Sixteen Year Old. Birthday. The Place of My Memories.
After school, Mariko and I headed towards the station and got on the bus. Since we just left school, we were still in our uniforms.
Mariko's pale chestnut hair was of length where it barely touched her shoulders, it oozed the usual calm feeling. Having her around, I somehow felt relieved.
But, it was troubling that my line of sight tended to go towards her breasts, hidden under the uniform's ribbon. It's 100% my fault.
We sat on the bus' two seater, in close contact I felt my heart beating quickly. I dropped my line of sight at Mariko's knees, and we were shaken together on the bus.
As I faced downwards Mariko asked "What happened? Are you okay?" worried.
I responded with a smile.
"I'm all right. It's nothing."
There was me, who wanted to care about my little sisters more. I shook my head in my mind, shaking off that existence.
I decided to celebrate the birthday with Mariko. Everyone had encouraged and pushed my back too, I won't think of pathetic things.
As I was in lost in thoughts, the bus arrived in front of the station.
I didn't speak with Mariko all that much. I-it's a date so I have to take lead.
We got off the bus in front of the station's traffic circle, then rode on a private railway and headed to Tokyo's station. Since we rode on the private JR railway, we didn't have to transfer.
We arrived in Tokyo's Ikebukuro station. If any, I think it's located in close to the Saitama Prefecture.
When I told her that, Mariko chuckled.
Mariko said "Ikebukuro is part of Saitama Prefecture's territory". She's something quite unreasonable.
Speaking of which, when I was doing date practice with Tomomi I listed Ikebukuro as one of the location candidates for the date.
There were quite a few stores for otakus, it was also famous for Otome Road and such.
On the east was Akihabara. Ikebukuro in the north. Nakano in the west. The International Exhibition Centre was in the south, two times a year there was a big festival performed in them. Like four heavenly kings.
Hmm, there's no topic to touch with Mariko.
While I thought such things, Mariko looked into my face curiously. She said "Can it be that you're not feeling good? Are you forcing yourself?" worrying.
Not good. For a while now, I'm not really having fun.
No wait, if I try pretending to have fun, Mariko might get worried.
"Ah, no, that's... I just thought Ikebukuro is very lively. My condition is flawless. Sorry Mariko. It's my birthday, but I'm still like this."
She shook her head energetically. After that, "Don't say sorry or think anything like that. It's fine even if you don't force yourself to have fun" like that, as if reading my mind like a psychic and she smiled gently.
And then, Mariko lowered her head and started making fidgety gestures with her hands.
"Umm... let's go?"
I took her hand. I gently held it. At times like this man has to lead.
Mariko let out a quiet "ah!", but didn't seem unwilling. Just slightly, her cheeks were dyed red.
Her hand was slightly moist. Seems like she was nervous, my hand was the same. I intended to maintain conscious at normal level, but my heart started beating faster on its own.
Side by side, holding hands, we started walking.
We exited the busy station premises through the passage and entered the western department store.
Mariko suddenly stopped and said this to me.
"I'm sorry! Actually... I already prepared the present."
So she didn't want me to choose one.
When I asked her, Mariko said "I wanted to ride a train and do some window shopping together", announcing the true purpose of today's outing.
"In that case you should have said so."
It was a small lie, but she said "sorry" and she lightly stuck out her tongue as she apologized.
While making that gesture, Mariko embarrassedly rubbed her knees together, squirming.
I was still lying to Mariko, in continuous tense that is. I kept silent about having little sisters and lied about it. If anything, I should be the one apologizing.
On the other hand, what would happen if I let it out here. The birthday party might not even happen.
Until today, Mariko continued to prepare for my birthday. Thinking of that, I felt like I shouldn't say it.
We circled around the department store's floors together. Girls really do enjoy this, even if they're not buying anything, do they.
On the floor with luxury bags and shoes lined up, I glanced at Mariko to see how she reacts.
When she looked at the price "Uwaa. Expensive. I wonder if rich people buy these hmm." she muttered, moved.
"Do you want something like this, Mariko?"
She shook her head sideways. And then "From time to time, I think 'it's cute!' but, I'm more surprised by the price.... and I'm satisfied with that. Is it weird?" laughing shyly.
It's really hard to get a grasp on her, that Mariko.
Naturally, we held hands as we walked side by side.
If I was with everyone... if I touched my little sisters, would I be calm like this.
Somehow, a part of me started comparing Mariko with everyone. Though I say comparing, it wasn't who's better, but rather the difference im impressions.
How about comparing them to animals.
Selene was like a cat. When it's cold she stays where it's hot. When it's hot, she's good at finding cool places. She seemed like a master when it came to finding places comfortable for her.
Tomomi felt like a dog to me. Full of energy, she seemed honest with her feelings. Were snow to start falling, she'd be the first one to jump outside.
Sayuri would be either a fox or a raccoon. At first she fooled me acting like a fox, when her identity was seen through she turned into a charming racoon. When she transforms well, Sayuri is perfect.
Yuuki seems like a big animal. Quiet and calm, like an elephant or a whale. She's worried about her height so I can't tell her that. That's why, though I don't think it'll happen, if she asks "what kind of animal would you liken me to?" I'll answer with "rabbit". She has the agility and her ears standing upright act like a sensor.
Mika would be a hamster, I guess. Small and cute, if you let your eyes off her, before you realize she's in some surprising place. If you stimualte her curiousity, it seems like she'd run endlessly.
Mariko gives off a feeling of a squirrel. It's not like she's good at climbing trees, and she doesn't give off an impression of someone who'd stuff her cheeks with acorn... this, is ultimately just my impression.
Suddenly, I had a thought. I didn't learn much about Mariko since we have reunited. That's why, even if I try to liken her to an animal, I can't give any good reason as to why I thought she's like a squirrel.
With a worried expression, Mariko asked me "can it be that you're bored?".
Damn. You're spacing out too much, me. Mariko is right in front of me and yet I'm thinking of everyone...
"No such thing."
Mariko responded with "that's great" and breathed out with relief.
I shook my head in my mind, then drove the little sisters out of my head.
And yet, everyone's faces floated in my mind. Like this, I can't get away from my little sisters.
We headed upstairs on the escalator with Mariko. We looked past the stores with men's clothing and toy's exhibition space, what was left was only the top floor.
As we headed to the top floor no the escalator, Mariko muttered a bit regretfully "We've already come up to the top floor".
"Where to next?"
She raised her eyebrows troubled and "Umm, you see... actually I didn't think of anything.", and blushed shyly.
So she didn't... usually she's very neatly prepared, that was sloppy of Mariko.
No, that's wrong. I one-sidedly labelled Mariko as "neat girl". She too, is just a normal girl.
IF she didn't plan anything, it's rather a chance for me to lead Mariko. It might be good to take a look at stores located along the Shansain street.
The moment I tried to propose that, after we've gotten to the top floor on escalator, my legs stopped at once.
I don't know when was it, but the scenery I knew spread out in front of me.
The stores in the interior were different, but I knew the atmosphere of this floor.
Why did the word "know" had come to my mind.
In my chest... my heart beat loudly. Feeling an illusion as if I could heart my heartbeat, I couldn't stand in one place.
"Where's this floor's elevator?!"
As I suddenly raised my voice "Eh? Hey, what happened, suddenly?" Mariko seemed confused.
Still holding Mariko's hand, I hurriedly looked for the elevator.
That's right. My hand pulled by that person, I have came to this floor all at once many times. To head to that place, located on this floor.
That's why I had to find the elevator.
Mariko made an astounded expression and was pulled by hand by me.
I immediately found the elevator that was my goal.
When I stood in the back of the elevator, I have fit perfectly in my memory.
After getting off the elevator, I walked straight ahead. The end of the road, innermost part... and outlook restaurant. We have arrived right in front of it.
Mariko acted timidly. Pulled by me "This... it feels very like showa period." she muttered. The restaurant had a retro atmosphere.
Ever since I was a child, it had aged like this.
The place of my memories... the unchanged place.
The showcase in front of the restaurant had various samples lined up side by side. The menu hasn't changed for a long time, the samples themselves were old.
Among them, I found children's lunch.
On the dish, there was omurice, hamburger, fried shrimp.
The set's desert was... pudding parfait.
Mariko tilted her head "Can it be, that you're hungry?" she asked, worrying about me.
"U-um, that's not it..."
From the restaurant's entrance I looked inside. My eyes were naturally drawn to the seats by the window of the outlook restaurant.
The seat with scenery outlook. Like a powder snow falling, my memory was revived.
When the elevator's door opened, we entered the top floor. I walked, my hand was pulled by Uncle. Straight towards the end of the path, to an outlook restaurant. Lined-up in the glass showcase were chocolate parfaits, pudding parfaits, fried shrimps and omelets, hamburgers with plenty of demi-glace sauce.
Back then, just like today it was a special day. Eat whatever you like, Uncle said.
I told Uncle I want to eat everything, and he smiled gently.
"Then, a children's lunch."
The fried shrimp, hamburger and omelet were lined up on a single dish. Pudding parfait for the desert. All of it my favourites and they were all delicious.
After filling my tummy with the feast, I watched the outside while drinking cream soda and suddenly thought.
On that day too, it was my birthday.
That's right... I remember. Everything... I remember all.
Uncle——Jinya-san, back then when we celebrated my birthday, said this.
It was a simple... yet serious question.
At first, I didn't know what was the meaning of it.
But, while I was a child, despite being a child, that proposal seemed like a very good thing.
That's why I responded with "Yup!".
I chose... with my own will, the future I am in now.
And yet, I completely forgot about it.
Since Jinya-san no longer came, I acted selfishly and troubled Grandpa and Grandma.
When I asked why Jinya-san doesn't come, Grandpa got really angry.
And I was told to forget about Jinya-san. He no longer came, six months, then a year passed and I decided to forget and give up.
Back then I was sad. I thought I was abandoned by Jinya-san. Also, I loved Grandpa and Grandma, I decided to thin out Jinya-san's existence in my heart.
Right now, I could understand both Jinya-san's and Grandpa's feelings.
Back then, surely, Jinya-san wanted to pick me and everyone up together.
But Jii-chan didn't allow it.
Having little sisters, of women other than my mother to live with me. Grandpa couldn't forgive such a thing.
Jinya-san wanted to make me his ally.
With his pure feelings, he must have asked me that question.
There was no way to tell what'll happen at this point... but I responded with "yup!" on that day, back then... I was happy. I felt like I have gained a lot of treasure.
The important treasure. Family... little sisters.
"Sorry, Mariko! I... need to go!"
Mariko opened her eyes wide "Go? Where to?" and tilted her head.
"I need to go back to my little sisters... there's something I have to tell them!"
I quietly let go of her hand.
Mariko... stood in that place. From her mouth "...little sisters?" had leaked out.
She had a strange expression. It wasn't angry or sad, it was a dazed on where she forgot such feelings.
Sorry. I'm really sorry. I'm really really sorry.
I was still confused myself. But I had to go.
I ran. There was no time to wait for the elevator. I jumped onto the escalator that was wrapping around the floors, ran out of the department store and to the station's automatic ticket gate.
To be there even if a second faster.
The birthday Mariko prepared for me was cancelled in the worst possible way.
I regretted it, but it was already too late.
Led by Mariko, I was able to stand in the place of my memories on the day I was born, was it a coincidence? Or maybe... it's what they call fate.
No, including this timing, everything, was surely a coincidence.
That's why, no matter how much I thank Mariko for drawing out this lucky coincidence, it won't be enough.
And yet I betrayed Mariko, returned good with evil.
My feelings turned blank. But I made my choice.
Mariko can no longer act like an excuse.
I have chosen everyone... my little sisters.
Even if I wasn't helped by Mariko by chance, I would have stopped at this place of memories one day. And recall just like I did today. But at that time, we siblings would have already separated, the relation with Taishido would have been cut as well.
It would have been too late.
No, anyhow, if I didn't choose, the chance I break up with everyone would be just as high as it is now.
Still, I wanted to say it.
Before we all separate, once again, I wanted to confront with everyone.
When I arrived at the nearest station, the bus has just arrived. I exhaled with relief and jumped off. At premises of the station I sprinted the entire time, on the seat of the bus for a while I continued to breathe roughly afterwards. My smartphone was still quiet.
Suddenly, I wondered if I have fallen out of Mariko's grace.
Getting of the bus, I stood in front of Taishido residence.
I looked up at the building.
Thinking of it now, my room——room 701, that pointlessly large space... all of it, might have been thought up by Jinya-san.
Rushing through the mansion's lobby, I rushed to Mika's room on the second floor.
The time I spent waiting for elevator was frustrating.
Regretting that I didn't take stairs which would be faster, I rode the elevator to get onto the second floor.
In front of Mika's room, I took a deep breath.
I rang the interphone and opened the door myself.
From the living room, Mika holding Maple had appeared.
"There's no way Nii-chan would be ba... seriously?"
Tomomi looked out into the hallway and was shocked.
"Even if you want to surprise me like that, I won't be fooled."
Seeing Tomomi's surprised reaction, Sayuri sighed and looked out to the hallway, she made a dumbfounded expression.
"What's up you three? No matter how much you miss Nii-san, for today bear with just imaginary Nii-san."
Yuuki spoke calmly, then confirming me stand upright in the hallway, she was at loss for words.
Lying around on the floor of the living room, Selene tilted her head.
"I-I'm back, everyone."
Immediately, Tomomi raised her voice.
"Nii-chan, aren't you staying the night elsewhere toady?! Why?!"
What Tomomi said was extreme, but apparently everyone thought that "I won't be coming back". Furthermore, Tomomi added.
"Seriously Nii-chan. Sneaking out from sleepover aside, you've come back too early even considering normal way. Just what happened?"
Sayuri made a troubled expression.
"T-tt-tthat's right. Why is it?"
Yuuki sighed lightly.
"Nii-san, were you worried about us?"
Mika wondered curiously.
"Nii-chama, you have to cherish your friends, right?"
Selene muttered absent-mindedly.
"...we did our best to encourage Nii-chan... it's no good to come back, is it."
The gaze of surprised little sisters, before I realized, had turned into blaming stares. Tomomi drew closer to me.
"It can't be, that you left Mariko-chan alone and came back, right? Or maybe Nii-chan, Mariko-chan waits outside and you intend to introduce her to us... or something?"
In that case, we won't hesitate to meet. Actually, that's how it is, right? Right? Like so, Tomomi's eyes appealed to me.
I shook my head.
"I separated from Mariko and came back alone."
"Did you get into a fight? Failing once or twice and running away, I have misjudged you, Onii-sama."
"I didn't. It was one-sided at my convenience... I know it's no good."
Yuuki muttered worriedly.
"That's bad, Nii-san. You need to go pick up Mariko-chan immediately. Leaving Mariko-chan and escaping, that's not like Nii-san."
"I... won't lie to my feelings... any more. I like Mariko. But...closer to me, I noticed something more important to me..."
When I decided to be honest with my feelings, I noticed that I like Mariko. Because I like her, it felt painful not to chose her, who's important to me, unable to give priority to both, I put the two important things on the balance and I tried my best to retain them balanced as not to be hated by either of them.
Mika hugged Maple tightly and looked up at me.
"Nii-chama, you can't treat girls horribly!"
"Sorry. Mika... I'll properly apologize to Mariko."
Selene muttered dazedly.
"...what does Onii-chan want to do?"
The girl I like, my important little sisters. The balance in my heart swayed largely.
From now on Mariko might become either a stranger or a lover to me. We might remain friends, but we might as well break away. Whatever is the outcome, the future is still ahead.
But, everyone... my relationship with everyone whether in past or now, and in future, surely won't change. Ahead of now, even if we're separated, before that happens I'll declare of "unchanging relation". Wherever we are, whoever we are with, that we... are a family.
"Right now, what I have to choose... is everyone. No matter what, I, want little sisters! I've always wanted little sisters!"
Everyone at once, made a confused expression.
Suddenly, Tomomi let out a panicked voice.
"W-what are you saying after all this time? I-I told you. I'm fine loving you one-sidedly as little sister. B-b-b-but, i-if you say that, i-it's mutual love! Ah! I see, so it's about making Mika the little sister?"
I shook my head and continued.
"I'll make everyone little sisters. Not sparing a single one, I'll make everyone my little sisters. Be spoiled by me, Tomomi! From today on I'm sixteen, although for short time, I'm still older than Tomomi. That's like nii-chan, right?"
"A-are you stupid? That's not like Nii-chan at all."
"Then I'll be like an older brother from now on. I won't hesitate any longer. I'll become everyone's older brother. That's why, everyone, become my little sisters... let's become a family."
I'm fully aware it was absurd. It isn't not choosing or not being able to chose.
I choose everyone.
"A-and what if we don't become one? Nii-chan, you're usually fearful of that."
"We will. There's no way we won't become a family."
I won't show weakness. If onii-chan is anxious, everyone will become anxious.
Tomomi was on verge of crying.
"Uu, Nii-chan broke."
"I like Tomomi. You're energetic and a good leader, I love the active and positive Tomomi. Wanting to be with people you love, is natural, right?"
Her face on the verge of crying turned red. Beside her, Sayuri trembled like a little dog.
"O-Onii-sama! It's not fair just saying that to Tomomi-san!"
"I love Sayuri too! You're hard working, have a firm grasp on yourself, good at cooking and feminine, also... I think your a bit malicious parts are also cute!"
"The last part was uncalled for!"
Even as she said that, Sayuri started trembling even stronger.
Mika jumped on spot.
"I love Mika a lot too. You're honest, pure, cute like an angel and I want to protect you. Also, you have a qualities of an adult lady."
"Mii-chan's a lady?"
"Yeah. You snuggle up to people who are sad and encourage them, I think it's wonderful."
She raised up her hands up to her cheeks and started squirming while repeating "Oh my, oh my".
Casting repeated glances, Yuuki reminded of herself with her gaze.
"You don't have to worry that much, it's all right. I love Yuuki. You have a gentle and warm heart, being able to respect others like that is wonderful. That's the Yuuki I love!"
"Ni-Nii-san. On me... i-it's a waste!"
"I think being humble, is also your charm point."
From Yuuki's face, steam had rose with *fuhyaa〜*
"...Onii-chan, what happened."
Selene alone, was silent.
"Ah. Selene... about you..."
"...you don't have to praise me."
"These aren't praises. Just like you told me, I'm just being honest with my feelings."
"...why today, with this timing?"
"I recalled everything."
Mariko being the trigger was concerning.
Next time we meet I'll tell her everything. I don't think I'll be forgiven with that.
Selene tilted her head in wonder.
"...everything... is it?"
"Yeah. This situation, it wasn't forced on us by anyone, it's the 'now' I wished for. I made that promise... with Dad."
"...remembered, about becoming onii-chan? Because you remembered you decided so in the past... and that's all?"
I turned towards Selene and shook my head.
"It's not to fulfil the promise. I don't feel any sense of duty from the promise. It was the trigger, it's not because I remember that I'm going to make everyone a little sister."
Selene's pupils like jewels stared at me intently. Not just her. Everyone waited for my answer.
Remembering, was merely a trigger.
"I, back when I was a kid, I was even greedier than now. Also, I was selfish. And that failed, I regretted that. That's why I think it's not good, I thought I grew up... I thought I've become an adult."
Tomomi sighed lightly.
"I see. That's why Nii-chan, you have no hobby. Like, wanting to do this, or wanting that! Kind of things."
I nodded in response to her words and continued.
"You're right. And yet, despite being a sore loser I thought it's fine to lose. It's just a game... and such. While doing so I protected my small pride. In the end, even if I superficially tried to become an adult, I realized I'm still just a kid."
Yuuki made a helpless expression.
"Nii-san, are you going to deny everything you have piled up so far? Saying it that way, it feels like you're saying you will throw away all the effort to become better."
"You're worried aren't you. Don't wor... it might be strange to say that, but now it's a plus to me, see. For a little bit more, I think of trying to open a window in my heart for my own desires. It's been always closed you know. That I thought of that, is all thanks to everyone. Having a dream, something I want to do, hope, looking forward... I affirm what I want to do. I finally realized theimportance of that. I remembered that I too, had feelings like that. That's why I'm going to open window of my desires. Make me your onii-chan everyone!"
I took all my feelings and as they were, I spoke them to everyone.
Selene had come unsteadily and clung onto me.
"...I, Tamiya Selene acknowledge Taishido Yoichi as onii-chan."
Immediately after, Tomomi reacted.
"N-not fair! Me too... I'll acknowledge Nii-chan as nii-chan!
Tomomi hugged and clung onto my arm. Her sandwiching my arm between her chest... uhh, surely, definitely Tomomi didn't notice at all.
"If I admit it... I'll be always... a little sister, right."
Muttering that, Sayuri took my left arm.
"But, I acknowledge it. I accept Onii-sama as onii-sama. I don't know what lies ahead, but right now I want to become a little sister."
Right now... in other words, in future she might think of different development.
But, still, she was a little sister for now.
Mika jumped on my back and rode on me.
"Nii-chama is forever, Mii-chan's nii-chama! Even if he dies!"
Don't kill me! I'll do my best as not to die!
Selene turned her arm around my torso and after shifting, called Yuuki over.
"I love Nii-san too! In a non-misunderstood way of course!"
Hugged by Yuuki as well, I was buried in little sisters.
"Everyone, you'll be my little sisters?"
Selene nodded lightly.
"...if Onii-chan wishes for it."
Tomomi made a troubled smile.
"Maybe we should have become honest with each other from the start."
Sayuri breathed in through her nose.
"One day, more than siblings but less than lovers... umm, i-it's nothing."
With a soundly and beautiful voice, Yuuki said.
"I have Nii-san and cute sisters. Nothing makes me more happy."
Mika from behind my back, hugged me even more tightly.
"Mii-chan loves Nii-chama and nee-chamas very much!"
I slowly nodded.
"Me too. Take care of me from now on."
Finally, I accepted everyone and was accepted by everyone.
At last, we reached the start line for becoming siblings.
Unexpectedly, Tomomi muttered.
"...Onii-chan, happy birthday."
Then everyone continued that.
"Ah! You're right. Happy birthday, Nii-chan."
"Congratulations. Ahh, Onii-sama has become even manlier again..."
"Nii-san, happy birthday. I wish you that the coming year will be happy for you, Nii-san."
"Congratulations Nii-chama. Maple too is saying happy birthday!"
I wasn't sad, and yet suddenly my tears overflowed. The older brother crying, so uncool.
When I did, as if infected, everyone started breaking in tears.
"...these tears are illusion."
"Wow! Strange. It's like rainy weather. Even though there's clear sky in my heart."
"How mysterious. Seems like we were enticed by Nii-san."
"When sad, tears are salty, are happy tears sweet?"
"Mii-chan isn't crying! She isn't crying!"
It might have been a ritual required for us to become a family.
And like that, we have taken a step forward to becoming a family.
——And when I thought so, suddenly, the interphone had sounded in the room informing us of the visitor.
I checked the person in the door and resolved myself.
The last judgement announcing the end of world. The interphone was the angel blowing the trumpet heralding it.