Love, Manga & Blackmail: A Secret Otaku's Countdown To Romance!
“T-Thanks for having me…” Under the scrutinizing gaze of Ichika’s father, I carefully stepped into the humble Hayasaka household for a second time this month.
“Welcome, dear!” Kaori-san beamed at me, all dressed up yet again.
Yet this time, it wasn’t for any kind of occasion that concerned me. Ichika’s parents were apparently going out tonight.
“Welcome, Haruhi-kun.” Yuuto-san finally threw a dismissive greeting my way. “…I trust you’ll behave yourself while we’re gone?”
Glancing between Ichika, who was on her loungewear, and me, all dressed up, her father raised a brow.
What were we? 10?
“Don’t worry, father.” Ichika finally nodded, passing me a glance.
“Of course, Yuuto-san.” Despite the weird nature of the question, I gave a slight smile in reassurance.
Did he just scoff at me?
“Ichika, the stun gun’s in the dresser by my side of the bed. If you need it—“
“Father…” Ichika sighed, cutting him off.
The what now? Did I hear that right?
“Oh yes, and the gun—“
The what now?!
“Haha, Yuuto, always the one to jest!” Kaori-san abruptly dragged her husband through the door, very visibly sweating.
“Have fun tonight! Ichika, the cookies are in the oven!”
Ichika shouted back to her mother as her parents closed the door behind them with a click.
“Cookies?” I mused.
“What? Want some?”
“Depends on what?” Ichika narrowed her eyes at me, her arms crossed over her light blue oversized t-shirt.
“Well, if it’s you who made them—“
“Where was that stun-gun again…?”
“I’m kidding! I’m kidding!” I prostrated myself before her in a hurry. I wasn’t about to get murdered tonight for badmouthing Ichika’s cooking!
“Bring on the bullet rice, OYE!” I cheered like a fan in the stadium causing Ichika’s expression to loosen.
“Bullet rice? I mean there were some complications with the water and…” She eventually shook her head, walking further into the house. “…Nevermind. Come.”
Guiding me through the hallway, and into the first door to her right, Ichika turned the fluorescent light of her lamp on with a soft click.
“Woah.” I exclaimed. It was just like mine! Posters, game consoles, a computer, as well as a big wardrobe lined with a ton of figurines… It almost feels like I passed through a portal to my own room!
As I inspected it further, I started figuring out the differences. Her room was painted in girlier pastel colors, featuring a few shades of pink and yellow. The next distinction was the lack of porn mag— I mean, the amount of plushies and cushions on her humongous bed. Atop that, laid a lineup of anime themed plushies. Leading the charge of cuteness, was none other than the Pingin I had gifted her during the anime convention.
What caught my eye most of all though, was something else…
“That bed is huge!” I exclaimed loudly. I almost wanted to jump headfirst onto it, but that would be bad manner even for me.
“I know, my dad insisted I was comfortable when we first decorated this room… 11 years ago?” Ichika replied, making her way towards the king-size bedding, folding her hands atop her lap. “…But then, he up and left.”
“At least he didn’t go buy milk.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
I snorted, seating across from her, on the floor cushions stationed around the small coffee table in the center of the room.
A small silence hung in the air for a moment.
The reason I was here in the first place, was because Ichika decided to invite me here, just so her parents had no reason to doubt I was actually coming over. She also said something about taking a few pictures again… maybe to make it more believable?
But that also meant I had no obligation to stay AFTER this whole ordeal was dealt with. Ichika could tell her parents I had already gone home, while I was…
On a date, with SU-MI-CHAN!
See, what a genius this ikemen dude is? I had no reason to cancel a plan I could attend, after all.
“You seem oddly relaxed in my room…” Ichika raised a brow, while I was smiling at my own brilliance.
True. There was something serene and calming about the atmosphere in her room despite it being my firs—
Pfft! Did you seriously think this was my first time in a girl’s room?
“Well, it kinda looks like mine…” I said, propping my chin with my fist. “…Minus the Lilia-chan shrine, of course.”
“You have… a shrine?”
“Sure, how else am I supposed to worship her?”
“Haaah…” With an exasperated sigh, Ichika waltzed out the room. “I’m bringing the cookies.”
Quick prayer; may the mom have graced us with her cooking, and not the devil instead…
“Mhm, this is pretty good actually…” I commented, while munching on a cat-shaped cookie, that was indeed made by Kaori-san.
My prayers have been answered…
“Why are you thanking… the ceiling?” Ichika arched a brow, as she munched on one shaped like a dolphin.
“Nah, just my ritual before eating cookies.” I shrugged, gulping down the barley tea my fake girlfriend had also kindly provided.
The cookies were made in various shapes, mostly animals, and were softly and melty to the tongue. As I went about picking another, a black, burnt mass of a cookie that looked like a piece of coal caught my attention.
“Who tortured the poor guy?”
I pointed at said snack with a grimace.
“Oh, this?” Ichika perked up. “I made it!” She flashed me a toothy, proud grin.
Ichika-chan, I am sorry to be the one to inform you, but there’s nothing to be proud of here.
“May the dough’s soul rest in peace…”
“Oye!” Ichika hissed like a thug, as I clasped my hands together in prayer once more. This household made me feel oddly religious today.
“Stop trying to summon something in here and… s-say…” Losing her rebellious attitude, Ichika stuttered and leaned across the table “…Aaah.”
With a stretch of her arm, she presented me a cookie. But not just any cookie. It was the kidnapped, tortured, and eventually executed, John the 3rd. I just named him that, by the way.
I eyed the burnt cookie once more and tried not to grimace.
“Why?” I questioned.
“S-shut up… I just wanted you to try it…” Ichika blushed slightly, avoiding eye contact.
As much as I wanted to vehemently deny her proposal of feeding me that abomination, I eventually exhaled in resignation.
Well, I doubt anyone else ever eats her cooking, so I guess I’ll take one for the team to appease her.
Trying not to feel too embarrassed, I opened my mouth.
I munched on the black cookie, my expression studious, pondering, evaluating.
“S-so?” Ichika fidgeted awkwardly, eyeing me in anticipation.
Bad. Like what you’d expect from a burnt cookie. All I could taste was… bitterness.
How does one manage to make a cookie taste so… bleh? And how did she even manage to overcook it? Wasn’t it getting baked together with the rest of them in the oven?
“…Time for me to teach you how to cook.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Ikemen Haruhi’s and Tsundere Ichika’s cooking show!” I used a ladle as a microphone, and spun in place wearing a frilly apron, just like those cosplay announcers had taught me.
“Who you calling a tsundere, oye?!” Ichika paired her deep frown with a blush, crossing her arms over her frilly apron, that was identical to mine.
“Now, now, miss co-host, don’t get so uppity!”
“I’m not a co-host! And why are you wearing my mom’s apron?!”
“You’ll learn the answer to that…” With another spin, I pointed a finger gun at an imaginary camera. “In the next chapter!”