“Is this the campsite?”
I dismount from my cross bike and survey the surroundings.
An open grassland bathed in sunlight. The vibrant young leaves shimmer beautifully.
The refreshing scent of new greenery tickles my nose. I take a deep breath, savoring the great outdoors.
“Finally, we made it”
My sister also gets off her cross bike. Sweat glistens on her, making her look beautiful.
“Are you okay? It must have been tiring”
“I’m still getting used to it, but I practiced and took enough breaks. Don’t worry.”
My sister and I rode our cross bikes for two hours to reach this natural park.
Since we are underage, it’s a day trip. Camping is often associated with roughing it out in the mountains, but modern campsites come with all the facilities, making it enjoyable even for beginners.
I invited my sister to change her mood.
“You were plucking hair from your butt, so it’s a little painful”
“I wasn’t plucking anything!?”
“You’ve seen my butt hole, so it doesn’t matter now.”
“Is that my fault?”
“And you even counted the wrinkles.”
“Like I said, is that my fault?”
“I’ll keep it clean and tidy, anytime you want.”
“What do you mean? Hey, what are you saying?! Hey, say something?!”
The first Kokonoe family mahjong tournament ended in a disaster. I won the tournament, but the extreme match-fixing battle between three people with me not wanting to win and them wanted me to win lasted until late at night.
In the end, in the late-night excitement, the situation became so unspeakably disastrous that I thought they’d report it to the BPO, but I buried those memories in the darkness of history.
By the way, all three of them gave me a yakuman. They are merciless villains.
“Next week is the Pantyhose Ripping Championship”
“Genius idea, huh?”
It sounds incredibly fun. In modern society, we all battle with stress. Everyone has their own way of relieving stress, but there are entertainment facilities where you can throw an axe at the wall or break dishes, satisfying the urge for destruction. It’s undoubtedly an effective way to relieve stress.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m the one with the thinnest denier.” [TL: Denier, also referred to as den, measures the thickness of tights. The lower the denier, the thinner and more sheer the tights will be. Even though we offer tights of the best quality, higher denier and thus more opaque pairs of tights are more durable than more sheer ones.]
“Even if you suddenly violate the regulations?”
“Mom wears compression stockings; she’s not my enemy.”
“And even if she takes the dominant position?”
“Sekka-san is a despicable woman. Even if she pretends to be clean and neat, she is still a despicable woman.”
“What kind of discussions are going on behind my back?”
The darkness within the Kokonoe family runs deep.
“By the way, what kind of competition is it?”
“We compete to see how beautifully we can rip the pantyhose we’re wearing.”
“I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, but I’ll pretend to understand for now.”
I’m afraid to imagine, so I go along with it as I finish the registration.
Even though it’s surrounded by nature, the building has all the necessary facilities, including toilets, and all the equipment is available for rent.
After entering the assigned tent and lying down, I find it surprisingly comfortable.
“Should I give you a knee pillow? Your muscles must be sore after all that cycling.”
“I’m really sorry.”
I forced her into it, yet my sister didn’t complain and went along with it. I’m truly grateful to her.
The two-hour cycling trip provided a pleasant feeling of fatigue, but the way back might be somewhat challenging. I resolve to take more breaks on the return journey.
“But seriously, was it really okay?”
My sister’s expression clouds over. I bought the cross bike we used for the cycling.
It cost almost 200,000 yen (1431,93 dollar or 1279,24 euro) for the two bikes combined. I usually save my allowance diligently, so it’s not an issue, but for a high school student, it’s a considerable amount, and I understand why my sister would be concerned.
However, I was more worried that I might no longer be considered under mother’s support.
“I have some extra income. By the way, would you like to help with part-time jobs too?”
“I’ll support you, so you don’t need to work.”
“A typical sister who spoils her younger brother.”
“If you need money, I’ll earn it for you. I could even try sugar dating—”
“Don’t ever say that again.”
I grab my sister’s shoulders and look into her eyes. Yuri is serious.
A self-sacrifice so painful it hurts to watch. She would never do such a thing for her own sake, but if it were for me, she might carry it out without hesitation.
If I don’t break the cursed chain binding my sister, she might end up hurting herself someday, believing it’s her way of atoning.
Today is the only day to settle things. I must make my sister admit that she hates me.
“I told you I have extra income, right? I’m getting a bit hungry, so let’s have a meal.”
I take my sister’s hand. It used to be my sister who always held my hand.
In place of our busy mother, my sister tried her best. Yet, thoughtlessly, I didn’t consider her feelings and destroyed everything. It was me who pulled the trigger for her downfall.
The one burdened with the greatest sin is not my sister, but me, and it’s even more heinous.
I’ve been exploiting my sister’s guilt and extracting her kindness as a great sinner.
An unconscious demon, a king of tyranny. I enjoyed her one-sided devotion and acted arrogantly.
I took away my sister’s smiles and her life, and yet I still crave more.
After being pushed from the playground equipment, I unknowingly exacted revenge, pushing my sister into hell. I accepted her apology, but I didn’t grant her forgiveness. It’s utterly cruel and heartless.
“…I’m a demon.”
If my sister is an angel, then I am a demon. So, I will embrace that role to the fullest.
Even if I hurt her again, this will be the last time.
“What should we do at the camp? Want to play mobile games?”
“Is it outdoor or indoor camping, a philosophical question.”
Doing things like entering a heated kotatsu and eating ice cream in the middle of summer is a sinful act. In the midst of skyrocketing electricity bills, it’s an unforgivable act.
Lunch is, of course, a barbecue. No need for primitive fire-starting methods.
I’m grateful for modern conveniences, but I worry if we could survive on a deserted island after a shipwreck without them.
In the American father’s house, it was all about meat, so this time, I prepared seafood for the BBQ too.
“I’ll do it.”
My sister is struggling with the grilled turban shell, so I take it from her and quickly remove the meat. Yuri is not good at dealing with bitter tastes, so I take out the liver for her and hand it over.
“Thanks. But why turban shell?”
“I wanted to cherish seasonal ingredients. Plus, eating only meat might get tiresome.”
“You’re always so particular. I wonder what will become of you in the future?”
Since studying under the chef, my culinary skills have improved dramatically.
Until now, my cooking skills were strictly limited to household chores, but I have become capable of making elaborate dishes and has started to specialize. Thanks to that, I have begun to develop peculiar obsessions with ingredients and such.
“Nee-san, the meat is done.”
“Thanks. I can’t help but eat a lot, but I have to be careful not to gain weight.”
“On the contrary, you’re too thin. I think it’s okay to gain some more weight.”
“You think so? I guess that’s true. If I want to lose weight, I can just move my hips on top of you.”
“This beef tongue is so delicious.”
Munch, munch. Pretending not to notice the awkward text message from a friend is also an act of kindness.
I’ve repeated self-destructive behavior by making unnecessary remarks and digging myself into a hole.
The secret to living a peaceful life is to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” as Confucius said.
I peel the shrimp and hand it to my sister. Yuri is clumsy. Perhaps feeling a bit sorry or maintaining her dignity, she responds with an “Ahn” to the chicken she has.
Under the dazzling sunlight, I thoroughly enjoyed the BBQ with my sister.
“Phew, I’m full.”
“Yeah, let’s start cleaning up.”
We quickly begin to clean up. Since the camping equipment is rented, we only need to take back the leftover ingredients.
“Hey, why did you suddenly decide to go camping?”
A question that should have been asked earlier. I should have confirmed it when I invited her.
However, whenever I say I want to do something, my sister never questions me. She just accepts it. And I do the same for her. That’s why our relationship was twisted.
I look up at the blue sky and check the position of the sun. It might be the right time.
“Just wait a moment! I’ll get the things.”
I go to retrieve the boxes that I had sent to the camping site beforehand.
As my sister observes the two boxes, she looks puzzled.
Without paying any mind to that, I carefully unwrap the well-packed materials with a cutter.
The item I take out is a picture inside a frame.
“Ta-da! Here, a present for you, Nee-san.”
“A present for me? You even bought me a cross bike, so what could it be–?”
My sister gasps. She stares intently at the picture.
“It’s titled ‘My Sister Ten Years Later.’ How do you like it?”
In the middle of the grassland, a woman in a white dress stands, basking in the sunlight.
She wears a dazzling smile, as if capturing a moment of happiness.
“At first, I thought about entering this painting into an art contest, but Sanjoji-Sensei suggested that only you should see it.”
I’m not sure if she can hear me or not, but my sister remains unresponsive. Did I mess up?
“…Ten years later? But this, this picture of me is …….”
Her trembling hand traces the image of herself in the painting.
Yes, my sister depicted in the painting is not the twenty-seven-year-old adult she will become in ten years, but the current seventeen-year-old Yuri. The painting is based on my imagination of how my sister, who was always with me and played with me back then, would have grown into a lovely woman with a smile that suits her.
After the accident, my sister apologized over and over again, and I just accepted it.
After that, the days of my sister’s redemption began. I noticed that my sister stopped smiling when I was six years old. Now, ten years later, she is still imprisoned in her own guilt.
In the painting is my ideal image of my sister, the way she used to be when I loved her so much. It’s the future that should have been, a fate that I twisted and bent in conflict.
I put my wish into the painting, hoping that she would smile like she used to.
“Hey, Yukito. Could it be that the scenery in this painting is…?”
My sister looks around as if she just realized something. The grassy meadow swaying in the wind, the position of the sun.
“It looks similar, right?”
Everything matched the same situation as in the painting. Yuri must have noticed it too.
There are no words, but her expression speaks volumes. But it’s not over yet!
“Fuufuufuu. This is not the end!”
I managed to finish the white dress just in time. I’m proud of it.
The dress in the painting and the outfit she’s wearing are exactly the same. I accidentally made it too complicated and went through hell making it.
“Did you make this, Yukito?”
“Yeah. The wedding dress was too difficult, so I went with a simple dress.”
“A wedding dress? Are you going to make me wear it…?”
“Hmm? Ah yeah, yeah. You seemed like you wanted to wear it.”
The wedding dress is indeed complex, and I’ve only managed to make the veil so far.
I’ll have to ask Mom to wait a little longer. Life is a constant learning process.
“If you forgive me, Yukito, I would… even if it means going against the whole world in this world—-“
“W-wait! I’ll change quickly!”
My flustered sister rushes into the tent. I take out my single-lens reflex camera from my bag and check its functions. It’s a waste not to use it at a time like this.
“Sorry to keep you waiting.”
Has she finished changing? My sister timidly pokes her head out of the tent, cheeks blushing. There stands an unquestionably beautiful woman.
A pure and lovely beauty that words can’t describe, a breathtakingly beautiful woman. A few seconds pass, then tens of seconds. I forget to breathe, mesmerized by the sight.
“What do you think?”
“You look like an angel.”
Her pure white dress dances in the wind, like feathers floating gracefully.
The radiant angel, Yuri, manifested before me. Her divinity made me naturally bow in awe.
Yes, I just realized that. Ever since the accident, my sister started preferring black. I, too, wear more black-themed clothes now. But in the past, she loved wearing white. Yet she stopped wearing it because of me.
After my sister pushed me away and I fell, she rushed to care for me and tried to lift me up. Her white clothes were rapidly stained with blood, turning from white to red.
I never saw her wear the same clothes again after I returned home. She probably disposed of them. From then on, she started to prefer black, the color that wouldn’t be stained by blood.
It’s all my fault. I took away her smile and twisted her preferences.
“I used to think that white didn’t suit me… but, it’s embarrassing, thank you.”
My sister’s words snap me back to reality. It’s not the time for remorse now.
“Shall I take a picture?”
My sister nods and walks gently towards the meadow.
She takes off her shoes and walks barefoot, feeling the sensation of the earth with her arches.
The sunlight seems like a special effect, warmly welcoming her, illuminating her path.
Invited by the gentle breeze, mischievous spirits seem to guide her, blessing her with joy.
“Is this spot good?”
Perfect. But it’s not enough. There’s something missing, something that is more important than anything else.
I just want to see that, I just want that one thing to come true.
“Smile, please. Like you used to in the past.”
“…Yes, you’re right. Yukito, you worked so hard for this.”
“I’m not one to say this, after taking away your smile, but I really want you to smile again. I love that side of Nee-san.”
There have been many difficult times. I thought everyone around me was an enemy.
But there was someone who always supported me, who stood by my side.
Tears start flowing down my sister’s cheeks. Another discovery.
I thought she was someone who never cried. A strong person, so it shouldn’t happen.
――I really don’t know my sister as well as I thought.
“Hey, Yukito. I wonder if I’m smiling properly? Like back then, when we were always playing together, like in the old days when you and I were good friends.……”
The wind brushes through her hair, silky and smooth.
A clumsy, awkward smile. But still, to me it is,
“Yes. –It’s so beautiful.”
Through the viewfinder, I capture the world. Picture after picture.
If she looks at these photos, she’ll be reminded of her smile.
The scene before me is so fantastical and ephemeral, as if it could vanish at any moment.
At this moment, we are just brother and sister, with pure hearts.
I feel like I’ve returned to my childhood as I spend time with my sister.
There she is, the ideal big sister I painted in the picture.
“I had forgotten this feeling for so long.”
Her smile is like a field of blooming sunflowers, brightening up the whole place just by being there.
“I have to thank you properly. So, look forward to it.”
“I already received the best thanks.”
I received the best gratitude possible. It feels like I’ve been rewarded, and it leaves me feeling refreshed.
Compared to the value of her smile, all the hardships I endured were trivial.
“Someday, if I were gone, would you be sad, Yukito?”
A sudden question. But her expression is terrifyingly serious, and her voice trembles.
There’s no need to think about it. It’s so foolishly obvious. There’s only one answer.
“But you’ve never cried before.”
“I cried recently.”
“I’m Mom’s son, after all.”
“True… Mom is a crybaby too. I guess I’m the same.”
My sister smiles gently.
“Regardless of how far we go, we’ll always be family, brother and sister. Maybe we’re similar in that sense.”
“We’re family, that’s all. You don’t need a reason to love your family. I just came to understand that again.”
My sister speaks as if she’s finally come to terms with something.
Under the clear blue sky, far above in the vast expanse, we, as brother and sister, return to a state of normalcy after a long time.
“Nee-san, should we head back?”
“Yes, I won’t forget this day you gave me.”
The wind sways my sister’s long hair.
“Thank you, Yukito.”
She hugs me gently, and I am enveloped in the scent of the sun and the grass.
Is this what negative ions do? It must have a relaxing effect; I feel at ease.
On the other hand, impatience wells up from the depths of my chest.
Is what I’m about to do really the right thing?
If I end it here, things could end happily.
I’m torn between uncertainty and doubt. I don’t know the right answer. How much value is there in continuing to toy with my sister’s heart, and what will I gain from it?
I shake off my internal struggle. However, the melancholic feeling doesn’t dissipate.