Translated and Edited by: luccayn.
-san: A polite suffix, but not excessively formal.
-kun: A common suffix among friends and younger people.
-chan: A common suffix among people you’re close with, mostly used for feminine nicknames and girls, since it’s cutesy and childlike.
-senpai: A common suffix and noun used to address or refer to one’s older or more senior colleagues in a school, workplace, dojo, or sports club.
As soon as Mikiko left the house, Saki and I sat down at my table facing each other. I was the first to speak up. “Thank you,” I shut my eyes with laden breath. “If you weren’t here, I would’ve been in the dumps by now.”
If my bankbook had been taken, I would’ve probably been pulled back to that hellish life where I had holes for eyes.
“I’d say ‘don’t worry about it,’ but that probably won’t make you feel any better, yeah?”
“Mhm,” I nodded.
That was par for the course, considering the situation. With a sigh, Saki propped her face up by the cheek with one hand and signaled one with the other. “Then, you owe me one.”
“That’s fine then… I’ll do anything I can to help…”
Silence fell over the room, lasting for a few long seconds before she broke it. “Should we start cleaning up for now then? That old b*tch really made a mess of the place.”
“You’re right, yeah…” I agreed though neither of us had anything to say beyond that. An uncomfortable silence hung over us like a harsh shadow, so we wanted to do something to distract ourselves. Saki did too, I’d wager.
Looking around, she had not only ransacked the living room but also the loft I used as my own bedroom. It felt, and probably could be considered burglary. After we straightened out the futons and tidied up the strewn articles of clothing, we moved to the washroom. Needless to say, it was also left in shambles, so we put everything back into place.
It took us a little over an hour to clean it all up.
“Is this fine?” she asked with a wipe of her brow.
“Yeah, looks great. Thanks for the huge help.”
“Mhm. But, seriously, that barren b*tch just can’t stop causing us trouble, can she?” You didn’t need to be a detective to see the sheer disgust she felt. Case in point, the mountain of swears.
I chuckled at her words, but dug up something from the back recesses of my mind that I’ve been wanting to ask for a while, but just hadn’t had the chance to.
“Saki, why do you dislike Mikiko-san so much? I mean, even after all I went through, it seems you’re a bit more incensed than I am…”
I’d never spent any time with my own mother so I couldn’t understand it much. Could people really feel distilled vitriol for their own biological parents? I wanted to understand her own circumstances as I couldn’t imagine ever feeling that angry at my own father.
“Besides, from what I’ve personally seen, she tried to be a good mother when she married my dad. Even if it didn’t last much to me.”
When my dad was alive, Saki’s mother also showed kindness to me. After his death, however, she turned unrecognizably stern with me. In return, she showed even more kindness to her own daughter.
It might be inappropriate to compare blood-related children to those who aren’t, but seeing her so unabashedly good to Saki made me question why this was all happening in the first place.
“Can we continue this conversation after we both take a good bath?” Saki suggested, not seeming too phased by my questions.
“Ah! Sure,” I nodded rapidly.
Since the cleaning turned into quite a chore, we were both grimy and dusty.
“Mm, but would you like to join me? That way, we can talk in the bath,” she teased.
“Don’t say scary stuff with a straight face, Saki. Later is fine,” I blushed a bit.
“C’mon, you’re no fun,” she complained softly and with a little smile before heading to the bathroom.
As soon as she was over with her bath, I took my own. Being grimy was unpleasant to the bone.
“Phew, that was refreshing,” I heaved in relief.
“After all that work, yeah.”
“Sorry about that…”
“No prob, no prob.”
She had been playing with her phone while waiting for me. Quickly drying my wet hair, I sat down in front of her in a formal kneeling position.
“Don’t be so stiff, Akito,” she said with a soft smile.
“Sorry,” I relaxed a bit. Still, I knew the conversation we were about to have would be heavy, so I needed to gather my thoughts and be serious as well.
“So you wanna know why I resent my mom, yeah?”
“It’s not a complicated story. Quite simple, really. Like you, I also suffered domestic violence by that old b*tch’s hands. Though I was in elementary at the time,” she explained.
“What? You too?!”
“Yes,” she said as casually as one would say good morning. Without batting an eye, she sipped the tea I’d prepared and continued. “You look like you can’t believe it.”
I must’ve looked quite surprised for her to point it out so directly. Reading my thoughts from the way I looked alone, she continued.
“That woman used to be a singer, y’know.”
News to me.
“Yeah. That’s why she was always so pampered by everyone around her, kid or old. But when I was born, she faced the reality of a married life, and the weight of a child. It happened fast, too. My biological father got fed up with her quickly as she wasn’t the dream she made herself seem, and left her for good. Wise decision, I’d say.”
She was quite ironic about it.
“But even after she left, that woman didn’t change. She didn’t work and ended up using up all her savings and the child support my father sent me for her own beauty treatments and entertainment. All the housework was left to me,” she scowled.
I thought hers might be similar to my own situation, but I stopped myself midway. Saiki was just in elementary at the time. The level of hardship she endured was different from mine. Harder. Crueler.
“Back then, I thought it was just the way it was supposed to be, so I didn’t feel angry about it. She used to tell me kids from other families were going through the same things I was, just like she did to you. It’s a form of brainwashing,” she explained and I listened in silence.
“Day in, day out, day in, day out, I did the housework for that stuck-up b*tch! Oh, just thinking about it now makes my blood boil!” She slammed her hand on the table like a hammer.
“Calm down!” I got a bit worried.
“Well, there was a silver lining after all those sh*tty days.”
“Yeah. Her remarriage to my stepdad—your dad.”
She reminisced with a distant look in her eyes, stopping for a second before continuing.
“That had completely changed after marrying again. It was more surprising to me than a meteor falling down in my head. She started trying to do housework, and her violence against me stopped. Not only that, but she stopped using up all her money. Thanks to that, I could focus on my studies and enjoy life with the step-sibling I loved so much.”
“I-I see,” I just wish she would stop dropping these ‘hints,’ if they could even be called that. They were bad for my heart.
“But that happiness came to an end when stepdad passed away,” her tone shifted again. “The woman thought changed hadn’t at all. She soon began treating you as a slave. Seeing that reminded me of that grim past I went through, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was treated the same. However, one thing was different from back then,” she paused.
“Different? What was?” I asked.
“I had learned how to study, and turns out I had a talent for it, albeit by chance,” she said apologetically. “When she found out I could score top ranks in the national category for my age, she separated me from you and made me study all the time. That way, she could bask in the glory of having an excellent, perfect daughter,” she continued.
Saki added that having good grades also meant she could get free tutoring at the cram school.
“Wasn’t it tough, though?” I pointed out.
“There were tough moments, yes. But compared to what you were going through, studying was nothing… I was a terrible girl who sacrificed you for my own comfort, Akito. So, I can already guess what you feel now. You must hate me for it…” She revealed the truth to me.
Learning about her own bad experiences and the fact Mikiko had mistreated her own daughter the same way left me in utter shock. Still, all I could think about after hearing all that was—
“So you were a victim too…”
“Huh?” She was surprised. That’s how much my reaction shocked her.
“Saki, you went through a lot with her too. It must’ve been tough for you as well,” I continued.
“W-Wait a minute! I used someone I love as a scapegoat to protect myself!” She shouted, shocked to the seams. She clearly wanted me to blame her for all she did wrong, but I was having none of it.
“But you still helped me, didn’t you?”
“Just now, you stood up for me when I could barely think and fought against Mikiko-san, right? You didn’t forget that.”
“Well, that’s…” She hesitated, struggling to find the words.
“Saki, you’re different from your mother. Sure, you might go overboard sometimes, but you’re a good person at heart. So please, don’t be too hard on yourself,” I reassured her the best I could with words. Feeling that wasn’t enough, I stood up and reached for her head. Tenderly, softly, I ran my fingers through her hair and patted her head.
“That’s… That’s not fair…”
“If you keep saying things like these, I-I won’t be able to ever leave your side…” She choked through rising sadness. Tears welled up in her eyes as I pulled her into a hug, her face burying itself into my chest.
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