Chapter 2: A Spring Picnic
“Nao-kun, did you prepare a water bottle?”
“What about a scarf? I’m sure it’s still cold outside.”
“Okay, I’ll get one.”
“I don’t need them.”
“Bring them just in case.”
“Okay… by the way, Yuki-nee, are you still stuck on the toilet?” he asked.
A flustered Yuki opened the bathroom door and poked her head out into the hallway. “I’m not on the toilet—I’m washing my face! I’m brushing my teeth right now,” she insisted, gesticulating at the toothbrush she held in her mouth. She couldn’t bear it if he thought she was hogging the toilet for fifteen whole minutes.
In the apartment the two of them lived in, the bath and toilet were inside a single room. The first time she saw it, she thought, Wow, they really think of ways to save space, but when one person was using the room, the other person couldn’t even get to the toilet. It didn’t take long for them to realise that the layout was extremely ill-fitting for two people living together.
“I thought you had a stomach ache,” Inaho said as his sister left the bathroom.
“Hey!” Yuki shouted at her little brother, who spoke without any hesitation or embarrassment whatsoever. “You’re not allowed to say that to a girl!”
Standing in front of the washstand between the bathtub and toilet, Inaho glanced over his shoulder as he slathered toothpaste on his toothbrush. “Why?”
Every day, Inaho used plenty of strong-scented mint toothpaste, nothing like what a child would use, given its somewhat hot and spicy flavour. He used so much of it that Yuki had once told him off for it.
This toothpaste she had bought at the dirt cheap supermarket in front of the station was so spicy that it burned a hole even in Yuki’s tongue. She had misjudged the amount and it brought tears to her eyes.
And Inaho nonchalantly tossed that into his mouth every day. Apparently, he had a taste for it somehow.
She wondered if he was really a child. He was like a miniature adult, merely feigning at being an eight-year-old child. Sometimes, she seriously entertained that thought.
“Why is it not allowed? Everyone goes to the toilet.”
“…well, yes, but it’s not allowed because it’s not allowed. If you say something like that, girls won’t like you.”
“I don’t need them to like me.”
At first, Yuki was taken aback by her brother’s audacious response, but then suddenly she felt glad.
No matter how much he acted like an adult, things like this made him seem just like his age. Geez, he really is a child after all. He still had no interest in the opposite sex and didn’t differentiate between genders—he was a plain and unremarkable child in that sense.
“Thinking that you don’t need girls to like you—just wait till you’re older.” Unconsciously, her cheeks loosened into a grin.
He was always talking down to her, but just this once the tables were turned. Time to show him the dignity of an elder. And not just any elder—she was an elder sister.
“With boys, they eventually reach a stage in their lives when being popular with girls is all they care about. The older boys at the Home were like that, you know? Every Valentine’s Day they’d compete with each other over how many chocolates they received,” she said smugly, puffing up with pride. Heheh.
The little brother looked at his sister with his usual blank gaze.
“There’s no use being more popular than necessary. Rather than being loved by many people, it’s more important to be loved by the person you care about.”
“…well, I guess so.”
Total and utter defeat.
As she handed a towel to Inaho, who had finished rinsing his mouth, Yuki curled her lip sourly. “Urk…”
Inaho walked straight past his sister with his usual expressionless face, not paying any heed to her dejected state whatsoever. Whenever his sister lost the verbal upper hand, her pouty face was hardly a rare sight.
In her frustration, she pouted harder than usual. In an attempt to vent, she snatched the scarf Inaho had been holding and coiled it around him for no real reason. His mouth, thoroughly smothered, mumbled something underneath the scarf.
She yanked the blue-knitted thing down below his chin. He gasped, his breath smelling of mint.
“You know we’re taking the train to the beach, right?” she asked him. He nodded. “The two of us are having a picnic at the beach.”
“What are we doing there? Isn’t it still too cold to swim?”
“We’re going to look at the birds.”
“Yep. When you go all the way out to the sandy shores, you can see seabirds.”
Yuki put on a somewhat thick parka to suit the early weather and then slung on the backpack prepared at the entranceway. The sea breeze would probably still be cold for a while yet. Instead of mittens, she stuck a pair of cotton gloves in her pocket. She’d gotten a pack of five for 300 yen at the supermarket.
It wasn’t like she didn’t have another pair of mittens, but it would have taken time to search the cardboard boxes they still hadn’t unpacked.
“This town has a beach, but there’s no sand on the shores. That’s why we’re taking the train to a beach that has it. It just won’t do unless the beach has a sandy shore.”
“Why a sandy shore?”
Why indeed? Yuki thought about it for a moment, and then she sighed.
“Because I love them, I suppose,” she murmured wistfully.