Chapter 39:

The Otaku Dons The Apron

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

“Ah, thanks for getting beaten up Haru-chan… today was amazing…”

Riku quipped from the top bunk bed, while I settled beneath it.


“Haha, just kidding!”

“Don’t start up a ruckus…” Chihiro hissed, pulling the covers over himself.

“…Apologies.” Riku grumbled.

Bedtime arrived, and after bidding farewell to Kota and the girls, we headed back to our room. It required some effort to separate Kirara and Mari from the table without a clear winner this time either.

”I can’t believe I lost to that nerdy blonde again…” Chihiro grumbled, prompting Riku's curiosity.

“You mean Hayasaka?”

“Hey chill, dude. I mean you didn’t lose.”

“I did!” Chihiro huffed. “She hurt my image…”


I sighed. Was it THAT important?

Yet again… wasn’t my image important to me too?

“And these nerds really had to tag along too…”

He was probably referring to Kirara and Kota.

“Nerds?” Riku shifted in his bed, looking at the disgruntled rich boy. “I don’t know… Kota was kinda cool.”



I decided to not speak up on the matter, and instead found myself chuckling at Riku's simple view, as the conversation faded into silence. With the lights dimmed, the moonlight filtering through the curtains, and the gentle rustling of the breeze, a tranquil atmosphere settled over us like a cozy blanket.

All was calm.

Yet the thoughts inside my mind wouldn’t dare go to sleep.

Without fail, they always drifted back to Ichika, and the moment we shared back at the infirmary. Her touch still lingered in my skin. My chest was set ablaze by just the thought of it.

I knew what it was.

It was love.

I was in love with Ichika. And that couldn’t be denied no longer. But what did that mean for me? What did that entail?

Could I ask her to be my girlfriend? What would that mean for my social status?

Naruse Haruhi dating a nameless otaku…

But she wasn’t just an otaku. She was Ichika.And at the end of the day… 

I was just Haruhi.

Could I really give up everything? Or was I destined to live a life built on lies?

My thoughts spiraled, creating a different kind of mess within my mind.


“Table 3, Haruhi-kun.”

“Got it!”

I fished the tray up from the counter, and made my way to the customer.

In front of her, I presented the order.

Thankfully, she wasn’t just a customer.

It was Ichika.

“Are you perhaps, a celebrity?” I asked her, as she sat alone in the corner of the terrace.


“Oh, nothing, just wanted to say that at least once.” I shrugged, leaving her alone with her iced tea.

Seemingly, Kota and Kirara had already immersed themselves in the waves, while the blonde tsundere seemed uninterested in taking a swim. As a result, she remained alone up here.

“Haruhi…” She called out, before I got out of ear shot.


“Um, my parents are coming in a couple of days and will be staying for a bit... Just wanted to give you a heads-up”

Her parents? But what about our fake relationship?

I shook that thought away. For now the best I could do was help out. It wasn’t like we were strangers.

“Well, let’s just act natural.”

I shrugged, and made my way back, leaving behind a baffled Ichika.


I could almost see the cogs turn in her head, her furrowed brows serving as additional gears to the machine she called brain.

Back at the counter, Mari seemed to be in a fix, her troubled expression catching my eye.


“Mari-chan?” Sumi, the closest to her, mused.

"It's my uncle – he says a group from a nearby company is coming for lunch and drinks before heading to the beach..."

Wataru-san was absent today, leaving us to manage the place along with the experienced kitchen staff. Well, staff might be too generous a term – it was basically a cook and his assistant.

I failed to see the issue, however.

“That’s a good thing, right? More revenue or something?”

“Well, they’re a… lot.” Mari sighed, her enthusiasm for exertion minimal as usual.

“We'll manage, just do our jobs. And it might mean better tips, too…”

Oh, extra money. Who doesn’t love extra money?

“Oh no!”

Riku's voice suddenly filled the air, and Chiaki rushed in after him.


“Guys, there’s trouble!!”

"Trouble?" Chihiro chimed in, appearing seemingly out of thin air.

“It’s the chef! He’s collapsed!”

“The who?!”

“He has what?!”

Chihiro and I exclaimed in unison as we witnessed Riku, accompanied by a thin man, carrying another burly man out of the kitchen.

“They say he’s overworked!”

“Oh, mon dieu…!”

The French (?) assistant cried, fanning the man he was supposed to be assisting in the kitchen.

“Oh no… are we to do…?” Sumi muttered, eyes wide.

“Ah…” Mari looked on, having not uttered a word yet. “We’re f****d.”

Disregarding the weird censoring, I looked around my dejected comrades. In Wataru-san’s absence, the establishment was left in our hands. And right now, it seemed like it was gradually falling apart. We needed to serve a large group without a chef and there was only one option left.

With a start, I jumped over the counter and grabbed an apron. Tying it around my waist and a ribbon around my head, I mimicked the look of a very famous anime chef.

“Listen up folks!”

I called out, psyching myself up.

“Chef Haruhi will take over, so buckle up!”

“Haruhi?!” Mari gaped at me, her jaw just about ready to touch the floor.

“Haruhi-kun?” While Sumi’s exclamation was much more subdued, the question wasn’t lost on me.

"Fear not," I reassured them with a raised hand, and my attempt at a confident smile. "I'll be cooking in place of the chef, but I'll need all of your help."

I cleared my throat.



“I need you to help me with supplies! Keep them coming!”

“Aye sir!”


I took on a much lighter tone. Sumi wasn’t the kind of person you could yell at, after all.

"I need you to assist me in the kitchen. The assistant seems to have bailed on us as well…"

"Okay, I'll do my best!"



"Manage the register and keep things moving. Strike up conversations with the customers to keep them occupied. We might not be as fast as they hope."

“Ah, okay?”

“Now, Chiaki!”

“Captain, captain aye?”

The energetic girl bounced at my prompt.

"Man the counter and interact with the customers. If they ask about the delay, just smile and say we're having a rush."

“Aye aye, captain!”

“And Chihiro?”

“What? Do you need my ultimate skills to—“

“Just be a decent waiter. And don't forget to charm the female customers.”

We needed to stall for time, and we'd pull out all the stops.

“Now squad! Roll out!”

I announced, and I could practically see the question marks forming over Ichika's head as she observed the commotion.

But there was no time to explain. It was show time.


Despite my limited time to study the menu and decipher the ingredients the chef used, I found the catalog quite user-friendly.

Takoyaki, tempura, simple sushi rolls, omelets, steaks, and even some daily specials like grilled fish graced the menu. To my surprise, they weren't overly intricate—less complex than expected.

"A plate of tempura, coming right up!"

"On it!"

"Sumi, prep the sauce!"


Sumi and I maneuvered around the expansive kitchen while Riku assisted us by supplying whatever we needed. The sounds from the terrace resembled a battlefield, the cacophony of voices drifting into the kitchen. The clattering of pots and pans harmonized with the chatter, creating a very bustling atmosphere.

“Haruhi-kun, catch!”

Sumi threw me a bottle of ketchup, as I masterfully drew a penguin atop the piping hot omurice.

“All done here too!”

I wiped the sweat off my brow. If we keep up this pace, maybe we can—

“Uhm, guys? A little faster, please!”

Amidst the chaos of cooking tools, stoves, and voices, one sound stood out distinctly. Mari's voice echoed as she peered around the kitchen corner. The counter and cooking area seamlessly merged, requiring only a quick turn to switch between the two.

Communication wasn't a big challenge, but every second mattered as Sumi and I momentarily halted our tasks.


I clicked my tongue.

Faster, huh?

Let’s kick it up a notch! Uraaaah!”

Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64