I awoke to the falling rain tapping along my bedroom window. The rain has now become gentler. I quickly glanced at the window, it’s evening now. As I continued to lie down on my bed, I picked up my phone and started to scroll mindlessly. Reflecting on the events that happened today.
After lunch, the rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful. While I received some puzzled looks from the staff at school, nobody else bothered me. Once I arrived home, I decided to search online for any information on that weird first year, Rika Tanaka, but unfortunately, my search was fruitless. I guess it’s unsurprising since her surname is the most common in Japan. Looking up via the school’s portal wasn’t helpful either. All I could find was that she’s in class 1-E (a few classes down from my class, 1-A) and that she currently isn’t in any clubs. As my searches kept coming up empty, I took a nap instead.
I heard a knock at the door.
“Master Kazuma,” a voice calls out.
Hmm, it must be the maid. “I’ll be down for dinner in a minute,” I shouted.
“That's not why I’m calling you sir.”
Oh? I got up from my bed and headed towards the door. Once I opened it, I saw the maid standing in front of my bedroom, holding a basket of clean laundry. "Master Kazuma, your father requests that you meet him at the Grand Meeting hall. He also said to please ensure that you look presentable.”
Hmm, the meeting hall...presentable? Looks like we have a guest. But, it can't be one of my father's clients, he's currently taking a hiatus. I sighed, the meeting is for me, isn't it?
"Thank you for letting me know, I’ll be there soon."
“Um,” the maid continues to stare at me intensely.
"Is there something else?"
"Well, sir, if I may, what on earth happened to your shirt?"
"I gave it away to an odd duck."
"...I see. Well, your father wanted me to remind you of the importance of keeping appearances when out in public. Especially shirts."
"Yes, I understand."
After a quick change of clothes, I went down to the Grand Meeting hall. There, a tall, stern figure stands before me.
"Hrmp," he says in a low growl. "Do you know why I call you here?"
“For an arrangement meeting, I presumed."
He nods, "Correct. Son, you do understand the grave importance of these arrangements, for both you and our family."
“Yet, you currently have two failed arrangement meetings. I do not want this meeting to become a third. I hope you have taken the time to reflect on your past failures.”
My failures, please. The first arrangement failed because the girl's third choice decided to take her back. She even said to my face that she would rather be with anyone else than the "unromantic and boring Kazuma Ito." The other one rejected me because she said I was “unlovable and moody.” Well sorry, I’m not the perfect, handsome, lovable, mentally stable, romantic guy.
"I understand," I said.
"Good. Now, you will be meeting with Miss Tanaka. Her family assists with managing an ad company. As her parental figures are abroad, communication will occur through her temporary guardian.”
So I’ll be meeting another "Tanaka" huh? Hopefully, this one is less crazy than the one from earlier.
"Let’s head on in shall we?" My father opened the double doors of the meeting hall. There, I see a girl in a blue dress with white gloves sitting on the couch sipping a teacup. Her medium-length peach-colored hair sits on her shoulders. Her bright green eyes stare back at me. I start to get a weird feeling inside. There’s no way this can be the same girl from earlier. This is just a weird coincidence. Dejavú. That’s all.
Besides her sits an older-looking gentleman. I assume he must be her guardian. The older male gets up from the couch and begins walking towards us. We both took our bows.
"Please take care of Miss Tanaka," he said.
Then my father and her guardian left the room.
Looks like we are alone now. She brings a handkerchief close to her mouth and gently pats her lips. I breathe a sigh of relief. This girl is way too beautiful and proper to be the same Rika Tanaka from earlier. Even her makeup looks stunning. I should at least introduce myself, but before I could, she began to speak.
"Nice to meet you again Ito-kun. Tee-hee."
No, I recognize that tee-hee.
"What are you doing at my house?" I shout. "Are you a stalker? I will call the police!"
Instead of answering, she gets up from the couch and skips towards the fireplace. She begins to stare at the various knickknacks and photos on the shelf.
"Well, are you going to answer?"
"Calm down Ito-kun, you'll make the adults worry. I'm here for the arrangement meeting, silly. I thought that was pretty obvious." She picks up a photo frame. "Honestly, I am surprised to see you too. What a funny coincidence.”
"What-” but before I could finish, she cut me off.
“Ahhh! This photo is so cute! Is this a picture of you and your mother? By the way, where is she? I didn’t see her earlier. Is she abroad as well?"
I sighed, "She passed years ago."
"Oh, I see. "I’m sorry," she said with her head down.
"Don’t worry about it.”
She placed the photo back and returned to her seat. Then she quickly took another sip of her tea. “Hot, hot,” she says as she fans her mouth rapidly. Yeah, there’s no way I'm marrying her. We’re incompatible, a mismatch. I rather deal with another of my father’s lectures than be stuck with her forever.
Well, I should try to reject her gently. There's no need to continue this facade.
"Hey," she said. “How many arrangement rejections do you have?"
Ugh, again with the awkward questions.
She faces away from me, "I have ten."
My mouth dropped, "Ten, seriously?"
Honestly, I am kind of surprised, sure she has her quirks, but still.
"It's a bit funny, well maybe sad, but all my ex-partners have told me similar things. You’re too weird, ugly, immature, unlovable."
"And, let me guess, unromantic," I responded.
"Yes, that too, she laughs." To be honest Ito-kun, I don’t really want to marry you.”
Well that stings.
But, I was wondering, if you are interested in having a fake arrangement."
"A fake arrangement?"
"Yeah, we can help each other become better lovers for our future partners. After all, experience is more valuable than reading or watching films about love. You know life can be so dull, gray, and predictable. So why don’t we make it vibrant, bright, and unexpected."
"Sorry, but that sounds ridiculous."
"Yeah I guess you’re right," she says with a heartfelt smile. "It was a stupid idea anyways."
Damn it. Why can’t I stand seeing her so sad? I have to stop being so soft.
“Well, your idea isn’t completely stupid. When producing a movie you want to use actors with a lot of experience, right.”
"Huh," her eyes widened.
"...I had two failed arrangements. And pretty much my matches said the same kind of things too. Maybe, if I had more experience things could have gone better."
"So does that mean..."
"Wait, I haven't agreed to anything yet. Your parents are abroad right, will the arrangement process still proceed as normal?"
"Yes, for one month we will be in the courtship phase. By the end of the month, we will decide whether we want to pursue the relationship or not. In our case, feel free to break off the relationship at any time, that way it won’t count as a penalty towards you."
"I see, then maybe, we could try it out for a short time I guess." At least my father will stay off my back for a while.
"Yay!" She cheered. She starts to mumble softly to herself. "Hmm now since we’re an unofficial official couple, I wonder what I should wear. Ah, it’s going to be so annoying waking up an extra two hours earlier to do my hair and makeup. But, I have to make sure to look my best."
"Hey, you know if someone like you can look kind of cute drenched in the rain. Then don’t feel like you have to bother putting so much makeup on. A guy should like you for you. Just go with whatever look you feel the most comfortable in.
"Ito-kun..." she shakes her head. "Okay, Kazuma-kun!"
"Kazuma-kun?" Whatever makes Tanaka-san happy, I guess.
"You know this kind of feels like we’re doing a secret mission. Oooh, we should give it a secret code name!"
"Well as long as it’s not something stupid."