Ero Manga Sensei Volume 6 Chapter 2
== Chapter 2 ==
During the talk show for "The cutest little sister in the world" at Akihabara, it was the first time Eromanga-sensei showed herself.
In the same day, at a room inside Akihabara, I was eating with my co-worker.
"Thank you for your hard work."
"Hm, I hope much more people will know about my new novel."
A blond haired man in spring clothes answered me. He was my junior, Kunimitsu Shidou. Next to him and Kusanagi-senpai.
When I left the stage, I saw Elf and Muramasa-senpai too, but I went with these two instead because of "something important among men".
"Thank you very much. All because of everyone's effort."
I said. That was the truth anyway, I didn't do much. The talk show success because Eromanga-sensei (or rather, because of my aunt, Kyouka-san)
"So…what is this <i>important among men</i> that you spoke of?"
I got a real bad feeling, so I asked Kusanagi-senpai while mentally prepared.
“Well,…it was about Kunimitsu.”
I repeated after him then turned to Shidou-kun.
Normally he looked like a bright young man, but today his shoulder dropped, and his head hung low. Now that I had a closer look, his expression was terrible. Did he not get a good sleep or something?
"Actually, recently….I felt really tired."
"Tired? So you got a writer's block?"
"It's not like I couldn't write anything, but the progress is too slow. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't do it…" He sighed.
"I was writing, but suddenly I found myself searching for <i>How to raise motivation</i> and my novel didn't get even a single word longer!"
Wow wow wow!
This was quite normal for people working at home, I bet most of us had that at some point.
"If I were you, I'd go get some sleep."
Sleep for a few hours and take a bath - while you might not recover to your top condition, at least it will renew your motivation. Useful in both work and study.
Hearing my suggestion, Shidou-kun shook his head.
"Even after I took a sleep, nothing changed at all. I couldn't write…then slowly, I couldn't image how did I write a novel before…so it turned into many sleepless nights."
"Hah, so the situation was quite serious. Did something happen?"
I didn't think that there was anything I could do, but at least I should try.
"There were a lot…Do you remember when I participated in <i>World Light novel tournament</i> ?"
<i>World Light novel tournament</i>
It was originally meant to be a tournament for a new author, but because a big shot novelist almost ruined it all, so in the end someone who is neither newbie nor famous ended up winning. A very messed up event (among newbies anyway).
"At the time, my work could have been become a novelist if I continued to develop it."
Back then, Elf said the same thing. She said Shidou-kun was still writing his series of short novels which he started with, that his story can warm people's heart.
"For half a year later, I was trying to continue…but none were approved, I couldn't do it."
It was nothing unusual, but I couldn't say it to him.
Well, if we couldn't write, our income will be immediately affected. It was not a good thing.
That was one of the reasons Shidou-kun felt down. "Work not going well".
"You said a lot, so that meant there were other reasons?"
"Yes." He told me with teary eyes "Another reason…it was my bleeding heart since White Valentines…"
I didn't fully understand, but it looked like Shidou-kun likes my editor, Kagurazaka-san.
Some of you might have already forgotten, so allow me to say it again:
During the Valentine, I, together with Army and Shidou-kun, make that <i>Valentine battle plan</i>, which allowed Shidou-kun to receive chocolate from Kagurazaka-san (a friendly chocolate, I must say)
A month later, in White Valentine, Shidou-kun made his response in a form of a very impressive cake. But Kagurazaka-san ate it together with her (male) co-workers.
In other words, his feeling didn't reach a certain someone. His heart broken, Shidou-kun ended up a drunkard at my home.
The second the reason Shidou-kun felt down. "Love not going well".
"I see. So that's why you felt down."
"There was more!"
"Today, I planned to come here, to enter this spring event to change the mood…but I met a lot of new novelists, new authors. Many of them had a talk show, many of them looked so happy…I felt even worse. I have never received a single mail from my reader!"
He said, his head hung low like he could drop on the table at any moment.
Kusanagi-senpai laughed, said:
"You should've acted like me, using the resentment to fuel your work! Ah, congratulation, Izumi-sensei, <b>Sekaimo</b>'s sale have reached 100.000 copies! Clearly, someone at the bottom of the barrel like me couldn't compare with you. Do you have a plan to animate it?"
"Ahahaha, who knows?"
I have never reached that number before, so I had no idea how to handle it. Unlike Elf, I couldn't play it by ear. Thus all I could do was smile wryly.
The third the reason Shidou-kun felt down. "Compare to other novelists, my work is not going well".
…That was basically it.
"Hah…I didn't have the energy to become jealous anymore…I could only drop down…"
Shidou-kun smiled blankly. Next to him, Kusanagi-senpai nodded.
"So just like you see here, I have talked with him many times before, but I couldn't stand it anymore. Izumi-kun, give us a hand."
"Even if you said that…."
While I do want to help, I don't think that this is something I could do. I think it's something people have to do themselves.
For example, if Elf or Muramasa-senpai heard me saying something so depressing, I bet they will either made fun of me or scold me. That's their own way to help me to recover my spirit. So that I could fix the problem myself.
This is not something I could do. I felt that if I forced it, it might backfire.
Kusanagi-senpai turned to me:
"So, Izumi, this is your chance."
"Chance? What can I do?"
"In order to help Kunimitsu, let's go to a group date."
That wasn't something I expected Kusanagi-senpai to say.
Next to him, even Shidou-kun's eyes widened.
"Group date…you meant…well, with the same number of men and women, we began with a small talk and it will mark the beginning of a relationship…"
"Yes! If there was a beautiful girl with us, you might recover!"
Suddenly, with a *sweep*, Shidou-kun raised from the table.
"That's right! Last time Kusanagi-senpai brought me to a club, I felt very motivated!"
"I will say it beforehand, I will not drink with Kunimitsu."
"Wh, why? It was so fun! Although I didn't remember much!"
"Shut your trap! Anyway, I will not drink with you."
Their relationship wasn't too bad.
Allow me to re-told you about this case. There was a time that, due to Shidou-kun's drunkenness, Kusanagi-senpai (together with me and Elf) had a memory none of us want to remember.
Kusanagi-senpai crossed his hand into an “X”.
"This time, we have Izumi, who is still a minor, so no alcohol."
“Listen to me, Kusanagi-senpai, Shidou-kun. Can you please stop making a plan without asking me? I’m NOT going with your plan! I have someone I like!” I quickly countered, added “Beside, Shidou-kun has someone he likes too! Then why would you go with this plan anyway?”
"Well, you have a point…"
This junior looked like he would agree to anything.
“Let me tell you what is Kunimitsu thinking. <i>My work is not going well. My love is not going well. Everything is not going well. It’s not like I will give up on Kagurazaka-san, but it’s a chance to meet a new girl. Even better if she is younger than me.</i>”
"I, I didn't think that way!" Shidou-kun hastily corrected him.
Facing Kusanagi-senpai's eyes, Shidou-kun could do nothing but turn away.
Kusanagi-senpai gently put his hand on Shidou-kun's shoulder, turned to me:
"Even if there is someone you like, it's not a problem to go to a group date. Don't be so stubborn Izumi."
“If you let your main character in a light novel said that, the readers will beat you into a bloody pulp.”
Recently, people began to demand at least some kind of mannerly in the main character.
Kusanagi-senpai shook his shoulder:
“Both me and Kunimitsu aren’t main characters in light novel anyway ~”
"I think it's something normal people do."
"I don't care for your reason. None of us care, right Kunimitsu?"
"Eh…wh, what should I do…"
Crap. Shidou-kun is being affected by him.
Kusanagi-senpai slammed his fist on the table:
"Say, Izumi….the high schooler Izumi Masamune-sensei, aren't you going to help your heartbroken junior? I only wanted to introduce him to some cute girls in place of an old woman!"
"Don't call Kagurazaka-san an old woman!"
As expected of Shidou-kun, he immediately picked that line up. I followed:
“Wait a sec! What are you planning to make me do?”
"Introduce me to some high school girl."
Kusanagi-senpai asked with a straight face.
Police! I'm gonna call the police to arrest you!
"How, how could I introduce my friend to someone who is so suspicious like you!"
"Suspicious? Where? We just wanted to have fun!"
Hearing my firm refusal, Kusanagi-senpai took Shidou-kun's neck and pushed his face to me.
"Izumi! Look at how pure his eyes are! Is that something a person who constantly thinking about eroge can have?"
"I don't know whether he was thinking about eroge or not, but his eyes are clouded! Just like a dead fish!"
"Well, that mean he is pitiful, right?"
"….Can you please stop dragging me into this?"
Shidou-kun muttered. I averted my eyes from him and turned back to Kusanagi-senpai:
"What about you then? Can you introduce someone you know to him?"
"I don't know anyone who is pure enough to cure such young man. Only you could find a pure girl who is younger than him."
His word just now suddenly became serious, it made me suddenly felt some pressure.
“Joining a group date is going to give you many useful love references! It’s such a golden chance, normally you could never have them.”
If I could think clearly, I could see that his reason is actually very unrealistic. But at that time I was tricked and felt that what he said made sense.
"Good, Izumi - hurry up and go invite some cute girl to a group date! I bet it's going to be fun! We could help Kunimitsu! If you couldn't trust us, you are welcomed to come and watch over us!"
"Yes yes! Cute girl! High school girl!"
"Please look for some innocent girls, Izumi-kun!"
Hey hey! Shidou-kun? Since when you tried to join in?
“If possible, please try to find a light novel girl!”
"If such a person exist, she would be an angel….where can I find someone like that?"
Oh, Shidou-kun sounded so strange today.
"Ah ~ are you going to lay your hand on your co-worker, Izumi-kun? It's not something I could learn ~"
"You have no right to say that!"
Hurry up and tell me who do you like?
"Ah, that trip was so fun. Izumi-kun had a good time with two beautiful girls while I and Chris-san had to work…"
It's spring, yet you still remember something from last year's summer?
“Izumi! You…can you act so heartlessly toward your junior? What a cold senior!”
Kusanagi-senpai, could you please stop faking surprise?
"To tell the truth, I think that Izumi-kun owed me one for stayed out of your way during that trip."
"No no no, Shidou-kun. The trouble you brought for us after you were drunk equaled it out."
"Eh? Did that happened?"
"Don't tell me your forgot!"
Did he really not remember? Or he was faking it again?
Kusanagi-senpai said in a serious tone:
"He clearly didn't remember."
When Shidou-kun became drunk at my home, Kusanagi-senpai knew about that too.
“I have no idea what you two were talking about, but now is the time for me to demand Izumi-kun’s help for what you owed me. Introduce a pure girl who likes light novel for me.”
"I, I have never owed you anything…"
"Say it once more: a young girl, you heard? Young!"
"Don't be mistaken, I only wanted a platonic friendship. Nothing more…just something to cure my heart…!"
Do you really want to talk to a high school girl <b>THAT</b> much? Weren’t you a high school student not long ago?
"Fine! Fine! I will try my best!"
I was coerced into doing that by both my junior and senior…
In the end, I agreed to their demand.
Next was the troublesome part… where can I find such a girl…?
The next week, in the classroom. I was lying down, unable to think of a solution when someone greeted me:
That was my classmate, Takasago Tomoe. A beautiful long black hair. A well-endowed breast which nearly burst out of her uniform.
"Thank you for your hard work. I saw your talk show too."
"I didn't think that Eromanga-sensei is such a beautiful woman."
She wasn’t the real one - of course, I couldn’t tell her that.
Tomoe lowered her head, whispered to me:
"…Neh, is Eromanga-sensei the one you like, Mune-kun?"
"Eh….how should I put it…."
"Did I get it right?"
"Well, not exactly…"
Yes, I do like Eromanga-sensei. But not the Eromanga-sensei in the talk show, Kyouka-san. Tomoe's question wasn't something I could answer easily.
"Well, please don't ask about it anymore." I forcefully cut this topic off "Say…."
"Is something wrong? Why are you looking at me?" Tomoe looked confused.
"Actually….for a lot of reasons, I'm looking for someone who fit some <i>conditions</i>."
Seeing her puzzled look, I continued:
“Yeah. A cute young girl, who is pure, likes light novels and can easily get along with people.”
"Ah, are you talking about me."
Tomoe laughed. Each bird loves to hear himself sing, they said. I knew she would answer like this.
"Well…actually….I do agree that Tomoe would fit those conditions…."
Still…how should I put it…
“…I, I was only joking, but you took it seriously. How sly.”
Now she was embarrassed.
"What exactly are you talking about?"
"A group date."
“I’m looking for a candidate for a group date - with me. That’s why I’m looking for girls who fit those conditions.”
Suddenly I felt a chill running down my spine.
She was looking down on me, didn't she?
"You said you have someone you like already ~ mwuuuuu."
Kusanagi-senpai! Shidou-kun! Can’t you see!? A truly pure girl will <b>NOT</b> go to a group date!
"I, I can't say no! My junior is feeling down lately —"
I hastily explained my situation to Tomoe. I made sure to tell her that this wasn't anything strange, just a normal, friendly group date.
After hearing my explanation, Tomoe still looked displeased.
"What do you mean, friendly group date? I don't get it."
"In my junior's words, that mean a meeting where everyone can enjoy themselves."
"…Hm. That person sounded like a hikikomori."
Yeah, that's right.
Tomoe thought about it for a moment, then she glared at me:
"Does the person you like know about this?"
"Like ~ I ~ said ~ does the person you like know about the fact you are going to a group date?"
"No, she doesn't."
"Hoh ~ I see."
Tomoe crossed her hands in front of her chest, stared directly at me.
"Mune-kun ~ you have someone you like ~ but you still sneak to a group date ~"
"What do you think about that?"
"Aghhhhh! I felt so guilty! I didn't dare to look at her again!"
I couldn’t imagine how Shidou-kun could remain so calm. As expected of a professional hikikomori.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't do something so unfaithful in front of the one I like.
<i>"Is something wrong, Nii-san? Your stomach…hurt?"</i>
I could almost see Sagiri's face in front of me. Crap, now my stomach is truly hurt.
I grabbed my head in despair. Tomoe looked at me with a serious expression, then sighed.
"If you are so troubled by it, then refuse! Hurry hurry! You are so ~ uuuuuuuuseless !"
Saying it, she waited a moment before putting a hand on my shoulder
“Alright, ~ let me help you.”
I opened my eyes wide:
"Help me…are you saying that you are willing to go to that group date?"
“That wasn’t what I meant. I meant I will help you to solve two of your problem: <i>I felt guilty for tricking the person I like by going into that group date</i> and <i>It’s troublesome to find such a girl</i>.”
"Can you do that?"
"First, to fix your feeling of guilt."
“It still mostly depends on you. All I could do is giving you a little help. In the end, I don’t know what kind of person you like is, what kind of your relationship with her.”
"Still, if I'm your girlfriend…"
"Um, if Tomoe is my girlfriend?"
Maybe because I was thinking too much, I replied with a slightly nervous tone. Tomoe blushed too.
"If, I mean if, okay?"
"…Okay..*cough cough*…If…if I'm your girlfriend…in this case…I'd hope you would tell me."
"Tell you huh…"
"Yes. Just like you just explain to me. Like how a senior forced you into doing this to help another junior who is feeling down. Tell her everything. At least I'd understand that my boyfriend was only trying to help his junior."
"But what if she got angry?"
"Tomoe-san, what can I do in this case?"
I sincerely asked the innocent and pure Tomoe for her opinion.
With a quick motion, she pointed a finger at her face:
“Bribe her with a present.”
"I thought you are innocent and pure?"
“I’m innocent and pure! Listen carefully! Hear me, stupid Mune-kun! The iron rule when dealing with an angry girl is giving them presents.”
"At least, give them something valuable."
"And you said you are innocent and pure! Can you please make it like the one I like only in it for money?"
I repeated my earlier remark. Tomoe calmly spread her arms:
"In the end, I have no idea about the person you like. It's not important about what kind of present if she like you ~ Do you know Mune-kun, if you hide your feeling inside your heart, it will never reach her."
In other words, if my feeling doesn’t change into action, it’s meaningless. Thus, that’s why I need a present.
That was Tomoe's solution.
“Do you understand? Explain to her everything. Then pick a present she likes. Please do that”
"Thank you! I feel so relieved now."
I patted my chest, feeling at ease and thanked Tomoe.
“That’s good to hear. Oh right right - when you give her the present, make sure to say it like that.”
She grinned and made a cute pose:
"I like you the most."
"I'm dead if I say that."
"Oh ~ so it's what your relationship like ~ I see I see !" Tomoe rolled her eyes.
"Anyway - I will give it a try!"
At least, I have some idea what can I buy for my little sister!
"And about my second problem!"
I cut off the current topic. Tomoe also didn't seem to mind.
"Well ~ based on what you said, there is nothing dangerous about that group date, right? Can I trust you Mune-kun? Also, as a light novel fan, I'm more than happy to help a light novel author recover."
Tomoe whispered something into my ear.
“That hikikomori novelist wanted a girl who <i>likes light novels, innocent, pure and young</i>, right?”
"Hm hm. I know some kid who is even better than that ~"
Tomoe laughed evilly.
The next Sunday.
Masamune's household, living room. We decided to hold the group date here.
Why here you asked? Well, I will explain it now - or rather, I need to make something clear.
Why the situation turned into such a nightmare “Take part in a group date right below the one you like”?
I tried to hold back my tear, but everything was in place now. I could only try to get it over with.
Some boys and girls were sitting in the salon in front of me.
The boys included me – Izumi Masamune, Kunimitsu Shidou, Kusanagi Ryouki. Three people in total.
The girls included —
"Jinno Megumi, 13 years old ~☆"
"….Natsume Aya….11 years old."
"Shiratori Ageha! 8 years old!"
"………………………………….." <- Kusanagi-senpai.
"……………………………………." <- Shidou-kun.
Facing those girls who were smiling happily, all of us boys were deadly pale, nearly petrified.
Finally, Kusanagi-senpai put a hand on my shoulder:
“Izumi ~~ kun ~~! Can you go to the toilet with me?”
"My house's toilet is single-person use only, senpai."
"Be quiet. Come here, Kunimitsu."
“Ouch, it hurts…do not pull.”
"I have to come too?"
Both me and Shidou-kun were forcefully pulled to the hallway.
At this time, Megumi happily pointed at us:
"Ah ~ I know. Next is your group date strategy session! Hm hm, go ahead ♪, it's necessary if you wanted to success after all. Okay everyone, let's hold a strategy session too ♥!"
What a big misunderstanding.
And…this conversation took place:
"From left to right, 70 points, 40 points, 10 points. What do you guys think?"
"Who do you want to take?"
"I'd like the one in the middle."
"Is there something wrong with your eyes?"
Yup. Such a dirty conversation.
Of course, Megumi's group was talking about us.
“Look, Kusanagi-senpai. Because of you, they have a bad impression of us!”
He closed the door to the living room and cornered me into a wall.
"Izumi…what the hell?"
"Stop acting dumb. What the hell with those girls?"
"Izumi-kun, you told me that you will introduce cute girls for me…"
I glanced at the living room, answered:
"I did like you requested. Cute, young girls - like you said."
"You found middle school girls and elementary school girls…!? Did we ask you to do that?"
"Wait wait…you two, don't break my neck! It hurt!"
"You are just pretending to be stupid!"
“We asked you, a high school student because we hoped to meet a high school girl who likes light novels! Yet you…”
"That brat said she is only 8 years old!"
"She will become a high school girl …in the future. Please think about it."
"Now! What is important is …NOW!"
"What can we do NOW? We have to endure this nightmare group date?"
"How about just having a little chat and enjoy yourselves?"
I tried to maintain my act "I don't understand what your problem is"
"You are such…an idiot! A very big idiot! Do you think this doesn't concern you?"
Seeing how I still refused to admit any ill-intent, Kusanagi-senpai was angry.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Now, even a brat has a smartphone. Even if she doesn't know how dangerous the Internet is, but if you asked her to keep something a secret, she will happily broadcast it via SNS, will tell all of her friends! She will use Line, Instagram too —"
"And your point is?"
"Don't you understand!? After today, what if they take a picture? Like how fast an image with the title "I'm going to a group date with light novel author ♥" will spread? This is hard evidence! We, in our twenties! They, mostly still in elementary school! The whole world will know!"
Kusanagi-senpai's eyes became bloodshot.
"Er…I think you overreact…."
"Fool, I will give you a warning as your senior. You should prepare yourselves in the event of 「 All of my public information on the Internet was taken by an ill-intent third party, then used against me during my darkest hour 」. Encryption, friend-only information and stuff have no meaning against them. I have received numerous nude image of light novel author, most of them I have never seen before - that was the proof. How do you plan to deal with that then?"
"I understand what you mean! Please stop giving me such a nightmare example!"
Internet is terrifying! Really terrifying!
Still, based on what he said, it's equally dangerous if he goes to a group date with a high school girl.
"Then….what do you suggest to do now, Kusanagi-senpai?"
"I'm trying to think of something…wait a moment."
Just the fact that he didn’t say “I’m going home” showed me how fearless he is.
We returned to the living room. The girls were waiting for us. We should tell them clearly the intent of the group date.
"You are ~ really slow ~ Onii-san ♪"
The one who just spoke in a sugar-like tone was none other than Jinno Megumi.
Thirteen years old. Sagiri's class rep, also one of her friend.
Today, Megumi wore a spring coat and short skirt which showed off her healthy legs.
You probably have guessed, but all of the girls here are Megumi's friend. Tomoe asked Megumi to gather them.
Of course, they knew about us beforehand.
“…From Megumi, we knew that all of you are a light novel author.”
The girl with glasses is Natsume Aya, eleven years old. She got a ribbon on her hair, which suited her normal skirt.
Based on what Megumi told me - "Aya-chan want to become a light novel author in the future!"
She also took part in some light novel contest - no wonder she looked a bit nervous.
"Please to meet you, Onii-chan!"
Just now, the one with a low voice was Shiratori Ageha, eight years old
She had light brown hair, wore a uniform that didn't look her age. A delicate look which promises a real beauty in the future.
Just like Megumi said - "Ageha-chan is the one who boys like most among my friends!"
To think that Megumi would say her friend was more famous than her among boys…
Well, she is cute, that's for sure….but "boys" that she spoke of probably meant "boys her age". At least I myself don't feel anything.
She was the third person in this group date, the trump card - well, I will explain later.
Megumi looked at us:
"Alright, now is your turn, Onii-san ♥"
That was a normal part of a group date…but
We (men) looked at each other and quickly held a conversation
(…I don't want to tell them my name)
(I don't want to be called a lolicon…I don't want to be called a lolicon…I don't want to be called a lolicon author…!?)
(…My pen name is already revealed….)
All of us knew the danger of revealing our real name and pen name.
We also knew it's meaningless to ask to keep this group date a secret.
"..Then I will start."
Kusanagi-senpai raised his right hand without fear.
Well..what is he going to do…there isn’t much he could do when the girls have already known about his job….almost none, in fact.
"Please tell us your pen name."
Aya-chan was so nervous, like a fan attending a photograph event.
Here it comes!
She is going to ask him this!
This Onii-chan, who look like Prince Noctis (TL Note: Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum is the main character of FF XV) - what kind of light novel he wrote - as a light novel fan, she must be dying to know.
Both Kusanagi-senpai and I were backed into a corner. Megumi added insult to our injury:
"By the way ~ aside from your name, please tell us about your novel."
Stop acting like a class rep, please!
Damn it, Kusanagi-senpai! What should we do now! Now we had nowhere to run, what can we do?
I gave the black-coat novelist next to me pleading eyes.
He answered with a straight face:
“Kadono Kouhei. My novel is Boogiepop series.” (TL Note: Boogiepop series is, indeed written by Kadono Kouhei. More available in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boogiepop_series)
My eyes almost jumped out of its socket, I looked at Kusanagi-senpai in shook.
"..What, what are you talking about…"
I muttered weakly to myself. Kusanagi-senpai whispered back:
"Now, I'm pretending to be Kadono Kouhei-sensei."
"No no no no no!
You are pretending to be someone else! And you shouldn't even use that name! It's too much of a risk!
Because Kusanagi-senpai used a very famous novelist’s name, Aya-chan made an “Ehhhhhhh?” sound of surprise. He took that time to give me an order.
“Hurry up and play along Izumi, this can’t help. I will not allow the group date between light novel author and elementary school girl become public knowledge. Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”
“If you succeed, Kadono Kouhei-sensei will be known as the one who goes to a group date with an elementary school girl, are you sure it’s going to be fine?”
"How could Kadono Kouhei-sensei be angry because of that. It's Boogiepop, you know?"
What does Boogiepop have anything to do with this?
"And even if you faked it, she will know very soon - since you didn't look remotely like the real one."
"As long as I live through this, I will do anything…! It's not like we will meet again! And I doubt this girl know the real one either! We might make it with some luck. Worse case, we could tell her that we don't care if she believe us or not."
"Listen to yourselves!"
That plan was full of holes.
"Cough cough cough cough..!"
Because of Kusanagi-senpai's pen name, Aya-chan was very, very agitated.
"Is that…true? Can you please give me your signature!"
"He was lying. His pen name is Kusanagi Ryouki. His novel series wasn't 「Boogiepop」 but 「Pure Love」"
Kusanagi-senpai stood up, but I ignored him.
"I'm Izumi Masamune."
"I'm Kunimitsu Shidou."
Shidou-kun said, giving up. I raised a hand toward Megumi:
"Sorry, Megumi. Can you please keep this group date a secret?"
"Of course ~ I promise."
Megumi easily agreed to my request. She didn't react at all when Kusanagi-senpai introduced with that fake name, too.
By the way, Ageha-chan was still unsure what is going on, she titled her head in confusion.
“While Megumi sometimes made up details in the story, but she always kept her promise. The normal introduction should be fine.”
Anyway, after knowing that Sagiri is Eromanga-sensei, Megumi was keeping that a secret…so it's going to be okay…right? While what Kusanagi-senpai said terrified me, at least I thought it's better than lying outright.
I glanced at Megumi, she quickly put her hands on her face and acted embarrassed.
"Oh ~♥ I didn’t think that Onii-san trusts me that much ♪ I’m so happy ~~ My heart is racing!”
…I think I should not mention that during our talk show, Megumi made up a lot of details.
"Anyway, it should be when we share a drink! Onii-chan, let me fill your cup with my love ~~"
"Hey, there is no need for that."
After Megumi’s words, the group date officially began.
*Thud Thud*. The ceiling shook.
The shock just now meant “Tone it down”
"…………………..I have something to take care of, please make yourself at home."
I stood up and left the living room, went toward the stairs.
"Crap…Sagiri…sounded like she was angry."
As of now, I can notice her mood based on the sound alone.
Finally, I stood in front of <i>the locked room</i>. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought I saw a dark aura filled with hatred coming out of the door.
And so, I entered and faced my angry little sister.
Now, allow me to tell you why did I pick my house for this.
It was the third days after I spoke with Tomoe. After came back from school, inside <i>the locked room</i>, I had a conversation with Sagiri.
"…Nii-san, what is it? You said so serious that there is something you need…"
"…Before that, please take it."
"What? Ah - this is—!!"
Sagiri happily took the book I gave her.
"This…this is….the godly book…."
"The 「Pantsu encyclopedia 」which has long stopped printing!”
She raised it high, just like Link raised his master sword in the game. I could faintly hear the same sound.
"How, Nii-san! How could you get it?"
"I asked Tomoe to look for it, then we found it at an old bookstore. I bought it yesterday. That's the one you wanted."
She nodded furiously, still holding that book. It'd be a very heartwarming scene, if you ignore the book title. My little sister was smiling happily
"………..Thank you very much, Nii-san."
"You are welcome, Sagiri."
Ah….paying a lot of money for such erotic book was worth it…But I didn't expected the next thing Sagiri said:
"So, what is your fault this time?"
"What is your fault this time…Nii-san?"
Sagiri asked, still smiling.
So she noticed huh.
Her smile immediately disappeared, she pouted:
"Say it. Hurry up. What did you do…so that you were trying to bribe me?"
"Even my little sister saw it that way?"
"I'll apologize if I'm wrong."
"You are not!"
Sagiri began to kick me, as if saying "I knew it". While it didn't hurt, she kept kicking me:
"Hurry up and tell me! *kick* Nii-san! *kick* "What did you *kick* do this time *kick* ….phew…phew…"
She was tired already. But it was so cute.
"Alright alright, I will tell you! But…listen to me, will you? After hearing the first part, you will be angry, but that was a misunderstanding because you only heard half of it. You have to let me finish."
“Don’t make an excuse. What did you do?”
"Well….this time…I want to go to that…."
"That? What's that?"
There was a long, uncomfortable silence between us.
"Onii-sama….just now…I…I think I misheard you, I can't understand you. Can you please repeat it clearer?"
"Wait wait, you are misunderstanding!"
A gentle smile plus high-class lady tone was so scary!
"Group date, I said group date. But friendly group date!"
"You are clearly just trying to make an excuse! Mwuuuuuuuuuuuuuu ~~ I hate you, Nii-san!"
Crap! All of this was Shidou-kun's fault.
Damn it, this damn hikikomori!
On the verge of a tear, I explained:
“I didn’t want to go to this group date! Shidou-kun was dumped by Kagurazaka-san, and there were many bad things happened to him, so he felt down, thus he dreamed to meet a high school girl! He was crying! And Kusanagi-senpai was on his knees begging me, I couldn’t…couldn’t say no! I could only accept their request! Please believe me!”
I told her everything. Sagiri pouted:
“…You want to…go to a group date with a high school girl?”
“No, not exactly that! After a discussion with Tomoe, I decided to not hold a normal group date, but a make-believe group date to help Kunimitsu recovered his spirit.”
"And then I asked Tomoe, Megumi to help with finding girls."
By the way, at this point, I have already received information about those girls from Tomoe and Megumi.
"Mwu, are you going to have a group date include Megumi-chan?"
"No, just a make-believe group date."
"Even a make-believe group date…what's different from it and a usual group date?"
"The girl’s age is not going to be appropriate."
"Huh? How old are they?"
"There are going to be three girls, which is thirteen years old, eleven years old …and…."
"And? What about the last one?"
Facing a pressure unlike Kyouka-san, all I could do was reply:
"Eight years old."
"……………………….Eh? Once, say it once more….."
"Eight years old."
"……….You are the worse."
There is an elder brother, who is being looked down by his little sister because he is going to go on a group date with an eight years old girl.
That brother is me, by the way.
"No no no! That's the evil plan of the bookstore's mistress!"
Sagiri's eyes began to get watery
"….I knew it…Nii-san is a lolicon."
“What do you mean, I knew it? Since when did such a rumor exist?”
"I don't care! Just let Izumi-sensei's next novel to be named 「Let's meet again at an elementary school 」!"
“How could I name a novel like that! In that situation, the main character who is working as a teacher can not hope to keep his life —! Wait wait wait! I’ll say it again, I’m not a lolicon! I ask you where did that question come from!”
"….Because…because…Nii-san…said…you like me…."
As long as she played this trump card, there was nothing I could do but sighed tiredly.
Why did my little sister mention it now?
Sagiri blushed madly, answered:
"…I…I…look like this…short…flat…chest….so…Nii-san must like…this…."
“That’s wrong, Sagiri.” I denied “I don’t like a small girl. I don’t like a girl with small breast.”
My eyes and Sagiri's meet.
"I like you."
" <nowiki> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ </nowiki> Hm hm hm …is that so…"
Sagiri replied in a tone that suggested she was either angry or…something. Her body was trembling, her head hangs low.
“Yes. I’m not a lolicon. Rather, you can say I prefer a girl with big breast.”
"Ah, is that so!!!!"
She turned her head away.
Why? Why did she get angry now?
She glared at me:
“..Nii-san is not a lolicon…I got it. This group date is a make-believe one…You have a reason to unable to refuse…I got it too…” She paused “It’s not like I can’t forgive you.”
"Feeling down….this is not something simple."
I could feel a hint of experience from Sagiri's word.
"I too…feel down when I couldn't draw a loli…."
Does it really the same as Shidou-kun's case?
"Still…I have a condition…"
And that condition was….
"Make it here."
"Eh? Eh? Ehhhhhhhhhhh?"
"….If you make it here…I will allow it. If you truly not going to lay your hand on an elementary school girl, this shouldn't be a problem."
"No no! This is not going to be a problem….! But is it going to be okay? It might be noisy."
"No problem. I don't like it, but it's better than holding it somewhere I don't know…."
I bowed. My little sister acted tsundere and turned away. But her head swing back:
"Since you at least explained for me first…next time, don't make excuse."
That was everything.
The scene returned to the moment, I was called back to <i>the locked room</i>.
"…Sa…Sagiri…here I come ~"
With a terrified heart, I knocked the darkened door.
With a *creak*, it opened. Sagiri was standing behind, her eyes empty.
“…..Group date.” She said with a displeased tone.
"Ah…well, we are introducing ourselves." I breathed a sigh of relieve.
"Why do you look so tired already?"
"You have to see them to believe….wait, do you even know about Kusanagi-senpai and Shidou-kun?"
"….I have heard about them from you. A drunkard and someone with him."
"Yes yes, it's them alright."
They even came to my house. But to avoid any bad affect to Sagiri, I didn't let she meet them.
"What about those girls?"
"….Those girls who Megumi-chan brought…are they cute?"
"Ah ah ….well…cute…maybe? I meant, they are too small…."
For a middle school student, those girls aren't exactly my type.
In light novel and anime, I don’t have anything against that kind of girls, but in reality, I think most guys would agree with me. Personally, I only keep my guard up near girls who is three years or lower younger than me.
"Hm…is that so?"
"….Nii, Nii-san…love at first sight….I was in elementary school at this time…"
"I was younger back then! The danger zone changed when one getting older!"
By the way, why are we talking about this topic again?
It's too embarrassing! Such cheap trick!
"Mwu…I can't trust you…"
"…I could image Nii-san play with Megumi-chan, making a nice atmosphere then used King Game to force them to undress."
"I'm not going to do that! You, Eromanga-sensei was the one who gave that order!"
"I don't know anyone with that name!"
“Then how could I make you trust me?”
"If you want me to trust you…close your eyes."
Because Sagiri told me that while blushing, I was very confused. I still did like she said, thought
"Is this okay?"
"Lower your head a bit more."
Hah!? Wait, could it be —!?
I focused all of my sense to my lips.
And then - in an instant!
At my — not my lip - my forehead instead, I felt something. It was … like a cloth?
"……………..Sa, Sagiri? What are you doing …to my forehead?"
"Don't move, don't talk. Just be quiet."
I had no choice but to shut up and let her do as she please.
Finally, Sagiri said:
"Okay, done. You can open your eyes now."
I opened my eyes. In front of me was…
Eromanga-sensei, still holding a permanent marker.
"Sagiri! What did you do to my forehead?"
"A spell to make sure Nii-san can't enjoy group date."
"What exactly is that?"
"If that group date was held to cheer your junior up…then it doesn't matter if you can't enjoy it."
Eromanga-sensei laughed, then her voice turned serious:
"Now goes back to your group date, Nii-san."
"No way! At least tell me what you wrote!"
“No! Ah, I forbid you from cleaning it or even looking at a mirror.”
"…..Are you serious?"
"Yes!" She nodded happily, still laughing "I can only feel at ease in this case."
For me, there is no way I could refuse my cute little sister's request.
I returned to the living room, carried the “spell” that Eromanga-sensei cast on me. Before I entered, Megumi runs to me:
“Welcome back Onii-chan ~ phwwww, what is on your forehead?”
I knew it! Sagiri wrote something to make people laughed at me.
"Ah, nah, I got it. You don't have to say it ~"
Megumi cut me off, still laughing.
"I totally got it! Ahahaha, really ~ Onii ~ chan ~ is so cute. You win, you win ♪"
She lightly elbowed me in the gut.
“…By the way, I don’t know what was written on my forehead.”
"— I'm not telling you."
“After the group date is over, let Izumi-chan clean it for you. Don’t look in the mirror beforehand, okay?”
"…I will try."
Still, without knowing what was on my forehead, I couldn’t understand what was you guys thinking.
I changed the topic:
"By the way, how is the group date going, Megumi?"
“We are enjoying a drink. You are late, Onii ~ chan.”
"…Answer me truthfully then….is everything okay?"
"I'm leading, you see. Everything is fine ~"
I felt that nothing good could come out of this disastrous introduction.
"Yup ~ Onii ~ chan, if you are worried, why don't take a look yourselves ♪?"
I went to Kunsagi-senpai, asked:
"Kusanagi-senpai, what are you doing with Aya-chan?"
“Hey, Izumi. What a strange forehead…”
"Please ignore it! What are you doing -"
"Ah, this girl want to become a light novel author, but she got a review blog. I'm teasing her."
"Are you picking a fight with a kid? What are you thinking?"
See? Aya-chan was about to cry!
"Kusanagi-sensei….why do you know my blog?"
“Because you open that blog with your real name. Listen, checking the profile of a girl you just meet via the Internet is pretty much common sense now. Especially if you meet her during a group date. ”
"What do you mean by that!"
"To know for sure whether I have a shot at her, that's why. Even toward you, if I repeat that trick a few years later, I could easily open a conversation by saying 「We have a common interest 」!"
What is he teaching a middle age school girl…
"Have you learn anything? Then how about we get back to this bad review that you wrote about my 「 Pure Love 」."
I understood her feeling. It would be very awkward for a reviewer to meet an author after writing a bad review.
“Why, why do you read the blog? You are a light novel author!”
"Be quiet. Because I'm a light novel author, that's why I check the Internet to see what does people say about my story. Don't you agree, Izumi."
"No no, not me."
“Hm, I see. Still, I have to know. Not only personal blog, I even check ‘hidden website’ and so on.”
"To tell the truth, many comments that praise Kusanagi Ryouki came from me."
"Are you that shameless?" * 2
Both I and Aya-chan screamed. Kusanagi-senpai didn't seem to hear us, thought.
"It's nothing serious. Everyone did that."
"No, they don’t!"
I really, really hope this senpai of mine didn't discredit light novel author anymore.
The poor Aya-chan was covering her face with her hands.
"Ah ~~ Mooo! It's terrible! I came here because I thought I would meet a light novel author. Mwuuuuu"
"I was only teasing you. Sorry."
Kusanagi-senpai put a hand on Aya-chan's head. I said:
"…It's weird, Kusanagi-senpai is treating Aya-chan kindly. Didn't you said you hate the one badmouth your novel online the most?"
"When did I say that?"
"Before your anime was aired."
"It's embarrassing, but now I'm no longer at the same level in the past. After my anime was made, my ranking was increased."
Hm…that was plausible.
“In the end, they are the one who paid for my book, it’s their right to write their own review. Sometimes, those reviews do help to improve my skill. Also, in the face of ¥600 tax, I will not take my frustration on my reader. At worst, I will get angry, that’s all.”
"So you forgive them, huh."
Kusanagi-senpai looked to the distance:
“Mmm…it happened a lot during the time my anime was aired too….Many people badmouthed me…Many blogs bashed me…my inbox was filled to the brim with complaints…they told me to die…My small fandom was mercilessly bullied by Yamada Elf and other novelists….”
Well, your anime was recent, after all.
Kusanagi-senpai sighed, rubbed Aya-chan's head and said:
"Normally, people buy my novel, then read them, then either praise them or bash them. You - a normal reader - is precious. I know that. The one who made me angry now is people who don't read my story, yet still bash it regardless."
"Can you please stop speaking about it?"
That example…well, true, those careless reviews will make an author's blood boil.
"This is the resistance I build up after seeing that people said about me online. The resistance I build up after enduring those merciless attacks. Especially those **** stupid reviewers, those brats who know nothing!"
"Agrh ~ damn, just thinking about them made me mad! If only I have the enough patient! If only I didn't enter this route, enduring this hardship for something even I couldn't fully understand! Damn it all ~"
"Now you are getting side tracked."
"No no. anyway, what I was trying to say it, I don't mind if you hate my novel. I don't mind if you gave it a bad review. I'm not going to hate my reader because of something so trivial."
Kusanagi-senpai looked at Aya-chan, gently said:
"Do you understand?"
Seeing that, Megumi spoke in a cheerful tone:
"Ehehe ~ Kusanagi ~ senpai, you are so ~~ nice! Ehehe ~ here, let's drink ~♪"
Kusanagi-senpai clicked his tongue, coldly told Aya-chan
She replied, a hint of rebellion in her tone. Kusanagi-senpai told his reader:
"Next, please keep buying my book then read them."
"…I will keep writing reviews."
"Do whatever you want."
"…Then I will do it."
With that, both of them turned their head sideway.
Megumi turned to me after witnessing how funny the conversation between Kusanagi-senpai and Aya-chan was, said:
"See, I told you it's going smoothly."
Then, she pointed to the sofa.
"Next ~ is ~~ over there ♪"
On the sofa was Shidou-kun and Ageha-chan ( eight years old). They were sitting in front of each other, Ageha-chan was talking with Shidou-kun.
I quietly looked at them:
"Cheer up, Onii-chan! Cheer! Cheer!"
"Don't…no…I…stop, please, I told you that I'm not feeling down, okay?"
Ageha-chan drew her face closer to Shidou-kun. This distance is small enough to instant-kill any lolicon.
Shidou-kun's expression turned serious, he slightly raised his hand to stop the girl
"Yes, it is true…."
"But Ageha heard that this group date was held to cheer Kunimitsu-sensei up."
Sorry Shidou-kun, the truth is…Together with Kusanagi-senpai, we have decided to tell the girls that this group date was to help to cheer him up.
Ageha-chan looked at him, continued:
"Ageha knew! Onii-chan was dumped by the girl you like, so you couldn't write anymore!"
Shidou-kun made a grunting noise. Ageha-chan raised both of her hands up:
"Ageha will cheer you up! Happy happy!"
"Mwu muw mwuuuuuu….." He groaned.
An elementary school girl was cheering up a heart-broken light novel author (adult)
What an unreal sight…
"…..Kuh….kuh…..Izumi Masamune…what did you do…."
I averted my gaze and turned back to Megumi.
"See, Onii ~ chan. I told you, everything is perfect."
"As one of the masterminds behind this plan…I felt that your way to cheer him up wasn't entirely right…"
I think we are doomed. If I were Shidou-kun, I didn't think that I could stand this situation anymore.
However, while I was worried, Megumi said:
"Don't worry don't worry ~ ♪ Just watch and see."
"Where is that confidence come from?"
“Because ~” Megumi gave me a reassuring smile “This is my and Onii-chan’s plan.”
"Onii-chan told me that if we went with your plan, Kunimitsu-sensei will cheer up ~ I believe in you ♥"
Megumi blinked with me, just like a mischievous little devil.
"Well…let's see how it turn out then."
"I also believe in your choice, in Ageha-chan."
And how about you then? Why didn't I heard you named the last mastermind, Tomoe?
"Onii-chan — no, Kunimitsu-sensei!"
"Wh..what is it?"
Facing Shidou-kun's serious expression, Ageha-chan happily showed him something.
"This is for you!"
"This" is a cute, pink envelope
"Ageha wrote ~ for Kunimitsu-sensei, a letter from your fan!"
"Huh? Eh? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh? For, for me?"
This is "the trump card of Ageha-chan" that I spoke of.
"Shiratori…you…you read my story?"
“Yes!” She laughed, exclaimed, “Ageha ~~ like Kunimitsu-sensei’s story the most!”
What a bright smile!
On the other hand, facing this sudden development rendered Shidou-kun speechless.
I could understand his feeling. He probably didn't expect to meet someone who read his (small-fry) novel here.
Kunimitsu-sensei is a small author. Very small, actually. He had no fame, no famous reward, no good story. At the editor department, his novel wasn't anything special. Even now, he still didn't manage to make any noteworthy book.
Just like me in my second year after my debut.
By the way, back then, most of the letters I received came from one single person (probably Muramasa-senpai). Aside from her, I only received three letters.
While I don't want to calculate this rate, but….that meant for a few thousands of my readers, only one of them sent me a letter.
During that time, Izumi Masamune wasn't any better than Kunimitsu Shidou.
<i>I haven’t received a single letter from my fan</i>
Wrote a novel, yet no one supports it. It was too sad.
That was what I think. Maybe partly because I didn't look up for my novel online, but my guess was that until now, Shidou-kun didn't know the joy of a novelist. He didn't believe that anyone would like his story.
Of course, a novelist couldn’t see how happy his reader are when reading his book. Unless the reader tells him.
That's why —
<i>I slowly fail to understand why am I writing</i>
That's what Shidou-kun said.
For me, when someone was feeling down – it might sound cold – but I don't think that people should inference. Even a close friend or a junior.
But if someone asked me for help, then I will.
<i>I want to write a story as beautiful as a dessert, to turn my novel into a beautiful dish.</i>
I think back to when Shidou-kun told me his dream.
And so —
<i>"There is someone like Kunimitsu-sensei's novel! Among my friends!</i>"
That's why Megumi brought Ageha-chan.
"Kunimitsu-sensei's meal sound very good ~! I made one with Mommy!"
That was a time when he wrote a cooking guidance into his novel.
"With your mother?"
"Um, Mommy said Kunimitsu-sensei's story is good. She said reading it made her better at cooking. She also said she will try to do it again."
"…Is that so….again…."
"That's why, please cheer up and continue writing about good food!"
Ageha-chan kept patting Shidou-kun’s head like she was sharing her passion with him.
Shidou-kun's expression was pure bliss. He looked like he was about to cry.
"Is that so. Thank you, Shiratori-san. Let me read…this letter, then."
"Just call me Ageha, Onii~chan."
"Ehehe ~ it's embarrassing."
She scratched her cheek, secretly peeked at Shidou-kun:
"Are you …feeling better now?"
She didn't know how much effect her letter have. I could almost see her unspoken question "Is that really enough to cheer him up."
Shidou-kun gently nodded.
“Thank you, I’m feeling better now…maybe.”
Can you please be more decisive? That's why people didn't think highly of you!
Ageha-chan showed a complicated expression.
"Sorry. But I feel that…even with you, I couldn't recover this easily…"
“But aside from Ageha, there are much more who like Kunimitsu-sensei’s book!”
"Yup! It's true!"
"Is that so! Then, I have to recover for their sake,s right?"
Shidou-kun lowered his head. Then after a moment, he looks up:
"Ageha-chan, let's live together!"
Crap crap crap!!!
I rushed forward and quickly hit the back of my **** junior's head.
"It hurt! What is that for?"
"It's my line! What are you telling elementary school girl?"
"Er…It was a joke…"
"Really? Don't you notice how it sound like a marriage confession?"
"Ahaha, is that so?"
It is. Scary…I can’t take my eyes off a lolicon for an instant. Hope he could learn to control himself.
"Say, Izumi-kun, what's with your forehead. Is that some kind of punishment game?"
"Please ignore it!" I covered my forehead. "Er…how about you check what you received from Ageha-chan, Shidou-kun."
"This….did you prepare this, Izumi-kun?"
"Eh….saying that we prepared it actually more accurate. So…can you write something now?"
"How should I put it…at least I have some general idea."
He didn't look fully recover thought.
But it was expected. Unlike what Kusanagi-senpai wanted, this wasn't something could be done immediately.
"Thank you, Izumi-kun. It was good coming here."
I could tell that it got a good result.
I left his side and returned to Megumi. She was standing alone and checking up on everyone with a satisfied smile on her face. I told her:
"It is strange."
"Uh? What are you talking about?"
"I think that you should be the center of this kind of event."
Megumi made a sound like she fully understood what was I trying to say. She turned around where she stood, put both hands on her chest and gave me a charming look:
“Hm hm ~ I tell you, people call me 「 The Cupid of second-year 」(TL Note: In classical mythology, Cupid (Latin Cupido, meaning “desire”) is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection ). Group date and alike is my mission! I’m here to bring people together.”
So I should invite her to the next group date too — no no, it sounds so wrong!
“Yes, thank to your Cupid’s eye, that two pairs ended up nicely! But if we let them show that in the public, then all of their public images will be ruined.”
"Ehe ♥ "
Hey, sticking your tongue out and trying to act cute is not going to work with me.
"Ahaha ♪ Well, the plan was to make this a light group date, so that everyone could enjoy themselves, which mean I success."
"I think so too. As expected of you."
"Ehehehe, of course." Megumi raised her chest "But…even a make believe…it was a rare chance for me to be together with Onii ~ chan ~~"
She jumped to me and grabbed my arm.
"Do you want to do something group date - like?"
"Wh, what are you trying to do…"
I wanted to pull my arm out, but I couldn't muster enough force.
She pulled me to the table, took a dessert and put it in her mouth.
“How about pocky games?”
I thought about it for a moment
"No, no way."
"Ehehehe ~!? Why? You don't want to ~?"
Seeing my reaction, Megumi chuckled, put the pocky into her mouth.
"Here ~ here ~"
"Nope, not playing!"
"I was only joking, haha ♪ Do you want to play it for real?"
"You, you….stop kidding me!"
Don’t do that again! I thought I was about to die!
"Ahahahahah ~ Onii ~ chan, you face is so red! So cute ~~ ♥"
Megumi left my side, still laughing. She broke the pocky, pointed a half at me:
“I’m not going to play a real-life eroge with someone with <i>that</i> wrote in his forehead. What a pity, Onii ~ chan ♥"
Feeling both at ease and regret, I sighed put a hand on my forehead.
" …Hah ~~ what did she wrote here…"
In the end, I still don't know the answer.