“Come to think of it, Yuri, are you going to participate in the forest school?”
“I’m not a boy, so I won’t go. I’m not into outdoor activities.”
“Well, Yuri seems more like an indoor person.”
“But more importantly, what’s wrong with this kid?”
“She was sort of brainwashed against her will…”
“Onee-san, let’s have lunch together!”
With a bang, I swung open the classroom door. Surprised gazes turned towards me. Peace, peace.
Who cares if it’s the seniors’ classroom? It has nothing to do with me!
Come to think of it, I hardly know anything about Yuri-san. If you want to shoot for the target, first shoot the horse.
If there’s something troubling her, if I want to help her, it’s crucial to get to know Yuri-san.
If you don’t enter the tiger’s den, you won’t catch its cub. If you have time to hesitate, you should jump into the other person’s arms.
So, during lunch break, I came to my sister’s classroom to have lunch together.
My sister was sitting side by side with the two who had come for advice in the morning.
Yuri-san looked dumbfounded. Her usual sharpness was nowhere to be found.
I dashed forward to catch the chopsticks that were about to fall from her hand.
“You’ve already taken action, little brother? You’re quick when it comes to these things.”
“Kyoso-sama-! Over here, over here.” [Kyoso = Founder of a religious sect]
Ichiyou-senpai prepared a seat for me and beckoned me over.
“Wha-wha-wha-why are you, you, you, you, here, here, here, here?”
“I thought we could have lunch together. Here, mineral water.”
I handed her the purchased bottle, and she casually opened the cap and spilled it all over her head.
At first glance, she seemed normal, but her sudden strange behavior was clear evidence of her agitation.
“Onee-san, water is meant to be drunk.”
“Of course it is. It’s delicious.”
“But you haven’t taken a sip, and you’re completely soaked.”
“Well… this is a dream, right? Because it doesn’t hurt.”
My sister pinched her own cheek. Not satisfied with the damage, she started punching her own face.
“Yuri, calm down! Mayu, stop her!”
“Mou! Kyoso-sama will be sad. Yuri, wake up. This is reality.”
“It doesn’t… hurt. It throbs, but it’s not pain. Yukito inviting me out, there’s no way that would happen. Is this a dream? Maybe a parallel world?… The future I didn’t make a mistake about? Or a metaverse? Or a multi-verse, omega-verse, backscreen combo…”
Muttering mysterious incantations, my sister’s focus is off. That verse is probably wrong.
“Onee-san, can I come into your embrace?”
For some reason, I’m seated on my sister’s lap. I don’t think I’m a marsupial kangaroo to fit into someone’s embrace. But I’m happy, so I’ll just sit here quietly.
“I never thought Yuri would be such a mess…”
Sera-senpai is astonished. I agree completely, but my mission is to find out Yuri-san’s troubles. It’s painful to see my sister so down.
“By the way, Onee-san, when are you taking me shopping? I’ve been waiting.”
“Mayu, Kaoru, I’m leaving early. Take care of things here.”
With a clatter, my sister picks up her bag and stands up. I, who was sitting on her lap, also stand up involuntarily.
“You… were looking forward to it? The promise we made before. I’m sorry. I didn’t forget. Well then, shall we go?”
“Wait, Yuri. How about after school?”
“Do you have a problem with that, huh?!”
She has such a foul mouth. It took about five minutes for my aggressive sister to calm down.
“…I’ve calmed down a bit. What’s the matter, Yukito, all of a sudden?”
My sister, who has finally calmed down and can understand words, asks anxiously.
“Lately, Onee-san, you haven’t been coming to my classroom, so I’ve been lonely. I couldn’t even see you this morning.”
“I understand. I’ll come during the break every time.”
“You’re still not calm at all.”
Thoughtful Sera-senpai. The three of us are having lunch together, but just before I came to my sister’s classroom, I casually informed Saki Kuma-senpai that she had feelings for him, and as a result, Ichiyou-senpai was invited to lunch by Saki Kuma-senpai and hurriedly left. I feel like my level of faith in me has increased even more.
“Oh, right, Onee-san, do you like outdoor activities? Let’s go on a day trip camping together.”
“I love it. It doesn’t have to be a day trip.”
“I’m underage, so that might be difficult.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Little brother, don’t trust this girl! She’s a troublemaker and a lia!?”
“What’s your problem?!”
“And you have a foul mouth.”
I learned authentic BBQ from the American father, so it might be a good idea to polish my camping skills before summer vacation. I never know when a dungeon might appear on this Earth.
“Whatever you want to do, I’ll make it happen for you. —-Tell me now.”
Yes, those eyes. The eyes of my sad sister. The true feelings behind her words.
I’m here because I want to know that. I’ll save her, for sure.
If I’m the cause, if I’m the reason, in this world full of enemies, I won’t let my precious family, who has always been there as a companion, become unhappy.
“What I want to do? I want to get to know Onee-san better.”
That was my sincere and honest answer.
“Ara, is that motif your sister?’
“Yes. How do you think? Does it resemble Yuri-san?”
“I think it’s really beautiful, but why your sister?”
After school, I joined the art club as a temporary member. It was a limited-time trial membership.
With the summer tournament over and the seniors retiring, the basketball club has reached a lull. For now, we are focusing on preparing for the Winter Cup, but it has become a period of self-practice where we calmly go through the daily training menu. Since there isn’t much to do, Shiori is temporarily assigned to the girls’ basketball team.
In the first place, the boys’ basketball team, which still has few members, doesn’t really need a manager. The sports clubs are the ones who truly need Shiori. She was concerned, but when I told her that I would be joining the art club for a while, she understood. I hope Shiori can continue to give her best in a club activity where she can fully utilize her abilities.
“I caused a lot of pain to my sister.”
Painting is a solitary activity. But strangely, it doesn’t feel burdensome. I hadn’t paid much attention to it before, but perhaps I’m suited for diligent work.
Noticing my demeanor, Sanjoji-sensei, the art club advisor, called out to me. I must have been deeply focused because it was almost time to go home. The other club members had already left.
In the quiet art room, I simply faced the canvas with a clear mind.
I chose my sister as the motif for the painting to be exhibited in the art competition, but this painting is nothing more than my imagination. I was uncertain if it resembled my sister, but Sanjoji-sensei’s words brought me relief. When asked why, I couldn’t find the words. Perhaps I should consult with Sanjoji-sensei about it.
This is a change. The old me would never have opened up like this or sought a solution on my own. But now I know. I’m receiving kindness from others.
There are plenty of people who are not like that, who are enemies, but there are also many who are on my side. They will help me when I’m in trouble. It’s not wrong to rely on them.
Hinagi has also grown. I’ve learned to rely on others. I shared with Sanjoji-sensei what happened between my sister and me in the past. I didn’t expect any answers. I just wanted someone to listen.
“Why…Higu…. how…Biki…. can you be so kind?”
Sanjoji-sensei burst into tears. I hurriedly handed her a handkerchief.
“Thank you… I’ve always had a weak spot for tears, embarrassing as it may be. Even as an adult, I easily cry while watching movies and such… I’ve been holding back, but it was too much. I’ll wash the handkerchief and return it later.”
“That’s not necessary. We can just wash it together.”
I hastily handed it to her, but I’m sure Sanjoji-sensei also has a handkerchief or two.
“I think I’ve been a burden to my sister all this time.”
It’s not just my sister’s life. I now realize that it even distorted my own personality.
I’ve been avoiding my sister’s suffering by looking away. I didn’t try to understand.
“That’s not true! Your kindness must have saved your sister as well.”
“The people around me have taught me kindness, I want to give it back. It’s mutually beneficial.”
It’s not about beautiful ideals. One-sidedness won’t work. Selfless devotion will eventually wear thin.
“Ah, of course, that includes you too, sensei. Thank you for always being kind.”
“I don’t deserve your gratitude… Why, why now… You’ve always had kindness since back then, yet I…!”
Sanjoji-sensei covers her face with both hands and continues to cry. Maybe there’s something that weighs on her as well. There are only a few teachers whom I truly respect. There should be many students who have been saved by Sanjoji-sensei.
“I’m glad you’re my teacher, Sanjoji-sensei.”
“…Please don’t make me cry anymore.”
I was unjustly scolded. Hopeless… Oh, by the way, I almost forgot.
“By the way, sensei, about that matter…”
“…Please don’t make me cry anymore!”
I’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest. I can’t help it, so I decide to wait patiently while making small talk until she stops crying.
“Ahem. I apologize for showing you such an unsightly side of me.”
“I never expected that you had a past of seeking pen pals through a submission magazine…”
In this day and age, it’s easy to have interactive conversations through phone calls and chats, but in the past, even when going out to meet someone, they had to specify a meeting place in advance, or they wouldn’t be able to find each other.
Moreover, with pen pals, it would take a minimum of three days to receive a reply. The generation from the Showa and Heisei eras is amazing!
“Please keep it a secret, it’s confidential… By the way, I think it might be better not to submit this painting to the art competition.”
“Is that so?”
“The value of this painting can only be understood by you and your sister. It’s not something that can be objectively evaluated by others. Even after hearing your story, it’s beyond my comprehension. It’s a very beautiful painting directed at a single individual, not for the masses… This is your ideal, isn’t it? You probably want to keep it a secret from your sister. So why not take it home and display it once it’s completed?”
“I see… I’ll do that.”
“I hope she’ll be happy.”
The canvas is still blank in its preliminary stage. It will take time to add colors and complete it.
By then, I’ll somehow find a way to solve my sister’s troubles. I clench my fist with renewed determination.
“And by the way, I hope you’re not just all talk when it comes to that matter. Please stop teasing and mocking. I know. Even I, as a teacher, am called a backward old lady behind my back by the students. It’s not like I enjoy being behind. I’m serious about it!”
“You’re really diligent, sensei.”
Who the heck would say such terrible things! But don’t worry, sensei. I’m serious about it!
As we prepare to leave, we discuss the matter at hand.
“It happened just last week. In the sultry late night, I suddenly woke up feeling suffocated, and my whole body was paralyzed. I couldn’t move a muscle. I heard a strange noise, like a faint whisper, right next to my ear. And then, I thought I heard footsteps coming from beyond the door, but the sound stopped abruptly right outside my room… click“
“Gulp. So what happened next, Kokonoe-chan?”
Mineda leans forward. Ghost stories are an essential part of summer.
To enjoy a moment of coolness in the humid summer, we decided to share ghost stories during our break time. However, for some reason, Hinagi-chan sighs heavily.
Maintaining an eerie atmosphere, the conversation between the storyteller, I, Yukito Kokonoe, and the others continues.
“And then, the door creaked open, and a long-haired woman entered the room, right before my eyes.”
“Mineda-san, don’t take it seriously. Since it’s Yukito, he’s probably just experiencing sleep paralysis, being unable to move because his mom is hugging him next to him, and the person entering the room is probably Yuri-san. It’s obvious.”
“Don’t spoil the punchline. That’s against the rules.”
“In a way, it was scarier than a ghost story.”
Even the spotlight on their faces seems perplexed.
“Then how about this story? It’s an episode from when I went to Kyoto with Sekka-san in the past. While I was exploring the streets of Kyoto, away from Sekka-san, I saw a girl walking alone who looked like a Japanese doll. I was going to pass by without paying much attention, but it seemed that the girl was in trouble. When I asked her, she said she was lost. Reluctantly, I decided to help her find her guardian.”
What’s with that suspicious look from Hinagi-chan!?
“And then, a woman who came from the other side suddenly shouted that you were a kidnapper, and you ended up being taken to the police–“
“Why is the direction of fear is different for you! What’s scary about that? It’s not even a ghost story!?”
It was a chilling and frightening experience I had in Kyoto, the first time I went there…
“We were mistaken to have expectations from Yukito. Besides, this guy wouldn’t be scared by ghost stories.”
It was an unpleasant sense of trust. Ghosts are scary… probably.
“Anyway, it’s really hot every day, isn’t it?”
Mineda flutters a fan. The weather forecast shows a bright red. It has been scorching hot for days.
We’re accumulating fatigue due to the constant dangerous heat. It’s hard to muster any motivation in this condition.
However, I have a secret plan to deal with this heat.
While going shopping with my sister, I’m planning to introduce something that I’ve been interested in for a long time. The day is near when this idea to revolutionize schools will become the standard.
Call me the inventor Yukito Kokonoe. I’m looking forward to it. Fuhahahaha!