What exactly are friends?
I had a feeling that I would be dismissed as someone without friends if I asked so, but actually, I would say that I had zero experience. I never had interest in interacting with those around me, since elementary school to middle school to now, and only had some ‘acquaintances’ for the sake of survival, at most.
Even Kogure Kawanami, who I started talking to from time to time since entering high school, was nothing more than a comrade, a compatriot, a fellow victim. He called me his friend, but I couldn’t say likewise.
So, what are friends?
What do I have to do to make friends?
“Oho, is this a conversation of defining what friends are, Mizuto-kun? This topic is one of the few things this Isana Higashira is bad at.”
The girl, Isana Higashira, said as she cupped her knees together on the floor, by the windowside air conditioning in the library.
“It’s a question to define the line of friendship from interpersonal relationships, right? Do we call each other friends just by knowing each other’s names, or are we friends just from talking, or that we’re friends after exchanging LINE numbers? Isn’t this a really interesting topic!? Let’s get down to it then!”
“Higashira, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone so agitated because of this topic. And what do you mean, get down to it?”
“Well, think about it. Depending on how we define friends, maybe the ones who asked me about the progress of the work this morning can be considered one, you know?”
“Stop this wanton usage of the term friendship.”
“When someone you’re on good terms with becomes a bullying target, you can then say ‘he’s not my friend’. Wow, what a revolutionary discovery!”
“Someone like you is never going to make friends!”
I said this one thing I was certain about, even though I had zero clue on the proper definition of friendship, and Higashira put her stoic face on her cupped knees.
“That’s what they call ironic, Mizuto-kun. You know what a liar paradox is, right?”
“I know. And by the way, I know what is probatio diabolica and Hempel’s ravens.”
“Hiii, my buildup of philosophy got wiped out.”
“Don’t try to get an advantage on me using knowledge you learned from light novels. So what happened to that self-proclaimed liar?”
“If you say that I can’t make friends, then what makes you when you’re chatting with me like this, Mizuto-kun?”
Higashira tilted her head as she looked towards me.
“Well, this is what I want to ask. What do you think? What do I think about you? What do you think about me? So what is it actually?”
“I think we’re friends? If you’re bullied, I’ll definitely be bullied with you, Mizuto-kun.”
“Help me out here. You aren’t reliable at all.”
“I can’t say I am.”
Higashira shook her body from side to side as an expression, a replacement for her facial expression, and thought.
Well, she declared that she wouldn’t pretend to be an outsider even when I were bullied, and would even share my pain. That’s friends, maybe?
I suppose I should start explaining.
Who exactly is this girl who suddenly showed up and chatted with me.
But really, at this point, there’s nothing to explain. It’s as Higashira said.
Isana Higashira is my friend.
She’s probably the one friend I got on best with in my entire life.
I probably wouldn’t find a better friend than her.
It’s probably the same for her. We definitely could conclude so.
◆ Mizuto ◆
I always frequented the library, and recently, I’d been visiting this place all the time.
Whenever class ended, I naturally would move to the library.
It’s usually quiet and empty after school.
And as usual, there wasn’t anyone at the reading corner, just a bespectacled librarian at the service counter, reading silently. One had to wonder if the crowded library during the exam period was a dream, given the current situation.
But when I said that it’s empty, it’s just on first glance from the entrance.
I went to the other side, as the racks formed blind spots at the corners.
There was an air-conditioning built together with the school building, by the windowside. There was a girl, basically protruding from the rack, sitting with her knees tucked in over there.
She had the school loafers on the floor, her socks rolled up and stuffed in there, and sat there, bare footed. She put it next to the air-conditioning, her white toes twitching about. There might be a risk of seeing her panties if she sat there with her knees tucked while in a skirt, but she might be well experienced at this, and blocked the sight with her legs.
She put her chin on her knees like a shriveled cat, and I could see from afar that she was reading a bunko. It’s obvious from the cover. It’s “The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya”, a novel under the Kadokawa Sneaker imprint.
“Yo Higashira. Haruhi today?”
I talked to the barefooted girl, Isana Higashira, as I sat down next to her. I really was bothered about the idea of sitting down like Higashira diid, onto the air-conditioning area that wasn’t meant to be sat on.
“No, Mizuto-kun. It’s Nagato day today.”
Higashira said as she flipped a page.
“Right now, I want to be loved by a petite bespectacled maiden. Nagato in “Disappearance” is the cutest no matter how many times I read it. I want a girlfriend like her.”
“Can’t you just wear glasses yourself?”
“Haaa~…goodness, you really don’t understand at all, Mizuto-kun. What you said is the same as telling a galge player to ‘print out a 3D model of yourself and make it a pretty girl’, you know?”
“I think there’s a surprising number of people who’ll be happy with that.”
“That is lamentable. Haven’t you thought of it before, Mizuto-kun? Haven’t you wanted a strong yet petite bespectacled girlfriend? I’m starting to doubt your personality.”
“Stop doubting. I say, to you, anyone who doesn’t want a bespectacled girlfriend should be in a psych ward.”
“Is that so…”
Seems like it.
If we’re talking bespectacled characters, the only one i could think of would be Minami-san in disguise, but if we’re adding on the fact that she has to be strong, it becomes another few.
…Well, I would be lying if I said that I never wanted her. At the very least, I wouldn’t be deemed as a psychopath.
“Anyway, I never heard you mention anything about moe characters, Mizuto-kun. You don’t have to be embarrassed, you know? You can tell me alone, like, your first crush is Asuna.”
“First, I’m not embarrassed by it. Second, I never loved Asuna.”
“Eh? Then Mikoto Misaka? So you have that too…?”
“Why in the world do you think my first love is a light novel character!?”
My first love is an ordinary 3D human!
Well, at this point, it goes without saying that Isana Higashira’s a light novel reader.
It’s rather uncommon for a girl to be such…actually, I wasn’t sure if that’s the case, but I never actually heard of a girl who was such an avid reader of light novels.
I read about 10% of the hundred light novels published every month! So she declared (since for a student’s budget, 10 books would be a limit), and she got along with me quite well, since I read pretty much all genres.
Combat, romcom, sci-fi, mysteries, light novels are basically a melting pot of various genres, so in a certain sense, she could keep up with my thought process since she doesn’t focus on a genre.
Like, whenever I talk about Lovecraft, she would answer with “Nyarko”. When I talked about Osamu Dazai, she would answer with “Oregairu”.
She’s completely different from a certain someone who could only talk about mystery.
I only spent a few days with Higashira in this library, but since we had no other reading buddy around, we ended up reading together every day after school, or just talked about some unimportant stuff through the phone.
As to why she continued to address me formally even though we’re on familiar terms—
“Well, you see, isn’t it troublesome to address some people formally and other people normally? Isn’t it easier to just speak formally to everyone?”
—I guess that’s why.
She didn’t have that many people to talk with that she would find it a hassle, but she certainly was efficiency driven. Ah, so that’s how it is, but in hindsight, I wasn’t much different myself when that was my first thought after hearing that.
We would basically greet each other, but my time with Higashira was mostly spent on silent reading.
After all, private chatter in the library’s forbidden. Even though we were in the corner, we had to behave ourselves.
We would occasionally show some interesting passages or illustrations, but we were basically two readers—or rather, two otakus—sitting together, that’s all.
So we continued to read together silently, and the closing time loomed.
“…Ah, it’s that time again?”
Heyo, Higashira continued to keep her knees tucked next to the air-conditioning, and reached her hands for the loafers and socks on the floor. But,
“…I can’t do it. Yare yare, if only my breasts are a little smaller…”
Higashira had been sitting with her knees tucked in, and her breasts were viciously pressed down by her knees. I see, they’re certainly big enough for those self-proclaimed feminists to scoff at. It seemed she had exceptional confidence in her breasts, since she didn’t have anything else outstanding.
“Mizuto-kun, please put on my shoes and socks.”
“You’re getting addicted to this…?”
She wriggled her bare feet, and I had no choice but to put on her socks and shoes. I felt like I was taking care of a kid, and according to her, it felt like she was taken care of by a butler, and she liked it.
Her feet landed on the floor, which she had not stepped on for hours.
“Let’s go home then~”
She walked next to me, and left the library alongside me.
After all, we would be headed in the same direction until halfway through, and I had become accustomed to accompanying her until then.”
“Say, why did god create us to be attracted to busty pretty girls with an eye covered. Is this what they mean by a DNA security breach?”
“Don’t count me in like that. I’ve never simped for them.”
“You’re kidding again~!”
“Stop it! Don’t cover your eye, you busty girl.”
Higashira, who confessed to having a shocking G sized cup, tried covering an eye with her hand. She never hesitated in flaunting her own body for mischief.
And right when we continued with this long endless conversation at the stairs.
The two familiar looking people blurted out upon meeting us.
A girl with long black hair, looking like an honor student, and a little animal-like girl with a ponytail.
Yume Irido and Minami Akatsuki.
“Ah, Irido-kun? Heading home now~?”
Minami-san approached me with light footsteps as she called out with a clear voice.
“So you stayed at the library until now? …Eh, the girl is…?”
And Higashira, upon being noticed by Minami-san, immediately hid behind me.
“I-it’s a riajuu under the sun…! A riajuu under the sun, Mizuto-kun…!”
She acted like a squirrel terrified by a nemesis. Higashira’s not really short (she’s probably taller than 160cm), but she was acting more like a little animal than Minami-san.
I could understand her feelings however, since I was more of a low profile guy myself. I ignored the fact that she grabbed me from behind, and said to Minami-san,
“She’s Isana Higashira. Just met her recently, feels like we can get along. She’s from…class 3, right?”
“Well, as you can see, she’s a really shy person, so please consider keeping your distance.”
“…An acquaintance you know of recently? Heh~…”
Minami-san reached her neck behind my back, and Higashira went to my side to avoid her stare. Wait, isn’t that too rude?
“It’s rare to have someone be so familiar with Irido-kun, you know? Seems like you two are on good terms.”
“Have you introduced her to Yume-chan?”
I turned my eyes towards Yume, who watched us from afar.
Yume fiddled with her hair, her eyes narrowed, and she turned her back.
“…Let’s hurry off, Akatsuki-san. School’s closing.”
“Hm, ahh, yeah! See you tomorrow then, Irido-kun!”
Minami-san hurried back towards Yume, and both of them left together.
I saw their backs shrink, and Higashira finally poked her head from behind.
“…You know that pretty and unapproachable beauty, Mizuto-kun?”
“She’s my little sister.”
What’s with the big reaction at that part?”
“Awawawawa…a protagonist…we got a light novel protagonist here…”
“I really find it a little hard to refute when I used to think so too…”
How would her reaction be like if I told her that she was my ex.
Higashira’s breathing was a little heavy, and she took a step towards me.
“Please allow me to hear so. So, she’s your little sister, stepsister. A brocon?”
“Don’t impose your twisted morals onto me. A little sister doesn’t necessarily mean a brocon.”
“Brocons are just fabled creatures. That’s stated on wikipedia too.”
I changed into my shoes while Higashira hastily checked on her phone.
“There’s no such thing!”
“The term itself has labels like ‘source?’ ‘citations?’ ‘where?’ ‘who?’. It just got deleted.”
“That’s just the editor being delusional!”
◆ Yume ◆
My little stepbrother has a girlfriend.
No, it’s supposed to be a painless thing. It’s really not something worth mentioning more than an ‘OIC’. For me though, it was groundbreaking.
After all, it’s that guy, you know?
That shady, sarcastic guy who would rather die than talk, always putting barriers against everything around him. He has a girlfriend?
—I-it’s a riajuu under the sun…! A riajuu under the sun, Mizuto-kun…!
She called him by his given name!
You gotta be kidding!? It took me a week or so to address Akatsuki-san like that!…even I never managed to address him by name…!
I never thought of it, until just now.
I never thought there would be a girl who would be on such good terms with him.
He might never interact fully with anyone, maybe forever, let alone fall in love…so I thought somewhere in my heart, being all conceited.
My mind was in complete chaos, and I swung my fists hard onto the pillow.
Why was I so anxious? Why was I being so restless?
It felt like, I was being jealous, right?
It’s like I had a big argument after saying something unnecessary, just like back then, which was the ignition resulting in our break up.
I was unwilling to remember more of the past, and buried my face into the pillow.
I don’t want…I don’t want to repeat that experience again.
If that happens, I-I’ll do something unnecessary again. Like, as though I didn’t regret my actions, didn’t reflect on it.
I’m no longer the same as I was in middle school.
The Yume Ayai who was always nitpicky about the minor stuff, weak yet strangely stubborn, always doing unnecessary stuff that ended up ruining everything no longer existed.
I lifted my head, and took a deep breath again.
I exhaled all the past that occupied my heart, and looked at myself who had changed myself for the better.
I cooled my head, and cleared my thoughts. I felt as good as a phone with its storage completely cleaned out. My feelings that were in a mess until a while ago seemed to have gotten an answer, like a maths question.
I, am, not, jealous.
I am no longer his lover, and to me, he’s just an adopted family.
Q.E.D. Case closed.
I established an Ellery Queen deduction, and got up from the bed.
I swapped my uniform for my home clothes, combed my messy hair, and looked at the table. There were several novels unsealed due to the end of the exams.
I picked up a book. It was a translation of a foreign mystery book, written by S.S.Van Dine.
The third of Van Dine twenty rules. There must be no love interest, to avoid involvement of irrational emotions in logical deductions.
◆ Mizuto ◆
“Going to the library again today?”
“Hm~. Let’s go then.”
I was wondering why Yume suddenly looked for me after school, but once she said those words, she left the classroom with Minami-san and the others.
I saw her leave, and narrowed my eyes.
What’s with…this awkwardness?
It’s not vitriolic at all, aloof even.
Why didn’t I feel happy even after I had talked to her?
“Ah? What now, Irido? Seems like you’ve been staring at Irido-san…or to be precise, glaring.”
Kawanami immediately made a weird laugh, and stopped when I looked at him.
Seriously, I would hope you’d ask her instead of me about what’s going on.
…Well, whatever. It didn’t matter. We’ve been siblings for two months…she and I were probably getting used to our new environment.
“Bye then Kawanami. Will be off to the library.”
“Oho, I see you’ve been going to the library every day recently. Is it really fun over there?”
“About as fun as your room.”
“Don’t describe my room as if it’s a theme park!”
Well, it is, if your black history is the main attraction.
I offhandedly answered, and went down the already familiar corridor.
I arrived at the light novel section that was at a corner of the library, and as expected, Isana Higashira was seated on the floor, by the air conditioning.
“You’re always early, Higashira.”
“Of course. I don’t belong in the classroom.”
“Sad. Well, looks like I’ll accompany you again for today.”
Higashira twitched her body left and right, looking rather delighted. Her facial expression didn’t change though, not because she was not an emotional person, but that she did not train her facial muscles, so she said.
I sat next to her, and we looked at the book covers laid out before us as we started with our usual chit-chat.
We started from books, and onto recent affairs, so naturally, I thought of how Yume felt different.
“…My little stepsister has been acting weird recently.”
“The one I met yesterday? Weird, as in?”
“She’s more aloof, or maybe not. She’s being more gentle than usual…but for some reason, I didn’t feel annoyed talking with her recently. She wouldn’t bicker with me, and I feel that I’ve been able to talk normally with her.”
“I don’t understand. What’s bad about that?”
Anyway, wait, how did I end up discussing this with Higashira…the last time I looked to someone for help, it was to Kawanami because of Minami-san, right? I got a feeling that the implications of this might be completely different.
“Well to be honest, even if you do ask me about human relationships, I can only say a few words at most.”
“Sorry for doing something so cruel…”
“You make me sad!”
Higashira bumped her shoulder onto me, expressing anger. I was about to nudge her shoulder back, and she pressed her entire body weight onto me. Oy, stop enjoying this.
“Anyway, if you don’t want to discuss this with me, you can ask her, right? Why didn’t you do it?”
“…It’s a shame that I didn’t think of it at the time.”
“You’re always saying that. Surprisingly, are you an idiot, Mizuto-kun?”
“What did you just say? How about you say your exam rankings.”
“…Th-that’s because the subjects I’m good at aren’t recognized in this school…owwiie!?”
I poked at the temples of this poor performing student in this prep school, and thought.
…Well, she’s right. As she said, I could have asked her. It’s one thing if I didn’t have the chance, but the scary thing was that she’s living under the same roof as me.
Why exactly did I never think of raising this issue with her?
Because I didn’t want to talk to her? Because I was on bad terms with her?
In that case, I could have just left it be. I got along better with her compared to before.
Logically, I should have ignored this singularity.
“…I feel you should go along with what you think. Follow your heart.”
Higashira suddenly said so with tears in her eyes,
“Ah, no, erm, I think I’ll cause more trouble if someone like me gives advice! Sorry, please forget about—”
“No, go ahead. It’ll be my responsibility if I don’t hear you out.”
I let go of Higashira’s temple, and looked at her face. “Auu~” she let out a groan, her eyes wavered around, and once she glanced at my eyes, she said.
“…Isn’t there some form of standard in your eyes? Like, you hope for the world to be like this, that the world should be this standard?”
“And when that is under threat, well, if I have to put it, I’ll get into battle mode straight away. I’m like a little animal whose territory is under threat…that’s why I’ve been told often that I can’t read the mood—”
“Read the mood.”
Higashira said something that was a bit off, but I immediately understood something the moment I heard those words.
“Read the mood, huh…yeah, that’s it. I’ve been reading the mood whenever it comes to her.”
“Thanks Higashira…you really helped me out.”
And, I stared at her eyes, and said,
“Reading the mood is important, but you don’t have to do so in front of me, Higashira.”
“Make use of those around you. It’ll be a lot easier to let me handle the mood.”
Depending on how close we are, there is an appropriate behavior required.
We do need to read the mood if we’re friends, more or less, but it would be unlike to me read the mood when it comes to family, her.
“…T-thank you, very much…”
Higashira looked a little perturbed as she looked around, whispering so.
◆ Yume ◆
“Did your little brother get a girlfriend?”
It was noon, on a rare clear day in the middle of June, and we were having lunch at the long bench in the garden when Nasuka-san, the sleepyface, suddenly asked this question.
The chopsticks that stopped were not mine, but Maki-san’s, and her tall imposing body immediately went to Nasuka-san.
“E-eh!? What’s going on what’s going on!? The brother got a girlfriend!? I wanna hear!”
“Don’t get so close to me…no, well, I saw him walking home with a girl yesterday after school. She really~ looks like an honest one, so I guess she’s probably the type to get along with him. Just wondering if she’s the girlfriend.”
“Ahh, Higashira-san? I met her before, you know.”
Akatsuki-san joined our conversation while slurping the milk she bought.
“They said they’re just ordinary friends, but is it really the case? They’re in different classes, but they meet every day. It’s really suspicious~”
“What kind of girl is she? Cute?”
“She doesn’t look impressive on first glance, but I think she has potential to stand out. Her boobs are super big.”
“Anyway Minami-chan, stop fixating at other people’s breasts.”
“I’m really envious though! I want my shoulders to be heavy! Look how light they are!”
Akatsuki-san huffed her shoulders repeatedly. Maki-san burst out laughing as she clapped away.
Next to us, Nasuka-san finally moved her mouth away from the juice straw, and looked at me.
“So what is it actually? His girlfriend?”
I didn’t stop moving my chopsticks however.
“Who knows? Maybe? I’m not too sure either.”
Nasuka-san started drinking her juice again.
Go me, I quietly thought.
If it were the past me, I would surely look suspicious in words and deeds whenever such a situation happened. At this point, I could make a calm decision from a neutral standpoint.
Full marks for me, given that we’ve been stepsiblings for a mere few months.
Noon break ended, afternoon classes ended, and it was the end of school. Akatsuki-san and I didn’t join any clubs after all, and we’re on our way home.
Maki-san and Nasuka-san had joined the basketball and the competitive karuta clubs respectively, so we went our separate ways.
The club Maki-san joined really befitted her image, but it was unexpected that Nasuka-san, the energy saver, would join one. According to her, “Drawing cards with the bare minimum actions suit my personality really well”.”
I was also shocked that unlike her, Akatsuki-san didn’t join any clubs. So many sports clubs haggled for her, but she rejected them all.
According to her, “it’s more important to go home with you, Yume-chan. That’s the hyperbole she said out of courtesy, but in fact, she didn’t like sports even though she was good at them.
“You seem a lot more poised compared to before recently, Yume-chan.”
Akatsuki-san suddenly jumped before me, and turned around.
“You used to be a lot uptight before, but you seem to be more at ease recently.”
“Really? But well, I think it’s because I’m used to my new life now, more or less. After all, it was a dramatic change.”
“Ahh~ I see~”
She lifted her head towards the somewhat dull yet clear skies covered in thin clouds, and took a step forward.
“Well, I like you as you are now, Yume-chan.”
“You feel a little sisterly. I’m a lone child, and I always wanted an older sister!”
…Older sister? Me?
My lips betrayed a smile…I see, so this is how I seem to others.
I felt happy, for there was some recognition of my growth..
“Thanks Akatsuki-san. Erm…you can discuss things with me if you got anything, you know? You don’t have to worry about it.”
I put on the airs of an older sister after I was egged on, and Akatsuki-san’s smile became brighter.
“Yipppeee! I love you Yume onee-chan!”
Akatsuki-san leaped onto me, and I frantically caught her.
She jumped into my clutches, and started rubbing onto my cheek.
“Ehehe~ Yume onee-chan, you smell nice…❤”
“Wait…! You’re overdoing it now!”
I tried to slow down Akatsuki-san, who’s more enthusiastic than I thought. Akatsuki-san then giggled at me, and I too giggled.
It feels so good not to be embarrassed, anxious, gloomy because of him!
I felt like I was finally free from the trap god laid two years ago. I’m a free bird. No matter what he said, I should be able to handle it unflinchingly. Ha!
I bade farewell to Akatsuki-san, and skipped towards the entrance.
Until yesterday, I needed to muster lots of courage just to pass the doors. There’s no need for that now. After all, he and I are living under the same roof, and he’s just an adopted family to me.
Family by itself should provide solace, not to provide tension.
I finally understood this after two months. Basically, I should ask him about Higashira as a family member. If they’re really dating, even though we’re just stepsiblings, as his older sister, it’s obvious that I would be curious—
And waiting at the entrance was a man who was my ideal come to life.
He had his hair combed neatly, he was finely dressed, and his lanky body was matched with intellectual looking glasses.
It was the nicely dressed Mizuto Irido, who I had met during our date a while back.
I was completely stupefied, as my heart couldn’t catch up with the sudden bliss that appeared before me, and (handsome) Mizuto suddenly walked towards me.
NO NO NO NO DON’T DON’T DON’T DON’T DON’T COME HERE YOUR CLOTHES ARE TOO MUCH FOR ME!!
The soft, long fingers reached for me, and I couldn’t help but freeze there.
My right hand was caught, and I was yanked over. I lost balance, tumbled forward, and Mizuto’s face was up close. Eh, what’s going on? Did something happen? What will happen to me? What are you planning!? It’s the corridor…!?
Mizuto’s fingers locked onto my wrist.
This posture, yes…it’s like he’s checking my pulse.
…No, it’s not, like…
“A normal human pulse beats at about once per second…yours is obviously double that.”
Mizuto showed a little smile on his lips, and said it while up close to me.
“So, little stepsister. Are mere stepsiblings supposed to have their hearts race this much just because they see a different getup from usual?”
It’s…exactly the same thing I did during Mother’s Day!
I-I was careless…! It’s my fault for saying something like ‘involuntary muscle movement is not considered’…!
I hastily racked my brain, thinking of an excuse for myself.
“I-I was just a little shocked! Think about it, the heart beats faster when we’re shocked, right?”
Mizuto then stared at me intently through those glasses.
For some reason, I couldn’t look away. Ahhhhhhhhh the eyebrows are so long and the lips are so thin and the bridge is so high…!
I couldn’t handle it.
I had to cover my face with my hands, and lower my head. He looked so handsome after all. It didn’t matter whether he’s my little stepbrother. I couldn’t control myself when it came to things I liked after all!
“…Hey, shall we change the rules next time?”
“‘No tempting of the other through looks’.”
“Sure. We’ll start from the next time though.”
Mizuto cautiously emphasized, and pulled his distance from me.
“So, that’s how it is, little sister. I’m doing this because I have something to say.”
I looked aside as I didn’t want to look at him in the eyes, and he clearly declared before me.
“I really, can’t stand you, as you are now!”
I couldn’t help but look back at Mizuto; his arms were folded, and he looked rather furious.
“You look so calm and understanding, and I don’t feel angry talking to you now. You don’t jab at me, you’re not being nitpicky, and it’s like, you’re doing nothing to annoy me!”
Isn’t this a good thing…?
Mizuto pointed his index finger at this confused me.
“If there’s any change in your mental state, please discuss with me.”
My heart jolted
“A book I read recently says that it is a given that the little sister relies on the older brother.”
I heard him grumble, and while dumbstruck, I burst out laughing.
“Don’t tell me it’s from a light novel? A series featuring a heavy brocon of a little sister.”
“Yeah, just like you.”
I’m the little sister now?
And—a big brocon?
“I see…guess I have no choice now.”
Strangely, I wasn’t rattled about it at all. I did actually convey my own thoughts honestly.
“…More importantly, I have a condition .”
“What? You’re rather arrogant for a little sister.”
“Change your clothes.”
I turned my head aside, moving Mizuto out of my sight.
“……I can’t calm down when you’re dressed like this…”
“Sure. Come in.”
Once Mizuto was done changing, I entered his room.
This messy room contained various books that the bookshelves could not hold, and seemed to be a doppelganger of him. One might say he spent his 16 years living in these books.
But appearing in my eyes were books filled with colorful illustrations…those were the books I didn’t know of, that Higashira-san did.
Ugh, I felt something stabbed into my heart, and I could no longer ignore it.
Mizuto’s sitting next to the bed. At this point, I really couldn’t muster the courage to sit next to him. I dragged the chair from under his desk, and sat on it. I didn’t look towards the bed, and instead, towards the desk that was not really tidied…maybe I should tidy his table later.
After that, I hesitated for a little moment, and added,
“What, little sister?”
At this point, I was the little sister, and he’s the older brother.
And that’s why this conversation, this stubbornness, was to be expected.
“I’m……jealous of Higashira-san.”
I said those words easily, without hesitation, without stopping.
Mizuto merely listened to me silently.
“I only called you by your family name until the end, but she called you by you given name so quickly…so it’s like, I can’t accept this.”
“But on second thought, I felt that there’s no reason to be jealous…”
So I stopped.
And then, I felt completely refreshed and relieved.
But by doing this, I probably…
“…Hey, can I ask you something?”
“You aren’t annoying me at all whenever we talk, and you’re not jabbing at me, you’re not being nitpicky….what are you not used with.”
“Who knows…but if I have to say.”
The voice was a little deeper than usual, and eked out from his mouth like a water droplet.
“…Maybe it’s because I don’t want to take it that nothing happened. I don’t really know though.”
You’re different from me…you really can articulate things that are so intangible.
The reason why I felt so relieved, so relaxed, was simply because I was willing to break away.
That’s just a moment of happiness I had after discarding everything I had wholeheartedly devoted to.
It’s…no, surely in the future, it’d become a regret for me.
And at this point, you, who’re in the same position as me, allowed me to realize this.
I called him, half-jokingly to hide my own shame.
“Even if we’re just ordinary stepsiblings who never dated…it’s fine for me to be jealous, right?”
“No actually, a little sister being jealous of her brother’s friend is quite the disgusting idea, right?” (TN: For reference, the author also writes ‘Do You Think You Can Run After Reincarnating, Nii-san?’)
“Wait a minute!?”
I immediately lost the pedestal I had, and hurriedly looked towards Mizuto, who gave a gentle, wry smile.
“Don’t worry. You’re already disgusting as you are. I knew that two years ago.”
I opened my mouth, wanting to say something, but I couldn’t.
I turned my head aside once again, towards the top of the desk, and finally eked out a feeble voice.
“…Onii-chan, you’re disgusting.”
“Oh, finally, something most appropriate from a little sister.”
◆ Mizuto ◆
The day after I got scolded furiously by my little stepsister over a misunderstanding that ‘a little sister is one who should always chide her older brother’.
I went to the library as usual, and told Higashira about what happened, as a consultation.
Of course, I kept it vague that I used to have a relationship with Yume though.
Higashira nodded away as she heard my explanation.
“…So, which contest are you going to submit this story under?”
“It’s not a self-written light novel.”
Higashira covered her mouth in shock. There’s no expression on her face, but her gestures sure were animated.
“So a brocon little sister…isn’t just some fabled creature…”
“Well, it’s not listed in wikipedia though…”
“I’m a little moved…I wish you two happiness…”
I felt like I was nervous for nothing when she blessed us after hearing what happened.
“But speaking of which, jealous of me…I guess there’s always something weird in life.”
“Don’t make it sound like some phenomenon that can’t be explained with science. She‘s just belittling me, thinking that she’s the only person who would care about someone like me, so your entrance was very unexpected. She’s really rude.”
“I see. I’d be jealous too if you suddenly have other friends, Mizuto-kun.”
Hm? Speaking of which, I supposed she didn’t know anything about Kawanami.
…Well whatever, he’s just a self-proclaimed friend of mine.
I remembered that she kicked my chair when I first met him. It ended like that, so well, Higashira might be overreacting, right?
I couldn’t say that I didn’t understand her feelings, since she only called me by my family name when we dated, but well, isn’t she addressing Minami-san by given name? I don’t get her…what’s the difference between Kawanami and Higashira?
So we continued reading as usual, and once the broadcast informed us that the school was closing, and we went to the school gates together.
It was there where we were ambushed.
“Ah, they’re here! Lookie look Yume-chan, they’re here!”
Two girls were waiting for us near the school gates.
It was without saying that they were Akatsuki Minami and Yume Irido.
Higashira acted like a squirrel facing her nemesis.
“Yaaa~! Irido-kun and…Higashira-san? Right? We’ve been waiting.”
The approaching Minami-san waved at us, and I was puzzled.
“Waiting for us? Why?”
“Why exactly? I don’t really know though. We were hanging around nearby after school, then Yume suggested to welcome you back.”
I looked past Minami-san’s ponytail, and found Yume standing at the school gate. She glanced at me, and then approached us.
The long black hair swayed as she walked, and she said with a smile,
But not to me.
She said these words to Higashira, who was behind me.
“Nice to meet you, Higashira-san.”
She went behind me, and said with a forceful tone.
“Thank you for being friends with Mizuto. I’m his older stepsister, Yume Irido.”
The air seemingly froze, and sparks could be heard flying.
There was clear hostility in her smile, unlike the regal demeanour she usually showed.
How hard is she taking the fact that Higashira’s addressing me by name…!? She’s a walking landmine of a woman! Goodness, I want to go back in time and change history!
I froze in trepidation, and then Minami-san pointed her cellphone screen at me. Written on the notepad app was a line.
“What did you do?”
So I slid my finger on the phone in response.
The phone was then jabbed into my flank. Th-this crazy woman never intended to get married with me in the first place…!
And next to us, Yume continued to face Higashira, her hand reached out. Come on, who’s going to shake your hand? You’re clearly acting like you’re going to crush Higashira’s hand.
Minami-san and I tensed up..
Higashira blinked, looked back and forth between Yume’s face and her hand, and seemed rather wary. She hardly interacted with anyone, and probably was terrified by Yume’s hostility—
“Ah, yes, please take care of me.”
—and she held the hand.
I, Minami-san and Yume, we widened our eyes in shock.
And Higashira just stared at the three of us while the mood got awkward. She seemed very incredulous.
“Eh, e-erm, di-did I do anything weird…? So-sorry sorry…! I’ve always been told since young that I can’t read the mood…!”
“…Erm~Higashira-san? Can I ask you something?”
Higashira looked a little apprehensive, and Minamisan asked cautiously.
“What kind of existence is Irido-kun to you?”
“Eh? A friend with a common interest.”
And the one with the biggest response to the immediate reply was Yume.
“…Ah…eh, oh? …huh…I, see…”
She started looking around, as though seeking a comrade, and looked down at the hand she was holding again, blushing.
“E-erm, sorry! Please take care of me!”
“Eh, ah, okay…?”
With both hands, Yume held a completely befuddled Higashira by the hand hand.
…Hahaaaaa, I see. This would explain the ridiculous hostility shown towards Higashira.
I understood immediately, only to see Minami-san giggling away, giving an annoying smile.
“(She’s not into him at all~ this is funny.)”
What’s funny about this anyway? Are you wooing me or looking down on me? Can you be clear about this? And you’re making it sound like I have a thing for Higashira.
“E-erm, Mizuto-kun…wh-what is this situation? Can you explain to me…? I-I think I am at my limit in terms of communication…”
“H-huh!? You’re really explaining it!? Hey, wait…!”
I pointed at my flustered little stepsister.
“Higashira, the woman there…is wondering you’re interested in me.”
You’re noisy. Shut up. So I shoved my bag onto her face.
“I already told her that you’re just my friend, but it doesn’t look like she believes me at all. Right now she’s calling my name in front of you, exerting dominance.”
“You’re cruel Irido-kun…”
Minami-san looked completely flabbergasted, but I had to explain anyway, since otherwise, Higashira wouldn’t understand our situation.
Yume’s face was completely beetroot as she collapsed to the floor. Haaa, it’s your fault for agitating others, and more laughably, it didn’t work at all.
Higashira looked left and right, completely nonplussed, and seemed to be digesting my words.
“Me, towards Mizuto-kun…ehhh~…?”
“I-it is what it is! You two go home together every day! Anyone would have assumed so!”
“I agree with this wholeheartedly! Anyone would have thought so! Even I felt the same!”
Minami-san started to defend Yume, “mmmm” and Higashira gave her a troubled look,
“Mizuto-kun, I guess it’s the second time in my life that I wish I’m a boy. Just to note that the first time was when I had my first period. I really wished back then that I would be isekaied with a body that won’t bleed between my buttocks…”
“……Oy you two, hear that? Will any girl say such things to a guy she likes?”
Yume and Minami-san exchanged awkward looks, and pondered for quite a while. Both of them then turned around in unison, lowering their heads towards Higashira.
“”Sorry to blame you for nothing.””
“Eh!? They’re apologizing to me, but why are they pulling their distance from me. M-Mizuto-kun! Am I being hated here!? I’m being hated right!?”
“You’re hated, yeah. Same here.”
“Fuuueeeeeeeeeeehhhh~~~~!! I’m sorrrrrryyyyy~~~!! Please don’t leave me behind~~~~~~!!”
Higashira approached me, looking all teary, and I consoled her while patting her. She seemed to be overly reliant on me, probably because I was her only friend. I felt very relieved to interact with her, since she felt like a large clingy dog.
Yume and Minami-san gave us troubled looks, to me who patted Higashira on the head, and to Higashira who had her head patted.
“…Yume-chan, interpersonal relationships are really tough.”
“…I think such interpersonal relationships might be a little too difficult.”
◆ Yume ◆
“Mizuto-kun, Mizuto-kun, which do you prefer, Nera or Bianca?”
“Dragon Quest 5? First of all, I never played that game…”
“I’ll explain the situation then. When Nera doesn’t get married to the hero, she’ll reunite with her childhood friend. On the other hand, Bianca will spend her life alone in the village.”
“Why!? What’s bad about Bianca!? She’s a really calm girl!”
“That’s the bad thing about her!”
I glanced at Mizuto and Higashira while they continued to talk happily in front of me.
It’s true that what Higashira-san just said wasn’t something to be said in front of a guy she likes, but to a friend, and only of the same gender. I wouldn’t say such crude things to another girl…but it seemed like something more fitting of the rumored girls school.
If that’s their daily talk, it would explain why Mizuto didn’t look at Higashira-san as a girl…I assumed that would have been the case because Higashira-san was somewhat similar to me when I was in middle school, but I never expected her to be such a character.
“They’re really on good terms. I really can’t tell that they only met days ago~”
Next to me, Akatsuki-san said what I was thinking.
“How are we not supposed to be suspicious? Right Yume-chan?”
Even I would be suspicious. Anyone would have felt so, seeing their relationship like that. It’s not because I’m paranoid and possessive of the ex-boyfriend. Definitely not.
Both of them were close enough to bump into each other, chatting away, and chuckling from time to time.
I never had such a good relationship with him when we were dating…
“Too bad. If Higashira-san really wants it, I really want to give her a nudge…”
“Eh? A nudge?”
“Well you see, she looks very passive, you know? If nobody’s going to help her, she might stay friendzoned forever. And…I’m curious to see how their relationship will develop, you know?”
Akatsuki-san’s giving a somewhat devious smile towards me.
“You’ll be of big help if you’re willing to help, Yume-chan! Since you two are siblings, you should have intel on how to conquer him, right?”
There probably was no other human who had the intel on how to conquer Mizuto Irido.
“But, that’s if she’s intending to.”
“Yeah~ too bad~ I really think they’re a match for each other…”
Again, I looked at the duo walking in front of us.
Ahhh, so I couldn’t help but think.
It would be really wonderful if these two could be a couple.
“Ah, I should stop here…”
Higashira-san suddenly stopped at the crossing.
“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”
Higashira-san glanced at us. She merely fidgeted away however, and didn’t say anything.
While we’re feeling troubled—Mizuto tapped her back gently.
And then, as though prompted by the tap, she bowed deeply towards us.
She said with a hoarse voice, and then lifted her head, showing a look of relief.
“I-I said it…”
Higashira-san looked at his face.
She, who had never shown any expression till this point.
Was blushing away, as though becoming one with the sunset.
Oy. That was.
“Then, I’ll see you then, Mizuto-kun! I’ll read the series you recommended and send you a message on LINE!”
“Alright, I’ll be awake until 2am or so.”
And then, the green light showed, and Higashira-san skipped across the road.
Once she vanished beyond the passing cars.
Akatsuki-san said with a deeper voice than usual, muttering.
“I did say, if she’s intending to, Yume-chan.”
“Eh…!? I-I never promised you that—”
“Irido-kun~! Tell me Higashira-san’s ID~!!”
“I said I haven’t promised you yet!!!!!”