Cold… so cold…
Where am I…?
I’m alone, trapped in this empty darkness.
Someone… please help…
A pool of light has formed a little distance away.
That light pierces through me, captivating all my senses with its beauty.
Before I know it, I’m reaching out towards that light.
[Did something unpleasant happen at school?]
I was watching a rather uninteresting variety show on the sofa when suddenly my “Onii-chan” started talking to me.
I still haven’t quite defined whether it’s appropriate to call him that, but our parents have repeatedly asked me to treat this person as my real brother, so I decided to temporarily put aside my own thoughts and refer to him as “Onii-chan.”
And it was this Onii-chan who dropped a bombshell on me.
Did something unpleasant happen at school?
When those words hit me, my mind went blank, and it completely replaced all my thoughts.
It was that shocking.
[Oh, I just had a feeling, that’s all.]
Onii-chan stammered as he replied.
Just a feeling…
How did he know?
I hadn’t shown it on my face at all.
I didn’t want my family… my parents… to find out.
I had been maintaining my composure, no, I had been playing the role of “Mana Kimisaki” that everyone envisioned.
My acting should have been flawless.
Where did I go wrong? Where did the crack appear?
I didn’t want my family to find out.
That I couldn’t fit in at school, that I kept my distance from my classmates, that I spent all my breaks pretending to sleep, that I hardly paid any attention in class.
I should have been doing fine.
I didn’t want to show my weaknesses to the people closest to me.
Since as far back as I can remember…
My twisted personality was something I was born with.
[I just had a feeling, that’s all.]
While I was short-circuiting in my head, my big brother continued.
[If you ever have any worries or anything, just tell me.]
[We’ve become a family, after all… I want to be of help to you, Kimisaki… I mean, Mana.]
Bam! The light burst, and I was returned to the darkness.
This is the memory of the day I first became aware of Onii-chan’s presence.
Back then, I was probably still as twisted as ever, so I didn’t immediately reach out for Onii-chan’s hand.
But as we lived together, with each passing day, every time I got to know more about Onii-chan, I started to want to cling to the hand he was extending to me.
It didn’t take long from there.
I opened up to Onii-chan about everything, and he acknowledged it while denying it at the same time.
I realized something at that moment.
I wanted to be denied.
I didn’t want affirmation; I wanted to be denied. I wanted to be broken.
My twisted thoughts.
But I instinctively sensed that my family wouldn’t do that for me, so I closed myself off.
You’re the one who understands me the most in this world.
You love me.
I want to be with you.
I want to become one with you.
I want to die with you.
Onii-chan… it’s cold here.
Help me, Onii-chan.
Where is this?
My hand… it’s warm…
Ah… I remember now.
Then this hand is…
As soon as I recognized my Onii-chan, he disappeared from my sight. Instead, I could feel his heartbeat in my body. He leaned on my shoulder, his hand on my back, his body trembling, and tears falling onto my heart.
The time it took for that reality to sink in wasn’t exactly quick, to put it mildly. But during that time, something very comforting circulated through my body.
The emotions I had suppressed with reason burst forth, and a torrent of feelings overflowed from my eyes and mouth.
I missed you… I missed you…
Mana had finished crying for a while, but since a while ago, she has not moved even a twitch with her face buried in my chest.
I pat Mana’s head.
I was wondering why …… Mana was ……
We are currently in a hospital room at the largest university hospital in the Ouzakura District.
After Mana left the house, despite our frantic efforts to search for her, she was found collapsed on an embankment by a passerby a few hours later.
It was dark, and there weren’t many people around, so it took some time for her to be discovered.
When she was found, Mana’s condition was severe. Her leg was so badly broken that the bones were completely misaligned, and her body was covered in countless bruises and abrasions. Her face had swollen to the point where it was unrecognizable, and most of it was obscured by bandages.
Mana was immediately taken to the hospital, where she underwent surgery and miraculously survived, but she remained in a coma for two full days.
I truly… hate myself.
Why didn’t I notice Mana leaving the house? Why didn’t I try to understand her feelings more? Why didn’t I support her more…?
I’m a failure as a brother.
I tried to lecture her with some semblance of reason, but I failed to truly be there for her when she needed it the most.
Mana was suffering so much, and yet I… am I still causing her pain?
I clench my fist so tightly that my fingers dig into my skin.
“Onii-chan, I love this part of you… it’s warm.”
I hold Mana even tighter.
All I can do now is not let her be alone.
“Onii-chan, I… I love you.”
I know… Mana. I should have known that more than anyone, but I abandoned you and left home.
I don’t have the right to accept those words.
But… I don’t have the right to reject them either.
So I say nothing.
Neither confirming nor denying is the best I can offer.
“I love you.”
“In my heart, it’s… uncontrollable… how much I love you.”
Love…? What does she mean by that?
“…I’m sorry, Onii-chan.”
Mana’s hand gripping my clothes begins to tremble.
“Onee-chan… she… she found out about everything!”
“She found out that you’re here, all of it! Onee-chan knows!”
At that moment, my head is filled with noise.
My head is splitting, stop… STOP IT…
Nee-chan… Maya Kimisaki… is nearby!!!
I unlock the door with the spare key Yuran gave me.
“I have to protect the house when she’s not around…”
Mana-chan is in such a state, and Yuran has been at the hospital with her all this time.
If only I had forcefully stopped her back then…
I’m sorry, Mana-chan…
Even though there should be no one here, there’s a single shoe by the entrance.
“Moreover… women’s shoes?”
Those shoes are black high heels, and as far as I know among Yuran’s acquaintances, no one wears such shoes.
“Huh…? Did I enter the wrong room? No… but the key worked…”
“Welcome back. You must be Ginro-san, right?”
When I return my gaze upward, I find myself face to face with
beautiful yet murky black eyes.
They are so close that our eyelashes almost touch.