Omae o Otaku ni Shiteyaru kara, Ore o Riajuu ni Shitekure!:Volume 1 Chapter 5
Aside from going shopping with Koigasaki (?), I spent the rest of Golden Week just surfing the net and playing games. After returning to school one week later, I remembered my reality.
I was like a mob forming part of the background in the corner of the classroom, while Koigasaki was a Gyaru surrounded by a group of girls.
Who would believe that just the two of us had met up at a place like Akiba? Even I myself couldn't believe it.
Once Koigasaki managed to get the game she wanted, my role was over. The skies had cleared and I was once again free.
I turned my eyes to Hasegawa at the front row. After not seeing her for a week, she was the same cool beauty as ever...... but, as usual, there wasn't a single person near her.
As always, I enthusiastically and diligently helped her out with the menial tasks. This had already turned into my daily routine.
That's right, I had once again returned to my peaceful days. Koigasaki didn't call out to me either. After all that help I gave her, she probably wouldn't do something like threatening to divulge my Otaku secret again, I supposed.
I could just continue to look at Hasegawa and help her out from the shadows each day.
Even though the day I would become a Riajuu was still far away, I could spend my days in peace and quiet. That alone would make me contented.
However, that thought was but a passing fantasy.
On that day, after returning a book to the library after school, I went back to class to retrieve my bag. And Koigasaki was at her seat, alone, touching up her make-up.
It would feel really awkward if I didn't say anything, so I put my mind to work, and finally, using something that I was really curious about as a topic, I started.
"Yoh, have you made any progress with the game?"
I wondered why. Even though I really wanted to talk to Hasegawa but never did, surprisingly, I was able to talk to Koigasaki effortlessly.
The game was of course referring to the one she bought at Akiba, 『Forever Over This Blue Sky』. Even if Koigasaki said she was doing it for Suzuki, I just couldn't imagine her playing that game......
As she kept silent, my heart was about to crumble at the thought of her ignoring me, but that was not actually the case.
"What the heck was that!!"
Koigasaki then shouted in a rather loud voice after putting down her makeup tools. She was just building herself up for a huge outburst.
"Eh, you really played it?"
"Of course, I did play it! I had to go shopping and visit the amusement park with friends, and go on a trip with my family! It was really a busy Golden Week for me, and I still took time in-between to secretly play it at night!"
"R-really? It must have been tough. How was it?"
I went on to prompt her as I received a damage combo upon hearing about her Golden Week that totally contrasted from mine, which was spent cooped up at home for the entire week.
"That game was really dumb! In the first place, how can a guy (the protagonist) with no redeeming qualities be popular with his childhood friend and the cute girls in class!? That's impossible! If it were me, I would definitely never fall for that kind of guy!"
"Your first complaint is about that huh...... Well, these are expected developments for such games......"
"And what's up with that childhood friend!? Her speech pattern is really out of this world! Every three lines, she will spout out a 'fuhnyaa~'. What's that!? What language is that!? If a girl like that exists in reality, people will surely avoid her like crazy!"
"Well, that's a character trait...... it's a game, after all......"
To Koigasaki, the worst part should be the erotic scenes but before we even reached there, there seemed to be already plenty of areas that pissed her off. Ignoring my explanation, she continued shooting her retorts off like an unstoppable machine gun.
"There are others; like the girl who used masculine form to address herself, and the junior who's not even the protagonist's sister but still called the protagonist 'Onii-chan'! S'cuse me, I don't remember becoming your big brother, duh!? Aah, also! What's wrong with the clothes of those girls!? Game or not, they look lame! And I don't get their gravity-defying hair!"
Is this how a normal girl would react to playing an Eroge? I had just acquired a piece of knowledge which I could do without for the rest of my life.
"If those normal scenes already got you so worked up, then those erotic scenes would be much worse......"
"......! Well, those normal scenes were indeed still fine...... but that scene that came later......"
The tone of Koigasaki's voice changed. I swallowed.
"The instant it started, I couldn't stand it and turned off my PC right away."
"What, hey! You didn't save!?"
There were so many places in her complaints that I wanted to retort to, but I took the safer choice.
"I did save somewhere before that. Aah~, but after seeing that, I don't feel like playing anymore!"
"That's why I tried to stop you."
I had expected her to give up on opening the package and in fact, that might have been preferable, but anyhow, just as expected, she surrendered before it had even really started. Well, it was understandable.
"Love Minus might have been easier for you~"
Since unlike Eroge, Love Minus is targeted towards all ages. I supposed Koigasaki should also find it easier to play. With that thought in mind, I ended up unintentionally speaking it out loud.
I regretted it immediately after opening my mouth. Saying that would definitely lead to......
"Fuuhn...... Love-whatever is easier to play?"
"But I don't have a DS console...... oh my."
Crap. She noticed.
"You have one, right? Lend it to me."
Here it comes!
"Don't joke with me! I'm a heavy user of DS, to the point of carrying it with me every day, you know!? Are you going to steal it from me!?"
I vehemently resisted.
"That's right, since you want to become an Otaku so much, how about watching an anime instead of playing games!? Unlike games, you just need to watch it, even you should be able to handle that!"
I tried my best to change the subject.
"Anime~!? Yeah well, that's true, and neither does it cost money...... but I don't know what to watch."
"There's a highly recommended show that's airing right now! It's an anime called 『Sakuragaoka Girls' High School』 and I'm hooked on it! While it's of course popular with guys, it's also popular with girls, so it should be easy for you to watch! Oh, it just so happens that it'll be airing late night tonight at 1 AM!"
"Fuuhn...... what's the story about?"
"Just like the title says, it's a story set in a girls' high school, but it's really about the friendship between girls. It has a really realistic portrayal of the squabbles and jealousy between girls."
Koigasaki returned monotonously, seemingly uninterested.
When the anime was first announced on its official home page, I thought it would be another cliche Moe Yuri anime and wasn't expecting much from it, but when it started airing, the viewers were all taken aback. The character designs were cute as expected, but the plot was about squabbles and passionate friendship between girls, and was well received not just by male Yuri fans, but also by female Otakus; right now, many have it down as the ultimate show of the season.
"The friendship between the protagonist and her rival is also amazing; while they normally squabble a lot, when the rival girl got bad-mouthed by the delinquent students, the protagonist stuck up for her and said, 'I'll kill whoever talks badly about her'. The line from that particular scene has already turned into a famous quote!"
"Hey, what kind of violent girl is the protagonist? If there's such a girl who can't read the atmosphere, she would be the one who gets beaten to a pulp by the delinquents instead."
"The protagonist is the captain of the karate club."
"I don't get it...... does Suzuki-kun like that anime?"
"Aah, I'm not sure about Suzuki...... I haven't talked about Saku-Girls with Suzuki yet."
Saku-Girls is the abbreviation of 『Sakuragaoka Girls' High School』.
"If Suzuki-kun isn't watching it, there's no way I'll watch it, right! I didn't ask about your personal recommendation! It's only because I want to get closer to Suzuki-kun that I want to become an Otaku! So, just lend me that Love-something game......"
At that moment, the door to the classroom suddenly opened.
When the face of the person who had entered the classroom entered my vision, my heart might have stopped.
It was the person I was secretly in love with, Hasegawa Midori.
Crap, did she hear our conversation!? Is my Otaku secret still safe!?
I reeled in confusion.
She looked at us and said in an expressionless yet beautiful voice,
"Sorry...... Am I interrupting you?"
"Eh, not at all! Everything is in order, don't worry about it!!"
I ended up letting out a weird voice from getting flustered all of a sudden. What in the world is 'in order'? Why am I using polite language with someone of the same year as me? There are so many comebacks for that strange line I uttered that I just feel like hitting myself now.
Hasegawa Midori appeared to have forgotten something; she went to her locker, took something out and put it in her bag. Then, she left the classroom.
All this while, my eyes were trailing Hasegawa from start to end.
Even though it was just a sentence, I had finally managed to talk to Hasegawa...... It was worth the effort of helping her in the shadows all this while. I felt touched as I savored the lingering memory of our exchange.
"Hey. This is just a thought, but..."
After Hasegawa left, Koigasaki's voice returned me to reality.
"Could it be that you are in love with Hasegawa-san?"
"Eh...... huuh!? What're you talking about!? Th-There's no way......"
Was my earlier outburst that bad?
Koigasaki looked at me with eyes filled with incredulity.
"I-It's not like I like......"
"What's with that response? Is it on purpose? It feels like you're denying it on purpose. It's crystal clear, you know?"
"Kuh...... i-is it something bad!? ...... i-it's because she's really cute!"
Feeling it was meaningless to continue denying it, I gave up and admitted it honestly.
"You really don't know your place......"
"Say what you want! Of course, I'm fully aware that it's impossible for us to become lovers right away! Still, I'm sure that Hasegawa thinks of me as a 'good person' at the very least!"
I yelled in indignation. I wasn't acting tough or anything. Each time I helped Hasegawa with her (menial) tasks as a class rep, I felt that she knew it was me when our eyes met (I think).
"I've heard that Otakus can get deluded, but I never thought it would be this serious......"
Koigasaki looked at me with dreaded eyes and quivered, fingers in her mouth. Hey, what kind of reaction is that!?
"I'm not deluded! ...... I think......"
After all, only Hasegawa herself would know her own feelings. I just thought that...... there was a possibility that she might feel something for me. I hope she does.
"It all makes sense now...... be it the game I bought the other day, or that novel about capturing the heart of your big sister that you were reading...... all of them are about a plain guy protagonist becoming popular with cute girls. Since Otakus only read such stuff, they've come to believe that they can become popular even without doing anything, huh......"
"Erh, no, I've never thought of something like that......"
"But you don't doubt that Hasegawa likes you, right?"
"Rather than like, there's a possibility she feels something positive towards me......"
"All right, if you are going this far, I will help you verify it tomorrow."
Koigasaki made a suggestion that sounded like something that I should be thankful for, in an ominous way.
"Even though I can't talk to guys, I'm not shy with girls. Tomorrow, I'll ask Hasegawa-san personally what she thinks of you."
"In return, lend me your DS. And along with the Love-whatever game!"
If I thought through this rationally, there was no way Koigasaki would help me without any benefit to her.
That was the kind of person she was.
"Didn't I just tell you that I can't live without my DS for even a day! And you want to take that away from me......"
"Are you really okay with just playing games every day and getting the girls in your games to fall in love with you? Don't you want to know about what Hasegawa thinks of you?"
"Well, if I had to choose between knowing and not knowing, of course I'd rather know, but......"
"Then it's decided. I'll help you ask her tomorrow."
I gradually got more and more interested in going along with Koigasaki's game.
I finally relented and emphasized to Koigasaki that she had to make sure Hasegawa didn't catch on to my feelings.
I was filled with mixed emotions...... on one hand, I wanted to know, while on the other hand, I was afraid to know.
The next day came. Koigasaki went to talk to Hasegawa during the brief interval between lessons. The sight of two beautiful yet different types of girls talking attracted the attention of the guys in class.
While looking at them, my heart fluttered furiously, as if it were about to burst.
"There's a guy sitting behind you, right?"
That was the first thing Koigasaki said when we met behind the school gym during noon break.
"......eh? Kiritani? ......eeh!? Don't tell me Hasegawa likes Kiritani......"
I immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion; Koigasaki ignored me and continued,
"Hasegawa-san thought that he's Kashiwada."
I couldn't comprehend what Koigasaki was saying.
"When I mentioned your name, Hasegawa thought for a while and said, '...... is that the name of the boy sitting at the very back next to the window......'."
"In other words, Hasegawa isn't even aware of your existence. My condolences."
She didn't even know my name.
The truth hurt too much.
"Since she's not even aware of you, I can't go about asking her what she thinks of you, so I didn't. All right, give it to me."
Koigasaki then stretched out both her hands to me, while I was on the verge of tears.
"Don't 'eh' me. I helped you ask her, so lend me your DS. And also the game."
She could still say that right when I was suffering from major damage. She really was a devil. Since I had promised, I had no choice but to hand over my DS, together with the Love-Minus disc inside. I kept emphasizing to her not to delete my saved data.
"I put in so much effort, and yet...... she didn't realize it, huh......"
I lamented while handing over my console.
Does this mean that all the effort I put in has come to naught?
"I helped out in her duties as the class rep. From the shadows."
"What do you mean by 'from the shadows'?"
"Well, when Hasegawa wasn't around, I would quickly help her finish with the menial stuff......"
"Scary! Creepy! Rather, if she wasn't around, there's no way she would know, right!"
"Erh, no, I felt that she realized it was me during those few times when our eyes met......"
"You felt that when your eyes met? You must have been imagining things."
I sunk to the pits of despair when Koigasaki delivered her final blow.
"There's no point to your kindness if she doesn't even realize it. You should just tell her upfront that you want to help her."
"Won't that kind of candid approach be annoying!? Not just to her, but to the rest, won't I look like I was trying to score points with my 'kindness'!? It would make me look like a conceited, pretentious fool."
Even though I was throwing out an excuse, the truth was, I was just afraid to tell her upfront that I wanted to help her.
I've always been like that, not just when it comes to love. For example, when I'm riding the subway, if there's a granny standing before me, due to my shyness, I'll just stand up from my seat without even saying "Here you go". I was that kind of timid and shy boy.
"Besides, if I do that to a beautiful girl like Hasegawa, I will look like some kind of lusty nut, won't I? Not just Hasegawa herself, but the people around will feel creeped out, won't they?"
Koigasaki made an exasperated face.
"Fuuhn, so in other words, you are trying to keep up with the times and aiming to become a herbivorous guy? You don't want to look like someone with an appetite for girls, but a nice goody kind of guy?"
"Erm, no, it's not like I have that kind of intent......"
"Ah, my bad. It's not 'keep up with the times', but 'stay in the out-dated times'. herbivorous guys aren't really popular these days."
Koigasaki heaved an exasperated sigh.
"I don't know much about keeping up with the times or not, but don't herbivorous guys get a lot of attention?"
"Like I said, that was in the past! I've heard nothing but bad things about herbivorous guys from the other girls. Stuff like 'I made it so obvious, yet he didn't ask me for my number', or 'we finally exchanged numbers but he never asked me out', or 'he's really not into girls but guys, right?'. In the end, the carnivorous guys are the best, is what they concluded."
I s-see...... I've always been jealous of those herbivorous, air-head-looking guys that are popular with girls, though those are probably just limited to the good looking guys, so that's how the current view is right now.
"And thus, I think you should be like a carnivore for now and try inviting Hasegawa-san to hang out~!"
I wavered before Koigasaki's crazy suggestion.
"Hna, I can't even talk to her. How in the world am I supposed to do that!?"
"She doesn't even know your name the way things stand, you know!? Are you okay with that!?"
"Of course not, but......"
"You really are useless. Can't be helped, I'll talk to Hasegawa-san for you."
"...... eh? ...... what, did you just say......"
I doubted my ears.
"Are you serious!? Are you seriously going to invite Hasegawa to hang out with me!? Are you an angel!?"
"Be more courteous with me. I'm only doing this because you are useless and will be totally helpless without me. Learn to be grateful, seriously."
"You aren't kidding me!? Woooaaahhh, you really are a good person!!"
I'd always thought Koigasaki was a devil, but she's actually a really good person, isn't she?
That's right. I keep forgetting it, but this girl would never help me out unconditionally.
"Wha. Aah, jeez, I get it! In return, you are going to invite Hasegawa for me, right!?"
"Of course. You too, make sure you bring Suzuki along, get it!?"
Well, if I consider this calmly, it doesn't sound like a bad deal. Since there's a chance I could get to hang out with Hasegawa.
"Ah, but you can't talk to girls and I can't talk to guys, and Hasegawa-san is the quiet-type, so can I invite Miki to liven things up? She's not shy and pretty boisterous, and can definitely rouse things up."
Miki...... was probably Sasagawa Miki, who seemed to be Koigasaki's closest female friend in class. She was even more Gyaru-ish than Koigasaki.
"I see. That certainly will help."
To be honest, I couldn't deal well with types like Sasagawa (rather, I can't deal well with any Gyaru), but, her presence as an ice-breaker would be a welcome one.
All that was left was to invite another guy, and Kiritani would probably do. The members were perfect. I started looking forward to it.
"You know, I was thinking, before hanging out with Hasegawa-san to get closer to her, how about working on your Otaku-ish appearance first?"
I couldn't let that slide.
"By Otaku-ish, you mean me?"
"Who else is here?"
Wh-What did she say......?
"I've been wondering about this... Even though you don't want people to know you're an Otaku, your appearance gives you away instantly, you know?"
Was that what she meant by me having an Otaku-ish appearance......?
"How come!? I'm not wearing glasses or a bandana, I'm not fat, and I don't have checkered shirts in my casual wear. Totally not Otaku-ish, right!?"
"What kind of basis is that...... For argument's sake, even if it isn't obvious that you're an Otaku, no one would doubt it if told that you're one. That's how you look."
"What!? T-Tell me where in particular!?"
"Everything. With that kind of appearance, it's no wonder that Hasegawa-san doesn't even remember your name."
My knees shook and buckled, I slouched forward and my palms touched the ground, making an "orz" pose as a result.
Since my terrible state in middle school, I wanted to at least look normal and worked hard at that, but it seemed like my efforts were far from enough.
"But it can't be helped! I wasn't born with good looks, and there's an apparent limit to how much I can do with effort alone. And besides, Hasegawa might not be a Sweet(LOL) who places a guy's worth on his appearance and may not have 'looks' as a criterion in her guy......"
"............ pisses me off."
Was she mad because I called her Sweet(LOL) in her face for the first time? But no, did she even know the meaning of Sweet(LOL)?
"It can't be helped because I wasn't born with good looks!? Are you an idiott!?"
Nah, but why did she suddenly snap?
"Indeed, a person's genes may play a part in it, but most people actually take the trouble and pay the money to polish themselves up and make themselves look good! And someone who doesn't even make an effort can say, 'It can't be helped because I wasn't born with good looks'!? Are all Otakus such self-deprecating people!? This pisses me off, it really pisses me off!"
Koigasaki was in a real rage, and raved incessantly without even waiting for my reaction.
"How can you like a cute girl and yet be indifferent to your own appearance? How do you even expect her to come to like you!?"
I went into dumbfounded shock at the countless jolting words that had rolled off Koigasaki's tongue.
"Even if you tell me that...... what should I do about it...... I've been living like this for the last 15 years without caring about looking good...... I won't know what I can do to make myself look good at this point......"
Even if I was labeled as self-deprecating, it couldn't be helped, since it was the honest truth.
"If you just look around you, you should notice it. There's hardly anyone like you, who doesn't trim his eyebrows or style his hair, and who wears his pants high up with a fully-buttoned uniform, is there?"
Eyebrows, hair style, uniform's buttons, pants...... do I really have to change so much about my dressing alone?
"T-Tell me more specifically what I should do......!?"
There might be some progress now that I knew there were lots of things I needed to change, but if I didn't know how to go about changing them, then I wouldn't be able to do anything about them.
"Go figure it out yourself! Go buy some magazines or something?"
"Magazines!? What kind of magazines contain such info!?"
I was getting desperate.
"Aah jeez, you're annoying! Like I said, go figure it out yourself! I have to go think about how to invite the girls to hang out, so I'm going home now!"
With a sour attitude, Koigasaki evaded me and went home.
Koigasaki's angry voice kept reverberating in my head throughout the entire day.
"Most people actually take the trouble and pay the money to polish themselves up and make themselves look good!"
"How can you like a cute girl and yet be indifferent to your own appearance? How do you even expect her to come to like you!?"
"If you just look around you, you should notice it. There's hardly anyone like you, who doesn't trim his eyebrows or style his hair, and who wears his pants high up with a fully-buttoned uniform, is there?"
Though I was pissed, everything was right on the mark.
Since I entered high school, I was desperately trying to hide my Otaku secret. However, I was too focused in hiding my Otaku secret and had never given any thought on how to make myself look good.
In the first place, will the manner of wearing my uniform really make such a difference?
With this doubt in mind, the next day, I started observing the male students around me in school.
What I saw surprised me.
Even though it was the same uniform, there were different ways of wearing it.
There were guys who wore it the way I did. There were also guys who wore a cardigan instead of a blazer. And yet others wore vests. Some had their necktie properly tightened to the top like me. Others wore it loosely. And also there were those without any neckties.
A clear voice suddenly called out just as I felt a tap on my shoulder.
He was the same energetic, cool guy today.
On top of the shirt that was stipulated by the school, he was wearing a vest that seemed a little big for him, and pants that were below waist level. But his legs were long. His feet weren't in loafers like everyone else, but stylish-looking sneakers.
This guy isn't just good-looking, he's stylish...... This was a new fact that I just realized.
"Suzuki, why are you so stylish even though you're an Otaku...... like I thought, is it because you don't want people to know that you're an Otaku......?"
"Eh? I'm really not hiding the fact that I'm an Otaku."
I doubted what my ears heard.
"See, I have Rinka on the phone."
The standby screen of the iPhone Suzuki showed me had an animated Rinka from LoveMinus switching poses and expressions. It was an official app from LoveMinus. He had that openly on his cellphone...... with this, everyone would know that he was an Otaku. And yet, those reactions of the girls in class...... Does it mean it's ok for a good-looking guy to be an Otaku? A discrimination against looks.
"And it's not like I'm dressing stylishly."
"No, you are stylish! Even though I've never seen you in casual wear, there's no doubt that you're stylish!"
I might be a dunce when it comes to dressing and fashion, but I could easily tell from Suzuki's hairstyle and how he wore his uniform that compared to the ordinary guy, he was paying special attention to his appearance.
"Nah, it's all because of my big sis's nagging...... 'I can't stand my little brother looking like a plain, nerdy Otaku! At the very least, pay attention to your clothes!' And she just bought my clothes for me on her own. Well, even though initially it was because of that, I myself grew to like my clothes, so it's fine."
"She buys your clothes for you? What a great big sister! "
"Great big sister......? No way...... I have zero interest in the older girl archetype all because of that big sister of mine......"
In a rare gloomy voice, Suzuki muttered with a pained look. Seemed like he didn't like his big sister.
Which reminded me, I wasn't into younger girl archetypes all thanks to that ultra-sadistic, violent, middle school Fujoshi little sister of mine. Next time, I would like to talk more with Suzuki about how bad our sisters were. Our conversation ended there as I reached my classroom and we parted ways.
Upon entering the classroom, I went to my seat, and looked at the guys around me. However, since my seat was two rows from the back, I could only see the backs of the male students.
I observed the hairstyles of the male students in my class. There were guys who dyed their hair, guys who retained their black hair, guys with crew cuts, guys with long hair, guys with their hair standing, and also guys like me who left their hair unstyled......
There were only very few students who were with unstyled hair like me.
After homeroom ended, the teacher left the classroom.
"Kashiwada, why did you keep looking around."
I turned around at Kiritani's voice from behind.
I was surprised.
I had never really paid any attention to Kiritani's face before, but he actually had his hair properly styled and eyebrows neat and trimmed.
While Kiritani didn't have a good-looking face, compared to me, he paid more attention to his looks. This was the first time I realized that.
"...... Kiritani, don't tell me I look really lame?"
"Eh? Isn't it a bit late to be asking that?"
I slouched across my desk in shock, and escaping from reality, I drifted into sleep.
A voice called out. As I awoke and looked up, there was a super beautiful girl before me. Ah, is this perhaps an angel?
"That sleep mark on your forehead made your face an even more unbearable sight to behold."
Said the demon called Koigasaki.
Made my face an even more unbearable sight to behold, which means, normally my face is already an unbearable sight to behold?
"Aah, school's already over, huh......"
The clock showed it was now 3.30 in the afternoon, and Koigasaki and I were the only ones remaining in the classroom.
Since our last conversation, I'd been observing the guys the entire day. Hosokawa from the soccer club. Miwa from the baseball club. Sano from the table tennis club. Sasaki from the literature club. Hashimoto from the computer club. Yamada from the manga research club.
I was so into my observation activities that Kiritani became worried and had said to me, "Your eyes have been chasing after guys' asses all day. Did you decide to turn gay because Hasegawa's out of reach for you?". And the result was.
"Even guys work hard at their hairstyles and eyebrows, huh...... At worst, in the lame guy ranking in our class, I'm probably among the top ten......"
My eyes couldn't help but turn distant while murmuring that.
"Huuh? What're you talking about? Not top 10, you are in the top 3."
I was kind of hoping that she would refute my proclamation, but instead, she rubbed it in a much worse manner, and I felt like crying.
"So, how did it go?"
The tone of Koigasaki's voice suddenly changed, and she looked at me intently with hopeful eyes.
"Eh? How did what go?"
"Is Suzuki-kun coming?"
"Eh, ah...... I forgot."
I just remembered. I'd totally forgotten I was supposed to invite Suzuki and Kiritani to hang out with us.
"You didn't ask him!? I can't believe this!"
It was all because my head had been filled with thoughts on eyebrows, hairstyles and men's clothes.
"Aah jeez, you're seriously terrible. And I even invited Hasegawa-san already......"
"Eh, really!? Hasegawa is coming!?"
"Ah ...... yeah."
Koigasaki's words sent my mind into a whirl.
Even though it wouldn't be just the two of us, I would be able to hang out with Hasegawa. Is it ok for such a wonderful thing to happen in reality? Frankly, because of the unsociable feeling that Hasegawa gave out, I thought for sure that she wouldn't come.
"Surprisingly, she agreed to it rather readily. I've also talked to Miki and she's coming along to karaoke. If you don't bring Suzuki along, I'll change plans and it'll be just us girls hanging out."
"It's natural, right. If Suzuki doesn't come, it won't make the slightest sense for us to hang out with you."
To Koigasaki, I was merely an existence used for bringing her closer to Suzuki. Even though I already knew it, clearly saying that out to me really made me mad.
"Your worry is wasted! I'll get him to come no matter what!"
I silently swore to myself that I'd definitely talk to Suzuki about this tomorrow.
"Which reminds me, there's another thing that I wanted to ask you."
While saying that, Koigasaki took out something from her bag.
What appeared was the DS console that I had lent her.
"I tried out the Love-something you lent me yesterday, but all you ever do in the game is study and go to club activities, and I'm very sick of it. How much longer will it take to finish it?"
Koigasaki switched on the console and loaded the game. On the display, it showed 『Day 20』.
"There's no real end to the game. You enter the next mode after getting confessed to. You'll reach the bad end if you don't get a confession after a hundred days, though......"
"Eeh!? Then I have to keep repeating the same thing until I get a confession?"
"Well, yeah. If you don't like it, give it back to me."
You dare complain to me when you were the one who stole my DS from me, this girl. I can't even play it when I want to.
"Hey, you've advanced pretty far ahead, right? If I look at yours, will it be akin to me having advanced that far? And then I can talk about this game with Suzuki-kun when we go for karaoke ~"
"Even if you say that, I think the fact that you didn't play the game would still be exposed...... Rather, are you planning to talk about LoveMinus in front of everyone?"
"Stop prattling and quickly show yours to me."
Left without a choice, I loaded my saved data while she hurried me.
"By the way, in my case, I've already gotten a confession from Nono-san and I'm now in lovers mode."
"Fuuhn, you go into lovers mode after getting a confession?"
By the way, I was free during the spring break and was playing it in real-time mode, but I couldn't do that after entering school and switched to skip mode.
"It's good timing that there's an upcoming date tomorrow, so why don't I show you the date scene?"
Maybe because she felt tired from standing, Koigasaki took a seat in front of me and peered into the screen. In order to see the screen, she came rather close to me, and I became a little nervous.
"Hey, why do you keep touching the screen? What's that about?"
"This is skinship! There's also a trick to this; if I don't touch Nono-san and make her feel good when there are hardly any people around, she will get angry."
Koigasaki kept quiet. She seemed to be focusing on the screen. I continued playing the game while explaining it earnestly to her.
"Ahh! This is where Nono-san wants a kiss, and it will also turn out badly if I don't do this properly. It's kind of troublesome when you aren't used to it."
With a practiced hand, I succeeded in kissing Nono-san.
"Whew. It's tough to even do a kiss. Well, it'll be easy once you get used to it ~"
"Hey, is it ok? Is it ok for me to say this? I'm feeling really creeped out."
After saying that, for the first time, Koigasaki's gaze shifted away from Nono-san on the console's screen. Koigasaki's scornful gaze was directed at me, not at the game.
"You! You were the one who asked me to show you where I stopped, right!? If you want to ridicule the game, then return it to me!"
"I'm not creeped out by the game, but by you! You just kept prattling on smugly, explaining stuff that I didn't even ask about, and you have that smirk on your face...... it's really creepy. Not just me, any girl would have been creeped out by that big time......"
I realized that even though Koigasaki had sat rather close to me to look at the screen, she was a considerable distance away from me now.
"You were really smug about it, but do you really think that actual dates will work out the same way as in the game?"
"Eh, I've n-never thought like that......"
"That's a relief! If a girl dated you now, she's sure to be creeped out and that would be the end of it. I'm worried about the karaoke. Be careful not to get any weird ideas and start acting creepily towards the girls."
How much more is this girl going to keep ridiculing me, I wondered. She's the one who asked me to play it in front of her, and this is what I get.
"But, you know, if you look at stuff like how a girl will get in a bad mood if you make a weird choice during a date, or how she will get angry if you touch her when there are lots of people around, or that you won't get a confession if you get too friendly with the other girls, it's pretty realistic! I did more or less learn some things about the psychology of girls through LoveMinus and other Galge, you know!"
"........................ are you seriously saying that?"
Beyond the level of amazement, Koigasaki looked intently at me with pitying eyes.
"Well, of course I know very well that games and reality are two different things! What I wanted to say is that dating sims these days are pretty realistically made......"
"Fuuhn...... all right. Then, why don't we play a game now?"
Said Koigasaki for some reason. I had a pretty unpleasant feeling about this.
"Let's do a mock date. You and me."
"Like I said, it's a mock date! Don't keep making those exaggerated reactions, it's creepy."
"A-Aah, a mock date huh...... So what's this about?"
"Think of me as Hasegawa-san and go on a practice date with me. In the unlikely event that things move ahead between you and Hasegawa-san during the karaoke, you might end up arranging a date with her, right? You won't want to fail big time and get hated for it, right?"
"A date with Hasegawa-san!?"
"That's right. You can't say for sure that it won't happen, right?"
A date with just Hasegawa. Just thinking of it makes me feel anxious and distraught.
"Here are the rules! If you say or do something that turns a girl off, I'll keep deducting points from you. You'll start off with a hundred points. If you have more than 50 points left at the end of the date, I'll do whatever you say."
As if she'd just thought of something great, Koigasaki prattled on in a self-satisfied manner.
"What's with those rules...... how do we determine when the date is over?"
"You've got a point, now's already past four...... how about we set the end time at six. At any rate, I have a curfew and need to be back by 7.30, so that will be just about right for me."
I smelled something fishy about this. It just wasn't possible that this girl would go to such an extent for me unconditionally.
"However, if your points go to zero before the date ends......", continued Koigasaki.
"You'll have to do whatever I say."
That was her goal right from the start.
"Don't be ridiculous! In the first place, isn't it biased having only you decide on the scoring criteria? This game puts me at a complete disadvantage!"
"Of course, I intend to be extremely fair in my judgement to the extent of disregarding my personal gain in this."
Koigasaki then added.
"Fine, I was just being kind enough to make this proposal for your sake. If you don't believe me, it's fine. Oh yeah ~ you're just an incompetent Otaku who's only confident in dating sims and gets cold feet when it comes to real dating, aren't you ~?"
Even I was well aware of how my blood went to my head from Koigasaki's provocation.
"...... fine, I'll do it! However, if I win, you are going to really do whatever I say!"
I declared before I realized it.
"The deal's on. Then, let's go to Harajuku."
"Eh!? Harajuku!? Why all the way there......"
"There's a shop I want to visit! Well, Shibuya might do as well, but I want to eat the crêpe at Harajuku."
...... I couldn't help but get the strong impression I was merely getting dragged along to accompany Koigasaki on her personal errand.
After leaving school, we boarded the subway, transferred lines along the way, and finally reached Harajuku.
It was my first time to Harajuku. It seemed like Koigasaki came here often with her friends after school.
"Haah, my dream was to come here with my boyfr...... with Suzuki on a date in our uniforms, so why am I here at Harajuku alone with you after school......"
"Weren't you the one who suggested it!?"
I almost snapped without thinking after hearing Koigasaki's willful proclamation.
Normally, in most cases, a female character from a manga or light novel who utters a line like that is a Tsundere who's hiding her embarrassment with a Tsun line, but, when I considered that, I felt hollow knowing that what Koigasaki said was a hundred percent without a doubt her true feelings.
"All right, we're going to begin now ~"
Said Koigasaki when we exited Harajuku station.
"Even if you said that it's a mock date, I won't know what to do right away."
I was struck dumbfounded when I was told to start all of a sudden.
"Didn't I tell you to think of me as Hasegawa-san! The date has already started. If you say another dumb thing like that I'm going to start deducting points!"
Scary. So I can't even let my guard down and engage in idle talk.
"Imagine you are on a date with Hasegawa-san, just bring me to where you would want to bring her."
"Just bring you......"
I'm at a loss. This is my first time at Harajuku, and you want me to bring you to someplace in a district that I don't even know?
"Minus 5 points!"
I made an objecting utterance at the sudden unreasonable deduction.
Not even three minutest had passed since it started.
"Since this is the first date, it should be natural for the guy to plan all the activities, right? If both of you are at a loss, the girl would feel troubled, right?"
"...... I see."
Even though it was annoying, what Koigasaki said was strangely convincing. Just so I wouldn't forget what Koigasaki says before the date is over, I decided to note it down using the memo function of my cellphone. Since her words represented the modern girl's perspective, I could reference it even if it made my blood boil.
Thinking of that, I started the memo function of my cellphone and starting taking notes......
"Minus 5 points."
"Huuh!? Why!? Why!?"
I began to resist, thinking that it was totally unreasonable of her.
"I hate guys who play with their phones on a date. To top it off, it's only the first date and not like you've already gone steady."
Once again, I accepted her explanation.
Be it the memo function or the mail function, from the other party's point of view, it didn't change the fact that I was playing with my phone.
After explaining to Koigasaki that I was noting down her advice (actually her complaints), I was told it would be allowed next time if I first announced that I was going to take notes. Why is it that I have to abase myself to the point of needing her permission to do even that? I don't get it myself.
After getting several points deducted when the date had only just started and we hadn't done anything yet, I pulled myself together and continued with the mock date.
At any rate, I decided to just enter Takeshita Street, which was just in front of me. Even though it was a weekday, there were many youngsters. The youngsters came and went before me in their distinct, personalized fashion, drawing my attention to them.
"Minus 15 points."
I kept my mouth shut as we walked along Takeshita Street in case I got my points deducted for saying the wrong thing, but Koigasaki once again declared that I had my points deducted. And to make it worse, it was 15 points.
"What's wrong!? I didn't do anything, right!?"
"Firstly, you walk with a slouched back. Most girls don't like guys who slouch."
I was struck speechless. Indeed, I do acknowledge that I slouch. Most Otakus slouch (counting those around me).
"Even so, isn't that too many points?"
"Also, you walk too fast. Since you are on a date, you should match your speed to the girl's. Also, why are you keeping quiet while walking? You should strive to have an enjoyable conversation with the girl. In total, minus 15 points."
While I have a few objections I could raise against that unreasonable appraisal, she wasn't entirely wrong, so I didn't say anything. Just into the first ten minutes, and my score...... was seventy-five......
Following her instructions to start an enjoyable conversation, for now, I asked her monotonously,
"Well, then...... is there anywhere you would like to go?"
It was an unreasonable thing to ask myself to see and treat Koigasaki as Hasegawa, so I couldn't help but purposely use a monotonous tone. If she were to deduct my points because of this, I would definitely raise an objection, but she let it slide.
"I want to go to Liz!"
"Liz? What's that?"
"You don't even know about Liz Lisa ~!? Minus 5 points."
"Hey! That was just your personal opinion, right!"
"No, guys who are clueless on how to dress are actually drawn to it."
From Koigasaki's explanation, 『Liz』 is the abbreviation of 『Liz Lisa』 and seemed to be a brand of clothes that Koigasaki liked. And somehow, there seemed to be a shop outlet along this Takeshita Street.
We entered the Liz Lisa store found in the middle of Takeshita Street.
Pink, white, and other lightly-colored frilly, girly dresses that Koigasaki seemed to like dangled around.
The store assistants and customers were of course all girls, making me, the only guy, feel quite uncomfortable.
"Sorry, I'll wait outside......"
"Was just kidding ~! Let's look at the clothes together!"
I barely got away without the deduction.
"Ah ~ a new line did come out ~! Really cute ~!"
Upon entering the store, Koigasaki entered her own world as she started looking at the clothes.
The store that she wanted to visit was probably referring to this, I supposed.
Looking at the customer demographics, most of them appeared to be high school girls as expected; there were both plain-looking ones and glitzy Gyarus. Some also wore frightfully short skirts.
"Minus 10 points."
Koigasaki, who should have been absorbed in the clothes, was looking at me with a disgusted look on her face.
"You're a contemptible guy for looking at other girls instead of expressing interest in your girlfriend's shopping during a date. Also, you should help me carry my stuff while I'm shopping. How inconsiderate of you."
"Other girls? I was just observing the customer demographics!"
"Liar. I know that your eyes have been trailing after a single girl."
Koigasaki said as she turned her eyes to the girl with the short skirt, whom I had been looking at. She was really sharp when it came to such things......
"Ma'am ~! Would you like to try this out?"
As Koigasaki returned to looking at the clothes, a Gyaru-like store assistant spoke to her. It was a store assistant passionate about her job, though she hadn't been much help from the time Koigasaki started looking at the clothes.
While staring off into space, Koigasaki went to try out two one-piece dresses.
After a while, having finished changing, Koigasaki emerged from the fitting room.
"Ma'am, it suits you ~!"
When I looked at Koigasaki who had drawn the curtain open, I was at a loss for words.
Koigasaki, who was clad in a pink frilly one-piece dress, was cute like a doll, which was by no means an exaggeration.
Is this dress special-made for Koigasaki, I wondered...... it truly 『suited』 her in that sense. I felt sorry for the store assistant beside her, who was wearing clothes of the same brand.
Even though I didn't want to admit it, I was completely taken away.
"Minus 5 points."
When I heard that unpleasant proclamation, I returned to my senses.
"Why are you keeping quiet in front of a girl who's trying out clothes? Whether it looks good or not, it's basic courtesy to give some compliment!"
"Wha! Ah, erm, it's just that...... it looks too good on you that I was taken away and at a loss for words......"
"Minus another 5 points. You don't need to go so far as to give me cold flattery. You must have made that excuse because you got points deducted, right?"
Even though I complimented her honestly, it was taken as flattery. Well, while it was annoying to get my points deducted, it was better than having her get ahead of herself.
After that, Koigasaki tried the other piece, and even though the store assistant was enthusiastically complimenting her, she left the store without buying it.
Koigasaki single-handedly and politely brushed off the store assistant who had been complimenting her desperately, but because I didn't help her with it, I had my points deducted again.
After exiting the store, we starting walking along Takeshita Street again.
"Hey, we've been walking along Takeshita Street randomly for quite a while. Do you have a destination in mind?"
"Eh, there's no way I would have one, right?"
"Minus 5 points."
"Hey, don't I even get to ask a leading question!?"
"Ah, I want a crêpe!"
Koigasaki ran off to a crêpe shop along the street. I was also hungry, so we both ended up eating crêpes.
"Minus 10 points."
Koigasaki, who had bought her crêpe, turned to me and said it in a matter-of-fact manner.
"Why did you just allow the girl to pay for herself?"
My eyes turned into dots when I heard her words.
"Eeh!? Ah, I'm supposed to treat you!? Why should I treat someone like you......"
"I didn't explicitly tell you to treat me. But during a date, you have to show that you are willing to pay for it. The girl might decline your offer, but right here, you have to at least say something like, 'Let me pay for this'."
Indeed, I'd heard from somewhere that the guy should be treating the girl during a date. A man needs money, huh...... If there were an upcoming date, until the day of the date itself, I would have to work part-time......
Following that, I got points deducted for stuff like 『don't make a mess of yourself when eating a crêpe』,『you didn't ask the girl if she would like to take a bite from your crêpe』 (first point aside, I just couldn't agree with the second point).
After finishing our crêpes, we continued walking along Takeshita Street. When I took a look at the time on the standby screen of my cellphone, it was just past five. There was another hour more or less before the game would end.
"Minus 5 points."
"You gave off the feeling you were wondering what else to do when you looked at the time. And your face said that, meh, there's still time left. If you do that during a real date, I would think that you didn't have fun being around me."
Indeed, I might have had that kind of expression just now, but it was because this wasn't a real date but a really terrifying game...... However, I didn't feel like protesting, so I just let it slide.
"Ah, since we're already here at Harajuku, why don't you take this chance to shop for the clothes you'll wear to karaoke? Walking with you has been really embarrassing. I'd like you to buy some clothes and change into them. If possible."
Even while I continued receiving the damage inflicted by the cruel words of Koigasaki, I did agree it was a good idea to buy some clothes in preparation for the karaoke. After all, I didn't have anything presentable to wear for hanging out with girls.
"You're right. Let's buy something here, then!"
I immediately wanted to head for the men's clothing store nearby. On the front of the building were displays of 2000 yen T-shirts, which meant they carried stuff within my financial means.
"Ehh, here!? No, this shop's a little...... It's still fine if only one item in your getup came from this store, but it would be a little too much if you got everything from just this store......"
"Seriously......? Even if you say that, I have no idea where I can get the right clothes. What kind of store is good?"
"Uhmm, won't it be safe to go with Arrows? If I remember correctly, the main store's in Harajuku......"
Koigasaki took out her cellphone from her pocket to look it up. She found the map of that store called 『Arrows』 with her smartphone, started walking while looking at the map, and I followed without saying a word. After walking for a straight ten minutes, we reached our destination at last.
"It's a little expensive, but I think it will be a safer bet."
I read the Romaji of the brand name, but I might have read it wrongly. It seemed like a brand store for guys.
I entered the store timidly. Both the store assistants and the customers were stylishly dressed, and I felt a little embarrassed.
"Ah, something like this will be good."
Koigasaki affixed her eyes onto the clothes worn by a mannequin. I didn't really get it, but the clothes certainly did look kind of stylish. I casually took hold of the price tag. And got flabbergasted.
"Well, it should be around this much."
If just a shirt alone would set me back by ten thousand yen, then if I got everything I needed from this store, wouldn't it easily cost me over fifty thousand yen?
"Ah, the clothes here are nice, too ~!"
Koigasaki scoured around happily. It seemed like a stylish person could have fun just looking at clothes even if she wasn't the one wearing them. While I pretended to look at the selection of clothes, in truth, buying clothes from this store had been completely eliminated from my options. Where would I get the money?
After a while, Koigasaki made an exasperated look and asked me,
"You aren't buying anything?"
"I'll buy on another day."
I replied and the two of us left the store.
"Hey, what will we do now?"
"Hm, why don't we go somewhere to rest up?"
After walking for quite a bit, our legs were tired. We went into a nearby cafe.
"Fuh, I'm beat ~"
After sitting down in a chair, I said that naturally.
It was partly because I was tired from all the walking, but mostly I was just mentally exhausted from paying too much attention to avoid getting my points deducted.
"Minus 5 points."
This came just when I was thinking about it.
"You sound like an old man! You can't say that you're tired in the middle of a date."
I was already used to getting my points deducted. How many points do I have left, I wondered. Since Koigasaki had been keeping track of the points with the memo function of her cellphone, I could find out if I just asked, but I was too afraid to hear the answer.
After glancing once at the menu, I called the waiter.
"Minus 5 points! I haven't even decided what I want, so why are you already calling the waiter!"
Koigasaki fumed while looking at the menu.
Since the other person was Koigasaki, I just couldn't stay considerate of her.
Afterwards, while eating, things such as eating messily, swinging a destitute aura, or making noise while drinking my juice got my points deducted.
"Then again, how do you know so much if you've never gone out with a guy before?"
"It's nothing. At school, while I was having girls' talk with my friends, I got to hear their opinions. Like 'this kind of guy won't do', 'I didn't like that about the guy I met the other day', and so on and so forth."
Do high school girls these days talk about such things at school? Sounds scary.
I had completely forgotten about our mock date and was chatting with Koigasaki, but, when I looked at the time, it was already 6.05 PM.
"Ah! It's already time! All right!"
If I remembered correctly, we had agreed that if I had 50 points or more left at the end of the date, she would listen to whatever I say.
Naturally, I hadn't been keeping track of my points remaining, and couldn't even make a guess.
"What do you mean by 'all right'? Your points had already reached zero."
I cried out at the shocking truth.
"Did I really lose that many points!?"
"You don't believe my words? Here."
Koigasaki held out her cellphone, and I saw on her memo screen the itemized deducted points.
At Koigasaki's prompt, I tallied the deducted points. My 100 points got gradually deducted...... it was regrettable, but just right after we entered this cafe, my points reached zero.
"Then, as we agreed, you will listen to whatever I say ~"
Following behind Koigasaki, who was all smiles, we left the cafe. We returned to Takeshita Street and headed in the direction of the Riz Riza store.
"Don't tell me......"
"You are going to buy a one-piece dress from Riz for me."
"Wha......!? By the way, how much is it?"
"Around ten thousand yen?"
A rush of air escaped me at the overly high price tag. For a penalty game for a high school student, this was too high a price no matter how you look at it. Did this girl know the meaning of 'being reserved'?
While Koigasaki was trying to decide between the two dresses she had tried out earlier, I looked inside my wallet with a feeling of despair. Then, I reached a realization a little too late.
"I only have 2327 yen left......"
"Huuh!? Are you just making up a random excuse to avoid buying the dress......"
Indignant, Koigasaki peered into my wallet and knew that I was telling the truth.
She sighed out in exasperation.
To be honest, in the bank, I still had several thousand saved up from the New Year's gift money I'd received, but I decided not to say anything even if she threatened me.
"To think that you're so poor......"
"Eh, erh, isn't this normal for an average high school freshman?"
I'd never worked at a part-time job, and since my pocket money amounted to only five thousand yen a month, after spending it on games, manga, or going out to have fun, pretty much nothing was left. How do Riajuu get so stylish, I wondered. It takes a lot of money to become stylish. Is working a part-time job the only way?
"Forget it. I'll get Dad to buy the dress for me next time. Aah, but Mom will get angry if she learns...... I have to make sure she doesn't find out......"
Koigasaki murmured something.
"Eh, forget it, you said...... so it's okay even if I don't buy it!?"
"It's not a matter of being okay or not. You can't even afford it, right?"
Koigasaki was disgusted with me, and returned the dress she was holding back to its original place.
"Aah jeez, this is really a downer. You're really unbelievable."
"Aah...... I'm sorry......"
Even though Koigasaki's demands were rather unreasonable, a promise is a promise, so I apologized for my failure to keep it.
"Don't think that you can get away with just this. You owe me one. I'll have you return the favor next time for sure. In one way or another."
Koigasaki's mood turned sour after this, and she took out her cellphone to meddle with it.
Just earlier, she was harping on me not to use my cellphone during a date so the other party wouldn't feel unpleasant, and now she's doing this. Aah jeez, this girl's personality is really bad. Even if her cuteness has no parallel, I would definitely never want to go out with this girl. This thought came to me once again, and I proceeded to turn on my data and started checking out the bulletin board that I frequented.
Walking from Takeshita Street to the station, and even on the train, both of us continued playing with our cellphones without saying a word, but a question surfaced in my mind and I asked Koigasaki.
"Where are you transferring?"
"Eh, where's your house?"
What came out of Koigasaki's mouth was the station for our school.
"Seriously!? Isn't your house really close to the school!"
Does that mean she walks to school every day?
There was nothing more enviable than the fact she didn't experience the need to rush to school every morning.
"Ah, that's just right for you, isn't it? It would be trouble if you boarded a fully packed train, wouldn't it?"
"Rather...... we moved to a place near the school. So I could attend that school."
For an instant, I didn't get what Koigasaki was saying.
"When it was decided I would go to this school, I was originally supposed to commute to school by train from my previous house, but my Dad was really worried about it. I'd been going to middle school on foot, so there's no way I could ride a fully packed train, my Dad said. Thus, the conclusion was we ought to move to a place within walking distance to school again."
Isn't her father being over-protective?
Rather, having the luxury to move just like that for such a small reason, don't tell me Koigasaki's family is really rich?
Even though she has the appearance of a Gyaru, she's really a rich man's kid?
"Ah, which reminds me."
As if she just remembered something, Koigasaki spoke abruptly.
"Since you're hopelessly no good both on the inside and the outside, which really sucks, please at least do something about your looks before hanging out with the rest. Just walking next to you makes it embarrassing."
Having lost the will, I could only retort with that.
"With your little money, go buy some hair-styling wax and a pair of scissors used for trimming eyebrows. The drugstores sell them. And also, make sure you invite Suzuki tomorrow."
While talking about those things, I reached my station and got off.
I obediently took Koigasaki's advice, went to the local drugstore on my way home and bought my hair-styling wax and eyebrow trimming scissors.
The following day, I woke up fifteen minutes earlier than usual, stood in front of the mirror, and fought with the wax that I bought.
I was pissed and mortified by what Koigasaki said the day before, and I felt like dressing up better to make her change her opinion of me. However, things didn't go as well as I would like, and in the end, the result turned out half-assed and I gave up.
I wore my uniform in my usual way; on my way out, I took a look at the mirror before the entrance and got flustered when I remembered Koigasaki's cautionary notes on how I should wear my uniform.
Unbutton my first button and loosen up my tie.
I turned towards the voice from behind and saw my little sister, Akari, who was about to leave the house, looking at me with a mocking smile.
"What's this, Naoki? Someone like you turning up his sex appeal!? Disgusting!"
"Shut up! It's not like I'm...... I'm leaving!"
I became embarrassed and left the house for school before Akari.
"Oh, Kashiwada, what's up with your head?"
Right after I reached my seat in the classroom, Kiritani queried me with a look that said he was trying to hold back his laughter.
"This is the first time I've tried to use hair wax, but it's not standing well at all......"
"Hahah...... you've finally awaken to becoming more stylish, huh. That itself is an improvement, right?"
Kiritani, who had both his hair and eyebrows in perfect form as usual, praised me from a position of superiority.
"Ah, which reminds me, Kiritani. You want to go to karaoke? The people coming are......"
On remembering my mission, I tried inviting Kiritani to the karaoke.
"Going to karaoke with Hasegawa and Koigasaki!? What kind of group is this? I've been meaning to ask this for quite some time now, but what kind of relationship do you have with Koigasaki!?"
I was troubled how to answer that. Koigasaki couldn't deal well with guys, and I was the only one she could talk to normally, so she was using me in order to get closer to Suzuki. I would feel relieved if I told him this truth, but Koigasaki didn't seem to want her classmates to know she couldn't deal well with guys. Consequently, I kept mum about it.
"Don't tell me you guys are really close?"
"No way, it's not like that we're really close...... well, erm, how should I put it...... it's because of a certain incident that we managed to start talking to each other."
"To think that Koigasaki who's cold towards all the same year guys acts familiarly only towards Kashiwada......"
"No, she's not familiar with me or anything. She's also cold towards me, you know!?"
I said desperately for the sake of both our reputations.
"Rather, that doesn't matter, right! How about it, you'll be coming, right!?"
Uhm, Kiritani let out a small groan,
"Indeed, it's tempting with these two beauties coming along, but...... sorry, I can't go."
He said in a tone full of regret.
"Eeh? Seriously, why? Are you busy?"
"Nah, it's just that my girlfriend's pretty restrictive. If she finds out that I went to hang out with other girls, she will cry and blow up at me......"
Restrictive, meaning she's the clingy type? I wondered for an instant before my brain caught up with the words that came before.
"Girl, friend......? Kiritani, you...... have a girlfriend......?"
"Eh, I didn't tell you?"
"I never heard anything about it!"
I trembled in indignation at the traitor before me.
"That so ~? My bad, my bad."
After that, Kiritani showed me the sticker photo he and his girlfriend took while they dated in middle school (even though I never asked for it), and started filling me in with the details of their dating days, leading me to sink deeper and deeper into despair.
During recess, I went to Suzuki's class B. When I peered into the classroom from the corridor, I saw two other guys gathered at Suzuki's desk and the three of them were talking.
It seemed difficult to call out to him and as I was hesitating on what to do, miraculously, Suzuki turned in my direction and noticed me. He immediately stood up and came up to me.
"Kasshii, what's up?"
"Ah, sorry...... it looks like I'm interrupting......"
"Eeh, don't worry about that!"
This guy is really a great guy......
"Erm, Suzuki, are you up for karaoke? With a group of six guys and girls though."
"Six guys and girls?"
"Yeah, the guys haven't been decided yet, but for now, the girls will be Hasegawa, Koigasaki, and probably Sasagawa from my class......"
"Heyh, I don't know any of them."
I was surprised at Suzuki's words. Both Hasegawa and Koigasaki weren't just famous for their cuteness in my class, but also known and discussed about among all the guys in our school year...... That's what I'd heard from Kiritani previously, so I thought he'd at least know their names.
"Kasshii, are you going?"
"Yeah, that's a given......"
"Then maybe I'll go, too."
"Weren't we talking about going to an Ani-song karaoke the other day?"
Suzuki said with sparkling eyes.
"Ah, that's right. But this time, there will be a number of normal people coming along, so Ani-songs might be difficult......"
If I were to sing an Ani-song, my Otaku secret would definitely get found out. I had to avoid that at all costs.
"If you're coming, then we just need one more guy. I guess it's better to have an equal number of guys and girls......"
"Ah, really? Then, can I just invite a random friend? There's someone who seems to be into this sort of thing."
While saying that, Suzuki looked into the classroom. Perhaps he was looking at one of the guys he was talking to at his seat. A Riajuu like that might be able to liven things up and I would be grateful for that.
"Really? Then I'll leave it to you!"
At that moment, the bell rang and I parted with Suzuki and returned to my classroom. With this, the participants had been decided.
After school that day, I wanted to tell Koigasaki that Suzuki was officially coming to karaoke, but she seemed to have already left, so I couldn't let her know.
Kiritani said he was dropping by the CD rental shop near the station on his way home, and I accompanied him.
"I have to borrow Kana-yan's new album."
Said Kiritani while he was taking hold of the new release of a female artist.
There weren't any CDs I wanted to listen to in particular, and more importantly, I had to set aside some money for buying the clothes I needed for the upcoming karaoke session, so I didn't plan to loan out anything.
But, I remembered something important.
"T...... there aren't any songs I can sing at karaoke......"
Normally, since I listened only to Ani-songs, songs by voice actresses, or vocaloids, I knew nothing about any of the latest J-Pop songs.
"We are having a promotional offer today. Five CDs for just a thousand yen."
The store assistant's words gave me a start.
"All right! Today, I shall loan five CDs of songs that I can sing at karaoke without looking like a weirdo!"
"You are going this far for a simple karaoke session? How motivated can you get?"
Kiritani laughed while mocking me.
"Hey, what songs can a high school guy sing without appearing weird these days!? If possible, something well received by girls!"
I was desperate enough to ask that despite knowing it would make me look like an ignorant nerd.
"Aah, I see, you're motivated because Hasegawa's going...... uuhn, I don't really know, but let's see... Band songs should be a safe bet, right? And as for those that are well received by girls......"
I loaned out five of the latest albums by a few rising artists critically selected by Kiritani. While this was an unexpected expense, it was a necessary investment, so it couldn't be helped.
"Jeez, I still have to buy clothes. Seriously, I'm really short......"
"Clothes? You mean for the karaoke? You're getting new clothes just for that?"
I took the chance to ask Kiritani about where I should buy my clothes.
"Well, I usually buy secondhand from Harajuku and the like. It will be terrible if you mess up choosing the right outfits from secondhand clothes stores, though, and you seem like someone who'd mess up...... well, you can also do this, go get a magazine and if there's something that catches your eye, go to the store that sells it and buy the whole set."
After that, I parted ways with Kiritani and took the train back, dropped by a local bookstore on my way home, took Kiritani's advice and headed to the men's fashion magazines corner.
I had never browsed through, nor read, any kind of fashion magazines, so I had no idea which magazine to buy. I should have asked Kiritani to recommend me something......
Among the lined up magazines, my eyes stopped at a conspicuous one.
I was drawn to the male model on the cover, dressed in flashy, host-like fashion, and I took a look at the contents inside.
"Believe in the black soul! Shine more elegantly!"
"This is me-style, Bad Boy aesthetics."
"It was Gaia who drove me so mad, you know?"
Accompanying the impact-loaded catchphrases, the host-like, glitzy guys were striking poses.
As I looked through the magazine, I found the featured clothing to be very cool. Because words like "Wearing this will make you popular with girls" were written all over, I truly felt that it was really the case, and thus, I bought the magazine, and decided to go to the brand store featured in the magazine.
Looking it up on my cellphone, I found out that the brand store was in a fashion building known as "108-2" in Shibuya. I decided I would head there after school tomorrow without further delay.
After school the next day, I was full of enthusiasm going to Shibuya on my way home. Since Koigasaki was still around, I called out to her.
"Yoh, Suzuki will be coming to karaoke."
"Really!? Well done! Aah jeez, I was too excited yesterday and ended up going to the beauty salon after school to re-dye my hair ~"
Koigasaki proudly brushed through her long hair.
"Eh, I don't notice any difference."
"That's why you are hopeless......"
Rather, this girl was more motivated than me.
"Why don't you do something about your hair, too? Such as going to a beauty salon."
"I don't have the money to go to a beauty salon......"
I somehow managed to cough up money to buy some new clothes using my New Year's gift money, but it wasn't enough to also pay a visit to a beauty salon.
"Well, at least for now, I've applied wax to my hair......"
"Are you kidding me!? There isn't any difference, though!?"
Koigasaki's merciless words struck me hard.
"Well, just wait and see. After all, I just bought a fashion magazine yesterday! Right now, I'm going to buy the clothes I saw featured in it!"
"Fuhn...... why are you acting so smug just from buying a magazine...... Well, whatever, at least it'll be better than those old man's clothes of yours."
They can't compare to the clothes I have now. The clothes I'm buying today are the type super popular guys in Shibuya wear.
"Momo ~ what are you doing ~? Hurry ~!"
As we talked until there, Koigasaki was called by several girls and we parted ways.
I headed to Shibuya with a tinge of nervousness.
This was of course the first time I'd been to Shibuya. The uneasy thought of not knowing what to do if I lost my way crossed my mind.
I transferred to the Yamanote Line and arrived at Shibuya station. For the first in my life, I stood on Shibuya ground. Even though it was a weekday, there were tons of people. Many of them were stylish youngsters, which made me feel a tad intimidated.
I arrived at my destination, the building known as '108-2', entered the store featured in the magazine to look at the clothes, and immediately, a store assistant came up to me. Even the store assistant was dressed in host-like clothes.
"This here is our latest merchandise."
"Ah, i-is that so?"
Though I felt a little intimidated by the assistant's present-day flippant manner of speech, I knew it wasn't the time for that. Because today, no matter what, I definitely had to get my 'victory' clothes that I'd wear to karaoke.
"Would you like to give this a try?"
"Ah, well then......"
Doing as the store assistant told me, I ended up trying the shirt.
I looked at the mirror reflecting my figure in the fitting room, but it was hard for me to tell whether I looked good in that shirt or not.
"Sir, that shirt really suits you ~!"
The host-like store assistant complimented me exaggeratedly and I felt inclined to think that maybe it was really much better than I thought.
"Then, I'll have this......
"Thank you very much! Would you like a pair of matching pants?"
"Ah, then...... What will be good......?"
Since I'm already here, I might as well buy the whole set. Besides, the upper and lower wear from the same store will be easier to match.
On the store assistant's recommendation, I bought my pants, and even a new pair of shoes, and thus my shopping day ended more smoothly than I thought possible.
When I returned home, I tried out the shirt, jacket, and pants that I bought.
"Uhn, I get the feeling that they look a lot better than when I saw them at the store......!"
Looking at myself in my new outfit in the mirror, I persuaded myself. Though partially, it was also because, since I had already bought them, I wanted to convince myself that it was so.
Translator's Notes and References & OTARIA Glossary
- Sakuragoaka Girl's High School: Fictional and not related to K-On!, but see K-On! anyway.
- Moe: An Otaku term that you should have some inkling with if you are reading this. See here for more info.
- Yuri: Otaku term for lesbians. See here for more info.
- "Are You an Idiott!? == Asuka" : Watch more Evangelion and you will realize that this is what Asuka always call Shinji. Heck, there are several MADs on this.
- Tsundere: An Otaku term that you should have some inkling with if you are reading this. See here for more info.
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