A big newcomer appears—.
When our manga started to be serialized, the response from readers was more than we expected.
The story, which was written without hiding the painful relationships and unpleasant aspects of people, stuck in the readers’ minds.
The story was picked up by news sites and became a topic of conversation as a shocking story.
Mitobe and I have been busy writing the next story.
I also received a request for a novelization of my manga.
“Ou, Hayato, I read the story this time. It’s super interesting. Hey, can you tell me the rest of the story in secret—–“
“Tetsuya’s you idiot! Don’t force him! I told you to wait until next week!”
Since that incident, the atmosphere of the class has changed.
Everyone seemed to have become a little more mature.
It was a strange feeling.
When I had said those cold words to Kyoko, I had thought I would never have the chance to talk to her again.
By talking to her little by little, I began to understand even more about how everyone felt.
“Oh, yes, Mitobe, are you going to be able to write the script for the upcoming school festival? If you’re busy with work, I’ll ask Tetsuya to handle it.”
Mitobe was slowly becoming more comfortable in the class.
More classmates, mainly girls, started to talk to her.
“Yeah, it should be about three thousand words, so I’ll write it during my lunch break.”
As she said this, Kyoko nodded to Mitobe with a natural smile.
The two of them were not in a bad humor. They seemed to be good friends.
“I’ve finished drawing the poster for the commission. It’s in the back, you can check it later.”
As we were talking about the festival, I heard footsteps coming from the hallway.
Gasping for breath, Misuzu walked into the classroom.
When she saw us, she shouted in a voice that sounded like she was about to cry.
“I-I made it through the audition! I made it to the finals ……, hig, first time to the end ……, and the rest ……”
Misuzu resumed her paused activities as an aspiring voice actress.
She took lessons vigorously, attended a spartan voice actor training school in the city center, and achieved results inside the training school.
“You did it, Misuzu!”
“Congratulations, Misuzu! ……, w-we have to work hard too–“
I also congratulated Misuzu.
I know now what it feels like to share the joy of being a stranger.
The words were simple, but I knew that if I put my heart into them, they would be understood.
So Misuzu answered me with a smile.
“Yes, thank you ……, and thank you so much …… for giving me a chance. …… Oh, and if I make it through the final ……, will you come to school with me sometime?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll go to school with you and Mitobe-san.”
Misuzu let out a sigh of laughter.
“Haa ……, well whatever, ……, nice to meet you then!”
For the first time in my life, I felt that school life was fun.
I realized how much the world can expand when you understand people’s hearts.
The old me had been a fake me.
A foreign substance pretending to be normal.
But now, I’m different.
Oniryuin-sensei walked into the classroom.
He had dark circles under his eyes. He’s probably been up all night writing a new series.
“…are you ……? Let me know if you’re absent. …… especially contact ……, oh, the festival ……, good luck with that …….”
“Sensei!! Yesterday, I saw you walking around with a super cute female student looking happy! Isn’t that dangerous!”
“Really? Teacher and student, is it that dangerous?”
“No, no, just for Oniryuin-sensei, that is—-“
Oniryuin-sensei, whose mind was slowing down after an all-nighter, hurriedly made an excuse.
“N-No, I just want Meguru-chan to be happy! –Hey, Kagurazaka, why are you laughing? Meguru’s always talking about you! I’ll never give her to you! You’ll have to beat me first!”
“—Then, it’s all about the sales of the next book.”
Our book is going to be released next week. At the same time, books by Oniryuin-sensei and other authors will also be released. We’ve hit a very competitive period.
“You little, don’t get carried away. I’m not going to lose to a young bird!”
I could hear the laughter of my classmates.
It was not a mocking laugh.
It was a natural laugh.
I didn’t mind it.
Before I knew it, I had become a regular customer at the coffee shop in Iidabashi.
Today, Mitobe and I had another meeting with Hiratsuka-san.
“—Yeah, the next draft is fine. You’re a really fast writer, ……. I can seriously treat you like a god for that. Oh, the book, ……, it’s going to be reprinted! It’s really rare for a book to go on sale before it’s published! Now I can make a big face in the editorial department.”
Mitobe-san and I looked at each other.
“Kagurazaka-kun! We did it!”
“Mitobe-san, can I hold your hand? I’m so happy I can’t control my emotions. …… Is this enough to beat a Lolicon……?”
Mitobe was shy, but secretly held her hand under the desk.
“Are spoiling him……!? Haa, it’s impossible for Oniryuin-sensei, isn’t it? The first copies will be too different.”
“…… I see.”
I didn’t feel disappointed.
Our book was going to be reprinted. That alone was enough to make me happy.
“…… So, you guys don’t call each other by your first names yet? I mean, haven’t you guys gone out already? It’s really adolescent, isn’t it? Haa, I think I’ll go to a party today. ……”
Come to think of it, I’ve heard from my dad about Hiratsuka-san’s party
” My dad told me that your party is when you drink alone in front of your computer in your room? …… I felt a little sorry for you when I heard that.”
‘Ha, HA?! T-that damn father! You spoiled it for me! Yes, that’s right! I can’t go to a party because of my personality! I’ve never even had a boyfriend! What’s wrong with being a workaholic!!”
“I-I think I said something wrong. I’m sorry.”
While I was trying to calm down a fuming Hiratsuka, Hanazono-san came to the coffee shop.
Hiratsuka said she had a meeting for her next job, and left the cafe in exchange.
“Ehehe, Thanks for the other day, Hayato. You helped me a lot!”
The other day, Hanazono-san was being tangled up with a strange manga artist at the publisher’s headquarters.
I happened to be there when it happened, so I stepped in to help.
“I-I’m a famous manga artist who made it into an anime! I’m going out for a drink with Hanayoshi-sensei! In any case, you were able to become a manga artist by using Oniryuin’s connections—-“
He was pressing me.
This was the first time I let my anger get the better of me.
“Don’t touch Meguru. ……. You’re a member of society before you’re a manga artist. Then don’t do things that adults don’t like to do to children!”
I hugged Meguru to me and told her so.
At the right moment, the strange manga artist was taken away by the Afro-editor and the situation was put to rest.
I raise my hand lightly.
“At that time, ……, I just called you by your first name, ……, and, well, I’m glad nothing happened to you.”
Mitobe poked me in the stomach with her elbow.
“You calling her……. …… H-hey, c-can we call each other by our first names too? We’re friends. ……”
It was cute to see Mitobe-san with her mouth slightly agape.
I was puzzled, but I called her by her name.
“Ha-Hayato-kun, ……, oh, t-this is really embarrassing …….”
Even though I just called her by her first name, my heart was filled with a warm feeling.
When Hanazono-san saw us like that…
“…… I mean, after all this time! You guys are holding hands! Haa ……, Kaede, if you’re careless, I’ll take Hayato away from you!”
Mitobe-san ……, Kaede san stood up with great vigor.
“Y-you can’t. Hayato is my partner! F-for my manga …….you know ……”
“Yes, yes, by the way, the book will be released next week, right? You two are going to buy it together anyway, no? Let’s have tea afterwards!”
“You’re not going with us, Meguru?”
“Haha, I’ll pass on that. I’ll go to a different bookstore with my brother and buy it!”
Hanazono-san was smiling.
When I first met her, Hanazono-san had a gloomy look on her face.
She couldn’t believe in anything, and was locked in her own shell.
I’m glad I talked to her then.
That’s what led to the present.
Even if I couldn’t speak well, there will come a day when we can understand each other.
For some reason, Hanazono talking with Kaede looked like she did in junior high school.
–I’m glad you showed me your manga.
Feeling a nostalgic feeling spreading in my heart, we continued talking.
“T-there really is a book about in the bookstore…….”
“…… This is quite impressive, isn’t it?”
We were at the anime store on the day of the release.
We didn’t trust that it was really on sale until we saw the books stacked on the floor.
As we were looking at the shelves from a distance, a customer picked up the book.
When I saw that, I felt like all my efforts had paid off.
“higu……higu……, Hayato-kun……, I-I…….”
Kaede stared at the customer with a half-smile on her face.
I was shaking with emotion as I hugged Kaede’s body.
I think we are two strange people from the outside.
But for now, I don’t mind being the odd one out.
We stood there for about an hour.
Whenever a customer picked up one of our books, we were moved.
And when I saw them with a smile on their face and a book in their hands, I felt joy.
Suddenly, I thought to myself.
–When did this happen? I’ve been able to feel the joy of others.
Since I met Kaede, I’ve gradually come to understand empathy, but it wasn’t perfect.
However, as we continued our days of stormy creation together, I was no longer aware of such things.
A lot of emotions seemed to be bubbling up from deep inside my heart.
Was it possible that I had become… normal?
However, there is one feeling that I don’t understand.
When I’m with Kaede, I feel warm.
When I hold hands with Kaede, my heart starts to pound.
When Kaede looks happy eating her food, it makes me happy too.
For me, Kaede is my beloved friend, my precious creative partner.
But there was definitely a different feeling in my heart that went beyond that….
The sales of our first volume exceeded our expectations, and after repeated reprints, we received a confirmation of a follow-up volume.
I was able to beat out Oniryuin-sensei, anime writers, and other big names for the top spot in that month’s sales ranking—-.
“Hahaha, Hayato, are you sure you want to celebrate like this? Really, you can be more extravagant. After all, you’ve accomplished a great feat! You’re our son!”
“Ugh, Hayato has become such a splendid ……, and Kaede is also a really good girl …….”
My father tried to buy an apartment for us to celebrate …….
I politely declined because that would be crazy.
Instead, he renovated our prefab warehouse to create a creative space for Kaede and me.
Even so, the renovation cost a lot of money.
Even though I said I’d pay for it out of my royalties…
“You idiot! Don’t let the kid worry about anything else! I make more money than Oniryuin!”
Both my room and Kaede’s room are not small. But having a space to create is a different kind of motivation.
Kaede and I were standing in front of the prefab.
The tattered prefab has become as magnificent as a small house. ……
‘Well, you two youngsters can set up the rest as you like! We’ll be there later, too!”
“I’ll prepare a feast for you. Look forward to it–“
Kaede and I began to set up the creative space together.
We don’t have a lot of stuff, though.
There are two desks and chairs, and a PC for work.
There’s a bookshelf for storing materials, and a bookshelf with our manga on it.
There was only one manga on the shelf.
Kaede picked up a manga.
It was a manga that we had created with all our souls.
As she flipped through the pages, she muttered to herself.
“….I want to fill this bookshelf. With our books—-“
I wonder why? The back of Kaede’s head looked so lovely.
I felt like my heart was being swept away by my own emotions.
Kaede turned around and smiled at me.
“We can do this together, you know?”
It was a beautiful smile.
I nodded my head with my mouth open.
Thinking about it, I was always looking at Kaede.
I remember the first time I faced Mitobe-san, my heart was in turmoil.
Now I knew what that feeling was–
A creative colleague, an important friend—-
Still, I knew I had to say what I was feeling.
That’s why— I’m—-
I turned to Kaede and said my own words.
“—-I need you, Kaede. –My, be my first lover.”
As I said the words, I understood.
I loved Kaede. My world revolved around Kaede.
Kaede, who had been smiling, looked surprised and held her mouth.
I know that Kaede is not confident in herself. And she doesn’t want her creative friends to have that kind of relationship with her.
So, I continued to speak.
“…… Sorry, forget it. I try to control my feelings. So, we’ll continue to do manga together.”
Kaede walked up to me.
Then she puffed out her cheeks and took my hand.
“Hayato! …… No, you’re starting to understand people’s feelings, right? You can’t just end it like that. ……”
Mitobe squeezes my hand tightly.
“You know how I feel, don’t you? ……We’ve been together for a long time.”
I can feel the warmth of Mitobe’s heart.
This is the only thing that makes me happy.
The expression on Mitobe’s face looks happy.
Happy? That’s right, she looks happy!
“…… I love you, Hayato. Let’s be together forever.”
A wave of emotion washed over me.
A joy I’ve never experienced before. A different kind of feeling than when I draw manga.
Tears welled up in my eyes.
Memories of the time when I pretended to be normal flashed through my mind like a running lantern.
I was uttering words I couldn’t speak.
“Ka-ede-san, I’ll …… make you happy, I promise …….”
Mitobe rested her head on my chest and muttered.
I could feel the weight of it comfortably.
“Idiot, I’m already happy–“
I was a broken man.
I don’t know how people feel. I didn’t know how I felt.
I thought I was just a failure.
But when I met Kaede, I was able to change.
I was in love with her.
My heart was buzzing.
Connecting with people through other people.
Becoming a manga artist was not my ultimate goal.
I had always wanted to work with Kaede.
The broken man was nowhere to be found.
There is only a real, normal man who loves a woman.
Yeah, I might have been broken too.
I thought I was going to live a dark life.
Still, I didn’t want to be ridiculed for my novel.
I met Hayato-kun, ……, and we became friends, ……, and I shouldn’t have had any expectations.
I told myself that we were just creative friends.
However, when I saw Hayato’s pure and beautiful heart, I couldn’t control my feelings anymore.
–I need you.
That one word from that moment bit into my heart, and it made me stronger.
There’s no such thing as a broken girl anymore. ……
I’m just a normal girl who loves Hayato-kun—-
This is the story of a broken man pretending to be a normal, who meets, grows up, and falls in love with a broken girl—-.
End of the story