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== Chapter 3 ==
Izumi Sagiri. Thirteen years old. Hikikomori.
I'm a light novel ill.u.s.trator.
My penname is Eromangsensei. It comes from the name of an island.
On paper, Izumi Masamune is my brother. We started living together a few years back. For a lot of reasons, now, we are living in the same room.
By the way, Izumi Sagiri and Izumi Masamune are not siblings. I don't mean that as "we are not blood-related". I mean that I have never viewed Masamune as a brother.
When I was throwing a tantrum, he never got mad or angry with me. Every day, he made meals for me, and specifically cooked for my tastes. After I became a hikikomori, he is - a gentle guardian - a brother.
But I absolutely don't want to be his little sister. I don't want to call him "brother". When we are together, I don't want to be treated like a "sibling".
…That was what I wanted from the bottom of my heart. That is how I have always felt, ever since our first meeting.
— That's why you should act like a little sister.
Because there was a promise.
Because that's what that person wanted.
I can't do anything about it…so I have to call him brother against my will.
That…that's about it.
He said he likes me that most - Nii-san
He cared about me more than anyone else - Nii-san.
He wanted to be my family, to be my brother - Nii-san.
But, in my mind, I just called him…
"Masamune's days off", early morning of the second day.
After eating Elf-chan's meal (in my room, of course) I was drawing an ill.u.s.tration on my bed.
"Un ~ ♪ um ~ ♪"
I love drawing the most. Especially when I am drawing cute and erotic girls. So I hum while drawing. Other ill.u.s.trators probably do the same.
However, I'm not drawing a girl now —
It's not an ecchi ill.u.s.tration of a girl.
I put my drawing board down and glanced aside.
Masamune was sleeping in his bed. After he ate his meal, he immediately came back and slept.
Yesterday, he was complaining because he couldn't sleep anymore, but now he is sleeping soundly. Still, since his normal life style is so busy and he rarely gets a chance to sleep, I think it should be acceptable.
I smiled at his sleeping face.
"You should rest."
"Yeah, let me rest." The (should be) sleeping Masamune replied.
"Nii-san? You are awake?"
I asked. He opened his eyes, still barely awake.
"Kind of. I couldn't actually sleep - are you drawing something?"
"Eh? How did you…."
He shouldn't be able to see what I am doing on my bed from his spot.
"When you draw…If your mood is good, you will hum." He said happily.
"How, how could you know that…?"
"I've known it for a long time. Since you were humming just now, you must have been drawing a character you like."
I felt my face heat up in embarra.s.sment.
…My habit while drawing…he knew about it.
"Sagiri, didn't you just submit another ill.u.s.tration yesterday?"
"..It's not a work-related ill.u.s.tration."
My voice turned a bit sour.
Actually…I really want to get closer to him.
"So…it's just your hobby?"
"What did you draw?"
"…Want to know?"
"Yes I do. Can I take a look?"
"…What should I do then…?"
It was just a normal conversation, but I felt at ease.
I never thought I could be so relaxed while there was someone else in the room. Clearly, Masamune is a special case.
…No, no, I can't get side tracked. The ill.u.s.tration that I was working on can't be shown to Masamune. This character - is my "secret" that I couldn't tell him.
"Nii-san, is it okay for you to hold a conversation with me? Is it fine for you to not be sleeping?"
I changed the subject.
"I'm fine. I have spent the last few days in my room working, this is a good chance for us to relax and talk."
Good chance, really?
Those words kept echoing in my head.
— Yes, this might be a good chance.
I looked back at my drawing, still half-finished. Masamune was right. I'm living together with him - in the same house, same room. But we rarely interact with each other.
I got off my bed and lied down next to him. Masamune was clearly shocked.
I am so embarra.s.sed!
A boy, who is not my brother, is sleeping next to me - I think I am about to faint.
I hid my emotions and acted like I didn't notice his shock and said:
"Nii-san, do you want to…chat with me?"
"Yes, yes I do!"
"Nii-san is strange" I smiled slightly. You can call me the demon Sagiri
"…Actually…before we start, I have something to tell you."
I suddenly said in a serious tone.
"Sorry for troubling you."
"…Because I said 「 Don't push yourself 」, you were troubled…I already know that."
I'm just someone who does nothing to contribute to this household, yet I still added more pressure to him. What gives me the right to say that?
But I couldn't afford to not say it. I had no choice but to stop him
Because sometimes, people just disappear easily.
Hearing me say that, Masamune slowly shook his head:
"- Don't apologize. After the anime project was started, the additional workload made me happy. The more successful the work, the more happy I become. I saw so many new sides to things. If you and the others didn't stop me…I probably would have said it was 「 for our dream 」 and forced myself to work till I was dead."
He would never say that he was tired because his little sister keeps pressuring him. He probably never thought that in the first place.
Instead, he said:
"Thank you for worrying about me."
I couldn't look directly at him anymore.
Thank you for not forcing yourself.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for giving me a dream.
I could only mutter weakly. I'm aware that unless I say it clearly, he couldn't hear me.
Noticing that I was looking down, Masamune called to me.
"Nii-san, do you want to be a family with me?"
"Yes. I want to become your family: become real siblings."
"Is that so? So…"
I don't want that kind of relationship.
"In order for us to become a real family."
Thus, I gave him a fake smile:
"Do you want to have a little chat? About the past?"
"About the past?"
"Yes. I mean..before we meet. We can understand a lot about each other if we do."
"I see. Like how Sagiri doesn't like meat and enjoys drawing erotic ill.u.s.trations."
"Nii-san is a weirdo who still prefers snacks. You also have another ident.i.ty, which is Izumi Masamune-sensei."
"And your real ident.i.ty is Eromangsensei."
"I don't know anyone with that name!"
He keeps getting on my nerves!
"Anyway…" I returned to the original topic "I know a lot about you."
"I also know a lot about you."
"We know nothing about the time before we meet."
That isn't exactly the case for me, but there was a lot I didn't know.
"Tell me about your past, Nii-san."
"Sure. You must tell me about your past too."
We promised each other. Then…
"In order for us to become real siblings."
In order for us to not have that kind of relationship.
"Let's talk about the past."
Okay, "Before I met Sagiri" huh? What should I talk about…?"
"How about…when you were small; the first time you wrote a novel, Nii-san?"
"Of course I remember that. There was an 「incident 」that led to me becoming a writer."
"Ok, let me see…It was due to 「 a friend of mine from the Internet 」. It's a bit of a long story, but please be patient and listen till the end."
It happened about six years ago, when I was in my fifth year at the elementary school.
My mother had just pa.s.sed away, so my family's atmosphere was pretty down. Because of his job, father rarely stayed at home, so I became the key keeper.
"I'm home —"
I opened the front door. Greeting me was the silent entrance. I can laugh and talk about it now, but back then I hated it very much.
My mother, who used to tell me "Welcome home" wasn't there anymore. It was another confirmation that I'm the only one in the house now.
My heart hurt.
Even now, every time I open the front door, it scares me a bit.
Every day, after I finished my homework, I just sat in the living room alone by myself.
What should I do..
I knew that the situation wasn't good, but I didn't have any idea how to fix it - I didn't have any clue.
— What should I do — I have to do something!
Those thoughts kept running through my head.
There was no way that I could recover in just a few months, but back then, I didn't even realize that what I was feeling was "Mom isn't here anymore, so I'm sad".
Back then, I didn't focus on my Mom, but on my "living family members".
— I have to think of something. Ah, what should I do …
No matter how hard I thought, I couldn't get an answer.
Of course I couldn't. I couldn't even fully understand what troubled me, after all.
I put some hot water in the instant noodle cup that I bought on the way home while watching one of Mom's recordings.
When she was alive, Mom was a food a.n.a.lyst, so her explanations on television were always cheerful.
I ate the noodles and looked at my surroundings.
— Finished! Masamune! Come and have a taste!
It felt like I could hear her cheerful voice at any moment.
But the one who could fully control this kitchen wasn't with me anymore.
I said to the empty dining room.
Suddenly, I heard the front door open.
— He is here! Today he got off early!
I quickly stood up and rushed toward the entrance to greet my remaining family member.
When I arrived, my expression probably noticeably dropped.
In front of me wasn't my father.
My aunt, who I couldn't get along with. The "Ice Queen" who was so cold that it made people uncomfortable.
"Why…are you here."
"I'm here to supervise you Masamune. To see if you are being properly taken care of."
— Wha, what does she mean, supervise?
I went back to the living room with her, still confused. Only then I realized my mistake.
— c.r.a.p! Mom's recording is still playing!
Kyouksan didn't get along with my mother, so I'm afraid that she will get mad. So, I quickly turned the television off.
Of course, Kyouksan also saw what I did.
"…Masamune, just now…"
"Eh…ah, that is…."
The atmosphere was almost unbearable.
Before I could think of a way to reply, Kyouksan suddenly shifted her attention from me to my finished noodle cup.
"I knew it! Nii-san is letting you eat like that again! Even if he is busy, what a useless man he is!"
Back then, I really, really hated anyone who bad mouthed my parents. So I talked back to her. Not only did I straighten my back, I also glared as hard as I could.
"…Please don't bad mouth my father."
"Hm, I still have a lot to say. I can't accept it…he has always been so lazy ever since he was small: he always did housework half-heartedly. See, there is a child at home, but this room is so messed up -"
Kyouksan waved her hand, likely trying to show how lazy my father was. But despite what she said, this room is very clean.
"Oh? That's strange….this is cleaned up…"
"…I can do something as trivial as this."
I replied in anger. But that gave Kyouksan a pause.
"…You cleaned this room up?"
"Because Dad is busy…so I have to…do what I can…"
I said, looking down.
…Unlike me, Dad - Mom's death hurt him way more than me.
Because it had been a few month, we were now at a point where we could barely function again -but back then, the situation was pretty serious. Seeing my Dad like that, I told myself that "now isn't the time for me to be sad".
I - what have I done —
I knew that what I did couldn't fix the root of the problem. Even if I clean the house: did things that Mom did, that couldn't heal Dad's wound.
Still, there was no way I could do nothing. Even if I was aware that what I did was meaningless.
I felt so frustrated that I grit my teeth.
Kyouksan's terrifying voice came:
"…You don't have to worry about that."
"I'm not asking you to apologize."
I knew that she didn't approve of my actions or words. I didn't understand why, but back then I didn't try to find the answer. Because my family's situation was all I could think about.
The reason an "outsider" is angry - while I wouldn't say it's not important, it's certainly not high on my priority list. The "current me" can understand that Kyouksan, in her own clumsy way, was trying to help her nephew.
But back then, I couldn't understand.
I was about to cry. I could only hope that someone would save my family.
"Dad…he loved Mom a lot."
"I know." She replied immediately.
"Dad got hit hard. I want to help him, but I can't replace Mom…So I have to do what I can."
She said in an emotionless tone:
"Then, who will help you?"
"…I don't know."
I began to cry.
Her words. .h.i.t my weak spot.
Tears began to fall down my cheek.
Why did you say that? I don't care what happens to me, just please save Dad - that was all I could think of.
The "current me" understood that back then, that was the moment I let out the pain that I had been suppressing.
My head - which I was keeping low - felt "something" soft touch it.
Before I could understand what it was, the door opened again.
I looked up and saw that Dad had just come back, and Kyouksan was hastily pulling her hand back.
Dad walked towards us and cheerfully asked Kyouksan.
"Hey, what did you do to Masamune?"
"N…n….n….nothing…..nothing at all! Nothing!!"
Every time Kyouksan met Dad, her brother, it turned out this way.
She lost control of her emotions - then some small thing happened, she blushed, and then began to yell.
Totally the opposite of her usual cold expression.
Seeing that I was crying, Dad scolded Kyouksan.
"Don't make him cry."
"I didn't make him cry! It's just…."
Kyouksan cutely pouted, looked at Dad and me, and said in a low tone:
"After all these years, you are still an idiot, Nii-san."
"In your case, after all these years you are still so harsh."
Puff! Kyouksan's face immediately turned red.
Ignoring his little sister, Dad slowly sat down in front of me. His eyes met mine, and he said gently:
"Masamune, are you - lonely?"
I wondered what he was talking about. He is the one who is lonely, not me.
So I wiped away my tears, and told him:
"I'm not lonely! I'm fine!"
"But I don't understand what I should do for my family."
I don't know what I should do. I don't know what I should think.
But — I have to do something, I have to save Dad. My heart keeps telling me that.
Dad looked at me like he was thinking about something. Finally, he said.
"If you want your parent to be happy, it's simple."
He smiled, and put a hand on my head.
"As long as you live your life happily and with a smile, that's enough. We are happy as long as you are happy. Because we are family."
After a moment, I nodded too.
We returned to the locked room. Next to me, Sagiri was lying down, laughing.
"That way of thinking …is very like you."
"Is that so?"
"I can already guess what happened next. Your father probably wanted you to relax and live happily…but you couldn't, right?"
"Oh…Um..yeah….you could say that."
Back then, I tried to reach the "goal" that Dad gave me.
"Yeah, then I started doing my best to 「 live happily with a smile 」– and here I am."
"Haha, I knew it."
Sagiri laughed, full of herself. I nodded, and continued:
"So in order to find happiness, I tried a lot of things. Soccer, baseball, games, movies - all of them were interesting, but I didn't really find myself fascinated by them."
I even went on the Internet to search for "How to find a hobby" and "Life happiness".
"Back then, I saw those people who wrote web novels. I thought it looked interesting, so I gave it a try. Maybe it would work out, so -"
"So you were fascinated by it?"
"Yup. It was super interesting."
Sagiri laughed again. She felt less like a little sister and more like a big sister.
"Hm hm, I see."
"Like I said…I was fascinated by writing novels because of an 「 incident 」. It happened not long after I began writing web novels."
"Oh? An incident?"
Since she was laughing happily, I couldn't help but ask:
"What's with you today?"
"Ahaha, it's nothing."
"Ah, by the way, what were you doing back then?"
"I was refusing to go to school."
My jaw dropped.
That's right. When Masamune was beginning to write web novels —
I was in my second year at the elementary school. And I didn't go to school.
Frankly speaking, the reason was — Mom and Dad's divorce hit me hard.
Mom got the right to raise me, and we began living together in her apartment in Tokyo. That morning, I was making a fuss and covered myself with the blanket.
Someone knocked on the door.
"Sagiri ~ breakfast is ready ~"
Before I could reply, I heard the door open. Then with a *swoop*, my blanket was removed: my defense was broken.
I let out a "wah". But Mom said in surprise:
"Aren’t you going to be late for school?"
"…I don't want to school."
Mom used the remote control to turn on the light.
"Did something happen at school?"
I gave her my phone. Its wallpaper was visible for all to see. It was a picture of me, Mom and Dad.
Seeing that, Mom gave a strange, pained "ouch".
"After I came back from school…Papa hated me."
Mom got hit pretty hard. Her eyes turned into a ><>
Until my fourth year in elementary school, I still called my parents Papa and Mama.
"…So I don't want to go to school. If I do, then Mama will —"
Will hate me.
Back then, that was what I thought.
Mom gave me a hug. Then, with a bright tone, she said while looking directly into my eyes.
"Mama loves Sagiri the most."
"Also, Papa doesn't hate Sagiri, Papa hates me! Papa hates Mama! We are the adults; it's our fault! It's not Sagiri's fault!"
Her tone was cheerful, but sincere. So I asked a question:
"Why…does Papa hate Mama?"
Mama slammed her eyes shut. She looked like someone who was holding it in when they really had to go to the bathroom.
I can't tell her that - I could faintly hear her.
When faced with the question about "the reason for the divorce" from her daughter, Mama - suddenly said in a serious tone:
"When you get older, Mama will tell you!"
"…Uhh." I pouted "..Sorry, but I don't think I will go to school today."
Mama let me go back to bed and gently patted my head:
"…Until you are not scared anymore, I will stay with you."
Hearing this part of the story, Masamune interrupted:
"I don't mind if you don't answer my question…but what was the reason that your parents divorced?"
"My mother, she…."
"Father found out about her hobby of drawing erotic manga."
Masamune sighed and looked at the ceiling.
"I see…It's true that you can't give an answer like that to a small girl."
I think it's a very stupid reason…but for them, it was probably very important.
"My mother usually took care of drawing characters for children's games, so father seemed to know about an ill.u.s.trator's work too. Since he was a bit of neat freak, mother teasingly didn't tell him about her hobby. She thought 「 it will be okay 」, but turned out 「 it was not okay 」…"
"…After working in the anime industry, you will eventually get used to it. You will unknowingly think 「 this hobby is nothing, people could probably accept it 」. I understand why she thought so."
"So, father decided to give up."
"Anyway, Sagiri's mother is the first Eromangsensei."
Unlike other otaku, Masamune said while nodding.
"No no. It's not something erotic!"
"Maybe for you it's not. But your mother definitely used 「 Eromangsensei 」 as an erotic penname. You can cross check the information with Army."
"No it's not! Mother said it's just an island's name!"
"I don't think anyone would use an island's name as penname when drawing erotic ill.u.s.tration."
I understand that too, but please don't dig anymore!
"Any…anyway….so after my parents divorced…there was a time that I didn't go to school."
"There was a time? So after that you did go back to school?"
"Yes. Because of an 「incident 」, I went back to my elementary school."
"….We will talk about it later."
I hope that one day, I can go outside. That's my honest wish. Go to school like a normal girl…then…go on a date….
The one who woke me up from my day dreaming was Masamune.
"So, Sagiri…what's this 「 incident 」 that you spoke of?"
"That…is a secret."
"Hey, you can't answer like that. Aren't we trying to get closer by talking about our past?"
"How about you go first? After you began to write web novels - the 「incident」 that made you get totally into writing?"
"Can't we start with you?"
"No…talking about it…is embarra.s.sing..you first."
"I am embarra.s.sed too — ! Alright alright, I will go first!"
After I started reading web novels, it wasn't long before I began writing. I had lots of free time after school anyway.
I spent about six days reading everything I could - maybe about a hundred web novels in total - then I thought "it looks interesting, I should write one too" and decided to give it a try.
There were several parts that I thought were "interesting":
"Writing about a character that I like would be interesting."
"Writing a story that I like would be interesting."
"If everyone can read my story, it would be interesting."
"I think that talking with my readers would be interesting."
Those were all reasons for me.
I can honestly say that after reading so many web novels, I did arrogantly think that "I could write something like that too", "If that was me, I could write something better" or "That guy writes so slowly, he should let people read more every time."
The truth is, those arrogant thoughts were somewhat correct. Because I became a professional writer in a short amount of time, Izumi Masamune didn't encounter many problems. The worst I had to endure was being anxious because I didn't know if anyone read my work.
In short, I was getting full of myself.
This "game" is more interesting than I thought. It was easier than I thought.
But after I made my debut and became a professional writer, those naïve thoughts were ruthlessly crushed by cruel reality. I already told you about it during my conversation with Murama.s.senpai, so allow me to skip it here.
Anyway, the conclusion is this:
After I became a professional writer, until I was crushed by Senjyu Muramasa - the writer Izumi Masamune was getting overconfident.
Compared to today, back then I was younger, more hot-blooded, and totally writing novels just for fun.
The reason I could continue working like that…wasn't because I was talented. Back then, the reason I was so confident and could "write for fun" - was because of a certain 「 incident 」.
It happened when I began to write my "first novel"
I didn't have a computer, so I wrote my web novel on my cell phone. Finished the first paragraph, sent it to my editor. Finished the second paragraph, sent it to my editor….that's how I wrote my first novel.
I began to write on Sunday morning, but things were going well. At noon, I had sent more than 40 paragraphs.
"Ahaha….it was my first time writing a novel, so I couldn't help it that most of them were bad…."
Thinking back about that time made me smile.
"But it was fun. Because I could write what I wanted!"
"You mean 「 The Adventure of the Hero Masamune 」, right? A fantasy adventure in another world…I read it too."
"Forget about it immediately! Right now!"
I was full of confidence about it….in the past. But now I'd rather die than let anyone see it. As a fellow creator, she should understand my feelings.
Sagiri got out from under her blanket and began to focus on my old shame:
"I remember that the Hero Masamune had a special skill."
"Wait a sec, Sagiri! Don't use that skill with the wii controller!!"
Sagiri happily waved the wii controller above her head <= the="" same="" way="" the="" hero="" used="" to="" focus="" his="" power.="" then="" with="" an="" unusually="" mighty="" shout,="" she="" swung="" it="">
"Yahhhhhhh!!!! Lighting G.o.d Destruction Blade!"
This special skill is very effective against me! Just last year, Murama.s.senpai used it against me.
Taking a direct hit from my dark history, I fell down on the floor.
"You are terrible! Sagiri, your personality is the worst!"
"Hahaha - Nii-san, it's very impolite to say that about your reader!"
"Even my old readers wouldn't think highly of it if they read it again now."
"Ahaha - no way - these are very good memories."
"Thank you so much!"
But Sagiri wasn't wrong.
I'd die of embarra.s.sment if I read that novel again. This is my dark history, but it is still my first novel.
"The Adventure of the Hero Masamune" lasted 210 chapters in total.
After I finished writing, I returned to my room and stretched my tired body.
"Ahhh ~~ it feel so good."
Since I wrote with my cell phone, my fingers really hurt. But that was a part of my accomplishment, so I didn't find it uncomfortable.
"Ouch ouch ouch…it hurts…d.a.m.n…"
"Finishing writing a novel" - I think it is the best feeling in life. In Yamada Elf-sensei's words, you get to "See the results immediately."
You guys might not understand what that means, so allow me to explain.
Every time you finish a big project like a novel, you will grow up. Elf said that it was similar to a game, when you see the results immediately. Like how you see your experience bar or your level go up - just like that.
I understand that she was joking, but the meaning behind it was clear. Work, activities, novels…I believe that it's possible to see your own development immediately.
"Finishing writing a novel".
"Publishing the novel"
"Receiving the reader's feedback"
Those are the times when I develop myself. I strongly believe that as long as I can do those actions, I can level up.
During those days, as Elf would say, I was writing for the sake of writing.
While I was filled with a comfortable feeling of accomplishment and weariness…
A new email. It came to my email address that I used to send my novel to the web novel site.
Its subject line read "Congratulations on your finished novel!"
I immediately woke up.
With trembling fingers, I scrolled down to read the content.
It was very interesting. I even drew the Hero Masamune!
There was an attachment. It was a drawing of "The Hero Masamune"
It wasn't a very good drawing…but it was a correct drawing nevertheless. Just a simple, pencil-drawn drawing
But somehow, that ill.u.s.tration…
It moved my heart….
I jumped up and down on the bed. Then, I started rolling back and forth.
My sadness was wiped away when I was writing. I wasn't the pitiful child who was sad because his mom just pa.s.sed away.
I was the happiest novelist - in the world.
Yeahhhhhhh!! I didn't even really know why, but I was happy.
I was so happy that I thought I should share it with others, so I rushed to the living room to find my father. He was probably very surprised, since as the only child, after Mom pa.s.sed away, I always looked so sad.
I slammed the door opened and said in a loud tone, totally different from my usual one:
"I want to become a professional novelist!"
On the sofa, my father looked at me with shock in his eyes and his jaw hanging open. Even though his son just said something he couldn't understand, he said:
"What a surprise! What happened?"
Hearing my father's question, I said seriously:
"I found out! Actually, I am….a genius."
*Clap clap clap* — If this was a manga, then a BGM like that would appear.
Now thinking back, I doubt there would be any student that is that foolish.
"I'm a genius at writing novels, so I want to become a professional novelist so that I can earn a lot of money! I'm serious!"
Back then, I was indeed serious. Super serious. If someone teased me about it, I would be hurt deeply.
So, when his elementary school-aged son said that, what was my father's reaction?
He broke into laughter.
"Kuh! Kuh! Ah…ahahahaha! What are you talking about ? Ahahahaha!"
He laughed his a.s.sed off. He laughed so hard that he cried. He laughed at his son's - my - dream.
What a horrible father.
"Why are you laughing —"
Any other elementary school kid would get mad if someone laughed at their dream, right?
So I blushed and yelled as loud as I could, while my father tried to apologize.
"Ah, sorry sorry, I couldn't help it."
"What do you mean you couldn't help it? Don't apologize and laugh at the same time! Agggrh!!"
"When I was about your age, I heard something similar."
— Tetsu-chan! I want to become a professional chef!
— What? What are you talking about?
— Fufufu, I found out…actually, I am a genius!
"It was from your mother."
"Of course I would laugh. Hahaha, I never expected that both you and your mother would say the same thing to me!"
I heard him cry. Was he crying? Or laughing? Or both?
"Sorry, Masamune. Don't cry."
"You too, father."
"Ahaha, I'm not crying."
He wiped his face with his sleeves, and then said:
"Right…you wait here for a bit."
He went and opened the cardboard box that was next to the sofa and took the newest laptop out.
"It just arrived…"
Then, he handed it to me.
"It's for you."
"You need something like this to become a professional novelist, correct?" He said with a faint smile
At that moment, I heard the words I wanted to hear most from the person I wanted to impress the most.
I held the laptop close.
And after that - Izumi Masamune became a professional novelist. With the precious laptop he received from his father, he wrote many other novels.
"And …that's the 「incident」 that led to Izumi Masamune being fascinated with writing novels."
Masamune finished his story.
For a specific reason - I couldn't bring myself to look at him anymore.
"…Is…is that so."
His 「incident 」 that he spoke of was almost exactly what I expected. But when he talked about it, combined with his pure feelings, it had an enormous impact on me.
"The first time I wrote a novel, and the first time someone said it was interesting. That person also drew my character, drew an ill.u.s.tration. That made me very happy…so much so that I decided to become a professional writer."
What happened back then - what he was thinking back then - all of it directly entered my heart.
I looked down, trying to hide my face. It was getting hotter.
"…So…so…you felt happy…right…"
Masamune laughed happily, like he was remembering the good old days.
"「That person 」 was the first reader who emailed me, 「that person 」 was the first person who drew an ill.u.s.tration for me…although we only knew each other online… we were friends."
Masamune looked off into the distance, thinking about the past. I secretly took a look at him…
My face was still so hot. My heart was racing.
…This is not good.
He woke up from his memories and turned to me:
"That was my story. Now it's your turn Sagiri - tell me about your 「incident 」."
"Sure. Um…I will tell you then. I became a hikikomori when I was small, but there was an 「incident 」 that made me want to start practicing drawing, and made me want to go back to school."
"Um…then it must be a very important 「 incident 」"
"Yes…." I nodded.
"You were fascinated by writing because 「 you met your first reader 」 — correct?"
"…I could finish elementary school because 「I met Nii-san 」."
"…I started practicing drawing because 「I met Nii-san 」."
"…What…do you mean?"
"…You and I…have met each other before."
Masamune's eyes widened, his body froze in place.
His expression told me that he was thinking "My little sister just told me something very important."
I think it's time. Time for me to tell him my "secret" that I had been hiding from him.
I took a deep breath, and then showed Masamune the ill.u.s.tration that I had drawn just now.
"Sa..Sagiri…this …this ill.u.s.tration is…"
It was a drawing of The Hero Masamune.
It was a clumsy drawing, but it helped to tell him about "my secret".
"The first reader of your novel, the person who drew that ill.u.s.tration…"
"…Could, could it be -"
The first time I drew an ill.u.s.tration for Izumi Masamune wasn't for his debut novel "The Black Sword". It was two years before that. It was before Izumi Masamune made his debut: When he finished his first web novel "The Hero Masamune".
I was already a hikikomori back then, and one of my hobbies was reading web novels to kill time (it was also a way for me to reduce the amount of time spent talking with my mother)
However, I wasn't a dedicated reader. If I found something a bit boring, I'd drop it and find another novel.
It was just another day when I was surfing the Internet for a web novel to read.
I had already finished some top-rated web novels, so I was patiently looking for another interesting one - people called that "excavation".
There are many kinds of "excavation", and while I do want to describe my own way, it would take too long. All I will say is that I didn't look from top to the bottom in the daily ratings.
By the way, from my bed, I could see my mother working in the next room.
Sometimes, she turned towards me and tried to get my attention.
"Sagiri ~ see, see ~ this character is cute, right? This is Mama's job. I have ~ many ~ names ~"
On the board that my mother was showing me, there was an ill.u.s.tration of an animal.
Sometimes it was a rabbit, sometimes it was a bear. They looked realistic and cute, so viewers must like them.
At that time I didn't know, but they were probably ill.u.s.trations for a very famous anime. When I saw those beautiful ill.u.s.trations, I said in a depressed tone:
"Oh ~ you are totally not interested ~"
"…Ah..Sagiri, do you like drawing?"
"Yes, I do."
"Then how about this: Mama will seriously teach you how to draw? Can I?"
I always feel regret when I think back to those times.
That was my att.i.tude towards my mother and drawing in general back then. Because when she was drawing, my mother - she didn't look like she was having fun. Whenever she drew she looked bored.
Since I didn't go to school, mother worked next to me. Thus, I saw many of the ugly sides of this job.
That day, she was trying to act cool, but another day she might cry "Oh ~ I can't continue like this anymore." I heard it all.
"I really want to draw something that is not erotic ~~ I wanted to open a shop to let other people see my ill.u.s.trations, to praise me ~~ oh my hip hurts so much ~ my neck hurts so much ~~ I want to rest ~~~~~~"
— I even saw her at her worst. I don't think this was something a mother should have shown her elementary aged daughter.
Indeed I liked drawing, but I didn't have any intention of learning how to draw or becoming a professional ill.u.s.trator.
I was afraid of going to school, but playing at home doing nothing made me feel bad. My mother was so troublesome, there was nothing fun ~ ~ ah ~~
Everyone understands my laziness, right?
It troubled me so much…
Now thinking back, at that time I liked to spoil myself. I felt so lazy that I didn't want to do anything. But everyone had a time like that too, right?
Anyway, in the morning, all I did was check the internet while rolling around in my bed.
That day, I was excavating online. Since I saw mother's wonderful anime drawings, my head was filled with thoughts of fantasy. So I focused my search on isekai-type novels.
After some time, I found another novel. Its name was "The Adventure of the Hero Masamune".
There weren't any ratings or reviews about it yet. A totally new novel.
The author's name was Izumi Masamune.
I laughed even before I started reading.
— Wow…the author's name and the main character's name was the same.
That was the reason that I decided to give it another look. Because it was strange. Why was it strange? Because the author clearly didn't purposefully write it to troll someone.
In this case - the author turned himself into the main character and happily wrote this story.
I began to read and immediately understood the setting. It was a world of swords and magic. A very basic fantasy setting.
The writing was so clumsy. Clearly this was the author's first attempt at writing something. Normally I would drop it after reading a few pages.
"Hm ~ not very interesting…"
I only needed a few minutes to read the first chapter. I was about to go back to the main page when the website informed me that there was a link to the second chapter.
It seemed that while I was reading the first chapter, the author published the second chapter
…It's not something all that strange. Maybe it's just a coincidence.
A few minutes later…as I finished the second chapter, the website informed me that there was a link to the third chapter.
In other words, this author Izumi Masamune, who wrote this terrible web novel - in just the few minutes it took me to read a chapter, had written an entire new one.
I still didn't think much about it, but I did think that "This novel, there is something strange about it"
After I finished the fourth chapter, the fifth chapter was ready.
After I finished the fifth chapter, the sixth chapter was ready.
After I finished the sixth chapter, the seventh chapter was ready.
After I finished the seventh chapter, the eighth chapter was ready.
After I finished the eighth chapter, the ninth chapter was ready.
After I finished the ninth chapter, the tenth chapter was ready.
"Um? Ha? Eh?"
Now, any normal web novel reader would have already noticed that "something is strange".
I was interested too, but not because of the novel. So I typed this into the comments section:
"Do you already have a finished ma.n.u.script?"
Izumi Masamune replied in less than ten seconds:
"What is a ma.n.u.script?"
I replied back to him in the same section. Then our conversation continued:
"When did you write this novel?"
"All ten chapters? All of them?"
"Yes. I wrote and uploaded them immediately. If possible, please tell me what you think."
After reading Izumi Masamune's replies, I blinked. Then I rubbed my eyes, and read it again.
I was so surprised that I got gooseb.u.mps —
Now, the website had already told me that this novel had sixteen chapters in total. There was no more need for an explanation. That was just how it was.
"….What's with this guy,"
My jaw dropped. I muttered to myself
Then I continued reading, half because I found it interesting, half because I thought it was so strange.
His writing was still so awful. But somehow, it seemed like he was very happy.
One hour. And two. But he still updated it very quickly.
And finally I got used to the story…I think it…slowly become interesting. The Hero Masamune who used to be at level one now can fight head on against a dragon.
"What is with this guy…ha ha…ha ha…"
I unknowingly got fascinated by it. I carefully read this clumsy web novel.
"Sagiri? Sagiri, what are you doing? Come see how cool Mama is ~"
There was an interruption. Since I was reading, I turned to my mother in annoyance:
"…Reading a web novel."
"Ah! Mama's work is beaten by web novel!"
During times like these, my mother was so troublesome.
"Is it good?"
"No, it isn't." I replied honestly. "But it's becoming interesting."
Same day, 16:30 —
"The Adventure of the Hero Masamune" already had 105 chapters in total.
— Without a break, he kept writing from morning till now.
Writing a comment or rating his novel…I was the only person who did both. Some people came and read a chapter or two, but they didn't stay. There was no one else but the two of us left.
I was impressed; then it became surprising.
"…I'm the only reader…why does he…keep writing?"
I wasn't expecting an answer, but it came nevertheless.
"Because it's fun?" Mother said.
Unexpectedly, I also fully agreed with her opinion - so I stared at her in disbelief
"Even if no one views it, creating something is very fun. It is more fun if someone views your work. And if someone praises your work then it's even better. That's how creating things works."
She said gently with a smile.
"Hm hm, so it's the same for you, Mama…."
"You say your back hurts and that you need rest, and that you don't want to work anymore. But then you still return to the drawing table. Is that why?"
"…Sa, Sagiri….W, w, why do you know Mama's secrets?"
She began to sweat.
"Because when I take a nap at noon, you are working nearby…"
I can hear her before I actually sleep. Sometimes I even see her acting that way.
I even saw her crying that "— My family found out that I draw erotic mangaaaaa!!!"
Could it be that her penname…No, it's impossible…
She said it's an island's name.
Back to the main topic, I told my (shaken) mother this:
"I know…that Mama always has fun when you draw girls"
In a small corner of the Internet, Eromangsensei was secretly broadcasting a live steam.
Thanks to the recordings, I confirmed her ident.i.ty after a few years of watching them.
— Mother wasn't with me anymore…There was a time when I couldn't draw
— I couldn't even leave my room…I didn't know what to do.
—- Then, I saw another ill.u.s.trator's live steam.
— That person was having a conversation with everyone while happily drawing.
— After he finished, he immediately asked the viewers for their opinions…I felt so jealous…
—- I…wanted to be like that.
"I see. You found out." Mother laughed in embarra.s.sment.
She must be thinking that…
"Even my daughter found out that I draw erotic ill.u.s.tration… So what! I don't care, but I do want to know what she thinks!"
She must be thinking that, but what she said was:
"…Ah, yes. So I understand what that kind of person is like."
She slowly patted my head and gave me a coloured pencil.
"Do you want to tell 「that person 」?"
"Tell him 「I like reading your novel 」. He will be very happy. "
I looked at my mother, then at the novel "The Adventure of the Hero Masamune" on my cell phone.
Then, I took her coloured pencil.
That night, I sent an email to Izumi Masamune-sensei.
I even drew the Hero Masamune!
It was an email from a reader, together with a badly drawn ill.u.s.tration.
"I became your 「 first reader 」 — that was my 「 incident 」"
I told him that while looking directly in Masamune's eyes. Hearing my story, he was stunned — maybe it surprised him too much.
It took a while for him to continue speaking again:
"You…Sagiri…are my…first reader."
"….Yes." I nodded.
"….Is this a joke? Because …. 「 that person 」 is an…older….male…"
Back then, when we communicated, we didn't use our nicknames. Both of us just called each other "you".
Based on what I have heard, it seemed like he referred to me as "that person".
"That's right. Back then, that was what I pretended to be."
"But it wasn't an older person….just a second year elementary school kid."
Masamune held his head in his hands. I felt a bit uncomfortable seeing him like that. Maybe I broke "that person's impression" in his mind.
"….Do, do you need some evidence?"
"I remember…everything. All the things we talked about…back then."
It was the winter after we met online.
In the morning…I didn't go to school, so I looked at the scene outside my apartment's window.
Outside, I could see some children going to school. Everyone was talking happily while they walked. On the other hand…my school bags were still just sitting here.
They had sat here for more than half a year.
After I became a hikikomori, every morning was so boring. I knew that I could fix it if I just went to school….but it didn't change the fact that I didn't want to go.
And, the longer I didn't go to school… the harder it became for me to go again.
"Ha…." I sighed tiredly. Suddenly —
"Ping!" An email arrived on my cell phone. It came from "Izumi Masamune".
"Hey ~ Have you read my new story?"
He was so full of himself. Every time I read his emails, I think of a small puppy trying to get a reaction from its owner.
"Pfff….I can't take it anymore.." I laughed, then replied "Not yet! I just got out of bed."
"Eh? You were sleeping? Could it be…that you are a NEET?"
How rude! I became worried. "Er…what should I say…."
"No! I'm a university student!"
"Eh? You are an adult?"
"Yes! How old are you?"
"Eleven years old!"
He is older than me…I thought he was like my younger brother or something.
That was what happened.
Since I pretended to be an older male in the beginning, I couldn't bring myself to tell him that I was actually younger than him. Thus, I could only keep pretending to be an older brother to the boy named Izumi Masamune.
We had a lot of conversations:
"I have a new ill.u.s.tration!"
"Really! Thank you! Wow! Can I put it on the site with my story?"
"You can, but my drawing is not that great."
"It's fine ~ I like it~"
"Is that so? Then I will draw some more for you. Be sure to thank me."
"By the way, I don't think anyone reads your stories aside from me."
"You don't have to tell me that! Besides, recently the reader count has increased!"
"Eh? Is it because of my ill.u.s.trations?"
"It's because my story is interesting!"
No matter if it was spring or summer, I couldn't go to school - everyday was so boring. During those days, my only happiness was chatting with Izumi Masamune.
It was because of his influence that I could go back to school again.
That day, it was so hot. My home's air conditioner broke down so it felt horrible.
"Sagiri ~ it'd be cooler at school."
My mother - wearing a shameless outfit that included only her bra and panties - told me in a dying tone.
"…I'm not going. It's better to endure this heat."
"You are so stubborn." She lay down on the table again.
"It's really so hot."
Then, she slowly raised her tablet and showed me the ill.u.s.tration that she was working on.
"Neh, Sagiri ~ it's so hot, so please give Mama praise."
I said in an I-understand-everything tone:
"That will not make people want to lick panties."
"Where did you learn that from!?"
I pointed my finger at her.
Back then, I was slowly affected by her. Mother — no, Eromangsensei is very good at changing the subject.
"Oh right ~ by the way, recently Sagiri was trying to draw, right. Do you need Mama to teach you?"
She looked disappointed, and then she fell back on the table again
I rejected her proposal of "Do you need me to teach you how to draw". But unlike the last time, I wasn't so sure anymore. Because…recently I have been drawing a lot for Izumi Masamune, so I slowly wanted to get better at drawing.
Izumi Sagiri, third year elementary school student - only received some basic training in drawing from her mother. Her drawing skills were only as good as a normal school student.
But even though my drawing wasn't that good, Izumi Masamune still happily accepted it and boasted to everyone. That made me happy. I wanted to draw something better for him.
That was what I thought. Before I knew it, I had already sent him an email.
"Why do you want to write?"
"Why do you ask?"
"You don't need to know. Just answer me."
He paused for a long time; then finally replied:
"I only have my father now."
…Same as me.
I don't have my father…just like Izumi Masamune doesn't have his mother anymore.
I thought - we were similar.
But just when I thought that, he said something that totally caught me off-guard
"Someone will be worried if I'm not happy. So I had to find something that makes me happy."
That's why - I began to write.
— Him and I…we were totally different!
I looked at my mother, who was lying down.
I….made my mother worry…and I don't go to school. Yet he….
I felt so ashamed of myself that I tried to get back at him:
"So dark. Do you even find it interesting now?"
"I do. Because you are reading my story."
— I was shaken to the core.
"Because your ill.u.s.trations made me happy enough to write more."
"Is that so?"
I kicked my legs up and down.
— My face felt so hot.
And then, starting the next day…I changed.
Early that morning, when mother saw me take the bag out of my room, she was so shocked that her eyes almost jumped out of their sockets.
"Wah! Sagiri is going to school!"
"So, …do you believe me now?"
"Yes, I do…" Masamune nodded. "I believe you. You are - 「 that person 」."
"Yes - 「 We finally meet, Izumi-sensei 」."
When I said that, he looked so happy that he was about to cry.
"Haha….now thinking back, when you are in Eromangsensei mode, the way you talk is the same as that person. Why didn't I notice until now?"
"Because…I'm a girl… and small…"
"You are right. That is one of the reasons….besides; ever since we met. Eromangsensei's drawing has been really good."
That person's ill.u.s.trations were horrible - that was what Masamune implied.
"You are rude! I practiced a lot! I became an ill.u.s.trator, didn't I? Did you used to be bad at writing?"
"When you were talking about the past, you said many times that my writing was horrible!"
"Nii-san's writing was bad. Very bad!"
"But you said it was interesting!"
"Interesting, yes! But bad!"
"You said it again! Ah, d.a.m.n, we even had a similar conversation back then…you really are that person."
I could tell that Masamune is feeling conflicted now.
"You really are…what now…I…don't know how I should act anymore."
"You can just treat me like usual. I'm still Sagiri."
"I see. But I still don't think I get it."
"Did I let you down?"
"Your first reader … 「 that person 」…is me. Are you disappointed?"
"How should I put it…I am confused, sure, but…I'm happy to meet you. I don't understand why you had to hide that…but I'm not disappointed!"
"Why did you have to hide it? You could have told me directly - back when you began working with me as Eromangsensei."
"Because of our promise."
Masamune was usually slow, but not this time.
"Promise…You mean that?"
— You always bring me a dream.
"Do you remember…the 「first dream 」that you brought me?"
"Of course I do."
That was the day when I - Izumi Masamune - graduated from elementary school. After the graduation ceremony was over, I took the diploma with me toward a convenience store together with my father.
"Okay, Masamune. Where is your flash drive?"
I printed my ma.n.u.script with the Convenience store's printer. That was the ma.n.u.script I decided to send in to take part in a contest.
With a series of *clicks* and *clangs*, my story was being printed. It was the first attempt by Izumi Masamune to become a professional writer.
I looked on in amazement. On the other hand, my father seemed to be taken aback by how long my ma.n.u.script was.
"…Um…why is it so long?"
Some time pa.s.sed… then, with a *ding*, the printer gave a warning before stopping.
"Ah, it's out of ink - Father! Help me call someone here!"
And so —
I put the finished ma.n.u.script into a package and wrote the name on the cover. Now, it's ready.
We left the convenience store and began to walk towards the post office. We talked a lot on the way, seeing as this was a rare chance for us to do so, considering that my father was so busy recently.
"Izumi-sensei, don't you think that your ma.n.u.script is too long?"
My father asked in teasing tone. I answered with confidence:
"Fufufu, this is a genius's novel! I bet after seeing that I sent them so much, the editor will be very happy!"
"Pff, ahaha! Right right - why don't you give me half of it? It looks heavy."
"No no, I want to hold it by myself. I - I'm no longer an elementary school student, I will be a professional writer."
Don't treat me like a kid - that was what I was trying to say.
"..Haha, you are so confident. But maybe it will become true…I hope so." He said in a quiet tone.
"Of course ~ it will!" I replied innocently.
We arrived at the post office and I gave the ma.n.u.script to the worker there.
Both she and I were laughing.
After leaving the post office, I raised my now free hands up in the air:
"Ah ~ I sent it out ~ I sent it out!!"
"Now it's time to wait for the result. How is this, Masamune: In order to celebrate your graduation, do you want me to treat you to a meal?"
"Wonderful! Ah, wait a second! There is something I have to do!"
"I have to tell my friend about this."
"—Is that so? Then go."
I left and ran to somewhere where I couldn't see my father anymore. Then, I took my cell phone out.
Why did I decide to send the ma.n.u.script out today? Because I wanted to take a step towards my goal on the day I graduated, when I was in a good mood.
I felt even more nervous than the moment I received my graduation paper.
"Let's do it!"
I sent a short email to my important friend, who I didn't even know the face of.
"Do you like drawing?"
I received that mail on the same day as my graduation day. Not my elementary school graduation day, though.
"I think he is in grade six or so. He is probably attending his graduation."
I was thinking about my friend, who I didn't even know the appearance of.
I was walking alone amidst the flying cherry blossoms because I don't have any friends who are close enough to talk to. I don't really mind it, but seeing some groups chatting amongst themselves made me felt a bit lonely.
— I really am not suited for school
I sighed. Suddenly —
"Do you like drawing?"
Izumi Masamune sent me a strange email.
My previous mood slowly disappeared. What's going on?
I stopped at a nearby tree and emailed him back:
"Why are you asking so suddenly?"
"It's not important. Just answer me."
"Really…what is he talking about…"
I don't really get it, but I answered truthfully.
Then, with some embarra.s.sment…I sent another email.
"Because of you, I'm interested in it."
"That's good then."
"I'm going to become a professional novelist."
"….What is he talking about?" I muttered to myself.
He made that announcement so suddenly that I couldn't do anything else. I asked again if he is serious or not.
"Your writing is horrible; don't get so full of yourself."
"Didn't you say that my story is interesting?"
"It's interesting, but you aren't at the level of a professional novelist yet."
"I am! Because I'm a genius!"
"What the heck is this guy talking about!?" I nearly screamed to my phone.
I can't get him to understand! Is he…seriously trying to become a professional novelist? Right after he entered middle school?
I was still confused when another email arrived:
"I just submitted the ma.n.u.script to a contest."
"I wanted you to be the first person to know."
— This guy…is …serious.
"Phew…" I took a deep breath.
I was shaken more than I thought. If he became a professional novelist, then…what would our relationship become? I felt a hint of anxiety.
"I see. You are serious."
But his next email caused all of it to disappear.
"Yes! So you should become a professional ill.u.s.trator!"
What did he just say?
"Then you can draw my characters for me!"
"He…he….I can't believe he…."
"Cut the c.r.a.p, you brat!" I emailed him back like an adult.
The truth is, age wasn't a factor here. I just told myself that I am his elder brother and he is my younger brother. All of our memories that we shared together…began to play back in my mind.
The day I found "The Adventure of the Hero Masamune" and began to read it.
I saw how unbelievably fast he updated it and couldn't stop myself from contacting him
My mother gave me a push and I drew something for him.
Then we began to talk with each other.
I read his stories, and told him what I thought. I also drew some ill.u.s.trations and told him what I was thinking when I made them.
Sometimes we had a small, trivial argument. Sometime we had a serious conversation. Sometimes I was affected by him. Sometimes it was the other way around.
When I read his stories, I forgot my loneliness. When I received his emails, my worries disappeared.
I - could go back to school.
Now, it has been a year.
Maybe he was thinking the same thing, that's why he sent that email.
"It has been a very fun year."
"…Same for me."
"I laughed a lot."
"Starting tomorrow, let's do something even more fun!"
Then, he told me about his dream.
"After becoming a professional novelist, I will write an even more interesting story for my readers, so that everyone can laugh happily every day!"
That was the reason he started writing - his dream for the future.
I felt like he was standing right in front of me when he made that invitation. My heart skipped a beat.
Back then, I didn't know what shook me up so much. But I replied in tears:
"You are just boasting. There is no telling if it will happen."
"I can do it. I promise. I'm a genius."
I bit my lip and held the phone firmly in my hand.
"I will not help you with my drawing."
"I will not send you another email. Don't try to contact me."
You asked why?
"Starting today, I will start training in how to draw. I will reach the dream that you just gave me."
I made a decision
"You want to write a novel together, laughing together? I'm not a genius, so I can't play with a kid."
After boasting myself, I felt worried. Now that I have decided, I HAVE TO do it
Since I told him that he's just a kid, the pressure on me increased. So, I don't have time to play anymore. If I want to reach that near-impossible dream, I have to try harder than him. Unless I'm more of an idiot than him, I can't make it.
"You… I will leave you in the dust. I will definitely not let you leave me behind!"
That was his reply.
"If you do, I will not write a novel ever again!"
Aren't you the one who made that promise?
"Next time we meet, each of us will take care of a job alone!"
"Yeah, next time we meet."
"Um! See you again!"
We were only having a conversation via email, but at that moment, it felt like we had a fist b.u.mp.
And then, it ended.
The emails that saved me would not arrive anymore.
It was so lonely. I thought so, but I was laughing.
He was so confident and proud. Just like how "I" acted.
I began to run. I already knew my destination - where my teacher works.
I returned to my apartment, quickly took my shoes off and rushed through the hallway.
With a loud *Thud*, I opened the door.
My mother - who was drawing - screamed loudly. She hastily tried to cover the screen and turned back to me with teary eyes:
"Wh, what is this? Sagiri?"
"I…teach me —–"
"Teach me how to draw"
And then….about a year later–
I became "Eromangsensei".
— Our story was over.
After we finished, there was a calm atmosphere in the locked room.
"…Back then, my dream began."
"Yeah, it was from back then."
We looked at each other and laughed.
We have been working with each other for four years now.
Although we only started to enjoy "happily living together" recently, we always tried to reach our dream.
"Let's reach our dream together."
"Of course." I nodded slowly.
I couldn't believe it myself. My old friend. My current partner. My little sister. The one I like. My savior
And Izumi Masamune's first reader.
"…So, you are all of that."
"Yes. It's been me all this time. Are you surprised?"
I smiled, then nodded firmly —
"Yeah, I really am."
I don't think it's a coincidence that Eromangsensei became Izumi Masamune's ill.u.s.trator. But it's probably a coincidence that Sagiri and I became siblings.
Ah, what a headache. Maybe I shouldn't over think it.
Our eyes met for a few seconds…before we both looked away.
We were acting like a pair of elementary school kids who liked each other. Sagiri muttered quietly in embarra.s.sment:
"Um…sorry for keeping it a secret."
"It's okay, we made a promise - ah, so we both took care of our part, right?"
"I think so too…Our novel is published, it's going to get an anime. And…"
"We met directly. We are having a conversation face-to-face…"
"…You are right." I nodded slowly.
This step…took us so long. Just talking face-to-face was so difficult.
But we made it.
It didn't matter if we did not boast about it.
"Although it took us four years after the debut… we can finally take care of our separate parts."
"Although it took us two years after becoming siblings in name… we can finally take care of our separate parts."
When I thought about my little sister, I never thought of those words "in name". So when Sagiri said it out, all I thought was "yeah, it wasn't exactly wrong".
"Can I…stop calling you Nii-san?"
She said with a smile. But tears were falling down from her face.
"Can I stop…being your little sister."
I didn't ask for her reason. We talked about our pasts in order to understand each other better.
"I told you a lot, didn't I? Then you must understand…that…I don't want to be your sibling."
Sagiri clenched her fist. She said quickly in a hoa.r.s.e tone:
"I, I want…I want….what I want to become, is not family —-"
I raised a hand and stopped her.
"You have listened to my story too, right? Then you must understand how much I wanted a family. No matter, no matter what."
Sagiri looked down in pain. But even so, this is not something that I could back off on.
I don't want to see my little sister sad. So, I have made my decision.
Maybe I will regret it later. But back then when I was a kid, I would have said without hesitation:
Who cares anyway?
Now, I need that courage.