I typed away at the keyboard on my laptop as I lay on the floor.
For the most part, I had finished the research project. Now it’s just a matter of making it presentable and it was complete.
With that being said, this research project wasn’t mine. My high school’s assignment was just a math workbook which I promptly got out of the way by copying down answers. No big deal, I was set on a private university for liberal arts, so math wasn’t necessary.This research project wasn’t mine, but Komachi’s, my little sister.
As for the aforementioned person in question, she was lying next to me—recovering from her exam studying fatigue—and was raising our beloved cat Kamakura high up while squeezing his paws.
This brat… how could she be doing this when there’s someone next to her slaving over her work right now…? Don’t make me squeeze your paws!1
Well, I did want her to concentrate on her exams, so I had to at least give her this much service. The pervading idea that there’s no meaning unless you did something yourself was quite right, but common sense need not rear its head before my little sister.Morality and logic were nothing but a triviality, for the meaning of “little sister” was the combination of the meanings of “woman” and “the end”.
In other words, the beginning and the future of women were little sisters and eventually, the end for all women. The Alpha and the Omega2 as they say.
From origin to the end. It could very well be called the final form of evolution for all women. To stand at the summit of all women meant standing above all of mankind; there’s no way I could go against an opponent like that. Henceforth, we established the Theory of Ultimate Little Sisters.
Therefore, I ended up doing half of Komachi’s research project… “Therefore” what? Well, how about this then? Learning how to use people and culltivating personal connections that’d come to your aid was a form of studying as well.
As those thoughts swirled in my head, I hammered away at the keyboard and the idiotic, but pleasant report was complete.
—Now then, I just needed to add the name, “Hikigaya Komachi” to the report.
And lastly, “ENTER KEY, BAM!”3 and saved the document. I pushed the laptop towards Komachi.
“There, it’s done. Make sure to look it over.”
“Mmmm.” Komachi rolled on the floor towards my side.
Komachi looked at the screen, nodding her head, and then stopped.
“….Onii-chan.” Komachi slowly opened her mouth. Her voice this time was the deepest I had heard yet. It was deep, yet her smile was scary. “What ever could this be?”
“U-Um… I figured I’d write something very Komachi-like, so…” I frantically answered when she questioned me.
Komachi’s shoulders trembled after hearing my answer. “Komachi-like… O-Onii-chan, that’s how you’ve been seeing me all this time…? I’m so shocked! Absolutely shocked!”
She held her head with her hands and rolled around on the floor while groaning. I stayed there watching her for a moment due to how cute she was until she jumped up to her feet and pointed her finger at me. “How is this like me at all!? I mean, those last two sentences were totally you, onii-chan!”
Oh okay, I guess it was no good, after all… No, actually, even I thought I was pushing it. Wait, so the first half was relatively Komachi-like then, huh? That’s more surprising to me.
“Fine, fine, I’ll fix it. I just gotta do it, right? Okay, okay. It’s not even my responsibility, but I’ll just shut up and do it anyway.”
“Stop! Don’t you take that sloven corporate underling attitude with me!” Komachi placed her hands on her hips in anger, but then sighed in resignation. She groaned as if reflecting on the situation. “…Well, it’s my assignment in the first place, so I’ll finish the rest. Thanks for everything so far.”
When she showed me how admirable she was, even I was itching to get the report done properly. It might be out of character for me, but maybe I should’ve done it seriously from the start as soon as I accepted the job regardless of how lazy I was feeling.
“Well… you know. It kind of got annoying in the latter half, so it just happened… Sorry, I’ll help you as much as I can.”
Komachi’s eyes shined the moment I said that. She looked like a “yamapikaryaa”4. That word meant Iriomote cat around here. Yamapikaryaa!
“I knew you’d say that, onii-chan! That’s why I love you, onii-chan!”
“Yeah, yeah, I love, love, love, I love you, too.”5
She was exploding with her usual Komachi points again and albeit somewhat annoying, I dealt with her nonchalantly. After all, I did do most of the research so far, so I should at least conclude it myself.
As I typed explanations one after the other, our cat dragged himself over and listlessly sat in front of the screen.
Just why did cats occupy themselves in front of TVs and sit on top of newspapers, anyway…?
“Roger.” Komachi saluted and enacted her strategy to remove Kamakura.
When she swiped him up, Kamakura floundered his legs and tried to escape. Just like how some people had soft hair, a cat’s fur was just as soft and smooth.
Komachi was quick to take his guard down by tickling his neck and as soon as he did, she began brushing him. She went from head to tail while humming in glee.
“Fufufu. You’re a bad little kitty if you think you could get in our way ☆.”
“He’s actually an old man if we’re talking about his age.”
How old was Kamakura again? He was around 4 or 5 years old when he arrived at our home. If we converted his age to human years, then he’d be roughly around Hiratsuka-sensei’s age. I want to introduce our cat to her.
I handed over the research project material to Komachi and could finally start dealing with my own affairs.
The clock was just about to point to 11. I needed to get ready to head to my summer classes in the afternoon.
When I changed into the appropriate clothes, the intercom sounded.
Was it the redelivery I requested for from Amazon? To think you guys would aim for the time period where I wasn’t home, are you guys ninjas or something?
When I opened the door of the entrance while squeezing my seal stamp, there was an unexpected individual there.
Sporting a chinese bun style with light-brown dyed hair, wearing summer-like clothes, and supporting a carry bag with both hands, Yuigahama Yui was idly standing while being cautious of her surroundings.
This unexpected sight caused me to freeze in place. We both stayed quiet as if feeling each other out, trying to figure out what we should do.
Speaking of people who had come to our front door to this day, the only people who I could think of was the express home delivery fellow and the old lady next door who passed on the circular notice to us, so I found it difficult to accept the fact that someone from my school had made their way into my private domain. An appropriate analogy would be like having a gazelle at an aquarium. The only places you’d see a gazelle were the savannas, zoos, or the world of Ultimate Muscle 2.6
I squeezed the open door, retained my cool, and said, “You need something?”
This should’ve been the second time Yuigahama had visited my home. The first time was when she came to express her gratitude after the recent car accident. However, I didn’t meet her directly at the time.
“U-Um… is Komachi-chan home?”
She probably made some kind of promise with Komachi.
“Komachiii, your friend’s hereeee.” I called out to Komachi like a mother and she came down to the door. Before I noticed, she had changed her clothes. Weren’t you just wearing a single shirt earlier?
“Hey Yui-san, welcome. Come on in, come on in, don’t be shy.”
“Okay, thanks. E-Excuse me for intruding…” said Yuigahama, but as if feeling hesitant from going in our house, she took a small breath. She then took a step through the entrance as if she had prepared herself. Our home wasn’t a grand dungeon or anything, though.
Upon entering our home, Yuigahama curiously looked around. C’mon, you really don’t need to touch that wooden bear.
Another person’s home was not only mysterious, but an outer zone. I’m sure there’s some kind of culture shock when you entered a different cultural sphere. Yuigahama looked at the most ordinary of things like the stairs, windows, and walls. Every time, she’d go “ohh” or “woooow” which kind of got on my nerves…
Even after we made it into the living room on the second floor, Yuigahama still felt anxious with her eyes swimming around, but stopped them after seeing the shelf of books. She slid her fingers on the shelf and frighteningly opened her mouth, “Whoa, there sure are a lot of books.”
“Both my dad and onii-chan loves books, so it’s going to keep increasing and increasing.” Komachi answered from the kitchen counter.
I don’t think there were that many books, but she doesn’t look like the type to read either…
It’s extremely rare for someone to come to our house.
We were a prominent modern day family; both our parents worked and didn’t socialize very often with our neighbors. In the event we did meet with them, we’d at most exchange greetings and the only things we really knew about each other were our names.
Thanks to that, I had no idea how to receive our visitors. There’s not much I could do about being called an uncivil fool. I might just even throw ashes at the mortuary tablet of my dad’s funeral.7 Oh wow, it’s like I’m some kind of famous figure. Just a worthless thought, but the guys who could proudly claim, “But hey, even Edison wasn’t very good at studying either!” were not only bad at studying but everything else as well. The more you know.
I pulled the seat and suggested, “Why don’t you take a seat?” to Yuigahama with a groan.
It came out awkward since I wasn’t used to this kind of hospitality. I was like a super rural kid offering an umbrella to the city girl in the middle of the rain. Heck, I might just blurt out to her afterwards, “Haha! Your house is a haunted mansion”!8
When Yuigahama quietly took her seat, Komachi came from the kitchen and placed a cup on the table. The ice of the barley tea bumped into each other.
“So, what are you here for?” I asked her not knowing the actual reason for her visit.
Then, Yuigahama carefully showed the carry bag she was holding on her lap.
“Um, I asked Komachi-chan for a favor about Sabure…” said Yuigahama, and opened the bag.
Once it was open, an indescribable, blasphemous, and hairy creature jumped out and crawled its way towards me. It had light brown fur with cute, round eyes, short legs, and a waggy and fluttering tail. If the times hadn’t changed, then this creature would be the most noble of them all; it was a dog.
Yuigahama’s dog, Sabure, aimed straight for me. What am I, Friskies MonPetit9? He didn’t stop at all, running with all his energy.
SABURE used TACKLE! It’s super effective! Hachiman blacked out!10
Sabure rammed me down with excessive energy, licking as much as he could going “Hachiman, lick, lick!” and I peeled him off. I lifted him up and I could see his tail wagging up and down.
“What’s with this guy…? Huh? Isn’t his fur a lot shorter than before?”
Compared to two months earlier, the length of his fur appeared much shorter. Did he use the Beast Spear11 last time or something?
“Ahh, right. Sabure has a long coat, so we gave him a summer cut.”
I mean, it’s fine whatever it is, whether it be a Somersault, Uppercut, or a Spinning Piledriver.12
“So why’d you bring this mutt here?”
I released Sabure from my grasp, but he continued to circle around my legs and didn’t seem to be leaving my side anytime soon. He’s being so persistent that I wasn’t sure what to do and just woof, woof, woof’d.
I made a complaining look to Yuigahama asking her to do something about him and Yuigahama called to him, “Sabure, come here.”
As soon as he reached her, she picked him up and as she gently stroked him, she continued, “My family’s going on a trip after this.”
Family trip, huh…? Those words felt awfully nostalgic somehow.
I thought it wasn’t a topic you talk about all that often once you became a high school student, but then again, I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it, indeed.
“Your family seems pretty close. Unlike my family—“
“It’s just onii-chan decides to stay home, right?” said Komachi, instantly answering.
Yuigahama murmured in astoundment, “That’s Hikki for you…”
It’s almost as if she’s showing me some respect. Oh hey, maybe you did have a good eye for people? Or so I thought, but it turned out she was just looking at someone pitiful.
“…That’s not it. It’s because I said I wouldn’t go when I was in middle school. After that, I just stopped going along with them, that’s all.”
I wasn’t exactly in my rebellious age, but it’s oddly embarassing going on a trip with my family. So that’s why I rejected the offer to go along, but my damn pops was totally happy about it…
Well, who cares about my pops. Yuigahama’s trip was the main focus right now.
“So what’s this about your trip?”
“Ah, yeah, so while we’re on our trip, we were hoping to keep Sabure here for a little while or something.”
Yuigahama looked up at me asking, “Is that okay?”
Although I was a Japanese person who could say “NO”13 to most requests, seeing Komachi smiling from ear to ear as she rubbed Sabure made it difficult to turn her down.
“…Why bother leaving him at our place when we’re so far away?”
Since it’s Yuigahama, I’m sure she had plenty of close friends to ask and there’s been recent talk about how pet hotels had improved quite a bit.
“The thing is, Yumiko and Hina have never owned a pet before. At first, I tried asking Yukinon, but she said there was a lot going on at her home, so…” Yuigahama mumbled hesitantly with an anxious look.
Well, Yukinoshita wasn’t very good at dealing with dogs, so I’m sure she’d refuse anyway even if she wasn’t at home… Ah, no, surprisingly, she might just say, “Leave it to me” and accept, only to timidly try to give food to Sabure. As I imagined the pleasant scenario, Komachi who noticed Yuigahama’s silence asked further, “Did something happen with Yukino-san?”
When asked, Yuigahama stuttered. She then turned towards me with uncertain eyes. “R-Right… Hikki, do you keep in touch with Yukinon?”
“No, I don’t even have her number.”
I didn’t own a carrier pidgeon and unless I tried stuffing a letter in a jar and have the ocean carry it to her, I had no way of contacting her. I asked Komachi with a look, “What about you?” and she shook her head.
“Like, I’ve been sending her a lot of mails and calling her a lot.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“Whenever I call her, the answering machine would pick up and then she’d send a mail to me later. It takes a long time for her to respond back to my mails, too… And like, her mails seem a lot less energetic or dull than they usually are… Whenever I try to invite her to go out, for some reason, she’s always busy…”
She’s clearly avoiding you. I mean, that’s what all the girls did in middle school when I sent them a mail, or so I wanted to say, but I stopped myself.
After all, Yuigahama wouldn’t fail to recognize that someone was trying to push her away. As an expert of reading the mood and adjusting herself to it, there’s no way she could miss seeing this basic of a basic step.
“I wonder if I did something wrong to her…” Yuigahama laughed weakly.
“Don’t let it bother you. Maybe she really is just having a lot of stuff to deal with at her home. Once school starts again, things will just naturally go back to normal.”
As out of character it was for me, I gave her some encouragement. It’s my speciality to state baseless things like these. So for the phrase “full of lies” which encompassed 800 lies, I wanted to make it represent 80,000 lies instead.
But it certainly wasn’t a complete lie. It’s true that she had a lot going on at her home.
—This was in the beginning of August, more than two weeks ago.
That time when we went our separate ways after the camp.
Ever since Yukinoshita was taken back home by her older sister, Haruno-san, we had never met again.
But the car driven by their chauffeur that the Yukinoshita sisters rode in caused a series of flashbacks in my head.
About a year ago, Yuigahama and I were involved in an accident. What triggered that incident was a single chauffeur-driven car. I wasn’t sure whether the car of the accident was the same one on that day a few weeks earlier. Only my vague memories related the two together.
There wasn’t a single piece of evidence of it. Testimony, declaration, verdict, none at all.
In that continuing, murky atmosphere, only time continued on.
Even after my dubious encouragement, Yuigahama still looked worried. “Y-You think so…?”
“No, I have no idea.”
“What the heck? That’s too random.” Yuigahama made a dumbfounded smile..
But I really didn’t know anything.
I didn’t know Yukinoshita Yukino.
Of course, I knew her on the surface; I knew her name, her face, how good her grades were, how she didn’t get close to people, how she liked cats and Pan-san, how she had a pretty foul mouth, and how she could be rather careless sometimes.
But that’s all I knew.
Knowing that much was by no means knowing someone. In the same way people didn’t understand me, I didn’t understand them either. That’s something I musn’t forget.
Exactly what was necessary so you could claim you “knew” someone?
When I was on the verge of falling into a labyrinth of thought, a small, noisy barking noise could be heard.
Upon looking, there was a low, growling noise afterwards. It looked like Sabure and Kamakura were engaged in a battle of intimidation, skittering around Komachi.
Kamakura threw up a barrier telling Sabure to not get any closer, but he tore it down with beams of fondness and chased after him. Komachi watched them in glee without putting a stop to their struggle.
Is this going to continue for a while…? I had an annoyed look and Yuigahama said apologetically, “A-Ahaha, s-sorry. We thought about the pet hotels too, but they’re really packed during this season.”
“And that’s where we come in, onii-chan.”
Komachi struck her chest with a “ta-dah!”and proudly chuckled. Why do you look so reliable? Are you some kind of ship captain?
Hmph, well, since she mailed Yuigahama a lot, I imagine the suggestion came up at some point.
“I mean if we don’t do this, there won’t be any opportunities in the summer. It’s your chance!” Komachi quietly murmured.
I had the feeling her eyes sparkled with a flash ☆, but I was more occupied with her usage of Zaimokuza’s favorite phrase, “Chance.” I wonder if my influence had spread even further? I really hope it didn’t get popular… I’d be a total victim.
“…Well, if Komachi’s okay with it, then it’s fine with me.”
This was my clever little sister we’re talking about here. She probably already made arrangements with mom. And once she conquered our mom, the only one left was our daughter-doting father.
At the Hikigaya household, the oldest son had no say in the decision-making. The hierarchy consisted of mom, followed by Komachi, pops, and lastly, me. Oh, the highest position was occupied by the cats, okay? They only saw humans as manservants.
“Anyway, we’re fine with looking after him, but what should we do about his food? Pita Woof? Frontline? Don’t tell me, you want Pedigree for him? We’re not wealthy enough for that, you know.”
“How the heck do you know so much…? Wait a minute, Frontline is for getting rid of fleas! Now I’m kinda worried…” Yuigahama quivered with a concerned expression.
Komachi smiled to relieve her of her concerns. “Don’t worry, we used to own a dog a long time ago.”
“Pretty much,” I said. It’s a pretty old story, though. My memories were a little fuzzy, but then again, I had the feeling either our parents or Komachi took care of him most of the time.
Yuigahama then smiled warmly. “Ohh, that’s kinda surprising.”
“My brother likes both cats and dogs. It’s just people that he hates…”
Am I the first underworld detective14 or something…?
But well, Komachi wasn’t necessarily wrong. It’s true that I didn’t hate dogs or cats. If anything, it’s certain breeds that I liked.
It’s just cats in particular were what I liked.
Gentlemen, I liked cats. Gentlemen, I loved cats. I liked American shorthair cats. I liked toroiseshell cats. I liked Sphinx cats. I liked ragdolls. I liked American curl cats. I liked Scottish Fold cats. I liked Persian cats. I liked Singapuras. I liked Russian Blue cats.
Back alley, cat beds, cat tower, the top of a refrigerator, under the bed, on the rail of the veranda, inside a cardboard box, in a paper bag, on a person’s back, and in a futon.
I loved all the cats who were all over the place.
…Actually, it’s the bastards who abused cats that I couldn’t forgive. I wanted people who didn’t cherish life to die. I absolutely hated people who didn’t cherish life!
As I enacted out a fervent speech internally, Yuigahama showed a relieved smile. “I guess I won’t have to worry then. Sabure seems attached to Hikki, too.”
“Don’t get your hopes up. I’m the type of person much more suited to being watched over than doing the watching. You can even call me a pro of being cultivated.”
I had been raised for the past 17 years, so living any other way was out of the question. Since my personality was cultivated with my molded adolescence, there’s no way I could fix it now.
When I answered while poking Sabure who lay next to me with his stomach exposed, Komachi swiped him away. “Anyway, just leave Sabure-chan to me! I’ll make quick work of him to the point he won’t be able to go on without me!”
Komachi was brimming with motivation to steal him away.
“Oh, I’m not sure I’d like that, but… Okay, please take care of him for me then.” Yuigahama had an an uneasy look, but she bowed her head. She then looked at her inward-facing wristwatch to check the time.
“Ah, I should get going. My family’s waiting for me.”
“Sure, sure, I’ll see you off.”
I watched the two go by me and down the stairs with just my eyes while rummaging through the carry bag that Yuigahama entrusted me with. Inside the bag, there was dog food and other necessities needed for taking care of Sabure. By the way, the dog food was Science Diet. The dog was living a healthier life than I was…
As for Sabure, the dog in question, he was sniffing the room as he loitered around. Ahh, perhaps he’s reacting to the smell of a cat in here?
As for Kamakura, just when did he get away? He was plopped on top of the refrigerator and looking down on Sabure and me with sleepy eyes.
It’s not like he hated Sabure or had no interest in him. Since he didn’t know how to interact with him, he was acting weary and distant.
In his gaze that was as if he was retreating a step back, I remembered something.
It’s because it was Yuigahama’s birthday that it was still vivid in my mind.
A momentary break of clear weather in the rainy season. A girl wearing a lonely smile, the offensive red glow of the sunset raining down on her from behind.
At the time, she had undoubtedly drawn a line.
A line indicating that she was different from the two of us, the victims.
Exactly what was that boundary line?
Now I was finally beginning to understand what it was.
- Don’t make me squeeze your paws! – Parody of a lyric in Seikima-II’s single “House of Wax”. ↩
- The Alpha and The Omega – A phrase in the New Testament. ↩
- ENTER KEY, BAM! – Parody of a line from Jigoku Misawa’s manga. ↩
- Yamapikaryaa – A word in the local dialect of the Yaeyama language which can mean “that which shines on the mountain”. ↩
- Love, Love, Love, I Love You – A novell by Maijou Outarou. ↩
- Ultimate Muscle 2 – Refers to Gazelleman ↩
- Throw ashes – Oda Nobunaga ↩
- Tonari no Totoro ↩
- Friskies Monpetit – Cat food. ↩
- Pokemon ↩
- The Beast Spear – Ushio to Tora ↩
- Street Fighter moves ↩
- A parody of the book “The Japan That Can Say No”. ↩
- Yu-Yu-Yu Hakusho ↩