Disclaimer: I do not own Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Please do not sue me.

Special Thanks: RAfan2421 for editing/beta reading. Check out his fic, the Masquerade and others!

My Online Romance is Imagined as I Expected

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru

Sponsored by the Cabal

Chapter 2

Light Novels, Chunibyo & Other Delusions

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

"Onii-chan! You better not get into another accident while I'm riding with you, 'kay?"

My little sister Komachi was currently glued to my waist. Being the kind and generous elder sibling, I offered my little sister a ride. If only that were true. The reality is that my little sister threatened to delete all my save files on my handheld if I didn't. You know how hard it is to keep Tharja and Lucina through an entire playthrough? [1] So here we are, reenacting a scene from a rosy-colored childhood: two persons riding the same bike.

Some less enlightened persons may say we look like lovers.

They're idiots.

"Ew. Are you having weird-weird thoughts?" You said 'weird' twice. Saying something twice doesn't make it twice as cute. "Please keep in mind we are in public and you should behave yourself, Onii-chan."

"I'm not thinking of anything weird."

People get annoyed at other people's thoughts. It's as if the possibility that one might hold a certain opinion of someone would be the end of the world. It simply shows that in this image-centric and consumer-driven world that people care too much about what other people think.

Much like a certain Snow Leopard I have daily chats with.

Take for example, this exchange from the previous night.

Snow Leopard: It is almost 10 PM. You are most likely having perverted thoughts right about now.

8man: I absolutely am not.

I absolutely was.

However, I couldn't let him know that. So I became defensive and outright denial. It is no small feat to lie through one's teeth, but it becomes exponentially easier on the internet.

In truth, I was spooked. I haven't been found out since my mom found my 'secret stash' in Middle School. That resulted in weeks of lectures on morality.

It took me months to rebuild my collection.

Snow Leopard: Do you have any siblings?

8man: No comment.

Snow Leopard: Well if you do, they would be embarrassed of you.

And yet again, Snow Leopard is accurate to the T.

Komachi insisted I drop her off a block away from the schoolgate to minimize any potential witnesses that I was her brother. She insisted the real reason was because she wanted a little bit of exercise - whatever floats her boat.

Heading towards my destination, I found a place for my bike in the school lot. The nice thing about arriving early is that no one is ever around to compete for parking spots for the bike - which means I can get the prime location by the exit gate so I can make a quick getaway. See, it's a misconception to put a bike by the school building entrance so you have a shorter walk to the class. That's the thinking of losers, because when you exit you're pushing through everyone else making their way to their bikes while holding onto your unwieldy monstrosity of lightweight metal and rubber.

I'm a proud member of the Go-Home-After-School-Club having spent years perfecting the craft. My experience speaks for itself.

The hallways were filled with students who were part of sport teams or student council or other interest clubs like mahjong or the Japanese Visual Cultural Club (a.k.a. the Anime Club). It was only morning and these children had already shackled precious hours of their day in a vain attempt to validate their youth.

Girl A: Haha, so he asked me out right…

Girl B: Squeals! Details! Details!

Girl A: Nope! My lips are sealed!

Girl A + B: Giggles.

L.O.V.E. How can people pretend to talk about it so reverently? As if it's something to be treated with secrecy and discretion like some end-all, be-all of the universe. They treat love as an experience, one that can never be wrong.

What a bunch of fools.

There's an old saying: a frog in a well cannot conceive the idea of the ocean.

Ignorant people have hijacked it for their own convenience. The quote describes the futility in understanding ideas or worlds beyond yourself and therefore you should experience them. Hence, you must escape the well. That, however, doesn't justify the idiocy of youth. Those with ambitious social lives have taken the term as another carpe diem - 'seize the day' - or a catchall excuse to do stupid stuff and rationalize it off as experience.

Or, as some of the more hip-savvy would put it: YOLO. [2]


Everyone says they don't judge but they do. Everyone scrutinizes. Nobody forgives mistakes or errors. Such things are fantasy. Those who forgive will find that reality is not so forgiving and in turn begin to judge and condemn others for faults they themselves possess. Hypocrites. They're the real monsters.

While I was not an academically strong student - mediocre would be a better descriptor - I did pride myself on punctuality. If someone said 'let's meet at five!' it doesn't mean you get ready at five. No, it means you're at that place by five. Then again, nobody asked me to meet them anywhere at any time. Nobody would notice me if I were late. Despite this, I found myself breaking my perfect attendance record because of a spilled trash can.

"Honestly, these people…" There came a voice from around the building where the recycling bins were located. Followed by the sound of a metallic object hitting a wall. "Can't people clean up after themselves?"

Checking the corner I saw the Student Council President, Yukinoshita Yukino, on her knees picking up assorted containers and papers. Every so often, she'd take a can and chuck it at the bin. Often she'd miss and quietly groan.

This is the side of nobility people don't often get to see.

The Environmental Club is responsible for recycling while the Campus Beautification Club is responsible for cleaning the campus. While both have clear roles, things get blurry when it comes to maintenance of the disposal units. Trash needs to be sorted, but that's the Environmental Club's problem. The Campus Beautification Club just dumps it as is and expects the Environmental Clubbers to do it themselves.

Needless to say, this didn't please the Environmental Club members who felt everyone had a duty to sort their own trash and recyclables. And thus, began the great Environmental-Beautification War where both basically dump their trash at the site and leave it for the crows or trashman to figure out.

This could easily be solved by having the Environmental Club make boxes with clearly labeled 'Paper', 'Aluminum', or 'Glass' and distribute them to the classrooms but that makes too much sense. People in power are allergic to logical solutions.

"Are you okay?"

Yukinoshita froze like a deer in the headlights. Slowly turning her head, her eyes met mine. "H-hello… Hikigaya?"

"Yeah, that's me."

She stood up and patted herself down. Far from the frustrated garbageman earlier, she recomposed herself back to a dignified state with a hairflip. "You've seen something unbecoming."

I shrugged. "You're cleaning up this mess right? Do you need help?"

Yukinoshita didn't protest as I began picking up cans and tossing them into the bin. Little did people know I'm a bit of a completionist so this kind of stuff really suits me. Like how people feel compelled to level up their Charmander to a Charizard in Mt. Moon prior to the Cerulean Gym or min-max their RPG party stats. [3] It's a grind, but so worth it.

Without saying any more words, we began cleaning up the trash bins and sorting them out into their proper categories.

"Hikigaya." Her voice was smooth and commanding. I turn to look at her. She looks at me. Her eyes were determined. What was she thinking?

Maybe she wanted to thank me?

"Are you going to thank me?"

Yukinoshita opened her mouth, then closed it. She pointed at me.

"The top button on your shirt is undone. Please button it up. It is against school regulations."

She stated it nonchalantly like it was an obvious fact of life.

I flipped my bookbag over my shoulder. See, had this been a romantic comedy she would have walked over and buttoned my shirt for me. If I were wearing a tie, she might have even fixed it and brushed off the dust from my shoulders. But there she was, mouthing off about my non-regulation-standard appearance.

I gave a halfhearted wave and left.

For the first time in my life I was late to class. Nobody cared. The teacher had already marked me as present.

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

"You're a difficult man to find, Hikigaya Hachiman."

She found me. President Yukinoshita Yukino stood at the base of the stairwell to the roof access door. I was sitting at the very top of the stairs in the Special Activities Building enjoying my lunch. It was another curry bread, as I had a workaholic corporate slave mother who leaves cash insteads of lunches on the table, a sister who refuses to spoil me, and I have a distinct lack of a significant other to make me a daily bento.

Now the Student Council President Yukinoshita Yukino stood before me.

If I were a lesser man, I'd have assumed she'd made a bento to thank me, with rolled eggs, octopus sausages, and apple slices cut into cute rabbit shapes. Alas, she came empty handed. I helped her with sorting the recyclables this morning, so she didn't have any time to prepare a bento made with love regardless. My life is, after all, not a romantic comedy.

"I try not to be," I replied.

That was a lie. I'm difficult to find because nobody cares about me. It's a natural talent but I had the decent sense not to brag about it.

Yukinoshita stepped closer.

"I had half the student council looking for you, but almost no one could remember what you looked like. You have a rather forgettable face, you know?"

"Thanks, I keep it that way."

I took another bite of my curry bread.

It was stale. There weren't enough onions. And the spices were not nearly strong enough. The pathetic nature of this lunch would have brought a tear to eye were it not 100 yen. My mother left me 1000 yen for lunch, and now I had a net gain of 900 yen towards my next purchase.

"Even girls from your own class couldn't remember you were in there," Yukinoshita said. Stepping even closer. "It's also rather amazing how poor their memories are." And she took yet another step.

What was she doing?

I get that alot," I said, mouth half-full. "So what brings you out to my neck of the woods?"

Yukinoshita Yukino gave me a small bow. There was an air of sophistication that didn't leave when she assumed the submissive posture. By all accounts, even I would have thought she was sincere.

"I didn't get a chance earlier to say this but… thank you."

"Yeah." That was all I could manage to say in between munches. "Well if you're done with that, you're free to leave me alone now."

Yukinoshita blinked.

You see, I know I am great. Hence, unlike the weaker members of my sex, I do not need validation from the female kind. In fact, it has been almost two years since I last spoke to a girl (with regards to how the weather was more humid than hot). So when a beauty like Yukinoshita, who has probably never been turned away in her life, is rebuffed they enter a deer-in-the-headlights state. Or the blue screen of death for the younger generation. [4]

"You don't like me, do you?" she asked.

"No. I couldn't care less about you."

"Somehow, I get you're speaking the truth," she said softly. She sat down next to me, bringing her knees to chest and rested her chin on them. "I wonder if you're like a dog who doesn't understand a diamond's true value or if you're a nihilist divorced from the affairs of the world."

"If I were not Hikigaya then I'd like to be Diogenes." [5]

"I do not have a lantern but I think I've found an honest man [6]," Yukinoshita replied with a smile. "I suppose we should keep the flea-infested mutt away from other people," she joked.

Tch. She got my reference. I guess she ain't the top scorer in every single subject for nothing.

"People are stupid. Why would I want to spend time with them? They're nothing but a raging mob who needs to find excuses. Why deal with people? At least you won't be disappointed when you only deal with yourself. I'd rather stay in my pot."

"People do get emotional, but they are good people at heart." She scooted closer. "Perhaps if you'd come out of your pot every once in a while you'd see something worth saving." [7]

"Good people to you. Not to me. Big difference. You only think they're worth saving because they look up to you. They all look down on me. They can go to hell."

"I must say, this honesty is very refreshing." Yukinoshita covered her mouth in a feigned chuckle like some haughty rich lady. "But that's why I'm doing my best to change their course, so they can be better people." She flipped her hair again, sending a sweet flowery scent to my nose. "That's why I became student council president or were you snoozing during my inauguration speech?"

"Can't say I heard it," I replied.

Unfortunately for her, I was nursing a broken leg at the hospital.

This resulted in me not being around to make friends or join any friend groups. They had all been established. So I fell into my own little niche of being a loner.

Meanwhile, Yukinoshita was making history.

"Hey hey Onii-chan! Did you hear about your new Student Council President?" my adorable sister Komachi asked me while I was trying to bring the Black Eagles, the best house, to glory in Fodlan. [8]

"No. And I don't care-"

"So this girl, Yukinoshita Yukino, who has a funny-funny name because it has 'Yuki-' in her twice so it's all snow-snow, so she is in middle school and she runs a campaign to be Student Council President even though she's in middle school!"

"Aren't there rules for-"

"And there isn't anything in the rules saying a middle schooler can't run for President! So she runs and she wins-wins! Like bigtime! And now she's the first ever freshmen Student Council President."

"That's really cool. So do you mind leaving?"

Komachi nodded her head, smiling. "Okay! Feel better!"

And what Komachi neglected, deliberately or not, to tell me was that she came to visit to drop off some homemade curry and karaage courtesy of mom.


Remembering it makes my blood boil.

Anyways, now that Yukinoshita Yukino was standing before me, watching me eat my lunch.

"Ah. It's a pity you didn't hear my speech."

Finishing my curry bread, I brushed the crumbs off my uniform.

"I'm going to get a drink."

Stretching out her arms before kicking her legs to lift herself up, Yukinoshita nodded. "I should return to my duties. They don't end at lunch apparently. The others must be wondering where I am."

"Well, aren't you an important celebrity?"

Yukinoshita shrugged. "I like the power."

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." [9]

"Lord Acton. But I suppose that's where that third place in Modern Literature gets you, huh?"

"I'm surprised you remember my ranking."

"As Student Council President I have liberal access to everyone's files. It's a simple matter of opening the proper channels and remembering a few teachers' birthdays for passwords."

"Underhanded. I know nothing about you but you've got my permanent record."

"Well, I'm sure you'll come across rumors of me sooner or later. They spring up from time to time."

"Are these rumors true?"

"Which one? The one where I am the illegitimate offspring of an affair between my mother and her lover or that I pose as a college student on the weekends to go to drinking parties?"

"Well damn." I haven't heard those before.

"Most of them aren't true."


President Yukinoshita smiled to herself. "If there's anything I can do for you to repay you, please do not hesitate to ask. You can find me in the student council room or in classroom 2-J."

She began walking away.

"Hey, how do you know I'm not one of those guys trying to get close to you by helping you pick up trash?"

Yukinoshita turned and looked at me.

"Because no one has ever done it before. So in a way, it's a bit peculiar… but also interesting."

That's right, if you ever wanted to get on a girl's good side you should do something unexpected but courteous. Pro-tip #1, don't serenade her with a song you wrote yourself and a guitar outside her house. Pro-tip #2, absolutely do not do that. Actually, I take that back. That sounds rather romantic. Please do so. Also wear an animal suit while you're doing it and tell me when and where so you can at least have the police as an audience if she refuses to open the window.

We walked down the staircase before we parted away. She made haste towards the student council room in quick steps. I wandered down the hall hoping there was still some Coffee MAX in the machine.

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

I wanted to get the hell home.

First of all, every single machine was out of Coffee MAX.

For the rest of the day, the prevailing rumor - one that occupied most of the student's lips - was not about whether Student A or Student B had broken up or if Student C and Student D had hooked up or if Student E was cheating on student F with student G… it was how Student Council President Yukinoshita Yukino disappeared during lunch and couldn't be contacted or found until near the end of it.

Rumors were trickling around that she had taken care of some poor unfortunate dog she found in the morning. Another rumor said she was eating lunch with a lover on the rooftop. The former was far closer to the truth than the latter.

Besides, don't these people have anything better to do than gossip about the Student Council President? The Ice Queen of Soubu High isn't really that big of a deal.

As I prepared to exit the school and faithfully execute my duties as a member of the Go-Home-After-School Club, Hiratsuka-sensei landed a death grip on my arm and pulled me into the teacher's office. This was her way of informing me that we had an impromptu follow-up meeting on the Snow Leopard situation: by applying even more pressure on my arm when I protested. For a middle-aged woman, she had a grip that would make Hulk Hogan or Andre the Giant proud or terrified.

"So Hikigaya," she began releasing me. A lit cigarette signaled she was ready for my response. "Whatcha learn 'bout Snow Leopard?"

"The guy's a nut. He wants to change the world and thinks he's Setsuna F. Seiei or something." [10]

Hiratsuka-sensei's smile grew wide before she smacked me on the head with the thin side of her hand.

"You're the distortion in this world!"

"What a cheesy mech fan." Mumbling to myself was how my brief respite was spent before she landed another chop to my head. "I mean, what a devoted mech fan."

"Good boy. I don't dislike honest young-uns like yourself ya know?"

It's good to know she's slowly coming to terms that she's older than me. Unfortunately, women do come with an expiration date and I'm afraid Hiratsuka-sensei is well past her best-by. She would have looked less expired if she stopped trying to act like she was ripe.

"If that's all we're going to discuss, I think my mother wants me home-"

"Nope. You're not going anywhere. I'm going to assign you to a club."


A forced club assignment? That's like a death sentence for my eternal presidency of the Go-Home-After-School Club!

"I'm going to assign you to a club."

"You're going to assign me to a club? What is this? Soviet Russia? Are you sending me off to a gulag?"

"Something like that."

Standing up with a kick of her legs, she motioned me to follow. Shoving my hands into my pocket and giving my best scowl I followed her out of the teacher's lounge.

I entered the clubroom. Part of me expected something. Anything. Maybe anyone. A tiny bit wanted there to be something more than unused desks and seats piled high in the corner but it was void of any occupants or even posters. It was a blank room. The tables and chairs stacked against the walls made the room seem large.

"Um… is someone supposed to be here?"


Hiratsuka-sensei pressed her arms against her hips. She had a wide smile on her face as she began looking at the empty classroom in the room. Spreading her arms wide as if to embrace the air, she inhaled deeply as if to say 'look at the New World, young lad!'

Not much to see, to be honest.

"So where's the club president?"

I just wanted to get this over with. The dude was probably out on a bathroom break or maybe he was hiding behind the piles of desks and chairs ready to demonstrate some dramatic entry.

Hiratsuka-sensei snickered.

"Well, the old one quit. But you know the new one quite well."

"I do?" I have no friends, no acquaintances. There's nobody I could possibly know quite well. This school treats me like vermin, or a leper. I might as well be sent off to be quarantined in some distant building away from the rest of the student body…


Hiratsuka-sensei's smile grew bigger like she took a perverted delight in my epiphany.

"Get it now, Hikigaya?"

I gulped as the cold splash of responsibility washed over my spine.

"I'm the new president?"

"Yup yup!" She gave me a pat on the back. "The old one got overwhelmed and quit. So this room is now your clam! Find your pearl!"

"I think you mean oyster. Clams don't have pearls." This is stuff you learn in grade school.

Hiratsuka-sensei, clearly fazed, twitched her nose. "But stir fried clams are so much more delicious than oyster shoots." The scariest part about her response was the sincerity.

"That's completely irrele-"

Before I could finish my response, the door behind us swung open with such force and speed that I might have soiled myself. Then, in a booming voice, came his declaration.

"Greetings! I am here for counsel regarding a most serious matter!"

The ancient form of dialect was jarring. The guy entered in dramatic fashion throwing confetti all about him like some kind of Brazilian carnival. [11] Whoever he was, I wanted him out of my clubroom. That sounds a bit strange - my clubroom. Heh. I am the master of this Domain. Call me Lord Service Club. [12]

Somehow, he looked familiar.

"You're going to sweep that up." Hiratsuka-sensei crossed her arms in a no-nonsense manner. If even the bravest Spartan looked into her eyes, they'd be drowning themselves in the Mediterranean to avoid her gaze. [13]

"Y-yes ma'am." The gray-haired kid in the green overcoat began pressing his fingers together like a toddler that broke a vase. What happened to all that vitality!?

He quickly found a broom and dustpan in the corner and went to work sweeping the confetti he threw on the floor.

A soft hand pressed on my shoulder.

Then came a vise grip.

"So Hikigaya… if you fail any of your requests, you can consider yourself demoted from the presidency and you'll be a general errand boy for every club on campus, mmkay?"

General errand boy was the politically correct way of referring to the sanctioned school teacher pets. Basically those delinquents and truants who needed to get on the good side of teachers to avoid summer school would become a gofer. Or more accurately, a bread-shuttle.

"Y-yes m-ma'am." She gave one last grip on my shoulder before releasing me.

She gave a smile that bore her fangs like a starving cougar on the prowl. With a smile, Hiratsuka-sensei turned to me and bid me farewell.

"Good luck, President Hikigaya~"

With the purr imitating a teenage girl in love, Hiratsuka-sensei left.

All the while, the guy kept sweeping.

"So uh, hey-whatcha here for?" I thought it'd be best to hear his request and get it over with. Although I admit he was doing a fantastic job at his menial task. The floor looked spick and span without a speck of dust.

"Oh yes!" As if he suddenly realized he wasn't the custodian he reverted back to his Swordfighter General persona. "I am here for a service request! This is the noble and honorable Service Club is it not?"

"Er-Aye, it is. What can I do for you, good sir?" I attempted to mock him by using his own antiquated jargon against him but if anything he seemed to be enjoying it.

"Ahem! Forgive me! You must certainly be the Lord of this hallowed organization are you not?"


"I am Yoshiteru Zaimokuza! Blademaster General descended from the great Shoguns of ages past!"

T-this guy's… a Chuni! [14] But also, he seemed so oddly familiar…

"So what are you here for?"

He reached into his messenger bag and pulled out a stack of paper binder clipped together. It looked really thick, as if he mass produced flyers for distribution. Looking closely, it turned out they weren't flyers but handwritten essays.

"I request your aid in this most grievous matter!" He shoved the papers into me which I regretfully accepted.

"You need help with…" I glanced through the first few lines on the top of the stack. I caught the words 'Flying Ponies', 'Super Lucky Magical Girls', 'Cyborg-Android Uber-Mech', and 'Boing-Boing'. "I don't even know where to begin. If this is your homework, it looks like a mess and you're better off asking someone else."

"Do not misunderstand. This is no simple homework… this is my original fiction!" [15]

Again, I glanced at the first page. The phrase 'The heroine's bosoms most bountiful pressed against Yoshiharu Zaimoguza's face'. This man lacks subtlety and basic literary ability. Even his protagonist caused my stomach to cringe. This Zaimokuza guy barely changed a few letters in his name for his protagonist!

"You've got a ways to go." [16]

Then, as if a thunderbolt struck him in the chest, Zaimokuza collapsed onto the floor. "Ow! Ow! Owie!"

Flipping past a few more pages, I realized this horrendous vomit of cliche tropes and anime fantasies wasn't going to get anywhere near published. If I were his conscience, I'd tell him to burn it all then shred it then burn the shreds. At least then no forensics crime lab could ever piece back together this disaster.

"Why do you even want to write this stuff anyways?"

Zaimokuza's glint returned to his eyes. "Obviously for the Annual Tournament of Light Novels!"

I thought he was joking about the title until I saw the flier. There really is an annual tournament, the Young Lions Light Novel Cup. The tournament is judged by a few editors. Those who pass get an excerpt of their novel published and consideration for publication. That's it. There's no monetary prize or even guarantee of getting published. It was probably some office schmuck's bright idea to get some free corporate advertisement.

Regardless, I had to help him. I like having a room at school, like my own secret base. I also like having to not be Hiratsuka-sensei's personal slave until I graduate. I looked back down at the manuscript.

'Boin! Boin! Boing! was the sound of her ample bosom pressing against Yoshiharu's cheeks!'

We've got a looong way to go… let's get down to business. [17]

Zaimokuza had the sense to bring his laptop. I had him set up his own table away from mine so he could begin writing a new manuscript as the old one was completely unworkable. His draft might have been good for hazing friends: 'let's see how many pages you can get through before you gag!' I mean, if I had friends of course.

Luckily, I found an internet connection and hooked up a dusty old PC tucked away in the corner. Before long, I was internet-connected with an ethernet cable. The machine was dated but still functional. It even had chat functions.

I logged on.

Snow Leopard: You're late.

Snow Leopard: I was expecting you to be online earlier.

His reply was so immediate, I thought my computer had bugged out by logging in.

8man: I do have a day job.

Snow Leopard: Busy day at the convenience store?

8man: On the contrary I have project requests to fulfill.

It wasn't a lie. A request to a Service Club was indeed a project. So in that sense, I'm the most honest guy on the internet right now.

Snow Leopard: I'm sure you fulfill your bread shuttle tasks admirably.

8man: Please note that I am president of my organization.

Again, I didn't lie. I was indeed president of this organization. As small as it was. Zaimokuza was busily working on his laptop in the corner with a creepy grin that one could only describe as a detriment to humanity.

Snow Leopard: Funny. I am president as well.

8man: Being the funny guy now?

Snow Leopard: No.

Snow Leopard: Funny girl.

Meanwhile, Zaimokuza was tapping away on his laptop, giggling to himself about something or another.

To be honest, it wasn't that bad. I got a private club room on campus. And you ignore the grinning chuuni in the corner muttering to himself about the most blatant fan-service, power fantasy self-insert ever, it wasn't that bad. I got my own personal little room to relax in. I can finally tell my parents I'm part of a club, the president of a club no less. Maybe I can milk extra cash out of them saying I need it to have dinner with my 'club-mates'. I will then use the proceeds to fund a PlayStation 5 and Final Fantasy XVI. [18]

I glanced at Zaimokuza, still lost in his world.

He's handling his own request! What do I need to do?

Better make myself comfortable, I guess.

8man: Sooo… got any hobbies?

Snow Leopard: That's an awfully creepy question. Are you trying to figure out my password?

Oo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

Snow Leopard: Pan-san is an iconic hallmark of Destiny Land's animated entertainment pantheon. Pan-san itself was meant to characterize both the strength and tenacity to survive in a post-war world as well as provide hopeful optimism for the future. To say that Pan-san is, "kind of weird looking" is not only offensive - it should be an offense punishable by imprisonment or exile to a penal colony.

8man: Pan-san is still pretty weird. You got to admit.

Snow Leopard: Nope.

And thus is how most of our conversations go.

It had been a few days since Zaimokuza had come requesting help with his novel. The days passed by quietly enough. Zaimokuza would barge in, bust out his laptop, and start tapping away while I enjoyed some Coffee MAX. Occasionally, I'd feel bold and try something like red-bean flavor or pineapple-mango. But Coffee MAX will always be my boo.

Every so often, Zaimokuza would ask me to beta read his story.

I would glance it through, say "It's alright. Keep it up", and he'd return to tapping away.

Maybe I should be a motivational coach. That's basically a househusband but without the chores.

Meanwhile, I kept pressing Snow Leopard for more info on him.

All I knew was that the guy was in the Chiba Literature Classroom, liked cats, and thinks he's a girl. I couldn't discount the fact he might not even be from Chiba. There's almost one million people in Chiba. However, the chatroom was open to anyone. So potentially, anyone in Japan or any Japanese speaker could be in there. If I'm a 1-in-965,432 prodigy, then he's a 1-in-128,000,000 disaster. [19]

It was likely to me, given his abrasive attitude, that he might have been banned from all the Tokyo-related literature chat rooms. Hence, he would be quiet in the Chiba one before unloading his manic rants about Pan-san.

Komachi's recent obsession with Pan-san prompted me to make a comment regarding the cartoon caricature. Little did I know that this would set off Snow Leopard like a spark in an arsenal with enough gunpowder to end the Ming Dynasty. [20]

I closed my laptop with a sigh, earning a 'shhh!' from the student-librarian on call. Some people take their student duties too seriously.

The library is a fortress of paper.

Actually, I kind of felt like I was in exile. As President of the Service Club, I dutifully went to my assigned post expecting a day to be filled with reading fine literature or playing on a handheld device for the required duration. However, upon peeking through the door opening, I noticed Zaimokuza was already in, his back facing the doorway.

He was probably setting up for a dramatic turn-about-face with white pigeons ready to burst out or something. I wasn't going into the clubroom today. It was a nice place, don't get me wrong, but variety is the spice of life. Besides, everytime I'm there Zaimokuza begs me to read his latest manuscript which has only become even more self-absorbed. Call it a tactical retreat. Call it exile. Whatever this was, the peace and solace of the library was pleasing.

Ah, to be studying… alone...

"Studying?" A flutter of raven black hair revealed the identity of the mysterious voice. It was Yukinoshita Yukino. She leaned forward, catching a glimpse of what I was reading. "Chemistry?"

Her face was close. A bit too close. If I were a weaker man, I'd have fallen in love. Thankfully, I am not such a degenerate. I merely noticed her hair and skin were absolutely flawless. Whether by surgery or cosmetics or genetics, I couldn't say.

"Indeed. I didn't pass the last exam," I admitted.

"You do realize the retake exams are harder than the actual exams, correct?"


This was common at Sobu High School. The prevailing logic was that students who failed the first time needed to demonstrate that they had truly mastered the material to avoid summer school. Of course, what usually ends up happening is that 90% of the students fail the retake and have to go into summer school bitter, upset, and angry at the world for its unfair practices. A part of me actually respects this system. It's a good way of showing youth-loving kids how the real world truly is.

"Well, you do have time I suppose. May I sit next to you?"

"It's your school, president. You can sit where you want." [21] Yukinoshita simply smiled and took her seat. Retrieving a book from her bag, I realized it was the same book on cats from earlier. "You still got that thing?"

"It's a good read."

"You have some weird hobbies." The comment was meant to be muttered under my breath but in the quiet library, it must have been the same as shouting into her ear. For a moment, fear gripped my spine. I couldn't care less about the social suicide and ostracization from insulting the Student Council President. I thought I had just made a powerful enemy who could make my life more annoying than it already is.

But instead of looking offended, Yukinoshita Yukino seemed amused.

"That's a first. The honesty is quite refreshing."

"You get a lot of suck-ups and kiss-ups in the Student Council?"

Keeping a flawless smile, she replied, "no comment."

It was then that I realized that I hadn't heard from the librarian for a while. Usually she'd have 'shhh!d me by now. Instead, she was still by her desk, her nose buried into her book. Her concentration looked intense. She must have been oblivious to the world.

"Strange." I murmured softly. "The librarian isn't telling us to be quiet."

We were the only ones in the library, but that didn't stop her from the 'shhh!' bombs when I groaned trying to understand periodic trends and stoichiometry and balancing chemical reactions.

"Is it really? We aren't making much noise." And so, Yukinoshita returned to reading her book on large cats, completely unfazed by the observation.

Then it all made sense.

The librarian wasn't telling us to be quiet because she was busy reading. It was because the Student Council President was there and she wasn't going to do anything that would upset the single most powerful student on campus.

In a way, it was scary. In another, I guess it must be hard to deal with so many fakers and the sheer fear in the eyes of your constituents. Who is real and who isn't? If everyone is out to get favors or keep out of your bad side… I wonder...

...what's genuine?

Well, whatever. I withdrew Zaimokuza's second manuscript. He managed to pump out an entire novel draft overnight. Studying the hard sciences or biology, chemistry, and astronomy (or earth science?) wasn't clicking with me so I figured editing his mess might be a decent refresher. Remember, if you ever feel like the material you're studying is tough remember someone is out there writing their fetish-fuel OC fiction.

With a nice green pen, I began hacking away.

Flipping through the pages, the impulse to gag was hard to ignore. I might need a Coffee MAX for each time Zaimokuza used the words 'Dark', 'Flame', and 'Master'. [22] Then again, if I had gone through with it I might empty out the entire Chiba inventory of Coffee MAX before chapter two.

Soft straight black hair grazed my hand.

"Are you a writer?"

Yukinoshita's question came as softly as a light wind.


It was my mistake. The question was so sudden and unprovoked that I thought it might have been a figment of my imagination. Girls do not give me any attention or notice whatsoever.

"It seems you're editing something that looks like a manuscript. I thought you were a writer."

Her response was polite. It was measured like a politician - no need to offend and no need to please. There was a hint of curiosity. I couldn't tell whether it was a genuine interest or a passing filler remark. Regardless, it begged the question:

What does she want?

Girls don't talk to me unless they want something. Be it my sisters or my teachers, all girls want is something. So what could Yukinoshita possibly want of me? Does she want my organs? Does she want me to donate to her fundraiser?

Or maybe she's bored and she wants me to amuse her.

"I don't write."


And so Yukinoshita returned to her book.

As the seconds passed, I began to wonder if my answer was appropriate.

"Er-say, uh, Yukinoshita...san?"

Slowly, her head tilted upward. Her head tilted and her eyes looked to mine. Her hand touched a soft blue bookmark and slipped it in place before closing the text she was reading.


"Um… do you write?"

"Not in particular. Although sometimes I find the ending of particular books frustrating. And-"

She stopped explaining, as if Yukinoshita explained too much or was too embarrassed to continue.

I can relate to that. Sometimes a book starts off great with a fantastic hook and premise but then it starts to lose steam. When that happens, you might feel as though you could be superior to the author and write an alternative ending that more accurately reflects the themes and plotlines built up thus far. There's a certain arrogance and love that such people hold.

These people engage in the most degenerate realm of writing:


"So you write your own endings?" I asked.

A soft smile appeared on her lips. "While I believe one shouldn't judge others for their hobbies, I feel it may leave a poor impression on others if this were to be let out. That sort of talk may jeopardize their image of me - and make coming to school more difficult than it already is."

"Heh, I feel you... Wait - what do you mean coming to school is difficult?"

She continued to smile a smile that wasn't quite a smile.

"We all have our demons."

"Pretty dark coming from a girl with 'Snow' in her name." [23]

"Is it? Well, I'm not guilty of devilish sins if that's what you're thinking."

"Drugs? Alcohol."

"Too expensive and I wouldn't waste time losing my mind to ecstasy and euphoria when I could be doing work. I mean, why would one pay for things like that? It's a rather hedonistic and low manner of entertainment."

"Ah, so you're one of those workaholics."

"I dislike that term."

"You are what you are."

"Any other theories?" Yukinoshita leaned on a palm and tilted her head. Her hair swept over the desk, as if she was offering me a playful challenge.

"Okay, is it compensated dating? I heard it's pretty popular."

"Surely you're familiar that my family is adequately affluent enough that I wouldn't need to worry about money."

"You could always do it for the thrill?"

Yukinoshita sighed, as if she was prepared to lecture a young and ignorant little child.

"Once again, why waste such time on frivolous things?"

"Hm… what could it be…"

"I doubt you'll guess."

Whatever it is, it's a problem even rich people have… Problems and riddles always get me - especially when there's a sense that it could be solved with the knowledge on hand. All it takes is a good guess, strong intuition, and tossing together what you know into a solid mix like baking a cookie.

"Maybe you don't want to see an ex?"

A frown formed on Yukinoshita's lips before she gave her reply with a sharp tone.

"How pointless." Yukinoshita's eyes furrowed in annoyance. "What could possibly be so entertaining about love?"

Haha. A nervous laugh escaped. "I wouldn't know," was my final answer.

Yukinoshita's gaze softened. "My apologies. Perhaps your remake hit too close to home." It did? Wow. The Student Council President having an ex. Who'd a thought? "I will be taking my leave. Farewell, Hikigaya."

After she left, I let loose a sigh. It felt good to be rid of her. It was as if an ocean of Spiritual Pressure drowning me had suddenly dissipated. Really, her presence has too strong of an effect on me.

"Ahhhh!" I said, cracking my back.

Then the librarian told me to 'shhh!'

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

The advent of the smartphone has given man many powers. Pictures and video recording is readily available. Humans can now chronicle history in unrivaled detail. Information is as freely available like never before. Information from libraries to research groups to universities and colleges exist on the very tip of one's fingers.

Marvelous that a mere two hundred years ago, slavery was commonplace on the Atlantic Ocean. Go back three hundred years ago and men shot at each other with muskets and stabbed with bayonets and still rode horses into battle. Every war, every great leader, every ideology and religion and sect were so confident in their factual existence from this moment all the way back until history and legend begin to blur.

All that power in my fingertips.

Every ounce of it is being used to text Snow Leopard while I'm on the toilet.

Truly, humanity has come a long way.

8man: Got to say, this mobile app is handy.

Snow Leopard: Mobile App? As in an application for a smartphone?

8man: Yes princess. You might want to ask your servants to install it for you.

Snow Leopard: Why would I need to call her over? It's easier to do it myself. What is the website?

This guy is really pampered. After explaining in detail how to find the website, I waited for a bit before finishing up and returning to my room while he installed the app. The guy could have just stayed logged on, it's not like installing the app would magically log him off without good reason.

Maybe he really is a ten year old kid on the internet.

Snow Leopard: I'am Back.

Snow Leopard: Im back.*

Snow Leopard: I am back.**

8man: You don't need to correct the message. I get your point.

It took a game of Solitaire before Snow Leopard responded.

Snow Leopard: Using this device is most frustrating. It takes longer to type up messages as the auto-finish and autocorrect features continue to hamper my speed.

Snow Leopard: I believe I will switch back to my personal computer.

I played another game of solitaire, only this time it was on my phone, before Snow Leopard returned. Mobile solitaire takes a bit longer than PC solitaire, so Snow Leopard must have been booting up his computer.

Snow Leopard: So, if I may be so bold as to ask, are you a male?


8man: Yes. Yes I am. What of it?

Snow Leopard: Curious.

8man: If you mean curious that I possess a proper appendage between my legs then yes, yes I am a male. As are you. Would you like to share and compare?

Slightly annoyed didn't begin to describe the irritation I felt. Nobody insults my masculinity. Granted I may be a coward and retreat at the first sign of trouble and avoid any aggressive looking guys when I walk to the convenience store at night but that doesn't mean I'm not a male.

Snow Leopard: I was curious about what males find attractive about girls.

8man: Hormones. Simple.

Snow Leopard: Obviously that's the quick answer.

8man: Well if she's pale skinned, rich, and beautiful, she can get any guy she wants. [34]

Snow Leopard: I am three out of three.

8man: I won't contest you're pretty. But you're rich too? That's a stretch.

Snow Leopard: Oh? So you know what my tax returns look like?

8man: I have no idea. But if someone is in denial, and they won't stand to see the truth or reason, then you should merely play along. You are the most gorgeous female out there, princess.

Snow Leopard: Thank you.

8man: That was sarcasm.

Snow Leopard: I know.

Snow Leopard: But what do guys really want to see in a girl?

8man: Is the girl in question pregnant?

Snow Leopard: The girl in question is not pregnant.

8man: That's certainly a plus.

8man: I don't know.

Snow Leopard: Have you ever asked out a girl before?

8man: I have.

8man: It was not successful.

Snow Leopard: That was my next question.

8man: Look. If you really like this 'guy' (who I believe is really a girl but okay, whatever tickles your pickle) then why don't you just ask the guy to go out somewhere generic like a cafe and see if you have any common hobbies?

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

'Can you meet me at the Happy Smile Cafe in the Chiba Mall at noon? I'd like you to edit something for me.'

That was the call I received earlier in the morning from Yukinoshita Yukino.

Maybe I'm a prophet.

If I were old enough and had substantial capital, I'd either start buying lotto tickets or investing in the stock market.

Apparently the Student Council President had unfettered access to the school registrar. And Yukinoshita had no qualms exploiting her privilege.

To be honest, I was momentarily elated. But then I reminded myself she has some ulterior motive. No girl asks a guy out unless she likes him or wants something. And since Yukinoshita has zero romantic interest in me, it's clear she wants something.

And it was made clear.

Yukinoshita wanted someone to beta read her writing.

She was too busy and embarrassed to ask her student council friends to assist. Naturally she would ask me - in many respects I was the ideal person. I was third in Modern Literature for school rankings and not to mention I don't talk to anyone and nobody talks to me. Therefore, whatever she writes will never leak out to the main populace and if I tried I would be ruthlessly destroyed or utterly ignored.

In other words, I could keep a secret which works fine for her.

No matter.

This is the sort of thing I'd brag to my friends and exaggerate to hell and back… if I had any friends. After all, how many people can truthfully say that the Student Council President Yukinoshita Yukino asked them out to the cafe on a Saturday?

And seeing as I had nothing better to do on a Saturday (and a really cute girl asked me), I made my way to the Chiba Mall. It was filled with the usual fare of couples out on dates or housewives taking their toddlers out for a stroll with other housewives. The cafe was a nice family place, with a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.

It disgusted me a bit.

It was a wretched hive of scum, villainy and riajuu. [24]

We were due to meet at 1 PM. But it was already 2 PM.

Yukinoshita Yukino was late, an hour late.

It was my third coffee while I waited. Several customers have already come and gone. I didn't mind. I had considered the possibility that this was an elaborate prank and I would get stood up, so I brought my backpack and some study materials. Studying alone is how I study best anyways. Still, the waitress would come now and again and ask if everything was alright, if there was anything she could get for me. Everything was alright. I'm fine. I gave the same answer each time. So why does she keep coming back to ask the same question?

As I was reviewing conjugate acids and bases, that was when Yukinoshita Yukino entered.

She glanced around before finding me sitting in my corner booth. She walked over. Her breathing was hard. There was a thin sheen of sweat on her skin.

Only Yukinoshita could make being exhausted look so elegant.

"S-sorry to keep you waiting," she said panting. Wiping some sweat from her brow, she quickly seated herself.

Her stamina mustn't be very good.

"Uh… Water?" I pushed an untouched glass of iced water with a lemon wedge inside towards her. She eyed it carefully before gulping it. "Did you run?"

"Yes." Her eyes went downcast. "My mother-I mean. I had some family things to take care of prior."

"And it went over your expected time limit?"

Yukinoshita nodded. "These types of things have a habit of going past the expected timeframe."

It must be rough, coming from a rich family. I wouldn't know. They probably have rich people problems like which rooftop swimming pool they want to lounge in today or something. But knowing Yukinoshita, she was most likely trying to decide how to turn down Kyoto University because she was holding out for Todai. [25]

"Do you want something to eat?"

Yukinoshita's cheeks turned slightly red, but it didn't detract from her royal presence. "Have you eaten?" she asked.


"It may be best to have a bit to eat before we begin. This cafe has good Italian. I enjoy the Naporitan and sandwich special. They provide free coffee at the end of the meal."

I took a sip of my coffee, realizing I've made a mistake. I could have gotten a complimentary coffee along with my meal but instead I paid for my coffee. Sure it was a few yen worth of coin but still - I missed out on a respectable deal.

So we ordered. Yukinoshita simply took out a book and started reading. I figured I wouldn't be much for conversation anyways. Before long, the food arrived.

You know, when you're in the movies or in a public space, it's bad if other people know what you're eating.

This is especially bad in movies. The reason is simple, nobody else cares what you're eating unless they can help themselves to it. It's dark, cold, and chances are you're eating some overpriced concession garbage. The sole reason why anyone else would notice what you're eating is if you're too busy enjoying your munchies while making a lot of crunchies.


I had believed it was not possible to eat with dignity.

You've got a marvel of modern technology, built by actors and directors and numerous technicians who produce raw footage which is then edited and spliced into something resembling a story. It's like looking at somebody's lifetime within a span of a few hours.

And somehow people spoil this by chewing loudly. Probably with their mouths open.


But Yukinoshita Yukino did not eat that way. There was a grace about it. Whether it was how the spaghetti curled around a fork in one hand and kept in form by a spoon from the other hand… or how the red tinged noodles graced her lips before sliding through… perhaps there was little resistance to how fascinated I was.

I looked down at my own noodles in ketchup.

It's impolite to stare and I didn't want her to ask me 'what are you staring at? Is there something on my face?' Okay. That last line might be more suitable to a romcom which my life clearly isn't.

"Would you mind reading it?"

She handed me a manuscript.

The manuscript felt like a light novel, with fantasy elements, but it also had some sparks of real literary merit. Prose wasn't too purple. Dialogue was fun and sharp. Characters, setting, and world were all vibrant.

It was about a girl with fire powers, and each time she uses it, she burns herself and slowly becomes ash-like and cold. Icy. Before finally becoming a blazing star among countless others.

"This is like the Nighthawk Star, right? That's pretty nerdy."

Yukinoshita seemed pleased. "I expected no less than someone who is ranked third in Japanese Literature."

I tapped the eraser tip against my cheek.

"I think… you need some emotion."


"I don't know. Turn green? [26] Get angry? The writing is methodical, clean, and surgical. Everything is to the point and perfect…"

"Is imperfection the ideal?"

"I'm as perfect as they come," I said half-heartedly like a sarcastic brag. "And I'm also the ideal person."

Yukinoshita blinked. Yukinoshita blinked again. Slowly but surely, a quivering hand was brought up to her mouth.

She was laughing.

"Do you usually have these laughing fits?"

"No… but it just seems that I've been laughing a lot more lately, that's all." Yukinoshita glanced at the clock. It was nearing 4 PM. "Shall we get going then?"

Yukinoshita paid for the meal, as she rightfully should.

"Thank you for your help, Hikigaya," she said with a swift bow.

"Yeah. No problem. Anytime."

Yukinoshita smiled softly before she nodded and said, "Farewell. Let's do this again." And like that, she entered the limo and left.

It wasn't until I was on the train halfway home that I realized what she had said.

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

8man: Ah. What a day to be alive.

It is human nature to brag about conquest and inflate the actual reality to feel better about the events afterward. Even when Hiratsuka-sensei started to grill me on any progress about learning who Snow Leopard was, I didn't feel annoyed or irritated. In fact, I was still riding the high.

Stretching my legs, I enjoyed the quiet of my new domain. Zaimokuza's request was, so far, the only one I've had to deal with. If anything, I didn't have to actually fulfill it. In fact, I might have been taking the more difficult route of trying to improve his writing.

The correct option should be to destroy his ambition as a writer. Besides, all light novels are judged by their illustrations anyways.

Snow Leopard: Did something good happen?

8man: I just figured something out that will help me out of a problem.

Snow Leopard: Productive and unexpected.

8man: Jealous?

Snow Leopard: No. Although I wish some of the people working under me could develop some common sense. It would be much easier to delegate these tasks instead of having to micromanage all of them.

Snow Leopard: What are you doing now?

8man: I was at work.

It wasn't a lie - being the Service Club President is work, regardless of what outsiders may say of the lack of actual movement or energy exertion. Such a job is perfect for an enthusiastic energy conservationist like myself. [27]

Snow Leopard: I was absolutely certain you mentioned you were a transient living from manga cafe to manga cafe...

8man: You should become a novelist with those kind of fantasies swirling in your mind.

Snow Leopard: Maybe I will.

8man: I bet I could write a better novel than you.

Then it clicked.

Zaimokuza's novel had no chance in hell of winning. Everything about his novel was awful.

But if I were to write it…

"No! I won't be satisfied unless I win!"

I gritted my teeth. This request was going to be more difficult than I had hoped.

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

The days passed since I entered the contest under Zaimokuza's name. After all, his request was to win and his original manuscript wasn't going to cut it.

And so, came the day of the award ceremony.

The publishing company was livestreaming the event.

I was at home. And because I lacked sufficient funds, I had only one monitor. The livestream was playing in one quarter. My messenger app in another quarter. And a full half was taken up by Solitaire.

Blademaster General: I'm so nervous, Sir Hikigaya. I may commit seppuku out of embarrassment if I fail to win anything!

Zaimokuza had added me a while ago. He would randomly message me late at night talking up a storm about his latest, big idea. To be honest, it's a lot of shallow worldbuilding and none of it fits together. The magic system is atrocious, overpowered, and filled with unnecessary RPG-elements. The only thing worse than a fantasy novel is a fantasy novel with RPG-elements.

8man: Make sure you leave enough honey to dry clean the blood off the floor.

Blademaster General: Sir Hikigaya!

It was then that I noticed the flashing red ping in the corner. It was in an awkward place, so I didn't notice the alert.

Snow Leopard: How does one calm their nerves?

8man: Eat something really spicy.

Snow Leopard: You just want to ruin my gastrointestinal tract.

Snow Leopard: And your responses are slower than usual.

8man: Shocked you notice the response time of my messages.

Snow Leopard: I have a rather large data set to compare you to. Are you talking to someone else? Or perhaps more likely your mind is preoccupied. You wouldn't be playing a video game because you'd simply ignore me. So you must be watching a video or a movie.


Incorrect. I am both playing a game AND watching a livestream video.

But still, it's scary how accurate he could be.

Finally, the livestream began airing. The two hosts were seated behind an office desk. One wore a suit to look somewhat professional while the other wore a T-shirt. It was a way to make the award seem serious but young, hip, and cool at the same time.

It was honestly rather boring.

I missed it, but Zaimokuza (or rather, my) novel got an honorable mention.

One of sixteen honorable mentions.

Blademaster General: Thank you Sir Hikigaya! Thank you so so so much!

8man: np


The magazine didn't publish the excerpts for the honorable mentions. Just the title, the author's name, and home province. Hence, Zaimokuza will never know I ghost-wrote his honorary-mention-winning light novel. Thankfully, I knew my writing skills weren't enough to carry it to the top spot. But it was much more reasonable to get one of the sixteen honorable mentions.

All I had to do was pander to the lowest denominator and write a novel to the judge's tastes. And the judges were all editors looking for the next big hit.

Therefore, I filled it with unabashed fan-service, an overpowered protagonist, and enough vague RPG-elements to constitute a magic system but not enough to theorycraft on it so I can exploit it to dig myself out of any plot holes. And it was written well without major grammatical errors.

In other words, it's a gary stu written like it's not a gary stu.

The ultimate recipe for broad market appeal.

They were just about to announce the top three winners of the Young Lion Light Novel Cup when I sent Snow Leopard the following message. I couldn't care less so I closed the video. I figured it was time to give Snow Leopard my undivided attention.

8man: You know. I think I might be a better writer than you.

8man: Hey. You there?

8man: Hellooooo?

I really should have kept watching the livestream.

Because the most shocking reveal was that Yukinoshita Yukino was the winner.

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

The next day, the school gossip engine was on full blast. Everyone was talking about how Yukinoshita Yukino was named the Young Lion Cup Winner.

Hiratsuka-sensei was getting praised by everyone. As the Modern Japanese Literature teacher, everyone presumed Yukinoshita the fledgling artist was inspired by their teacher. From students to other teachers to administrators. She rubbed the back of her head in feigned embarrassment, but anyone could tell she was enjoying the hell out of the attention. The dopamine hits are real. She had two students who were winners but no one except Zaimokuza cared that Zaimokuza won.

Because the real prize was Yukinoshita Yukino.

She claimed the grand prize. Her manuscript would be professionally edited and they decided to print a limited edition run. Yukinoshita was already rich, and she was going to get richer.

Some people get all the luck.


Even I felt a small bit of pride to say I knew her, more than just 'oh my god, she's a girl that goes to my school!' I can confidently say I was once 'beta read for an award winning novelist!' with a straight face.

"Good job, Hikigaya!" said Hiratsuka-sensei to me after school during the Service Club meeting.

"Indeed! Thank you Sir Hikigaya!"

Zaimokuza was there. He had brought several convenience store snacks for a 'feast'. Chips. Sweets. Sour candies and chocolate crackers. It was nice with a cup of hot tea. As an award, Hiratsuka-sensei donated an old water heater. So begins the base-building adventures of the Service Club room.

"Keep that up and you'll get more goodies!" she declared.

"So long as this place is my oyster," I replied.

"Good attitude!" she said before pulling out a cigarette and changing the subject. "How are things with Snow Leopard? Learn anything about her-I mean, him?"

"He's a writer. I think?"

Hiratsuka-sensei stifled a laugh. Was there some kind of joke I wasn't aware of?

"Oh? And what does he write?"

"Never asked."

Hiratsuka-sensei gave a hearty laugh and slapped my back. She left soon after. Her coworkers and the principal were treating her to drinks and yakiniku. [29]

Zaimokuza left before me, in his haste to get home as soon as possible to work on his next masterpiece.

He left the unopened snacks for me as tribute. I stored them away in the cabinet.

It felt nice to be acknowledged.

I texted Snow Leopard on the app as I left.

8man: What goes best with french fries?

Snow Leopard: Two slices of plain white bread. [30]

Snow Leopard: Also, I think I am getting better at this texting thing.

8man: You are but a padawan. I am the master. [31]

8man: Come back to me when you can text with one hand.

I turned a corner and bumped into someone.


"No. It was my mistake," Yukinoshita replied. "I was distracted."

"Walking and texting will do that to you."

Yukinoshita blushed. She quickly hid her phone. She glanced up at me, a sly look on her face.

"Mind keeping it a secret?"

"Who am I going to tell it to?" I shrugged. "Oh. And congratulations."

Yukinoshita's cheek flushed a light red, unsettled by my comment. It's a natural reaction. I'm not very good looking or popular so any sort of praise from me comes off as creepy.

"It was thanks to your help. Your advice was sound, and greatly appreciated."

"Perhaps we should celebrate."

Yukinoshita tilted her head. "How so?"

I looked out the school window. "Want to get dinner? Your treat. There's a Saize open nearby." [32]


"You're telling me you don't know what Saize is?"

"No, I'm familiar with it, but… I don't think I've ever had it."

"You're kidding me." Even an antisocial loner like myself has been to Saize. We went to have a meal while Yukinoshita talked about stuff like the upcoming Hanami event and what a pain it was prepare. I wasn't really paying attention. The good was great. They say hunger is the best spice but I disagree. Free food is the best spice.

And naturally, Yukinoshita paid.

When I returned home, I continued my conversation with Snow Leopard. He hadn't sent me any messages since the last one. It was strange, since he hadn't sent an onslaught of messages while I was away.

8man: You seem busy.

8man: You haven't hit your daily count of insults towards me and my detriment to society lately.

8man: Did something good happen?

Snow Leopard: Secret.

8man: All right then, keep your secrets. [33]

oO oOoOo oOoOo oOoOo Oo

Chapter 2

Light Novels, Chunibyo & Other Delusions Fin


[1] Tharja and Lucina. Fire Emblem

[2] YOLO. You only live once.

[3] Pokemon references.

[4] Blue screen of death. RIP.

[5] Diogenes. Famous cynic who lived in Athens.

[6] Lantern. Honest man. Story of Diogenes where he uses a lantern in broad daylight and walks around looking for an honest man.

[7] Pot. Diogenes lived in a pot in the marketplace, scorning material comforts.

[8] More Fire Emblem: Three Houses

[9] Some crappy saying. Iono.

[10] Setsuna F. Seiei. Gundam 00. He keeps shouting his catch phrase "You're the distortion in this world!" before cutting them down.

[11] Brazilian carnival. They be wild.

[12] Lord Service Club. Japanese practice where the Lord is sometimes addressed after the name of their domain. For example, the Date Clan ruled Sendai but is sometimes called Lord Sendai.

[13] Spartans. References to the Greek city-state of soldiers, allegedly the bravest warriors of them all.

[14] Chuni. 8th Grade Delusion Syndrome. Where you daydream constantly about epic battles and dumb edge stuff like DARK FLAME MASTER!

[15] Original fiction. Fiction that isn't fanfiction.

[16] You've got a ways to go. Prince of Tennis.

[17] Mulan.

[18] Why yes I have a PlayStation 5 and pre-ordered Final Fantasy XVI. Why do you ask?

[19] A Certain Magical Index. Spoken by Misaka Mikoto in like Chapter 1 or something.

[20] a spark in an arsenal with enough gunpowder to end the Ming Dynasty. Reference to the Wonggongchang Explosion where an arsenal in Beijing exploded during the Ming Dynasty. The explosion killed ~20,000+ people, caused immense financial damage, but worse of all made it seem to every superstitious Chinese peasant that the Ming Dynasty were on failing legs, leading to later rebellions.

[21] It's your school, president. You can sit where you want. Why yes I enjoy Gundam Wing, why do you ask?

[22] Reference to Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions.

[23] Yuki means snow. Yukinoshita means 'Under the snow'. So Yukinoshita Yukino means, the Snow under the Snow.

[24] Riajuu. People who are normal. In other words, people who do not engage in GLORIOUS fanfiction writing/reading. The normies.

[25] Kyoto University and Todai (Tokyo University) are Japan's top 2 universities.

[26] The Hulk.


[28] Why no, I never played Dark Souls. I am a filthy casual that needs to powerlevel through every JRPG boss encounter. Why do you ask?

[29] Japanese bbq is pretty expensive so it's usually done only for special occasions or dates.

[30] Chip butty. This is why people say the English have the worst cuisine.

[31] Star Wars.

[32] Saizeriya. Japanese family restaurant chain.

[33] Lord of the Rings.

[34] Based off a Chinese saying about the ideal woman. The male equivalent is tall, rich, and handsome.

Title reference: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. It sounded cooler in my head. Also Chunibyou won a LN competition and got animated by Kyoani, so that's relevant to this chapter, I guess.

Author's Notes: Hikigaya should learn the truth about Snow Leopard soon. I don't have much of an idea of what Chapter 3 will be, except to introduce Yuigahama Yui and Hanami (Flower Viewing Event). Or not. I don't know.

I merged two fic ideas I had to make this one: (1) Online interactions, (2) Yukinoshita is President while Hikigaya becomes Service Club President. The general gist of the (2) fic was that Hikigaya eventually becomes Yukinoshita's right hand man. The idea was called 'The Queen's Secret Service' because I hope I am clever as I think I am. This chapter is also a painfully abridged version of a (3)rd fic idea where the Oregano cast writes fanfiction.

I liked the idea of Hikigaya and Yukinoshita keeping their OG!banter with their online personas, but have a different relationship IRL. I liked the idea of Hikigaya not giving a shit, and Yukinoshita finding Hikigaya's cynic but still noble attitude attractive. Headcanon Yukinoshita effectively runs the Student Council solo, since she finds the other members ineffective. So her leaning on Hikigaya instead of her council is also a thing I wanted to do later. Who are the rest of the Student Council? I don't know. I didn't think that far ahead.

The online gimmick is also losing steam. It's mostly dramatic irony at this point since we all (or at least I hope we all…) know who Snow Leopard really is. Should it be kept? Dropped? Shift the fic in a different direction?

Chapter 3 (if it ever happens) probably won't happen for a while. I have other fics I wanted to try to update before this one.

I really appreciate all the warm comments. I don't write as I used to, but I am finding it to be pretty fun again, just trying to figure out the best words/sentences/flow/whatever. It's like a puzzle game and you can only get better, sometimes you lose, you never win, but you're closer to victory each time. The fic's not perfect, but I had fun writing it. I hope you all had fun reading it.

Thanks for reading the ramblings of a Punished God Emperor Penguin.