Hellping

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 recalled the past, I always thought that humans had the wonderful ability to forget, but wasn’t  there an obvious flaw to it? We can forget the necessary knowledge so easily, but the memories we wanted to forget would stick in the mind, unable to be erased.

I just felt there was something wrong with that. If an anomaly occurring in creatures can be called a disease, then humanity was long inflicted with a disease ever since we were born. I tried to sound like a philosopher of the ancient era. Yes, I have to mentioned this. It’s about the disease.

It didn’t meant though that I caught any life-threatening disease. That attribute’s for a certain pretty girl who seemed lively enough, but yet looked a little fragile. It 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, which 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The organization called school is so outdated, so there was a lot of paper wastage called printouts. Couldn’t they have send emails? It’s not like we’ll lose them. That was what I always thought, 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 I couldn’t just call it being a gopher.

I tried my best to come up with an excuse, one that wouldn’t feel weird and allow me to deliver the printouts to Ayai.

I guessed the opposite effect happened because we usually hid our relationship, but I expected this from myself, no matter how flimsy the excuse. At that moment, I came up with the perfect excuse.

Erm…I think my house’s in her direction…

In hindsight, 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 didn’t need to be surprised. I called her on the phone.

Uehh!? I-Irido-kun!? You’re here!? In front of my house?

She got shocked to receive the phone call.

W-wait a minute…! Just wait a bit!

…Wait, are you changing?

B-because…!

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 was what I meant. 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 her.

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. I should 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, or I thought. Ayai covered her mouth with her blanket, and stared at me with her searing red face.

…Irido-kun.

Hm? Anything you want?

Erm…actually…

I saw her twitch, and moved 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…

Easy peasy.

I grabbed Ayai’s right hand with a little bit of strength. Her hand was hot and little, just like a baby.

Fufufu…

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, not trying to excuse myself. That was what I really thought back then.

But 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.

In hindsight, I probably 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. Resting at home.”

“Eh? Really?”

“Really…well, there’s a huge change in environment for her. She’s probably exhausted.”

She changed family names, moved houses, and had to live with me under the same roof. It’s no wonder she’s tired, though I couldn’t say I got off unscathed

“Eh~!? Yume-chan isn’t coming today~!?”

A somewhat loud yell smacked me hard in the back of the head.

I nearly lost consciousness instinctly, and right before my eyes was 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 stood out. Because of this, and because she’s often with Yume, I somehow remembered her name. Akatsuki MInami, one of the girls gathered around Yume Irido’s clique. She was always the first to greet her.

MInami-san slammed her hands onto 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 a cat, and pulled her away from me. He really saved me here. I really couldn’t deal with such people who somehow end up too close to me.

“What, Kawanami!? Stop treating me like a cat!”

“Okay okay.”

“Nyaa!?”

Kawanami suddenly let go of Minami-san, who fell to the floor. She really was like a cat. But it’s uncommon to see such an action. I stared 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 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. Both of them didn’t seem like the type to attend cram school seriously though.

“More importantly!”

Minami-san stood 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 could, I didn’t want to end up taking care of her for the entire day.

“Eh~! That’s pitiful~! Is Yume-chan feeling lonely…”

…A certain memory awoke in my mind. I recall the face that begged me to hold her hand, the face that didn’t resemble Yume Irido at all.

“Alright, we decided!”

Minami-san suddenly slammed on my table.

“Let’s go visit her after school! Can we, Irido-kun!?”

“Ehhh…”

“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.”

“Why me!?”

…Well, I would have to take care of her before dad and Yuni-san returned…I would really be grateful if Minami-san could help me take care of her instead.

 

And so it ended 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 unlocked the door, Minami-san barged through the entrance. She’s really making herself at home.

“2nd floor?”

“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.”

Thank goodness she’s more obedient than I thought.

I brought 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 didn’t answer. Maybe she’s sleeping.

“I’m going in.”

I called out and entered the room. The cardboard boxes used when they moved in were cleared, and replacing them were common books. At the very least, the floor could be seen, unlike mine.

I guessed it should be obvious given how much I said about her, but her room didn’t feel like a girl’s. If I have to say, the old mascot cushions were lying on the floor, and there are some bottles at the desk, probably perfume. It barely had 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 approached the bed, and Yume’s long eyebrow twitch, her eye widen slightly. Did we wake her up, or was she not fully sleeping?

“…Nn…”

Yume’s half-opened eyes look up at me in a daze. She then gave a relieved smile.

“……Irido, kun……”

 

Nkgar!?

I barely managed 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. I played dumb and continued on. If Minami-san overheard it behind us, 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!?

I couldn’t give up yet. I was so nervous, sweat was trickling down, but I tried to act like nothing happened as I pointed at Minami-san behind me.

“L-look, Minami-san’s here to see you.”

“Good morning, Yume-chan. You alright~?”

Minami-san’s greeting remained lively as usual, probably because she didn’t hear Yume’s fawning words. Because of that, once Yume spotted Minami-san’s face, the shred of sanity in her eyes seems to recover.

“…..Ah……”

It looked like she realized what she had said. Her face began to turn red, but luckily, she had a cold…and her face was red because of the fever, or so Minami-san might think. Yep, please think so.

Yume glared at me somewhat angrily. It’s not my fault right? She then gave 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 searched 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 was planning to leave her to Minami-san and exit, but the latter grabbed my wrist.

“…Eh? Me?”

“Aren’t you good at cooking? I heard from Yume-chan.”

…So she would discuss about me with her friends. I glanced aside, and found 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 dragged me out of Yume’s room.

Strangely, I felt a stare behind me. Say, that was not my fault…

 

“Hey Irido-kun~, what’s your relationship with Yume-chan?”

This question was posed to me while I was cutting vegetables, and I nearly ended up with my finger in the ojiya.

“R-relationship, as in?”

“Of course, as siblings.”

“Ah-ahh…as siblings…”

Of course she’s asking about this. Calm down already, me.

Minami-san continued to beat the egg as she said,

“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 would be better if she was really a complete stranger to me.

At least zero’s better than negative affection; I wouldn’t 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?”

“Yes…”

So I thought.

“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 would kill us. Either me, or her.

“Well, I guess. After all, isn’t such an environment hard to deal with?”

“Like how?”

“Like, what happens if you have a girlfriend~? It’ll be hard to bring her home, right?”

“Huh?”

I looked 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 jolted. She just concluded that without hesitation. Yep, she turns her head around without hesitation—how does she know?

 

Did 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 bared 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?”

“…No comment.”

“Oh, so you’re playing this.”

Minami-san poured my chopped vegetables into the pot, and mixed 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 blurted 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.”

“Well, sorta…”

It’s a different matter if we’re married…though I really couldn’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?”

She’s right.

And while I was 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~”

“A-ahhh…”

“Is it hot? Do I blow it?”

…What were they showing me?

I missed the opportunity to leave the room, but was I really needed? High school girls could just chat with each other; couldn’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. It’d be the shame for the ages if I did it, 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 stacked up the utensils on the plate, took them, and stood up,

“I’ll go wash these then. Irio-kun, keep Yume-chan company for me~!”

“Ahh…wait, me?”

“I’ll leave it to you~!”

Minami-san hurried out of the room. I didn’t have the chance to stop her. Left in the room were Yume and me.

…What is this.

I should have left.

But there was no way I could leave at this point. I unwillingly sat down by the bed.

Yume covered her face with the pillow, and stared at me for some reason.

“…What?”

“…Nothing.”

The terse question was met with a terse response. Neither looked 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 pouted as she hid under the blanket. Well, this made me happier. The sick should just sleep well.

“…You two are really on good terms.”

Or so it’s supposed to be, but she started mumbling something unnecessary while her back was turned on me.

“Huh? Good terms? With who?”

“…Minami-san. You two made ojiya together…”

“……”

For a moment, I started 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 started to think.

“…Yes.”

“…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 felt devoid of strength.

She probably regained some strength after having eaten something, but it’s a long way until she was 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 becames 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…”

…Ahh, that? 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…But.

I brushed by Yuni-san on my way back, but she said the house was dark, so it meant she woke up after I left. Once my warmth left her hand, she…

…Seriously.

This woman’s cold came with memories of the past few years? That’s a weird illness.

“…Alright.”

I reached my hand out to Yume’s face.

“I’m not going anywhere this time. I’ll keep holding your hand…just sleep.”

“…Nn…”

Yume showed a look of relief, akin to when she was awake. She firmly clasped onto my hand with both hands.

“…Thank you, Irido-kun…”

And then…at that moment, she brought the hand to her chest.

 

“Idi…!”

“Nfu…”

She looked rather happy, her expression easing as she started to snore.

Her large chest was huffing up and down, and my excited fingernails feel like they were going to be sucked into that softness. HQYACQUACYQGABAHWVAKDBXKCOEHAPZHXNCYWKAJJZ!!

I’m going to be slandered for sexually harassing my sick stepsister at this rate! Damn iiitttttt…!! Can she stop belittling me with even the virus!!?

…But since I promised to hold her hand until the very end, I couldn’t let go.

I tried to move my hand aside, making sure Yume didn’t wake up.

Anyway, I put my hand at a safe position, and let out a sigh. I wonder how Minami-san would react if she saw this…

…Eh?

Speaking of which, Minami-san’s rather slow here?

 

Minami-san returns once Yume fell asleep.

“Yaaa, sorry sorry. Got a phone call~”

It seemed like she got a call from back home. It’s about time for her to head back, and I sent her off at the entrance.

Of course, I had to let go once Minami-san returned, and I couldn’t send her off without doing so. Ayai from a year ago would forgive me for this, I guess.

“Say, Irido-kun, before I go back, I have something to ask…”

“Hm?”

Minami-san suddenly turned around at the entrance, and says with her usual tone,

“Are you really…just siblings with Yume-chan?”

Suddenly stabbing into me were the lances of words. My heart was pierced through, and there’s a short silence in the conversation…just for a moment though.

After that moment, I recovered.

“…We’re siblings. Stepsiblings though.”

Minami-san looked up at me, “Ahh!” she appeared to understand.

“So stepsiblings! Not actual siblings! I see! I see!”

She quickly stepped outside, and left my…our house.

“Now then, sorry to disturb you~! Take care~!”

She left once she said these usual greetings.

The ponytail behind her head continues to sway until the very end.

After that.

Dad contacted me, saying he’d be back late with Yuni-san. While furious, I had to continue taking care of Yume.

“I want Aquarius.”

“Don’t spill it.”

“Buy me ice cream.”

“…Which kind?”

“I want a book. Give me money.”

“I don’t have any!!”

Yume, having woken up from her nap, was just being selfish, and this pitiful me’s being a lackey. But she’s a patient, I couldn’t be too harsh on her.

“…Let me hold, your hand again.”

“…Alright.”

So I could only grit my teeth and endure. I’m not as vicious as she usually was. I wasn’t going to ignore a patient’s wishes for no reason.

But.

“Say, time to measure your temperature.”

“…Eh?”

“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.”

“N—o—!!!”

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.

“……36.5°C”

It’s really normal.

“……”

“……”

I turned from the thermometer to Yume. She’s looking away from me.

“…When…were you cured?”

“………No comment………”

“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!?”

“NO COMMENT!!”

“…Eh? Then, you asking to hold my hand is…”

“~~~~~~~~~!!”

Yume shrieked, and snuggled 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!”

“KYAAAHHH!!”

I pulled the blanket off, and Yume tumbled onto the floor.

I look at her face that was completely recovered from the fever, and hissed,

“Isn’t there something you should say?”

“…Erm…”

“Or you can’t say it until you hold my hand?”

Yume’s face was red like an alarm for reasons other than a fever.

“…So-sorry. I faked my illness…”

“Very good.”

Yume’s shrivelling on the floor, and I helped 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 leaped 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…”

Good grief.

“I’ll make dinner then…one last request from you then.”

Yume poked her eyes out from the blanket, and whispered with a teeny-weeny voice,

“……Don’t just leave, on your own.”

…I’m asking what you want for dinner. Whatever.

“Easy peasy.”

It’s different from last year. After all, it’s my house.

 

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