Outside. Outside. For Now Let's Just Go Outside.
Monday morning, after we met, Mariko was worried about the dark circles that appeared under my eyes. There was no way I could tell her that I was playing games with my little sister candidates and then pulled an all-nighter in order to keep up with the level of Shichiou Academy... I felt a little bit guilty about lying to her. I've been invited by her "how about we play around after school for a change?" but there was a different errand I had to do. I apologized, feeling even more guilty for keeping things secret from her.
I went home after school... even though I say that, I couldn't go back to my room and instead waited for Selene by the entrance hall when the appointed time came.
"...it's been a day, Onii-chan."
Last week, Selene didn't have any clothes she could use to go outside in, now she was dressed in black-based gothlic lolita outfit. She had a skirt which reached slightly above the knees and short knee-socks.
"Oh! It suits you well Selene."
Selene's cheeks reddened. No matter how cute the clothes are, if they don't match the person wearing it, it won't be attractive. In that respect, Selene looked perfect.
She seemed like a completely different person as she fidgeted inside her room.
"...with this, I'm the little sister."
"Isn't it a bit early to say that?"
Her becoming my little sister aside, I think making her step outside was more important. I took her hand.
"Let's go, Selene."
"...let's go you say... but we're already outside."
"We're still on the premises of Taishido residence, aren't we?"
"...a fish can't walk on land. Since I'm a mermaid, if I step outside I will vanish."
"It was a road you picked by yourself, you need to take a single step forward first! Didn't we promise to go to Nippori's fibre wholesale district together one day?"
"...you remember that promise?"
"Hey, it was only a week ago."
"...but it's already dark outside. It's not a good idea to roam the streets at night, right?"
"Even if it was bright outside would you go out?"
"...I'm sorry. I lied, I won't go out even if it's bright outside."
It seems like she's oddly honest sometimes. I lightly held her hand, but it didn't seem like Selene had any intention of walking.
I pulled a bit harder.
*shhh*, I dragged her behind me. What, are you a dog that doesn't want to go for a walk?!
"Come on, Selene."
"...I'll throw up."
"Do not. Endure it."
"...a headache started."
"Let's go and buy a painkiller then."
"...I get sleepy after taking medicine."
"The drug stores sell caffeine drinks as well, it'll wake you up!"
Although it was a bit forceful, I tried gently pulling Selene's hand again.
"...Onii-chan, you're pulling too strongly."
Selene's head was swaying to the sides, she slowly moved away from me and lied on the coach in the entrance hall.
"...this is all right..."
"It's not! Come on, we're going!"
"...no matter what?"
"No matter what."
"...help me stand up."
She rolled on the coach and lied on her back, then she stretched her arms towards me. It was similar to how small children ask their parents to carry them. A scene similar to last week's.
"If I help you, you're going outside with me."
Since it was going nowhere. I... lifted her body up. It was the so-called 'princess carry'.
"...I didn't ask to be carried. Onii-chan."
"You don't like it?"
Selene lightly shook her small head. A floral scent rose from her long beautiful black hair. She's my little sister(candidate) so why is my heart pounding... come on.
When I lifted her up, I found out that she was very thin, it seemed like she would break were I to put some strength into my arms and I got worried.
"...Onii-chan, stay like this for the rest of the day."
"But what would others think if were they to see us like this?"
"...that we're siblings who get along well. Also, outside... is scary after all."
She was trembling slightly. Selene was really scared of the outside. I stared at her.
"It's all right. I'm with you."
Suddenly, she stopped trembling.
"Then, let's succeed this time."
I walked towards the front door while holding Selene in princess carry.
"...it might be sudden, but suddenly I started to feel worse."
"Then throw up! You can throw up just once! You'll feel better afterwards!"
"...uu. That's too much, foam is coming out of my mouth."
She clung to me tightly while tears appeared in her eyes. Her small hands were trembling and there was a faint blush on her pale face.
The truth was that she wanted to go outside too, right? She was just very anxious, it was almost as if she had no expectations of it at all. Her small lips opened.
"...Onii-chan. At this rate I'll go out? I won't be able to escape?"
"Let's go. I'll teach you how wide the world is. If you're scared, then hold on to me."
One step at a time, as I continued to walk slowly, Selene clung to me more and more strongly.
When I approached the automatic doors, it opened in response to the smart key.
"...Onii-chan... can I... believe you...?"
"Yeah. You can believe even someone like me."
"...please don't phrase it like that."
"S-sorry. Did I make you anxious?"
"You're really honest. Don't worry Selene... believe in me. Your brother's words are absolute. Your brother will introduce the world to you!"
She nodded slightly, it was a gesture that reminded him of a small squirrel.
"...will the world be gentle to me?"
"If it isn't, then I'll protect you."
A faint light glittered in the back of Selene's pupils... I might be seeing things.
"...I have gathered... determination. But I'm still scared to head there on my own feet... Onii-chan, take me there."
Selene closed her eyes and muttered as if praying. I nodded softly. Even though we were only going outside I've grown tense as well.
She started to breathe faster, I felt her body temperature rise as well. I felt her heart beating like a hammer. It seemed like it was hard for her to breathe. Selene grasped onto me and started struggling.
I took her with me, to where the world spreads. I heard the sound of the spring wind blowing on the other side of the door.
Selene's body shuddered.
Before her fear could catch on, I carried her body to the other side of the door.
"We're outside. It's okay to do it slowly, open your eyes."
"It's all right. I'm right beside you."
She slightly opened her eyes. After I made sure of it, I gently let her down.
After he put her down, she stood on her own and looked into the sky.
A cloudless night sky spread wide.
"...it's the first time... in three months... I went outside."
"Yeah. Although it might seem like a small step, but I think it's a big one... hey, you were outside three months ago?"
"...I was moved while I was sleeping. So if it's coming out like this while still maintaining my consciousness, I have no memories of doing so."
She stated that firmly and took a deep breath.
"...yes. Um... I'm still anxious, so please hold my hand."
"Got it. Let's take a walk around here. Although I'm not too familiar with the places around here."
Hand in hand Selene and I decided to walk to the residential area at night. Soon after we started, Selene was already out of breath and started walking very slow. The closest convenience store was placed around five minutes away with a normal walking pace, we slowly walked towards it.
"...Onii-chan. There's a convenience store. It's the sleepless town."
"Let's buy dinner here."
"...is it okay to go back yet?"
"We left the mansion just a moment ago. Let's secure a lunchbox for the time being."
We entered the convenience store while still side by side. Right after we entered the the store, Selene was immediately attracted to a lottery booth that was standing in the corner and moved towards it unsteadily.
It seems like it had Pretty Girl Rangers Fruity drawing lots.
"...the A-reward is Orange-chan. B-reward is Apple-chan. The C-reward is Grape-chan."
"We're not trying it."
Selene was already broke.
"Today's dinner isn't cup noodles. What do you want to eat? My treat."
"...egg sandwich. Also, rice ball with konbu."
"Both of them are carbohydrates... as for the drink, is cold tea okay?"
I bought two bottles of tea, an egg sandwich and a riceball with konbu, for myself I bought salmon and cod roe riceball and riceball with pickled plum.
We left the store, I was holding the shopping bag in my right hand and holding Selene's hand with my left.
As we walked together down the sidewalk, before we noticed we have reached a park.
In there were late-blooming cherry trees. Since cherry-blossom viewing was prohibited there, there were no people spreading sheets on the ground. But there were some couples scattered here and there.
I wondered if Selene and I seemed to be just like them.
"There's quite a few people here, are you okay?"
"...yes. After going out, surprisingly I calmed down. How mysterious."
She's prone to over-thinking things. Although Selene was a shut-in, it's not like she was bad at communicating with people. If anyone, then it would be Yuuki who has serious problems in that department.
"The cherry blossoms are in full bloom. It looks like they are celebrating your new beginning."
Cherry blossoms from the lit-up tree were fluttering in the night wind. The sight of petals dancing enveloped in wind just like snow was not only beautiful but also somewhat mystical.
"It's a bit early, but let's eat on that bench."
We sat down side by side on a bench and while looking cherry blossoms dancing in the night, we ate the dinner previously bought in the convenience store.
Selene nibbled on the egg sandwich after eating the rice ball with konbu.
"Looks like you were more hungry than I thought you are."
Come to think of it, when the little sister candidates grouped up at the end of the week, Selene ate everything without leaving anything behind.
"..yes. It's surprising. Walking makes one hungry doesn't it."
"I can share the pickled plum with you."
I intended to defend my cod roe and rice ball which were my favourite food.
"...thank you for the food."
Selene unsealed the package with pickled plum rice ball. When she put it in her mouth, she frowned.
"Well, it is a pickled plum."
"...but it's delicious. Eating dinner outside... it's thanks to being with Onii-chan. Also, eating meals together with other girls and playing games... is fun."
"Come to think of it, you're really good at Railway King. You always maintained the second or third place. Is there a trick to it?"
"...a coincidence. Also, profiting from others fighting each other."
As Tomomi fought with Sayuri, there were unexpectedly many patterns even I have found when we played together. The girl who only cleaned up her sewing room must've found a way.
"You're a really capable girl aren't you."
"That's right. I think you should have more confidence."
"...um, can we go back soon?"
"Didn't we come here just now."
It seemed like it will be a warm night, the wind also felt good.
"Can it be that it's hard for you? Did I overdo it by bringing you here?"
"...just a little."
"You're really honest. If that's the case, then let's go back."
Just when I tried to stand up from the bench, Selene stopped me by gently grabbing my sleeve.
"...it's all right. I've ate a lot of rice balls. Also, I've brought a charm just in case something like this happened."
Selene took out a digital audio player from a small bag.
"...I have a lot of invigorating songs."
"Could you let me hear what kind of songs you listen to?"
"...yes. Then, take this half."
She moved her shoulder closer and put an earphone in my left ear, after that she put the other one in her right ear and pressed the play button. It was a song with female vocalist accompanied by lively music.
"So you like this kind of songs."
"...it's an album of the person inside Orange-chan."
"The person inside... A-ahh! The person called seiyuu who voices the anime character."
Selene nodded with a smile.
We listened to it together. Before I noticed, the single album came to an end.
I felt like Selene smiled much more than when I first met. If only I could forgive myself with this, I would be satisfied.
The wind suddenly stopped and the shower of cherry blossoms together with it. Selene turned off the player and muttered softly after raising her head.
"...I'm glad there's so many strokes."
"What are you talking about all of a sudden?"
Seeing me using polite speech must've been amusing, and Selene laughed quietly with a 'fufufu'.
"...my name. It's a name taken from the moon goddess and written with a lot of strokes. Mom is a designer and a wandering fortune-teller."
"A designer and a fortune-teller eh. You said she's wandering, so you don't know where she went?"
Selene muttered with a fading voice. It might have been my delusion, but I couldn't help but to say it. She might not be able to reunite with her mother.
"If you continue to make beautiful clothes and become a famous designer... maybe after seeing that design, your mom might come to see you."
As long as she's alive, there was a chance.
"...is that so?"
"Become a world-renowned designer, big enough to appear at shows in Paris and Milan. You'll be talked about in the entire world. You might not have confidence in the clothes you make, but I... I like them. I don't know much about professional designers, but I know what kind of clothes you can make. The clothes you wear today are cute and fit you. I think I'd like more people to know what kind of clothes you make. On the net, and in real."
Her pale face reddened. She looked down shyly.
"...yes. T-that makes me happy..."
"All right. Let's stretch out our legs and head towards the station."
I removed the earphone and after standing up, I reached out to Selene.
"...s-station? There's a lot of people, it's difficult."
"It's good because there's a lot of people there."
A bit forcibly, I helped her to stand up. Selene... stood up as I pulled, it seemed like she wanted to properly stand up by herself.
Afterwards the two of us took a bus. There weren't many people on the bus heading to the station, it was almost like a private course.
We got off in front of a traffic circle and walked to the station through an overpass.
It was a rush of people returning home, there was an uninterrupted flow of people that would make even me feel drunk.
"...Onii-chan. There's too many people. My eyes are spinning."
"You don't need to look at all of them. Concentrate. How about looking at that high school girl?"
"The girl with brown ponytail."
"...I see her."
"What kind of clothes would match her?"
"...bright hair... she's pretty short and has childish features... strict, since she walks fast pants would fit her better than a skirt... how mysterious. The design is floating in my head."
Selene was someone amazing after all. Despite the risk of motion sickness, it was a good choice to bring her to see this crowd. I've kept her company there for ten minutes. Surely, she had enough designs in her head to fill a sketchbook.
What was compressed when she holed up in her room, was released all at once. She continued to draw designs in her brain.
9 p.m.. Selene and I walked around the city at night and finally came back to Taishido residence.
After she sat down on the sofa in the entrance hall, Selene strongly exhaled the air.
"...it was a great adventure. I'm glad I survived and came back."
"That's an exaggeration. The distance we actually walked was around a kilometre, right?"
"...it was hard for me."
Selene's breathing was a bit rough, but it seemed like she was proud of something she's done.
"Let's go somewhere during the day next time. Even if it's for only for a while, you might even ride on a crowded train. You're a talented girl. I guarantee that."
She blushed, said "Yes..." and nodded.
"Also, you're not charging enough for the clothes you make, you need to properly put a price on them. I'm not telling you to put a price like that of a professional designer though."
"Hey hey... at least ask them to pay for the material cost. That way, you'll also have money you can buy material for right?"
"...Onii-chan, are you... a genius?"
Without a doubt Selene had a talent for making clothes. If she only were to become more capable in the common sense department, I would be relieved.
"...thank you, Onii-chan."
She smiled like an angel. I'll try it... is what it meant.
"You need to meet with people, but not only through the net. You looked at various people today, and have imagined what clothes would fit them from their atmosphere and gestures. In order to learn about their different personalities..."
Before I could finish, Selene suddenly muttered.
"Yes... I think I'll try... to go to school."
As I pat her head softly, she narrowed her eyes with joy.
"...every second week."
"Attend it properly!"
"...three days. I won't stand more than that."
"Geez... well, it's a step forward as well."
I helped Selene to take a step outside, I wonder if that encouraged her.
Once again, she muttered while staring at me.
"If it's with Onii-chan, I can go everywhere."
I wasn't able to properly respond to these words.
Nevertheless, Selene smiled. In the back of my chest I felt pain.