Chapter 38:


Be Yourself, Ayane-chan!

Satou couldn’t hear what I had to say as I entered the classroom. Ayane, however, could hear it. As she did, her face initially turned red. It wasn’t until she struggled to make eye contact with me that she could finally turn it around into a smile. Even though I knew my statement surprised her, I still thought the smile was genuine. I thought she genuinely wanted me to join the entertainment industry with her. While still unsure if it was still the choice I wanted to make, seeing this adorable reaction of hers certainly helped.

That wasn’t what I wanted to put my mind to forever, though. I had to find my seat. As I did, I saw Satoshi using his pencil on the seat ahead of me. Wanting to start a conversation with him, I poked his back.

“Hey, Satoshi-kun. What are you up to?”

As he turned back to me, the giant black bags under his eyes became all the more clear as he responded with a tone so bright that it sounded like a corpse. So… not bright.

“Drawing manga.”

“Looks more like killing yourself.”

“It isn’t painful if you like it,” he said with a weird smile.

“Spoken like a true masochist.”


Normally, I’d scramble for questions by this point, but I actually had quite a few that I wanted to ask.

“So, how far is the manga in production?”

“Well, I’m working on the second volume. Thankfully, I only need to publish every other week, but it’s still a hellish schedule with school involved.”

“Well, of course it’d be. It still sucks, though. I swear, it seems like free time is outlawed in Japan.”

“It doesn’t seem that way. It is that way.”

“I’ll take your word on that.”

Normally, this would be yet another point for the conversation to end, but I still had more questions to ask, so I quickly broke the silence.

“By the way, what is your story even about?”

“Do you really want to know?”

Satoshi, putting his arm on his neck, showed us the first real bit of physical motion to take place in this conversation. That, or I really did struggle to recount our mannerisms. Regardless, I had a funny motion of my own to make, as I glared at him in response.

“Of course I do. You know why people ask questions, right?”

Satoshi simply sighed, attempting to shrug off my snark.

“Fine then. It’s about a man whose power grows with his emotion. As he was praised for it in the past, he found his positive emotions manifesting in his physical strength. However, someone with greater strengths, looks, and social skills wound up taking his place, resulting in a grudge boiling within him. With that, the anger manifested into a new strength, but he can’t control his negative emotions, causing him to lash out and become even less favored by his class. In order to not become a threat to those around him, he begins to isolate himself in his room playing games, until he can’t take it anymore, going on a rampage with his sadness fusing with his anger to make a version of himself with city-destroying potential.”

As he stopped talking, he got to see the stars in my eyes as I sat on the edge of my seat. With my hands curled up in balls, I asked him another question.

“What happens after that?”

Satoshi put his hand on his neck again, with his face growing more red.

“Well, if you wanted a plot synopsis, then surely you’d want to read the first volume to find out.”

“Really, you’ll finally show me your work?” I asked with a smile.

“You’ve been too insistent for me not to.”

Even though he could no longer face me, I continued to spit words out of my mouth.

“Thank you so much! I’ll buy an extra copy for Ayane too.”

Satoshi looked back at me, with the most puzzled face imaginable.

“What happened to the… whatever.”

Taking a second to recuperate himself with a deep breath, he continued speaking.

“You don’t need to buy an extra copy. You live with her, so just let her borrow the damn manga.”


That’s what I said as he gave me a copy of the first volume from his backpack. As he did, he shook things up by continuing the conversation himself, asking a question before I could get a good look at it.

“What do you think of the cover?”

“It’s better than I expected it to be.”

I meant what I said. I may not have read enough to know what I was talking about, but the art was good. Seeing his creation left me with a warm smile. Satoshi, on the other hand, gave his own opinion.

“I think it still needs some work.”

I stopped looking at the cover to focus my attention on him in my response.

“Really? It looks pretty legit to me.”

“But why would you think that? I haven’t proven myself yet,” he said, clenching his fist.

“That doesn’t matter. You managed to become the class president this year. You’ve proven that you can do great things by this point.”

“But what if that doesn’t extend to my manga? We only have so many months until we’re adults.”

“Just keep on writing and I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“I know you’re right, but it’s so hard.”

Knowing that he needed support, I put my hand on his shoulders and made my eye contact more clear.

“You want to be a mangaka, right?”

“I do.”

“Then you’ll have to listen to me.”

“But I can’t. There’s no way my parents will approve of me pursuing such a risky path.”

I got out of my chair.

“Then they can piss off!”

The room went quiet, with all of the eyes on us. As some drops of sweat went down my face, I slowly took my seat before Satoshi whispered to me.

“God dammit! Don’t go yelling that shit!”

As the class took their eyes off us, Satoshi sighed, looking away from me before he asked me another question.

“Does it pain you? How little I’ve changed, that is.”

“You may not see it, but I think you’ve grown a lot. Starting a manga was a great step.”


He finally looked at me again.

“Yes, really.”

Satoshi chuckled before smiling. I felt like a tear could cross his eyes through the relief, but it didn’t happen as he gave his take.

“In that case, I’ll just keep working with what I have.”

Finally getting something good from him, I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that I could finally be of help to a friend.

“I’m glad.”

Despite my apparent happiness, though, I still had a thought buried deep inside. I didn’t want to say it to him, but I was jealous of him. He knew what he wanted to do with his life. It wasn’t guaranteed to work out, but it was a dream he could chase. I guess I was still worried about my dependence on Ayane, then. I feared that without some sort of dream, I’d just end up a burden for her.

I couldn’t sit in them, though, as the teacher finally entered the classroom, forcing me to put my attention on my upcoming studies.

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