Chapter 40:

The Otaku Did a Good Job

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


“It’s all over…”

Sumi and I slumped against the counter, watching the empty terrace as the sun set. Wataru-san's return didn't do much to help against the coming storm. Yet, with effort and teamwork, the company workers now lounged on the beach, well-fed and cheerful.

"Wow..." Kirara whispered, scanning our weary faces, her duck floaty bobbing around her waist, “What on earth happened here?”

"Believe me, you're better off not knowing." Mari replied, shaking her head. Ichika still sat in the corner, working on her third iced tea.

“It was hell.” She chimed in, looking almost tired herself. Fortunately, her solitary presence at a table worked to our advantage, slightly easing the traffic flow.

"Haruhi-kun, did you cook for this entire crowd?" Kota questioned, looking rather surprised.

“I tried, I guess.” I replied nonchalantly. I just hope nobody comes up with food poisoning.

“Haruhi-kun was amazing! He went whoosh, and bam, and the pans went shishishi!” Chiaki exaggerated animatedly, imitating my darting around the kitchen.

"So it seems he has talents beyond being a self-proclaimed hotshot," Chihiro scoffed.

"Are you sure you're not referring to yourself?" I smirked back at him, and the glances we exchanged were that of our typical friendly banter.

"Kids!" Wataru-san suddenly appeared from the back, wiping his forehead with a towel and heaving a tired sigh. Coming to a halt, he surveyed all of us.

"I can't express my gratitude..." He bowed deeply, his face a mix of gratitude and concern. "You showed up during our worst time and did your absolute best. No..."

He shook his head and continued, his voice growing more impassioned. More heartfelt. "You solved every issue, maintained the reputation of the establishment, and I couldn't have asked for more."

He smiled at us, and we exchanged glances, nodding in acknowledgment.

“No worries, uncle. You could manifest that gratitude though…” Mari winked, forming the shape of a coin with her fingers. Laughter rang out at her comment, and Wataru-san's smile matched ours.

“I wasn’t really joking…”

“Worry not, kids. You will be compensated.” Kirara's sister joined the conversation, her smile directed at us.

"Onee-san?" Kirara questioned, receiving an even warmer smile from her sister.

"The venue's reputation is closely tied to the hotel's reputation. Once again, you've saved us." She bowed. "Things might have taken a downturn if Haruhi hadn't stepped in to cook as well."

I felt heat rise to my face at that comment.

"However, the chef's condition raises concerns. Perhaps, Wataru-san, you should consider not overworking your staff?"

"Um... You might be right, Sana-san." Wataru-san's expression shifted slightly, tinged with guilt. 

“That aside, how about you all take a break?” Sana-san smiled, as she sent a quick text. “The pool is already closed for tonight, but you can all use it to relax.”

“For realzies?” Chiaki cried, her hair protrusions twitching slightly, almost like real ears.

“For realzies?!” Kirara echoed, her eyes lighting up.

“Not for realzies for you… For patrons of the hotel, the pool is closed.” Her sister raised a brow, showing she wasn’t playing favorites for her little sister.


“Come on, you had your fun.” Ichika chuckled as her friend’s face turned to that of a child deprived of candy.

“We can go tomorrow.” Kota added, yet Kirara’s scowl didn’t seem to disappear.

Everybody went silent for a second.

I guess, it would be more fun if we could all enjoy it together.

“Ah…” Mari looked around, “And here I thought I could beat you in… who floats better.” She glanced at Kirara. And yes, she definitely didn’t make that up on the spot. 

“Who floats better?” I repeated.

“Do you mean... a swimming race?” Kota asked.

“Nope, I can’t swim that fast. In fact, I can barely float.”

“Heh” Kirara giggled, and judging by the duck around her waist, I concluded she was in the same boat too.

“Oh, I wanted to show Kota a few moves I picked up from street brawlers yesterday…!” Riku scratched the back of his head as he smiled.

“Hah…” I snickered. “I bet Ichika can’t float either…”

“What? I can float just fine! Just not… uh, do a breaststroke, or… go underwater.”

She twiddled with her thumbs, her spunky attitude gradually disappearing.

“Heh, maybe I could show you… uhm, Hayasaka-san?”

Sumi smiled, while Ichika nodded.

“It wouldn’t be that bad, I guess.”

We exchanged glances, a gust of salty air brushing past us.

“Eh, whatever. The more the merrier, right?” 

"You kids... Just say it straight!" Chuckling, Sana-san waved her hand, “Of course, you may all go at the pool.”

“Yoshaaa! I’ll be the referee!”

Chiaki cheered, pulling out a whistle from God knows where.

“Shall we, then?” Mari raised a challenging brow, as the two rivals waltzed out of the establishment, and made for the hotel across the street. Soon everyone followed, trickling out of the terrace like one united group.

“Haruhi-kun.” Before I could follow them, Sana-san called out to me.


“I have a prop—“


Sana-san's stomach chose that moment to voice its discontent, something that made her cheeks redden slightly.

"Apologies, I haven't eaten all day. I've been bouncing from one meeting to another, and..." She cleared her throat, attempting to refocus.

She was… hungry?

I held back a light chuckle.

“Sana-san, I have a few leftover ingredients, do you mind waiting a bit?”


“Wataru-san, may I use the kitchen?”



“This is... amazing, Haruhi-kun!" Sana-san marveled as she indulged in the meal I had prepared using the remaining ingredients

“I’m glad you like it, Sana-san. It was just eggs mixed with some vegetables. If you fry that, instead of baking it instead, it’s just…”


I went all Gorden Romsay again.

“Sorry, I’m just glad you like it.” I scratched the back of my head, while Sana-san laughed.

“It’s okay Haruhi-kun. I can see you’re passionate about cooking.”


Was I really passionate about cooking?

“Eh, thank you.”

“You seem like a good kid too. I’m glad my sister has found friends like you.” Her tone was laced with wistfulness as she spoke, tender and soft.

“Friends, huh?” I pondered. I guess we were friends, though it took me a while to come to terms with that.

Okay, enough about my sister." Sana-san dabbed her mouth with a napkin after finishing the meal I whipped up for her. "You did an excellent job with the cooking today, Haruhi-kun. I've witnessed firsthand why the company's employees left content..."

“They did?” I couldn’t help but be taken aback. Yet I felt weirdly satisfied to hear it.

“Hah, they sure did, have no doubt.” Kirara’s sister nodded as she got up. “Maybe consider the culinary arts? I think you got a knack for this.”

The woman said as she made for the exit. With a few more words of gratitude, she was soon on her way.

Yet, despite her absence, some of what she said still lingered in the air, like balloons, floating, but unable to fly away completely.

Consider cooking seriously, huh?


“Come on, come on!”

“Ah, darn it! This is herculean!”

“Two more seconds!”

Joining the pool a tad late, I found everyone immersed in their own pursuits. Mari and Kirara playfully competed in floating endurance, Chiaki officiating, as promised.

Kota and Riku stretched nearby, purpose unclear. Chihiro chatted up the pool bar waitress as per usual, while Sumi took on the role of teaching Ichika basic swimming at the shallows.


Ichika noticed me, as I approached.

“Haruhi-kun.” Sumi in turn shot me her usual sweet smile.

“Hey, how’s the lesson going?” I squatted by the side of the pool. I may have changed to my swimming trunks, but I wasn’t quite ready to jump in yet.

“Ichika is a fast learner.” Sumi nodded.

First names, huh? It seemed those two could get along.

“Ah, Haruhi…” Ichika cried, seemingly exhausted. “I could use some help?”

“What help?”

I furrowed my brows, glancing at her outstretched hand. Instinctively, I didn’t hesitate to take it. As my palm wrapped around Ichika’s, a smirk bloomed across her face. An evil kind of grin.



In one fell swoop. Ichika used her grip on my hand to yank me into the water. And of course I fell in head first. 

“Gah!” I gasped out, feeling the sudden chill throughout my body. While Sumi and Ichika were busy giggling, I gave them both a playful glare.

“Hey what’s the big idea?”


Just as I was trying to decipher the motivation behind her action, Sumi scooped up some water and playfully splashed it right on my face.

“You were right Ichika, this is quite fun!”

“You corrupted Sumi too, you devil?!”

“Heh…” Ichika laughed, preparing her own water bending strike. “Ichika… Strike!”


And thus, the battle of the pool began.

A month back, if someone had told me normies and otakus would be playing around poolside, and having a blast, I probably would have called them crazy. Yet… here we were. 

Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64