The train’s peaceful, rhythmic vibrations brought on a comfortable atmosphere for the two of them.
If it wasn’t for the occasional sound the train made as it passed over a rail crossing, they might have fallen asleep like they did when they first arrived.
“Nao-kun, I want you to tell me. Why did you take revenge on those bullies back then?” Inaho’s older sister spoke up quietly, causing his shoulders to shake slightly. “Nao-kun, you’re smart, so… didn’t you know what would happen if you got back at them?”
So you had a proper reason, right…? Inaho lowered his eyes at the question. His eyes bored down at his tightly clenched fists.
At that moment, Yuki knew that Inaho was furious.
“I couldn’t let them do it.”
“They couldn’t get a proper reaction out of me, so… they were about to mess with Yuki-nee next…”
It seemed they had been about to pummel stones at Yuki from the second floor of the Home to see how Inaho would react.
“Why didn’t you tell an adult—?!”
“I didn’t think they would believe me. Those people always looked the other way when I got hurt.”
He had no idea when the bullies would hurt his sister if things went on like that.
He knew that hurting others was a bad thing to do. He could imagine the tongue lashing he’d receive later. But if Yuki—if his precious family—was going to get hurt, then that was simply a trivial issue.
“Sorry, Yuki-nee,” Inaho muttered.
Yuki drew Inaho’s shoulder as close to her as she could. “Thank you, Nao-kun… but I guess you went too far with the rocks.”
“Yeah, I agree.”
“It’s good you’re honest,” Yuki said as she patted her little brother on the head. He pushed back at her with his small elbow. At first, she thought he was embarrassed, but it turned out he was looking in his breast pocket. “Something the matter?”
“The den of angel wings is gone.”
“Huuuh?” Yuki let go of his shoulder like it was on fire.
Inaho stood up and turned both his breast pockets and trouser pockets inside out. Then, realising that what he was looking for was nowhere to be found, he sunk into his seat.
“I put it in my pocket, but it looks like it fell out…”
“Well, that’s no good. You shouldn’t put something so important in your pocket if it’s so easy to los—”
“Yeah… I really wanted something to remember the beach by…”
“Huh? Something to remember…?”
“Yeah, since we couldn’t see the birds… but never mind now,” Inaho muttered, neither dejected nor defiant. “I probably won’t ever forget today, so never mind.”
An indescribable warmth filled Yuki’s heart.
Maybe, just maybe, the only one who thought that they didn’t share a bond was her.
Now to cement it in stone.
“Nao-kun, hold my hand.”
“I thought we’re always holding hands.”
“So what’s the problem? Come on, give me your hand.”
Not mustering any reply as he let his hand fall on Yuki’s lap—how could anyone describe her little brother’s attitude as anything but “embarrassed”?
Her little brother was always eloquent. His expression might never change, but he always described exactly what he liked and disliked, even when he made light chatter with his sister.
She’d just been fixated on what she didn’t know, on his lack of expression, so she couldn’t read him—but Inaho had never changed. The one who had closed her eyes was Yuki herself.
But she would not make that mistake anymore. Never again.
The heater on the train brought a relaxed feeling, replacing the earlier stiff mood.
The indigo-blue windows reflected the sight of two helpless siblings. Yes, no matter how strong they were, they were helpless children unable to defend themselves.
Thus, they could afford to be children for just a little while longer. That was what Yuki believed.
She was certain that one day the moment would come when the two of them would grow up in spite of their will. She could feel it in her bones…