Love, Manga & Blackmail: A Secret Otaku's Countdown To Romance!
You have to be kidding me!
“W-what are you doing here?!”
“Working! What are YOU doing here?”
“Why here of all places? This can’t be a coincidence!”
“Kirara’s sister works in this hotel so I just tagged along! How was I supposed to know?!”
Ichika and I exchanged a few sharp words, drawing the attention of a few poolside patrons. We glared at each other for a few good, long seconds.
I come all the way out here, so I can clear my mind off of her, and there she is! Right in front of me!
I almost wanted to roll over and cry at our rotten luck.
As our staring contest continued, an inflating sound escaped from Kirara.
“Pffftt!” She rolled over on her lounge chair, clutching her stomach as she laughed. “You two are just the weirdest pair of all time LOL!”
She giggled to her heart’s content, her laughter easing the tension. I eyed Ichika and her expression softened.
Really, how weird were all of these coincidences?
I found myself smiling, and Ichika followed suit.
“This is… impossible.” She seemed to relaxed, her scowl turning upwards into a cheeky smirk.
Ichika was here.
Despite initially thinking about wanting to be away from her, and the plan that was now in tatters, I felt strangely…
Ichika really was here.
I couldn’t recognize her earlier, but now that I saw her up close, her blue bikini really did a number on your eyes if you stared too much. It wasn’t all that revealing, yet it didn’t hide too much either. Just as a bikini should be.
I held back a gulp, and tucked the tray beneath my arm.
“Isn’t Kota with you?”
“Oh, he is!” Kirara nodded, “He just went to the little men’s room.”
“She means the bathroom.” Ichika translated.
“Haruhi-kun! Another order!” My colleague called from the pool bar, while I jogged off with a wave.
“Oops, well catch you later, guys.”
The two girls waved back.
I wonder, did Ichika want me to meddle in her vacation? What did catch you later even imply? Would we talk later, like we used to?
Wouldn’t it be weird trying to keep up our relationship in front of Kirara? And wasn’t the fact that we didn’t know we were in the same place at the same time weird in and of itself?
All those thoughts ran laps inside my head, while I delivered a few more orders around the pool.
A voice called, as I went through a few crates filled with canned drinks behind the counter.
“Yeah?” I turned to the familiar voice of Kota, and saw him standing there, waiting.
“Hey.” He waved as casually as ever, “Heard from the girls about the whole thing. Glad to see you.”
“Ah thanks, you too, dude.” I shrugged back. Kota really was easy to get along with.
“Uhm, could we get a refill on water?”
I took the empty jug and handed him a fresh, ice-cold one. "Sure thing."
“Thanks,” he turned to leave, before leaning over the counter and whispering.
“You don't have to walk on eggshells around us anymore. Ichika told us about your relationship."
“Eh?” I uttered, confused.
What did he mean? Did she say we broke up or…?
“Appeasing her father must have been tough. But we were glad Ichika came clean with us.” Kota leaned back again and smiled. “You two were a little suspicious, but I guess it all made sense in the end.”
I could only stare back at him, my mind going blank.
Ichika… came clean to her friends?
“Thanks for letting me know, Kota. I hope we’re still cool.”
“Sure thing, Haruhi-kun. Don’t worry.”
With a smile, and jug in hand, he walked back to his friends.
I watched as the three of them bickered and laughed amongst themselves.
Ichika came clean, huh?
She really was growing. Little by little, she was breaking out of her shell.
What was I doing? Was I… changing too?
It seemed the thoughts I was wrestling with only intensified with Ichika’s arrival.
“We’re good, Haruhi. You can return to your post.”
The bartender informed me, wiping a glass with a cloth.
“Oh, sure.” I nodded, tidying up the counter briefly before moving on.
Another worker patted me on the back as he passed by. “Thanks again, man.”
With a smile, I weaved around the counter.
My gaze fleeted across the patrons remaining by the pool, their numbers now dwindled.
Ichika and Co were still here, though.
As I watched my friends, a group of 4 approached them with visible swagger.
I groaned at the sight. It was the delinquents from the last chapter.
One of them greeted, as another put out his cigarette and smiled crookedly.
“Wanna come have fun with us?”
“Ah” Kirara sighed, turning to Ichika, who had headed to the pool for a quick dip. Upon seeing them, her eyes narrowed.
Seriously, Señoritas? Why the Spanish?
“No thanks.” The blonde tsundere shrugged with visible sass, “We got better things to do.”
“Oh, do you now?” One of them walked up, seizing her wrist. “I reckon we’d have more fun together…”
“Hey!” Kota hissed, while Kirara looked over from her sunglasses and BL manga.
Why was he grabbing Ichika like that? My eyebrow twitched.
I was pretty certain someone would step in to rescue her, despite my annoyance. Kota had a courageous streak in him, despite his size. And as for Kirara, well, she was Kirara – I had no doubt she could handle them all on her own with some weird Fujoshi kick or whatnot.
Despite all that, I found myself walking up to them, irritation evident in my voice.
“Stop that!” I called, stepping between the glaring delinquents and Ichika. “She already said no, didn’t she?”
The delinquents, all turned towards me now, their eyes narrowing and their lips smirking.
“A hero, huh?”
“That pretty boy waiter from earlier.”
“Let go of her.” I firmly grasped the hand that had seized Ichika’s. “I’m not joking.”
I really couldn’t let that slide. I couldn’t care less when they disrespected the establishment I worked for, but disrespecting and harassing Ichika was a whole different story.
“He said he’s not joking, huh!” A burly guy with a blonde Mohawk stepped forward.
“Let. Go.” I disregarded him, and voiced once more.
“No.” He smiled back, “Woah!”
Ichika found that moment of distraction, and used it to move her wrist around and away from his grasp.
“Better luck next time.” She stuck out her tongue at him. “Let’s go Haruhi—“
“You stupid bi—“
One of the troublemakers abruptly stood up, clearly agitated, and attempted to grab her hand more aggressively. He even raised his hand. That was a line I wasn't willing to let him cross.
“You’re asking for it.” I glared at the dude, and prepared to strike, raising my fists.
“Oh, pretty boy thinks he's tough!" The guy smirked, having accomplishing his ultimate goal; starting a fight.
“Haruhi, there’s no need…”
Like I said, I wasn’t much of a fighter, and Ichika’s concerned gaze was testament to that. I didn’t really stand a chance against 4 battle-hardened, by the looks of it, delinquents.
The commotion we had stirred up seemed to up the chances of someone stepping in to defuse the situation sooner rather than later, though. So instead of fighting them all out, I opted to stall for time instead.
I readied myself. I raised my knee slightly, and got into position.
“Bring it o—“
Before the delinquent could utter another word, I swiftly intervened, employing the ultimate technique I had kept in store for situations such as these.
What was this move, you might wonder.
"Ke-Kenji?!" One of his friends exclaimed, frozen in shock as his comrade hunched over in pain.
Your answer; a solid kick straight to the nuts.
Who cares about fair play when jerks are ganging up on Ichika? If I had to hit below the belt, both literally and figuratively, to save her, then consider me the sneakiest hero in town.
“Ha-Haruhi?” There was a hint of amusement in Ichika’s tone.
Yet the delinquents didn’t seem so pleased, while they ganged up on me.
“Nobody messes with Tiger Fang!”
“Show him the roar, boys!”
Yeah, that doesn't exactly scream '”safe and friendly.” More like “run for your life.” Hah, maybe I didn’t think this through?
“Ichika call an ambulance. And no, not for them.”
“Huh?!” Ichika exclaimed utterly baffled.
In a matter of seconds, fists and kicks rained upon me like a whirlwind of pain. I crumbled to the ground, instinctively curling into a protective ball, like a snail seeking refuge in its shell.
Yeah, I really wasn’t a fighter.