Playing Cupids – Chapter 5

Playing Cupids

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“So, why did you guys call me here?”

I asked as the three grown up men were arguing whether the operation name should be “Deceiver” or “Heart taker”. Either way I don’t give a shit.

“Your idea about me writing stuff was nice. But Alex thinks I should recite it.” Brandon answers.

“Oh, that’s a good idea.” I replied.

“I know right? It’s more impactful.” Rex seconds the motion.

“Yeah so you’re going to do it, right Brandon?” Alex threatens him.

Oh, it looks like the black mailing is happening.

“What kind of shit will Alex make us of to blackmail him?”

“Well, the scene pretty much happened when we were still in high school but we all remember it so well. Brandon was asked to take care of Giselle when she was in the infirmary after gym. She got sick and we forced him to get assist her to the infirmary. The nurse was out for some reason but when we got there to peek at what was developing, Giselle’s top was half-way unbuttoned already.”

Oh wow that is some hardcore shit.

Here I was thinking that Brandon wasn’t the only person who was normal.

“Like I told you ten years ago: she did it herself! Hey Raijin, stop looking at me with eyes that are akin to when you look at trash. It hurts my pride as a human. Stop!”

Brandon’s HP is now in the red zone.

“Even if you say that, nobody will ever side to the person who looked like a criminal.” Alex delivers the finishing blow. K.O.! “Besides, you won’t act if we don’t push your ass.”

“Alright I get it, shut up!”

Brandon finally concedes. That was quick.

The plan was simple: Brandon was to simply ask Giselle to “rate” the letters. If she were to become suspicious of why all the letters were addressed to her, Brandon will turn that around into a compliment by saying “you’re the most beautiful example so far” or something along those lines. He’ll be doing this until Friday.

“Okay, so here’s the ear piece you’ll need when you guys are at the faculty room. Both of your tables are at the farthest part of the room, right?”

Rex hands Brandon the earpiece as he nods and made him put it on.

“Then that means there will be lesser than expected third party interference. And here’s the receiving end. It’s on speaker for now so that all three of us can hear it.”

Rex faces me and gives me the block-shaped radio.

“And if ever a teacher interferes, Raijin is to call out the third party and stall for them?” Alex adds.

“Or I’ll just tell them the plan. I’m sure everybody in the faculty already knows.”

“Somehow my soul hurts due to you lot.”

With approximately thirty minutes left, Brandon had to make a letter for his beloved or something like that.

We dispatched Brandon as soon as the bell rang and I followed him to the faculty room. Alex said he might chicken out. The comfort room was near the faculty, so I am to be stationed there and be on standby. As for info, they’ll call my phone and I will put ear phones on to be able to hear what Rex and Alex are hearing.

“Ah shit, I’m getting nervous.”

Brandon says with a cracking voice, rubbing both of his hands together.

“Hey don’t worry. If you used to talk casually then this should be easy shit. Good luck, teach.”

I leave him as soon as we were already in his destination. As for me, I headed towards the comfort room and settled in a cubical. They finally call from the base of operations as I put my earphones on. As soon as I insert the jack on my phone, static exploded in my ears but started to die out as time passes by. When it finally died, Alex made his first orders.

“Can you hear me? If you can, cough once.”

A second later, I heard Brandon coughing once. But it was bad. So bad that I could end up thinking he was sick.

“Hey, chill. You can’t do this if you cannot get yourself together.”

I try to encourage him in hopes of regaining control of himself. It looks like he did a few seconds after.

“Okay. Go sit in and go straight to your chair while pretending to do some work.”

It is certainly hard without visuals. Though we can hear the conversations, facial expressions and gestures are also parts of a conversation that is a must for us to see and to interpret for the man in the field. Not only that, I can’t tell if Brandon is already fucking up or not so my anxiety almost always reached its peak.

A few minutes of dead air was needed. It would look too suspicious if Brandon would start talking after coming inside of the room. It would look like he came to the faculty just to ask Giselle to rate his letters. Though Giselle isn’t that sharp, we didn’t want to risk anything at all.

“Okay, now try to talk about something random first. If you are not able to do so, cough once.”

He coughed once with a seemingly no solid second in between the frame Alex last spoke the last syllable of his sentence to the start of his coughing.

Obviously, Alex lets off a deep sigh as he thinks about what to talk about. It looks like even he is stuck on this one.

Talking about something random out of the blue is pretty hard.

No it’s not. It’s what normies do. You’re just not normal.

If you’re better then why don’t you set an example?

Like you and Lisa being all chummy a few days after meeting each other.

See, I came up with an idea. Tell him.

Obviously not! That is way embarrassing. Why should I tell him to talk about that topic? If that rumor were to spread in the faculty, it’s most likely to spread everywhere too.

It’s inevitable, dude. You’ll be given attention sooner or later anyway. Just do it now.

Fucking hell.

“Ra-raijin and Clarissa…”

I speak softly, hoping that all three of them wouldn’t hear what I said.

“Oh nice idea, Rex! Talk about Raijin and Clarissa. Make the center of the topic as why they’re so close even though they just met a week ago.

Goddamn it.

“Uh, thanks? What? Who is Clarissa?”

Rex says. It sounds like he was confused and wasn’t really paying any attention to the operation.

“What do you mean what? You gave me the idea.”

“What idea?”

As Alex and Rex talk about what I said, Brandon makes his move.

~“So, don’t Raijin and Clarissa look cute together?”~

AAAHHH, NO STOP IT! HEARING A CONVERSATION ABOUT ME IS VERY EMBARASSING. MORE SO THAT THAT ANOTHER PERSON IS INCLUDED! AND IT’S LISA OUT OF THE SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE LIVING IN THIS PLANET!

Brandon’s voice over the phone over the walkie-talkie like thing didn’t quite sound like him. But his nervousness was still loud and clear.

~“Hmm? Oh yeah. It’s like they look like they’re after each other but afraid of opening up. It’s kind of cute.”~

AAAHHH GET ME OUT NOW! PLEASE, IT’S TOO MORTIFYING!

AHAHAHAHAHA

STOP LAUGHING, YOU FUCKING JERK!

~“Ah, I do wish I found my love like that…”~

Giselle’s next response was so important that I set aside my embarrassment for the time being. We have two options: brush it off by bringing up the topic of the letter or go with the flow. Brushing it off will potentially kill the mood and the probability of our success will come crashing down. On the other hand, going with the flow is not something Brandon can handle but high risks tend to have high rewards.

“Tell her that it’s never too late to experience love as pure as that.”

You just said that your relationship with Lisa was “love”.

Can it. They both think that it is so I’ll go with the flow.

After a few seconds of thinking under my feet, I advise him to do it. Even with the responses from Giselle, there weren’t any hidden intentions or meanings under those statements. At least from what my initial readings from how she spoke about it.

“With a smile, of course. And look at her in the eyes for more impact.” Alex read my mind. It was the best choice after all.

Brandon breathes in and draws first blood.

~”But it’s never too late to experience pure love like that.”~

After that, there was nothing but a few moments of static noise over the phone. What the hell is happening? I need to see!

“Hey, Brandon? What’s happening? If you need Raijin to help, cough–”

~“Hey, Giselle. Your face is red. Do you have a fever or something?”~

Wait, red face?

~“H-huh? Na-nah, I’m fine. Definitely fine. I’m not sick, right right.”~

Stuttering? Redundancy? You have done the impossible, Brandon!

“Alright! You’ve finally drawn the agro and did some incredible damage. Now keep the DPS up and keep attacking. The enemy’s defense is probably down to about 20%”

I shout over my phone, overly hyped.

“Kid, what are you talking about? Agro? DPS? What?”

“Don’t listen to Raijin and Rex, they’re both Retarded now since they’re names start with R’s. The letter, make her rate the letter!”

~“If that’s the case, then can you kindly rate these letters? I think my writing skills are falling off so it would be nice if I could recite this so you can criticize me or something.”~

~“A-ah, okay. Go ahead. I bet it’ll just suck ass anyway.”~

“Ah, damn it. And here I was thinking that Lisa finally being cute in front of Brandon. Why did she have to say such vulgar language?”

“Alex, shut up.”

I retorted to the idiocy the mastermind of the plan was spouting.

~“Alright, here goes:”~

I have a flower that was blooming on my garden almost twenty years ago.
It was white and pure. But it had thorns and was yet to be beautiful. Yet I loved it
I watered it daily, giving it a shower of my care twice a day.
As time passed, it grew and it grew.
When winter was upon us, I covered it with a nice little hut of its own and continued to care for it.
When spring began, she shined brighter than she did last winter.
And then came summer that gave me the motivation to care for it for more.
Fall came last and the season passed away too fast.
Years went by and it was still standing firm in my garden.
She was the only thing pretty in my garden of chaos.
Even after getting involved with the chaos that surrounded it, it still stood firm.
And it was beautiful.
But now I fear
That a thief might steal the only precious thing from me.

After that, a long painful silence fell upon us all from the field throughout the comms. Partially because we told Brandon not to write too much figures of speeches. She wouldn’t understand.

“Hey, aren’t you supposed to be reciting a letter addressed to her? You’re using too much similes.”

I whispered through my earphones.

“Retreat for now.”

~“Ah, you can send me the rating later. Gimme your phone. Here. Is. My. Number! See you tomorrow I guess?”~

You know, I’m starting to wonder if he really is inexperienced with girls. He surprisingly got the girl to get his number and made her heart skip a beat (probably).

Yeah, I’m not so sure myself.

“Raijin, return to the gym now.”

“Roger”

Alex called me back to base to probably scold Brandon. But as soon as I reached the base, he was cheering and yelling “yippie!”. What.

“That was some awesome performance! Dude, you rock!”

“Huh?”

“You’re treating me some alcohol tonight at your place!”

“Huh? You’re a billion times richer than me, buy your own shit.”

Are you confused?

Yes. Yes I am.

“So, you’re saying that the plan actually worked?”

We were now at Brandon’s place with the “adults” drinking their livers out.

After the operation in the faculty room, they all decided to drink at Brandon’s place while dragging me along. Rex went in a different way to pick up some alcohol for them. I requested some Cola for myself but it never came.

“Giselle only stutters when something surprises her. She was probably surprised that her heart was thumping for Brandon!”

Alex laughed and drank another shot of gin right after talking to me.

“Actually, I was kind of surprised that she was blushing. I pretended to think that she was merely having a cold.”

“Good boy!”

Brandon, who said something before drinking his share of gin, sprayed the damn thing across the room as Rex smacks his back with high force.

Oh wow, that was fun.

It is not fun. Now I reek of alcohol even though I haven’t drunk a thing.

It was annoying that they never shut up. It was as if there was no end to the corny jokes and God knows what’s so funny about it.

“Wait a second; why do you not have Giselle’s number? You’ve known her since your childhood days.”

“Hey, I’m sorry for being a fucking coward! You can’t help it if your crush is a living goddess.” Brandon sloppily replies.

“I do hope she does call you.” Alex said. “I’ll check the content of the you-know-what-Raijin.” He winks at me. Oh the cameras.

“Come on kid! Drink some!”

Rex forces a bottle of beer in my mouth, making the content flow inside my mouth. The cold bitter beer running along my tongue made its way to my throat. It was warm when it reached me throat and guts though. And rather than describing it as bitter, it was now quite good.

“More, more!” Rex says before dropping down to the floor. Woah, his alcohol tolerance is low?

You’re going to get drunk if you drink more.

I got another bottle from the cooler and started drink voluntary.

Hey! Listen to me, you’re a minor!

“Hey, what’ll happen if somebody saw you guys drinking with a minor?”

“Oh, we’ll need your cooperation to tell the officers you’re already nineteen.”

“Sweet”

HEY, STOP GULPING MORE YOU NITWIT.

I can’t help it. Somehow I just want some.

You know what? I give up. Fuck you.

And so we continued to drink. When I finished my first bottle and was about to get another one, the doorbell rang.

“Hold up, I’ll go get it.”

Brandon stood up and went to the door. I only drank one bottle yet they drank so much faster than I did. So this is the capacity that adults can drink, huh?

“No no no no, he’s not here!”

Why is he shouting all of a sudden?

There must be a misunderstanding at the door?

Why don’t you go and take a look?

It’s a pain in the ass to get involved in that kind of shit, so no.

“I’m going in!”

Wait was that a girl’s voice just now?

“AH, STOP!”

I turned around to look at the person who came in and it was a girl. A girl? What the hell is she doing here?

“Raijin! You’re drinking!?”

“I’m nineteen! No wait, who the hell are you!?”

“I’m Lisa, stupid shit! So this is where you’ve been!? I won’t tell your mom but what the fuck, Rai!”

“Nonononono you’re not Lisa! And since you’re not Lisa, I’m not allowed to talk to any other girl!”

“I am the one who told you that and I am really Lisa, come here you piece of shit.”

“No wait, don’t drag him around!”

Alex shouted at her as I was being strangled and dragged across the room. When we were at the door, something in my stomach was coming out. It began to travel towards my throat and I started to hurl sparkles.

Sparkles?

Sparkles.

Wait, what the fuck? You have sparkles in your stomach?

Let’s see, it’s a mixture of green shit with a bit of my lunch. Oh, I can smell the snacks I ate in the morning.

Ah what’s happening?

I was forced to let go of my consciousness.

I find myself in my room. Not only that: I also found myself using Lisa’s lap as a pillow at my bed with the lights off. Wait, isn’t this some kind of scenario from an eroge?

The moonlight shone through my window, highlighting Lisa’s beautiful face. Her eyes looked so bright that it made me so entranced. To be honest, I want to keep on pretending to sleep here for the rest of my life. I’m done with school and shit.

But that’s not happening. Because my head hearts and I can’t remember anything after I puked my guts out. It bothers me when I can’t recall anything so I asked Lisa.

“Hey, what happened?”

“Oh, hey. You’re awake. Good thing your mom was out again until midnight.”

A few seconds later, she smacked my face, pushed me off the bed and began to blush. Ouch, it hurts.

“Y-YO-YOU’RE LUCKY I GAVE YOU A LAP PILLOW. DO-DON’T THINKG THAT THERE IS SOME HIDDEN REASON FOR TH-THAT!”

She just got embarrassed now? She was a fine a few seconds ago!

Her brain was lagging, lol.

Even if she said that she didn’t have any reason to do that there was obviously one.

What is it?

You can’t read her. How should I know?

Nice clues, Captain Obvious.

I got up and saw the same duffle bag Lisa uses when she goes to my place for a sleep over.

“Wait, you’re gonna sleep here?”

“W-WHAT OF I-I-IT!?”

“Nothing. Just chill, okay.”

A stroke of splitting headache flashed through my mind. That’s right, I got drunk. The only thing I could recall was until the point where I spewed my vomit at Brandon’s floor. I hope the smell gets cleaned otherwise I would’ve left my mark on that place.

The plan did go well according to Alex. But we need to think fast for the next Friday. And my part-time job at the convenience store! I haven’t been working for ages now. I’ll probably quit. My objective was the info about Alex after all.

“Hey, we haven’t been going to the part-time job lately. Let’s quit?”

“Sure. I’m kind of exhausted from it anyway. What about our pay?”

“I don’t even care anymore.”

Tomorrow is going to be another attempt, meaning that Brandon’s class will self-study again. Oh man, I do hope Giselle rates the poem or letter or whatever it was supposed to be. Positive feedback would be great and can be used to our advantage but I don’t have any counters for any negative feedbacks.

Isn’t it impossible to get a negative feedback? Brandon made her heart thump and all.

Yeah, but we cannot overlook the possibility that that can happen. Girls are, after all, always unpredictable. Or so they say.

The next question was what to do again when Brandon tries to engage on her tomorrow. Repetitive strategies never work in these kinds of skirmishes. You need to spice up your approach every time you engage. Normie-wise, you just need to make it fun.

I should probably ask Alex for assistance later on. But for now, I need to eat something. I already puked my lunch plus I haven’t had anything for supper so I’m really famished right now. I check the time and it was already eleven. Yup, I need to eat.

“Wanna eat something? Pizza? I think they still deliver at this hour.”

“Sure.”

When the pizza was delivered, we didn’t even bother eating in the kitchen. I bought the boxes to my room and we both ate there. I booted up my PC to start playing AR again while she went to my bed and started using her phone.

Sometimes we talk, sometimes we just don’t: the, more or less, hour that we hanged out in my room was just like this. I had the right ear open so that when she tries to talk to me, I can hear her and at the same time hear the BGM and SFX of the game I’m playing.

Mom arrives at around 12:16 A.M. Lisa was already asleep by then. I heard her footsteps from the stairs so I came to greet here since she hasn’t been going home for a while.

When I saw her, I thought she was a zombie. Her dead eyes were half-open as she staggered upstairs, desperately trying to make it to her room.

I helped her get up and made her lie down on her bed. I got the blanket and tucked my mom in.

Damn it, this is the first time this month.

I don’t think this is healthy at all. If this keeps going–

I know. But, she never listens to me. She always does this and just keeps on working for my sake. Goddamn it, it hurts when I think about how hard working she is.

We should take care of her for now.

I grabbed the thermometer and checked her temperature. It was a bit high so I grabbed a glass of water and placed it on her desk. I left a note under the glass, saying “Skip work today, you’re boiling hot.” It was a lie though. I just want her to rest.

I went back to my room and opened my browser in hopes of finding Alex online. Unfortunately, he wasn’t. But I went and called his phone, waking him up in the middle of the night.

“Kid, what the hell do you want? It’s the middle of the night.”

“A motherfucking plan for tomorrow. Oh, and Lisa and I are both quitting tomorrow.”

“Ah, right. Those are both pains in the ass. I’m going to call the owner real quick.”

Thinking of ideas was actually harder than I thought. I don’t think they have any hobbies in common. What’s funny is that Alex has been keeping an eye on both of these idiots yet he still doesn’t know what they have in common.

“What about a game?”

That is actually a good suggestion. Games were technically designed for fun.

Tell that to the people who has been raging since patch 1.0a.

Games are not fun for gamers.

Too bad, so sad.

“Yeah, that depends. MOBAs, FPS, MMOs, RPGS, Casual games: there is a huge variety of shit to play out there. We need to pick one out of them.”

I’m not really sure what Alex was thinking. Maybe he was already sleepy and just wanted to shut me up and go to bed. Or maybe he had something in mind. But his answer to my question was to pick three games of the same genre in which the genre is random as well. This is probably not going to end well.

He was probably tired so we ended the conversation there. Then, I did a Random Number Generator, assigning each number from 1-49 a genre. And it landed on retro games.

Retro games. Yeah, you’re already dead.

Should I roll another one?

Go.

An open world survival game.

Too hardcore. Next.

A RHYTHM GAME!

You didn’t use the goddamn RNG.

Fuck it, it’s not like a rhythm game would actually get rolled.

I picked a free rhythm game that was still actively played until this date. Rather than actually sticking into something hardcore like MOBAs or FPS, this should be a fun casual one. I doubt that I would find it fun since I might rage when I miss the rhythm and shit.

If I chose a game that required massive time investment, then there is no point in playing it for a couple of hours only. I had to choose something that, in the point of view of a normal person, was easy and at the same time playable with a friend. Though this rhythm game had no multiplayer, I was thinking they could just take turns playing and see who gets the higher score or whatever.

You’re kind of witty sometimes. Rely on your brain more rather than the internet.

Oh please, my head is already starting to hurt and I still have to attend classes tomorrow.

You should go sleep. In your chair.

Sadly, but yes: I have to sleep.

I wanted to sleep, but I was notified that Alex heard something interesting from the wired cameras from Giselle’s place. He sent me all the audios and videos containing the important part only.

The video content consisted of Giselle continuously surfing the internet for hours. Alex, can you at least trim the videos before sending them? A few hours later, she receives a call from a guy.

Audio content says that the guy met Giselle in the super market a few weeks ago and wanted to ask her out. Giselle refused with all she’s got. When she was asked if she already had a boyfriend, she went crazy. Her tongue also slip and pronounced “bra” which, I believe, was supposed to be “Brandon”

A: “Brandon is definitely in her mind right now. This is awesome.”

R: “Yup. But tomorrow’s going to be another battle. I’ll send you the game by the way. It doesn’t need that much specs so Brandon’s work laptop could run it at 90 fps at max.”

A: “What kind of game is it?”

R: “Rhythm game.”

A: “Alright. I’ll download it and give the game to him tomorrow. Or later.”

R: “Cool. See you.”

And now that that is done, I should now get some sleep. I closed everything from the browser to the AR launcher and shut my PC down. I adjusted the angle of the backrest and started to fall into a deep slumber.

It was only probably three seconds since I closed my eyes when it was already. My body was covered with aches and shit and I don’t want to get up but my mom tells me to do so. Lisa, for some reason, went home before I woke up.

From there, school was basically the same – not. I only got to hang out with Lisa on the morning break. When lunch came, she had to go meet some of her friends leaving me alone. Guess I’ll go sleep in the infirmary?

But when I got there, Berta was there.

“Berta?”

“How come you always forget Brenda but keep on coming up with random and weird other names?”

“How should I know? And fuck off, I need to sleep.”

I grab myself one of the three available beds. Unfortunately, Brenda wanted to sit beside that bed so that was annoying.

Why don’t you just ignore her?

Good idea.

“I’m worried about your future. If you can actually pull off hooking Brandon with Giselle, then you guys would get a lot of attention.”

“I don’t even want to know why you know. But what do you want?”

So much for ignore her.

I’d love to ignore her but I can’t. There is something weird with two things: why she knows and what does she want to do with the information. But it seems that a lot of people already know.

“I want to know how your brain works.”

“Just think backwards.” Is what I wanted to say but I just stayed silent instead.

“No thanks.” Is what I actually said.

“I’ll get going then.”

She leaves me behind, putting aside her chair. But before closing the door, she told me that I will get much busier if I choose a certain option over the other; If I choose the other option, I’ll be missing something for the rest of my life.

“Choose, Raijin: comfort or want.”

Though the nuisance already left, I still couldn’t sleep. Why is my brain so fucking active around stupid topics like this?

You mean the “Comfort or want?” question?”

Yeah, it was kind of annoying.

Because it had too many clues but not much facts?

Yes, that. And it’s because I already know her intentions.

She wants to know more about you, huh.

Definitely weird. I don’t have anything that can be useful to anyone. In a person’s normal point of view I’m probably just another normal kid.

Except you don’t like to talk to people.

Oh come on. That wasn’t necessary.

I was supposed to take a nap in the infirmary but it seems that it was tiring instead. But it did give me information about something so I guess it’s an OK trade for me. The fact that there is someone targeting me isn’t actually threatening. What’s threatening is that the person is probably after someone else like mom for example.

With many people already knowing what our plans are with Brandon and Giselle I should probably tell Lisa to lay low for now and try not to come close to me if necessary. Hmm, but not hanging out will definitely trigger something. I guess its okay as long as we don’t do it too much. I should properly tell her this when we go home together.

Regarding the plan with the rhythm game, what kind of plan does Alex have?

Yeah, not so sure. I could guess that Brandon and Giselle will play it together. But that will actually strengthen their friendship bond instead of their romantic one. Heck their romantic relationship is 5% in the making.

I really hope Alex has a plan for this.

Hey, stop stealing my lines.

Oh shut up, we have the same brain anyway. What you input in your mind is basically mine as well.

When I got back to the class room though, Alex was there for some reason. He was sitting in my chair chatting casually with Lisa while everybody stared daggers at them. It was obvious that Lisa was confused and nervous but decided to play along.

“Ah, Raijin!”

The moment he opened his mouth was the moment everybody’s gaze shifted towards me.

“Uh, who are you?”

“No need to play dumb. Grab you bag and let’s go.”

“Wait, I still have afternoon classes and the guards will not alloowowowowowow alright alright! Just stop pulling my ass, I’ll go!”

This is probably the second time that I was dragged out of my pace by this retard. And this time, my explanation got cut half way through.

I was forced to cut classes by a part-time manager of the convenience store near my house. Though it sounds absurd it is my current predicament. But I guess skipping classes wasn’t a bad idea after all. I would’ve slept throughout the entire afternoon anyway.

Here I was thinking that we will be jumping over the fence or something. But it turns out that Alex was a hard core idiot and went straight for the front gates where the school guard was there. Jiminy Cricket.

Obviously, the guard caught our attention and asked us why we were leaving school. Alex whispered something in his ear and he clearly flinched like he saw a demon sucking the soul out of him.

“Y-You can go now.” Is what he said. Poor guy.

I asked Alex why were we cutting classes and where we’re going but he never answered. I’m guessing this is to prepare for the gaming session of Giselle and Brandon so we are heading towards Brandon’s apartment right now. Wait, why should we go there again?

When we got there, Alex opened the door with ease.

“I’ll ask just to be sure: why do you have his key?”

“He gave me an extra.”

I don’t think I’m buying it.

We entered the place and Alex unpacked his stuff: a bunch of cameras. Ah, here we go again. I was asked to scatter the cameras in the living room only where they will be playing.

The plan was quite simple: we are to set up some visuals for the support team that consisted of me, Rex and Alex. This will help us give better instructions for Brandon if something happens. The flaw of the plan in the faculty room was that there was no way for us to see what was happening inside.

“But we are going to keep the fact that we have surveillance a secret.”

“Oh. Why though?”

Why are you not surprised?

Am I supposed to be?

Yes!

Meh.

“Brandon is actually camera shy. It’s not the typical camera shyness that makes a person bashful and doesn’t let anybody take a picture of him or her, no. When he is being watched, he will lose his cool and start acting weirdly.”

“Wait, then why did the earpieces work? By the way, have you given one to him already?”

“It was bearable at that point.” He continued. “That’s why I never told Brandon anything about surveillance in the upcoming reunion. Oh yeah, I gave him one before I went to your room.”

That’ something I cannot overlook. Good thing Alex told me this; otherwise my future plans that involved watching him would be ruined.

“I do wonder how impactful for Giselle the event from yesterday was.”

If only we had a way to figure out. But if he didn’t drag me out of the school grounds then I should be able infer from her actions in her class. But I’m not the only person who knows this operation and attends the class she’s teaching in.

I contacted Lisa to observe Giselle. I also informed her about what happened at the faculty room so she can trigger something and make the calculus teacher all flustered.

“You don’t have to interpret her actions. I still have some time left anyway before the next operation starts. And since I might go home late, you should go home on your own.”

“Hey Raijin.”

She starts to stray off topic.

“Tell me about the results of the operation, yeah?”

Huh. I thought she was going to say something.

After setting up the place, we went to meet up with Rex at the school gates a period before school ends for the day.

“So, what is my role in this operation? An adviser? A savior?”

“The person who treats us to drinks.” Is what Alex wanted to say but he chose not to because Rex might go away if reality slapped his face real hard. Instead, he said this.

“Anyway, we need to watch him as a group so that our instructions can be entwined with each other. We have different points of views so I would like to hear it.”

“Wait, where are we going to be stationed?”

“The park.” Alex said. “It’s close to Brandon’s place. Let’s go.”

On our way to the park, Lisa called me. She told me that most of the things she was doing were either forgetting to do something or getting too far ahead of herself. Moreover, she sometimes dazes off and smiles in the distant. When we call her attention and asked if it was love, she dismissed the class twelve minutes earlier than expected. Yup, she does have Brandon on her mind now.

“Hey Alex. How come the symptoms of ‘young maiden in love?’ reacts with Giselle faster than normal?”

“She’s in her mid-twenties. I bet this is the first time she felt this way and it’s towards Brandon – a person she knew since childhood.”

“I see. It does look weird if you suddenly look at a person from a different angle.”

Ah, I caught a glimpse of his long-term plan: he wanted to make the emotion and feelings between them sky rocket for a few days then slowly and continuously rise higher. So the events for today and yesterday were the sky rocket phase. That means that the game, from where they will bond with and start talking about love related things, will be played by both of them and serving as the slow and steady rise of feelings.

“Why are you still single when you know lots about women and their feelings?”

If this kind of knowledge was possessed by other normal guys, they would definitely abuse it and hit on any girl they like. I am not accusing Alex as a person who would hit on a girl because he knows he can get her. It’s just that it’s weird to not look for love.

Are you even looking for love?

Right now? I’m looking for the love from friends.

Weak shit.

“My conscience can’t allow it. It feels like I’m just pulling their strings since I know how to manipulate them.”

“Hmm, you don’t know that. They say love makes a person think more irrational than normal.”

Wait a second: I think you have already attained the love from friends.

How exactly?

Love cannot be determined in a jiffy. But there are actions like being there for you, showing signs of respect and support: These are examples that contain love from friends.

Which means I now have to find a romantic love?

I guess?

I’ll think about it later.

Boo.

When we got to the park, after grabbing our food and a cooler, we went for the little hut on the middle of it. For some reason, it was owned by Rex. It was a bit small like to Alex’ place but it was enough to set up the computer, a cooler for our drinks and food, and our seats of course.

“Why do we have food in the cooler?” I asked.

“I’m expecting them to stay a bit later than eight or nine in the evening. Or Giselle might even sleep over. Depends.” Alex replies.

“Ah, I need to call mom then. Hey, stop pulling my arm!”

“I don’t wanna! Move and gimme one can of beer!” Rex refused to be an adult. Huh.

The next part of the plan was rather hard: we have to be able to balance the feeling of comfort and discomfort. I have already asked Alex why and he said that when they are too comfortable with each other, Giselle might not consider that feeling love even if it was. If they are too uncomfortable with each other (for example they are too flustered by the presence of each other), then Giselle might run away and the “slow and progressive phase” of the long-term plan would be ruined.

“The usage of alcohol later on will be utilized if and only if the atmosphere becomes awkward. By the way, the comfort-discomfort ratio is supposed to be 3:1. We cannot afford too much blushing and God knows what because a part of the long run depends on it.”

Wow, this guy is a beast.

A total monster.

He calculated everything including the human errors that may possibly occur in any phase of his plans.

Not only that, the way he adapts to what I suggest, what the situation develops to and how he never stops making back up plans is really cool.

A dark mind that light must never shine upon.

That’s a nice way to put it.

“Okay, they’re coming.” Alex reports as the first person to see what was happening in Brandon’s room. “Ah, they look so awkward.”

“Alright Brandon,” I said. “Let’s give it our best, yeah? Try to offer her something like juice or soft drinks.”

He did as he was told, offering some drinks. When he opened his fridge, he was surprised for some reason. Then he went to his bathroom and bursted.

“Alex! Why are there cans of beer inside my fridge?”

“Trust me dude. You will need that later. How can you even talk when Giselle is with you?”

Alex is a master deceiver. He never placed any cameras in the bathroom so he had to pretend that he didn’t know he went in and had to force him out to be able to give out more instructions. Sneaky fox.

Brandon went out of the bathroom, grabbed a liter of cola and served with a forced smile. Yep, he looked so weird that we were laughing at him. Even Giselle was laughing at him.

~“Calm down, Brandon. What happened to the person yesterday?”~

Ah, our target is doing our work for us. How fortunate.

“Do as she says and launch the game already. If you feel super comfortable then cough once. If you think Giselle has this “it’s okay to be with him but there’s something bothering me” feeling, keep it up.”

Now that I think about it, this is really a tight spot for Brandon, isn’t it?

How?

He can’t ask why he needs to do what he’s been told. So he’s just forced to trust Alex and just do it.

Oh yeah. How nerve-wracking it must be. I hope he gets his shit together until Giselle leaves.

And so they played. There was nothing else to report actually. That was the dangerous thing: there was nothing to report. Though it seems that they were riding a smooth wave, being too smooth is not good in this situation.

They were playing non-stop. They sometimes laugh because they seem to have so much fun. Sometimes they slap each other since the other has a higher score. Just get married and have kids already!

The fact that Giselle has no experience in these kinds of things whatsoever gives us a disadvantage. She might just brush the feeling from yesterday as something weird. This may be one of the other reasons why Alex wanted a little uncertainty lingering in the atmosphere.

“Brandon, make a nice little compliment for Giselle. Something related to the game.”

Alex suddenly says.

“’Your beauty will never be compared to any melody or symphony.’ Or something along those lines.”

I personally thing that this was a good idea so I gave my idea.

“What’s happening?”

Rex was already drunk and lying down on the grass. Are you for real?

~“Hey, I like this song. Imma beat your score on this one!”~

Giselle’s voice was heard loud and clear throughout the comms. Even Rex got up for a second. Alex and I looked at each other and smiled. We both thought of the same thing: the timing was perfect. Thank you, God!

~“Then you should like yourself better. You’re more beautiful than that masterpiece.”~

The unexpected awesome flirting skills of the boring literature teacher made a drunken man, a high school student and a manager of a certain convenience store go crazy.

A few weeks later. A rumor about the hut in the middle of the park was haunted. It was said that the hut would emit the sounds of three men who were screaming “Brandon!” It was said that these men were murdered brutally by “Brandon”

Later, Giselle was seen blushing from our screens. She hid her face with a pillow while trying to suppress her embarrassment. As for Brandon, since he wasn’t seen by Giselle by that moment, he was doing a victory dance in secret. Of course we were laughing at his ass, it was hilarious.

“Alright, oof! Keep playing for now. Tell her to focus on the game for now so she can calm herself down.”

Alex began to dish out his instructions again to continue the 3:1 ratio of vibe. But in the end, that was all the “discomfort” they really needed; we weren’t that much help either. Giselle went home around 7 because she needed to do something. I instructed that Brandon should let him stay for supper but she didn’t. I guess the food Alex refrigerated there would be our food.

“Ah, Raijin. You can go home for now.”

“Cool.”

I left the park on called Lisa on the way home telling her how it all went down. It was boring since it only consisted of one good part which was when Brandon said his sweet words. I do hope he keeps on using those sweet words because we are probably going to need it for a while for future purposes.

We didn’t get to talk that much. She had to do something regarding her sister’s homework. She made it sound like it was a nuisance. I don’t really get it: there are a lot of people who wants a little sister but most of the people who actually has a little sister complain about them.

Are you one of the people who want a little sister?

I can’t tell

I guess so.

When I got home, I opened the door and found the kitchen quite decorated with fancy and expensive looking food. I looked for my mom but she was nowhere to be found. I checked upstairs but she wasn’t there either.

Holy shit where is she?

My heart is starting to pound faster and faster as the minute goes by. I go back and forth checking every corner I have already checked four times before. I go so nervous that I began to yell for her.

“MOM!?”

“CHECK THE BATHROOM!”

Oh.

“My guts hurt like shit so don’t eat yet. Help yourself with some snacks for the time being.”

“Please don’t worry me like that.”

“Please check the bathroom when looking for someone.”

I’m really glad that my mom is an airhead.

I do wonder what the occasion today is. I mean, there is even a cake in the table. That’s weird now isn’t it? Oh shit, was it mom’s birthday? Ah, I must’ve forgotten all about it! Shit, I need to get out of the house and buy something real quick.

“If you think today’s my birthday and were about to leave the house to buy a present then I will – Raijin please don’t give me more headaches. My stomach is already killing me.”

Uhuh.

If today isn’t her birthday, then when? Wait that’s not the point: what the heck is the occasion today? I looked closer to the stuff that was on the table. But rather than paying attention to the food I paid attention to the plates – there were three of them.

Ah, I don’t want to think about it. I’ll just go to my room for now.

“Mom, I’ll go to my room for now. Call me when you get out of there.”

I wanted to read a book but I got lazy as soon as I hit my bed. I was quite tired but I couldn’t sleep that quickly. I was bored to but I couldn’t think of anything fun to do. Instead, I just lied there in my bed for several minutes.

Now I have been wondering. Do I really need to find romantic love right now?

Huh? But people start finding love around your age.

Yeah. But I don’t doing it right now is a good thing. I could just take things slowly and let things happen for now.

But what if romantic love finds you?

How is that even possible?

It is possible. So, what will you do if it happens?

I guess I’ll cross the bridge when I get there.

“Come down! I’m finally relieved from my butt’s hell hole.”

What do you mean “hell hole”?

I came down with the thought that I should scold mom for using such as stupid term for “asshole” only to find Clarissa and Mom with party hats while singing happy birthday. Mom, your pitch is way off.

“Happy birthday, Raijin! Here’s your present.”

Lisa gave me a rectangle looking thing that was wrapped – it’s obviously a book. Why bother wrapping it? You wasted some money for this.

“Thank you! I wonder what this is…”

“Stop pretending you don’t know. Your acting skills doesn’t pass.”

“Wait, how did you know my birthday?”

“Your mom called.” She replied as if it was natural.

“How does she know your number?”

“I don’t know.” Again with that reply.

Oh, whatever.

“Happy birthday, Raijin! Here’s my present for you.”

This time, mom handed me a rectangle looking thing that was wrapped… it was another book… OH COME ON! I KNOW THAT I LOVE BOOKS BUT AT LEAST MAKE IT LOOK LIKE IT’S NOT A BOOK!

“Y-yay. Thank you. Still, what a m-mysterious gift.”

“Son, Clarissa was right: you should stop trying.”

“Then stop trying to wrap books in a way that it’s obvious!”

I can’t believe I forgot my own birthday. I think I have been celebrating my birthday alone since three years ago. Mom coincidentally had to work overnight every year so I was forced to eat cake alone. It actually feels good to have someone celebrate your birthday with you.

Not only that: there are now three of you celebrating your birthday.

You’re right.

“Thank you, Clarissa.”

“Hmm?”

It seems that I interrupted her from taking the first slice from my cake which was supposed to be mine but whatever I guess.

“Because we’ve only known each other for a short amount of time yet we have already became so good friends. Although our first impressions suck, we got close in the end. Thank you for being my very first friend.”

I wanted to look a little sincere so I tried to smile from the bottom of my heart.

I couldn’t tell what emotions were showing off from her face because she kept on bulldozing the food after my little thank you speech. I do hope she appreciated it.

“And thanks for always working so hard for me, Mom.”

I turn my gaze toward my mother, who was now in tears.

“Are you okay?”

“Y-yeah. It’s just that this is the first time you celebrated your birthday with me and a friend since forever so, even I, am really happy for you.”

I went to her side and hugged her tightly.

“Yeah mom. Me too.”

After all the emotions and such, we ate and ate until we were full. It wasn’t anything special but a simple dinner of the three of us was good enough for me.

“So how old are you now?” Lisa asks. “You’re probably seventeen now, right?”

“Sixteen actually. Are you gonna sleep here?”

“Yes I will. Wait, your age. What? Then that means I’m a few months older than you. I turned sixteen three months ago.”

She had this smug on her face for some reason.

I bet it was because she thought she was superior or something.

Yeah, the hell she is.

“Ah. I’m already full so I should head upstairs and sleep.” Is what I wanted to say but a few acquaintances knocked on our door. Mom went and greeted them only find Alex, Rex and Brandon carrying lot of bottles of beer and gin.

“Hi madam. Can we have a drinking party at your son’s room? Alex said. Is it even legal to ask that!?

“We will try to limit the amount of alcohol he will induce.” Brandon said. No! A drop of alcohol on a minor’s throat is already illegal!

“Okay. But don’t be too loud because I will be sleeping, okay?” Said my mom. MOM, STOP THEM!

“Yesh mamn” Rex said. Go home, you’re drunk.

My mom lets them in and as soon as they spot me they dragged my ass towards my room and began the drinking party together with the confused Lisa. Maybe I should let her leave for now.

“Don’t worry, don’t worry! We will leave you guys alone. We just needed a place to stay. We couldn’t compromise dirtying Brandon’s place since Giselle would be staying there and all.”

Alex wanted to try to make it look like they were innocent while he was opening the plastic bag and gave me my bottle of beer. Wait, so my place is fine?

I took it, opened it and started drinking of course. I have been given permission by my mom so I should just go drink.

After emptying half of my first bottle, noticed Lisa was actually out of place since all of us men were drinking. So I grabbed some water from downstairs and a couple of cups. I poured beer half full on one cap and filled the other one with water.

“Lisa, this is the only share you can have. I didn’t want you to get drunk but I didn’t want you to be outcasted from the party so a small amount wouldn’t hurt, right?”

She nods silently. Ah, this is kind of awkward.

“Okay, drink the beer before drinking the water. That way you wouldn’t taste the bitterness so much.”

I expected that she might dislike the taste and just give up before finishing the cup. But instead, she finished it in one go and instantly got drunk.

Alcohol tolerance lvl 999999999

Playing Cupids

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