“I’m sorry, Mana! My boyfriend and I decided to explore around here!”
My friend Tomoko was bowing repeatedly in front of me, and the reason was quite simple.
We, students from Nankomori Middle School, had come to this place, the Ouzakura District, on a field trip under the pretext of a social studies excursion.
And during this social studies trip, she was confessed to by one of the boys in our class.
Naturally, it was a common occurrence, but Tomoko, who had promised to explore around here with just the two of us, suddenly decided to go sightseeing with her boyfriend.
Ordinarily, one might feel frustrated about being stood up and having their friend enjoy a passionate date with their boyfriend during a social studies trip. However, I had a generous heart, and such things didn’t bother me.
“Yeah, I can’t get in the way of a couple who just started dating. Have a great time!” I said, pushing Tomoko forward. She had tears in her eyes as she thanked me and hurried over to her boyfriend, who had been watching from a distance.
Watching from behind a tree in the distance… Is he that fond of Tomoko? Ah, maybe that’s why they’re dating…
As I pondered these pointless questions, I lowered my shoulders, resigned to the fact that I would have to enjoy the social studies trip alone.
It seemed to be a town with nothing particularly famous about it, perhaps except for an occasionally featured delicious ramen shop on a local TV news segment.
Ouzakura’s name came from the abundance of cherry blossoms, derived from “tazakura,” but now, in the winter, there was not a single leaf on those cherry trees, and all you could see were bare branches.
Why did I decide to come to this town? I felt like I should go to the school’s planning office and voice my protest, but I decided to keep my clenched fist to myself.
Everywhere I walked, all I could see were leafless cherry trees and houses. Walking alone in such a desolate town made me wonder if I had committed some grave sin in a past life.
My mind suddenly drifted to memories of when my brother was still around.
Onii-chan… I wonder if he’s doing well?
No, he’s probably doing just fine.
Exactly one month ago, I received a letter from my brother through our father. I agreed not to tell my older sister and younger sisters about the contents.
The letter said that he was having a great time at his new school, surrounded by wonderful people, and that he didn’t want us to worry. He also mentioned that he had a girlfriend now and that he wanted to introduce her to Mom and Dad once things settled down.
My brother seemed to be leading a fulfilling life at his new school. While he was with us, he had endured hardships, suffered at the hands of my older sister, and had been treated badly by classmates who misunderstood him. Knowing that he was happy now made me truly, genuinely happy.
When I read that letter, tears streamed down my face. I was so happy, so incredibly happy, as if my brother’s happiness was my own.
But at the same time, it also brought to light the fact that we had been nothing but a burden to my brother.
Since my brother left, my life had turned gray to the point where I couldn’t even appreciate the colors of the flowers in front of me. No matter how much fun I had with my close friends, I couldn’t truly enjoy anything. My days had turned into a hellish routine.
But my brother was leading a fulfilling life and had a girlfriend even without us. While his absence had turned my world gray, it was the opposite for him.
I had no intention of blaming him for that.
I believed he was enjoying things he couldn’t when we were around. And if I had to admit it, maybe a third of the tears shed earlier were out of jealousy.
“Why is he happy even without us?”
Haha… What a petty jealousy. It shouldn’t be an emotion directed toward my brother.
“I may not be blood-related to him, but my feelings towards my brother shouldn’t be like this.
I must be going crazy. No matter how handsome a boy I see, my heart remains colorless. Only when I talk to my brother, play with him, and spend our days together does my heart fill with vibrant colors.
Coming on a field trip, thinking about my brother, and wandering alone in an unfamiliar town… What am I doing?”
I heard the sound of money hitting the ground.
A few meters ahead of me, someone’s wallet had fallen from their pocket and was lying on the ground, abandoned.
I didn’t think there would be any benefit in picking up that wallet. However, I had been taught since childhood that small acts of kindness would eventually bring happiness.
Alright… I’ll pick it up…
I picked up the wallet and hurriedly approached its owner, tapping his shoulder.
He turned around.
“Um, you dropped your wallet.”
The person who turned around had the exact same face as my brother. I had lost my grip on the wallet and dropped it to the ground again.
And it was no surprise. The man in front of me had the same features as my brother, whom I had seen for over a decade. His well-defined face, soft, rounded contours like that of a woman, slightly long fingers, big, double-lidded eyes – he had them all as if it were natural.
My body was shocked, and an electric current of disbelief surged through me. He was also not hiding his surprise when he looked at my face.
It can’t be… There’s no way…
His eyes were telling me that he was thinking the same thing.
Okay, I’m feeling the same way right now.
Several moments of silence passed. An eerie quiet enveloped us.
Then, breaking the silence, my name came out of the man’s mouth, shattering the stillness.
I was certain.
This man was my brother.
I love him, truly love him, more than anyone in the world.
My world, which had been gray, suddenly burst with colors, and beautiful flowers bloomed on withered trees.
The gray world became vibrant, and in the desolate trees, beautiful flowers began to bloom.