“Well then, Onii-chan I have to head back soon since I’ll be late for the assembly time.”
The time spent chatting with Mana after our chance encounter passed in the blink of an eye.
Mana didn’t come to the Ouzakura District to visit my house; she came for a school field trip. Since this was a school event, being late for the assembly time would be a big problem, and she’d likely get scolded by the school teachers. That was something we absolutely had to avoid. Just the thought of my cute little sister being scolded by teachers made my stomach ache.
However, my true feelings were that I wanted to talk to Mana a little more since it had been a while.
Sitting beside me, Ginro-san probably felt the same way. She seemed quite happy to meet my little sister, and she had been doing a lot for us. I should definitely thank her later. I couldn’t compete with Ginro-san; she was truly amazing.
“Onii-chan what’s wrong? You look so serious.”
“Hmm? Oh, I just wanted to talk a bit more.”
“What’s with that subtle reaction?”
“No, I mean it! I really wanted to talk to you more!”
“Is that so?”
Mana spread her arms wide to emphasize her point. Well, I probably shouldn’t press her on this. I didn’t think Mana was capable of lying, and I shouldn’t dig too deep into this matter.
“Well then, Ginro-san, I’ll take Mana back.”
“Sure, be careful. Goodbye, Mana-chan.”
Ginro-san waved gracefully. Even though I had completely forgotten about the series of “events” from today and yesterday, Ginro-san was like the embodiment of refined femininity, and every one of her actions was elegant.
Mana, on the other hand, was her polar opposite, often displaying exaggerated reactions, especially towards family members. She waved her hands widely. Maybe she should do the same in class; it might help her socialize better. But Mana was more of a shut-in, always sitting in the back of the class and playing smartphone games.
“Mana, let’s get going then.”
“Yeah, thanks, Onii-chan”
“Um, the meeting place is… Ouzakura Park, right?”
Mana replied as if it were obvious, but Ouzakura Park was quite far from my house. I wondered how Mana managed to walk all the way here.
“Mana, you walked quite a distance to get here.”
“Hmm, I was daydreaming, and before I knew it, I was here.”
Her response was unexpectedly offbeat. She walked here while daydreaming? This revealed an unusual side of Mana. If we hadn’t run into each other by chance, I wondered how she planned to get back.
“Usually, people don’t walk this far while daydreaming.”
“I’m not just your average person, after all.”
Mana emphasized that she was anything but “ordinary.” Perhaps she was aware of the aspects of herself that deviated from the norm. I didn’t understand what she meant exactly, but I decided not to pry. Even if we were close siblings, there was a line I shouldn’t cross by digging too deep into someone’s personal matters.
We had maintained a good family relationship by respecting that boundary.
“I was really happy, you know?”
“I thought I’d never see you again.”
“…Saying ‘never’ is a bit much.”
“Onii-chan might not understand, but when someone important suddenly disappears, it’s natural for humans to think that way.”
Mana’s words pierced my heart unexpectedly.
I was the one who had hurt Mana. Therefore, I couldn’t comprehend the feelings of the one who had been hurt, or so I had thought. Her words made it seem as if I had been told off.
I had only seen myself as the victim, but looking at it from a different perspective, I could also be the perpetrator. I had selfishly disappeared and trampled over the feelings of my sisters.
“I’d like to meet Mai and Mahiro too.”
“I know. They might notice you, and it could be risky.”
“…Sorry, and even if I meet Mai and Mahiro, I don’t know how I’d react. I still haven’t fully overcome my fear of women.”
It was a painful truth, but I was still affected by my trauma-induced gynophobia. Meeting Mai and Mahiro and conversing with them might not go smoothly. If they found out about me, I might not survive the encounter.
“Earlier, you mentioned… gynophobia…”
“Yeah, the thing that only affects Ginro-san… That’s why I consider it a miracle that I can talk to her like this.”
“…I should thank Ginro-san.”
The cawing of crows echoed through the reddening sky. Winter was far from over, and darkness would soon engulf the surroundings.
“Will you make it to the meeting on time?”
“Yeah, I should be there with plenty of time to spare at this pace.”
“That’s good. Thanks, Onii-chan.”
Mana’s steps suddenly halted.
“Mana, I said we have plenty of time, but in reality, we’re cutting it close.”
A brief silence followed.
“…Onii-chan, let’s kick Onee-chan out of the house.”
Mana’s unexpected words struck a chord deep within the corners of my mind—corners I hadn’t even considered.
Kick Nee-san out of the house?
It took me a few seconds to process the meaning of these words that had flowed into my ears. Why… would Mana suddenly suggest such a thing?
“What’s going on, Mana…”
“Well, I thought about it, and it’s really your fault, isn’t it?”
“…But it’s too early to say…”
“I won’t accept that!!”
Mana’s words sent a jolt through my body. While she had raised her voice earlier, this time was different. Her words seemed to seize control of my body.
“If Onee-chan wasn’t here, you could meet Mahiro and Mai again.”
“That’s true, but…”
“Besides, I don’t want to be separated from you!! I want to be with you forever!!”
Mana’s behavior resembled that of a child throwing a tantrum, but there was an unwavering determination in her words.
Mana was serious.
“Without Onee-chan, everything would be better. It’s all her fault… that you have gynophobia… everything!!”
“Calm down. We’re in a residential area; you’ll get us reported to the police again!”
Mana’s outburst in the middle of a residential area brought back memories of my earlier trauma. If the police were called again, I might not be able to explain my way out of it.
“…I’m sorry, I lost my composure.”
“…But my determination hasn’t changed. I want to be with you, to live together.”
Mana’s determination was clearly conveyed. However, I also knew it was impossible in reality.
The life I had built here in Ouzakura had been far from bad. I had good friends, enjoyable days, and the girl I loved.
I couldn’t give up on those days.
If I did, I would end up hurting others like Mana.
“I’m sorry, Mana… it’s just not possible.”
“I have a life here, I have a girlfriend I love, so I can’t go back to Kimisaki’s house.”
“Please understand, Mana.”
I put my hands on Mana’s shoulders.
I meet Mana’s gaze with my own and make a sincere appeal.
I’m sorry, Mana… please understand…
“Sorry, and thank you.”
“There’s no help for it. If you say so, I can’t do anything, and I have no right to.”
“But in return, I’ll come to visit you every week!”
“Yeah, but please make sure not to let the family notice.”
“Then it’s all good.”
“Thank you, Onii-chan!”
Mana’s face was now adorned with a beautiful smile, a stark contrast to her earlier outburst.
“Onii-chan, it’s bad! The assembly time is only 20 minutes away!”
Well, after moments of happiness, there’s usually some price to pay. If this is the price…
With that thought in mind, I started running alongside Mana.
“Welcome back, Mana!”
“I’m back, Mahiro!”
“Did you have fun? The field trip!”
“Well, it was okay, I guess.”
I was abruptly brought back to our home, leaving behind the lingering atmosphere of being with my big brother. Although I had managed to make it to the assembly on time thanks to our full-speed dash, it was quite exhausting for someone like me who doesn’t exercise regularly. However, amidst the hardship, I felt a sense of happiness from being with my big brother.
But the melancholic feeling was somewhat alleviated as our one and only virtuous angel, Mahiro, came to greet me at home.
“Mai is in her room, playing games!”
“…Ever since Onii-chan left, she’s been like this, huh.”
Another drawback of Onii-chan’s departure was its impact on Mai. Since the day he left, Mai has been living a nearly reclusive life, returning from school and playing games until late at night. Sometimes, I can hear the sound of her game controller hitting the wall.
“But Mana seems happier now!”
“Mana used to have a lonely expression since Onii-chan left, but now you seem happy!”
“Eh…!? That’s just your imagination!!”
Is that…!?? I show my emotions that easily!?
“Could it be… You found someone you like?”
“Uhm… yeah, something like that…”
Well, that’s not entirely wrong, and since there’s no way she’ll find out about my reunion with Onii-chan, I decide to indulge her imagination. Elementary school kids’ instincts are sharper than you’d think.
“By the way, Mom and Dad still haven’t come back from work!”
“Is that so…”
Honestly, I hate them even more than Onee-chan. So, I don’t care.
But they raised me to this point, so I have to pretend to be a “good daughter” on the surface.
“In that case, I’ll go back to my room.”
I climb the stairs.
After finishing the climb, my room is immediately to the left.
I still have a board that says “Mana’s Room,” which I made in elementary school, hanging on the door.
There’s still some time until dinner, so I’ll take a short nap.
I want to fall asleep in this happy state.
If I sleep while thinking about Onii-chan, I’m sure I’ll have dreams about him. That’s what I felt.
“…I love you, Onii-cha—“
“Ara, Mana, you are home.”
Suddenly, I heard the voice of the person I despised the most in the world, coming from the side.
Yes, it was my own sister, Maya Kisaragi .
…My heartfelt desire to “fall asleep while still feeling happy” was shattered abruptly.
“I just got back too! I had a blast at the tennis club, so I got a bit carried away… Tennis is so much fun after all.”
It seemed that my sister had been attending university clubs lately, trying to return to the life she had before my Onii-chan left.
In other words, she is escaping the sadness of Onii-chan’s absence faster than anyone else in the house.
…It’s disgusting. I don’t want to see this person’s face.
However, my sister continued to talk without showing any signs of understanding my feelings. My sister had a severe deficiency in the ability to read people’s emotions compared to others.
So, no matter how much I glared at her, she would never notice.
Even when she had Onii-chan locked up.
[Yuran was happy to be united with me.]
She said something that made no sense to me.
“Since Yuran left, I’ve been cooped up in my room for a long time, so it’s good to be able to move around again.”
“After all, it’s no good to keep moping around forever.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve decided to forget about Yuran and live my own life.” (Maya)
“Forgetting about Yuran and enjoying my life, I thought that would make my life beautiful.” (Maya)
Forget about Yuran and live her own life? What is this person talking about?
Doesn’t she realize that Yuran’s departure was her fault?
She talks as if Yuran left home for selfish reasons. What does she mean by “forgetting about Yuran and living her own life”?
…This is ridiculous.
“I still love Yuran, but it’s no good to keep clinging to the past.”
My sister, who doesn’t notice my seething emotions, continues to spout nonsense.
“Yuran went somewhere and left me… If that’s what Yuran wanted, I have no choice but to accept it. I also have to live my life!”
My stomach churns.
I think that unless you pour all the absurdity of the world into someone, creatures like this won’t be born.
Onii-chan didn’t leave home because he liked it, and why doesn’t this person understand that?
She says she loves him? Who is she to utter those words? She has no right to love my big brother, and she shouldn’t have any.
…It’s all… your fault…
You gave Onii-chan trauma, and because of that, he got a girlfriend.
Everything that took Onii-chan away from me…
Everything, everything, everything, everything…
“It’s your fault.”
The words escaped my lips.
I briefly panic.
But I don’t care anymore.
“What’s wrong, Mana?”
I’ll unleash all my emotions on this wretched human.
“You took Onii-chan away from me.”
“What are you suddenly talking about? You’re acting strange.”
“Onii-chan is still suffering and in pain because of what you did to him.”
Onii-chan’s face appears in my mind, that sad expression when he said he couldn’t see Mai and Mahiro. I don’t understand why Onii-chan has to make such a face.
“What are you saying, Mana?”
“The person who could have comforted Onii-chan’s wounds became Onii-chan’s girlfriend, his most important person!”
It’s true that only she might be able to heal those wounds.
But that’s only because she was the only one there. If I were in her position, I would have the confidence to heal my hurt Onii-chan even more than she could. Ultimately, it was this woman who indirectly gave her the opportunity to heal Onii-chan’s wounds. In the first place, if she wasn’t here, Onii-chan’s most important person should have been me…
“Yuran’s girlfriend? What are you talking about?”
With that thought, the boiling anger in me overflows limitlessly, fueled even further by my rage.
“You hurt Onii-chan, you stole him away, and you allowed him to be stolen.”
“Mana!? What are you talking about since earlier?”
“I will never forgive you.”
I slam my bedroom door shut forcefully.
Tears stream down my cheeks.
Tears of frustration from having Onii-chan insulted? Tears of relief from having finally exposed everything?
I don’t know. Tears flow for reasons I can’t determine, and they refuse to stop, flooding my body.
My sister, my detested adversary…
I will never…
I will absolutely not forgive this woman.
I swore that.
Yuran got a girlfriend?
Mana did mention that…
Mana was acting a little strange earlier, so I shouldn’t take that information at face value…
Yuran is mine.
I can accept him leaving home for his own life, and I’ve moved past that.
No matter how far away he is, Yuran belongs to me.
I can’t tolerate him becoming someone else’s possession…
I don’t know if it’s true or not…
It seems worth looking into.
I’ve accepted him leaving home, but becoming someone else’s possession…
I won’t allow it, Yuran.