I was young and ignorant thinking back about it now, but between my second and third year of middle school, I had something called a boyfriend.
As far as what drove me mad enough to have one, it’s because I was super gloomy and quiet. There’s no way a normal girl would’ve found that guy cool.
Let me give you an example of how much of an introvert I was.
It was the second semester of the second year, shortly before the mid-terms. I was in the library with him, just the two of us, studying and flirting. It’d felt like we’d been cramming like our lives depended on it, but in hindsight, we weren’t doing much studying at all. Rather, we were flirting when we pretended to be studying, similar to how crickets chirped to attract each other.
We’d only been dating for a month then, and I wasn’t chirping like a cricket, but my heart was pounding loudly.
I was like that everywhere, not just in the library─basically, my hormones were running wild. That’s why I made a mistake back then.
“Ahh…” I accidentally bumped my eraser off the table with my arm. As you know, erasers always bounce away in weird angles, then roll off somewhere to disappear.
I didn’t see it under the table. Since I’d already worn it down to a pebble, I didn’t want to waste much time looking for it.
…And then, like he’d been waiting for a chance, he passed me an eraser.
“I got an extra one for you.”
I was naive and gullible. Once he said that, I wound up blushing, even though there wasn’t anything special about it. Still, I took the eraser gingerly.
…Now then. Normally, you’d think that’s the end of it. Unfortunately, my gloomy mode was on full throttle. Ugh, just remembering makes me nauseous.
That day, after I returned home…
I put the eraser…
…in a box. With a lock!
Yes! This unspeakably gloomy girl cherished that eraser. “The first gift I’d ever received from my boyfriend.”
Nope nope nope. Even he wouldn’t be so dumb as to make a big show of giving his girlfriend an eraser. It wasn’t some radio calisthenics souvenir, just something he gave me. It didn’t have anything to do with us being in a relationship.
But back then, logic and reason held no sway over me.
Every night, I’d take out that eraser and smile at it, as if I was worshiping a god. I just kept going through that ritual like a cultist.
While I think that guy’s way of thinking is rather weird, if anyone’d seen me acting that way, they would’ve probably been utterly terrified. That’s how horrid it was. I want to go back in time and yell at myself.
Just talking about it fills me with dread, but every time after that, I’d put everything that guy gave me into the box. I felt like if I did that, I’d grow a little closer every time. To the guy I now live with.
If I’d known back then that, a year and a half later, he’d be sleeping in the room next to mine, I’d probably have wet myself. Not out of terror, but excitement. That’s how gloomy I was.
I sealed away my sacrilegious habit of collecting things, and the box as well, when we moved.
But ultimately, a seal’s just a seal.
That which lay sealed, lurked in the depths, eager to break free.
—In the house, the damned gloomy girl waits dreaming.
The events of that night were a true terror worth recording, and I strongly swore myself to silence. However, a vague sense of unease continued to grow by the minute, by the second, on the verge of brimming from within me; it was only a matter of time until I reached my limit. I prayed that I could observe the madness that swallowed me that night in a subjective manner, to shoo away the uneasiness, and to leave a record here.
There was underwear.
…Wait. Don’t think that far ahead. It wasn’t my underwear. They were a guy’s boxers!
It happened as I was getting ready to sleep, and I went to the washroom slash changing room. I just happened to spot it. Within the pile of clothes stacked in the laundry basket was a hem of boxers, seemingly exposed like a tentacle─and considering the order in which we took our bath, there was no doubt it belonged to my younger step-brother, Mizuto Irido.
“…Well, so what?”
Someone just put his dirty underwear in the laundry. What was weird about that? It was so mundane, it wasn’t even worth mentioning.
I entered the changing room, calmly turned towards the basin, and then calmly brushed my teeth.
…At least, that’s what I’d thought.
—But in that moment, my psyche was being attacked by extraordinary madness.
I subconsciously approached the laundry basket.
I subconsciously pulled out the boxers.
I subconsciously stared at it.
…It’s the underwear Irido-kun wore the entire day…
What did I just…!? Why am I holding my little stepbrother’s boxers with both hands!?
I had no recollection of any of those few seconds! Y’ai’ng’ngah!
I fought back against the repulsive terror, and intended to put those terrifying boxers back into the laundry basket. If anyone, especially that guy, was to witness this—
I felt my blood being drained away.
The door to the hallway opened, and Mizuto showed up.
I responded with extraordinary reflexes quite unlike myself, and hid the terrifying boxers in my hands behind my back. That was close!
“You’re here? I couldn’t detect any presence. Thought nobody’s in.”
“…R-really? Haven’t your senses grown dull?”
His skill honed during my gloomy period might have activated automatically, and subconsciously erased my presence from his mind. What a busybody! This man would never have entered if he’d noticed I was inside!
Mizuto frowned, looking stupefied.
“Why’re you hanging out here?”
At that point, I was at the laundry basket, far from the basin.
Got to find a logical explanation here…!
“…M-my phone…yeah, I forgot my phone in the laundry!”
Mizuto showed no doubt about my perfect little explanation. He just waltzed to the basin, and picked up the toothbrush.
I thought I could use that opportunity to put his boxers back, but to my despair, the laundry basket was completely reflected in the basin mirror. For some reason, this man stared at me through the glass pane.
“…Wh-what are you looking at? Are you excited to see me in my pajamas?” I said, and wondered how to answer if he said yes. Luckily, Mizuto’s reply was rather calm.
“Nothing. Seems like you’re staring at me for some reason. Like, is watching people brush their teeth your fetish?”
My heart thumped once I heard the word ‘fetish’, and I thought of the boxers behind my back.. Luckily, I managed to control myself, and didn’t make a weird expression.
“…Even if that were true, you’d be a major turn off.”
“That’s a relief.”
He began brushing his teeth. I wouldn’t feel excited, but I still found it incredulous how I could see this man in his pajamas, brushing his teeth, as a daily occurrence.
Mizuto finished brushing, and looked at me.
“Found your phone yet? Not like I can’t lend a hand—”
“Eh? Ah, th-that’s fine! I’m fine here! I found it!”
It looked like Mizuto was about to approach, so I hurriedly pulled my phone out of my pocket. My life’d be ruined if he saw the thing I was holding in my other hand!
“…I see. Go sleep then. I’m going to bed.”
“Y-yeah. I guess. You’re right. Sleeping too little will have a major effect on one’s skin, after all.”
Grr…! I’ve no choice but to make a tactical retreat here.
Left with no choice, I rolled that horrifying piece of cloth into my pocket, and left the washroom slash changing room with Mizuto; I retreated to my room, desperate to escape from some inscrutable thing.
…Now what do I do?
I was left helpless, for the grotesque, ominous looking boxers were laid out upon my bed.
No, I just needed to put it back in the laundry basket. Nobody would reproach me, I just had to be sure everyone else was asleep. The problem was—
I looked towards the wall separating me from the next room.
He was a real creature of the night. Given his lifestyle, it’s amazing he waited for me every morning back when we were dating…though I suppose he was doing his part back then.
In other words—I didn’t know when the opportunity to return the underwear would come. It might be midnight, 1 AM, or even 2 AM.
Arrrghh goodness, I want to hurry up and sleep!
But sleeping with my little stepbrother’s boxers was clearly crossing the line as siblings.
…All I could do was wait.
I opened a book to read while pricking my ears. From time to time, I could hear slow footsteps beyond the wall. What’s causing him to walk around this much?
I really couldn’t concentrate—I was paying attention to the next room over, but the bigger reason was because there were boxers in my room, rattling me greatly.
I couldn’t help but glance downwards at the terrifying boxers that were laid out.
…It’s my room…
…Nobody else’s here…
…Whatever I do…nobody else will…
At that moment, my heart was gripped by the terrifying hand of the devil.
I rolled onto the bed. It was because I was feeling strangely tired, nothing else; it was a coincidence that my face was lying next to that man’s boxers. In other words, in other words, my nose was just getting closer to those boxers—ahh, my heart was throbbing. Was this an arrhythmic heartbeat? There wasn’t anything to be excited about; surely only an illness could’ve caused my heart to beat that much. I thought to myself, well, I’d naturally recover after a while. Yes, I just needed to take deep breath, calm myself down—
The moment I breathed that air into my lungs, I regained my sanity.
My………my memory disappeared again! It’s gone again! I don’t remember anything~!
I shriveled into the blanket, curling up like a fetus.
I cupped my head.
I wanna die.
I was basically acting like those unpopular hordes with insatiable desires…! I already graduated from my gloomy phase! I was supposed to be a super duper popular girl who’s top of the cohort!
It’s that man’s fault for putting his boxers in the laundry. It’s his fault that I accidentally awakened my old self from a year ago. That dastardly pagan gave an offering in the form of a mere eraser!
…If that man was to know about this…
That would be a complete breach of our rule as siblings—no room for argument, no probation, a straightforward guilty ruling. I would have to become that man’s little sister…and then…and then…—
“—Yooo, my perverted little sister who stole her stepbrother’s underwear. Tell me your desires. What do you want me to do?”
“I-I’m…not a perv…!”
“Heh~? So stealing underwear and putting erasers into treasure boxes aren’t hallmarks of a pervert? I guess this is normal too!”
“This is where you call me onii-chan! You perverted little sister!”
Behind my closed eyes, my imagination stared into the abyss, and it stared back. I flipped the blanket.
I-if this keeps up, I’ll go crazy! I’ll end up with a diary full of strange notes and a mysterious death!
Now’s not the time to wait for that man to sleep. I have to hurry and return that thing!
I grabbed the ominous boxers, and got off the bed.
At that moment.
Thud, I heard the door in the next room over open.
I pricked my ears, and heard someone head down the stairs.
I looked at the time, and saw it was midnight. What’s he doing this late at night…?
…Is this my chance?
If he’s going to the convenience store, that’s the best chance I have—
I rolled the terrifying boxers into my pajama pocket.
I had a peek downstairs, and found utter darkness, the night sea seemingly before me.
Where did he go…?
I cautiously descended the stairs, one step ata time. At this point, I worried about Mizuto’s face suddenly showing up in the darkness, and the tension left me breathless. If we ran into each other, I planned to say I was going to the toilet. I pulled myself together as I went to the first floor.
There was nary a shadow in the living room. The toilet lights were not switched on. There was no sound at the entrance.
I sensed something stir in the washroom slash changing room. In a panic, I hurried to the dim living room.
Right when I held my breath, Mizuto showed up. He was tiptoeing around, obviously trying to keep a low profile.
Our parents were still in their honeymoon phase, so we made sure not to disturb them at night. That was probably why he had been sneaking around, or maybe there was some other reason…?
Mizuto’s silhouette slowly blended into the darkness waiting at the stairwell…he vanished.
I didn’t know what exactly he was planning, but it was a good opportunity. At this point, I wouldn’t have to worry about being spotted by that man.
I snuck into the washroom slash changing room. I switched on the lights, as I could not see my outstretched fingers.
I let out a sigh of relief once I saw the empty, bright room. I could finally be rid of my burden…
O’ damned gloomy woman sealed deep within my consciousness, I shall never let you out again.
I solemnly swore to myself, and approached the laundry basket next to the washing machine.
And then, an ominous feeling raged wildly up my spine.
There were two laundry baskets. Mom had one for the girls and another for the guys, having considered that her daughter’s at that age.
One of them was the girls’ basket.
My distracted eyes were fixed upon the top of the stack of clothes. It was akin to an eldritch altar. There was something upon it, showing something I did not want to understand; a fact so shocking, it rattled me completely.
—There was a bra.
From its size and the brand, it was obviously mine.
Every time I removed my clothes, I made sure that my bra was hidden at the bottom.
That man did the same. The thing in my hand had actually been at the very bottom of the laundry basket.
Nobody in our household would blatantly expose their underwear to the others.
That being the case…
Why was my bra simply left at the top of the basket?
I silently buried the boxers into the male laundry basket.
…A pair of boxers landed atop the large pile of laundry.
I remembered something.
I came to the washroom because I had something to do, and that man so happened to appear from the bathroom. He was dressed, nothing happened—but his thin shoulders were shivering a little, thinking back about it.
I also remembered him moving his hand behind his back. Wait, was he hiding something?
I silently left the washroom slash changing room, moved through the corridor, up the stairs, through the second floor, and opened the door.
“Huh? …Wh-what!? You’re not knocking in the middle of the night…”
He turned his face around in shock.
For a guy, his shoulders were too delicate, and the cardigan somehow suited him well. However, I had a spiel of a thousand words within my heart, waiting to be unleashed upon his thin body.
But…I couldn’t say anything.
There were too many words for my tongue to churn, and my face was just getting hotter and hotter.
“…Say, what’s with you? Why did you just barge into someone else’s room to blush? What sorcery is this—”
These were the words I finally uttered.
“Look, at, the laundry basket. You’ll, know.”
Mizuto looked as though the world was ending.
He thought his actions were exposed—that expression of his was a little pleasing, but really unfortunately, I wasn’t in the mood to burst out laughing at him.
I made way, and Mizuto hurried down the stairs with thumping footsteps.
Within 30 seconds, he returned faster than he did going downstairs.
His flushed face was trying to tell me something, but ultimately, he couldn’t say anything. See, that’s what would happen, right?
Having taken the time to calm down a little, I solemnly declared, “We’re starting a family meeting right now.”
Both of us insisted we didn’t want to be on the opponent’s home turf,, so we agreed to hold a meeting at the living room, in the dead of night.
Mizuto was at the bend of the L-shaped sofa, and I sat about three seats away from him. I couldn’t calm down if I didn’t see his face, and there’s no way I could sit next to him—this was the only choice I had.
“…We’ll decide who starts first.”
I turned my eyes towards the TV facing us, hushing my voice.
Mom and stepdad were sleeping in the bedroom on the first floor—or maybe not, but we had to remain quiet no matter what. The one ironclad rule we had from the beginning was to not make too much noise.
“…Got it. How are we deciding that?”
“Keep it simple, rock-paper-scissors.”
“Winner goes first?”
“Loser goes first, of course.”
“…Yeah. Then, rock, paper, scissors—”
After three ties, I ended up losing.
I went first.
I started with an excuse.
“I DIDN’T HAVE A CHOICE!!”
“STOP YELLING RIGHT FROM THE START YOU IDIOT!”
We hurriedly poke our heads around the corridor, looking towards the room. Didn’t seem like mom woke up from that.
We slithered back to the sofa, and I started to explain.
“…I didn’t have a choice. It was a crime perpetrated by the dormant demon slumbering within me.. It’s not my fault.”
“Seriously, you mind coming up with a proper reason, please?”
“I’m just going back to my old gloomy period…! I wouldn’t normally… with your underwear…!”
“Like hell it’s your gloomy period. You’re making it sound like stealing my boxers isn’t anything out of the ordinary for you back in eighth grade. Any reason for that?”
Ah damn it…Was I just revealing my black history now?
“…D-do I have to tell you that, too…?”
“Yep. No hiding anything from each other at this point. Let’s bare our weaknesses here.”
“Uuuuuu…! Do-don’t think that this is disgusting, okay?”
“No problem. You’re already disgusting to begin with.”
“I heard that!? But if you put it that way…”
With all hope lost, I confessed to all the past sins I committed.
In other words, I told him all about how I’d tucked everything he’d ever given me into a treasure box, from the eraser down to even pocket change.
What’s with this interrogation…I thought I sealed away my black history, but I had to confess everything to him. Couldn’t an eldritch evil or something bury everything in the veil of darkness?
“So, you’re saying you suddenly had a hoarding relapse, or something…”
I looked aside from time to time and found Mizuto not looking at me. He was covering his mouth, practically burying his face, his shoulders huffing up and down.
Argh, this guy…!
“…Yo-you said you wouldn’t find this disgusting, didn’t you!?”
Mizuto gave me a sideways glance me, then turned his head away.
U-uuu…! Should I be hurt, ashamed, or furious!? My mood remained unstable as I panicked, pulling close to Mizuto.
“Th-that’s all in the past, though! I’m different now!”
“N-no, I get that, I get that, okay?”
“Look at me when you say that…!”
I was flatly rejected. He really didn’t want to look at my face, huh? I see, I see. Really sorry for being a disgusting, gloomy woman.
I pouted, only to find Mizuto’s ears a little red…erm.
“A-are you happy…? You’re happy to hear that I kept your pocket change and eraser…?”
“I’m not happy at all. You’re disgusting. Really disgusting.”
“Then look at me and say that!”
“I said I don’t wanna!”
Mizuto stubbornly kept turning his face away. Ahh seriously… ! My face’s getting hot too!
I fanned my face with my hand. I really had to avoid reacting in a way that’d cause a misunderstanding. I didn’t want anyone to think I still liked this man.
“…Speaking of…” Mizuto continued to look aside as he tried to change topics. “Didn’t expect you to confess everything honestly. Could’ve come up with an excuse, then accuse me.”
Mizuto looked at me in surprise, and this time, I was the one who turned away.
“…You just realized that you could have done that, right?”
“……N-not at all. This is…in the name…of fair play—”
“Didn’t you just really want to tell me? At this point, just admit it already. You really want to show off how much of a pervert you are, huh?”
Why’s this guy saying the exact same thing as my delusions back then!? Is he a telepath!?
Mizuto frowned as he clicked his tongue. He was just trying to buy time to think up a good defense for himself, huh? I glared intently at his face, and he awkwardly spoke up.
“Actually, in my case…you might not believe me..”
“I never believed you to begin with, and you’re saying that?”
“……You dropped it on the floor, so I picked it up.”
I stared at the dumb looking sidelong face.
“…Y-you’re despicable…! Why does yours sound like a decent excuse…!?”
“No, I’m being honest…! It fell in front of the basket! I picked it up and was about to drop it into the basket, but you entered…!”
“……What happened to confessing each other’s weaknesses? Why not just admit to it? I’ll forgive you this time. C’mon, just admit you masturbated with my bra!”
“You…?! Just who…?!”
Mizuto turned away again.
…Erm, wait. If you don’t deny that, I’ll be really bothered…
“N-no, I didn’t do that at all. No way. Just, erm…”
“……It’s bigger than I thought……”
I opened my mouth, wanting to lash out, but I couldn’t say anything.
…Ahhhhhh!! Why’s it me who’s getting these embarrassing memories!?
My bust did grow rapidly after dating this guy, and he might be surprised by that—ack, wait a minute!
How did he know about my bust size…? How did he figure out that my bust was bigger than it was in middle school?
…Just how much had this guy been staring at my chest?
“…Y-you didn’t…do any-anything weird to my bra, right…!?”
“……Weird, such as?”
Mizuto fidgeted and retorted, and I was the one left speechless.
“Don’t worry. I just made a trip between the changing room and my room—I swear I didn’t do anything else.”
“You didn’t finger the cups?”
“There’s a delay in that answer though!”
Mizuto nearly blurted out as he stifled his voice. He sighed, and continued,
“…Since you asked so much, lemme ask. Did you do anything weird to my boxers? Did you sniff them?”
“…Get it? Let’s never speak of this again.”
“…Yes. Seems like this will be preferable.”
I never thought there would come a day when I would agree with this man. Undergarments, the invention of humanity’s genesis.
Now, since both sides stated their excuses, what came after—
“…What now, Yume-san?”
“Well, actually…you fouled out, didn’t you?”
“That’s the rule, right? Got it.”
No siblings would actually steal each other’s underwear. Most of the time anyway.
“Time for our deal…now then, what shall I have you do, little brother?”
“You shitty sister, don’t think I’ll let you off just because we both suffered.”
Henceforth, the meeting was its most chaotic, before we finally came up with a vague conclusion, ‘that each of us could give the other one order without breaking public order or morality’.
I regained some consciousness, and felt something amiss about the pillow. I moved my head about.
What’s going on…it’s not soft, yet so strangely comfy…it doesn’t smell good, but my heart’s pounding madly…
Still somewhat dazed, I rolled about, and buried my face into the pillow.
The smell of this pillow…was somewhat similar to those boxers…
Smell similar…to those boxers?
Once this thought crossed my mind, my consciousness returned.
I opened my eyelids in gear.
And then, I realized my current predicament.
I was sleeping…on the sofa.
On Mizuto’s thighs.
In other words, a thigh pillow.
My thoughts ceased, my prior memories summoned.
I remembered holding a family meeting with this guy because of the underwear—and then?
I didn’t remember returning to my room.
Wait…did I sleep here…?
I slowly woke up.
The cardigan draped upon me fell off…it was not mine. It was…yeah, Mizuto’s.
It’s Spring, but the night’s cold as usual. Did this man put it on me while I was sleeping…?
Mizuto fell asleep, and was unable to move, probably because I used his thighs as a pillow.
…Even though he would be cold after giving me his clothes.
Let’s repay this favor then. I picked up the cardigan, and put it on the sleeping Mizuto.
At that moment—his lips twitched a little.
My heart jolted.
…Seriously…who did he dream about, and when? Did he still have feelings?
But well…since it was a dream, it wasn’t anything to fuss about
At that moment, Mizuto’s eyes opened.
I was stupefied, speechless.
Mizuto showed a mischievous smirk up close.
“You look like you’re in a good mood, so early in the morning. Happy I called you by your old family name in my dreams?”
“Anyway, that’s a foul right? ‘Siblings don’t call each other by family names’!””
“I just said the name of a certain classmate back in eighth grade. Still feeling nostalgia over me calling you that?”
I-if you say that…! Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu~!
“Don’t blush like that. Can’t tell if you’re embarrassed or angry…but this is just a little payback. You can’t begrudge me here.”
“Payback…!? What did I do to you…!?”
“What did you do, huh? You should take a photo of your sleeping self if you want to know.” Mizuto said frivolously, shaking his head. “Well, it’s about time for dad to wake up. Let’s pick up our good siblings charade now, little sister.”
“…I said I’m the older one. See, I hate you because you always make a fuss over tiny details.”
“Right back at you.”
Mizuto said, which infuriated me.
“The only thing I like about you is how clearly you say you dislike me… It avoids misunderstandings.”
“What I mean is, now we have our own lives. Let’s continue to live as we please, without causing trouble for each other, that is.”
Well you never did anything other than reading, whether it’s the past, or the present. I was the one who invited you out for the dates. That’s what I hate about you.
But I had to admit that your words made some sense.
The present’s the present. That past’s the past.
The one grateful for that little eraser was that old me—this man’s girlfriend was the old me.
So we spent that terrifying night in a relatively peaceful manner.
It was just an idiot boy and an idiot girl doing idiotic things. What was terrifying about that?
I was on the way back from school, recollecting those somewhat exaggerated moments. I was about to make a trip to the bookshop, and turned right to Karasuma Street. A little further down, I spotted my destination, the building right before the bus stop.
The bookshop was located on the second floor; there was a famous hamburger shop on the first floor. Both shops were frequented by students from our school. In fact, there were a few wearing the same school uniform as me.
I once came to this place with that man. We were upstairs, buying books, chatting about various things while reading, and it seemed our classmates noticed us—
I recalled the past as I grabbed the escalator railing to the second floor.
—And right before my eyes was an unbelievable, hellish scene.
The hamburger shop on the first level was really noisy because of the students. Amongst them…
My little stepbrother—was sitting next to a girl with black braided hair.
Echoing in my mind were Mizuto’s words from yesterday.
—Let’s continue to live as we please, without causing trouble for each other, that is.
Was this what he meant by as we please?