Chapter 23:

“What I Can Do For You”

VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~

Midterms are creeping up and the atmosphere on campus has become strained.

People are obviously stressed.

Myself doubly so…

I’m broke.

I really did overspend on going out all the time at the beginning of term, buying everything I’ve ever wanted, and making a few sellers obscenely wealthy trying to defeat my nemesis…


Another karaoke night did eventually materialise and Saki, good to her word, invited me along.

I did my best to only sing Dad-Jrock people might actually know, like JEKYLL or Crackt or Miyaovi - no DespairBeam this time - but even those were too dated for everyone.

Thankfully, they appreciated my being able to sing, not just off-key or drunkenly caterwauling my way through songs in broken Japanese.

Nihongo jouzu’s all round!

I didn’t drink much and there was no repeat of the RuRuXToshi BL triangle, so I don’t think I entertained as much as they’d hoped I would a second time. We still had fun, though, and I made a few more acquaintances around the Business School.

Like, the guy that calls out and says hello every morning - who’s face I knew but not his name - turns out he’s an Econ Masters student called Ryosuke. He really likes 2000’s British indie rock too, very specific, so we’ve got music in common at least.

Networking is not my strong suit, but I feel like I’m getting better.

Anyway, with building tensions across the university, and my bank balance being dangerously low, a plan to help both comes to me.

“English Tutor?”

“Yeah, I’ve got more free time than I thought I would at the moment, so I’m asking around to see if it’d help anyone with their studies!”

Fuyumi, Saki’s friend - who has taken to waving whenever she spots me - ponders my proposal.

“I don’t do any English modules, and am too busy with Human Resources to pick up extra lessons, but I can see if anyone is interested for you!”

She beams, happy just to be helpful.

“That would really be appreciated. I’ll have to give you a finders fee.”

Fuyumi blinks inquisitively, seemingly unfamiliar with the phrase. I try a couple of variations, like “discovery money” or “tip”, to try to talk my way round my gap in vocabulary, and she eventually gets it.

“Oh! No, no, no... No need to gift me anything. I was just trying to help!”

I reassure her I was only joking, offering a coffee to pay off the debt, which earns me a blush and her awkwardly fumbling for words.


“I don’t mean like a date, sorry! Not that you’re not pretty, or that I think of you that way, just…”

She giggles at my anxious over correction.

“Don’t worry about it, but… I will take you up on the coffee!”

Fuyumi gives me a bright smile and a little wave as she parts to go spread the word about my side hustle. Leaving me unsure whether I just accidentally asked her out and left things ambiguous.

Did I really just score a date?!.


“You are not actually thinking of going, are you?!.”

Kaori, erupting loud enough to earn a shush from another student, almost slams her book down on the desk.

“Well, I mean, if she helps me get some customers, I’d be indebted to her, y’know…”

Am I a little excited about the idea?

“But…” belatedly lowering the volume of her voice, “…as much as I can appreciate that, people might get the wrong idea.”

Is she jealous?

“It’s not like I’m using shady business practices, and if we dated it’d be kinda expected we help each other out, so…”

How far can I push this?


Kaori turns a hot pink at the word.


“Sure, why not? It’s normal for healthy college kids to couple up, right!”


Oh, popcorn’s done! I can smell the smoke coming out of her ears now.

I check my phone, and it’s a message from Fuyumi saying she’s asked about and has a couple of people interested already. I shoot her a quick text back, letting her know it’s fine to pass on my details, then go back to winding up Kaori.


“That was her now! Looks like she has some clients lined up for me, so I better start looking at cute cafés she might like for ou-”

“Y-y-you can’t!”

She blurts it out a little louder than intended, receiving another hush for her negligence.

“Come on, we are in the library! Settle down!”

Her rouge turns to red as flustering becomes fury.

Maybe I took things too far.


Kaori buries her head back in her books, blustering under her breath.

Dodged a bullet there.

The rest of our revision session is in silence, and soon after she departs for work. As I’m busying myself at home with some sewing - practical hobbies don’t half help me decompress at the moment - there’s a tentative knock at the door.

Did Kaori forget something?

I answer to find one of the other international students, Shayne, waiting for me.

“Oh good! This is your door. I was worried because I heard the Ice Queen lives on this floor too. Anyway, it’s drama night! You down to play Gozo again?”

Letting the nickname slide, I decide I could do with some more Japanese practice, after what Kaori said the other day. Might even be able to put out more feelers for clients!

“I appreciate honest people, they are not being fake for the sake of someone else!”

An “oooooooooo” from the audience~

“When you are scared all the time, you reach a point where you wish you were dead!”

An “aaaaaaaaaa” follows suit~

As bad as the show is in general - every character a cliche - some of the lines are actually pretty good, if not corny as hell.

“Great performance everyone!”

“Who’s up for more?”

Another round of cheering.

“I gotta go eat, but I might come back down later!”

“Boo! Tyler!”

“No worries! Bye dude!”

I trot back upstairs, thankful to find I’ve got enough time to throw together some pasta before Kaori is back. Proud that my social circles are definitely expanding.

What had felt like pity inclusion and surface level interactions, has grown into a highlight of my week, and having Shayne come call for me was a pleasant addition.

Kaori is blown away by my basic red sauce and homemade garlic bread, like I somehow summoned Italy itself into our dorms.

“It’s literally just all I could do with the most basic ingredients I could find.”

“Buh ih so fluvufuh!”

Her mouth full of a bit of everything. Garlic butter slathered thick cut toast in one hand, fork almost dripping in the other.

It’s a compliment that she eats my student level cooking with such gusto… she’s almost feral sometimes. I wonder how she’d cope at a fine restaurant?

I know she can behave at regular places when we’ve had ramen or set meals, but with something truly delicious in front of her, would her control slip, even in public?

Storing that plan away for a bit of fun later in the year, and if I can make enough money to afford it, I finish off my mockery of Italian cuisine.

“I do not want you to go on a date with Fuyumi.”

Well, I wasn’t expecting that to come up, or for Kaori to be so direct.

“And why is that?”

Obviously only prepared for agreement, she fumbles the follow-up - definitely jealous - but eventually recovers.

“I do not want to speak ill of other people. Gossip and rumours irritate me, as I am the subject of many, but…”

She’s really trying to discourage me from this, but it’s cute watching her struggle with it.

Kaori… cute?!. Pfft!

“…she used to date Toshi.”

Does she think I’ll be jealous of or disgusted by that? Should I just tell her I’m not actually going to take Fuyumi out for a coffee?

Nah, twist the knife a little more first!

“Oh! Well she’s not dating him now, that means she’s single, right?”

Too keen?

Kaori does her best impression of a reverse Baked Alaska; freezing where she’s sat while a fire rages behind her eyes. Doubtful turmoil at play across her frosted features.

“Anyway, who she’s dated in the past, what she’s done and with whom, it’s all none of my business. What matters is whether she wants me now!”

Let’s see how she bites at that!

Her ears prick up.

The blaze inside her, quelled.

What is going on?!.

After a moment of calm, the entire mood of the room changes drastically, as she seems to relax and remain tense at the same time, but as if for different reasons than before.

I am at a complete lose.

Barely audible, hiding in a sighed breath, a coy smile upon her lips.

“Hmph. Good to know.”

Was it something I said?!.

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