The morning classes were like a freight train; they were long, noisy and altogether boring, but at least they went by pretty fast. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t paying much attention to them anyway. Once I had the deal with the princess explained (she resumed her practice of ignoring me after that, by the way) I actually had a number of other things to consider, such as the future of my observations.
I hated to admit it, but my point of view was biased. Case in point, I automatically assumed that I was the center of this... well, whatever this was. I think I will stick to 'narrative'. Either way, the problem was the same: My perceptions colored my interpretations of things.
There was only one way I figured I could combat this: I needed a different perspective, a fresh one without my biases. For example, if there was a third, unspoiled observer to give input on the princess’ behavior, I would have realized her deal sooner and could have avoided a lot of awkward events.
Then there was the next set of question: Who, how and how deep?
First, the who part: I needed someone who wasn’t involved in the larger narrative. While I was sure Josh and company would be happy to help, if only out of bile fascination, using the targets of my observations as observers was a bit counter-productive.
Next, how: Exactly how was I supposed to break this subject? ‘Hey there, I think we are living in a fake world, would you like to help me uncover its mechanics?’… I would be lucky if they only thought I was crazy after saying something like that.
Finally, I had to decide ahead of time just how deep I would pull this person into this. I would get the best, most objective observations if I kept them mostly in the dark, but doing so greatly reduced the usefulness of said observations, not to mention it meant they could provide me with little on-the-field support. It was a sliding scale of accuracy versus utility.
I spent my entire morning pondering these things and I came up with the following: I needed a placeholder, one of the featureless background guys. It was best if my future helper was male, as it reduced the chances of them being pulled in by Josh’s harem protagonist magnetism. They also had to look as plain and unimportant as they come to make sure they weren’t involved in the narrative some other way. Last, but not least, I needed to have them at arm’s length, so a classmate was preferable.
With these criteria in mind, I made an account of all my classmates. There were twenty-seven of us in total. I didn’t know if that was a lot or not around here, but it didn’t really matter either. The gender-ratios were twelve males and fifteen females. Once I subtracted our little group, it left me with ten guys (plus twelve girls, but they were beside the point for now).
To both my joy and dismay, I found that aside of one fat guy the rest looked so similar to each other that I could hardly even tell them apart. On one hand, this meant I had a smorgasbord of generic sidekicks to choose from, but on the other, it also meant that the best I could do when picking one was random chance. I didn’t like that.
It didn’t seem like I had any other choice though. I spent all my breaks straining my ears to try and listen in on their conversations, but it didn’t work at all; they all kept talking about the exact same thing, sometimes even using the exact same words! It was all ‘Dude, did you watch the game last night?’ and ‘This movie is awesome, it has explosions and stuff!’. Truly riveting.
By the way, doing this actually almost got me in trouble with Angie when I wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying. Something about an animated show with giant robots and drills or something. It sounded silly.
But to get to the point, I was no closer to making a choice by the time lunch break rolled over. Maybe I should just give up and pick one at random after all; I thought? I was deep in pondering my choices when Josh patted me on the back.
“Hey there, wanna grab something?”
“Huh?” I looked up him in a daze before I shook it away. “For lunch? In the cafeteria?”
“Duh, where else? Unless you brought a lunchbox, that is.”
The word involuntarily made me look that the princess and she flinched as our eyes met.
“T-That was a one-time thing, you hear me!”
“Oh well...” Josh shrugged. “The cafeteria it is then. I was always curious about caviar.”
“Whoa, whoa!” I raised my palm to stop him. “Are you planning to mooch off me again?” Josh just smiled mysteriously. I glanced back to the princess and suddenly got an idea. “Hey, princess?”
After the obligatory noise she gave me a death-glare and hissed, “Stop calling me that in public!”
“Whatever,” I brushed her off. “You wanted to invite us yesterday, right?”
“I...” Obviously put off-balance by my question she grasped for words for a few seconds. “Yes, but...”
“But we refused. That was rude.”
“Yes, we can agree on that,” The princess said once she found her conversational sea-legs.
“Is this another of your schemes?” Josh asked wearily at my side.
I whispered, “Pst! Just wait a moment; it’s going to be worth it.”
My friend stealthily rolled his eyes as I turned back to the princess and continued.
“How about we have Josh invite you this time around?”
“What?” The two of them spoke in perfect unison.
“It’s only fair,” I told them with a smile that was in no way sly or smug. “It should also be a good opportunity for you to learn about the cafeteria. Joshua over here is an expert.”
“But... But...” The princess protested with a hand raising a neatly wrapped box. “Look, I already have my lunch.”
With a frown of my own I leaned forward and whispered, “I am trying to help you, idiot! Stop being contrary!”
“I don’t need your help!” She hissed back, then after a moment she added, “And I am not an idiot.”
“Oh well, that’s a problem,” I told them while I stood up, and then in the blink of an eye a snatched the lunchbox out of the princess’ hand.
“Hey, what are you...!?” She protested while trying to grab after it, but she had no chance.
“As you so eloquently explained yesterday, we cannot have such a pricey lunchbox go to waste, so I will sacrifice myself for the greater good. You two can go and try your caviar knowing that your lunchbox is in good hands.”
“Wait a moment...” Josh tried to interrupt me, but by then I already had my wallet out and handed it to him.
“It’s on me. Have fun.” I winked at him and strode out of the classroom before the princess could shake off her stupor and lunge after me.