Chapter 14:

Interlude: Mask

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


I groan, as I unlock the front door to my safe heaven.

Oh, home sweet home!

I think to myself, after what has been a very eventful day.

The setting sun had retreated back behind the tide of buildings surrounding my neighborhood, but a good deal of orange gleam was still coating the living room in a luminescent light.

My mom was probably too engrossed in her cooking to notice, and no one else seemed to be home beside her. Mouthing a quick greeting, I slumped against the couch like I just came back from a 9 to 5.


My mom called out, as she made her way towards me.

Was that the so-called mother radar at work?

“Something the matter?”

“Nah, just kinda tired.” I shrugged, fiddling with the television remote.

“Hmm…” She leaned closer, eyeing my face.

“W-what?” I couldn’t help but flinch.

“You do seem tired, but…” She paused for a moment.


“… You seem like… you had fun.” My mother finally smiled, retreating away from my personal space.

“What the….?” I looked back in puzzlement, “How can you tell something like that?”

Mothers, I swear…

Was her hunch really on the mark, though?

“It’s a mother’s job to know such things.” She said, grabbing the remote from my hands. “Now scoot. Mom’s favorite show is about to come on.”

She smirked, giving me a mighty prompt with her hip.

Still mulling over things, I stared blankly at the flickering lights of the TV.

At first, I passed my meeting with Ichika’s friends as just another group of nerds, much to my audacity, but it appears they are actually a funny lot. The event too, was impressive. It had been a while since I let loose like that. 

Today was certainly quite the experience. Not to mention trying to avoid exposing my identity as an otaku and all.

“Did I… really have fun?” I muttered lowly.

“Hm?” My mother looked over. “Haru?”

Supposing I did have a good time… 

“Say, mom…”


I wracked my brains, looking for the right words to say.

“There’s this friend that needs some advice, yeah?”

“Sure, sure. A friend.” My mother nodded vigorously, so I continued.

“So… he kind of hides his true self, in order to maintain a high social status at school. One day though, he happens to go out with a group of people that share his true, hidden hobbies. Supposing he had fun…” I gulped, turning away from my mom’s burning gaze. “Where does that leave him?”

“Where does that leave him… huh?” My mom seemed to ponder my words, bringing her index finger to her chin.

“So you want to say something to that friend of yours? Like some advice?”

“Yeah, advice would be good, I guess.” I nodded.

“Then if it were up to me, I’d tell him to follow his heart.” My mother finally smiled, bopping her head with a hearty nod.

“Follow… his heart?” I furrowed my brows.

A: That sounds really cliché and B: How do you go about doing that, exactly? Is there some sort of heart code I need to decipher?

“Yes.” She gave another unwavering nod. “All of what you said makes sense actually.”

“It does?”

“Sure. When one conceals their true feelings, their true nature, it gets exponentially harder for them to have fun.” My mom smiled wide at me, almost as if realizing who that advice was actually aimed at. “So, it’s only natural if they had fun with people they had nothing to hide from.”

“Nothing to hide from?”

Nothing to hide from.

Those words certainly rung true deep within me. I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. When I was with Ichika and the rest I didn’t have to pretend to be someone cool. Someone popular. Someone I actually wasn’t.

“Maybe that was where he could actually be himself?” She finally said, as I hung my head back, gaze fixed at the ceiling.

Did I ever act like myself around Chihiro and the others? Have I ever actually acted through my OWN genuine volition, or was I always putting up an act?

I wonder, where do the lies end, and where does the truth begin?

This persona, this façade that I’ve forged, has actually been weaved into my true personality.

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

Ichika however, saw the real me. She saw through my mask.

How could she tell the real me, even when I myself couldn't do it?

Rising from the couch, I smiled at my mom.

“Thanks mom. I’ll go tell my friend that.”

“Sure, give them my most heartfelt regards.” She nodded, understanding all that was left unsaid, like a true mother.

I wanted to find myself. The true, Naruse Haruhi.

The Haruhi I had hidden deep within.

That much was true.

Should he surface back up however, I will be at a loss for what to do.

I won’t let him… let me, go through the same thing again.

Not ever.

Even if I have to keep up the lies.

Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64