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A marriage holds the worst cost-performance ratio of any system, ever. Monthly expenses keep on growing, living with another human being riddles your lifestyle with anxiety, and along with the immense responsibility to bear, not to mention having to fend off vast and immense risks, all you get is a little peace of mind. Not to mention that all of this peace of mind could come crashing down on you because of a married couple’s fight or some immorality. Why should I put up with that? It just sounds like a shitty game to me.
Am I fine with humanity dying out? Is it selfish not to marry, not to raise kids?
Shut it. If humankind prioritizes their own survival, isn’t the very act of marrying inefficient? Seeing that the parents have a limit on economic strength, there’s always a limit to how many children a single man and a single woman can raise in the duration of their lives. Wouldn’t you agree that it’d be better for a rich man with the motivation, or even lust for it, to make lots of children with lots of different women? Wouldn’t that system be more efficient?
In the end, marriage is nothing but a luxury. Nothing necessary to ensure the continuation of our species. Hence, I am not the type of person to admire this system, neither do I have the need to jump on those rails, so I never anticipated an opportunity for this to happen. That is what I thought. However—
“This might come as a surprise, but I have decided to get married to Murasaki Shikibu-sensei.”
“Aki, how about we calm down for a second.”
Ozu restrained me with a straight face as I announced that with a serious expression.
It was the middle of July, inside a classroom devoid of any people. Maybe the blistering summer heat was the reason for the sweat droplets building on my dear friend’s face.
“Um, I might have just misheard you there, so could you repeat that for me?”
“I decided to get married to Murasaki Shikibu-sensei.”
“In Twitter style?”
“I decided to marry my illustrator Murasaki Shikibu-sensei! Like and retweet please!”
“I decided to marry Ms. Murasaki Shikibu.”
“Alright, I got it. Aki, you’re going off the deep end.” Ozu, also known as Kohinata Ozuma, looked like a doctor who’d just thrown in the towel.
As for me, he looked like a god with his good looks along with his wonderful and friendly personality. Being my one and only friend, he’s the backbone of the [5th Floor Alliance], as the genius programmer. A lot has happened in the past, but…
Right now, he’s the spitting image of a popular (albeit unaware) eroge protagonist. Well, I was the one trying to maybe push him in that direction, so I’m not necessarily jealous of that. Anyway, that’s not the problem right now.
“Off the deep end… You didn’t have to say it like that.”
“If you’re not thinking rationally, could you be anything but crazy? Did someone cast some common sense alteration hypnosis on you?”
“This isn’t some hentai manga.”
“I really can’t accept a development like this otherwise. I mean, it’s thatMurasaki Shikibu-sensei, you know?”
“Woah, that way of phrasing it is a bit too harsh.”
“I’m not saying anything bad about her personality. As a person, she’s pretty nice, smart enough to hold an interesting conversation with, and her drawings are top-notch.”
“Makes her sound like the perfect lover.”
“If you ignore the fact that ‘Everything else is no-good’, right?”
“Well Ozu, I know what you’re trying to say. Once we get into the otaku talk, she can’t shut her mouth, she doesn’t care about TPO a single bit as she rambles on about her BL fantasies, and even though she’s working as a female teacher, she’s a shotacon. She never cleans up her room, doesn’t make any deadlines, gets drunk as soon as she sees any alcohol around, making her annoying to deal with if that happens, and—”
“Now you’re going a bit too far, don’t you think?”
“—However, that is what makes this possible.”
A marriage is something inefficient. Baring way too many deficits. And even so, as the one who hates inefficiency the most, I actually thought of wanting to marry for the first time in my life. Marrying her was the right choice, I thought from the bottom of my heart. And the one that managed to achieve that was the woman known as Murasaki Shikibu-sensei—Kageishi Sumire.
Ozu gazed straight at me, as a sigh leaked from his mouth.
“I see. So you’re serious about this.”
“So rather than Iroha, you chose Murasaki Shikibu-sensei.”
“Yeah… Why are you bringing her up now?”
By Iroha, he meant his little sister, Kohinata Iroha. For me, she’s just a friend’s little sister—a Kouhai. Leaving aside Mashiro, who just recently confessed to me and announced that she wouldn’t give up just because I rejected her, I really couldn’t see a route where Iroha and I would get married.
“Seems like you’ve steeled your resolve. Man, I really wanted you to get together with Iroha, you know? But if you love her that much, then I have no choice but to give up.”
“Yeah… Wait, hold on a second.”
As I picked up on a word that I couldn’t ignore in Ozu’s declaration, he tilted his head in confusion. Seriously, what did he say just now?
“Who is supposed to ‘love’ who here?”
“Eh? You love Murasaki Shikibu-sensei, right?”
“Why does it end up like that?”
“Ehhhhh… Because you’re dead set on marrying her?”
“Idiot, don’t get the wrong idea. I say marriage, but I’m not talking about a normal one.”
“Ahhh, so that’s what it was. Thank god~” Ozu let out a relieved sigh.
He seemed to have looked too deeply into it, but he managed to finally grasp the true meaning of my words. Really Ozu, you had me scared there for a second.
“As if I would be in love with Murasaki Shikibu-sensei, are you crazy?”
“I just need to get her body, her everything, into my hands. That’s all there is to it.”
“Again Aki, what are you even saying?”
Ozu showed me the same reaction as before. There should be nothing wrong with that, but for some reason I can’t seem to get through him. This feels like an eternally-continuing loop. Well, I can see that my proclamation might have been a bit abrupt. If there was a god out there watching over my life, they must have also been like ‘What is this guy talking about right now?’
“I got it, Ozu. I’ll properly explain. The thing is, at the afterparty of the Theatre Festa—”
That day, those were the words that Murasaski Shikibu-sensei, or Kageishi Sumire, said to me, as she prostrated herself. And then, I heard the sound of plates shattering.
“Sumire-chansensei, does this mean…”
I heard Mashiro’s and Iroha’s husky voices behind my back.
—You two, you’d better clean up that mess, alright?
“The thing is, Akiteru-sama, I know you might be surprised at this, but please try to hear me out first—”
“No need for that.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I can already guess that something must have happened. Am I right?”
I waved my hand at Sumire, who was about to start babbling on with a serious expression. I’m a person who learns fairly quickly, and I know all too well what is happening around me.
—It’s probably some shitty romcom event, right? Recently, all these ‘That shit never happens in real life!’ situations keep happening, you know? I mean, I got a fake girlfriend. And that girl confessed to me, still holding feelings for me after my rejection. Then I was requested to help a theatre club full of girls. Really, I shouldn’t even be surprised that something like this would happen next. Maybe, after having Mashiro become my fake girlfriend, and even being confessed to by her, I flipped some switch to arrive at the current timeline? That would at least explain this sudden proposal from Sumire.
“It’s pretty obvious. Probably some eroge or romcom development happening, right?”
“D-Don’t joke around! This time, I’m actually serious! Don’t lump this together with some 2D cliché!”
“Alright, eroge it seems.”
“Ahhh! Even though I was trying my hardest to be serious!” Sumire was pouting at me, as I wasn’t showing any sign of earnestly listening to her. “If you’re saying that you really saw through it, then you’ll be able to guess what was happening, right?!”
“Grrr…! You just said it! Alright, then let’s both say it at the same time, okay?!”
“Your family told you to get married, so they set up a marriage interview, right?”
“My family told me to get married, so they set up a marriage interview for me!!!”
“How did you knoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow?! Are you an esper?! A mentalist?!”
Realizing that I had guessed exactly what her situation was, Sumire’s eyes opened wide as she grew desperate.
—So it’s finally come to this, huh?
I’ve been thrown off-guard a lot recently, but seems like I got it right this time.
“Well, it is an ordinary development, seeing what’s happened so far.”
“Don’t call my despairing situation ordinary! It’s a harsh reality for me, you know?!”
I closely inspected Sumire’s body, from head to toe, as she gazed up at me with tears in her eyes. Right now, she’s in her Murasaki Shikibu-sensei mode, wearing a plain jersey, with glasses decorating her face, but… Her well-endowed chest and admirable style certainly wouldn’t lose to a fashion model, and her still overflowing youth was combined with a healthy sexiness. Putting on proper clothes and makeup, the teacher Kageishi might have a bit too much of a glare and sharp tongue for her own good, along with that cold air of hers, but she could definitely be called a beauty. A lot of people are probably yearning for her, I’m sure.
“Speaking of reality, Kageishi-sensei, you’re still 25 years old, right? It shouldn’t be an age where a marriage interview like that is necessary, is it? Especially for a beauty like—you?!”
I suddenly felt someone pinch at my flank. Not to mention, at both sides.
“What’s wrong, Senpai?”
Turning around, I was greeted by a faintly grinning Iroha, as well as Mashiro, who was coldly averting her face. Is it just me, or did they just move closer to me? Well, that’s not important right now.
“You don’t need to rush or anything. I’m sure that you’ll eventually find someone you see fit.”
“Yes, 25 truly isn’t an age where I see any need to rush. However, our family is special.”
“Since the head house of the Kageishi Family lays in part of a deeply rural area, you could say that they are a bit distanced from today’s world.”
Probably imagining that scenery, Sumire’s eyes grew distant.
“Even now, a lot of those outdated values are held. You could call it respecting the traditions, or in a worse way, a belated joining of times.”
“And that’s why they want you to marry as quickly as you can.”
“Yes. Until now, I’ve been running away, saying that I want to focus on my job, but…it seems I’ve reached my limit.”
Sumire just kept muttering to herself, devoid of any strength. Seeing that, even I started to feel gloomy.
—Yeah, normally she just lives her own life, free of most troubles, but she still is a member of the [5th Floor Alliance]. With that idiotic reason coming from her family, she wasn’t able to properly utilize her talent. After I spoke with her at that convention, using various methods of making her talk, she laid bare her true feelings, hidden behind the facade at school. Being forced to suppress those honest feelings just because of her family, how could I not save her? Yet again, she’s in true distress, as shown by her wavering, unsure gaze.
“…So that’s why you proposed to me. If you were to get married to me, you wouldn’t need that marriage interview anymore.”
“Yes, that’s correct! I don’t want to get married yet! After all, I have someone that I’ve sworn my heart to!”
I could hear Mashiro audibly gulp behind me, gripping the hem of my sleeve. And then, she whispered to me in a faint voice that only I could hear.
“Mashiro hates…this development. She might still aim…for Aki.”
“What are you talking about, Mashiro? Knowing her, that would never happen—”
“But, a fake engagement is the starting point. Even if she doesn’t like you right now, she might start to fall for you in the process, Aki.”
“No no no, I really can’t see that happeni…What?”
Though I suddenly felt a weird uncertainty inside my chest about my words, I decided to ignore that. Rather, there’s something in her words that piqued my interest even further.
“Someone you’ve sworn your heart to? That’s the first I’ve heard of you having someone you like, Sumire-sensei.”
Her cheeks suddenly burned bright red, and she nodded along in a flustered manner.
—What’s with that reaction? Well, it’s probably some 2D character… Or so I thought, but that certainly isn’t how she’d usually behave for a character.
“So you do…And it’s not even a 2D character, huh?”
“Stop, that’s embarrassing.”
Sumire threw flustered glances at me as her glasses hung low. Being part of those so-called shippers in the 2D world, loving characters as a ‘waifu’ or ‘husbando’, the type that would get fired up if certain characters are seen in action together. There are times when she shows her girly side, having otaku-like talks with us like that. And now she’s talking about being in love with an actual person? I was shell-shocked, as were Iroha and Mashiro behind me, both swallowing their breaths. We awaited her next words—
“I love Arashima-kun. From ‘Sharp Pen Jin-kun’.”
“Alright, let’s start cleaning up.”
“Mashiro-senpai, I’m going to clean up the pieces of the broken tableware, so please watch your step.”
“Mashiro will help you. Where are the broom and dustpan?”
“Whyyyy are you acting like
Trying to jump on us three, who had already gotten tired of the situation, Mashiro and Iroha gave a skilled dodge. I was tightly held as tears and snot ran down Sumire’s face.
Are you seriously asking that? ‘Sharp Pen Jin-kun’ is an anime aimed at children that airs every friday night. This series portrays kindergarteners’ everyday life in a comedic way, and there are those characters like Arashima-kun who have this handsome look to them, while being slightly tsundere at times, always at odds with the protagonist Jin-kun. They’re boys. In a kindergarten. In 2D.
“I was an idiot for earnestly trying to listen to you. Now I can rest easy as I know of your suffering.”
“Wait! I’m still serious!”
“Shut it! I gave up trying to sympathize when Arashima-kun turned up!”
“Why?! He’s a cheeky, yet tsundere-type, and handsome! The ideal image of a shota, you know?!”
“Don’t try to defend yourself while making me want to call the school board on your ass! You’re a teacher, remember?!”
“I heard that if I marry, I’ll lose my free time. Apparently, a wife is just the same as a servant! They’ll force me to take care of housework and kids, and then when my husband neglects me, I’ll be NTR’d by the neighbour, recorded while doing an ahegao double peace, and then the video will be sent in a letter to my husband!”
“As if that would happen. Don’t mix up reality with your manga knowledge.”
“Either way, I don’t want to get married yet!!! Please just play along with me, okay? I’m fine with just ‘acting’ like it, because I don’t want any more than that either!”
“You picking a fight with me?”
I mean, it’s not like I’m interested in Sumire, really. Still, it felt like I was being dissed.
“Of course not. Rather than that, I want to take your engagement virginity!”
“That’s a horrible choice of words, alright. But, will everything really be taken care of if I just play along?”
“Leave that to me!” Sumire puffed out her chest, revealing a shit-eating grin.
“Akiteru-sama, how old are you right now?”
“I see. You’re clearly past my strike zone.”
“Which one do you need more, your shoulders or your waist?”
“W-Wait a second. I’m not done yet, so please hear me out! Don’t glare at me! Don’t crack your joints like some assassin about to murder me!”
“Then you’d better spill the beans, or things will end badly for you.”
“I-I got it already. Basically, Akiteru-sama is 16. It’ll still take you two years until you’re legally allowed to marry.”
“…Ahhh, I see.”
I know what she’s getting at. If she were to bring me up as a potential marriage partner now, her family would probably force her to get married immediately. However, if she were to introduce me, someone not legally allowed to get married yet, her parents can’t force her anymore.
“I understand what you’re aiming at. But it’d create more problems than it’d solve.”
“How are you going to explain that you’re going out with a student? To a family that mainly consists of teachers?”
“It’ll be fine. We might be serious about the education, but they won’t deny any love that has naturally bloomed between student and teacher.”
“They’re unexpectedly tolerant, huh?”
Though I really think that something like that is an out, whether or not it was born naturally.
“There are even precedents, so this
is nothing new.”
A family consisting of teachers, allowing a forbidden love like that, I see. Well, I guess these things happen…in high school, at least. I really hope that it’s not the case in any schools earlier than that.
“Hmmm. But, in the end, you’re just delaying the problem, right?”
“I know that. But I have to resolve the problem I have right now! The problems one year in the future, I’ll leave that to future me!”
“I feel like I finally understand the reason you keep missing your deadlines.”
“…As long as I’m happy. Even a marriage I don’t mind, but not with someone my parents choose,” said Sumire; calm, yet forceful. “If I’m meeting someone for a marriage interview, I would have to keep up the facade I even keep in front of my family. I wouldn’t be able to bear a married life whilst never letting out the Murasaki Shikibu-sensei inside of me.”
“Can’t you just, you know, go ‘Well, this is the real me!’ after you’ve gotten married?”
Having returned with a broom in hand, Iroha asked as she poked her head into the room.
“Impossible. If I get married as the cool beauty that I am, only to reveal my true, good-for-nothing self later, this might even count as fraud, an act against unjustifiable premiums and misleading representations. On top of that, my family would find out about my real self as well.”
“So you are self-aware to a certain degree.”
“But, these feelings, Mashiro can understand,” said Mashiro, with one hand as her chest as she poked out behind Iroha’s back. “Mashiro also…wants to expose her everything when she gets married…Right, Aki?”
“W-Why are you looking for my approval?”
“You should know why.”
“Well…I do, but…”
Unable to look the blushing Mashiro in her watery eyes as she looked straight at me, I had to avert my gaze.
Tsukinomori Mashiro. As a condition for the [5th Floor Alliance] to join Honey Play Works, or Honey Play for short, I’m supposed to act as her fake boyfriend until she graduates, or when company president of said Honey Play stops it. Being the daughter of the company president, she’s also my cousin. And, as I hoped that things would go smoothly with that fake relationship, she fell in love with me for real… Although I supposedly dealt with her confession, she hasn’t decided to give up, constantly using this fake couple pretense to try to make me fall for her.
“………” Mashiro gazed straight at me.
A weird atmosphere filled the room, and time started to slow. Sadly, I was very well aware myself that I was starting to think like all those other youthful time-wasting idiots. Even though I was very well aware that I wasn’t feeling romantic affection towards her, being gazed at with these tempting eyes and gesturing, coming from a cute girl like Mashiro, of course my heart would beat faster, even if I didn’t want it to. If things continued like this, I might as well be washed along this atmosphere, and eventually fall in love with Mashiro.
“…uu…uuu…T-The end. I-Iroha-chan, time to clean up the tableware.”
“Eh? Ah, yes yes. I forgot.”
—Luckily, her pushy seducing mode only lasts three minutes, no, only a minute. She’s the introverted type in the first place, and even though she’s the one trying to seduce me like this, she can only keep it up for a bit until she gets embarrassed and runs away herself. Thanks to that, I’ve managed to keep my senses, able to withstand going along the flow.
“…Well, I understand your feelings of not wanting to keep your fake act up even when you’ve gotten married, Sumire-sensei.”
“Yeah, I’ll play along as your fake fiance…Ah, wait, hold on.”
The moment those words escaped my mouth, something like a divine revelation suddenly appeared inside my head. She said that a married wife was something like a slave, offering all her time for her husband, unable to go against him, right? Well, that’s what she thinks, and that isn’t necessarily the truth, but either way…
“A true marriage…might not be bad either.”
“No, I just thought that really marrying her might be possible, just that.”
Splatter! All the broken plates, yet again, fell to the ground.
“S…S-S-S-S-Se-Senpai?! What are you talking about?!”
“A-Aki is weird. Fake is okay, but real one…No…”
“No, think about it. If she’s unable to go against her husband’s word, I could increase her workload as an illustrator, and she isn’t allowed to miss any deadlines. With the right documents in hand, I could have a life-long supply of her illustrations for free, you know? Isn’t that great?”
What is this guy saying—they were definitely thinking that, looking at me.
“Hmmm… Well, it’s only a relationship on paper. I wouldn’t have to think of ways to convince my family a year later either, so it might actually be a WIN-WIN situation. Though the fact about increasing my workload doesn’t quite fit right with me, it’s a way to deceive my family.”
“Wait wait wait wait wait Sumire-chansensei! I’m telling you, you’re better off not doing that! Even if it’s just a relationship on paper, you definitely don’t want to be married to this fiendish, devilish man here!!! Judging from the porn mags he’s reading, his interests and fetishes are really hardcore, even!”
Hey, what are you just exposing like that.
“T-That’s right, Sensei. Aki is a bastard of a virgin who has no idea how to handle a woman’s heart.”
Hold on a second, can you not worsen the situation like that?! It’s true that I might not be experienced, but I’m not that bad. Not like I’d know since I have no experience, but…it should be fine…right?
“I don’t need you two to tell me. Just who do you think is the one who’s made Akiteru-sama the most angry? I know most of his shitty bastard side!”
For some reason, Sumire even joined in on Mashiro’s and Iroha’s shit-talking, with a shit-eating, arrogant grin on her face.
“But still, Akiteru-sama is still a better catch than some non-shota old man! —Wah, ehh?! Why are you two tickling me like that?!”
“Well, I just saw Sumire-chansensei dissing Senpai a bit too much, so I just, you know.”
“Wah, stop, don’t…! Ahahaha! I’m weak against that! Noooooo!”
Sumire sank to the floor, while being fiercely attacked by Mashiro and Iroha. Watching this rosy, comforting scene unfold before me, I let out a deep sigh.
“You sure are enjoying yourselves, huh?”
「—Well, that’s basically what happened.」
「Don’t worry. The way I see it, you’re enjoying your life plenty, Aki.」