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Can’t relate

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“Ahem, attention class. I know it’s odd timing but we have a transfer student joining us this semester. You can introduce yourself now.” the homeroom teacher signalled. 
“Uh hello. I’m Fuyumaki Rei. My family recently moved so i had to change schools. Nice to meet you.” Her voice was a bit shaky and she fixed her gaze downwards. She bowed and then walked to her assigned seat. She noticed Nozaki Umetarou who was indeed a familiar face. Her seat was coincidentally right in front of his. 

“Oh Rei! This is a surprise, didn’t know you moved.” Nozaki said in the most nonchalant tone ever. “Yeah cause I didn’t tell you, idiot.”  
“Indeed you didn’t.” 
Class started and with that their conversation ended till they had their lunch break. “So Rei, help with my manga.” 
“Nope.” she rejected with a monotone expression. 
“N-nozaki! Who’s this?” She noticed a tall, good looking red head appear beside Umetarou. He looked like he was either scared shitless or was about to take one, at this point who knew. 
“Ah, we’re childhood friends.” he replied bluntly.

”Eh more like neighbours.” she retorted. 
“Anyways she’s gonna start helping me with my manga. Filling in the parts that need to be inked. It’ll reduce the workload off of everyone else.” 
“You shithead, forcing me to work. I never agreed.” she scowled. Mikoshiba was too awkward to interject in their conversation. Wahh she looks scary; she’s so tall too. The same as me and Kashima but a bigger build...
”Of course there’s a reward!” 
Reward?! Wait why don’t i get anything for working tho? Mikoshiba wondered.

”Hmm go on.” Rei’s interest was now piqued and she finally made eye contact with Nozaki-well it was more like glaring at him. “Chocola—“ “Ok fine I’ll do it. You needn’t say more!” She gave Nozaki a dramatic thumbs up and smirked, and then immediately went back to eating her lunch like the conversation never happened. “Oh right Rei, could you bring some of your figurines? I need some as reference.” 

“F-figurines?! You collect figurines?!” Mikoshiba blurted out in excitement, and then immediately melted into oblivion due to embarrassment. “Y-yea” she was taken aback. Damn he’s awkward huh. And here i thought i was the most awkward person...she thought. 
“Ahh don’t mind him. He’ll warm up to you eventually.” Nozaki explained. “Ah i see.” she sounded disinterested. Warm up to me? What is he a cat?! 

Their almost dead conversation was interrupted by a very shocked Sakura. “N-n-n-n-NOZAKI KUUNN!!” she exclaimed, very, very loudly. “Oh Sakura hi. This is Rei, she’ll be helping with my manga.” Nozaki introduced Rei to a clearly frozen Sakura. Is she...his GIRLFRIEND?! Noooo nozakiiii!!! Sakura silently screamed on the inside. “Hello.” said Rei. “H-hello” stuttered Sakura. 
Damn Nozaki’s friends are awkward. To be fair what could i expect from his acquaintances anyways. Rei thought. 

After school, she went home to bring some of her figurines to Nozaki’s house. Mikoshiba and Sakura were already working intently on the manga before becoming alert and awkward as soon as Rei came to his place. 

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Saying they were alert is an understatement; it was as if all those two could think about is this new girl that was apparently a part of Nozaki’s unknown life. Of course, they both had different reasons. The one reason Mikoshiba and Sakura had in common was that they were practically offended at the fact that they didn’t know this about Nozaki- that is until they figured out why. It was because, it’s Nozaki. Also because no one really talks about their childhood peers. 

They calmed down a bit, but Sakura was too uncomfortable being all silent. She needed to somehow extract information; operation “Get close to Rei to find out if she has a secret crush on Nozaki, her childhood friend!” 
How would she begin her mission? As usual, being the nice person she always is! 
“Hi! My name is Sakura Chiyo! We haven’t properly talked before.” She smiled brightly. 
“Ah yea, I’m Rei Fuyumaki. You can call me Rei.” 

Is she angry..? Sakura thought to herself nervously, judging by Rei’s expression.

Unfortunately for Rei, it was just her normal expression. It wasn’t the first time someone misunderstood. 

Mikoshiba was on the other side of the table, sweating profusely at the thought of making conversation. On one hand, he was really excited to see the figurines; on the other he was too embarrassed that he’d make a fool of himself. Especially after seeing the new girl’s overall behaviour. She did not seem like someone who would be  too keen on his usual playboy pickup lines. Rei pulled out two boxes from the bag she brought. Mikoshiba saw the figurines inside and had a weirdly prideful expression. Ah i see...those are from a fairly underrated series. She has good taste; haven’t met anyone who watched that show. The character is also one of my favourites. Mikoshiba was lost in his internal monologue of figurine appreciation. 

Rei got up and went to Nozaki ,who was sitting at his desk, with the figurines. She placed them on the table, a bit mire forcefully than she intended. The thud broke everyone’s concentration, and now Rei felt awkward. Well shit.

”Hey, i got the figurines. Don’t you dare damage them in any way or I’ll actually beat you up.” Rei said in a flat yet threatening tone. 

Nozaki seemed pretty unfazed and simply said thanks and handed her some manga pages to fill. 
She went back to the table and sat down to start her work. She noticed Mikoshiba’s flowers and thought to herself that they were very pretty. Mikoshiba caught her looking and he cleared his throat. She must be in awe looking at my beautiful flowers. He dramatically cackled internally. He was about to try and strike up a conversation with Rei but was interrupted by Sakura. 
“So Rei, you’re Nozaki’s childhood friend?” 
“Uh kinda. We were neighbours growing up and since we’re the same age group our parents made us hang out.”

“I see. So what are your interests?”

”Music, anime and manga. You?”

”Noz- uhh well i love art!” Sakura laughed nervously. 

The conversation went on for a while until it eventually died down; and Mikoshiba still wasn’t able to ask her about the figurines. Sakura got quite a clear answer to her aforementioned questions- Rei was overall very uninterested in Nozaki. Either that or she was very good at hiding it. 

After finishing work, Sakura left and Mikoshiba and Rei stayed behind. Mikoshiba was planning on hanging out with Nozaki, but his plans were gonna be put on hold because Rei stayed demanding repayment for the day. “Okok I’ll treat you. We’ll order pizza.” Nozaki offered. “Sure whatever. What games do you have btw? I’ll play while i wait.” Rei noticed Mikoshiba fidgeting nervously. She figured he felt left out so she went out of her way and did something she usually doesn’t. “You wanna play too?” Mikoshiba was caught off guard and stumbled on his words. “Uhh yea sure.” He stuttered quietly. He was nervous for a completely different reason. Fuck i hope Nozaki doesn’t give us that otome game! A few seconds after that thought, Nozaki came and handed them exactly that. 

“So this is the stuff you play...makes sense.” Rei said nonchalantly. 
W-why does it make sense?! 

They both sat down in front of the tv to play it. Mikoshiba was still in a panicked state. He was hellbent on not letting out his game junkie side out, especially considering he already played this game before. But once again, things don’t really go as planned for him. 

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I fucked up...even though i vowed not to. Mikoshiba whined internally. His goal of not being the nerd he was and embarrassing himself when watching Rei play the otome game was not met; he soon found himself commandeering Rei on the options to choose to get-who he thought to be- the best boy with the best ending. 

"I see you've played the game already. Did you play all the other routes too, i mean, since you know the best ending." Rei casually asked. 

"O-oh no I, uh, read about it online when Nozaki played it.” Mikoshiba’s voice quivered. 
“Ahh i see. Well it was an interesting route to say the least. Didn’t expect an otome game to be that dark.” Rei chuckled.

”Yea i know right! The game has a surprisingly complex and dark plot line for the characters.” Mikoshiba said excitedly and then proceeded to immediately burn up and turn bright red. 

Just then Nozaki interrupted the awkward silence by bringing in the food. “Hey let’s eat now. It’s not gonna taste good if it’s cold.” 
“Thank god, i was starving!” Rei exclaimed. 
The three sat around the table and started eating. 
“So did you guys have fun? Why don’t you talk about stuff you like?” Nozaki randomly suggested. “Uhh what are you my mom? Or are you just high?” 
“Well you’re both into similar stuff. Thought i could use the conversation and atmosphere as reference for characters in my manga.” 
“Well forcing a conversation is just gonna make stuff awkward though.” 
“As if you’re not the awkward one.” Nozaki remarked.

”Haha says the prince of air-headedness.” 

”I could remind you of the many instances of our childhood when yo—“ 

“Okok shut up. We’ll talk.” Rei turned her gaze towards Mikoshiba. “So, are you into anime and stuff?” 
Fuck you Nozaki you cannot be so dense!! 

“Uhh well yes kinda. I guess you are too since you collect figurines.” he stuttered in reply. 
“Yea. There’s just so much good shit out there. Hard not to get interested in some shows.” 
“I know right! Oh and one of the figures you have, *character* from *anime*, that anime is so good and so underrated. More people should definitely watch it.” Mikoshiba was starting to get passionate on the subject without noticing that it was about time to get embarrassed. “For sure. Surprised i found someone that watched that too.” Their conversation went on for the rest of the duration of dinner and soon enough it was time to split up. “It was nice meeting you. See you tomorrow i guess.” Risa said to Mikoshiba. 
“Nozaki I’ll take the figurines back tomorrow.” 
“Okay. Bye.” 
After she left Mikoshiba and Nozaki went to his bedroom to get ready to sleep. “So why are you staying over again?” 
“Too tired to head back.” Mikoshiba provided his excuse. 
“Hmm. You had fun talking with Rei huh.” Nozaki remarked nonchalantly.

Mikoshiba broke into a cold sweat. “W-w-what gave you that idea?! Don’t go misunderstanding things!” 
“Relax i was just saying you enjoyed talking about anime.” 
“Yeah yeah whatever. Ah such a shame. She’ll be falling for my charms soon enough.” Mikoshiba shifted to his confident playboy facade. 
“Yeah sure. But you always flip out of embarrassment after saying your pickup lines.” 
“Oh fuck off!” 


They eventually called it a night and fell asleep.  

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School for the next couple of weeks were as normal as it got around Nozaki. Unsurprisingly Rei fit right in with the group of oddballs and got acquainted with all of Nozaki’s friends. Everyone became comfortable around her, especially Mikoshiba. It took a few days but Mikoshiba stopped getting extremely embarrassed when talking to her and it lead to their blooming friendship! And that friendship was to be exploited by Nozaki. 

Sakura and Rei were at Nozaki’s place working on the beta. Rei excused herself for a bathroom break and Nozaki took this chance to brainstorm. 

“Hm Sakura what do you think about creating an otaku character for my manga.” 
“Eh..why do you say that all of a sudden? Is it because of Rei?” 
“Well yea. Seeing her and Mikoshiba makes me wonder why I didn’t make an otaku couple before...ah but Mamiko is already inspired by Mikoshiba.” 
“Don’t tell me Mikoshiba would again be the girl in this scenario.”

”Well of course who else would he be. He’s the perfect heroine!” 
“You’ve got a point...what would Rei’s character be like?” 
“Tall, gloomy, and very dense when it comes to the people around him.” 
So basically you?!?

”Well of course an otaku too, so maybe he’ll create a manga club and comically force Mikoshiba’s character into joining, which will lead to an eventual otaku romance!” 
“You speak as if the only characteristic they have is being an otaku!”Sakura exclaimed.

“Of course not...well maybe. We’ll just have to observe the two more and see their interactions.”

”They seem surprisingly close. Mikorin can’t seem to shut up around her-“

”What’s this about an otaku couple?” Rei questioned as she walked back to her seat. 
Oh shit she heard!!!
Sakura panicked.

”Well i was thinking of making a character based on you and Mikoshiba.” Nozaki explained bluntly.

”Isn’t Mamiko already a character based on him?” Rei asked.

”Yes, but not his otaku side.” 
“Well whatever, I don’t care. Just don’t make my character dense. I’m not you, you idiot.” 

But you don’t even notice how Mikoshiba acts around you! Sakura and Nozaki thought in unison. 

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Ahhh for God’s sake Nozaki what stupid shit do you keep making me doooo?!?! We have to meet up without using our phones? Just whyy! Mikoshiba grimaced as he walked into the figurine shop. 

Just then Nozaki called and asked for a hint as to where he was. 

Doesn’t this just defeat the purpose? OI?!

”I’m surrounded by a bunch of babes in swimsuits.” Mikoshiba exclaimed with a smug look for himself 

“Go somewhere else.” Nozaki stated flatly.

”W-why?! You don’t even know where i am!” Mikoshiba shouted as anger started to build up.

”Just leave that place.” Nozaki swiftly hung up. 

“Fuck that i just saw a figurine i want.” Mikoshiba rushed towards the discounted figurines. 

He immediately spotted the one he wanted but quickly faced a major dilemma— there were two versions! The limited and normal version. He took out his phone to call Sakura to ask for advice; after all, a difference in underwear was major for a figurine. Even if both were pathetically cheap, he couldn’t splurge on both versions. 
Expecting to bombard Sakura in haste and ask for advice, he was instead met with a deep, mellow and monotonous voice. 
“Miko?” Rei answered the call in an almost raspy tone.

”U-uh Rei?! Why’d you pick up?” Mikoshiba’s heart skipped a beat. He panicked and felt his face heat up. The first time i call her and it’s like this? Wtf is with my luck?! 

“Uh you called. Didn’t know I shouldn’t have picked up.” Rei sounded confused. Is he a tsundere or just high? She thought, slightly annoyed as she had woken up from her nap to receive his call.

“And w-what’s with calling me Miko!” He shrieked. Asfghfkjfhdk

He felt like his thoughts couldn’t come together and turned into a living tomato. 

“I was just too tired to say your full name. You woke me up idiot.” Rei started to get slightly annoyed but having him point out such a silly thing and sound so embarrassed as if they were in a shoujo manga made her chuckle out loud. “Anyways why did you call?” 
Mikoshiba jolted back on track and realised his true purpose of calling Sakura, or rather, Rei, which was to ask about which edition to buy. 

“Oh yea so basically there’s this figurine i NEED to buy but there’s two editions, the normal and limited. WHICH SHOULD I GET?!” he cried out in excitement. 
“What’re the differences though?” Rei questioned. 
“On the normal one, the panties are white but the limited one, the panties are polka dot!” 
Upon hearing this, Rei immediately burst out laughing. 
“For realllll? That’s why you called?” She couldn’t stop laughing at his absurd predicament before realising that she herself had been in a similar situation before. Oh fuck there was that one time with the gloves...

Her laughter came to an abrupt end and she cleared her throat before replying to Mikoshiba who sounded as if he were sobbing from awkwardness as he tried to string together random sounds to make words. 
“Sorry about that, uh, I’d recommend going with the limited edition. You can always buy the normal one later on if you really want it. No biggie.” 
“R-right..” Mikoshiba mellowed out and immediately cut the call, leaving Rei in a perplexed daze. 
“What the fuck? Not even a thank you? Jeeezz” she exclaimed out loud in vexation. 
“Should i just go back to sleep?” 
Before she could execute her idea, her mom called out to her from downstairs. 
“Get the hell up and go outside or something! You have Nozaki right? Stop being a shut-in!” 
Too tired to fight back, she lazily wormed out of bed and freshened up. As she was on her way to go outside to a cafe, her phone rang again. 
Sure am popular today aren’t I?

Tardily picking up her phone, she checked the caller id and saw it was Mikoshiba who called once again. 
What now? She rolled her eyes.

”U-umm... Kashima? I’m lost.” Mikoshiba started sobbing. “Hah?! Where are you?” Rei asked concerned. “Fuck i called you again?” Mikoshiba panicked. “No i called myself from your phone, are you high?” 
“N-no! I’ the train station...Nozaki and Sakura aren’t meeting up with me! I can’t even reach their cell.” 
“God what is that idiot even doing. I’m heading out right now and will be at the station within fifteen minutes. If you want you can just meet up with me.” Rei suggested casually.