A romantic event in the first chapter?! How envious!
“First Year Class 7, Attendance Number 1 Kang Injin— You are an Otaku.”
And then the sound of the bell rang from the class’s speakers.
“Stand straight, bow!”
““Thank you for the day!””
Following the synchronized bow from the students, the teacher left the class through the automatic sliding door.
The final class of the day had ended.
“Sheesh, I’m tired.”
“Thought I’d pass out and die there.”
The moment the teacher stepped out the class, the class was immediately filled with noises. A few impatient students hurried to leave; I only yawned and remained in my seat. The homeroom teacher should rush in anytime soon for the day-end lecture, anyway.
…I began tearing up from all the yawning. With my recently moistened eyes, I looked at the speakers that had just sounded the class bell.
...It struck me that those speakers must cost at least fifty thousand dollars.
...It struck me that those speakers must cost at least fifty thousand dollars.
Just as a thought: the school board had to be swimming in money. Even in my middle school, I had a culture shock from the never-ending demonstrations of modern technology; and this high school was on a whole new level.
Though, to be clear, it wasn't the school’s side that had all the money; it was the corporation that’s backing this school.
The Eunsung High School and the adjacent Eunsung Middle School were owned by the all-too-famous Eunsung Group Corporations. In other words, the schools were backed by one of the top mega-corporations of South Korea, and so it was obvious that every little thing in this school seemed futuristic and unfamiliar.
Of course, it wasn't too easy to get into a school like this. To qualify for this school, you must be in the top 1% in the national exam. And even if you succeed there, if your grades drop at any point, you get thrown out without any mercy, so…
Consequently, there were complaints that its students became enslaved to grades and such, but ultimately there were no limits to the number of people who wanted to attend this school. From Eunsung’s point of view, it was a win-win situation.
Whoever graduates from this school would receive the unfair privilege of being guaranteed a high-paying job in Eunsung Corporations, so it wasn't such a surprise that they would pay no attention to what others speak of them.
“Hey, Injin, Injin!”
As I was spacing out, someone called my name. Two friends of mine were looking my way, grinning.
“Hey, Injin, now that the class is done, want to go to a PC Bang? I’m gonna teach this kid a lesson for beating me up in Starcraft.”
“Try it. You think you’re gonna micro better because you watch some pro games? You’re both gonna type GG first.”
“You son of a… then, the loser has to pay for lunch at McDonalds! Call?”
…Hey, does anyone know ‘Pareto’s Law’? For a given group of ants, 20% of it will be diligent workers, while the other 80% will slack off. And if you separate those diligent workers into a separate group, there will be a new 20/80 split – is how the law goes.
Likewise, while this school theoretically had the country’s brightest students, we still had a big share of slackers who directly go to the PC Bangs after school.
That Pareto guy probably wanted to refer to this situation with his law.
“Sorry, I can’t go with you today.”
I answered, after my friends’ little exchange. I tried to look as sorry as possible, as if I really wanted to go, but couldn’t.
“Hey- don’t be like that and come with us, dude. I’ll even pay for your fees, if it comes down to it.”
It was a pretty attractive suggestion; if I weren’t an Otaku, I might have faltered. Perhaps I might even have played a game or two.
Unfortunately for me, the only games I play on the computer are those sorts of games.
…Uh, yeah, that is, those. Yes, the sort you have in your mind, yeah. Damn.
I’m not mentally ill or anything, so I don’t think I’ll ever find myself playing a visual novel in the middle of the sacred PC Bang. That’s why I don’t like going to one; there’s just nothing that I want to play.
Well, I don’t always decline my friends’ invitations; to become the greatest Clotaku, you must advertise with your actions, “I am just like you guys!” To keep up with your non-Otaku peers, you must learn to familiarize yourself with “trendy” things like popular music and gaming. Ultimately, I must keep others from discovering my other hobbies.
To summarize my secret Clotaku techniques:
1. Familiarize yourself with popular TV shows and movies.
You need to know some of the popular shows and movies by heart, so that you are always ready to discuss them with others. If that’s not possible, you should at least read a review or two about it.
2. Be active.
Men tend to enjoy being active. Maybe there are those who don’t, but it’s not really a bad thing to be active. During the physical education classes, don’t sit around in the shades, reading a book! Just get up and start running!
3. Dress smart.
For some reason, it’s an established general opinion that Otakus always dress like slobs. In schools, it doesn’t really matter because of uniforms (fortunately), but outside of that, like a field trip, you need to have that fancy getup. Have something for those rare special occasions.
4. For those unfortunate moments where you end up in a karaoke, learn some popular songs.
At the start of the school years, or after a field trip, it’s common to take a trip to the karaoke. It would be embarrassing to start singing anime songs, or end up sitting in the corner alone, so learn a song or two.
5. Don’t react to the mention of the other hobbies.
It’s rarer than getting hit by a lightning, but there may be times when your peers mention some anime or manga. At these times, if you overreact to them, your Clotaku days are over, so be careful. Remember, when you’re talking to an average person, your knowledge is restricted to ‘Two Piece’ and ‘Dhibli’. Do not release your power levels.
6. Make some non-Otaku friends!
There’s a saying that Otakus mingle with other Otakus, but… it’s not like schools only have Otakus, so it’s important to make friends with everyone and keep friendly relationships. In any case, the common folk significantly outnumber us Otakus, so you need to learn to coexist with them. If people want to be friends with you, be friends with them. If you don’t, you won’t get another chance.
…And that’s it. For your convenience, let me call this the ‘6 Laws of Clotaku’.
In my case, I’ve had misfortunes in the past, so it shows how I’m overly paranoid about being a Clotaku. But, if you’re anything like me, I hope it can be a good guide for you. If you were to forget just one of these rules… further details will be omitted.
Anyway, this current situation was in the domain of the sixth law; make some non-Otaku friends. Although I wouldn’t actually mind playing a game of Starcraft with them… but this day, I just couldn't.
That was because, after school… oh, I can’t say it yet. For now, I will end it here.
“I really want to go today but I just can’t. I have after-school classes.”
I played my ace: the legendary ‘Study Shield’.
In other words, it’s just using studying as an excuse to go home.
While my friends may seem a little carefree, they were relatively hard workers. Even they must sometimes attend after-school classes or tutoring sessions, so they usually understand and let me go.
“Damn, really? Should’ve said it earlier. I guess we’ll just go by ourselves today.”
It’s an ace because it works. My steadfast friends finally gave up and left; I gave them back the “I really wanted to go with you~” face again.
“Why is it so noisy in here? Get back in your seats! I’m starting my final lecture!”
And then my homeroom teacher entered. Nice timing, there.
And then, I was dismissed from class.
After that last lecture, I bolted out of my classroom, laughing as if I had inhaled a can of nitrous oxide. If anyone were to see me then, they would have called the police to report a mental hospital escapee who had stolen a school uniform.
But who cares about that? I was simply euphoric at the time. Even if I were to lose all the save files for my visual novels, I would have been mildly annoyed and that would have been the end of it; I was pretty much high, then.
'Hey, you’re curious, right? Why I’m that happy, you’re curious, right? Yes, yes, please ask me! I beg you… yes? Why am I so happy, you ask? Ga-haha! Oh... that was a weird laugh, I’m sorry.'
Subconsciously, I made a sinister smile, looking around the vicinity. I made sure there was no one around. As I walked, I pulled out ‘that’ from my pockets.
It was a postcard with a cute picture of a little chick.
On top of that, there were letters, circular and shapely, undoubtedly written by a girl.
And its content…
〈I have something important to tell you. After school, find me behind the memorial. I’ll be waiting.〉
…And that was why I didn’t take up on my friends’ invitation to go play games. Would you be abandoning a letter like this to go play games?
'Okay, anyway, I'm right, right? It’s not just because I’m a 2D-addicted Otaku, anyone would think that this is a lo… lo… love letter, right? Right? Oh, oh… my God. Is this really a love letter for me? I can’t believe it. Wait, before that, I can’t even believe love letters exist in real life!'
One day, I just opened the shoe box as usual to go home, and this letter was shyly tucked away in the back – that kind of situation is really dreamy for the likes of us. I, myself, found this in my desk while pulling out a textbook (we actually don’t have shoe boxes here). I panicked and thought up all sorts of wild explanations for this in my head, but in the end, I concluded that this can’t possibly be anything but a love letter… and so I was there.
This school had a reputation for having the most studious students in the country, so it probably was not some muggers’ plot to lure me into a secluded place and steal my money.
It was also not likely that it was a prank by my friends that I made since last month. All they do is play games after class, so how could they come up with a devious ploy like this?
In the end, I could only conclude that I had an authentic love letter
After making that conclusion, another silly laugh escaped my lips. Trying to stifle this laughter only made it worse.
And so I looked around first, and allowed myself to erupt with all the built-up laughter. I feared that, if I hadn't laughed then, I'd do some very embarrassing things when I meet the girl.
'Oh, what kind of girl could she be? It's the age of cell phones and texting, and yet there's a girl who wrote a letter by hand! She’s probably ladylike, composed, and perhaps a bit shy, but in any case, a lovely girl. Gahaha… just look at these writings; you can just feel the writer’s love within.'
It was behind the school memorial, too; ever since the Eunsung Corporations built this school, the only time a student would ever be here is during the entrance ceremony. That is, this place is usually completely empty.
'Heh heh, what does she have in mind, calling me to an isolated place like this? Maybe she just appears to be shy on the outside, but it might turn out that she's actually daring-- so maybe some chemistry will happen right here!'
…And such was the type of thoughts that raced through my head, which would make any girl scream and run away if she ever found out.
“…Was it this place?”
Behind the memorial, where the dense trees drew shadows that darkened the area, I paced around to look for the person who had called me here. Perhaps it was because of the trees, but I couldn't see anyone.
As a thought, this area was hidden from plain sight quite well.
I got to see the memorial itself not to long ago, but I never realized there was a place like this. As a passing comment, if I were to bury a dead body here, it would be the perfect crime; if this school were like any other, there would have been all kinds of delinquents gathering here.
'So, why would that girl call me to some hidden place like this…? Hee hee!'
While trying to fight off all these impure thoughts appearing in my head,
A voice called.
Taken by surprise, I turned around; already next to the trees, staring in my direction was… a girl.
To explain a bit more, it was a cute girl.
Immediately noticeable was her small stature, her skin as white as a porcelain doll, smooth and cutesy face with long eyelashes, and two raised, glaring eyes-- her features were hard to forget.
Contrasting the bright skin was her long brown-black hair, flowing down her body. To say it again, I had never seen someone as cute as her before.
Because of her height, it was unbelievable that she’s a high school student, but she was unmistakably wearing our school’s uniform. She lacked her name tag, so I assumed that she was a freshman like I was (we didn't get them since we just got admitted to the school).
In any case, that did not matter in my situation, but...
…Okay, seriously, she was too much for me to handle.
Admittedly I live in real life by day and in 2D world by night, but I can still differentiate between them; it was already surprising that I got a love letter in the first place, but 'the girl who sent it was also the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen'~~ simply doesn’t sound like a realistic situation at all!
Though, there was something less than friendly about the expression in the eyes that were staring at me. At least, it was nothing like the expression of a girl who’s in love.
Damn it all.
'Yeah, why would a girl like this ever like a guy like me… let me guess, she’s probably going to ask me to introduce that popular guy Minchul to her. Yeah, it’s probably that.'
Thinking this, my inflated hopes immediately receded like a popped balloon. This was some emotional roller-coaster.
“…Hey, why are you talking to yourself? I’m right here.”
'Yeah, in all my 17 years of life, I’ve only been a visual-novel-playing robot… heh heh, heh, heh heh...' I thought to myself. The girl frowned, clearly offended by my behavior.
Intimidated by her sharp eyes and her cold tone, I removed all hopes from my mind.
“Ah, sorry… did you wait a while?”
This is probably what they call a fatigue high. After abandoning the last of my hopes, I felt like nothing was holding me down, allowing me to properly speak to this girl.
She scoffed quietly, and replied.
“About 10 minutes. Clearly our classes end at the same time, so why were you late? Next time, be quicker.”
I only asked her out of courtesy, so I didn’t expect to get this kind of attitude.
In addition, the final lecture took unusually long, and I had all sorts of things crossing my mind while coming here, and I had to laugh my heart out before meeting her… but I shouldn’t say any of this to her.
The girl finally spoke, while I made the ‘I’m sorry I was born’ face.
“Now, do you know why I brought you here?”
“…Didn’t you mention that you wanted to say something to me?”
A few moments ago, I just thought it was a confession of love! Sorry! –I couldn’t say this out loud, so I just asked her. I actually don’t know what she wants, anyway.
“Yes, you’re right.”
She turned her head slightly and cleared her throat. With a shaky voice, she continued.
“I guess you don’t know. For the last many months, I was watching you.”
Her words caught me off guard.
“Many months… you mean, since middle school?”
She looked away as she replied. It almost looked like she was embarrassed.
Since middle school… I couldn't recall ever seeing her in Eunsung middle school. Granted, the middle school was ridiculously huge, so it was very possible that I never actually met her before.
Wait, no, forget the middle school.
Immediately after my hopes had sunken down like a destroyed submarine, the tension started to rise again. Barely keeping myself contained, I asked.
“O-okay… I never realized. But… why?”
The girl brought up her hand to her mouth and coughed quietly. Even objectively, she looked really cute there. I almost wanted to hug her right now.
“… I wanted to know more about you.”
If this were a sitcom, that would have been the noise from the audience.
So, um, that is, it’s this, right? ‘I... I’m interested in you!’ is what she's saying, right? I’m not the only one who’d think this, right?
All my blood shot up to my head, and I could feel myself blushing. I only dreamed of it; is this seriously a love confession? She made me go ‘Guess not, damn!’ just few moments ago, and now she’s unfairly catching me off guard like this!
As I wallowed in my pink-tinted panic, the girl continued talking.
“…But after middle school, our classrooms were too far apart to see you as often. Only now, I finally got to confirm my true feelings.”
What feelings? ‘Feelings about my love for you’, and such? Gahaha….Now, the remaining words must be ‘So, I want to know more about you! I want to be with you!'
As I was swimming in euphoria, the girl quietly continued.
“Ahh… yes, I knew clearly then. I knew everything about you. I knew everything about the things you wanted to hide.”
It wasn’t ‘I want to know more about you~’, but it was ‘I already know everything’.
And that’s including the things I’m hiding… what did she mean? I was befuddled by the unexpected turn of events.
The girl slowly walked towards me.
The girl slowly walked towards me.
And the final words that left her mouth were,