Chapter 62:

My Comiket is Starting Off Interestingly.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

"So anyway, I'll be checking in every 30 minutes or so, and if someone suspicious so much as looks at you, call me and the police." My brother scratches the back of his head nervously. It's only eight in the morning and he's already been through enough stress for an entire week.

"Suspicious? Like a robber?" Ayame Shiritori looks at my brother with a vacant gaze. "No one's gonna pickpocket her at Comiket...there's security all around. And this is Japan."

"It's not robbers I'm worried about..."

"I'll be fine, Niichan. I'm in a group." He's such a worrywart. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing...I'd rather him be too protective than ignore me, like he used to, but he's gotten so nosy that it bothers me a little. It's like he overcorrected.

Then again, he used to be really protective of me when we were younger. I guess it's not so much overcorrecting as it is returning to baseline.

"Are you sure about that?" Niichan gives me a worried look. "Maebara-san's out on her feet, and Asahi's-" He doesn't finish.

I can't see her, but I know Saya is smirking her rear end off. I really would have preferred it if she didn't come. Her and my brother are like oil and water, and her and Shiritori are like oil and a blowtorch. She pissed Niichan off within five seconds of saying hello- but if she didn't come, and neither did Miku, that means I would have to stick around my brother and have Shiritori talk my ear off and I'd end up selling comics to weird people next to the girl with the gigantic boobs. Seriously, are those fake or something? There's no way a high schooler's that big naturally. Does she pad? She’s gotta be padding. That's cheating. It makes everyone else look smaller by comparison, like me. Even though I'm not flat. I'm average.

At least Saya's pleasant to be around when she's not trolling someone, unlike Shiritori. So that's why I asked her to come with me. And I knew Miku would throw a tantrum if she wasn't invited, so I asked her too. That was the reason why they were invited. I didn't do it to annoy Niichan, I swear. I don't like it when he's annoyed. But...I couldn't really ask anyone else. I'm not close enough with anyone but the Idiot Brigade. So on my day off, I'm wrangling them just like I'm at school. I guess I deserve any trouble they cause.

"No, really. I'll be okay. I'll let you know if there's any trouble."

My brother anxiously looks away for a second, but finally sighs and says, "Alright. See you later."


They walk off slowly, fading into the crowd standing around the entrance. Shiritori turns around and waves to someone with a big smile. I turn my head and notice Saya waving back.

"How did you two get so friendly?" As soon as they're out of sight, I waste no time snapping at my friend.

"Because Shiritori-san's nice." Saya's expression looks benign, but knowing her, she's not trying to befriend Ayame Shiritori out of the goodness of her heart. She's up to something. "My older brother liked Hero Tensei too. It was kinda nostalgic seeing all the characters."

"Are you sure that's the only reason?"

Saya chuckles. "I'm positive. You can assume whatever you like."

I sigh in response.

"Honestly, Kaede, I wish you would give her a chance. You always make it seem like she's a pain in everyone's butt and irredeemably stupid."

I act like that because she is.

"Easy for you to say. You don't have to deal with her barging into your home every day like she lives there too."

"But if you got along, you wouldn't mind that, would you? Shiritori-san likes you a lot. She kept going on and on about you."

Ayame Shiritori likes me in the same way that a dog likes a squeaky ball. She doesn't actually want to be friends with me. If she did, she'd realize that she could annoy Kannon, and she'd also realize that I'm not Niichan's clingy four-year-old little sister anymore. I'm just another warm body she can rant to about her favorite hobbies.

Saya continues. "And let's be honest, there's at least a 50:50 chance she ends up as your sister-in-law, so you could stand to be a bit nicer."

I react instinctively. "No way. Absolutely not."

"I think I hit a nerve~"

"Shut up!"

Saya actually looks a bit crestfallen. "I'm just two ought to get along..."

"And you ought to keep your nose out of my business." That's like asking Miku not to stalk people, but I still say it.

"Fine. I'll drop it. It's too nice of a day to be grumpy."

Speaking of Miku...

When I look over, she's leaning against one of the concrete pillars that are set around the front of the Big Sight, as pale as a sheet and staring off into the distance with a blank expression.

I'm starting to get worried. This is the longest she's ever gone into Lovesick Mode. It happened two years ago when that basketball team senpai gave her back her student ID and brushed against her hand, and that one time when we were in the same bookstore as the guy who sat two rows away from her and she didn't know until they both went for the same book and then she fainted. But she's been out on her feet for almost an hour and my brother is gone and she hasn't returned to normal.

"I think we need to check on Miku..." I sigh.

"She's fine." Saya walks over to our friend and gently taps her on the cheek. "Hey, wake up."

Suddenly, all the color rushes back into Miku's face and she snaps to attention, frantically looking around, then reaching into her pockets and bag. "My Haru-kun...he was just! Where's my camera? I need to-"

"You left it at home." Saya's voice is calm, like she's soothing a baby.

"Oh, right...We're already here?!" Suddenly, Miku's eyes widen in shock. "We were just at the station! It was like I blinked and we're in Tokyo!"

"You fell asleep on the train."

"Oh...that makes sense...wait, where did my Haru-kun go?!"

"They left to start setting up their things."

"I didn't even get the chance to- I need to go find them! I've gotta-"

Before Miku can take off for the building, Saya gently cuts her off. "We can't get in. The doors don't open until 10 am."

"I can't believe it...I didn't even get to say goodbye to my Haru-kun..." Miku slumps down in wordless defeat.

"No, you did."

"Really?" Suddenly, Miku's eyes widen.

"Yeah. He said goodbye to you too. By name."

Miku immediately blushes scarlet as a slight grin spreads up Saya's face. "He also said that he wanted you to stop by their booth if you have time."

At this point, Miku's bright red and is making a high-pitched noise that sounds like an excited mouse. It should be obvious to you, but none of the stuff that Saya's talking about ever happened, and if Miku goes on the doujin floor to my brother and Shiritori's booth and either one of them talks to her, she'll probably faint and then they'll have to call an ambulance. I'm not about to let that happen. See what kind of chaos they would be causing if I wasn't around?

Then again, the only reason they're here in the first place is because of me...let's ignore that for a second.

"Hey, quit it," I tell Saya before she can rattle off another lie about Niichan and Miku.

Saya smiles politely but deviously. "Quit doing what?"

"Messing with Miku. Like you messed with Niichan."

"That's a harsh way to put it."

"You know what you did." Turning to Miku, I mutter, "Niichan didn't say that last part."

"Oh...I guess he wouldn't care about someone like me..." Miku returns to looking crestfallen.

I hear Saya's mocking voice behind me before I turn around. "Oh, Kaede, how heartless...crushing a young maiden's dreams..."

"...All of this is literally your fault." I don't even have the energy to get mad at Saya. She does this almost every day. It's better to ignore her instead of getting angry, because she just likes the reaction. And I don't get her obsession with trolling Niichan. They barely know each other. Maybe she's pretending she likes him to see how Miku reacts? But both times she messed with him before, Miku wasn't around. Maybe it's because Niichan has a short fuse and she's trying to piss him off? That sounds more plausible, but I always get mad whenever she screws with him, she really trying to get a rise out of me?

Or wait...does she actually like him, too? There's no way...she's got a boyfriend, right? She hasn't mentioned the guy from Otori in a while, but she never said their date went poorly, either...

"We've got two hours before the convention center opens. What do you want to do?" I look around at the crowd gathering near the doors- even though only the sellers are allowed inside right now, the lines to get checked in are absolutely massive. I knew this was a big event- I didn't realize how massive it actually was. It's probably going to be packed when we get inside. City stuff is on a whole different level- it's even a little intimidating. I'm imagining thousands of Ayame Shiritoris and I don't like it.

"Go up the Skytree!" Miku's response is swift.

"That's too far away..." It'll take us almost an hour to get there, and another to get back, and the info session is at 11 so that means we can barely spend any time there. "I promised Niichan we wouldn't get too far away, either."

"Aww." Miku looks positively disappointed, like she's a little kid who just dropped her ice cream cone or something.

"There's a lot of cool stuff to do around here, though!" I nervously attempt to cheer her up. "There are 2 shopping centers right next to each other at the next tram stop and they've got a bunch of stores we don't have back home." Quickly, I scroll through Googol Maps, looking at everything in that area. "There's the official Gondom store and a Lugo store and they've got a place that sells clothes from America and an indoor amusement park and the Kita TV Building is right there, too...I bet they're filming something this morning. The Miraikan is also over there if we want to take a look inside."

"Why not?" Saya nods.

"Then let's head over that way."

It's a short walk, but when we get over to the Kita TV building everything is closed.

Ugh. Should have known. There's a giant statue of a Gondom outside one of the malls, but the actual building is closed until 10, just like Comiket. So is the amusement park, the movie theater, so on...

Miku doesn't seem to mind, though. "Come on, let's take a picture!" she cries as she points at the gigantic robot statue.

"I didn't know you were interested in mecha." I take a curious look over at Miku's excited face.

"I'm not, but it would look good on my Inst*gr*m!"

"Your Inst*gr*m?"

"Yeah! To promote my channel. A real investigative journalist needs community engagement. My videos aren't getting a lot of views yet so I need to get myself out there more. Since I couldn't bring my camera and record today, a photo or two is the next best thing."

She's being really pretentious calling her low-quality vlogs "investigative journalism", and the reason why they're not getting any views is obviously because they're not very good- just like her articles in the school newsletter. But if I said that out loud, she'd get mad and then sulk for the whole day, and Saya would needle me about it.

"I can take your picture if you want.” I motion for Miku's phone.

"Don't you want to be in it too?" she asks, cocking her head with a pleading expression.

"I'm not sure about that..." I'm not really a social media person and I'd rather not have my face out there on Miku's self-promotion accounts for the world to see.

"Come on, Kaede," Saya sighs.

"Fine." Kinda got pressured into it, but it's just a photo.

The only place open nearby is a chain coffee shop on the first floor of one of the malls, but it's good enough for killing an hour and a half, so we go in. Saya and I order normal iced coffees. Miku gets some multicolored limited edition frozen thing with sprinkles on top and promptly takes a half-dozen photos of it before posting it on her Inst*gr*m. It's definitely one of those drinks that's designed to look better than it tastes.

"The amount of engagement this'll get me is gonna be unreal!" Miku crows as she smugly taps on her phone.

Do you see why I'm not a social media person? Like why take pictures of your food in the first place? Nobody actually cares what you're eating, and I have no idea how posting photos of frappes will get more people to watch a YooToob channel.

The longer we're in there, the more the place fills up. I wonder if everyone else here is also going to Comiket, like us? I bet at least some of them are. There's a few weird-looking people wearing anime merch.

Oh, right, I needed to ask Saya something. "By the way, what happened to that guy from Otori?" I ask, trying to make it seem as casual as possible.

"Nothing. He was way too boring," Saya replies, taking a sip of her drink.

"So I guess you're still single?"

"Yeah. Wait, why are you so interested?" I can sense a smirk starting to form on Saya's face. "Something to do with Maid-kun, perhaps?"

"No! I was just wanting to know."

From Saya's expression, I can tell that she's not convinced, but she drops the subject.

By the time it gets to be ten AM and we've made it back to the convention center, the line to get in is stretching down the block. I was right. The place is packed tighter than a subway car at rush hour, and it's so loud that even though I'm right next to Saya and Miku I can barely hear their voices. We're brushing shoulders and elbows with tons of random people, walking slowly down the hall between tons of groups with tables and banners as others stop to buy and sell things. There's doujin circles, but there are also merchandise sellers and traders. It's impressive just how many people are here.

I want to say that we turn to go into the first large room, but really it's more like the crowd carries us in and we get swept along. The space opens up into an avalanche of color. Characters on signs as far as the eye can see, with what looks like at least a hundred large booths where TV screens are playing anime trailers and people are taking pictures next to colorful character cutouts and staffers are chatting with the crowd while they sell T-shirts and figures and books.

We're not dealing with amateurs anymore.

"Look!" Miku points toward a booth where five pink-haired girls are drawn on a red sign. "There's five of them! And that one has the same name as me!"

I've heard of that manga. Five quintuplets like the same guy. I've never read it, but I've heard it's good. I guess the booth is advertising a new anime being made.

As we walk around the exhibit hall, it seems like every manga and light novel in the world is being advertised. Each booth is trying to one-up the other. My head is swimming from all the bright colors and explosions being shown on the TV screens.

I wish we could have stayed to look, but it took us so long to get into the building that it's about 10:45, so we have to leave the exhibit hall quickly despite Miku's protests that she wished she had her camera.

Finally, after going up an entire flight of stairs to another floor, we arrive at Conference Room W-3. There's not many people on the upper floor- I guess everyone is downstairs checking out the anime and video game booths. Well, Daystar Productions is a very small company from what little I know about it, so I guess they couldn't afford a better location for their info sessions.

A very frazzled-looking businesswoman in a suit, with medium-length, cropped hair and glasses, is standing near the door, nervously looking around with a clipboard in her hands as we approach.


"Ah!" The woman jumps, realizing we're standing right in front of her. "Kouga-san! It's really nice to see you. I didn't think you were going to make it..." She nervously twiddles the pen in her hands, then checks something on the sheet. "That makes four total..." Suddenly, she stops as she notices my friends. "Oh, I didn't notice you two! Are you interested in becoming voice actresses, too?"

"Ehm, I guess..." Miku looks off to the side.

"I'm just here for the free food," Saya replies with a big smile.

Fujii-san doesn't pay Saya's answer any mind. "Two more...oh, thank goodness. I can finally pay rent this month...thank you so much, Kouga-san!" She suddenly grabs both my hands and gets right up in my face with her eyes sparkling. I'm used to this from Shiritori, but seeing a full-grown woman do this is a bit concerning. "Seriously, thank you! I'm forever in your debt!"

"It's not that big of a deal..."

Suddenly, Fujii-san realizes that she's invading my personal space, because she suddenly jumps back, making a vain attempt to calm her voice down and appear more professional. "Now, what are your names? I'll start with you on the left, with the twintails and blouse."

"Miku Maebara." Miku's voice is uncharacteristically soft and hesitant.

"And how do you write that?" Fujii-san holds out the clipboard to us, where I can tell it's a list of names. It's not an impressive list- there's only six names- but it's a list nonetheless.

"Like this." Miku hesitantly takes the pen and signs her name.

"What about you, ma'am?" Fujii-san turns to Saya.

"Asako Senjuuin," Saya says with a big smile.

I've been able to avoid thinking about Ryou Shiritori all day, but Saya's joke attempt brings everything that happened in the old school building flooding back into my mind, and then what Kawano-sensei said, and then Miku's dejected look when she told me that her plan didn't succeed. We're having fun in Tokyo while Shiritori-kun is days away from a forced transfer and a mark of shame that will be attached to him forever. And it's all my fault. I said I would help, but even my last-ditch effort failed.

In the end, I couldn't do anything.

"Fujii, how are you doing out here?" I'm suddenly snapped out of my trance by a piercing alto voice, and I look up to see another woman in a business suit. Unlike Fujii-san, she's got long hair that curls at the ends, and her body language is confident and relaxed, nothing like the timid, nervous woman in glasses.

The other woman takes notice of us, looking us up and down curiously, before turning to Fujii-san. "Are they here for the info session?"

"Yes, ma'am..." Fujii-san sighs. "Thank goodness, I thought nobody would actually be showing up."

The expression on the other woman's face tells me that she didn't think anyone would be showing up, either.

"This is Kouga, and next to her are Maebara and-" Fujii-san takes a second to concentrate- "Senjuuin. It was a bit of a tough name to remember. Oh, and you girls, this is Hana Takanashi, the CEO of Daystar. She was a pretty accomplished voice actress back in her day."

"Don't make me sound like some old fart," Takanashi-san snaps. "I'm only thirty-six and I'm still active."

"I-I didn't mean it that way," Fujii-san replies, nervously waving her hands.

"It's fine. I'm joking." Takanashi-san puts a hand on her chin. "Really, I'm impressed that you managed to finally recruit someone, Fujii. And not just one person- three of them. Maybe I was wrong about you-" Suddenly, Takanashi-san stops, bending down and gazing piercingly at the three of us. She's got a pretty intimidating glare. "You old are you?"

"Me?" Oh, crap, my voice nearly cracked.

"Yes, you. Kouga-san, was it?"

"Oh, um...I'm fourteen."

The CEO's expression immediately sours as she turns her gaze to Saya. "What about you?"

"Fourteen." Saya's voice is much calmer than mine. I guess when you've spent most of your life around her giant musclehead of a father, some lady isn't going to scare you.

"And you? Maebara-san?"

"Ah...uh...Thirteen." Miku looks like she's about to turn tail and run.

Takanashi-san stands back up with a stern expression. "Excuse us for a second." Immediately, she grabs Fujii-san around the collar and they disappear into the conference room.

A second later, the roar follows. Even with a door and a wall between us, it's loud enough for us to hear everything. "FUJII, YOU MORON! THEY'RE UNDERAGE! DID YOU GET PARENTAL PERMISSION?"



"I'm sorry! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorry..."


"P-p-p-please forgive me..."


"Noooooooooo! My rent!"

"Should have figured something out sooner, you blithering idiot..." The CEO bursts through the door, dragging her shell-shocked subordinate by the shoulder, and suddenly stops in her tracks when she sees all of us standing there, looking slightly unnerved. "Sorry about this. So it'll be a year or two before all of you can legally start working as voice actresses, unless you have parental permission...but even if you do, you can't work after 8 PM and I know you're probably busy with school and clubs and all sort of things...labor laws are such a headache, and we don't have the budget to hire someone to take care of all that stuff, so we can't sign someone under apologies for my subordinate's incompetence."

"No, really, it's not that big of a deal," I quickly reply. Takanashi-san still looks furious, even though she's trying her hardest to seem professional. Meanwhile, Fujii-san has gone completely white and is staring down at the ground.

"You're welcome to stick around for the info session, even though we can't talk about bringing you in for an audition afterwards..." the CEO gripes. "Again, I greatly apologize for my moron of an assistant who's so incompetent she couldn't work the cash register at the Lowson and who I should probably fire right now, but it is what it is. We can give you a tour of the office, but the audition will have to wait until you're older. I'm really sorry."

"No, don't worry about it." I feel really bad now. Fujii-san may truly be an idiot, but so are Saya and Miku. And Ayame Shiritori. I have lots of experience dealing with idiots. "Come on, let's go." I quickly motion to my friends to go inside...I really don't want to watch Fujii-san get humiliated any longer.

The inside of the room is...really sad.

There's a few rows of chairs in front of a projector screen, and a table with a few boxes of chain pizza and a couple large bottles of cola in the back, but there's no one else in the room other than us. Miku and I take our seats on two of the chairs in the middle. A few seconds later, Saya returns, carrying a whole pizza box.

I glare at her. "You ought to put that back."

"What?" Saya cocks her head. "We're the only ones here. You want some?"

"I'm not hungry."

"Your loss." She immediately starts devouring a slice.

A few minutes later, the two Daystar employees walk to the front of the room and the start of a presentation pops up on the projector. Fujii-san still looks completely shell-shocked.

I guess we're the only "potential voice actresses" who bothered to show up.

I should have expected this.

Steward McOy