Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai:Volume 2 Chapter 4
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After we had seen Summer Comiket from one end to the other, we headed towards Kokusaitenjijo Station .
Raindrops had already started pitter pattering down, so by the time we got to the station it might start seriously raining.
When we reach the other side, I wonder if we should hail a taxi…
Neither I nor Kirino had the courage to walk home carrying these two heavy, dangerous paper bags with us.
“Hey Kirino. By the way, I noticed you bought quite a lot from the corporate booths…”
“… What, you got a problem with that?”
Kirino’s ears twitched. It was unavoidable that she would likely want to show off her purchases. Of course, I didn’t really want to see her stuff at all, but it was at least better than getting into an argument, so I told her what she wanted to hear. “Um… I was just wondering what you bought.”
“… Hmph, well I guess I can show you then.” Kirino responded in an outrageously arrogant way, and with a “tadaa~~!”  showed off a piece of cloth wrapped in vinyl.
“Fufu, isn’t it amazing?”
“… Umm… what is it exactly?”
“It’s a Stardust ☆ Witch Meruru Summer Comiket limited edition hug pillow cover. On the front you have her in her Ecstasy Mode, and on the back there’s Meru-chan in her underwear. Cute, isn’t it?”
She was really happy. I had never seen my sister smiling in such an entranced way before.
I’m not sure, but if we’re talking about Ecstasy Mode, isn’t she also in that mode as well?
But, seriously… to think that I would hear the words “hug pillow cover” again here…
I had seen the word when I was shopping online, had dealt with the word when I gave Manami her present… it seems like lately, there’s been a strange connection of fate between me and this word…
I had an idea that you would use such a thing while you were in bed… but if that’s the case, exactly what would you do with it?
I mean, no matter how much you love Meruru, it’s not like you would want to sleep with her, right…?
As cold sweat formed on my forehead, I timidly asked.
“Hug pillow… how exactly are you going to use that? To decorate your room or something?”
“Eh? It’s a hug pillow, so obviously I would sleep while hugging it. Well, sometimes I’ll rub my face into it and smell it as well…”
I shouldn’t have asked! And she’s looking at me, puzzled, as if that was the most natural answer in the world!
Don’t make such an explosive announcement so casually!
I was gripped with an overwhelming sense of fear, and barely managed to get my next words out.
“… W-well… I mean… wouldn’t it just smell like polyester?”
“Huh? It smells like a girl.”
… That’s your own smell! Or, to be exact, that’s the smell of the brand of shampoo you use! ….. Uwaah… what the hell is up with this?! This… this little sister of mine!
She calls me a hentai over and over, but isn’t she the one who’s much more of a hentai?!
But I already knew that, you know? From the beginning, I already knew that!
In the midst of tears and chaos, the curtain dropped on our first experience with Summer Comiket.
From the start, my goal in planning this trip and coming to the Big Sight convention center was to allow Kirino to make some fond summer memories, but personally, I didn’t have fun at all.
It was just as Saori and Kuroneko said.
To the end, this event was a place where otaku gathered and actively had fun.
Average people like me were not welcome.
I had to wait hours upon hours before even getting in, the crowd was terrible, and it was absurdly humid.
My sister was constantly flowing with complaints, I was forced by that maid to buy an ero book, I had to carry a huge amount of luggage… it was terrible. Other than that Cell, there was nothing I was really pleased to see.
But well… even though the event didn’t agree with me, Kirino seemed to have an increeeedible amount of fun.
She had been all complaints at the beginning… but she was able to meet with authors she liked, and was able to buy a lot of doujinshi.
She bought a lot, played games, saw cosplay. And because of that, was able to deepen the bonds between her and some of her friends.
That… should become… a good memory, right? I’m not her, though, so I can’t say for sure.
“… Geez… my feet really hurt…”
Ahhh I’m beat. When I get home, I’m going to take a bath and then promptly fall asleep.
Yeah, and I’m never coming back to this event again.
But, I’ll have to properly thank those two who helped in making fond memories for Kirino.
Slackening my walking speed, I casually left Kirino’s side. Behind us, Kuroneko and Saori were talking with each other. I soon was walking beside them, and first spoke up to Saori.
“Ah, Saori. Thanks for today… you were an immense help. Seriously.”
“Hahaha, no need to thank me. You did the same thing this morning, didn’t you? … Fufu, honestly, you’re so polite, Kyousuke-shi. You’re just a bit too conscientious, don’t you think?”
“… no, I don’t think so.”
“Well, shall I pick different words and say you’re a siscon instead?”
“… Please don’t. You’re just dodging the issue again. Can’t you just simply accept my thanks?”
… It couldn’t be that this huge thing was embarrassed every time I praised her or thanked her, right?
Kuroneko was hard to read since she never showed emotion, but Saori was always smiling, so it was difficult to figure out the subtleties of her mood as well.
Her speech and costume were all linked to this character she had created… so I had a feeling that what I saw in front of me was not the real Saori. Nevertheless, there was no doubt that she was a good person.
“Ah, I apologize. But, honestly, I’m the one who should be thanking you. I was able to have a lot of fun today. Letting me meddle in your lives and deriving pleasure from that… that gives me pleasure as well. Out of all people, you should understand what I mean, Kyousuke-shi.”
“… As if I would know.”
Dammit, talking as if she could see right through me. She’s really hard to deal with, this one.
Kuroneko suddenly approached me from Saori’s side.
“… Could you please give me back my clothes?”
“Hm? … Oh.”
I passed back the clothes I had been holding onto for a long time, and Kuroneko lightly put the clothes on.
“Oh, also… thank you too. From Kirino, also…”
“For what? I don’t happen to recall doing anything for you that would require gratitude. Please stop. Being thanked for something I didn’t do is the epitome of unpleasantness.”
… In contrast, this one was easy to understand. She was of the same ilk as Kirino, after all.
As Kuroneko swiftly distanced herself from me, I nimbly tried to lead her into the next topic.
“Hey, come over to our house sometimes. After all, we don’t live far from each other.”
“… I’ll think about it.”
Just by that response, I somehow felt that I understood how she felt about Kirino.
It seemed that everything had gone splendidly.
There were plenty of bumps on the way, but I felt that Kirino’s desire to make good summer memories had been successfully fulfilled.
But there was always the dread that things wouldn’t continue to go as planned. Kirino and I remembered all too well the last time something like this had happened. A pitfall could suddenly appear out of nowhere in front of us.
I didn’t think it was possible that such a thing could happen again.
We were on the way back from the Big Sight convention center. Descending down a wide set of stairs, we went through the main street towards the station.
The sky was getting more and more cloudy, and was filled with grey. It was an atmosphere quite unbefitting of such a trip’s conclusion.
And then… just as we were about to reach the station, I heard a familiar voice.
“Kirino? Is that you?”
In front of me, Kirino suddenly stiffened, and faced the direction the voice came from. I also moved my gaze that way.
Somehow, the person who was standing there was none other than Kirino’s classmate and friend, Aragaki Ayase.
She was wearing a snug black tanktop, a short-sleeve white jacket, sunglasses, a silver accessory… etc. etc. I was familiar with her figure already, but her outfit exposed her belly button, which startled me as I looked at her.
But perhaps it was just the atmosphere she exuded, but I didn’t feel even a shred of indecency in her outfit.
She stood on the shoulder of the road, with her hands still holding onto the door handle of a station wagon with tinted back windows. It seemed like she had just gotten out of the car.
“Ahah, it really is you! Haha, ohh, what’s up?”
“… A-Ayase… ?!”
Completely stiff and shocked, Kirino mumbled. Naturally, she was still holding in both hands the paper bags filled with doujinshi and other goods.
For Ayase, she was simply just surprised at this chance meeting. It seemed that being able to meet with a close friend in an unexpected place genuinely made her happy.
“Oh, I’m so happy! I can’t believe it! Even though we didn’t plan it, to be able to meet like this… that’s amazing! It’s like invisible strings bind us together or something, don’t you think? Ahh, haha, that made it sound like I’m you’re stalker or something! Even though I’m not.”
She really seemed excited about this. Under normal circumstances, Kirino probably would have joined her in the festivities, but of course these circumstances were far from normal.
“… Y-yeah… pretty amazing! … What a coincidence…!”
In front of her close friend who had suddenly appeared, Kirino’s face seemed to cramp.
”This screwed up coincidence… this isn’t good…! This has to be my imagination…! A dream… a mistake…!” is what she seemed like she wanted to say.
“Hey, what’s wrong, Kirino? That’s quite a strange expression! Come on, you’re meeting here with a good friend, you should be happier! Ah, right right, why exactly are you here anyways? I heard that right after Obon , track would get so busy that you would have to stop working too. Maybe you’re shopping… no that’s not it. So, what are you doing then?”
It seemed that when Ayase got worked up about something, she tended to go on and on without letting anyone get a word in edgewise. My mother was the same way, and every time she did that I would get irritated, but for some reason when this girl did it she seemed cute instead. Something was different. Or maybe, everything was.
“…… U-Umm……… t-that is…….”
Faced with her friend who was bubbling with joy, Kirino clearly seemed at a loss for words.
Now that I think about it, this situation felt similar to that offline meeting when Kirino was excluded from the group.
No matter how almighty she might be, Kirino seemed to be unexpectedly bad at dealing with situations like this…
But man… this really was noooooot good…
Well, seriously though. If I were in her position, this would be like meeting Manami on the way back from Comiket in front of Kokusaitenjijo Station… haha.
Well, to be honest, though… right now, faced with this situation that my sister was freaking out about, even though I was completely shocked, I also found it slightly hilarious.
I mean, come on. Meeting a friend here with this timing… is pretty insane, right?
As I thought, her behavior was just too unacceptable in the past. Karma’s a bitch , you could say.
Ahh… what are you doing to do, Kirino? How are you going to squeeze your way out of this predicament?
Eagerly to see how she would skillfully handle the situation, I watched intently, when…
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but Kirino looked towards me desperately for help.
“Do something!” she seemed to be saying.
… Me? Even if you ask me to do something… also, is this really a time to be turning to me for help?!
I mean, aren’t you the one who believes that Ayase thinks I’m a monster of a brother who pushed down his little sister?! Argh, damnit!! Geez… I guess I have no choice…
Reluctantly, I faced Ayase and walked towards her, giving her a “yo” in greeting.
Of course, I was still holding onto those dangerous paper bags in both hands.
Having been completely focused on Kirino up until now, Ayase seemed to have finally noticed my presence. Her eyes widened and she blinked in surprise.
“Wah, if it isn’t onii-san! It’s certainly been a while! Hm?! Hmmm?! … Could it be, could it be… you two are on a date right now?!”
Why did she jump suddenly to that conclusion…? Could it be that she still hasn’t been able to get over that accident that happened before?
I really wanted to scream “Hell no!” at the top of my lungs, but if I did that the conversation would just get more jumbled, so I steeled myself and went the safe route. “… Well… something like that.”
“Wha?! What the hell are you saying?!”
Blushing, Kirino raised a protest (she probably was also surprised that I seemed to be strangely friendly with Ayase), but I quickly regained control the conversation and talked to Ayase in Kirino’s place.
“You too. What are you doing around here?”
“Ah, I was doing some gravure  work.”
Ah, that’s why you’re wearing such a revealing outfit. I’ll definitely buy that magazine when it comes out.
“I was working right over there, but we had to suspend the shoot because of the rain… I was talking with my managers and taking a break in the car.”
After saying that, Ayase looked up at the sky. It was as cloudy as ever, and the rain was pitter-pattering down.
I see, it was probably difficult to take photos outside in this weather.
“Ahh… I see…”
Well, it’s good that I was able to steer the conversation somewhere else for a bit, but where do I go from here?
Ayase probably didn’t know anything about otaku… so she shouldn’t know anything about Comiket, or that there was an otaku festival going on at the Tokyo Big Sight Convention Center today.
So let’s just wrap this up quickly and without incident, and go our separate ways. That would definitely suffice.
But, I mean… wouldn’t it be alright just to tell this girl the truth?
Of course, it would still be best to just be able to get out of this situation skillfully without exposing Kirino’s secret.
But I mean, they’re close friends, so if she really did find out that Kirino was an otaku, would she really be that disgusted and go spreading rumors about it? She wouldn’t, right?
At the very least, if I came out to Manami that I was an otaku, nothing would change about our relationship with each other… in fact, she wouldn’t care what types of hobbies I had and would still continue to keep me company like she’s been doing up until now. And I couldn’t ask for anything more.
But, I couldn’t say that my relationship with Manami was the same as Kirino’s relationship with Ayase.
But, the only person Kirino, with all her attitude, could sincerely and proudly identify as a close friend was Ayase. And I’ve also met with her before, if only just for a bit, and I’ve been able to talk to her and get a decent reading of her disposition. She was absurdly softhearted, a bit quick to jump to conclusions, kind, and sincere…
So I mean… no matter how she manages to trip up, in the end they’ll just end up laughing about this, right?
But most of all, just like I had almost wanted to cry when I imagined what it would be like to be exposed like this to Manami, for Kirino, this was a life or death situation.
Well, let’s see if we can’t lie our way out of this safely.
“You can call me Ayase.”
“Ah, well, Ayase… sorry, but we’re a bit busy right now…”
Looking very apologetic, when I signaled our intention to leave…
Perhaps Ayase had misunderstood something, but with a worried expression she closely examined Kirino’s face.
“… Hey, Kirino, are you not feeling well? You haven’t really talked at all this entire conversation… you don’t look good…”
Well, that’s just because you’ve sort of driven her into a corner and she’s about to blow her fuse. She’s really relatively bad at dealing with adversity, this one.
“Y-Yeah, that’s right… I’m not feeling that well… so… sorry, we have to go.”
What a liar… a child could lie better than she could…
Kirino spoke in that weird tone of voice she used with her school friends and put on a forced smile, but that excuse seemed to backfire with Ayase.
“If you want… you can ride in the car with me. Should I take those heavy looking bags for you?”
“T-thanks…! E-hehe! But really, I’m fine!”
Kirino wildly refused Ayase’s offer. Each time she fervently waved both hands back and forth, the dangerous paper bags waved in the air.
… H-Hey, Kirino… those bags look really filled to the brim…
If the bottoms of the bag rip and everything falls out, no matter how you spin it this situation is going to turn serious, you know…?
Completely ignoring my concerns, Kirino continued to deny Ayase’s persistent invitations.
At last, the good-natured Ayase seemed to admit defeat.
“I see, alright, Kirino… I shouldn’t interfere with your date with onii-san.”
Kirino nodded, an amazingly complicated expression showing on her face. ”Ugh… I guess I have no choice but to say that now…” she seemed to be screaming while she tried to justify her words. Was it really that bad? Although, it’s not like I wanted her to say something like that…
“By the way, Kirino… there’s been something on my mind since I saw you…”
“W-What is it now?!”
Kirino seemed to be halfway to tears as she yelled. Ayase stretched her neck, and tried to peak behind Kirino.
The same word issued forth from both my mouth and Kirino’s mouth as we turned around.
Because right there stood the two people who had been left in the dark up until now, Saori and Kuroneko.
Wah, I had completely forgotten about those two…! I’m sure Kirino felt the same way.
Ayase seemed to be somewhat drawn to those two otaku behind us, and she raised her eyebrows.
“Umm… those two… are they your acquaintances…?”
“Eh, a-ahh…. ummm…?!”
Kirino seemed even more at a loss. I understood how she felt all too well. I mean, take Saori who was dressed in that gross otaku fashion, or the Gothic Lolita Kuroneko. The more you looked at them, the stranger and more suspicious they seemed.
And when I inevitably compared them to Ayase, they really stood out way too much.
“U-Umm, umm, ummm…..”
As Kirino looked over her shoulder at her otaku friends, cold sweat flowed down her face.
”Crap! I’m going to get exposed because of those two!”
That’s probably what she was thinking. Her distress was completely visible on her face.
Saori seemed to be unusually stiff, a forced smile on her face. Being as perceptive as she was, she probably was thinking carefully about whether or not she should introduce herself as Kirino’s friend.
And Kuroneko was the only one here that maintained no expression on her face. With eyes that betrayed none of her thoughts, she watched as the events unfolded before her…. and before long…
“… You must be mistaken… shall we go? If we don’t hurry back, we won’t make it in time to catch the anime at 5:30. And I do want to see today’s episode.”
Quickly turning around and heading towards the station in a route that went far around us, Kuroneko walked away. Next, standing between us and Kuroneko and looking back and forth a number of times, Saori in the end also followed after Kuroneko.
Lately, one thing I’ve come to understand about Kuroneko is that what she does on the surface is almost completely independent of her actual inner motivations. So here, it may well have been that she wanted to go watch the anime, or it may have done that for our sake… I’m not sure which was the case. But…
Sorry about that… thank you. I muttered these words under my breath, inaudibly.
Kirino also looked uncomfortable, and silently watched as the two of them left.
With Saori and Kuroneko having somewhat unexpectedly withdrawn from that place, only Kirino, Ayase, and I were left.
“… W-What was up with that…? … Those two… those were some really strange outfits… weren’t they?”
Ayase mumbled a bit timidly while making sure that the two otaku had left the area. Well, I guess for her, the outfits those two were wearing would be quite a shock… but honestly, despite their appearances, they were both honestly good people, you know…? I tried very hard to prevent myself from saying this out loud.
“B-But, yeah! I definitely don’t know gross people like that!”
Hey Kirino… in the unlikely case that you’re actually saying that sincerely, I would definitely smack you. I don’t think that’s the case though.
Ayase looked around her, looking uncomfortable. Of course, all around us there were otaku who were headed towards the station on their way back from Comiket. There were also ones who were holding the same paper bags as we were, so I was really nervous… I really hope she doesn’t notice…
“Hey Kirino… for a while now I’ve been seeing a lot of strangely dressed people… and buses with anime art drawn on them… is there something going on around here today?”
“I-I don’t know! M-Maybe it’s because Comiket is today?”
What the hell?! I-Is she an idiot?! No matter how flustered you are, isn’t it clear that to someone like Ayase with no knowledge of otaku culture, those words don’t make any sense?! If you say something like that…
“Comiket… what’s that?”
See, now look what you’ve done! What are you going to do now?!
“C-Comiket… it’s that event that’s going on over there, right? I really don’t know though… they sell d-doujinshi, and stuff.”
“… Doujinshi… what’s that?”
Arrrrghhhhh!! This isn’t good at all!! You’re digging your own grave here, Kirino…
Even though those two had so thoughtfully left the area for us… what exactly are you trying to doing here?
I looked up at the sky in disbelief. Giving out so many hints like that would give Ayase plenty of reasons to get suspicious. Ayase put on a mildly distrusting gaze, and began to pry further.
“… Kirino? Umm… are you hiding something?”
“N-No, I’m really not…?”
Kirino denied her accusation with a terribly weird tone of voice. But Ayase’s gaze had already turned to the paper bags that Kirino was carrying, and seemed to be reading the words that were printed… on them…
Next… Ayase began to alternate her gaze between the flustered Kirino and the paper bags.
Well, this is it, isn’t it? The countdown to Kirino’s otaku exposure has begun… having realized the situation, I then…
“I-I mean, we really are very busy! Sorry, we’ll see you later!”
Forcibly pulling Kirino by the hand, I tried to get away from that place. The situation had already gotten this bad, so I couldn’t think of any other way to resolve it other than getting away from here and just persist in playing dumb from here on out.
“L-Let’s go, Kirino.”
“Eh, ahh, yeah… see you, Ayase…”
Even though she was still completely bewildered, Kirino obediently took my hand and allowed herself to be dragged away. I really hate to say it, but if you looked at us at just that second, we really may have looked like a good couple. But..
Ayase’s thunderous voice boomed out behind me.
I was completely prepared to run away, but I was forced to a stop.
The atmosphere became incredibly charged. To think such a thing could come out of a docile-looking creature like this…
When I turned around, I saw that Ayase had grasped Kirino’s wrist tightly, as if trying to tell her that she wouldn’t be allowed to run away.
“Kirino, why are you running away?”
“Umm… uhh… I’m not running a-“
And that’s that. Ayase crushed Kirino’s denial in an instant.
“You’re lying… lying lying lying lying lying… don’t lie to me… you were running away, weren’t you? … You were running away, right? Running away? … Why are you lying to me?” 
… Huh? W-what was up with this strange forcefulness all of a sudden…?
Still gripping Kirin’s wrist tightly, Ayase continued to accuse Kirino of lying to her and trying to run away.
In the face of this eerily threatening atmosphere, Kirino and I were both completely taken aback. And since the words were directly intended for her, Kirino seemed especially shocked.
With my hands still holding onto Kirino’s, I began to speak very timidly.
“… A-Ayase…? Umm…”
Huh?! H-Hey, wait wait wait… who exactly was this person?
“Onii-san, please stay quiet, won’t you? I’m speaking with Kirino right now.”
What the hell was up with this scaaaaaaaaaary woman?!?! That was an intense glare!!
Clearly, she was not the same person she was a few minutes ago!! Multiple personality disorder?! Spiritual possession?! If you just took her words out of context, you could feel that she was a bit angry… but it was way more than that. Seriously.
What a ferocious intensity. The rain that had started falling mixed in with Ayase’s long black hair… a terrifying atmosphere drifted about in front of the Kokusaitenjijo Station. It was almost like a scene out of a horror movie.
Please believe me… I’m not exaggerating at all…!
My father was also pretty terrifying, but fear on a whole different plane of existence now attacked me and my sister.
What the hell was up with this sudden chant…? Did we really do something to anger this girl?
“I’m sorry for shouting so suddenly… but, I’m… just worried about you, Kirino.”
Changing her tone, Ayase went with something more gentle and apologetic this time. It was a tone of voice that made me feel like feathers were tickling me in my ears.
“So Kirino… please don’t run away. Won’t you answer my questions? You’re hiding something, right?”
She went right back to being scary there at the end! The gap between that tone and her gentle whisper is so startling!
This is why good-looking people are so… T-T-This is why…!!
Give me a break! Why is it that this always happened, that there wasn’t a single pretty person I knew with an upfront and honest personality?
Was there a wire loose somewhere ?! What the hell was up with my luck with women?! Arggh, dammit, as I thought, normal girls are the best! Somehow, I suddenly felt an intense desire to see my childhood friend!
And also, Kirino! Y-You, did you know that she was… that she was like this?
Having drifted off from reality for a second, I returned to my senses and turned my gaze to my sister, goosebumps rising all over my body. And then…
Kirino seemed much more scared out of her wits than I was.
U-Uwaah… she didn’t know this side of Ayase existed either, did she…
“… N-No, that’s not it. Ayase… that’s not it. So uhh… please don’t get angry?”
“You too, Kirino, please stop making excuses, won’t you? I’m being serious, alright?”
“Right now, you were running away, right? You were trying to run away from me, right? Please don’t give me excuses… if this really is a misunderstanding though, just tell me, alright? If you can, that is.”
Groaning, Kirino looked down at the floor. I mean, if I had something said at me with such intensity, I would probably do the same.
Honestly, she really was just making excuses… there’s no way she can refute that.
Staring at her friend with an empty expression like that, Ayase snarled and bore her teeth.
“See, you can’t say anything! Don’t you know? You know, don’t you Kirino? I absolutely hate being lied to. I absolutely hate people who lie to me! But even then, why would you do something like that? Why would you lie to me? Come on, tell me. I thought we were close friends?”
Oogh… scaaary… and what’s more, how she’s getting angry is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. What’s up with her unpleasant accusations?
See, look, the otaku around us are getting scared as well and are starting to glance over here…
And I mean, in the first place… why did this girl suddenly get so hysterical?
I mean, sure, it wasn’t right for us to try to trick her and run away… but no matter how you looked at it, this was an overreaction, wasn’t it? She really doesn’t have to get so charged up about this. Don’t you think?
Kirino did not offer a single response, and continued looking downwards. I couldn’t see her face from where I was standing, but I could feel her hands tightly holding onto mine. Her palm was hot, her hands were wet with sweat, and she was trembling.
As Kirino stood like that, Ayase closely examined her. Her eyes were narrowed, and she spoke coldly.
“Come on, say something for yourself.”
“… Not being able to say something means that you have something to be guilty about, yes? Or maybe, there’s something you don’t want to talk to me about? … How shocking, considering I thought we were close friends. I must have been mistaken.”
“No? Did I say something wrong? What did I say that was wrong? … And you aren’t talking again. Cut it out.”
Ayase brought her face close to Kirino’s face. All while she still had a firm lock on Kirino’s wrist.
And then, suddenly, she did a complete about face and put on a painful expression. Her pretty eyes became wet with tears, and she raised an appeal.
“This isn’t you at all, Kirino… what in the world has gotten into you? Hey, did I say something wrong? Was I mistaken? Am I wrong to want to know why you were running away from me, why you were trying to lie to me?”
Not being able to bear watching this scene anymore, I pulled Kirino’s hand and interposed myself between the two girls.
“… Let’s leave it at that. Even close friends can keep one or two secrets from each other, can’t they? Come on, let go of her hand. If you grab it that hard, it’ll bruise.”
At my words, Ayase seemed a bit ashamed. A bit later, she put on a smile and let go of Kirino’s hand.
“… I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?” She sincerely apologized in a sympathetic manner.
“Yeah… I-I’m fine…”
Saying that, Kirino put on a weak smile, but as I feared, there was a red hand mark left on her wrist… exactly how hard was she holding onto Kirino’s wrist, that girl…?
With rather gloomy thoughts, I gazed at the swollen red mark.
“I guess that’s true… even close friends can have one or two secrets, right?”
Ayase was by no means speaking in a joking tone of voice, but her expression and words were both very serious.
“… But, I want to help support you . I mean… you’ve been such a help to me… it’s always been like that. With the modeling job, as my senpai, as my classmate… for many years, you’ve always supported me in everything I do.”
To me, you’re a very, very important friend.
I could not feel any semblance of artificiality or ulterior motive in her words.
She was speaking from the bottom of the heart, and she truly was fond of Kirino. That’s why she wanted to help Kirino in any way possible.
Even if Kirino refused her help, she couldn’t just stand by and watch, pretending everything was alright.
It was a line of reasoning I feel like I’ve heard before. It was a line of reasoning I understood all too well.
I could almost see her next words coming.
“Just by how you’ve been acting, I can tell that you’re hiding something from me, that there’s something you don’t want to tell me. But, this time, for some reason, I felt like I just couldn’t let it go. You could call it a woman’s intuition… although that might be a bit too grand. I just had a bad feeling about this… so I couldn’t leave it alone.”
Kirino awkwardly looked down at the floor while Ayase gave her a worried expression. Her hand trembled nervously.
Ayase followed Kirino’s line of sight.
“Is there something in those paper bags?”
Giving the paper bags a piercing, ferocious glare, Ayase spoke in what was probably the scariest tone she had used up until now.
Of course, we couldn’t respond to that question at all. Both Kirino and I could do nothing but stay silent.
This time, without urging us on or insulting us… Ayase soon appeared by our side and stared into our eyes. It was incredibly unnerving.
“… Comic Market … hm?”
Ayase read the event name printed on the paper bags in an annoyed tone of voice.
A period of silence once again elapsed… Plop, plop… only the sound of the rain around us slowly increasing in intensity could be heard in my ears. And then, finally…
The rain began to come down in torrents. It was an unadulterated downpour.
Kirino suddenly became worried that the paper bags would get wet. She promptly tried to move somewhere with a roof hanging overhead… but once again her wrists were caught.
“Where are you going?! Is that really more important than this conversation right now?!”
Kirino must really feel driven into a corner at this point. I should probably act now and there would be plenty of ways to deal with the consequences later, so I had already begun to move to help, but…
Kirino forcibly tried to shake off her friend’s hand. I really don’t think she meant to make it look that way, but there was no way to view the situation other than that Kirino was rejecting Ayase.
There was no mistaking that Ayase felt that way. Her face flushed red hot.
Not wanting to lose her grip, Ayase’s hand that was being shaken grabbed onto the paper bag…
Riiiip! By the time the hollow sound reverberated in my ears, it was already too late.
As Kirino looked back, she made a soft exclamation. In the midst of the present tussle, the paper bag’s bottom had torn. The doujinshi that Kirino had bought all spilled nakedly onto the ground. Watching them getting cruelly soaked in the rain, even someone like me, who had very little emotional attachment to them, felt heart-stopping shivers go down my spine.
Even though she was so happy to have bought them earlier… that’s… pretty terrible…
Kirino seemed to have fallen into a state of complete and utter shock, and stood stock still while going ghastly pale.
Ayase looked down at the doujinshi which had dropped at her feet with cold, frightening eyes…
Slowly, she picked up one of the Siscali doujinshi. Her facial expression didn’t change, but her eyes widened.
Flip flip, flip flip… She turned through the wet pages, speaking with a tremble in her voice.
“Don’t… worry. I won’t tell anyone about this. To think someone like you would be into these… kinds of things… that you would go so far to lie about it, to try to hide it… I don’t think anybody would believe that kind of ridiculous story even if I told them… but.”
Right then, the trembling in her voice ceased. She spoke in an unfeeling tone of voice, sending a chill down my spine.
“… I’m sorry. I cannot be friends with someone like that… Kousaka-san. Please don’t try to talk to me at school from now on either.”
It was three hours later. The minute I arrived home, I plopped down the paper bags in the entranceway.
“……. Ahh……… I’m so beat……….”
Falling into an exhausted squat, I was too tired to even move.
High level otaku would do this three days in a row, but it would be a terrible mistake to think they were in the same class of people…
Well then. This isn’t the time to be doing this. These dangerous things have to first be quickly put away. If mother found these, it really wouldn’t be pleasant…
… But, my sister who should have taken the initiative and put those things away had shakily walked up the stairs right after coming home.
It wasn’t an atmosphere in which I felt comfortable talking with her. On the way back, in the train and the taxi, it had been like this. Shouldn’t I be deserving of a bit of praise just for having tolerated this gloomy, unpleasant atmosphere for longer than two hours?
Geez… what to do about this situation…?
Taking off my shoes, I rubbed my heel which was throbbing in pain. I then once again took up the five damn heavy paper bags, and slowly went up the stairs. Once I arrived at my sister’s room, I put the paper bags down for the moment, and began to knock… but there was no response.
“Hey Kirino. At the very least, let me put the things you bought in your room.”
She didn’t respond, but I heard a bit of noise coming from within. Without anything to lose, I tried twisting the knob, and found that the door wasn’t locked. She probably didn’t even have the energy to lock the door. Opening the door slightly, I saw that the room interior was completely dark. Doing a rather brotherly thing, I threw the door open, turned on the lights, and tried to cheer my depressed sister up… at least, that idea ran through my head before I rejected it. However I thought about it, it just was completely out of character for me, and I felt no sense of duty to go that far. In the first place, I wouldn’t even know what to say to her, and considering how much she hated me, anything I did say had no chance of cheering her up in the first place. It was a pitiful situation, for both me and my sister.
“… I’ll just leave these here then.”
Through the crack that had opened up, I slid the five paper bags through as gently as possible. This was something I could do, the bare minimal brotherly action. “I’m going to heat up the bath, so come in after a bit.” As I thought, she didn’t respond.
After washing off my light sweat in the shower, I decided to prepare the bath. Soaking in the tub put the body at ease much more than a shower alone. And if nobody else came in, then I would just go in myself. I wouldn’t let it go to waste.
… How long has it been since I’ve done something like this for my little sister?
I thought about it. Well, up until now, we’ve been pretty much ignoring each other, so…
After I finished my shower, I checked my cell phone, and saw that I had missed a call from Saori.
As I thought, when I returned her call, she seemed concerned about what had happened after they had left.
“Honestly, thank you for today. Thankfully, we made do, so don’t worry about it. Sorry that you had to worry about us.”
I didn’t mention that the girl that was there was Kirino’s close friend, that her otaku hobby had been exposed, that their relationship had been broken off, that she was now depressed… Saori had done a lot for us today, and had planned out our day for us, and had accompanied us the entire time.
I definitely didn’t want to give her some strange reason to worry about us further.
”I also tried to call Kiririn-shi, but she didn’t answer, so…”
“Haha, she’s also tired, I suppose. Right when she got back she fell asleep.
Ah, so it was like that? I’m relieved. Honestly relieved.
Saori seemed to have regained her peace of mind. Even though she had done so much for us… I’m really sorry.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I saw Kirino once again. Both my parents and I were gathered around the dining table.
My sister, last to appear, seemed to be acting as if nothing had happened. If this were a manga, the depressed heroine would have come out looking terrible with shadows under her eyes.
But both her hair and her makeup were as tidily put into order as always.
It was normal for Kirino not to talk while she ate, and she silently ate her curry. Giving her a sidelong glance, I felt that this all was a bit anticlimactic. What’s up with her?
“Kirino, training camp begins today, right? Aren’t you nervous?”
“Who exactly do you think I am, mom?”
It was a statement brimming with confidence and said in complete seriousness. My little sister was someone who could say things like that naturally, and moreover continue to produce results to match.
At this time, I couldn’t help thinking about how it only took her a single day after breaking off relations with her close friend to get back on her feet. I was impressed. You could go so far as to say that I was moved.
After we had gone to make summer memories for her, Kirino, as she had mentioned before, would become incredibly busy until summer ended.
Even after she returned from her one week training camp, she would go to practice day after day, and after she came back she would shut herself up in her room. These kinds of days continued until the month’s end.
After Summer Comiket had ended, my sister and I had not exchanged a single word.
She didn’t come to me for life advice again, and I didn’t try to talk to her about what had happened with Ayase. And even though I had promised to battle her in the game, up until now that still hadn’t happened.
In other words, I had no idea what the situation between Kirino and Ayase had become after that incident.
There was a lot of questions I wanted to ask Kirino. But I didn’t.
I also didn’t try to call or email Ayase about the matter.
Why, you ask? Because it’s not like I was friendly enough with them to meddle that much.
In relation to that incident, I had not moved a muscle. And I didn’t intend to in the future.
Of course… my sister had come to me multiple times for life advice, and I as well had gone to her for help with Manami. Compared to the perpetual cold war we had waged with each other before, I think we had definitely made a bit of progress in our relationship. And within the limits of those life advice sessions, we found many chances to talk to each other.
However, to the very end, those were instances where we just wanted advice.
Don’t misunderstand. You might think that we were getting along more lately, but Kirino and I still both hated each other. We were just oil and water, so there was no helping it. So it’s for the best if we can just come to terms with this situation and continue to ignore each other as much as possible.
Right now, we had regressed to the situation of a few months before, returning to the cold relationship in which we avoided eye contact and didn’t try to talk with each other.
And so this was the end result of that last life advice session…
She probably had already given up on trying to get life advice out of her useless brother.
… Well, I don’t mind. I don’t take issue with that at all.
I mean, having been mixed up with this life advice business by my annoying little sister, you could say I was grateful for how things turned out. Nothing more would disturb the peaceful life I wanted to live. It was refreshing.
Hmph… I just don’t give a damn.
Before I knew it, summer vacation was over, and the second school semester had begun.
Lately, perhaps because of all the unpleasant rain and thunder we’ve been getting, my sense of seasons had gone to hell.
The temperature would go up and down and up and down, so I had to be careful in choosing my daily attire.
By the way, the reason I can worry about such trivial things is because I had returned back to the ordinary, unblemished life I loved. Today, just like any other day, I was with Manami walking home from school.
“Hey, hey, Kyou-chan… it’s been a while since we’ve done this, hasn’t it?”
“Hm? Since we’ve done what?”
I sent a puzzled look to my childhood friend beside me, who had suddenly broken into a grin.
Manami’s eyes arched in the middle of her plain looking glasses, and her expression slackened.
“I mean, walking home alone together like this.”
“What are you talking about? The new semester started today, so isn’t it pretty obvious we’d be doing that?”
And it’s not like it’s been that long since we’ve walked home together like this.
After all, what about all those times during summer break when we had gone to the library or the park together?
After I naturally responded appropriately to her comment, Manami thinned her lips and looked up bitterly.
“That’s not what I meant. Oohh, you don’t understand at all, do you, Kyou-chan?”
“If you ask me, you’re the one who doesn’t understand… geez.”
If I still have so much trouble understanding Manami even though we’ve been friends for a long time, there’s probably no way I can understand other women…
Walking along like that for a bit, Manami spoke in a very natural tone of voice.
“Hey. Kyou-chan, there seems to have been something on your mind lately.”
“… What do you mean?”
I turned the other way and feigned innocence. Manami chuckled.
“’I don’t quite know what’s bothering you… but I can tell that whatever it is, you don’t want to talk to me about it. But, I can’t let that go. No matter how much you say it doesn’t have anything to do with me and refuse my help, I can’t just stand by and pretend nothing is happening.’ How about I say that?”
“……… Oh hoh…… where did you learn how to say cool things like that?”
“Cool, right? It’s what Kyou-chan said to me a while ago.” 
“I-Is that right?”
Ehh… I could just play dumb here, but if I do that, I have a feeling that this situation is going to get to be more and more of a headache.
“What the hell… you’re going to be the death of me.”
“Same to you.”
As I gave up with a painful expression on my face, Manami cheerfully laughed while nudging me with her bag.
It almost seemed like we had returned to midsummer. And it wasn’t as if the scent of sundried grass coming from my childhood friend had anything to do with that feeling.
“But, seriously… there’s nothing bothering me… honestly.”
“… Is that right? I’m pretty sure there is, though…”
Well, if you say so, maybe there is. But, honestly, nothing comes to mind.
“Hmm… maybe it’s something… you’re not conscious of?”
“Ah, I remember you said something about your little sister… does this have something to do with that life advice you gave Kirino-chan?”
I responded instantly, announcing that conclusion in a forceful tone of voice. When I did that, Manami clapped her hands together.
“Ah, I got it. So it’s that.”
“No, it isn’t!”
What the hell just happened?! But Manami seemed to be convinced in her beliefs, mumbling things like “ahaha, you really aren’t very honest with yourself” with a know-it-all air.
“… At any rate, even if there is something bothering me, it has nothing to do with my sister. Alright?”
“Yeah, sure. Well, can I ask you something else then? Has there been something bothering Kirino-chan lately?”
What the hell… I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all… it seems like she’s been leading me around by the nose all this time… she said that she was asking me something else, right?
Even though she seems so plain, she’s pretty impertinent, this one…
When I refused to talk further, I realized that we had arrived the usual T junction on the way home.
And then, with perfect timing (or should I say, terrible timing), we saw my beleaguered little sister. It wasn’t like this was an unusual occurrence, considering all the schools in the area pretty much let their students out at similar times. This type of chance encounter had already happened dozens of times.
“Ah… that’s… Kirino-chan… right?”
Manami didn’t seem confident in her assertion, which is natural considering they rarely interacted. It was just that before, Manami and I saw Kirino while she was taking part in that photo shoot, which is why Manami recognized her this time in the first place. Even though I wouldn’t have minded if she didn’t recognize her…
Even though Kirino was usually seen hanging out in a throng of people, for some reason, she was alone today.
“… Hm? Kirino-chan… seems a bit down…”
“Really? I can’t tell.”
Hm, she really seems pretty depressed. I’m her brother after all, so I could at least tell that much.
Usually, she would be walking at a rapid pace with her head held high.
She wasn’t someone who you would expect to see hunched over like that, sadly trudging back from school.
Up until yesterday, she hadn’t shown any signs of being depressed…
But today, maybe something happened at school… ugh, what is she doing, acting like that…?
Come on, don’t look so depressed in front of other people. That’s so not like you.
At some point, I had begun to bite my lower lip.
“I’m sorry. My stomach is starting to hurt, so we’ll have to reschedule our study meeting.”
As I faced forward and told Manami that, she simply responded with an “Alright.”
Next, in an unexpected act of encouragement, Manami gave me a firm push from the back.
“Do your best, onii-chan.”
Well, if you tell me that, then I guess there’s no avoiding it.
When I got back home…
Kirino was in the living room on the couch, hugging a cushion and burying her face into it.
On the table, there was a glass of cola she had drank a bit of.
Unlike during summer vacation, it was very clear that she was depressed.
Well, so what? It’s not like I feel any duty to worry about her, I couldn’t even begin to guess what to say to her in the first place, and it’s not like I was that interested in knowing what exactly was bothering her.
But, well… just now, Manami had told me to do my best.
That softhearted person was worried after seeing Kirino looking so down…
So, there was no point in arguing.
It’s not like I was worried about her, but if something was bothering her it’s not like I couldn’t at least hear her out. 
“… Hey Kirino… you… didn’t even turn on the lights…”
I began to move to turn on the lights, but I hesitated, and in the end decided to leave the living room in its dimly lit state. I walked to my little sister’s side. My sister did not make even the slightest movement while her head was still buried in the cushion.
After a bit of hesitation, I steeled myself and began to speak.
“Hey. What’s wrong? Did… something happen at school…?”
She vacantly mumbled while her face remained attached to the cushion. It was incredibly difficult to make out what she was saying.
But, I was relieved that she at least responded. If she were set on completely ignoring me, then there was nothing I would be able to do. So, let’s take one step forward at a time.
“Did you forget your homework… or something…?”
I knew that wasn’t the case, but I just wanted to test the waters.
Kirino shook her head from side to side. So that wasn’t it.
“Well then… did Ayase… say something to you?”
I tried asking the real question, but this time I got no response. No response whatsoever.
Without losing heart, I asked another question.
“Could it be that… she broke her promise and spread rumors about your hobby…”
“Ayase would never do something like that!”
I widened my eyes at her angry response. If this were right before Comiket, I would feel happy that her friend was trustworthy… but how should I react to Kirino’s words now?
“Did you… make up with her?”
Once again, no response. Kirino dug her face even deeper into the cushion. Seeing her do that, I could tell that she probably didn’t make up with Ayase… dammit, this is going nowhere. I began to pull on the cushion.
“Come on, Kirino. Look at me for a bit. If you don’t tell me anything I won’t know what’s going on.”
“Leave me alone.”
Kirino stubbornly tried to hold onto the cushion. Disregarding her attempts, I just pulled more strongly.
“Dammit! I told you to leave me alone!”
Kirino yelled, suddenly letting go of the cushion. As the pillow slipped out suddenly and I lost my balance, Kirino faced me and spoke even more angrily than she had been speaking before.
“What the hell… just because I’ve been talking to you a bit more lately, don’t go getting used to it and acting like you’re my brother or something! Don’t get the wrong idea! You’re disgusting!”
Ah, is that so? What a lucky coincidence. I couldn’t agree more.
After all, that’s how it was, wasn’t it? It was all just a terrible misunderstanding for me to think that our relationship had gotten just a bit better, when nothing had changed at all. Well, I’m sorry for getting carried away.
Ugh… just ugh…
But I still don’t want to be told that by someone on the verge of tears.
“Ugh, it’s such a pain to deal with huge idiots. As if I give a damn what you say.”
As Kirino’s face twisted in disgust, I tossed the cushion on the floor.
Whoosh! With that, I vigorously plopped myself down on the sofa.
I sat right next to my sister, our eyes at the same level, so I could listen to her better.
“I don’t care if you call me gross, I said. It’s fine, so say it all you want. Just go ahead! Hah, at any rate, I’m the siscon hentai idiot brother who made the terrible mistake of thinking that I was getting closer to my little sister after all! I won’t let you run away until you tell me what’s going on. If you think I’m annoying, then you’re best off just accepting it and giving me the whole story.”
What the hell did I just say? Did I hit my head somewhere on the way here or something?
At my incoherent rambling, Kirino made a strange face.
“W-What… are you saying?”
She seemed bewildered even though she was angry at the same time, you could say.
“So, you didn’t make up with Ayase?”
Ignoring her confusion, I asked my question. It was a rather forceful way of doing things, but the way things were going, it didn’t seem like she would talk about it by herself.
So I really had no choice but to interrogate her like this and deduce the situation from the answers she gave.
Well, I did only have one guess as to what had happened, and it probably wasn’t that far off from the truth.
I might be repeating myself, but I honestly am not worried about her. I mean, just look at the disgusted way in which she’s staring at me. She probably really hates that I’m meddling in something that’s none of my business…
Who in the world would want to go through so much trouble for the sake of someone like that?
But, I had already decided that I would do this. I had already told myself that I would do this. I had no intention of stopping without finishing what I had started.
After all, the blood of my stubborn father ran through my veins.
“… Making up with Ayase…”
Maybe having realized that yelling wouldn’t get her anywhere, Kirino dropped her aggressive tone, and glared at me with tear-filled eyes.
“… There’s no way… I could make up with Ayase… after… what happened…”
“Ah… I see.”
That menacing glare… just thinking back to it gave me the shivers. No matter how close they had been in the past, given how harshly Ayase rejected Kirino, it’s no wonder that it would be difficult for them to make up. But, judging from her reaction, what had her on the verge of tears definitely had something to do with the situation with Ayase.
“But… you seemed completely fine the day after you had that argument with her…”
And that’s why I had assumed that she had quickly got a hold of herself, had called Ayase and patched things up, and that the entire incident had reached some sort of conclusion.
So, what exactly happened to her right after the new semester started?
“I mean… I had to go to the invitational track and field training camp… so I couldn’t just be depressed all the time.”
“… What? … Was the training camp that important to you?”
“That’s obvious, isn’t it…? A lot of people other than me wanted to go to the training camp and had trained hard for it… but in the end I was the one selected. Do you really think I would go there depressed and just make it all go to waste?”
And so, she put off her depression until after the camp.
“… in shoujo manga or cell phone novels  sometimes you’ll read about protagonists who don’t do well at a big competition after they get rejected by a guy or have an argument with their friends… but screw that, I say. That’s that, and this is this. Screw off, I want to say to her… I would never be like that, never.”
She said that as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I see… as I thought, my little sister might look like a showoff on the outside, but she was strangely tough, hard on herself and on others, and an incredibly serious person.
“Have you called Ayase at any point after the incident?”
“No. I tried a few times… but she would never pick up… and I was also pretty busy.”
“… So that means… when you saw her today, it’s been a while since you’ve faced her…”
So it seemed that there was no reason to think that my sister had made a quick recovery from this and didn’t care at all.
It was just that she had other things she needed to do, so she had just endured it in the meantime.
And then the things she had to do got done, the new semester started, and she came face to face with Ayase again.
Having to look at the reason for the breakup up close… that was what caused Kirino to once again get depressed? That’s why, in my eyes, it had seemed that she had already recovered, but then one day she suddenly seemed to fall into a gloomy mood again?
… That doesn’t sit well with me. I think that’s really quite incredible, but no matter how I look at it, it doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t even explain why it doesn’t sit well with me, but it really doesn’t.
You… why… why did you… agh, dammit! I don’t even know how to put it…!
“… And today? Did you talk with Ayase today? At least for a bit.”
At my question, Kirino didn’t respond, instead biting her lip and looking downwards. Hm, so she couldn’t talk to her, could she…
Personally, I’m not very well informed on the details of Kirino’s school relationships. But, seeing her come home dejected and alone when I’m used to seeing her always surrounded by a large group of friends…
Her relationship had probably soured with those people. Kirino and Ayase were probably at the core of that group of girls, so when they saw that Kirino and Ayase had broken away from each other, they too probably also distanced themselves.
Her friend who had always, always supported her, in her work, and at school.
Ayase had said that of Kirino, and Kirino also had once proudly praised her friend.
The bonds between those two were sincerely irreplaceable.
That’s why she was here, wasting away like this.
… This just makes me sick. Strangely, it pissed me off. Why did I feel this way?
“So? So… what are you going to do?”
“… What… am I going to do…?”
Kirino muttered weakly. It seemed that she had completely used up the fierce energy she had used to scream before.
Seeing my sister like this was just something I couldn’t swallow. I didn’t try to patronize  her even for a second.
“That’s obvious, isn’t it? What are you going to do to make up with Ayase?”
“… I… already told you… there’s nothing I can do.”
What is she saying? What exactly is she saying?
“She’s a close friend, isn’t she?”
No response. I tried again with a harsher tone.
“You’re alright with how things are? Breaking up like this.”
“Shut the hell up!”
Whoosh. Instead of sending a response my way, she sent a counterattack. Cling Clang! Irritated, Kirino shook off my arm  and threw many of the things on the table to the floor.
The crystal ashtray was upset, and the bottle of cola violently fell to the floor.
The atmosphere suddenly tensed. The explosive situation continued for another few suspenseful seconds.
“… Well? Well what?! Haven’t I just been telling you to stop meddling…? Just leave me alone! It has nothing to do with you!”
“… That’s true.”
… It was true. It’s not like she needed to tell me that. This situation really had nothing to do with me.
It wasn’t as if I was trying to turn this into a life advice session like before, to let all the progress I had made  go to waste. Right now, this was just an issue between my sister and her estranged friend.
That was it. It was an issue that took place in a world that had nothing to do with me. However…
“… I don’t like it.”
“I don’t like it, I said! I don’t like seeing you give up so easily!”
Even though it had nothing to do with me, I couldn’t help myself from getting angry.
“She’s your close friend, isn’t she?! Your best friend?! Didn’t you say that yourself?! But, then, how can you give up so easily?! There’s no way you can be satisfied with how things are!!”
“I said it has nothing to do with you!”
“I cried after three days you know!”
Completely not thinking anymore and just speaking through my anger, my words no longer had any rhyme or reason to them.
“I mean… I mean… suddenly having a relationship with your best friend go sour… not being able to see her… being impatient and getting annoyed… but not being able to do anything about it…”
What the hell am I saying?! … Why the hell am I telling such embarrassing things to my little sister?!
Dammit! I’ve definitely gone strange in the head lately!
It’s as if once I flipped a certain switch, I became a complete idiot!
“So laugh! Haha! Laugh at your stupid brother who cries over things like that! But, but… everyone has someone like that, right?! Someone that you don’t want to separate from, that you don’t even want to think about not being able to be with!”
“For you, that’s how you think about Ayase… right?”
I couldn’t say that I fully understood what Kirino’s relationship with Ayase was like.
I also couldn’t say that her relationship with Ayase was the same as my relationship with Manami.
But… it was close at least, right?
Didn’t she say that Ayase was a close friend, that she was her best friend?
“… And if that’s true, then this must be really hard on you. From the end of Obon until now… how many days have passed..? And in that time, you couldn’t see her, she wouldn’t pick up the phone… it was clear she didn’t want to talk with you…”
If it were me, I wouldn’t be able to take it. It would be intolerable. I didn’t even want to think about it. I might die from the shock.
And so, I really couldn’t swallow the fact that Kirino was giving up like this.
“But even then, why are you giving up so easily?! That’s not like you at all! The Kirino I know would fight against this! No matter how ugly the fight would get! No matter how unfavorable the odds were! Getting depressed like this at a time like this, and especially lashing out in anger… is that honestly something you would do?! You’re acting just like the loser you accused me of being!!”
“… Hah, why are you being so serious about this?”
Listening to what I had to say, Kirino let out an openly cold sigh.
“Are you an idiot? … In any case, to be frank, I don’t want to hear about your gross little story about you and your friend… if you cry after not seeing her for three days, why don’t you two just go and jump off a bridge together? ”
“… What? What the hell did you just say to me…?”
“Oh look, you’re getting angry. That’s exactly what’s so gross about you!”
“Don’t screw with me…!!”
Without even thinking, I grabbed my little sister by the collar. My eyes widened and I couldn’t stop trembling.
Because, looking at the face of my little sister which was now inches from my own, I saw her eyes brimming with tears.
Kirino began to violently try to shake me off.
“Shut up! Don’t think you can just come in here and start acting like my brother after all these years!!”
… What did she just say? Before I could fully register what my sister had shouted…
Bam! Something suddenly hit my face. Kirino had picked up the cushion, and struck my head with it as strongly as she could. It didn’t exactly hurt, but for a second I couldn’t breathe.
Not even getting a chance to recover, this time an attack came to my stomach. I could almost hear a thud as a violent front kick was sent to my abdomen. Not being able to bear the attack, I crouched, and Kirino swung the cushion down at my head at a steep angle.
“W… Wait… S-Stop…”
Bam! “Do you have any idea how I felt going through summer vacation like that?!”
Bam! “Why are you telling me that I shouldn’t be OK with the way things are?! Don’t you think I already know that?!”
Bam! “But what the hell can I do?! I did something and now Ayase hates me, and she doesn’t plan on giving in!! I have no idea what I should do…!!”
Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Again and again and again, with every overflowing bit of emotion, she struck me.
“Ugh…” Clumsily crouching there, I protected my head with both arms. I continued to endure my sister’s strikes…
Ow, I thought. That hurt. Both physically and mentally.
“Don’t give up? Struggle even if the odds are against you? That’s not like you? … Don’t screw with me! What the hell do you think I should do?! Don’t think it’s that simple!!”
Between her sobs, Kirino continued to beat up on me.
“Do you think I didn’t try to do anything about this?! Do you think I didn’t try to fight against this? You don’t know a damn thing! Not a damn, single thing! Not a thing!”
Each time I was hit, I had a feeling that I understood Kirino’s true feelings a bit more.
At the same time, a new source of anger welled up in me.
… This idiot. Why couldn’t she have just been straight with me before? Why did she have to be so uncooperative?
As I thought, she was hit pretty hard by this. She was just acting strong and hiding her real feelings.
And then she says she was able to put up with her feelings during summer vacation? … Bullshit…!
And then there was me. Why the hell was I such an idiot? Just because she isn’t straight with me, I can’t understand what my own sister is feeling? Even though I should know better than most the pain that comes from feeling like you had a break with a close friend! I guess I was still an immature good-for-nothing.
She was my own sister and I her only brother, so why did we have such a hard time understanding each other?
Tightly closing both her eyes, Kirino clicked her tongue vehemently. As if she was trying to dispel her tears through pure anger.
I suddenly realized that her attacks had stopped. Kirino breathed heavily, and lowered the cushion loosely to her side while biting her lower lip tightly. She looked like she was trying to keep herself from crying further.
Finally… in a voice I could barely hear, she muttered haltingly.
“……… Our life advice discussion…… is……. far from over……”
Even while she tried so hard to hide her weakness and look strong, she couldn’t hide the tearful tone of her voice.
“…. Until the very end… take responsibility…”
Say that sooner, you idiot. Have you forgotten that I’m your brother ?
I couldn’t put my emotions into words. Because my body and my heart were in pain… but my manhood hurt the most .
When I finally pulled myself together in face of the dull throbbing pain, I was the only one left in the living room. It seems that while I was tumbled over in pain, my sister had returned to her room.
But seriously, to think I just got beat up by my little sister… is there another big brother in the world like me?
“Oogh……. Ugh….. Ouch….”
Rubbing the offending part of my head a few times, I softly stood back up…. Ow, it still hurts.
With a thud, I plunked down onto the sofa, and looked up at the ceiling.
Alright… should I do it?
I thought about that while in a surprisingly refreshed mood. Once again, I had to exert effort to destroy the problems that were hounding my little sister. And what’s more, my opponent this time would be Ayase, that girl who had a dark side of her personality that had completely blindsided me. It would be incredibly annoying and dangerous. Even if I could do something about it, I didn’t really want to. And I didn’t want to get involved with other people’s problems.
But, I really couldn’t say it wasn’t my problem anymore.
It was just a little while ago that I lost the right to say those words.
Life advice… she had told me to make summer memories for her. And I had to take responsibility for causing her discomfort… and using my embarrassing secret as leverage, she gave me that unreasonable order.
The memory had to be something fun. It couldn’t come with a foul aftertaste.
And for that reason, you could say that I was still in the middle of our life advice session. So I couldn’t just abandon something like that without seeing it to an end. There was no helping it. I had to do it. Geez.
Hah. Being an older brother was not very easy… as I laughed at myself, I began to push buttons on my cell phone.
The display showed the phone number of “Aragaki Ayase.” I heard the sound of the call being made.
… There might have been a reason why Ayase had suddenly had such a complete change in personality.
I thought about it. I mean, I still couldn’t really believe that what had happened really happened. To think that such a gentle, kind, sincere person… such a good person like Ayase… could suddenly flip out and turn into a completely different, terrifying person, and then break off relations with a good friend like Kirino…
It was just that Kirino’s ero doujinshi habit was exposed before her eyes, right? Well, I guess “just” is not the right word. The situation was a bit more serious than that… it’s really a bit incomprehensible, you know?
And I mean, that’s the feeling I got from the bits and pieces of Kirino’s words I had collected from earlier.
So… definitely, something was up… something.
On my fifteenth attempt to make the call, I got a response. “Yes?”
“Hey, it’s been a while. This is Kousaka Kyousuke.”
“… Did you want something?” It was the same harsh tone as before.
“… I want to talk to you about Kirino.”
After a few silent seconds, I got a response.
“Did Kirino ask you to do this?”
“Do you think she did?”
Immediate answer. I guess she knew all too well that Kirino was not that kind of person.
Suddenly, we both sighed. When I first met Ayase, I had never thought that I would be having this kind of serious conversation with her.
Well, how should I start this…? As I struggled to find words, she went first.
“If you’re asking for me to make up with her, I refuse.”
She doesn’t even want to talk about it… she probably acted like this towards Kirino today at school too.
And Kirino was probably pretty shocked by that.
Hmph, that girl… she has an absurdly high sense of responsibility, and if she has a reason she’ll try hard to bear her problems… but once those reasons went away, she suddenly became quite fragile…
To be treated like this by a close friend was probably quite hard on her.
“So… you won’t accept that she has this kind of hobby?”
“Correct. I cannot be friends with someone who has things like that. I said that the other day too.”
Ayase flatly refused, and continued her statement.
“I could ask you too what you think of all this. That your little sister has a hobby like this… well, I don’t really even have to ask. Because I saw you with her at that place together.”
Hey, I still haven’t said anything, you know. She’s just going on by herself and drawing her own conclusions.
Now that I think about it, for as long as I’ve known her she’s been that kind of person.
“Yes, everything is your fault. It’s all because you dragged Kirino into… into that kind of…”
“Wait, no. That’s…”
She has it all wrong! What a terrible misunderstanding…! It was the opposite! I was the one that got dragged in!
“Don’t make excuses, please. I can’t believe this… why did this happen… Kirino wasn’t that kind of person! You’re her brother, so you know, right? She was an amazing girl! Someone who was respected by everyone, who people relied on, myself included…”
“W-wait just a second! Wait!”
“Don’t make excu-“
“Aaaaahhh!!! I told you to wait, didn’t I?! Calm down! Listen to what I have to say!”
I forcefully interjected with a shout, and finally, I managed to break Ayase off from her monologue. She seemed quite disgruntled at having been cut off before she could proudly tell me to not make excuses.
“… What is it then?”
“… Did you talk with Kirino today?”
I really needed to be clear on what exactly had happened. Could it be that she…
“Or, did you not? Did you just ignore her… or something?”
“No, we talked. Just a bit. But there was no point.”
If I interjected, she probably would get angry, so I obediently waited for her to continue.
Hey, don’t look at me as if I was doing something pathetic. I’m seriously scared here.
“I was really close with Kirino. That’s not true anymore, but we were really close, Onii-san. So… don’t you think it’s obvious I want to heal our relationship, that I want for us to go back to the way things were?”
Yeah… breaking up with a close friend was really hard. It was definitely clear that she would want to heal their relationship and return to the way things were. I had just experienced something similar, after all…
I know. All too well. I understand, and that’s why I’m here talking to her like this.
I wasn’t sure how Ayase was taking my silence… but she kept on going.
“… So… that’s what I told her. ‘Can you stop doing things like that?’ I asked her. ‘I want us to be friends again, so I really don’t want things to turn out this way. So could you throw it all away and forget about it?’ I asked. During summer vacation, I also couldn’t stop thinking about this… but I couldn’t go against my own feelings… still, I really like Kirino… and I want to continue to really liking Kirino… so I tried to compromise with her on this.”
When she spoke like that, the frightening atmosphere dispersed, and Ayase returned to the kind girl who had deep feelings for her close friend. I really don’t think I was mistaken when I got the impression before that she was a good person. But… in the next instant, the atmosphere chilled.
“And what do you think Kirino said to that?”
I can guess. I can probably imagine what she said precisely, word for word.
What she probably said first was…
“’Definitely not,’ she told me! … I couldn’t believe it… even though I had begged her like that…! Even though I had asked her to make up with me…! ‘Definitely not,’ she said… that’s so terrible…”
Don’t cry… Dammit, she’s much harder to deal with than my father was. No matter if it was my sister or her, I felt helpless when a girl began to cry in front of me. I spoke, trying to cheer her up.
“But… she doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to make up with you, you know?”
“It’s all the same! She means that that hobby is more important than I am, right?! I thought we were close… but that was completely not true…!!”
“Well, what about you?”
With a more aggressive tone of voice, I asked my question.
“Certainly, you might say that Kirino is not like normal people and has a not-so-great hobby. Well, let me just ask, do you really think that something like that is enough of a reason to cut off your relationship with Kirino? Do you really think, just because she likes something you don’t understand, that’s a good reason to start hating a close friend? So, what about that?”
“Something like that? Something like that, did you say?”
“Yes, I did. So what? Don’t get me wrong… I have not the slightest of intentions of supporting her hobby. But, I don’t think her hobby is something that should break apart two close friends.”
“That’s because you also have the same hobby, isn’t it?”
NO! … I wanted to say, but she probably wouldn’t believe me. What’s more, honestly, after spending time with my sister and her friends, and after going to that event, my prejudices against otaku had died down.
So, it was true that I saw these types of otaku hobbies in a different light than Ayase did.
But, even so. Was there some other reason for all this? I really couldn’t believe that just because Kirino had a weird hobby, Ayase would cut ties with her.
“Maybe. But if I have to say it, you don’t exactly understand what Kirino’s hobby is about either, right? You’re hating something without even understanding it.”
I tried to convince Ayase with the same line of reasoning I had used on my father. But…
“My mother is the president of the PTA.”
Ayase spoke sharply.
Having such a strange word coming at me seemingly out of context, I tilted my neck.
What exactly did that have to do with what we were talking about?
“Sometimes I help my mother when she has periodic meetings… at those meetings, we sometimes have guest speakers, journalists who have spoken on television before… what they tell us is that Japan, as a nation, is one of the most prominent suppliers of child pornography in the world, and suspicious products like that run unchecked especially in Akihabara. It’s a really serious problem, if you ask me… The same person told us that the House of Representatives  recently was presented with a petition asking them to enact a law regulating the manufacture and distribution of adult anime and games featuring young girls.”
“… Adult… regulation… petition?”
What was going on… I had a bad feeling about where this was going… 
“Yes. To summarize, it was something calling for the regulation of adult games and anime. It was originally a petition presented by members of the House of Councilors. If you do those kinds of things, you would unwittingly destroy your mind and lose your humanity.”
Although Ayase was speaking in a very orderly manner, she gradually got more and more worked up.
“There were a few products mentioned on a handout they distributed at the meeting. There were manga and computer games in which you defile little girls, lock them up and enjoy doing perverted things to them… I couldn’t believe that there were people who would look at these things, who would play with them and actually have fun while doing it. I don’t even really want to remember what happened in that incident… but certainly, the things Kirino had at that time were all those types of things, right? Yes?”
Faced with the waves of disapproval coming off Ayase, I didn’t really know how to respond.
So, the PTA did things like that too? Really, petitions…? Regulations…?
Nothing but pointless thoughts and questions ran through my head.
“That kind of disgusting hobby… if you can even call something dirty like that a ‘hobby’… to find out that a close friend had something like that… isn’t is obvious that I would try to stop it? Would a friend really just give her permission to do this kind of thing and approve of it? I really don’t think so, so if she definitely won’t give it up, I can’t continue to associate with her. Even if she was a close friend.”
If this were a few weeks ago, I probably wouldn’t have had a single problem with what she was saying, and would have approved of it as a commendable way of thinking.
I mean, even now, I had to admit that Ayase’s overly serious line of reasoning was sound…
I cocked my head to the side. But I don’t have to tell her that, right?
Was I acting this way because I already was well on my way to being an otaku? Had my head gone funny?
Considering what we were talking about, I didn’t want to argue back against this junior high school girl and make myself seem like a big hentai… but before I knew it I had opened my mouth.
“Well, I mean, from your point of view, it probably seems disgusting or dirty… if that’s what you say you think, then all I can say is ‘ah, alright.’ But, this really isn’t something worthy of such an overreaction… I mean, they’re just books and games, right?”
“What if I told you that under influence by those things you call ‘just games,’ people have committed crimes?! There was that incident before summer vacation, that was on the news… umm… the ‘Siscali Attempted Murder Case!’”
“S-Siscali… Attempted Murder Case?”
“Yes. Did you not know? Hold on… just a second. I know I have it around here…”
I heard a clattering noise on the other end of the line. It seemed as if she was preparing the appropriate documents.
“… It was a case where a man tried to electrocute a girl to death and was caught. That man was part of that group of potential criminals they call ‘otaku,’ and seemed to do what he did under the influence of the 18+ game ‘Little Sister Wars – Siscalypse.’ He confessed that he wanted to act like he did in the game and yearned for the game characters… they also confiscated a large number of disgusting books and games from that man’s room.”
In her anger, Ayase threw her judgmental words at me.
“Among the disgusting books that Kirino dropped that day, there were even a few that were listed on this document! I saw ‘Siscalypse’ written on some, right?! Doesn’t that mean Kirino has the same game as that murderer did?!”
I see… I see. I see all too well… I know exactly what’s going on now. I can understand now why you suddenly became so hysterical when you read that doujinshi, and why you became so pale then.
In other words, she really was just worried about Kirino.
Her important friend might have turned into a potential criminal. Like that, Kirino might destroy her mind and lose her humanity.
… What should I do? What should I do… what should I do… what should I do?!
So, that’s what this situation had become. Ayase continued her speech in a bitter tone.
“… So, alright? How can you justify something like that… those types of games and manga, and everything similar to that kind of thing… it’s unforgivable that such things exist in this world! And the people who want such things, and the people who make such things, everyone is the same: potential criminals! These are things we need to closely regulate and harshly control! And these things are absolutely not things Kirino should give involved with!! Give me back my Kirino! Give her back!”
And I was utterly shut down. I mustered my courage and tried to redial her number, but Ayase didn’t pick up again.
“… What the hell…”
I sighed heavily.
I had expected the conversation to be tough, but it had been even more difficult than I had imagined.
Ayase wasn’t just simply speaking out of the pure prejudice against otaku that many girl junior high students possessed. She was trying to get Kirino to stop her hobby for Kirino’s sake. Up to that point, her actions were identical with my father’s that one time. But Ayase had presented real evidence that supported her opinion, her disgust against otaku. She was a very difficult opponent. Probably even more than my father had been.
I wouldn’t be able to change her opinion without trying my utmost.
“… ‘Siscali Attempted Murder Case,’ huh… to think I would hear something like that at a time like this…”
If I thought about it now, the reason why Kirino had become so depressed is probably because she had met with Ayase while Ayase was acting like that. It was truly a helpless, lamentable situation.
But, what just happened? What was up with that argument? From what I heard (and her one-sided tone that was filled with genuine worry probably had something to do with this), she was definitely quite persuasive, and her argument even had a basis in real fact. But… how should I put it… there was just something I couldn’t accept about her line of reasoning.
Honestly, it might be because I had met Kirino’s otaku friends, and even had gone to an event with them… and had felt a feeling of friendship budding with them. Or rather, it might have been because I had played the very game, “Siscali,” that had motivated that crime, had practiced it, and had even cleared it… so probably, I was biased in favor of it.
I didn’t know what it was, but for now I knew I couldn’t accept what she had said.
Even I wouldn’t say that there weren’t bad influences that existed in games, manga, or on the Internet. Your precious time melts away to nothing; it’s not really a good thing to waste your childhood watching bishoujo anime, and the only place they talk so proudly about playing eroge are on restricted communities.
Once you go outside and look at it from the perspective of normal common sense, it wasn’t something you could puff your chest out about.
I mean, that’s why Kirino had been so troubled back then when she couldn’t find anybody to talk to about her own hobby.
People could say that these things have a bad influence on her.
But, just by being an otaku, could a good person really be turned into a bad person, or could someone who would never commit a crime really be transformed into a criminal?
For example… if you read a manga in which they kill people, or play a brutal game, would you really start to want to kill people?
I mean, maybe the guy who killed the other person was an idiot in the first place. If he was just a normal human, people wouldn’t have an issue, right? It wasn’t games or whatever that was the issue, but rather was a problem with his character, wouldn’t you say?
But let’s say for the sake of argument that he fell under the evil influence of games and became a criminal. Even if he hadn’t played games, wouldn’t he have just found some other reason to commit crimes? However you say it, reality will always be a much stronger influence on people than games.
It was impossible to make a game that was more real than reality.
It was impossible to even think about what that kind of game would be like.
So, even if she had evidence like that, it just didn’t convince me.
It’s just that, this was my own personal opinion, and didn’t go further than that.
It was impossible for me to convince Ayase with this personal opinion alone.
“… What should I do?”
Kirino and Ayase both wanted to make up with each other.
But Kirino had absolutely no intentions on giving up her hobby, and Ayase had absolutely no intentions on approving of that hobby. They couldn’t meet eye to eye .
And… even if their relationship would never be the same, I wanted to see them make up with each other. Although from the bottom of my heart, I couldn’t care less about my damn little sister.
Life advice… it was because I had already involved myself in something like that, so I would do what I could.
And also, I couldn’t tolerate the thought, couldn’t stomach the fact that close to me, two good friends were being breaking up with each other. Because I can relate to how painful such an experience can be. So I wanted to do something if I could.
Even if this wasn’t about my sister, I would feel like that.
First of all… that girl had said that otaku were “potential criminals.”
That included not just me and Kirino, but Kuroneko and Saori as well.
Of course, I didn’t really care what bad things people said about otakus in general…
But if someone spoke badly about my friends, could I really just stay silent about it?
Obviously not, right?
After that, I thought for a while about the situation in my room.
About how I could get them to make up with each other. About how I could get her to take back those ugly things she had said about my friends. About what I could do and what I couldn’t.
Things I should do… there were a few things I could do.
First, I would borrow Kirino’s computer, and look on the Internet.
Then, I could… ask for help on this situation… from someone…
I could have laughed at myself for so suddenly resorting to relying on others, but I understood all too well what little power I had myself. An extremely normal, seventeen year old high school student. That was who I was.
If someone more dependable than I was could lend me their strength, and then could help me achieve my goals more effectively, then that would be great. Call me uncool if you want, call me pathetic if you want, but I would do anything I could think of that would help.
I would do what I could. So, I had to exhaust every thread of strength I had.
But, who exactly should I ask…? The person I would feel most comfortable talking about this with, the person who was the best informed about these types of situations, was Saori… but I wanted to leave that option aside for now. Kuroneko too. I had said I would exhaust all my strength… but I didn’t want to worry those two over this matter. They’ve already helped us out more than enough… I really didn’t want to ask them to help me out of this messy situation on top of that.
Well, certainly, Saori would probably say something like “there’s no need to thank me”…
This was why asking Saori or Kuroneko for help was, to me, the last of the last of options.
Speaking of Kirino, she had probably also done whatever was in her power to do to resolve this situation. She probably had exhausted all possibilities available to her. And even then she was reduced to such a sorry state, so even if I went to her at this point and asked for advice, no good ideas would come out of that. Instead, we probably would just end up arguing again.
So… then… the remaining candidate was…
I meditated on it for almost a minute, but finally I narrowed my eyes, my mind in a complicated state.
… there was someone. If I really wanted to, there was just one person…
Someone who would seriously give me advice, who was incredibly well-informed about things like the “Siscali Attempted Murder Case” or the “PTA meeting” or the “regulations on bishoujo adult material,” someone who would never tell anybody else, and from whom I could hope for effective advice…
B-But… that person was… that person was……. ugh… This couldn’t be happening…
As I thought about the one person who could help me here, my resolution was unsteady…
Deep creases ran through my forehead, and for a while I groaned.
Finally making up my mind, I collapsed onto my bed, my face sickly pale.
Dammit. I’m not actually hurt, but I feel a throbbing pain in my cheek…
It was night on the same day. Finding just the right time, I walked towards the living room.
In the living room, my dad was sitting on the sofa and enjoying his customary evening drink. Happily, I could not see my mother anywhere. Maybe she had gone to take a bath.
“… Oh, Kyousuke. What do you need?”
My father’s face gave off the impression of some terrifying yakuza, and if I had to compare him to an animal, I would say he gave off the impression of a gorilla. He was incredibly rough. And so he worked as a police officer. With his fierce pointed stare that I had often seen on Kirino, he probably struck fear into the hearts of criminals.
Before summer vacation, I had confronted this person. To get him to accept Kirino’s hobby.
Looking back on it, it was pretty incredible how well things had worked out then. It was good that everything had gone miraculously well, but if I had failed, I really might have had to shave my head and by now would have joined a Buddhist temple. To be frank, I would go as far as to say it was strange that I had escaped from that episode mostly unscathed.
And… honestly, since then, I had barely talked with my father.
My father never broke promises he made, so there was no reason to believe that he would still be in a foul mood about what had happened, but ever since then things had been strangely awkward. At that time, I had said some pretty out of character, angry things, so I did wonder how the situation may have looked to him… know what I mean?
Umm… well. You might ask me, if I feel so awkward and weak about this, why am I voluntarily coming to him? … Well, that’s hard to say, really…
“Kyousuke, I asked you what you needed, didn’t I? You want to talk to me about something, correct?”
“A-Ahh… yeah. I d-do…”
“Hm… is it about your future?”
Sorry, that’s not it, dad… I’m really, really sorry. I feel really bad about this…
“I need advice on something… mainly on the 18+ games thing…”
H-He’s not saying anything. D-Dad?
“… Ah… I think I’m getting a bit hard of hearing. Sorry Kyousuke, please say that again.”
In an unusually good mood, my father smiled dryly and downed the contents of his sake cup.
He still believed that Kirino didn’t have any 18+ games… so I had to pretend like the subject of discussion was myself.
Umm… what should I say? Let’s try to tread softly and carefully…
“Dad… the truth is… a little bit ago, I accidentally dropped some 18+ goods on the road, and one of my good friends, a girl, now hates me. What should I do?”
Hack! Cough! Hack! Hack!
The sake spilled out onto his face. “Cough! Cough! Hack…!” My father looked just like he was having an asthma attack. He grasped onto his chest with one hand, while the other flailed randomly in midair.
C-Crap! Even I was at a loss for words. I jumped the gun and asked him straight on!
“A-Are you alright, dad…?! H-Here’s some water!”
I held a glass full of water out to him, and my dad took it and gulped down the contents.
“Haah…….. Hah, hah…”
He stood up, drenched in sweat, and his shoulders moved up and down.
He clunked the glass down hard on the table.
“Idiot son!! Of all things, what in the world are you trying to ask me advice about?!”
A huge shout! In the midst of that electrically charged atmosphere, I stretched both my hands out in front of me and spoke apologetically.
“Well, I mean, at an event I bought a lot of ero manga, and I banged into her on the way home…”
“Who the hell was asking for details?! That’s not what I meant!”
… Ohh… dad… even when you’re angry, you can retort appropriately like that…
“So, what is going on?! That matter was already laid to rest, wasn’t it?! If there’s a reason for you to be bringing it up again, please tell me!!”
“T-There was something I wanted to confirm with you! With you, dad! Please… listen to me! I beg you! Help us through this!”
I prostrated myself and begged him.
“… What did you say?”
Yes. I had a good reason for doing something as outrageous as this.
It was all so I could find a way to convince Ayase.
Even if he sent me flying, I needed him on this matter. And then…
“………. Go ahead.”
“Aah… there was something I heard about the other day, and I wonder if you knew about it…”
With an extremely strained expression, my father listened to my story from start to end.
It was after school the next day.
“So? You said you had something to talk with me about. What is it?”
I was beside the school Kirino went to, face to face with Aragaki Ayase.
On her way home from school, Ayase was in the same uniform I had seen some time ago, and was grasping her school bag tightly.
Her eyes gave off the impression that she was expecting to enter into a duel at any second.
She was clearly on her guard. It was to be expected, but it was still an undesirable situation.
We were meeting in a small children’s playground. It was a place where I had often played with Manami as a child, but now, the slide, jungle gym, and even the swings had been demolished, with nothing remaining other than a sand pit. There wasn’t even a single child playing here, in this unbearably lonely place.
But, thinking about the conversation that lay in front of me, this was, on the contrary, a convenient place.
I had called Ayase out to this place with a text. She didn’t answer her phone, so I was ready for my text to be ignored as well. But here we were.
“That’s obvious, isn’t it? I want to talk about Kirino.”
“That conversation is already over.”
Ayase flatly refused.
“If that’s all you wanted, then I’ll be taking my leave.”
“Wait wait, hold on a bit. Why are you jumping to conclusions like that? Please, just listen to what I have to say.”
“Is there a need to? My thoughts and conclusions are just as I told to you yesterday…. If I can, I want to get Kirino to change her ways. To get her to stop that hobby, and return her to her right senses. But…”
Ayase calmly made her statement, and then bit her lip.
She didn’t have to go on for me to know what she wanted to say. Kirino would never throw away her hobby. Even when her public image is threatened, or when her parents strongly disapproved, she would always like what she liked.
I had seen her ridiculously stubborn determination first hand.
“Why would she… go that far…”
That’s… really something Ayase can’t understand, I think.
Why is it that, even though she was warned so earnestly by her close friend, such warnings went in one ear and out the other? Even though Ayase had not said anything that was obviously wrong… whether it was that the hobby Kirino had was disgusting and repulsive, or that someone like Kirino really shouldn’t get close to things like that.
… Could it be, that I was mistaken in thinking they were close friends…?
… It was natural that I would think something like that.
This girl hated otaku even more than my father did. She had been taken in by the one-sided otaku bashing that existed in the world, and had embraced a strong prejudice against them. Of course, within that prejudice there were things that might not have been far off the mark. In Ayase, aside from her prejudice, there was a part of the otaku psychology that she just might not be able to accept. At a glance, she was a girl who prided herself on cleanliness and purity.
”What kind of people do you think are the most prejudiced against otaku?” Kirino had said to me. The answer was girls in junior high school… she was probably speaking with her own close friend in mind.
She was a very serious, pure, kind, honest, and a bit prejudiced person…
My evaluation of Ayase was not mistaken.
She was definitely not a bad person. I would instead say that she is an extremely good person.
… How many friends of mine can I count that would get this angry for my sake?
“… Onii-san. I have a request.”
“… What is it?”
“Won’t you talk to her too? I really do want to get her to stop.”
Ayase still was under the impression that I was an otaku. She thought that I was repulsive and disgusting, that my mind had broken and I was just a potential criminal. And yet…
“Please help me. My… my own words don’t seem to get through to her… so…”
To think that she would lower her head to someone that she hates as much as me.
This was probably the reason she even came to meet with me here today.
Because she wanted to get her most important friend back. She wanted to save her from going down a bad road.
… In some ways, doesn’t it seem like I’m the bad guy here? It’s not like I can claim to be the good guy in this situation…
“I can’t. I really can’t.”
“No matter what?”
Ayase asked me while bowing.
“Yeah, no matter what.”
Even if I did talk to Kirino, it’s not like I would be able to get her to stop.
In the first place, that wasn’t what I had come here to talk about.
Having been bluntly refused by me, Ayase quickly raised her head.
Was it just me, or did it seem like the light had gone out in her eyes?
“Her reputation is going to be destroyed, you know? … Even if I said that?”
“…………… You wouldn’t do something like that, I think.”
“How would you know what I would and wouldn’t do?”
“Because Kirino told me so.”
I didn’t give any response further than that. Ayase’s eyes widened, and I saw the light return to them.
Well… this seems to be a good time. I’ve finished reaffirming the situation, so let’s get to the main topic at hand.
“So… Ayase, to put everything briefly, what you’re saying is the following. ‘Kirino’s hobby is disgusting and repulsive and she should not have it.’ ‘But even so, Kirino won’t throw her hobby away.’ ‘So, I cannot hang around such a person. And I can’t make up with her.’ That about right?”
“… Yes. And?”
The problem here was simple. So, from here, how should I get these two to make up with each other?
First, there was Ayase’s demand that I should go and try to talk Kirino out of her hobby.
But, needless to say, I would not choose that option. And that limited what options I could take.
What are those, you ask? …Well, just watch. For now, there were a few things I could try. Including my ace in the hole.
I had even taken off from school to prepare that one.
Honestly, I didn’t know if it would work or not, but I could only try and see.
“You said a lot of things to me on the phone… and I did a bit of research on them.”
“Yeah. In summary… about the Siscali Attempted Murder Case, what various commentators have been saying about otaku on the news, the PTA meeting you participated in, the child pornography issue in Japan, and etcetera.”
… Yesterday, when she was throwing blame around while weaving various examples into her argument, I could not respond at all.
So… earlier, I had gone to my father, who had spoken harshly of otaku with similar reasoning before, to ask for his wisdom on the matter.
“Of all things, you’re coming to me to ask about that…? That’s quite brave of you.”
And after that, even though he looked less than pleased throughout, he explained things to me in unexpectedly fine detail…
”But what a coincidence… I happen to know a bit about that case. About the petition on bishoujo adult anime and games as well. At the very least, I should know more about these things than that girl… hmph, of course, it was just because that article coincidentally caught my eye that I know about it…”
“You mentioned that her mother was the president of the PTA… you’re probably talking about congressman Aragaki’s wife, right? If that’s true, then I also coincidentally happen to know about the meeting that her daughter participated in. If I recall correctly…”
“That document you talked about… I have a copy as well… don’t misunderstand. It’s just that, coincidentally, last month, a coworker at the station happened to give a copy to me.”
“Oh, I know that journalist quite well. Coincidentally, I happened to do a bit of research on him recently.
How can all of that have been a coincidence?! But if I made that remark he might have killed me, so I forced myself to keep silent.
When I struck out at him that one time with my warning that he shouldn’t go saying unfounded things about topics he doesn’t know about, he must have taken those words to heart in his own way.
So he went and researched various things about otaku, examined the rumors going around on television about these things, to try to understand this thing that his two children were trying so hard to protect.
Amazing, isn’t it? My father, that is. He had told us “just do whatever the hell you want!” but was doing things like this behind it all. Studying up a bit on otaku like this.
For our sake. In order to protect us from getting involved in anything truly dangerous… that’s pretty great, really.
Although, if he started playing eroge too, I’d run away from home and go get adopted by the Tamura household.
“The document you were talking about, it’s this, right?”
“That… what’s that?”
Taking out the document I had prepared for this meeting from my bag, I thrust it at Ayase.
“Let me just put it outright. What’s written here is utter nonsense. There is no clear evidence linking the otaku hobby with these crimes as you had suggested. Not for now, at least.”
For a moment, Ayase stared blankly at me as if she couldn’t process what I just said, but her expression stiffened immediately.
“B-But! On the news, there was… and it was a congressman too…!”
“The petition that you brought up that was submitted to the House of Representatives was also based on shaky evidence. You said that when people played eroge, they would unconsciously break their minds and lose their humanity? Well, then it’s a matter of how exactly you know that’s true. Because, if someone could lose their mind just by playing games, then he probably wasn’t a decent person to begin with. Just think about it.”
“I-I did think about it! This is all just your own personal opinion, isn’t it?!”
“Yeah, it is. But, I’m not the only person who thinks this way. There are people in the Diet who also are more conservative on this issue. There was another petition, with hundreds of signatures, in which people requested that if we change the laws against child pornography, we should not be hasty and take a very cautious approach. I might be stating the obvious, but there are several different opinions on this matter. The Diet is a suitable place for debates like this after all. Just because a petition is handed to the House of Representatives, that doesn’t mean that the contents of that petition are definitely correct. So, even if I give you this document right here, that does not form the basis for rejecting the otaku hobby.”
Trying to keep her temper, Ayase shouted.
“But, in reality, there are people like this who have become criminals, haven’t there been?! The commentators have all said that, haven’t they?!”
“In regards to the ‘Siscali Attempted Murder Case,’ that was blown completely out of proportion. While it’s true that outside of Siscali, the criminal had a lot of other 18+ games, the contention that his games were the cause of him falling into crime is an outright lie. Certainly, he said that he ‘mimicked the game characters and tried to electrocute a woman,’ but he later retracted that statement. ‘I wanted to rough up a girl, so I waved my modded stun gun around,’ he later said… of course, it’s not clear which one of his statements is true. Taking a close-up look at his motives, there’s absolutely no need to talk about the influence of these games. It’s just that, when they first were reporting on this matter, it was very easy for them to make a connection between the ‘influence of games’ and the ‘attempted murder.’”
All in one breath.
“And then the media made it out to be this huge thing and labeled it with the name you know, as the ‘Siscali Attempted Murder Case.’ And at that critical moment, the famous commentators continued to beat on otaku, and kept on talking about the eroge they found in the criminal’s room and showing pictures of Akihabara. It’s pretty difficult to just take it all back and apologize after doing all that. I’m not sure that’s really why, but for now, I can say that I’ve yet to see a single news article where they admit that it really wasn’t the game’s fault.”
“That’s… but, that person’s always helped out my mother so much…”
Ayase desperately flipped through the document I had handed over to her.
It was almost as if she was trying to find something in there that would refute what I was saying.
“I’m not saying that every single thing he said was an outright lie. And I’m not saying that every journalist who bashes otaku is a fraud. But at least this time, to push the things he himself believed in, that journalist manipulated the situation to fit his own views. If you think I’m lying, go and look into the matter yourself.”
Ayase clearly seemed shaken, and bit her lip. I could hear her grumbling “Lies… it was a lie, a lie lie lie” almost as if she was chanting a curse, and it was honestly quite unsettling. She was a clean, pure, honest person, and so when she was lied to like this, she rejected it to that extent… it was pretty amazing.
“… You said otaku were just potential criminals, so won’t you take that back? I mean, there are probably bad people who are otaku too. But they aren’t all like that. Remember when you asked if those two people were Kirino’s friends? Those two really strangely dressed people. They were my friends. They’re reaaaally good people! So please, don’t lump all otaku together and speak badly of them like that…!”
This matter was something that was just as important to me as getting Kirino and Ayase to make up with each other.
The one thing I had to get Ayase to take back was her remark about all otaku being criminals.
That was one duty I, as their friend, could not neglect.
“… Kirino said something similar, you know.”
“Nothing, nothing… I understand, to the very end, I was mistaken on this matter. There is no such connection between otaku and criminals. Satisfied?”
“I-I see! Then…”
“But, I still have no intention of approving of Kirino having that kind of hobby.”
Rejected. Ayase didn’t even let me pursue the issue. With creases forming across my forehead, I asked.
“Why? That’s obvious, isn’t it?! So there isn’t a connection between this and crime… so what, I ask?! There’s still no mistaking that it’s a dirty, repulsive hobby, is there?!”
“You may think that. But, and I might be repeating myself here, I don’t think that’s enough to justify breaking up with a close friend. I’m not telling you to accept her hobby. However I think about it, those things are not good things. I understand that much. But, can’t you just pretend you didn’t see anything? … Pretend that you didn’t see anything… and just be her friend like you have been up to now? … She knows herself all too well that this hobby isn’t something she can make public. That’s why she’s gotten so good at separating the two sides of herself.”
“That’s true, isn’t it? Hiding it so well… and continuing to trick us like that.”
“She wasn’t trying to trick you. There was just no need for you to know! Of course, she was also trying to protect her public image… but first and foremost, she didn’t want to lose her close friend! You two are close, right? Why can’t you even understand what she was trying to do here?!”
“Liar! That’s a huge lie! After all, Kirino thinks that this hobby of hers is more important than I am, doesn’t she?! Even though today and yesterday, I begged her to stop! Even though I begged her to heal our relationship…! ‘I definitely don’t want to,’ that’s all she could say…!”
“That’s not right! That’s definitely not what she meant by that…!”
“Shut up! Don’t act as if you know what’s going on! What do you know about us?! I know Kirino better than anybody else does! But even then, to think she would do that kind of…! That person wasn’t Kirino! It was someone else! Definitely someone else! An imposter…! Give her back! You’re hiding the real Kirino somewhere, aren’t you?! Give me back my friend!!”
… This is hopeless. Completely hopeless, I think. I really can’t convince this girl.
To this girl, this situation probably seemed like Kirino had joined some strange religion or something.
Ayase truly was concerned for Kirino’s well-being, truly valued Kirino highly, and truly was fond of her. That’s why she couldn’t condone the present situation. She couldn’t condone her friend corrupting herself.
That’s not like you. You’re not like that!
… A certain someone had once said something similar… and had gotten angry with similar sentiments.
But what gives me the right to criticize Ayase? We’re birds of a feather, really. Projecting a certain image of someone in our minds, but realizing that in reality that person was different, and then getting angry about it. And then getting sad about it. And then falling into despair over it.
It was really a selfish thing. But this was a pitfall that occurred naturally when people got together. Especially for friends, or for people we loved and respected, that’s the way we wanted things to be.
There was only one person in the world who could refute these feelings from the other side.
There was only one person who could hit me across the face, who could kick me in the privates, with a shout of “don’t screw with me!”
“Stop screwing around! Shut it with the ‘imposter imposter’ nonsense!”
Yeah, just like that.
At the sudden loud scream, Ayase and I simultaneously turned around.
The uniformed form of Kirino was walking quickly towards us from the playground entrance.
Her head was held as high as it always was, and she came towards us at a fast pace.
“Y-You….. why are you here…?!”
“You shut up too. Does that really matter?”
Kirino shut me up with one fierce stare.
“Don’t butt your face into our business. This is something I have to do myself!”
……………….. That’s true, isn’t it? You knew that all along, didn’t you?
“… Ah. Sorry for intruding.”
I gave a strained smile. As I went to turn over the situation to Kirino, she shooed me off with her hands.
“If you understand, go away. Just go and die somewhere.”
That was uncalled for! Who the hell do you think that I went through all this for?!
See?! Isn’t it just like I said?! You heard what she just said, didn’t you?! Honestly, her mind had been broken and she had lost her humanity waaay before she got into eroge! It had nothing to do with the influence of games! My sister was just always like this! I seriously could cry here!
Don’t you think that it’s much more likely my mind gets broken from my real life situation than from eroge?
Ugh… but it really does seem like she rebounded.
And she’s not acting like her usual fake, sweet persona at all, even though she’s in front of Ayase!
But, well… if it’s come this far, they’re going to take off any thick masks they’ve had on, speak sincerely, be frank with each other, and start arguing… I don’t think it can pan out any other way. For Kirino or for Ayase.
… Tch, ahh. In the end, my efforts didn’t really matter.
It’s like this after all. As I could have guessed, it would have to ultimately be the people involved who had to work this out.
… Do your best, Kirino.
It wasn’t like I was expecting my thoughts to reach Kirino, but at that moment Kirino seemed to get reenergized and turned to face Ayase. She confronted her close friend with a tense expression.
“Ayase… listen to what I have to say.”
“… I don’t want to listen to anything an imposter like you has to say.”
Ayase shook her head stubbornly. She shouted with bared fangs.
“Let me meet the real Kirino!”
“What is ‘the real Kirino’?”
The Kirino that stood before me was a completely different person than the Kirino who was completely overwhelmed by Ayase back in that other incident.
She haughtily puffed out her chest, and with energy that matched the intensity of the furious Ayase, she faced her opponent head on.
“A beautiful girl, someone with distinguished fashion sense, a sports prodigy, and someone who excels at her schoolwork. She has a lot of friends, she is looked up to by everyone at school, has a great rapport with her teachers, flourishes in her club activities, is even a model outside of school, is relied on by everyone, is loved by everyone… she’s absolutely perfect, amazingly cool, super cute, really beautiful. That Kousaka Kirino, you mean?”
I didn’t know anybody else who could so confidently praise themself like that. It must be refreshing to be able to go so far with self-praise. She really loves herself, doesn’t she? 
“Is that what you mean by the real me?”
“Yes! That’s Kirino, isn’t it?! Even when we go out shopping, even when we’re surrounded by boys in town, even when there’s something in school I don’t understand, even when I feel overwhelmed with modeling, even when we put on a show at the culture festival… to me you were always… you were always with… but…”
“But it’s strange for me to get close to such a hobby? It’s impossible? It’s not like me? I’m dirty and repulsive, an imposter? Sorry, Ayase, but that’s a complete misunderstanding.”
“Yes, so just listen to me… although, I’m not sure if I can say this well…”
Facing her bewildered friend, Kirino began to speak.
“… Well, for me, I really love those manga that you hate and think are repulsive. I also have many of those 18+ games that you think are dirty and make you nauseous, and I love those as well. No matter how many times I watch anime with cute little girls, I can’t get enough, and just looking at all the goods I bought is enough to make me happy. It really is a strong love like that. You could say I adore them. No matter what anybody else says, that is me.”
Ayase looked like she wanted to say something, but it seemed as if she couldn’t put it into words.
Sorry, Kirino was saying.
Sorry that I’m not the person you hoped I was. But, this is me.
That’s what it sounded to me like she was trying to say.
“So, I know that you’re really worried about me, but please don’t be. I definitely don’t want to give up this hobby. It’s something I like. What I like is what I like. If I stop it, if my hobby becomes no more, I would not be myself anymore…”
Like she had once done with me before, Kirino let out her own feelings. She laid herself bare.
As if she couldn’t understand what was happening before her eyes, Ayase shook her head a number of times.
“… It’s something that’s more important to you than your friends? That hobby… it’s more important than me?!”
“That’s not true!”
Kirino cut off Ayase before she could continue, and shouted with all her strength.
“I love you just as much as I love eroge!! It’s not a lie! Why won’t you understand?! If I could just choose one, I wouldn’t have been so troubled to begin with!! My school friends as well! My otaku hobby as well! All of these things are incredibly important, precious things that I can’t throw away, and that’s the reason why things have come this far, isn’t it?!”
Having been struck with that heavy killing blow, Ayase stumbled a step and wavered.
She probably was flushed bright red because there was not a shred of dishonesty in Kirino’s words, and her message had gotten completely across. I didn’t know if she was angry, happy, embarrassed… or some combination of the three. Facing her blushing, bewildered friend, Kirino put on the pressure.
“Alright, Ayase? I don’t have any intention of throwing away any of these things. Neither my friends, nor my hobby, so I’ve decided! I’m definitely going to make up with you! And I’m definitely not stopping my hobby! You have a problem with that?!”
Well, things just got serious. This idiot! Don’t say something so unreasonable!
But… there was nothing more like my sister than this arrogant, haughty side of her.
This was the genuine, bona fide Kousaka Kirino. Ayase probably understood that as well.
She really was this kind of person. Her close friend should know about that, right?
“……… You’re…… not lying? I’m also really….. important to you…?”
Ayase seemed to be taking a few moments to digest what Kirino had said, and finally spoke.
“I… understand your feelings. I also…… misunderstood in a lot of places. I got taken in by other people’s opinions… and said some terrible things… that was wrong of me. Sorry. I’m really… sorry.”
Ayase bowed very deeply.
“I… also want to make up…. With Kirino…”
Kirino smiled shyly. From the beginning, both of them had wanted to quickly make up with each other. Now that they had been able to speak frankly with each other, it seemed that they had finally come to understand that… geez, what a roundabout way of doing things. They should have just done that from the very beginning… well, I can’t say I acted completely correctly too. I also had misunderstood her feelings, got angry, and was worried without knowing what to do about it.
To be honest, I barely did anything here. It was ultimately Kirino’s own efforts that allowed her to make up with her close friend. It was because she had gathered up her courage and had told Ayase her true feelings.
” I love you just as much as I love eroge!!”
She certainly got her feelings across. It was a hopeless situation to the end, but she got them across with her strongest words.
… I mean, to think that she was able to solve the issue saying something like that… I felt it was a just a bit counterintuitive.
If anybody else had used that line in any situation, they couldn’t possibly hope for results this good.
Here and now, all the more because Kirino was facing Ayase, those words had their effect.
In any case. I’m glad everything got resolved.
That’s what I thought, but…
As Ayase looked downwards, she continued in a frustrated tone with a “But…”
“… As I thought, this is hopeless… I definitely want to make up with Kirino. I want to make up with Kirino… but I can’t approve of your hobby…!”
She mumbled things like a certain someone had a while ago. Kirino and I both simultaneously widened our eyes.
“W-What are you saying?! Didn’t you say you were going to make up with me?!”
“…… I…….. sniff…….”
After Kirino angrily yelled at her, Ayase began to cry.
Blinking a number of times, she wiped the corner of her eye with the back of her hand, and choked out her words through her tears.
“Because…. Because… I really can’t do it… Kirino… I-I….. those types of games and manga… I honestly hate them…. I really hate them…. even if they don’t make you a criminal, they’re dirty, repulsive, disgusting things… I might be overreacting… but… sorry, it’s useless…”
As expected, Kirino also was in pain, and recoiled.
We had proven that there was no connection between otaku and crime. That misunderstanding had been settled, and Kirino had gotten her feelings across.
But in the end, there was still the matter of the characteristic psychological prejudice of junior high school girls. It was a negative image that couldn’t be wiped away.
This particular situation was truly futile. It wasn’t a matter of misunderstandings, but was squarely in the realm of Ayase’s personal principles.
“W-What should I do…? Kirino… what…. what should I do…?”
Ayase gazed at Kirino with desperate eyes.
No matter how she tried, it seemed that her feelings did not allow for compromise.
She wanted to make up with Kirino. But, she couldn’t approve of otaku.
She also couldn’t just pretend nothing had happened. This inflexibility came from her belief in cleanliness.
And then Kirino, who had been driven into a corner…
Suddenly turned and faced me.
”Do something!” she seemed to be saying to me.
… You want me to do something here?! You’re turning to me now?! Even though you had told me to not to butt in…!
“…. Kirino…. I….. I….. ugh……”
Blink, blink blink blink. ”Fast! Do something now! You want to be killed?!” she seemed to want to tell me with the rapid winking she was sending my way. B-But… even if you tell me to do something… ugh…
I mean… I did happen to prepare a trump card for situations like this… but… this was… honestly, I really didn’t want to do that. I did prepare it just for this meeting, but however I think about it, it wasn’t a good thing. But maybe, with this, they could actually make up with each other…
U-Ugh….. dammit, if I think about this any longer, it’ll soon be too late.
Screw it! I should just go for it! Dammit! Don’t blame me if something bad happens!
After you hear my brilliant explanation, don’t regret it, alright?!
“… Hold on, Ayase. Listen to what I have to say.”
Ayase watched me through her upturned, tear-filled eyes. I started speaking nervously.
“You think that this hobby we’re obsessed with is dirty… and no matter what you can’t approve of it, so you can’t make up with Kirino. Right?”
“…. T-That’s obvious, isn’t it… because, because…”
Well, that’s what junior high school girls were like, wasn’t it? It would be unreasonable for me to just tell her to approve of it.
“Well, let’s remodel that opinion of yours then. Take a look at this…”
From my school bag, I took out a thick book I had just borrowed today from the library.
“… The Odyssey… and… the Nihon Shoki?” 
… She recognized them, yeah?
Yes, what I just handed over to Ayase was the ancient Greek epic poem “The Odyssey,” and the oldest record of Japanese history, the Nihon Shoki.  I also handed over a third book, entitled “Egyptian Myth – Osiris and Isis.” As Ayase stood puzzled by my intentions, she wiped her tears and her gaze dropped down to the books.
“Izanagi and Izanami…. Cronus and Rhea… Osiris and Isis… and then…”
Labels were taped onto the books, so she probably knew where to look.
Ayase scanned the books from start to end, and she became even more bewildered.
“… What’s this for?”
“Those are all stories of older brother and younger sister deities. There are alternative theories, but… these siblings all got married a long time ago.”
“Umm… excuse me, but what exactly do you want to say? What does this have to do with Kirino’s hobby?”
“Well, just hold on. Just keep what I said in mind. The real article I want to get to is this…”
I slowly took my trump card out of my bag.
Kirino raised her voice in astonishment. If you want to know why, it’s because the things I took out of my bag were the treasured “little sister ero doujinshi” Kirino had bought at summer Comiket.
I handed the ero doujinshi casually over to Ayase.
Ayase blinked in surprise, but began to flip through the books…
Smack! Her hand slapped me across the face.
“W-Why are you showing me this?! Do you have a death wish or something?!”
Is that something you should be saying after you smack me?! Owwwwww…! What the hell, this girl?!
“D-Disgusting! D-D-D-Disgusting! How shameless, you pervert!”
“… Disgusting? You’re wrong… you’re mistaken, Ayase! Those books are not disgusting at all! The books I just handed over to you are all written with the same topic in mind!”
“What are you saying?”
Kirino’s mouth hung half open, and spoke as if she had just realized what was happening. After all her brother is going through to convince Ayase, she’s being quite uncooperative.
I spread my arms wide, and proclaimed my argument to Ayase.
“Just think back! That collection of ours that you called dirty… they’re all drawn works of art on the love of an older brother and her younger sister! Am I wrong?! Is there even one exception?! There isn’t, is there?! So how are these different from the hard covers I just handed you?! Just because one is older and one is newer?! If I mixed them together, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference!”
“W-What did you just put into the same category as these national myths?!”
“Incest doujinshi, of course! Got a problem with that?! What’s drawn in those ero books are the stories of love between an older brother and younger sister that have been passed down by humanity since ancient times. It’s the most beautiful, precious literature in the world. Yes, our strong feelings for these things are definitely not evil at all!”
I quickly pointed to the things in Ayase’s hands, and shouted with tears flowing from my eyes.
“Those are… those are the proof of the love between Kirino and me!”
There was no mistaking that this was the most idiotic thing I’ve said in my life.
Both Kirino and Ayase looked at me with their eyeballs stretched out of their sockets.
“W… What outrageous things are you running your mouth with-mmph!”
In an instant, I hugged Kirino and smothered her face, cutting her off.
She wriggled and squirmed in protest, but I wrapped her arms around her back and somehow also pinned those down.
As I hugged her tight out of “proof” of our mutual love, Ayase stared at us, dumbfounded.
“W-W-W… What are you…?!”
Just like Ayase had done back when she had gotten angry, I went on and on without letting her speak.
“It’s just as it looks, Ayase. We love each other! That’s why we have to collect these stories of forbidden love! Don’t call our love for each other dirty! It’s literature, didn’t I say?! There are drawings of naked girls in there? There are passionate ero scenes in there? That’s not the true substance of these works! They aren’t as trashy as people like you claim they are!!”
As I continued to ad-lib, I gradually became more and more emotional, and soon wasn’t even conscious of what was coming out of my mouth… the line began to blur between where the act ended and where my true feelings began. Before I knew it, my mouth was moving unconsciously and the words were flowing out on their own.
“… Kirino’s hobby is what reconnected the sibling ties that had been broken between us. If I hadn’t found out about her hobby back then, we would have continued to have a cold relationship with each other. I couldn’t do anything to help the number one little sister by my side. I would say that it had nothing to do with me, and would only watch as my little sister cried…! So I’m thankful from the bottom of my heart! Thankful for all of this otaku hobby that you say is so dirty! Because this hobby existed, I was able to start a real sibling relationship with my little sister! And I stopped just standing by watching my little sister cry, making terrible excuses of how it didn’t have anything to do with me! … Can anybody dare to deny these feelings I have?! I’m not lying, these things are proof of our love for each other! So, just listen to me, because… I…”
I hugged my struggling little sister close with all my strength, and desperately shouted.
“I LOOOOOOVE MY LITTLE SISTER!!!!”
After I shouted this from the depths of my soul, all the light extinguished from Ayase’s eyes. She let the books drop to the floor.
Even though I had released her from my hold, for some reason Kirino stood stock still, her mouth flapping open and shut.
While Kirino unsteadily waved from side to side, Ayase came closer and took Kirino by the hand as if to steal her from me… and hugged her close.
“Kirino…. Let’s make up. Right away.”
“I’m sorry… sorry… for saying those things are dirty, that I can’t approve of them… this isn’t a time to be making such a big deal over the little things… I’m really sorry… I didn’t realize…”
Kirino seemed completely bewildered as her close friend hugged her tight and wailed.
O-Ohh… I did it.
Even I didn’t think that would work this well. After all, Ayase was strongly prejudiced. But Kirino’s hobby, and these doujinshi were not just dirty things. If I pleaded that point desperately with her, even if the argument didn’t completely make sense, I thought that perhaps she would accept what I was saying.
Hm… it seems that my speech didn’t completely go to waste.
“… Geez, well that was all pretty troublesome.”
With a cynical smile, I started heading towards the two girls…
“D-Don’t come any closer, hentai!”
Ayase hugged Kirino close as if to protect her, and gave me a glare.
“….. Uummm… who are you talking to?”
“Shut up! Don’t talk, hentai! Hentai hentai hentai! You’re making my ears bleed!”
Huh… well this was a bit different from what I was expecting! I was correct in thinking that she was really prejudiced, and she had seemed to have accepted my argument… but didn’t she jump to an incredibly strange conclusion here by herself?!
Ayase stared at me with her empty, dark eyes.
“As I thought, you’re the source of all this evil…! Never touch my close friend again! You’re dirty! Repulsive! Disgusting!”
Still holding onto Kirino’s hand, she quickly began to distance herself from me.
She swiftly turned back around one more time,
“… You’re disgusting, go and die.”
Giving me a glance as if she was looking at a piece of garbage, she left her sharp parting remark with me.
I was left alone in that abandoned playground.
“… And everything went according to plan!”
Isn’t that great, Kirino? You were able to properly make up with your close friend.
Ahh, there’s something in the corner of my eye… sniff.
In this way, following that time, another black mark was engraved into my life’s history.
What follows is the necessary account of what happened afterwards.
A week had passed since that incident.
First, in regards to my relationship with Kirino…
You could say that it was still the worst. After that incident, we had not spoken a word to each other, we did not even look at each other, and, in the end, that brat didn’t even come within five meters of me.
She was treating me as if I was some dirty thing… or better yet, as if I didn’t exist.
I was being completely ignored. It wasn’t even as if we had gone back to square one.
My relationship with my sister had deteriorated to an unprecedentedly bad level.
I had thought that it was impossible for her to hate me anymore than she already did, but I guess there was definitely room for our relationship to fall further…
… This was a hole I could never dig myself out of, wasn’t it?
That’s understandable, considering what a mess of that situation I had made.
But, well… why did I do such a thing again?
After I turned off the switch, after my frenzy had died down, after I had returned to my senses…
That was the first thing that came to mind.
Spitting out such embarrassing things, being so dedicated at great personal risk, and in the end getting both Kirino and Ayase to really hate me…
“Hah… how pitiful…”
Well, there’s no helping it. This was just the result of my carrying out my own will, and doing what I wanted to do.
At the very least, I didn’t regret what I did, so I would quietly accept the consequences.
I mean… I was at least able to achieve my goal of getting Kirino and Ayase to make up.
In the end, my embarrassing actions, and my pathetic feelings… they weren’t all wasted, right?
Moving along, there was also my relationship with Manami…
This was well… how do I put it? It was the same as always.
“Something really bothering you, Kyou-chan?”
“Hm? Uh, no, nothing really.”
It was morning in the classroom.
Today, as every other day, I came to school with my childhood friend, arrived at my desk, and gave a halfhearted reply as I shook my head.
“I see. I’m glad, then.”
Manami gave me an aimless smile. That smile has been a tremendous help to me through the days.
These were the same days that were repeating over and over. It was a time I couldn’t even bear being separated from for three days.
And, even if these days begin to change little by little…
Even if I can’t stop these changes from happening…
I would manage somehow. Because bonds that are broken can be reconnected anew.
As long as the two people desired it to be so, their relationship could be born anew, as strong as they wanted it to be.
Unexpectedly, the changes I was so terrified of before… may not be as dreadful as I made them out to be. Because at any rate, those were the changes I chose myself.
Lately, I’ve come to be able to think that way… thanks to a certain someone.
“Hey, hey, look Kyou-chan… my hair’s returned back to normal, hasn’t it?”
“I see. I’m glad, then.”
I couldn’t see it at all. Also… didn’t she cut it before summer vacation? What are you saying now? Her hair is seriously freaky.
“Come on, look at iiit…”
“I’m looking I’m looking. It looks really cute.”
“Ah, really really. Your skin has been really glossy lately too. You’re becoming quite beautiful, aren’t you?”
This was getting tiresome, so I just threw an adequate compliment her way. With an “eh, ehh~,” the simple Manami closed both her eyes tightly, and moving her bag to and fro , gave an awkward, shy grin.
“Ehehe… is that so? M-maybe it’s because I’ve been able to get a lot of sleep. See, ever since before summer break… I’ve been sleeping together with ‘Kyou-chan.’”
“What the hell are you saying here in the classroom?!”
She was talking about the hug pillow, after all!
And then, at least, there was Kirino’s relationship with Ayase.
It was after school on that day. When I came back from school, just like she had done in the past, my sister was on the phone in the living room.
As I gave the standard greeting upon returning home, not only was there no response, but she didn’t even glance in my direction.
In her sailor uniform, Kirino was sitting deeply in the sofa with her legs crossed under her extremely short skirt, and was nodding at something while on her phone.
“Yeah, I’m alright. Thanks, Ayase. There’s nothing to be worried about…. Yeah… mm… ahaha… really… mm… oh yeah, do you want to go shopping together tomorrow?”
And that’s how it was. Having been branded with the stigma of the “hentai brute older brother,” it’s not like I could have asked her directly about it, but it seemed that their relationship was doing relatively well.
Because, at any rate… it seemed like almost every day, they were calling each other and chatting on the phone.
She couldn’t permit Kirino to have such a dirty hobby, but also didn’t want to separate from her… Ayase was imprisoned in a paradoxical situation, but by using me as a scapegoat, it seemed that she had found a loophole out of the paradox.
The other day, I had gotten an email in my inbox.
”To the big liar of an onii-san,
Because of you, I could make up with Kirino. Don’t think that I have approved of Kirino’s hobby, and don’t think that I am withdrawing the opinions I presented the other day… but while I can’t come to a compromise, and while I can’t accept her hobby, I’ve decided to move on. There’s no helping it. But, don’t think that I’ve given up! I will definitely save Kirino from your evil influence one day! I will definitely not lose to you!
PS: If you ever do anything dirty to Kirino, I’m going to kill you.”
Well? Scary, wasn’t it? I never wanted to meet face-to-face with that girl again.
But………. that email………. well, whatever.
I drank down my tinge of doubt with a bottle of cola. From the refrigerator, I returned to the living room, and passed by my sister’s side.
“Alright, Ayase, I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”
Kirino cut off the phone call, and looked bashful.
When I saw her looking happy like this, the entire conflict with Ayase and the stigma that had been passed down to me all seemed like trivial matters. Just now, I could think like that.
I’m glad. I sent my final blessings to the little sister I would probably never talk to again.
Well, at any rate…
With this, now, our life advice session to make fond summer memories for her had come to an end.
This was the last time. Certainly, this time was the last time.
Because my relationship with Kirino, because of what had happened, had hit rock bottom.
Because Kirino probably now knew how risky it was to come to me for advice.
At long last, I could return to the quiet, normal days I had wished for from the bottom of my heart.
Now, I wouldn’t be forced to play eroge, and wouldn’t be dragged to absurdly tiring events… it was nice.
Shrugging my shoulders, I tried to leave the room.
I already had my hands gripped around the doorknob when I stopped.
Then, my sister spoke with her usual blunt tone of voice.
“Come here for a second.”
I suddenly turned around. Still gripping the doorknob tightly, my eyes widened.
H-How many days has it been since I’ve talked to her…? What does she want with me now?
“Why do you look so confused? Come on, quickly.”
Giving up, I did as my sister had ordered. I soon stood in front of the sofa, and gulped.
… W-What kind of abuse was going to be hurled my way…?
I had steeled myself, but for some reason Kirino looked down and seemed to have a hard time saying what she wanted to…
“… Umm… you… when you shouted that back then… how serious were you being?”
“Ah? D-Does that matter?”
Why was she asking this all of a sudden…?
I mean, let’s just drop that subject, please! I’m begging you! When I looked at her with pleading eyes…
The atmosphere around Kirino completely changed.
“Y-Yes… it does matter…”
She looked downwards, grasping tightly onto the hem of her skirt, and her cheeks were flushed.
… What? What was up with that… that strange response? That’s… not like you… at all…
Bewildered, I asked.
“…….. You don’t know?”
From her position on the sofa, she looked upwards, hot in the head, and gazed at my face.
When our eyes met, I realized that Kirino’s eyes were wet.
Her face was red, as if she had caught a cold.
“… Well… because….”
Becoming frightened by my sister’s state, I took a step or two back.
And then Kirino, as if saddened and helpless at seeing my actions, looked like she was about to cry.
She stood up from the sofa, and desperately caught my sleeve.
“….. Do you really…… not know…?”
… Well… maybe… there was that… but how should I respond…?
Seeing me completely perplexed and unable to speak, Kirino resolved herself and began her confession.
She spoke while looking downwards, trying not to make eye contact.
“You’re too slow… idiot… don’t make me say it… it’s embarrassing…”
I gulped down a mouth of saliva.
“I… I… I thought about what you said back then… and then… umm… that is… oo… this is hard to say… s-so… please just listen?”
After that, Kirino resolutely raised her head, and faced me directly. Then, she gathered her strength.
Y-You…! W-What are you trying to say?
“I… a-also love my aniki… maybe.”
“…What did you think I would say? Why are you getting all worked up over it? You gross siscon.”
“Wha….. t-t-t-thi…. this……………”
My mouth and eyes opened wide, I couldn’t do anything but stand there in mute amazement.
I mean, just look at my face! Dammit! Daaaammit! Daaaaaaaammmmiiitt!!!
This is impossible! This girl! ….! Crap…!!
My head was burning up, and I grabbed it with both hands, twisting my body harshly back and forth.
“Kyahahaha! That’s so lame! Y-You’re such an idiot… you were actually being serious, weren’t you?! Grooooss~~! Ahahaha!”
Laughing uproariously and pointing at me, Kirino finally wiped away her tears, and poked my stomach with her elbow.
“Come on, how long are you going to stand there looking like an idiot? Let’s go, you siscon!”
She pulled strongly on my sleeve, and lightly turned around. A daring smile appeared on her face.
“You promised to play me in Siscali, remember?”
- I will not translate the names of cities or subway stations in the translation. But in case you’re curious this translates roughly to “international exhibition center.”
- It more literally says “with a sound effect.”
- Japanese holiday. Ed: there was a footnote in an earlier chapter about it
- I guess a more literal translation here would be “Serves you right.” But I dunno… I wanted the line to have a bit more pizzazz. Pizzazz. Pizzazz. Mmm that’s a fun word. Pizzaaaaazz. Man, these translator’s notes are getting more and more ADD by the second.
- Models that mostly focus on sexual attractiveness and do work aimed for male audiences. For more info, check here.
- I’m not sure who this line belongs to. It could be Kyousuke expressing frustration at the incredible amounts of stupidity, or it could be Kirino getting driven into a corner.
- Mmm… methinks Ayase’s drugs are starting to kick in.
- Kyousuke could here be referring either to his own life being screwed up or to the crazy people around him. In context, I’m more tempted to go with the former interpretation.
- Kyousuke could here be referring either to his own life being screwed up or to the crazy people around him. In context, I’m more tempted to go with the former interpretation.
- Of course, Comiket is just an abbreviation of “Comic Market.”
- See Volume 2, Chapter 2, near the end. Manami pretty much recites Kyousuke’s little speech verbatim… man, that’s rather creepy.
- One of the annoying things about Japanese is that the verbs “to ask” and “to listen” are the same verb. So I guess he could be saying “I can ask her about it,” but experience says that “listen” is probably a more appropriate translation.
- Hey, don’t look at me. Go look at wiki instead.
- More literally, “I didn’t think ‘awww, poor thing’ even for a second.”
- You know, I went back to make sure I didn’t miss something, but I can’t find where in the novel it says that Kyousuke had made physical contact with Kirino in the first place. But there is no other way to interpret this line.
- He actually says “all that I did.” Which I interpreted as making progress in their relationship. Otherwise it would sound too much like a non sequitur.
- The term she uses is lover’s suicide, which is a term much more recognized in Japan than in English, so I tried to make the intent here more clear in the English.
- More literally, “What exactly of yours do you think I am?” Sort of like “Have you forgotten what relationship I have with you?”
- He literally does say “precious jewels” here, which in Japanese is often a colloquial term for “testicles.” Alright, I’m going to end this translator’s note here before it devolves into a thrilling discussion of the many diverse and colorful metaphors for the male genitalia.
- Japan’s version of Congress, called the National Diet, is split bilaterally just like the US Congress, into a lower “House of Representatives” and a higher “House of Councilors.”
- He uses an idiom, “the clouds were becoming suspicious.”
- Quite literally, they were “parallel lines.”
- This might be by far the longest ellipsis I’ve seen in this light novel to date.
- For the longest time I thought the previous long line was Ayase talking about Kirino, until I read this line. Oh Kirino…
- The Odyssey is precisely the one written by Homer. The Nihon Shoki is a book of classic Japanese history.
- The Nihon Shoki is actually the second oldest record of Japanese history, not the first. It is preceded by the Kojiki. Looks like Kyousuke needs to study a bit more with Manami…
- It literally says “she made her bag go pitter patter.” I interpret this to mean that she is swaying shyly forwards and backwards and her bag (which is in front of her) is hitting her skirt over and over, but that’s a huge mouthful in English.
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