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This chapter is brought to you by DZrt_Fox, who was bitching in discord.
The company president’s accompaniment is only cold towards me.
Later that evening, around 8pm. With smartphone in hand, I left my home. My home was a 5-storey mansion, which was about 20 minutes from the train station by foot. Now that it was late evening, there were fewer silhouettes of people on the street, and the atmosphere started feeling creepy, so I quickly made my way towards a family restaurant near my house. This, however, wasn’t in order to get my dinner for the day. I had been called over by Oji-san — President Tsukinomori — and the reason was of course to discuss the possible job. Apparently he wanted to give me the details of this ‘condition’ that he didn’t have the time to explain previously. I had arranged my appearance meticulously with a neat hairstyle and uniform, and was ready to greet him. I didn’t know what kind of condition we were about to discuss, but I was ready to kneel down and lick his shoes if needed.
If his offer functioned as an express ticket into the world of big business, a bit of groveling now would be a small price to pay. Self-aware of the fact that I didn’t have a single shred of pride left inside me, I entered the 24/7 restaurant “Royal Guest.” It had rather high prices for a family restaurant, and it was definitely a place that a bachelor like me would never enter by himself. However, today it was President Tsukinomori’s treat, and he had decided on the place.
I feel really bad being treated to a meal here, but it’s his decision, so that’s the end of that. I just have to be thankful for it.
—If I were to be honest though, being treated to dinner like this makes me super happy!
Well, it’s two birds with one stone, I guess.
“Heeey, Akiteru-kun. Over here.”
When I stepped inside, I didn’t even have to ask the waitress about Oji-san. Our eyes met instantly.
“I see that you got here before me. I’m sorry for being late.”
“Ohh, there’s no reason to mind that. In times like these, the superiors should be the ones who act maturely,” said the buddha while running his fingers through his mustache.
Though these sorts of gestures would indicate that he was nouveau riche, that couldn’t be further from the truth. He was the perfect model of a company president, blended together with everything that would make a good manager. In modern business, where superiors boss their subordinates around the instant they attain power, his strength of character has to be rather rare.
…Well, I’m not an official member of working society, so I wouldn’t know.
I’ve read that it’s like that in those complaint columns on social networking sites, so it must be true.
“Then please pardon me.”
“You don’t have to be so formal, you know. If you keep that much tension in your shoulders and elbows, they’ll be stiff in 10 years’ time. The only place men are allowed to get that stiff is in that meat scepter on our lower half, ha ha ha!”
While President Tsukinomori laughed at his grade-school-level joke, I had to hold myself back from responding. Maybe it was because I was sitting there and not talking at all, but President coughed once and got back on track.
“Ahhh, well, there’s actually someone else who should be having dinner with us, but they aren’t here yet. In the meantime, I’ll finish explaining the situation.”
“Yes,” I straightened my back.
…Just what kind of unreasonable demand will he make of me?
“Firstly, I took the freedom to play that game you sent in.”
While he said that, President Tsukinomori took out a smartphone and put it down on the table. Shown on the screen was the title screen of a game, complete with a western-styled house, anime-like characters with terrified faces, monsters, and some special effects to complete the atmosphere.
The title of the game was “The screaming night of dark Koyama,” all of the rights to this game belonged to “5th floor alliance.” It was a free-to-play horror game with lots of beautiful girls.
“I was really surprised. I didn’t think that you would be able to release a game like this on your own,” he said.
“It wasn’t just me. All of the team members helped out.”
“The programmer OZ, the illustrator Murasaki Shikibu-sensei, the scenario writer Makigai Namako, an unknown voice actress, and the producer and director Aki… that is, you,” Oji-san said, listing off the cast.
“Yes, every single member was essential, and we wouldn’t have been able to complete the game if any of them were missing.”
That’s right. This game was created by me, and these few comrades of mine. Nobody in the classroom knew about this. It was a secret that only we shared.
“Hmmm. This work became a big hit in the industry, you see. The mysterious group called “5th floor alliance.” This work has a scenario that perfectly matches the gameplay, charming character design that would put even a pro to shame, a voice actress with unknown background — and without any large funds or publicity, you managed to get around 1 million downloads just by word-of-mouth advertising.”
“We’ve only just started, though. Not to mention that the main project of Oji-san’s company has 10 million downloads in total.”
“That’s only because we had such a huge amount of capital behind it that we could actually advertise it, you know,” President Tsukinomori grinned as he softly stroked the back of his head. “You’ve managed to acquire quite a bit of competitive power with less people, money, and time. I wonder if I would’ve been able to do that back in my student days… I also played the game, and it was worthy of its popularity.”
“But this is a completely different story.”
As I started getting hasty, it felt like he cut right through me.
“I understand your spirit very well. I fully understand your desire to be taken under the wing of my ‘Honey Play.’”
“However,” he continued.
“The world of grown-ups isn’t that easy. If you want to receive special treatment from me, I’ll need you to pay adequate compensation — Oh, oops. We’ve made the employee wait.”
“Ahh, that’s right. Umm…Here are your menus.”
The waitress had been very politely watching our table for a while now, waiting for us to make our orders. It even looked like the number of people in the restaurant had grown, so it probably would’ve been pretty weird if we didn’t order soon. I picked up the menu. I thought that I would just order something to drink for now, but…
“It’s already past dinnertime, right? Don’t hold back, will you? Just order whatever you want.”
“…Then I’ll take you up on that.”
Just as I had planned for from the beginning, I let myself get treated.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Employee.”
“One italian hamburger set. And also—”
“I’ll take the carbonara with half-boiled eggs.”
“Then that will do it for us. And the drink bar for two… no, for three, please.”
Though the waitress hesitated for a moment, Oji-san had probably already given them the number of people when he reserved our table, so she seemed satisfied with that. After we finished placing our orders, the girl was about to walk away, but Oji-san suddenly stopped her.
“You. You have quite the beautiful fingers.”
…What is this person saying all of a sudden?
“Your fingers were moving so beautifully just now that I was a bit entranced.”
“How about we talk after this? It might have been because I knew that I would meet you, but I kept my passenger’s seat open.”
“…!!! I-I’m currently in the middle of my job! Please excuse me!”
The waitress’ face turned bright red, and she hurriedly ran away to the back to hide.
And I can totally see why. He was clearly trying to pick her up, and in a very suspicious way. If he were just the company president and I were just a lowly employee, I might have decided to overlook this. But I can’t stay silent when a blood relative conducts this kind of obvious sexual harassment right in front of me.
“Oji-san, that was a bit too extreme.”
“Why is that? I just told her what I thought. That’s a polite thing to do towards women, don’t you think?”
“You’re not an Italian…”
“The things I think are good are good, and if I want to make advances, then I’ll do it. That’s just a friendly tip for how to enjoy your life.”
“Well, that might be true, but still…”
“Your affection won’t be transmitted to the other person if you don’t say it out loud. Confessing your feelings like a tsundere only works in anime.”
I wholeheartedly agreed with those words. Though I don’t feel like making advances on a waitress I’ve never seen before, this opinion of his was something I always held dear.
This really is the truth of the world!
“And also, it doesn’t look like she hated it… Look.”
When I followed his gaze, I saw the waitress taking deep breaths, holding her cheek with one hand and fanning herself with her other. When her eyes met Oji-san’s, she seemed even more excited, and when he waved at her, she showed him a bright smile and bowed down—
What’s up with that? What’s with that unreadable reaction?
“It doesn’t look like she hated it, but… she’s doesn’t really make it very clear.”
“A woman’s heart is a complex thing, after all. Though she might’ve been troubled by my sudden advance, this is the proof that she understood that there wasn’t any ill will behind it. From this initial reaction, about two out of three tries it turns into a Bed IN… I guess.”
“Seriously… Just what I would expect… or something like that.”
Though it had slipped my mind for a second, Oji-san was quite the player. When I was younger, I didn’t really understand his stories all that well, but I heard that there were quite a lot of disputes over at the Tsukinomori household. Thinking about it some more, the constant affairs and cat-calling on the part of the husband must’ve been at least 80%, or at worst 100% of the reason for their fighting.
—This old man really is something. Well, for me to come here, prepared to bow down to him, I might be an even bigger bastard.
…Oops, I have to be careful here. I have to return my mind to business mode. If I make a grave mistake here, our promise might as well be moot.
“Can I go to the toilet for a moment?”
“Ahh, of course. Knock yourself out.”
“Then, if you would excuse me…”
Let’s get off the seat and clear my thoughts. And let’s also do some self-induced hypnosis in order to make sure that I never remember that perverted old man hitting on a waitress.
“I’m a company president’s dog. I’m a company president’s dog. I’m a company president’s—”
As I walked down the hall towards the toilet, I kept repeating that to myself so that I could enter my business mode again.
—-Of course, that ended in failure.
Not to mention that while I was trying to ban these thoughts of my head, I completely overlooked the sign that read “Mixed Toilettes,” and also overlooked the sicker that read “Warning! The lock is broken! Please make sure to knock several times before opening the door!.”
The nonchalant metallic sound of the door opening.
Inside… was a girl who was currently straightening up her lower back.
She had probably been about to pull her peach-colored panties back up, because she was holding the elastic band at about the middle of her thighs when she froze in place. Her movements were probably cancelled because of the sudden intruder (me), which sadly made her look a bit funny. And, since her skirt was slightly lifted up, I could see right into the place her panties should’ve been hiding.
For several seconds, we just stared at each other. If the other person had been a man, I might’ve been able to survive the situation. However, no matter where I looked, she was a girl. Not to mention she was quite the cute one.
First impression: She was an existence that would break the moment you touched her. Like Snow White.
Silver-blond short hair, with a contemplative cool-colored fashion sense. A necklace hung down from her neck, and earrings with a shell motif made her look like a mermaid. Her height should be around one head shorter than me. No, she’s on the smaller side even for a girl. No major bumps gave her a slender bodyline, and her slender shoulders gave off a weird sex appeal.
A middle schooler… or even high schooler? The gap of her charm threw me off guard, which made me unable to guess her exact age.
—Wait, why am I just calmly assessing the situation and her appearance?
This is totally wrong, you know? I have to clear up the situation properly and not get entranced by her. Even if this was an accident, even if I had a reason for this to happen, the moment I saw her, it was absolutely moot.
Then I just have to act like I didn’t see her; like I didn’t realize it. I’ll just perform the action a human who didn’t notice her would take. That is…!!!
“At this rate I’ll wet myself!!! —is what I’ll do, acting like I can’t keep it in while pulling my pants down.” I started speaking nonsense.
When this ear-piercing scream rang out in the toilet, I received a direct hit to my solar plexus and collapsed right on the spot.
“Ahahahaha! That’s great, so great! To think that your first contact would be a lucky pervert moment!”
“…It’s not great at all. It’s actually really bad.”
“Kukukuku, well, it’s not like anybody was hurt. Well, except a certain someone.”
“Why didn’t you tell me beforehand that she was in the toilet? That almost gave me a criminal record!”
It was around 30 minutes after the so-called ‘lucky pervert’ moment.
For some reason, I was sitting at the same table as the Snow White whom I had interrupted before. While I stuffed an italian hamburger that tasted like nothing into my mouth, Oji-san grinned from ear to ear, and Snow White sipped on her tomato juice with a deadpan expression on her face. Because I hadn’t paid enough attention earlier, the dinner had turned really awkward. While I watched the girl intently bite down on the straw to her tomato juice, I was reminded that Iroha also liked tomato juice.
Maybe it’s popular with high school girls right now? Well, I also like it, which is why I always keep some in my refrigerator, so doesn’t that essentially make me a high school girl?
Bringing myself back from my futile attempt to escape reality, I coughed, trying to get my mind back on track so that I could move the conversation forward.
“…So, President Tsukinomori. Who is this girl…?”
“Oh? You don’t remember? You used to come to our house and play together all the time.”
Now that he mentioned it, I felt like her face seemed familiar somehow. I gazed at her profile—
“Don’t use Mashiro’s given name. She’ll lose her divinity,” Mashiro said.
What do you mean ‘divinity?’
“It really is Mashiro, huh…? You grew up to be such a beauty that I didn’t recognize you at all.”
Just as her name suggested, her pure-white skin shone with a slightly orange-red hue. She bit on her straw so intently that the form of the straw changed and sucked up the tomato juice like a vampire would suck up the blood of his victim.
Oji-san’s… daughter. Basically, she’s my cousin. Around ten years ago, we would visit them every month, and I often played with her and her three older brothers. Since both of our parents had gotten busy recently, it became harder for us to see each other, and we had completely grown apart—
I had heard through a rumour that she was attending a famous rich lady school… so I guess that was true, then.
With her current aura, she totally looked like a rich girl.
“But why is Mashiro here?”
“Because I brought her with me. Even though she got here when I did, she was in the toilet the whole time. Girls her age really have it hard with menstruation and that sort of thing.”
“Father, don’t say anything unnecessary. Mashiro will kill you for sexual harassment.”
“Ahh, how harsh… She was such a pampered child when she was younger. Is this what they call her rebellious age?!”
“That just now was clearly Ojii-san’s fault.”
“But Aki is the worst; peeking into the toilet like that. Die.”
“Uuu… It really hurts because I can’t say anything back…”
I’m totally being despised here… When I remember the days when we were as close as siblings, that cold attitude really cuts deep. Even more so because I deserve it. I really would like to get our relationship back on track…
“And also, Mashiro didn’t want to come here in the first place…”
“Don’t say that, Mashiro. Your father is worried about you from the bottom of his heart, you know?”
“Mashiro can’t trust her sexually-harassing father.”
“Uuumu, I don’t have any words against that. My my.”
In response to Mashiro’s sharp reply, Oji-san could only rub his head with a troubled expression. It seemed like the daughter was the one who held the authority here. That much could clearly be seen from the scene in front of me.
“Well, whatever. Anyway, let’s get to the main topic.”
Maybe thinking that any more discussion would be a waste of time, Oji-san went back to being ‘President Tsukinomori.’ Realizing that, I felt my body fill with tension again, and my back straightened once more.
“The condition for me to take your team ‘5th floor alliance’ under Honey Play’s wings is—”
When said the word ‘condition,’ I could see Mashiro’s shoulders twitch.
Huh? — I thought to myself, but I decided to ignore her and focus on the President’s next words.
“—Until graduation, I want you to become Mashiro’s fake boyfriend.”
For one second, I couldn’t grasp what I had been just told. That typical rom-com phrase… was it just my imagination?
And apparently, Mashiro wasn’t unaffected either, since we both were speechless. But the more the clock moved forward, the more my mind was able to process his words.
“Uhm… what exactly do you want me to become?”
“Her fake boyfriend.”
It seems like I really didn’t mishear him.
“…I don’t get it. Are you an idiot? Why should Mashiro have to undergo such torture?” Mashiro said.
Yeah, exactly. That’s totally it. Mashiro perfectly put into words what I was thinking. Well, I wouldn’t call it torture, but still.
“WILL YOU STOP SAYING SUCH EGOISTIC THINGS FOR ONCE!!!”
Oji-san slammed the table with his hand and closed in on Mashiro’s face. He turned towards Mashiro, who had averted her eyes with an obviously reluctant look on her face, and jumped up from his seat.
“I granted you your wish of switching schools from that prestigious school to a co-ed public school, even though it broke my heart, you know?! Is it really that hard to understand that I would want to protect you from those monsters filled with desire by getting you a bodyguard?!”
“…Even so, getting Mashiro a fake boyfriend doesn’t make any sense. She don’t want that at all,” Mashiro objected.
“Getting you a real bodyguard would feel totally out of place, don’t you think? I cannot allow my precious daughter to be bullied at school because of my overprotectiveness!”
“Tch,” Mashiro clicked her tongue. “And what about leaving her alone?”
“That’s not going to happen.”
An instant reply.
“Listen, Mashiro. A co-ed school is dangerous. It’s a hellhole filled with evil, sex-crazed monsters. If an innocent, rich girl like you entered that kind of hell, her purity would be forcefully stripped from her in a matter of months!”
“What kind of slum do you think a co-ed school is? And wait just a moment…”
I cut in. “Can I ask a question?”
“Judging from what you’re saying… Mashiro is going to attend my school, right?”
“Yes, that’s exactly it, Akiteru-kun. I’ve already prepared anything, so from tomorrow onwards, you and Mashiro will be classmates.”
“Why so suddenly? I mean, Mashiro’s previous school was a super prestigious all-girls academy, after all.”
It’s an enclosed girls’ university with an affiliated high school. There’s a very high possibility of continuing on to the affiliated university via what’s called the ‘escalator principle.’ So why would she go out of her way to transfer to an ordinary public high school like mine?
“You see, actually—” Oji-san started.
“S-Stop. Don’t tell Aki about that,” Mashiro pulled on his sleeve.
“I can’t do that, you know. Since I’m asking this of him, he has to at least grasp the basic situation,” Oji-san responded.
He opened his mouth and made a difficult expression. “Actually… Mashiro didn’t go to school most of the time.”
“So it was truancy?” I asked.
“Frankly, you could call it that,” Oji-san muttered as she glanced at Mashiro, who was biting her lip.
Maybe it’s a past she doesn’t want me to know about.
“Though it would be quite the long story to explain the reason—”
“I don’t need any reason,” I said, interrupting Oji-san.
When she heard that, Mashiro lifted up her head in surprise. She looked at me with a confused expression that basically said ‘Why won’t you ask?’ and ‘You won’t pry into it?’
“Something happened, she stopped going to school, and now she wants to change, so she’s transferring schools. That’s all the information I need. I don’t plan on prying into it any more.”
I’m a man who thrives on efficiency. So I won’t investigate it any more than I have to, and I won’t interfere any, either. Holding out a helping hand to people who are in trouble can be done without having to listen to the reason, after all.
“…Fufu, that’s a nice philosophy you have there.”
Mashiro looked at me with eyes that showed her surprise.
And Oji-san looked relieved.
“I understand the circumstances. And Oji-san’s worries too… However, even if we were to act as lovers on the outside, I cannot promise any secure position for her in the class.”
“No problem. Having a lover guarantees you a top position in the class’ hierarchy. I’m actually happy if she can make it through this co-ed school at the top of the caste!”
“Did something happen during your student days? I can feel some resentment there.”
“Nope, I was a dandy from when I was born,” Oji-san declared.
There’s no way.
Though Oji-san’s pitch-black spring of life really interests me, it doesn’t matter for now.
“So this is the condition that I can’t refuse?”
…Shit. Normally he’s a relaxed joke of an adult and would make up weird conditions, but I totally can’t decline if he’s saying it with that serious look in his eyes. And he must have a reason for entrusting Mashiro to me. Maybe that’s connected to the reason why Mashiro started skipping school—
I won’t pry into it.
I’m not trying to play the good guy here. I’ll use this chance to bring about my desired path for my game development team.
“I understand. I accept the condition.”
All that’s left are Mashiro’s feelings.
Maybe it was because she didn’t expect that response, but her eyes opened wide, only to narrow again as she seemed to lose herself in her thoughts. While muttering something to herself in a volume so low that I couldn’t make out the words, she glared at me.
“If it’s fake… then Mashiro accepts. Though it doesn’t sit right with her, she does want to transfer schools. And she’ll keep her promises, even though she doesn’t like it.”
I see. So Mashiro also had something like a deal with her dad. Really, I never expected that the condition for my bargain would be us becoming fake lovers.
—Well, since both Mashiro and I are in similar positions, I guess there’s no need to hold back.
“I’m looking forward to it, Mashiro.”
“Don’t become so friendly with Mashiro, perverted toilet man. It’s just fake. There’s no need for us to be close.”
“…Well that’s fine, I guess.”
Mashiro pushed away my right hand when I held it out for a handshake. This might be first time that I’ve ever been denied a normal handshake like this. Though, in light of what I did around 30 minutes prior, I should be happy that I’m not currently in jail, I guess.
“Fufufu, I’m glad to see you this close. It seems like we can get this cleanly off the ground, you couple~”
“How could you possibly misconstrue this to say that we’re on close terms?”
“Agreed. Father’s eyes must’ve gone bad.”
“Ha ha ha! Your reactions are perfect! —Ahh, that reminds me. Akiteru-kun.”
“You’re nothing more than her fake boyfriend. You know what would happen if you were to really lay your hands on Mashiro, right?”
Uwah, that face is scary. If you really don’t trust me, then don’t bring up the proposal in the first place! Though this wouldn’t happen in reality, a rom-com normally always goes all the way with the fake couple setting, you know.
“There’s no need to worry. Mashiro somehow gives me the impression that she really hates me, anyway.”
There’s no way that any weird things would happen when she hates me like this. This isn’t a rom-com, this is reality.
“Then, I’m asking for your help from tomorrow onward, Mr Fake Boyfriend~”
And just like that, in order to become employed at Honey Play, I became Mashiro’s fake boyfriend.
「What do you think of this fake boyfriend setting, Ozu?」
「It’s stereotypical rom-com. A total boyfriend flag. At first, you’re hated, but she gets more and more attracted to you later on.」
「But what if we were actually talking about reality with a cold girl like her?」
「…I can only see a lovey-dovey future in store for you.」