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After school was out, Hiyuki picked up her bag that had already been packed before the class was over, and rushed out of the classroom.
A classmate asked for light novel recommendations, and after Ao answered, he took his bag and left the classroom. He changed his shoes at the shoe rack and went to the parking lot to take his bike. When he was opening the lock, he felt someone staring at him.
He looked back, and didn’t see anyone.
Ao thought he was imagining things. He undid the lock and rolled the bicycle out. He felt a prickly sensation around his neck again.
Someone was watching him?
He turned again.
This time, he saw light brown hair around the corner of the building. The hair was brushed by the late spring wind, and seemed translucent under the glare of the sun.
Not expecting to be called, the white hand and slender shoulder poking out from behind the building shuddered, then turned away in a hurry.
Ao pushed his bicycle along and gave chase.
Hiyuki walked in front of Ao, her long brown hair swaying with each step she took, with her bag clutched tightly before her chest. She was walking at a very fast pace with her white slender legs.
Walking to her side, Ao saw that her lips with a mole besides it were tightly shut. Although her expression were cold, her eyes were red.
“Hyonomiya-san, I am sorry about what happened at noon.”
“I surprised you when I mentioned the manuscript submission, right?”
“I am really sorry, but, you probably won’t believe me even if I told you I am working as a screener, right?”
“I just happened to read your manuscript, Hyonomiya-san. Your manuscript just happened to be in the batch that was sent to me. I read through the personal particulars, and found your name and our school.”
Hiyuki’s thin lips remained tightly shut, her eyes downcast as she continued walking. They passed through the school gate and onto the pedestrian walkway, going past the bus stop. After turning into a side street, beautiful houses could be seen on either side of the road. Every household had a flourishing courtyard well taken care of, and the two continued on their way.
“I am not planning to tell anyone about Hyonomiya-san entering the Newcomer Contest at all, or thinking about blackmailing you.”
Ah, maybe I shouldn’t mention about blackmailing? Hyonomiya felt more guarded to Ao, which made him anxious. But Hiyuki who was walking silently all this time stopped all of a sudden.
The vines covering the wall besides her were blooming with small pink roses, and a large tree filled with white flowers was opposite to her.
Hiyuki bit her lips and lowered her head.
Her eyes turned redder, and she said with a voice so soft it seemed to be vanishing:
“... Kazetani-kun… Have you, read my manuscript…?
“... All of it?”
“... Until the end?”
He read to the last line, going through it slowly and in detail, and filled in a comment sheet.
Hiyuki seemed to be mumbling shyly, lifting her head to look at Ao frantically after slooping her shoulders.
Hiyuki was taller than most guys, and Ao was slightly shorter than an average boy. The distance between their eyes were really close when he looked at Hiyuki who was about his height, which made him panic.
Hiyuki’s eyes were watery,but the mole besides her slightly open lips looked really sexy.
Uwah, my face is hot, is my face red now?
Hiyuki looked at the anxious Ao unconfidently and spoke hesitantly:
“W-What do you think about my work…?”
When Ao reached home, it was already evening.
When the residential zone was dyed red from the setting sun, Ao opened the door and announced. His younger brother and sister, twins who just entered primary school ran over noisily.
“You are back, Ao.”
“Ao, you are home.”
They were still young, so the twins were about the same size despite their gender. Their big eyes and thick lips looked alike.
As for personality, the brother was naughty while the sister was well behaved. Ao felt amazed that the difference between boys and girls showed even at such a tender age. Or maybe it just happened to be so for the twins in Ao’s family.
The twins got along well and was always played together. The mischievous brother liked baseball and soccer while the gentle sister liked drawing and playing house. They always squabbled over what games to play, and Ao would act as the referee in such cases.
“Ao, let’s continue the video game.”
“Ao, let’s draw.”
The two of them tugged Ao’s arm from each side.
“I will inspect your homework first, whoever finish first can come and play.”
“Yes! I will go do my homework!”
The twins gave an innocent answer, Ao patted their head and said: “That’s great.”
At this moment, his mother poked her head out.
“Welcome back Ao, you are late today.”
“Yes, I went for some tea with my friend.”
Ao answered nonchalantly, then recalled his conversation with Hiyuki.
“W-What do you think about my work…?”
After Hiyuki asked with a hesitant expression, Ao couldn’t answer immediately.
“About that, eh…”
Hiyuki looked up at Ao with a very serious face, she seemed to be grabbing her bag harder as her fingers were trembling slightly. Ao felt pressurized by Hiyuki, and couldn’t answer casually.
“Let’s not stand here and talk, want to sit down somewhere?”
He made a suggestion.
“... There’s, a cafe nearby… In that alley, I think, people from school… probably don’t frequent there.”
She continued in a soft voice.
“Let’s go there then.”
The cafe suggested by Hiyuki was a plain shop that had a homey feel, with the first story being a residence remodelled into a shop front. There were coffee coloured wooden chairs inside, the type that would appear only in fairy tales, along with wooden tables that seemed quite aged. On the chairs were hand sewn pillows with striped patterns, and the wallpaper had a warm lozenge design.
A cup of tea or coffee was 450 yen, slightly more expensive than the beverage sold at the convenience shops, but more economical than normal cafe.
During such time on weekdays, there were many empty seats. A woman about college age was reading inside and there were two elderly ladies conversing with elegant voices, making the shop feel serene and comfortable.
The shop lady smiled gently and let them choose any seat they liked. And so, Ao and Hiyuki chose a round table by the wall and sat opposite to each other.
Hiyuki kept glancing at Ao, anxiously seeking his opinion about her work. Ao ordered milk and Assam tea, Hiyuki asked for Chrysanthemum tea. Ao then said:
“Hyonomiya-san’s work is very interesting.”
Hiyuki’s expression brightened.
“Erm, well… Did I make it past the first round?”
“Ehh… I can’t divulge before the official announcement… But…”
Ao stammered, and Hiyuki’s face became disappointed as she looked down sadly.
“I didn’t, get selected… again.”
Ao didn’t know what to do as Hiyuki seemed really depressed.
He couldn’t tell her the results, but Hiyuki was right. Ao didn’t send Hiyuki’s work to the second round.
Instead of giving her hope and letting her find out herself, it would be better to let her know now, which would probably hurt less. But learning such regrettable news less than a month after her submission, Ao could only say that he was sorry.
The shopkeeper served the tea on a tray and poured out a cup. But Hiyuki didn’t reach out for it, and just spoke in a depressed voice with her eyes looking down.
“... I… already submitted five times… And failed every time. Is it because my work is very vulgar?”
“Because it is cheap and make others unpleasant?”
“It is unconvincing, and presumptuous?”
“Wait, wait a minute, Hyonomiya-san.”
With negative terms being uttered one after another, Ao said in a panic:
“I don’t think that. It didn’t send it to the second round, but I feel that Hyonomiya-san’s work is really interesting. I wrote that in my comment sheet too, it would take a while before it is posted, please read it then.”
“... Does my work really… have interesting parts?”
Ao nodded with a smile. Hiyuki widened her eyes, lowered her gaze then fidgeted with the handle of the cup and said:
“... But, the other screeners found it boring… All the comment sheets I got said so. The story is messy, use cheap words, vulgar, hard to read, the main character feel unpleasant… The structure of the story is unconvincing at all, the content is presumptuous, not interesting at all. My overall score is always the lowest, getting C if there are three grades, E if there are five…”
Editors from any publisher would remind the screeners time and again that the contestants were light novel readers too, and to not write overly critical comments or condemn their work.
But there were still troublesome screeners who would write critique with an aloof attitude, thinking that the submitters should not be uncultured writers who didn’t even know the basics of writing. Ao heard Sakutaro mention this.
Such artistic creation based screeners had the opinion that changing the font size and using unnecessary punctuation marks were vulgar and cheap, and hated such a way of writing.
For example ellipsis should be two sets of three dots (......), if they see any manuscript that uses just three dots (...), they would judge that the author was lousy who didn’t even know the basics of writing, concluding that the work wasn’t good and didn’t have any reading value. Ao was surprised when he heard about such screeners.
It was true that ellipsis should be (......), but recently, for young authors who publish their work online, it was easier to read on the monitor if they used (...) instead, and they had gotten used to such a writing style. They shouldn’t use this point to judge an author.
The editors would teach them about it after their work was selected, so it shouldn’t affect the whole body of work. Ao saw many interesting and wonderful manuscripts that didn’t use ellipsis correctly. On the other hand, there were many works with flawless wording, but was lacking in charm.
Ao once read an entry that didn’t leave any indentation for paragraphs, lumping all the words together. He didn’t know how to read on in the beginning, but on closer inspection, he found the writing to be vivid and lively, the story was full of personality, breaking the standard mold. To write such a work despite not knowing the basics of writing format, this author had tremendous potential! Ao sent the work to the second stage with a heart full of anticipation. It didn’t win the grand prize due to a clash of opinions, but it still received a special prize, and became a top seller of that serialization.
As such a thing happened before, Ao said with a face of surprise:
“It would be impossible to overturn the situation if you run into someone who thinks his own standard is the only correct one. I can only give my condolences if anyone get such a screener.”
But of course, professional screeners won’t let a work with the potential of success fall through the crack. However, some screeners made unnecessary and nasty comment to unsuccessful contestants. The contestants become infuriated after receiving the results and post the content onto the internet, making huge waves. Something like that has happened before.
Hyonomiya definitely encountered such a screener.
He couldn’t just give his condolences
With her shoulders slump, eyes downcast and biting her lips, the depressed Hiyuki didn’t look like the solitary beauty known as the ‘Ice Maiden’, and looked so pitiful.
“I think Hyonomiya-san is just unlucky. Your work isn’t perfect, the font size changes and punctuation is a little excessive, which might leave a bad impression, but there are good points too. If you can bring them out, you can definitely pass the first round of selection.”
Ao said passionately and Hiyuki lifted her head and looked at him. Ao then said:
“The tea here is nice.”
He said with a smile after pouring milk into the Assam tea and taking a sip. Hiyuki also lowered her gaze frantically, and brought her golden chrysanthemum tea to her mouth.
“... It taste, really good.”
“... I pass by this cafe often… I always wanted to come in and take a look, but didn’t dare to do that alone…”
“Me too, it’s hard for a guy to enter such a cute shop, I’m glad to have come together with Hyonomiya-san.”
Hiyuki’s cheeks turned red. She kept her gaze low, and spoke softly:
“E-Erm… ‘The lost heavenly ball’ series… I am reading it too…”
That was the light novel Ao intentionally dropped onto the floor in order to strike a conversation with Hiyuki. Ao felt his heart opening up.
“I was right! I thought that Hyonomiya-san probably read this series.”
“I am a super fan…”
“Yes, the twist and development for each book really excites me! Have you read the latest volume?”
“Yes, when Takato… helped Falumia… I was deeply moved.”
“Yes, that part is really hot blooded! And that time when the lone wolf Jacille actually uttered the taboo chant for his comrade.”
“... I cried when I saw that part.”
Before they knew it, the two of them were talking passionately about light novels. ‘The lost Heavenly Ball’ was an entry Ao selected for the second round. He thought that work was very interesting, and wanted the wide audience to experience it for themselves too. That’s why Ao was really happy and excited when Hiyuki timidly express her thoughts about it.
“... Kazetani-kun, how did you start working as a screener…?”
Hiyuki was still bothered by this matter, and asked cautiously.
“Ehh, I actually can’t say that I am a screener. Can you keep this a secret for me?”
Hiyuki nodded gently.
“... Yes, I don’t have anyone to speak to anyways.”
Ao felt that the way she put it sounded very lonely. But Hiyuki didn’t sound like she needed sympathy and was just stating a fact, so Ao just pretended he never heard that.
“My uncle works in the video game industry, in the beginning, I was taking on the job my uncle took…”
Ao started explaining how he took on the job of screener. Hiyuki opened her eyes wide and listened with bated breath. Finally──
“Such a thing… actually happened.”
She muttered sentimentally.
“Yes, it’s like a development in a light novel. But I heard some of the screeners could be a housewife or vegetable shopkeeper who the screener knew. Also, some of the screeners for female oriented novels might be the illustrationist for H games or middle aged man in their forties.”
Hiyuki tilted his head slightly.
“Ah, that… is R18 games. My uncle produces such games. It will be adapted into an all age version sometimes, but that’s how it is. Ahh, it might be H games, but it has interesting and moving contents too! Oh right, the ones I play are the all age versions!”
When she found out H games were erotic games, her face turned bright red. Her skin was very white to begin with, so it was obvious when she blushed.
Ao originally thought that she would know a little about H games even if she didn’t play, since she wrote things like ‘It’s striped panties☆’. Turned out he was wrong.
Discussing such lewd stuff with such a serious girl, isn’t that sexual harassment…? Ao’s face started to heat up.
Hyonomiya-san the person is so different from her work. Unlike our classmates’ impression of her, she might seem cold, but chat readily with me. She blushes easily and is careful with her words… How deep and hard to understand.
When the conversation stopped and both of them felt awkward, Hiyuki spoke first:
“I have… a curfew in my place, I have to go now.”
Ao heard that Hiyuki walked to school from an old Japanese style mansion. If she could walk home from this place, then her curfew was too early. Ao heard she was living with her strict grandmother, that’s why it was like this.
“It’s about time I go home too.”
Ao stood up as well.
Because the two of them were too engrossed in their conversation, Ao barely made it back home before dinner on his bicycle.
“Although I am working as a screener, Hyonomiya-san is the first light novel author I met. I am glad I could chat with you today.”
“Well then, let’s talk about light novel again if we have time. Ah, if you don’t want to talk to me in school, just ignore me. I will tell you my phone number and email, just contact me when you want to.”
<TL: In Japan, text messaging is mostly done through email. >
Ao spoke casually as he normally did when exchanging contact details with other classmates. Hiyuki turn fidgety, and seemed to be contemplating something.
“Kazetani… I have a favour to ask.”
“Hmm, what is it?”
Ao who was holding his cell phone stood stiff for a moment. Hiyuki’s face, including the region around her mole became flushed, as she said with without reservation:
“Please teach me how to write light novels.”
Hyonomiya was too serious, so I told her ‘I will teach you everything I know’ without thinking’. Will it actually work, I didn’t research the way to write light novel before.
After having dinner, Ao sat before the desk in his room, staring at the point card given by the cafe. If he accumulates ten points, he could exchange it for a handmade desert. There was a stamp of a teacup on the digit ‘1’ of the card.
He also received a 50 yen voucher.
Under those circumstances, he arranged with Hiyuki to meet at the same cafe after school tomorrow, and he would advise Hiyuki on how to write her light novel.
I might be a screener, but I have never written a novel, and don’t know how to write a good light novel, I wonder if I will be of help. I told her that I would only be providing my personal opinions, and Hyonomiya-san said that is fine too.
── Just once is fine, I want to pass the first round of selection.
Hiyuki looked at Ao with serious eyes.
Just for one project, she hope Ao could help her.
“Yes, let’s give it a try, this seem fun.”
Ao smile and muttered.
They arranged to head for the cafe separately via email. After school was out, Hiyuki left the classroom while Ao mulled time by chatting with his classmates a little. After turning down their invitation to idle at a fast food restaurant, he left the classroom.
He rode his bicycle and headed for the cafe he visited yesterday.
When he opened the door, he found Hiyuki sitting at the same round table they occupied yesterday.
“Sorry, did you wait long?”
“No… I just got here too.”
Hiyuki opened her lips that had a charming mole. It was still cold, but her expression was much gentler.
When Hiyuki was in school, her eyes never met Ao. Her back was always straight, and she gave off an icy atmosphere. Ao’s classmates said: “The Ice Maiden today is also an iron wall.” “No, it should be an ice wall.”
“Ao, are you really planning to woo Hyonomiya? I advise you not to, your chest would be pierced by icicles and you will never recover.”
“A normal highschool boy being favoured by a beautiful model student can only happen in the world of light novels.”
His classmates advised him.
Ao answered that he unintentionally glanced Hyonomiya’s way a few times because she was really pretty. But he was actually thinking:
Nobody knows, but Hyonomiya-san is someone who will restrain herself and speak in a soft voice with watery eyes. She writes stories and enter them into context, didn’t know about H-games but will write scenes about skirts flipping up and exposing striped panties.
When he thought about that, he could feel a sense of superiority in his heart.
After school was out, in the cafe that other students doesn’t frequent. The moment he met with Hiyuki alone, the sense of superiority made Ao very excited and put a spring in his steps.
Ao sat opposite Hiyuki and ordered Darjeeling tea today.
“Since you have a curfew, let’s get started.”
Ao spoke brightly while Hiyuki frowned her face a little from nervousness. She seemed to have reverted to her usual icy expression.
“Hyonomiya-san, which contest would you like to enter next?”
“... I want to enter the Eidansha’s Star Literature prize.”
“That is the first serialization I screened.”
“I-Is that so?”
The outline of Hiyuki’s face soften.
“The entry deadline is 15th July.”
“It’s mid may now, there is still about two months left. Hyonomiya-san, how long would it take you to write a manuscript?”
“Storyboarding… Will take about a week, and in terms of manuscript paper, I can write ten to fifteen pages a day… I can’t write during on non school days… So, about a month? Next would be checks and editing… I think… All of this will take a month and a half.”
“Why can’t you write on non school days?”
Ao asked and Hiyuki looked down, finding it hard to speak.
“I don’t… have a computer at home. And my grandmother… hates anime and games, so she banned me… from them. So I can’t read light novels at home…”
It was rare to see parents restricting their child from anime or games, and on top of that, it was a grandparent doing it to a grandchild in high school. Someone of her grandmother’s generation probably still thought that something like an anime negatively impacted the child’s education. That early curfew also showed that her grandmother was as strict as the rumours said.
What about Hyonomiya’s parents? They are not living together?
Ao was bothered by this, but he couldn’t ask as Hiyuki seemed troubled by this.
It appeared that this was the reason why Hiyuki spent all day in the computer lab at school. It was hard to imagine that she could only write in school. Ao thought that she was impressive to work relentlessly every day and finish the manuscript in a month.
Ao praised Hiyuki with a hearty voice, but she slumped her shoulders and said:
“Because… I don’t have anything else to do.”
She seemed to be embarrassed about her answer.
“How do you print it out? Not all publishers accept electronic submission right?”
“... It would be too conspicuous to mass print in school, so I do it at a web cafe.”
“I see, you use a web cafe for electronic submission too?”
Despite her mature appearance in school, Ao couldn’t help but smile at her childish demeanour.
“Alright, let’s enter the Eidansha’s Star Literature prize with the closing date on July 15th . There are two months, more than enough time with Hyonomiya’s pace, so take it easy.”
Colour returned to Hiyuki’s cheek, and she seemed happy.
“For the next two months… I will be troubling you.”
Smooth silky brown hair fell from her shoulders as Hiyuki gave a formal bow to Ao, which made him a little embarrassed.
“Me too, please take care of me for the next couple of months. Also, I said yesterday that I can only give my personal opinion, if Hyonomiya-san think it is wrong, don’t force yourself to accept it and do say it out! Ah, I want to hear your comments too!”
“... I-I will try my best.”
Hiyuki answered worryingly, unsure if she could do it.
Ao was nervous too, wondering if he could give advice on how to write a novel. He felt uneasy, but since he was asked, he had to carry on.
Cheering for himself in his heart, Ao looked at Hiyuki and asked cheerfully:
“First, what kind of story does Hyonomiya want to write about the most?”
Hiyuki looked troubled.
“Write about the most…?”
“That’s right, the most. A lot of people would take into account the features of the serialization, consider the preference of the readers and so on before deciding on the topic. This is a strategy, but thinking about it from the basics is great too.”
After reading Hiyuki’s submission, he felt a lot of places were stiff because she tried to stuff too many things into her story in the hope to attract more readers.
That’s why Ao hoped Hiyuki could write about a topic she liked.
“If an author writes something with the feeling ‘I must write about this’, the reader can feel it when they read it, and others will want to support the author. That’s why we should use ‘the things I want to write about’ as the core and decide on the setting of the characters and story, with the goal of passing the first round of selection. I think this is an effective way of doing it.”
“Well then, I will ask again. Hyonomiya-san, what are the things you want to write about, no matter what?”
Since she was thinking about it seriously, it meant there was something she wanted to write about, and a lot of them too. Even though she was unable to write at home, she still kept writing despite her constrained environment. Hiyuki could produce a work every two months, so there were definitely things she wanted to write about.
But she couldn’t judge what she wanted to write about the most.
If she could only write one work in her entire life, what would she want to write about? It was impossible to answer that immediately.
Hiyuki furrowed her brows and shut her lips with a mole besides it tightly as she pondered seriously. Her narrow brows drooped gradually, and Ao decided to help her along when he saw that.
“It’s hard to answer, isn’t it? Then write it down.”
“Take out your pen and notebook, I will then count to fifty. Hyonomiya-san, please list the things you want to write about during this time. Anything will do, please jot down as much as possible.”
The time given was probably too short and made her anxious. Hiyuki took out her pencil case and notebook in a panic. She clicked her Kitefin Shark mechanical pencil and opened the notebook.
“Starting now, one, two… three…”
Without waiting for Hiyuki to calm down, he started counting. This was a method Sakutaro often use when he had writer’s block.
── Ah, I can’t think of anything~ No ideas at all. Ao~ count to fifty~
Sakutaro told Ao as he grabbed his long messy hair.
As Ao counted, Sakutaro’s finger flew all over the keyboard, typing down single words or scenes.
According to Sakutaro, thinking disorderly will dull one’s mind. So it will be better to write down everything that came to mind in a short period of time instead of thinking.
The correct answer was hidden among these words.
“Forty one, forty two…”
As if she was being pursued by Ao’s counting, Hiyuki moved the Kitefin Shark mechanical pencil in her hand swiftly. She didn’t have time to think, so she could only write down the terms that came to her mind one after another. Her pale face was flushed.
“Forty eight, forty nine… Fifty.”
After Ao finished, Hiyuki slumped her shoulders and sighed in relief, her cheeks bright red.
“Let me take a look.”
Ao leaned forth and Hiyuki offered her notebook timidly and she looked at the words as if she wanted to confirm them herself.
The two of them read the nicely written characters on the notebook.
“Alternate world, transported, reincarnation, Kitefin shark, sea, lonely, making friends, good friends, warm, gentle, daily life, love.”
As Hiyuki looked at these words, her earloops to the mole near her mouth redden.
“T-That… I just wrote… what came across my mind.”
She was probably feeling embarrassed as she was showing her inner desire to others.
Ao looked at Hiyuki’s eyes and spoke cheerfully with confidence:
“This is the story Hyonomiya-san wants to write the most right now!”
Hiyuki held her breath.
Ao continued in a casual tone:
“Let’s make the setting of your new work this way. The lonely main character suddenly arrives in an alternate world, an underwater country with Kitefin Sharks, make new friends, fall in love, befriend everyone, a warm and gentle slice of life story. Is that alright, Hyonomiya-san?”
“I-Is that story… alright?”
Hiyuki asked uneasily.
“The readers will be bored if it is just a slice of life story, erm… how about writing fight scenes and dungeon adventures to create climax? That’s what the comment sheet said…”
“Hyonomiya-san, do you like writing about fight scenes?
“No… I don’t like it.”
There were scenes with fights and superpower battles in ‘The lonely me came to an alternate world, becoming the hero, demon king and the emperor of a harem paradise’; but the description was mostly done through sound effects and lacked any tension, so it didn’t fit in at all. Ao felt this was the part she tried too hard to shoehorn in.
“Then, let’s not write about fight scenes this time. The central theme of this submission is ‘the story you want to write about the most’, so don’t force yourself to write about something you are not interested in. It is true that putting in adequate battles could cumulate in a climax, but it is also possible to create this effect even if you write about everyday life.”
“... How do I do that?”
“Let’s think about it next time. We will decide the main structure of the story for now. Personally, I think the main character reincarnating into a Kitefin shark is interesting, I want to read about that. Falling in love with a female shark, with his crab and anemone friends cheering him on, something like that.”
Ah, she laughed...
Hiyuki’s tense expression relaxed, and smiled in a way only girls does, which made Ao’s heart race. Hiyuki used a serious voice and told Ao:
“That sounds interesting… However, I think the story Kazetani described earlier is closer to a light novel story. I want to write that, I want to write that very much.”
Hiyuki who wasn’t nervous anymore felt warm and looked really cute, which tugged even harder at Ao’s heart strings. He answered:
“Yes, that’s great.”
“The important thing is the novel Hyonomiya wants to write the most. I did say that it would be fine if the submission differed from the serialization, but it would be hard for an entry to a Newcomer contest to pass through the first selection if the genre differs too much. Even if it makes it into the second round, it would most likely be filtered out. If the writing is great and the story structure is sound, that would be a pity. Why would someone submit period novels or hard science fiction into a light novel contest? I really want to send them to the second round because of how complete the work was, but if I do that, the author will enter the contest in the future right? If that is so, it would be better to screen it out in the first round, that would be better for the author right? I run into such trouble sometimes.”
“Are there a lot of works… that doesn’t match the genre?”
“The contest details are usually published in popular magazines, so a wide range of readers would read it. Most of the manuscripts from such magazines and new serializations would be messy. There would be fairy tales written completely in katakana for children, old men detailing their war experience, the thoughts on running a company written by some ceo, a love story between a forty plus woman and a twenty plus man. Ahh, also a manuscript full of photos that chronicles someone’s trip across india. Showing a Victory hand gesture in Angkor Wat, he looked really happy. After reading it, I have a deep understanding of India. There’s some who included a CD recording of a song written and sang by them with the manuscript.”
“It’s really… chaotic.”
Hiyuki muttered with her eyes open, and Ao laughed.
“Yes, I had fun reading it!”
Seeing the face of the author and the myriads of submission works made Ao really excited. He felt happy turning every page.
Hiyuki stared straight at Ao.
She looked surprised.
“Eh, although the work isn’t suitable, I still feel happy and lucky to read so many stories. But I still hope the stories would be sent to the appropriate publishers . Sometimes, the publishers would express in the memo that we should ‘select more fantasy works if possible’, or ‘prioritise easy to read school life stories’, something like that.”
“Is that… so?”
So the essential criteria for passing the first round had been predetermined before the selection, that too was shocking.
I slipped my tongue. I shouldn’t have mentioned that. Ao reflected and continued:
“From what I know, there are only two serializations that does this. Most serializations won’t be that specific for the first round of selection. There was also one time when the publisher told us to ‘give priority for school life stories’. But a submission that was centered around battles was interesting and made it to the second round of selection and won a prize, becoming a trending work. In the next contest, the point of emphasis became ‘give priority to battle theme stories’. Such things happens, so don’t be too bothered.”
This time, Hiyuki breathed out in relief.
“Furthermore, if you focus too much on the demand of the publisher, you won’t be able to write about things you really want to, which is the problem. Matching the genre is important, but you don’t need to shoehorn things in. If everyone write the same stories, it would be boring.”
“So, balance is important… right?”
“That’s right, Hyonomiya-san, as expected of a model student.”
“Not at all…”
Hiyuki became fidgety.
They ended the session for the day at this juncture.
“I will work hard and write a story about being transported to a kingdom of Kitefin sharks, and the everyday life of the main character.”
Her lips with a charming mole turned up in a smile, Hiyuki said with a firm expression that made Ao’s pulse accelerate. At the entrance of the cafe, she nodded politely then went in the opposite direction Ao was going in a hurry, rushing home before her curfew.
The next day, they met up at the same cafe and sat opposite each other at the round table. The two of them ordered straight away, Hiyuki picking Chrysanthemum and Ao selecting Earl Grey tea.
Their conversation became smoother on their third meeting.
“... The people of this kingdom get along well with Kitefin sharks, and would wear something like oxygen tanks and dive into the sea, commuting in the sea by riding the sharks… The main character isn’t good with riding them, and is afraid that he will be eaten… In the alternate world, he meets a kind girl and eventually get close to her. She teach him how to ride sharks, and the main character got really good at it… The Kitefin shark is cold to him at first… But would let the main character ride it willingly after some time.”
“That’s good, how about setting each island as a country? Or each island being an independent city or something.”
“Yes, that sounds great.”
The two of them brainstormed ideas as they decided on the settings, chatting about idle things in between.
“Hyonomiya-san, why did you start writing light novels?”
“During autumn in my third year of middle school… a girl in the class was saying: ‘how interesting and touching’ as she chatted about light novels. The other girls said: ‘I cried after reading it.’ ‘I want to know what happens next, so I kept reading, I like it a lot.’... I was curious… So I took note of the cover art and book title.”
Hiyuki then search for the book in a book shop, but gave up after failing to find it. She looked for it every time she visited a book shop, but she couldn’t find it.
Hiyuki’s phone only had call and email function. Her grandmother education policy dictated that the other functions were unnecessary. There wasn’t any computers in their home, and Hiyuki didn’t even know about web cafe back then.
She didn’t have any close friends, so she didn’t know who to ask ‘where can I buy that book’, and she was too shy to ask the shopkeeper directly.
“... I am gloomy and scary, so everyone avoided me.”
Nobody was avoiding her, Hiyuki was just too beautiful and looked like an elegant and refined lady from a different world from others, so the others were hesitant on approaching her. And Hiyuki seemed to think she was a hated person.
Her thoughts made Ao uncomfortable and anxious, but he kept his mouth shut and listened to her. At this moment, Hiyuki’s expression turned gentle.
“But, when I glanced at the calendar in the book shop in December, I saw that book.”
It wasn’t in the normal literature section, but in the comic section.
Hiyuki was filled with emotions as she picked up that book, as if she had just seen a mystical flower, and engrossed herself in it after returning home.
“I… only read novels recommended in textbooks in the past… So when I see the illustrations, changing font size, multiple punctuation marks and entire blank pages when I opened the book, I was very surprised… To think such a novel exist, and there is such a way to write books.”
Hiyuki squinted her eyes in mesmeration, smiling as her cheeks turn red. From her passionate tone, it was clear how new, surprising and touching she felt after reading it.
Ao also remembered his excitement when he first read a light novel in Sakutaro’s place.
Completely overturning his concept of novels, the worlds crafted boldly and freely were so bright, so inspiring. The characters in the story seemed to be talking to him face to face.
Hiyuki’s gentle smile and sparkling eyes overlapped with the emotions he felt then, and Ao could feel his chest thump.
“... The books I had to read in order to write book reports always narrated sorrowful tales. When the characters suffer, I felt terrible too… So I didn’t really like to read… But when I read that book, it was filled with wonderful things, beautiful things, happy scenes, joyous moments. Even when something sad happens, they will become happy in no time. The way the characters talk is just like everyone in class speaks… And I seemed to be talking along too… I felt really happy… I finished in no time… Then I held that book tightly… engrossed in it…”
“May I know the book title?”
“Chronicle of the Brave.”
A story of a High school boy summoned to an alternate world goes on a series of adventure, a popular work written in the free style and structure of a light novel. It was even adapted into an anime. In terms of character settings, be it the main protagonist or a side character, all of them had a vivid feel and charm. The skilled use of varying font size was at an expert level. Some said that the trend of using of varying font size in light novels increased after ‘BraveChro’ was published.
It was a work with both fame and disrepute, but Ao understood why Hiyuki became engrossed with light novels after reading ‘BraveChro’.
He also learned why Hiyuki’s writing was full of varying font size.
“I want to write a story that brings so much joy and excitement too… I started writing light novels after my exams were over… I did so manually back then… But it was fun… It feels like I am just like the main character, and is journeying in the world of the light novels… In the story, I can talk to everyone too… Gathering everyone’s help to go adventuring together… it is really fun.”
Hiyuki’s expression turned a little gloomy.
Her brows drooped, her smiling lips became lifeless and the mole besides it seemed so lonely.
“But the stories I submitted… never made it through the first round… the comment sheets said: ‘Main characters that are too negative feels unpleasant, and is hard for readers to relate to. Writing is crude and immature, giving a presumptuous impression as a whole.’ After reading these comments, I realized that I am the only one who was happy about working on this project. People who read my work felt that the main character wass unpleasant and that I am presumptuous… makes me sad…”
Hiyuki’s voice became softer and softer.
Ao felt his chest hurting too.
They shouldn't write it that way. Unpleasant or not is a personal opinion, how could they critique this point?
Since the experts said so, it must be true. Submitters like Hiyuki who had low self esteem believed this.
Hiyuki looked down and said:
“So… If I can write a story that makes it through the first round, I won’t be an unpleasant and presumptuous person…”
That’s why she asked me for help so seriously and want to pass the first round of selection so badly?
When he thought about the mentality Hiyuki had, Ao’s chest ache even more.
When she failed to make the cut, that definitely reminded her about the accusation of being presumptuous. If the comments she received after that is also dismissive, she would feel terrible.
Not just the story, Hiyuki would feel that she herself was being rejected.
In order to encourage the depressed Hiyuki, Ao said:
“Alright, we will break through the first round with this work.”
Hiyuki’s eyes brightened as she lift her head to look at Ao, although there were still lingering unease in her gaze.
“... Can, can I really do it?”
“Well, let’s give it a shot.”
Ao smiled. Hiyuki stared at Ao, then answered stiffly:
She nodded and lowered her gaze again.
If Hyonomiya-san makes it through the first round and gain some confidence, it would be great.
After returning home, Ao brought cabbage roll and carrot salad cooked by his mom to Sakutaro.
“Uncle Saku, did you ever fall into depression after the games you put in so much effort to make receive harsh criticism? In such cases, what can others say to revitalize you again?”
“I will usually curse at the monitor: Die idiot! Bastard! Then forget all about it. Just because the main heroine did something the player don’t agree with, and they all critique that she was acting out of character and displeased them. It can’t be helped that she is a slutty bitch, if I take their threats of boycott seriously and bottle it up in my heart, I will definitely kill myself. So I have to scold them back: You bastards are not popular with girls in the real world at all! Idiots! That would be enough. Get into a shouting match with them? Ain’t nobody got time for that!”
Maybe he shouldn’t have asked Sakutaro, Ao felt deflated.
If Hiyuki was as thick skinned as Sakutaro, with her beauty, she could lead a group of underlings and rule the campus as the queen of the school.
He imagined such a Hiyuki.
No, It is better for Hyonomiya-san to restrain herself and work hard.
Ao imagined Hiyuki smiling with her cute mole and reorganized his thoughts.
“What is it Ao? Some girl you want to woo?”
“Why did you bring this up again!? I didn’t even say anything related to that!”
“You want the trick to cheer up a depressed girl right?”
“Like I said, no!”
“The trick is to be a person who understands her. Like saying ‘I will always be by your side, and accompany you’, it’s cliche, but it works. She will completely lose the will to resist you. In less than three meetings, you can make her say ‘Let me be your woman’, then hug you tight.”
“That’s totally wrong!”
After leaving the food his mother tasked him to deliver, Ao ran away from Sakutaro’s place hurriedly.
The next day, after school was out.
“We decided the word setting and story structure, let’s think about the main character today.”
Before Ao was a cup of Jasmine tea, while Hiyuki had Chrysanthemum. When she heard what Ao said, Hiyuki’s shoulders slumped unconfidently.
“The basic premise is the lonely main character who arrives in an alternate world.”
“The main character is a lonely person in his original world, right?”
Hiyuki slumped her shoulders further.
“Be… Because he is moody… doesn’t chat with others… and look different from others too… Just the sight of him made others feel unpleasant…”
Hiyuki held her Kitefin shark mechanical pencil tightly.
“S-Such a main character isn’t good after all… Such a charmless main character… is impossible for the readers to relate to, that’s what the comments said…”
Hiyuki’s body shook when she heard Ao said that. Her brows drooped down and her head lowered too.
“If it is up to me, I will add the following: ‘So, try to bring out the charm of the main character in your writing.’”
“Charm…? My main character has charms?”
Hiyuki asked frantically.
“Yes the main character of ‘The lonely me came to an alternate world, becoming the hero, demon king and the emperor of a harem paradise’ is very charming.”
Hiyuki’s cheeks turned red.
“I’m not lying. In the beginning scene after the traffic accident, didn’t the main character apologized to the CEO who knocked him down in his heart: ‘Sorry for colliding with you, old man’? To think that way about the person who knocked him down, the main character is really a good guy. That’s what I feel.”
Hiyuki’s clear eyes were filled with a strong sense of doubt. She probably thought the main character she wrote didn’t have any charm, so she couldn’t believe what Ao was saying.
However, it wasn’t a lie, Ao was serious.
“It would be a pity if the reader can’t understand his charm. It would be better to describe it in a way the readers can understand.”
“W-What should I do?”
“What does the main character think about his lonely circumstances?”
“H-He feels that if he can speak casually with everyone… That will be great… But he couldn’t interrupt a group that is chatting happily… he fears that everyone will be annoyed if he speaks up…”
“Then write down in detail the main character's thoughts. Instead of writing ‘I am a lonely and unnecessary person’, it would be better to describe how lonely he is, how he think about his situation, and what are his views. This way, the reader will know that the main character is someone who is troubled by this. It is impossible for anyone in this world to not feel lonely in their life, so the reader can definitely relate to this.”
“If such a main character works hard in expanding his world, making friends, falling in love, it will bring out his charm and give people to urge to cheer him on, right?”
Ao smiled gently. Hiyuki stared at him in silence, then gripped the Kitefin shark mechanical pencil in her hand again.
“I-I will try.”
She started making notes with a serious expression.
Will that advice do? Will it help Hiyuki? Will she accept it forcefully, despite having other opinions? Ao felt uneasy and continued.
“Since the main character is decided, next would be the heroine.”
“Should we… set five or so heroines? If there are more girls… It would be more elegant and lively.”
“Is that written on the comment sheet too?”
“Just one girl is too monotonous, how about inserting rivaling female characters, and make the story more lively… That’s what it says.”
“Hmm, this is effective sometimes, but in this story, just setting one main heroine would be nice too. Hyonomiya-san, what do you think?”
“I prefer just one female character…”
“Then just set one heroine. What kind of personality would you like for her to have?”
“G-Gentle… Cheerful, kind… I-Is it okay if I make her more glamorous?”
Ao was a bit troubled and sounded hesitant. Hiyuki turned red and lowered her face.
“The heroine is too well behaved, I would suggest having some scenes with eye candies to leave an impression for the readers. That’s what the comment sheet says.”
“Ehh, that depends on the story, so don’t squeeze scenes with striped panties in forcefully.”
And so, they completed the setting for the protagonist and the heroine. They then decided the personality of the people around the main character and the Kitefin sharks.
And so, after one week, when they have collected five coffee stamps──
“Well, we are done with the character and story setting.”
“Yes, the setting and scenes in the story came out one after another just by conversing with Kazetani-kun.”
The lips with a mole besides it turned up in a smile.
The story was about a lonely main character who came to an alternate world. In this world, Kitefin sharks were helpful companions to people, and enjoyed a close relationship with them. Here, he would meet a gentle heroine and a cold Kitefin shark. Their relationships would build and get better over time to make a warm slice of life story. The main character would be troubled by the gap between this world and his own; he would practice under the tutelage of the heroine in order to learn to ride a kitefin shark. They would visit a festival together, watch a Kitefin shark race which would heighten the atmosphere and the mood at the beach during the night would be great as well. The story would be written with these frames in mind.
“You just need to write the story out for now. Do you want to finish the entire thing before letting me read it? Or let me read whichever chapter you finish?”
“... One chapter at a time… Is it okay with you? If Kazetani-kun is busy… It’s fine to read it at the end.”
Hiyuki said worriedly.
Compared to the beginning, Hiyuki was more willing to speak her mind, and smiled more. However, she would show an unconfident expression from time to time.
Ao replied cheerfully:
“Alright, even if you didn’t finish an entire chapter and is stuck halfway, do let me read it and we can discuss together.”
Hiyuki’s eyes had a tint of red. She lowered her gaze and the area around her endearing mole reddened.
Whenever Ao saw this expression, he would feel his heart stir. To hide this feeling, he spoke in the tone of a teacher. But he wasn’t that great in reality.
“Another thing, do you want to use the same writing style?”
Hiyuki’s expression turned stiff from unease again.
She looked at Ao.
“It’s… childish right?”
Her usage of varying font sizes, excessive punctuation marks and onomatopoeia was always harshly critiqued, and Hiyuki was very concerned about this. Even so, she still wanted to write in such a way, it was something she insisted on doing.
“Not at all.”
Ao answered confidently with a smile.
“The ones who criticize the usage of varying font size writing as childish is the real childish one with shallow thinking. Weren’t you moved after reading ‘BraveChro’, Hyonomiya-san?”
Hiyuki looked straight at Ao and nodded.
“BraveChro uses a lot of different font size, excessive punctuation marks and onomatopoeia for effect.”
“Other then Hyonomiya-san, a lot of readers also get a thrill and emotional upheaval when they read BraveChro, it even got an anime and was all the rage for a time.”
“Do you think the font size changes and multiple punctuation marks of BraveChro is unnecessary?”
Hyosetusu shook her head. Her soft brown hair swayed along with her.
“Then Hyonomiya-san don’t need to give up on varying the font size. If you want to write in such a way.”
Hiyuki asked franctically:
“Can I… use varying font size?”
“Yes! I saw a work that skillfully use the font size changes to leave a deep impression, it would be great if you can surprise the reader that way.”
“Can I use multiple punctuations?”
“Yes! In the third volume of ‘The lost Heavenly Ball’, the multiple punctuations pushed the battle scene to its climax! That usage is definitely an art!”
“Can I use onomatopoeia?”
“Yes! If you use ‘pah’ at the right moment, the onomatopoeia that is used correctly will have great impact. ‘The best onomatopoeia to show that inspiration had struck!’, something like that!”
“Can I leave blank pages…?”
“Yes! Leaving blanks makes the pages clear and easy to read, I like it! When Raven fell down a cliff in BraveChro, the next two pages were blank, which gave me the creeps!”
Whenever Hiyuki asked worriedly, Ao would answer with a smile.
“The good thing about light novels is that anything goes, the formatting is really liberal. Writing style that breaks convention makes the reader excited. So just do anything you want to, write whatever you wish! Professional writers might have restrictions, but Hyonomiya is a manuscript submitter! Just write the things you like would do. I hope you can put some thoughts into how you can convey this feeling to the people reading your work.”
“What do I need to do… to convey them?”
Pushed by Ao’s aura, Hiyuki widened her eyes as Ao nodded at her strongly.
“That’s right! Don’t hold back on the things you want to do, enjoy the moment with excitement. What do you need to do to share this emotions with the readers? You have to work hard, think over your words and study your presentation. Then it wouldn’t be a shallow writing style. If a screener critiques that the style is shallow, just ignore it with a smile.”
Sakutaro answered unwaveringly that he will curse and swear at the monitor and forget about it when his work was harshly criticized because he had plenty of research and troubles under his belt before his latest work.
If they want to critique, let them critique, that’s the method I will choose.
Ao didn’t want Hiyuki to be as thick skinned as Sakutaro, but in order to build her confidence so she can do the things she wished to do, Ao wanted to help her.
Hiyuki listened to Ao in a daze, then nodded stiffly.
“I… I will do my best.”
“Great, that’s the spirit.”
Ao continued giving specific advice with a smile. The things he could talk about were limited as he wasn't a writer, but he did all he could in telling Hiyuki how he felt as a screener.
“I hope you use varying font sizes boldly, but overusing it would diminish the impact on the reader. I think it would be better to use it only if necessary for the best effect. For example, in ‘The lonely me came to an alternate world, becoming the hero, demon king and the emperor of a harem paradise’ there was an entire page in super large font stating ‘I am already dead’. I think that is great, and will give an heavy impact on the readers. Please use this for the prologue this time too.”
Hiyuki looked confused.
“Er… Erm, I thought I overdid it...”
“Not at all! Or rather, I think you should use two pages and present it in a double page spread.”
“But the entries can only be single pages, so there is no point in doing this. It’s a pity, but let’s just use one page.”
“C-Can I really do that?”
“Yes! Furthermore, in order to highlight this contrast, how about describing in a more standard wording for the first page? Starting the story with the main character getting into an accident is a common trope and easy to understand, I suggest you write it the same way. Keep the part where he apologize to the person who knocked him down in his heart. Personally, I would suggest describing this part in detail, but don’t use onomatopoeia, multiple punctuation and varying font size, just describe it plainly. When the reader turn the page, they would see an entire page filled with the giant words ‘I am already dead’, which will bring out the contrast. This will definitely surprise them.”
Hiyuki’s expression brightened gradually.
“Yes… Yes, I will give it a try.”
After that, whenever Hiyuki finish a chapter, Ao would bring the data stick home, print it out to read, then give feedback to Hiyuki.
The prologue was rewritten four times.
“When judging if a work should progress to the second round, the beginning plays a big part. It has to give the impression ‘hey, this manuscript might make it into the second round’. The screener will read with this idea in mind if there are no mistakes in the script. My personal experience is that the chance of it getting into the second round is high. On the other hand, if the opening is normal and doesn’t flow well, the screener will think ‘This probably can’t make it’ as they read. Even if it gets better in the middle, given the choice of manuscripts about the same quality, the screeners will choose the one with the better opening. Yes, the writing is cleaner and easier to read after the second amendment. There are still room for improvement. Maybe we can work on the content, for example…”
The two of them were now regulars in this cafe in the alley. Hiyuki listened carefully as she looked with serious eyes at Ao through the steam of her chrysanthemum tea. Her lips with a mole besides it were tightly shut and she had a face of concentration, as if she was looking at the blackboard in class, which seem cold.
“Cyan’s line here show how kind she was, this is very well written.”
When Ao complimented the heroine, Hiyuki’s pale cheeks filled with colour, and a smile appears on her lips.
Whenever Hiyuki smiled calmly like this, Ao would feel a stir in his heart and be filled with joy.
He hoped that Hiyuki could smile more.
Contrary to her mature and aloof aura about her, Hiyuki was worried about anything she did, a girl who lacked self confidence. This surprised Ao.
Someone as pretty as Hyonomiya with good grades should have higher self esteem…
If Hiyuki can smile so naturally in the classroom, that will be wonderful. Our classmates who call Hiyuki ‘Ice Maiden’ would definitely want to be close to Hiyuki.
Only Ao knew about her charm, and he wanted everyone to know too; at the same time, he wanted to keep this smile as a secret. His felt conflicted.
“The multiple punctuations here is good, it brought out the noisy feeling of the pedestrian gathering. If you can add more description about the streets, it will be easier to leave an impression on the readers.”
Hiyuki made notes on the manuscript with her Kitefin shark mechanical pencil.
“The Kitefin shark Lessie who became the main character Subaru’s companion is a great character. He is a little testy, but has a gentle personality. If you make him fidget when he gets embarrassed, it will definitely be moe. For example, splashing the water with his tail.”
“Cyan’s companion Jacqueline might be unreasonable and worrisome, but she has a good heart. How overjoyed she gets after getting her favourite chocolate biscuit from Cyan, that's wonderful. Do add more description here.”
“I also like the post office manager Jester. Do add a small scene for the steady and reliable Jester to leave an impression on the readers. It make it more more believable on the scene when Jester lend his aid in the second half of the story.”
“All of Cyan’s friends are good people, and all of them support Subaru’s love in secret, which feels very warming. Instead of multiple punctuation marks, it will feel more immersive if you add in more dialogue. Also, I think describing this part in detail would leave a deeper impression than using onomatopoeia. On the other hand, using more onomatopoeia in the shark racing scene would be more impactful.”
“Ah, Hyonomiya-san, if you have other ideas, you don’t need to force yourself.”
“No, not at all.”
Hiyuki shook her head frantically.
“I think Kazetani-kun’s advice are all worth thinking through and is on point… And thank you for your compliments…”
Hiyuki’s cheek turned flushed from embarrassment.
“I am just saying whatever comes to mind.”
Hiyuki nodded with her face red.
Her lips with a mole besides it broke into a smile.
“I know that you are not doing this out of courtesy, Kazetani-kun… is just this type of person.”
“Hmm? What kind of person did you think I am?”
Ao was a bit concerned and asked. Hiyuki answered slowly with a calmly:
“No matter what kind of work… or person, or items… you will find the good points and love them…”
"Huh, is that so? It’s not like I am fine with anything.”
Hiyuki looked at Ao with sparkling eyes, which made his heart race.
“Kazetani-kun… there isn’t anyone you hate right?”
“I haven’t met anyone who made me that mad yet… But there are times when I feel unhappy and angry.”
“No matter how childish or boring a story is, Kazetani-kun can enjoy it…”
── Is it interesting, Ao?
── Yes! Every one of it is interesting!
While he was reading the manuscripts on the floor of Sakutaro’s home engrossingly, Ao answered Sakutaro without any hesitation. For some reason, he remembered that scene.
No matter what kind of work it was, Ao would feel excited and find it interesting.
Works that had yet to mature, the immature parts. Works with flaws, the shortcomings itself. Well written works, it would be the techniques
No matter what kind of work it was, they had their own merits, and Ao would flip through the pages cheerfully. Ao didn’t understand the feeling of being bored of the things he read.
── Is that so… All of them are interesting?
Sakutaro muttered, his voice and expression seemed dim and bitter.
At this moment, on the side of the steam that rose from the full cup of golden chrysanthemum tea, Hiyuki looked straight into Ao’s eyes. Like Sakutaro back then, her eyes were dim and bitter.
Hiyuki mumbled in a sad voice.
Why is Hyonomiya-san looking at me like that? Why does she look so lonely?
“You are… a broad minded person.”
Ao felt his chest ache.
Why is his heart aching? He didn’t understand at all.
Hiyuki was praising him, but she didn’t look happy at all. It was the same for Ao, he wasn’t happy and felt a strong sense of unease instead.
“Thank you. This is the first time someone told me that.”
He pretended to be shy and averted his eyes from Hiyuki.
Hiyuki fell silent too.
“Erm, where were we? Right, we were talking about the shark race. Heighten the atmosphere with onomatopoeia, and add in more detail for this part.”
To brush away the awkward atmosphere, Ao said in a very cheerful tone.
“Hyonomiys-san does a lot of research when you describe things. Starting from the external characteristics, you would then move on to the structural features── such a descriptive style is popular nowadays. When the enemy debut in battle scenes, such a style makes it easy for the reader to comprehend and is very effective. However, do you want to try a slightly different style this time?”
“How should I… do that?”
“For example, when you write about Kitefin sharks, you will start by writing ‘Kitefin sharks are…’ and so on, then explain the appearance and behavior of the Kitefin sharks.”
“You can add dynamic description to it, like how gracefully the tail of a Kitefin shark moves, how fast it break through the waves, how it’s dorsal fin looks like. It will give the feeling that the reader is watching the shark race together with the main character.”
“I only saw them once when I was little… Moving sharks… The sharks on pictures can’t move…”
“How about searching for videos of Kitefin sharks in the web cafe? Ah, instead of that──”
Ao took out his phone and made a search.
Kitefin shark, Aquarium. Using these key words and his location, Ao found some results and smiled.
“Got it, we can go to this aquarium by riding the train for about an hour. There seems to be Kitefin sharks there, do you want to take a look together on our next day off?”
Ao showed the screen of his phone to Hiyuki. Hiyuki opened her lips that had a small mole besides it, and looked anxious.
“N-Next day off…?”
“Ah… Hyonomiya-san, can you go out on non school days?”
Ao heard that Hiyuki lived with her grandmother who was really strict. They would be chatting happily about novels, but when the time for her curfew drew near, Hiyuki would check her watch worryingly, which was telling of how much she feared her grandmother.
Hiyuki once muttered: “Grandmother… Really hates me… No matter what I do, it displeases her…”
When Ao asked: “Did you quarrel with your grandmother?”, Hiyuki would shake her head frantically with a flushed face: “Sorry…” And went silent, refusing to say more...
Another time, she said with a dark expression and tears in her eyes:
“... Grandmother’s hand… is scary… so cold, wrinkled and hard…”
She also shut her mouth and lowered her head that time.
Is Hyonomiya-san’s low self esteem caused by her grandmother…
He became concerned when he thought about it.
Maybe she couldn’t enjoy herself on days off because she feared her grandmother would scold her.
While Ao was worrying for her, Hiyuki shook her head.
She lowered her long eyelashes and said with her face red:
“I-It’s fine… I-I want to go. I will be troubling you.”
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