This title is too long!:Volume1 Chapter3
Chapter 3 - April 24, I told 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.
My neck was still choked by Nitadori's icy hands.
My mind was dyed a complete black.
I did not feel any suffering. No pain at all.
That one single Nitadori's tear finally landed on my cheek.
However, another 7 of them remained in mid-air as time slowly trekked back.
From a moment back, the times and memories I had knowing Nitadori raced by in my mind at a blinding speed. I recalled what we did and what we said, and they were so clear it was terrifying.
This was the so-called 'near-death experience'.
The first time I saw one.
"Now then, can we continue on from the previous week, sensei?"
April 25th, the evening of the 4th Thursday this month. (TN: I guess it should be 24th.)
The weather was clear since early morning. I took the Limited Express as usual, and secured that familiar seat.
It was approximately 2 minutes till the train departed punctually when Nitadori came over from the back of the carriage.
I didn't see her on the platform on this day, so I started to worry if she was going to reach the station later.
But even so, her hand was not holding any luggage, instead holding a convenience store bag.
On this day, she again bought two bags of the sea salt potato chips that I like (and her too), with many more PET bottles as compared to normal.
Whenever I ate any of those, I would have to answer her questions.
On the prior Friday,
The After Record of 'Vice Versa' ended without a hitch.
And Meek, whom Nitadori voiced, still had no speaking lines—
Nitadori arrived at the booth before I did, and greeted the senior voice actors countless times.
School life beginning from Monday was no different from usual.
Neither of us would talk to each other at school.
Or rather, I would say that I was unable to communicate with any of my classmates.
Everyone viewed me as an upperclassman (though that certainly is the case), and for quite some time, whenever they had to talk to me, they would naturally use formal language.
I was the only one isolated in class—
That would be what I had assumed, but that wasn't the case.
There were another two who never spoke to anyone else in the class.
And with that, were the three of us, known as 'the lonely trio' (such a strange term), able to be good friends? Actually, that didn't happen, and probably will never happen.
In contrast, Nitadori's a perfectly normal student with no issues at all.
She's a rookie, but it seemed nobody knew about the fact that she's a voice actress. Perhaps this is because she never had any named characters, so her fame was rather low, I suppose. This situation might change once 'Vice Versa' airs in July.
But I again learned something about her.
Nitadori would never take physical education lessons.
It happened two days ago, on Tuesday,
There was a sudden rain, and the boys' PE class had to be changed to the gym.
The girls were playing volleyball over there (and they were furious when the boys came to join them), yet Nitadori was sitting in a corner of the gym, dressed in uniform.
I thought it would be just that she didn't take part in PE classes on that day, but I was mistaken.
During the later 4th period, we were seated in the classroom, waiting for the teacher, only to be notified that it was a self-study period.
I decided to head to the library to read some books alone, but just when I intended to stand up, several girls, who were probably on good terms with Nitadori, started chatting about the gym class from before,
"I really hate having to go to PE. Ahh, I'm really envious of you here, Eri..."
And one of them grumbled,
"It's good, right? But even I want to do some swimming in the pool during the summer!"
Nitadori cheerfully answered.
"Hm, you're right. There are certain situations when I like it."
And that girl easily retracted what she just said.
I immediately left the classroom upon hearing that, so I wasn't certain as to what they were talking about afterwards. However, I did ascertain that Nitadori never attended any PE classes.
I didn't know the reason.
I wanted to ask her this question on the train, and I hoped she would introduce me to more of the voice acting industry.
"Last week, I learned that you learned 'how to create stories' when you were younger! Please tell me what's next."
I thought that once Nitadori was satisfied with my answers, I would ask her.
It was probably 3 and a half years ago.
During the Autumn of 8th grade, I understood that the one imperative element in writing a story was not the setting, but the story.
And from then on, I focused on constructing stories every day, writing them down.
For the first time, I had a Word document file called 'story ideas' in my computer. Soon afterwards, I continued to accumulate works and added many more files, like,
"A romance story of an alien college student hitchhiking a ride."
"Serial murders in a summer village. The culprit's the grandmother."
"My classmate's a helicopter."
"The story of survival after a luxury cruise was shipwrecked."
"My grandfather's actually my little sister."
And so, I created more files.
Afterwards, a folder to store these files was born,
"Story ideas folder"
I felt that the technical issues of how to create a story, how to enrich a story—
And also, how to continue writing or did I continue to write did not fit what the question was asking for. It would have taken me a long time to answer too, so I chose not to answer them.
Thus, I neglected the explanations of those parts, and told her that a certain file was created at the end of November, right when Winter was about to start.
That file was known as—
"Someone becoming an immortal after heading into another world."
"Ohh! It's 'Vice Versa'!"
Nitadori squealed with an extremely excited voice.
It's a good thing that the train just departed, and there were only a few characters, but the situation was really dangerous.
Nitadori lowered her shoulders slightly.
And then, she immediately puffed her chest,
"Well, you actually came up with such a story quite a while back! Now it's becoming an anime that's going to be aired in July! That's really amazing!"
I'm really happy that she's praising me like this, and really grateful that she actually made a recap of my journey.
Because when I thought of that story—
Various things happened—
It's really because a lot of things happened that I became this current me.
However, I'm not the type to say "wahaha! How about that? I'm amazing here, right?" or something, so I tweaked the topic a little at this moment.
"But I only finished my contest entry during April the following year, so I had about 6 months to write everything from top to bottom."
"Well...you registered your entry during April...so if you started from back then, was that the first novel you actually completed in your life, sensei? The first one you used to participate in the contest?"
"You're really amazing after all...now then, please tell me your history till the following April, sensei."
On a certain day, the story that would form the basis of 'Vice Versa' later on was born, and was growing exponentially.
Amongst all the story ideas that I came up with, that was the one that expanded fastest.
The protagonist was transported to the other world, gained an immortal body, and provided quite the contribution, only to return back to his original world in the end.
That was the story at first, but I continued to add in all kinds of elements.
Some of them were added in later on when I actually began to write—
As for the ploy for the two protagonists with similar looks and names to be body doubles, and that the enemy general was a girl, and that the other guy to pass through when the original returned back to his world, I remember it just came out continually once I established my file. I was so amped up that I was tapping furiously at the keyboard.
I managed to come up with the flow of the story successfully, and thinking about it, the twists were very obvious, but I didn't think too much about it back then. I continued to write all sorts of plots with the protagonist Shin as the center.
I didn't have a habit of writing diary entries (and only began to do so once my debut was confirmed), so unfortunately, I couldn't remember exactly when I thought of which elements.
The story of 'Vice Versa' was completed.
"That's amazing! And from then? Were you able to write?"
Once the story of 'Vice Versa' was completed, I thought.
I can write this! I 'just' have to get down writing!
The story didn't have to be long, I can finish it off within 2 weeks or so, right?
That was what I estimated.
If I could write 20 pages of a pocket book format, I would be able to write 280 pages in 14 days.
What, I can finish it within this year!
No, by the end of the first half of this month?
Maybe I can write something else in the latter half of the month?
"Thinking back about it...I guess I really was foolish back then..."
I really was very regretful when I recalled the situation back then.
"Anyone would have some unforgivable past, and they will continue to grow with such a past. Even bitter food will become part of flesh and blood, no?"
Nitadori came up with an impressively dramatic line in her impressively dramatic act.
A pro voice actor's acting really amazing. I get to hear this performance for free! I thought.
And so, Nitadori said,
"You couldn't write?"
I couldn't write at all.
There was once when I couldn't think of the story.
And I barely managed to overcome that issue.
There were some differences in the details of the original story and what was published, but I did manage to finish the story.
Now then, what exactly could I not write?
I couldn't write the story itself.
"You couldn't write the story, so in other words...you couldn't write the entire novel, right?"
I nodded firmly, and answered,
"The story was completed, and I managed the settings of the protagonists. However, I just couldn't write. I didn't know how to express the content into words."
"Is this what they call the 'writing bottleneck'?"
After hearing this question, I shook my head, answering,
"I think that's a term used when someone usually capable of writing is not in an ideal state when writing."
"Oh, I see."
"My situation's that I couldn't write anything at all—for example, when I'm writing a story, and I don't know what to write, I'm like a person standing on the soccer field without knowing the rules for soccer."
"Ah, yeah, I can vividly imagine that sort of situation. I don't know soccer rules at all, so I'll be left at a loss wondering what I'm to do. The only thing I know is that I can't use my hands."
"But you probably know that you can score by kicking the ball into the net, right? I didn't know about such a thing at all. And then, I finally understood."
"I remembered all the soccer rules, and understood that I have to play the ball with my feet and work together with my teammates, prevent the ball from being taken by the opponent, and kick the ball into the net. 'Okay, now let's just kick the ball into the net! I can play soccer now!' That was exactly what I thought, but in fact, I could only stand still there, unable to move at all. I didn't know how to dribble the ball at all."
"In other words—'you didn't know how to kick the ball, right?"
"Yeah. Even if I did understand all the rules—I still can't play soccer if I can't kick the ball. I felt that the me unable to write an essay was like a player who couldn't kick a ball."
"I see. I can imagine such a situation...then...how did the situation change afterwards? You did submit for competition before it got published, so you did write it out after all, right? You were able to write it all out, am I correct?"
I continued to sip the tea as I nodded,
"So did anyone teach you that?"
I sealed the PET bottle, and shook my head,
Nitadori gave me a skeptical look, and I in response quickly inhaled,
"I just kept on struggling."
This was the reason why I said I suffered most in the second trimester of my 8th grade.
I couldn't write an essay at all, yet I just continued to write—I could say that every single day was literally a 'struggle'.
It was to be expected that I couldn't write a novel at all, for I never did write a novel before.
Then, there was no other choice but to keep practicing.
How was I to practice?
I wondered. Since I had the story, I just had to get down to writing it.
In other words,
"I can't write a novel essay."
"I got no choice but to keep practicing."
"How about I continue to practice by writing novel essays?"
Theoretically, that was truly a grave mistake.
However, I accepted the challenge.
While the word 'challenge' sounded cool, I in fact was beaten, battered and bruised all over, aching everywhere.
I kept writing and erasing, and repeating it; advancing when I felt I could write something, only to sink into a mire again.
I merely managed to write a half-baked story, yet the lack of progress left me very angsty.
There were a few times when I really thought of giving up.
"I guess it's impossible for me to write a novel."
I often had this notion. If I had admitted that, I would have been relieved.
"So why didn't you give up in the end?"
Nitadori asked with the gentlest tone and expression till this point.
Why was that?
"I finally managed to get this laptop here, you know?"
I probably had such a feeling here.
Mom bought a laptop, and I could use it freely.
I managed to obtain a weapon, and yet I wanted to run away from a battle?
However, I felt that was definitely not the primary reason.
I had a languid personality. It would not be out of character of me if I were to slowly wave my hands,
"Now's not the time to panic."
And say such words, convincing myself to write the story before I grew up to escape the pain and struggles.
"I want to change the past me! I want to live my life anew!"
I did certainly have such feelings. I didn't feel any dissatisfaction with regards to my Middle School life.
"I've already began! I'll regret it if I'm going to run away now!"
And surely there was no way I had such feelings.
I really was not a feisty, competitive person.
To answer Nitadori's question, I tried to focus and recall the situation back then.
"Sorry, I don't know."
But that was all I could only answer. I then added on,
"Though I'm thinking about it now...back then, I just thought that I was really suffering, but I guess I was really happy...? No, I guess now. 'Recalling that I was really happy' here is completely different from being 'really happy'..."
I didn't manage to answer Nitadori's question,
But she nodded on wordlessly.
I began to write.
I continued to write 'Vice Versa' with my pathetic writing.
I thought that since it was repeated practice, it was fine for me to just keep writing a jumble out of the mess.
Time-wise, I began writing from the beginning of December, and devoted all my non-studying time on this. Thanks to that, I had my reading time drastically reduced.
After that, it came to a certain day in Winter vacation,
"Eh? Did my writing speed increase?"
That was something that happened when I spent the entire day writing during the vacations.
I gathered my concentration and tapped at the keyboard for approximately 2 hours; I was taken aback once I counted the number of pages I wrote during this time. I didn't expect myself to have written so many pages unwittingly.
"That happened a long time back, so this is the only conclusion I could make...anyway, thanks to me practicing how to write, I felt that my writing ability improved exponentially. No, wait—"
At this moment, I corrected myself.
"I'm not too sure of the meaning of the words 'writing ability'. I don't know how to appraise the quality of an essay. Is it better for me to write a story with beautiful prose? Or to write a story that's easy to understand?"
Nitadori continue to listen silently.
"So I hope that you'll understand what I mean by 'improved writing ability' as 'writing ability has reached a decent stage'. However, I'm not too certain as to consider how 'decent' is like..."
My thoughts lacked concisely, and the more I talked, the more I felt I was mired in a swamp.
"Erm, well, in other words...I just ended up being increasingly able to write essays."
That was the one I firmly decided.
To be honest, I really felt that my explanation was crude and lacking explanatory,
"It's really easy to understand though."
But Nitadori told me this. Is that so? I wondered, but I didn't voice my thoughts out.
"Isn't it the same for acting? There isn't anyone who'll have their acting skills improve so suddenly. If there are people who think that my acting skills have improved, it's probably just because I haven't met that person for a long time. It's a skill that requires continual practice every day, accumulation and gradual improvement. Isn't it the same with learning musical instruments?"
"Ah...if only I did come up with such an example. Yes, it's like learning musical instruments."
"Ahaha. I guess it's like 'learning how to speak a foreign language because you're abandoned in a foreign country, right?"
"Yes yes yes."
"And also like 'learning how to swim when you're drowning', right?"
"Please let me use this one the next time."
I hydrated my throat by drinking some tea.
Before continuing on, I decided to head to the toilet first.
I had to ask Nitadori to stand up to get to the aisle, as she was seated next to it. Though apologetic, I was left with no other choice, for I was already terrified thinking about letting a girl pull her knees in to let me through.
And I nodded slightly at her, who stood up for me,
My bespectacled classmate stood up, saying,
"I still have lots of things to ask when you come back. Don't run away."
"From the inside of a still moving train?"
"You'll definitely be able to do it, sensei. Be confident in yourself!"
I originally wanted to retort her, what do you think authors are? but if I were to respond, I got the feeling that she would continue on, and so I gave up.
The toilet was at the entrance of the next carriage car, right behind the automatic doors behind me.
Once I was done, I washed my hands, wondering where did I stop at, and returned to my seat.
"It's fine! You didn't run away."
And then, I troubled Nitadori again by asking her to stand up and let me through.
"So you found that your writing ability became rather decent during winter break in your 8th grade. What kind of story happened during the 4 months until the registration.
Nitadori asked with an outstanding voice of intonation, like the narration of a TV commentator. I guess this is to be expected of a professional voice actress.
Moved by such an excitable tone, I began to delude, hoping that I could write a story of a high school girl like Nitadori debutting as a voice actress. What kind of a story will that be?
I was dragged back to reality.
"Ah, yes. Erm, we're starting from the winter break in 8th grade, right?"
I was writing 'Vice Versa' the entire time during winter break.
Of course, I did do my homework and eat my meals. Other than that, I spent most of my time locked at home, sitting in front of the laptop.
Once New Year passed, and the Winter break was about to end, how much of 'Vice Versa' did I managed to complete after 1 month of working?
"Did you complete all of it?"
"Half of it?"
"About there. That's the part when Sin saved Shin and brought him to the palace, right at the moment when Shin saw Ema and was surprised the little sister resembled him too."
In terms of plot twists in 'Vice Versa', this would be where the developing ended, and the changing began.
Nitadori was quietly surprised by it, but I felt back then that such progress was a lot.
When the 3rd trimester began in 8th grade, I naturally didn't have as much time to write as the vacation, but I just continued to write.
I continued to revise my initial manuscript as I edited them. For a new work, the writing speed was rather ideal.
At that moment, I started to feel vexed.
What do I do after I'm done writing the novel?
"'What do I do', as in submitting an entry for the contest?"
"Eh? You didn't write it because you wanted to participate in the Dengeki Novel Prize?"
Nitadori again exclaimed in surprise,
"No, not at all."
I shook my head.
"To be honest—"
I never intended to submit the story as an entry.
Despite only completing a quarter of 'Vice Versa' till that point, I intended to do my best and complete the work since I was able to write it out.
I had yet to decide what I wanted to do later on.
"You should take part in the contest! —Hey, wait? It's over already, isn't it...?"
Nitadori was a little amusing.
"Now then, why did you take part? And why did you choose Dengeki?"
Finally, I was about to face the final question of the many questions she posed me the previous week.
"First, regarding the issue of whether I was to register for a Newcomer award...to be honest, I really wasn't very interested in it.:"
"I probably was a little timid. Submitting an entry for the entry would have meant I would be aiming to be an author."
I answered. I glanced to the right, and found Nitadori giving me a mystified look.
"Well, that was really the case. I don't suppose there aren't many people who'll think 'I don't want to publish a book' after winning an award. But I don't think you have any need to be timid there...? Why were you?"
"Back then, I really considered the issue of 'can a Middle School student really take part in the contest'? I was thinking if a brat like me could take part in this contest where people from all walks of life would aim to be professional authors and do their best to complete their masterpieces. Such a contest should be for people 'more mature' to take part in, right?"
I answered honestly. That was what I sincerely thought back then.
Nitadori probably wasn't able to understand these words.
And she let out a groan.
I heard that voice actors could only get jobs based on a strict selection, and no matter the age, they would have to go through such a competitive environment. It was to be expected that she couldn't understand.
"Thinking back, I understand very well now that there wasn't any need for me to think that way. I was still a brat more than 3 years ago however..."
Even till now, I don't think that I've become an adult.
And Nitadori asked with a sharp look, ostensibly probing into my heart.
"You liked books so much, and worked hard to learn how to write a novel, but you never thought 'I want to be an author in the future', did you?"
"If it's whether I did have such thoughts, I'll say that I did have such thoughts. If it's whether I didn't have such thoughts, I'll say that I didn't have such thoughts."
Nitadori raised her right hand, asking,
"I don't understand what you mean at all."
"Erm...that was what I thought, 'I really admire novelists, but it's impossible for me to be like them!'."
"I read many books in the past, and I was moved by them...but till now, I still feel that the authors who could write such works were really amazing! Well, that was what I thought."
"I understand that very well. Right now, I do think that you're really amazing, sensei."
"T-thanks...anyway, as a Middle School student, I didn't think I could be such an amazing person at all, and I thought that registering for the Newcomer award and aiming for a prize was way above my head."
Nitadori answered. I suppose she really couldn't understand how I felt exactly back then."
"But you did change your mind at a certain time, right? if not—"
"I wouldn't be here."
Once I answered this, Nitadori smiled, saying,
"Then...did anyone convince you to take part in the contest? Or did someone see your novel and encourage you by saying 'this is really interesting! You should be an author!'?"
After hearing this question, I shook my head affirmatively, saying,
"I never did show anyone 'Vice Versa' before it was submitted for the contest. In fact, mom was the only one in this world who knew that I was writing a novel, but even she never read it."
"But...I don't understand! Why exactly did you submit it to Dengeki Bunko?"
Nitadori gave up.
To answer her, I inhaled and pondered. Ahh, she'll probably be shocked to hear these words
"Because the deadline was in April."
"The annual submission deadline for the Dengeki Novel Prize is April 10th. After looking at the calendar, I started to think, Maybe I should complete 'Vice Versa' before then, and if I can finish it before then, let's try submitting it for a contest. You see, it really was a great opportunity for me to see if I could complete my work, and there was the entire Spring break before the submission deadline when I could spend entire days writing.
Nitadori again went silent.
I personally felt this was awkward too, but I had no other choice as that was the real reason.
"Erm, then...you never thought that 'Dengeki Bunko is the largest light novel publisher' or something?"
"I knew that, and to be precise, 'the submission deadline for Dengeki Bunko just so happened to fit my aims'. I had the thought that the readers of 'Vice Versa' should be light novel readers when I worked on it."
"So, to summarize, you had the delusional dreams of an author, and the time of completion just so happened to be the deadline of a Newcomer award—"
I nodded on. Nitadori continued,
"You tried submitting an entry to test your abilities, and sent it to the largest, probably the most competitive publishing company in the industry."
I nodded on.
"And the outcome's that you debuted with a work you created in 8th grade, and now a high school student and an author, your work so successful it can be made into an anime."
I nodded on.
While looking back at a stunned Nitadori, I pondered,
The wheel of fate turns so unexpectedly
Getting back to the time when I decided on submitting an entry.
It really was a great opportunity, no matter the reason, to have a deadline.
My passion for writing became stronger than ever.
The essays were a little easier to write, but there were often times where I would pause and ponder about the plot, write and stop, rinse and repeat.
My aim was not to be an author, but to complete the first ever novel I wrote in my life 'Vice Versa'.
And then I would submit it to the Dengeki Novel Prize.
To soothe my parched throat, I opened a new bottle of tea.
"You did manage to meet the deadline, but it was still really tough on you, wasn't it?"
I nodded while drinking. It's really hard to drink like this.
Once I move my mouth away, I again answered,
"Of course! I was writing during the entire 3rd trimester in 8th grade, except for the period before the exams."
I was really busy back then, but I sealed my computer right before the exams, like how club activities were suspended for a week. Mom would most probably have forbade me from writing if my grades were to slip dramatically.
"I see...you were able to make it after all..."
"Yeah. My progress was about half when I entered Spring Break...and I only managed to write half the story after 2 and a half months. I had to finish the rest of it in the following 1 month."
"But you managed it."
"I really was spending the entire time writing from morning to night. But inexplicably, the second half was easier than the first half. No, I guess this isn't something strange. I did get used to writing after all."
"Also, with the entire story completed, I was looking forward to the climax in the second half. I really wanted to quickly get to the part where Shin kept escaping and finally decided to fight, and also the part where Pluto's gender was revealed!"
Nitadori merely started back at me.
"Ah, sorry. I got too excited there, I guess..."
I then apologized, but it seemed I was mistaken,
Nitadori smiled, shaking her head slightly. And then,
"When did you finish writing 'Vice Versa'?"
I really remembered what happened back then clearly.
"First off, I finished the last scene on April 2nd. No matter the result, I added the word 'end' at the end. I continued to revise the script on the screen over and over again, especially the end. I was really rushing things through, so the words became rather weird, and there were many times I had to correct. I then finished the editing work on the 6th, at midnight. Actually, the word 'finished' should only be used at such a moment."
"It happened in the past, but congratulations!"
I never thought that someone would congratulate me over something that happened 3 years ago, but I was really happy.
"What did you feel after finishing the first ever novel? Satisfied, I supposed? Or moved to bits."
"No, I didn't have time for that. I really was busy after that."
"Really? But didn't you just have to print the novel out and send it through mail?"
Nitadori gave me a startled look, and I answered by telling her the one reason that caused me much headache.
"I didn't have a printer at home."
"I heard that anyone can submit their entries in the Newcomer award through e-mails now, but to register for the Dengeki Novel Prize, whether it was back then or now, one had to print the original script. Back then, I didn't have anything like an email address. On a side note, the 'original script' here would refer to a novel written on novel white paper, and there's no need to print it on actual white paper."
"Then, what did you do?"
"I went searching around on the internet at the library...but there wasn't a shop that's willing to print more than a hundred pieces of paper near my house. There were some business convenience shops near the town center offering such services however. My only option left was to buy a printer, and the day before the Graduation Ceremony, I went about transferring a few public buses to obtain a new weapon quickly."
"Isn't it very expensive?"
"It's not cheap, but not as expensive as I thought it would be. I spent a little more than 10,000 yen buying a black and white laserjet printer. Thank goodness I saved my pocket money..."
"What if...you didn't have that much money to use...?"
"The Dengeki Novel Prize would surely be impossible for me. I guess I would have registered for other awards."
"Then...you probably would have debuted there instead?"
"That's a possibility...but there's also a chance I would have failed to make the cut..."
"The most reliable thing in emergencies is still money after all..."
"Sometimes, love or friendship alone would have left you helpless..."
"Ah, please continue."
"Eh? Ah, yes. I brought from the shop a printer, some spare toner, and lots of A4 sized printer paper. Also, I bought some ordinary envelopes used to store scripts, a large fixed envelope meant for mailing, a hole-puncher and a shoelace from a 100 yen shop.
"How did you use the last two?"
"The registration regulations state that the entry has to have a hole in the right corner of the script, and it has to be tied together with a string. There are thin strings specially meant to fixed them together, but I bought shoelaces because I wasn't sure."
"I see. Not a binder, huh?"
"I did ask the editor-in-charge before, and he said that it would be terrible if the binder was to slip off. There are page numbers on the submitted scripts, but if many pages are to slip off, or even mix with other works..."
"That really is...scary to think about."
"Yeah, it really is. That's why a string had to be used to bind them. I also heard that as the judging proceeds, they'll need to print a few copies for the editors to see, and only then will they undo it."
"Once I got back from the shop, I immediately installed the printer and did a test. I was really relieved once I knew that the printer could work normally. The following day was the 8th, the Graduation Ceremony for the 3rd years, and I began work once I got home."
"That really was a pressing moment."
"I was so anxious. The restrictions for the script was that there was to be 42 words per line and 34 lines for every paper. I was checking through the Word's 'page layout' to see if there was any mistake, whether it was a portrait layout. Also, I had to check whether the page numbers were included in there afterwards."
It seemed Nitadori was skeptical to the first half of my words, and she asked,
"Why's the format so inconvenient? Can't they accept 40 words and 30 lines...for example?"
"That Dengeki Bunko's format. A single page has 42 words per line, and 17 lines, so by copying over to the other side, that'll be 34 pages."
"I see...so it's to let the number of pages match the publisher's standard formatting."
"Yes. And after I printed it out, I realized that there was something important I forgot. I had to submit the plotline along with it."
"Pollution (TN: both can be read as Kougai)...like air pollution?"
"I'll like to ask you how you're going to send air pollution over later on...the plotline here refers to the 'summary'. The entry regulations state that the contestant's work has to have 2 other pieces of paper attached. One of them is the particulars form, like the title of the work, the actual name, pen name, address, age...phone number, and what else, I wonder? Sorry, I forgot about it. Remember to check it properly if you're looking to register."
"But I don't intend to submit an entry."
Nitadori answered with a laugh.
"So you need to write a summary of the story on the other piece of paper. How did you go about doing that?"
"I suppose any Newcomer award would require a clear outline of the contents of the story. There's a word limit to that that. Dengeki Bunko limits it to 800 words, and since I forgot about writing that thing, I was frantically typing it out while the laser jet printer was buzzing away beside me."
"But you just have to summarize the main points, right? This word count should be a cinch—"
For you, sensei? Nitadori was intending to say that, but was cut off by me.
"I didn't know the correct way of writing it."
"The correct way of writing."
"Yeah. I didn't know at all. I was wondering if I was supposed to write out the final ending in the story summary, or that I should do it like the story synopsis on the back of the DVD cover, and write some vague words like 'what exactly awaits the protagonist—'"
"Ahh...so which one was it?"
"I hurried off to the library, and found many similar questions and answers, so it's probable that everyone had the same issues as I did. The correct answer is 'to actually write the ending'."
I was in a panic—
But I managed to gather all the documents required for submission at midnight, on the 8th.
I arranged the printed script together, placed the particulars form and the story summary on it, and punctured a hole on the top right corner, binding the script together.
And just in case, since I had another shoelace, I duplicated another exactly similar document. The other document still rests in my desk.
Once I got back from school the next day, I checked the contents in the envelop.
And I went off to the post office.
I remembered very well that when I was looking at the receipt in my hands, I felt that there was a drastic change in my thinking.
"An author? if only I can be one. I probably can't do so however."
My prior thinking was so pessimistic.
"An author? I'll be glad if anyone told me that I should be one. I guess it's fine for me to be one if that time comes."
And my thinking now is quite optimistic.
"Ah...that's amazing. You really worked hard completing this story and submitting it...it's amazing, really amazing. You really did your best, really. Yes yes."
Nitadori murmured as she hailed me.
I'm really glad to be receiving such praise now, but it's because of now that I found it to be a wonderful memory—
Back then, I didn't have such feelings at all.
Of course, I felt confident after finishing a long novel. That itself was hard work.
But the registration was not the end.
And neither was it the start.
To me, that was just the feeling of 'being someone with the right to stand on the starting line'.
The actual moment of me standing on the 'starting line' was—
When I learned that I entered high school.
That was approximately a year since I registered.
I have to clarify what happened during a certain period.
The period from when i failed to make the cut till to when I was to debut.
I ate a few of the sea salt potato chips I really liked, and took a little break; after that, I told Nitadori what happened afterwards.
First, I managed to get through the 3rd judging panel, but I lost out in the 4th round because of age reasons.
"My! You lost because of such a reason!"
"I did fail. But the editorial branch did clarify a little, and allowed me to debut as a nominee. Right now, I do feel that was the best decision, and I'm really grateful that the editorial branch put in so much thought for my sake."
And then, I told her of the promise I made with the editor-in-charge, that I would make my debut once I entered high school.
Nitadori did know that I did debut after I failed to make the cut (it was written in the afterword of the first volume of 'Vice Versa'), but she was really surprised to know that there was a 'hidden deal'.
"Now then...assuming that you didn't make it to high school, sensei, what would have happened to you? If you couldn't debut or go into high school."
"I was afraid things would end up like that."
"if that were to happen, what will you become like now?"
"How will I be now, huh...?"
I wondered a little, but it was too scary, so I gave up.
And then, I talked about how I took a break from school.
Once the work was decided to be adapted into an anime, I decided to take a break from school for a year to assist with the production of the anime and the continuation of the later volumes. I also told her the reason why I made this decision.
"I see...so that's what happened..."
Nitadori was really impressed.
"Speaking of which, how many people know about this?"
"Erm...my mom, the editorial branch, including the editor-in-charge, the authors I met at the End-of-year party...there's a lot of them. It really wasn't some classified secret."
This was how I ended the process before I resumed schooling again.
"Well...I guess I'm glad that you weren't expelled as a result, sensei? I think that it's not a waste for you to take a break from school for a year as you had something you had to do. I think that was the best choice you could have made."
Nitadori said with much passion.
I wasn't certain as to why she would say that so earnestly, but I was glad that she would approve of this decision I made after much pondering alone.
And I was completely relaxed.
"Thanks. Well, I wanted to go back to being an ordinary high school student, but I did something stupid on the first day..."
After I grumbled about what I shouldn't have said to my classmates, Nitadori laughed, saying,
"It's okay! The school year has just begun! We aren't going to change classes in this school, so you have another 2 years to work hard in the same class! There's also the school trip!"
And she so plainly stated such damaging words to me when I'm completely isolated in class.
Is this girl a sadist? Or is she able to see the future of living with many friends around me, living the refreshing high school life, when even I couldn't see myself doing?
Well, the school term did just start after all.
"Hm, well...I don't know what'll happen later on. I'll try enjoying whatever I can."
And so I answered with reluctance and delusion.
The train continued to race straight forward through the night streets.
There was the working class packed in crowds at the stations I passed by, waiting to get home quickly.
I, or we, again arrived at the city, and we would be reaching the station soon. It was the same the previous week; it felt that 2 hours and 30 minutes passed by quickly with just Nitadori and me chatting with each other.
"I'm getting off first today then."
"Thanks. Please do so."
And Nitadori answered, before continuing,
"May I...ask something else from you."
Her face's different from the usual expression she showed when she would ask me something.
She would give me the expression of a real interviewer when she asked me of my history.
But at this point, she had the face of a kid visiting relatives in January.
"It's not something really big."
That definitely was a lie. I had a premonition, but I asked,
"Anyway...let's hear you out..."
"Thanks. Erm, it's really not something big. I really have no intention of causing you trouble, sensei, but I do want to get permission from you."
She started off delightedly with with a long introduction.
I really couldn't imagine what she would saw. To be honest, I was scared.
No, no matter how scared I was, she probably wouldn't be saying 'I want to kill you! Now please die!' or something like that.
Whatever she said couldn't be any scarier than death itself.
While I prepared myself, Nitadori said
"It's my turn for recitation next Thursday."
The 'recitation' we're talking about here—
Would be the class routine arranged at the beginning of the language class by our teacher, twice weekly, on Monday and Thursday.
That was probably something our aged language teacher came up with on a whim (or so I think).
"Anything is fine here. Just bring your favorite novel and recite in front of the class"
That was what we had to do. We had to do it in 3 minutes minimum, 10 minutes maximum.
I never did the statistics, but I feel that more than 90% of us hate this period.
The order was decided through lots, so I didn't know Nitadori was to do it next Thursday.
To avoid anyone forgetting the order once someone finished with the recitation, the teacher will definitely mentioned who would be doing the next two sessions. I suppose my consciousness was dressed to Reputation during the session today.
Speaking of which, I guess it's my turn soon after.
I remember it's also on Thursday, probably 3 or 4 weeks later. Got to check the notebook.
I really like books. However, I really am bad, and I really hate, reciting in front of others.
Of course, I probably will be reciting the same things as the other students if it's my turn, and cautiously choose works from famous authors,
'How many times does K have to die?'
'Hasn't Melos been running too much!?'
And give them 3 minutes to think about it.
As for which books they are, I'll just have to decide it on the day prior to it. No matter what sort of joke it was, even if the world was to end the next day, or even if someone was to point a gun at my head,
I had no intention of reciting 'Vice Versa'.
I never thought of that before.
And I didn't intend to think of such a terrifying thing—
Don't tell me...
I guess anyone could have seen that my face was completely frozen.
"So I say,"
The one person closest to me threw a megaton bomb at me with a smile,
"It's fine for me to recite 'Vice Versa', right?"
The broadcast indicating the train's arrival at the terminal buzzed in my mind.
I had to clearly state my rejection at this moment.
This girl, Eri Nitadori, would do it.
She would recite my novel right behind me.
And with the clear, beautiful voice, she would recite it so fluently, with so much emotions.
She would definitely do that.
I could tell.
I understood from the eyes. Those eyes.
That was the expression Nitadori was showing. On first glance, she seemed to be smiling really delightedly, and that was the same deep within her heart.
Thus, I had to tell her decisively at this point.
I had to state my refusal.
Of course, she would be reading the lines I created with vigor during the after record, and I would be listening by the side. This and that would be two different matters altogether however.
The answer I had to give Nitadori was 'no'.
I had to answer that.
To answer that as an upperclassman, and as a man.
"What is it, sensei?"
To answer this bespectacled girl who's tilting her head cutely, I took a large breath,
"I'm willing to do anything you ask me, so please spare me on this already."
The words I then said naturally became respectful.
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