Chapter 32:

The Otaku In The Presence of Champions

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

“Eh, excuse me, I need to use the restroom…” I chuckled lightly, breaking from Chiaki and Sumi, and making a beeline for Ichika and Co.

As soon as the three of them spotted me, Ichika’s eyes went wide, probably surprised by my quick pace.

Thankfully, I managed to catch them before they were in plain sight of everyone.

“Ah, Haruhicho—mfmfmf?!”

I quieted Kirara by covering her mouth, her arms flailing.

“Hey, Haruhi.”

“Hey Kota.” I smiled at the bespectacled guy, before addressing Ichika.

“Weren’t you not supposed to come here?” I leaned closer and whispered by her ear, making her jump slightly.

“What’s it to you…?”

“I’m here with everyone. This will spell trouble with Kirara’s big mouth. Our knowing each other is likely to raise suspicions…”

I explained, while Ichika leaned away, embarrassed from our close proximity.

“Kirara wouldn’t stop bugging me to come with her…” She finally explained as I released the culprit.

“Bah!” Kirara took a deep breath. "You're a brute, Haruhicho! I thought I was going to suffocate!" She exclaimed, nearly turning purple.

Haruhicho? Another weird name?

“You can breathe through your nose too…” Kota chimed in.

“What’s the big idea?!” Kirara protested, while Ichika sighed, looking between me and the others.

“Eh…” She contemplated slightly, before she began to explain.

“For reasons… we keep our relationship a secret from Haruhi’s friends.”


I was taken aback by how Ichika explained the situation. I was rather glad she came out with it, though. It seemed she really did want to protect the “reputation” I had built.

“For reasons, huh?” Kota looked skeptical, while Kirara snickered.

“I get it, I get it! It’s one of those popular guy unpopular girl kinda relationships, yeah?” She scoffed, “I see those all the time! Don’t worry!”

For some reason, when Kirara said to NOT worry, it always had the opposite effect on me.

Actually, I was sweating.

No wonder Ichika didn’t wanna tell her our relationship is fake! She looks like she will spill the beans any moment now!

“So, what do you want us to do, popular guy?” Kirara smiled again.


"Act like you don't know him," Ichika responded, averting her gaze. "Just do that."

“Oh…” Kirara looked dejected, “But I wanted to tease him in front of his friends!”

God, no.


“Fine, fine…”

With Ichika's guidance, Kirara complied. However, Kota still seemed unsettled.

“It’s not my place to butt in but, is there something you’re not telling us?”

There was. Of course, there was.

“Don’t worry about it.” I just shrugged in response.

Lying… again.

“Just enjoy the festivities, and I’ll catch ya later.” I smiled, and waved them off.

I rounded the corner again, and returned to my friends.

Yet, even so, the pang of guilt in my chest only seemed to grow.

How long would we… would I, have to keep lying?


“Look at Mari-chan go!”

“Ah, she’s at it again…”

Riku and Chihiro each responded differently to Mari defeating one opponent after the other, not bating an eye before destroying anyone who dare challenged her.

Sumi giggled, while Chiaki cocked her head to the side.

“Should I challenge her too?”

She asked, while Riku vehemently shook his head.

“I don’t think it would be… wise.”

“She’d feed you to the hounds.”

Chihiro put it bluntly instead.

I chuckled, while scanning the perimeter once more.

I had done that a couple times already sure, but I had my reasons.

Those reasons being Ichika.

She and Kota seemed to enjoy some takoyaki at the other side of the lot, while Kirara, the most dangerous of all, was nowhere to be seen.

Naturally, that made me nervous.

The green-haired fujoshi aside though, were Ichika and Kota always this… close?

I couldn’t help but think that to myself as I saw them talking so casually.

Maybe if I didn’t play up this role… I would get to hang out with Ichika too? Without worrying about anything?

“Make way!”

Like a certain drunken coach, Kirara appeared in the masses of the challengers Mari had to face, and pushed her way through.

“I challenge you!” She pointed dramatically at Mari, who scoffed.

“Pftt, wait in line nerd. There are plenty of challengers and only one campeón here.”

“What?!” Kirara’s eye twitched, as the gyaru brandished her racket at her as if it were her ultimate weapon.

Soon. A grin bloomed on her face.

“I was last year’s festival champion, so that makes two of us, you know…”


Mari’s eyes shone with a playful glint, as she regarded her opponent.

“A champion? Let’s see then…”

Wait… Kirara is a table tennis champion too?!

Mari jumped at the idea of facing a formidable opponent, and soon the dejected challengers from earlier, had turned back to the table once more, this time the excitement palpable.

The air was charged with competitiveness as Kirara snatched the racket from a previous challenger and laughed mischievously.

“I hope your skills aren’t as fake as your tit—“

“What didja say NERD?!”

Mari's face flushed with anger, and she kicked off the match with a powerful serve.

“Hah! Try harder, will ya?!”

Kirara deflected the shot with lightning fast reflexes.

Chihiro whistled, shocked by how Kirara seemed to get under Mari’s skin.

“This girl… is good.”

“Aren’t we gonna talk about how she outed Mari’s pads?” Riku commented, as Chiaki cheered from atop a bench.

"Go, Mari! Show her your boobs are the only fake thing about y—"

"Chiaki-chan!" Sumi covered her friend's mouth, blushing on Mari's behalf.

I knew I wasn’t the only one aware of her chest pads!

Their bout however seemed to have caused considerable commotion amongst the students, as more and more gathered to see the girls go head to head in a battle of skill and resilience.

“I bet every guy runs the other way when he sees you! Hyah!”

“Look who’s talking! Always cursed to lead a miserable, BL-less life!”

“Stupid otaku!”

“Dumb gyaru!”



It seemed the crowd forming had also caused Ichika and Kota to join too.


Our eyes met, and Ichika gave me a wry smile.

Riku chimed in, completely engrossed, "It's a battle for the ages!"

Kirara expertly deflected every shot Mari sent her way, but Mari's powerful returns kept the game intense. The score was tied at 2-2, and the tension was palpable. Kota and Ichika watched calmly from the sidelines, while the crowd erupted in cheers with every successful point.

“Ma-ri-chan! Ma-ri-chan!”

“Ki-ra-ra! Ki-ra-ra!”


“Come, on try harder!”

While everyone was preoccupied with the match, I noticed Ichika looking at my general direction.

Was she searching for something?

Just as I was about to focus back on the match, Chihiro stood up from the bench beside me, smirking. With his usual swagger, he adjusted his hair and strolled into the crowd.

"Agh..." Riku winced, and I followed suit. It was what we called his "preparation for hitting on a girl" routine.

“Is Chihiro-kun…?”

“Yeah…” I replied, and Sumi let out a resigned chuckle.

Typical, I’d say. He did this on the daily, and surprisingly, his success rate was quite high for someone who flirted so frequently.

But who had caught his eye this time? My eyes followed his graceful movements closely as he maneuvered through the crowd.

Was it gonna be that dark skinned beauty with silver hair? Or that girl with the short brown hair, blue yukata and fox patterns on it? What about the one with the witch hat and strawberry blonde

The answer? None.

Instead, Chihiro stopped right at the edge of the crowd and nudged a blonde girl with striking emerald eyes, her glasses absent today.

It was…. Ichika.


Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64