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The signing up process is a terrible, terrible hell.

It might be something as simple as ABC for other people -YouTube did try their best at making it as user-friendly as possible- but clearly it’s not friendly enough for Haruka. As if making his way through the website and finding the right buttons while referring to instructions over the phone wasn’t difficult enough, the registration form pops up and there it is, rows of empty columns staring at him, waiting to be filled in. Haruka sees the first one, and immediately regrets his decision.

He had to come up with a freaking username.

“Haruka-senpai, can you follow? Did you get the right page?” Rei asks, concerned over the lack of response from Haruka, who is already half-dead across the line in front of his laptop.

“It says that I need a username, Rei,” Haruka answers, almost at his wits’ end. Why in the world is this so complicated? It’s just a dumb YouTube account, for god’s sake! “And I can’t think of any.”

As always, when it comes to giving ideas and naming things, Nagisa will magically appear to contribute his two cents, even uninvited. More often than not, the result is disastrous.

“HOW ABOUT ‘RINSECRETADMIRER’, HARU-CHAN?” Nagisa chirps in, shouting into the phone’s receiver despite it already set on loudspeaker, causing Haru to jerk away. “OR ‘WATERSEXUAL’?”

“Nagisa-kun, please stop screaming. A human’s eardrum can only withstand 20kHz of sound, and if you continue with your current volume, Haruka-senpai will lose his hearing within a couple of minutes.”

“Oh shut it, Rei-chan. That wasn’t what you said last night, when you asked me to go louder because you love listening to my—“

“ANYWAY,” Rei, who’s now blushing beetroot from his neck all the way up to his ears, coughs into his hands, desperate to change the topic. Too much information; he sure hopes Haruka-senpai didn’t hear that. “Why not go for something that is not too obvious? ‘rinsecretadmirer’ is definitely out of the question. Just think of something you like, that you don’t mind to be referred to online.”

Taking Rei’s advice into consideration, Haruka starts to list out the things he likes, counting them using his fingers. Mackerel, water, art. Oh, and don’t forget Iwatobi-chan. That makes it four things that he actually likes enough to include in his Internet nickname. Still, he cannot seem to piece them all together, so in desperation and lack of ideas, he types in ‘watersexual’.

Much to his despair, a red ‘sorry, username is taken!’ appears next to the textbox. Haruka is so ready to stab someone right now.

“Nagisa, ‘watersexual’ is taken,” he says, earning a loud screech of horror from Rei.

“W-w-why would you even consider that one, Haruka-senpai?!”

Haruka shrugs, despite no one being there to see his gestures. “It sounded cool when he said it.”

In the end, after a couple more fruitless attempts of finding the perfect username, Haruka keys in ‘mackerelisgood’. The red turns to green, indicating that it’s free to be used. Amidst the relief that courses through him, Haruka is a bit peeved that no one else in this world had thought highly enough of mackerel to actually use it as their pseudonym. What a blasphemy.

He fills in the rest of the form with ease -albeit in reluctance and yet another headache at figuring out a memorable password strong enough to be approved- and at long last, history is written.

 

Nanase I-despise-technology Haruka finally has his first (and possibly only) online social media account.

And it’s all for the sake of winning a stupid giveaway contest.

 

Scrolling down his distressingly empty profile page, Haruka stares at the computer, unblinking. The first step has been taken, but the journey is still a long way to go. “Now what?”


They’re at the swimming club’s practice stretching when Haruka approached Rei to ask about YouTube comments and how they work. He thinks he’s doing the right thing by writing in the textbox beneath the video and clicking on ‘Post’, but he needs to make sure. It took him half the night to figure out how to sign up, another half composing a suitable sentence that could precisely convey all the complicated thoughts he has about Rin’s channel. For once, he’s working hard and putting effort on doing something that is not cooking or swimming, so jeopardising his chance to win is a risk he’s not willing to take, not when such a prize is at stake.

No one knows exactly how Nagisa does it, probably sold his soul to Satan for black magic or something, but as soon as Haruka finished talking, the boy pops up behind Rei like it’s his natural habitat. From nothing.

“One comment is not enough, Haru-chan! You’ve gotta flood his inbox with your love, your passion, show him how badly you want to win!” Nagisa gushes on excitedly. “If you send once, and other people send ten, who do you think will have a higher chance to win?”

“But isn’t that against the rules, or something?”

“Who cares about rules, Rei-chan! Haru-chan must win this shit, or else he’ll never get to see Rin-chan!”

“That’s not playing fair!”

“Everyone cheats once in a while!”

“Wait a minute,” Haruka says, effectively shutting them both up. He narrows his eyes at the bickering pair. “How did you know what I was talking about? I didn’t say anything about Rin’s video, or winning any competition.”

Realizing that they’ve been caught red-handed for being busybodies, Nagisa grin sheepishly. “Oooppss… Hehe, well, we were curious, you know? Of your sudden interest in YouTube. So we went and watched his latest vid, and the moment he mentioned the giveaway contest, BOOM! We know your true reason!”

“It’s all your fault, Nagisa-kun. You were the one who insisted on finding out Haruka-senpai’s intention--“

“Does Makoto know,” Haruka asks, cutting off Rei from initiating yet another pointless argument. Knowing the pair, Makoto probably knows already. Maybe the whole Iwatobi knows about Haruka’s dirty little secret and are laughing at him behind his back.

Nagisa doesn’t answer, opting to shuffle his feet and give an anxious smile, while Rei looks conflicted like a child who broke a toy and had to confront his parents. Or a kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar.

“He knows, doesn’t he.”

There was a nod from the both of them, and then a “we’re sorry?” from Nagisa that doesn’t sound the least bit convincing and apologetic.

 

Makoto knows.

Haruka is never going to live this down.

 

Just when Haruka thinks his day couldn’t get any worse, Makoto appears, hand paddles clutched close to his chest and a megawatt trademark smile playing on his lips. He brightens up even more -if that’s even possible- when he sees the three of them- and proceeds to jog towards the trio, stupid grin still plastered on his face. Makoto looks happy. Too happy, even.

“Sorry I’m late, everyone!” He calls out, pausing to put the paddles on the floor. Haruka holds his breath, hopeful that Makoto will act like the understanding best friend he is and not make a big deal out of this. In fact, he’s hoping that the boy won’t even mention anything about it. Currently, Makoto’s the only string of sanity Haruka had left.

 

But today is just really not his lucky day.

 

“Haru, I heard from Nagisa and Rei that you’re joining Rin’s giveaw—“

Before Makoto can finish his sentence, Haruka is already jumping into the pool, craving nothing more than to be immersed in the stretch of clear water and save himself from the embarrassment of having his friends discover his fanboy inclinations. It’s so humiliating, even more so than that instance at his elementary school’s swim club when he falsely said “I am home” (to be fair, it did feel like home for him).

His face and ears burn, and even under 8 feet of water he can still hear Rin’s cheerful laughter ringing in his head, clear as the chimes of church bells on a wedding day. He closes his eyes, and he sees Rin’s bright smile, the way his crimson eyes crinkle at the edges when his grin grows wide. Great, now he’s suffering from ‘Rin-withdrawal-symptoms’.

Letting the water engulf him in a cool, calming embrace, Haruka reflects on the first time he’d seen that waterfall video a week ago, muses about how it changed his life and made him such a mess and jumble of feelings.

 

What scares him the most is that he doesn’t regret it. Not at all.


“Haru!!” Makoto says the next morning, thrusting his cellphone into Haruka’s unsuspecting hands out of the blue. “Can you login on my phone for a bit? There’s this YouTube video I want to watch and it can only be viewed by registered users.”

Haruka quirks an eyebrow, sharp stare scrutinizing and silently judging. He first glares at his friend, studying his facial expression for any signs of lying, then at the lime green phone in his palm as if it’s going to morph into a Venus flytrap and bite his hands off.

It’s not like Makoto to use his phone in the school for such futile and inane activities. That is more of Nagisa’s thing. Something fishy is going on here.

“Make your own,” he says, pushing the phone back. Makoto refuses it.

“No I don’t have time for that. I’m in a hurry! Please, Haru…” The olive-haired boy is on edge, fidgeting and jittery on the balls of his feet. He sends a fleeting look towards the classroom door, seemingly looking out for someone.

“What video is it? Why do you need to watch it now?” Haruka enquires.

Gulping anxiously, Makoto scratches his cheek and turns his gaze away; a peculiar habit of him whenever he’s unsure about something. Probably himself. Aha.

“I can’t actually tell you… It’s kinda private, and… yeah.”

“You’re planning to use my account details to watch something online without telling me exactly what it is?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Haruka’s brows furrow, assessing the situation. Then, in what must be the most condescending tone he has ever used in his life, he asks: “Makoto, are you watching porn at school?”

“Maybe… Wait, what?! OF COURSE NOT!” Makoto wails in protest, flailing his arms wildly. “I don’t watch that stuff at school!”

“So you admit that you watch it at home?”

Makoto looks positively petrified now. “T-that’s not what I said! Don’t twist my words, Haruuu!” He shakes Haruka’s shoulder from side to side and pouts, trying to win Haruka over with the adorable façade. Obviously he’s been around Nagisa too much. “Come on, please? I won’t do anything else, I promise.”

Begrudgingly, Haruka relents, flipping the phone open and typing the URL. As soon as he finishes keying in the details, Makoto brightens up and opens his palm in excitement, gesturing for Haruka to return the phone. He sprints out of the classroom without saying a word, leaving the water-loving boy behind, bewildered. At first he thought that Makoto had to pee, which would perfectly explain why he was acting so squirmy and restless before, but then he noticed that Makoto had run towards the direction opposite of the toilets, down the walkway that leads to Year 1 students’ classes.

 

Nanase Haruka is about to learn the first and most important lesson of using the Internet: Never forget to logout from your accounts on any devices that aren’t yours. And he’ll learn it the hard way.


It’s another hectic day in the life of Matsuoka Rin.

Ever since making the breakthrough in the Top 50 Most Subscribed Channels of All Time, Rin has been more or less forced to constantly churn out new videos on a fixed schedule. Getting to this level took him a hell lot of time and effort, and he’s not going to throw it away just because he ran out of ideas or lost the passion. Besides, although it’s not really fame and success that he’s after, Rin treasures his fans as much as he does his friends in the real world.

YouTube is an outlet for him to express himself without getting worried of skeptics or prejudice. So what if he fancies the smell of roses more than the pretty girl next door? So what if he lets his tears fall more often than a heartbroken lover would? Who cares if he watches Disney movies again and again, and still believes in that legend of one true kiss that cures all? On the Internet, no one, that’s who. And that freedom to be whoever he wants to be… that’s what Rin enjoys the most when it comes to maintaining an online persona.

Regardless, he still gets the occasional hate mails from viewers who deem his faith in romance revolting or old-fashioned, who sometimes throw insults and question his popularity. Some even go as far as accusing him of buying likes, which Rin thinks is fucking ridiculous because if there’s any cash flow involved here, it’s him who is on the receiving end, thanks to advertisements.

Still, the sweet, encouraging comments he gets from his fans keep him going. He reads them, every single one of them. At times, they say such amazing things that he can’t help but to feel deeply moved.

Today, his inbox is particularly full.

Rin is scrolling down the comments on his giveaway contest video, looking for the one worthy of winning the grand prize. A bowl of mac & cheese rests on his lap, while his laptop lies on the table, connected to the charger. He takes note of the interesting ones, giggles at the raging hormonal fangirls’ proclamations of undying love for him (there’s one that reads “rin im so thirsty fo u!!1!”), and skims through the rest, pausing once in a while to take a spoonful of his instant dinner.

And then, he sees it.

Rin’s eyes widen and his jaw grows slack.

Rows and rows of comments line up on his screen, flooding the area as far as Rin could scroll, each containing different messages. None of them say the same thing, but they all share a common characteristic.

 

They’re all posted by an icon-less user named ‘mackerelisgood’.

 

The top one -presumably the most recent one coming from the aforementioned user- was posted 4 hours ago. Rin counts how many there are, because while it’s a little bit freaky to be that obsessed and desperate, he’s actually very flattered that someone likes him that much. Thirty-seven. There are thirty-seven comments from mackerelisgood, and every single one denotes what the person likes about Rin’s channel.

The only problem is, those comments are in truth, more of what the person likes about Rin himself rather than his videos. The first one reads:

 

“Your eyes. Are they always that red? Because sometimes they sparkle like rubies. I like watching them.”

 

Rin fights the incoming blush. He tries not to think of it too much, in favour of reading the next one:

 

“I like that thing you do with your eyebrows when you’re questioning something. It’s really cute.”

 

Whoever this mackerelisgood is must be a very observant person, because even Rin doesn’t know what his eyebrows look like on normal circumstances, let alone in such a specific condition. Rin is fairly taken aback by the nice things said about him. If mackerelisgood is real, Rin would’ve fallen for them at the drop of a hat.

It’s as if they’re flirting. And to be honest, Rin is falling for it. Hard.

To his misery (or delight, let’s face it, every compliments hits straight at his heart like a cupid’s arrow), there are thirty-five more comments to go, and Rin is not sure he could survive by the end of this. 

“How did you get your hair to look so silky? I bet they’re as smooth as they look. Such a beautiful shade of maroon, too ;)”

 

“Your muscles are awesome! Such perfectly sculptured deltoids and triceps… I wish I can lay my head and rest on them, hehe”

 

I love your laugh, Rin! Makes my world go round.” 

By the thirtieth comment, Rin wants nothing more than to bury himself in a comforter and wrap it around his body like a spicy burrito in an attempt of hiding the flaming heat that’s now threatening to spread down from his face to his neck. He’s embarrassed, so goddamn embarrassed by the things mackerelisgood wrote, and his heart feels like it’s about to spontaneously combust from the inexplicable happiness. Though he notices that the way the comments differ from each other almost as if they were written by at least three different people (some sound too cheerful, some overly philosophical and flowery, while some really simple and on-point), Rin can’t fight this giddiness that attacks him at the thought of him being someone so special to another.

The thirty-sixth reads:

Your smile. They’re really bright and pretty. I like it.” 

Rin rolls around on his bed, unable to stop the silly grin. He buries his face into a pillow and lets out a muffled scream before making grabby hands for his cellphone. Speed-dialing his friend -who is also his cameraman- Rin waits for the call to connect, all the while rereading the second-last comment over and over again. Gosh, the freaking butterflies are still fluttering about in his stomach.

“Hello, Rin?”

Upon hearing his friend’s voice, Rin sits up and in his state of cloud nine, slams the laptop shut. Then, he hums happily and declares.

“Sou, I think I found the winner.”

 

 

The thirty-seventh comment, posted a day before the other thirty-six, lies unread at the bottom of the screen.

“What I like about your channel: Water.”