A week has passed since the night I stepped on the extra large mine. I had some years-worth of life counseling with my sister, but that doesn’t mean our cold relationship has thawed. We have not talked since then, as usual.
Well that’s how the world goes round; Things don’t change so quickly.
“I’ll do all that I can,” I’ve said. My sister hasn’t asked for any help as of now. Besides, there’s not much I can do for her. I don’t have the motivation to plan and do anything either. All the questions and curiosity I had have drifted away by now. I guess it’s fine this way. I should just forget about my sister’s strange hobby and continue living like I’ve been.
If things go as they are… this should hopefully…
Vaguely thinking about the issue, the chime signaling the end of class sounded and the classroom became noisy.
“Oh, who cares?”
I stretched in my seat to relax my muscles, tense from the boring classes. Then, my bespectacled childhood friend walked up and stood before me; she bent down and peered into my face.
“You’ve been looking dull for some time now. Are you tired?”
“You know I’m always dull,” I answered with self-loathing while making popping noises with my neck. Slouching lazily on a chair with half-open eyes, I make a great example for your ‘typical dull high school student’ stereotype.
My bespectacled childhood friend smiled slightly.
“That’s for sure. But you see I’m comparing you with the ‘usual Kyou-chan.’”
“Well, if YOU say so, then I really must be.”
“Oh, you’re so unmotivated!”
“That’s normal for me too. Shall we head home?”
“Yes!” I picked up my bag and got up. Together with my bespectacled childhood friend, we headed out to the corridor.
Tamura Manami. My relationship with her, I should say, is that of a childhood friend who’s been unable to terminate the relationship. Recently, she’s also become some kind of a pseudo-tutor for me. Aside from the fact that she wears glasses, she’s quite smart. Her looks are average. Her face is quite cute, but she happens to just be too plain.
‘She becomes a beauty when she takes her glasses off…’ Unfortunately that doesn’t happen with her either. She still has a normal plain face without her glasses.
Her grades are at the bottom of the top tier. She’s not part of any clubs and her hobbies are cooking and sewing. She’s a nice person and has quite a few friends, although that number dips when it comes to friends that she could go out with after school. A side character; no one deserves titles like ‘normal’, ‘usual’ and ‘average’ more than her. She’s a woman who seems to be the polar opposite of Kirino. It’s not only her looks, either.
“What’s the matter? Why are you staring at my face?”
“Nothing, I was just thinking that you’re completely normal.”
“Oh wow, you’re making me blush.”
“It’s not a compliment you know…”
I stand corrected. She isn’t just normal but also an airhead.
“But being normal is good, right?”
She’s the airheaded normal girl who says things like that.
“Well, yeah” was my response to that bespectacled girl.
All hail average! Viva, normal life! Since that’s my motto, my long time relationship with Manami, who is the quintessential normal girl, was a cozy one. I feel relieved when I’m with her. In that sense, she’s the opposite of my sister. We walked down the corridor, side by side.
“So, what happened?”
“Oh? What do you mean?”
“Like I said before, I’d love it if you told me the reason why you’ve been so tired.”
“Oh yeah, the reason why I’ve been all dull recently…”
She can sense anomalies from me more than I can myself. I didn’t notice anything, but if she says so, then I must be spending days being tired. If that is so, there’s only one reason for that.
“It has nothing to do with you, so don’t worry about it,” I say lightly and sling my schoolbag behind my shoulder. But Manami isn’t the kind of girl who’s satisfied with such an answer. She looks at me suspiciously.
“It does have something to do with me, very much so!”
“Oh, you’re so mean like that. Then, pretend I was feeling all blue. Kyou-chan, would you just think ‘It has nothing to do with me’ and ignore me?”
With a querying expression, she smiled slightly – That was a very sly way of putting it. I frowned and murmured, “You just can’t leave others alone, can you?”
Manami parts her lips and chuckles. Why does she seem so happy? I sigh and make an ‘I-give-up’ face.
“You are so much more like my mom than my real mom.”
“Oh? You mean you love me that much?”
“I mean you’re like an old maid.”
Wham. Stricken by my words, Manami stands still as if her bag held with both hands has become tens of times heavier. I am walking a step ahead so I look back and I see tears welling up in her eyes.
“That was mean…”
I see, so it seems it did affect her quite a bit. I felt somewhat guilty, so I thought I should answer Manami’s first question as much as I could. I warned her first that I couldn’t tell her in detail and spoke my sister’s name. It came as a shock for Manami; she shook her head.
“Your little sister?”
I nodded while still looking straight ahead.
“What’s the matter with your sister?”
“Err… Well… You see, she asked me for counseling about life… I guess?”
I spoke ambiguously while Manami blinked in surprise.
“Asking for life counseling? From you?”
“What’s that look for? Is it so unexpected?”
Don’t give me the look that says ‘Failure in human resources department.’
Manami seemed to have noticed my stare and quickly raised both hands in denial.
“Err… Well I don’t think she did a ‘reckless thing.’ I absolutely don’t!”
“You’re terrible at lying.”
I snatched her glasses off with a smile. I jokingly put them on; the world suddenly became distorted.
“G-Give me my glasses back! Glasses, my glasses!”
This plain girl is now acting like she’s in a manga, so I play along for a while before suddenly getting back to the topic.
“Though she said it was counseling, it was just some circumstances that made me listen to her talk.”
Manami desperately put on the glasses I had just returned. I walked on and Manami caught up in a huff. After checking that she was beside me, I continued with the topic.
“… She seems to be deeply troubled about it, but I can’t do anything about it so I have to leave her alone.”
The talking was over and we walked down the corridor in silence. During that time, Manami had her index finger on her lips while looking upwards but…
Suddenly, she let out a loose chuckle.
“Kyou-chan is so kind.”
“… what made you think that way?! Get your face away from me, four-eyes!”
I said it meanly and looked to the side. I admit I’m not good at hiding my embarrassment. I’m so childish.
“You don’t seem to be able to do anything, yet you still want to do something for her, right?”
“Heh! No way.”
I slackened my shoulders and released a deep breath. But Manami had a smile that seemed almost sure to say, ‘Oh, I know your real intentions, Kyou-chan.’
Heh, how annoying. This is why childhood friends are…
I didn’t give a response so we stopped talking for the time being.
We changed our shoes at the entrance hall and left the school building. It’s roughly a kilometer walk up to my home. Manami lives close by in the same neighborhood, so she comes along up till my home. After passing the school gates, Manami broke the ice.
“By the way, are your studies going well?”
“Not at all!”
“That bad, huh? Let me help you in your studies today.”
“That would be great help. It seems I just can’t get myself to study when I’m alone.”
“You start reading manga, right?”
“Do you have X-ray vision or something?”
She saw right through me, apparently, and was even smiling. Studying for entrance examinations… It’s the normal topic between high school students. By the way, the university I want to enter is the local university, just like Manami.
Some might think the reason is a bit girlish, but the decision was made because I wanted to go to the same university as her. It’s not that I’m in love with her or anything, it’s that I want this comfortable ‘have-been-together-forever relationship’ to continue for as long as possible. And if I’m right beside Miss Average – Manami, I might be able to have the normal life that I yearn for. That was what I thought. “My guide for life,” Manami calls it.
“Okay. Let’s meet up at my house to go to the library. Oh, a new flavour is out so would you want to try it too?”
Manami’s family runs a Japanese sweets shop so she gives me samples often. I always poke fun of her for acting like some elderly person, but I do think the sweets at her place aren’t bad. It might be because I had been treated Rakugan and Manjuu since childhood. It’s what they call a ‘childhood friend’s delicacy’, unlike the usual ‘mom’s delicacy.’
“Sure. I don’t think I can help your sister’s life counseling, so I’ll be nice to Kyou-chan instead.”
“You’re just too good a person.”
Manami smiled at my sarcastic comment. She nodded with a happy face and started swinging her bag in front of her skirt. This is a signal that only works between childhood friends. It’s the equivalent of a puppy wagging its tail. It means ‘praise me more.’
“You will be a good granny. Your grandchildren will surely be blessed.”
“Err… That praise… Don’t you normally say ‘You’ll surely be a good wife and that whoever becomes your husband is lucky’?”
“No, I did say granny precisely, since every time I talk with you I get the same feeling as I had when I was talking to my late grandmother on the terrace over a cup of tea.”
“You aren’t praising me are you? That surely wasn’t praise! Sure, I’m not sexy. Oh, Kyou-chan. You have this ‘side character’ face anyways!”
“You’re the last person I would have expected to hear that from.”
I didn’t know we thought of each other in the same way like this. I guess we are quite alike after all. While we were talking like that, we arrived near my house. If I turned left at the next corner, I’d have reached home.
But at the right, or more accurately the wrong timing, we encountered Kirino on her way back from school. I paused before getting to the corner.
From the right side of the corner, the great Teen Magazine model was walking along in her school outfit. It seemed like she was together with her schoolmates. All the girls talking with my sister are good looking. They’re all unique and have their respective charms. You know that famous idol group formed with a bunch of younger teen girls? Imagine them in school uniforms walking down the street talking loudly.
We went silent and stopped in our tracks. Before us, the side-characters, the middle school students passed by showering the area with a glittering aura.
Manami watched the cutting edge girls walk on with a look of admiration. “Those were really cute girls. It must be nice to be young.”
“Granny, remember you are a high school girl. You’ve been forgetting too many things recently.”
I can’t help her any more. She speaks like an old lady. Nothing can help her.
“I know, Grandpa. But even when I was in middle school, I wasn’t proud like them. Middle school students, they’re still kids… Yet they are much more mature than me. Oh, how I envy them… maybe I should work a little harder.”
“… you’re fine… you’re alright the way you are now…”
If you become like Kirino, then there’ll be no sanctuary left for me anymore. I’d rather be beside a normal and plain childhood friend than a shiny, cutting edge girl.
Heh, both me and Manami are in a different realm from them. I understand. God damn it.
A few days later, I had the opportunity to talk to my sister again.
Sunday. I went to the library in the morning together with Manami. After I sent Manami home in the evening, Kirino was waiting for me at the entrance hall in my home. She was leaning against the wall and crossing her arms. Her evil glare hurt my heart.
Err… did I do something bad to her?
“… Come for a minute.”
I asked, concealing my fear. Kirino kept up her glare.
“Life counseling, the continuation.”
She cut up the words and muttered.
I understand what you want to say, but why are you filled with hatred? Is that how your attitude should be when you’re consulting someone?
“But you know…”
“Just come now… quickly.”
Kirino pulled my sleeve before I even finished taking my shoes off. What annoyed me was how she remembered to not make the error of taking my hand directly.
“Jeez. You leave me with no choice, do you?”
I’m so nice that I couldn’t resist this tense situation and humbly walked up the stairs.
Thus, I was forced into my sister’s room. It smelled sweet as usual. By the way, Manami’s room smells of incense, just like a Granny’s room. I guess it really depends on the person.
Kirino, who went in the room before me, had pulled out the PC chair and beckoned me over with her index finger.
What’s with her? Didn’t she want life counseling?
I was troubled, as I couldn’t understand my sister’s intentions.
I followed her orders obediently. Kirino stood right by me and leaned on her arm, resting on the desk. Kirino switched the PC on and the boot up screen changed to the desktop. The wallpaper was a number of nekomimi relaxing in a living room. In the corner of the cute desktop was an icon with a SD cat peeking up from a trash can. The top left corner had a calendar, while the top had a nekomimi-styled window open with icons for messengers and web browsers lined up neatly.
“It’s really… customized.”
“Kind of. I dressed it up by changing the skin and used a launcher. Isn’t this just the basics?” Kirino smiled smugly.
(Human) Skin? (Missile) Launcher to dress up…? What the heck? Why does she have to use such techie words? I don’t understand a thing, but I guess she is customizing it to her tastes.
… So I guess otakus and middle school girls are the same when it comes to wanting to show off like this.
“And? What do you want to do by showing this to me?”
“Oh you’re so dumb. You still don’t get it?” Kirino gave me a reproachful look.
Like I would!
She held the PC mouse and said,
“… The game, you know? We’re going to play it together now.”
“Huh? The game…? You mean me and you? Together?”
She answered, avoiding my gaze. She seemed to understand that she was requesting something crazy from me and was hesitant to mention it.
I don’t understand at all.
Why must I play a game side by side with my sister, whom I’m not even on good terms with? Even if it’s a versus game, it still wouldn’t be fun.
Kirino seemed to notice my doubtful expression, and tried to alleviate the situation.
“You said so yourself, that you would do anything to help me, or something…”
“Well I did tell you I’d help you so that it won’t get revealed to our parents. But I was told it was some counseling on life. Why are we suddenly going to play a game?”
“I-It’s necessary! Just hold this!”
She forced me to hold the mouse. Normally she would hate to even come in contact with me, but this time she covered my hand with hers and started moving the mouse. She double clicked an icon in the corner.
She started getting excited suddenly.
Where was her usual cool attitude? I would assume this is her usual self since she seemed much livelier. I seemed to understand recently that she has been acting cute to fit in with the surroundings.
Cool, laid-back, awkward, overly resisting…
Wearing the most fashionable clothes, talking with the vogue, going to karaoke with her friends and stuff like that…
Is that the “I win” stereotypical model for middle school kids nowadays? I don’t think I have a say over whether that’s good or bad. But you know Kirino, wouldn’t you rather play games together with your friends?
“… What are you looking at? You’re getting annoying.”
Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to carry this on with her.
I went into a ‘big brother mode’ and looked at the screen, which was showing the game.
Ring! Some fancy title screen greets me with a girl’s loli voice.
“Sister Makers X Volume 4!”
“Welcome back, big brother! Let’s make love with… your little sister!”
“What are you trying to make me play?!”
I should be mad. I am supposed to be mad at that point. I should have known something was wrong when she got me to play on her computer in her room rather than on the living room’s TV! This bitch! Where the heck do you find a brother who’d start playing a ‘make love with sister’ game together with his real sister? Am I a pervert? Huh?!
“I’m sure you know too but, big brother… All your little sisters in this game are over the age of 18.”
Shut up, you should keep quiet for a while now. I hold my aching head and look up at Kirino.
“Why are you shouting out loud all of a sudden? You surprised me! H-Hey, don’t get your face near me!”
She fired poisonous knives of words at me while I glared at her. I thought I should say something to her but right then, I noticed my sister’s face going sour fast so I held it back.
“… hey what’s wrong?”
“… you’re looking down at me in the end.”
“You just make empty promises. You’re biased even before you begin playing it! You might say nice things, but in your mind you’re just thinking I’m some strange girl…”
She stares at me with hatred.
“Y-You know… it’s not like that but…” I scratched my head furiously with my free hand. “It’s not a matter of looking down at you or anything! It’s wrong for me to play this in front of you! Get a grip! It’s not the same as us watching some soap opera in the living room and they air a kissing scene!”
“What are you talking about? I don’t understand at all.”
Does she really not understand? Am I saying something weird? Well, I pointed at the screen and said, “I don’t really know much but I assume this is a game where you get closer to a virtual little sister and so on. It’s made for men and given an M18 rating, which naturally means that there will be that kind of scene in the climax…”
As I spoke, Kirino fidgeted still retaining her angry face.
“Don’t you have anything against watching that kind of scene together with your brother?”
Kirino was as red as a beet with her jaws on the floor; her face had an expression of ‘I didn’t realize until you told me.’
“I-I didn’t really care too much about that… Don’t say such nonsense! The way you say it makes me look weird!”
I seem to understand the problem. She probably doesn’t play this game because of its M18 rating or because it had ‘those scenes.’ Her definition of ‘loving her sister’ doesn’t include erotic deeds. Well, she’s quite obviously a girl so…
Anyway… I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand.
“Okay. I understand, Kirino. I kind of know what the situation is like now. So let’s discuss, okay? Uh…”
“Click gently on the left of the screen (heart)!”
“I told you to shut up! Don’t interrupt me while I’m talking!”
I talked back at the screen. How confused am I…
All right, I just have to calm down…
“Hey… Don’t be mean to Shiori-chan!”
“You there, get back to this world. That’s just a picture.”
“Don’t call her a picture!”
My mistake. That wasn’t a well-prepared comment, but still… what a face you have to make to shout at me.
Oh well. All right… What should I do? Someone tell me! This is beyond my capabilities. Using the last remnants of my soul, I tried to convince my sister.
“I’m sorry I said something without even knowing about it. I don’t have any intent to look down on what you’re doing or make a fool out of you. I will promise that’s true. Believe in me.”
Kirino looked at me with pursed lips and tears in her eyes.
“But you see, umm, this game is a bit too high level for me. You know, I’m still 17. I don’t have any intention to look down on you, but you see… it’s just impossible. I understand. It must be extremely fun. That’s why you’re recommending this to me, right? I get it. I understand, really. Even still, let me decline your offer. Okay, if it’s me alone, there might be the slightest possibility, but I don’t have the courage to play a M18 game right next to my little sister.”
My sister gives me such humiliating names.
Endure it, Kyousuke! If you get mad here, then things will get even more complicated!
She breathed a huge sigh. I’m the one who felt like sighing.
Kirino put it simply, “Then this is homework.”
“Yes. You don’t want to play it beside me, right? That’s why it’s homework. I’ll lend it to you along with a laptop so complete it entirely by next week.”
If I said no there, she’d surely say something like, “I’m making a fool of her or I’m looking down at it.” Although my face was twitching I was unable to revolt against my sister’s tyranny.
“All right then. I just got to do it, right? I’ll just…”
Kirino swerved her mouse proudly, and closed the application. The girl in the title screen (1:1 SD character) came up again and made a bow. She was waving her hands vigorously against the player’s departure.
“Brobro, (heart) please play with me again, surely, bye bye!”
“Yeah, yeah, bye…”
You’re such a good girl. My sister never called me like that, ever.
 Specific style of Japanese caricature where characters are drawn in an exaggerated way, typically small and chubby, with stubby limbs and oversized heads, to make them resemble small children. This style is referred to as chibi by anime fans.