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My Friend’s Little Sister is Calm and Collected Towards Everyone
You only really appreciate good things once they’re gone.
Separating from good classmates after your graduation, moving away from your parents to live on your own, everytime you move up a step or two in your life, the things you took for granted until then will be lost one way or another, resulting in a burning loneliness within the depths of your chest. That’s why you should treasure what you have, and treasure the people around you that treasure you—And thus, I would start preaching.
But, just wait a second.
This sense of loss, this sentimentalism, is this really because we lost something important to us?
The things that we regard as indispensable, to make sure that we don’t lose them, everyone should keep holding onto them. If not, then they weren’t as important as we made them out to be. If one were to question himself why we awaken to a feeling of loss once we lose something that we didn’t treasure at all, then in my opinion, it must be the influence of a psychological discrepancy.
In this world, we have the laws of inertia. It’s the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. Though this originated in the laws of physics, I believe that this is also applicable to the human heart.
Once you start to get angry, you’ll continue to be angry, and once you’re soft towards something, you’ll continue to be soft towards it, and once this routine is implemented in your life, you’ll follow it.
Then, if that was the case, what if, for any reason, that came to a halt?
It’s the same with the laws of inertia. If you suddenly pull the brakes, whatever’s on top will continue forward. Once you feel that things you’ve seen as natural are suddenly gone, you’ll awaken to a strong feeling of discomfort, and your mind will be clouded.
This is what people refer to when they say that they realized too late, that they lost something precious.
Exactly, there’s absolutely no way that I, instead of having just realized it, had always been wishing for that. That’s why—
The reason that I’m feeling weird at Iroha stopping her annoying act towards me is definitely… De-fi-not-ly because I was actually, deep in my heart, treasuring the times when she was annoying towards me.
“What’s wrong, Ooboshi-senpai? Your arms are shaking, you know?”
“No, it’s nothing…”
Classes had ended.
After my LIME exchange with Iroha, the two of us had met up at the entrance of a near-deserted public park. To record the voice lines for some new characters, we were heading to Otoi-san’s private studio, who we would always ask for these requests. Before I met up with Iroha, I’d already went to buy the 20 chupadrops as well as a trivial gift.
That’s fine and all, but… this feels really awkward.
The moment we met up, as soon as we started walking, Iroha flashed her honor student smile. Even though we weren’t in front of other people, she never once brought forth her annoying actions.
—Gaaaaaahhh, my head is getting itchy!
“What is it, Ooboshi-senpai?”
The moment she turned around, her long hair fluttered, and a sweet, flowery smell made its way to my nose. Holding down her swaying hair with her fingers, tilting her head ever so slightly, and yet gallantly in front of the field of sunflowers. Every single move she made was so graceful and ladylike. The wind and the background both lumped into one, further bringing forth her pure and graceful character.
“How long are you going to continue that idiotic act?”
“What might you be talking about? This is how I always am, 24/7, 365 days of the year.”
“No need to force yourself. Just go back to your usual ‘Hehehe’ grin while blabbering your annoying stuff already.”
“I’m not forcing myself in the slightest. And I definitely won’t.”
“Stop already and start your usual teasing.”
“You’re being very tenacious. All I have for Senpai is wholehearted devotion, and I would never tease you.”
“Ahhh, you’re a thickheaded one, alright! Stop with that unannoying attitude! This is even worse than before!”
“The thick headed one is Senpai! You like bashful and obedient girls, right? So what are you unsatisfied with?”
“Yeah, I’m not dissatisfied with anything! I shouldn’t be, shit!”
“Then isn’t it fine? Don’t say unreasonable things like that… Hmpf.”
What a useless dialogue that was. I started to lose track of what I was saying. Still, Iroha showed absolutely no intention of reverting to her former annoying personality. Even her sulking appearance still transmitted the gracefulness of her honor student mode, with a hint of displeasure. Weird. A while ago, I might’ve been hoping for something like this, but now I can’t help but get irritated at it. Really, making me confused like that.
With casual bantering like that, we arrived at Otoi-san’s studio. From our school, it was only five minutes’ walk. Inside a calm residential area, a single tile-roofed house could be found. Stepping through the gate next to the address plate with ‘Otoi’ written on it, we took a sideways turn and headed towards a storehouse next to the house. Since Iroha and I were frequent visitors, we didn’t even have to ring the doorbell to be let in. As we opened the storehouse, we could see the stairs leading us underground.
Slowly stepping down in almost pure darkness, without a single sound accompanying us, we were greeted by—
A wide arrangement of splendid recording equipment, making the whole place look like a real recording studio.
What first entered our sight was the various recording machineries of the control room with giant speakers and additional audio enhancers. Past the soundproof glass was the recording booth with its chair and a table, microphones, and much more. On the other side of the adjacent door was a water machine with a toilet, not lacking in comfort. From the ceiling to the floor, everything was made soundproof, making sure that no matter how loud, sound would never escape outside. This, this is the secret studio that we use to record Iroha’s voicelines. And—
“You’re here~ Good day~”
Dead center of the control room, there was a human being, leaning back in her chair with a loose way of speaking.
“Didn’t I tell ya to not suddenly request me like that? I’ll kill ya? —Well, not like I really care~”
“I’m sorry. Please treat us well today, Otoi-san.”
The sound-related benefactor of our [5th Floor Alliance]. Her hair is that of a vivid color, like the dawn of a new day. Her sloppy arrangement of clothes didn’t seem to be for the purpose of emphasizing her body, but rather because it must’ve been a bother. Everything about her was screaming unprepared and defenseless. There are times when I felt like I can almost see something, but also can’t at the same time. She’s an unwilling eye-catcher so to speak, and a real bother for me and my eyes. Still, the person herself didn’t show any signs of minding her appearance. Her languid body stature, her almost always half-closed sleepy eyes—she’s what you call one of those downer-type girls.
She’s also a second-year student at our school. Last year, she was in the same class as me, but we got separated as we moved up. She was supposed to be the next club president of the school’s broadcasting club, but as soon as it was time for her to take over, she left behind a letter, saying ‘I’m done with this’, and left the club. Now, she’s built up her own personal studio, working as a sound engineer.
Rumor has it that she’s got big connections to professional artists or famous voice actors that come here to get their voices recorded, but I don’t know any of the details. Since the girl herself doesn’t talk about it, I don’t have any reason to pry into it.
Don’t get too attached, and don’t get involved too much. This is a business relationship.
By the way, her family name is—
No, let’s not touch that topic. It would only end badly for me. Anyway, she’s super relaxed, and a crazy ‘my own pace’ type.
“Did you bring the toll~?”
“Yes, right here. 20 chupadrops.”
“Mmm… Yeah. Contract fulfilled, then.”
Otoi-san only has an eye for sweet things. So much so, that she’d go home early from school if her supply of sugar ran out.
“Without this, nothing will get started after all~”
Opening the plastic bag, Otoi-san chomped on a chupadrop, playing with it inside her mouth.
“And, where’s the tip?”
It has come, I see. The most important item for our deal with Otoi-san, which isn’t the chupadrops. Well, those are also essential, but that’s just a preliminary prerequisite, so to speak. Since Otoi-san isn’t a member of the [5th Floor Alliance]. She’s basically acting as an outsider, with the added benefits of keeping Iroha’s identity a secret. Naturally, there’s something that I have to prepare to make her time worthwhile.
“…The newest cake from Meifuudo. How about this?”
“Ohh~ Well thought~”
—For every job, some high class sweets. That’s the necessary tip we need to request Otoi-san’s work.
Giving her some sweets to make her do the job, that’s pretty easy—is what you’re thinking, right? Sadly, this isn’t that simple at all. Otoi-san’s family is insanely rich, so she’s doing all this purely for her hobby. That’s why she won’t accept any money at all. Thus, she can live even without doing any of this, resulting in some of those ‘Nah, I’m not feeling it today~’ days. Keeping that in mind, after a lot of twists and turns, we came up with this condition to bring her a high-class sweet every time we’d come for a job.
—She’s a crazily moody person, after all…
Even now, there would be times when she wasn’t interested in the sweets I brought, declining our request. That’s why I always have to be extremely thoughtful during my selection of sweets, but…
“Mmmm, okay~ This looks delish after all, so I’ll help you out today~”
There we go!!
I made a winning pose inside my head. Thankfully, today’s choice seems to be to her liking. Phew, after all this trouble, it would’ve been a death blow if she’d said no today.
“Hey, Otoi-san, can’t you just request the sweets that you want? It’s really inefficient every time to go search for sweets that you’d like.”
“Mmmm…But, thinking about it myself is a pain~ And I can’t be bothered with looking for new stores either~ Well, just continue to bring me delicious sweets, and we gucci~”
Well, guess I’ll have to go through the newest sweets sites and search for the next tip in case I need her help soon. Really, even though I don’t like them all that much, I’ve gotten really well-informed on sweets. The newest recommendation is a pudding parfait at the back of the train station. It’s not just the sweetness, but it’s also got a good saltiness—Wait, that’s not important right now.
As the conversation between me and Otoi-san calmed down, Iroha saw that as a chance to speak up.
“I’ll be entering the booth. Senpai, could you hand me the script?”
Taking out the printed voice lines, I handed them over. Accepting them with a graceful gesture, Iroha entered the recording booth. Watching her off, Otoi-san also started moving.
“Alright, time to start the preparations~”
Standing up, Otoi-san booted up the various recording equipment with fluent hand movement. Though her expressions make her look unfocused, there’s absolutely no wasted energy in her movement now. Even her sluggish, sleepy eyes were wide open, brimming with concentration. This is one of the reasons I continue to request Otoi-san for our recordings.
The normally unmotivated Otoi-san becomes filled with energy and obsession as soon as it’s about ‘sound’. That’s why she doesn’t accept any compromises during her job, settling for nothing short of perfection. For something of this level, researching sweets all night is no problem at all for me.
While Otoi-san was working, I looked over inside the booth. With the opened script, Iroha was reading through the character’s voice lines with a serious expression. Seeing that, I let out a sigh.
“Still, you’re being as unreasonable as ever, Aki~”
“What do you mean?”
“Normally, you’d hand her the script a few days before the recording~ A real voice actress would get mad at you if you pulled off something like that~”
“Ahh… Well, that makes sense. But we’re a bit special.”
There’s the circumstances that I can’t hand Iroha the script before the actual recording. Since her mother harbors a grave hatred towards anything related to the entertainment business, Iroha can’t leave any trace of her work as our voice actress in her home. Hence, she can’t look at the script in her room before the actual recording, and she has to do this right out of the box.
“But thanks to that, she’s turned into a monster.”
“Five minutes, was it?”
“Yes, with the script, five minutes. That’s all the time she needs to read through it and act it out perfectly.”
“Raising a genius in a harsh environment, huh. Things like that happen, I guess~~~”
Looking at Iroha, she’d apparently finished reading through the script, and was now humming in the meantime. That probably meant that her preparations were complete. At the same time, Otoi-san seemed to have finished on her part as well.
“Let’s start now~ Kohinata, you good over there~?”
Through the speaker, Otoi-san called out to Iroha inside the booth.
“Yes, I’m ready to go whenever you are. I’ll try my best to make Senpai happy today as well.”
Again with that. Just how long is she going to keep up with that damned neat and tidy acting?
“Then, here we go~ 3…2…1…”
After the countdown, she pressed the queue button. In response, Iroha’s expression, standing in front of the mic, tightened. Our plan today is to record the voice lines for the five characters. From a yandere girl to a rough delinquent, they all have strong individual characteristics. But I’m not worried in the slightest. She’s an annoying fellow, but Iroha is able to voice all the male and female characters that have ever appeared in [The Screaming Night of Koyama]. Just because they have stronger traits shouldn’t mean that she’d have any problems with it.
And the first character she’ll be acting out is the rustic, heave-ho, delinquent man.
“——Past here is my domain! Haaaaaahaaaaaaaa!”
“A fight? Bring it on! The devil beyond the heavens, vainglory throughout heaven and earth, as well as a woman being blessed with both intelligence and beauty, that’s me!”
“Those of you who got a death wish, come at me! I’ll burn some fire into you with my chains!”
With a clear voice, Iroha read down the voice lines fluently. After listening to that soft voice, akin to a stream of water peacefully running down the valley, Otoi-san slowly crept forwards, pressed the stop button, and called out to Iroha.
“Hey, Kohinata~ Can I ask ya something~”
“Yes, what might that be?”
“Why is that yankee man talking like a dignified lady~?”
Yes. For some inexplicable reason, Iroha continued to read off those lines with her pure and proper voice she had been using until now. The voice lines belonged to a delinquent, but the voice made him sound rather cute.
“What’s is it? Did I do something wrong?”
With a slight tilt of her head, Iroha replied in a guiltless manner.
“Mmm… Can you stop with your other character that’s going on right now~?”
After a short break, Otoi-san came with that proposal. As Iroha agreed to that, we went through the yandere little sister character, the old person, and all the others that I brought on the scripts with me. But, they all ended up similar to the yankee character, with her diligent lady-like talk—
After testing out every single character, the chupadrop inside Otoi-san’s mouth made a crunching sound. And, with a voice quiet enough not to leak into Iroha’s booth, she asked me.
“What’s with that, you picking a fight with me?”
“…I’m sorry. Normally she’s way better than this.”
“I know that very well… Ahh, so tired.”
Having finished the chupadrop in her mouth, Otoi-san went to take out a new one, and brought her body forward.
“Hey, Kohinata~ Are you fine with this sort of acting?”
Hiding her irritation, she asked a perfectly normal question. In response, Iroha…
“Of course. The producer gave his okay, and it’s 100% to his liking after all~”
She answered with a grin of mischief.
Don’t tell me… she’s letting her bad mood affect her job?
“The producer gave his okay…? Aki, you directed this?”
Otoi-san’s voice grew deeper, and she started glaring at me.
“If you’re that keen on wasting my time like this, then how about you just leave, right this instant.”
“I assure you that’s not the case. Hey, Iroha, stop kidding with me and get serious.”
Maybe my true opinion got through to her, because I could hear how she swallowed her words. The expression of hers that I could see through the soundproof glass was filled with uncertainty.
No good. This is definitely no good, Iroha. It’s true that stepped on a land mine with you as well. I’m not going to make any excuses, since I might really be the bad guy here. And making Otoi-san mad here doesn’t matter. But.
Making light of the path you’ve chosen for yourself is something you definitely cannot do.
“Hold your horses.”
The moment I was about to let out my frustration, something was stuffed into my mouth. A slippery texture on my tongue, with a sweet taste. After stuffing the chupadrop into my mouth, Otoi-san broke eye contact with me, and turned towards the booth.
“Okay, stop~ This’ll be all for today. Let’s all cool down a bit~”
After Iroha’s answer, devoid of any energy, the door opened, and Iroha walked past us, not even glancing at us, and went up the stairs with heavy footsteps.
“Haa… What a pain~”
Looking at Iroha’s back, Otoi-san gave a deep sigh. I understood very well that she wasn’t blaming her with those words.
“Thank you very much. And I’m sorry.”
To be honest, Otoi-san’s decision practically saved us. If she didn’t hold me back then, I might’ve said something to Iroha that I would never have been able to take back. With the sweet taste filling my mouth, basically telling me that I was still nothing but a kiddo, I felt embarrassed at both myself and my immaturity.
“—And, what happened? I gave you an indirect kiss, so you can tell me, right?”
I dropped my shoulders like a child that was about to get a scolding, and continued to lick away on the chupadrop.
I see, so this is an indirect kiss. The moment I realized that, my heart started beating a bit faster for some reason, but the deepest part of my head still remained calm. I won’t acting all flowery just because of this, not to mention in this kind of situation.
I looked at Otoi-san straight in the eyes. I should tell her what happened. Everything, including Mashiro.
“—I see~ So things like that happened.”
I explained all the recent happenings that had led up to this point.
About being ordered to become Mashiro’s fake boyfriend by president Tsukinomori. All those different twists and turns, and how Mashiro confessed to me. How I desperately want to give her my answer, but she’s blocking me off. And finally, how I wanted to ask Iroha for advice, to which she suddenly went into her pure and diligent mode.
As I was done, Otoi-san let out a sigh of admiration.
“You… Not bad~ You a normie now.”
“Normie…if that was the case, I might’ve been able to handle the situation a bit better. Since this is a first for me, it felt like I was played left, right, and center.”
“Haha. Now this one’s a banger, really~ Aki being played, is the world going to end tomorrow?”
“You say that, but you’re one of the people that always do that, you know.”
“That’s exactly why~ I thought I had a monopol~”
With her ever unchanging expression, I had no idea if she was joking or serious.
“Well~ I don’t really understand love n’all that. Neither do I know about Kohinata’s real intentions here. But, if I can say one thing… I won’t forgive you if you wreck her talent~”
Without any strength in her voice, it still emitted enough force to send a shiver down my spine, forcing me to unconsciously straighten my back.
“You know that I’m quite fond of Kohinata, right?”
“…Yeah, of her talent, that is.”
That I know very well. That’s exactly why she’s keeping Iroha’s talent a secret, and lends us her strength like that.
“I love music, and playing around with sound. It might sound weird coming from me, but I have a good pair of ears. But I don’t have any of the qualities to become a singer or a pianist, or anything in that field. Neither do I have any talent. I know that very well since I have my good ears~”
I understand what she means. After all, I’m the same as her. Someone who can only watch others in awe, holding nothing for themselves.
“That’s why I decided to act as the
assistant~ Granting strength to the blessed, something like that~
And, one of those blessed is—”
“That’s what it is~ The width of her acting, the range of her voice, this isn’t something that you can acquire through pure training. Her skill is, how do I say it…like spiritualism, I guess~”
“I understand that.”
This can only be said about a small portion of actors. They’re able to feel the role in their own self. It’s as if one would take in the soul of a different person, and turn it into their own, telling the world what the soul wanted to. It’s not just acting. Like running words through a translation machine, one’s’ self, and sending them out to the world’s inhabitants in their own languages. That’s the level of Kohinata Iroha’s genius.
“You know, for the rest of my high school career, I thought it’d be fine to offer it all for her~ If not, then I wouldn’t let you use all this equipment for some sweets~”
Otoi-san and I are both faithful to her skill. That’s why—
“Go ahead and waste away Kohinata’s genius with this stupid adolescent event or whatever, and I’ll resent you for the rest of my life, okay~?”
Her words pierced right into my chest.
Adolescent event. The bait to make all those guys lose sight of their future, just to experience it once. Did I end up experiencing that, what I had been scorning all this time?
“This Mashiro girl, she’s probably quite the cutie~”
“…I wonder about that. If she’d act a bit more lovable, that is.”
“Nah~ No matter how you think ‘bout it, she’s gotta be cute. For Aki, who’s got no interest in girls whatsoever, to not reject her at the starting line, she’s gotta be cute no doubt. 100%.”
“Did you even listen to me? There’s the deal with president Tsukinomori to consider, so I just can’t do anything rash. Not to mention, I can’t let the [5th Floor Alliance] suffer because of this. I have to strike a good balance for the motivation of every member, or else—”
“Or so you make excuses, but you just can’t be honest with yourself, right?”
“You’re straining yourself way too much, c’mere.”
Waving her hand at me, I walked towards her. As I did, Otoi-san’s hands moved towards me at a speed you wouldn’t expect from her. With her hands on the back of my head, she pushed me towards her, softly embracing me.
A soft feeling was pressing against my head, making me feel like I was drowning. A milky scent of sweat. And a hot temperature you wouldn’t expect from a sloth-like human such as her.
…What’s she doing all of a sudden? And Otoi-san, of all people.
This sudden development threw my mind into a frenzy.
“I don’t need to experience adolescence. I don’t understand what it means to have romantic feelings either. That’s just how I am.”
“Yeah… I think that’s why the two of us are such a good fit.”
“But~ Can you hear it, the sound of my beating heart?”
As I was told, I focused my ears.
Thump thump thump thump thump thump—it rings, the sound of her beating heart.
“It’s beating crazy fast, right?”
“You’re…nervous? The Otoi-san is?”
“Even a girl like me can’t keep a calm heart after doing this. Well, I’m not a girl to wear my emotions on my sleeve either.”
With those words, she slowly let go of my body. Just as she said, her face was as expressionless as always. Though if I concentrated on it, I could see that her skin was a bit pink, but this definitely wasn’t that much of a change.
“Aki, aren’t you the same?”
“You don’t want anything useless. Even if you think like that, your body starts reacting on it’s own. Well~ That’s what makes us humans… human, I guess?”
“…So this is how much of an influence Mashiro’s confession had… For me, and Iroha…”
“Probably, yeah~ That’s why—”
Saying that, she pointed at a framed picture, standing on top of the console next to her.
“—You have to bring up the same determination you brought up back then.”
It was a picture we took last year. Showing a slightly younger-looking Iroha, Otoi-san, and me. We were inside the booth, with a merry Iroha doing a peace-sign, me acting as her guardian with a stony face, and a yawning Otoi-san. It was a picture taken with a selfie-stick, for our kickoff party.
The Iroha back then, when she was still a third-year in middle school—
With a face rotting of boredom, I forcefully pulled Iroha here against her will. Her merriness at seeing all the recording equipment, the excitement of hearing her own voice in such high quality. And, the picture of the first day she’d ever shown me a genuine smile.
“Determination, huh… Yeah…”
That’s how it is, probably. Telling myself that I had to deal with Mashiro’s confession in a calm manner, in fact, I might’ve been happy, deep inside my heart. Just being able to do it over LIME is nothing but an excuse. There should be countless ways to deliver my response, even if by force. I didn’t take the most efficient route. I never tried to. Trying to preserve the balance, to not hurt anyone.
Even though I should’ve mustered up my determination on that day. I don’t care if I’m hated. I don’t care if I’m resented by anyone. I will bet all my time on their talent. I will bet my whole life—
“Thank you, Otoi-san. I’ve been reborn.”
“………Mm, good eyes you’ got there. Looks like you’ll be able to talk it out with her.”
“Yeah, I can. A conversation between only us.”
—Woah, it’s been so easy. I should’ve done it like this from the very start.
“I’ll go home as well. Sorry about today.”
“Well~ Don’t mind it. As long as I get the toll and tip next time.”
“Of course you will.”
Running her hand through her hair, Otoi-san threw me a bitter smile as I left the studio behind me. As I stepped up the stairs, I took out my smartphone. To put an end to everything, the first thing I have to do is—
[AKI]: Let’s go get dinner together today. I’ll send you the time and location later. And I’ll give you my response to your confession
I sent that message to Mashiro. I don’t care about her consent. It’s a one-sided invitation. But that’s totally fine. I don’t need to think about the other side’s circumstances. I just have to focus on mine, and go down the route with the most efficiency. That’s the kind of man that I am. I won’t give any more consideration than what’s necessary.
If Mashiro’s just running away, not willing to meet me face to face, then I’ll just force a confrontation.
「…Not gonna say anything?」
「You have some important business right after this, don’t you. Just didn’t want to damper your determination. Whatever happens, I’ll respect your decision, Aki.」
「Ah… Thank you.」