Translated and Edited by: ynlucca.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
[Little sister’s POV.]
Beyond my slightly open field of vision, a dark, intense indigo room spread out. It didn’t take much time for me to realize that it was my own room. However, the familiar surroundings seemed to be draped in a different atmosphere, casting a slight unease over my heart.
“…Big sister,” I called into the empty night, but there was no reply. It lingered in the air, melting away into nothingness.
Amidst the profound stillness that felt as if time had frozen, the only sound I could hear was the ticking of the wall clock’s second hand. If I strained my ears, I could faintly hear Dad’s snoring in the distance.
I wonder what time it is now, I asked myself. The eerily quietude seemed to indicate that it was late at night, deep into the hours.
Suddenly, I let out a small cough. It was a dry and hoarse sound, feeble and fragile. At the same time, my earlier intention of avoiding going to the bathroom had proven futile. The modest amount of liquid I had consumed had already emptied from within me.
My throat was terribly parched, and… no, it couldn’t be helped. My eyes were becoming increasingly awake. In this state, I couldn’t sleep until I settled down.
Using the bed’s railing as support, I twisted and propped myself up a little. It must have been prepared by Mom or my big sister. It was on the bedside table. I reached out for the placed bottle.
Sigh. Was that a sigh of tiredness or exasperation?
For me, even just sitting up was quite a burden. But the source of this sigh—instinctively, it felt more like the latter.
I’m always like this. I overthink things until there is nothing to think about, trying to avoid negatives, but end up falling into a vicious cycle of self-loathing. Regret that comes too late is just useless. But if I had known, I should have drunk the water properly.
My hands quivered ever-so-slightly upon waking up, and their strength waned by the second. Struggling with the stubborn cap, I still mustered all my effort. Twist and turn, almost there. It wouldn’t budge, yet with a bit of grit it should.
“Guh,” my grunts echoed in vain. It wouldn’t open. Why? It had done so properly just before I had gone to sleep, so why now? Only my pitiful groans escaped my lips.
Why is it always like this? I felt stress build in my powerless hands, these uncooperative bastards. My sister always says, like a catchphrase, “Being weak is cute,” while she posed cutely. But somehow, things don’t seem to be going as smoothly as she indicated.
If it were still early, I could ask someone in my family for help, but now it was the dead of night. It would be wrong to wake them up for such a reason. Nodding to myself while clenching my teeth, I exerted all the strength I could into my recalcitrant hands.
No use. It won’t open! Why is that? A slight sense of unease unsettled my heart. And as if to shake off that doubt, I gathered strength in my abdomen again and tried turning the cap of the water bottle.
“Open, you b*****d,” I tried to mimic my sister’s words and strained with all my might. I recalled she’d taught me to say as such when trying to open a bottle if memory serves me right. There were a few more words attached to it as well.
“Dirty words give you more power!” She’d told me.
Mom heard that and immediately scolded her. “Where did you learn these words?!” But…
“…I did it.”
I could feel my hand throbbing with pain, and the fatigue was overwhelming. Still, my prideful sister had won the battle. With the bottle finally open, I wanted to throw its cap into the empty void of the night but decided otherwise.
Perhaps that sense of achievement had elevated its usually “nothing” taste into something else. Or maybe it was the sense of overcoming a vitriolic frustration. Still, I brought the bottle to my lips and, yep, it tasted like pure nectar. It soaked into my parched body as if my continuous efforts were worth it in the end.
When I came to, I realized about half the bottle’s contents were gone. How thirsty was I? The thought of needing to use the bathroom quickly crossed my mind, but once I drank something, there was no going back.
But to consume this amount all at once… Maybe—well, I didn’t want it to be true, but I might have contracted a bit of a fever after all. If asked whether I pushed myself to the point of getting a fever, I might have a faint idea, but I wouldn’t admit that I had pushed myself that hard.
…I didn’t want to be sick. Dad and Mom would worry for me just as they did all those difficult days in a past not too far gone.
With this, although I might apologize for causing trouble once more, I might have to rely on them. The doctor also said that if it worsened visibly, my parents might have to take another break from work just for my sake. My sister, too, would try to be by my side, her beautiful face paled and appalled just as it had been in the past. And there would be no time for school.
…No. I don’t want that! I screamed inside. This body truly is a pain. I barely have any physical strength. Just a little effort and this is how it turns out.
There are so many things I need to put in effort for, yet my energy runs out so easily that physical discomfort is the norm.
For the sake of asking for it the thing I really wanted, which is coming up at the end of this month, I tried my best in rehabilitation and helped Mom a lot in the evening. I’d arranged the dinnerware and folded the dry laundry. Well, my big sis did most of the hard work, but I did what I could. I think.
Dad also said, “Is it a request?” with a smile, so you know. I’ll do my best to help, so I got carried away…That might have been a mistake, in hindsight.
As the doctor said, it’s not good to get too carried away.
Ah, this is depressing, I dejectedly murmured, hoping my temperature would go down by morning. Then, will I be able to say “Good morning” cheerfully? Will Dad laugh as usual, and will Mom and my sister hug me gently one after another?
Just when I heaved a sigh, my moistened body seemed to calm down.
The haze in my mind remained. As if being dragged down by my heavy body, a vague sensation slowly enticed me back into the realm of sleep.
…I hope this is a dream.
It was almost time to fall asleep. The arrival of Hypnos feels imminent as if he creeped right around the corner. In this jumbled state of mind—what was the trigger?
Suddenly, a certain “combo” floated into my mind.
Slowly, after rowing the boat into the sea of slumber for a while, several cards briefly crossed my mind while in bed, accompanied by how to compose and how to use them. With a solid click, my usual switch seemed to have been turned on. This is no time to sleep.
In a hurry, I arranged the combo that was just birthed in my mind once again.
Combos and synergies are crucial moments of inspiration in an avid TCG player. While it’s said that haste makes waste, the history of this trading card game spans over 20 years. From the enormous card pool of over 20,000 different cards released during that time, I have selected these few.
Producing an inspired combo with such a big array of options was nothing short of a statistical miracle. Something too good to let it sit as an idea.
…It was borrowed from that person, yet I agreed with him.
That’s why I don’t really care about the current time or whether I’ll be able to wake up in the morning. To ensure I don’t forget the combination I came up with, I simultaneously shaped it into a certain form.
I selected other useful cards, stacked their effects, performed addition and subtraction, and even multiplication in a few of their stats and probabilities. I turned disadvantages into advantages and made the impossible, possible. Something incredible can even turn finite into infinite.
Some people might say that it’s unlikely for someone like a middle school student to come up with something so amazing as turning the impossible into possible or making it infinite. But you know, it’s not that rare to come up with a combo itself if you’re someone who plays card games as much as I did. Regardless of age or years of experience, most people can do with experience of play.
While half-awake, it wasn’t unheard of for someone to suddenly have a jolt of inspiration that completely changed the meta overnight. Such lightning in a bottle is something quite a few players praise as their favorite moment. I am one of them.
However, of course, it’s a mixed bag, and the usefulness varies for each combo.
The more you delve into it, the more you realize how high the summit is. It’s almost impossible for a god combo of that caliber, one that will go down in history or achieve great results in official major tournaments, to be born.
In most cases, they are just romantic cannons built on what-ifs. In the worst cases, they are even called mere piles of paper, laughed at, scorned.
..Well, he would never make fun of me. Still, I’m sure that the combo I came up with this time is something like that.
After all, it’s a simple combo using a certain card planned to be included in the new expansion at the end of this month. It’s a three-card combo that combines two existing cards and one from the new set. It requires a few combo pieces, depends on the opponent to some extent, and has a slow speed, which is its flaw.
But I feel like it synergizes well with the deck I’ve been using as my main—my heart skipped a beat, a small expectation.
Probably, someone somewhere has already come up with this level of combination. Depending on the situation, they may have been tirelessly researching it using proxies and such.
If by some chance the result is, “No good, it’s unusable,” then it’s a shame, albeit a common story. While putting it to practice, there may be quite a few “Aha!” moments, but…
But even so…
Even if that’s the case…
I won’t know until I try it. After all, I hate waving the white flag without even trying. And even if everyone else said my sudden idea was no good, I couldn’t give up that sweet, sweet moment—Whenever I see my own self-made combos in action, and once it starts functioning, it always feels like magic.
Once you experience that sort of thing, you’ll get hooked.
Creating and building your own deck is a fundamental part, a question that will never be definitively answered. It’s the greatest joy that lies at the end of countless struggles and setbacks.
“You always find the fun in things, Vanilove,” Kimota-san said with a smile. Well, even though it was just his voice, I could hear his smile. And while I couldn’t explain the emotions I felt back then in proper words, they were enjoyable. I was happy, and before I knew it, such times became very precious to me.
Since then, for about two years now, we passionately discuss our own combos and synergies with each other, always losing track of time, and then battle each other with decks incorporating them whenever possible.
Kimota-san is so skilled at it that I often lose without being able to put up a fight. However, in the post-match discussions or occasionally in the matches I win, he always praises me a lot. It makes me happy, and I want to play again and again until I win—sometimes getting too absorbed in it and getting scolded by Mom.
“Vanilove, you really love this game—”
Just like me.
My heart tightened desperately. Despite it being time to sleep, I found myself in trouble. Recalling that moment made me unable to not smile.
I mean, it’s his killer phrase.
He acknowledges and enjoys my hobby together with me. He’s unbelievably kind, and on top of that, he smiles so bashfully.
It was the same the other day. He surprised me by saying how wonderful I was. I wish he wouldn’t, because I felt like my heart would burst into a million pieces. His haphazardly cool lines were just too much for me.
“Am I really wonderful?”
My mind boiled over, and I couldn’t come up with any response. I was just flustered, not even understanding what I was doing or what kind of conversation we had.
At that moment, embarrassed, I ended the communication as if running away. I wonder if they didn’t think I was strange.
Maybe I should have immediately sent an apology email.
But if I make one mistake, it could come off as being too intense or annoying. So, it would have been better if I didn’t do something like that in the first place, right? I know that, but… It’s impossible.
Someone like that ice girl Kimota-san mentioned is probably the same. She must have desperately spun her wheels, trying to get closer to him. I understand. Because I have the confidence that I would end up that way myself.
Even though we still don’t know each other’s faces, surely he must be very cool. It’s only natural to have one or two fans like that ice cream girl.
But it’s fine. Just being able to get close to him is luck enough for me. That’s immensely more valuable than pulling one of the top cards in a pack. Ah, I wonder what he looks like up close. I wonder how old he is… He said he’s a student, so we can’t be that far apart in age.
Is he a high schooler? Maybe even a college student? Oh, I wonder where he lives. Does he have any hobbies other than TCGs? I want to ask and to know, even though I can’t. I wonder if he does sports or something as well.
He seems to have good taste, so I might have to study fashion a lot so I can match him someday. Ah, I’ll ask my older sister to teach me.
I want to play cards with him again soon.
How about this weekend? Is he free Saturday night? I want to build the combo I came up with alongside him, just like we always have. I wonder if he’ll laugh as usual. If he’ll praise me. And… I wonder if he thinks well of me.
“Just kidding,” I laughed dryly into the night without even realizing it. In response, I pulled the covers over my head, repeating that same phrase over, over, and over again as if to hide my loosened smile.
Alone in the silence, in the dead hours of night, I tossed and turned. Yeah, seems like I won’t catch any sleep for a while.
And, oh dear, this is troublesome. With a bitter smile, I laugh once more.
—How much time do I have left?
Along with the rising corners of my mouth, I felt a rising in my body temperature. I wonder what kind of effect this combo will produce.
“But this is different…”
I’m troubled by this heat I’ve been feeling. And I’m sure that my body is now, in many ways, a boiled octopus. It’s bright red and piping hot, and a big deal to anyone in the family who sees it.
That’s why I’ll have to come up with an excuse by the time the sun brings morning in its wake.
“It’s really not like that…”
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