A/N: Set in some happy, non-despair AU where Junko never existed and Izuru was actually allowed to socialize with the rest of Hope's Peak instead of being locked up.
How to Trip Your Love Interest's Flags (Max Affection)
There was a poster in her classroom, white with "love is a battlefield" on it in stark black letters. Chiaki knew the poster was wrong; battlefields were easy to maneuver, a matter of pushing the right buttons at the right times. Dating sims were far more confusing. Especially when it came to a certain classmate of hers.
The gamer didn't know what she was doing wrong. She was certain she'd maxed out Kamukura-kun's affection meter—he'd definitely maxed out hers—yet their relationship wasn't progressing. She'd known his route would be the hardest one of all, but she'd thought she'd at least get on it before failing.
Her female friends had all offered their advice and sympathies (well, Saoinji-san had derided her taste in men, but in a tone that was more worried than biting) when she brought the problem to them. But there was no one quite like Kamukura-kun, and hints that might work on a normal guy would probably not work on him. Not to mention Chiaki wasn't confident enough for some of the move…overt suggestions (she was not, in a million years, walking up to him and shouting "Do you need a Phoenix Down? Because you're drop dead gorgeous!" like Mioda-san had suggested).
It was Sonia-san who offered the very reasonable idea that perhaps, before engaging her enemy, she should do some scouting first. She didn't have a guide to help her or save files to reload from if she messed up, so she had to prepare herself as best she could. Find out what techniques were super effective on him. Find his type.
"Dating sims?" Kamukura-kun asked, eyebrow raised, when he met her after class that day for their usual gaming session and saw the box she was holding.
"Mhmm!" she nodded, hoping her face wasn't blushing too badly. "I thought we could compete to see who gets the farthest, or else laugh at how much we screw up."
He still seemed skeptical, but accepted her choice of game nonetheless. Chiaki took her usual seat on the bench beside him, trying to ignore the way her heart was racing from the proximity. She instead focused on the screen before her, resisting to urge to steal glances at his screen to see who he was pursuing.
"Alright," she sighed sometime later, setting her console down in defeat. "That's that. Bad End unlocked. How are you doing, Kamukura-kun?"
She glanced over in time to see his character get slapped in the face and the girl storm off.
"You got a bad end too?!"
"Apparently," was all he said.
That was…surprising. "So there are things you can fail at…" The gamer's face lit up, her goal temporarily forgotten. "That's wonderful, Kamukura-kun! You finally have something you can enj—"
"No, I could deduce the correct choices to advance on her route," Kamukura-kun interrupted. "I just felt no particular desire to. She was boring, as were all the other girls."
"Oh." Chiaki tried not to be disheartened by that. There'd been a girl in that game with a similar personality to hers. But there'd been differences—that girl wasn't a gamer or class rep—so it wasn't like she was completely out of the running yet, right? "Well, maybe next time there will be ones you do like!"
And so the next day she brought a different dating sim, and he got a bad end there too. The same thing happened on the third day, and the fourth, fifth, sixth. She watched archetype after archetype—childhood friend, tsundere, athlete, nurse, student council president, same-sex option-be rejected by him for being "too boring".
As they got ready to head home on the seventh day, after watching him reduce the foreign exchange student to tears, she couldn't take the wondering anymore. Chiaki asked, as subtly as she could, "Maybe you should tell me your type? Then I could find a game with characters you actually like!"
His eyes narrowed, his stare becoming focused, and Chiaki realized she'd slipped up. "You have an unusual fixation on dating sims of late."
Quick Time Event coming up! She missed it and fumbled her words. "U-um, you think so? I just want you to have fun…"
"You have insisted on playing nothing but dating sims for the past seven days. Generally you rotate the genre. Ergo you likely have a goal of some sorts."
"Additionally, your unsubtle question to find my 'type' hints at a personal investment." Then Kamukura-kun asked the question she was dreading. "Nanami, are you romantically interested in me?"
This was it. The Bad End was coming. She could feel it. Her face was burning too much for her to meet his gaze, so the Ultimate Gamer dropped her head. She tried to force the words out, but her throat had clogged; she just nodded, staring at the floor.
A hand took her chin and, with surprising gentleness, turned it up. Kamukura-kun's face was exactly as blank as ever, but there was a touch of warmth in his eyes.
"Nanami," he repeated, and oh, there was something so soft in the way he said her name. "Your feelings are not unrequited."
She couldn't speak, just exhaled and felt all her tension go with it. With five simple words he'd sent her spinning from emotional whiplash, going from feeling her stomach drop into her feet to feeling as though she suddenly wasn't touching the ground. Her lips parted in surprise, and she didn't miss the way his eyes briefly dropped to them before back up.
"That surprises you?" he guessed.
Chiaki finally found her voice. "Well, yeah. Of course. You've never shown any sort of interest in…anyone. Not in the girls in those games, not in real people."
"They bore me. You do not." He still hadn't let go of her chin, she realized, and his thumb was tantalizingly close to her lower lip. She unconsciously leaned into it.
"Really?" she whispered, searching his eyes.
"I dislike repeating myself." He paused. "But really. You are…not just the first friend I made. You are truly an interesting and attractive individual, Nanami."
She stared at him. The tentative happiness was overflowing, bursting and completely enveloping her. Without even thinking about it her mouth pulled up into a broad smile. I…I actually made the right choices. I actually triggered his flags.
It was bubbling, overflowing, she had to let it out. Chiaki leaped forward and wrapped her arms around Kamukura-kun, squeezing him in a tight hug. "You too," she laughed, smiling so hard her cheeks hurt. "I think you're interesting and attractive too."
"So I gathered." But there was the slightest bit of affection in his usual bland tone, and he pulled her closer into his body until her face was pressed comfortably against his chest. Humming in contentment, she nestled into the embrace.
And they remained there for quite some time.
A/N: Here, have my headcanon that Izuru could beat any dating sim he wanted…but won't because it's even more boring than usual.
Chiaki's imaginary pick-up line was a reference to an earlier idea, where I did have her use that line to show she liked him before deciding that, while funny, it was too out of character.