My little brother made me cry. I had sworn that I wouldn’t cry again, but he easily broke that vow. Pathetic. Yet, strangely, my heart feels uplifted.
Perhaps the tears I shed were not of sadness, but of joy.
When I get home, I decide to practice smiling in front of the mirror. I relax my cheek muscles, which are stiff and tight. I have to be worthy of the dress he made for me.
The feeling of awe still lingers within me. He gave me such a precious memory.
This way, I won’t feel lonely even if we’re apart… I tell myself another lie.
In order to give up, should I accept the confession of a classmate named Mizuguchi who confessed to me?
…But I have no intention of doing that, even though I say so. I can’t involve others in this.
The only one who will get hurt is my brother if I do the same imitation as that stupid young me.
To love someone as an ordinary girl. I wonder if that’s something I could do.
When did I stray from the right path? When did I fall so deeply in love?
My little brother never blamed me. On the contrary, he apologized, thinking he caused trouble.
He never told anyone about my guilt. He didn’t ask for anything in return and kept his distance to let me live normally.
I failed to notice his delicate kindness and kept closing the distance, never satisfied.
Even though I know I shouldn’t fall in love any further, even though I know I shouldn’t cross that line, denying it all is futile.
I love him. I am in love with him. I cannot pretend these feelings never existed.
After what happened, how could I not love him? It’s only natural that I would fall in love.
How much preparation did he make for this day?
How much effort did he put in? I am not worthy of such attention.
How should I respond to him, knowing that he did all this for me, only thinking about me?
“Where is this…?”
On our way back, Yukito suggests a detour.
A familiar park. The place where I hurt Yukito so badly.
Since then, I’ve never approached it again. Why now…?
“They removed the playground equipment.”
The answer to the muttered soliloquy was given by Yukito. It was a question that didn’t need to be asked.
If such a major accident had occurred, the playground equipment would have been removed immediately.
The place where the playground used to be was now empty. A strange void left behind.
Recalling the image of Yukito, crouched down and covered in blood, my body stiffens, and my breathing becomes erratic. I hide my trembling hands behind my back.
“Why are you apologizing?”
Anxiety swirls within me. Just moments ago, I was so happy, but now an inexplicable fear engulfs me. Even in the summer, it feels as if the temperature has suddenly dropped.
The curtain of night falls. In the darkness, only the streetlights illuminate us.
Perhaps under this spotlight, the trial will begin.
The dream I longed for so much now terrifies me.
“That day, I destroyed your world, Nee-san. You know, that feeling of trying to join a close-knit group but feeling alienated. It’s a common experience for loners like me, like being an intruder between a hundred lilies. I intruded into the relationship that you and your friends had built. Like an outsider, committing a sin that should be repaid with death. I trampled on your world. It was my fault, and your rejection was only natural. I’m the one at fault and you carry the guilt.”
No, you’re wrong! You’re not at fault! I’m the one who almost killed you!
I want to shout, but my voice won’t come out. A victim defending the perpetrator is unforgivable. It goes against justice. But there is no anger or blame in my brother’s voice.
His words flow calmly, without a trace of resentment… Is this the world as seen through Yukito’s eyes?
The world seen by my little brother. A world colored in faded sepia, always looking up at the sky from the bottom.
Yukito always refrains from saying anything bad about others. I used to find that endearing.
But now that I know and understand, I can’t bring myself to say it.
What a sad world this is. Yearning for the sky from the depths, from the very bottom.
Continuously striving for heights that can never be reached. In the darkness, with no one around.
“But, Nee-san, you forced yourself to affirm the broken world. You accepted me as an outsider and determined that it was the right thing to do. You killed your emotions and shattered your heart.”
I can’t remember the emotions from that day. Now, I can’t even fathom why I committed such a foolish act.
But if I follow my memories, it’s true that at that moment, I detested and rejected my brother. That’s the truth.
“Nee-san, it’s okay now. You don’t have to force yourself. If you hate me, then it’s okay. You don’t have to pretend, twist yourself, or try to like me. It’s alright.”
Gently, Yukito takes my trembling hands and holds them against his neck.
“—-! Do you mean to say you noticed!?”
“I just had a feeling sometimes.”
My blood runs cold. No, that’s not it! I don’t feel that way at all!
I want to shout, but who would believe such an excuse?
I can’t utter words seeking punishment, driven by the temptation of further sins.
I placed my hands around my sleeping brother’s neck many times. But it was like a ritual.
It was to acknowledge my unforgivable sin. I had no intention of actually strangling him.
But if Yukito noticed, if he ever woke up sensing my presence, how did my foolish act appear to him? Perhaps he felt fear in the face of a nonexistent murderous intent.
If that’s the case, then to Yukito, I’m still a murderer…
“I can’t bear to see you suffer like this. If you hate me, that’s fine. So forgive yourself and set yourself free.”
“What are you saying? There’s no way I could hate you—”
Yukito tightens his grip over my hands. A chill runs down my spine.
No, stop it… Stop, stop, stop! Don’t make me do that much!
An ominous shiver runs through my spine. An invasion of life. A violation of dignity.
“When strangling, you don’t apply force all over; rather, you compress the carotid artery by grasping this part gently. It’s an effective way to cut off consciousness.”
As if casually offering trivia, Yukito demonstrates it without hesitation.
Suddenly, strength drains from Yukito’s body, and he falls to his knees.
“…It’s a lie. A lie, right? Say something! Why are you doing this! Yukito, Yukito!”
Why, why did it come to this? You’re the one who said it!
He wants me to smile like I used to. He wanted me to smile. Yet, why?!
If there’s no one to show that smile to, then it’s meaningless.
I never wanted to see you like this again. I swore to protect you, but I’m the one hurting you!
I shake my little brother’s body. He’s barely conscious. I won’t let him die, no way!
Struggling to control my rising confusion, I grab my phone.
“Right, an ambulance!”
Yukito’s hand grabs my arm.
“Cough, cough! Uuuuuuuuuuugh!”
He seems to regain consciousness, coughing and struggling to breathe.
“Are you okay!? Why would you do something like this! In a world without you, there’s no reason for me to—”
In a world like that, there’s no reason to live.
In a world like that, I don’t need it.
“…Yuri-san, sorry I couldn’t disappear.”
The same words as before. It feels like a sharp knife gouging out my heart.
I killed Yukito. I’m being confronted with my sins, never to forget.
“Stop it! The one who should disappear, the one who has to disappear, is not you but me!”
“No, you’re wrong, Nee-san. I realized that there are people who say they love me, who consider me precious, and who would be sad if I were gone. So, I can’t act like I did back then anymore. I’m sorry. I can’t fulfill your wish anymore.”
Sorrowful expression on Yukito’s face. But those words are the opposite of what he said back then.
Once, he wished to disappear but failed, but now, he’s saying he can’t.
That’s growth. He knows he’s loved, and he wants to live for someone else.
“My wish? That you disappear? There’s no way that’s true!”
“You don’t have to force yourself, Nee-san. Acknowledge it. If you keep going like this, you’ll eventually break. Pretending to be someone you’re not forever is…”
“Don’t you dare decide my feelings for me!”
My clueless brother. I raise my hand as if to slap him, but I can’t bring myself to do it, and instead, I gently stroke his cheek. It’s impossible… because I love him.
“I love you! I know it’s my unforgivable, forbidden love. I never intended to put it into words. I wanted to resist it. But you’re so kind…”
Tears overflow. Tears that I have been holding back for years, decades of tears, deciding not to cry, are streaming down my cheeks. They dripped onto the ground. I was pathetic. I was so miserable.
“Like I said, it’s your misunderstanding, Nee-s—”
“Even if you hate me, I will continue loving you until I die.”
Even if it’s an unrequited love, it doesn’t matter. I’ve grown accustomed to loving someone without being loved in return.
If what Yukito says is true and these feelings are just an illusion, I’ve still transformed them into something genuine. Something irreplaceable, something that no one can deny, even if it’s for Yukito.
“…Nee-san, for you, I’m just a detested enemy, right?”
“You’re the only beloved little brother in this world for me.”
“…Nee-san, for you, I’m a demon you hate enough to kill.”
“You’re a beautiful, untainted, and the one and only treasure.”
Yukito seemed perplexed. It’s understandable. I suddenly said something like that.
I never meant to say this, and I should have kept it buried forever.
For some reason, this child who should hate me has started leaning on me lately. It was like a dream for me, who envied Mom’s carefree affection. I tried to keep my distance, but Yukito only got closer in response, leaving me at a loss.
But I didn’t hate it; I was extremely happy.
—To the extent of thinking I’ve been forgiven. Immersed in such an absurd delusion.
“It’s not possible, right…”
I felt deflated. I’m exhausted. I was given a wonderful dream in the end. That’s enough for me.
He gave me such a beautiful drawing, made a dress for me, and made me smile.
What more happiness could I possibly wish for?
“Thank you, Yukito. And I’m sorry for everything up until now.”
I vaguely understood that this was a farewell.
Even if I go abroad to study, I will keep on loving him. That alone is enough. I don’t want anything more.
If he becomes happy, that will be my happiness.
He looked like he had noticed some crucial mistake, a delicate expression of concern. It felt strange.
Yukito seemed troubled as he opened his mouth.
“…Things not adding up?”
Carrying the crossbike, we head home. Along the way, we try to align our perceptions.
“Yuri-san, you’re going to study abroad!?”
I’m surprised by this sudden revelation.
It’s like our perceptions are completely misaligned, and I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. Both of us are so absent-minded. We’ve just been saying what we wanted to say without really communicating with each other.
Our sibling relationship truly mirrors our communication issues. I guess it’s inevitable after all these years of a strained relationship.
Talking it over again, it turns out that Nee-san wants to study at a university abroad.
“Which country are you planning to go to? England, maybe?”
Nee-san is really skilled in languages. But her best language is probably “Yukito-ese.” What on earth is that!?
“Um… it’s not about that…”
For some reason, Yuri-san looks hesitant, which is unusual for her.
“Well, it’s not about that… It’s more about whether you need me or not. I was thinking maybe it’s better if I stay away.”
“But, you can do anything, can’t you? I can’t say I’ll protect you, and maybe Yukito hates me, right? I’m such a terrible sister. You don’t have to push yourself, Yukito.”
She was not suffering from a hatred of me, but rather, she had lost sight of the meaning of her own existence and role, and was worried that she could only fulfill her purpose by leaving me. In other words, what I was thinking was completely off the mark. Just a hasty conclusion.
What the hellllllllll!
What was that all about? I was so seriously worried about her. Above all, I might have caused Yuri another unnecessary trauma.
I’m so embarrassed that I’m dying of indignation. My face is about to burst into flames. Face open.
Haa? It’s impossible for me to dislike Yuri-san. We’re such close friends that there’s not a part of each other’s body that I don’t know about. Why would that happen? …… (irresistible force)
“Don’t make assumptions about my feelings, Nee-san!”
“That’s the same line I said earlier.”
“That’s true, but… I can’t support your decision to study abroad for such a reason.”
“—-! Sorry, I was insensitive.”
“I’ll be lonely without my big sister.”
“Alright, I’ll stop it right away. Honestly, I didn’t really want to study abroad in the first place. It’s too troublesome, going overseas and all.”
It’s an incredible change of heart. As always, my sister’s ability to make quick decisions is uncanny. Is this really okay?
I let out a deep sigh, feeling like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, or perhaps it was all in vain.
But if my sister’s worries are resolved, then this should be a happy ending, right? Let’s just be happy about that for now.
“It seems like there were misunderstandings on both sides…”
“Yes… I wonder what I was worrying about. Haa… It took quite a long time to sort things out, but we’ll fill in the gaps one by one. We have plenty of time from now on.”
“Alright, let’s start with my motto. Everything I have is yours. What’s yours is yours. And I myself belong to you.”
“You’re overflowing with a spirit of service!?”
Is this what an angelic being is like? I hope she doesn’t attract any weirdos with that attitude…
“I’m really sorry for causing you trouble this time. I never intended to confuse you. But please believe one thing: My feelings for Yukito are genuine, not a lie.”
“…It’s an honor to receive such overwhelming words.”
“Words alone may not be enough to earn your trust, right? Then, how about a ‘Brother-Exclusive’ tattoo on my lower abdomen?”
“Please, absolutely don’t do that!? Your idea is way too horror-themed just because it’s summer!”
“I guess you’re right. Instead of ‘brother,’ maybe ‘Yukito Exclusive’ would be better.”
“That’s not any better.”
“You’re the only one allowed to write the character ‘正’ (right) on my thigh.”
Where on earth does she get this knowledge from…?
“Exactly, this is the real Yuri.”
Yes, this craziness is my sister’s true self. She doesn’t suit being down.
It’s just right to be playfully pushed around like this. I don’t hate my sister, after all.
“Let’s start over from the beginning. Even Mom is getting a fresh start as Mama, right? So can we.”
“Are you okay with that?”
“A smiling big sister is much more charming.”
We thought we had to distance ourselves because we hated each other. We refrained from interfering in each other’s lives.
But if that’s not the case, then we should be able to return to being close siblings like we used to be.
“Is it okay for me to love you?”
“You told me that it’s not for me to decide, so…”
“Can you dress me in a wedding dress?”
“Hmm? What are you talking about?”
“Of course, I’ll dress you in a wedding dress, Nee-san!”
“Yay! I’m looking forward to it.”
Hmm, is it really okay for things to remain like this? I’m starting to feel anxious.
Finally, the apartment building comes into view. I’m tired today. I just want to rest soon.
“—-Yukito, I won’t hold back anymore. I’m serious about you.”
As she said that and started running, my sister’s expression was the same gentle smile I had seen in the past.