It was Monday now and I stood on the roof of the school, waiting with a frown on my face. In my hands was a note I had received earlier that day in my locker from the most unlikely of sources. Each time I glanced down at it, my frown only grew deeper. This would have been the last person I would have expected to reach out to me in the slightest.
The door popped open and a familiar person walked out. He had the same smile on his face that he always wore. It was somewhat fake and irritated me just to look at it. However, I manage to similarly prevent my expression from turning ugly as I faced him.
“Hello, Derek,” I said stiffly.
Derek laughed awkwardly, scratching the back of his head. “I suppose I have a lot to atone for. We used to be best friends.”
I lowered my head, frowning as I tried to figure out what his game was. “What do you mean?”
Derek grimaced. “You were right about Akiko. I looked into it, and it seems like she got drunk and passed out at a party and five guys had their way with her.”
I let out a noise. “That… I…”
Derek raised a hand. “I know you were just trying to protect her the only way you could. Turning facts into rumors make it a best-kept secret…”
“H-how did you find out?” I asked quietly after a moment.
Derek smiled bitterly. “Akiko… dumped me the other night.”
My eyes spun to Derek and my mouth fell open. My surprise was genuine. It was the last thing I would have expected, Akiko leaving her beloved. Was she really that guilty over our relationship? No… she told Derek about the rape event. If anything, she cleared my name. She could have said I was blackmailing her, but she didn’t mention me at all. This really didn’t make any sense.
“Why? What happened?” I asked.
“Haha… she… uh… said she was interested in someone else, and she didn’t want to continue to be a cheater like me.”
“Someone else?” My eyes widened. “Seriously?”
Derek made a rough chuckle. “Yeah… the slut. That’s why… I know how you feel. I guess I only started dating her because I was angry at you, so I didn’t take our relationship very seriously. However, I’m usually the one who does the dumping. This… got me thinking a bit.”
“You know I know that you had an affair with Akiko for a year, right?” I admitted.
“Heh…” Derek looked down. “I thought you might have realized that…”
“You still think we’re going to be friends?”
Derek chuckled wryly. “Well, I’m not interested in being enemies.”
I frowned while watching him out of the corner of my eye. In many ways, I had never gotten the vengeance on him that I had wanted. I had stolen his girl and NTR’d him, but she wasn’t a girl he cared for, and she was mine a short time prior. That was hardly an act of fitting revenge. Part of the reason I was okay with this was that we had years of friendship behind us. I was willing to overlook it and let bygones be bygones.
However, if I ever did want revenge, it’d be easier to obtain if he wasn’t looking for it. Then again, the same could be true for him. Derek wasn’t an idiot, and if he did know I had an affair with Akiko, he could be trying to give me a Trojan horse. This relationship was a double-edged sword and I needed to be careful if I wanted to pursue it.
“I’ll… think about it.” I said as much as I was willing to, and then turned and headed for the door leading back into the high school.
“Hakaru…” Derek called, causing me to stop and look over at him.
“Times… are changing.” Derek sounded awkward as he spoke. “Somethings been happening lately. Call it paranoia, an ominous feeling, something. It’s better to have allies than enemies, I think. We need to stand up to people like this Jack guy…”
“Jack?” I froze for a second and then turned. “What about Jack?”
Derek grimaced. “I heard that your sister was being used by him. I’ve done some background on him and he’s been with a lot of girls. Likes to take them from guys like you and me.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Derek, do you know the name of the guy Akiko left you for?”
Derek nodded slowly. “It’s Jack.”
My teeth clenched as I cursed under my breath. When I heard that she was leaving Derek for someone else, I wasn’t so bold as to think it was me, but I never would have thought it was Jack either. I had already discarded her, but he picked her up anyway. With her broken off from Derek, I wouldn’t have been able to claim any more points from her for NTR. Of course, I had cut her loose first, but I wasn’t clear how much this guy knew. Netori told me nothing, but she was an open mouth when it came to this bastard.
No, wait, that wasn’t the problem here. The problem was that I knew Akiko’s darkest secrets more than anyone. She loved Derek dearly. There was no way she would leave Derek to pursue Jack. That was completely ridiculous to even imagine. There was also no way he could have tricked Akiko into dumping Derek without some kind of leverage. There must have been something Jack had that made girls abandon all reason and…
I slapped my forehead. I was a complete idiot. He was a player the same as I was. That meant that he had skills in the same way that I did. Of course, he had tricks, and he was using them to manipulate events. I had been caught up on my own inadequacy that I hadn’t realized that he had the same abilities as me. No… I didn’t know if different gods offered the same benefits, and besides, he could have picked radically different skills.
The warning bell rang at that point, so Derek and I headed back to the classroom, although I was certainly lost in thought and fortunately, he didn’t try to press me for any talking. Derek probably thought I might help him attack Jack. After all, Jack wronged both of us. He probably assumed for me, it was how he embarrassed my sister. As for him, he wouldn’t let Akiko embarrass him. He never really wanted her, but now that she was taken away, he would fight tooth and nail to keep her. That was the kind of guy that Derek was.
In class, I glanced Akiko’s way, but she didn’t pay me any mind at all. When I glanced into her notebook while dropping something off in the trashcan, I saw the name Jack written hundreds of times in it surrounded by hearts. Jack definitely used a skill on her. If I had to guess, it was a skill like Manipulation. He cheated with a lot more women than me. While I spent my time banging Akiko, he had stolen a dozen girls from their boyfriends. He could be level three or even higher. It wouldn’t be surprising if he had more points than me.
By passing notes back and forth in class with Derek, I learned that the guy was hated by most of the school at the moment, but everyone was too afraid to touch him. Besides being big and possibly tied to a gang, he also had a lot of leverage. He seemed to know secrets about everyone who threatened him. Was that dirt scribe? Derek also had written an angry note saying that he had been seen with Tory, but I already knew that to be the case, so I was able to keep my cool. After the tenth time passing notes, the teacher caught me.
“Stay after class, Hakaru.” Mrs. Fukumi ordered.
I could only cringe and wait accordingly while a few people around the class muttered. I was already gaining a reputation as a teacher’s pet. Since Mrs. Fukumi and I had our little altercation where I unknowingly revealed she was having an affair with my father despite the both of them being married, she’d been extremely light with my grading. In return, I hadn’t pushed the issue either. I mean, if my dad found out I was blackmailing the teacher, he’d kick my ass, so it didn’t seem worth it.
After the bell rang, Derek gave me one look before he said, “Call you later.”
I nodded but kept my face pretty nondescript. We weren’t really friends, but I realized that Derek did a lot more background checking than I did. The fact I was able to keep my relationship with Akiko out of Derek’s suspicion was kind of amazing. It probably had mostly to do with the fact there were just too many rumors floating around between the two of us, and Akiko was an exceptional liar who kept him duped. Still, he was useful for spying on Jack, so I was willing to use him for a little while.
I remained in my chair and waited for the class to clear out. Mrs. Fukumi remained behind as well. I didn’t think it had anything to do with me passing notes. Derek was just as guilty as I was, and given her unique treatment to me, it was even more likely I’d be singled out unless she had something to say. So, I waited patiently and she finally walked up to my desk.
“Hakaru, you shouldn’t be passing notes in class. I know I’ve been looking the other way a lot recently, especially hearing several rumors about you associated with a certain girl named Akiko. I’ve even heard you’ve started working at a… ahem… a hotel.”
I looked up at her and activated Dirt Scribe. Her thoughts actually caused me to freeze. What she was thinking wasn’t something I expected at all! She took my silence differently, and then immediately waved her hands.
“I… of course… don’t believe any of these rumors! My daughter has always spoken highly of you.”
She was still a bit scared that if she rubbed me the wrong way, I’d run to mom and spill the beans. Well, she wasn’t wrong. However, what she wanted from me also wasn’t something that made me particularly angry. She apparently didn’t know that I worked for her son, so Kira hadn’t told her yet. Well, that was fine with me. Working after school wasn’t specifically prohibited. Something the western invasion pushed. They said getting kids in the workforce early made them more productive when they finished school.
As for what my teacher wanted, her thoughts were a bit disjointed as she didn’t really want to tell me, but she was closing in on an anniversary with my father. She was surprisingly sentimental about it and wanted to find out a way to impress my father. She suspected that he was losing interest in her and was returning to my mother’s side. This wasn’t true, he was actually sleeping with other women, but she didn’t know that. Thus, she wanted to get some information out of me to help her plan the perfect weekend getaway.
On that note, I recalled that the father was leaving the whole weekend next week to a conference before Halloween. That conference turned out to be a trip he was taking with Miss Fukumi.
“The thing is…” Miss Fukumi put her fingers together, blushing slightly. “The thing with your father…”
I sighed. “Dad likes good alcohol, but he doesn’t really know the difference. The fancier the bottle, the happier he is. You could buy an empty bottle of expensive liquor, fill it with something cheap, and then seal it, and he’ll treat it as a treasure. As for places he likes, he’s been wanting to go to this hot spring hotel outside of town forever but hasn’t gone because it has a co-ed bath and Mom said it was indecent. If you took him, it’d be something his wife had been holding him away from for years.”
“Ah!” Miss Fukumi exploded in a blush, “Th-thank you… please continue to keep our secret!”
My teacher gave a bow, and this time I blushed. She really was completely being used by my dad. He probably told her to pick and reserve the spot for their trip so that it could be exactly the romantic weekend she imagined, but in reality, he probably just figured he’d sucker her into paying for it all.
I shook my head and ran off to work. Deacon and I watched the store for a few hours, cracking jokes and watching people bang on the monitors. I handed him a few pieces of information on girls I wasn’t that interested in. If Deacon wanted to try to blackmail high school girls without a goddess backing him up, he was welcome to see where that took him.
Eventually, Deacon took off to go smoke some weed, and I was left watching the store alone. That seemed to happen a lot. He used to just randomly shut the store down. Simply being reliably open during the hours it said had done wonders for the business, or so Deacon said. When things quieted down, I sat in the backroom. There was only one room being rented by two couples. They were watching a movie now, but the guys were pulling around second base and heading for third.
Thinking back over the day, my mind kept wandering back to Jack. Maria, Gina, and now Akiko. What level was he at? I couldn’t keep hiding, and I didn’t want this asshole to just get away with it all. I had to eventually start making things happen. With a breath, my eyes snapped open.
“Netori. It’s time to talk.”