Act 4: Mr. Seventeen

Credits and thanks goes to whore!sica for the poster!

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight . . .

I’m counting people and sadly not bills. Male, female, female, male, male, female, male times two . . .

Mr. Seventeen is getting closer, and I’m getting more and more nervous. Please, I beg you, please make him normal weight and tall. I don’t mean to be mean, but I’m doing this purely for money. So, I really need to base everything on the first impression. I have to make myself like him to get him to like me back. Twisted. Really.
The stupid thing is htat I’m already five minutes into my job, and Ren is nowhere to be seen. I wonder if he is lost. This campus is kind of big. Oh well, he’ll have to deal with it himself. I don’t have time to care if he’s noting down the proper . . . hang on, no, I need him to succeed. That’s when I grab my phone and click on his number.

“Hey, where are you?”

“Umm . . . I’m on my way. I’m just not sure. Do you turn left around this sandwich shop or do you go straight ahead?” he asks like a kid lost in an amusement park.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Ren. Give me specific building names or streets.”

“I’m on campus for sure. There are those ancient buildings with random gargoyles outside if I look out the window,” Ren explains. “I think I’m in a building. There’s a long hallway and . . .”

“Why don’t you just ask someone to take you to Yokohama Hall?”

“I thought I’d be able to find it, but I guess that works too.” 

I overhear him asking some male for directions, and the guy says some things. To my surprise, I find Ren approaching with that guy by his side and at this point, that guy that helped Ren happens to be guy number seventeen. 

I don’t even have enough time to make sure that this guy looks okay. He’s tall. Check. That’s good enough. He seems nice. All right. I’m making all these mental notes as I rush down from the set of short stairs leading from the cafteria to the entrance. Ren is thanking him for his help, and I think I hear Ren greeting me. I’m too bothered by the fact that I have to chase after Mr. Seventeen. Luckily, I’m not that unatheletic, and when I think all else is failing, my hand reaches out and manages to . . . miss his sleeve and grab onto his black basketball shorts. Needless to say, I successfully expose his bare bottom and land chin first to the ground. Ouch. 

In a pant, I mutter, “E-e-excuse me . . .Ha . . . ha. . . ha . . . I . . .”

I feel something resisting my pull, so I pull even harder. Then, when I look up, I realize that he and I are playing Tug-o-war with his shorts. Immediately, I let go and let the man cover his skin. I feel awful seriously and not to mention, embarrassed, knowing that I just pantsed the guy that is supposed to fall in love with me.

Great. I have made a horrible impression already, and people say first impressions are supposed to be last. What is worse is that I can hear Ren cackling his head off; he’s so annoying just like those people that laugh at the guy who slips on the banana peel.

“I’m so sorry,” I ramble while getting up from the floor. 

As I pat down the dust and dirt on my body, the guy mutters quietly, “It’s . . . okay.”

“Really, I’m so sorry,” I continue apologizing and bowing several times. “I’ll repay you. I feel so bad.” And there I go making up some lie, “You helped out my crazy uncle over there.” Point, my finger aims at Ren, who is now almost tearing up. When Ren sees my finger, he points at himself and tilts his head to the side. I know what he’s thinking. What? Me? Yeah, you, stupid Ren, who’s now my uncle. Man, I’ve been reading too much shoujo manga these days. Getting these pathetic ideas from them. “And I just—“

“No, really, it’s fine,” he cuts me off. 

Of course, he wouldn’t want to do anything with me, but I’m determined partly because I want to get rid of this guilty feeling on my chest and because I think he looks fine. My ten-second scan makes me conclude that Mr. Seventeen looks pretty good. He seems rather athletic with his navy gym bag swung around his shoulders, slick Nike trainers, shorts, and pale blue t-shirt that perfectly accentuates his arm muscles. All right, he’s fit for sure and probably comes with abs at this rate. Not to mention, his face is somwhat feminine yet masculine at the same time. He has a hooked nose and fine, seductive pair of dark eyes. His hair is split in the middle and cut to his ears to shape his face nicely. I’m pretty sure he has had some work done though. Even then, his plastic surgeon is wonderful for creating this human piece of art. I know that I have to do something or else I’ll end up with some odd guy. This guy seems pretty normal. Say something, Misa. Hurry! He’s about to turn his heel and leave! 

“Well, I want to get to know you!” I proclaim loudly and then realize that it sounds too much like a love confession. Waving my hand at Mr. Seventeen, I stammer with flustering cheeks, “I-I-I m-m-meant as a fr-fr-friend. Not like, you know, more than that. I mean, we just met right? And I kind of pulled down your pants and—“

Mr. Seventeen is nice enough to flash me a gentle grin. Then, he extends his hand, which is rather odd in Japan. I’m thinking . . . that he probably stayed out of the country. Either way, I accept his kind gesture, and then he notes, “I’m Watari Shun.”

“I’m Takada Misa. Nice to meet you.” I don’t dare look at his lovely eyes. I think my face is too red like a stereotypical tomato. 

“I guess I’ll see you then, Takada-san.” 

He ends the handshake and prepares to make his exit. Realizing that I will probably never see him again on this huge campus, I shout, “Can we trade emails?”

“Umm . . .”

I don’t want him to get the wrong idea, so I utter, “Honestly, I just want to be friends. I am not going to stalk you or anything. You just seem like an interesting person.”

“Umm . . .”

“I have someone that I like too,” I resort to lying. “So it’s impossible that I will chase after you and stalk you. Okay?” I’m thinking in the back of my mind that I have to go search for a boy to pretend to be my crush now, so I can actually crush on this one. Great. More work for me. And at this point, Shun is wavering and being wishy washy. I don’t think I can tolerate that in a guy. “Just give me your phone,” I demand in a bothered voice. Surprisingly, Shun hands me his phone, which was stored in his gym bag. I punch in the necessary details and also input his information into my phone. Then, I return his device to him. “Thanks,” I tell him.

“I guess . . . I’ll see you later.”

There, Shun scurries to wherever he is supposed to go. I’m pretty sure I scared the heck out of him, while Ren scares the whole of my soul by resting his hand on my shoulder and announcing, “Well—“

“Holy cra.p!” I jump up and yell. “Don’t scare me like that!”

Ren just folds his arms in contempt. “Nothing to be scared of,” he addresses sans emotions. “At least you created an interesting situation. You do realize that you have to find a guy that you supposedly like, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll just make him up later,” I mutter. 

“And thanks for making me your uncle,” he grumbles. “Totally messes up the original plot. Now Takumi will be your alleged cousin in this manga.”

I relieve a sigh. “I know, I know. That’s my fault.”

“Yeah . . . so now what?” Ren ponders while jotting down more notes.

“Do you have enough for a chapter?”

“I guess so. I’ll do a rough sketch and consult with my editor,” Ren informs me. “I guess the next chapter will be about your interaction with him. I’m just wondering how you’ll seduce him though.” 

I let out an overdue huff. “Can’t we just . . . take it slowly?”

Ren shakes his index finger back and forth right in my face. “Listen, chicklet,” he announces. “Do you see manga featuring slow friendships and gaining a ton of readers? Huh?”

Chicklet? Did he really just call me that? Oh god. 

“Well . . .”

“See? You don’t,” he breaks me off before I can even start to make my own argument. “Why? Because people like conflict and cliff hangers.” He jabs at the spot above my chest. “Girls want their hearts to be pounding, and they want scenes to cause them to go: ‘Kyah!’ Got it?”

Slowly, I nod and processs what he just said. Surely, featuring everyday activities would be boring. You can’t just go off showing the mundane life. There does need to be conflict and drama. Girls just love that; even I do. I like squealing for cute scenes, and I guess because of that, I have to create them. Gee . . . I’m starting to regret taking this job. I really do too much.

I inhale a deep breath before asking, “So, what do you suggest I do?”

Ren puckers his lips together and makes a fish face. He swirls his lips side to side and after a few minutes, he concludes, “Ah ha! I think this will be perfect. I think you should try to figure out his schedule and join the activities he likes.”

“Okay?”

“And ask him out for lunch or something,” Ren suggests. “Say you want a guy’s opinion for your crush. Give me your phone.”

“What?”

“I said,” Ren repeats in a very firm tone, “give me your phone.” I honestly don’t know why I always end up listening to him, but I do. I see him type away on the keys, and soon, he shrieks, “All right! I’ve done the deed! I’ve asked him out for you.”

“What?” I almost feel like fainting on the spot or at least sinking to my knees. “What’d you type?” I snatch the phone from Ren’s fingers and stare at the screen.
Ren has written:

Hi Shun-san! Is it okay for me to call you that? You can call me Misa-san too! Remember how I said I wanted to know you? Well, let’s hang out this weekend as friends! Okay? :D <3 <3 <3

I glare at him and almost feel like chucking this cell phone at him. Ren looks innocently at me, shrugging his shoulders. “What?” he wonders. “Are the hearts that bad?”

“Yeah!” I leap up and grab his collars, forcing him to bend down to my height. “Three hearts? Oh my god, Ren! What is he going to think? That I’m some obsessed girl that’s chasing after him?” I bellow in his ears. “Oh my god! My reputation! Ren! What are you going to do to compensate me? Huh?”

Ren touches the back of his head and bares his teeth at me. His eyes squint together as he laughs nervously. “About that . . . it’s umm really not that bad. I mean, you’re just an affectionate person . . . right?”

“Which is bad because I said that I don’t like him that way and that I like someone else!”

I see a gulp go down Ren’s throat. “Umm . . . just actually stress that during your meeting?”

“Who? Who the hell am I going to find that I like or whatever?”

“I have no idea, but you’ll think of something, Misa,” Ren chirps and gently removes my claws from his collar. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start working on the draft. Okie dokie? All right, that’s good that you understand!” Ren flashes such a wide, fake grin at me. “See Misa?” He pats my head a few times with way too much force that I feel like I’m going to shrink. “That’s what’s cute about you! Mm, if only you could cosplay as Misa Misa . . . Sigh.” Shaking his head, he mutters, “Oh well, at least you’re like a chicklet. So inexperienced and young. Ah, young romance, Misa. You’ve got to embrace your youth.”

I’m already burning, almost erupting like an active volcano. My fists are bunched up. I’m ready to punch him any time, and he tells me to embrace my youth? Something is wrong with him. He is so annoying! “Ren . . .”

“Yeah?” He turns around to face me. “What? You miss me already?”

That’s when the glass shaters in my brain, and my hands seize his forearms. I shake him back and forth like I would to a money tree. “Argh! Why are you so fu.cking annoying? Why can’t you just be cooperative? Why are you making my life so miserable? Ugh! I really hate you! You’re so argh!” I yelp. “Why can’t you be a normal guy?”

Once I ask that question, I notice Ren’s shocked and almost numb expression. As soon as I let go of him, he shows a weak smile and waves at me. “I’ll see you then, Misa! Haha!” 

His light chuckle feels like a small, sharp dagger ramming into my chest. I know that I have hurt him, but he doesn’t want to show that he was affected by my words. They say sticks and stones will break your words, but words will never hurt you. As generic as I’m being, that’s wrong. Words hurt just as much, or if not, even more.

I know too well from Ren’s expressionless eyes that he was hit badly with my statement. I have a bad feeling that I’ve hit something hard and deep within him, something that he’ll probably never admit. As much as I want to shrug off this feeling I have, I can’t seem to erase his visage from my mind. I want to ask him what’s wrong, and I kind of want to say that I’m sorry.

But somehow, I think it’s better to leave it this way. Saying sorring would mean that I’m going to unravel some part of him that he’d rather conceal. Apologizing would make him talk and explain. I think he wouldn’t want that, and that’s why he smiled. He smiled to make sure that I would not feel guilty, and so that I would not question further.

So, I leave it at that and promise to myself that I will not try to unearth that part of him.
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