I’m back on the translating page! Finally.


How long has it been since I’ve locked myself in the bathroom? About fifteen minutes have already passed by.

I know I can’t delay the inevitable. I will eventually have to come out of here.

But I just can’t process the fact that my mother has really been in the other room. I did expect my brother to not head home, but I would’ve never thought that my mother was here.

I was able to avoid the worst possible outcome, wetting my pants, by reaching a bathroom. However, as my bladder emptied and I began to calm down, I realized that while I wasn’t in the worst possible outcome, I’d entered a horrible situation.

No, I have no doubt that this is the worst circumstance that I have ever been in.

I wanted to be mentally prepared if I ever met them again. Them being here surprised me.

“I never knew that my own mother was my neighbor…”

To keep what I truly am as a secret, I assumed the identity of an honor student as I greeted everyone in this apartment. However, I don’t really know who resigns in which room.

It’s unthinkable in my hometown, but here in the city, it seems normal everywhere.

After getting used to the area, who my neighbors were never really crossed my mind.

But besides that, the creditability of my brother had increased.

Kijima Soutarou was the head of the Kijima family, who I thought was the only one that had total control. No, the entire household thinks this-this too.

I wasn’t allowed to talk back to my father’s absolute rule. If I didn’t know any better, it would’ve been strange that my mother is here.

I was ordered to leave the house and never cross the threshold again. It would’ve been impossible for my mother to have come after he said that.

There is also something I really must know: shouldn’t they have gotten someone who I wouldn’t recognize? They wouldn’t have to worry if that was the case.

There’s also my brother. It’s weird how both my brother and mother were sent. I can’t leave out the possibility that my brother was behind this. Nevertheless, my father couldn’t have possibly let both of them come over to check on me.

The fact that the room next to mine is being rented makes what my brother said earlier more credible.

It is possible that both mother and my brother did this to make sure it was behind closed doors, but this isn’t something the mother I know does. Rather, she couldn’t do anything right?

If father had known, what would’ve happened? I don’t think mother would take such a risk.

It’s the same story with my brother. Though it would’ve been easy for him to borrow one or two rooms of an apartment. Nevertheless, if he were to get one next to me, father would never allow it. Even if mother called him there, he would be disowned.

But even with all that in mind, he took a room. So if that’s the honest truth, it was neither my brother nor my mother, but my father who rented the room. It’s only logical to think my father would’ve let my brother stay together with mother.

No way. This couldn’t be possible, yet, the evidence is right in front of me.

Is it true that my father offered to bear my grudge? The closest person who can prove this is near me.

I’ll be able to find the truth if I ask my mother for everything she knows.

So staying in this bathroom will let me understand nothing, which gets me nowhere.

“”But even so, to be meeting her directly…”

No matter how much I think, I won’t get an answer. I’ll get no closure if I don’t ask. But even so, I can’t help but worry despite the insignificance of the issue.

Questions continue to repeat endlessly in my brain. It’s useless to worry, I can just ask my mother. However, I wasn’t able to stand up from the toilet as I shamefully realized my knees were shaking.

I feel like I can kind of understand where Ogasawara Shizuka is coming from.

If what my brother says is true, I lose the container that holds my grudge. The thing that let me excuse myself of all sins would be lost.

I’m afraid to know the truth.

I eventually got off the toilet after what felt like several hours. I don’t actually know for sure.

———

Walking the hallway while erasing all traces of fear, I stood in front of my door.

I didn’t notice since I was worried, but nobody came to the restroom. Even if Kajiura is supposed to stay with my mother, it wouldn’t have been strange to come check on me after all the time I spent in the bathroom.

Did they foresee my confusion and waited till I had calmed down?

But, in my confusion, I was upset and losing my collective; not able to what to do next. Would they have left me like that? I at least think my brother wouldn’t.

But the truth is nobody did come to check.

Did they even know I sat on the toilet, worrying endlessly? If so, they left me unattended in such a state.

Now that I think about it, they could’ve installed surveillance cameras in the restroom.

No, no, I’m definitely thinking about everything too much.

It won’t be good if I become too suspicious.

But apart from that, if they already know I’m here, there is no meaning sneaking around. Nevertheless, I still continue on like this. I really don’t know what to do with myself.

I put an ear to the door and listen.

“Haha, Mother, the meals you make are always delicious! If I ever get a wife, I want one as homely as you!”

I heard my brother’s voice. He seems to be eating Mom’s homemade food.

Mom’s home cooking. There are several people who do the cooking in the Kijima house. However, there is a rule that mother makes the food for the family to eat.

I haven’t eaten her cooking for about two years, but I remember that it’s always delicious.

“Soichiro, don’t speak while you eat. Good grief, you still have the same awful manners as before. Be a little like Aoi. That kid, from the bottom of his heart, is a dignified..”

That’s my mother’s voice. Same bad manners as before? As before? How absurd. He was taught etiquette throughout his childhood by Father, as there would be no place for next head of the Kijima household not having manners.

I never saw my brother having such ill etiquette.

“Hahaha! You just want to say that he is like you! Which means you’re simply complimenting yourself! Well, you really are similar! Nevertheless, his adorableness just tops yours! He isn’t as crude as you, mother!”

I can’t believe his tone. Crude? Mother? Mother of all people? A lady that’s a naive, high-class daughter?

Is that person crude?

These are hardly the words my brother should use to describe her.

“I have no problem being crude. But, fufu, you being so carefree really reminds me of Soutaro-san. He would always make me laugh.”

Her voice. She is genuinely having a good time.

“I’m similar to father, huh. Aoi said that before. ‘Onii-chan is big like father’, he said. Gee, I was really happy then.”

My brother went into a gentle, reminiscent tone.

“Mhm, you do. You look just like him, but also as reliable and gentle.”

My mother also had the same tone.

Is this what my family is really like? The people that are my brother and mother that I never got to know.

Emptiness and loneliness took the place of the anger I had previously felt.

The space was a happy circle all because I’m not there. It’s clearly true, as when I was there everything was in a craze.

Feeling my chest hurt, I could see that fool Makoto float around inside my head.

That person has nowhere else to go but next to me. She does what she does because she has no choice. No choice other than me….

“Well now mother, why don’t you stop playing the hypocrite. Did you ever intend to go visit him personally? Even Aoi would have wanted to see what you truly are.”

His voice suddenly became heavy.

“Even if you say that, it’s difficult to change what I continued for ten years. It’ll become truth if I continue the lie.”

My mother sorrowfully told my brother.

A lie. Because I’m so similar to mother, my brother was afraid of me, so what does she has to hide?

I don’t know what is what anymore.

I don’t what’s a lie, what’s the truth, or what to believe.

“But, I did not only conceal myself in a lie for Aoi. It was also for my own sake. I am to never make the mistake of―”

“Mother!”

My body shook from the anger my brother’s voice carried.

I never once heard my brother raise his voice against my mother in vivid unrest.

“Father has even told you several times! You did nothing wrong! You didn’t make a mistake! You gave birth to me! Father rose me like his own! I also have Aoi, a cute younger brother that is the apple of my eye! But even with knowing all that, you blame yourself and reject me in the process!

“You don’t have to worry, Father really treasures you! You even gave me the affection any normal child couldn’t dream of receiving! I am glad I became the cause of why you drove Aoi away! I now know how you feel! As long as I exist in your line of sight, you’re tormented!”

His hand shook in clear fury, which causes a chill to run down my spine and sweat begin to form on my palm.

What on earth is my brother talking about? From what he is saying, it’s just like…

Escape, I have to escape from here. I’m not supposed to be here. I can’t eavesdrop on these two’s conversation.

“Father said he will give me the power of the Kijima family! He said I was the only one that could inherit it! Not Aoi, but for me! I was saved just by feeling that! I’m really glad I was born by you and lived as father’s child! So I regret nothing! So you can’t either!”

Of course, they would make my brother the successor. But from what my brother is saying, it doesn’t seem like he qualifies at all.

My brother did say that he is like Ogasawara Shizuka, but I believe that to only be via personality.

Was he also implying circumstances?

No, it’s a lie, it couldn’t be that! Forget it, forget what you just heard!

I forced my shaking knees to move. I have to escape. I need to quickly run away. I heard nothing. I know nothing.

However, something soft tapped me from behind.

When I looked back, I saw Kajiura-san. Her unusual, expressionless eyes fixed on me.

“Aoi-sama, are you running away again? Well, I regret to inform you that I won’t like you escape now.”

In an attempt to escape from her grasp, I jerked my body to the other side.

Her expression and tone had no emotion in them. I was overwhelmed by her cold eyes.

“Like steel, you’re brittle in some places, no? Tormented by regret, you continued to run away by lying to yourself. Since you were born to now, you really are similar. Truly in each and every aspect.”

I gradually backed away as Kajiura-san slowly edged towards me. But as my back struck against a wall, I looked left and right to no avail. I was trapped.

I, I have no choice but to run! If what my brother says is true, I was, I was born―”

My thoughts scattered, I shouted with no direction.

“His!?”

Suddenly, the wall I fell against disappeared, causing me to fall. I was then embraced like I was floating for but an instant, and then it left.

When I looked up, my brother was there. He gave me a smile and then looked at Kajiura.

He knitted his eyebrows at Kajiura, but then when looking at me again, he had his usual smile.

“Excuse me, you’re a little overworked. Mother wanted you to hear what you just did…”

I was wanted to quickly get up. My sight was a little hazy toward the face of my smiling brother.

“If it wasn’t for me…”

“Don’t say such an idiotic thing. It’s the memories of you that gave me the ability to live. With memories of you chasing after me as you called out big brother, I am here now. No, I can even continue living.”

Embracing me from behind, he tightly wrapped himself around me.

Kajiura was right in front of us. For the first time, I saw her cry.

‘Yes, even she feels it’, I absentmindedly thought.

———

The three of us sat around the table. With me at the head of the table, brother sat right in front of mother.

Kajiura was at the door, which was probably to prevent me from running.

When I looked at her from the corner of my eye, she returned a chilling stare.

She won’t let me go so easily. Her eyes are implying that.

Regarding who Kajiura is, I almost know nothing besides the fact that she’s my mother’s personal servant that once belonged to the Kasuga family.

She is a reserved person, rarely ever talking.

But I can say that she isn’t someone ordinary. She’s an outsider who came to the famously prestigious Kijima family. Even though she’s exclusively the wife’s, it’s normal for voices to rise when they also have the position of head servant. Ostensibly, one has to show face if there is a revolt.

However, I never heard stories of her, and yet the Kijima servants seem to follow her.

That alone should prove that ability of hers to be outstanding.

In other words, she isn’t a person that I can fool. It’s impossible for me to escape.

“So, Aoi, this is quite a heavy reunion despite it being so long.”

Keeping her chin up by resting on her hands, my mother spoke in a calm tone. I couldn’t understand how, but her calm tone caused an overbearing feeling.

This is different from the mother I know. She appears overwhelming even though she’s just sitting there, eyes closed.

This is what she truly is? The mother who was weak and followed father’s word to the point?

“But it doesn’t matter, it’s a great time to talk about stuff. It was really difficult for me to talk about this.”

Giving a sigh, mother slowly opened her eyes. Then, all of sudden, her eyes went sharp and full of dignity—something that I did not think was possible of my always smiling mother.

I gulped. There is a thing called killer eyes, and it’s indeed that. My father’s scowl is adorable compared to mom’s eyes right now. She makes the air around me feel frozen.

Is this situation like a frog staring at a snake? My mind quickly wavered to such a thought.

“You probably have questions. Such as,’Why is my mother so beautiful? She’s sooooo youthful!’ ”

“Eh?”

I could not understand the contrast of the situation and mom’s recently spoken words.

Well, mother is definitely youthful, but why would I ask such an unusual thing?

Is it a joke? No, the situation means it isn’t. So, is she serious?

Please, don’t confuse me anymore.

“Kuku, youthful, oh so youthful! No one is more beautiful than mother.”

When I turn towards my brother’s voice, he puts a fist to his mouth to keep himself from bursting into laughter. This is really stupid.

For brother to have spoken such a thoughtless thing to mother.

I turn away from him and then looked over to Kajiura. Is she trying to keep herself as well? Kajiura-san is? This has to be a lie.

“Ahem, Soichiro, don’t make your mother out to be an idiot. Oh, and please don’t interrupt me.”

Mother, cheeks dyed red, cleared her throat and looked at me again.

No, no, no, how is he even interrupting you? Don’t cast aside it like that!

“”There is a reason why mother is so youthful. Aoi, mother gave birth to you at age sixteen. With that in mind, I gave birth to Soichiro before I was wed into the Kijima family.”

Mother has a serious tone, but due to the comical break earlier, the tension just wasn’t there. No, to begin with, what mother said is ridiculous.

It should be surprising. It’s appropriate to. However, I’m so confused that I don’t even know what reaction to take.

“Which means Soichiro is my true son, but he isn’t the son of your father. So, who is? Mother doesn’t know either. No, I remember his face, but I don’t know where he is.”

She went back to the same, serious position as she spoke. She then quietly stood up.

“Ahh, I made a breakthrough thanks to Soichiro. Opportunity and timing were important for something like this. However, with what you heard, there is no point hiding it now. So, can you stop as well?”

She scratched her head as her sharp eyes came into view again. I can’t believe this tone and mannerism is coming from my mother.

“First of all, it’s annoying wearing a kimono. My stomach is restricted, and don’t you think it’s a waste to hide my outstanding style? Huh, Aoi?”

Looking at me, she clicks her tongue and hits her stomach. She then started to remove her band.

It then falls from her waist, removing the kimono from her body. Kajiura was right behind her as she did this.

She quickly took off the kimono from mother’s shoulders.

With a white undershirt under her pale pink kimono, she sat right down. Not straight, but cross-legged.

With only a white shirt on, her thighs were bare. However, mother didn’t seem to care.

Mother is a high-class daughter who puts on a kimono in the summer, rarely showing skin, so I never thought she would expose her thighs so calmly. More so to be sitting cross-legged.

She then quickly put up her hand. Kajiura-san offered a small cup to her and then filled the cup to the brim. From the faint, drifting scent, it’s sake.

Mother drank it quickly in one gulp.

“Ahhh! Thatttt hits the spotttt! I don’t drink a lot since I can’t hold my liquor. So I’m probably a big fucking idiot for drinking sake!”

She struck the cup against the table, cheeks flushed.

W, Who is…Who is this person? I don’t know them.

Although I had thought the atmosphere around mother was weird, the current her transcends far from weird dimensions.

Was she kidnapped by aliens and a replacement was secretly taken her place?

She beats the small cup once again on the table. Kajiura pours more into the cup.

“Ahh, yes yes, I’m saying I don’t know who is Soichiro’s father. It was ten, no, more people? I accompanied those people over a month, and since they took turns, I don’t know who’s seed succeeded.”

She quickly guzzles down the sake once again. Her cheeks dye further into a bright red as she looks at me with a smile.

“I was confined nearly a month, and in that time I was treated rather awful. It became to the point where I thought all humans were cruel. But then there was Soichiro. I couldn’t understand him.”

Even though the truth should come as a shock, I don’t really get how.

“Mother, even though you’re telling him everything, you’ll quickly make him confused if you don’t press on the breaks.”

“Shut uppp, I don’t have to press the breaks! Moreover, they were broken ever since they were born. No matter what I do to it, it’ll never stop.”

To my brother’s wry smile, mother glared at him.

“I see. I guess it’s better to keep it at full speed. However, due to it being an important talk, one should refrain from drinking―”

“Shattttt uppp! I can’t talk about this without drinking, retard!”

Continuing to uphold his smile as he tries to soothe mother, she takes another drink from her cup.

She’s wasted to the point where her body is swaying.

“Soutarouuuu! Aoiiii! I’m drunkkkk! I wanna sleep, but I can’t if Soutarou doesn’t eitherrrr!”

“Ahhh, really, Kaijura-san? Why did you let her continue drinking? You’re spoiling her.”

As the drunk beat to the table, she pointed her cup at Kajiura. Even though my brother tried to stop her drunken spree, Kajiura ignored him and continued on pouring.

“I may be bold Aoi-sama, but there are things I can’t say without the power of alcohol. Do you understand? And when I’m drunk, I honestly can say you’re adorable, Aoi-sama.”

My brother looked up at Kaijura-san, who had indifferent eyes. On the other hand, the drunk gulped and then banged the cup onto the table in a seemingly disappointed fashion.

“Soutarou-san…I love him from the bottom of my heart…”

She murmured in a deep breath.

What in god’s name is she going on about? Or rather, what is she trying to do? I don’t get it at all.

“Welll, it’s finne if she got to say what she really wanted to. Kaijura-san, I thank you for this drunk in advance. I’ll explain the details to Aoi later.”

“Certainly.”

Holding up the drunk, he bowed and then offered her to Kajiura.

In spite of her build being not that different from mother, she carries mother away.

No matter how delicate mother is, Kajiura being able to so easily lift her away is just not realistic in this universe. Moreover, her expression hasn’t even changed.

“I thought it was strange that they stayed calm, but she may just be trying to hide it. Well then, I’ll just leave the rest to you. And for her to had fallen asleep with a grin, it’s all good.”

“You don’t have to say it. I’ll take good care of your Mother and not scold her since she was able to convey something to Aoi-sama.”

“Haaa, you’re is too lenient with mother.”

“What is so bad about being sweet? No matter what I am, I’m Aone-sama’s servant. Even if i’ll be damned, I’ll follow gladly. And besides, Aone-san is the type that grows with praise.”

The two exchange a conversation. To my brother, who looks amazed, Kaijura-san still has the same dead look. Nevertheless, she bows to the both of us and leaves while carrying mother.

“Well, she said it better than I could…”

Staring at the door, he mumbles while scratching his head.

———

As I left the room, my brother was looking down.

“Since I intended to have mother explain it, I didn’t touch the public in the park. Though, it looks like I have to explain after all. Sorry for the confusion, Aoi.”

Both hands on the table, he sinks his head down further.

“Ah, n, no, it’s alright…”

Although it’s not alright at all, it would bother him if I said otherwise.

“Well, if we have an understanding Aoi, I’ll give a substitute explanation from the vague one the drunk gave.”

Having said that, he began to explain.

———

Mother has been married into the Kijima at age sixteen. That appears to be true. However, the fact that my older brother was born before that point of time contradicts it.

The Kijima and Kasugano houses both have venerable social status, resulting in great power. When both the families came to a compromised, there seemed to be an inconvenience of a person.

And mother, Aone Kasuagano, is the legal daughter of the household, seems to be have been a problem child in many ways.

Even though she was officially in high school, she caused several problems and often needed to be looked after.

The best way of putting it is cunning. The bad was a fox. But with the stuff being sweet, sometimes she ran with her tail out.

It had been decided that our mother would be married into the Kijima family since her birth, as her parents and the household were suffering hardships.

So my grandfather, the previous head of the Kijima’s with an attachment to our mother, would often go to their house, head down to the ground while offering his son.

Since my grandfather died before I could remember him, I don’t have any memory of him. However, I heard several times from my brother that he had great wits that made his fame nonwaivable.

According to stories he heard from father, he saw what was missing from father and mother.

As a result, but having our mother and father marry, then by grandfather’s predictions, it would further the Kojima’s development and guarantee their fame.

There was a disgraceful affair that happened in the process. Before the Kijima could install a litter in Kasugano Aone, she had immoral sex. In other words, she associated with a man aside from Soutarou Kijima and became pregnant.

In the month of mother covering her tracks, she had regular contact with her household.

Mother once had a daily prodigal habit of leaving the house for several days. However, she wouldn’t cross the line. In spite of their worries, the parents of Kasugano house entrusted that of her.

However, it’s a different story if it’s for a month. As such, they told her she had to return. She didn’t, though.

And then when she finally returned in spite of it being like she was disowned, she said she wanted to marry into the Kijima family.

The mother, who caused several problems and missed school, was then watched until she married into the family.

Mother had already known that she was pregnant. She also seemed to have hidden it, too.

So when the truth came to life due to her stomach protruding, it was already too late.She could no longer get an abortion. But even if they got an abortion before that, the Kijima family would be nothing but laughed at for marrying a pregnant daughter into the noble family.

Of course, they gave up on offering their daughter and apologized to the Kijimas on not being able to do so.

Naturally, they couldn’t say why. No matter what, a mouth could not utter such a scandal that their idiotic daughter carried the child of a nobody.

If this was known before the marriage, the Kasugano family name would be in ashes.

But in spite of their best efforts, it soon came to light. It also entered the ears of the previous main head of the Kijima household.

Nevertheless, grandfather still had to desire to welcome her into the family, but the Kasugano stayed firm to saying no, in the fear their honor would be completely ruined.

It seems the only person who could convince the Kasugano house was father.

In a dignified silence, as no excuse was made, mother took on the crime of adultery herself. Father said she looked very beautiful in his eyes.

The current and next head of the Kijima eagerly talked about the fact that mother would have the next heir of the Kijima put inside her as planned.

But even if her parents allowed it, mother simply did not accept it.

That problem was quickly solved.

Mother made no excuses, but feeling something wrong, father worked behind the scenes.

The cause of this distress was mother’s friend. She may have been famous for her crude behavior, but she had a close friend that has been said to be threatened.

Her friend’s family had gathered a great sum of debt. If compared to the financial power of the Kasuagano, their debt was like a drop in a bucket. However, from the thought of wanting to be at an equal standing with mother, she refused to take mother’s support. She also considered their feelings and didn’t offer it.

That is where they attacked.

By examining mother’s personal life, they came to the existence of her friend, which wasn’t acceptable for the initiation of the two families. So, her friend was then threatened with even more debt.

It increased at snowballing rate. The friend wasn’t able to talk to anyone either.

Then in order to cancel her debt, she accepted the conditions of having sex with an unknown man.

If you think about it, it’s obvious. Tens of millions of debt. It’s too much for it to just go poof after just one embrace.

In other words, it was a lie.

The friend was too young and a really strong sense of responsibility to have realized.

During the sex she was photographed and then threatened, resulting her take down to be done in seconds.

What sort of hellish service was demanded of her? The picture taken were disposed of by father’s hand right after it was discovered, so no one else knows but him.

The friend tried to take all of the burden herself. Nevertheless, she was only baiting to fish for mother.

Of course, when it reached mother, she gave in. She was then confined for a month, treated like garbage.

It was like she wanted to be confined. Her actions were not from being threatened either. All she was shown was a photo of her friend.
Due to the restricted communication inside the household, it was already too late for the problem. Without any threat, mother offered her body.

She hid her pregnancy to prevent the Kijimas from being able to accept her in the decided marriage.

Yet she agreed. There was no threat, though. The action she took was clearly by her own freedom to put an end of what was happening to her friend.

This trap appeared to be based on mother’s understanding and ability to act.

But then when mother was captured, the friend appeared to have already died.

She killed herself to protect mother.

She said that in a video she issued to her friend. Though father disposed of everything, in the end, he showed mother it only.

Rather die than betray a best friend. Even if my body is stained by dirty, I won’t betray Aone.

Her friend’s eyes were worn out, but she still brightly smiled.

After half a month, she died. The cause of death was suicide, but she didn’t herself, as sooner or later she would’ve died eventually.

Without knowing her friend was already dead, she held on in silence to protect her. She endured the humiliation than just simply dying to protect her.

The incident was then discovered, and all three houses were completely crushed.

Although the insubordination is said to come out on it’s own, the truth has father wrecked the masterminds that placed mother in this trap.

Nobody knows what happened to the people of those houses.

That event was mainly to show people what would happen if you made Kijima Soutarou pissed.

———

“So well, that’s it. Not a single drop of the Kijima bloodline flows in me.”

My brother smiled gently as he stated such.

“Gosh, it was troubling that mother got drunk, but it destroyed a certain barrier that made it easier for her to explain it. Thinking about it, her plan was kinda sweet.”

I nodded.

Mother had a dreadful past, but my father still accepted her. Completely aware of all this, my brother smiled at me.

I don’t know what to say. How is that possible of me? Can I smile like him? No, I really can’t.

“Well in all relevance, it became thought of that the child mother bore would be a man excellent in all aspects. Thanks to that, I began to be praised as Kijima’s gifted child. Father seemed to have felt that a betrothal was unpleasant. Marriage was to be done with someone one loves, as he said. However, in various of meetings, he fell deeply in love with her. Those were the times that nothing bad had happened.”

That last statement of his I felt he could only say with being my big brother.

He was the person that would carry a heavy burden simply due to his gentleness.

I wasn’t able to say anything to escape.

“Ah, in other words, mother really regrets what she has done. This all started due to her misbehavior, which also leads to her closest friend’s death. It’s hard to explain it, but mother was an amazing person who helped the weak and crushed the strong.”

“So, she changed herself?”

“Mmhm. With being exactly like her, she didn’t want you to make the same mistake. However, in my personal belief, she didn’t make a mistake. Perhaps there was another way that could’ve saved her deceased friend. But mother tried to help her with all her power. I determined that what she did was no mistake. No matter what anyone says, I am proud of her.”

No mistake, huh. I don’t really have all the details, but she was most likely driven into a situation where she couldn’t ask for help.

If she did so, there would be no mistake that she’d lose her life.

But, she wasn’t able to save her.

There would only be regret. That is how I would feel if I was in that situation.
I begin to understand the credulity to the story as I calm down. In addition, mother was young at this time.

I now knew. I knew it all. However, I was still confused in my mind. I couldn’t put it together that well.

“Can I have, a little time? I want to put my thoughts into order…”

“Ah, of course. It’s not something to take in so soon. You should take your time and think it over. Nevertheless, mother can’t be away from the house for a long time, and I think she will be returning soon. So if possible, I want you to come back before she does. I look forward to that time.”

Can’t be away for a long time? Well, it is true that the current head’s wife cannot be away from the house, but wasn’t she here for quite some time?”

“U, Um…this is rather off topic, but how long have they been renting here?”

“Hm? Uh, about three years ago. Mother has only been here for three days, but this place has been in preparation for about three years. Ahaha, I’m infected with a virus that makes me lose the will to live when I can’t meet up with you.”

Hearing his words, I gave a sigh. So she was.

However, I felt a chill down my spine afterward.

What is there to be relieved of? My brother came here three years ago. That was before I entered high school.

“U, Um…Big brother, I have something unnecessary to ask.”

‘Oh? What is it? Big brother will answer anything of yours.”

“B, Big brother, um…how did you know about the relationship between Makoto and myself?”

In fear, I swallowed my saliva.

The USB I got from my brother in the mall. When I looked inside, the amount of information gave me no doubt that he has always been observing the things around me. Moreover, his home base was right next to me.

I fear hearing it, but I can’t go without it. So, I’m gambling on a single ray of hope.

If it’s my brother, he’ll probably say what I’m thinking.

“Hm? Relationship? It’s a good one, right? What else is there to say?”

With his confused grin, I felt slightly relieved.

It may come our mistakenly, but my brother doesn’t seem to have any intentions to question too closely. Though rather than a question, he may know everything.

Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem he is pretending to not know.

Then, bearing my shame, I have to make it clear now.

“I, I would be very thankful if you didn’t tell Mother or Father. I don’t know what to say, but…”

“What, of course, someone good looking as like you would get fifty or a hundred girlfriends. But, you unexpectedly have a strong sense of virtue. Moreover, Makoto appears devoted. I don’t think it’s something to hide, but it’s too soon to talk to mother and Father about this. I’ll keep your and Makoto-san’s ‘health association’ a secret.”

His extreme emphasization of the term, ‘health association’, made sweat pour out of my whole body.

He knew after all. Simple because he very well knows that it isn’t healthy, he emphasizes it.

“Ah, also, Dad knows that you and Satonaka-san were close, but he didn’t know that you were having ‘healthy association’ either, so chill.”

“Ah, ahaha…is, is that so.”

To the mention of Satonaka, I almost choked.

Does he also know about her? I would like to interrogate further, but I’d be afraid to listen.

Though the words “Father doesn’t know” were strangely scary, so I didn’t press further.

Ignorance is bliss.

“That’s enough on this ‘healthy association’. As for being the new head, do you think that I, someone not of the Kijima bloodline, should succeed? If you don’t agree, I have no intentions of taking it.”

“Eh?”

“Head of the family. I’m asking whether I can take that seat.”

Suddenly the conversation change, causing my mind to not catch up.

He doesn’t have to ask me that. I thought up until now that as he was the eldest son to the Kijima, he would be.

I’m no longer interested, or rather I don’t want to. Even if my father said he was actually nice, I can no longer think of living with him now.

“I, I think that you should inherit it. What I believe hasn’t changed after what you told me.”

To my reply, my brother smiled at me. However, it quickly disappeared as a cold stare took its place.

“Your words really did save me in a way. After knowing everything, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, how you recognized me as a person of the Kijima family. However, Aoi, you are the true heir.”

“…Eh?”

To my brother’s sudden change, my befuddled thoughts just completely collapsed.

What did he just say? My brother is the heir. Not me. Also, why are his eyes so cold?

“The fact that I’m not a descendant of the Kijima household is hidden from the public, but actually, somebody does know. The idiot that have been trying to use that to entrap the family.”

The corners of his mouth lift alongside his icy stare. This wasn’t my gentle brother.

“I am currently in line to be the next head, but I have yet to inherit the birthright. As such, that distasteful person cannot start a fight. However, when I do inherit it, they will wield mother’s past like a weapon and spring into action. Before that happens, I have to nip them in the bud.”

His tone is calm like usual. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel as if he is calm.

“Mother gave birth to me. Father raised me. And with you calling me brother, there isn’t a wall I cannot overcome. To me, this family is irreplaceable. I won’t allow people to interfere with it. However, if I do become the head, I cannot make a move. So, there would be a reason for you becoming the head. I would be able to take advantage of their lowered guard.”

He was neither shouting nor threatening, merely speaking as if it was an everyday chat. However, the growing tension becomes so intense that my ears began to hurt.

“If you’re the next head, they will have a lot of trouble. Without me inheriting it, they won’t have a weakness to use as blackmail. When the realize they can’t reap the rewards, they’ll show themselves. Which means…”

Sweat keeps pouring out. My body is starting to shake, my breathing uncontrollably. My heart may explode at this very moment.

“Will you officially become the next head of the family? I rather enjoy cleaning up more so than being the head. Do you understand?”

Saying that, he laughed. His smile was like that of a child’s, but his eyes were still frozen.

Though my brother said he was similar to Ogasawara Shizuka, that was a mistake. This person is far different than such a bratty bitch.

How much talent was my brother endowed with? Then there is I, neither swayed nor wielded by that talent, best at things familiar to myself.

After living in admiration, envy, and recognition of my own defeat, I am aware of fear.

However, the big brother I knew was beautiful. He has a clear, kind heart to the point where it seemed too good to be true.

However, there is a limitation for humans.

There is the one thing I can say, and that is this person was better off not making him his enemy.

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