“Ah, I’m sorry, I made a mistake.”
Feeling the awkwardness of opening the wrong door, I quickly correct myself.
My bad, my bad, I just made a mistake. I close the door and double-check, and there’s no doubt that it’s my room.
Rub, rub. I rub my eyes. Was I mistaken…? Sweat is flowing down like a waterfall. It’s like a self-detox. I gently open the door just a few centimeters and peek into the room.
“Come in quickly.”
Nonchalantly, Yuri-san, dressed in sexy lingerie, beckons me. I wasn’t mistaken.
The item chosen by the imaginary me has excellent taste. … Was that really me?
As my sense of self starts to crumble due to the existence of Doppel Yukito, Yuri-san remains completely unfazed.
“What brings you here?”
“I’m really angry. Do you know why?”
My gaze catches something Yuri-san is holding, and her expression twists.
Could that be the sketchbook I used for that incident!?
Come to think of it, I transferred the images to a USB drive and securely sealed them, but I left the sketchbook untouched. Such carelessness, such recklessness! What a monumental blunder!
Covering your head but exposing your rear. Panicking at the discovery of the mistake of hiding the USB drive but forgetting to hide the sketchbook.
Wait a moment? It’s just drawings in a sketchbook after all, mere products of imagination.
There’s no evidence whatsoever. It should be possible to somehow bluff my way out of this.
“This, it’s that girl, right? What’s going on? Explain in thirty words or less.”
“Um, well, the youthful libido exploded, so if you could please understand the situation here—”
“Thirty-one words. Sorry, you failed.”
“Please forgive me! Please, anything, just spare me!? I’ll do anything!”
Begging for my life, I end up blurting out something unnecessary. Yuri-san reacts with a twitch.
Why do the Kokonoe family members display such an unusual fixation on the concept of “anything”?
“—I’m looking forward to the summer vacation. Anything, you know. …Well then, shall we begin?”
The cost of a careless remark is great. I’m struck by a sudden feeling of emptiness.
Yuri-san wraps her arms around me from behind and whispers in a tantalizing ASMR-like voice in my ear.
“Now, please listen. Younger Brother Exclusive ASMR Track 3 ‘Mount Kachikachi.’ Once upon a time, in a certain place, a big sister said to her beloved younger brother, ‘My, what’s gotten bigger here? It’s like a mountain under your clothes. And it’s not hot and rigid like before.'”
“Apologize to the tanuki!”
I almost involuntarily spew ectoplasm from my mouth due to the explicit content.
“What are you saying? This is just the tip of the iceberg. The really intense stuff comes next.”
“I’m already past my limit, but what will happen in Track 10?”
Out of curiosity, I ask. It’s a bad habit of mine. Why do I end up asking things like that?
“I guess I can tell you a little. I’ll give you a special preview. My first time—”
“What’s wrong all of a sudden?”
“I just had a sudden urge to imitate the call of the Okinawa rail.”
“Was that really what the call sounded like? Well, never mind. Saying it’s the first time doesn’t matter anyway; you’ll end up turning me into your girl sooner or later, right? Maybe I should confirm it now? My virgini—”
“I’m gonna knock that shameless student council president out!”
That person is nothing but a bad influence. What was Yuri-san saying, who’s completely innocent and pure!
You damn lecherous student council president! Take this!!
“Nee-san, let’s recall her together in the second semester. How about overthrowing the Kedou administration!”
“You finally made up your mind. I’ve been waiting for those words. As a thank you, I’ll give you my life.”
“Too much leverageeeeeeeeee!”
The reward return wasn’t balanced at all. Don’t throw around your life so casually!
“When you’re ready, just let me know.”
“Let’s start with ‘Se’ and end with ‘us’.”
“Not that. Erosu.”
“That’s not right, either.”
You damn Melos!
“Blushing like that, you’re cute. Well, shall we sleep?”
Although it might seem like we’re living a relaxed life due to summer vacation, we do radio calisthenics and even grow morning glories. Both Yuri-san and I are leading unexpectedly healthy lifestyles with early bedtimes and early wake-ups.
So, all that’s left is to sleep, but the moments before going to bed are the most dangerous in my house.
In bed, battling between drowsiness and the excitement continues.
“Why are you facing the other way? You said you’d do anything, right? Then face this way. You’ll get lonely, you know. You picked out this underwear. What do you think?”
“Isn’t it too sexy?”
“You’re in your growth period.”
I wish my growth period would stop right about now.
“By the way, Nee-san. Are you curious about armpits?”
“Not particularly, but do you want to see? You can do whatever you want.”
Without any hesitation, she shows me. I just said it on a whim, but yeah, that’s it, this reaction is normal. Seriously, Hinagi and Sanjoji-Sensei’s overreactions were just that.
“Maybe my common sense is seriously messed up.”
“…………………………………There’s nothing wrong with your common sense.”
“What’s with that mysterious silence!?”
“Whether your patience will give in or I will win. Let’s make a bet during summer vacation.”
“…Both options sound bad.”
While becoming increasingly suspicious, I find myself completely captivated by Yuri-san’s beautiful smile. Without realizing it, my consciousness drifts away, and within the embrace of dozing, I fall into a deep darkness. Suyaa
“What do you think, Yukito?”
With a nervous expression, Hinagi-chan asks. Whether it’s to boost our spirits or to ease into it first, Hinagi-chan is wearing a beret. …She’s a manga artist, right?
The two of us are the top readers in the class, and we’ve embarked on creating a web novel during the summer break under the supervision of Natsume. Currently, Hinagi and I are in a strategic meeting at a family restaurant.
Hinagi-chan is the one writing the novel, and I’m here to support her.
“The content is interesting, but it might be tough as it is.”
“Eh…? Why? What’s wrong with it?”
I read through the manuscript that Hinagi-chan wrote. I won’t deny the culmination of Hinagi’s hard work.
In fact, precisely because it’s the fruit of her effort, I want as many people as possible to read it. I felt so genuinely, as it had turned out to be quite an interesting content. Her drawing style was original, but it seems that Hinagi also has a talent for writing. It was an unexpected discovery.
“According to Natsume, in the world of web novels, readers drop off in the order of Title → Summary → Main Text. In other words, there’s a hurdle to overcome before they start reading.”
“That makes sense. If it doesn’t seem interesting, people won’t even bother starting to read it in the first place.”
“Exactly. Keeping that in mind, take a look at this.”
We check the draft of the novel together.
“Ah, I see! The lines are too cramped. If it stays like this, the readability will suffer.”
There’s a difference in formatting between vertically written novels and horizontally written web novels. When the text is all clumped together, it creates a significant visual burden on the screen and reduces readability.
Paying attention to these kinds of details falls under the realm of usability.
“Let’s start by adding proper line breaks. If it stays like this, people might end up hitting the back button on their browser.”
“Yeah! Ehehe. Working together like this is fun.”
“Having a goal gives us some competition, right?”
“Yeah, that’s true, but it’s not just that! Still, thanks as always.”
Hinagi-chan is in high spirits. She continues working while eating a parfait.
“The title… This one’s perfect. The summary is well-written too. The content is interesting, and we’ll write a bit more to build up the length. Is that okay?”
“I have so many things I want to write about. But it’s strange, you know? At first, I thought it was impossible, but now I can’t wait to continue writing.”
It seems that Hinagi is feeling a sense of accomplishment as well. By the way, the novel that Hinagi-chan is writing is a romantic comedy.
It’s a heartwarming romantic comedy about a girl who accidentally hurts a childhood friend through an unintended action, accumulates regrets, realizes what truly matters to her, and repairs their strained relationship. The catchphrase is ‘A romantic comedy that won’t be too late.’
Hinagi’s delicate scenes and heart-wrenching regrets weave the story with incredible momentum.
“The progress is good, so let’s start the serialization in three days. On the first day, we’ll update with five episodes, and for the first week, we’ll update twice a day, in the morning and afternoon. After that, we’ll update daily until the end of the first part, to gauge the readers’ reactions.”
“Finally! It’s getting exciting. I wonder if anyone will read it?”
“Don’t worry. It’s so interesting that you should have confidence. Oh, by the way, if it becomes PV1, that’ll be me.”
“The first reader, huh? Should I give you an autograph? Just kidding.”
“That’s what I thought, so I brought a colored paper.”
“Really! Don’t embarrass me like that!”
Saying so, Hinagi-chan wrote on the colored paper while grinning. She carefully put the colored paper with the words ‘To My Beloved Childhood Friend’ into her bag. Mufufu. Yukito-kun, you’re making me blush.
“I might get upset if I see negative comments in the feedback. Even in the works I read, I occasionally come across those kinds of comments. Those kinds of things can really break your spirit.”
“Let’s secretly collect them and then submit a disclosure request later.”
Submit as many disclosure requests as you can. The era of major disclosure requests is coming.
“Like you, not everyone has a strong mental state, you know?”
“Well, lately, I’ve been losing one battle after another and becoming mentally weaker. I get completely battered by my mom and sister every day. Just yesterday, when I was out and couldn’t hold it in anymore, I ran home, but my mom was in the bathroom already. She made me wait and then let me use it. Isn’t that terrible? Am I still a baby? I’m a high schooler who’s already weaned, you know.”
“But you’re the one who isn’t using the right hand rule the most! What was that smug explanation about? Don’t hold it in, just go to the bathroom already. And what was Ouka-san doing…”
Well, it’s the usual thing. There’s no point in worrying about it.
As we finish the parfait and the leisurely time with Hinagi-chan passes by.
“I hope people will read it.”
“Thank you. Thank you for coming along. If Yukito hadn’t suggested it, I would have never known about this world.”
“Even for me, it’s my first time.”
“That’s exactly why. Don’t be afraid to step into something new. Don’t shy away from any struggles or efforts. You’re cool, Yukito . Just being with you is always fun.”
“Is that so?”
“Yeah! That’s why, I love you.”
An incredibly dazzling smile. Pure and beautiful, without a trace of cloudiness.
My childhood friend, who discarded her tsundere side, is a formidable opponent. Impregnable. It doesn’t seem like I can win against her.
I have to find an answer. The ball is always in my court.
The following week, Hinagi-chan contacted me with an urgent tone.
“What should we do, Yukito? Hey, what should we do!?”
Hinagi-chan’s romantic comedy novel’s PV had been steadily increasing since its release.
Every day, we nervously watched the PV count, fluctuated between joy and worry reading feedback, and if things continued like this, it might become a significant source of income. We were having that kind of conversation, but what happened?
Continuing from last week, I met Hinagi-chan at the family restaurant to hear her out.
“…I got an offer.”
Don’t I look like my sister now? Doesn’t it look like?
While thinking about that, I was too flustered to comprehend the words, so I asked again.
“Sorry, I missed that. Could you say it in Greek?”
“Με πήραν τηλέφωνο απó την εταιρε” [TL: “I got a call from a company”]
I was utterly surprised, my eyes widened. I couldn’t decide which was more surprising: her pronunciation or the fact itself.
I had no idea how she managed to pronounce it like that. And “offer”? Wait, is this actually happening?
“I don’t have time to fool around! What should we do, Yukito?”
Hinagi leaned forward with an excited yet slightly anxious demeanor.
“What to do…? First, have you talked to your parents about it?”
“No, not yet. I haven’t told them about writing the novel. I felt a bit embarrassed to bring it up, and I thought it might be better to wait until I have some results. And I haven’t told Hiori either.”
If it was just a hobby, it wouldn’t be a problem, but when it comes to publishing, her parents’ support becomes essential.
It had become more than just about incentive income. Now, what should we do…
As I was grumbling about the recent tacky design of Tyrannosaurus Rex in a game, an idea suddenly struck me.
Wait a second? Do we really need to be so uncertain? I shot an intense look at Hinagin.
If, hypothetically, this novel got published, Hinagi-chan would be an active high school girl writer.
That alone would generate buzz. It would be a perfect promotional tagline. While she might be reluctant to show her face publicly, this is a significant opportunity for Hinagi-chan to leap forward.
Her work would be rightfully acknowledged, catching someone’s attention, and moving the emotions of readers.
She should stand proudly, without hesitation. She’s a C-cup.
“Hinagin, go for the offer! This is the future you’ve grasped.”
“Is it okay? After all, not only me but also Yukito helped me so much…”
“Be honest and happy. It’s the result of your efforts. Congratulations, Hinagin.”
Hinagi-chan’s tears flowed as she clung to me. I patted her back gently.
It’s still hard to believe that things turned out this way.
But if you say that, there’s no precedent for expecting things to turn out this way, so it might be more accurate to say that it’s abnormal for things to turn out this way. The Gestalt was collapsing.
About a year later, after numerous revisions, Hinagi-chan’s romantic comedy novel was finally released. On the book cover, the words “Even that Bunny Man approves” were written, but that’s another story.
(Once you get used to remote work, coming to the office like this feels so tiresome…)
Even though we have a flextime system in place, for tasks like this, working from home is just as feasible. Thinking that way might be falling into a sweet trap, after all.
Feeling this reluctant to even occasionally show up here might be due to the fact that my home environment is so comfortable. There’s no use lamenting, but it’s undeniable that there’s an irresistible charm to staying at home.
Even the chair, in the workplace, it’s a plain office chair, but thanks to an unexpected bonus, my son gifted me an expensive chair. Just sitting on it fills me with motivation. Moreover, it gives me a sensation as if my son is hugging me from behind, making my heart race.
Just having him nearby makes me feel gentle and comforted. He’s truly the ideal man for me.
Lately, my son’s cuteness has been exceeding all limits. If Yukito were a host, I’d probably be lavishing gifts and end up bankrupt. But even then, I wouldn’t have any regrets.
I like my job, but once I step outside, I have to put on proper makeup. It’s a natural part of being a professional, but it’s still a hassle.
While inwardly sighing discreetly, I continue to tackle my work. There’s a lot to do once I’m in the office, like reviewing documents and having meetings.
Switching my mindset, I focus on my tasks. As I skim through some documents, I also address my subordinate.
“Hiiragi, how about taking on the role of mentoring the intern? She is a very promising young woman.”
“Me? But that’s quite unusual. I never thought the head of department would suggest something like that.”
“She is someone I have a connection with. If she joins the company, she’ll be placed under your guidance.”
I entrust the intern who will be under my department to my subordinate, Hiiragi. She seems to be someone who helped rescue my son from false accusations. It’s reassuring to know her character beyond what’s shown on her resume.
Hiiragi is also reaching the point where she’ll have subordinates. It’ll contribute to her growth as well. If she can handle responsibilities along with me after I’ve established my own business, it would be a relief.
Communicating with colleagues is also an integral part of work. Even casual small talk during break times can unexpectedly be useful. These advantages might be unique to the corporate environment.
The work itself is very fulfilling and enjoyable. Especially lately, it’s been quite rewarding.
However, there are people I’m not particularly fond of.
“Do you want to go out for a meal together sometime?”
A colleague who’s about to leave the office calls out to me. I’m fed up before even confirming who it is.
Today alone, it’s the third invitation. I’ve been declining them all just to get home sooner, but looking back, it’s from someone in another department who has been approaching me every time I come to the office.
“I’m sorry. My kids are on summer vacation, so I need to be home. I have to make dinner for them.”
Despite being divorced, I’m still a mother of two. I wonder why he doesn’t invite younger single colleagues instead of me. Poisonous thoughts brew, but he continues without paying attention to my feelings.
“If I recall correctly, your kids are in high school, right? If they’re around that age, you could let them take care of themselves a bit more without interfering too much. They can handle things like meals by themselves, you know.”
“I’ve already told them I’ll be home today.”
“That’s fine. We’ve had the chance to meet, so how about it? I know a great Italian restaurant. Sometimes it’s good to forget about the kids and have some adult time…”
“Please refrain from giving unsolicited advice. Goodbye.”
“Uh, oh, sorry! Well, maybe next time then.”
“I doubt there will be a next time.”
I struggle to suppress the urge to yell in anger. It was incredibly unpleasant. To shake off the bad mood, my pace quickens naturally as I head home.
What does he know about my family? Forget about the kids? Don’t make me laugh.
My children are the most important thing to me. How dare outsiders, who know nothing, suggest such things. Frustration builds.
I’ll go home and let my son soothe me. Lately, our conversations have been increasing bit by bit. Just that alone brings immense happiness and fulfillment to my days. My son is my reason to keep going.
After a quick shopping trip, as I head back home, I spot my son at the entrance of the apartment building.
He’s wearing a tracksuit. He must have returned from jogging. I’m not sure why, but lately my heart races strangely. It never used to be like this.
Whether it’s because I’ve changed my perspective or because my son has been approaching me more, I can’t say which is correct, but it’s probably a combination of both.
I start walking towards my son with light steps, but I notice he’s talking to a man.
However, when I realize who that man is, I froze.
“Why… How could this be? Could it be, that man…?”
It’s summer, and even though it’s well past evening, the air is still humid.
After finishing my daily run and returning home, I notice an unfamiliar black luxury car parked at the entrance of the apartment building. A man with a sharp gaze slowly emerges from the car.
“I apologize. Do you happen to know a woman named Ouka Kokonoe who lives in this apartment building?”
“Are you a suspicious person?”
He’s definitely suspicious, but just to be sure, I confirm his intentions.
“Ridiculous. Even if I am suspicious, no one would be dumb enough to say ‘yes’ like that.”
“So, you are a suspicious person then.”
“Tch. I’m an acquaintance of Ouka Kokonoe.”
“Heh. And who might you be?”
“When asking someone’s name, you should introduce yourself first, didn’t you learn that?”
I quickly entered the apartment as it was.
A sharp-eyed man rushes to stop me. What a hassle, …….
“What is it?”
“Normally, you should introduce yourself first there!”
“I wasn’t really interested.”
“What an infuriating kid.”
“I get that a lot.”
“I can imagine. I bet that one would be good for a drink.”
“Uwaa, so you actually make appointments for drinking? That’s annoying, you know.”
“Aren’t you being a bit too hostile right from the start?”
“Lately, I’ve been threatened by people I meet suddenly, so I’m being cautious.”
“That’s something you should report to the police…”
I scrutinize the man. He has a confident appearance with slicked-back hair and square-framed silver glasses that give him a cooler vibe.
Even if he’s my mom’s acquaintance, I need to understand what kind of acquaintance he is. If he’s the type to barge into someone’s home, then I need to be careful. On the other hand, if he’s a close acquaintance, it’s unlikely he wouldn’t know where we live.
Ultimately, it seems he lacks trust and warrants caution.
“Ouka Kokonoe is my mother. What business do you have with her?”
If it’s something I can’t discuss with him here, I don’t need to entertain him. As a precaution, I discreetly press the recording button on my phone. I’ll check with my mother later.
“…You’re the one? You’re Yukito Kokonoe, right? Well, that saves me some effort. By the way, what kind of education did Ouka give you? Anyway, never mind. You seem to be quite useful. Come with me.”
What’s this guy talking about? I might not have many acquaintances, being a loner and all, but I’ve never met someone like this guy, especially around my age.
After acting all odd earlier, he’s now approaching me like we’re old friends. It’s creepy.
He suddenly says something unexpected.
“I am Touren Shyugi. I used to be… No, I am your――――father.”
[“Hello, is this the police? Yes, I’m in a situation where I’m about to be abducted by a suspicious person with a cringeworthy glittery name who suddenly claims to be my father. Yes, that’s right. The characteristics are slicked-back hair, and the license plate of the car is――]
End of Volume 3