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The Little Sister That Started Everything
“Well, I feel like you made some good progress there. The romcom elements have taken a good form, so I think we’re getting close to finishing the plot.”
“I-Is that so?! Then maybe I can start writing for real now…!”
“Don’t rush it. Also, do you want to drink something? I did call you here, so just get whatever you want. As for the money… well, I can pay if it’s just you, I think.”
“…N-No, don’t mind me, just continue…”
“Ah, really? Then I’ll just order something for myself, okay?”
A few days after we came back from the trip, on a certain day, late in the afternoon, I was once again having a meeting with Sakaki-san. Today, we didn’t meet at the publishing company itself. Instead, we were at a nearby cafe that Sakaki-san had recommended.
“S-So what should I do next?” I asked Sakai-san after she had taken a sip from her melon soda that she’d ordered. After all, it felt like the plot was receiving an overall OK right now, and then I would start writing my own novel. After that would be my debut! Ahh, I can’t wait!
“Weeell, I think that you can start working on the main part now.”
“I-I’ll immediately work on it! Give me a week. No, three days, and I’ll stop by—”
“Hold your horses. You’re rushing this too much. It’s good that you’re so motivated, but just charging forward won’t work… Woah, that sounded pretty good, didn’t it?”
Ugh… Sasaki-san is going at her own pace as usual… Well, she’s right in saying that I might be rushing things, but Sakaki-san is too relaxed…
“Also, there’s one thing that still piques my interest about your novel… Umm, what was it again?”
“How would I know?! And what do you mean by that?”
“…Ah, I know! After reading your manuscript, I was wondering why you weren’t writing your novel in a different genre.”
“A-And what is that genre?!”
“Why aren’t you writing a little sister novel?”
That question surprised me so much that it robbed me of any words I had just been about to say.
“E-Even if you ask me that, I don’t know how to answer that question…”
“I mean, the heroine you wrote totally acts like a little sister, right? She’s younger, she has a smaller stature, it feels like she’s dependant on the protagonist, and the atmosphere around her totally fits what you’d expect from a little sister~”
T-That’s because I wrote the heroine with Suzuka as a model.
“So, I was wondering why you didn’t write a little sister novel from the get-go. It seems like that’s your forte after all, and it’s easy to understand as a reader, so coming up with a story and plot isn’t too difficult—”
“I’m sorry, but I won’t write a little sister novel.”
Before I realized it, I’d already rejected Sakaki-san’s proposal.
“Hm? Why is that?”
She stared at me blankly when she heard my response, which she wasn’t expecting. In a certain sense, that reaction was to be expected, and objectively, there was nothing weird about it. But that didn’t matter to me. Just this once, I couldn’t back down on this. I won’t write a little sister novel.
Because I have a real little sister named Suzuka! I do like little sisters, and I think that Suzuka is incredibly cute, and I’m so much of a siscon that I probably wouldn’t be able to survive it if she got fed up with me! I admit that! But even I won’t use a little sister as the theme for my novel. That is something that I cannot do, since I have a real little sister! I cannot allow myself to cross that line.
…Not to mention that recently, I’ve been feeling weird every time I look at Suzuka. With all this going on, do you really think that I could write a little sister novel like that?
“A-Anyway, I won’t write a little sister novel.”
However, laying bare my feelings was something I couldn’t do either, so all I could do was confidently assert my position. When I did, Sakaki-san looked a bit surprised for a second, but…
“Hmmm… Well, I can’t help it if you don’t want to write it.”
Luckily, she didn’t question me any further. Maybe she realized something about my attitude, or she probably just felt like it was a bother, but either way, I was glad about this result.
“Hmmm, but what to do, then? A childhood friend is a bit too weak, so we have to think of another way to create an element that can give your novel enough of a punch… Ahh, what a pain.”
With her usual half-opened, sleepy eyes, Sakaki-san muttered to herself. It’s not like she suddenly grew disgruntled, but she really looked like she felt that all of this was a bother, making me feel like I was the one at fault. As a result, I found myself saying “I’m sorry…”
“I’ll give it some thought, but make sure that you rethink your plot as well. Sorry, but I don’t have that much time right now. I’ve gotta go to a meeting.”
“Yes… Sorry to bother you like this.”
“You’re not bothering me in any way, so stop lowering your head like that~ This is just my job as an editor… But the things I have to do now kinda cross the boundaries of my job as an editor~”
“Nah, it’s nothing. Anyway, I’ll contact you later.”
Saying that, Sakaki-san ate the rest of her ice in the cup and got up from her chair to walk away. When I looked at the table, the bill was still there, unpaid, but seeing this as a sort of repayment for her bothering with me, I reached towards it, all the while muttering to myself.
“…A little sister novel, huh?”
“…So, why won’t you write a little sister novel…?”
In that moment, I suddenly heard a voice behind my back, making me made me freeze in place. It was a voice that would send shivers down your spine. I was too scared to check, but ignoring the voice wouldn’t work out either, so I turned around hesitantly.
“I’d like a detailed explanation as to why you won’t write a little sister novel…!”
When I did, the face that greeted me was the one I had anticipated. It was Suzuka, glaring at me with palpable anger.
Why was Suzuka here? Is it because our meeting place was a public cafe, and she was sitting in the seat behind me the whole time? I’m really starting to wonder if she’s turned into a stalker. Maybe I should have a word with Mai!
“So why is that, Onii-chan?”
“U-Ummm… How about we just get out of here first!”
“Ah, wait a second!”
I left the cafe behind and began running away. Suzuka followed me shortly after, but I tried not to make eye contact with her, and I muttered a panicked “L-Let’s go home” and started walking even faster.
“Why is a little sister novel no good?! Your editor even said that you should, and it lines up with your beloved little sister attribute! You’re even using me as a model, so you might as well add the little sister element as well, don’t you think?!”
Naturally, that alone wouldn’t be enough to satisfy Suzuka, and her barrage of questions mixed with scolding followed shortly after, but I couldn’t say anything in return.
…Why, you ask? It’s exactly because I’m using you as a model!!
—Or so I wanted to say, but I didn’t have the guts to do that. Also, hearing Suzuka bring up the reason herself left me unable to retort! If it were anybody besides her, bringing up that reason wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but Suzuka is the one person I can’t tell. Making my real little sister the heroine, and writing a little sister novel with her… The guilt would be unbearable. Even a lawyer wouldn’t be able to defend me.
“Y-You heard it, didn’t you? I don’t want to write a little sister novel! How do I put it… It doesn’t really add up with me. It just feels wrong!”
Hence, all I could do was emphasize my opinion without giving any detailed explanation. But…
“W-What’s with that cheap reason?!”
“It’s not my fault if it doesn’t match up with my light novel abilities! It’s just that I feel like this isn’t the right genre for me! Yeah!”
“Say something like that after you’ve managed to debut as a light novel author!”
I know, okay?! …Damn it, that’s Suzuka for you. She knows that there’s another reason for sure… But I definitely can’t tell her, at any cost!
As I adamantly defended my opinion, Suzuka had a frustrated expression on her face, and…
“W-What’s this about?! Why are you so stubborn about this?! So a little sister really isn’t going to work?!”
At first, she lowered her head in a depressed manner, but that changed immediately,
“N-No, this isn’t the time to feel down! Now that it’s come to this, I definitely have to make Onii-chan write a little sister novel!”
She looked like she had decided something, and she formed a fist with her hand.
…I don’t know what she’s planning on doing, but I definitely won’t write a little sister novel, okay?!
In the meantime, we arrived at our house, and the conversation was over—
“Onii-chan, it’s time for a lecture.”
As soon as the door of the entrance closed behind me, Suzuka dragged me to her room, and I knew immediately that the battle wasn’t over.
She forced me to go down on my knees on a cushion. Suzuka stood in front of me, looking down at me, like she was some kind of god, and I knew that I wasn’t allowed any back-talking.
“This is about you not wanting to write a little sister novel. If you aspire to become a light novel author, shouldn’t you write a little sister novel if it has a higher chance of success?”
This time, she argued with flawless logic. T-This might be bad…
“T-That might be true, but if it’s a novel that doesn’t really sit right with me…”
“Why do you keep saying that? Your editor even recommended it. It just sounds like you’re just being stubborn.”
“D-Don’t say that! My senses tell me that, and that’s important when writing a novel, right?!”
“So is that all? Your wish to become a light novel author… Was it really that trivial to you?”
“Ugh… O-Of course not. It’s precisely because of it that I want to make everything perfect!”
“Hmm… But because of that, you’re distancing yourself from your dream, don’t you think?”
“Not quite. It’s just one step towards making my novel even better!”
“A-And what is there to gain with that one step? Is there a better type of heroine for you than little sisters?”
“I-I’m searching for that right now!”
“That’s the same as saying that there isn’t!”
We were both just glaring at each other now. Suzuka was adamantly trying to make me change my plans, and at the same time, I was adamantly trying to stay true to them. Neither of us showed any signs of stepping down from our opinions, and our discussion continued. Before I realized it, an hour had already passed, and both of us started to get tired, breathing heavily.
“O-Onii-chan, why are you…?! You don’t want to write a little sister novel, even though it could get you closer to your dream…!”
Even with Suzuka’s glare, she couldn’t break me. Also, I felt like I could see tears building up in her eyes… Is this really something to cry about? P-Please stop already, okay? Making you cry would make me want to kill myself even more than I already do…!
“What’s with that attitude all of a sudden…! Where did the old Onii-chan go, who would do anything to achieve his dream of becoming a light novel author…!”
Luckily, Suzuka brought up another argument instead of crying… Thank God. But props to her for coming up with all these arguments. This time she’s even comparing me to how I used to act…
“That’s right…! I used to love watching Onii-chan, doing his best to work for his dream! Now you just look so pathetic—”
S-Say what you want. My opinions won’t waver even if you pretty much insult me!
But for whatever reason, Suzuka suddenly grew quiet mid-argument. …W-What? Is this some feint?
“That reminds me, there’s something I’d like to ask Onii-chan.”
Her atmosphere from before was gone, and she seemed more unsure than ever.
“W-What’s with that so suddenly…? What is it you want to ask?”
“I realized that I had never asked you about this, so I thought that I might as well ask now.”
Suzuka looked directly at me as she continued.
“What was it that made you want to become a light novel author? The origin of your dream. I never asked.”
After Suzuka asked that question, a heavy silence filled the room. But it didn’t last for long, since the moment I grasped the question she had just asked, my reaction was… wild, to put it mildly.
“T-The origin of my dream…?!”
“Yes. Thinking about it, I don’t know anything about that. I just always took it for granted that it was your dream. But that doesn’t make any sense, right? There should be a reason as to why it became your dream.”
Suzuka continued to calmly explain what she wanted to know, and I could tell her eyes were serious.
“…So what was the trigger? There has to be some influence that made you want to become an author, and considering that it’s your dream to be a light novel author, it had to have been a light novel, right—?”
After making it this far, Suzuka suddenly lifted her head as if she had realized something.
“That’s right! What was the first light novel you ever read?!”
The question she asked me made me freeze in place.
“Tell me, please! That novel must have been the origin of your dream!”
…Y-You, will you ever quit being so effing sharp?! You just hit the mark, you know?!
“I-I’d love to read it as well! Onii-chan’s ‘First Novel’! Do you still have it?!”
Suzuka closed in on me with great enthusiasm.
W-What should I do?! How can I get out of this?!
“Just so you know, covering it up won’t work, you know?!”
Before I could come up with anything, Suzuka closed off my escape route.
S-Suzuka’s totally serious. She won’t let me go until I show it to her…! And the worst part is that I’m clearly not in the condition to think calmly about this. Normally, I might be able to come up with something like always, but—
But not with Suzuka acting like she is right now! She’ll definitely see right through me!
“M-My first light novel is something I read when I was just a young kid, so my memories of it are quite vague… I didn’t buy it back then, so I don’t have it either…”
Hence, I could only respond with that. Naturally, that wasn’t a lie, nor was it a way to cover it up, either. I just remembered one crucial detail about the story. But that crucial detail was exactly what made it so unforgettable to me. Because—it was the origin of my dream to become a light novel author.
“Really! You should understand, right?! So please just let it go…!”
“I still can’t. It might be true that you’ve forgotten most of the novel, but if it’s related to your dream, there must be something important about it that you still remember!”
Don’t read too much into it! Give me some privacy, will you?!
“I definitely have to read this book now!! Where can I get it?!”
“I don’t know, since I don’t have it! Also, there’s really no reason for us to do so, so just drop this, I beg you!”
“Then I just have to search for it! The internet will surely tell me where I can buy it!”
“Again, I’ve even forgotten the title! You can search for it as much as you want, but you won’t find anything if you don’t have any keywords, don’t you think?!”
When I said that, Suzuka went quiet and started thinking.
“But wait a second. If you didn’t buy it, then where did you read it, Onii-chan?”
“Eh? I just happened to pick it up by coincidence in the library…”
“Then let’s go to the library right now!”
“H-Hold on. That won’t work. That library was torn down years ago.”
That was also the truth. That was why I had never had the chance to reread it myself.
“No way?! Then there’s really nothing we can do?!”
Exactly. So please just give up…
“…We can’t help it then. Onii-chan, we’re going out.”
“Eh? W-Where are we going?”
“That’s obvious. We’re going to search for that novel. The bookstores around might still have it.”
“No no no no, there’s no way that any bookstores would have such an old book, you know?!”
“Then some second-hand bookstores. Come on! Why are you hesitating like this?! This might be the key to fulfilling your dream, you know! So try to at least remember what the cover looks like!”
“I faintly remember something, but… That’s just the hairstyle of the characters and their poses…!”
“That’s more than enough!”
Suzuka showed no signs of giving up. Instead, she looked as motivated as ever as she quickly grabbed my arm. As you can see, I had no chance whatsoever of resisting.
…Ugh, now that it’s come to this, she won’t give up unless she finds it. And she won’t just let me tag along, either… She’ll force me to help out by dragging out every single piece of information that I still remember…
We left the house and made our way to a nearby second-hand bookstore. In the end, all we could do was go through novel by novel, checking the covers, and there were even second-hand bookstores that didn’t even sell light novels. Hence, we shortly realized that searching for it this way was impossible, and Suzuka came up with a different idea.
The next place we visited was a nearby pawn shop. They didn’t just sell books, but they also had games and CDs, and even a large light novel corner. However…
“…Not here. Also, they mostly have books from popular series and one-shots, so searching for some rare old book is a lost cause…”
“So basically, the first light novel you read wasn’t from a popular series, and didn’t sell too many copies. Why did you choose that as your first novel, anyway?!”
“I just happened to find it by pure chance, okay?!”
Our search in the pawn shop came to an end as well, and Suzuka got more disgruntled as she became lost in thought.
…There aren’t any second-hand bookstores near us, so there shouldn’t be any other method left… So why are you looking like you still haven’t given up?
“…Let’s see. If we’re going to search for it, we’ve got to be thorough with this. Onii-chan, let’s go.”
“Eh? Where are we heading now? I think that we’ve checked all the bookstores in the area, though…”
“That’s obvious. If you’re searching for something, you have to search at the place that has the most items that are similar. Hence, we’ll be going to Akihabara now, and you’ll guide me through it, like always.”
“A-Akiba?! Right now?!”
“Why are you so shocked? Akihabara is a place filled to the brim with otaku things, right? That’s why there’s a good chance that we’ll find an old light novel there.”
“Ah, hey! Chill a bit…!”
Suzuka grabbed my hand and pulled me to the train station. I had never expected that Suzuka would bring up the idea of heading to Akiba herself. Her dedication to this search was quite shocking.
…S-She might actually not give up until she finds it.
“…I see… So the second-hand bookstores in Akihabara are here and here…”
During our train ride, Suzuka checked the various locations she wanted to search on her smartphone, and I grew worried that one of them might actually have it.
Immediately after our arrival, we walked around various second-hand bookstores and thoroughly searched through all of them. Suzuka’s enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself honestly searching for it as well.
“…Not here, as I thought.”
“W-Why does no store have it…?!”
In the end, we walked all around Akiba and were still unable to find the novel.
…It really must have been a rare book for us not to find it after all that searching…
“Well, we did all we could. It’s a shame that we couldn’t find it, but now that we haven’t even found it in Akiba, we have no other choice but to give up…”
I put one hand on Suzuka’s shoulder as I spoke to her with an imploring voice, and I felt bad for her from the bottom of my heart. At first, I was perfectly fine with us not finding it, but seeing Suzuka search for it this desperately, I’d started hoping that we’d find it.
“It’s already this late…”
When I looked up at the sky, it had gotten completely dark. Wanting to tell her that we should go home soon, I turned to Suzuka. But, the moment I did that, I reflexively let out a confused “Eh?” in response.
“………By the way?”
Suzuka still didn’t look like she was going to give up. Rather than that, her disgruntled mood from before was gone, and she was lost in thought with a serious expression on her face.
…A-Are you still going to keep searching? We didn’t find anything in Akiba, so where else could we search?
My thoughts came to a stop when I heard Suzuka’s next words.
“Onii-chan, let’s go to Himuro-san’s private residence.”
M-Mai’s residence… What are you talking about?!
“There’s an old second-hand bookstore near her residence, right? It looked like it might have the book we’re searching for. Weren’t you looking at that one book before?”
“Ah… Y-You… Are you…?!”
“Yes. Let’s go check it out.”
Suzuka calmly replied, but I couldn’t stay quiet when I heard that.
“There’s no other choice but to try and find it there.”
“H-Hold on! Right now?! It’s almost night already, you know?!”
“There’s the train, so there’s no problem.”
“I was talking about our way home…”
“We just have to look for a place to stay over there. I’ll call our parents, and we don’t have to worry about the money. At times like these, I can use my allowance as an author.”
I was shocked and astonished.
Is this… really Suzuka?
“B-But, I might’ve just mistaken the novel for another one…”
“Then we’ll just have to go there and check.”
Suzuka showed no hesitation whatsoever, and I couldn’t find any way to convince her otherwise. Her fierce gaze was directed at me, and the intensity in her eyes made me feel even weaker. I was unable to say anything in the end.
“Let’s go, Onii-chan. Time’s a-wasting,” Suzuka said, once again grabbing my hand.
But in that moment, I felt the unbearable urge to ask Suzuka something that had been bugging me for a while, so I opened my mouth.
“H-Hey, Suzuka, why are you going this far…?”
When she heard my question, Suzuka stopped in her tracks, and after a short silence,
She started, and she turned around.
“J-Just like Onii-chan gave it his all to help me… I want to do anything to be of help to you…! W-We’re siblings, after all!”
When we stepped out of the bus at the stop near Mai’s residence, it was already dark out. We started walking down the road towards the bookstore. Unlike the nearby supermarket, the bookstore was already closed, just as we had suspected. However, instead of giving up for the day, Suzuka knocked on the shutters for a while. I helped her out, and we hoped that somebody would hear us and open it.
Finally, our efforts paid off, and the door opened. An old lady greeted us. She was a bit surprised, but she still let us in. We quickly explained the situation, and went to finish our business. We walked through the bookshelves, and we finally found it.
I picked it up to make sure, and checked the cover and title. There was no doubt that this was it.
When I nodded, Suzuka stood next to me and peeked at the book.
The title was ‘Honey Sister’, written by ‘Kirurin.’
It was the first light novel that I had ever read.
““This book, please!””
Suzuka’s voice and mine overlapped perfectly. The old lady returned our request with a smile.
“That’s bad manners, Onii-chan. Just give up already.”
Suzuka had just finished her bath, and she still had wet hair. She was closing on me while wearing a yukata. I was also wearing a yukata, trying to distance myself from her, but I soon hit the wall behind me.
“Fu fu fu, you can’t run away anymore…”
Suzuka was getting closer and closer. As a result, I could faintly smell the shampoo in her still wet hair, which made my heart beat faster. I could feel my body getting hotter, and since I barely had gotten out of the bath myself, I could feel my head spinning.
“A-Aren’t you embarrassed…?” I tried to reason with her, but…
“I-I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t embarrassed! B-But, even more than that, I’m very interested in Onii-chan’s ‘first’…!”
Although she was as red as I was, Suzuka still walked forwards. When I tried to run away to the side, I slipped on the blanket lying on the ground and landed on my butt.
“Now you won’t get away anymore, Onii-chan…”
In response, Suzuka lowered her body, and was now hovering over me. From an outsider’s perspective, it looked like a little sister was pushing down her older brother on the blanket. It was a truly dangerous sight. Even as I desperately called out to Suzuka by saying things like “Wait!” and “Calm down!”, Suzuka just continued baring her suspicious smile, refusing to give in.
“Then I’ll be taking Onii-chan’s ‘first’…!”
She stretched out her hand towards me, and… While my body was shivering like crazy, she pushed her hand between the gaps of my yukata. I could suddenly feel Suzuka’s soft touch on my chest, making me stiffen up and gulp in shock. But in order to make sure that I wouldn’t run away, Suzuka pushed herself in front of me even more.
“Is it here? Onii-chan…?”
Suzuka brought her face closer to mine until I was able to feel her breath.
N-No…! I can’t… anymore…!
And just when I was unable to stand the situation anymore,
“I found it!”
Suzuka screamed out, and pulled her hand out from underneath my clothes. The item she held in her hands was of course—Honey Sister.
“You really don’t know when to give up! Trying to hide the novel in your bust while I was taking a bath!”
Holding the book in her hand, she looked down at me angrily. In the meantime, I was lying on the ground in a T-pose with spread arms and legs? “H-How did you know?” I asked.
After complaining, I slowly lifted up my head and my upper body.
“Of course I knew. You were planning to not show it to me even though we went this far to get it, right? But you didn’t have the courage to throw it away, so you tried to hide it in your clothes.”
…Amazing. She’s completely right. She’s even got my motives completely pegged.
Suzuka complained “Really, Onii-chan is such a helpless person…”, and since I didn’t have anything to say back, I just sighed in defeat.
…Well, I knew that it was wasted effort. But I reflexively hid it, trying to escape the situation nonetheless. I’m really such an idiot…
But anyway, let me explain the situation. What happened after we found the novel, and how we ended up like this…
Ah, but, before that, to all the people that just imagined something weird during our previous exchange, you’d better rid yourself of these impure thoughts. After all, something like that would, umm… never happen… between me and Suzuka… alright?
Cough… Anyways, our current situation:
We were resting in a single room in an inn close to Mai’s private residence. I’m glad that we achieved our goal, but since it took us so long, we were unable to take the train home, so we had no other choice but to sleep here. Naturally, there was only one room for me and Suzuka. Although there were multiple free rooms, Suzuka was adamant that we’d sleep in the same room.
Of course, I had tried to convince her that we each should have our own room. Suzuka responded with a flurry of arguments against that, though, such as…
“W-We’re family, so it’s fine if we sleep in the same room!” or “Why should we waste money on this if we can save it?!” and so on… Even though she said that this was what her pay as an author was for… So why didn’t she use it now of all times?
Still, I couldn’t exactly oppose her, seeing that she would be the one who would pay for it, so I ended up renting a room together with my little sister. After we finished eating dinner, we each took a bath. Suzuka threw glances at me while saying things like “Taking a bath together as family isn’t weird, right?”, but I just lied by saying I wanted to gather some data, and went to take one ahead of her. Once I came back, two futons were already laid out, so I got the weird idea of trying to hide the novel while she was out taking a bath herself.
…To be honest, I regret that it came to this after all. At the time we found the novel, I happened to feel happy for both of us, but I shouldn’t have let it get so far. How I wish I could awaken to some time-reverting ability now…
“Are you still hesitating, Onii-chan?”
As I was thinking all that, Suzuka criticised me with a displeased expression on her face. Truth be told, it’s probably just a waste of energy to try to stop it now. I certainly can’t run away from having Suzuka read it at this point. But…
“…Hey, do we really have to read it together?”
Why do you want to read it together that badly?! A book is something you read on your own, right?! Alone, in silence, your mind filled with the story!
“O-Of course. It’s Onii-chan’s first light novel, you know?”
“I really don’t get why that’s a reason for anything!?”
“You want to read it as well, right? After all this time. That’s why we can just read it together! We’re not losing anything by doing it!”
“It’s not like I wanted to read it that badly or anything…”
“For Onii-chan, who has forgotten how to do anything for his dream, reading this right here right now is more than essential, don’t you think?!”
W-Why are you right all the time today?! But it’s not like I can just say “Yeah, you’re right!” and play along!
“Aren’t you embarrassed or anything?! Look at the title! The it’s a lovey-dovey story between two siblings, you know?! Reading this together right here would be total torture!”
“I-I-I-I don’t really mind! E-Even if there are such sibling scenes in there, I’m looking forward to—Not that! This is important to Onii-chan, so I can put up with it!”
…Y-You might be able to bear it, but I can’t. Reading a little sister novel with my little sister would just be hell…
In the meantime, Suzuka opened her mouth with an “Also!” Her face was bright red.
“Also, you said that this is the first novel you ever read, right? And it’s a little sister novel, so why won’t you write a little sister novel yourself?! That’s just weird!”
“To find out why that is, we have to read this together after all! This is all for Onii-chan!” said Suzuka. She arrogantly puffed out her chest.
Seeing Suzuka become this emotional might actually be a first time for me… And it’s not even for her sake, but just for me. There’s no way I could say no after seeing that.
“……! …Haah, I got it already. I give up…”
I shrugged my shoulders as I slumped over in defeat. In that moment, Suzuka’s face lit up.
“So you finally understand, Onii-chan! T-Then let’s start immediately! Of course, the two of us, together, next to each other…!”
With those words, Suzuka sat down next to me on the same futon. Coming so close that our bodies almost touched, she held the novel between us. Meanwhile, as I was gazing at the cover, I started to feel nostalgic.
Honey Sister, huh? Back when I didn’t even know that light novels existed, I just happened to spot this one novel in the library. The cover and the illustrations, the title and the designs; I remember it all now. All those feelings I had back then are slowly coming back to me…
“Now then, please flip the cover, Onii-chan.”
I did as I was told. Shortly after, both of us were absorbed into the story of the novel.
Honey Sister wasn’t anything special. It was your typical little sister novel. The story had an ordinary pair of siblings who got into a fight because of a certain misunderstanding, and their relationship became fixed slowly by romcom events. If there was one thing to critique it about, it was filled with cliches, and there was nothing that really made it stand out. If I was reading it for the first time right now, I’d definitely close it after reading it, and I’d never touch the second volume. However…
“Ah, Onii-chan, I’m not done with
the page yet…”
Hence, while the two of us were reading it, I didn’t feel anything special at all. I didn’t think you could call this work a masterpiece. This much explained why almost no store even had the book. It probably disappeared from the charts quickly, and might have even gotten axed. I also don’t remember any other novel from the author, so the reception might’ve been so average that he didn’t release any more novels.
But everyone must have their own novels that they enjoy subjectively, even though everyone else says that they’re bad, right? I sure have books like that, at least. There were times when I thought that a novel was super interesting, only to find out that the evaluation online was really bad, and that it would be discontinued. And that had happened more than just once or twice.
…The first experience I can remember that this happened was with this exact novel. I remember it now that I’m reading through it again.
“Onii-chan, have you finished reading this page?”
“Ah, I’ll flip it over in a second…”
Before I realized it, I found myself getting excited. I had completely forgotten about the embarrassment of reading a little sister novel with Suzuka, and was purely focusing on the siblings inside the novel.
…Fun. This novel is really fun! The characters are common, the depictions of them aren’t anything special either, and the story doesn’t have any great plot twists, pretty much a flat line. Comparing Suzuka’s novel to this is like comparing heaven to earth. But what does it matter?
It was fun. I can’t properly explain it, but it’s fun, and that all that matters. This is that exact same feeling of being hooked on something, even though it was nothing special. How nostalgic. It felt like my head wasn’t reading it, but rather my heart, which was difficult to explain.
Why did I get so hooked on this novel?
Then I remembered something.
…I remember this feeling? It’s the same feeling I got as a kid when I first read this light novel, I think. Right, I was reading this novel with the exact same feeling.
Fun… To think that there was something interesting like that. So this—is a light novel, huh?
Something popped up in my mind. All those hazy and vague feelings I had are suddenly so vivid and clear. The same feeling I had back then when I read it in the library. When I took this book to the table. The feeling of it having gotten completely dark outside once I finished reading it.
….I remember everything!
“What’s wrong? Can I keep going?”
I was brought back to reality by Suzuka’s words, and I quickly turned the page. While my eyes were busy reading the next lines, my head was filled with all the different memories I had. They were all coming together and forming a clear picture.
…Yeah, I’m starting to remember everything that happened back at that time, and even before that… The time I encountered that novel, I had just gotten into a fight with Suzuka.
Suzuka had told me “I hate Onii-chan!” That cold, stiffy relationship had continued until I became her stand-in and had made up. Back then, I had gone to the library from time to time. Though I don’t really remember the reason for that all too clearly. Maybe I just felt like reading something, or I felt awkward with Suzuka at home, or maybe neither. I don’t know.
Still, I had gone to the library. And even though I normally didn’t read anything aside from comics, for some reason I set foot into the light novel counter. I don’t really know why I did that. Maybe that incident with Suzuka was part of the reason, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention and just stumbled in… Nevertheless, I arrived there, in the light novel corner, spotted that novel out of pure coincidence, and picked it up.
I don’t know why. I never read any novels back when I was still in grade school. Even so, I just felt like reading it that day. Hence, I took Honey Sister with me to a nearby table and started reading furiously.
When I finished reading it, I found myself thinking about how fun it was, and I found myself interested in reading more light novels. After that, I used all my allowance to buy light novels, and I started having a dream of becoming a light novel author. No doubt about it. This was the origin of my dream.
…But those weren’t all the feelings I had felt back then. Other than falling in love with light novels, I felt something while reading this little sister novel as well. After all, it was the one thing I still remembered after this time.
…Basically, the one thing I had never wanted Suzuka to know, and the reason I couldn’t allow her to read this novel at the same time as I. But it turned out exactly how I feared…
Both Suzuka and I had gotten completely quiet, and we were only reading the story. The only sound in the room was the flipping of the pages. The story finally reached its climax, the misunderstanding was cleared up, and the siblings managed to make up, and there was a scene of the two of them sleeping next to each other, talking with each other. After the little sister fell asleep, the older brother was kindly stroking her head. Then, their daily life continued in the epilogue, and the story was over.
“…Fuu, so it was that kind of story.”
After we both finished it, we both stayed in silence for a short amount of time, but Suzuka finally broke the silence.
“This is Onii-chan’s first light novel… I-I really enjoyed reading it, but… It really was a little sister novel, huh?”
With a slightly sulking expression, Suzuka looked at me.
…Uuu, being stared at like that makes me remember all the scenes from the novel just now…
While responding “Y-Yeah…” I kept my gaze averted from hers. I hoped that this would be the end of it, but naturally, it wasn’t.
“Onii-chan, this is without a doubt the first light novel you read in your life, right?”
“And this is the novel that got you interested in light novels, which ultimately made you aim to be a light novel author. Is that correct?”
“Basically, it’s fine to assume that this is the origin of it, right?”
“Y-You could say that.”
Before continuing, Suzuka let out a deep sigh, only to glare at me shortly after and…
“Then why won’t you write a little sister novel?! If this is the origin of your dream, then writing a little sister novel would be the natural thing to do, right?!”
As expected, Suzuka started hammering at me with flawless logic.
…I mean, she’s right… That’s what it would boil down to…
“Why?! Why do you still not want to write a little sister novel?! I want an explanation!”
I tried to respond, but I couldn’t come up with anything in the end. What could I say? Suzuka is completely right… B-But I definitely can’t tell Suzuka the reason, no matter what!
As I was debating internally about how to get out of this situation, Suzuka called out to me. She didn’t look angry, but rather had a serious expression on her face.
“Let me just say this. I won’t give up until I know the reason why you won’t write a little sister novel. Because this is definitely weird. I’ll keep asking until I’m satisfied.”
“It must be a reason that’s hard for you to say, I’m sure. Onii-chan has his privacy, and I don’t feel good trampling all over that. However, this time it’s different. In this case, I feel like I deserve to know the reason. I’ve been supporting your dream with all that I can, and this is something important for me to know… And also…”
“…I can’t keep watching Onii-chan like this. You’re clearly forcing yourself.”
When Suzuka told me this, I thought, …W-Was I really looking like that?
“So please tell me, Onii-chan.”
“Whatever your reason might be, I won’t think poorly of Onii-chan.”
“No matter how much you think that this reason will make you look bad, I won’t look down on you. Whatever it is, I swear that I’ll be your ally, Onii-chan.”
When I saw Suzuka’s honest and kind gaze, I felt like something was changing inside me.
…T-To think that Suzuka would say that much… B-But, just this once, I can’t tell Suzuka about it…!
While my feelings were still in disarray, Suzuka opened her mouth again.
“I will never again say ‘I hate you, Onii-chan!’, even if it rips my soul apart.”
…She said that with a slightly apologetic smile.
In that moment, I could feel something heavy in my chest dissipate. All the strength and tension disappeared from by body, and my hands, which had been making fists, relaxed. In my head, Suzuka’s words were the only thing I could think about.
…Yeah, the two of us aren’t the same as we were back then. I became her stand-in, we became closer, and we managed to make up… And now, she has this much trust in me. Then, whatever happens, we won’t go back to that cold and awkward atmosphere from before, right? No, even if we do, we would be able to fix it ourselves soon enough, I’m sure.
“Onii-chan, we’re siblings, so please rely on me… J-Just like I always rely on Onii-chan…”
Suzuka’s words cleared up the last of my doubts. I slumped my shoulders in defeat and let out a long sigh.
…It’s my loss. There’s no way I could win against such a wonderful little sister… Not a pathetic older brother like me. That’s why… I can’t sink any lower than this anyway. No, even if I do, that’s a problem for another time.
I took a deep breath and lifted my head.
“The thing is… I read this novel back when I was in grade school… To be precise, it was around the time that you said you hated me…”
“And I just so happened to spot this book at the library… I thought that it was just a pure coincidence that I picked it up, but now that I think about it, it’s probably because I saw the title, and I understood that it was about a little sister.”
“I was really moved after I finished reading it. ‘Man, light novels are really fun!’ I thought. After that, I got hooked on them… But that’s not the only thing I felt back then…”
“…A-And what was it that you felt?”
Suzuka looked at me, and I confessed.
“…I was jealous.”
“Yeah, that’s right! I was jealous! I felt envious after finishing it, and not just a little bit! Do you have a problem with that?!”
I could feel my face burning up.
It’s embarrassing, okay? Laugh at me all you want!
But, instead of doing that, Suzuka still looked a bit confused.
“Jealous… of what?”
“T-That’s obvious! Of the siblings in the novel! You just read it, didn’t you!”
“Yeah! It was right after we had a fight! The siblings in the novel were like us, but they managed to make up shortly afterwards, and they got even closer than before! Of course I’d get jealous of them!”
Hearing that, Suzuka looked completely lost, and finally…
Finally her face went red before I even realized it, and she let out a shriek.
“H-Hold…?! Ehhhh?! P-P-Please wait a second?! Pwease wait a shecond?!”
“No, you calm down first…”
“J-Jeal—?! About the siblings that manage to make up?! Auuuu…..?! S-So basically…?!”
“A-Again, the siblings in the novel managed to do what I couldn’t, so—”
She let out another shriek.
“W-What’sh up with that?! I thought that you shaw the novel as shomething god-like, and you thought that you’d be unable to shurpass that?! So I thought of… Ehhh?!”
“Eh? What’s up with that…?”
“And it washn’t that, and rather, you wanted to make up with me…! Unyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”
Suzuka let out another shriek, sank down on the blanket, and buried her face into the pillow.
She then started screaming into it, while hammering her hands on the blanket.
…W-What’s she on about? Not to mention that her speech has been weird at times…
I could only watch the scene unfold in confusion, until Suzuka lifted her head and glared at me, her face a mixture of embarrassment and anger.
“P-Please hold on…! I understand… the feeling that you had… back then…!”
“But!—” she continued.
“Why did you keep saying that you won’t write a little sister novel…! Shouldn’t you have wanted to write your novel if you were so jealous…!”
Finally, there it was. The question I had anticipated. But even though I had expected it, I couldn’t find the right words. Though keeping quiet was also something that Suzuka wouldn’t allow me to do, so I took a deep breath and steeled myself.
“…I-I mean, how could I write a little sister novel, since I have a real little sister myself… You would totally think that I was disgusting…”
I could only confess my own pathetic feelings.
“Wha—?! That’s your reason?!”
Suzuka’s eyes opened wide in disbelief, but I wasn’t done yet.
“I couldn’t even make up with my real little sister, and you think I could just write a little sister novel, and indulge in self-satisfaction like that?! I don’t have the qualifications to write a little sister novel…!”
I finished my explanation with rough breathing, and Suzuka kept quiet as well, until…
She let out a sigh.
“Onii-chan… you really are hopeless…”
I held my head in my hands. I couldn’t say anything in response to that. Maybe I really messed up now… Thinking that, I could feel chills running through my body. However…
Suzuka was looking straight at me. Her face was still red, but she wasn’t condemning me or anything. Instead, it looked like she wanted to be taken seriously, and her expression was honest.
“It’s time for another lecture.”
“Onii-chan, be more honest with yourself.”
“Just write whatever you want to. Stop thinking about qualifications and those sorts of things right now. You should only think about what you want to write, and nothing else.”
“And let me just ask this one more time… Onii-chan, do you really not want to write a little sister novel?”
I felt startled. For a moment, I swallowed my words out of tension, but all that strength once again left my body shortly after.
…She knows everything, anyway. There’s no need to hide it now. There’s no need to cover it up, either. All I have to do is honestly tell her my feelings and wait for her response.
I answered her question. I was ready to accept whatever her response might be.
“I want to write a little sister novel. That’s what I thought back when I read my very first light novel… ‘I have to write my own little sister novel.’”
Paying no mind to what Suzuka might think about me, I finished my declaration.
Now, what reaction will Suzuka have? Her head was lowered, and I couldn’t read her expression. But even if she thinks I’m disgusting, I won’t hesitate anymore…
I kept waiting for Suzuka’s response. She finally lifted her head. Her face was red, and she glared at me—Eh?
“O-Onii-chan is just…!”
“Onii-chan really is such a hopeless person! Just how much trouble did you think I had to go through until you finally realized the obvious?!”
T-That’s not the reaction I expected! And why are you suddenly picking up the pillow—?
“Mugh?! S-Suzuka…?! Stop…?!”
“If you! Want to write! A little sister novel! Then say so! From the start! Then I wouldn’t have had to have gone through all of this…!”
Suzuka suddenly lifted up the pillow of hers, aimed it at me, and swung it down on my head. It didn’t hurt or anything, but since I had never seen Suzuka react like that, I was a bit shocked. In the meantime, Suzuka continued to lecture me, swinging the pillow at me again and again. And, as if to finish it all, she made one final swing, and…
“Onii-chan, you… idiot!”
Screaming out that insult, she sank down on the spot, probably tired from it all. In that moment, I thought I heard a relieved “…I’m glad” in there, but maybe that was just my imagination.
“…U-Umm, Suzuka-san? I don’t know what I did, but could you maybe cheer up now…?”
Around ten minutes had passed after that, and I continued to call out to Suzuka. She was sitting in the corner of a room, her back to me, pouting, while letting out weird sounds like “Muuu…” and “Uuuu…”
At first, I thought that I had finally used up all the affection that she still had for this pathetic older brother of hers, but… this doesn’t exactly seem right. She even heard the reason that I didn’t want to write a little sister novel, and even so, she continued to support me, so why is she mad now? I really don’t understand it one bit, but since she’s angry at me, I can only apologize and wait.
“…I’m not mad anymore.”
Suzuka finally muttered those words, her back still turned to me. After that, she slowly turned, threw a flustered glare at me, and said “Let’s sleep.”
With those words alone, she crawled to the futon lying on the ground.
…S-She’s definitely still mad at me… But after a night’s sleep, she might be in a better mood.
However, while I was thinking that, Suzuka took one of the two futons that were laid out and pushed it to the corner of the room.
…I-Is she so disgusted with me that she doesn’t want to sleep next to me?! W-Well, I had anticipated something like that, but seeing her do it right in front of me still is pretty depressing…
But Suzuka wasn’t done yet. She neatly folded that futon and lied down in the other one. What is she doing…?
“…Ah?! A-Are you telling me to sleep outside?!”
It has to be that, seeing that she didn’t want the other one to be used?! I-I guess that I really made Suzuka hate me this time around…!
“W-What are you talking about…? Don’t be ridiculous. Come here. It’s late already, so let’s sleep…”
“Umm, but my futon isn’t…”
Suzuka raised her voice and interrupted me.
“…I-I’m telling you to sleep with me in the same futon!”
Her face suddenly blushed as red as a tomato, and she was trying her best to look me in the eyes.
“W-W-W-W-W-What do you mean by that?!”
“C-C-C-Calm down! D-Don’t get the wrong idea!”
As if I could calm down when you say stuff like that?!
“…C-Cough… Listen. This is just for Onii-chan’s sake, and certainly not my own wish or anything!”
“How is this for my sake?!”
“I-I mean, in the light novel we just read, the siblings slept in the same bed after making up, right? I-I want to reenact that! This is essential to help cement that feeling of yours that you’ve had all this time, Onii-chan!”
…Cement that feeling…?
“H-Hurry up already! I’m embarrassed, myself…!”
Suzuka complained as she averted her gaze, and laid down to look at the ceiling. She was red down to her neck, and I could faintly see her shaking. I was taken aback by this sudden development. However…
But Suzuka must’ve had an even greater resistance to it, and she still tried her best to hold back her embarrassment for me. There was a time when we slept together to collect data, but that was under different circumstances. I’d feel bad for forcing her to go this far for me, only to chicken out. Hence…
I made up my mind, slipped under the blanket, and rested my body next to Suzuka.
Uuuu, how can I sleep like this with my heart going crazy like this…?!
“H-Hey Suzuka, why are we…?”
“Y-You were jealous of the siblings in the light novel we just read, right? You wanted to make up with your little sister just like in the novel, right?! S-So we just have to do the same thing right now!”
While adding “W-We’re not fighting anymore or anything though!” she moved closer and wrapped her hands around my arm. Feeling that, I twitched. I could tell that Suzuka was equally nervous, and both of us just froze up.
“I-I’m doing my best here, so… Make up with your little sister in the truest sense…!”
Her face was still red, but she threw a serious gaze at me. Seeing my little sister like that, I unconsciously blurted out the following.
“…Is it really fine for me to write a little sister novel…?”
When I said that, Suzuka was surprised for a second, but…
She replied with a smile.
“You just have to write what you want. You were the one who taught me that, right? If you want to write a little sister novel, that’s all there is to it… And I’m happy about that as well…!”
Suzuka suddenly cut off her sentence, and continued with “A-Also! You don’t have to think about something so complicated. I won’t think poorly of you if you write a little sister novel. Just like Onii-chan accepted how I had written my own novel while I was possessed…”
“…N-Not to mention that I’m Onii-chan’s favorite type of girl, and if you were to write a little sister novel, you’d use us two as inspiration for it…! This is the best result ever…!”
“Hyah?! N-No, don’t mind me! Just as I said before, I’ll be Onii-chan’s ally forever, and I will never push you away! So don’t mind me! Write whatever you want to write!”
This time, Suzuka’s cheeks were only flushed slightly. But what she said was very important to me, so I couldn’t do anything but honestly thank her.
“…Well, thank you, Suzuka.”
In response, Suzuka muttered a flustered “W-What are you saying?” as she looked away,
“Weren’t you doing the exact same thing for me all this time? It’s just my way of repaying you… I’m your little sister, so that much is obvious…”
She’s saying all those kind things to me. In response, I could feel all the tension leaving my body. This weird feeling that has plagued me these past few days… No, ever since that day, it’s starting to drift away…
“I’ll write a little sister novel… And I’ll make it the best one ever, I promise…”
I didn’t know who I was saying that to. Maybe Suzuka, maybe even my past self…
Suzuka responded with a relieved tone and a smile. She closed her eyes, and let out a small yawn. Shortly after, I could hear her faint, peaceful breathing. She was probably assaulted by sleepiness after she started to relax. While I gazed at her sleeping next to me, I realized something.
…Ahh, I see, I’ve always wanted to become close siblings like this. I finally understand that now.
Calmly and gently, I started stroking Suzuka’s head.
Listening to Suzuka’s sleep-talk, I once again thanked Suzuka.
…Really, what would I do without you, Suzuka…?
I continued to indulge in this soothing atmosphere, until I felt my consciousness slowly fading away, and I gave in to this warm feeling as I closed my eyes.
I was just about to drift off into the land of dreams, but…
I remembered Suzuka’s overwhelmingly cute sleeping face, which made my heart beat faster again.
The following morning, both of us woke up at about the same time, and after exchanging a slightly awkward greeting, we both got up. Finishing our morning arrangements, we ate the breakfast that the inn had prepared and decided to go home as soon as possible. But before we did so, I quickly took out my smartphone and dialed a certain number.
“Onii-chan? Who are you calling?”
“Sakaki-san… Your editor? Why?”
“I decided to write a little sister novel, right? I want to tell her as quickly as possible. There’s probably no reason to hurry, but I feel like I have to do it now.”
“I-I see! That’s a wonderful idea! You’re going to announce that you’ll write a little sister novel that will be known by everyone on the earth, right?!”
Umm, I didn’t say that much, though…
Flashing a bitter smile to Suzuka, I dialed the number of Crescent Publishing.
“Huh? Nobody’s answering?”
The sound of the phone ringing repeated countless times, but nobody picked up… Is it because it’s still early in the morning?
When I explained it to Suzuka, she got really fired up for some reason, telling me “Keep dialing until someone picks up! And announce that little sister novels are the greatest!” I decided to ignore that, however, and instead thought of something else.
“Hey, Suzuka. Can we do a quick stop at the publishing office before we go home? I really want to tell her as quickly as possible…”
“Of course I don’t mind. The sooner the better! Naturally, I’ll come with you!”
Since Suzuka gave her approval, we left the inn and headed towards the publisher. We arrived in Tokyo around noon and quickly headed to the building with the publisher’s office. Heading up the same stairs as before to the second floor, we stood in front of the office door. I knocked.
“…No response, huh?”
Just like during the call, nobody answered.
“Well, Sakaki-san was sleeping inside before, so maybe that’s the same right now.”
“W-What’s wrong with this company…?”
I ignored the comment from the already fed-up Suzuka, and continued to knock on the door. But nobody came to greet us. Since I had no other option, I peeked inside, and—
I was shocked when I looked inside the room. So shocked that I pulled the door open completely.
“Nobody… Wait, nothing is here?!”
The mountains of books, and the shelves filled with other documents. Everything was gone, only an empty room left to greet us.
“W-What’s going on here?!”
I looked around the room. But no matter where I looked, it was the same.
…S-Seriously, what’s happening?! What’s going on…?!
“O-Onii-chan! Please look at this…!”
I then heard Suzuka’s panicked voice from behind my back. When I turned around, Suzuka was waving at me, signaling me to come over. Seeing no reason to ignore her, I slowly trotted over. When I looked at where she was pointing, there was another piece of paper hanging on the door, beneath the one that said ‘Crescent Publishing’.
…That wasn’t here before, right…?
“O-Onii-chan, read what it says here…!”
“What is it?”
I brought my face closer to said paper to take a look at the small letters on it.
——Year XXXX Month X Day X, our company Crescent Publishing has gone insolvent according to the upper brass. To have it come this far, we’re very sorry to everyone that was involved with our company in any way——
“Yes, it definitely says ‘insolvent’ here…”
When I muttered that to myself, Suzuka affirmed my assumptions.
And then silence followed.
Only the sound of the passing cars outside the window could be heard. But this silence didn’t continue for much longer. Suzuka and I both let out a confused scream that ended up harmonizing.
“…I never imagined that they’d go bankrupt like that…”
While sitting down on the couch in our living room, I looked up to the ceiling.
Suzuka was next to me, holding her head in her hands.
After that, several other people from other companies came over after hearing our scream, and we asked them about some details concerning Crescent Publishing. Even though we asked, there wasn’t much they could tell us either…
All they told us was that they’d been having monetary problems for the past few years. Apparently, the management had reached its limit. Around three days ago, almost like they were running away, they quickly packed their things and left. That explains why nobody picked up when I called before.
…Well, I might as well have guessed that much. The publisher was pretty small, there were no people there, and the atmosphere in there didn’t feel like that of a real publisher… Suzuka was right the whole time, but I was too blind with my dream of becoming a light novel author… Still, I really didn’t think they could go insolvent like that…
“Well, there goes my one chance at my dream, I guess.”
When she heard what I said and saw my fabricated smile, Suzuka’s groan got even louder.
Haha… I don’t even have the energy to be shocked about this… Why did I even work so hard recently? It was all for nothing in the end…
While I was thinking that, Suzuka got up and turned towards me. She was biting her lip slightly, looking close to breaking out in tears, but she swallowed those.
“P-Please cheer up, Onii-chan…! It didn’t work out this time, but I’m sure that you’ll definitely debut with another light novel contest elsewhere! So please don’t let it get to you, and keep working hard…!”
When she earnestly tried to console me, I was even more confused. She continued, teary-eyed.
“You might have lost this way of debuting, but that doesn’t mean that everything is over…! Things will get better, definitely…! I’m sure that you’ll find another way to achieve your dream, so please, please cheer up…!”
…W-Why do I feel like Suzuka was even more shocked than I?
Unsure about that, I just decided to say things like “I-It’s fine!” and “Don’t let it get to you!”, although I was a bit confused as to who was cheering on who right now. But apparently, that wasn’t as much of a shock this time around. I was shocked, of course, and a bit demotivated because I had been so close to debuting, but there was also a part of me that was relatively happy with this.
“L-Look, why are you even more depressed than me about this?”
“Uuuu… B-But aren’t you sad about this, Onii-chan?”
“Well of course I feel like it’s a shame… But, I don’t feel all that sad still…”
“Why…? With just a bit more, you might have achieved your dream… Don’t you feel like you were deceived?”
“You’re not wrong, but there’s something I realized thanks to that.”
“A-And what is that…?”
Suzuka stared at me like a small child, and I continued.
“I feel like I finally understand what I want to write… So even if it didn’t work out this time, I feel like I’ll be able to debut some other way, so I’m not all that depressed.”
With those words, I softly put my hand on Suzuka’s head, who was still teary-eyed, and slowly started stroking it.
“You don’t have to worry about it that much. But thank you, Suzuka…”
I smiled with appreciation, while Suzuka was staring up at me with flushed cheeks. But soon after, she returned to reality.
“T-That’s good to hear…! But… Auuuuu…! That means that you’ll continue to be my stand-in for a bit longer, right?!” Suzuka said, and quickly averted her face.
“Yeah, you’re right,” I replied with a grin.
At that time, I realized something. Why am I this relaxed, even though my dream was crushed right before I could achieve it? And—
Why am so relieved that I can stay as Suzuka’s stand-in…?