I – Izumi Kyouka – hated my (much) older brother the most.

My brother – Izumi Kotetsu.

Even thought he isn’t alive anymore, I still don’t plan to let it go.

“I hate you, Nii-san!”

How many times have I said that in front of him?

…Probably around a hundred times.

When I was in elementary school, I used to have to wear old clothes.

But he gave me new clothes. He said he wanted me to take part in the opening ceremony.

He was still going to school, but he worked part-time late at night. He always said he wanted to be independent, so he was saving up money.

“…W…what expensive clothes….”

Seeing my puzzled expression, Nii-san smiled:

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience, so you have to wear something good.”

Then, he took me to a salon and got my hair done. That was the first time I looked that nice.

He gently patted my head, and said:

“See. It suits you! And it’s cute! It’s the best!”

His actions made me very mad, so I threw a fuss. I slammed my head into his stomach. I don’t know if I hurt him, or if I hit something “important”, though.

“…! Ouch, what are you doing?”

Then, I leaned forward, and told him:

“Nii—! Hate!”

Back then, I even pulled my cheek sideways to show that I “hated him the most”.

If you asked me why I got angry, even I couldn’t answer. All I knew was that I felt my face getting hotter, then felt something stir inside my heart – in short, I wanted to hit him. I wanted to break his carefree, looking-down-on-his-little-sister attitude.

It’s hard to put that feeling into words, but it stayed with me for a long time. Even now.

It must be that “something Nii-san did” or “everything he did” made me angry.

— A little sister who has an elder brother much older than herself will become a brocon – someone might say that, but it’s a deniable lie. “The little sister who hates her brother” Izumi Kyouka is the proof.

By the way, after that I – Izumi Kyouka – still kept the hair style that Nii-san praised: Even when I entered middle school.

Why?

Hm, of course it’s to make sure I will not forget how much I “hate my brother”.

“So it’s not because you are happy that he praised you” – you asked?

Of…of course not…that’s impossible.

“Ouch ~ that really hurt. Why are you so violent?”

Facing his arbitrarily violent little sister, he just kept smiling, and never raised his voice.

If you only looked at my conversations with him, then when I was small, I was quite a rascal.

It’s not like I am trying to make excuses, but when talking with anyone who was not my brother, I think that I was a very polite child.

Trying to act tough, watching the adult’s expressions yet appearing to be polite on the outside.

Looking down on kids who acted like kids, and making people hate me.

— That was me.

Very similar to Masamune, but with some critical differences.

Specifically: this child is “trying to act tough” for the sake of others.

Since my earliest memories, my parents weren’t with me anymore. We siblings lived with our relatives. Since Nii-san was busy with work and school, most of the time I was living alone with my relatives.

Our treatment wasn’t exactly caring, but it wasn’t bad either.

After I changed schools a few times, my personality slowly became hard to please. Every few years, all of my connections at school and with my family would be reset: For a small child, that’s not exactly healthy. So I don’t think there is anything can be done about my (somewhat) twisted personality.

…It was all excuses anyway.

During all that time, there was a relationship that never changed.

That was the one between Nii-san and his girlfriend.

Yes. Nii-san had a girlfriend from “the beginning”. He had her even before I was born.

Yes! That’s why I said I hate my much-older-than-me brother.

Unlike me, changing schools or resetting connections wasn’t such a big obstacle for a pair of high school students like them.

“Ah, Kyouka-chan ~ Onee-chan came to play with you today!”

“…You didn’t come here for me. You came for my brother.”

Crap – this woman came here all the way from Tokyo. If only our relatives lived abroad, it would be much better. She couldn’t come so easily.

I was very mad on the inside, but I tried to remain calm and just stared at her.

But she just patted my head, and said:

“What are you talking about ~ I want to see you too.”

“Don’t try to get too close to me. There is no need for that. And don’t touch me.”

Honestly, since the first time we met, I have hated her.

The reason?

It’s because….because I hate her. Anyway, I hate her. That’s all there is to it!

….You said “I hate her because she is my brother’s girlfriend?”

It’s not not not not not like that….! I don’t know what you are talking about!

“Of course I want to get closer to you ~ because Kyouka-chan is like a little sister to me! Come on, call me Onee-chan!”

Kondou Shiho.

A bright, cheerful girl.

Normally, she is very mature. Her cooking skills are a match for any professional chef. She is also very gentle and has many friends; even my hated relatives like her —

She is such a wonderful girl.

Totally unlike me.

Back then, no matter how tough I tried to be, I couldn’t beat her. Even now, she is a woman that I can’t beat.

She is also Masamune’s mother.

***

We returned to the Izumi household’s entrance.

I listened to what Kyouka-san had just said and reached a conclusion.

“In other words…Kyouka-san is a big brocon little sister, so you hated 「 your brother’s girlfriend 」, right?”

“Of course not! Why why why why did you reach that conclusion!”

“Well…because…that’s how I see it. Right, Sagiri?”

“Yep. Kyouka is a brocon little sister.” Sagiri nodded.

“E..even Sagiri..!?”

Kyouka-san was shaken, but she coughed, and continued:

“It’s not like that…what I wanted to express was…how complicated my feelings toward my brother and his girlfriend were…”

“I don’t think it’s complicated at all. Or rather, I think it was too straightforward. Even current-gen light novels wouldn’t have something like that.”

“This…this is really complicated! How…you shouldn’t talk like it’s just a part of your work!”

Suddenly, her voice became dangerously low

“Besides…Masamune, and Sagiri too…How can you be so calm? Did you not hear what I just said?”

— Because I killed your parents.

“We did. But we wanted to finish listening to your story first. My aunt is a person who easily gets misunderstood.”

“You always make it out like you are the worst, so we want to hear you out now.”

Sagiri is right. There is no way we could hate her just because she said that.

Unless she really is the murderer or was somehow directly involved in our parent’s death… – but that was another matter.

For now, she is an important family member of ours. So there is no need to change our opinion of her.

Seeing how we reacted, Kyouka-san looked at us with confusion on her face.

“…You two…why?”

“I don’t want any more misunderstandings between us. Kyouka-san is very gentle, but it took us a long time to figure that out. We should have used that time to be a family instead. Don’t you think…it’s regrettable?”

It was hard for us to become family, so I don’t want to lose this again.

“Masamune…you are just like the type of person that I hate the most.”

“But you are so nice to me.”

“That was…”

She didn’t answer my question and averted her eyes.

“…Let me continue.”

***

My feelings toward Masamune’s mother – Shiho-san – are similar to an inferiority complex.

It was a mix of hatred, anger and envy. I wanted to surpass her in her field, so I began to learn how to cook…you can guess the result.

“Kyouka-chan, you have no talent in cooking. Even if you did, you are no match for me.”

“I know that already! You don’t have to remind me of that.”

“School activities and studying are Kyouka-chan’s strong points. Why did you choose my field to challenge me?”

“I hate you the most! So I want to beat you!”

“Really? I like you a lot, because you are my favorite little sister.”

“Kuh kuh kuh kuh kuh!!!!”

Back then, Izumi Kyouka couldn’t stop herself from challenging her brother’s girlfriend.

Remembering it now is so embarrassing…what a dark history.

But they are also my precious memories.

I always tried to go against Shiho-san, but it was all one-sided. She returned my hostility with nothing but goodwill.

She made it harder for me to forgive myself, I became more aware of how childish I acted…I was surrounded by those complicated feelings.

Those feelings reached their peak the day my brother married Shiho-san.

Even though I had known that this day would come eventually.

“…Nii-san…Shiho-san…con…cong…congra….fueeeeeeeeeeeee ~~~!”

I cried for an hour. Unexpectedly, it was the first time I managed to shake Shiho-san.

“Don’tttttttttttttttttttttttttt!! I don’t want Nii-san to marry!!!!”

It was the most humiliating moment of Izumi Kyouka’s life. I never planned to talk about it with anyone, even Masamune.

Really, it was something to be celebrated, why am I crying! I don’t understand it myself!

Besides, because my brother got married, my situation got worse.

The Izumi family doesn’t have many relatives, and as an elementary student, I couldn’t live alone by myself…

So, I had to endure hell: when I was forced to live together with the newlywed couple.

Those times…those times…I don’t even want to think about it anymore!!!

Ahhgghghhhhhh!!! Just thinking about it makes me mad. Is there any little sister in the world who could stand it? No! Absolutely not!

Cough cough.

Okay, because of a variety of reasons, and because I interpreted Shiho-san’s good intentions in a negative way, I hated her even more…But there was something that made me calm down a bit.

That was the birth of Masamune.

Seeing that child with such an innocent smile on his face, I —

“Isn’t he cute?”

“Yes he is.”

Something changed inside me.

It’s like…something that had troubled me for a long time had disappeared. I felt…relieved. My newborn nephew took my fingertip with his small hand.

Just watching him made me realize how meaningless all that stuff I did in the past was. I also knew that showing hostility towards his mother in front of him should never be allowed.

“Shiho-san…I’m sorry.”

“What is with you all of the sudden?”

“Sorry for everything. You were my savior, but I always acted with so much hostility towards you…I will soon leave this place.”

“Are you sick or something? It’s disgusting.”

“What….! I…I really still hate you!!”

“That’s better. It would be strange if Kyouka-chan acted any other way.”

Although we resumed our typical daily conversation, starting that day, our relationship began to change.

Or rather – I had accepted my defeat.

My first love ended that day.

***

I still couldn’t exactly manage to live “with a newlywed couple”, so after I entered high school I moved into the school dorm and lived on my own.

If I had some consecutive days off, I would go visit them. Sometimes I would scold my brother, sometimes I argued with Shiho-san, and sometimes I would just quietly watch Masamune.

It was such a simple, yet happy time.

Kids really grow up fast: I could barely recognize my nephew.

Thankfully, he seemed to like me too. Until he was three, he still called me…

“Auntie.”

He also stayed near me a lot.

“..A…a…auntie?”

We were speaking the same language, but since I was only a high school student back then, what he said hit me hard.

I began to tremble in shock. Behind me, my brother said:

“Oh! Auntie is playing with you huh! Isn’t it good ~ Masamune.”

“Niiiiii-san!! You must be the culprit! Did you teach Masamune that weird word?”

“Uwo? What are you doing? Masamune will hate you if you yell at me.”

“Kuh…”

I shut up and snuck a glance at my nephew.

….Thank heavens, he was not scared.

“Auntie.”

“Yes, yes! What do you need?”

“Breast.”

“Auuuuu!”

I will say it again. Back then, I was a pure high school girl, so while I knew he didn’t mean anything erotic, I was still shaken.

With a very innocent expression, my nephew continued:

“Breast.”

“Mwu au au au ~~”

Wh…what should I do?

I looked at my brother, silently asking for help. He just watched us with an amazed expression on his face.

“Masamune…you are so brave.”

“H, hurry and help me!”

“Do you want to try breastfeeding him?”

“I don’t have breast milk!!”

I can hit him, right? Anyone would agree that that would not be domestic violence, just righteous judgment, right?

***

“Masamune…you were a pervert even when you were small.”

“But but but that was very long ago! I was too small to have any impure thoughts. And I don’t remember any of this!”

I quickly tried to explain. Sagiri looked at Kyouka-san with clear interest:

“So…Kyouka?”

“Yes?”

“Did you try breastfeeding him?”

“I didn’t!”

Still with her usual innocent expression, Sagiri asked without shame:

“Really? Not even once?”

“…………………..No, I didn’t.”

Kyouka-san blushed madly and turned away. Seeing that, Sagiri shouted:

“That reaction! Could it be!!?”

“No no no! I didn’t.”

“Maybe inside Masamune’s childhood memories, there is a moment where he was breastfed by a high school girl!”

“Sagiri, calm down! Why are you so excited!?”

“Because, ahahaha!!!”

She took her smart phone out and showed me:

“If it exists, then the scene where this super cute little sister was breastfeeding her nephew would be an amazing discovery!”

“Why do you have that too —–!?”

Kyouka-san screamed in embarrassment.

Sagiri just showed me the picture of Kyouka-san when she had her hair in twin tails. I took a long look at it and muttered to myself.

“….I wonder if hypnosis would work on me?”

“You don’t have to remember it!”

“But when she puts it that way, even I want to know.”

“Do not try to remember it! Got it!?”

***

Let me continue!

Cough cough…Anyway, I will take a moment to say what I normally can’t.

No. I don’t really need to. Masamune was old enough to remember the next part, so he knows it as well as I do.

If I had to add my point of view…then I…was hated by Masamune.

To him, I – Izumi Kyouka was a stranger who —

Routinely yelled at his father.

Routinely argued with his mother.

That alone is enough for him to treat me like a bad person.

I myself also know that I’m not good at explaining things. So I gave up on meeting him and tried protecting him from a distance.

For example, I secretly gave him presents.

Or sometimes, I asked my brother to show me his picture, so I could see how he was growing up.

“Wow…just like a father who lost custody of his child.”

“Sagiri! Don’t say that!”

………………

“See!? Kyouka was hit badly! Hurry up and think of a way to calm her down!”

“Er…my previous father never cared about me that much?”

“You used such a depressing story?”

Masamune was trying to cheer me up.

“Kyouka-san, sorry for interrupting you. Please continue.”

You couldn’t imagine the situation back then even if you tried. Even I feel a pain in my heart when I think about those days.

Shino-san passed away due to an accident. The Izumi household lost its light.

My brother was hit the hardest…and seeing him like that, Masamune tried to act tough and didn’t even allow himself to be sad.

He tried to act like Shiho-san and began learning to cook. He took care of the house. In order to keep his father from worrying, he became a good student at school and stopped acting like a normal kid.

For me…seeing him like that hurt so much.

Masamune hated me, so I couldn’t help him. I couldn’t replace his mother. From his point of view, I must have been a terrifying, useless, old hag who just made people angry. That made him hate me even more

***

What Kyouka-san just talked about is the darkest period for my family. I had experienced all of it first hand, but I still almost cried when she talked about it.

She gently said:

“After you began writing…sometimes, I saw you smile.”

“…Yes.” I nodded “I was saved by novels…and the friends that novels brought me.”

“…I see.”

There was a long period of time where it was only me and my father living in this house. I had somewhat recovered, but the root of the problem wasn’t solved. Every day, I waited for my father to get home from work.

This…I think this wasn’t something Kyouka-san could accept. After we solved our misunderstanding and became family, I understand Kyouka-san better than before —

“Actually, I didn’t feel lonely at all. Because I dreamed of becoming a novelist. When I was writing, I didn’t think about anything else…besides, I think it’s a common problem in many families today, haha….”

***

Masamune was laughing, but I knew that sometimes he cried when he was home alone.

A family without a mother – this is, indeed, a common problem in many families.

Some might say “so what?”

There are a lot of children like him in the world: many in much worse shape than him. Is it strange to feel lonely? Is it strange to be embarrassed? Is it such a big deal?

Don’t say that. If a family member passed away, even adult would cry. No one can completely cut their emotions off, much less a child.

When a mother passes away, it is a very serious matter. For me, it was way more important than everything else in the world.

Because my beloved nephew was lonely.

I knew it. But I had no way of solving the problem.

— This child wouldn’t want someone like me to be his mother.

I had no choice but to feel my levels of frustration and worry increase every day.

“That’s when…Nii-san…introduced me to my sister-in-law.”

“Pleased to meet you, Imouto-san! Eto….I’m an illustrator! My penname is Eromanga, please take care of me!”

“….Is that…my mother?”

“Yes.” I nodded to answer Sagiri’s question.

By chance, I met my brother when he was with another woman – that was our first meeting.

“She was very beautiful, but I felt she was kind of funny. Her appearance was different, but I can say that she was just like Shiho-san.”

A familiar feeling.

The way of talking that showed how intelligent she was.

Someone who can loudly announced herself as Eromanga.

All of this nearly made me break down crying. They were different people, but…

“Um…I can understand that. Because I had the same feeling too.”

“You too, Masamune?”

That meant she was the polar opposite of me. The kind of woman that I hated the most.

Which also meant that she was the type of woman that my brother liked.

“At that moment, I was thinking that maybe she was my brother’s new girlfriend….but turns out, they were just talking about work.”

“…. Father….used to work with my mother?”

Masamune answered:

“I remember that Mother’s work included drawing illustrations for a game too.”

“Yes. But she didn’t use her penname Eromanga-sensei at work.”

“Then it might be true, because my father worked at a publishing company.”

“I don’t know…maybe it’s true?”

“Yes. While he didn’t exactly work with the light novel section, from a certain point of view, what I was working on was similar to his work.”

Masamune looks like he is having fun. His smile is exactly like his father’s.

Someday in the past…

“Nii-san….do you like her?”

When I asked Kotetsu-nii-san that question, he showed the same embarrassed expression as Masamune’s.

“E? Wh, what are you talking about?”

“You like her, don’t you? Hm, I knew it…she is your type.”

“I haven’t confessed to her and we aren’t going out. It’s just our situations are very similar.”

Young child. Lacking a partner. Hearing him say that, I agreed. They did have some similarities.

— But she had divorced, so she isn’t someone suitable to be Masamune’s mother.

First thing I learned about her and I already gave her a negative mark.

“Kyouka-chan! Let’s go see a movie next week!”

But somehow, after that she began to invite me out.

That day, when she invited me to go see a movie – that was the third time we “coincidentally” met. We had a long talk with each other.

When I purposely added words like “parasitic”, “ATM”, and “otaku”… into my conversation with a woman who might have interest in my widower brother, she suddenly made the invitation above.

“E…Eh? What are you saying so suddenly?”

“Actually, I don’t have any female friends.”

“So?”

“Let’s go watch a movie together! It’s very good one, so you must have heard about it! It’s the most popular recent anime! I hear it’s very moving!”

“I don’t remember being your friend.”

“Okay okay, it’s fine either way.”

“So this is your plan huh, 「a preemptive strike 」? Hm, it’s useless to flatter me. I’m not going to let my brother step on such an obvious landmine.”

 “Okay okay, it’s not what you think! I just think that Kyouka has talent! I just need to teach you a little; then you will be my perfect partner for visiting the Anime shop.”

“I’m not going to such a place.”

In the end – she forcefully pulled me along with her.

But it didn’t make me like otaku-related stuff. If anything, those things disgusted me even more.

“I do like Kotetsu-san…but I don’t plan to go out with him.”

“…Eh?” I paused “What…do you mean…by that?”

Aren’t you aiming for my brother?

If not, why did you come to me in the first place?

“Because each of us already has a child, and I have also married once…”

“So you like him, but you want to give up?”

“It’s more like I was trying to keep myself from liking him.”

“Are you thinking that by telling me this, you will get me to tell you a secret or something?”

“Nope.”

I threw a curve ball, but she just laughed it off. I glared:

“First things first, I hate you.”

“Um, I know.”

“So what are you laughing about?”

“First things first, I like you.”

“You…you —“

In this aspect, she was totally different from me.

Maybe if she became his mother, Masamune would no longer be lonely.

That was what I thought.

***

Hearing me say that, Sagiri suddenly interrupted:

“Kyouka…are you….mom’s…friend?”

“No.” I shook my head “I hated her. She was too close to my brother.”

“…I see.”

“There is something I have to apologize to both of you for.”

Finally – I will tell them the thing that I swore to myself I would never reveal.

Maybe they sensed it too. Both Masamune and Sagiri tensed up.

“It was low of me. There was something that I hid from both of you.”

“…….”

My brother and my sister-in-law were very similar even before they got married.

I heard something similar from both of them: That both of them were interested in each other, but neither wanted to push it further.

I’m the only one who knew.

— I don’t want to give my hated brother to anyone.

My first love, which died a long time ago, was now burning again.

When he was alone in the house, Masamune was crying silently. During those times, I was troubled a lot. I kept asking myself lots of questions. My whole life until now had just been a series of cases where my effort didn’t pay off and nothing turned out well.

But this time, I can’t afford to fail.

With a smile, I hid my feelings and told him:

“– Nii-san, have you ever thought about remarrying?”

I said it with a pain in my heart. But that was also the push both of them needed.

“ — Thank you, Kyouka.”

“ — It’s thanks to you that we can get married.”

A year later. During their honeymoon, my brother and my sister-in-law passed away.

***

“I killed your parents.”

Kyouka-san repeated again.

“……………..”

“………………”

Both Sagiri and I froze, unable to say anything. What she said hit us like a sledge hammer.

“That’s why I took care of you both.”

“………….”

It was her. Kyouka-san was the one who secretly led our parents to their marriage.

How…could it be? I always thought that Kyouka-san didn’t like my mother, but that wasn’t the case?

And… that if it wasn’t for her…then our parents wouldn’t have gotten married, wouldn’t have gone on their honeymoon…and wouldn’t have died.

That’s why she took on the responsibility of taking care of us?

That’s why she couldn’t tell us about this?

— I cannot say.

— The reason is?

— Because it will hurt me.

…Is that so?

…I got it.

“I’m a curse.” She said “Every time I tried something, it turned out for the worst. Someone like me cannot give you my blessing….for your marriage.”

She said that without changing her expression. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.

“You two probably don’t want to see me again…Don’t worry, I won’t come again. Though I will continue playing the role of 「 your guardian 」.”

With a click, the front door closed.

Kyouka-san had left us.

“……….”

“……….”

Both Sagiri and I couldn’t say anything. That was how hard it was to hear for both of us.

I knew that I had to think of a way to solve this…but I couldn’t move. Not a single muscle.

***

I turned my back toward Masamune and left the house.

The Izumi’s household’s door closed behind me. I kept walking.

My heart was full of shame and regret… but hopefully, they didn’t notice.

Only at that time did I feel lucky for my cold, emotionless appearance.

Maybe I should have done so…from the beginning?

Maybe I should have told them the truth earlier and let them hate me?

No…back then, both of them had just lost their parents and wouldn’t be able to take it. Only I could be their guardian and take care of them at that time.

That’s why…No. That’s not it. I wasn’t lying, but it wasn’t the whole truth either.

The biggest reason I hid it was because I didn’t want those children to hate me.

I both hate them and like them. I’m the reason they are in this situation, yet I want to help them. Not only that, I had hoped that I could become closer to them.

“…I’m the worst.”

Thinking back, I hate myself so much.

Why didn’t I keep hiding it?

I didn’t hold it in hard enough and was forced to tell them – now, everything is gone. Such critical timing, yet I made it harder for them both.

I always make the wrong choices. Nothing happens the way I want it to.

So it’s better if I stay away from my loved ones. Stay as far away as possible. 

Now, I won’t make the same mistake anymore. I will return to our previous relationship, the non-family relationship.

I made a mistake, but I must not let that mistake affect those children.

“…………”

They called me Kyouka-san, Kyouka.

They asked me for something important.

Living together.

The feeling that I help them.

— It was short, but it was a good dream.

That was enough.

My steps became faster. I was slowly getting further away.

“Goodbye. Farewell.”

I muttered and was about to take another step —

“Kyouka, wait!” A voice that I didn’t expect suddenly came from behind me. Someone…grabbed my hand.

“Wh…”

I turned around and saw the person who was trying to stop me… it was Sagiri.

I thought I was dreaming.

“Sa, Sagiri?! You can…come outside?”

“…Ha…ha….ha….”

I was only about ten meters away from the door, yet it should be impossible for her.

Sagiri had been a hikikomori for two years and only started come out of her room recently. But now, she was standing “outside”, looking at me

She wasn’t wearing her shoes: her feet were bare. Her breathing was ragged. She was sweating, her face was pale…But her hand held firm.

“Ha ha… Ha ha… Kyouka… Cough cough!”

She began to cough, unable to say anything. But, amidst the chaos, I heard something.

“Please don’t leave us!!”

“———–“

“Idiot! Why….! Just deciding on your own…! I…!”

Sagiri was shouting something, but I couldn’t hear her properly. I must not get my hopes up: I must have misheard her.

“Sagiri!”

Masamune also ran towards us. He only took a few seconds, but it felt like hours to me.

“Are you okay!?”

“…Kah…ha…ha…”

Sagiri turned back toward her brother.

“I’m …fine…so…please.”

“….”

Masamune nodded, like he already understood. He turned to me.

“Kyouka-san.”

“…Yes?”

For a split second, his appearance turned into a certain somebody.

“Just leaving after saying your story is unfair. Please at least listen to our opinions too.”

“…! You are….right.”

Both of them have the right to blame me. No matter how hard they curse at me, I have the duty to listen. Before I leave, I have to accept it all.

“I understand. Go ahead. Speak your mind.”

I breathed out. He carefully picked his words and said:

“E…Actually….what I want to say is – at first, I was very surprised. Because your relationship with my mother was totally different from what I imagined. And I didn’t expect to hear that you were the one who urged them to get married.”

Totally opposite from what I expected to hear – that was what he said.

“Did you think that I was against it?”

“That was what I thought. But after listening to your story, I understand now – Kyouka-san, you thought it was your responsibility, so you took care of us.”

“Not exactly. It’s not just my feeling of responsibly or shame… Part of me thought that if I took care of you, if I could help you….then I could become your family, and stay with you.”

I told them my shameful secret. I thought that I should let it out.

“Still, back then, Kyouka-san didn’t want to be our family yet, right?”

“It’s closer to 「 I wanted to get familiar with you 」.”

“……….”

Masamune didn’t say anything. Maybe he was surprised.

He returned to the main topic:

“I understand the part regarding 「the reason you took care of us 」. But I cannot accept your reasoning regarding 「 why you can’t give us your blessing 」. That, and the fact you are blaming yourself for my parents’ deaths.”

“Like I said —“

“I’m not saying that it wasn’t your fault.” He interrupted me “Both Sagiri and I agree that …we do blame you a bit. If it wasn’t because of you, maybe my father would still be alive.”

“…Yes.”

It hit me right in my heart. But he continued —

“My father was the one who decided the date of their honeymoon… but it was because we wanted him to choose that day. During those times, we would be left alone for a week.”

“…What are you trying to say?”

“I was to blame too. I…think that Sagiri feels the same…she must feel like she killed our parents. Just like you, Kyouka-san.”

“What…!? How could that be?”

“That’s how it is.” He smiled at me “That’s how we feel.”

“~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~”

My face suddenly felt so hot. I grit my teeth and tried to hold it down.

Even Masamune looked embarrassed.

“Also…there is something I only noticed just now. Without Kyouka-san, I wouldn’t have met Sagiri.”

“Yes! Yes!”

Sagiri (dying) agreed. She took a few breaths, and said:

“Kyouka brought us a miracle. You brought us what we like the most, what helped us forget the things we hated the most. You always…always worry for us…”

“Both Sagiri and I thank you.”

“Um…you are my favorite… other mother.”

“Oh…oh…”

I began to weep. My eyes couldn’t see them clearly anymore.

“So…so…”

“From now on, please continue living with us.”

The scene of my brother’s wedding. My brother’s smile. All of it reappeared in front of me.

“…You…you two…really…. I can’t even….” Izumi Kyouka’s list of her greatest shames…increased by one that day.