Harem Scarem: 011

So, twin-tails. Gather your hair up into two bunches, each a few inches above your ears. Pop a couple scrunchies or similar on there, forming a double pair of pigtails. Congratulations, you now have twin-tails, and look like a preschooler. Unless you're in a manga, in which case you're probably a love interest for some self-insert protagonist. Or maybe the innocent girl next door. Or maybe just some random background character, because twin-tails are everywhere.

If I hadn't already known I was in a manga, the girl in front of me would clued me in all on her own. Besides the brunette twin-tails, she was sporting a short skirt and thigh-high stockings of some sort. Hell, was she seriously just lifted straight out of a manga? Given that she was petite and not all that well-developed, she probably could have stood in for a loli character, too.

Don't even get me started on lolis. Seriously, I'm not going there.

In any case, I was being stared down by an archetype. An absurdly furious archetype.

"You jerk!" she ground out. "What is your problem?"

Okay, so I deserved that. I had knocked her over and then responded to her outrage in a wholly inappropriate way.

I took my hands away from face. "I'm really sorry. I wasn't looking where I was going, which is inexcusable. Are you hurt?"

"No, I'm alright. But don't think that gets you off the hook! What was with that reaction just now?"

"Look, I'm really sorry. I've just been having a bit of a rough day…and now I feel like a total idiot."

The girl glared at me for a bit, before looking away. "Hmph. Well how are you going to make this up to me?"

"Make this up to you?" I said. I really did not want to get involved with this girl.

She ignored me. "It's not like I want your help, but you can show me how to get to V-Mobile. To ease your guilty conscience."

Oh god. That disingenuous pattern…no there was no way. People like that didn't really exist. "Uh, so you're lost and need help finding the V-Mobile store?"

"No way!" she exclaimed. "I'd be fine on my own, but you did walk through me like I'm invisible, so this is just a way you can make it up to me."

"What are you, eight? You could just ask for help like a normal person instead of making up excuses."

She drew herself up and gave me a frosty death glare whose impact was rather lessened by the pigtails sprouting out the sides of her head. "I am fourteen, thank you very much. Now are you going to make it up to me or not." It wasn't a question.

"Fine!" I said. Man, was this girl annoying. "V-Mobile is through here, I think." I started off down one of the narrow hallways that allowed cutting across the center of the mall without traversing the concourse all the way around, but stopped and turned when I realized that the annoying manga archetype wasn't with me.

"Not that I really care, but aren't you going to tell me your name? You're pretty rude, huh?"

I stared at her and did my best not to scowl. I'm not sure I succeeded. "I'm Xavier."

"Then lead on, Xavier," she said with a haughty wave of her hand. "And I'm Samantha by the way, thanks for asking. Not that I care if you know my name, of course."

I caught myself grinding my teeth. "Through here," I managed. Every time she opened her mouth I was more and more sure, but maybe she was just still angry about getting knocked over and decided to take it out on me in a weird way. Yeah. Yeah, that was it. I certainly wasn't desperately deluding myself about her basic personality. I just didn't know her very well and we met under awful circumstances.

Fortunately, I'd remembered the location of the V-Mobile store correctly and we arrived there in short order.

"Okay, here you are," I said and turned to leave. Before I made it a step I was pulled up short as Samantha grabbed my sleeve. "What?" Geez, this girl was irritating.

"Um," she said. She looked conflicted.

"What are you doing, Xavier?" said a voice to the side. Vickie was sitting on a wooden bench in the middle of the concourse, surrounded by bags. Evidently she and Mom had been busy while I was out being accosted by strangers.

I shook Samantha off and checked our surroundings. "Where's Mom?"

"In the bathroom," said Vickie. "Who's this?"

"I'm Samantha. Are you Xavier's sister?"

"Yep! I'm Vickie. What are you two doing?"

"Xavier pushed me down, so I made him show me how to get to V-Mobile to apologize."

What was I, some grade school playground bully? "Hey now—" I started, but Vickie cut me off.

"How could you do that to such a cute girl?"

"Excuse me?" I said.

"Right?" exclaimed Samantha. "Isn't he the worst?"

We just met, you little—

"So are you getting a new phone?" said Vickie.

Samantha colored. "Um, yeah. It's my first, so I'm not sure what to get, though."

"You, too?" said Vickie. "My parents haven't let me get one, either. I mean, I'm thirteen already! I'm not a little girl!"

"That's what I kept saying! They didn't think I needed it until I hit high school, but how am I supposed to stay in touch with my friends? They're stuck in the last century, and now here I am and I don't even know what to pick!" She hurriedly glanced over at me. "Not that I need any help picking one out or anything."

Vickie pointed to me with an imperious finger. "Xavier, watch the bags. I'm going to help Samantha choose a phone."

"Just go already," I said. I was exhausted, and the sooner we could get this farce over the sooner I could go home.

I sat down where Vickie had been camped out, and she and Samantha happily headed into V-Mobile. I wasn't quite sure how that was supposed to work; how was Samantha going to buy a phone without a parent to add her to their plan? Whatever, it was none of my business, and after my experience with the hoodlums there was no way I was sticking my neck out for a complete stranger, because it was obvious this whole day had been nothing but a string of manga coincidences.

The sexy older lady. The boobalicious elder schoolmate. Ugh, I hadn't really thought about it, but even before then I'd had a chance encounter with someone who could arguably be slotted into the "childhood friend" archetype.

And finally, though I was still loathe to admit it, the tsundere. Moreover, the twin-tailed, thigh-high wearing tsundere.

Tsundere is a portmanteau of two distinctly Japanese onomatopoeia phrases: tsun tsun (the sound of someone turning away in disgust) and dere dere (the sound of someone being lovey-dovey). The idea is that it describes a character who is initially hostile or dismissive, but who has a softer side once you get to know them. In practice, it's usually an incredibly annoying character who is utterly incapable of being honest about their feelings.

I honestly don't understand the appeal of tsundere characters, but they're so widespread that they obviously speak to some common desire in otaku or Japanese culture. Maybe the "she's only sweet to me" thing is a widely shared fantasy or something.

In any case, Samantha was a triple threat: tsundere, twin-tails, and thigh-high stockings meant she was basically an otaku wet dream personified. What I couldn't figure was why; it was like she was intentionally trying to play out a manga stereotype using a bunch of attributes that just don't occur in real life. Really puzzling. I'd probably have to just avoid her if I ran across her again, though, because one thing was glaringly obvious after today: I wasn't simply in a seinen rom-com.

No, I was in a seinen rom-com harem.