OreShura: Volume 5 Chapter 3
#3: Himeka, There is Someone She Likes
Ever since Chiwa stopped coming to eat dinner, the living room's become so lonely.
It was annoying when she was here, yet it was so lonely when she wasn't. It was just like an old-fashioned air conditioner. If you turned it on it was too cold, but when you turned it off it it was too hot.
...Ugh, it's seven o'clock already?
Saeko-san wasn't coming home tonight, so I had no motivation to make dinner for one person.
Just when I decided to go with an egg and instant noodles for dinner, the doorbell rang.
"Is it Chiwa?"
N-no, probably not.
If it were Chiwa, she would have gone straight through the yard and let herself in through the French window. 
As I was wondering who it could be at this time of the day—
"Eita, will you hold me?"
She was clutching large Boston bags in each of her armpits.
On her back, she was carrying a swelling backpack.
Akishino Himeka was drenched in sweat and gasping for breath as she stood at my front door.
"Hi Hime. What's going on? You're carrying a ton of luggage."
"I have been forced into exile."
This is still Japan you know, Hime?
"The Primogenitor Gaia has been invaded, so I've become a vagrant 《DRIFTES》. The only place I can go to is Eita's."
Even though this was Hime's typical way of saying things, she expressed herself very clearly.
Then I suddenly realized it,
"Did you run away from home?"
Hime vigorously nodded her head.
"In Hyperdimensional terms, it's IED." 
Even if she forgot one letter, the hyperdimensional part was unnecessary. That being said, I haven't heard her say things like hyperdimensional in a while. Was she bored with this setting already?
Hime lowered her head,
"And that's why, sorry to bother." 
"Please come in, my humble home is simple and crude—wait a second! You ran away from home!? Did you really run away from home?"
Hime looked up to me with firmly angry eyes and spoke.
"My precious treasures have been destroyed. There's no reason for me to go back to that place."
I cooked miso, cabbage, and fried pork soup, and ate it together with Hime.
Even though I cooked the meal from leftover ingredients in the fridge, Hime eagerly finished every last bit. Ah, it really is so much more meaningful to share dinner with others.
"Oh right, what treasures were you talking about?"
I asked Hime this as I refilled her empty cup with warm tea.
"My Genesis Force from ｢ORIGIN LOW｣" .
In other words, I didn't get it.
"Sorry, can you explain it a little more clearly?"
"The ｢Holy Scriptures｣ that catalyzed and spun out a good deal of my fantasies."
"T-Try saying it again."
"My precious manga and games were thrown out."
"That's awfully clear all of a sudden!"
This was probably the ultimate reason for an elementary school student to run away from home. But Hime was a high schooler!
"Who threw it away? Your mother? Father?"
"My older sister."
"Oh, you have an older sister? What does she do?"
"She's a third-year in college, majoring in business at a university in Tokyo in order to inherit the Akishino Hotel. She's come home for summer break after being away for a very long time."
That being said, I remembered now that Hime's family ran a hotel business. Kaoru once said that their family managed an ancestral inn ever since the Edo period.
"My sister and I are completely unalike."
When Hime finished her tea, she lowered her head.
"When you say unalike, how so?"
That response didn't help at all.
Did she mean their personalities were different? For example, her sister was very social and her friends were all very extroverted… in other words, riajuus? 
At the moment, the phone that I left on the living room sofa rang.
I got off the table and gave it a look—the incoming phone call was from ｢Akishino Himeka｣.
I looked back at the table, but Hime was empty handed and in a daze.
"Where's your phone?"
Hime gave a started expression, and groped around her pockets with several pats.
"I forgot it at home."
In other words, the person who made the phone call must have been one of Hime's family members.
I took a deep breath, and pressed the talk button.
A very calm and youthful female voice seemed to come from the other end of the phone—
"Apologies for disturbing you so late in the night. May I ask if this is Burning Fighting Fighter-san's cellphone?"
I wanted to lay on the ground and die.
Damn that Hime… Why did she have to register me with that name?! Furthermore, I should have corrected it to Villager A several days ago!"
"Is this very long name your real name?"
"No, you could consider it a nickname. I'm so sorry."
I didn't know why I apologized.
The voice from the other end of the phone seemed unsympathetic.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. I am Akishino Himeka's older sister, Yuuhana. May I ask if my younger sister visited your residence lately?"
I temporarily covered the mouthpiece with my hand.
"It's your sister's phone call."
Hime's face grew pale, and she mimed huge X's in front of her chest.
I nodded slightly and returned to the phone.
"No, she never did."
I heard a slight sigh come from the other end of the phone.
"...Are you Himeka's classmate?"'
Her attitude suddenly turned into ｢adult speaking to child｣ tone.
"I'm a fellow club member."
"Club? That girl is part of a club? Which club?"
Her voice sounded rather astonished.
Oh dear, how should I respond to this? If it were Masuzu, she'd be able to nonchalantly cook up some kind of nonsense easily.
"What's wrong? Is it one of those inexplicable clubs?"
"Uh, it's called the Society for Bringing Out Your Maiden Self."
"What does that club do?"
"...What does it do?"
Although we've been established for three months already, I still had no clue. Probably no one had any idea.
"I asked you a question?"
Another sigh came from the other end of the phone.
"This is just my guess, but could it be a manga or game-related club?"
"Because that girl loves those kinds of things the most."
It looks like she made an erroneous interpretation out of my hesitation.
"She's been like this since middle school. She didn't study seriously, and wasted all of her entire allowance on those kinds of stupid trinkets. I thought she would change one day, but after being apart for so long, she hasn't changed at all! She hasn't improved."
I felt a little sorry for Hime after hearing that about her.
"She just has interest in manga. You don't need to be that extreme."
"If it were simply a relaxing hobby of hers, I'd approve. However, that girl is just too addicted. She can't tell the difference between delusion and reality. Even if I tell her that, it's pointless."
"But, she's not making any trouble for anyone."
"That girl has this mistaken belief that she can do anything as long as she isn't making trouble for anyone. If you give up your self-respect and intellect, then chase after these meaningless imaginary worlds, what kind of person will you be in the end? In the eyes of society and others, aren't you just a worthlessly manufactured human being?"
It seemed like she was getting angrier and angrier.
"Your opinion is too subjective. There are also people who are positively influenced by manga, right? Why do you only stress the bad part? It's not fair."
"What is this positive influence that you speak of?"
I shot a glance at Hime, who was very anxiously staring at me.
"It can help you make friends."
"Yes. Hime… Himeka-san and I have similar interests in anime and manga. That's why we became friends. Our club members are the same. Isn't that a good thing?"
I wasn't lying.
Hime currently cherishes her Chuunibyou delusions dearly. Her fantasies are very similar to the kind I had in middle school. This was probably because we were fascinated by the same works. Because of this, she identified me as her ｢Past-Life Lover｣ and joined ｢Jien-Otsu｣.
Hime's older sister quietly seemed to be thinking about something.
It didn't look like she quite agreed with me, and it seemed like she was considering how to attack from a different direction—that was what her silence felt like.
"Among Himeka's text messages, you are the most common recipient. That girl never had friends in middle school. It looks like that's not the case anymore in high school."
"Yes, you could say so."
"Could you be dating Himeka?"
"No, definitely not."
Although I was curious about how she would react if I said that she was my ex-girlfriend, I didn't test it. That being said, Hime gave a ｢What's going on? So harsh…｣ expression as she looked at me. I don't think she knew what we were talking about, right?
"Anyhow, has anything happened to Himeka-san?"
"We had a little fight earlier on. Honestly, that girl… After she changed her clothes, she even took her textbooks and ran out the door."
"I don't think that girl has the means to run away from home, but that's probably what happened… I know I asked this already, but is Himeka really not at your place?"
At this point, Hime's sister's voice became restless for the first time.
I though I was stabbed by sinful feelings and intentions, Hime beside me was similarly uneasy. I was simply incapable of telling the truth in front of her.
"She's not here… but I'll also go look for any clues about her whereabouts. If I find anything, I'll get her to contact you."
'"Thank you very much."'
The phone call ended there.
I gave a big sigh and sank into the sofa. I felt extremely exhausted. Debating with an older person really sucked the energy out of me.
"Eita, thank you."
Hime hugged my arm, and peered into my face.
"Is my sister angry?"
"She's angry… but she's also extremely worried. She's very worried about you."
But then Hime intensely shook her head.
"She's not worried about me. Rather, she's worried about ruining the ｢Akishino｣ family name. In my sister's head, only the hotel is important."
"I had a different impression."
"I disagree. To my sister, I'm just an inconvenience. That's why I left."
She stubbornly refused to listen to me.
Although her sister's words were very one-sided, Hime actually wasn't that different.
In other words, they put labels on each other and faulted each other based on those points. Regardless, if this continued, there wouldn't be any resolution.
Anyways, since I promised Hime's sister, I really should go look for "clues" of Hime's whereabouts.
I called Chiwa and asked her to come over, and then explained the situation to the two of them.
"Wow―that's one scary sister."
Chiwa had come over wearing her pajamas. I felt she was extremely blunt.
"Since that's the case, Himecchi, you can stay over at my place tonight. My mom can call your sister, and that way there'll be no problems, right?"
However, Hime shook her head.
"I want to sleep over at Eita's house. Is that not alright?"
Chiwa's expression suddenly became very frightening.
Hime seemed to deflate as she hung her head.
"Why? We spent the night together during our club trip."
"This and that are totally different! How can a boy and a girl sleep alone under the same roof? Definitely not okay!"
"Then… how about Chihuahua stay over also?"
Hime lightly tugged on Chiwa's sleeves.
"T-That's also no good! No good! No good!"
Chiwa objected extremely intensely, as if she were trying to convince herself.
"Hey, Chiwa. There's something I want to ask you."
"Even if Ei-kun asks me it's not okay! Even if there's three of us or whatever, although I'm not Ai, it's simply too shameless!"
"Not that, something else. What do you think of manga and games?"
"Ero ones are bad!"
"Can we get away from that topic?! ...I had a lot of manga when I was in middle school right? How did you feel when you looked at me then?"
"I figured you must have liked it a lot."
"What else am I supposed to think?"
Chiwa stared blankly. Like always, this girl thought really simply.
If Hime's sister thought that simply, it'd be great. But as soon as she starts to think about positive or negative influences, she'll get stuck and be unable to free herself.
"Hey Ei-kun, when you graduated from middle school, didn't you sell practically all of your manga?"
When Hime heard this, her eyes went wide.
"Sold them? Why?"
"Well if you ask me why…"
If Chiwa had asked me, I would have responded, ｢I don't like them anymore｣. But to be honest, that wasn't actually the case. I could say I wanted to wave farewell to my chuunibyou self, so I abandoned the things I used to love to become a new person blah blah—and then all of these kinds of troublesome reasons would start flooding out one after another.
In short, I shouldn't say contradictory things about the issue with Hime's sister.
"I would never throw away the books I love the most. That's why I can't forgive my sister for throwing away things so lightly."
I could only nod my head.
Anyhow, it looked like the root to this argument between sisters was very deep.
Afterwards, Chiwa went home and asked her mother to contact Hime's sister, who barely agreed to let Hime stay the night at the Harsuaki's. Normally in these kinds of situations, one would speak with the parents, but it looked like they were busy working in the hotel.
Perhaps the reason why Hime's sister was so strict was because she was trying her best to fill the gap left by her parents.
If that was the case, I still thought she could try to understand her little sister a little better.
Then the next day came.
By the time my morning studying pace wore off, it was about time for lunch—but then the doorbell rang.
I opened the door, and a ghastly pale Hime jumped inside.
"Eita, it's bad!"
Did her older sister charge in or something?
"There's a new inscribed legend that the world will create crystal tears today."
"...Sorry, can you say that a little more clearly?"
"A hidden tome descended onto this world in an instant—today."
"Say that again~"
"Today is the release date of my favorite manga, so I want to go buy it."
This is your second consecutive day coming to my place. Learn to be better behaved, Hime!
"The closest bookstore to here is the WING bookstore. I'll draw a map for you right now."
I was about to retreat back into my house, but Hime grabbed the hem of my shirt.
"Come with me, Eita?"
"No, I want to study."
Faced with her teary puppy eyes staring up at me, I was unable to refuse her. I'd definitely listen to her. That being said, was that gaze a superpower?
"Then, let's go out for lunch while we're at it."
"The special edition bookstore is in front of the train station, so I want to go there."
There were a lot of cheap restaurants near the train station, so it was perfectly convenient.
I tidied my clothes up simply, and then left the house with Hime.
It was only ten minutes by bus to the train station, but we went by Hime's request and walked on foot. ｢I want to walk together with Eita, is that okay?｣ Again, I was utterly defeated by her endearingness. I'm so popular it's laughable.
I pretended to ignore the gazes around us and said,
"So, what's the name of that manga called?"
"ARCANA DRAGONS (Holy Spirit Dragons)."
ARCANA DRAGONS (｢Holy Dragon｣ for short) was an alternate-universe fantasy battle manga serialized in a certain well-known weekly shounen magazine. The work is targeted at otakus, which was definitely very rare for weekly magazines. There's a ridiculous amount of bishoujo and bishounen characters. With the rich setting and abundant characters, fans have enthusiastically made many doujins. I was really into these kinds of works when I was in middle school.
I'm not going to hide anything, but the ｢Holy Dragon Knight of Dawn (Burning Fighting Fighter)｣ setting is totally plagiarized from ｢Holy Dragon｣... no, I should say it was a key factor that enlightened and inspired me.
Was Hime also a ｢Holy Dragon｣ fan? No wonder the compatibility score of our delusions was so high.
"What volume is coming out today?"
"The twelfth volume is coming out."
"How far have they gotten? Are they still fighting the Wyvern Army?"
"I only read the tankōbon, so I don't know. But that arc is probably going to finish in this volume."
Hime then looked at me with eyes in disbelief,
"You're not reading ｢Holy Dragon｣, Eita?"
"I was still following it last year, but now I'm not anymore."
Hime suddenly revealed a hurt expression.
"Why…? Is it not interesting anymore?"
"Well, it's not because of that. For some reason, I just don't feel like reading it anymore."
Ever since my parents vanished, I've gradually lost interest in the manga and anime world.
Because I realized that no matter how much I talk about these imaginary things, there's no way to prevail over the harshness of reality.
The only way to defeat reality is through reality itself.
And in my situation, only cultivating academic achievements could pave my way into medical school.
That was the only way I could overcome my unfavorable circumstances.
When I told Hime's sister, ｢Don't look down on manga｣, I actually thought that way myself—to be honest, I really was hypocritical.
"I hope you'll also read it, Eita."
Hime spoke as she tightly held onto my right hand.
"Because they've reached an extremely climatic point right now. I hope you'll take a look, because it's definitely interesting."
I didn't know how to respond and inadvertently my gaze drifted away—but then I saw a figure turning the corner at the crossroads in front of us.
It was moving figure pulling a red bicycle. This felt strangely familiar.
The simultaneous exclamations we gave were identical.
"It's you again…"
"That's what I wanted to say, you disgusting otaku."
She was an arrogant middle school girl with two fluttering silver pigtails. She was also Masuzu's little sister.
"Are you practicing riding a bike again? If that's the case, let me teach you."
"I don't need you to meddle in my business! I ride it perfectly fine now! I just happened to be tired right now, so I'm walking along with it."
I took a glance below the hem of her red dress, and saw that her knees were plastered with a bunch of bandaids. If I pointed that out, she'd be furious, so it'd be better to leave it unsaid.
Hime immediately hid behind my back.
"Huh? Aren't you the poet from that time?"
Hime didn't respond, and wrapped her arms around me like a Konakijii.
"Come on, I already apologized about that stuff with the club, right?"
A while ago, Mana crashed our club meeting and ripped apart the poem Hime wrote. This was what she was referring to.
"I don't mind that anymore."
"Then you can say something then."
"...Nice to meet you."
"Now you say it?!"
I feel like I haven't seen Hime this afraid in a while.
It looks like she's able to talk normally with us, but still has difficulties talking with others.
Just then I had a flash of intuition.
"Hey, Mana; are you free in a little while?"
"Rather than saying I'm free… it's more like I don't have plans."
In other words, she was free. She really wasn't honest at all.
"Then will you eat lunch with us? There's something I want to talk to you about."
Mana gave a glance at Hime and then spoke.
"If that poet's okay with it, then I don't really care."
Hime perplexedly tilted her head.
"Hime, I want to get ideas from this girl for a strategy to deal with your sister."
"What do you mean?"
"Because this girl hates otakus. If we ask her why she hates them, maybe we'll find a way to persuade your sister."
Okay, so it's decided then.
I brought the two of them to a fast-food shop in front of the train station.
Because it was still rather early for lunch, the store was empty. There was just a group of middle school students working on their vacation homework sitting in the no-smoking area.
I grabbed a piece of french fry and started to depict for Mana the current situation—
"That's all that sister's fault!"
She squished the paper cup with her drink as she forcefully advocated her stance.
"I thought you would say something like, ｢Manga? Disgusting! It's convenient that it got thrown away!｣"
Mana snorted with her nose.
"Yeah right, collecting manga is disgusting, no doubt about that. The magazines that they sell at convenience stores are okay, but manga? It's hard to believe there's people who collect that. I don't understand it."
"Tankōbon are also no good…?"
Isn't this girl's criteria for an otaku too harsh? Like this, even Chiwa who collects manga nonstop would be considered an otaku.
"However, that doesn't mean that sister has the right to just randomly throw her little sister's stuff away. Those are two totally different things! The older sister can't force the little sister to accept her own opinions! So a person like this sister really is…"
"O-okay, I get it. You can calm down now since I get it!"
I hurriedly tried to stop Mana as she started to lean forward across the table.
"I think you're right."
Hime, who had been sitting silently on the side, suddenly spoke.
"My sister always thinks she's better and smarter, and frequently looks down on me. She always treats me like a child. You can't do this, you can't do that; go do this, go do that. She always bosses others around. Furthermore, people always compare us. When we meet new people, they always say, ｢The older sister must have a very outstanding little sister｣. I'm just me. I was simply born a few years later, so I don't understand why I have to suffer this kind of treatment."
Mana was struck speechless when confronted with a Hime who suddenly became eloquent with words.
"T-That's right! Where'd that come from? I never expected you'd be such a talkative person!"
"I'm not just any person. My name is Hime."
"OK Hime! You can also call me Mana!
The two of them clasped each other's french-fry-grease covered hands together. It looked like the two of them reached a connection I simply didn't understand.
Don't tell me all little sisters have a lot of pressure?
"Well, Mana, let me ask you again. How do you think we should get Hime's sister to recognize her interests."
Mana sucked in a mouthful of Oolong tea through a straw with a hiss.
"The reason why I think ｢otaku are disgusting!｣ is because ｢I don't understand how they can be so obsessed with certain things｣.
I could understand this kind of sentiment.
"So then, the easiest way to do this is to make Hime's sister understand the charms of manga that Hime loves."
Hime voiced nods in agreement and wore a very serious expression.
"I think so too, but the hard part is doing that."
"That's true. But how about you go to the bookstore together? See, aren't there specialty otaku stores around here?"
"Yeah, we're planning on going there after a bit."
Suddenly, Hime's face lit up and she grabbed Mana's hand,
"Mana, come with us?"
"T-To which bookstore? Why do I need to go to that kind of otaku nest—"
"I want to treat it as a test-run for when I bring my older sister. Let's go? Let's go?"
The puppy-dog eyes that I suffered from earlier were now taking a beautiful hit on Mana.
Looks like it was also super effective on female middle school students.
"F-Fine… I have time anyways."
Like that, she succeeded after much resistance to make Mana nod her head.
Former Otaku, me.
Current Otaku, Hime.
Although we were a totally mismatched party, I still looked forward to it with a little excitement.
I then remembered that I never had any otaku friends in middle school, so I always sneakily entered bookstores on my own.
This was the first time I had anyone come with me.
The name of that bookstore was ｢Manga Kingdom｣
For short, ｢MangaDom｣.
It was a four-story building five minutes away by foot from the train station, rather distant from the downtown district. This is just trivia, but it's the largest bookstore related to manga in the entire city of Hanenoyama. Even though it was a weekday, there were still many customers.
As we stepped into the shop, we were greeted by a gush of cold air. I then realized there were many other students like us who were shopping. It felt more crowded than usual, maybe because it was the premier release date of ｢Holy Dragon｣.
"Alright Hime, where do you want to start?"
"Of course we need to start from the top floor."
Just after she said it, Hime started to climb up the stairs right next to the shop entrance.
Mana hurriedly interrupted,
"Wait, why don't we take the elevator? Are you going on a diet?"
"The elevator's really slow and crowded."
Like Hime said, not only was the elevator for this store slow, but it was also used by store employees to transport merchandise. That's why it was pretty much useless unless it was before noon or almost time to close the shop.
"It's okay. I'm not very athletic, so let's go up slowly."
"Aahhh, that's fine by me… I'm rather athletic you see? I'm on the track relay team for my school!"
A competitive fire seemed to be lit inside Mana, and she strenuously started to climb the stairs after Hime. I followed behind them.
In between the second and third floors, Mana was already gasping for breath.
"Hey, Hime, which floor is the book you want to buy on?"
"Manga's sold on the first floor."
"First floor? Give me a second… What did you say?! Then why do we have to climb stairs?!"
This was a perfectly reasonable question, but...
"When you come to MangaDom, the first thing you have to do is climb up to the top floor no matter what. Then, while looking for new merchandise, you descend floors one by one. That's just the basics. For store regulars, they call this way of exploring the store ｢Climbing the Mountain｣."
—Thus spoke Master Hime.
There's no need to have a reason to climb mountains, because there's mountains everywhere. That's all.
"The hell to otaku mountains! I don't care!"
Mana said this as she panted for breath and continued climbing behind Hime. Even though this girl never stopped complaining, she really did follow through until the end.
Although we were the only ones climbing up the stairs, we brushed by several customers who were coming down. Everyone gave surprised expressions as they saw Hime and Mana, thinking it was pretty interesting. This was because Hime was a pure black-haired pale-skinned beauty, while Mana was blond-haired and blue-eyed. They were basically synonyms for exotic beauties.
...But, when they saw my face, their faces would distort as if to say, ｢Weird?｣. Please don't do that. In these situations, I can't keep my composure. I'm going to cry, okay?
After a bunch of experiences like these, we finally reached the peak.
The fourth floor was all sorts of anime merchandise marketed towards males.
As for merchandise marketed towards males, to put it bluntly, it's moe.
At one glance, you can see that it's prints of anime characters on flashcards, piggy banks, posters, stationery, and so forth, all stuffed throughout the store. It's a place that makes my eyes sparkle whenever I come.
I originally thought Mana would holler, ｢disgusting disgusting disgusting go die go die go die go die!｣ and start throwing a fit. I never thought—
"Hmph—? It's actually rather like a shrine festival."
Unexpectedly, she actually appeared to like it.
"How is it like a festival?"
"It's like the atmosphere of the mask-selling stand or the cotton candy stall."
I see, now that she mentioned it, I think I felt the same way…?
"Maybe I can use mask-selling stand and cotton candy stall as ways to talk over my sister."
Hime nodded as she jotted down notes.
For sure, Hime and I didn't have that kind of point of view. From an otaku's perspective, it simply just looks like ｢otaku merchandise｣.
"Hey, what's the meaning of this bathroom poster?"
Mana pointed at a custom-made poster of a bishoujo in a rather lewd position.
"Bathroom posters… are bathroom posters."
That's all I could say.
"Huh why? Otakus put up posters in their bathrooms? Why?"
"How would I know why?!"
If I said it, she'd definitely jump to conclusion that otaku are disgusting.
We brought the awestruck-expressioned Mana along and moved to the third floor.
This floor was mostly doujinshi works. They weren't split between male and female-oriented. The displayed works were all ages and sorted by their series… I think. In principle, it was that way.
"I feel like these are kinda different from conventional books?"
Mana picked up a doujin with a beautiful bishounen on the cover and tilted her head in incomprehension.
"This book is so thin it's crazy, and the printing feels different. I've never seen a book like this at a bookstore before."
Hime picked up the same book and said,
"This is a doujinshi. In other words, a fan-created work."
"Basically, when a fan really likes manga or anime content, and makes a publication themselves."
"An amateur drew this?"
"Sometimes a real professional artist will draw one, and there are even some doujinshi artists that are even better than pros."
How much of Hime's explanation did Mana understand? She gazed attentively at the cover and nodded her head repeatedly.
"I'm gonna buy this."
I cried out unintentionally and the girls around me stared.
I lowered my voice and spoke.
"Are you serious? Do you even know the original anime this comes from?"
"Huh—? I don't know, but this art is seriously beautiful, right? I rarely come here, so it'd be stupid if I left without anything."
I really thought it was better if she didn't.
Because the name of that doujinshi was ｢Pant Heavily From My Holy Sword!｣...
I was sweating from head to toe, but Hime's eyes sparkled and ignored me.
"I also have books from this circle. Mana has good taste."
"Right? Right? Wanna compliment me more?"
They looked so happy, I didn't say anything more.
We waited for Mana to pay at the register, and then we descended to the second floor.
There were light novels, anime magazines, guidebooks and so forth on this floor.
"Why is this manga bunko-sized? Aren't they normally much bigger?
"That's not a manga. It's a light novel."
"Light novel, like—a novel that's pretty easy to read and full of illustrations."
"Ugh… how boring."
"I'm telling you…"
This girl rejected it with her first impression. She'll definitely be hated at school. Why don't I write a light novel about ｢My Girlfriend's Little Sister has Too Few Friends｣ too?
"But, this is so thick."
Mana picked up a extremely thick book.
She casually flipped through it and spoke.
"Oh, but because there's a lot more single lines and white-space, it feels quite different from your conventional novel."
Hime suddenly poked her head in from beside us a spoke,
"With light novels, there's practically everything. There's thin ones and thick ones; boring ones and fascinating ones; children's ones and adult ones. Everything's welcome, so that's what's beautiful about it.
"Hmph—it's like a toy chest."
Hime seemed to be inspired again, and she started to scrawl notes.
I thought it would be like this from the start. It looks like Mana's opinions really were helpful for Hime.
In the end, we went down to the first floor and went to buy Hime's limited edition ｢Holy Dragon｣.
Other guests who similarly came to get ｢Holy Dragon｣ were lined up in a long snaking queue.
When I saw Hime's expression when she noticed the mountain of limited edition prints piled in front of the cash register—I wanted to take my phone out and take a picture (but the store forbade photographs, so I could only give up).
Her eyes were sparkling like stars in the night sky and overjoyed when she finally received it.
As she lined up to pay, she very happily stared at the cover.
The time we spent waiting for her wasn't painful at all.
"Now that I think about it..."
Since that summer of eighth grade, it's been a full year since I've come here. This place really hasn't changed at all.
I felt a little happy.
I had already washed my hands of my otaku days, but seeing my ｢Old Hideout｣ as lively as always, it really made me happy.
If I came by myself, there's no way I'd have this kind of feeling.
This place was overflowing with painful memories from my chuunibyou days. If I had come alone, perhaps it'd hurt so much I'd roll around the floor.
Since I came here together with Hime and Mana, I felt like I've become really refreshed—
"Huh? Did you say something?"
Mana, who was currently flipping through a shoujo manga magazine tilted her head.
Just then, Hime finished paying and came back.
"No, it's nothing."
With Hime wearing a beaming smile and Mana carrying a serious face, we left the bookstore together—and then.
"So you were here."
The bag that contained ｢Holy Dragon｣ slid from Hime's hands.
A women got out of a white van at the side of the road, staring at Hime.
She was wearing a neatly tidied navy blue suit and her black hair was coiled up behind her. She was not only a bishoujo, but a very capable bishoujo. Although she was wearing an outfit like a college student doing job interviews, her aura was brimming with style of a seasoned elite woman.
Without even hearing Hime's stunned murmur, I knew right away that this was Hime's sister, Yuuhana. Her hair sheened like black pearls. The two siblings were exactly the same. It was such a rare sight to see two girls with such beautiful hair in the same place.
…Hey, that van clearly has the words ｢Akishino Hotel｣ written on it.
"You wrote today was the ｢Premier Sale｣, so I figured you definitely would be here. It had clearly something to do with manga."
I never expected she'd be able to find us in this kind of place.
But, it was entirely Hime's fault for forgetting to bring her cellphone that could give anyone her personal information…
"You looked at my calendar?"
Hime's knees were trembling nonstop.
Her eyes were teary and her expression was a mixture of fear and anger.
"Well of course. You were the one who ran away from home."
"Even so, how could you look just like that…"
"Before you have a right to defend your privacy, you'll need to be able to aptly take responsibility of yourself."
With a cold expression, she spoke cold words.
Even if she was beautiful, she was unapproachable.
An blizzard-like icy aura permeated everywhere. The customers who walked out of ｢MangaDom｣ also seemed curious and gave a glance, but they immediately averted their eyes and hurried away.
"Himeka, why didn't you go to your uncle's place? You know that as a woman of the Akishino family, every girl must undergo training to refine decorum and etiquette."
"I don't want to do that."
Hime said softly but clearly.
"Save those words for after you grow up. When that time comes, you can do whatever you want. But since mom and dad raised us, we have a duty as children of the Akishino house to learn how to work in a hotel. It's a tradition that you must respect. Your grandmother, mother, and I were all raised this way. Why are you the only one who wants to be lazy?"
"I'm not being lazy."
"You are being lazy. All you do during vacation is read manga. It's pointless."
"It's not pointless!"
They were never going to reconcile like this.
I also understand Hime's discomfort. To be forced to do work at home because it was a rule, added together with getting your "pointless" favorite manga thrown out; of course she'd be angry.
On the other hand, did I think Yuuhana-san was wrong? —No, I didn't think so.
It was very fair to say you should listen to your parents while they're raising you in their house.
However, this had nothing to do with whether or not manga was pointless.
Regardless, right now wasn't the atmosphere to ｢try to get her to understand Hime｣. With as obstinate as Yuuhana-san was, she'd have no impression at all even if we brought her to ｢MangaDom｣.
"Hold on for a minute, ma'am!"
The person who walked up with a fearless smile was Natsukawa Mana.
She crossed her arms and relaxed her shoulders, and spoke in her usual rude manner,
"I was listening to you earlier, and what were you blabbing about? This crap about obligations and tradition? It's not fashionable at all nowadays. You're way old-fashioned, aren't you?"
"Your words have no manners at all."
Yuuhana-san was completely unmoved, and she coldly commented.
"I don't know who you are, but this isn't how you're supposed to treat your elders. It makes me question your parents who raised you."
"Hmph, you dare?"
Mana's fearless smile never crumbled.
Even though her opponent was a college student, she had so much confidence. I guess that means she was sure she could win?
"Although I have no clue about your family situation, but can you really force that girl to do the things she says she hates?"
"Weren't you listening to me? Since she was nurtured and cared for by her parents, she's obligated to listen to her parents. That's all."
W-Wait a minute.
You were defeated already?! Natsukawa Mana-chan?
"Hey, no matter what you say, it's going to be like this?"
I whispered quietly to her, but Mana replied with embarrassment,"I-I know!"
She picked up the ｢Holy Dragon｣ that Hime had dropped, and spoke.
"You said that manga was pointless earlier, right? How can you make such black-and-white judgements without even looking at it yourself!?"
What was with this girl? All of a sudden, she's arguing on behalf of manga? Wasn't she saying disgusting disgusting digesting nonstop until now?
…No, you could take it that way superficially. Actually, she just wanted to protect Hime.
She really was a good person, generally speaking.
"Here! Look at this! This is a doujinshi that Hime recommended to me—!"
Mana took out the doujinshi she purchased earlier and pointed the cover towards Yuuhana-san. Although I reacted a little strangely, I decided not to speak out.
"Isn't this cover pretty? If an amateur can draw this well, it's pretty amazing, isn't it? Look, this rose and lock is really lifelike, right? Can you draw something like this? I definitely can't. If other people can do things you can't, I don't think it's strange at all to think it's amazing or admirable."
The words that Mana spoke were a very unconventional but honest response.
"…Can you lend it to me?"
"Please take it."
Mana passed over the doujinshi as per Yuuhana-san's request.
Wait, this is bad! Before I had a chance to stop her, Yuuhana-san started to flip through the pages of ｢Pant Heavily From My Holy Sword!｣.
Her beautifully shaped eyebrows twitched.
"I see. I definitely can't. There's no way I can draw something like this."
Yuuhana opened the book and showed the pages to the happily smiling Mana.
On that page there was… uhhh, completely nude men touching each other, using sturdy holy swords to shtick each other back and forth… um, that… it made you wonder how it didn't get an 18+ rating sticker— 
A shriek that didn't match a blond-hair-blue-eyed beauty came from Mana's mouth.
"W-W-W-W-W-W-W-What's this?! Why is it male on male? Hey, wait a second! Wha? W-What?!"
Mana's entire face was red and her mouth was wide open. I had no clue what I should say to her.
"H-Hyi-Hyaiaaa! It can't b-b-be! Aggghghhhhhhh! Why is it going in that direction? Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
Yuuhana stared at the shouting eighth grade girl, and gave a deep sigh.
"I assumed this girl was Himeka's friend, but I never expected her to be such a sorry girl."
Hime, who had her head lowered the entire time, suddenly raised her head.
"Mana isn't bad."
She extended her hands as if to protect her pale-faced and dumbstruck friend.
"What isn't bad? How isn't she bad? Can you give some evidence and explain?"
"She wanted to protect me, so she isn't bad!"
Tears came out of Hime's eyes, and she stared at her sister who was taller than her by a head.
"Nothing good will come out of it if you hang around a friend who's such a bad influence."
"If you look down on me, I don't care. I know that I powerlessly ran away from home and depended on other's strength; I know I used the allowance I got from home to buy manga and it's hypocritical. B-But…"
Hime shouted as loudly as she could,
"Don't you dare look down on my treasured friends!"
Yuuhana-san's expression wavered for the first time.
She probably realized she must have said too much, based on Hime's expression.
At this point, I couldn't stay quiet any longer, so I spoke up.
"Hey, can I say something?"
"Huh? Who are you?"
I-I was here the entire time—
Did she not even notice my presence?
"…I'm Kidou Eita."
"Oh, you're the boy I spoke to on the phone yesterday. What is it?"
I roused myself up, and spoke.
"I used to like manga in the past, and I had delusions just like Himeka-san. Now, however, I'm not interested in it anymore. I even sold my books to the used bookstore."
"Really? So you fixed yourself for the better?"
I resolutely shook my head.
"Although I definitely think my past self was really stupid, I never even considered abandoning it. That's because that was one of my former selves, and because of it I'm able to be who I am right now. That's how I feel. No matter what, it's still me."
There will be a day that Hime wakes up from her delusions, and that day grows closer.
That's because eventually there's that inevitable day that you have to face reality.
When the day comes, when you reject that past in order to calmly accept it, yet still be able to step forward, you need to have a stronger heart than everyone else.
"Because in my opinion, you need to be able to accept your embarrassing past selves in order to truly grow up."
Yeah! I think I said it myself beautifully!
—That's what I thought.
On the other side of hot steam that rose from the asphalt road, there was the faint silhouette of a certain girl standing on the sidewalk.
That girl was smiling.
How long had she been standing there? On this blistering hot summer day, she didn't even have a drop of sweat. Her silver hair fluttered like a tree in the breeze.
That girl had a notebook in her hands.
She slowly began to open the pages.
I finally realized what she was about to do,
"Hey! What are you doing—————!?"
Basically about to vomit blood from my shout, I started charging towards that girl!
In that split second when I was just barely, just a finger-length away from touching that noteboooooooooooooook!
"Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I can't bear it! It's impossibbbleeeeeeeeeeee!"
I rolled all over the ground despite the scorching hot asphalt. The girl who had been reading aloud from the notebook—Natsukawa Masuzu walked closer with a wide smile stretched across her face.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, sister of Akishino-san. My name is Natsukawa Masuzu, the current president of the club, ｢Society for Bringing Out Your Maiden Self｣, that your sister is affiliated with."
The sudden developments left Yuuhana-san with wide eyes, but she collected herself.
"It's a pleasure to meet you too. Thank you for taking care of Himeka during club activities."
"No, we should be the ones thanking Himeka for her help."
Masuzu gently hugged Hime's shoulder from behind her, even though Hime had been in a daze the whole time.
"If it weren't for Himeka-san, our club never would have been established. Even if she's an otaku or full of delusions, Akishino Himeka, along with everyone else, is an absolutely indispensable member of our club."
Yuuhana-san nodded her head slightly.
"I take back all the bad things I said about you all. It looks like Himeka actually has many good friends in high school."
Yuuhana-san, you actually understood what Masuzu was saying?
That wasn't much different from what I said earlier—
But Masuzu, Hime, and Yuuhana-san weren't paying attention to me at all.
"Himeka, the games and manga that I said I threw away—they're actually in the warehouse."
"I gave the keys to mom. As for working for the hotel, we can slowly discuss that again later."
Hime nodded her head.
Yuuhana-san sat down in the driver's seat of the van.
After rolling open the window, she handed Hime a handbag.
"This is a change of clothes for today. You only brought one pair with you, right?"
Hime expressed her gratitude quietly.
"I'll be taking the last train to Tokyo tonight, so why don't you go back home tomorrow, Hime? Don't make mom and dad too worried."
The van slowly drove away and disappeared on the other side of the intersection.
...so basically it was resolved?
"Hey, why are you here?"
When I said that, Masuzu glared at me with a frightening expression.
"You never got in touch with me, so I came to look for you."
"Summer vacation's almost over, and you actually ignored your girlfriend and went on a date with your ex-girlfriend—I'll definitely force you to make up for it one of these days."
She dropped her frightening words and left soon afterwards.
While she was leaving, she didn't forget to flick Mana's forehead who was sitting blank-faced on the ground with her finger.
"You're still the same as always, you headstrong girl."
In the end, my ｢girlfriend｣ stole all the credit.
Despite this, my ex-girlfriend walked to the side of dumbstruck Mana after she was flicked on the forehead.
"Mana, thank you."
She hugged Mana tightly.
Since Hime made a new friend, a summer vacation day like this wasn't quite so bad.
Eight o'clock at night.
After I cleaned up from dinner and started the washing machine, I was reciting the era dates from Japanese history when the doorbell rang.
This was the second time today that Hime paid a visit. Wasn't she staying over at the Harusaki's house?
"Eita, look at this!"
Panting for breath, Hime passed me a picture book.
It was filthy everywhere. The front cover was scratched and back corner had traces of being folded—it was clear that this picture book was years old.
The title of it was—
"Alice in Wonderland, huh?"
Only from being read aloud—this book was the second most famous book in the world after the Holy Bible.
The story describes a young girl named Alice who chased a rabbit down a hole and entered an unfathomable world. If I thought about it carefully, you could consider it the father of all ｢Alternate Universe Stories｣.
"This picture book was the first book I was ever fascinated with. When I was in kindergarten, my sister read it over and over for me many times because my mom and dad were always busy with hotel work. That's why my sister always read stories to me."
Hime hugged the picture book tightly to her chest and spoke with teary eyes.
"I totally forgot. I forgot the reason why I started liking manga and anime. I actually forgot that my sister is the entire reason why I'm who I am right now."
Transparent teardrops dripped down Hime's pearly white cheeks.
"...This picture book, why?"
"It was at the bottom of the handbag my sister gave to me."
So Yuuhana-san found this picture book when she was moving all of Hime's manga to the warehouse.
She felt that all the other books were ｢pointless｣ and threw them away, but only this book was different.
Because in the eyes of the Akishino sisters, this was a special story.
"Hey, Hime. Are you really okay with not seeing your sister off?"
I glanced at the clock on the wall.
It was 8:32 PM.
If I remembered correctly, the last special express train ｢Hanewa｣ to Tokyo left around nine o'clock at night.
"If it's now, we should barely be able to make it."
Hime gazed at me with wide eyes.
"I want to go!"
Okay, so it's decided.
I snatched my wallet that I had left on the table, grabbed Hime's hand, and ran out the house after locking the door. I didn't even turn off the lights, but compared to the electricity costs, time was more precious right now.
At this hour, buses ran every half hour. To be honest, there was no way we could make it.
Our only choice was to run to the main road and flag down a taxi.
We cut across the residential area and ran through an alley. We arrived at the main road in a shorter amount of time than it took to get to school, but because of the hour, we couldn't find any taxis. There weren't many cars on the road in the first place. Damn! This is exactly the reason why I hate the countryside!
While Hime and I fumbled around the traffic light wondering ｢What should we do?! What should we do?!｣, a black high-class car suddenly stopped in front of our eyes.
The window beside the passenger seat rolled open—
"Hey, I found two idiots!"
A girl with silver hair and pigtails peeked out of the window, and the green light of the traffic light reflected off her face.
It was Mana. She fortuitously showed up at an impossibly good time.
"By any chance were you listening to the conversation earlier today?"
Mana winked at us like it was obvious.
"If Hime doesn't send her off, she won't be able to make the HAPPY END, right? Everything'd go to waste, right? So, hurry up and get in the car. If we don't drive quickly, we won't make it!"
Mana's endless chatter was cut short because Hime hugged her neck.
With red eyes, Hime shouted,
"Mana, I love you the most! My friend!"
"S-Sure, just hurry up and get in the car. I'm dying from the heat so let go and get in the car you fool!"
We received the tsundere's kindness and got in the car.
The baldheaded bodyguard dressed in black who once acted out a fight with me sat in the driver's seat. He still had this intimidating attitude, so it made me want to curl up by instinct. I remembered his name was… Yasuoka.
Yasuoka-san held the steering wheel and quietly spoke to me,
"Long time no see, high school boy."
"Y-Yes. Long time no see."
"Your injuries, do they still hurt?"
"T-They're fine now."
Although I was beat up pretty badly then, I didn't receive any scars by some miracle. It's probably because he meticulously used a technique to minimize injuries while he fought me.
"I'll be speeding, so if we get in a crash and you get scars, please forgive me."
As he said these dangerous words, the car rapidly accelerated.
I patted Hime's back as she hugged me with a pale face, myself terrified to death. The scenery outside the window whisked. I couldn't even tell what street we were speeding on.
"Don't worry. Even though he said that, Yasuoka will definitely not get us in a car crash."
Mana said this from the passenger's seat, but I really couldn't believe her!
Just after I thought we'd die about three times, the car suddenly started slowing down.
The scenery zoomed back into focus, and I recognized a familiar red roof. It was the Hanenoyama train station.
I glanced at my watch and it was 7:58 PM.
"The last train, Hanewa, leaves at 9:03 PM, so hurry up!"
Practically pushed out of the car by Mana, Hime and I got off the car.
"I'll send you guys off here. You're on your own for the return trip."
"I really can't thank you enough, Mana! Same with Yasuoka-san!"
We gave our thanks immediately after we got out.
Mana rolled open the window and stuck her head out.
"Oh right—there's one more thing I can't forget."
She took out a doujinshi, turned it open to me and shouted,
"Otaku! Really! Are! Disgusting——————!"
We'll talk about Mana's shout of blood-curdling hatred later. We started sprinting towards the train station. With the spare change we prepared while on the car, we tossed it into the ticket vending machine and bought a platform pass. Like a marathon runner grabbing a drink, we snatched our tickets from station attendant and ran past checkpoint towards the No. 8 platform where the Hanewa train was.
We made it!
On the lonely platform, the station lighting shown on a black-haired girl who stood silently with her head lowered. Without a doubt, it was Akishino Yuuhana-san.
"W-Why are you here?"
When Yuuhana-san saw us, she was surprised.
Gasping for breath, I pushed Hime, who was similarly out of breath.
"Go Hime. There's something you have to say, isn't there?"
Hime nodded, wiped the sweat from her forehead, and stood in front of her sister.
Unlike earlier today, her head was not lowered.
Hime straightened her back and squarely showed herself to her sister.
"Onee-chan, there's something I want to tell you."
"...What is it?"
Her cheeks blushing, Hime gave a beautiful smile and made a very loud proclamation,
"There's someone I like!"
That's all she wanted to say? Hime?
She particularly came to see someone off, so why is she making such a lovestruck declaration?!
Look, even Yuuhana-san is shocked—
"Really? That's great."
Huh, wait? She's actually smiling?
Her smile was just like she blessed her little sister's love. It glittered as it blossomed.
"But, I have a lot of rivals."
"That's not a big deal, Himeka. Just like me, you're very beautiful… you've got to try your best."
While the train speedily entered the platform, the two sisters tightly hugged each other.
"Well then, Kidou-kun. I leave my sister to you."
Just before she got on the train, her lips quietly drew close to my ear.
"Unexpectedly, my little sister has a big chest. Have you taken advantage of it yet?"
"I don't know!"
Ummmm, actually I did know! But even so I needed to pretend I didn't!
With my face entirely red, the chimes of the departing train rang.
With the heavy resounding rings, the train slowly started to move.
"Eita, what did my sister say to you?"
"She didn't say anything…"
"You're mean. Hug me?"
"No, I don't want to hug you!"
While Hime hugged my right arm, I tried to divert my attention from it. Please don't pay attention that that, um, that very soft thing there. Then I thought of something.
"...Ah, when the next school semester starts, it'll be fine."
I mumbled quietly as my ex-girlfriend titled her head from incomprehension.
"Also, can you lend me the newest volume of ｢Holy Dragon｣?"
Translator notes and references
- French Window: A floor-to-ceiling height window.
- Another definition since I'm utterly clueless about fashion. A Boston Bag is a traveling bag or general-utility bag that is oblong at the bottom and is tapered or folded in at either end toward a top opening held together by two handles.
- Is a reference to the manga: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drifters_(manga)
- In Japanese, "Run Away" is "ぃぇで". The Romanji for this is are the sounds, "i - e - de".
- This is spoken in formal language (Hime abbreviates it a lot, but it's still a vague formal expression). Eita starts to reciprocate in the next sentence but...
- Reference to Super Robot Wars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Robot_Wars
- Riajuu: The opposite of an otaku.
- Tankōbon: Manga collected in volumes. Hime means she doesn't follow the weekly releases, and she only reads the tankoubon.
- Konakijii: A youkai that has the body of a weeping child but the face of an old man. If you pick it up, it'll strangle you to death.
- The printing format of light novels is bunkoban, which is smaller than your typical books.
- In honor of m-chan (Baka-Tsuki Facebook)! You can correct the "shtick" whenever your feel like it. It's actually just "stabbing", but cloud is playing around. The sexual pun is definitely there XD *teeheeee~*
- I think I'll need a lot of help working out this chuu2 section. It's difficult, and I think I'm missing things from the Chinese. I mean, the Chinese translators didn't even bother translating a part... Anyways, please refer to forums for this.
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