༺ The Idol Next Door ༻
“…Do you have a girlfriend now?”
I just wanted to ask.
What happened today was similar to a date.
If it turned out that Taemin oppa had a girlfriend, that meant I had done something terrible.
Not only did I cling to him because I was scared, but I still asked him to hold my hand even after we left the booth.
Those definitely weren’t something I should do with someone who had a girlfriend.
So even now, I could still feel this faint feeling in my heart, waiting patiently for his words with nowhere else to go.
Was it a difficult question for him to answer?
Taemin oppa rested his chin on his hands and looked out the window into the distance.
The expression on his face puzzled me.
He wore something between self-deprecation and a bitter look.
What was going on inside his mind, I wonder?
“I’ll go get it.”
As the bell rang, maybe trying to dodge my question, he quickly got up from his seat to get the burgers.
Before I could even speak, he picked up a knife and cut both burgers exactly in half.
He handed me half of the mushroom burger.
The savory aroma tickled my nose.
I planned to cut the thing myself, but this was okay too. So, I accepted the half-sized burger from him.
Since I was actually hungry, I didn’t hesitate to take a big bite.
An exclamation of delight escaped me at the taste.
All the hype from the internet wasn’t a lie.
The patty was moist, and the bread had a flavor that couldn’t be found in chain restaurants.
I sneakily glanced to see if Oppa was also enjoying his meal…
“…You’ve finished eating yours?”
“Ah. Well, I was hungry too…”
It seemed like his statement about not being very hungry was a lie.
I had only taken a few bites, but he almost finished his second burger.
“You should eat more of the fries too, Oppa.”
I wasn’t a big eater anyway, so the burger should be enough to make me full.
He had worked hard, I could afford to give up that much to him.
“No, it’s fine.”
Though he said so, his actions betrayed his words as his hand dipped a fry into the cheese sauce before bringing it to his mouth.
“Isn’t this place good?”
Feeling somewhat relieved with the thought that at least I wasn’t doing this with someone who was taken, I asked him that question.
“Yeah, the food is tasty.”
“From the two burgers, which one do you like more?”
Personally, I liked both, but the mushroom one was a little tastier.
“I think I like the signature one more. The mushroom one isn’t bad, but I think the meaty texture of the signature is better.”
“Is that so?”
If he had said that he liked the mushroom one, I’d have smiled and agreed with him.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
“What about you?”
“The mushroom one.”
“…You have no taste.”
I felt it when we were gaming, but Taemin oppa had a habit of speaking so bluntly that it made you feel like punching him in the face.
“What do you mean by that?!”
“You see, there’s a reason why a certain dish became a store’s signature dish.”
Wow. To spout such flawed logic with that handsome face. It seemed that having a superior appearance made one appear even more shameless.
“Everyone has their own taste. That’s all there to it.”
“Except that even the cook stated there’s an objectively best and most popular dish. What do you think about that, hm?”
This felt incredibly familiar…
His shrugging pose and all…
It was as if those infuriating trolls online had manifested into the real world.
To think that I would feel the same emotions with him as I did when I was streaming…
The feeling felt familiar, but it irritated me.
On the flip side, I was used to dealing with people with this kind of attitude.
Hundreds, thousands of them in a day, in fact.
This wasn’t even a challenge for me.
“Ah~ Yes~ Sure, sure~”
Naturally, my streaming voice kicked in.
At times like this, I’d just get him muted for ten minutes.
Unfortunately, such a convenient feature didn’t exist in real life.
But somehow, Oppa seemed surprised, looking at me with a blank expression.
What was it? Was it something that I said?
Depending on the listeners, my answer might come off as rude, but he was the one who started first…
“W-Why are you looking at me like that?”
Overwhelmed by his intense gaze, I couldn’t help but ask.
“Ah… Uh… What…?”
It was Oppa who became even more flustered.
Feeling the air turning awkward, I abruptly stood up from my seat.
“S-Since you brought them here, I’ll take care of the cleaning up!”
Save for some fries’ crumbs, there was barely anything left, so it wasn’t even a chore to clean everything up.
I quickly picked up the tray and went to the waste disposal area, cleared the trash, and returned to my seat.
“You didn’t leave anything behind, right?”
Oppa, all ready to leave, handed me my phone.
“I don’t think so.”
I patted my pockets to check that my wallet and earphones were inside, before nodding.
We left the store, walking towards the bus stop without exchanging a single word.
“I’m catching the bus from across the street, what about you?”
“Which number are you taking?”
“That’s the same as mine.”
I guess it made sense that our destination was close to each other, as we went to the same school and all.
Ten minutes left until the bus arrived.
As I had been absent-mindedly thinking about the day that was coming to an end, Oppa called out to me, dragging me back to reality.
“Uh… So… I only came here for the project, but…”
“Today… Was kind of fun, wasn’t it…?”
…That’s playing dirty.
Seriously, I didn’t get it.
What was he trying to say?
Why was he acting like a guy trying to nail a second date after a blind date?
As someone who had been rejected by him, it made me wonder if he was doing it to irk me off.
It wasn’t like I could cry here, so I forced out a smile and agreed with his words.
Still there wouldn’t be a next time.
I mean, he literally told me that I wasn’t his type at all.
“Then that’s a relief.”
He let out a bright smile.
His face was so handsome, it was ridiculous.
Which woman wouldn’t be excited to see that smile? He literally looked like those male protagonists you’d see in a manhwa.
If this were a stream, I would have hit him with a comment like, ’You gotta be a total social butterfly.’
Eventually, the bus arrived, and we sat side by side, each plugging in our earphones.
Just when I thought the day was coming to an end…
During the bus ride, I was frozen in place as if struck by petrification magic, unable to move at all.
Before you ask, no, there was nothing wrong with me.
It was Doah, who sat next to me…
Personally, I didn’t think this was a comfortable place for sleeping, but she kept dozing off soundly.
If she had just dozed off by herself, I wouldn’t have made a fuss about it, but her head had lost its balance and reached my shoulder. Now, I couldn’t move it carelessly.
She must have been tired.
Having heard on a stream how tired Luka gets after going outside, I could understand her behavior.
Especially after she had just finished a horror game, she must have felt really exhausted mentally.
While I didn’t mind her leaning on me, the thing was, I didn’t know when exactly I should wake her up.
As we were getting close to the school, I gently shook her shoulder.
Seeming to dislike being woken up, she furrowed her brows.
“We’re almost at the school.”
She opened her eyes drowsily and rubbed them with her small hands.
“Where do you get off, Oppa?”
“At Sina Middle School.”
Unexpectedly, it seemed Doah lived near my house.
Which meant we could’ve met up at the bus stop earlier.
When the display showed Sina Middle School, we got off the bus and onto the street.
Doah stretched herself out fully.
“It was a rough day today, huh?.”
“No, not really. We’re supposed to be working on our project, but it feels more like we’ve only been playing around.”
“I’ll go first then.”
As Doah bowed her head, I nodded in acknowledgment.
“Okay. See you at school.”
I thought that we would part ways there…
But, embarrassingly enough, we found ourselves walking in the same direction.
“Uh… You’re going this way too?”
Like me, Doah seemed embarrassed and gave out an awkward smile.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m turning left after going down that alley.”
It seemed that Luka-tan really lived nearby.
Just as we said, we followed that road up…
“You live there?”
“Do you live there?”
It wasn’t some unbelievable rom-com anime cliché ’miraculously living next door~’, but Doah was living in the building right next to my one-room apartment.
It was surprising we hadn’t bumped into each other until now.
Well, actually, since we lived in a different building altogether, there was probably no chance that we’d run into each other.
After some thought, a light bulb went off in my head.
…Right, both of us didn’t go out much!
That was why!
You’d only bump into someone if both of you frequently went in and out!
I didn’t even know who lived next to me, so the chances of me running into Doah, who lived in a different building was extremely slim to begin with!
“I’ll really be going now.”
I watched Doah open the door and go inside the building, then stood still in that spot for a moment.
…Luka-tan really lived close by.
It was the moment when I felt the phrase ‘So close, yet so far,’ hit home.
You can rate/review this series here.
Illustrаtiоns on our discord – discord.gg/genesistls