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== Chapter 3 ==
Izumi Sagiri. Thirteen years old. Hikikomori.
I'm a light novel illustrator.
My penname is Eromangsensei. It comes from the name of an island.
On paper, Izumi Masamune is my brother. We started living together a few years back. For a lot of reasons, now, we are living in the same room.
By the way, Izumi Sagiri and Izumi Masamune are not siblings. I don't mean that as "we are not blood-related". I mean that I have never viewed Masamune as a brother.
When I was throwing a tantrum, he never got mad or angry with me. Every day, he made meals for me, and specifically cooked for my tastes. After I became a hikikomori, he is - a gentle guardian - a brother.
But I absolutely don't want to be his little sister. I don't want to call him "brother". When we are together, I don't want to be treated like a "sibling".
…That was what I wanted from the bottom of my heart. That is how I have always felt, ever since our first meeting.
— That's why you should act like a little sister.
Because there was a promise.
Because that's what that person wanted.
I can't do anything about it…so I have to call him brother against my will.
That…that's about it.
He said he likes me that most - Nii-san
He cared about me more than anyone else - Nii-san.
He wanted to be my family, to be my brother - Nii-san.
But, in my mind, I just called him…
"Masamune's days off", early morning of the second day.
After eating Elf-chan's meal (in my room, of course) I was drawing an illustration on my bed.
"Un ~ ♪ um ~ ♪"
I love drawing the most. Especially when I am drawing cute and erotic girls. So I hum while drawing. Other illustrators probably do the same.
However, I'm not drawing a girl now —
It's not an ecchi illustration of a girl.
I put my drawing board down and glanced aside.
Masamune was sleeping in his bed. After he ate his meal, he immediately came back and slept.
Yesterday, he was complaining because he couldn't sleep anymore, but now he is sleeping soundly. Still, since his normal life style is so busy and he rarely gets a chance to sleep, I think it should be acceptable.
I smiled at his sleeping face.
"You should rest."
"Yeah, let me rest." The (should be) sleeping Masamune replied.
"Nii-san? You are awake?"
I asked. He opened his eyes, still barely awake.
"Kind of. I couldn't actually sleep - are you drawing something?"
"Eh? How did you…."
He shouldn't be able to see what I am doing on my bed from his spot.
"When you draw…If your mood is good, you will hum." He said happily.
"How, how could you know that…?"
"I've known it for a long time. Since you were humming just now, you must have been drawing a character you like."
I felt my face heat up in embarrassment.
…My habit while drawing…he knew about it.
"Sagiri, didn't you just submit another illustration yesterday?"
"..It's not a work-related illustration."
My voice turned a bit sour.
Actually…I really want to get closer to him.
"So…it's just your hobby?"
"What did you draw?"
"…Want to know?"
"Yes I do. Can I take a look?"
"…What should I do then…?"
It was just a normal conversation, but I felt at ease.
I never thought I could be so relaxed while there was someone else in the room. Clearly, Masamune is a special case.
…No, no, I can't get side tracked. The illustration that I was working on can't be shown to Masamune. This character - is my "secret" that I couldn't tell him.
"Nii-san, is it okay for you to hold a conversation with me? Is it fine for you to not be sleeping?"
I changed the subject.
"I'm fine. I have spent the last few days in my room working, this is a good chance for us to relax and talk."
Good chance, really?
Those words kept echoing in my head.
— Yes, this might be a good chance.
I looked back at my drawing, still half-finished. Masamune was right. I'm living together with him - in the same house, same room. But we rarely interact with each other.
I got off my bed and lied down next to him. Masamune was clearly shocked.
I am so embarrassed!
A boy, who is not my brother, is sleeping next to me - I think I am about to faint.
I hid my emotions and acted like I didn't notice his shock and said:
"Nii-san, do you want to…chat with me?"
"Yes, yes I do!"
"Nii-san is strange" I smiled slightly. You can call me the demon Sagiri
"…Actually…before we start, I have something to tell you."
I suddenly said in a serious tone.
"Sorry for troubling you."
"…Because I said 「 Don't push yourself 」, you were troubled…I already know that."
I'm just someone who does nothing to contribute to this household, yet I still added more pressure to him. What gives me the right to say that?
But I couldn't afford to not say it. I had no choice but to stop him
Because sometimes, people just disappear easily.
Hearing me say that, Masamune slowly shook his head:
"- Don't apologize. After the anime project was started, the additional workload made me happy. The more successful the work, the more happy I become. I saw so many new sides to things. If you and the others didn't stop me…I probably would have said it was 「 for our dream 」 and forced myself to work till I was dead."
He would never say that he was tired because his little sister keeps pressuring him. He probably never thought that in the first place.
Instead, he said:
"Thank you for worrying about me."
I couldn't look directly at him anymore.
Thank you for not forcing yourself.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for giving me a dream.
I could only mutter weakly. I'm aware that unless I say it clearly, he couldn't hear me.
Noticing that I was looking down, Masamune called to me.
"Nii-san, do you want to be a family with me?"
"Yes. I want to become your family: become real siblings."
"Is that so? So…"
I don't want that kind of relationship.
"In order for us to become a real family."
Thus, I gave him a fake smile:
"Do you want to have a little chat? About the past?"
"About the past?"
"Yes. I mean..before we meet. We can understand a lot about each other if we do."
"I see. Like how Sagiri doesn't like meat and enjoys drawing erotic illustrations."
"Nii-san is a weirdo who still prefers snacks. You also have another identity, which is Izumi Masamune-sensei."
"And your real identity is Eromangsensei."
"I don't know anyone with that name!"
He keeps getting on my nerves!
"Anyway…" I returned to the original topic "I know a lot about you."
"I also know a lot about you."
"We know nothing about the time before we meet."
That isn't exactly the case for me, but there was a lot I didn't know.
"Tell me about your past, Nii-san."
"Sure. You must tell me about your past too."
We promised each other. Then…
"In order for us to become real siblings."
In order for us to not have that kind of relationship.
"Let's talk about the past."
Okay, "Before I met Sagiri" huh? What should I talk about…?"
"How about…when you were small; the first time you wrote a novel, Nii-san?"
"Of course I remember that. There was an 「incident 」that led to me becoming a writer."
"Ok, let me see…It was due to 「 a friend of mine from the Internet 」. It's a bit of a long story, but please be patient and listen till the end."
It happened about six years ago, when I was in my fifth year at the elementary school.
My mother had just passed away, so my family's atmosphere was pretty down. Because of his job, father rarely stayed at home, so I became the key keeper.
"I'm home —"
I opened the front door. Greeting me was the silent entrance. I can laugh and talk about it now, but back then I hated it very much.
My mother, who used to tell me "Welcome home" wasn't there anymore. It was another confirmation that I'm the only one in the house now.
My heart hurt.
Even now, every time I open the front door, it scares me a bit.
Every day, after I finished my homework, I just sat in the living room alone by myself.
What should I do..
I knew that the situation wasn't good, but I didn't have any idea how to fix it - I didn't have any clue.
— What should I do — I have to do something!
Those thoughts kept running through my head.
There was no way that I could recover in just a few months, but back then, I didn't even realize that what I was feeling was "Mom isn't here anymore, so I'm sad".
Back then, I didn't focus on my Mom, but on my "living family members".
— I have to think of something. Ah, what should I do …
No matter how hard I thought, I couldn't get an answer.
Of course I couldn't. I couldn't even fully understand what troubled me, after all.
I put some hot water in the instant noodle cup that I bought on the way home while watching one of Mom's recordings.
When she was alive, Mom was a food analyst, so her explanations on television were always cheerful.
I ate the noodles and looked at my surroundings.
— Finished! Masamune! Come and have a taste!
It felt like I could hear her cheerful voice at any moment.
But the one who could fully control this kitchen wasn't with me anymore.
I said to the empty dining room.
Suddenly, I heard the front door open.
— He is here! Today he got off early!
I quickly stood up and rushed toward the entrance to greet my remaining family member.
When I arrived, my expression probably noticeably dropped.
In front of me wasn't my father.
My aunt, who I couldn't get along with. The "Ice Queen" who was so cold that it made people uncomfortable.
"Why…are you here."
"I'm here to supervise you Masamune. To see if you are being properly taken care of."
— Wha, what does she mean, supervise?
I went back to the living room with her, still confused. Only then I realized my mistake.
— Crap! Mom's recording is still playing!
Kyouksan didn't get along with my mother, so I'm afraid that she will get mad. So, I quickly turned the television off.
Of course, Kyouksan also saw what I did.
"…Masamune, just now…"
"Eh…ah, that is…."
The atmosphere was almost unbearable.
Before I could think of a way to reply, Kyouksan suddenly shifted her attention from me to my finished noodle cup.
"I knew it! Nii-san is letting you eat like that again! Even if he is busy, what a useless man he is!"
Back then, I really, really hated anyone who bad mouthed my parents. So I talked back to her. Not only did I straighten my back, I also glared as hard as I could.
"…Please don't bad mouth my father."
"Hm, I still have a lot to say. I can't accept it…he has always been so lazy ever since he was small: he always did housework half-heartedly. See, there is a child at home, but this room is so messed up -"
Kyouksan waved her hand, likely trying to show how lazy my father was. But despite what she said, this room is very clean.
"Oh? That's strange….this is cleaned up…"
"…I can do something as trivial as this."
I replied in anger. But that gave Kyouksan a pause.
"…You cleaned this room up?"
"Because Dad is busy…so I have to…do what I can…"
I said, looking down.
…Unlike me, Dad - Mom's death hurt him way more than me.
Because it had been a few month, we were now at a point where we could barely function again -but back then, the situation was pretty serious. Seeing my Dad like that, I told myself that "now isn't the time for me to be sad".
I - what have I done —
I knew that what I did couldn't fix the root of the problem. Even if I clean the house: did things that Mom did, that couldn't heal Dad's wound.
Still, there was no way I could do nothing. Even if I was aware that what I did was meaningless.
I felt so frustrated that I grit my teeth.
Kyouksan's terrifying voice came:
"…You don't have to worry about that."
"I'm not asking you to apologize."
I knew that she didn't approve of my actions or words. I didn't understand why, but back then I didn't try to find the answer. Because my family's situation was all I could think about.
The reason an "outsider" is angry - while I wouldn't say it's not important, it's certainly not high on my priority list. The "current me" can understand that Kyouksan, in her own clumsy way, was trying to help her nephew.
But back then, I couldn't understand.
I was about to cry. I could only hope that someone would save my family.
"Dad…he loved Mom a lot."
"I know." She replied immediately.
"Dad got hit hard. I want to help him, but I can't replace Mom…So I have to do what I can."
She said in an emotionless tone:
"Then, who will help you?"
"…I don't know."
I began to cry.
Her words hit my weak spot.
Tears began to fall down my cheek.
Why did you say that? I don't care what happens to me, just please save Dad - that was all I could think of.
The "current me" understood that back then, that was the moment I let out the pain that I had been suppressing.
My head - which I was keeping low - felt "something" soft touch it.
Before I could understand what it was, the door opened again.
I looked up and saw that Dad had just come back, and Kyouksan was hastily pulling her hand back.
Dad walked towards us and cheerfully asked Kyouksan.
"Hey, what did you do to Masamune?"
"N…n….n….nothing…..nothing at all! Nothing!!"
Every time Kyouksan met Dad, her brother, it turned out this way.
She lost control of her emotions - then some small thing happened, she blushed, and then began to yell.
Totally the opposite of her usual cold expression.
Seeing that I was crying, Dad scolded Kyouksan.
"Don't make him cry."
"I didn't make him cry! It's just…."
Kyouksan cutely pouted, looked at Dad and me, and said in a low tone:
"After all these years, you are still an idiot, Nii-san."
"In your case, after all these years you are still so harsh."
Puff! Kyouksan's face immediately turned red.
Ignoring his little sister, Dad slowly sat down in front of me. His eyes met mine, and he said gently:
"Masamune, are you - lonely?"
I wondered what he was talking about. He is the one who is lonely, not me.
So I wiped away my tears, and told him:
"I'm not lonely! I'm fine!"
"But I don't understand what I should do for my family."
I don't know what I should do. I don't know what I should think.
But — I have to do something, I have to save Dad. My heart keeps telling me that.
Dad looked at me like he was thinking about something. Finally, he said.
"If you want your parent to be happy, it's simple."
He smiled, and put a hand on my head.
"As long as you live your life happily and with a smile, that's enough. We are happy as long as you are happy. Because we are family."
After a moment, I nodded too.
We returned to the locked room. Next to me, Sagiri was lying down, laughing.
"That way of thinking …is very like you."
"Is that so?"
"I can already guess what happened next. Your father probably wanted you to relax and live happily…but you couldn't, right?"
"Oh…Um..yeah….you could say that."
Back then, I tried to reach the "goal" that Dad gave me.
"Yeah, then I started doing my best to 「 live happily with a smile 」– and here I am."
"Haha, I knew it."
Sagiri laughed, full of herself. I nodded, and continued:
"So in order to find happiness, I tried a lot of things. Soccer, baseball, games, movies - all of them were interesting, but I didn't really find myself fascinated by them."
I even went on the Internet to search for "How to find a hobby" and "Life happiness".
"Back then, I saw those people who wrote web novels. I thought it looked interesting, so I gave it a try. Maybe it would work out, so -"
"So you were fascinated by it?"
"Yup. It was super interesting."
Sagiri laughed again. She felt less like a little sister and more like a big sister.
"Hm hm, I see."
"Like I said…I was fascinated by writing novels because of an 「 incident 」. It happened not long after I began writing web novels."
"Oh? An incident?"
Since she was laughing happily, I couldn't help but ask:
"What's with you today?"
"Ahaha, it's nothing."
"Ah, by the way, what were you doing back then?"
"I was refusing to go to school."
My jaw dropped.
That's right. When Masamune was beginning to write web novels —
I was in my second year at the elementary school. And I didn't go to school.
Frankly speaking, the reason was — Mom and Dad's divorce hit me hard.
Mom got the right to raise me, and we began living together in her apartment in Tokyo. That morning, I was making a fuss and covered myself with the blanket.
Someone knocked on the door.
"Sagiri ~ breakfast is ready ~"
Before I could reply, I heard the door open. Then with a *swoop*, my blanket was removed: my defense was broken.
I let out a "wah". But Mom said in surprise:
"Aren’t you going to be late for school?"
"…I don't want to school."
Mom used the remote control to turn on the light.
"Did something happen at school?"
I gave her my phone. Its wallpaper was visible for all to see. It was a picture of me, Mom and Dad.
Seeing that, Mom gave a strange, pained "ouch".
"After I came back from school…Papa hated me."
Mom got hit pretty hard. Her eyes turned into a ><>
Until my fourth year in elementary school, I still called my parents Papa and Mama.
"…So I don't want to go to school. If I do, then Mama will —"
Will hate me.
Back then, that was what I thought.
Mom gave me a hug. Then, with a bright tone, she said while looking directly into my eyes.
"Mama loves Sagiri the most."
"Also, Papa doesn't hate Sagiri, Papa hates me! Papa hates Mama! We are the adults; it's our fault! It's not Sagiri's fault!"
Her tone was cheerful, but sincere. So I asked a question:
"Why…does Papa hate Mama?"
Mama slammed her eyes shut. She looked like someone who was holding it in when they really had to go to the bathroom.
I can't tell her that - I could faintly hear her.
When faced with the question about "the reason for the divorce" from her daughter, Mama - suddenly said in a serious tone:
"When you get older, Mama will tell you!"
"…Uhh." I pouted "..Sorry, but I don't think I will go to school today."
Mama let me go back to bed and gently patted my head:
"…Until you are not scared anymore, I will stay with you."
Hearing this part of the story, Masamune interrupted:
"I don't mind if you don't answer my question…but what was the reason that your parents divorced?"
"My mother, she…."
"Father found out about her hobby of drawing erotic manga."
Masamune sighed and looked at the ceiling.
"I see…It's true that you can't give an answer like that to a small girl."
I think it's a very stupid reason…but for them, it was probably very important.
"My mother usually took care of drawing characters for children's games, so father seemed to know about an illustrator's work too. Since he was a bit of neat freak, mother teasingly didn't tell him about her hobby. She thought 「 it will be okay 」, but turned out 「 it was not okay 」…"
"…After working in the anime industry, you will eventually get used to it. You will unknowingly think 「 this hobby is nothing, people could probably accept it 」. I understand why she thought so."
"So, father decided to give up."
"Anyway, Sagiri's mother is the first Eromangsensei."
Unlike other otaku, Masamune said while nodding.
"No no. It's not something erotic!"
"Maybe for you it's not. But your mother definitely used 「 Eromangsensei 」 as an erotic penname. You can cross check the information with Army."
"No it's not! Mother said it's just an island's name!"
"I don't think anyone would use an island's name as penname when drawing erotic illustration."
I understand that too, but please don't dig anymore!
"Any…anyway….so after my parents divorced…there was a time that I didn't go to school."
"There was a time? So after that you did go back to school?"