Act 2: The Motivation

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No one really takes notice of Ren in class. Sure, the girls take a few extra looks at him. After all, no one goes to class in a black suit and combat boots. I seriously think that inside, he’s an attention-seeking who.re, kind of like Tamaki senpai from Ouran High School Host Club. It’s too bad I can’t throw a blonde wig on him and make him wear that blue uniform of theirs. Oh, and he’s too old to be cosplaying some high school student. As a university student though, his age is fine. All the other students assume that he’s a mature student who is trying to restart his life. I swear university security can be so low at times. Anyone can be a student, and isn’t that the point of learning? Yuck, I’m still reminded of my old high school teachers saying cheesy things like that.
“Why are you even taking this?” Ren whispers suddenly when the professor is lecturing about how iron was discovered. “Are you thinking of becoming a geologist? Do you even like this?”

I’m tapping away on my laptop, trying my best to ignore him, but he keeps nudging me with his sharp elbow. I better put on some bruise cream when I get home. Ice is not within reach. Okay, I’ll just . . . “Honestly . . . stop it,” I grumble under my breath. “Are you a kid or something?”

“Well no,” he proceeds to correct me. “I’m thirty, and you weren’t answering me.”

I turn my head towards him to hand him a vicious glare. “Thirty? I thought you were thirty four, and it’s rude, you know, to keep elbowing someone.”
“Mm, serves you right for thinking that I’m thirty-four and for ignoring me.”

If I could chuck my laptop at him or flip over a table filled with dishes, I f.ucking would. Honestly, why did I even agree to help him out in the first place? Right . . . money. I want money. Maybe, I’m like Yamada Taro fromYamada Taro Monogatari, who will do anything for money. Heck, he can even be lured by money, but I just want some cash so I can buy my monthly mangas, satisfy my sweet tooth and purchase the latest craze I find in fashion. Mmm . . . I’m starting to sound superficial.

“Whatever,” I state and go on ignoring him.

“Whatever? That’s so rude, Misa.” I hear him sigh then watch him lean his cheek on his palm. “And to think I thought you’d be as cute as Misa Misa.”

I’m probably supposed to blush when the new guy in my life compliments me with the word “cute” because by now, I should be in love with him. I’m pretty sure that’s how quick Ninako from Strobe Edge fell in love with the cold, perfect Ren. Oh geez, they share the same name. Never mind about that. 

Honestly . . . Misa Misa . . . from Death Note? I’m imagining myself with blonde hair and little pig tails and gothic and slightly provocative clothing. I’m also thinking of referring myself in third person. Misa Misa thinks that . . . Goodness, I really hate it when manga characters refer to themselves in third person. It’s so stupid and uncute. Ugh . . . stupid Chiro from Orange Chocolate. Just say I.

“No.” I shut him and all thoughts related to Misa Misa down.

“I actually think you’d look cute in gothic, punkish stuff. I think in my manga, that’s what you’ll wear,” he declares as a matter of fact.

I glower at him again, reminding him, “Don’t just assign some personality to me when you’re using me.”

“Tell me about yourself then,” Ren insists.

Ren has a sleepish smile plastered on his face. His eyes look perverted as they’re half-closing. He’s giving me those bedroom eyes that make me feel like a girl who is experiencing sex with her boyfriend for the first time. It’s that moment where her boyfriend has just removed her bra , and the girl says that she’s embarrassed and tells him to turn off the lights. Now, he says that she is beautiful, but she insists that her chest is either too small or that she is fat. And that’s when he either kisses her or says something else to reassure her.

So really . . . there is no point in him employing that gaze on me . . . unless . . . 

No way. He can’t actually be into young girls right? Then again, our age difference is pretty big. Okay, ten years? When I was in grade four or five, he’d be in his second or third year of university. Oh my god. Generation gap. Jesus. What am I doing? What am I—

“Do you like admiring my face so much?” he interrupts my thoughts. “I think you should focus more in class, Misa. The professor just said something that you had to remember for your exam.”

“Wait . . . what did he say?”

“He said something about how you have to take note of the formation of steel and its chemical composition,” Ren tells me.

“Oh thanks,” I utter and type away on my document.

Just when I forget about the whole situation, Ren asks me again, “So . . . do you honestly like my face that much?”

I almost strain my neck when I’m lookgin at him. “Huh?”

Ren has that innocent, schoolboy blush; I can’t help but compare him with Kazehaya Shota from Kimi ni Todoke. That guy is seriously so pure and so sweet. I wished I had a romance with him, but instead of meeting someone like him, I get this old creep. Aish, why is he blushing like that and making me feel embarrassed too? What’s worse is that he timidly places his hand on his neck, avoiding my glance as he stammers, “W-w-well, y-y-you were staring at me for a while . . .umm at my lips, so . . .”

“No, I don’t want to kiss you!” I almost shout but manage to control myself just in time. I’m so thankful that this lecture hall is filled with around 500 people and that we’re in one fo the back rows.

“Oh.” He shrugs his shoulders too coolly. “That’s your loss then. I was thinking of kissing you right here and then.”

“Wh-wh-wh-what?”

“I just thought you wanted a kiss, and so to satisfy your desire, I’d just reward you with one,” he says without any hesitation. “Plus, it’d be interesting. Imagine. In a room filled with your classmates, you get a kiss out of the blue from a guy you just met. I think that’d make for an interesting plotline.”

Oh dear . . . does he not even consider a girl’s feelings? A kiss is like nothing? Does he think this is America? I bet that’s what all female protagonists ask in a manga. They seem to have this idea that Americans are totally free with kissing people on the lips when greeting them. That’s not . . . true. I’ve been to the States before, and I don’t see friends kissing friends. Maybe, in Paris, I’ve seen a lot of people kiss on other people’s cheeks with one kiss per cheek. Not in the States. Nope. So, no, that’s not the question I want to ask. 

The question that is burning in my mind is what does he actually take me for? I mean, sure, Yukari did sleep with George after the two of them fell in love. George, I think, did kiss her because of the moment. Hang on, he just wanted to kiss me because of the moment? Just because he felt like it and I looked like I wanted it? Isnt’ that the same as raping a girl and telling her that she was looking for it? 

Ugh. I’m getting a headache. I need an Advil as soon as possible. I think I’m going to charge him every time he meets me and remember to bring medicine with me.

“What?” Ren pesters once more. “You don’t think that’s interesting? I think that’s what girls like. Girls secretly want to have drama in their lives, and they want a guy out there to chase them.”

I kind of want to argue that he’s wrong, but . . . he is somewhat right. I’m thinking of all the manga I have read. Most of the time, the guy is relentlessly chasing after her. He’ll melt her heart with his persistence, and this also works the other way as well. Look at Ninako and Ren. Ren had a nice model girlfriend, but because Ninako was always there and cheerful, he eventually realized that he had to be with her. Look at Bokura Ga Ita. Same thing.

So, I do the only thing I can do. I publicize, “If you’re going to ask me anything, then I’m going to start charging you. In fact . . .” I check my watch and add, “You owe me an hour of pay already.”

“Sheesh, Misa, you’re so cheap!” he whines and pouts like a sad, lost dog. No, I am not falling for that trick. So many girls succumb to a male’s cute pleas. No way. No way. No way. No way. I am getting my 5000 yen to for a new blouse and shorts.

“Cheap? More like reasonable,” I correct him. “You’re taking away from my learning experience.”

He guffaws and covers his mouth with his large hand. “Learning experience?” he scoffs. “Do you even like rocks?”

“No, but this is an easy course that will boost my GPA.”

“Mhm, so what’s your major?”

“You’re going to pay right? Because if not, I’m not going to answer anymore questions.”

“All right. All right, I’ll pay.”

“Okay, I’m studying English literature and probably minoring in linguistics.”

“And you want to be a teacher?”

“Maybe, or a translator.”

“What fun.”

What sarcasm. As.shole. Rude. Inconsiderate. As.shole.

Sh.it. Whatever he is doing is making me hate him. I can’t do that. I’m going to hate him and then fall for him. It’s a curse! He’s laying it out well! Must . . . not hate him. Must see his better side and balance it out. Okay, Ren is honest. Honest is good. Umm . . . what else? Ren is . . . different. Different can be good. Anything to add? He doesn’t look half bad. He umm . . . seems financially broke, so . . . how is he going to pay me?

Damn it. That means to get paid, I have to make sure that he succeeds. Ugh. Seriously? Why me? I must say that scene of Kuragehime where Kuranosuke says that Tsukimi is cute applies to me. The mangaka purposely echoes that word and zooms out from Tsukimi’s house to her neighbourhood to Japan to the world and then to the universe. That’s how I feel right now. Why me? 

Speaking of Kuragehime, Kuranosuke is probably the weirdest guy I have ever met. He kind of reminds me of Ren, except Ren doesn’t cross dress. Oh god. Imagining Ren in flowy dresses just . . . just is so wrong on so many levels. Ren has way broader shoulders than Kuronosuke, so Ren cannot pull off that feminine look well. Ren is better off cosplaying in Vampire Knight or as Ren in Skip Beat. No, the Ren here has no suaveness that the Skip Beat Ren embodies. Damn it. Why am I even comparing Ren with manga characters?

Maybe . . . because I feel like I’m living in one?

And there Ren goes again, lecturing in a sing-song manner, “Miiiii-saaa, you should seriously focus in class. At this rate, this will be your hardest course.” Whose fault is it that I can’t focus? Huh? Who disrupted my oridinary life? “Misa, if you keep frowning at me, you’re going to have wrinkles at my age,” he warns.

“Well I can frown all I want, okay? Because you piss me off!”

“Mm, let me note that down. Misaki-chan will have a love-hate relationship with let me think . . . Takumi-san. Takumi-san likes to tease Misaki-chan and thinks she is an interesting test subject. Ah ha! Takumi-san will be studying psychology and hopes to be a body language expert. Ah, what else?”

“Can you . . . use another name that’s really different from my name?”

“What? You’re uncomfortable letting people know that you’re my muse?”

“Umm . . . yeah. I’d rather not—“

“But that’s the appeal of the manga. This will be based on a true story.”

“And who . . . who is this Takumi then?”

“Why, that’s me!”

“So you think I’m an interesting test subject?”

“Well, you are working as my muse, right? So in that way, you are my subject.”

“Ugh . . . then . . . why don’t you call the person Ren? Or like Rin?”

“Because that’d be too obvious that I’m Takumi. Now, I don’t want anyone probing into my life.”

And I’m supposed to let people into mine? What a selfish ba.stard. If this becomes a huge hit, I’m going to ask for royalties. “Mhm, so if you’re Takumi, then I’m supposed to what? Fall in love with you?”

He scratches his chin, thinking rather pensively. “I’m not quite sure yet,” he answers in a surprisingly serious tone. “I’m not quite sure about how romance will work. I was thinking we’d talk it out after this.”

“Well, you’ll have to wait for another hour. This lecture lasts for three hours.”

“Wait, and I still have to pay you for three hours?”

“If you keep asking me questions, then yes. Whenever you don’t talk to me, then you don’t have to pay.”

“Jesus,” he grumbles, “you’re even more expensive than a prostitute. At least the prostitute works constantly during that hour and you get satisfaction.”

“So . . . you’ve had your share of prostitutes?”

“No, I’m not that desperate. I’m just using an analogy.”

“All right, but you wanted me,” I hark back at him. “You’re the one that wanted me to be your muse. Muses have feelings and thoughts too. We’re not blown-up dolls.”

“Those are very good lines, Misa,” Ren compliments me and jots down in his notebook. “I’m going to rip them off of you and just reword a few things. I’m going to say that test subjects have feelings and thoughts too. We’re not lab rats.”

Ugh . . . now he is even quoting me? Great. I better watch what I say. Thank god no one I knows reads manga. No one will ever know that this is me. Thank god he is not famous . . . oh crap. I have to make him famous. Right, I want that pay cheque and future royalties. If he starts having a long series allowing him to release at least 26 volumes like Hana Yori Dango, then I’d be rich too! If he even has anime or OVAs, then I’d hit jackpot! 

Yes, I have to learn to work with him. I have to inspire him and feed him ideas to make him the most popular shoujo mangaka ever. I need him to be as hot as Hana Yori Dango.

And that is why I let him stay at my place for dinner.
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