• Ayumi Miku

Eromanga-Sensei Volume 9: Sagiri's New Married Life Chapter 3-4



Chapter 3:


It's been a few days since I started dating Sagiri. There have been changes at the Izumi residence.

First, Elf and Muramasa-senpai moved back to Elf's house and no longer live with us. And - surprisingly - they haven't come back once since then.

Because we had all been living together for a while, I felt a little lonely.

And also, about the fact that they haven't gotten involved on their own with us, Sagiri said:

"...Suspect."

She always seems to be on guard, but I think she's overthinking it.

Elf told me the deadline for her manuscript was near, and Senpai, she's probably busy with her work too. Since they helped a lot recently, I need to pay them appropriately.

That's what I thought.

Another change occurred with Kyouka-san.

After I started dating Sagiri I planned to tell her immediately, but -

"I'm sorry, Masamune. I will be out of the house for a few days -"

But she sent us that message before she could. Her reason was 'her job'.

What exactly does she do for a living? She never told me.

Anyway, for now, we were unable to tell her.

In other words, right now, it's just us and Makina-san at home. That is our situation.


But, one day, when the clock in the living room said it was 2 pm...

"Masamune-san, Masamune-san, Masamune-san, Masamune-san!!"

Makina shouted my name and ran inside.

Let me reintroduce her.

Aoi Makina - she is the scriptwriter who is working on our Sekaimo's anime.

Since she ate so much of Elf's delicious food, she became more and more a recently grown one. I don't mean her personality, of course.

"Makina-san"? What's wrong? I haven't seen you since morning -"

I took a handkerchief and walked over to her.

"Seems to me, you used the scales and realized the horrible reality, huh?"

"Yes, yes, I gained weight - No wait! I told you not to talk about the weight of a girl!"

"To tell you the truth, I really hope that your body and strength are not affected negatively due to living here, so can you lose some weight?"

"You're so straightforward...! You're both so cruel to me!"

She cried. Looks like she took a pretty big hit.

The truth is, even if she could be called grown-up, she wasn't fat.

I brought her back to the original subject while ignoring her protests.

"So, in that case, what's so terrible?"

"Springtime moods! Springtime moods!"

It was still summer, but Makina-san said something unexpected.

"Spring...is when Sekaimo goes on air."

"Yes! I told you there's an anime I want to win over with Sekaimo!"

She said so.

"But I hope you don't turn our work into your weapon to fight your opponent."

"I refuse! For me, my first priority is to see that girl cry in frustration."

Are you a child?

...Still, it doesn't matter.

It was a joke anyway. I already knew the purpose of Makina-san since I went to her apartment.

"I really don't care, as long as you do your best for our huge plan."

"I'll do it even if you don't tell me!"

She raised a spirit-filled fist.

Sagiri, the Director, Makina-san, the other members, and myself We are all working to make an anime.

We each have our own reasons.

You want to see your little sister smile. Another wants to beat her rival.

And maybe - there's someone who just wants to have a good result to show for it.

Each of us has our own dreams and desires. But we all want to make an interesting anime.

Because of that, even if we all live very different lives, we can still become trusted co-workers.

Even if everyone's goals are different, none of that matters.

We're all going to make the anime with whatever our motivation is.

That's what I thought.

"And so!"

Makina-san continued:

"Today, I went to see her! Even though I was between reporting and spying on her."

“Why?”

Elf, Muramasa-senpai, and I have everything ready now.

Makina-san responded:

"It's scary!"

Too short to understand. But if she's so restless...

"You mean 'looks nice'?"

"Yes! Much more than expected! We were talking while eating, and then she started bragging about her anime! She was gathering a bunch of talented team members! Um, her anime is Elf-chan's best-seller...err, its name is... explosion something?"

"The Flame of the Dark Elf?"

"Yes! That's the one! She's doing the anime in that novel!"

"Well - it looks like it's worth waiting for."

It'll probably be an interesting anime. The original novel is a famous series of comedy, now they're getting talented people to work, too.

They'll turn readers' imaginations into reality.

"Now I'm interested. I'm going to read her manga."

" She' s our enemy!"

Makina-san threw an Edmonds-style karate chop (*6) at my head.


(TL Note: *6: 6 Edmond Honda is a character from Street Fighter.)


"Ouch! What are you doing?"

"Don't flatter the work of the enemy!"

"She's your enemy, not mine."

I've said it before, the other novelists aren't really my enemies. It's true that we compete with each other, but my primary goal is 'my dream'. I won't get involved in an annoying contest with the others.

If someone like Elf or Muramasa-senpai is in my way to achieve my dream, then I will confront them.

In short, I hope that 'even my rival's work will be a success'. I want to read more interesting stories.

My opinion was totally opposite to Makina-san's.

"Ah ~ dammit ~ she seemed so proud of herself that it really bothered me ~~!! I have to do something about her director! If I could just stab her in the back...!"

My trusted partner was a complete scumbag. That's a shame.

Makina-san emitted a dark aura, looking up at me:

"The script was written by the original author herself, so it's super ~ interesting! All her members are famous, that makes me jealous!"

If even Makina-san said that, then they must be really talented at working on anime. A talented anime team added to the original author writing the script. I see. A strong opponent.

"She told me all the scripts were finished! Even though they plan to air it in the spring!"

"Is that fast?"

I'm not sure if that counts as fast or slow.

"Super ~~~~~ fast! I usually need until winter to write all my scripts."

"And that speed is considered..."

"Normal! That's a normal speed! Don't look at me with an 'It's because you work too slow' face!"

Even if you say winter - does that mean November or February? There's three months' difference in each case.

I could imagine what your answer would be... but I don't care.

Because...

"So, Masamune-san, I'm sorry, but I'll be staying with the company from now on! I have to beat her as a professional writer!"

She's motivated now.

Although she can't do it alone - no matter how hard she tries. But it's okay because she's not alone. She has partners there who will help her make an interesting anime.

"This is a good place. I have good meals, my room was cleaned daily. I have people who care about my daily needs..."

A strong response from Hikikomori.

Then she placed a hand on her chest and said in an unusual tone:

"And more importantly, this place gave me many inspirational moments. I have taken every tiny bit of material that came from the two of you. All I need now is to use them in a good way."

"Makina-san..."

"Hey, don't say something like 'see you later. I'll get lonely."

Makina-san turned around and was about to leave the room. I called out to her:

"Eahhhhhhhhhhh!!?????"

Makina-san jumped up in shock, she clearly did not expect that news. What a pity, she was about to make a stylish exit.

"Hey, did I scare you?"

"I almost died! What the hell? No, seriously, what the hell? What do you mean? Did you propose to Eromanga-sensei? You guys are getting married? That's totally different from the plan I heard! Tell me, tell me more!"

Makina-san was on fire from this news, she ran to me and grabbed me on the neck and demanding a response.

"Didn't you say you'd already gathered all the material you needed from the two of us?"

"Don't be mean! A sibling marriage would be very interesting! I'm even more turned on than at the time when my rival teased me!"

She had completely forgotten that she was about to make a great exit and pushed me for answers.

" I will answer your questions, but please let go of my neck!"

I spent the next 30 minutes telling Makina-san (who was excited) about what happened since I proposed to Sagiri.

Then, when she left for work she said with a smile:

"I never thought this would be my farewell gift... It's not just my victory... now I'm going to get this victory for both of you!"

We are in the same boat, but each of us has its own role to play.

"So I'm off! Make sure you tell me if there's any progress on your love story or if anything interesting happens!"


It's August now.

It's only eight months until Sekaimo's anime airs.

Inside the Locked Room, I told Sagiri about Kyouka-san and Makina-san being gone for a while.

"- Then, starting today, it'll just be you and me."

"I see... so we're... alone."

Sagiri said that under her hood. Even when she looks at me, she sometimes makes expressions that are hard to read. Her eyes were spinning, her face was turning red.

Considering her attitude, I think she felt a little lonely and - embarrassed? So, I decided to get rid of her loneliness first.

"Recently I was so lively here. All of us together, eating and talking. It would be lonely if they suddenly didn't come back anymore."

"...Um."

Sagiri nodded slightly. I tried to continue in a gentle tone:

"Still, it's okay. We'll just go back to the way we used to be. We were used to living alone, just the two of us."

"...Um...But."

This time she shook her head instead of nodding.

"But? What's wrong?"

"...We...are not like we used to be...ack...because...we're...dating..."

"...Ah."

Now I understand why Sagiri is acting strange.

She looks completely different. Her lips seem to be inviting me!

"This is the first time we'll be living together... since we became a couple."

“―――――”

I had a chill all over my body. I could feel all my blood rushing to my head.

I removed those abnormal thoughts by force and responded with a normal tone:

"Yes. That's right."

"Um... what do we do."

"What the -"

Are you asking me what to do? Are you asking me what to do? What do you want us to do? Am I thinking too hard?

"What... do you mean?"

"Since we are alone now, there are many more things we can do..."

Because that involvement was a little ecchi, I could only stand by and say nothing.

"...So, I want to try that."

"... And 'that' is?"

"...Practice!"

Sagiri clenched her fist and said with confidence.

"...Practice..."

What exactly do you want to practice while we're alone in this room? I waited for her answer, and I swallowed hard.

She said:

"Since we're alone, I want to... try... to get out of this room."

"Oh..."

"Trying to live a normal life...getting out..."

My evil thoughts are gone.

"So that's what you meant by 'practice'."

"Um, since it's only eight months until the anime airs... I want to practice... then..." She stopped for a moment. "And then, when our dream comes true, we'll go out together... outside."

"...Ha, ha..."

Ah, that really is - the biggest prize.

Although even going online is fun too, just the thought of going out with Sagiri to a hot spring, beach, or park made me happy.

Taking Sagiri out of her room and watching our anime in the living room That's our dream. What Sagiri suggested right now will happen sooner or later.

While I was concentrating on achieving our dream, Sagiri had already started planning ahead.

"Then let me think of something I want to spend time with you."

"Um! First, we need to make a successful anime."

"That's right."

We want to make an interesting anime. We want to watch it together. We want to be able to laugh without worrying. We want to forget all of our troubles.

That's how our dream began.

We did our best in making our anime for that purpose.

We will practice it.

That's how it is.

"So... how should I do it?"

Sagiri asked again. This time I did not misunderstand her.

"Let me see... asking you to 'get out' would be difficult... so how about starting with 'a normal lifestyle'?"

"Um."

Sagiri's eyes sparkled. Seeing how motivated she was, I raised a finger:

"First, come here."

I took Sagiri into the living room. Just seeing her slow walk down the hall, and how slowly she was coming down the stairs, made me want to cry.

"...What, what are you looking at?"

She kicked up a fuss in embarrassment. I said:

"...It's just, I'm so moved. I mean, to see you leave the room."

"Huh? But it's not like I'm some kind of special animal or anything. Didn't I go across the street for you once?"

"But that was a special case. When we were living together, you only came out in some very special cases."

She's never walked around the house as much as this before.

"...Now you can get out of your room - it's great." I sighed, my emotions were racing.

"Are you this happy?"

The sound the door made when it was opened made me almost unable to hear her.

We were standing face to face in the living room.

Let's practice living a 'normal lifestyle'."

"Sure!" said Sagiri full of energy. "What should I do?"

"For now let me see your own 'normal lifestyle'. You can act like I'm not here."

"Sure."

"Yes. Just act normal."

"...is that enough?" Sagiri blinked.

I nodded.

"Yes. I'm very interested in acting when I'm not around."

".......................Pervert."

"Huh?!"

Wait, was it something I said?

"When I'm not home, do you do something perverse?"

"That's not what I meant!" Sagiri was blushing and disproving me.

"Then what did you mean?"

When I asked her that, she gently looked down.

"...If you were going out... I'd take a bath."

"Oh - I see. You take a bath, huh..."

"You, you're thinking of something strange!"

"No, no, no, I'm not!"

Don't make it harder for me! Of course, I'd be thinking something strange.

I coughed and tried to change the subject.

"I don't need to see you take a bath. But what would you normally do after that?"

"Um ~"

Sagiri held one hand under her cheek, thinking deeply. Maybe she couldn't think of anything, so she sat down on the couch.

Then, after a while, she looked up.

"Er... clean, I think?"

"Um ~ yes, sometimes you also help me clean the house."

I was so surprised to see the house clean while I was gone. There was a time when I was worried that something wasn't where I had left it.

"But after living with Elf-chan... I noticed something." Sagiri said. "What I did before... was useless... I can't help Masamune at all."

Well... I was right. Whether Sagiri cleaned or not, I still had the same job to do every week, so my workload pretty much stayed the same.

"Even though it made me happy. I felt that - Ah, it's good that Sagiri helped me with the housework today."

"...I think that's the relationship between a man and a woman...not one of the equals."

She looked me in the eye.

"...Starting today, let's divide the duties between the two of us."

Just like when Elf was here. Like an equal. That's what she meant.

I nodded.

"I understand - I'll leave it to you."

"I hope you can show me how to clean the house properly."

"Of course. Although, I've already finished cleaning the house today, so let's try again tomorrow. We can clean up together."

"And... if possible... teach me how to cook."

"Cook? You want to cook?"

"I want to... cook for my boyfriend."

She looked at me as she answered. Her answer made my heart skip a beat.

"May I?"

"Of course you can. I'll teach you everything I know."

"Amazing!"

She squeezed her hand into a fist and made a victory pose.

"Actually... I wanted to practice in secret... and then surprise you..."

But I'm the only one she can be with when she's out of her room. So I couldn't ask Muramasa-senpai or Elf.

"This is enough for me. I'm lucky that you decided to ask. Because cooking together will be so much fun."

"Is it... like that?"

"Yes. Absolutely."

So, we decided to start our cooking lessons while we prepare dinner tonight.

The 'normal lifestyle practice sessions' - started one by one.

"After cleaning the bathroom... what's next?"

I asked her. Sagiri said a little proudly.

"Exercise."

"Exercise?"

That... took me by surprise.

"By exercise... you mean... physical activity?"

"Of course... Why do you look so surprised?"

"Because you are Sagiri. I didn't think you and physical activity would become friends."

"...How rude." She kicked. "You... I really don't understand the Hikikomori."

She looked at me in the face and said:

"Exercise is important to make sure I can continue as Hikikomori as much as possible."

"Oh?"

"Since I spend all my time indoors if I don't exercise my body will become weaker over time."

"Who knows? I'm not a Hikikomori."

"It's common sense for a Hikikomori. Remember that."

Who would need that kind of common sense?

"Not only Hikikomoris, but even illustrators are also the same! Anyone who works from home has this problem. If you don't exercise sooner or later you'll get sick."

"Sick?"

"Like diabetes, arthritis..."

"An adult disease?"

Are you an old woman?

"But... those things... aren't you a little too young to worry about them?"

I don't want to have to worry about that!

Sagiri gave me a significant look:

"Besides, if you don't exercise... *whisper, whisper*

I didn't hear her clearly, but I can get an idea of what she said. That... must be her real reason for working out.

I said carefully:

"I see. If you don't exercise you'll become that person."

"Yes. It makes you Makina-chan."

It might be rude to say it, but she means 'getting fat'. And, because Makina-san was so rude to us recently, I didn't tell her anything.

"Now that you mention it, I think last year, in the fall, you got fat too."

"Ah!"

She had a look of 'this guy still recalls that' on her face, but pretended not to know what she was talking about.

"No, I don't know what you're talking about."

"Have you forgotten? Because you ate so much Elf candy, you got fat."

"Wah, wah, wah!"

She screamed, trying to close the subject. But I was the only one here, so that move didn't work.

Sagiri made a fuss when she saw her plan fail.

"So what! That's why I've decided to exercise."

"Well, well, it's a good thing after all - well, let's go work out."

I got up and prepared.

"Huh? Right here and now?"

"I said - 'try to live normally in front of me' - right? Besides, I want to exercise too."

"Um ~ it's true that Masamune doesn't exercise enough."

"Yes."

It's too early to worry about those diseases, but exercise is not a bad thing. To write a good novel, a good body is necessary.

Sagiri thought about it for a moment before agreeing with me. She said with a voice full of pride like Elf's:

"Got it! Izumi Masamune! Welcome to my training camp!"

"Yes! I will be in your care! Captain Eromanga!"

"I don't know anyone with that name!"


so -

Eromanga-sensei's training camp began.

"BGM - it begins!"

The music started. Sagiri stood in front of me in the living room. She had taken off her hood and changed into a short shirt.

"Welcome to my camp! We'll be doing some heavy exercise today!"

"Sir, yes sir!"

Looks like it's gonna be a tough training session.

Although it's clear she was copying a certain movie, Captain Eromanga was really cute. To tell you the truth, if she sold a Blu-ray of this training for ¥50,000 (*7), I would buy one.


(TL Note: *7: 540 US dollars.)


"Are you ready!?"

"Sir, yes sir!"

I gave a tap, and I answered him.

"We should be using a rope for work, but a Hikikomori couldn't use it, so we'll skip that part."

"Sir, yes sir!"

...didn't you say it would be a special and difficult show just now?

The training continued without my question being answered.

"Raise both hands above your shoulders! Put both hands together!"

"Sir, yes sir!"

"Ugh... what an extraordinarily difficult exercise! But don't give up!"

I didn't tell her that this isn't difficult at all. If this was a movie, then we would have just started the warm-up.

"Right! Keep them up...hah...uff..."

"Sir! Are you all right?"

"Ah...hah...uff...!"

Captain Eromanga suddenly started to slow down. Then, she finally stopped breathing heavily. Raising a hand, she said.

"Stop. Ten-minute break...!"

"You only went on for a minute?"

This is too bad no matter which way you look at it.

"Ha ha... Impossible... I knew it, it's too early for intense exercise..."

Sagiri fell to the floor. Now I see. So that's your definition of 'intense exercise'.

"Ah ~ ah ~ I'm going to die ~ I'm dying...give me a sports drink..."

I think that, compared to the energy you burned with your recent 'exercise', a sports drink contains even more calories.

"Here."

I gave her a towel and a can of sports drink.

"How about we do some normal exercise instead?"

"Yeah, let's do it."

And so, we gave up on the training camp and returned to 'normal Sagiri exercise'.

I couldn't believe it, but Sagiri managed to do a squat. How impressive.

After that, we took shifts to shower and returned to Sagiri's room.

Because we were practicing 'a normal lifestyle' - after exercising she continues to work in the room.

Yep, that's the truth. It is Sagiri after all.

Today I brought my laptop to the Locked Room and worked there. On the other hand, I was fixing the anime script, making changes to volume 6, and supervising the games...

Some of you might ask: Didn't you already finish them? But those things wouldn't be completely finished just because I worked on them once. They'll come back many times.

Write a manuscript > modify it > change it > write a new one from there

This is how it usually happens.

It's not like I can be lazy just because I have a girlfriend. Or being distracted by seeing my girlfriend in her pajamas after taking a bath.

"What are you doing, Sagiri?"

"Today I'm supervising the character designs for the anime."

"Ok ~"

Although I, Izumi Masamune, am the original author of Sekaimo, the one in charge of character design is Eromanga-sensei.

That's how we worked from the start: Izumi Masamune writes the novel. Then, he gives it to Eromanga-sensei along with the basic character descriptions, so she can create the first sketches of the characters.

After that, the author, editor, and illustrator meet to finalize the character designs. Then Masamune modifies the character specifications in the original novel.

The above is how a character is 'designed'. Now, Eromanga-sensei is supervising the 'anime character designs' based on the 'character designs in the original novel'.

I looked at Sagiri from behind.

"Director Amamiya just sent me a question. She wants to know what kind of underwear this girl is wearing under her pajamas. I just sent her an answer."

I was hoping it wasn't something dirty.

"Do you even have to check that, huh."

"Of course. Otherwise, there would be certain angles where you couldn't draw the character."

"Oh, is that so? Then what was your answer?"

"Nothing!" She said proudly.

"An answer like that means there are no angles you can't draw it?"

"Nope. She's not wearing anything."

Eromanga-sensei would not lie. Like the original illustrator, she will stick to this part: no underwear.

"The person who makes the figures also asked many times - but she doesn't wear anything under her pyjamas. I absolutely will not allow her to wear underwear."

"How troublesome. But I can understand your feeling!"

Everyone has something they won't give up on no matter what.

"I know!"

"Although I understand it... what about the others?"

"Ah, the director just texted me again."

She opened the message. There was a new message with a picture attached.

It showed the female protagonist in her pajamas.

"I understand, Eromanga-sensei - is this what you mean?"

"Yes! It is! This is how it should be!" Eromanga-sensei cheered loudly. "As I expected from Director Amamiya, she totally understands the truth about underwear!"

"...Even though I read the script for this part, I still didn't know the truth about the underwear."

Even if she doesn't wear underwear, she still has her pants.

"Hm... a stranger wouldn't be able to understand..."

Sagiri rubbed her head and continued:

"Let me give you an example. Luckily I'm wearing lightweight pajamas right now."

She got up from the chair and bent over in four. Then she pointed her butt at me and explained in a serious tone:

"You can understand it like this: If my character doesn't wear underwear, there'd be a noticeable difference on the outside... And since she also wears light clothes, you can clearly see her curves, right?"


I took another look at Eromanga-sensei's example.

"Yes, I understand that wearing underwear would be problematic."

So that's the truth about the underwear.

"Right! To make the female lead more pure I made sure she didn't wear them -"

Still facedown, Sagiri turned to me and caught her reflection in the mirror. She immediately turned red.

"What pose are you making me do?"

"You're the one who did that pose on your own!"

Sagiri did not listen to me and rushed up, hid in her blanket, and spoke to me from it.

"Forget what you just saw! Forget everything!"

"It's impossible."

"Then you have to do an erotic pose too! I won't be embarrassed alone!"

"Don't talk nonsense!"


And so -

We continue our work.

Some time has passed. We both worked quietly without noticing each other.

Even though my loving girlfriend is by my side, I still keep my concentration. Inside the locked room, all I could hear was the sound of my fingers on the keyboard.

Do you remember a few days ago when Kagurazaka-san asked me to create a big climax in my novel to coincide with the release of the anime?

What I'm doing is adding that 'great climax' to my manuscript. I have to rewrite about 40% of the story - but when I really got around to it, it didn't take long.

I'd like to say, 'my fingers already knew how to modify it', but the truth is that it was just my habit. I was so focused on my work that I only noticed the time when my phone vibrated, showing me that it was 5:00 pm.

"Wow, it's so late. I should go out and get something for dinner."

Since Elf and Muramasa-senpai were no longer here, I have to cook for myself.

Oh, and I also had a promise with Sagiri.

And... if possible... teach me to cook.

"Sagiri, will you cook with me?"

I looked up and turned around trying to find her.

"I'm going to buy something for dinner -"

Is there anything you'd like to eat? I was about to say that, but I stopped.

“―――”

Because she was... sleeping. In her bed. It looked like she'd fallen asleep while working.

"Zzzzzzz..."

Her breathing was slow and steady.

"What a kid. She doesn't even have her blanket on."

I smiled and watched her. At that moment my heart began to feel warm. I could feel that what I had been chasing in the past was right in front of me now.

...I want to be with you for eternity. That would make me very happy.

When I returned to reality, Sagiri's lips were inches away from my face.

"...kek"

Wake up Sagiri, then go out and buy food for dinner.

That's what I should do, but my eyes refused to move.

I slowly approached the sleeping girl.

My heartbeat was getting faster and faster. I could almost hear them. She's my girlfriend. We're going out. There's nothing wrong with this - a demon was whispering to me.

It was less than an inch away from her lips -

"Wow -"

I managed to retreat backward, away from Sagiri."

"Wow, wow... dangerous... very dangerous."

Because Sagiri was 'my little sister', there used to be a barrier in my heart. But now she's my 'girlfriend', so my lust became more and more difficult to control.

Still...

"I have to keep control of myself. Now' is not the time for that."

I held my head in shame. From an outside point of view, what I was almost doing was a crime.

Fortunately, no one else was here but Sagiri and I -

"I saw it."

"Yahhhh!!!"

A girl's voice came from behind. I almost jumped out of my seat in surprise.

Looking back It was - Elf. She must have come here from the balcony again - wait, now is not the time.

"You, you... since when are you..."

"From the moment you spoke, just before you almost kissed her."

She said that with a smile, her Smartphone was visibly in her hand.

"What a shame. I would have had a nice picture."

"Hey!?"

"Just kidding. I was planning to stop you. But you moved so fast, I wasn't sure I could do it in time."

"I'm... I'm... I'm sorry for acting that way."

I get up from the bed and stand in front of Elf. She looked at me:

"Yes, fine. Even if you two like each other you shouldn't do that. If you'd really kissed her - I'd look at you with sympathy."

"...I have nothing to say."

Looks like she was pissed off. Elf's voice was incredibly cold and harsh.

There was a quiet moment and then I took a deep breath. The atmosphere relaxed a bit.

"Still, I believe you. Even though you hesitated... you wouldn't do something like that to the girl you like."

I don't know how I should respond to that. Anyway, I was so embarrassed. It's like my girlfriend found my porn hideout - no, it was even worse than that.

"Elf... you... why are you here today? I hadn't seen you recently and now you suddenly appear through the balcony."

"Why am I here? Hmmm ~" She smiled. "Can I tell you only half the reason?"

"Do you really have to ask me directly?"

If I say yes, does that mean I'd like to be lied to?

"I said that, but I won't lie to you, but I won't tell you the whole truth either."

"Well, all right."

Elf nodded as she heard my response.

"The reason I'm here... well, it's something like this..." She said without worrying about anything. "I've come to interfere in your love life."

"Simple and easy to understand. Wonderful."

"Ara, don't you feel angry?"

"No, because it's you. I always thought you'd definitely come. Since you weren't, I've been feeling lonely lately. I thought you didn't care anymore."

Of course, about that, Sagiri said, "No way. Suspicious."

"Of course I would come. Because... whoever I like is staying with his girlfriend next to me... that makes me unhappy."

Elf seemed a little depressed, she was mumbling to herself. It's weird to see her talking without looking straight into my eyes.

She looked down and said in a tired tone:

"It's painful."

“……………”

I - who rejected her confession, who decided to go out with Sagiri - said nothing.

I didn't have the right. So, all I could do was listen.

"There was something that made me impossible to come these last days... I don't want to talk about it. To simplify..."

She threw daggers at me with her eyes.

"Muramasa and I had a fight. Because of you."

“……………”

"You don't want to hear it, do you? You don't want to know the details."

"If I want... if there's anything I can do to help, then I'll listen..."

"There's nothing you can do, so I won't say anything."

"............... Is that right?"

"How should I put it... Muramasa... that girl's thinking about love is completely different from mine, so we couldn't agree on anything. As a master of light comedy novels, I planned to trick her with words, although this time she managed to resist. What a pain in the ass, Senjyu Muramasa-sensei."

Whatever they said to each other left a nasty memory. I can see why Elf is very upset.

"That girl has her own way of dealing with this situation, but she wants to use a wait-and-see approach for now. I can't accept it, so I made my move on my own - that's why I came."

Elf made a *bang* sound and made a shooting action with its right hand, showing a devilish smile.

"Masamune, you owe me, right?"

A critical hit. There was no way I could ignore that.

So I replied.

"Not just one. In recent months, you and Muramasa-senpai helped me a lot."

"Right, right."

Elf nodded. I told her what I really thought.

"Not only did you help me with the anime, before that, but you were also a source of positive inspiration for me. It's because of that I can be here now."

"...Wh-what? That much?"

"Yes."

We bet on Eromanga-sensei and decided on the winner.

She showed me a different working method, a different point of view, and allowed me to work with motivation.

After my parents died, Sagiri became a Hikikomori... that was the most difficult period of my life. It was her light novel that made me laugh again.

And then...

She likes me. She never stopped showing me her affection.

"No matter how many times I thanked you, it wouldn't be enough. Thank you very much."

"Er... Hm, I've heard your thanks to the extent that they've become boring."

She always told people to say thank you, but whenever I did that, she would get nervous and clearly embarrassed.

Elf is that kind of girl.

"Oh damn! You made me act strange again! Why don't you say something stupid? Like a certain light novel protagonist?"

"I've told you before, I'm not a character in a light novel."

How many times have we had this conversation before? More than once, that's for sure. But I don't hate it.

"So, what's next, Elf? You must have something on your mind when you started this subject."

"Yes."

Elf seemed very upset. She probably doesn't like it when I take over the conversation.

"Please listen to a simple demand of mine. Then consider that everything you owe me has been paid."

"Got it."

"Hm, of course, you wouldn't say yes before hearing my request? Do you accept?"

It seemed like that was out of your league. She screamed, which made me almost flip out.

"...Don't look so surprised. If it's for you, I'll do anything."

"Will you... do... anything?"

She was the one who said that, but Elf was asking with a pinch of fear. I nodded again.

"Yes. No matter what your request is. I owe you that much."

"...You...don't say something so stupid...what if...I make a strange request?"

"Will you make a strange request?"

"As if I could! If you trust me so much, then I wouldn't make a request like that."

"Is that so? That's good to hear."

"Kuhhhhh!! You're weird today." Elf looked at me, then pointed at me. "Anyway, get ready! Because I'll ask you for a big settlement!"

At that moment her smartphone vibrated.

Without a word she looked at the screen - probably an e-mail - then continued:

"Wait until my manuscript is finished. I'll tell you later!"

Looks like I have to wait a little while before it's time for the 'big payoff'.


And then -

The sun had set. Now it's night. I was sitting in the living room after eating the dinner I cooked with Sagiri.

Sagiri was smiling near me.

"...you seem to be having fun."

"Did you notice?"

"Yep... so what's going on?"

You know the answer.

"It's because 'cooking with Sagiri' is something I've always wanted to do but couldn't."

“……”

"That's why I'm having fun."

"...It's...like this...then we should have done it earlier."

There was more than one meaning in those words. I nodded with her.

"Next time...with Kyouka-san...let's have dinner together."

"Um."

"Kyouka-san... isn't she coming home today?"

"She just texted me that she's on her way."

"It's like this...then...ack..."

Every time we mention it, we feel our faces warm.

"Let's tell her. Tell Kyouka-san... that we're dating."

"...Okay."

Sagiri turned red, her body twisted.

"What will Kyouka-san say... once she knows we're dating?"

"She will be happy for us."

Maybe... she'll give us her blessing with a smile.

"Because for us, she's like another mother."

She's like Sagiri's second mother and my third mother.

"...Um." Sagiri nodded.

Then the room fell silent.

Neither of us was very talkative, so sometimes our conversations stopped.

We didn't mind that. Rather, we felt... safe and comfortable.

But for a couple, that shouldn't be an issue. Still, I don't want to lose this quiet moment.

"Um."

Sagiri opened her mouth to say something. I encouraged her to speak.

"Before Kyouka-san arrives... I want to try."

I knew what she meant without asking.

"You mean - try to get out?"


We both walked to the entrance.

.........

Sagiri took a deep breath as she stood in front of the main entrance door of the Izumi residence.

We have a very typical door. You could find it in any house in the city. But for her, this gate was a big, huge wall.

It's been two years since she became a Hikikomori. During that time, she has never left the house. She hasn't even opened this door.

"...are you okay?"

So, it's safe to say that I'm more scared than Sagiri. I think if it's too hard she shouldn't force herself to do it.

"Um."

She smiled at me, her face was a little pale.

"I've...practiced...many times...so, Masamune...stay here...and watch me."

"...Understood."

I got Sagiri's shoes outside. I buy her new ones every year - a different kind every year.

Just seeing the shoes, Sagiri broke out in a cold sweat. She became as white as a ghost.

"Kuh..."

Her whole body was shaking, she couldn't even take a single step. It's like she saw something horrible in those shoes.


- We're leaving.

- We'll be back after we buy some gifts.


Does she remember?

I covered her eyes and said gently.

"That was enough. Sagiri, you've done enough."

"...ah...ah."

She fell on the floor. It took her a while to stabilize her breathing.

It looks like... she's fine. For the moment.

"...I can't do it." She muttered. "When I practiced on my own... I could knock."

Probably because she honestly wanted to get out today. That's why she got so scared... Maybe.

I put a towel on her head.

"But this is already an improvement."

"...No."

"It's okay."

Before, she couldn't even leave the room. But now she can come downstairs with me. If this doesn't count as an improvement, then what?

Sagiri's just not ready. But she's trying. For me, that's enough.

"Well, we should get back to your room -"

And rest.

I was just about to say that when the door handle moved.

“.......”

With a crunch, Sagiri and I turned around. Kyouka-san, in western clothes, stepped inside.

Izumi Kyouka - my father's younger sister, also our guardian.

She probably did not expect to see anyone at the entrance.

"I'm home -"

That's all she could say before she stopped.

"Ah? Ma, Masamune? And...?"

She blinked, looked at me again, and then at Sagiri, her eyes were wide open.

"Sagiri?"

Of course I'd react that way. Seeing Super Hikikomori Sagiri in the lobby is not something you see every day.

"Welcome home, Kyouka-san."

Anyway, I should say hello to her.

Sagiri moved slowly behind me and greeted her as well.

"...Well, welcome...home."

"Um... I'm home."

Kyouka-san's mouth opened in surprise. She rarely shows any emotion, but she was clearly surprised.

She looked at me for a moment, asking for help.

"Masamune...this is...?"

"Recently, Sagiri can come down even if I'm at home. Just now we were trying to see if she can go outside."

"Sa, Sagiri wants to go out... outside?"

"She still can't, but she was trying - right, Sagiri?"

I asked Sagiri. She nodded madly from behind me.

She is not afraid of Kyouka-san, but meeting someone else outside her room is still too much for her.

On the other hand, Kyouka-san is very touched.

"Isn't it great...!"

"It is."

I answered in Sagiri's place.

"Ah... I couldn't... I'm being praised too much..."

Sagiri was embarrassed, but she has reason to be proud.

Kyouka-san still would not calm down, she said:

"Oh, right, right! If that's the case, let's celebrate! I'll buy a cake!"

"Ah, Kyouka-san, wait a minute!"

I held her hand before she could get out again.

I can understand our relationship changing after we resolved our misunderstanding, but she, I don't know, does she love us?

"You can't. You're tired from working all day."

"But, but Sagiri made an effort! I... I should do something!"

Kyouka-san blushed but did not give up. I smiled at how beautiful my aunt was.

"How about if I go?"

She immediately took out a ¥10000 bill and gave it to me.

"Masamune, please buy the best cake you can with this money!"

"You want me to buy a wedding cake?!"

I doubt whether any bakery nearby sells such an expensive cake.

"I don't need that kind of money...er...is a simple cake okay?"

"Don't forget the note that says 'Congratulations, Sagiri'." Kyouka-san kept talking.

"Got it."

I smiled. Sagiri pulled me by the shoulders.

"Um, yes, Sagiri?"

"...Tell her..."

"Oh, right -"

There's something much more important than buying a cake, so I spoke in a somber tone.

"Kyouka-san... there's something important we want to talk to you about."

"With me?"

"Yes."

"What, what is it?" She seemed a little scared.

...probably because of 'it'.


Eromanga - Flash!!!

She must have remembered that time. Because of our request, Kyouka-san put herself in a very embarrassing situation.

"Ah, no. We won't ask you for anything strange, don't worry."

"I'm fine! Just tell me if they need anything! As long as it's for you two, I'll become Eromanga-sensei anytime." She reaffirmed it.

What a reliable person! Considering what she went through, I noticed how much she loves us.

"Thank you very much. But we don't have a request this time. There's something we want to tell you."

"Tell me?"

"Yeah. Well, er... We're - we're going out."

I told her the truth. She...

"--- Huh?"

It's frozen.

"Er...Huh? Did I hear... wrong? I think I heard you say something about going out..."

"You're not wrong. I'm dating Sagiri."

“―――――”

Her eyes opened wide in shock. Her reaction was beyond my expectations, so I was a little surprised.

Anyway, she must be very surprised, right?

With an expression that screamed 'I don't understand', she said:

"From the very beginning. Explain everything to me. Clearly."

" Well, well."

She doesn't hate us. She's not angry either. I know she's a very nice person, but her aura still scares me. She was just shaking as I explained everything to her.

How Sagiri and I love each other.

How I fell in love with her at first sight.

How I confessed with my novel, and then she rejected me - and how that was a misunderstanding.

Sagiri likes me too.

About how we both knew each other even before our parents got married.

About how we're fateful to each other.

Y ―

"I proposed to her. I said - please marry me."

“…………………”

Kyouka-san's expression did not change. She only listened to me in quiet.

"What was her response?"

Sagiri answered her question.

"I told you that... I can't get married now. So I confessed. I told him... please go out with me... and then I asked him to... someday in the future, take me as his wife."

"That's how - we're dating."

I'm done. Kyouka-san closed her eyes without saying anything, as if thinking about what we had just said to her. After a few minutes, she slowly opened her eyes and said...

"In other words... you two are dating as a couple... you want to get married in the future, right?"

"Yes." *2.

"And you're telling me... why do you want my approval?"

"Because you're the only one I can ask 'please give me your daughter'."

Sagiri has recently broken off relations with her biological father.

So, her only relative now is Kyouka-san.

Just like she's my only relative.

So 'getting Kyouka-san's approval' is a very important step for us.


I understand. I'll give you my blessing.


That's what I thought you'd say but...


".............NO."


"....……”

What did I just say?

Kyouka-san said in a trembling voice.

"I can't accept - that you two go out and get married."

She looked at us, her face became pale.

“…………”

Our mouths opened. Both Sagiri and I. We didn't expect her to object.


- After hearing what Sagiri said and reading your novel... I have a feeling that letting them continue to live alone would be very dangerous.


It's true that she was being cautious about our relationship, but... I don't think it would be that extreme.

The Ice Queen's aura covered both of us in fear.

- Now is not the time to be afraid.

"May I ask... your reason?"

I tried to stop the shaking of my whole body and asked.

Why does she object to our going out and getting married?

Unless we know why, there's nothing I can do.

“……………”

Her eyes became sharper. Her eyes were fixed on me, thinking deeply. After a moment she finally said -

".............The reason -- I can't say."


"What?"

Now it's my turn to be surprised.

"You can't say it... that... what does it mean?"

"Exactly what it sounds like. I object to you dating her and I won't say why."

"How could I possibly accept -"

"I know."

As if she were suppressing her emotions, Kyouka-san continued:

"You two are still children. Just listen to the adults."

"What..."

"- If I were the original self, I'd say that."

"Huh?"

Suddenly the pressure was lightened. I'd say she looked tired.

She, uh, sighed out and said:

"You two... I'm sorry, but there's no way I can give you my blessing."

"Why?"

Sagiri asked as if she was talking to a little girl.

But Kyouka-san shook her head in tiredness.

"...I don't want to say it."

“……………” *2.

Both Sagiri and I looked at her. We had already noticed that there must be a significant reason for all this.

We felt that we had touched on something important that Kyouka-san was trying to hide.

"Kyouka-san... what do you mean by 'I don't want to say'?"

"Masamune... I love you both... very much. After what happened, seeing that we have a normal life again, talking, living together... 'all this', makes me very happy."

"We feel the same way, so we were hoping you could..."

"That's why I can't say it."

She interrupted me.

"That's all I can tell you."

“……………”

You mean if I push this, 'all this' would be at risk?

"...Masamune."

Sagiri looked into my eyes.

"...I understand."

The thoughts of Sagiri and I about Kyouka-san should be the same. So I spoke in my sister's place.

"We both love you very much, Kyouka-san. Living together every day... we're very happy."

"...Masamune."

"So we should make you happy too. We don't just want to go out or get married. We want to be happy."

I took a step. If 'All this' is destroyed by me, then fine.

"Please tell us what you're hiding, Kyouka-san."

“………”

She didn't respond. Instead, she looked at us with tearful eyes.

Izumi Masamune. Izumi Sagiri. Izumi Kyouka.

This family. This family of three.

'Our current relationship' is about to end.

She looked depressed and slowly said:

"Masamune...you once asked me - why I decided to take responsibility for you two."

"...Yes."

"The reason I cannot give you my blessing and the reason I took you as my guardian is the same."

"You mean...?"

That was unexpected. Our eyes opened.

Kyouka-san began to speak as if she had given up on everything.

Looking into my eyes, she said:

"Because I killed your parents."


Chapter 4:


I - Izumi Kyouka - what I hate most in the world is my older brother.

My brother - Izumi Kotetsu

Even though he's no longer alive, I still don't plan about letting him go.

"I hate you, Nii-san!"

How many times have I told you that on your face?

...Probably hundreds of times.

When I was in elementary school I used to wear old clothes.

But he gave me new clothes. He told me that he wanted me to participate in the opening ceremony.

He still went to school, but he worked part-time at night. He always said he wanted to be independent, so he was working hard to save money.

"...what...what expensive clothes..."

Nii-san smiled at me as he saw my surprised expression.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you have to wear something good."

So, he took me to the beauty parlor and styled my hair. That was the first time I looked so good.

He gently patted my head and said:

"See. It looks good on you! And it's nice! Really nice!"

His actions made me very angry, so I made a fuss. I hit my head against his stomach. Although, I don't know if it hurts or if I hit something 'important'.

"Ouch, what are you doing?"

So, I leaned forward and said:

"Nii-san! I hate you!"

At that time I actually stuck out my tongue to show him that 'you are the thing I hate the most'.

If you asked me even I couldn't answer why I got angry. All I knew was that I felt my face was getting hot, and then something moved inside my heart - in short, I wanted to hit him. I wanted to shatter his carefree attitude of looking down on his younger sister.

It's hard to put into words what he felt, but he stayed with me for a long time. Even now.

It must be that 'Nii-san did something' or 'everything he did' made me angry.

A younger sister who has an older brother much older than her will become a brocon - someone might say that, but it's a deniable lie. The little sister who hates her brother Izumi Kyouka is the proof.

On the other hand, after that, I - Izumi Kyouka - kept the hairstyle that Nii-san praised. Even when I entered high school.

Why?

Hm, of course to make sure Nii-san never forgot how much 'I hate my brother'.

'So it's not because you were happy that he flattered you' - Are you asking?

Of... of course not... that's impossible.

"Ouch ~ that really hurts. Why are you so violent?"

Against his randomly violent younger sister, he just kept smiling and never raised his voice.

If you take a look at my conversations with him, then when I was younger, I was a bit of a villain.

It's not like I was trying to make excuses, but when I talked to someone other than my brother, I think I was a very polite child.

Trying to act tough, observing adult expressions while appearing to be polite on the outside.

Underestimating children who acted like children and making people hate me.

- That was me.

Very similar to Masamune, with some critical differences.

Because this girl was 'trying to act tough' for the sake of others.

For as long as I can remember, my parents were gone. We lived with our relatives. Since Nii-san was busy with school and work, I lived alone with my relatives most of the time.

Our parenting wasn't exactly caring, but it wasn't bad either.

After changing school, sometimes my personality slowly became hard to please. Every few years, all my school and family connections would be re-established. That wasn't exactly healthy for a little girl. So I don't think it had anything to do with my ( somehow ) twisted personality.

...All of those are my excuses anyway.

At that time there was a relationship that never changed.

It was Nii-san and his girlfriend.

Yes. Nii-san had a girlfriend from 'the beginning'. He had one even before I was born.

Yes! That's why I said I hated my big brother.

Unlike me, changing schools or restarting connections wasn't a big obstacle for a couple of high school students like me.

"Ah, Kyouka-san ~ Onee-chan came to play with you today!"

"...You didn't come to me. You came to my brother."

Shit - this woman came all the way here from Tokyo. If my relatives were the only ones living abroad, that would be much better. She couldn't come so easily.

I was very angry inside, but I tried to calm down and just looked at her.

But she just stroked my head and said:

"What are you saying ~ I still wanted to see you."

"Don't try to get close to me. It's not necessary. And don't touch me."

Honestly, from the first time I saw her I hated her.

The reason?

It's because... it's because I hate her. Anyway, I hate her. That's all!

...You said that 'you hate her because she's my brother's girlfriend?

No, no, no, no, no, it's not that...! I don't know what you're talking about!

"Of course I want to get close to you ~ because Kyouka-chan is a little sister for me! Come on, call me Onee-chan!"

Kondou Shiho.

A bright and cheerful girl.

She's usually very mature. Her cooking skills are equal to any professional chef. She's also very kind and has many friends, even my hated relatives love her -

She's that wonderful.

Totally different from me.

Back then, no matter how hard I tried to be, I couldn't beat her. Even now, she's a woman I can't beat.

She's also Masamune's mother.


Back at the entrance of the Izumi residence.

I listened to what Kyouka-san just said and came to a conclusion.

"In other words...Kyouka-san is a really big brocon younger sister, so you hated 'your brother's girlfriend', right?"

"Of course not! Why, why, why, why did you come to that conclusion!"

"Well... because... that's how I see it. Right, Sagiri?"

"Yep. Kyouka-chan is a brocon younger sister." Sagiri nodded.

"Even Sagiri...!?"

Kyouka-san was surprised, but she coughed and continued.

"It's not like that... what I wanted to express was... how complicated my feelings towards my brother and his girlfriend would be..."

"I don't think it was complicated at all. Or rather, I think it was a little too direct. Even in today's light novels there wouldn't be anything like that."

"This... this is really complicated! How... how you should not talk as if it's just part of your job!"

Suddenly, her voice became dangerously low.

"Besides... Masamune, and also Sagiri... How can you be so calm? Didn't you hear what I just said?


- Because I killed your parents.


"We did it. But we wanted to finish your story first. My aunt is a person who can easily be misunderstood."

"You've always behaved as if you were the worst, so we want to hear from you now."

Sagiri is right. There's no way we can hate her just by listening to what she said.

Unless she is really the murderer or was somehow directly involved with our parents' death... But that is something else.

For now, she's an important family member to us. So there's no need to change our opinion about her.

When she saw how we reacted, Kyouka-san looked at us with a confused look on her face.

"...You two... why?"

"I don't want any kind of misunderstanding between us. Kyouka-san is very kind, but it took us a long time to realize that. We should really spend that time being a family instead. Don't you think it's... unfortunate?"

It was hard for us to become a family, so I don't want to lose this again.

"Masamune... you're the type of person I hate the most."

"But you're kind to me."

"That's..."

She didn't answer my question and looked away.

"...Let me continue."


My feelings towards Masamune's mother - Shiho-san - are similar to those of someone with an inferiority complex.

It was a mixture of hatred, anger, and envy. I wanted to beat her in her own field, so I started to learn how to cook... you can get an idea from the result.

"Kyouka-chan, you don't have a talent when it comes to cooking. Even if you do, you're not a match for me."

"I know! You don't have to remind me."

"School activities and study are Kyouka-chan's strengths. Why did you choose my field to challenge me?"

"You're the one I hate the most! So I wanted to beat you!"

"Really? I love you very much, because you're my favorite little sister."

"Kuh, kuh, kuh, kuh, kuh!!!"

Back then, Izumi Kyouka was unable to stop challenging her brother's girlfriend.

Remembering it now is so embarrassing... what a dark story.

But it's also my precious memories.

I always tried to go against Shiho-san, but it was all one-sided. She returned with nothing but goodwill.

She made it harder for me to forgive her, I became even more aware how childish I acted... I was surrounded by such complicated feelings.

Those feelings reached their peak on the day when my brother married to Shiho-san.

Even though I knew that this day would come eventually.

"...Nii-san...Shiho-san...fel...feli...felici...waseeeeeee ~!"

I was crying for an hour. Unexpectedly, that was the first time I was able to surprise Shiho-san.

"Noooooooooooooo!!! I don't want Nii-san to get married!!!"

That was the most humiliating moment for Izumi Kyouka. I never thought to talk to anyone about it, even Masamune.

Actually, it was just a celebration, why am I crying! I can't understand this!

Besides, because my brother got married it made my situation worse.

The Izumi family doesn't have many relatives, and as an elementary school student, I couldn't live alone on my own

So, I had to endure the hell, when I was forced to live next to the newly married couple.

Those moments... those moments... I don't even wanna think about them!

Ahhgghhhhhhhhh!!! I feel angry just to think about it. Is there a younger sister in the world who could bear it? No! Absolutely not!

Cof, Cof.

Well, for a number of reasons and because I acted on Shiho-san's good intentions in a negative way, I hated her even more... But there was one thing that calmed me down a bit.

That was the birth of Masamune.

When I saw that child with such an innocent smile on his face, I -

"Isn't he cute?"

"Yes, it is."

Something has changed inside me.

It's like... something I've been worried about for so long is gone. I felt... relieved.

My newborn nephew held the tip of my finger with his little hand.

Seeing it made me realize how insignificant all the things I did in the past-- I was also aware that showing hostility to his mother in front of him should never be allowed.

"Shiho-san... I'm sorry."

"Why so sudden?"

"I'm sorry for everything. You're my saviour, but I've always acted so hostile towards you... I'll be leaving this place soon."

"Are you sick or something? It's disgusting."

"What...! I... I still really hate you!!"

"That's better. It would be strange if Kyouka-chan acts differently."

Although we resumed our typical daily conversation and started from that day our relationship began to change.

Or rather - I had accepted my defeat.

My first love ended that day.


I had not yet managed to live with a 'newlywed couple'. So, when I entered high school I moved into the school dormitory and lived on my own.

I would visit them if I had several days off in a row. Sometimes I scolded my brother, sometimes I argued with Shiho-san, and sometimes I just watched Masamune in silence.

It was a simple but happy time.

Children grow up really fast. I could hardly recognize my nephew.

Luckily he seemed to love me too. Until he was three years old he kept calling me...

"Aunt."

He was very close to me, too."

"A...a...aunt?"

We were speaking the same language, but because I was only a high school student at the time, what he said really struck me.

I started shaking in shock. My brother said from behind me:

"Oh! Your aunt's playing with you, huh! Isn't that nice ~ Masamune."

"Niiiiiii-san! You must be the one to blame! Did you teach Masamune that strange word?"

"Whoo? What are you doing? Masamune will hate you if you yell at me."

"Kuh..."

I shut up and looked at my nephew.

...Thank God he's not scared.

"Aunt."

"Yes, yes! What do you need?"

"Chest."

"Auuuuu!"

I'll say it again. I was a high school girl back then, so even though I knew he wasn't saying anything erotic yet, I was surprised.

With a very innocent expression, my nephew continued:

"Chest."

"Mwu, au, au, au ~~"

What... what should I do?

I looked at my brother asking for help in silence. He only saw us with a wondering expression on his face.

"Masamune... you're so brave."

"Hurry up and help me!"

"Do you want to try breastfeeding?"

"I don't have any breast milk!!"

I can beat him up, right? Everyone would agree that wouldn't be domestic violence, just a fair trial, right?


"Masamune... you were a pervert even as a child."

"But, but, but that was a long time ago! I was too young to have any impure thoughts. And I don't remember any of it!"

I quickly tried to explain. Sagiri looked at Kyouka-san again and again with an obvious eye."

"So... Kyoka-chan?"

"Yes?"

"Did you feed him?"

"I didn't do it!"

Still, with her usual innocent expression, Sagiri asked shamelessly:

"Really? Not once?"

"....................No, I didn't."

Kyouka-san blushed wildly and looked up. Sagiri shouted at the thought of it:

"That reaction! Could it be!!?"

"No, no, no! I didn't."

"Perhaps within Masamune's childhood memories, there is a moment where he was breastfed by a high school girl!"

"Sagiri, calm down! Why are you so excited?!"

"Because, ahahahaha!!!"

She took out her smartphone and showed me.

"If that exists, then the scene where this super cute little sister was breastfeeding her nephew would be a wonderful discovery!"

"Why do you have that too --"

Kyouka-san shouted in embarrassment.

Sagiri only showed me the photograph of Kyouka-san when she had her hair in two ponytails. I gave her a quick glance and muttered to myself.

"I wonder if hypnosis would work on me?"

"You don't have to remember that!"

"But when she put it that way, it even made me want to know."

"Don't try to remember! Do you understand?!"


Let me continue!

Cof, Cof... Anyway, I'll take a moment to say what I usually can't.

No. I don't really need to. Masamune was old enough to remember the next part, so he should know too.

If I had to add my point of view... then I... was hated by Masamune.

To him, I - Izumi Kyouka, was a stranger who - routinely yelled at his father and argued with his mother.

That alone was enough for him to treat me like a bad person.

I myself realize that I'm not good at explaining things. So I gave up on being with him and tried to protect him from a distance.

For example, I gave him gifts in secret.

Or sometimes I would ask my brother to show me a picture, so I could see how he was growing up.

"Wow... like a father who lost custody of his child."

"Sagiri! Don't say that!"

…………………

"See!? Kyouka-san got hit really hard! Hurry up and think of a plan to calm her down!"

"Er... my former father never cared for me like this?"

"Did you use such a depressing story?"

Masamune was trying to cheer me up.

"Kyouka-san, sorry for the interruption. Please continue."

You couldn't imagine the situation back then even if you tried. Even I feel pain in my heart when I think of those days.

Shiho-san died in an accident. The Izumi residence lost its light.

My brother was in his most difficult time... and seeing him like that, Masamune acted rudely and did not allow him to even be sad.

He tried to act like Shiho-san and began to cook. He took care of the house. To stop worrying his father, he became a good student and stopped acting like a normal child.

To me... seeing him like that hurt a lot.

Masamune hated me so I couldn't help him. He couldn't replace his mother. From his point of view, I was supposed to be a scary, useless, old witch who only made people angry. That made him hate me even more.


What Kyouka-san was saying was the darkest part of my family. I had experienced all that first-hand, but I almost cried when she spoke about it.

She said nicely.

"After you started writing... sometimes, I saw your smile."

"...Yes." I nodded. "I was saved by the novels... and the friends who brought me the novels."

"...I see."

There used to be a long time when it was just me and my father in this house. I had recovered a little, but the root of the problem remained unsolved. Every day I waited for my father to come home after work.

This... I don't think this was something Kyouka-san could accept. After solving our misunderstanding and becoming a relative, I understand Kyouka-san even better than before -

"Actually, I wasn't lonely at all. Because I had a dream of becoming a novelist. When I was writing I didn't think about anything else...besides, I think it's a common problem in many families these days, haha..."


Masamune was laughing, but I knew that sometimes he cried when he was alone in the house.

A family without a mother - this is indeed a common problem in many families.

Some might say, 'so what?'

There are many children like him in the world, much worse than him. Is it strange to feel lonely? Is it strange to feel ashamed? Is it a big deal?

Don't say that. If a family member dies, even an adult would cry. No one can completely control their emotions, especially a child.

A mother's death is a serious problem. It was more important to me than anything else in the world.

Because my dear nephew was alone.

I knew that. But I had absolutely no way to solve the problem.

- This boy wouldn't want someone like me as his mother.

I had no choice but to feel my levels of frustration and concern rise day by day.

"That's when...Nii-san...introduced me to my sister-in-law.


"Nice to meet you, Imouto-san! Well... I'm an illustrator! My pen name is Eromanga, please take care of me!"


"That one... my mother?"

"Yes." I nodded to Sagiri's question.

By chance I met my brother while he was with another woman - that was our first meeting.

"She was very beautiful, but I felt she really was a funny type. Her appearance was different, but I can say she was almost like Shiho-san."

A family sensation.

The way she talked showed just how smart she was.

Someone who could introduce herself loudly as Eromanga.

All this nearly made me cry. They were different people, but...

"Um... I can understand that. Because I had the same feeling."

"You too, Masamune?"

That means she was the polar opposite of me. The kind of woman I hate the most.

Which also means she was the kind of woman my brother liked.

"At the time I was thinking maybe she was my brother's new girlfriend... but it turned out to be business talk."

"Father... used to work with my mother?"

Masamune responded.

"I remember that my mother's work included drawing illustrations for games."

"Yes. But she didn't use her pen name 'Eromanga-sensei' at work."

"Then it might be true because my father worked in a publishing company."

"I don't know... Maybe it's true?"

" Yes. Though not exactly in the light novel section, in a certain way, what I was working on is similar to his work."

Masamune seemed to be having fun. His smile is exactly like his father's.


One day into the past.

"Nii-san... do you like it?"

When I asked Kotetsu-nii-san that question, he showed the same embarrassed expression as Masamune.

"Huh? What, what are you talking about?"

"You like it, don't you? Hm, I knew it... she's your type."

"I haven't confessed to her and we're not dating. It's just that our situations are very similar."

Young children. They didn't have a parent. I thought it was okay to listen to him say that. There were some similarities between them.

- But she'd been divorced, so she wasn't suitable to be Masamune's mother.

It was the first thing I heard about her and I had already put a negative tag on her.


"Kyouka-chan! We're going to see a movie next week!"


But, somehow, after that, she started inviting me over.

That day when she asked me to watch a movie - it was the third time we met 'by coincidence'. We had a long talk.

When I purposefully introduced the words 'parasite', 'ATM' and 'Otaku' into the conversation with a woman who might be interested in my brother, she suddenly made the above invitation.

"E...Eh? What are you saying so suddenly?"

"Actually, I don't have any female friends."

“Why?”

"Let's go see a movie! It's a really good one, so you must have heard of it! It's the most popular anime lately! I hear it's very touching!"

"I don't remember being your friend."

"Fine, fine, it's fine anyway."

"So this is your plan, a 'pre-emptive strike'? Hm, there's no point in flattering me. I won't let my brother stand on such an obvious landmine."

"Well, well. It's not what you think! I just think Kyouka-chan has talent! I just need to teach you a little, and then you'll be my perfect partner to visit the anime store."

"I will not go to such a place."

In the end - she took me with her by force.

But she didn't make me like the otaku stuff. If I felt anything, those things disgusted me even more.

"I like Kotetsu-san... but I don't intend to go out with him."

"Huh?" I paused for a moment. "What... you mean... with that?"

Aren't you aimed at my brother?

If not, why did you come to see me in the first place?

"Because we both already have a child, and I was married once..."

"So you like it but you want to give up?

"It's more like I'm trying to stop myself from liking him."

"Are you saying that by telling me this stuff it'll make me say a secret or something?"

"Nope."

I threw a curious question, but she just laughed. I looked at her.

"First things first, I hate you."

"Um, I know."

"Then why are you laughing?"

"First things first, I like you."

"You... you -"

In this respect, she was totally different from me.

Maybe if she becomes your mother, Masamune won't be lonely anymore.

That's what I thought.


Hearing me say that, Sagiri suddenly interrupted me:

"Kyouka-chan... are you... a friend... of my mother's?"

"No." I shook my head. "I hate her. She was too close to my brother."

"...I see."

"There's something I have to apologize to both of you for."

Finally - I will tell you the thing I promised myself I would never reveal.

Maybe they felt it too. They both got tense.

"I'm a coward. There's something I've been hiding from both of you."

“……………”

My brother and sister-in-law were very similar even before they got married.

I heard something from the two of them: that they were both interested in each other, but didn't want to go any further.

I was the only one who knew.

- I don't want to give my beloved brother to someone else.

The first love of his, who had died a long time ago, was now burning again.

When he was alone in the house, Masamune cried in silence. At that time I was very worried. I kept asking many questions. My whole life until now had been just a series of instances where my efforts were not paying off and nothing was going right.

But this time, I was not able to afford to fail.

I hid my feelings with a smile and said:


"-Nii-san, have you never thought of getting married again?"


I said that with a pain in my heart. But it was also the push they both needed.


"-Thank you Kyouka-chan."

"-It is because of you that we were able to get married."


One year later.

During their honeymoon, my brother and sister-in-law passed away.


"I killed your parents."

Kyouka-san repeated again.

“…………………”

“…………………”

Both Sagiri and I freeze up unable to say anything. What she said really hit us like a hammer.

"That's why I came to take care of you two."

“……………”

It was her. Kyouka-san was the one who secretly brought our parents into their marriage.

How... could it be? I always thought Kyouka-san didn't like my mother, but that wasn't the case?

And...if it wasn't for her...then our parents wouldn't have married, they wouldn't have gone on a honeymoon...and they wouldn't have died.

Is that why she assumed the responsibility of taking care of us?

Is that why she couldn't tell us?


- I can't say.

- The reason?

- Because it'll hurt.


...Is that so?

...I understand.

"I am a curse." She said. "Every time I try anything it ends up the worst way. Someone like me can't give them her blessing... for their marriage."

She said that with a straight face. She said she couldn't say what she was thinking.

"You two probably never want to see me again... Don't worry, I won't be back. I think I'll continue to play the role of guardian."

With one click the door closed.

Kyouka-san left us.

“………”

“………”

Both Sagiri and I said nothing. That's how difficult it was for us to hear that.

I knew that I had to think of a way to solve this... but I couldn't move. Not a single muscle.


I turned my back on Masamune and left the house.

The door of the Izumi residence closed behind me. I kept walking.

My heart was full of shame and regret... fortunately they didn't notice.

I feel blessed with my cold and unemotional appearance only at this time.

Maybe I had to do it... from the beginning?

Maybe I should have told them the truth before and let them hate me?

No...back then, both of them had just lost their parents and wouldn't be able to understand. I can only be their guardian and take care of them at that time.

That's why... No. It's not that. I was not lying, but it wasn't the whole truth either.

The main reason why I was hiding the truth is that I didn't want those kids to hate me.

I love them and I hate them. I'm the only reason they're in this situation, but I still want to help them. Not only that, I expected to become close to them.

"...I'm the worst."

Thinking back, I hate myself very much.

Why didn't I just continue to hide it?

I didn't keep it long enough and was forced to tell them - how it's all gone. What a critical moment and I made it harder for both of us.

I always choose the wrong decisions. Everything doesn't turn out the way I want it to.

So it's better to stay away from those whom I love. To be as far away as possible.

I won't make the same mistake again. I'm going back to our previous relationship, the non-family relationship.

I made a mistake but I will not let it affect those children.

“……………”

They called me Kyouka-san, Kyouka-chan.

They asked me for something important.

To live together.

I felt that I helped them.

- It was short but it was a good dream.

That was enough.

My steps became faster. I was slowly getting further and further away.

"I'm sorry. Goodbye."

I muttered to myself and was about to take another step -

"Kyouka-chan, wait!"

An unexpected voice suddenly came up behind me. Someone... held my hand.

"Wha..."

I looked back and saw the person who was trying to stop me... was Sagiri.

I thought I was dreaming.

"Sagiri!? Can you... get out?"

"...ah...ah..."

It was only about ten meters from the door, but that should be impossible for her.

Sagiri having been a Hikikomori for two years and just beginning to leave her room. But now she was standing 'outside', looking at me.

She wasn't wearing her shoes, her feet were bare. Her breathing was rough. She was sweating, her face was pale... But her handheld me steady.

"Ah, ah... Ah, ah... Kyouka-chan... Cof, Cof!"

She started coughing, unable to say anything. But, in the confusion, I heard something.

"Please don't leave us!!"

“――――――”

"You idiot! Why...! You decide on your own...! I...!"

Sagiri was shouting something, but I could hardly hear it properly. I should not get my hopes up. I must have misheard her.

"Sagiri!"

Masamune rushed to us as well. It took only a few seconds, but it felt like hours to me.

"Are you okay?!"

"...kah...ah..."

Sagiri turned to his brother

"I'm... fine... so... please."

“……”

Masamune nodded as if he understood. He turned to me.

"Kyouka-san."

"Yes?"

For a second his appearance became like that of a certain person.

" To leave after telling your story is unfair. Please at least listen to our opinions too."

“¡…!

You're... right."

They both have the right to blame me. No matter how much you curse me, I have a responsibility to listen. Before I leave I have to accept everything.

"Understood. Go ahead. Release your thoughts."

I sighed. He chose his words carefully and said:

"I... actually... I want to say this - at first, I was very surprised. Because your relationship with my mother was totally different than I imagined. And I didn't expect to hear that it was you who encouraged them to get married."

Totally opposite of what I expected to hear - that's what she said.

"You thought I was against it?"

"That's what I thought. But after hearing your story, I understand now - Kyouka-san, you thought it was your responsibility and took us into your care."

"Not exactly. It's not just my responsibility or guilt... Some part of me thought that if I took care of them if I could help them... then I could become your family and stay with you."

I told him my embarrassing secret. I thought I should say it.

"Still, at that time, Kyouka-san didn't want to be our family yet, right?"

"It's closer to 'I wanted to be your family member'."

“……………”

Masamune didn't say anything. Perhaps he was surprised.

He returned to the main topic.

"I understand the part about 'why you took us into your care'. But I cannot accept the reason why 'I cannot give you my blessing'. That, and the fact that you blame yourself for the death of our parents."

"Like I said -"

"I'm not saying it's not your fault." He interrupted me. "Both Sagiri and I agree that we... blame you a little. If it wasn't for you, maybe my father would still be alive."

"...Yes."

That hit me right in the heart. But he continued -

"My father was the one who decided on their honeymoon date... but it was because we wanted him to choose that day. At that time we would be alone for a week."

"What are you trying to say?"

"I'm also guilty. And... I think Sagiri feels the same way... she must feel that she killed our parents. Just like you, Kyouka-san."

"What...!? How could it be?"

"That's the way it is." He smiled at me. "That's how we feel."

“~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~”

My face suddenly felt warm. I clenched my teeth and tried to calm down.

Even Masamune looked embarrassed.

"Also... there's something I noticed right now. Without Kyouka-san I wouldn't have met Sagiri."

"Yes! Yes!"

Sagiri (dying) agreed. She took a few breaths and said:

"Kyouka-chan brought about a miracle. You brought us what we want the most, which helped us forget the things we hate the most. You always... you always cared about us..."

"Sagiri and I are grateful to you."

"Um... you're my... another favorite mother."

"Oh...oh..."

I started to cry. My eyes could no longer see them clearly.

"Yes... yes..."

"Please continue to live with us from now on."

My brother's wedding scene. My brother's smile. All that reappeared in front of me.

"...you...you two...really...I can't even..."

Izumi Kyouka's long list of accomplishments... increased by one day.


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