Chapter 0:

The Secret Otaku

Love, Manga & Blackmail: A Secret Otaku's Countdown To Romance!


The morning sun filtered through the windows of the classroom, casting its glow atop my desk. And of course, like the cool guy that I am, my seat is stationed at the far end of the class by the window.

My name is Naruse Haruhi, certified ikemen and smooth talker, I excel both at sports and academics, and lead what every nerd would call a privilieged life.

“Hey, wanna hit some karaoke after school?”

“Sure, count me in!”

And as luck would have it, the two bozos interrupting my monologue are none other than my closest friends.

“Oye, Haruhi! You listening?” The taller of the two, and of the bunch, leaning against my desk, addressed me, as he tucked a strand of his curly, well-kempt long brown hair behind his ear. Esaka Chihiro, another certified ikemen. Of course, not nearly as good-looking as me, however. Despite his almost too feminine name and too masculine approach to romancing multiple girls at once, he’s definitely had too much luck with the ladies lately.

Sporting the standard summer school uniform as all us guys, consisting of a short sleeved white shirt, a black tie, and a checkered grey pair of pants, his long slim legs alongside his even slimmer face accentuated his rich boy, prince character archetype to the max.

“Are you spacing out? More monologues? Are you acting like the main character again?” The shorter of the bunch decided to needle me too, with his rapid talking at full display. Evidently, that energetic, bright dude with a kid-like face and short spiky blonde hair, goes by the name of Higashi Riku. Certainly the less blessed and popular of the bunch, he makes up for his lack of height with his attempts at a joke and high-energy.

Talk about having high maintenance friends though…

“Sorry, what was the question again?” With a slightly wry smile, I give my reply.

“Wow, you weren’t even listening…” Chihiro sighed, striking a distressed ikemen pose.

Okay I seriously need to stop calling him that…

“Chihi said we should hit up the karaoke, so what do you say? You in?” Riku explained, bopping his head up and down all the while.

“Karaoke, huh?”

What day was it again? I feel like I’m forgetting something…

“Heyo, boyz.” Suddenly and completely out of the blue. A familiar female voice interrupted my inner monologue once more.

“Mari-chan!” Riku exclaimed at the sudden appearance of three girls primarily standing at the top of the food chain in terms of social standing.

With long straight red hair swinging behind her, and two of her friends serving as entourage, the top gyaru of the school turned to us with a grin.

Koizumi Mari is the name, for anyone wondering.

“What you doing after school?”

“You see, that was exactly what we were talking about Mari-chan!”

“Hm.”

Riku explained, as Chihiro scoffed arrogantly.

“Oh, really? And what did you have in mind?” Mari too, smirked as she playfully cocked her head to the side.

“We were thinking Karaoke.”

“You’d get the chance to listen to my beautiful voice, is what Riku’s getting at.”

“Heh, count us in!” Mari declared, before turning to her entourage. “Sumi, Chiaki, you in right?”

“Ah, yes.” Yumikawa Sumi, the girl with the doll-like face and the short certainly-not-natural pink hair replied, as she glanced at me briefly. Her voice was light, and her tone enticing, and the way the school-issued beige sleeveless cardigan hugged her slim frame, and her short grey checkered skirt showcased her ample thighs was more than just mind-blowing. Heck, even the way her ribbon matched perfectly with the crimson color of her eyes, and the way her scrunchie of the same hue wrapped around her slim arm was enough to make you stare!

Ah, Sumi… As angelic as ever.

“I’m iiiin, too!” Then came the reply from the last member of a very ragtag trio. Kaneko Chiaki, a short, slim girl with very distinct hairstyle protrusions, resembling cat ears, and an even more distinct energetic personality. No doubt she gets along with Riku… nutjobs the both of them.

Seeing as to how I was silent throughout the whole exchange, the top dog of the female population passed me a glance.

“Haruhi, something the matter? You’re coming right?” Mari snickered, before passing me a wink. “Sumi will be there too, you know.”

PFFFFT!

What did that have to do with me?!

“M-Mari-chan!” Sumi on the other hand, protested externally rather than narrating her surprise.

Despite the fact her comment did rile me up somewhat, the popular guy attitude I’ve worked so hard to cultivate didn’t allow me to show it.

“Haha, karaoke tonight, eh?” I smiled, as I got up from my seat. “Sorry, guys. I have other plans for the day.”

“Ehhh?”

“Haru?” Riku raised a brow at my sudden denial.

Passing him an apologetic smile, I tried to dodge a very imminent question.

“You should go on without me, I’ll make it up to you tomorrow.”

“For realz?” Mari slumped her shoulders in clear disappointment, while Sumi glanced back at me once more, her eyes betraying a hint of sadness.

Don’t do this to me, Sumi-chan! I just can’t today!

And that is because I just remembered what day it is…

A very, very important reason for neglecting both my youth, and high normie status.

You see, I Naruse Haruhi, certified ikemen, popular across the school and regular starter at the school’s football team, have a secret.

A very dark, and dangerous secret.

And no, I’m not a superhero, nor a secret agent.

I’m something far more destructive to those around me, and to the status I worked so very hard to build.

I, Naruse Haruhi, am an otaku! And a very hardcore one at that! And today, it just so happens the manga I’m so hooked on lately, is releasing its next volume today!

So I can’t go to karaoke. No matter what!

“Hm, why may I ask, dear friend?” Chihiro, probably sensing something is amiss, raised a brow at me.

“Suspicious….” Chiaki too hissed, as she edged closer to me.

Evasion failed… The pressure is on!

Despite that however, my unwavering confidence can take much more than that until it breaks and I reveal my true colors. My façade isn’t so easy to crack bozos!

“Guys, some things are better left unsaid.” With a dazzlingly handsome smirk, I walk past the two normies closing in on me. “Now, don’t mind me as I go freshen up.”

“Hey, wait!” Chihiro calls out to me before I can leave.

“Wow, Chihi, is that a bug in your hair?”

“What?! Where?! Where is it?!”

And just like that, I use my ultimate trump card as the ever self-centered guy before me writhes in agony and spins around, running hand after hand through his silky, bug-free hair.

“Pwahaha, that’s hilarious!”

“Hehe, Chihiro-kun is moving like a spinning top!!”

“Chihi, calm down there’s no—“

And right as laughter and chaos is brewing within their midst, I make my escape out from the classroom.

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Walking down towards the hallway with my head held high, it is very common that I attract a lot of stares from onlookers. Not many can ignore my high stature, athletic build and greyish hair cut in a stylish undercut.

If only they knew I was an otaku though, I wonder how they’d all react…

Otakus in modern society, and especially in our prestigious school mostly tend to get the cold shoulder from the upper echelon of the student body. In other words, if you want to be someone significant, someone popular, or just lead a life where you’re not constantly getting fingers pointed at you, you need to lay your otaku preferences to rest.

And that’s exactly what I did come high school. And for 2 and a half years, I can safely say I’ve been doing a really good job at it too.

Not once have I found myself in a situation where my secret was in danger of being exposed, and truth be told I have no intention of sticking my neck out either.

If I can just lead, a normal high school life then I’m content—

“Woah!”

“Ah!”

Suddenly, while walking down the hallway and actively daydreaming, I feel something soft collide with my chest, and my eyes turn to a girl before me as she falls backwards and her buttocks hit the ground with a thud.

“Ow…” She winces, as the books she was probably carrying scatter to the floor.

Oops, now I’ve done it…

Better play my ikemen card!

At once, I swiftly collect the items scattered across the floor and hand them over to her. “Apologies. Are you okay?” With a soft smile tugging at my lips, I offer her my hand.

Not a second later, two big emerald-green eyes stare back up at me from behind a pair of round, nerdy glasses. Her face is slim, sharp, yet small, and I’d swear I’d seen it before somewhere. She must be one of my side-character classmates that are always in the background.

“Hmph.” With a face that clearly showcases her animosity towards me, probably for knocking her down, she pushes her glasses up her nose, and gets up on her feet without any need of assistance.

“Eh?” I look on, as she elegantly walks past me and makes her way down the hallway once more, her blonde bundle of hair bopping slightly inside the messy bun they’re tied in.

Was she in a bad mood? Or rather… did my ikemen card really not work on her? Am I losing my touch? Is it a pimple? Lettuce from lunch stuck on my teeth, perhaps?

I really need to have a one on one with the mirror, ASAP.

“Did she just refuse Naruse-kun’s help?”

“Talk about a presumptuous otaku girl. She must know he’s leagues above her, surely!”

The comments of a pair of girls observing the whole ordeal by the side of the hallway don’t fail to reach me.

Although, I kinda feel bad for the girl, they certainly help in lifting my confidence.

And so, as a reward, I turn towards them and shot a wink.

“Ah!”

“Did Naruse just wink at me?!”

“Stupid, he winked at me!”

“No way!!”

As the supporting cast fights over who gets to keep my wink for themselves, I continue on my mission down the school corridor.

Did they say that girl was an otaku though?

I wonder, would I be in the same boat as her had I not hidden my hobbies?

Ah, no point in thinking about both. I’ll probably never have to interact with her ever again, and it’s not like my secret will ever be exposed, either…

Little had I known though, that my life was about to be turned on its head very soon…