Chapter 21:

The Otaku Hero

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


“…Father?” Ichika’s questioning tone hung in the air, like a bird that struggled to fly across a cloudy, windy sky.

“Haah…” Yuuto-san sighed, and crossed his arms. “You really were trying to fool us with that picture, huh?”

“What do you mean father…?” Ichika shuddered slightly, her posture betraying something within. Guilt.

“I mean exactly what is implied. Haruhi-kun isn’t here, correct?”

“Yuuto, dear—“

“Give me a moment, Kaori.”

Ichika’s father raised his hand in a plea for both to be silent.

“I have had my doubts about him, for quite a while… But I think we’ve finally arrived at a crossroads. My doubts are very close to being turned into something concrete—Proof.”

“What are you… saying?” Ichika tried to talk her way out of it, stalling for time, though she knew it might be futile.

“You’re not really together, are you?”

Her father dropped the bomb.

“You’re not really in love.”

He continued, shaking his head.

“You just didn’t want me to meddle—“

“What do you know…?”

“Hm?”

Ichika muttered, lowly, causing her father to pause.

“Continue, Ichika.” Kaori-san encouraged, but Ichika turned her gaze up to look… defeated. She slumped her shoulders, as if all the strength from her body vanished.

“I…”

“So, that’s all?” Her father looked disappointed.

Why was he disappointed? What did Ichika do to warrant him being disappointed in her?

Why did he want to dictate her life so badly?

“Never mind… I think we don’t have anything else to discuss, it’s evident you have accepted my—“

“Ichika, is something wro—“

Just as Ichika had called it quits, I emerged from around the corner where I was so professionally hidden behind.

“Oh, Yuuto-san, Kaori-san…” I bowed. “Sorry for not coming to greet you. We were playing a game you see, so…”

I shuffled close to Ichika who turned to look at me, wide-eyed. Her face betraying everything about how she was feeling.

Anxious.

Defeated.

But also…

Hopeful.

Glad.

Relieved.

And so, I looped my arm around her shoulder, instinctively.

Delicately.

Comforting, yet tight.

“Is something… the matter?” I looked at Ichika, a blush creeping up on her face. Her eyes smiling, and lips sealed tight. Her emerald irises looked into mine, hope blooming within them once more.

I turned to her parents

“I happened to hear someone raising their voice... Is something the matter Yuuto-san?”

“Haruhi-kun…” Her father looked me up and down, his eyes almost twitching in disbelief. He looked between me, the door, as well as Ichika’s room. Finally. He shook his head.

“I apologize for my outburst, I’ll be heading inside now… You can stay as long as you like…” Fixing his tie almost a bit too tight, Yuuto-san left the room, as beads of sweat formed over his brow.

“Haru-chaaaan!” Kaori-san smiled from ear to ear, as she trotted over to me and pinched my cheek.

Hard.

“Ow!” I jumped back.

“You, charmer you! I knew you were gonna turn this around!” She smiled at me, patted her daughter’s head and ran after her husband.

“Yuuuuto deaaar!”

A silence hung in the air, as Ichika slowly turned towards me, her face still betraying hints of utter disbelief.

“How… why… are you here?”

She voiced, almost whispering.

“Don’t worry about it. Let’s head back to your room, for now?” I gave her a reassuring nod.

We certainly couldn’t talk about this here of all places; the act we pulled would come crashing down on us.

<><><><><><><>

“Haaaaah!” Ichika let out an enormous sigh as she plopped down on the carpet with a thud.

“If relief had a face…” I chuckled, as I mushed keys on the gamepad in my hands. Believe it or not, I had booted up a game on the console I had eyed earlier, just so our story was more believable.

“You still haven’t told me why you came back, dude!” She got up with a start, glaring at me. But there was something behind that glare, though. A spark. Liveliness.

“Weren’t you on a… date?” She looked away, lowering her voice.

“Oh you bet, I was. And I happened to see your dad rowing a boat on an artificial pond filled with rose petals!”

“Huh?”

After I filled her in on what transpired back at the amusement park, Ichika nodded several times.

“So you heard my parents…”

“Mhm.”

“…Talk about us…”

“Mhm.”

“…And my father doubting our relationship?”

“That’s right.” I bopped my head in response to her questions.

“Oh, how ridiculous can it all be?!” Ichika grabbed a plushie that had the nerve to stand next to her, and screamed against its back, muffling her voice. “It’s like fate is playing some big prank on us!”

Wait, Pingin? What was he doing on the floor?

“Fate, huh?” I mused, as I looted the corpses of some goblins I just killed in-game.

“Stop playing so nonchalantly! I’m about to explode over here!” Ichika hissed, while I waved a dismissive hand at her.

“If you wanna explode do it outside, missy. I’m grinding on a dungeon over here.”

“You little—“

Getting up with a start, my gorilla of a girlfriend prepared to strike.

“Woah!”

“Wa—Gah!”

Not before tripping over the small coffee table between us though. And kneeing me to the face in the process.

What a hit!

I instantly saw stars and the gates of heaven up above.

He’s not getting up, Jim!

As she stumbled over both the table and me, she somehow managed to end up on top of me, and we both fell to the floor.

With a thud the two of us hit the ground. My head was spinning, and I was lying on my back, but I could still feel all of her body press against mine. And trust me, when I say all of it.

Ah, girls really were soft, huh…?

“Weeehhh…” I felt my consciousness drift away. My nose was hurting and my head was running laps around the room.

He’s really not getting up, Jim! It’s all over.

“Ha!” Ichika jumped away from me, realizing the position we were in. “I-I’m sorry!”

“…”

What is this brilliant firefly, dancing in the dark?

“Haruhi!”

“I can see a light…”

“Haruhi, what’s wrong with you?!” Ichika grabbed me by the collar, and raised me up like a human sacrifice.

“That’s not how you treat a dying person… Have some tact…” I managed to retort, feeling something wet drip down my nose.

“Your nose! Oh no!”

“Oh no, my ass…” I looked at her through narrowed eyes, and not because I was sarcastic, but delirious. Wait, were there two Ichikas now?

“You’re bleeding!” She pointed out, gulping nervously. “I mean I wanted to beat the living daylights out of you since you left me here all alone but this isn’t what I wanted!”

Frantic, Ichika looked around and chanted something sinister in the speed of light. Or at least that’s what it seemed to be, anyway.

“I definitely didn’t wanna hit you!”

She finally concluded, seizing my shoulders.

“Yeah, you definitely didn’t wanna knee me in the face like a certain Irish mixed martial artist…”

I gave her the most bombastic side-eye I could muster given the situation.

“Here.” She wiped my nose with a tissue, she had on hand, and brought her cold palms against my skin. As her cold touch lingered, her eyes melted against mine, in a very close-up kind of a stare off.

Through half-closed eyes, an aching nose, and a very questionable look, I raised a brow.

“Still beautiful, eh?” I cracked a smile.

“…” Ichika’s face contorted, struggling to stay serious. “Pfftt!!!”

“Oye!”

She spluttered as she laughed, looking away from me. Suddenly, a hysterical laughter burst from within her.

“Ahahaha!”

“Don’t laugh at me you dumbass, you just ruined the most delicate thing about me!”

I was, of course, talking about my nose.

“Sorry, sorry I just…” Ichika held her sides, and rolled to the floor. “Ahahaha!”

The nerve of this girl!

My mind filled with pure rage, my eyebrow twitching.

“Ah, somebody help! Please!”

As I saw her struggle to stifle her laughter, the corners of my lips lifted upwards. What the heck?

Why was I smiling?

“Pfft…”

Why was I laughing?

Not only was I tackled to the floor, but I was kneed in the face to boot!

“Ah…” I sighed, still smiling, and fell against the floor dramatically.

How was this possible…?

Lately, when I was around Ichika…

I always seemed to have fun.

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