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After the rainy season ended, it was now July, Ao and Hiyuki’s story creation activity continued.
The bashful smile Hiyuki only showed Ao in the cafe after school appeared frequently in the classroom recently.
“Hyonomiya-san’s expression has turned so gentle.”
“There wasn’t any icy feeling when I talked to her. She would blush easily, how cute.”
“The way she lower her gaze and head is cute too, even though I am a girl, I am charmed by her.”
“I know I know, it’s the same for me.”
When the girls invited her to have lunch together, Hiyuki answered happily:
She was popular among the boys too.
“The Hyonomiya-san in the past felt unapproachable, like someone from a different world. But now, it feels like you is within reach.”
“Yeah, she had no openings at all in the past, I won’t even consider wooing her and making her my girl. But if the current Hyonomiya-san can be my girlfriend, I will die happy.”
Ao listened with complicated feelings.
“Impossible, Hyonomiya-san already have Ao. That guy accompanies Hyonomiya-san after school every day.”
“Damn, if I only made a move like Ao did before any competition showed up.”
“Nicely done, Ao.”
Ao couldn’t smile at all as he watched the envious eyes of his classmates.
“I am not dating Hyonomiya-san.”
He said with a calm voice. His classmates didn’t mean any harm when they said ‘nicely done’, but it stabbed him right in the chest.
“... The girls in class are asking me, whether I am dating Kazetani-kun… How should I… answer?”
“The same as usual. Just say that we are participating in a hobby together, we are not dating. That’s how I answered.”
This stiff and bitter conversation happened last week.
Is that answer really fine?
Ao didn’t know either. His heart felt conflicted when he saw Hiyuki lower her head.
Back in May when the spring breeze moved the lustrous greeneries, they made a promise to complete a manuscript, and started this project. It will be ending soon as they entered July.
── Please take care of me for the next two months.
── Me too, please take care of me for the next two months.
Hiyuki bowed anxiously, and Ao responded with a smile and a nervous heart. Recently, he kept thinking about their conversation back then.
… It would be the two months deadline I made with Hyonomiya-san soon.
When they collected twenty cafe stamps ── Three days before the submission deadline for the newcomer contest ── 12th July, Hiyuki finished her manuscript.
“... Do you really think that this ending is fine?”
After placing the finished manuscript before her, Hiyuki looked at Ao with an uneasy look.
Her lips that had a mole besides it opened slightly, as if she felt that something wasn’t enough.
The story that comprises entirely of everyday life events ended with the main character Subaru returning to his life in the modern world, and parting with Cyan.
At the beach where they had their first date, Subaru was surrounded by moonlight and was gradually fading away. Cyan rushed as fast as she could to his side.
Subaru kept shouting ‘thank you’ to Cyan, the two confessed their feelings to each other.
With the memory warming his heart, Cyan slowly disappeared.
When they started writing this story, it had been decided that this would be the ending.
The ending of a slice of life story would be more compatible with a heartwarming farewell. Hiyuki also understood that all good things had to come to an end, and agreed with a face of acceptance.
Ao also approved of that ending.
However, in Hiyuki’s first version, Subaru realized that he would be leaving soon, but the everyday life story continued.
Ao suggested that Hiyuki should follow the original setting, describe the parting scene well, and end it there, so the reader knew for sure that the story had ended and create a wonderful ending with a good aftertaste. So after two revisions, Subaru finally bidded farewell to Cyan in the third version.
When Hiyuki showed the 2nd revision to Ao, she asked with an unconfident gaze: Was the previous ending better?
Ao smiled, and answered the same way as last time.
“I think this is the right way, the story should end properly on a good note.”
“... But, this way, everything would be over.”
Hiyuki pleaded in a soft voice. She wanted to avoid ending the story.
Ao said gently:
“It’s fine, just let it be.”
The disappointed look in Hiyuki’s eyes bothered him, but Ao continued speaking with a calm expression.
“Light novels are basically a series of works. Among the submissions, many people would post entries under the premise that a sequel would be written. But I think that should wait until the work win a prize and is ready to be published before discussing with the editors to decide if they should end it at one volume. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing for the work if it could end properly?”
Among light novels, it was hard to end the popular series.
The professional authors had to think about the events to come, continue to intrigue the readers as they wrote a never ending story.
Sometimes, they had to cut the story halfway because it was doing poorly in sales.
But contest entries were not bounded by such situations.
Everything could be resolved in a single volume, and given in a proper ending.
That’s why Ao always felt it was a pity when he read an unfinished submission.
It could have ended on a good note, but mysteries were left unsolved, foreshadowings were left untouched, no romance developed and the story just proceeded.
‘Please take care of me in the sequel too.’
When Ao saw this final line, he hoped from the bottom of his heart that such an interesting tale could be concluded in one volume.
‘XX War Chronicles Chapter Two’
When he sees such a title, Ao would read the catalogue again and think: What about chapter one and three?
If the editorial department paid more attention to detail and post all three works to the same screener, that would be great. But from Ao’s experience, that happens rarely. The work would probably be sent to different screeners, and each of them could only read a part of it.
Even if it was an unfinished work with a sequel, if it was a masterpiece that made one want to read the next volume no matter what, it might pass through the 2nd and 3rd round and win a prize.
That might be so, but with the negative comment of ‘unfinished work’, it would be hard for it to pass through the selections. Ao wouldn’t recommend Hiyuki to take such a laborious path.
“But, but… if it ends here… Subaru and Cyan… might never… meet again.”
Hiyuki who was sitting opposite him continued with tears in her eyes.
“Just leave it to the readers. If the readers feel that Subaru and Cyan can meet again, they will naturally imagine the tale where they reunite. By ending this story, the readers will carry on and create new ones.”
Ao said, and Hiyuki showed a lonely expression.
“Will my story… disappear?”
Ao felt a stab of pain in his chest because Hiyuki’s eyes and voice sounded so sad.
However, he kept his warm and gentle demeanour and told Hiyuki:
“If you want to keep this story for yourself, you can simply not show it to anyone. If you want others to read it, you have to have the resolve to let it go.”
And then, as if he was pushing Hiyuki to make her resolve, Ao looked into Hiyuki’s eyes and asked:
“Do you want to give up on entering the contest?”
Hiyuki lowered her gaze and closed her lips with a mole besides it to ponder, she then lift her gaze gently and replied with a determined face:
Ao smiled, that was the answer he was hoping for. However, the pain in his chest grew stronger, that was the sentimental feelings of Ao’s wilfullness.
For a moment, I was hoping that Hyonomiya-san would give up…
He must never speak of this.
“Well then, the manuscript is completed. You just need to write a synopsis and character introduction, then post it out.”
Hiyuki nodded with sadness lingering in her eyes.
“We promised to eat a cake to celebrate after finishing the manuscript.”
Ao called the waitress over.
He showed his point collection card to the waitress.
“Can we use the point card now?”
“Yes, no problem. This card entitles you to a handmade cake, I will send it to you later.”
They collected twenty stamps in total. They could get a free handmade cake for every ten stamps. This was the second time he was eating the handmade cake with Hiyuki.
The last time we ate the cake was to celebrate Hyonomiya-san and her grandmother making up...
She told her grandmother the good points about light novels, but her grandmother’s bias was too deep, so she was still fighting hard ── Hiyuki said happily as her lips with a mole beside it blossomed in a smile.
It might take a lot of time, but it would be great if her grandmother understands.
Grandmother still adopted the attitude of ‘books with manga-like covers are lowly and harmful’ in front of Hiyuki, but Hiyuki discovered the light novel her grandmother was hiding in the living room.
There is a flower bookmark on page 50, grandmother must be reading it secretly when I am not around.
It felt strange imagining that.
Hiyuki giggled, and Ao laughed too. Where did Hiyuki’s grandmother got that light novel?
Last time, they ate a roll cake with walnuts fillings, whip cream and chocolate mousse on top. It was very sweet and delicious.
“Sorry for the wait, here is today’s handmade cake.”
The waitress placed a plate before Hiyuki, on it were a Peach soufflé and a milk coffee cake with whip cream on top.
After the waitress left, Ao bowed politely to Hiyuki:
“Congratulations on finishing your manuscript.”
Hiyuki nodded courteously too:
“Thank you for giving your opinion on the project, and all the help you gave me.”
And the two of them raised their head, with both parties feeling a little lonely.
“Let’s dig in.”
They picked up their fork.
The cake this time was delicious too, as good as the last one, but their conversation wasn’t as lively.
“... How’s your grandmother?”
“... The bookmark is at page 150.”
“... It’s going smoothly.”
“... Not really.”
Both of them had the tone of having something stuffed in their mouth, as they chatted about how they were doing.
Hiyuki’s curfew had been extended an hour. When they finished the cake and left the cafe, the walls and roof in the alley had already been dyed red by the setting evening sun.
The air was warm and gentle too.
Ao and Hiyuki’s house were in the opposite direction.
That was why the two of them always parted ways here.
After saying ‘see you in school’ with a smile, Ao would rode on his bicycle while Hiyuki would walked and return home.
In the beginning, they were always smiling when they bidded farewell, their chest full of excitement as they thought about the details of their conversation with sweet emotions.
Neither of them said good bye as they stood there while staring at each other’s face.
Hiyuki was hesitant to speak, with an anxious and sad expression.
I probably looked the same…
Ao could imagine what Hiyuki wanted to ask Ao, and her uneasiness towards Ao.
Because Ao wanted to ask Hiyuki the same thing and bore the same uneasiness.
As Hiyuki’s work neared completion, his growing feeling of unease and loneliness.
Can I greet Hiyonomiya-san in the future and chat with her…?
Hiyuki was definitely thinking asking the same thing.
── After the two months deadline and the manuscript is done, will things stay the same?
All their classmates thought that Ao and Hiyuki were dating.
After doing something so conspicuous in school, and going off together every day, it was natural for others to think they were dating.
But the truth was, Ao and Hiyuki were just a manuscript submitter and a manuscript editor. Normally, they wouldn’t know each other’s name, their unusual relationship only started because they were coincidentally in the same class.
Ao helped Hiyuki with her manuscript, and Hiyuki finally finished her work.
And so, Ao’s role as an advisor would be done.
It was the same in their personal live, Hiyuki had made up with her grandmother and become part of the class. It might just be a little, but she could express herself now. The Hiyuki now was much more charming then the Hiyuki who hid herself in her frozen palace with the nickname ‘Ice Maiden’.
Hyonomiya-san don’t have confidence in herself, so she wants to hang out with me. But that’s probably because I am the first person who is kind to her.
That situation was a sort of coincidental punishment to Ao for seeing Hiyuki’s name in the personal detail column of the manuscripts. He shouldn’t have approach the contestant after getting their personal data from his work.
He was needed to reflect on this, for gaining Hiyuki’s trust by using his position as a manuscript screener ── In a sense, the fact he used improper means to garner goodwill from Hiyuki made Ao uncomfortable.
Ever since he saw Hiyuki greeting their classmates, eating with the girls and smiling happily, Ao started troubling over this.
Hyonomiya-san will be fine without me.
Even if it isn’t me ── If someone else gave her a hand, she could become good friends with everyone.
── Well done, Ao.
That was why such words of his classmates stabbed so deeply into his heart.
The relationship between Ao and Hiyuki was special because they were linked as an author and editor.
However, from the standards of a boy and a girl in the second year of high school ── compared to Ao who was average in grades, sports and looks, Hiyuki was like and outstanding flower on the highest peak, and everyone only watched her from afar because she was too perfect. But that situation was gone, with everyone fighting to greet Hiyuki, she had become an existence far away from Ao.
When he was misunderstood by Hiyuki because of Aeka, Ao grabbed Hiyuki hand and led her away in front of their classmates to the door leading to the roof. The emotions burning in his hard as he tried to resolve the misunderstanding had mellowed a lot.
Back then, he didn’t prioritize how Hiyuki might feel and just wanted to convey his feelings to Hiyuki, that’s why he did that.
It was different to that summer in his second year of middle school, when he prioritized the feelings of the girl he had a crush on. This time, he won’t back down.
Where did my emotions that were burning hot from back then go…?
Hiyuki stood under the evening light before Ao.
Even though we are so close that we can touch just by reaching out our hands...
He tried moving his fingers that were drooping down.
However, he couldn’t raise his hand, so Ao said with a calm voice:
“You worked hard for the past two months…”
Hiyuki’s eyes started wavering, and she moved her lips with a mole besides it a little.
“... Thank you for your hard work too, Kazetani-kun.”
“Well then, see you in school tomorrow.”
After turning his back on the depressed Hiyuki, Ao stepped onto the pedal of his bicycle.
He looked back several time as he cycled, and he could see the back of Hiyuki and her brown hair that had a golden glow about her.
He watched her with squinted eyes for a second or two, then continued to pedal.
The scene of Subaru parting with Cyan that was written by Hiyuki flashed in her mind.
Subaru stood on the beach illuminated by the silvery moonlight as Cyan rushed towards him.
Subaru shouted to Cyan at the top of his voice:
“Thank you! Thank you!”
I am thankful for meeting you.
Thank you for finding me.
Thank you for treating me well.
After meeting you, I changed for the first time.
Subaru’s hand was engulfed in white light and faded away gradually. Cyan held on to his hand and the two of them confessed at this last moment.
“I love Cyan.”
“I really love Subaru.”
After conveying his feelings to the person he loved the most and hearing her reply in the same way, Subaru smiled and slowly vanished.
“I love you, I always have.”
As he listened to Cyan’s voice.
… A wonderful ending. There is nothing wrong with ending this way. That’s right, using the parting scene to end it will leave a good aftertaste, that’s what I said.
It was the same for reality.
Instead of giving chase reluctantly, it was better to keep the wonderful memories in his heart and part ways, so he would remain a wonderful presence in her mind too.
So even if his chest felt painful and bitter, he had to endure it.
Before the gulf with Hiyuki was filled, they reached the ending of the first semester.
After getting their results slip and before school was out, Ao approached Hiyuki and asked:
“Have you posted the manuscript?”
Hiyuki nodded with a lonely expression. After Ao confirmed this,
“I hope you can pass the first round of selection.”
Ao said with a smile.
“Well then, see you after summer vacation.”
He walked out of the classroom alone.
“And? It’s summer vacation, why aren’t you going on a date with your girlfriend, but spending your time in the mountain of manuscripts? Ao?”
Just like what he described, Ao looked as if he was buried by cardboard boxes as he read the manuscripts single mindedly. Sakutarou looked displeased as he asked.
“And you are doing it in my place.”
“That’s right, we will be conscious of Ao-kun and can’t be lovey dovey.”
Aeka said, but she was always hugging Sakutarou, sitting on his lap and kissing him even when Ao was there.
“The twins at my place will want me to play with them, so I won’t be able to read it quietly. Uncle Saku, you know that I took on 200 books for July and August, I won’t be able to finish if I don’t concentrate on reading.”
“Why did you take on so many? I can’t do anything about the number you stated, but I have to hold some responsibility if I turn down the publishers so bluntly. As for expenses for the date, didn’t you saved all the money you earned through manuscript screening? It should be a lot. Or are you planning to buy her an unbelievably expensive gift? Compared to money, woman will prefer your heart.”
“Ara, we want expensive gifts too. Because that is the proof of your love for your girlfriend.”
Aeka said immediately.
Ao shift his gaze away from the two of them and said coldly:
“I don’t plan to go out on dates, because Hyonomiya-san is not my girlfriend. Her manuscript is finished, so we don’t have any reason to meet now.”
Even though he was saying that, his chest was aching.
Ahhh… My relationship with Hyonomiya is only possible because of the manuscripts…
Hiyuki’s lonely expression when they bidded farewell at the entrance of the cafe flashed in his mind. He felt as if his throat was being constricted, but for Hiyuki’s sake, Ao think this was the best choice.
It’s better for Hyonomiya-san to keep some distance from me. She is no longer alone, if we increase our distance, she will know that aside from my work as a manuscript screener, I am just an ordinary high schooler in every other way.
Just Ao by himself wasn’t special to Hiyuki.
After Ao become silent, Sakutarou suddenly spoke:
“Ao, are you an idiot?”
The manuscripts in his hands were snatched away by Sakutarou suddenly.
Before Ao realized it, Sakutarou was standing before him, and looking down at him with an unhappy face. Aeka besides him was also looking at Ao with a frown.
“Where is the you that said you would go back with her when she ran away from home? You were so cool when you side decisively to her grandmother that you two will go there together! It was so touching! In the end, you can only fight alongside her when she was frail? Can’t you be together with the energetic her? You can offer a helping hand to those who are doing worse than you, but is afraid of people that isn’t like that, isn’t that shameful?”
It was a rare sight to see Sakutarou angry.
Ao was stunned when he heard what his uncle said.
… I see, because Hyonomiya-san is alone and had no one else to turn to, that’s why I could hang out with her. Keeping a distance away from Hyonomiya-san for her own good is just an excuse, maybe I just have an inferiority complex when I am with Hyonomiya-san…
When he saw how hard it hit Ao after Ao realized how small minded he was, Sakutarou said with a bitter expression:
“No matter which manuscript is before you, you can judge it with unbiasedness right? Not overbearing, no prejudice, not subjective when you read the manuscripts happily, why couldn’t you see your own matters in the same way? Your uncle is really sad…”
Sakutarou looked at Ao with a really depressed face and continued:
“Back in the cafe, didn’t you tell her the reason the heroine like the main character? Isn’t that how you actually feel?”
Aeka who looked worried beside Sakutarou added:
“Hyonomiya-san looked very happy when Ao said that. I almost cried too.”
Ao sat on the floor quietly as he listened to the adult’s serious deliberation with a bitter heart.
He then returned home and thought about what Sakutarou and Aeka said in his room alone.
How I actually feel about this...
“Hiyuki, are you heading out?”
Hiyuki was putting on slippers with white straps for the summer at the entrance when her grandmother called her, so she turned her head.
“Yes, I’m heading for the library and will be back before curfew.”
Grandmother looked down at the bag Hiyuki was carrying with a stern expression.
“... Recently, the library is stocking up on light novels too, it makes me sigh.”
It sounded like something she heard from others, but grandmother would never discuss about light novels with others, so she probably searched for light novels in the library herself.
Hiyuki’s lips curled in a smile.
“Hiyuki, are you meeting someone in the library? For example, that Kazetani-kun.”
The corner of Hiyuki’s lips drooped immediately.
“... No, I didn’t make any plans to meet with Kazetani-kun over summer vacation.”
Grandmother’s eyebrow twitched. She showed a hard to pleased expression and closed her mouth tightly, but still said softly:
“It’s fine to meet once in a while.”
“... Kazetani-kun is busy.”
Hiyuki answered quietly too, then without waiting for a reply,
“I’m going now.”
She walked out of the door.
There was still some time before evening and the sun rays showed no signs of waning. The courtyard might be cool, but the heat from the tar road seemed to be emitting heat. Looking closely, she could see the air wavering from the rising heat.
Hiyuki wiped her sweat with her hands as she thought about Ao.
Kazetani-kun… he is probably working as a screener… and reading manuscripts...
In the two weeks since summer vacation began ── Hiyuki often thought about Ao.
Ao said that the story in the manuscript should end properly. He said he will see her again after the summer break. The calm eyes Ao had back then. Hiyuki kept thinking about these scenes and the meaning behind them.
I don’t have any friends and have a gloomy personality, so Kazetani-kun took pity on me and taught me to write light novels… Because Kazetani-kun is very gentle… When I asked him to help me write light novels, he probably accepted because he couldn’t reject me...
And in the two months that followed, Ao didn’t show any signs that he dislike it, accompanying Hiyuki with her writing sessions after school every day.
… Thanks to Kazetani-kun, I could talk to everyone in class now, and don’t find grandmother scary anymore… I can read and write light novels at home now...
Ao must have felt that he finished his mission.
── The girls in class are asking me, whether I am dating Kazetani-kun… How should I… answer?
Hiyuki asked with a pounding heart, and Ao answered gently:
── “The same as usual. Just say that we are participating in a hobby together, we are not dating. That’s how I answered.”
He wasn’t embarrassed or look troubled at all, Ao said it in a calm and gentle manner.
Hiyuki felt her chest constrict.
── … Yes.
That’s the only way she could answer.
Just like Subaru parting with Cyan, I can’t rely on Kazetani-kun anymore…
In truth, she didn’t want the story to end.
In the beginning, she felt Subaru going back to the real world was natural, because all good things comes to an end. However, the more time she spent with Ao, the more hesitant she was about this parting scene.
She wanted to write a gentle story about everyday life.
The people who read that story will definitely think that after Subaru and Cyan parted, they will go on to live their own lives… Kazetani-kun and I also...
Hiyuki returned the book back to the library with its overpowered air conditioner, and chose a new book. She also browsed the shelf for new novels, saw the first volume of the series recommended by Ao, and borrowed that one too.
Two reference books for her next work and one light novel, she borrowed three books in total. When she left the library the air had already been dyed in faint orange.
It would be evening soon.
Hiyuki recalled melancholically about the day she parted with Ao at the entrance of the cafe again, as she carried her bags with the books on her shoulder while walking down the road.
I should… visit the cafe.
The thought flashed across her mind.
Ao might be there.
What am I thinking, there is no way Kazetani-kun would be there...
But once that thought surfaced on her mind, her legs brought her unconsciously to the entrance of the cafe which Hiyuki have yet to visit in three weeks.
“Welcome, seat for one?”
The familiar waitress asked.
Hiyuki surveyed the inside of the store.
Aside from the middle aged lady seated besides the window, there wasn’t any other customer.
The waitress called out to Hiyuki as she was standing there idly. Hiyuki came back to her senses right then.
“... Yes, seat for one.”
The waitress told Hiyuki that she could sit anywhere she wished, so Hiyuki went to her usual seat.
As expected, I can only meet Kazetani-kun in the second semester...
When the second semester starts, her distance with Ao will probably increase further.
Her body felt sluggish.
Hiyuki ordered chrysanthemum tea.
The teapot and cup were sent to her rather quickly. Hiyuki poured the golden liquid with the refreshing fragrance of flowers into the cup.
After I finish this… I should hurry back… It’s almost time for my curfew...
She stared at the steam rising out of her cup.
Someone pulled the chair opposite her and sat down.
Hiyuki raised her head, and saw a man in his thirties who looked like a freelancer sitting there. Hiyuki was surprised.
“Hi, remember me?”
“... You are Kazetani-kun’s uncle…”
Having the roles of scriptwriter, producer and company representative, Ao’s uncle looked at Hiyuki with a profound smile.
“I was thinking that I might meet girlfriend-chan if I come here, and hit the jackpot. I have something to tell you, girlfriend-chan.”
“T-Thank you for taking care of me that day. But I am not Kazetani-kun’s girlfriend.”
Hiyuki bowed deeply, then said with her body slumped. Sakutarou gaze at her gently.
Ao and Sakutarou didn’t look alike, but Sakutarou’s gentle eyes reminded Hiyuki of Ao.
“Ao is great in judging manuscripts, but terrible in reading girls. From girlfriend-chan’s reaction, even a bystander like me knows what girlfriend-chan wants.”
Hiyuki felt her face heating up.
W-What I want…?
Hiyuki had a frantic expression and Sakutarou’s eyes suddenly showed a tint of sadness.
“Ara… Even if he noticed, he would lack confidence and be at a loss. That boy can take action for the sake of others, but if it was for himself, he would lack the courage to do so. His character is really suitable to be a main character.”
Sakutarou’s voice was gently knocked into Hiyuki’s chest.
Ahh, it’s true that Kazetani-kun is suitable to be a main character. Bright, just, impartial, ready to make friends, and would not hesitate to lend a helping hand to anyone.
He was as broad as the blue sky ──
“If the main character is dallying, unable to move forward and stutters, I will let the heroine take the initiative.”
Sakutarou winked, then made a gesture of shooting at Hiyuki with his index finger.
Hiyuki’s heart skipped a beat.
Let the heroine take the initiative…?
“S-Sorry, I should be going.”
It was going to be curfew soon, so Hiyuki stood up hurriedly from her seat. She bowed to Sakutarou and left the cafe. Sakutarou who was supporting his face with his palm smiled and waved at her.
If the main character don’t move, then let the heroine take the initiative…? But, if I tell Kazetani-kun how I feel, he might feel troubled...
The uneasiness of not being suitable for Ao resurfaced in Hiyuki’s mind once again.
Kazetani-kun is like the vast and beautiful sky, but I am ──
She made it home before curfew. There was a letter in the mailbox, and Hiyuki picked it up.
She shouted into the mansion.
Her grandmother was probably inside the room, so no one answered Hiyuki. She took off her slipper and checked who the letter was for — and held her breath.
It’s the newcomer contest...
The evaluation sheet for the entry she submitted earlier was here.
My submission that was evaluated by Ao!
── I didn’t send it to the second round, but I feel that Hyonomiya-san’s work is really interesting. I wrote that in my evaluation sheet too, it would take a while before it is posted, please read it then.
Recalling Ao’s words, Hiyuki calmed her beating heart, opened the envelope to read the letter.
The contents include an explanation document and an A4 sized evaluation sheet. Hiyuki pulled out the evaluation sheet and read it.
Title: ‘The lonely me came to an alternate world, becoming the hero, demon king and the emperor of a harem paradise’
Pen name: Yoroisame
Overall: C+, not selected
Those were the first lines she saw.
In the past, in a five grades system, she either get a E or a D, but she got a C+ this time!
Just this fact was enough to move Hiyuki to the verge of tears──
She continued reading with bated breath.
The story is structured really well, the attention paid to setting up the plot feels nice. In the traffic accident scene at the very beginning, the use of large fonts as an ending leaves a deep impression, and captivates me. This is a good point.
The part after the main character Radiance arrives in the different world and before he meets Sylvia and the others is a bit too long. I suggest condensing the description of this part, or make the pacing smoother. The ‘twist’ of Sylvia and Fiona being the same person is great, but too many hints were given to the readers and lowered the sense of surprise. I will advise hiding some of the information to achieve better results. It ended on a happy reunion, so having an event happen after that feels unnecessary.
The writing made frequent use of varying font size, special characters, multiple punctuations, which is a joyous way of writing. The large font at the end of the opening scene felt really refreshing. Please cherish how you joyous feeling when writing in such a way and work hard to use this method more effectively. On the flip side, overusing this technique will make it hard to leave a deep impression, so please do so prudently.
Instead of long passages of dialogue, it would be better to insert descriptions of expression and movement, which will make the rhythm of the story easier to read. You have the basics of writing down, do try out other techniques of expressing yourself.
Unlike any other evaluation sheet she received in the past, Hiyuki felt her throat and chest trembling as she read the comment written in gentle words.
She felt that Ao was saying these words to Hiyuki in a cheerful voice, which made her eyes moist.
── ... Does my work really… have interesting parts?
── 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.
Character Setting: B+
All the female characters are cute and cheerful girls! If you can cut down the numbers a little, it would be easier for the readers to understand.
The main character Radiance is an excellent character who works hard. Radiance is always considerate of the people around him, and I can feel his serious and gentle demeanour.
There are too many shouting lines, these actions that are too conscious about humour feels dissonant, making it harder to understand the charm of Radiance. During the scenes where Radiance is thinking seriously, the joking parts should not go overboard. If you describe Radiance’s feelings in detail, the impression it leaves would be much better. He is a great character, please work harder to show the readers his charm.
── 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.”
── Y-You jest.
── I’m not lying
In response to Hiyuki who didn’t believe him at all, Ao said in a bright voice that the main character apologizing to the car owner who knocked him down made Ao think kindly of him.
When we started writing the manuscripts together, Kazetani-kun is always finding the good points in my story and complimenting me. For the parts that’s not written well, she didn’t refute or mock me, and just said that we should think together to better convey it to the readers...
── 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.
He was always gentle.
He was always encouraging Hiyuki.
In earlier evaluation sheets, her main character that was criticized as failing resonate with the readers, unpleasant and self conceited. But Ao said he likes that character.
Commercial potential: B-
Her heart pounded in her chest and her vision blurred. Hiyuki kept blinking her eyes as she read, and finally reached the overall comments column.
Setting the plot carefully in the most popular story type, designing characters the readers will like, uses puns, varying font size and special characters. I can tell that the author is enjoying herself. It is a work that shares these joyous feelings with the readers and bring about a smile.
The settings that seemed generic at a glance showed glimpses of the thought put in by the author, which is really appealing. Just like the main character Radiance, there is a gap between the appearance he put out in public and how he actually felt inside, I think this work is really meaningful.
‘I think this work is really meaningful.’
Hiyuki kept reading this part again and again.
Hiyuki always felt that Ao was admirable, and as broad as the blue skies. He was unlike Hiyuki who was gloomy and dull, which made her depressed.
And so, Hiyuki gave up. She knew that she would never be a special girl to Ao.
But Ao found so many good points in Hiyuki’s work.
He complimented Hiyuki’s work saying it was ‘really meaningful.’
There are parts that has yet to mature, and couldn’t grasp the use of special techniques well. Too concerned about the view of the readers and cater to their taste too much, this needs to be improved. If these points improve in the future, the writing will get better and better. Please continue to write stories in your own style.
I look forward to reading your next work.
I await your next submission.
Tears dropped onto the words.
Seeing the warm words that were closely spaced together, Hiyuki’s tears kept falling.
Her grandmother who was walking to the mansion from inside the mansion saw Hiyuki crying and opened her eyes in surprise.
“Hiyuki, what’s wrong?”
Hiyuki said in a trembling voice as her tears fell:
“G-Grandmother… There is someone I want to meet no matter what, can I go find him?”
“It is already passed your curfew, can you go tomorrow?”
Grandmother knotted her brow, and Hiyuki cried:
“I have to go now!”
She had to go right now, when her feelings were hyped up after reading Ao’s evaluation sheet.
Her courage will wilt tomorrow.
Grandmother maintained her serious expression and looked straight at Hiyuki.
“8pm, no later than that.”
“Thank you, grandmother.”
Hiyuki put the evaluation sheet back into the envelope, slot it into her bag, put her shoes on again and left the mansion. She rushed through the courtyard dyed red by the evening sun, headed for the gate and called Ao.
── I will let the heroine take the initiative.
Sakutarou’s voice rang in her head, making Hiyuki feel anxious.
All this while, I have things I want to tell Kazetani-kun. If I don’t say it now, I won’t be able to say it ever again.
Subaru parted ways with Cyan, and Subaru returned to his old world.
All good things come to an end.
But after the story ends, if Subaru wants to meet Cyan again and took action ──
“Hyonomiya-san? What happened?”
After her call got through and hearing Ao’s voice, Hiyuki said:
“Kazetani-kun, I will wait for you beside the swimming pool at school. Kazetani-kun, can you come?”
What happened to Hyonomiya-san!?
As the sun becomes dinner and the scenery transition into night, Ao pedalled his bicycle hard. He was pushed along by Sakutarou and Aeka earlier in the day, and Ao didn’t read his manuscripts at home, and kept thinking about Hiyuki.
He put the phone on the floor and kept looking down at it, thinking to himself that he will call Hiyuki in ten minutes and ask if she wants to meet at the cafe. But ten minutes later, no, twenty minutes later ── When he was still hesitating, the phone suddenly rang.
It was Hiyuki.
He scrambled to pick up the phone, and heard an urgent voice.
── I will wait for you beside the swimming pool at school.
What happened at the swimming pool?
Because Hiyuki only stated that she wanted him to go there, Ao could only rush down the stairs, charge out of his house and hurry there on his bicycle.
“The heroine probably made her move right?”
“Well, maybe Ao will display his guts too.”
Situated in a small alley, in the cafe where Ao and Hiyuki did their after school creative work project, Sakutarou and Aeka was spending their time leisurely.
After Hiyuki left the cafe, Sakutarou received a call from Aeka.
“The recording ended earlier than expected, I will come and meet you now.”
And they met here.
“I am really envious of Ao.”
It was a rare sight seeing Sakutarou complain to Aeka.
“Because he is spending his youth with a girl as pretty as Hyonomiya-san?”
“Well, I’m envious about that too but… that’s not all. That guy finds anything he reads to be interesting, and he means it. When I first started content creation, I am moved by everything I see, and find everything I read interesting and exciting. I will flip through manga magazines from cover to cover, and watch new animes in their entirety. All of that is interesting. But now, no matter what I watch, what I read, I don’t find them as interesting as before. I don’t want to admit it, but I feel really anxious and empty.”
Sakutarou supported his face with one hand as he said lazily. Aeka listened to him quietly.
“It will be over if I start droning on about how boring other people’s works are. That would be really ugly. Just imagining myself becoming like that makes me break out in goosebumps. If that is the only thing I can feel, I will quit the industry. The manuscripts that get to be read by Ao sure are fortunate. Ao read them with the feelings of joy and happiness, and found so many good points about them. It would be a problem if all readers are like Ao, the creators will lose their sense of tension. But I think it’s great that there are fortunate readers and fortunate manuscripts being read too.”
Sakutarou moved his hand that was supporting his head, rested his head on the table and complained:
“I don’t think I can be like Ao, and think everything is interesting. Ahhh, how frustrating. If I can read from Ao’s perspective and view the world with Ao’s eyes, what beautiful things I would see.”
Sakutarou muttered ‘damn it’, and pressed his forehead onto the table like a kid. Unlike him, Aeka used a more matured and warm voice than usual and said softly:
“Ao is Sakutarou’s aspiration right?”
“No, he is like the past me that is gone. From ten years ago.”
Sakutarou answered, and Aeka frowned:
“Why are you lying about your age, you are already an adult ten years ago right? And I saw Saku’s album from high school, you looked like a thug, nothing like the cheerful Ao-kun.”
After finishing her complaints, Aeka reverted to her gentle voice.
“I can empathize with you on envying Ao-kun. Ao-kun is a healthy and pure child. I want to be like Ao-kun and accept everything with a kind heart look at everything with refreshing eyes and treat everyone gently…”
Aeka then reached out from gently and patted Sakutarou’s head of messy hair that was resting on the table.
“In Saku’s eyes, I must look really rigid and stiff.”
Aeka mumbled with a slightly bitter voice, and Sakutarou answered with his face still on the table:
“Wako is a good woman, it’s my heart that is corrupted.”
“Fufu, if not for that, we might have moved on from this stage that feels so fresh, and go onto the next phrase. Like air, something we cannot live without. Which are lovers that are like old couples. How about it? Saku, want to achieve this goal together?”
Sakutarou turned his head and looked up at Aeka. As he looked at Aeka’s bright smile, his lips curled into a smile too.
“That’s fine too.”
He muttered and pulled Aeka over and pecked her on the cheeks.
“Alright, I’m full of drive again, time to go home and work hard!”
Sakutarou stood up energetically, and Aeka said with a blushing intoxicated face.
“Idiot! The mood was great just now! I will definitely ── not break up with you again.”
She hugged Sakutarou tightly.
When the crimson sky gradually turned a translucent purple, Ao charged through the school gates on his bicycle.
The last scene of Subaru and Cyan’s story was like this too.
Subaru stood at the shore in the night as waves washed onto the beach, preparing to return to his original world. Cyan rushed to his side ──
Parking his bicycle beside the fence that surrounded the swimming pool, he could see Hiyuki’s figure on the other side of the fence.
Her long light brown hair was shining because of the rays of light from outdoors. A plain one piece dress covered her slender body, her skirt swaying slightly with the humid summer night wind, she looked just like a mermaid by the shore. Her eyes were looking down at the rippling waters in the pool.
Hiyuki probably heard the sound of the bicycle pedals and lifted her head. Looking through the fence, she locked eyes with Ao, although her lips that had a mole beside it move, but no sound came out, just like the real mermaid princess. An anxious expression appeared on her petite face.
“What’s the matter, Hyonomiya-san?”
To the ears of Cyan who was running hard, Subaru’s voice sounded hoarse and unclear. Just like Cyan who wanted to rush to Subaru’s side before he leaves, Ao who bore the same feeling as he parked his bicycle and rushed to the fence, Hiyuki’s voice permeated the night air and entered Ao’s ears.
“Kazetani-kun… Thank you…!”
Under the shine of the street light, she stood beside the pool by herself. On the other side of the fence, Hiyuki shouted with a frowning face.
Her long hair shook as she shouted again and again with her misty eyes on Ao:
“I have always been meaning to thank you! Thank you for reading my work! Thank you for telling me it is interesting! Thanking for finding its good points! Thank you for listening to my wish and write together with me! Thanks to Kazetani-kun, I have confidence now! Thank you!”
Just like Subaru thanking Cyan. Subaru thought of all the wonderful moments he spent with Cyan, his heart filled with happiness as he expressed his thanks repeatedly. Hiyuki kept shouting like Subaru did.
Thank you, Kazetani-kun, thank you!
Thank you for changing me!
Thanking for treating me well!
In Ao’s eyes, the side of the swimming pool that was giving off a blue glow looked just like an underwater world.
He remembered that time he went to the aquarium with Hiyuki and his heart pounded as he approached her slowly, step by step.
── Liking a person not because he is charming… But find him charming because you like him?
── Either way is possible. When you think the other party is charming, that’s when you fell in love with him. Ahh, that’s foreshadowing too.
If you think the other party is speaking ── That means…
Hiyuki kept her cute lips that had a mole beside it shut, fluttered her eyelashes, then walked to the fence. Hiyuki’s eyes, her long hair, fair face and thin lips all seemed to be translucent and sparkling.
That must mean ──
Hiyuki grabbed the fence with her pale fingers.
Ao reached through the fence and touched Hiyuki’s icy fingers.
Her eyes that were as deep as the ocean looked closely at Ao.
Just like Subaru grabbing Cyan’s hand tightly in his last moment as he watched Cyan intently.
The instant he saw the lips with a mole beside it move, Ao spoke just like Cyan did, expressing his overflowing feelings to the person before him.
“Kazetani-kun, I love you.”
“Hyonomiya-san, I love you.”
── Cyan, I love you.
── Subaru, I really really love you.
The two of them held hands, and Subaru slowly vanished before Cyan who was speaking tearfully, with an incredibly happy smile on his lips.
When the sensation in her hands disappears gradually, Cyan shouted repeatedly: I really love you, I have always loved you! As he listened, Subaru returned to his original world.
That was the ending of the story crafted by Ao and Hiyuki.
But at this moment, Ao’s hand reached through the fence and held Hiyuki’s hand.
Feeling Hiyuki’s soft and warm hands, Ao saw Hiyuki opened her mouth with a mole beside it and her eyes that were filled with tears ── Her deep blue eyes sparkled under the moonlight and she smiled.
The dim night was like an underwater water world, the waves pushed by the wind were conveying their feelings to other party, as they watched each other.
Just like the sequel of Subaru and Cyan’s story ──
Even though they parted briefly, the two of them definitely can ──
Passing through the fence, Ao and Hiyuki’s face drew near each other. Hiyuki’s icy fingertips turned warm because of the heat from Ao.
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