“B, Big brother, are you really okay?”

My brother’s eyes were moderately clumped with tears when he took out tissues from his pocket.

“M, Mhm, don’t be frightened. I just had hit my nose. I’m really okay, Aoi.”

While sitting down on the bench, my brother looked up towards the dark sky with his nose held up by his right hand.

I was standing in front of him, handing him tissues.

“T, Thanks, Aoi. Well, isn’t this so pathetic that it’s laughable…”

Shaking his head, he muttered with his eyebrows knitted.

“It isn’t that bad, brother. I, no, I, did something unnecessary… I’m really sorry.”

As I spoke my true feelings, I quickly lowered my head while looking at my brother. I saw him looking up at the sky with a tissue crammed in his nose, but when I looked back up I found that he had a small, troubled looking smile.

Shouldn’t he be angry? Even so, he seems bothered. Is he perhaps shocked?

I knew it would hard for him to just accept it. But with the way this conversation went, there might be a chance.

I won’t give up, I’ll keep apologizing. If I do that, I might be able to go back to the time where we were both on good terms.

While forcing a smile, I looked up and shoved another tissue in his nose.

“Does it hurt?”

I asked as I forced the tissue in.

“I, I don’t feel it. Aoi, um….close.”

My brother turned in an attempt to get further away.

He really does seem to hate it. It’s no surprise, he was just hurt because of my impatience after all.

If I hadn’t edged up to him, this wouldn’t have happened.

My brother must really hate me after ignoring him so terribly. My own overwhelming egotism is well beyond the point of being astonishing.

“J, Just stay here for a bit longer and I’ll get out of your hair soon later.”

“N, No, I’m not saying that I hate this.”

”It’s okay, I’m alright. Thanks a lot.”

“N, No…”

While looking up with a wry smile, my brother leaned as far as he could from me.

He really is gentle. I wouldn’t want to really get close to me either, but he still pays some regard.

But with him like this, he may fall off the bench and hit his head on the ground. It’ll be serious if he got an injury from to that.

I got back up to him, grabbed his shoulder, and pushed another tissue in his left nostril.

“C, Close, close, Aoi!”

“I, I’m sorry. I’ll stop now.”

After I finished, I moved away from him. Then, when he began to relax again, he leaned back and whipped the sweat from his forehead with the hem of his coat.

Did he hate to the point where he began to sweat? Nevertheless, he still didn’t get angry.

“It, It isn’t that you’re awful. I’m just an idiot. Um, well, when we met at the mall, I was surprised at first because of how similar you were to mother, but now you look almost exactly like her. It’s so scary to me that quite frankly I’m shaken.”

Avoiding my gaze, he scratched his cheek uncomfortably.

Even I don’t deny how similar I am to her, but why is he disturbed?

My brother casts his head aside to my confusion and then coughs.

“I don’t think you’re aware, but I was, no, um, how do I say this… no match for mother.”

My brother hung his head in disappointment.

Weak to our mother? No match? My brother? That is impossible. My brother and mother should be on good terms, as neither of them can go against father.

But since this is the person himself, he shouldn’t be throwing up lies. To begin with, I don’t know why he would be making up lies about being no match for mother.

“It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? Well, it’s true. She always had a smile and played the timid mother around you.”

“P, Played?”

Did she fake it? My mother? Why?

“That is right, it was all an act. In her own way, she cares.”

“Cares?”

Cares about what? What is this?

“Mother, when giving birth to you, had a hunch that her child would be similar to herself. Not just in appearance, but in every aspect. So mother decided to fake everything about her.”

Talking to me while looking back gently, my brother tapped the spot beside him on the bench.

It appeared he was telling me to sit.

Having no idea what’s going on, I sat down in compliance in spite of the confusion.

I kept a little bit of distance this time so he wouldn’t fall over again.

“… You won’t get closer?”

My brother asked as he checked out what I was doing.

“Eh? E, Eh… it’s so you won’t get hurt again.”

I answered while keeping to myself, then my brother gave another cough.

‘T, That is, uh, that is for certain.”

I then nodded in response to his words.

Is he trying to be courteous now to show how much he hates me?

“By the way, you say that I’m the spitting image of mother?”

When I asked, my brother evaded my gaze once again.

Mother’s image?

When with father, she was always behind his back and agreeing.

She obediently followed with no resistant.

She always had a gentle smile and never acted suspiciously, but then again, it did feel sorta machine like.

That’s mother’s image.

“I know she’s kind, but to be honest, that isn’t a good impression…”

I may be thinking that because our appearances are so similar.

I saw how obedient she was to father, and I wanted to think I’m different. I’m different from her, the weak mother who couldn’t say no. I tried to believe in it.

”Well, is that true? I have to be honest with you, since it… makes me feel sick.”

“Eh?”

My voice escaped me in surprise.

When I looked at my brother, his face held a sour expression.

Does he feel bad about it? For my brother to be holding this sort of feeling towards mother, I can’t believe it.

“Fine, I’ll say it directly. You may not believe it, but I’m not lying at all.”

My brother began to speak indifferently.

“Boldly direct. An obstinate sore loser, an exceedingly hard worker in spite of her subtle delicately and creaking clumsiness, and no matter how dangerous the situation is, or there being no allying present available to them, they will mercilessly continue to push down those who opposes them. Nevertheless, once they give their whole heart to protect someone, their love is free. The person whom I respect the most is our mother. Don’t you think she also resembles someone else?”

He took a glance at me and smiled.

Who on earth is my brother talking about? His story is unbelievable.

Boldly direct? An obstinate sore loser? An exceedingly hard worker? Who is that?

“There is a problem with mother’s true nature. I respect her, but the person herself worries about it. Particularly the many legends that sprung up during her school days. Mother, very much like you, only wanted to grow up quickly. If her true character were to have been revealed to you, then you would’ve also walked the same path as her. With that in mind, she faked her personality.”

Legend in her schooldays? I can only imagine a clean, sweet, and pure person back then.

But in reality, our mother simply forced herself to be a staple Japanese woman with an elegant smile.

“Because mother requested it, I unwillingly played along, but to be honest, I thought this was wrong of her. Would you really hate mother? You had a sharp eye in the past. Didn’t you feel alienated with her lying about herself?”

Alienated. I definitely felt that. I didn’t like her smile. It felt like she was a doll.

But since father was scary, I thought mother shrunk back. Is it different?

Did she lie about herself? Mother?

“If mother was just honest to you instead, I think this would have ended up differently. So there was a time where I asked father to join up with me to persuade mother, but once we started talking, she could no longer be convinced.”

Did he ask father for help? Doesn’t that mean this a reverse situation? Moreover, even with both of them, she wouldn’t give in? Didn’t my mother always follow father’s orders? That has to be a lie.

“I, I can’t imagine mother not listening to what father says…”

Isn’t that impossible? It can’t be. She’s like a machine when she follows his orders. Even when she was affectionate, my father drove me out. Nevertheless, I smiled and never cried.

“Well, it is basically what you think it is. She does listen to what father says for the most part. Father is one of the only people she fawns over. However, father also doesn’t want to be hated by mother and is really sweet to her. So when mother begins to have her way, father just essentially runs.”

“R, Run? Is this father?”

“You might not believe it, but it’s actually true. She dominates him far beyond anything normal. Nevertheless, she doesn’t get in between him and his work. She puts up a face for father in public. So things go smoothly between those two.”

I, i have a headache. In public? Always there?

“Mother is excellent in taking action and making judgments, so she made a good living. Her connections are also tremendous. The Kijima family’s face is Kijima Soutarou, but behind the scenes, she’s the actual brains. She made one mistake though. She doted over you. I guess mother is also human.”

Lie… what he said has to be a lie. I can’t believe what he said, but I also can’t think of a reason he would lie.

“In addition, that doesn’t mean she was the only one who made bad decisions. I took a wrong approach to handling you. I took into consideration giving you the cold shoulder. I got how father felt. I was afraid of being hated by you. I was scared of that more than anything…”

Giving a sigh, he rested his chin on his fist.

“I was too slow to notice. I was too scared to look you in the eyes. I regretted it, but even so, I couldn’t do anything. Nevertheless, I desperately tried to find something, which just ended up driving you into a corner. I cursed myself for being so powerless…”

His voice was trembling. My older brother, who was always so big and strong, looked awfully small tonight.

“Everyday I drove you further away, and I could never forgive my pitiful self. Even though you’re the younger brother, even if you’re the younger one, you were well beyond any other person’s brilliance. I shot that down. I thought in order to prevent it from going further, I had to just die.”

“,,, Eh?”

“My very existence was hindering you, so I just thought I had to die. I thought anything else was useless…”

I felt dizzy seeing my brother hanging his head, distraught.

Die? My brother? He tried to die?

My brother did nothing bad. I’m the one who’s the bad egg.

I’m just the weak link with a corrupted personality. But even so…

My brother dying all because of driving me into a corner? For my brother to go that far…

“Haha, smile why don’t you? Your brother is just a heartless man. I may show a pleasant exterior, but inside, I’m just a coward. Then there was a person who came and saved me.”

“P, Person?”

“Mother. Mother regretted it, too. Seeing how cornered you were, she realized her judgment was wrong. So we discussed it.”

He turned his face to me and looked me straight in the eyes.

“We drove you out of the house.”

Listening to his words, I was strangely not surprised.

I’m convinced. If there was no other way to protect me, they had to just come to grips with reality.

It’s probably because I met with Ogasawara Shizuka. They really are similar.

When cornering someone important, they both reached the conclusion that they had to die.

Although Makoto’s sister couldn’t evade that conclusion, my brother was different.

He had to disappear in order to save me. But if he died, I feel like I would certainly follow suit.

Losing that person and finding out the reason makes it seem like the person in question shouldn’t live at all.

Nevertheless, even if he left the, problem still wouldn’t have been solved. Me driving him away would cause me to suffer in his shadow.

So my brother drove me away. He created the distance and changed the direction of my hostility.

Who did I fully bathe in such hostility?

No, that can’t be. However, my brother is saying the truth…

“T, Then father…”

“That is right, father volunteered for the job of being your enemy.”

That… idiot.

I never once saw my dad smile.

He always had a stern look, no matter the person he was talking to.

He was even tougher on me in particular.

I thought he hated me. I always thought he despised me for not matching up to my brother.

I thought I was an unneeded child.

“At the start, father had another proposal to our suggestion. Driving you away was impossible, he said. But the truth of the matter is there was no other way. So, father took the responsibility seriously. Aoi, father is anything but bad. Well, compared to mother and I who had a beyond one sided attachment to you, he is a respectable person. He is probably the most normal person in the Kijima family.”

Normal. Hearing those word nearly made me say something.

The image I had of him is slowly breaking.

I thought the wrinkled forehead and cold eyes judging me were normal? Even imagining as hard as I could, all I can remember is stern expression.

That is the father of the Kijima family.

“It was a hard role. If this is the father who dotes on mother, it’ll be extremely hard for him to bear a grudge against you, the person who resembles her. Nevertheless, no one else could do it. It was impossible for the two of us, so father took the torch. It’s vexing, but he really fell in love with mother.”

Spoken in a subtle tone, he noticed I was holding something in and gently patted my head.

“Your smile is indeed number one. But then again, this tough attitude of yours is also hard to hate.”

“I, I’m sorry. I know I have to talk to you honestly, but….”

I couldn’t help it. Hearing that my dad was the most respectable out of all of us made a smile slowly creep across my face.

“At any rate, it’s lucky that you met with Makoto.”

“Eh?”

“No, it’s just that, I thought a suitable lady besides Satonaka-san was impossible, but I was honestly surprised to see you transform so suddenly.”

Transform? I changed? Because I met with Makoto? No, no, that couldn’t have happened. Nothing changed.

Satonaka being suitable for me is also impossible. After all, she’s nothing but a meat toilet.

“The truth is mother and I drove you out and we continued to regret hiding it, but I thought you should now know I believed now that you know Makoto and Shizuka-san, you would understand this better.”

Shizuka, I definitely can understand my brother now after meeting her.

After all, with her resemblance to my brother, I get his pain.

“After you found an interest in Makoto, I investigated your motive, which caused me to discover her little sister. At a glance, I thought she was like me. So even though I knew it was bad for her, I thought I could use this child. If I would get in touch with you, I thought getting both of you in contact wouldn’t just be beneficial for you and Makoto, but Shizuka as well.

“Beneficial? Did my brother really lead me? That’s why he said it was dangerous.

“T, Then I was led along to make contact with Shizuka?”

“That is right. If I said it was dangerous, I knew you would’ve acted. It’s true she’s a dangerous child, but with her being in your hands, I believed they wouldn’t be able to do a thing.”

He thought so? It did happen, and it moved according to his expectation.

But, what is so dangerous about her? There wouldn’t have been a problem even if I contacted Satonaka.

Even if my brother didn’t come up to me, I would have contacted her.

Nevertheless, why did he go through so much trouble to lead me there.

“U, Um, why did you say Satonaka was dangerous?”

“Well, you would have stepped on the pedal if you used Satonaka-san, but the danger still stands. I would’ve preferred if Shizuka-san didn’t contact Satonaka-san.”

I wouldn’t have been satisfied if I made her move immediately.

That doesn’t mean I changed my plans because I was particularly worried about Satonaka.

In addition to that, what does he mean by the danger still stands?

“Couldn’t you understand after seeing her face? Well, maybe because it’s me that I could. I quite clearly knew what Shizuka-san was considering and doing. As such, I didn’t want Satonaka-san to come in contact with that.”

My brother looks at me with a smile. However, in spite of his soft expression, his voice carried a heavy weight.

“What would’ve happened if Satonaka-san met with her first? Shizuka sensed a presence of a man around her sister. She would’ve been suspicious if Satonaka-san just popped up. After all, Makoto only has a few friends. Moreover, if she was suddenly introduced to her, she would certainly be questioning stuff. “

What my brother is saying does make sense. I am positive it would end up like that.

It would be mission impossible if I gave the order.

“Shizuka never had someone to vent her troubles with. As such, she kept blaming herself. With that in mind, if she knew the man getting closer to her sister was checking her out…”

He did have to say it for me to know what he meant.

“Is it like her built up emotions would be directed towards Satonaka?”

“That’s right. Even if it’s unfair resentment based on a misunderstanding, Shizuka-san will take her as a clear opponent. Then there is another high possibility that she can even turn on you, the one handling Satonaka-san.”

Just as he said. She has a huge grudge towards Sasaki Tatsuya and tried to die because of it.

She has no place to direct her feelings. They accumulated so much that they went well beyond what she could handle, and then she couldn’t escape.

So naturally there is a possibility she would turn on me, the man who has been toying with her sister. I basically am, after all.

“So, I got into contact and forestalled Shizuka-san. As such, she wouldn’t have a chance to direct her negativity onto you. However, I didn’t think she’ll try and throw herself over a cliff, really. That went completely over what I predicted. I was struck with terror at that time, but as expected of you, I was shown something that exceeded my expectations of you. It was like like mother was there.”

My brother strokes my head as he speaks.

“In addition, Shizuka-san became attached to you in that very second. You stepped on my expectations even more, as spanking seemed to be effective, but well, she is similiar to me. I no doubt that you would grow on her.”

In spite of my brother stroking my head, sweat was coming out from my whole body from the questions I was bottling up.

It’s regretful, but he did set me and Ogasawara Shizuka to meet. However, why does he know about her attempt to suicide?

Not only that, but he knows about the spanking. If that wasn’t all, the only person who left that area was me.

If that’s true, how does he know?

My hands gradually trembled. Cold sweat was going along my back. I felt the blood draining from my face.

But that just isn’t logical. Assuming he came in and a had a word with Makoto when I left, he had of left later as well. It would be impossible to just run after me from there.

If that was the case, my brother met with Makoto, and after I met with her sister and returned back, did he stay and hid somewhere in the room?

In other words, my brother saw me spank her and all the actions I did with Makoto?

Continue to produce bead after bead of sweat, they just dripped along my cheek and spine.

“Eh? Aoi? Are you okay? You’re really blue.”

“Hiyaa!? Eh!? Ah, no! I’m okay, perfectly okay!”

In spite of my desperate attempts to remain calm, my thoughts were whirling.

My brother saw everything?

He couldn’t of heard about it. That’s impossible. Then if he did ‘see’, I can’t live anymore.

“Are you perhaps cold? You did stress a bit light. It’ll be bad if you caught a cold.”

My brother took off his jacket, placed it on me, and looked at my face concerned.

“Ah, Ahh! C, Cccc, Cold! Why am I dressed this light? I’m such an idiot, aren’t I? Ahaahaha!”

I was seen. I was really seen. What will I do? I don’t know.

“You really are steadfast, but at moments like these, you’re also a little similar to mother. But well, I guess that’s what makes Makoto and Satonaka-san so attracted to you. I think you big brother also thinks you’re really cute like this.”

Stroking my head with a smile, he didn’t finger a thing I did with Makoto.

Is he being considerate? But that’s even harder. But that doesn’t necessarily means I want to hear it.

But then with all that considered, Makoto knew my brother was hiding.

Did that idiot knew we were being watched and still didn’t say anything? Why? He usually would. Is she stupid? Is she a real idiot?

My…My stomach hurts.

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