mouth instead of getting the wrong idea. I’m glad something terrible didn’t actually happen to him.

If there was one person he would be dating it’s Shiritori. Those two have been inseparable forever, and she’s one of the only people I’ve met who can tolerate my grouchy brother for very long. My parents already love her, so they’d probably push her and Niichan to get married if they find out.

But when it comes to this, there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me. My brother’s love life is none of my business, just like mine is none of his, but I don’t like that pairing, and I can’t put my finger on why. I guess it’s that I don’t really get along with Ayame Shiritori.

“Wow, you’ve had it rough…” Saya trails off as her eyes flick down toward the floor.

“Yeah, my mom freaked out and my dad was trying to calm her down. I had to sit through the whole thing.”

“Whoa. Overreaction much? When I was in elementary school my older brother went ‘I hate you, Dad!’ and threw a vase at him and then stormed off and said ‘You’ll never see me again!’ and my mom was like ‘eh, give him a few hours, he’ll be back’ and sure enough, he was.”

“Yeah. My mom’s kinda weird, though. She acts like a little kid.”

So does Ayame Shiritori, and I guess that’s why they’re two peas in a pod. I’m not surprised my mom let her imagination run wild when my brother ran off. Shiritori probably did, too.

“I know, you’ve told me before,” Saya replies.

I let out a deep, slow breath. “I wish I had noticed my brother was under stress sooner, and had done something to help, but I kept acting like it was none of my business because he didn’t like me…if I had done something we wouldn’t be in this spot right now.”

“That’s so like you, Kaede.”

“What do you mean?”

“You act all disinterested, but whenever you see someone in trouble you’re the first one to help out, just like you did with Sensei. That’s gotta be the fourth or fifth time you’ve saved her from certain doom.”

“I don’t intentionally try to do that. It just happens.”

“Well, I think it’s cool, and that’s why everyone likes you. At least in my opinion.”

“Everyone? You and Miku both are acting like I’m the school idol.”

“I didn’t mean it that way. Have you noticed how so many people in our class want to borrow your eraser, or ask you to help them study, or want to eat lunch with you?”

Really, I hadn’t. Usually I do those things because I don’t see any reason why not doing them would be the better option.

“I think that’s why they voted you as Romeo,” she continues in that singsongy musing voice of hers. “You’re more princely than any of the boys in our class. If you’re into girls, I bet you could have your pick of the entire grade.”

“I’m not, though.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

“You’re thinking about something dirty, aren’t you?”

“I could be~” Saya cracks a mischievous smile.

“This is why I can’t leave you and Miku alone. Who knows what you’d get up to if I wasn’t around…”

“You’re proving my point. Only a saint would be able to tolerate Miku without getting angry enough to slap the stupid out of her.”

“Why are you acting like you’re not included in that category?”

“Ouch. You’re brutal, Kaede.”

“Am I wrong?”

“Uhh…not really,” Saya grimaces. “You know, you’ve never told me why your brother doesn’t like you.”

To be honest, I told a bit of a lie when I said he didn’t like me and I didn’t know why. I had a guess, but I didn’t want to admit it because that would mean I caused it. I have my pride, too.

“It’s for a really stupid reason.”

“Go on,” Saya smirks.

“So when I was eight or so I asked my dad why he named me Kaede and I thought it was because he liked momiji manju or something, but he said he named me after the ‘perfect little sister heroine’ of My Little Sister Is Way Too Cute, because the final volume came out the day I was born and he read it and loved it. So I found the book on his shelves and started to read it, and I thought it was really good, but in the last volume the guy breaks up with his girlfriend and he and his sister-” Ugh, I can’t even finish. Just the thought of that ending is going to make me puke in my mouth a little.

Saya giggles.

“It’s not funny! It traumatized me!”

“It kinda is, though,” she laughs. “Your dad was probably joking. I read that light novel too. My other older brother loved it. I thought when you brought it up you were going to say that your brother’s devious childhood friend told you that siblings being close was sick and wrong so you started hating him.”

“No. And the only person who that could be would be Shiritori.” She’s taking this way too lightly. I was only eight when I saw it! Do you know what that does to a child’s impressionable mind?

“So when are you and Shiritori gonna slap each other red in the face in a park somewhere?”

“Never. She’s not smart enough to pull a scheme like that.”

“Who’s the goth loli otaku?” Saya grins.

“Uhh…that would also be Shiritori. Minus the goth loli part.”

“Wait a minute…does that make me the heroine’s serious but secretly sweet friend Ayaka?”

“No. That doesn’t describe you at all. Shut up about the siscon LN, you sound like my dad.”

“I’m not trying to piss you off.” I don’t buy that. Even if it’s not on purpose, Saya sure looks like she’s having fun at my expense.

“I think it’s funny because my parents are the same way. My dad’s a baseball freak and he named my older brothers Ran and Rui,” she continues. That’s…actually kinda messed up. You might as well name your kids Koshien and Homer.

“One of them went to college in Hokkaido and the other went to college in America just so they could get away from my dad because he would have pestered them nonstop about trying out for the team. Before I applied to Shinchoushi, I checked to make sure that the baseball team banned female managers or else I would be in the dugout every day scribbling down stats and hating my life. Thank God for tradition.”

“That’s not really the same as my dad…”

“It’s more similar than you think. You can be an otaku about anything, and he happens to be a baseball otaku. And Miku’s parents are professors who are constantly trying to scientifically prove the concept of love, and Mutsuki’s parents are personal trainers who make her run her own exercise class, and Himari’s mom is a lawyer and when her dad proposed to her she whipped out a 90-page document in response…Your parents aren’t the only embarrassing ones. At least I don’t think so. Heck, I think Konatsu’s parents are media otaku too. Just the other day she was complaining how they bought VIP tickets to go see Project 25/8 and just left her alone without telling her where they were. You know, the virtual idols who have their own anime.”

I have zero knowledge about virtual idols, but the name sounds familiar, so I just nod. I’m surprised by how much Saya knows about the girls in our class, but she loves finding out that kind of stuff, and she’s good at getting people to spill personal details about themselves.

“I’m trying to make you feel better. Parents are always going to be embarrassing, but there are a lot of others in the same boat as you. None of us get to choose who our parents are, so you should try and appreciate their good sides instead of focusing on their bad. Weird parents are better than none at all. Not trying to sound too sentimental, but I genuinely believe that,” Saya finishes.

“Uh-huh.” I was so caught up in our conversation and Saya’s extremely unusual philosophical musings that I didn’t realize we’d made it outside and all the way to the club buildings and sports fields. I zoned out and just kinda went on autopilot. “Okay, first is…” I look down at the paper. “High school girls’ track team.” 


The two school buildings of Shinchoushi are separated, but for club activities they share a lot of the same facilities. All the cultural clubs used to share the same building until a new one was built for the high school. The sports teams still do share the fields and the gyms, since it’s not like we can buy more land. Some teams, like the baseball teams, have enough fields where both teams can use them almost every day, and some, like the martial arts teams (like what Niichan’s part of), are only sponsored at the high school level, so they get buildings to themselves. In other cases, like the track team, there’s only one track and four separate teams have to use it, so they rotate. I’m hoping the high school girls won’t be on it today, so I can throw up my hands and tell Sensei “We tried” and move onto the next one.

My prayers have not been answered. The track is swarming with girls in blue-and-white striped spandex (the middle school teams wear black), some tall, some short, some long-haired, some short-haired, brown and black and (fake) blonde and another color or two. There must be at least 100 of them.

I start to get hesitant as we get closer, and Saya seems to pick up on it and looks at me with a bit of a worried expression, but doesn’t say anything. Maybe if I find the captain quickly, I can get in and get out without having to run into someone I don’t want to see right now.

I walk up to a short-haired girl. “Um, excuse me…where’s the captain?”

She looks a little surprised to see two girls wearing the royal blue jackets and solid gray skirts of the middle school, but points over to a girl standing on the start-finish line, wearing a red armband. “That’s her.”

“Thanks.” The closer I get to her, the more I notice that she’s intently concentrating on something else.

A blue blur whizzes past all of our eyes, screeching to a halt at the end of the track. As the figure comes to rest, a tall, lean shape with a disheveled ponytail comes into focus.

“Shiritori, 12.31!” the girl wearing the armband calls out. “New personal best!”

“Let’s go!” I hear a triumphant cry, and a few of the girls around turn to look, but quickly turn away and some murmur to each other. It seems like she’s the only excited one here.

I quickly try to get the captain’s attention, hoping that the girl panting with her hands on her knees won’t turn around and notice me. “Um, Ms. Captain, we’re from the middle school. Kawano-sensei needs your Cultural Festival event form…”

“Uh, yeah,” she turns around. “I’ll have to find it, though. Shiritori!”


“Where’d I put the form? There’s someone here for it!”

“In the red folder next to the towel bin.” Aw, crap. She saw me and Saya and now she’s looking at me the same way a dog looks at a new toy, or how a little kid looks at candy. “Ah! Kaede-chan! I haven’t seen you in a while…like maybe a week or’re looking really cute today! Like usual.”

“Uhh, thanks?” I’m trying to subtly let Ayame Shiritori know I’m not interested, but in the time it takes me to blink she’s up in my personal space. “Did you get new eyeshadow? You look just like Shizuru from Walk On Down The Runway!”

“No, it’s the same kind I normally use…” This is uncomfortable, and I have no idea who Shizuru is.

If you’re thinking it’s strange for me to dislike someone I’ve known since I was little…you’re right. She wasn’t always as unpleasant as she is now, but, if we’re telling the truth, I never liked her very much. I was a really shy girl and someone who’s as forceful as her is…intimidating. It was fine when my brother was around and there were a bunch of other kids so her attention wasn’t on me. Then everyone else left or moved away, we grew up, and she became taller and prettier, but no less hyperactive and obnoxious.

Miku is annoying, and my parents are annoying, but Shiritori is annoying in a different way. All of them are annoying in the pitiful, childish way that makes you want to look out for them. Shiritori is annoying like a battering ram, just slamming you and slamming you until she breaks your guard down.

“Lucky you.” She shrugs her shoulders with a plaintive sigh. “I wish I could do makeup like you, but the last time I tried it made me look like a ghost.”

Even that comment, so innocent, sounds backhanded to me. She doesn’t need to put makeup on, or lipstick, or anything. Here she is after having just run a 100-meter flat out, sweating like a pig, and her delicate features haven’t changed a bit. She could be a model.

That alone is enough to piss me off. She's got a face like a JKB idol and she’s tall and has long legs and she’s thin enough that you can see the muscles in her flat stomach clench at the end of each heavy breath she takes. She must be one of those people who can eat anything and not get fat…meanwhile I have to go on a diet every month.

And she’s got a bigger chest than me. I’m not that flat, and I’m still growing, but she beats me by...two sizes, at minimum. I thought jocks were supposed to be washboards. Not her. I know she wears that skimpy outfit for training, but watching her prancing around in it, it feels like she’s showing off.

She’s a natural beauty, and if she put the same amount of effort into her appearance as your average girl does, she’d have every man in the country worshiping her. But instead she’s a weird, annoying nerd and all of those good genetics are totally wasted on her.

Now do you see why I don’t like her?

I have to ask her something. I wouldn’t have done this just for Miku’s sake, but I want to know, too.

“Shiritori-san, are you dating Niichan?”

She cocks her head. “Haru-kun? No.”

There’s a chance she’s lying, but she looks so innocent.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” She pauses for a second. “Wait, why are you so interested? Are you in your brocon phase? Oh, brother!” Then she breaks out laughing, clutching her sides.

I can just feel myself reddening and see Saya’s smirk behind me without having to turn around. That makes two people I’ve wanted to piledrive today.

Relief from a pending torrent of bad puns comes in the form of the captain, who comes back over with the form. “Here it is.” She apologetically hands it to us. “Sorry for the delay. I had it filled out a couple days ago but just forgot to turn it in.”

“It’s no problem,” Saya replies. “Come on, next one.”

The next club couldn’t come fast enough. I ignore the idiot waving goodbye like we’re best friends and book it out of there.

“Well, she was pretty forceful.” Saya finally breaks the silence.

All I can do is release my pent-up frustration in the form of a long huff. “I have no idea how Niichan puts up with her.”

“Why don’t you ask him yourself?”

“Do what?”

“Go and ask him what he likes about her.”

“I don’t want to know.”

Saya pauses. “Kaede…are you jealous of her?”

“Yeah.” The ease of my answer surprises even me.

“That’s kinda surprising coming from you.”

“What? I can get jealous sometimes. Do you think I don’t have feelings?”

I know it’s probably impossible, but I’m still holding onto a fantasy where one day my sulking, grumpy teenage brother would turn back into the strong and fearless one who I loved so much. I want our relationship to improve, to go back to what it used to be, but if he got a girlfriend there would be no chance of that dream ever coming true. At that point I might as well not exist to his first love-addled brain. And Shiritori is already annoying enough…if she gets all lovey-dovey over Niichan it will be unbearable.

Saya’s voice jolts me from my funk. “Anyways, let’s split up.”


“We’ll split up. We’ll get more done that way. There’s four more to go, so you take the top two on the list, I’ll take the bottom two.”

“I guess, but shouldn’t we have done this from the start-”

Then I see it. Number two on the list, high school karate team.

Damn it, she set me up.

“I said you should ask him yourself.” And she takes off before I can call out to her to come back and explain herself.

Well, guess I have no choice but to do it.

As I wander around the fields around the club rooms, I start to realize I have no idea where the Karate Team meets. They’re probably in a dojo, but what if they’re in a shed or a classroom? After five more minutes of aimless wandering, an old, distinguished-looking building stares back at me. There’s noises and grunts coming from inside, but I can’t see a door.

I’ve circled the building twice when I hear a voice coming from behind me. “Are you lost?”

I whirl around and there’s a boy standing in front of me in a gi. It’s slightly unkempt, and I can see enough to tell he’s probably pretty fit, but it’s loose so I’m having trouble figuring out much else. Below medium-length, silky, bleached hair, two deep brown eyes stare back at me gently.


He’s really cute.

It takes me a minute before I realize he probably thinks I’m a suspicious person. I’ve been snooping around this building for a few minutes.

“Uhh, I’m looking for the karate team…is this it?”

He laughs musically. “This is the judo dojo. You’re close. I’m on the team and I got sent out to go get something. Come on, I’ll help you.”

He starts off at a brisk pace, and although I try to follow close behind, it’s hard for me to match his large strides. Finally, he stops at another old-looking dojo. “Wait just a second.” He smiles and goes inside. I only get about thirty seconds to catch my breath and listen to the yelling and grunting floating out the cracked door before he returns. “Here you go, miss.” He’s got a really nice smile.

He’s going back inside…his back is almost as good as his front…I could sit here and watch it all day…

Hold on, I didn’t ask him what I needed to!


He turns around.

Phew, just in time.

“Is Haruto Kouga there?”

He scratches his chin. “Haru? Uhh, haven’t seen him.” For a minute I can see some confusion in his eyes. “Well, see ya.”

I didn’t realize there was someone that looked like him on my brother’s team, and he was super nice. It’s like he was taking care of a lost child at the mall or something. And he was cute, too.

I wonder when I’ll see him again…Him? Wait, what was his name?

I didn’t get it!

Well, I guess I have to go looking for him some other time.

Pope Evaristus
Steward McOy