== Epilogue ==
— No need to worry, Masamune. Your aunt might look like she is angry, but she isn’t.
— But…she was yelling at you before, father.
— Ahahaha, yes, she was angry then.
— It’s scary, father.
I unconsciously recalled a conversation I had with my father.
It has been a week since Sagiri’s test. Summer break has ended, and school has reopened. A new school year has begun, and we siblings celebrated our third year together.
Today, after school, I was having a conversation with Elf in the Izumi house’s living room.
“….Say, Elf…what do you think?”
“What are you talking about?”
“About Kyouka-san…so she isn’t my enemy?”
I think that since Elf is sharp and has an outside’s point of view, she might be able to give me an accurate answer.
“She always looks like she displeased with something.”
“There was a time she tried to separate us, and she forced Sagiri out of her room.”
If our test didn’t meet her expectations, she would use her own ways to treat her hikikomorism against Sagiri’s will, we would be separated.
“That’s why I hated her, I tried to protect Sagiri, but…”
The test she gave us is reasonable, it’s realistic. At least, not the kind of test which we expected to fail.
— I hate Masamue-kun the most!
— Sagiri, you’ve tried your best.
The image of the “ice queen” shattered in my mind.
“I don’t have a clue. Nothing is clear at all.”
Hearing that, Elf put a hand under her chin for a moment, and said:
“Before I give my opinions, I need to ask you something: why did she agree to be your guardian?”
“How could you two live together now?”
“Because I asked her. I said I will find a way to cure Sagiri’s hikikomorism, so please let us live together. Family members should stay together.”
“Then why did you hate her?”
“Because she tried to force Sagiri out of her room, tried to separate us.”
“Then…why did she agree to postpone the test to April?”
“Didn’t I tell you? I begged her.”
“…………..Both of you are minors, how could you two work at the publishing company?”
“She vouched for us. We couldn’t do it without her.”
“Hmhm…..” Elf narrowed her eyes, her expression grim.
“It’s nothing…I just thought that you really are dense…but it looked like it wasn’t the only reason. It’s understandable that you misunderstood – she was quite hard to understand, after all.”
“Would you please say it in a way that I can understand?”
“To use language that a siscon like you could understand, it’s like this: she is the hidden-type little sister, who hides her true feeling under a mountain of double-meaning and half-truths.”
What? Why use little sisters as an example? What exactly does Elf think of me?
“In other words, unless you have enough life experience to translate her hidden meanings, you wouldn’t be able to understand her. You will always think that she is hiding something important.”
“If there is someone who could understand her words, that person certainly isn’t me. It must be someone who she frequently meets.”
So even the sharp-minded Elf couldn’t see through Kyouka-san’s heart.
“Anyway….she’s the only blood-related relative I have…I’ll try to see her more from now on.” I sighed, and then continued:
“Congratulation for entering a new school year.”
“Same to you.”
Try to see her more – yes, we did meet again later.
“Masamue-kun, I have something to tell you, would you go to a café restaurant with me?” She asked me via phone.
“How about our home, aunt?”
“….But Sagiri wouldn’t like it if I came.”
Her voice dropped. But even so, I felt like a bucket of cold water was dropped on me.
— No need to worry, Masamune
Yeah…I decided to see her more….
“A few times should be fine…Sagiri said so.”
“Yes. 「But I don’t dare to meet her face to face 」, 「I’m sorry, we are family but I couldn’t see you 」. That was what she said.”
“……………………….I see. This child has changed a lot.”
She came not long after that. It looked like she called me when she was already nearby.
“Welcome home, Kyouka-san.”
I greeted her at the door like a family should – while not long ago, I didn’t even treat her like one. I’m glad for her help, but at the same time I treated her like an “enemy” who was trying to separate us. I knew its wrong, but I couldn’t help it.
As long as it’s something related to my little sister, I quickly lose my calm and treat everyone like an enemy – someone warned me of that before. Too bad, I couldn’t manage to fix it.
I sat down in front of my aunt. Without waiting for tea or snack, she asked:
“Masamue-kun, you have something you want to ask me, don’t you?”
Straight to the point. This is a rare chance anyway, I need to ask if I wanted to become family with her.
I swallowed hard, said:
“….There are two things I want to ask.”
Her ice-cold eyes glanced at me.
“First, why did you agree to take us in?”
She narrowed her eyes. I carefully looked at every changed in her expression, and continued:
“I have never heard you talk about this reason, please answer me if you can.”
She glanced at me without blinking. I kept talking.
“….I always thought that you hated me. You always fought with Mom. I can see how bad your relationship with Mom was…so shouldn’t you hate her son – me?”
“But you took us in. I don’t understand why.”
“…….If I hated you kids…I wouldn’t have taken you in.”
Her voice was so painful, but her expression didn’t change at all. I got a feeling that her expression was saying “Why did I take you in? Because I wanted to kill you myself!”
“Masamune-kun….it is true that my relationship with your mother was complicated. If you asked me whether I hated her or not….then my answer is absolutely. However, I…don’t hate you. You are still a child, but you’ve done many amazing thing…you’vealways thought about others ever since you were small.”
Her voice dropped when she praised me.
“But the moment you grew up….such misfortune struck….you grew up without a mother…without an adult to spoil you….that’s why….”
She spoke very clearly when she lectured me, but now….strange.
“It’s just a misunderstanding.”
She still look terrifying to me, but somehow I felt that she was sad.
“In other words…you….did it because you pity us?”
“No.” A firm answer came immediately.
We just sat there and looked at each other. Finally, she slowly said:
“I refuse to answer.”
“You can’t tell me the reason?”
“Because it would be disadvantageous for me. But….”
“I hope that you will find happiness. That’s what I truly hope for.”
Normally, an adult can made up any reason for this situation.
It would be disadvantageous for me, so I refuse to answer. That was her answer. Looked like she was far from my imagination, too honest for her own good. Just like a foolish computer, she couldn’t adjust herself and only played her role as our guardian.
“The second is about my little sister – what exactly do you think about Sagiri’s situation.”
We can’t get anywhere without clearing this up, and I certainly couldn’t trust her without an answer. A few days ago, I thought she hated both Sagiri and I, was that wrong? I needed to make it clear.
Still with her poker face, my aunt said:
“She’s a good child. At least I think so, for the moment.”
“You mean, before you didn’t think that way.”
“If I have to say…I didn’t know her situation back then.”
Understandable. She took us in when she and Sagiri barely knew each other.
“However” She continued “…After that incident, after I found out that she is a hikikomori, I still think that you two shouldn’t live together. It’s clear that you are under a lot of pressure. You have to work, to go to school, to take care of a hikikomori, all while still needing to find a way to cure her…It was hard even when you liveed alone with your father. As your guardian, I couldn’t turn a blind eye to that.”
— You will find happiness.
That was what she meant. Then, she asked me a simple question:
“Now, are you happy?”
I smiled, and replied:
“Yes. I am happy. I have an important little sister. I have a job that I enjoy. I have a dream that I could reach.”
“It’s good then. Looks like I don’t need to worry.”
I knew that my aunt rarely smiled, and I even know why – all I need to do is compare her now and the time when she got mad with Dad.
— Who, who said I want to celebrate my birthday!
— Nii-san!! Really! Do something so suddenly….hm, I don’t know. And I don’t smile! Don’t look at me! Nii-san….I hate you the mostttttt!!!!
Two years ago…my little sister locked herself up, and I wasn’t exactly any better – both my parent passed away and left us with a huge mental scar. But not only is us — here, there another one, another little sister who also lost her smile…
“I finally understand. You two consider living together as the highest happiness –“
She looked angry, but actually, the “Ice Queen” was smiling – at least that was what I thought.
“— However, Masamune-kun, it’s a different matter whether it’s truly better if you two live together.”
“After listening to what Sagiri said, and reading your novel…I feel that it would be more dangerous if I let you two live together.”
“That’s why I will watch you more from now on, what’s that expression mean? Didn’t you say I could come here a few times?”
“Yes, I did….”
“It’s decided then.”
It was so hard for me to get a“like” from Sagiri! Now I have to deal with this too!!!
“I’m going back.”
She stood up. Before she left, my aunt turned back, her eyes turned into two ice columns and hit me straight on.
“Listen well, Masamune-kun. I don’t ask you of anything. I don’t force you to live up to your dreams, your work or anything. If you don’t find happiness in what you do anymore, just let it go. If you want, just tell me, anytime, anywhere.”
“I will take care of you myself.”
Only then did her glance withdraw, leaving me behind.
After that, Kusanagi-senpai came too. Of course, he carefully asked if my aunt was here or not before arriving.
It looked like the first meeting gave him quite a blow – and he might have gave Kyouka-san another bad impression about light novel authors. Maybe its better that they didn’t meet again.
And why did he decide to come here for?
“Izumi, I want to apologize for my action here last time.”
Turned out he came to say sorry. He brought money (to pay for washing the floor) and meals…even though it was someone else who spewed here last time…It looks like he isn’t hopeless…
“Thank you. After I got up – I felt so bad at my behavior, but I didn’t dare to call.”
A bit of a coward, thought.
Compared to his arrogant attitude when he got an anime, this is closer to his real self. Today, he cosplayed as Cloud, with a black coat, and a silver accessory,
“As an apology, I brought some food, do you want them?”
Yes! It was the type of cake I liked the most!
“I told you, I already forgave you and Shidou-kun for vomiting in my house. And the fact that you gave Kyouka-san a bad impression about light novel authors.”
“It’s good to hear…since you forgave me, can you listen to my story?”
“If it’s okay to talk in front of my house.”
“…Can we go in instead?”
“Looks like it will take a while – are you still angry?”
“Of course! When people face something painful, they will be depressed, their mind will keep seeing that cruel event over and over again. Even drinking or working wouldn’t help. Only in light novelscan some guy recover in a heartbeat. Real life is not that easy! That’s why I’m angry.”
Yeah yeah, he is letting his mouth run wild again. Well, I agree with him at least. There is no way to recover immediately after a painful experience. Even if someone looked recovered, they aren’t. The wound will leave a mental scar – which only gets worse with time.
Some might not be able to handle it and lose their smile. Some might drag themselves into the street. Some might turn into a hikikomori.
And it’s not just us. I’m not naïve enough to say “it’s just life”, but most people went on their whole life like that, hiding their own wounds.
That’s why they need to go to school, need to read a book – in order to make sure they don’t lose hope in life.
“Look like Kusanagi-senpai is back to normal.”
“Yeah, I felt something switch inside of me when I heard about an anime. To think I said something so foolish back then…”
He is actually quiet pessimistic, unlike Elf.
“The blu-ray of Pure Love anime has made it to volume three. The mist in the hot bath is all removed.”
“That’s normal in anime.”
“Yes. However, this time, the reason people complained was because they said 「The heroine’s areolas was too big! 」!”
I don’t have any clue what to say to him.
“My fansare very angry! They said 「Was it the author’s idea to make such large areolas? 」or 「What a weird color! 」– they swarmed my blog with their comments!”
“So….you think that they shouldn’t say so?”
“No. People might say that only weirdos say that, but I think since they paid for my work, I mustn’t badmouth them in anyway. I truly think so. But!”
“They are all idiots! Truly idiots! Unbelievable idiots! Why are they telling me all that? What will it change? I didn’t see the areolas when I checked, how could I know if they are big or small? I don’t have special powers! Everyday was so much trouble! It’s like a father whose son the teacher called to complain. I was so tired, how long until this ends….”
This conversation must not reach his readers. All of them were complaints from the author himself.
“Today too. I’m the original author, but I have to beg the editor Please show off less of that character’s areolas!”
He had his own weakness, but at least he treated his fans with kindness. What he said earlier didn’t change that. I need to learn from this side of him.
“Oh damn, the recent months were so chaotic, I didn’t have time to write anything…I was about to forgot my own job!”
He sighed, and continued:
“Izumi…life isn’t easy. I was so mad that I wanted to tell everyone about the dark side of this damn job!”
“Enough already! Stop, please!”
“Nope, Izumi. I’m not telling you because you’re an author or a newbie. I only wanted to vent my frustrations.”
So you were just trying to vent? I thought you were acting tsundere.
“No, I was trying to turn my anger into work motivation. Working is definitely better than fooling around, but I don’t think I could last long. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next year, but soon I won’t be able to write anymore, my career will come to an end.”
“You said the same thing when your novel got an adaption.”
You’re still the same…
“No, really. This time, my career is really in danger. Now I understand why some of my seniors disappeared after they got an anime adaption.”
Saying that, his motivation suddenly died down, and he shrugged:
“Phew, it felt so good to get all that out.”
“I thought you came to apologize to me!?”
“I’m leaving, there is still much that needs to be done.” He turned and was about to leave.
“Much needs to be done?”
“My job, of course. I was about to die, yes. But I’ll keep writing until my last breath….and my bank account was almost empty…”
This is what people called a true tsundere!
The next day, after school, I went to the Kita-Senju station to meet Megumi. Per her suggestion, we found a café shop, then I treated her.
“Thank you, Onii-san!”
“You are welcome.”
“Ehehe, asking an older boy to treat me, I felt like I’m an adult already.”
You make it sound like I’m the type who picks up girls randomly from the street….
After that, we went to the Arakawa area. Both sides of the road were filled with long lines of cherry blossom. Just walking on this path made people feel better.
“Ya – luckily the flower is blooming.”
“Fufufu, this is the best spot to go on dates recently. I was planning to ask you to come.”
“Oh, is that so?”
Megumi grinned. Since she entered her second year, she became more and more mature.
“Megumi! Stop pulling my hand!”
“Eh? You looked quite happy.”
I’m not! Let go of my hand.
“By the way –“
“About the reason I treated you today….”
“You wanted to thank me, didn’t you?”
“Party. Do you remember the requested present from White Day?”
You know, the time when you gave me a list.
“It gave me quite a headache…but I’ve decided to repay you.”
“Eh? Onii-san, what are you talking about?”
She said, waving her hand around. Amidst the flying cherry blossom, this scene looked so cute.
“I have received my White Day present.”
“Don’t you remember? There was a special case in that list.”
Seeing that I still had no clue, she pouted, muttered “Special present! Onii-san makes Izumi-chan goes to school.”
“It was a wonderful present. Thank you. Ehehe.”
If she acted this way towardseveryone, it’s clear why she’s so popular.
And lastly – about Sagiri.
April 1st, on the day of that test —
…I…also like him.
What she said was the same as a confession to me.
— I have someone else I like.
When I confessed, that was her answer. Could it be that person she like is…
I have to clear this up – or rather, that was the plan, but after that day she hid inside the locked room all day, without seeing me.
Of course, we had a few small conversations at the door whenever I brought her meals to her, but that’s all.
To tell the truth, I could force my way in if the situation called for it, but I didn’t dare – it’s embarrassing. Very…embarrassing. I’m kind of afraid of the answer.
In short, I didn’t dare to ask.
I was restless for a few days already, she’s the only image in my mind.
Today was the same – just when I was thinking that.
The ceiling shook. This soundedlike – “I have something I want to say, come here.”
If that’s what she wanted. I couldn’t ignore her. I mentally prepared myself and went to her room. A moment later, the door opened.
Somehow, today her clothes looked very nice. Just one look was enough to make both of us blush.
I fully understood that this situation was weird – after the confession, after she answeredsaying that she “liked me”, it’s clear that she would talk about that “confession”. I’m so nervous that I think I could faint.
None of us said anything. Finally, I decided to begin
Both of us fell silent once more.
Sagiri said. Ok then.
“Sagiri….well…about what you said a few day earlier….”
“~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~” She blushed madly, about to tear up.
“Yes, it’s about that…”
Sagiri looked at me
“……..I, I like you.”
Oh…so direct….oh…I…felt like I was melting…
“As a little sister”.
“Nii-san, you want to be a real brother to me, don’t you?”
“Yeah…yeah….yes, I did say that.”
“Real brother and sister can’t love each other, right?”
“…..Yes, I said so too.”
“So, I like you as a little sister, is there a problem with that?”
“Mwu….then it’s good, what’s with you today…” She pouted.
— I got the feeling that she was taking revenge on me. Why? How strange.
“Phew…” My shoulders dropped. Frankly speaking, I felt a bit down, yet assured at the same time.
Seeing me like that, with a displeased tone, Sagiri said “You’re an idiot”