Chapter 20:

I’m comfortable here. [Do-Over]

Light of my darkest eve

The past two weeks have been practically surreal. Since that first day, I’ve accompanied Hanji on nine ‘dates’ over fourteen days, and I still have absolutely no idea why she continues to invite me on them.

Today makes day fifteen, and date ten.

“You ready, man?”

“For once, yes, I’m actually ready.”

“Wow, at this rate you might learn basic organisational skills within the year.”

“Oh, bite me, you ass.” Hanji and I both laugh at our short back and forth as we leave down the hall of the college building and head back to the dormitories. My comfort in her presence has grown substantially, so these quicks jabs and snides have become commonplace for us.

“What’dya wanna do today, by the way?” I ask, waving to Yuuko as we pass her desk and head for the lift.

“Hmm… wanna just stay in and play videogames?”

“Does that really count as a date?”

“Taro, we threw a carton of eggs at Akihiko’s house and called that a date, I think we’ve already pushed that definition further than this.”

“No, you threw a carton of eggs at Akihiko’s house while I stood around like a nervous wreck.”

“How is you standing around like a nervous wreck any different to other dates?”

“...okay, on that front you raise a fair point.”

Despite how much I’m enjoying the company of Hanji and her friends, I do wonder just what sort of trouble they’re dragging me into. Even if he’s the primary perpetrator, the gang certainly likes to go out of their way to antagonise the psychopathic silverback gorilla they call Akihiko.

“Anyway, lazy day of staying in and gaming, you down or not?”

“Y’know what? Sure, I could go for a chill day for once. Don’t really have many of those here.”

“Sick, let’s stop at my place then. I hope you’re good at Tekken.”

“Not even remotely.”

“That’s okay, I needed an ego boost today.”

“Hanji, if there is one thing you don’t need, it’s an ego boost.”

“Oi.” She lightly raps her knuckle on the side of my head, but can’t stop herself from rolling her eyes and smiling at my proud smirk. It’s rare I manage to get a jab in on her before she gets one on me.

I quickly drop my stuff off to my room, grab my chair and move it into Hanji’s, allowing us to both sit in front of her computer’s monitor.

For the next hour or so, I repeatedly get my ass handed to me by Hanji’s Kazuya combos, and strangely, I enjoy every minute of it.

Despite still being completely uncertain as to what Hanji’s intentions are with these dates, I’ve found myself caring less and less over time. Maybe she is trying to manipulate me, or maybe she’s really trying to establish some sort of emotional connection, but what’s absolutely certain is that my worries melt away when I’m with her.

Well, if you exclude the worries she causes by picking fights with the gorilla, anyway.

Regardless of whether she cares about me in any capacity, I enjoy myself far more in Hanji’s company than anywhere else.

So long as I don’t let those feelings become romantic, all is well and good. And since I’m not falling for her, I have nothing to worry about.

“Yo, I’m famished, wanna order pizza?” Hanji asks, seemingly growing slightly bored of constantly destroying my Green Rank Alisa.

“You can do that here?”

“They’ll bring it to the front door, you just gotta collect yourself.”

“Oh, sick, I’m down.”

Hanji calls a number on her phone and orders a large margherita pizza, and we play a few more rounds before it arrives. When the notification comes to her phone that the delivery driver is here, she gets up from her chair and makes for the door.

“Since it’s just one pizza, I’ll grab it myself. Feel free to look around at my books and shit if you want, you seemed interested before.”

“Ah- yeah, now that you mention…” Hanji’s frankly enormous collection of novels, non-fictions and manga had caught my eye from the very first moment I came into her room that first day. Her walls are covered in shelves absolutely filled to the brim with them.

“Cool cool, I’ll be right back.” As Hanji steps out and closes the door, I wander over to the shelf filled with books about psychology. Most are non-fiction, with anything from pop psychology to collections of real case studies, but there’s also the section filled with novels, light novels and manga on the subject.

My finger lightly traces the spines of the books, until one in particular catches my eye. A small novel with a black cover, and a white title written in a cursive script, reading “Why Do I Lie?”

I carefully remove it from its shelf and read the blurb on the back. After also skim reading over the first few pages, I start to get the gist of what the story is about. It’s told from the perspective of a man who has seemingly lost all grasp on his own humanity. A person who watches those around him suffer in horrendous ways, and he has almost no reaction whatsoever. And one thing he always does is lie, without a second’s hesitation. Most often for his own benefit, sometimes simply to enjoy the feeling of deceiving someone.

But he begins to question why he’s so different from everyone else. Why he’s able to do things others see as cheap or scummy without a second thought. And the idea that he’s defective or ‘wrong’ slowly wears him down and shatters his mentality.

While I’m pouring over the first chapter, a short click precedes Hanji’s re-entry into the room, carrying an inordinately large pizza.

“Dinner is served,” she says, dropping the box on the floor and rubbing her hands together like someone gloveless on a cold day. “Whatcha readin’, by the way?”

“Ah- I was just skimming over a bit of this. Kinda caught my eye.” I show the black front cover to Hanji, and I’m surprised to see her momentarily flinch at the sight of it.

“A good book, but not one I’m in any rush to re-read.” She says, regaining her composure.

“In that case, do you mind if I borrow it? I promise I’ll give it back in perfect condition.”

“Be my guest, man. But if I find so much as a tiny tear or rip, I’ll make sure they never find your body.”

“The fact that I can’t tell if you’re joking or not is utterly petrifying.” She giggles in response, causing me to smile once again. God, this girl is absurdly cute sometimes. Although her strange reaction at seeing the book sits at the back of my mind.

“Y’know, it kinda makes a nice change.” She suddenly says, without elaborating at all.


“For a guy to be reaching for my bookshelves instead of my bra strap for once.” The way she says this makes it sound like a joke, but if the last two weeks have taught me anything about reading Hanji, there’s legitimate appreciation in those words. And I also know I shouldn’t ruin that by being all sappy about it.

“I seem to recall that I was not the one trying to declothe you last time I was here.”

“Knew you’d bring that up, bastard.” She theatrically roles her eyes, but the slight smile on her face doesn’t leave. “And hey, can you blame me for thinking that’s what you wanted considering every other guy I’ve had in here only ever thinks with his dick?”

“On that front I can’t blame you at all.” Especially as I was also wrestling for control of my impulses when I was here before.

“Come to think of it, you’re kinda weird man.” Hanji says, completely out of the blue and unprompted (because I’m completely normal).

“What makes you say that?”

“Well think about it. We’ve been spending time alone together for two weeks, I’ve been perfectly comfortable letting you into my room, and we’ve done all sorts of shit that people probably see as ‘romantic’ or whatever, and you’ve never once tried getting in my pants. Only other person I know who’s like that is Yosuke, and that boy’s a whole different kettle of fish.”

What she says does raise a good point. Even if these ‘dates’ we’ve been going on aren’t the same as actually dating, most guys probably would have made some sort of move by now. Why haven’t I? I guess…

“I guess it’s because the only place inside of you that I want to be is your heart.”

For a few seconds, we just look into each other’s eyes, in complete silence. Before immediately bursting out into fits of hysterics.

“Oh, fuckin’ hell, Taro. How do you even say shit like that with a straight face.” Hanji asks, barely able to speak through her wheezes of laughter.

“It took all my effort, that’s the most cringe thing I’ve ever said in my entire life.” I replied, doubled over as I cackle like a madman.

For the rest of the evening, we continue laughing at stupid shit, demolish the pizza we ordered, and play a bunch of different fighting games well into the night.

Somewhen around 4AM, as we sit side by side on the floor watching YouTube videos of kids falling over, I feel my eyelids start to get heavy, and I slowly drift to sleep, lying my head on the shoulder of the girl I promised myself I wouldn’t trust.

Maybe it’s okay to break promises every now and then.

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