This title is too long!:Volume1 Chapter1
Chapter 1 - April 10, I met her
I'm a High School Boy and a Bestselling Light Novel author, strangled by my female classmate who is my junior and a voice actress.
This is my current predicament.
I'm lying on the floor, my back stuck to the hard floor, and there're slight quivering and sounds felt on the icy floor.
This girl, who's my classmate, a year younger than me, and also acting as a voice actress, is seated on my belly, crouched over.
She's dressed in a thin blue sailor uniform as she reaches her hands out at my neck. Her slender fingers are wrapped around my carotid pulse, seemingly stopping the blood flow.
Her hands are extremely cold.
They feel like a muffler locked around my neck.
Within my sights are black curtains on both left and right sides.
That's because her long, black hair is draped straight down. It's like a flower from the Southern countries, probably because of the conditioner. It's a nice smell.
And then, what I see in the middle of the curtains is her face, slightly dimmed due to the backlight.
She's crying. Her tears are dripping to the inside of the cell frame glasses lens. Her white, pretty teeth can be seen from her tight lips.
She yells as she grabs me by the throat, choking me hard.
I heard that humans are able to exert more strength when they're shouting. I never tried it before, but I can say that that's the truth after experiencing this for myself.
My throat's being strangled from left and right, but I don't feel any pain.
And in contrast, ringing inside my head--
A drip of black ink lands silently. That black stain begins to spread gradually.
She yells again.
Why did it end up like this?
That's what I want to know.
The first time I met that girl was--
About a month and a half ago.
It's April 7th , the first Monday of this month, and the first day of the new High School year.
It has been a year since I went to school.
During that prior year, I took leave from school. I should be in the second year of high school from my 16th to 17th spring, but I was unable to attend school the entire time.
Now, I'm finally in my second year of high school.
And with the return to school, I transferred schools, from the Public High School where I studied in year 1, to a private High School.
In this new school, the school won't question me on the lack of attendance as long as I've an appropriate reason and pass the exams.
And from this moment onward, I have to take leave from school once every week.
On that morning.
I stepped into the school for the second time ever since I completed the transfer. I found my name on the large class allocation board, and entered the classroom for the first time.
Naturally, I don't know anyone in this classroom.
This school's a co-ed, with an equal percentage of boys and girls. I heard that there'll only be a rearrangement of classes when entering our second year, so it's not a rarity to see people unfamiliar with others, sitting alone, like me here.
Soon after, the form teacher who's going to take care of us for 2 years entered. He's a middle-aged male teacher.
The opening ceremony's viewed from the television installed in the classroom.
And the principal conveyed his message through the footage. I think that this method of not requiring students to move to the gym really is comfortable and good.
Following this, my classmates begin with their self-introductions, which is not to be omitted.
I'm seated at the right side of the blackboard, the row closer to the corridor, and the second seat from the back. After waiting for a long time, it's finally my turn.
Once the girl sitting in front of me finished her line, she sat down.
I stand up, state my name, and the foods I like, something I definitely had to say.
There are a lot of foods I like, and I chose coffee in this case. It's ordinary, but the other students did mention stuff like Ramen or Sushi, and the girls mention sweets. It's really ordinary.
Most of the students would add on, saying some things about their club activities or hobbies to spice up the atmosphere in class. It seems everyone has a hidden understanding that they could not let it end up this.
As for me, there's nothing much I could say. Once it's my turn to speak up, I ponder seriously for a brief moment, but was still unable to think of anything to talk about.
And so, I accidentally,
Blurted out what I should not have said.
“Well...I transferred into this school during this semester, and it's my second time wearing the uniform and entering the school. It feels like everything seems so new, like a new student.”
It's still fine till this point.
I feel that my classmates are starting to show concern for me, and I think I hear some voices of the heart, like I see, so you're a transfer student, that's rare.
And what I said next was inappropriate,
“I took leave from school for a year before this, so I'm very happy to be able to return back to a high school life.”
These were my true thoughts.
My classmates start to rumble.
“Eh? Older than us?”
This time, what I heard was not the voices of the heart, but actual whispers I could hear from my ears.
Even though I realized it was a bad situation, it was all too late.
The atmosphere in class changed from the understanding of there's a transfer student' to a 'so there's a senior who's supposed to be our upperclassman'.
It was only a while later did I realize that there were no retained students in this school, that there were as many goldfish that could speak as there were classmates older than them.
I've left school for a year, and during this time, I was always in contact with people older than me--
I have already lost the natural feeling of 'a year difference' for a high school student.
I felt that I said something I should not have.
This was the wish I set for myself when I arrived at this school, and the promise I made with my mother.
That I have to handle my studies well, make good friends even if they are few, and enjoy the high school life I will only have once.
In other words, being a 'high school student'.
I ended up grounding myself regarding this matter. I made a miscue right from the first day.
“...That's how things are. Please take care of me...”
What's with that ' That's how things are. Please take care of me' line? That's ridiculous.
I was the one who said 'I'm a year older than you!'. Wasn't I the one hiding this fact until a while ago?
After ending this greatest failure in my life, I slump weakly on the chair, feeling myself to be so foolish that I don't have the strength to sigh.
“Hm, well, next. You must be the last one, I suppose?”
The teacher did not follow up with this, but this was probably to prevent the wound from expanding any further.
And then, I hear a cheerful voice from the girl seated behind me, coupled with both the sound of her pulling her chair back and standing up. At this moment, I realized that she's a girl.
I didn't have the strength to look back, so I continued to maintain this position, despite it being rude to her.
“Eri Nitadori. My given name and family name both rhyme with 'ri'.”
Her voice was intriguing.
She surely wasn't loud, but I can hear her clearly. The voice seems to pass through my ears and reach the brain directly.
“I transferred into this school last Autumn, and I was in the second class. My favorite foods are basically all kinds of them, but the one I really want to eat for all 3 meals a day is—”
I begin to guess her answer.
Is it a sweet befitting a girl? Cake or parfait? Or was it some ordinary curry or ramen? Maybe some unexpected katsudon with sauce on it?
I started to challenge her.
And I began thinking all sorts of possible dishes she could mention before she answered.
What she said next was,
This was overwhelmingly, or I should say, something not many would say to be a favorite food, and so my classmates laughed heartily. Even the teacher laughed.
She was able to blow aside the unnecessary heavy atmosphere caused by the carelessness of the student right before her.
Even though this prefecture is the producer of horse sashimi, I really couldn't fathom a second year high school girl eating horse sashimi for every meal.
“I'm not good at sports, so I'm not in any club activity. However, I do bring my dog out every single day. Our dog's called 'Gonsuke' (TN: Basically means 'manservant'), 3 years old—”
I continued to hear her chat happily about her pet dog, curious as to how this 'horse sashimi girl' looked like, and so, I slowly turned my head around.
And then, I look up.
I saw a bespectacled girl who's rather tall, and had quite long hair.
She's probably about 1.7m tall, I guess? For a girl, she's really rather tall.
She's definitely not plump, but for some reason, she doesn't seem delicate either. She said that she's not good at sports, but I thought she should be a talent heavily recruited by the volleyball or basketball club.
The evenly long black hair of hers is so long it passes her chest and reaches her abdomen. Her bangs are in evenly straight, and to summarize, it's a long bob haircut, and on both left and right side of her hair are button-like hairpins, probably made of felt?
Her skin's white, her facial features are distinct, the face lines and nose bridge are rather straight, and she has quite the pretty face.
She's wearing cell-framed glasses, colored pale blue-green like the haoris of the Shinsengumi. The face lines behind the lens were not contorted in any way, so maybe it's either a decoration or that the spectacles degree isn't that much. The irises in those large eyes were a thick brown.
If she's a character in a novel, this is probably how I would describe her.
She's blessed with a fine body figure and face, a plain Yamato Nadeshiko hairstyle, one who looked so unbalanced, and yet befitting of her.
That was what I thought.
She was a beauty.
One of these days, I'll take that saying and 'make use of it'.
This classmate of mine called Nitadori adjusted her sights moderately as she continued to chatter about her pet dog Gonsuke. It is clear that everyone in class is paying attention to the cute episodes.
If it were me, I probably won't end up doing such stupid miscues. I wondered as I heard her words. We're seated rather close, so Nitadori wasn't looking at me. If she's looking at me, I probably will be looking away.
Nitadori ended her proud introduction of her dog at the opportune time, and then said that anyone who wished to see the photos could check out her smartphone. This really is a wonderful appeal.
And looking at this—
Anyone who likes dogs, no matter whether boy or girl, can talk to her regarding that. From there, she would be able to converse with others. Her self introduction's a stark contrast to a certain somebody before her, a classic sample.
And in the end, she adds on, “Please take care of me for the next two years”.
She lets her long hair dangle to a side of the chair's backrest, and slowly sat down.
At that moment, she was right in front of my sights, and our eyes met for the first time.
I intended to look away, but I couldn't.
For the earnest face she showed till this past suddenly froze, and she let out a soft shriek. She turned her face to the corridor, seemingly evading my sights.
This action was ostensibly one of somebody who saw something she should not have. It felt to me that she would not be this petrified even if she saw a ghost.
After seeing her actions, I slowly turned to the front, and sighed in my heart.
I wondered that if my first day was going to be like this, I might as well not repeat my year after all.
That was why—
“Can I sit beside you?”
I was really shocked when that Nitadori suddenly spoke to me so earnestly.
It was April 10, a Thursday, 3 days after the opening ceremony.
I was seated on the Limited Express back then.
From the town where I live in, this train ride allows me to reach the metropolis in about 3 hours. I was seated at the last row of the free seating carriage car, at the left side, leaning by the window.
It's the evening, and the train carriage is still empty after having left the station, so there shouldn't be a need for anyone to sit beside me. Even if the reason of wanting to sit at the back row is 'my luggage's too big for the rack', or 'I want to adjust my reclining chair', there is still the right side of the aisle that's empty.
That's why I was surprised to hear the meaning of those words, despite not knowing who it was. I lift my head up from the printouts of the drafts, and when I found it to be Nitadori, who's seated behind me every day, I was further taken aback.
“Hi! Good afternoon.”
I remained silent as I stared blankly at this taller girl standing on the aisle.
Naturally, Nitadori's not dressed in a uniform, and I'm not really sure of the details, but I could clearly see that it's a posh looking one-piece dress.
Nitadori seemed to have assumed that I may have forgotten about her,
“Erm, we're in the same class. I'm Eri Nitadori, seated right at the back.”
And so, she introduced herself again.
I barely managed to force out a reply somehow. And then, I slowly spoke,
“I knew that, actually.”
I knew about all those till this point. What I didn't know what why she would talk with me.
Nitadori then gave an amused snicker,
“Hm? Honorific language? Even though you're an upperclassman?”
“Ah, no...it's nothing, Miss Nitadori.”
“Adding a 'Miss'? Even though you're older?”
I took a breath to calm my heart down.
“No...erm, is 'Nitadori' fine?”
And then, I pretended to remain as calm as possible while conversing with her normally. I wondered how many years it had been since I talked to a girl of a similar age, but having realized that I may need a long time to derive that answer, I gave up.
“Of course. Can I sit beside you then?”
At that time, I had my backpack on the seat beside me. Inside it were my favorite laptop, books and a change of clothes.
My backpack was wide open inside, so while reaching out to zip it with one arm, I blurted my honest opinion,
“Well, I'm fine with that...but why here? Aren't there empty seats everywhere?”
It might had been rude of me to say that, but that was what I truly thought. I had no idea at all why Nitadori insisted on sitting beside me.
It had been 4 days since school started, but I never conversed with her in class. Rather, I never spoke to anyone in class.
Everyone in class viewed me as 'an older classmate', and treated me with caution, so naturally, there wasn't any who would speak to me. I guess they were all wondering if they should be using honorifics with me. If one were to do so, so would the rest, and vice versa. However, nobody dared to be the first one up to the challenge.
I too was worried if my classmates would shun me if I tried to approach them, and never did so in the end. The gap of a year was too large for me, who's already ineffectual at communicating.
I felt it is merciless of me to be saying 'there are still other seats' to a person wanting to sit beside me. While pondering that it was expected of her to be angry, I awaited her answer.
“I want to talk with you.”
And then, she said this. She was not smiling, but it did not seem like she was angry.
“Erm...talk about what?”
I place my backpack on my thighs as I asked this, dumping the rolled-up manuscript into my back. It was just information I printed from home, so it was fine for me even if it was wrecked.
Nitadori tied her long hair to the back of her neck in a polite manner, and let it drape from her right shoulder to her chest, quickly sitting down beside me.
She turned to the left, and with our shoulders practically touching each other, she stared at me right in the eyes, and answered my question with a hushed voice,
“I want to talk about work.”
I did not understand what she meant at all. What work was there for two high school students to talk about? I placed my bag at my feet.
“Sorry but I don't understand what you're saying here.”
I answered honestly.
Nitadori then showed a serious look immediately.
“I see...I thought you would have realized it already.”
“I seem to be mistaken about something. Sorry."
I stare at Nitadori, who looked to be a little disappointed.
I started to wonder if she was an ill-natured girl after all.
Perhaps she wanted to tease this 'older' classmate she coincidentally met, and would leave the seat with a cackle.
I had that image flashing through my mind at that instant, and I even had the image of her saying some harsh, sharp words at the end.
Even if that were the case,
“Hey, hold it there! What do you mean by that? Explain to me!”
I probably would not be raging and chasing after her with such amazing manliness.
I probably would feel a little hurt, and would probably end up being 'used' by her
“But I'm not trying to tease you here, you know?”
Nitadori said, completely denying my thoughts. I wonder if she's an esper.
And so, what she said next,
Caused my heart to stop in shock.
“Are you going for the After Record for 'Vice Versa' tomorrow, sensei?”
Normally, the slight quiver and tremors on the fast moving Limited Express feel comfortable. I did at times treat the carriage car as a cradle and slept soundly on it.
But at this point, I felt that the sounds and tremors were akin to a massive earthquake.
It was rumbling away, and I felt it was trying to throw me out of my seat.
This was the first time in my life that I wondered why there was no safety belts on the train. My hands were grabbing onto the armrest.
I stared right into Nitadori's eyes as I barely eke out these words, and the rest ended up as gibberish.
I actually wanted to say,
“How did you know about this?”
“Ah, I guess from your expression that you want to ask 'how did you know', right?”
I was unable to say anything, dumbfounded for 5 seconds like a doll, and Nitadori took the initiative to speak up.
“How, did you know...?”
And then, since it did not matter at this point, I said this line.
Nitadori let out a little chuckle, and I forgot my current predicament as I saw the smile of the pretty girl up close. However, there was no way I could forget about that. I immediately got up from my seat, and surveyed the carriage.
There were 5 heads I could see.
Two of them were seated at the front-most, side by side. They definitely must be the middle-aged couple waiting for the train behind me a while back, and from their hiking getup, I suppose they went to the hills visible from my room, and were on their way back. There was a lot of snow on the hilltops as the weather was still cold.
A young man, probably a salaryman, was seated a few seats behind them at the window side. Seated at the row behind him at the right window side was a college male who seemed to be traveling. I did see them on the platform.
Closest to me was a young female seated alone near the aisle in the middle of the carriage car, dressed in gray pants and suit. I did not see her on the platform, and she seemed to be of the working class who just finished a dispatch job.
Since there was no one else nearby, I did not have to worry about others eavesdrop if I were to speak at with a normal audible voice. It seemed Nitadori realized my thoughts as she said,
“You're really worried about other people noticing it? Don't worry. I'll make sure that nobody else will overhear us.”
I sit down as I listen to her slightly hushed voice, and turn my face to the right, seeing Nitadori's face that was extremely close to me, and asked,
“How did you know?”
“Well then, what do you think?”
She answered my question with a question.
“It's easy for me to tell you the answer, but that's no fun now, isn't it? You'll soon know, so think about it.”
That definitely was what she meant.
And so, I began to ponder, carefully listing out all the possibilities I could eliminate, and the possibilities I could consider.
I spent 2 minutes on that. I didn't know whether that was too long or too short.
And during this time, I continued to stare at the back of the seat in front of me, not knowing what sort of expression Nitadori was showing. Perhaps she was enjoying herself, maybe she was bored, or maybe she was surprised.
After staring at the back of the seat in front of me for two minutes, I let out these words,
“So that's what it means by 'our work'."
“What do you mean?”
Nitadori asked. Clearly, what she meant was,
“Please look at others in the eyes when talking to someone.”
I slowly turn my face to Nitadori.
And so, I stared at Nitadori, the bespectacled girl—
Giving me a victorious smile.
I spoke up,
“Nitadori...you're a voice actress, participating in the animation of my light novel.”
I'm a professional author.
I wrote a novel titled 'Vice Versa'—
Currently, it's lined in the Pocket Book (Bunko) section of the bookstore.
This work is the first work I published in my life, and currently, I'm continuing this work.
'Vice Versa' is classified as a 'light novel'.
Now, what is a light novel? What kind of novel is considered a light novel?
There are some who say that it's a novel with a large number of anime-styled illustrations on the cover, color illustrations, and insert illustrations.
Most of the light novels I see in a bookstore are the same, and I do think that this definition explains a characteristic, appearance-wise; however, there are light novels without any illustrations.
There are some who say that any books sold under (apparent) light novel publishers can be considered as light novels.
I do think this viewpoint is easy to understand. However, there are cases of books printed under a light novel imprint before, only to have their illustrations removed and sold as contemporary literature works.
There are some who say that the age group of light novel readers is higher than children literature, that the main viewership derive from high school students.
As a purchasing consumer, this is what I think. However, despite the advancement in age, many will continue to read light novels, including the many numbers of college students and adult readers. Thus, light novels need not necessarily be limited to 'a work targeted at high school students'.
Then, do we classify the story according to the genre? Not necessarily.
Light novels practically encompass all kinds of genres, like fantasy, comedies, action, mystery, history, romance, youth, Of course, there is an exceptional number of works like fantasy and romcom.
In the end, there is still not a single person able to give a clear definition for light novels.
I feel that most of us, including me—
Are already calling it 'light novels', or a portmanteau 'ranobe', a term that is defined incompletely, and will continue on like this.
'Vice Versa' is published and sold by 'Dengeki Bunko'.
Currently, there are more than 10 light novel publishers in the market, and the largest of them is Dengeki Bunko.
The company 'ASCII Media Works' (Used to be called 'Media Works') established the company 'Dengeki Bunko' in 1993. That was before I was born.
Strictly speaking, the company 'ASCII Media Works' no longer exists, for it is bought and absorbed into the mega corporation Kadokawa Group. The name sticks however because the name 'Brand Company' is too vague to define a purpose, so with this nostalgic feeling, I continue to use the term 'ASCII Media Works'.
In over 20 years of history, Dengeki Bunko has published big-selling works from my colleagues. Whenever there is a bestseller made, sales revenue will increase, and the brand will gradually expand in the shop.
What this 'gradually expand in the shop' means is basically increasing the capacity taken up in the shop, allowing customers to see the works of this company more easily.
The following year since its inception, this Dengeki Bunko brand holds an annual 'Dengeki Novel Prize'. (Before 2003, it was titled the 'Dengeki Game Novel Prize')
Any author can debut with Dengeki Bunko as long as they win this Newcomer Novel award (there's an illustration award held at the same time.)
It was said this is the driving force behind Dengeki Bunko's rapid development, discovering authors through the contest, and promoting popular works.
It is a very popular imprint, so there were increases in participation every year. At this point, there are thousands of them.
It was about 3 years ago when I took part in this, hoping to enter the gateway to success.
Back then, I was just a 9th grader.
The annual Dengeki Novel Prize deadline was April 10th (In other words, this day).
It was the previous day 3 years ago, April 9th, right after the new school semester started.
I submitted the long novel I wrote to the post office on the day right before the deadline.
And then, I failed.
There were too many people registering for the Dengeki Novel Prize, and so, the judging was long as a result.
After the submissions before the deadline, there was a first judging to pick out hundreds out of the thousands of entries. At the second judging, there would be approximately one-third left. At the third judging, dozens of them.
And so, at the fourth judging, there would be 10 or so picked for the final judging.
Once the final selections are read by the judging committee, the grand prize, gold prize, silver prizes and so on would be decided at the end of September, and the results would be announced on October 10.
The award-winning prizes would be published in February the following year. At that instance, the participating authors from the prior year would be recruited as professionals. Dengeki Bunko would release its books on the 10th, and the brand 'Mediaworks Bunko', under the some editorial group but released as a contemporary label, releases its books on the 25th.
If it were an ordinary newcomer contest, there would be any debuts for those that failed to make the cut. This would mean “Too bad. Try again next year, okay?”
However, in this Dengeki Novel Prize, there are chances for those who did not make the cut to become an author.
First off, most of the entries that can make it to the final selections can make debuts starting March.
Also, even if there were entries that failed to make it to the final selections, they can be put under an editor-in-charge as long as their works are recognized, before they finally become authors (naturally, there aren't many of these people).
These people will continue to hold meetings with the editor-in-charge, either to fine-tune the works to improve its completion, or to rewrite the work into something completely different.
My entry failed to make the cut.
But right now, it's being published.
Now then, did my work make it into the final selections and had a chance to be published? That wasn't it.
My journey was a little complicated.
First off, my entry failed to make the cut at the fourth selection, not even one of the final selections.
I learned that I failed to make the cut through the announcement on the official website.
I was really delighted when I saw my name appearing on the third selection results. If I could make it to the final selections, I would basically be able to debut as a professional. Thus, I was waiting anxiously for the results.
However, my work failed to get to the end.
Finding it regretful, I felt that it was a proud accomplishment for me to be able to make it all the way there.
Feeling encouraged, I intended to continue registering the following year, or take part in another newcomer contest.
The editorial branch would write some feedback to those that made the second round, so I would take reference and encourage myself.
While I was thinking about these and preparing for my examinations in October—
The phone in my house rang. It was a number from Tokyo.
Harboring some hope, I picked up the phone, and found that it was from the editorial department of Dengeki Bunko. The one calling was the editor-in-charge who really took care of me later on.
While I was extremely tense in my response, the editor-in-charge spoke,
“Are you really a 9th grader? There is something I wish to talk to you about. If possible, do you mind asking your parents along to the Tokyo editorial branch? Otherwise, I would be fine with paying you a visit instead.”
On that day, one week after the phone call.
My mother and I arrived at the editorial branch of ASCII Mediaworks, and there, I learned of the facts.
The reason why my novel did not make the final selections was due to my age.
The delightful thing was that my entry was highly rated. All the committee members felt that the story was really interesting, and that alone would have undoubtedly ranked me as one of the final selections. On a side note, all the editors at Dengeki Bunko took part in the fourth selections.
But if this work was to be part of the final selections—
I would have to wait for my book to be released in the earlier half of the next year, no matter whether I won or not.
If I did, the work would be released on the following February. If I did not, it would be during March or April earliest. The author has to first consider this, and 'edit' the entry manuscript.
While I know of this very well, I didn't know back then that the entry manuscripts would never be released directly. There had to be editorial work where the author and the editor-in-charge vet through the novel to varying extents.
Light novels will typically continue to form a series, and this would help increase sales figures (unless the ending of the story is done splendidly). Thus, it would be highly beneficial for me to write continuations and establish the story before I can officially debut. Thus, it is necessary to continue writing.
If I was stuck in such a predicament, it would not be hard to imagine how much it would affect my preparations for the exams.
“If I'm going to debut as an author the next year, I'm not going to high school!”
I might say such a thing.
This newcomer award is held to recruit outstanding authors. For an enterprise, it is upright to publish interesting and popular books, but this should not compromise a person's future.
Thus, the editorial branch judged this with caution, causing me to fail at the fourth selections.
Upon hearing those words, my mother was really worried.
As for me, my heart was basically swinging by the scale.
“No! I'll write this even if I have to prepare for the exams at the same time!”
I was feeling frustrated.
“Thank you for thinking so much about me.”
And at the same time, feeling gracious. Even the me back then understood that being an author only meant that the publisher would promise to publish a book for me, and would not guarantee that the earnings would be enough to continue maintaining my livelihood.
No matter what I thought, it was an established fact that could not be overturned. I tried my best to change my thinking and harbor grateful thoughts.
But the story did not end like that.
The editor-in-charge gave a proposal on the spot.
The work itself was really amazing, and if I was willing, they would publish this in a paperback a little later on.
However, there was no need for me to be anxious. For that purpose, the work would definitely start only after I was done with my examinations.
And so, we would contact each other once my high school entry examinations were ended.
Lastly, they assured that they would not reveal about this.
Naturally, it was a given that I devoted myself wholeheartedly to preparing for the examinations.
I intended to high school, but in this situation, there is a large carrot dangling in front of me,
'Once I enter high school, I can debut as an author at Dengeki Bunko. In other words, the bookstores will sell my created work, and people will read it'.
This carrot was glowing brightly, like the sun out of a sunrise.
Either way, I could not mess up on the examinations. I devoted my entire time to studying, while secretly writing some manuscripts. This was easily exposed however.
The following Spring, or in other words, 2 years ago.
I was eligible to enroll for my first choice public school.
On the day I learned that I passed, I gave a call to the editorial branch.
“I passed! Can I go over to you the following Monday?”
Now that I think about it, I really was rude and forceful.
I really am grateful for the editor-in-charge who could only smile wryly and make time for an appointment with me.
And so, I decided to become an author.
I devoted most of my Spring break on meetings, finishing my edits, and finally managed to finish my manuscript in mid-April.
The first volume of 'Vice Versa' was released on August 10.
That was approximately 2 years ago, and I was just 16 years old, a 10th grader.
The award-winning works were released on February, and those that failed to win awards but made the final selections had their works published between Aprill and July.
As aforementioned, it is not a rarity in the Dengeki Novel Prize contest to see entries published even though they failed to make the final selections.
In other words, my works were of that type, but a release date in August during the same year was really too early.
'Vice Versa' was published to the world as a result, becoming a major hit.
The delightful fact is that the comments for the first volume were good, and there were decent sales. With the second volume released in October spurring things, there was a record high in sales when the 3rd volume was released the following January.
The editor-in-charge did say that I was one of the faster writers under the Dengeki Bunko flagship. Of course, I was not the fastest.
I continued to attend high school as I continued writing the manuscripts, editing—
When the 3rd volume was released, I completed the manuscripts for the 5th volume.
At the same time, it was 3 months before the first year of high school ended, and there was talk about 'Vice Versa' becoming an anime.
This really was a delightful proposal, but I knew that if it becomes an anime, the original author would have a lot of work to do. If I have to assist in the anime, I will have to help with the settings and scenarios, and check the scripts, so whatever I have to do will increase dramatically.
I can choose to provide the bare minimal inspection, but I really wanted to help out as much as I could.
At the same time, I wanted to continue writing this series. My passion for writing became more intense than before.
With this sudden spike in workload being anticipated, I began to brood.
I'll just drop out of high school.
The moment I proposed this, the editor-in-charge immediately answered me,
“No can do.”
The editorial branch would only permit me to provide the bare minimum in assistance, even if it was against my wishes.
Of course, my mother had the same view, even though she did not tell me off.
And then, like a three-way talk, I again discussed matters with my mother and the editor-in-charge—
And thus, the idea of 'absence from school for a year' was born.
There was no doubt I would be busy throughout the entire year, so I might as well take leave from school.
And during this time, I could work any much as I wanted.
And then, we agreed that I would definitely repeat my year at a private school, where attendances was not so strict. I would then study for 2 years, and I had to graduate from high school no matter what. If there was nothing stopping me, I was to also aim for college.
And so, I worked hard as accordingly to plan,
From the previous April to March this year, which was last month.
I continued to write continuations for 'Vice Versa'.
During the previous year when I took leave, there were 5 volumes released, and they were released in April (fourth volume), June (fifth volume), August (sixth volume), October (seventh volume), and December (eighth volume).
The ninth volume was released this January, and the manuscripts for the tenth and eleventh volume, expected to be sold in July and September, were already completed. At this point, the twelfth volume, planned for release in November, is in the editing phase.
At the same time, I provided assistance to the animation team, taking part in every single script meeting, and checked through a massive amount of setting information.
I really enjoyed myself. After ending this one tumultuous year, I transferred to a private high school as planned.
I never revealed any personal information, and there were few who knew my true identity.
And thus, I intended to hide my identity as an author in the new school. I felt that this would not be revealed unless I said so myself.
All these were exposed within a few days.
“Nitadori...you're a voice actress, participating in the animation of my light novel.”
Nitadori raised her right index finger in response to my words.
Right, it's almost impossible to think of any other possibilities.
I guess it was too long spending two minutes thinking about this.
The anime 'Vice Versa' is planned to be aired on broadcast television this July. This news was already announced before.
And the audio recording for this anime, the so called 'after record', first began last week.
It was Friday, April 4th.
The editor-in-charge and I were headed to the recording studio in the city for the first time. As the author, I intended to attend all the after records every Friday.
'Vice Versa' is a story with lots of characters, and there were some differences in the story's timeframe when adapted to the anime, so there ended up being lots of characters appearing in the first episode.
And thus, there were so many voice actors in the recording studio that there weren't enough chairs to sit. There were also famous voice actors any fan worth their salt would know of.
And so, before the recording began,
“Now then, I will like to introduce the original author here! His real identity isn't revealed however, so please treat what you see and hear as a secret! Okay, now sensei, come in!”
The producer suddenly said these words, and dragged me into the recording booth.
I assumed I was to sit at the control room where the recording instruments were, and I was so nervous it would be one of my top 3 anxious moments in my life. To be honest, I really wanted to run away.
After I tottered into the room like a captured rabbit, the producer began to introduce me to the voice actors.
I was on hiatus from school, but the voice actors had all kinds of reactions when they learned that I was a 17-year-old high school student.
“Wow! So such people exist...?” (A veteran male voice actor with a rough voice)
“So young!” (A young handsome voice actor who's very popular with the ladies.)
“Amazing, isn't it?” (A pretty voice actress who acted as many heroines and released many CDs).
I was never this embarrassed upon hearing these words.
And the producer demanded that I record some 'original author's greetings'.
I don't remember what I did say back then, but I guess it's probably Japanese, since I don't know of any other languages.
After the recording, I asked the editor-in-charge of his opinion regarding my words,
“Well...hm...it's fine...I guess?”
As he ended his reply with a question, I didn't dare to ask any further about that.
It was that kind of situation during the previous after record—
And naturally, there was no way I could have remembered the faces of so many voice actors.
“Sorry, I didn't remember your face.”
But even so, I apologized to Nitadori.
“There's no need to.”
And she answered so simply.
“Only a superhuman can remember that many faces in that kind of situation.”
And she even excused me.
“But that greeting was interesting.”
I really hoped that she forgot about it. And while I look up at the heavens,
“Hey, were you shocked by all these things?”
Nitadori asked, seemingly enjoying herself here.
“Of course I am!”
I let out a voice louder than I assumed, probably because of relief. And then, I lowered my voice immediately,
“...I was nearly shocked to death.”
“Is there really anyone who died due to shock?”
“Eh? Erm...I guess?”
Since it's a logical question, I thought I had to investigate it afterwards.
And so, I was first shocked by her, and then relieved after clarifying the reason—
I felt the difficulty of talking with her has lowered somewhat, and it's not like I'm conversing with someone I'm unfamiliar with.
“I see...so you're a voice actress, Nitadori...did you deliberately keep it a secret at school?”
Even I, unused to conversing with others, felt at ease when talking with her. Maybe it's because of that that I took the initiative to ask her.
Nitadori smiled, and nodded,
“Yeah, I don't feel the need to brag about it. But since this is the name I'm using, it'll be revealed as long as anyone wants to check up on me. Well, we'll just see how it goes when it happens though.”
It's a little weird to hear the words 'this is the name I'm using', but I didn't mind since I knew what she was trying to say. More importantly, I feel that 'I have to protect her secret no matter what'.”
“Wait! ...Are you going to call me that?”
I interrupted Nitadori's words in surprise, and she simply answered as a matter of fact,
“But you're the original author, aren't you? And you're a year older than me. Logically, I should be addressing you with proper honorifics.”
“No, just call me normally...if possible, please don't use honorifics with me. Also, I don't mind you calling me by my real name.”
I requested as I asked, but Nitadori immediately replied,
“But it's not a good thing if I'm to call you at at the studio, right? It'll be bad...for me too.”
“Ahh, I guess...”
With that, my real name will be revealed to everyone who only knows of my pen name. It's not a particularly damaging thing to me, but it's really improper for Nitadori. She probably doesn't intend to say that we're classmates, I guess.”
“It's fine. I'll pay attention to the situation. I promise that I won't call you sensei at school, and I definitely won't reveal your real identity. I swear.”
“Thanks. It's really great that you're willing to do that.”
“Or rather—I won't say anything to you in school!”
Nitadori said some words that appeared really harsh on first glance with a smile on her face.
“Erm...well, I guess that's good enough...”
And this time, I quickly realized that if I was to casually talk with Nitadori at school, our secrets will be revealed.
Since I couldn't think of any situations where there wouldn't be any people around us, or when only the both of us would be alone, it would be wise to not say anything at school.
“I understand. I'll do the same too to avoid letting slip.”
I agreed, and inadvertently blurted out my true thoughts,
“You're amazing, Nitadori.”
I then said to the startled her,
“You're already a professional voice actress at such a young age.”
And she immediately answered,
“There are many young people in both the acting world and the voice acting world. Besides, aren't you the same too, sensei?”
The Limited Express dashed on smoothly.
Entering April, the sunset felt later than usual, and it was still bright outside the window.
“Sensei, are you going to continue riding this train?”
In response to Nitadori's question,
“I plan to.”
I nodded hard.
The after record that I, no, we would be attending begins every Friday morning at 10am. This schedule would not change unless there were exceptional circumstances.
Thus, I have to take this Limited Express to Tokyo every Thursday and spend the night in the hotel, or in other words, spending the night there. There are 13 episodes for the anime in total, so the after record would take 3 months.
From this moment forth, I would continue to request absence from school on Fridays. Of course, I did explain the reasons to the school, and obtained permission to do so. Or rather, it was the opposite. I did transfer to this school because I would be allowed to do this.
“I can take the night bus...but to be honest, I don't think I'll be able to sleep.”
And once I said this, Nitadori nodded,
“Right right! I think this is the case too! It's hard at 10A, right? If the Shinkansen's (bullet train) still available, we could have made it in time if we leave early.”
The 10A Nitadori spoke of is the simplified term of the after record that begins at 10am (though I only knew of this recently).
This is the earliest time slot possible, but many of the voice actors are nocturnal folks, so this seems to be tough for them, and really unmotivating as a result.
“It's true. But I—”
I really like to take the Limited Express of the non-Shikansen train lines. The cars are mostly empty, and since the I always start my rides at the first stop of each line, there's definitely seats for me to take. The train ride is long, and I can do what I want to do; the scenery is beautiful too when the weather's fine.
When I expressed my true thoughts, Nitadori answered,
“Maybe I might like this train after this.”
Back then, I didn't notice the meaning behind these words.
While conversing, the train conductor came to check the Limited Express tickets.
Sometimes, the train conductor of this train was a young woman, and this is the case here.
I don't know what sort of ideas this conductor lady would have after seeing us seated side by side in the empty carriage.
But surprisingly, after inspecting my ticket, her face showed a flash of surprise when she continued on with Nitadori. I didn't know why that was so.
After the conductor left, Nitadori asked,
“Sensei, where do you plan to stay once you reach Tokyo?”
And then, she said,
“Maybe...the editorial branch? Are you going to...sleep under the table with a sleeping bag...?”
“No, that's not it.”
I said while giving a slight smile.
Nitadori doesn't seem familiar with the editorial branch and the publishing industry., and while thinking that this is an ordinary person's response, I answer,
“When I have to spend the night in Tokyo due to work, the Dengeki Bunko editorial branch will book me a hotel room near Idabashi station.”
Thinking that this wasn't something that needed secrecy, I answered by telling her the name.”
That beautiful hotel's located between Idabashi and Suidoubashi stations, and I'm rather satisfied with the hotel, which has the option of a late checkout time at 12pm, and was a walking distance away from the editorial branch. Certain rooms were positioned such that the 'Kadokawa 3rd Tower Building' could be seen.
Nitadori didn't react in any way, showing an expression that showed she did not hear of this before.
And so, thinking that she would have known about it somehow, I quipped,
“But during the end-of-year party the previous two years—”
At that time, I was living at a hotel that was named the same as a large dome stadium.
It was a round stadium akin to a large balloon. People will normally use it as an example of large, but most who had yet to see the real thing themselves would not have an exact idea to that (maybe it's easier to understand by comparing it to the Blue Whale or the Yamato battleship).
That 43 storey tall hotel is located right beside the dome.
This time, Nitadori exclaimed in happiness,
“If it's that hotel, I've been there a few times! That one's amazing, right! The high-rise view's really great!”
“Yeah, it was the mid-winter, so it's a nice scene.”
The scenery back then was really great.
Looking down at the white dome roof, I could see the theme park beside it and the streets that continued on. I could see Mount Tsukuba far away, and the lighting decorations which would only appear at that time were really pretty.
I can also see the tallest electrical tower from the glass elevators facing the east, standing tall as if it is the resting place of a final boss in a roleplaying game.
I wondered about the scenery I saw as I answered her, and wondered if Nitadori's family was rich if she was able to stay there a few times.
That hotel was located in the middle of Tokyo, but the flair varied from the usual business hotels. The guest rooms were spacious and luxurious, there were speakers installed in the bathroom, and I could hear the sounds from the television. Speaking of which, it felt more like a resort hotel instead (though I never lived in on).
Was it really fine of me to live there without paying a single cent? This apprehension and excitement rendered me sleepless.
“What about tomorrow? Are you going back after the after record's done?”
Nitadori continued to fire questions at rapid-fire.
To be honest, she really helped me out here. I really was bad at conversing, but simple questions would help me to relax somewhat, and help me out.
“Yeah, the Limited Express and normal tickets come with a return trip, so when there's a trip back, I'll take the free-seating ride back. There are times when I have to hold meetings after the after record's done. During those moments I'll go to the editorial branch at Idabashi with the editor-in-charge, and then I'll stay there for another night.”
While conversing, the Limited Express stopped at the next stop. 2 passengers entered, one seated rather upfront, while another was seated 5 rows in front of us.
Leaving aside the quiet moments when the train has stopped, I supposed we didn't have to worry about being eavesdropped on once the train began to move.
Once it started moving, Nitadori asked the next question,
“You were staring at some printed materials there. Is it the manuscript of the novel?”
Nitadori's next question was not a difficult one for me to answer.
“Yeah. That's the manuscript for the next volume of 'Vice Versa' that's to be published, though I can't say when.”
“Wow...amazing...like an author.”
Nitadori clenched her little fists as she said this.
“Well...I am an author though.”
It's rather embarrassing, but I couldn't say that wasn't the case, so I could only answer that way. This definitely is the only time I would describe myself using the 'I'm an author'.
“I can't disturb you then, sensei...”
“It's fine. This isn't that important.”
This manuscript doesn't need to be inspected by today.
I had taken this Limited Express countless times, and I did all sorts of things while on the ride. Sometimes, I would check the manuscript like I did on this day. Other times, I would be writing on the laptop, or reading a book I brought along.
There were also moments where I would listen to music while viewing the scenery, thinking of new ideas, or emptying my mind.
Either that, or I would do all of these together, or sleep throughout the ride and not do anything.
For some reason, Nitadori thanked me quietly.
“Actually, I got some things to do too. I want to read the script thoroughly.”
“Oh, I see.”
The script obviously referred to the one used for the next day, the second episode of 'Vice Versa'.
“So...I'm going back to another seat later. See you at the studio tomorrow.”
Nitadori spoke with a very normal voice. She doesn't seem to feel pity about this, and doesn't seem very happy either.
“Of course, I won't talk to you in the studio, since I'm just a rookie in the voice acting world who's finally able to get a named role. You're the original author of this anime too! How can I be that haughty?”
She then said that. I didn't know whether she was joking or being serious.
I didn't feel that Nitadori and I had that sort of senior-junior relationship, but thinking how it might be serious if anyone's to overhear our conversation at such a close distance, and how difficult it would be to cover up, I said,
“Got it. I won't talk to you in the studio either. There will probably be trouble for us if our secret's discovered, and I'm bad at talking, so I can't hide this.”
After hearing this, Nitadori smiled as she narrowed the eyes under the glasses.
“Got it. Are you taking this train next week, sensei?”
“Can I sit beside you if I'm not going to disturb you? I never seen an author before, so I'm very interested in you...I got lots of questions to ask. Can I?”
I had no reason to refuse.
To me, it's a rare experience for me to talk with a girl like Nitadori, even if I'm just answering questions.
I suppose that in the near future, I'll be 'using this experience' for my novel.
But at that moment, do I write it out plainly and get her to agree being the basis of the character, or do I hide her completely?
“Yeah sure. I'm always sitting at this seat in this car.”
“Great! Now I can level up and improve my acting!”
“Improve by 'level up'?”
“You're really particular like an author, huh?”
“But...I'm an author.”
This was the second time in my life that I said this. Was this exchange going to be a cliché?
“Alright, see you next week then!”
Nitadori's eyes were staring at my face when she said this, but I felt that she was not saying this to me, but to herself instead.
She got up from the seat, pulled her long hair behind, and nodded slightly at me.
I waved my hand slightly as I watched the black hair of Nitadori's back walk down aisle.
It was embarrassing to watch a girl's back without looking away, so I averted my eyes out of the window when she was halfway past the car.
And then, when I placed the bag that was leaning at my calf onto the seat Nitadori sat on,
I was suddenly intrigued by something. I didn't ask what sort of role Eri Nitadori was acting as.
Once I knew I missed the chance to hear that, I was suddenly curious about it.
If Nitadori was still seated in this car, I thought I would want to ask about this. And so, I stood up immediately.
My eyes continued to search hard, but there was no sight of her. I couldn't be chasing her down to the car in front either.
And I sat down.
That night, I found out 3 things at the hotel.
First, the laptop contained the information I got from the producer previously, with the character names and the voice actors listed inside.
Second, Nitadori said that she'll be staying overnight like me, and that she'll be checking the script, but she wasn't carrying any baggage.
Third, the gray suit woman too was nowhere to be seen at her seat when I stood up to look for Nitadori.
The next day was a Friday, April 11th.
I saw Nitadori at the after record of the second episode of the anime 'Vice Versa'.
Not that I 'met Nitadori', but 'saw her' as the words implied.
It was at a certain recording studio in Japan.
The editor-in-charge and I entered the control room at 9.40 A.M., and by then, Nitadori was already inside.
She was dressed in plain clothes that were easy to move it. I heard that voice actors would choose to wear clothes that would not make much sounds if possible.
She tied her long black hair in a bundle to prevent it from being an obstruction.
She continued to greet the senior voice actors that came in as her hair swayed about, her bow akin to a sports club member.
The recording began.
Nitadori practically didn't have a chance to appear.
It was to be expressed. Looking at the time frame, the second episode of the anime was just the beginning of the story, and took up about 30 pages of the original first volume.
The ones with lines were mostly the main characters of 'Vice Versa'. Nitadori's character would not appear at all until the 5th episode.
So why did Nitadori appear?
Could she not appear at the studio like those famous voice actors who didn't have any roles on this day?
After pondering about it, I finally got an answer.
She was present to help act out one or two lines from the unnamed characters, like the protagonist's female classmate, a passer-by woman, and so on. Also, she would be taking part in 'background' scenes where many people would talk.
She was being very attentive no matter whether she was at the chair furthest from the microphone, or during the short scenes she had, never relaxing a little as she gave a serious look.
Her expression was as sharp as a blade, like a 'real Japanese sword'.
Luckily, I didn't have a chance to talk to her. I didn't know how I was supposed to converse with her during that situation.
After the 4 hour long recording ended, I had no reason to stay behind.
I greeted the anime supervisor, sound supervisor and producer, and informed them that I intended to depart.
The voice actors too left the studio booth in a single file, greeted the control room briefly, and left.
Before I left, I glanced at the booth, and saw Nitadori greet the departing voice actors, with her hair swaying again.
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