Chapter 13:

The Otaku is Fun?

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

As Chihiro's phone pointed in our direction, my knees began to tremble like leaves in the wind. The temperature in the room seemed to rise abruptly, making my penguin costume feel unbearably stuffy. All color drained from my face as memories of my former popularity flashed before me, reminding me of a future that would never come to pass.

After what felt like an eternity, Chihiro swiftly pocketed his phone with a charming smirk, and vanished back into the crowd along with everyone else. They were gone. Just like that.

I felt a vibration in my pocket, indicating that the footage had been sent somewhere. And I knew exactly where that was.

Yep, rest in peace, ikemen, Naruse Haruhi.


After we were presented with a cheap excuse for a prize to our victory, the four of us left the venue.

“It’s over… It’s over… Everything is over…”

Crestfallen, I repeated again and again, slumped against a bench like a sludge of melting ice cream.

“What’s the matter with him?” Endo pointed at me, looking utterly creeped out.

“Naruse is… dying.” Morishita remarked, sniffling.

“He’s not…” Ichika looked at me momentarily, the confidence she had in her answer gradually dwindling, “….dying?”

I’m not dying! Then again, I might as well be…

What the hell am I supposed to do now? I haven’t even checked the group chat messages but I’m pretty sure I’m receiving some serious slander! Not only did I lie to them, but I was also revealed as an otaku! The kind of otaku that attends cosplay couple competitions dressed as a damn penguin for crying out loud!

“Oye.” Ichika grabbed my mask and pulled it off, causing it to snap back against my face with a painful thud.

“Ouch!” I cried, rubbing my nose. “What the hell’s your problem?!”

“What’s got your panties in a twist, dude?” Lowering herself on my level, she whispered.

“My social life is in complete tatters that’s what…” I sniffled back.

“What? Did they find you out? Even after all that dressing up?!” Ichika narrowed her eyes in disbelief. “…Then I dressed up like Lilia-chan for nothing?!”

“Who cares!? My life is ruined, dude!” I buried my face in my palms dramatically. Ah, goodbye, sweet normie life.

“Are you sure they recognized you, though?”

“Eh?” I uttered, looking up. “I mean, why would they take a picture of me if they didn’t…?”

“Have you seen the picture?”

“Uhm, no?”

“Wow, you’re such a drama queen…” Ichika sighed in exasperation, as I suddenly perked up and scrolled through our group chat.


The ongoing conversation was about…

Mari-chan’s selfies?

At least that’s what it seemed like.

Scrolling further into the chat log, I came across the picture I was looking for.

Ah, I knew it…

“Hmm…” Ichika rubbed her chin, as she glanced over my shoulder.

“Wait…” I looked at the caption below said image, quickly reading the text.

Look at all those nerds in costumes…LOL!


So that’s why he took a picture?! To mock some random cosplayers?!

And further below, it seemed a certain someone had caught Mari’s eye…

That stupid penguin though, LMAO…


What the hell…? They roasted my ass without even realizing it was me!

Without realizing it was me…

Suddenly, a grin crept up on my face.

“Heh…” Ichika smirked as well. “See? You really a drama queen!”

“I….” Slumping back against the bench, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. “I’m safe!”

“Hey, what the hell is going on?”

“I have no idea…”

Endo and Morishita exchanged dumbfounded looks, while I looked up at the sky.

My secret… really was safe!


After successfully returning the costumes back at that cosplaying tent, me and Ichika decided to part ways with her friends.

That whole ordeal of dressing up, and trying not to be caught left us both exhausted after all, for different reasons each. Morishita and Endo still had it in them to enjoy more of the festivities, however.

Apart from all the drama we faced, we also got a good deal back at the cosplay tent, since the young woman who worked there gifted us the rental fee, saying it was to commemorate our win.


As the sun dipped below the horizon in the distance, I let out a tired sigh.

As the bus rocked slightly, I felt Ichika’s shoulder brush against mine at times.

It had been a strange day, to say the least, and we were now on our way home. The bus we were on was eerily quiet, with only a few other passengers scattered throughout.

Sneakily, I glanced at Ichika.

She really won us that contest with her Lilia-chan outfit… Now that she was back in her regular clothes, memories of how she looked just a few hours ago flooded my mind. She often downplayed her appearance, wearing boyish hoodies and oversized shirts most of the time.

“What?” Noticing my long stare, Ichika gave me a side-eye of her own.

“Nothing,” I suppressed a chuckle. “I was just thinking how you won us that competition single-handedly with that cute outfit of yours.”

The spoils of our victory, including Ichika's prize, rested in her embrace. She seemed to hold the Pingin plushie with special care. The other prize, a plain old trophy with a star on top, definitely seemed less significant in comparison.

“Huh?” With a beet red face, she turned away slightly. “Still going on about that…?”

“Well, yeah, since we didn’t get caught….”

“You sure made me go through serious trauma…” she glowered at me, her bashfulness evaporating in an instant.

“Heh, says the one blackmailing me…” I shrugged as my words caused Ichika’s face to drop slightly.

After a gulp, as if swallowing a lump in her throat, she spoke, looking at her feet.

“About that…” She began, visibly distressed, “…I’m sorry.”

Her voice carried a heavy weight as she mustered the courage to apologize, “I know I’m being unreasonable most of the time, and I know you owe me nothing… Heck, you’re only doing this because I’m blackmailing you… what am I even saying?”


I stared back at her, puzzled, as she struggled to gather her thoughts.

“I’m sorry about blackmailing you, is what I’m saying.”

“Does that mean you’ll—“

“I can’t… I need to keep this up… I’m sorry.”

With a fleeting gaze, she turned towards the sunset painting the pictures across our window a deep orange.


“Then don’t apologize, idiot…” I chuckled playfully, “You’re sending mixed signals here.”

"If I don't have a boyfriend, then my father will force me into an arranged marriage... And I don't want that. I just want to live my life. Normally... without any forced relationships,"

Her father really had that much power over her, huh? She did seem meek around him during THAT dinner, too.

Why, though? It’s not like Ichika wasn’t strong willed. Yet something shifted whenever her father addressed her. Something subconscious.

“You know… I was really surprised.”

I began, my words flowing without conscious thought.


“Yeah, when I saw you act all meek around your dad…”


"I thought to myself, 'There's no way that's the real Ichika!’, or something along those lines.”

“What do you mean?”

I grinned, turning my gaze towards the sunset, its warm glow reflected in the buildings outside.

“The Ichika I know is headstrong, and doesn’t bow down to anyone. When she wants, she’s a force to be reckoned with.”

“Huh?” Ichika's voice carried a hint of embarrassment.

“I think you can do better. Tell your father off even… One day. I mean, you don’t have to do anyone’s bidding. That’s not who you are. Just live your life… or something?”

I honestly didn’t know where I was going with this. All I knew was that I had to get it off my chest.

“Me? Headstrong?” Ichika muttered to herself, tightening her grip on the items she held.

As I turned to look at her, there was something mystical dancing across her expression, something foreign… Something beautiful.

No matter how much she tried to mask it, or avoid it…

Ichika really was beautiful.


There was a lot of depth in her soul, intertwined with a web of problems and complexities I had yet to unravel

So much I didn’t yet know.

So much that… I had the longing to explore.

Who was the girl behind that short temper? Behind that lonely gaze?

Suddenly, I felt her staring back at me, a blush tinting her cheeks.

“Thanks, I guess…” Ichika smiled weakly, hiding her face away from mine in a fit of embarrassment.

As we continued our journey home, the bus trundled along, and the atmosphere between us grew more tranquil. The vibrant hues of the sunset painted a picturesque backdrop outside the window, casting a warm glow upon Ichika's features. It was as if the beauty of the scenery mirrored the complexities within her.

Suddenly though, she broke the silence.

“Not really convincing when it comes from someone who plays up a role, just to be likeable though…”


That physically hurt, dude! And here I was, being nice and all that crap!

Almost like she was reborn from her ashes, Ichika turned around with a smirk.

“You should give yourself more credit too, you know.”

“Huh?” I uttered, caught off guard. Or was there a hidden insult somewhere in there? I couldn't quite decipher her intentions

“You’re way more fun like this… instead of that pompous ass façade…”

Me… fun?

Was this really a compliment?

As I gazed at her smirking face, a smile tugged at my lips too. There was something contagious about her playfulness. Something new. Fresh.

Suddenly, I realized that today, we had both discovered something new about each other.

What started out as another fake date, turned out to be a learning experience...

I guess—

Wait! I completely forgot!

“Hey, why did you even invite me to the convention in the first place, today?”

“Oh, yeah!” She suddenly exclaimed, as she leaned extremely close to me and pulled out her phone.

With half a smile, she aimed the front camera straight at us, and snapped a pic.


I was left dumbfounded.

“A photo.”

“A photo?”

I repeated after her.

“I thought if we sent my parents a few photos, it would make our relationship more believable.”

I went through all this, for a… photo? A snap? A click?

As the curtain fell on our latest escapade, I looked out the window yet again, the sun now having being erased from the canvas completely.

Now, I was certain.

With Ichika around… normal was definitely not an option.

Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64