I can say now that I was young and foolish, but I had an existence called a girlfriend between my second and third years of middle school.
Whenever I recall the past, I’ll think, humans have the wonderful ability to forget, but is there an obvious flaw to it? We can forget the necessary knowledge so easily, but the memories we want to forget just continue to stick into the mind, unable to be erased.
I just feel there’s something wrong with that. If an anomaly occurring in creatures can be called a disease, then humanity’s been inflicted with a disease ever since we’re born—so I try to say this like a philosopher of the old era. Yes, I have to say it this time. It’s about the disease.
I say that, but it doesn’t mean that I once caught any life-threatening disease. That attribute’s for a certain pretty girl who seemed to be lively enough, but yet looking a little fragile, and the disease was just a common cold. And the one who caught that wasn’t me, but that woman—Yume Irido.
It was November, our second year of middle school. Winter loomed, and it was a cold morning; I didn’t manage to see Ayai at the place we usually met at.
Back then, I was a really kind guy;I worriedly called her on the smartphone, and learned that she was sick. “I see, take care.” I answered, and started walking alone to school, something I hadn’t done in a long while.
And after school—
The organization called school is so outdated, so there was a lot of paper wastage called printouts. Could they not send emails? It’s not like we’ll lose it. So I thought till this point, but just for today, it brought me some convenience. The homeroom teacher said,
—Is there anyone who’s willing to give the resting Ayai her printouts?
Naturally, nobody volunteered. Usually, this job’s pushed to the gopher called the monitor, but this is the one thing I can’t just call it being a gopher.
I try my best to come up with an excuse at that moment, one that wouldn’t feel weird and allow me to deliver the printouts to Ayai.
I guess the opposite effect happened because we usually hid our relationship, but no matter how rotten it was, it’s to be expected of me, and at that moment, I came up with the perfect excuse.
—Erm…I think my house’s in her direction…
Thinking back about it, it’s just an ordinary excuse, but anyway, I figured out a way to legally enter Ayai’s house.
And the house visit happened.
I stood before the apartment after learning of the address from the homeroom teacher, and stared at the doorplate, feeling nervous. What if her family shows up? Do I deliver the printouts and just go? No no no, Ayai’s from a single parent family. She should be the only one at home—
Maybe she’s feeling lonely, I wondered.
I was always alone when I caught a cold—so I was painfully aware of what Ayai was thinking.
I really wanted to surprise her by pressing her doorbell, but a patient doesn’t need to be surprised. I called her on the phone.
—Uehh!? I-Irido-kun!? You’re here!? In front of my house?
And then she got shocked on the phone call after all.
—W-wait a minute…! Just wait a bit!
—…Wait, are you changing?
—Well, you have a fever. You don’t have to force yourself. I won’t mind.
I want to see you in pajamas—If we translate my words, that’s what it means.
Go to Hell, puberty.
Well, my explanation was worth it, and Ayai welcomed me in pastel pink pajamas. So cut—ahem, so normal. Yep, ordinary pajamas for that woman.
Of course, I didn’t just go after talking. It’s my first time visiting my girlfriend’s place, and after I had Ayai lie down on the bed, I quickly took care of her—quickly, but I merely peeled the apple for her, fed her isotonic drinks. Please allow me to emphasize that I didn’t wipe her body with a towel at all.
There wasn’t anything else to do, so I sat by Ayai, looking at her.
Ayai’s mom should be back a little earlier, so it’s about time—so I began to think, but Ayai covered her mouth with her blanket, staring at me with her searing red face.
—Hm? Anything you want?
I saw her twitch, and move her right hand out from under the blanket.
—Please…hold my hand. I’ll be glad…
Of course, my heart did not jolt just because of this little thing (NOT AT ALL!), but I could sense what she was thinking.
When I caught a cold, I would feel strangely weak. Moreso when I’m the only one at home. Before I knew it, I would yearn for the body warmth of others…
I grab Ayai’s right hand with a little bit of strength.
Her hand’s hot and little, just like a baby.
She seemed a little happy, embarrassed, and finally, her consciousness started to blur, a peaceful breathing by my ear.
I wanted to continue holding this hand…ahh, I’m not looking for excuses. That’s what I really thought back then.
But in fact, if I were to space out like this, I would have met Ayai’s mother. It might be bad for a boy to enter a girl’s bedroom while she has a flu and on the bed.
After listening to her sleeping breath for about 30 minutes, I reluctantly let go of Ayai’s hand, and left her house.
Thinking back about it, I might had brushed by Yuni-san on the way back. That was a close shave.
“Huh? What happened to Irido-san today?”
And as expected, Kogure Kawanami went to my desk, looking around the classroom before talking to me.
I knew he would ask me about this, so I gave my prepared answer.
“She caught a cold. Lying at home.”
“Really…well, there’s a huge change in environment for her. She’s probably exhausted.”
She changed family names, moved houses, and now has to live with me under the same roof. It’s no wonder she’s tired, though I can’t say I got any issues.
“Eh~!? Yume-chan isn’t coming today~!?”
A somewhat loud yell smacks me hard in the back of the head.
I nearly lose consciousness out of instinct, and right before my eyes is a petite girl, her ponytail swaying behind her head.
She’s as small as Yume was back in eighth grade, but she’s really a lively girl who stands up—because of this, and because she’s often with Yume, I somehow remember her name.
Akatsuki MInami, one of the girls gathered around Yume Irido’s clique. She was always the first to greet that woman.
MInami-san slams her hands on my desk.
“I-I heard it’s 38°C…”
“38°C!? Isn’t that bad—!?”
“Minami, calm down. You’re scaring Irido.”
Kawanami grabs Minami-san by her nape, like she’s a cat, and pulls her away from me. He really saved me here. I really can’t deal with such people who somehow get too close to me.”
“What, Kawanami!? Stop treating me like a cat!”
Kawanami suddenly lets go, and Minami-san falls to the floor. She’s really like a cat.
But it’s uncommon to see such an action. I look at Kawanami’s face.
“Are you Minami-san’s acquaintance?”
“Ah? No—well, we do know each other. She’s in the same class as me when we’re in cram school.”
“Yep yep. Didn’t think this guy could enter this school though!”
“Same goes for you.”
I see. Most middle schoolers probably attended such classes to attend this kind of prep school. Yume and I were self taught thought.
Both of them don’t seem like the type to attend cram school seriously though.
Minami-san stands up, looking like she’s fired from a loaded gun.
“Is Yume-chan, alone at home now?”
“Ah, ahh…yeah. Dad and Yuni-san—mom, they’re working, and I can’t take leave.”
Even if I can take leave from school, I don’t want to end up taking care of that woman for the entire day.
“Eh~! That’s pitiful~! Is Yume-chan feeling lonely…”
…A certain memory’s awakening in my mind.
I recall the face that begged me to hold her hand, the face that doesn’t resemble Yume Irido at all.
“Alright, we decided!”
Minami-san suddenly slams on my table.
“Let’s go visit her after school! Can we, Irido-kun!?”
“Don’t make it so obvious that you don’t want it!”
“Oh, looks interesting. I’ll join in too—”
“Ah, you don’t have to come, Kawanami.”
…Well, I’ll have to take care of her before dad and Yuni-san return…will be really grateful if Minami-san can help me take care of her instead.
And so it ends up as me having to invite Minami-san to my house after school.
Of course, Kawanami’s not invited.
“Your house’s rather big. It’s your house originally isn’t it, Irido-kun?”
“…It doesn’t look that new. Dad’s been living here since he was a kid.”
“Hmm. Then, I’m coming in~!”
The moment I unlock the door, Minami-san just barges into the entrance. She’s really making herself at home.
“The inner room. Even she’s going to be shocked seeing you pop by out of a sudden. Mind being a little discreet?”
“Eh~, but I want to shock her…”
“The sick don’t need surprises.”
“I guess so.”
She’s more obedient than I thought, thank goodness.
I bring Minami-san to the second floor, and knock on Yume’s door. I have to knock on the door before visiting, just in case something unexpected actually happens—this is a rule we set as part of our cohabitation.
She doesn’t answer. Maybe she’s sleeping.
“I’m going in.”
I call out, and enter the room.
The cardboard boxes used when they moved in have been cleared—and in place of them are common books. At the very least, the floor can be seen, unlike my room.
You probably can tell now that I’ve said so much about her, but this doesn’t seem like a room a girl lives in. If I have to say, the old character cushions are lying on the floor, and there are some bottles at the desk, probably perfume. It barely gives the impression of a girl’s room.
Yume’s lying on the bed.
I was wondering if she’s recovered while we’re at school, but guess not. Her long black hair’s tied in twintails, and she’s wearing thin blue pajamas. She’s a despicable woman who keeps spiting me without restraint, and her snoring the only cute thing about her.
“…Yume-chan, are you sleeping?”
“Looks like it.”
We approach the bed, and Yume’s long eyebrow twitch, her eye widen slightly.
Did we wake her up, or is she not fully sleeping.
Yume’s half-opened eyes look up at me in a faze.
And then, she gives a relieved looking smile.
I barely manage to keep my shriek down—this woman! It’s bad calling me that right now!
“O-oh. How’re you feeling?”
Thank goodness her voice was soft, so I just play dumb and continue on. If Minami-san overhears it behind me, she might just ignore it thinking that she misheard, probably.
Nnn, she tugs at the hem of my clothes.
“Where…are you going…I’m lonely….!”
UOOORRGGHHH!? Yume-san—!! Your memory regressed to a year ago!?
Not yet, I can’t give up here. I’m so nervous, there’s sweat running down, but I try to act like nothing happens as I point at Minami-san behind me.
“L-look, Minami-san’s here to see you.”
“Good morning, Yume-chan. You alright~?”
Minami-san’s greeting remains as lively as usual, probably because she didn’t hear Yume’s fawning words—and because of that, once she spotted Minami-san’s face, the shred of sanity in her eyes seems to recover.
It looks like she realized what she has just said.
Her face starts to turn red, but luckily, she has a cold—and her face’s just red because of the fever, or so Minami-san may think. Yep, please think so.
Yume glares at me somewhat angrily. It’s not my fault right?
And then, she gives the smile of an elite student at school .
“Ah thank you, Minami-san…my fever’s a lot better…”
“You don’t have to force yourself to talk…eh, is there something you want me to do for you? Are you hungry? I bought lots of ingredients.”
Minami-san searches through the shopping bags from the supermarket near my house. I was holding them until we arrived at the entrance though.
“You did that much…sorry for that…”
“It’s fine it’s fine! I’ll borrow the kitchen then! Help me out, Irido-kun!”
I’m planning to leave her to a girl and just leave, only for Minami-san to grab my wrist.”
“Aren’t you good at cooking? I heard from Yume-chan.”
…So this woman does mention about me when she talks to her friends.
I glance aside, and find Yume facing the wall at this point. SHe might be concerned about how silly she looked.
“…Well, if it’s just ojiya.”
“Enough enough! Let’s go!”
Minami-san drags me out of Yume’s room.
Strangely, I feel a stare behind me. I say, that was not my fault…
“Hey Irido-kun~, what’s your relationship with Yume-chan?”
This question’s posed to me while I’m cutting vegetables, and I nearly end up with my finger in the ojiya.
“R-relationship, as in?”
“Of course, as siblings.”
Of course she’s asking about this. Calm down already, me.
Minami-san continues to beat the egg as she says,
“You’re still complete strangers until last year, right? Now you’re siblings out of a sudden, and living together. Can you really do it~? And well, you’re of different genders, at the same age.”
I think it’s better if she’s really a complete stranger to me.
At least zero’s better than negative affection; I won’t have to be so stressed.
“…Well, I can do it if I can, but there’s a lot of things I need to worry about.”
“Worry about? Like what?”
“First of all, bathing…”
“Ehh~? So you accidentally saw her changing, or something like that?”
“That’s why both of us are working hard to prevent that from happening.”
“What, you haven’t seen each other naked? That’s boring.”
That sort of event will kill us. Either me, or her.
“Well, I guess. After all, isn’t such an environment hard to deal with?”
“Like, what happens if you have a girlfriend~? It’ll be hard to bring her home, right?”
I look towards the little animal-like moodmaker next to me.
“…Do I look like the kind to get a girlfriend?”
“Not that you’ll get one, but you had one right, Irido-kun?”
My heart jolts.
She just concludes that without hesitation. Yep, she turns her head around without hesitation—how does she know?
Does MInami-san—actually know?
“Well~ I can sense that, somehow. It’s like, the way you treat girls that makes me go, ahh, this guy has a girlfriend before~ something like that.”
“Heh heh.” Minami-san bares her healthy teeth as she giggles away.
W-what the…? Isn’t that like ESP?”
“But it feels like you don’t have one. So how? Am I correct?”
“Oh, so you’re playing this.”
Minami-san pours my chopped vegetables into the pot, and mixes the beaten egg in. She’s good at this.
“Well, I’m not going to mention it. But what if you have a girlfriend again?”
The ojiya’s boiling.
“…I can’t get one. Not planning to have one.”
“Then, if you do, will you introduce her to Yume-chan?”
Faced with this hypothesis—for some reason, I just blurt out.
“No way. It’s not like I need her approval, and it sounds like a hassle.”
“Hmm…then Yume-chan won’t know that you have a girlfriend. As long as you don’t get married.”
It’s a different matter if we’re married—though I really can’t see myself in such a situation.
“I see I see~. That’s how it is~”
“…Say, what’s the meaning behind this conversation we’re having?”
“Come on~it’s just chit-chat. How’s there any meaning to that?”
While being dragged along at Minami-san’s pace, the ojiya’s done.
“Here, Yume-chan. Say ahhh~”
“I-I can eat it by myself…”
“Nope, you’re a patient. Ahhh~”
“Is it hot? Do I blow it?”
…What are they showing me?
I miss the opportunity to leave the room, but am I really needed right now? High school girls can just chat with each other; can’t I just return to my room?
So after seeing this sight of yuri for quite a few minutes.
Let’s calm down and think about it, thank goodness Minami-san showed up. If I’m to do it, it’ll be the shame for the ages, both for me and for Yume.
“Fuu…thank you very much. It’s nice.”
“Glad to serve you. You finished it all!”
“Thank you…for everything…”
“Well, Irido-kun did half of this. I just mixed the flavors! Now then…”
Minami-san quickly stacks up the utensils on the plate, takes them, and stands up,
“I’ll go wash these then. Irio-kun, keep Yume-chan company for me~!”
“I’ll leave it to you!”
Minami-san hurries out of the room. I don’t have the chance to stop her.
Left in the room are Yume and me.
…What is this.
I should have left.
But there’s no way I can leave at this point. I unwillingly sit down by the bed.
Yume covers her face with the pillow, staring at me for some reason.
The terse question meets a terse response. Neither of us look at each other.
“You really make me uncomfortable…lemme say this, what happened when you woke up was all your fault. I was the one who cleared the mess for you.”
“I-I know that…! I was…just a little, unconsciousness…”
Yume pouts as she hides under the blanket.
Well, this makes me happier. The sick should just sleep well.
“…You two are really on good terms.”
Or so it’s supposed to be, but this woman starts mumbling something unnecessary while her back’s turned on me.
“Huh? Good terms? With who?”
“…Minami-san. You two made ojiya together…”
For a moment, i start to think.
“…Let me get this clear. Can I take it as ‘you’re unhappy about a boring guy like me getting close to your important good friend’?”
Yume too starts to think.
“…I see. Well, here’s my answer; we look like we’re on good terms with each other, but that’s because of Minami-san being very social. You get that, don’t you? Those really strong at socializing can make anyone feel that they’re on good terms.”
“You’re making it sound like I’m a fake…”
“Not like, that’s what I’m getting at, you high school rookie.”
“I’m not a rookie…”
Yume’s voice feels devoid of strength.
She probably regained some strength after having eaten something, but it’s a long way until she’s completely recovered.
“Anyway, just sleep. Sleep’s the best medicine for a cold.”
“…Will you…leave again?”
“Look, I’m not leaving. I’ll be home all day.”
“You’re lying…didn’t you go home the last time…?”
Slowly, Yume’s voice becomes as soft as cotton candy. Is she sleepy now?
“…When’s this last time?”
“When…I told you to hold my hand…you were gone when I woke up…”
One year ago, when winter was coming.
When I visited this woman…
“…The house, was dark…I, was so lonely…”
I didn’t know when Yuni-san would return. I thought I just needed to hold her hand until she slept. I wasn’t wrong.
I brushed by Yuni-san on my way back—but this woman said the house was dark, so it means she woke up after I left. Once my warmth left her hand, she…
This woman’s cold comes with memories of the past few years? That’s a weird illness.
I reach my hand out to Yume’s face.
“I’m not going anywhere this time. I’ll keep holding your hand…just sleep.”
Yume shows a look of relief, akin to when she was awake.
She firmly clasps onto my hand with both hands.
“…Thank you, Irido-kun…”
And then—at that moment, she brings the hand to her chest.
She looks rather happy, her expression easing as she starts to snore.
Her large chest’s huffing up and down, and my excited fingernails feel like they’re going to be sucked into that softness ASHIUNLKFNIUSKJNWLKNELKNWLNS!!
I’m going to be slandered for sexually harassing my sick stepsister at this rate! Damn iiitttttt…!! Can his woman stop belittling me with even the virus!!?
…But since I promise to hold her hand until the very end, I can’t let go.
I try to move my hand aside, making sure Yume doesn’t wake up.
Anyway, I put my hand at a safe position, and let out a sigh. I wonder how Minami-san will react if she sees this…
Speaking of which, isn’t Minami-san rather slow?
Minami-san returns once Yume’s sleeps.
“Yaaa, sorry sorry. Got a phone call~”
Looks like she got a call from back home. It’s about time for her to head back, and I send her off at the entrance.
Of course, I have to let go of my hand once Minami-san returns. After all, I can’t send her off without doing so. Ayai from a year ago will forgive me for this, I guess.
“Say, Irido-kun, before I go back, I have something to ask…”
Minami-san suddenly turns around at the entrance, and says with her usual tone,
“Are you really—just siblings with Yume-chan?”
What suddenly stabs into me is the lance of words.
My heart’s pierced through, and there’s a short silence in the conversation.
But—just for a moment.
After that moment, I recover.
“—We’re siblings. Stepsiblings though.”
Minami-san looks up at me, “Ahh!” she sounds like she understands.
“So stepsiblings! Not actual siblings! I see! I see!”
She quickly steps outside, and leaves my—our house.
“Now then, sorry to disturb you~! Take care~!”
After these usual greetings, she leaves my house.
The ponytail behind her head continues to sway until the very end.
Dad contacts me, saying he’ll be back late with Yuni-san. I’m furious, but I have to continue taking care of Yume.
“I want Aquarius.”
“Don’t spill it.”
“Buy me ice cream.”
“I want a book. Give me money.”
“I don’t have any!!”
Yume, having woken up from her nap, is just being selfish, and this pitiful me’s being a lackey. But she’s a patient, I can’t be too harsh on her.
“…Let me hold, your hand again.”
So right now, I can only grit my teeth, and take it. I’m not as vicious as this woman usually is. I’m not going to ignore a patient’s wishes for no reason.
“Say, time to measure your temperature.”
“If you’re sleeping all day and it’s not subsiding, it’s a really serious fever. If it’s still 38°C, better see the doctor—”
“N-no need…I’m fine! I’m really fine!”
“I need to measure to know if you’re really normal. Come on, under your armpit.”
For some reason, Yume was really resistant. With some force, I tucked the thermometer under her armpit.
Several seconds later, the number was shown, and it really shocked me.
It’s really normal.
I turn from the thermometer to Yume. This woman’s looking away from me.
“…When…were you cured?”
“Don’t tell me you’re already cured when Minami-san went home…? You’re cured, and you’re acting like a patient and commanding me!?”
“…Eh? Then, you asking to hold my hand is…”
Yume shrieks, and snuggles under the blanket.
“Hey, damn it! Don’t you run away, you healthy woman!!”
“N-no!! I don’t wanna! Let me sleep more just to be safe!!”
“You slept long enough! And you used this chance to take advantage of others’ kindness!”
I pull the blanket off, and Yume tumbles off the floor.
I look at her face that’s completely recovered from the fever, and hiss,
“Isn’t there something you should say?”
“Or you can’t say it until you hold my hand?”
Yume’s face is red like an alarm for reasons other than a fever.
“…So-sorry. I faked my illness…”
Yume’s shrivelling on the floor, and I help her get up.
There’s lots of sweat on her back.
“Well…you just recovered, so I’m not going to press further. Get changed, eat dinner, and sleep.”
“…Your kindness is really disgusting.”
“Really honored to be praised by you, Yume-san who can’t sleep without holding my hand.”
Yume leaps onto the bed again, covering the blanket all over her, starting from the head.
“I can’t hear you! I don’t remember! I’m getting changed, get out, you perverted little brother!!”
“Some memory you have to easily erase whatever you say…”
“I’ll make dinner then…one last request from you then.”
Yume pokes her eyes out from the blanket, whispering with a teeny-weeny voice,
“……Don’t just leave, on your own.”
…I’m asking what you want for dinner.
It’s different from last year.
After all, this is my house.