Love, Manga & Blackmail: A Secret Otaku's Countdown To Romance!
As the night neared its end and our date came to a close, I had the perfect idea to make it even more memorable.
“Hey Sumi, let’s ride that next.” I pointed to the newest attraction of the amusement park that I had found after a quick search online. I had purposefully waited until it got late too, so we wouldn’t have to wait in line.
“Oh, sure!” Sumi nodded happily, as I took the lead.
It was a large pond-like pool, filled with little boats in the shapes of swans that you could rent.
It was supposed to be a romantic, couple attraction during the day, but after sundown it still held quite the interesting sight. With underwater and off-lamp illuminations, and a bed of rose petals swimming along the surface of the water, the vibe was definitely not lost even during the night.
After the attendant at the gate briefed us, we made for one of the boats resting atop the water.
Of course, Sumi picked the boat, and I picked up the rows. The heavy rows, might I add.
I had trained for this exact same day, however, so I plastered on my smile and began rowing into the pool clad in a rosy blanket.
A lovely view, a lovely night, and a lovely girl before me.
But something was amiss.
Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Why was I still feeling this way? Is it the nerves? But I’ve been on dates before… Heck, I’ve been in this amusement park twice already too.
I always thought Sumi was special. She doesn’t feel like any other girl. Maybe it’s testament to that? Maybe she’s so special that my poor brain and dopamine levels are acting all out of whack?
“Haruhi-kun? You getting tired?” Sumi looked at me, slightly worried.
“Nah…” I shrugged, grinning “I’m good, I can take this much.”
Man, this was killing me. I better not tell coach a flimsy ass boat ride wore me out!
Nevertheless, we had gone off deep into the pool now. Other couples were milling about too, in their own little boats. Their own little bubbles.
Reaching a satisfactory point from where the trees concealed us completely from the rest of the park, and our boat was wrapped in greenery and blue, I turned to Sumi.
We could talk here. A lovely wrap to a… lovely night.
“The view is lovely, Haruhi-kun!” Sumi beamed as she looked around the illuminated pond, her smile never leaving her face.
“It really is. Especially those little petals here…” I reached my hand out to the water and grabbed one.
“Oh.” I frowned, as it rested on my hand. “They’re just… plastic.”
“Heh…” Sumi giggled, concealing her grin with her hand.
“Man, would it kill them if they put something more romantic?” I shrugged, letting the petal back into the pond.
Another giggle from Sumi.
“I hope there aren’t any alligators around here, either. You know for extra bonding moments.”
“Yeah. There’s this thing in shows, where characters bond over life-threatening situations.”
“Shows? What kind of shows do you watch Haruhi-kun?” Sumi cocked her head to the side.
Anime. But I can’t say that now, can I?
Maybe I dug my own hole with this remark.
“Uh, just the typical, late-night drama.” I replied, trying to wipe the big target I had drawn off my back.
“Oh, I see.” Sumi nodded, looking away out into the night. “I watch them too…”
She tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, blushing.
Sumi smiled, embarrassed.
“I wanna become an actress…” She blushed a deeper shade of red as she proclaimed. “So maybe you get to see me on one of those dramas one day!”
With a beaming, but bashful smile, she laid her heart bare to me.
She had decided to speak about her dream with me. Her ambition. It took some courage to say something so out of the blue, and almost unattainable for a mere high school student.
Sure, Sumi was beautiful, and had both the face and figure to have a role in a play, even minor. It wasn’t easy to make it big however.
She had still said it, despite that.
Hoping that I’d get to see her in the dramas... I don’t even watch.
I was… dishonest. I had threw a bait in the waters, and Sumi trusted me and took it all in. Hook, line and sinker.
There was something about this whole exchange that encased my heart in a thorny vine of guilt.
But even so, I smiled.
“That’s…” I smiled even brighter. “…A great ambition to have, Sumi.”
“Y-You… think so?” She looked away, slightly embarrassed.
“I do. I really do. I hope you can achieve it someday.”
“What do you wanna do… uhm…” She tripped over her words, tongue-tied and still red in the face. “…in the future?”
I wanted to scoff at that.
I had no ambition after all.
You’d think someone with my grades would have plenty on his mind regarding university.
But no. Not me.
I was just some fool, drunk on the idea that he was a productive member of society. Someone cool. Someone noteworthy.
For some reason the emotions I had tried to suppress through my persona had come bubbling up. Despite the enchanting setting, I couldn't escape my inner turmoil, no matter what. Like the rose petals adorning the water; my insecurities were threatening to surface.
The whole reason I became what I am today, was to hide who I actually was. To become someone. Or to just fool myself in the process.
It seemed my thoughts had clouded my vision, and when it all came back to focus, Sumi was staring at me in concern.
In response to her words, I…
“Ah, I was thinking of becoming a lawyer, actually.”
“Oh.” Sumi perked up. “I think it would suit you! You have a way with words, I believe.”
I had my way with lying half the time, was what seemed more appropriate to say.
The weight inside my chest only grew.
I lied. Again.
“Heh, did you see the latest episode yesterday?!”
“Totally! It was tops! Lilia-chan is adorable!”
The chatter of a couple, that weaved past us on another swan-boat carried over to us for a fraction of a second.
I looked over at what I presumed was an otaku couple.
“I know, and Pingin got such a nice power-up to protect her this time around!”
The two of them chuckled at the other’s remarks, animatedly talking about their shared interest.
I tried to brush it all aside, and so I turned back to my date.
“…” Sumi’s face though, had turned sour.
I was hesitant to ask, but I did it all the same.
“Is something… wrong?”
“Hm…” She cast a side glance towards the otaku couple drifting away, somewhat ticked off. “I just don’t get how people like that stuff.”
“Eh? You mean… anime?” I furrowed my brows at her scowl.
“Yeah… And they’re all so enthusiastic about it too. Over a bunch of… drawings.”
“How can they relate with a bunch of exaggerated scribbles when the true, beautiful form of cinema revolves around the humans, the actors instead? They’re at least real, authentic people.”
I frowned at her remark, despite my attempts to not show it.
Anime and actor-based films can be 2 separate things. Art doesn’t have to be human, It doesn’t have to be real… Its true purpose is to help you escape reality after all.
Be someone else, albeit briefly.
Be who you’d rather be.
I wanted to say all that and more… I wanted to confess everything.
But I couldn’t.
I never could after that, could I? I can’t shatter the glowing, sparkly image I’ve built. The sturdy, repelling shield I’ve crafted.
With a start, I picked up the oars once more, donning a smile from ear to ear.
“It’s getting kinda late, doesn’t it?”
“Oh!” Sumi perked up. “You’re right!”
And so I rowed. I rowed and rowed. Oh, how I wish I could escape my thoughts that way too.
Our swan boat glided across the water once more.
The night seemed to have been already wrapped up, but…
“Oh, Yuuto, you’re too old to try and row like a young man!”
“I can do it, Kaori…”
As I rowed absentmindedly, a very familiar set of voices at my back caught my attention.
Quickly, I stood at attention, stretching my ear as far as it could go, while remaining perfectly still.
“Haruhi-kun?” Sumi cocked her head to the side. “Something wrong?”
“…Haruhi…?” A voice mused from the boat behind me.
Hey everyone, hope you enjoyed the cliffhanger! #not
Just wanted to inform y'all, Shulox, a real bro, used the magificent discovery that is AI, to make a cosplaying Ichika! If you wanna check it out, it's in the showcase! Thank you Shu, and thanks to everyone reading!