If it were any other day, it was the time to run to the cafeteria like a lemming sprinting towards a nearby lake, gobble down the lunch, and partake in a merciless territorial dispute for the school fields that resembled the history of Korea in the third~seventh century.
But today wasn't the day for such happiness; again I found myself walking towards the infirmary, feeling like I've chewed on a bug while eating.
...Please excuse me if this situation sounds familiar.
Really, if not for Seo Yeonji, why would I deny myself my own lunch break to take a trip to the infirmary on such a fine day? I'd have to be insane to go by my own will.
We got the club room, we had a party, and we finally started to have decent club activities-- so what's the problem, you ask?
...You should know what I had in my hands at the time: a bunch of random crap that I've been moving with all my effort. There were consoles like the PX3, PX2, along with their various games, light novels and manga, animation DVDs, and even a few board games. They were items that could be summarized as 'Otaku goods' which were like oxygen to us Otakus.
Regardless of whether they're supposed to be oxygen or nitrogen or whatever, having to carry so many, I felt like I would keel over at any moment.
The reason why I was put under this undue stress traces back to the letter that I received from Yeonji this morning...
Yes, a letter.
The first thing I found after taking a seat at my desk in my homeroom was a letter-- written in a font that was all too familiar.
She probably had a few envelopes left over from the last time.
Just in case it's unclear why Yeonji was still using such a cumbersome way of messaging me, Yeonji and I still haven't exchanged our phone numbers. I see her every day anyway, and I always assumed she wasn't the type to text too often, so I never got around to asking for her number. Yeonji didn't seem to want mine, either, so that was how it was.
The unfortunate side effect was that she had to communicate by mail, which brought back a few unpleasant memories of mine.
In any case, the content of the letter with a picture of a chick was:
"I brought all my Otaku goods that I've been hiding in my house. They're at the security office now, so bring them over to our club room at lunch. If you ever slack off, I'll have you executed by impalement."
'Heh, I guess even Yeonji realized that we have nothing to do at the club. It's probably a manga or two that she brought, but damn it, lunch time again?! I better do it as quickly as possible, so I can enjoy my lunch for once.'
...That was my naive, optimistic plan at the time. No one could have ever expected that Yeonji owned this much crap! When I entered the mentioned security office without a clue, the room resembled a storage room than anything else; a huge percentage of the room consisted of stacks of boxes at that moment.
It had been thirty minutes since I began moving the first stack of the boxes, cheered on by the security guard who had been devastated by the sight of his office. And yet, the mountain of boxes did not decrease in size at all.
...How the heck did she manage to bring everything to school in the morning, and why? Is she insane?
Though, I did find it strange that the letter was in my desk by my very first class in the morning. She probably prepared everything extremely early in the morning.
She has guts, I'll give her that. How could she leave the Otaku goods with the security guard so carelessly? I have no idea what he might have done if he saw what was in the boxes.
"Oh- crap! Noo!"
The bottom of the box exploded open within my hands.
Stricken with panic, I hastily stopped its contents from falling out, renewing my surprise that the boxes were indeed filled with the PX console series and their various games.
Seriously, Yeonji wanted to bring an entire PX3 to school? She's really bold.
Anyway, she'd murder me instantly if I threw all of these away. I gathered the items back into the box and hugged the box as if it were a baby, and then I continued onwards to the infirmary...
...And that's what happened back then.
After that initial rip on the box, it started to break down even further. I was forced to throw away the box near the infirmary, and so I've been carrying only its contents.
'This is seriously annoying! I never had the time to have my lunch, too.'
Incidentally, Yeonji never specified that I needed to move everything before the end of the lunch break! I felt a little sorry for the security guard (nothing to be said for Yeonji) but I decided that I should move everything after school instead.
I honestly didn't care if Yeonji was actually going to try and execute me by impalement or whatever. She can do whatever she wants!
I opened the door to the infirmary with growing apathy. I put down the items that had caused immense pain in my arms, wiped the sweat off my head, and announced my entry in front of the club room.
"I'm coming in-... ...?"
I turned the door handle, only to find the door locked tight.
It was not unusual for it to be locked, but I knew that, earlier today, the nurse had left the door open with an unwelcoming face after she had learned that I was tasked with bringing Yeonji's games into the club.
I faced the door to give it a knock, but then a written note on the door caught my eye.
'Out of office'
What kind of business could she have outside of the infirmary? Such unfortunate timing, too.
'Well, she's not the type to spend a lot of time outside of her room, so she'd be back soon. I should get some rest on a bed in the mean time.'
With that thought, I began finding a hiding spot for the items that I had practically threw down on the ground.
The most unfortunate noise echoed from the entrance of the infirmary.
I reflexively turned around and saw a shadow looming on the opposite side of a translucent window. Add that fact up with the knocking from before... Was that a stranger outside?!
Thinking logically, neither the nurse nor Yeonji would bother to knock; the nurse essentially owned this place, and Yeonji simply lacked the courtesy to do so.
Then, the person outside was neither of the two... but someone completely unrelated to Clotaku Club!
To analyze the situation at hand:
1. All the Otaku goods from Yeonji were in plain sight on the floor.
2. There was an outsider about to enter the infirmary.
3. And if I were to be seen here with them... Oh, boy.
I immediately began hiding the Otaku goods as I let loose a loud scream. I need to hide them quickly!
The looming shadow outside remained quiet, likely because no one answered the door. If I did not fully hide these cursed things in the mean time, my closeted Otaku life was going to meet an explosive end.
But... where was I supposed to hide them? The club room's door was locked, and there were no suitable containers in sight.
The front door began to slide open.
'Waah-! Wait! I don't know who you are, but just wait! Just give an extra knock or two on the door- how impatient can you get?!'
Before that thought began forming in my head, my body was springing to action.
Faced with a life-threatening crisis, I instinctively jumped off the ground and leapt for a bed. I hugged the Otaku goods as I dug into the bed, pulling a blanket over my shoulders.
'With this, maybe I could pass off as a 'Random Male Student 1'...'
Cold sweat dropped from my body. I hid myself with such speed that I never knew I could reach, yet the distance to the bed was great enough that the person outside could have seen me leap.
'I am a random student, I am a random student, I am a random student...'
A gentle sound of footsteps passed by as I chanted a mantra to myself. Following that noise was '*tap-tap-tap*', the sound of polite knocking. No doubt remained that the person was not Yeonji; If she ever had to knock, the sound would rather be '*bang bang*' or '*crack*'.
After the knocking, silence persisted for some time. Perhaps the person found the memo stuck on the door.
As if to prove I was right, the same sound of footsteps filled the room once more. But the noise did not move towards the front door; instead, the noise was growing in intensity, approaching my direction.
'Ah- oh, god, I'm so dead.'
I hugged the items in my arms even tighter. If I were to show myself to a random stranger in this state...
... Let's just say, it was a scene that I wouldn't even share it with another Otaku.
With complete disregard to my train of thought, the footsteps continued to near my location. I closed my eyes in fear.
It was an unfamiliar voice.
The voice, which carried a hint of interest or perhaps curiosity, was definitely neither from Yeonji nor the nurse. It was a beautiful, clear voice, as if it could only be produced by drinking the morning dew, yet it resounded with authority and power.
The back of my head grew itchy; I could feel the owner of the voice fixing a gaze in my direction.
'What are you looking at? If there's no movement, it's obviously a simple corpse. I'm supposed to be dead, so if you could just leave me alone...'
--But to actually vocalize that comment proved impossible, since my stressed heart and lungs refused to cooperate.
I did my best to appear asleep, but heavy breaths escaped my lips due to the tension. I was afraid that my loud heartbeats could also be heard.
"... Excuse me."
Something poked at my body from outside the blanket.
Apparently, it was hoping for too much when I believed that I'd still look like I was sleeping after making so much noise; the voice that had called out was directed to someone who was wide awake.
Aw, damn it all.
I opened my eyes ever so slightly. In the narrow vision I had, I could see the finger that had apparently poked me.
"...Ahem, cough, cough." I coughed awkwardly.
There was promptly an annoyed response,
"You are very clearly pretending to be asleep, and yet you persist at being ignorant of my presence? ...Are you intending to make a mockery out of me?!"
My body suddenly shook; I was struck with a mysterious, overwhelming feeling from the girl's speech. How should I describe it...? It was a familiar feeling, one that I was sure to have felt before in my life, yet impossible to comfortably withstand.
Yes, to bluntly describe it--
"Hmph, what do you think you are doing? If you received the honor of being addressed by me, you should at least have the manners to face me properly! It is regrettable that the only man here is an uncultured brute."
...It was the feeling of proxy embarrassment. I cringed by bodily reflex, my throat began to itch, and I felt the ends of my fingers and toes roll inward. Dry, hacking coughs followed.
I turned around with the motion of a robot.
Standing in front of me was a lone girl.
Her eyelashes made a sharp, wide curve on her face as if to hint her personality, accompanied by her smooth, white face that was creased only with an expression of anger. Her pointed nose and her puffy lips added maturity to her face that was incomparable to an average high school student, and her shapely physique added up to a certain display of beauty.
She stood, hands mounted on her thin, curved waist, looking down at me like a great lioness standing over her fallen prey; I felt almost intimidated.
And, on top of all that--
The girl's hair was perfectly golden.
Witnessing that oddity, I sat, stunned.
No, seriously, that really was blonde hair.
Compared to other schools, our school imposed a relaxed dress code (anything goes as long as you work hard) but dyeing your hair was strictly forbidden. So, what explains her golden hair?
'Wait, no, maybe that's her natural hair! A foreign exchange student, or something inherited from an English parent? Wasn't that kind of character trait only found in games?'
As if to make light of my surprise, the girl elegantly brushed her golden hair aside with her smooth hands. In contrast, her face displayed anger.
"How rude, expressing such surprise whilst beholding my visage! Have you lost your mind after gazing at my beauty? You should know your place, peasant."
I shook once more at the creeping feeling flowing through the tips of my limbs.
'I... I never thought I'd hear something like that in the 3D world!'
Within the flood of pain so powerful that it could dismember me the moment I lose focus of myself, I realized a critical fact: whether she is a foreign exchange student or a Korean-European or whatever, it was not important.
This girl... is an Otaku!
Her Otaku power level was too great for any natural resistance to fend against it. If I had a Scouter in my hands, her power would have overloaded it, causing it to explode.
As said before, Otakus can easily recognize other Otakus.
At that moment, the Otaku detector within me screamed uncontrollably, indicating that the girl in front of me was, without any need for further confirmation, a pure Otaku.
My body tensed up and froze. I brought all of my attention to the Otaku goods within my arms.
Like the girl had said herself, she was pretty good-looking; no one would want to be seen hugging Otaku goods in front of a cute girl, never mind that she is an Otaku like me.
"E-excuse me, hoow can I heeelp yoouuu...."
I spoke timidly, overwhelmed with a strong desire to get out of the situation. I talked in a very polite tone for some reason.
From a quick glance in her direction, she was a first year student without a name tag just like me... but somehow, it felt natural that I spoke to her in a polite way. What was I going to do if she started going 'How dare you speak to me so impolitely, you ignorant peasant!?'
The girl smiled in satisfaction when I began to grovel.
"At least you are wise for realizing your ignorance sooner. Hmph! I will forgive you. Let me ask one question; where is the supervisor of this room? I will allow you the honor of answering my question!"
Someone, please, unfold my wound-up limbs. At this rate, I'm going to turn into a spiral galaxy!
"I-I don't know. I think she might come back sometime soon-- probably..." I replied, sweating a flood as I held tightly onto the Otaku goods. Even objectively, I looked pathetic.
"Is that so...? What a useless peasant!" cursed the golden-haired girl, frowning. It was difficult to tell whether she meant me or the nurse. Either way, my limbs were beginning to lose their functions. "...Regardless, what are you doing here?"
Despite my silent prayers of 'Please leave if you're done asking questions!' the girl asked with a hint of suspicion. Why are humans such inconveniently curious creatures?
"Huh? Oh, uh... I have a slight stomachache right now... I'm just resting for a bit! Aha-ha, ha-ha-ha."
The girl let out an anime-catchphrase-like sound and continued to stare in suspicion, regardless of my best excuse.
Then, after some time when I took notice of her bright blue eyes, I became aware of the subject of her attention.
She was looking at the spot right next to where I lay: the obvious mound on the bed sheet, propped up by the Otaku goods.
I coughed to create a diversion while I rolled over to cover up the spot. I must have roused her suspicion when I turned around to look at her, revealing what should have remained hidden.
'...She wouldn't try to pull the blanket away while I'm still on the bed, would she?'
As I awkwardly faked my coughs with a growingly red face, I felt the fiery glare from the golden-haired girl attack my back.
Before I had any chance to brainstorm my potential responses to her inevitable question of what was under the blanket, she had already opened her mouth to speak...
But then, the infirmary door began sliding open. Then entered the voice of Yu Yeongson, "Is... someone there?"
'Oh, hell, that was too close.'
It couldn't have been a better time. The nurse wandered over to us and, upon seeing the girl, greeted her with a tinge of tiredness, "Oh, my... So, it was you."
"How are you, Miss Yu?"
It seemed that the nurse knew the girl.
The nurse's droning voice continued, "...I'm pretty sure I gave my answer for our talk from before. Do you have something else to tell me?"
"I had been on the case myself, but I haven't made much progress. I came here to ask you if you might reconsider."
"Reconsider..." replied the nurse, sounding uncomfortable, "Well, okay... Then, should we talk? Let's go inside first."
"...Excuse me, what about this man?"
"He said he had a stomachache... I told him to rest here for a bit since he had permission from his teacher already. ...Is there a problem?"
"No, not at all."
...How persistent. Even as she gave up and left, it was obvious from her glare that she was still suspicious of me.
"Then, let's go inside. ...Hey, it's almost the end of lunch! You should also get back to your class soon."
"...Okay." I spoke hesitantly.
As the nurse left, she pointed under the bed without the girl knowing. I quickly understood what she wanted; as soon as the two disappeared into the inner room, I placed the Otaku goods under the bed and escaped the infirmary. She would take care of the stuff there later.
I amazed myself with how nervous I had become. Sweat covered my entire back. I couldn't imagine what terrible things might have happened if the nurse did not appear at that moment.
...Still, I wonder what was up with that girl.
Reminded of the terrible, judging stare that had bombarded my back side, I suddenly began fearing for my future.
* * *
Later that day, after school,
After successfully moving all the remaining boxes, encouraged by Yeonji's unending rage, I fell down on the club room floor in total exhaustion, groaning, "I... I did it-..."
I reaffirm that a normal human mind can't possibly comprehend Yeonji's behavior.
Wasting no time, Yeonji began screaming at me like a slaver cracking her whip.
"Don't go 'wha-'! If you're done moving them, then open them and organize everything that's inside! Hmm-- Hey, nurse! Can I put my manga and light novels on those shelves? You won't need to keep those medical books in a club room, anyway, right?"
"Mmh, sure!" The nurse replied, bearing a grimace. Though it'd be rude to say this, I'm sure her future children would grow up to be spoiled brats.
Yeonji frantically ripped open the boxes as I gave a worried glance. After some time, she turned around to shout, "Alright! Take out all those weird, thick books from those shelves and replace them with these! What are you doing, get over here!"
"...You're talking to me...?"
This wouldn't have happened if Yeonji organized the books instead of reading light novels as I was moving those boxes. Plus, I was extremely tired; thanks to a certain someone, I was starving and overworked over my only lunch break.
"No whining!" Yeonji snuffed out my complaints with a single command. "A man's gotta have dedication and tenacity! Can you really call yourself a man after getting tired from carrying a box or two? If you don't have any strength, I'll transfer mine over."
She jumped out of her shoes and began harshly kneading my sides with her feet. What the hell?
"Ow! Hey, hey, hey! It hurts! How could you step on a person like that?! Stop it, now!"
I screamed in pain and surprise at the sudden ambush. In response, writhing around in pain on the couch.
Yeonji's pink lips distorted into a smile, then she put extra strength to her feet and replied, "Why? My daddy asks me to push harder when I knead on his back like this."
"That's a completely different scenario!"
So don't make that face that says 'Why don't you ask me to step on you harder, too?'!
Though, rather than the pain inflicted on my sides, the fact that I could see underneath Yeonji's skirt was more unsettling.
Whether or not she knew, she teased me in an uplifted tone, "Hmph, blushing from getting stepped on by a lady like that-- Are you actually happy about it? Be honest."
"Are you insane?! That's not true at all!"
"Wh-what's the reason for it to be completely untrue?!"
My immediate response was met with Yeonji's temper. Would you rather have me be a pervert who gets happy from getting stepped on by a girl?!
"Now, now, don't fight..."
Stopping the stalemated battle between the energetic Yeonji and I, the nurse's face bore a disturbing smile like she had seen the world's greatest S&M-themed visual novel.
"Since Injin here looks too tired today, why don't we stop here... and clean up the rest tomorrow. I'll help you then, too," said the nurse, keeping her smile up while talking to the very same girl who called her medical journals as 'weird thick books'. That's how adults are different from kids, I suppose.
"Hmph!" grunted Yeonji, looking very displeased in contrast to my awestruck gaze for the nurse. "Then, we'll do the rest tomorrow. Let's relax for now."
"You've been relaxing all this time, you jerk."
Ignoring my condemnation, Yeonji hopped away on one leg to retrieve her shoe that had been thrown away.
After watching Yeonji with a playful smile, the nurse spoke, "...Injin?"
"Get yourself a drink from the refrigerator."
...I wasn't sure what to make of it, but I took her offer nonetheless.
* * *
After the raging war between Yeonji and I,
Having enjoyed a moment of relaxation with a drink from the refrigerator, I had a chance to ask the nurse, "By the way, who was that girl who came here during lunch?"
I had almost forgotten about it when I was too busy moving the boxes. I remembered the terrible ordeals I suffered because of the golden-haired girl almost finding out about the Otaku goods.
At that time, the only thought racing through my head was that I should escape from the infirmary. In retrospect, however, the nurse and the girl obviously knew each other, so I became curious of the girl's history.
"...'That girl'?" asked Yeonji, rising like a cobra twisting out of a basket.
Why her face had to be contorted at the sound of 'girl' I wanted to ask, but I answered honestly at the fear of losing my only break time by Yeonji's tantrums. "Yeah, I met this girl while I was moving the boxes earlier..."
I didn't feel like explaining in detail, so I gave a summary: golden hair, blue eyes, first year student, and embarrassing tone of speech.
I hoped that Yeonji would not become overly interested if I gave her fewer details. However, her actual reaction was completely unexpected.
"It's the Pubtaku Queen..." muttered Yeonji, making a face like she had a glop of wasabi in her mouth.
I asked, just in case I had misunderstood her, "A what queen?"
"The Pubtaku Queen." Yeonji replied, clearly annoyed. "The culmination of all Otakus of Eunsung. One in a thousand. If the seventh century Silla had Queen Seondeok and Jindeok, the twenty-first century Eunsung High School has the Pubtaku Queen."
I had no idea what any of that meant. Moving away from Yeonji's grumblings, I turned to the nurse for clarification.
"That girl... her name is Eun Yerin--," began the nurse, "And she's easily described as a 'Publicized Otaku' (Pubtaku). She's been famous since middle school; a rumor goes, she brings a maid and a butler with her to school every day..."
"A maid and a butler?!"
They exist in real life?!
"Hmph! That's not the worst part. I heard she brings a tablet just to watch anime in class at lunch, and one time, she wore a fancy dress to school instead of the school's uniform! Sometimes, she reads visual novels in the middle of a class with a laptop! She also has a weird club that sells doujinshi at every school event!"
Yeonji intervened, telling a story that jumped between a non-fictional biography and a fantasy novel. At that level, it may as well have been a horror story.
"Can... can she really do all that?"
I meant to ask if the school was allowing all of that to happen. Yeonji misunderstood, baring her teeth and opening her eyes widely.
She delivered a furious tirade, "Of course she can't! That kind of thing will kill the image of Otakus and interfere with the mission of the Clotaku Club! Do you know how much effort I put into repairing the reputation of Otakus after all the things she pulled off in middle school?!"
Yeonji appeared to have a deep-rooted hatred for the girl. Perhaps she was overreacting, considering we were all the same Otaku species.
"Same species my ass! She's my enemy! My enemy!"
Her hate seemed to extend beyond the rules of nature, then.
After a series of grunts and mumbling, Yeonji spoke again, "I'm not saying that all Pubtakus are evil. I already know there's a bunch of Otakus who aren't afraid of being noticed. If you just look a little, you'll find plenty of them around."
"Really? I couldn't tell at all myself."
Without emanating the Otaku aura like that Yerin girl did, anyway.
Yeonji explained, crossing her arms, "You can look out for them during the national history class. Kids who laugh at the 1920's 'Doujinshi' of the writer's society, those who giggle at 'Great scholar' Yulgok Yi I, those who chuckle at the Korean prophecy of 'the Eighteen's Succession to the Throne', they're all Otakus. I guarantee it."
I was again amazed that she was extremely knowledgeable in Korean History... Though, the last joke wasn't really relevant.
"However!" shouted Yeonji, flaunting her Otaku detection methods(?), "That girl doesn't stop there! If other Pubtakus are a threat, then she's a global emergency! I appreciate our Otaku culture just the same, but disrespecting coexistence with others and damaging the image of Otakus over a sense of superiority is unacceptable. She might think it's fine to do everything she does, but it's outright crazy to everyone else."
I groaned. Otaku's sense of superiority... it was a real thing. It's best explained as the behavior of Otakus where they are overly engrossed in the Japanese subculture, so much that they believe that other cultures are inferior. Of course, such behavior was directly opposing the meaning of being a Clotaku.
"I also heard that she forces classmates to cosplay, or even force them to read visual novels until they appreciate it. The school's staff is quiet about it, too, so no words got out. But surely, this is going to be headline news someday."
She was indeed insane. At that level, her misdeeds were on a completely different dimension compared to something like 'Hey, try this book out, it's pretty good!'.
Only when we call it they are 'visual novels'. In the eyes of the common folk, they were usually seen as 'porn'. To force non-Otaku classmates to play such games was to plummet any tolerance this school had for the Otakus.
And one more thing,
"That Eun Yerin girl... who exactly is she? How can the school be quiet about her? Wouldn't she be expelled right away?"
It was a question lingering in my mind before, and so I asked. How could Eun Yerin get away with such behavior?
Though our school may not have strict rules, anything that would affect the academic pursuit of its students was absolutely forbidden.
Undoubtedly, forcing students to read visual novels or do cosplays would ruin a studying environment, so the school must have done something by now. Why did the school leave the girl alone?
Yeonji answered, pouting and sticking her lips out like a woodpecker.
"Why? Because her grandfather is the CEO of the Eunsung Corporation."
I was astonished.
"No, really. Her father is the chairman of Eunsung Electronics, and his brother is the director of this school. Everyone, including the principal, reports to her family. No one can stop the girl from doing whatever she likes. How can they?"
"Wow..." I exclaimed.
The surprise did not come from knowing that the granddaughter of the CEO attended this same school, but because such a person is an Otaku.
I mean, really, it's not like skilled, smart, or rich people can't be Otakus, but it's still a big surprise that the granddaughter of the man who owns the nation's largest mega-corporation is an Otaku-- as if she was a fictional character from a game.
I felt my mind blank while trying taking in this new information that was as unrealistic as winning the lottery.
"If that's true... I guess the school can't do much."
If there was one way for us to do anything, it could be the 'I'm gonna tell your grandfather!' But even that wasn't simple. Listening to her history, Eun Yerin's Otaku power level was clearly beyond repair, and all of the school's staff who let her act that way would incur the wrath of Eunsung.
Another possibility was that, considering the degree of Yerin's maliciousness (if those terrifying stories were true) then that behavior might be of something from her entire family.
Either way, the issue was too volatile to solve from our level.
"Oh, wow, all of this is a huge surprise. I haven't heard of anything more shocking this year... How come I never found out about this before?"
"Maybe your home room is too far away. Her coverage wasn't all that big, area-wise."
That made sense. There were a lot of classrooms back at the middle school, too. If my home classroom was indeed too far away, it wasn't strange for someone like me, a transfer student in the final year of middle school, to have never heard of her.
Eunsung Corporation's future inheritor... It was a position that could be called the royal blood of the 21st century. The way she spoke did not seem so strange anymore after learning about her identity.
--'Have you lost your mind after gazing at my beauty? You should know your place, peasant.'
... ...Okay, never mind! My limbs are still tingly thinking about that. She's insane, no question.
My body shook when I remembered the events during lunch. While I was still recovering from the thought, Yeonji began to speak with a conflicted expression.
"Hmph, it'll only make you feel bad if you keep talking about her. So, let's play a game of Word Chain."
"...Word Chain, suddenly?"
"Otaku Word Chain."
"Otaku Word Chain?!"
That was the first time I heard of it!
"Otaku Word Chain is... as the name says, you're only allowed to use words that are from the Otaku culture. The rules are the same as the original game, but you can always add house rules." The nurse replied kindly from her seat. Wait, she knows what the game is, too?!
"Hmph, the Otaku Word Chain game is already an established past time of the Otakus. When you see two Otakus meet, you can often find them playing the game... as often as you'd see Hailey's Comet."
"That's once every seventy-six years-! No one's playing it, then!"
"In addition, it's said that the Otaku Word Chain was conceived in the fourth or fifth century."
"That's the age of Geunchogo of Baekje!"
"That time was when the Seven-Branched Sword was given to Japan as a gift. No doubt, the Japanese Otaku culture drifted to Korea with that. It was an exchange of cultures."
"Korea clearly lost out on that exchange!"
"Alright, so the main rules of the Otaku Word Chain are..."
She began the game as she pleased, my pleas unheard. As I struggled to follow Yeonji's pace in the conversation, she energetically began her exposition.
"There is only one premise! Use Otaku words to play the Word Chain. Other than that, if you use an unrelated word, you have to explain why it might be related. If you can't do so, or the explanation isn't good enough, then you lose."
"Sounds like public humiliation..."
My face reddened, imagining myself saying 'Oh, the reason why this word is an Otaku word is...'. No, definitely not red because I'm excited.
"And depending on where you are, there may be rules like '2 to 5 syllables only', 'multiple-of-eighteen-sexual-term', and so on! However, the most widely used rule is the 'unique subject pool' rule."
"I'm extremely bothered by that 'multiple-of-eighteen' rule!"
Where and why would people use that sort of rule?! Yeonji, however, coolly ignored my objection and continued, "To explain this 'unique subject pool' rule, whenever a word gets mentioned, if that word belongs to a particular work, then no word from that same work can get used. For example, if someone was to mention 'Hahi', then whatever happens, no one can mention any work from 'Melancholy-stricken Suzumiya Hahi-san.' No Nato, no Miru."
"That's a pretty tough rule..."
With that rule, the available pool of words would dramatically decrease with each turn. In addition, you would have to focus on the mistakes of other players, so the game demanded great concentration and care.
"Well, as a variation, there's the 'extended unique pool' rule where you can't use the names of the related animation company or their other anime, and the 'hyper-extended unique pool' rule where you can't use the voice actors or the original author's other works, but those rules are reserved for the real pros... and so we stick with the unique pool rule."
The world of Otaku was still mostly shrouded in mystery.
"Then let's start right now! Give me a word!"
Just as I began to nod from her explanation, she urged me to begin the game. Yeonji's eyes were beaming with competitive spirit, and so I gave in and started the game by giving the first name I could remember.
"Uh... Fate/'s 'Lancer'?"
"Certain Magical dex!"
...She just eliminated a dozen words that I could have used!
With the 'unique subject' rule in place, I could not use any more words from that franchise. I kept that in mind and continued.
"Gen... Gendou. Do I have to say the full name of the character every time?"
"No, you don't have to. But, which Gendou are you talking about? If the name is common, you gotta mention what the character is from."
"...Evanlion's Ika Gendou."
"Alright. Hmm... Do-... Do-... Dojikko."
"Kouga pou Chou Basilisk-."
Like so, we continued to exchange various names and terminologies. The game was pretty easy near the beginning, but it became progressively difficult as the number of usable words decreased.
Yeonji, that jerk, kept using words from the largest franchises, so I found myself spending a very long time each turn to find a word.
"Heh, did I just hear someone saying that he's quitting? Give me a term that starts with 'Sh-'!"
Shut up, seriously.
"Sh- ... sh-... Hmm..."
It was not easy finding the right word; whenever I got close to finding one, it was from a franchise that had already been mentioned. Not only that, I began to forget which franchises were already mentioned and removed from the game... My head began to hurt.
Those words should have been my brilliant comeback, yet I felt dreary saying them. Am I really reduced to using these kinds of words?
I sighed in relief for managing to survive another turn. Unfortunately, Yeonji had an evil grin slowly forming on her face.
"Fufufu, you ended with a '-ssu' for the first time in this game!"
"Wh- what's the deal...?"
I felt an escalating sense of foreboding.
"Fufufu-- digging your own grave like that. I will take your worthless life! Eat this, 'Ssuro-giganteni-paraskulssu---!'
What the hell was that? That doesn't sound like anything I've ever heard in my life! ...But what's the big deal, when I can counter it with another term that starts with 'ssu'?
"Okay, uh... Ssu--..."
"You're wasting your time thinking! The game's already over. I won!"
What are you talking about?!
To my confusion, Yeonji had already struck a victory pose and smiled excitedly. She made the most childish expression I have ever seen and laughed, "Nyu-hee-hee! Sorry, but the last title I said is the Otaku Word Chain's game finisher. Whenever that name is mentioned in a game, the game is done right there."
"What kind of rule is that?!" I objected immediately.
Yeonji replied with the most punchable face,"It's this rule right here! 'Ssuro-Giganteni-Paraskulssu' is the name of the last boss from an amazingly obscure game called 'Ssuro-gigan Last Vampire.' In the setting, the full name is 'Ssuro-Giganteni-Paraskulssu-()()()()'!"
Yeonji showed me a paper containing various, indecipherable symbols.
"In the setting, the final six letters of the name are actually written in the language of the demons. No humans can say or hear that part! So, if you say that name, then you automatically win!"
"Aren't you a human, too--?!"
Top story: Earlier today, Miss Seo Yeonji (age 17) proclaimed that she is able to speak the language of the demons. In the wake of this new development, her comment was the following: "Heh, how rude! I clearly said the '()()()' at the end of the word. Of course, a human wouldn't be able to hear it... how unfortunate."
"You're a huumaaan tooooo---!"
Even if I have no evidence to disprove that she's a demon!
"So, anyway, it looks like it's my victory! Fufufu, looks like you've reached the limits of your small potential."
"Don't get cocky over winning against a beginner-!"
This is one defeat I will never accept, Seo Yeonji! Just you wait.
I ground my teeth in spite.
The nurse gave us the look of a shepard watching sheep play on a meadow. Then she gave an advice, "That's alright, Injin. Next time, don't say anything that ends with 'ssu-'!"
"That word, you knew about it too?!"
Am I the only one who hasn't heard of it?!
"It's pretty famous, you know. For being the Otaku Word Chain's undefeated move."
Didn't someone mention that Ssuro-whatever is an extremely obscure game...? The developers would probably be sad about their game being famous in an unintended way.
As I began to feel sympathetic for the developers of the 'Ssuro-gigan Last Vampire', the nurse continued to speak in her relaxed way.
"Well... It's normally in a chat room or a blog where they play the Otaku Word Chain, so no one can do anything when you write '()()()'. Eventually, it got remembered as the uncontested victory word, so people started to use it outside of writing, too. You should remember that."
That 'Ssuro-', uh... whatever it was, from what the nurse said, it seemed to be the real deal amongst the Otaku Word Chain player base rather than one of Yeonji's random shenanigans.
I'd bet that it was discovered solely for the sake of having an invincible move.
There was only one defense: don't end the turn with something that ends with 'ssu-'.
No need to think about anything else, you just had to use it and win. It was more of a fun trivia for the game than a cheat, so it was something you couldn't question and go 'Why does this even exist?!' ...But why not tell me about that secret move beforehand, instead of saying useless jabber like the 'multiple-of-eighteen' rule and other crap?
I sighed, unable to object. A real man should never complain about the world being unfair to him, but instead he should contain the anger and vow for revenge.
While I quietly made plans to start learning Otaku-related terms as soon as I get home, Yeonji jeered, "Now then, since you lost this time, buy me some topokki!"
"How can you treat a beginner like this?!"
And so, the day at the club ended in tragedy and learning an incredibly odd party game.
As an aside, Yeonji seemed to be giving me strange looks on our way out...
...Probably nothing, though.
1. Hanja/Kanji for 'great scholar' is spoken the same way as a term for 'large breasts' that is most likely derived from the Otaku culture. ↩
2. Hanja/Kanji for a segment of the full word is spoken the same way as 'masturbation'. ↩
3. The Korean language has each letter separated syllable-wise; this causes the word chain to be based on the ending syllable of each word. See also the Japanese variant called Shiritori. ↩
4. 'Shisuta Compuleksu'. ↩