Chapter 22:

The Otaku Survives The Night

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


“You sure you’re okay, Haruhi-kun?” Ichika’s mother said, patching my nose up.

Mothers always do know best, huh?

“Yep… as good as new, Kaori-san.” I nodded, and bowed slightly as thanks.

“Oh please, I told you to call me mom, dear!”

“Haha…” I laughed dryly.

Still going on about that?

“How is he? Will he live?” Ichika looked on from the side, faking some concern like she wasn’t the one who did this to me in the first place.

“Not for long if you keep throwing knees at him…” Kaori-san sighed, rubbing her temples.

“It was a solid knockout, though.”

“That’s your concern?” I raised a brow, fixing the tissue hanging from my nostril in place, and getting up with a start.

“Haruhi-kun?” Ichika’s mother studied me, as I looked at the clock on the wall hanging above their living room TV set. Evidently, we had relocated to the kitchen, when we asked for first aid.

“Thanks for having me Kaori-san, but it’s getting late.”

It really was. An hour after midnight was cutting it too close for bedtime, even at a Saturday night.

“Oh!” Ichika’s mother perked up, rising from her seat too. “Please stay over, Haruhi-kun!”

“What?”

“Hm?”

Me and Ichika both uttered, puzzled.

“Yes, yes! Yuuto-san proposed it too!” Kaori beckoned us over, whispering, “He was feeling guilty about the whole ordeal that took place, and told me to propose this to you.”

“Yuuto-san?”

“Dad?”

Again, me and Ichika voiced.

“Yes! But don’t say anything…” She brought a finger over her lips, “He can get pretty dere sometimes! Or is that what you call it?”

I believe you wanted to say TSUNdere, but I respect the effort.

Me and Ichika shared a glance, before her mother clapped her hands, and moved to her room.

“It’s settled then! I’m gonna set everything up for you two!”

“You… good with that?” Ichika looked at me, uncertain.

“I should call home, but I’m probably good to go.”

I didn’t have anything else to do back home anyway. Refusing an offer made by Yuuto-san, even through an envoy, wasn’t particularly wise either.

“Wouldn’t your date… object or something?” Ichika lowered her gaze, and clenched her fists.

That look. Those eyes. That face.

Was she… jealous?

For some reason, I felt a little something tug at my heart. Was I feeling guilty?

“Well, I think my girlfriend would mind more if I didn’t.”

“Heh, somehow I’m not convinced…” Her gaze fleeted across the room, before landing on me. Slowly, steadily. “I’m blackmailing you, you know… and even if dad found out, I wouldn’t rat you out.

Did I hear that right?

Although her tone was low, I still caught what she said.

“You wouldn’t?”

“Eh?”

Startled that I heard her, she jumped up slightly. Yet as she regarded me, her shoulders relaxed.

“Well, I mean, it would partly be my fault for letting you go without talking it through with you… And taking that half-assed picture that gave fuel to his doubts in the first place as well…”

She wouldn’t… rat me out?

“Heh…” I smirked slightly, “Thanks, but…”

I looked away as I began to reply. I couldn’t keep my eyes on her no more. Not while being cheesy at least.

“Maybe I would have come back, anyway…”

“Eh?” Ichika uttered, confused. “W-why would you do that?”

“Because for some reason, I’m having… fun.”

“Fun?”

I nodded, slightly embarrassed.

“You’re chill… Although brutish. So I don’t know…” I scratched the back of my head. “…Maybe it’s because I don’t have to tiptoe around you?”

“I get to be more… free. And it’s fun.”

What was I even saying? My mouth had a will of its own…

Ichika stood frozen still, her eyes glued to mine.

I decided to face her, gulping down the ball of nerves in one go.

It seemed as though the moment our eyes met, lasted for a fraction of a second, and a whole eternity all in one.

Ichika really was… beautiful.

Even through her glasses.

Even through her messy hair.

Ichika was Ichika.

And when I was with her, I…

Was Haruhi.

Just Haruhi.

Just me.

“Kiddos!”

“AH!”

We both broke apart from our staring contest, as Ichika’s mother trotted down towards us.

“I’ve set up a futon for you, Haruhi!” She smiled, “I’d love to have you sleep in the same bed as this princess, but Yuuto-san would probably not look kindly upon that.”

“The same bed?!”

“The same bed?”

Yuuto-san mused right after Ichika, emerging from his and his wife’s bedroom, in his checkered sleepwear, and night cap on his head.

Is he seriously wearing a night cap?

As all eyes gathered on him, his expression contorted in a mixture of emotions.

With a gulp to psyche himself up, he addressed us,

“Haruhi-kun, Ichika.”

“Yes?” I uttered, while his daughter only gave a nod.

Without hesitation, he bent low and bowed before us.

“I’m sorry, Ichika. I was a little too paranoid, earlier. I hope you can forgive me.”

“W-wha…?” Ichika went stiff, looking between her parents, one at a time.

“And you Haruhi-kun. I have doubted you on several occasions, but you always seem to outmatch my expectations.” Without faltering, and still in bow, he addressed me. “So I apologize to you, too.”

“Woah…” Kaori looked on in wonder.

Wait, even his wife was surprised?!

How rare of a sight is this?! I swear if this were a gacha game, the rarity of this event would burn through my luck reserves for a month!

“Raise your head, Yuuto-san, please. I’m sure you have your reasons.” I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, smiling wryly.

“Yes father, it’s… okay.” Ichika too, gave her consent, and he finally rose from his bow.

“Thank you…” He nodded.

“Ichika, let me show you the sleeping arrangements I made!”

“What?!”

Kaori abducted Ichika to her room in a fraction of a second, while me and Yuuto-san were left in the living room. All alone.

Here’s to hoping a shotgun can’t fit into those loose checkered pajamas of his.

While I was thinking that, the grown man regarded me with a respectful gaze. Stern, but acknowledging.

“I’m sure you’ve heard from Ichika about my desire of her marrying soon, am I right?”

“Ah…” I gulped, but composed myself. “Yeah. I have.”

“I didn’t expect you not to…” He suppressed a sigh, and looked over me again.

“I don’t know if saying all this to you, has any meaning. I might even regret it tomorrow, for all I know… But I’ve been missing from Ichika’s life for the most part of it…”

Wow, were we having a heart-to-heart now?

I shook that thought, away, and turned to Ichika’s father seriously this time.

“…And I know it wasn’t right. Pursuing my career has been fruitful for myself… but I realized recently how much I was missing my family.”

‘Yuuto-san…” I couldn’t help but feel a tightness in my chest at those words.

“So I hope you understand how I feel. I want Ichika to marry a respectable, honest man. Someone who will be there for her. For the rest of her life.”

A respectable, honest man, huh?

“I believe I know what’s best for my daughter…” He nodded to himself, “Sometimes, at least. I don’t think it would be wise if she waited longer, and this person missed this part of her life too… Like I did most of it.”

With a final sigh, he turned around.

“You have my gratitude for listening. We shall speak more tomorrow, Haruhi.”

Haruhi… no honorifics, huh?

“Haru-chan!”

Another new nickname, another new person in the room.

Kaori-san smiled at me from around the corner.

“You can go back to her room now, the bride is waiting.” With a wink, she retreated into her and her husband’s bedroom.

“B-bride?” I chuckled at her idea of a jest, but made for the room nonetheless.

Ichika was on her tiptoes, shuffling through a shelf filled to the brim with what seemed to be DVDs.

“Catch.”

She threw a case my way, and I caught it before it hit me in the face.

“Oye! Be caref—“ I stopped midway, my otaku flame suddenly ignited within me, “Onmyouji Yakuin! The complete first season!”

“Classic, right?”

She grinned, as she grabbed her plushie and sat cross-legged next to my futon.

“Here.” She passed me a tray of what seemed like chocolate chip cookies. The cookies we made.

“Are they edible?” I raised a skeptical brow.

“Well, if they’re not it’s partly your fault too…”

“Fair…” I nodded, and took a quick bite. Soon, the sweet flavors of chocolate and cookie mixed together in a satisfactory fashion across my taste buds.

“Not half bad…” I nodded, satisfied, while Ichika blushed a tad bit redder.

It wasn’t the BEST kind of cookies, but they were certainly edible enough.

Granted, there was only a few of them left. Had she left them for me? But how did she know I would be back?

“You think so?” Ichika looked away slightly.

“Yep, the dough is crisp enough, and while the baking could have been better in terms of—“

“Okay, okay!” The girl before me threw a pillow my way and laughed, before I gave her the kind of review a chef would.

In a matter of second, she stole the DVD case from my hands and booted up the first episode of Onmyouji Yakuin.

“Let’s test our anime knowledge and say the lines before the characters do, shall we?” Her grin turned into a competitive smirk, as she raised her brows. “You game?”

What was with that ridiculous idea of a contest? I really wanted to just lie down and sleep ‘till winter with all that has happened today.

Yet…

“Hmph.” I scoffed, and sat beside her, despite myself.

‘Bring it on, second place!”

“Second place?”

“I won last week, didn’t I?”

“Hey, that’s because I let you!”

“Yeah, yeah, that's just loser talk…”

“Hhhhng!” Like a teapot about to explode, Ichika spun her plushie-wielding arm.

Pingin stretched far out from my view, and I swear I saw a flame within his fist.

“PINGIIIIIN…”

“Wait, I was only joking, yeah?”

“PUUUNCHIE!”

Ichika used Pingin Punch!

It was super effective!

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

“Good morning, dear.” Yuuto-san heard the sweet voice of his wife, as he got out of bed during the early hours of the morning.

“Morning, Kaori.” He mumbled back, and shuffled through his nightstand searching for his morning pills. His fingers grazed another object instead though, and he quickly squinted at it.

It was the stun gun.

He clicked it on, then off again.

Nothing, however. It didn’t seem to be working.

“Who drained the battery for this thing?”

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