After a Long Time
Before I knew it, I no longer felt uncomfortable with the presence of Kururi Kurumizawa.
Did I no longer think it unnatural that she was next to me, and instead, I naturally began to think about the fact that … Shiho was not there.
–No, no, no.
No, I never accepted that Shiho was not there.
That’s too much skepticism.
(This is why it’s not good to be in constant self-doubt…)
I exhaled heavily to calm my thoughts.
Frowning at the white exhale, I forced my heavy feet forward.
There is no point in worrying about it.
There is no answer no matter how hard I search for it, so I have no choice but to let it go.
Otherwise, my thoughts would be skewed in the wrong direction again. I will doubt my own feelings for Shiho and lose confidence in myself.
There is no point in being despicable.
So, I shook off my thoughts and tried not to think too deeply about Kurumizawa-san.
I opened the front door and took off my shoes.
When I headed into the living room, I found my stepsister, Azusa, there.
She called out to me while operating her phone in the living room.
“You’re late again today, aren’t you? Azusa already ate her dinner, did you eat, Onii-chan?”
“Oh yeah. I ate.”
… To be honest, Azusa and I are not the most talkative siblings.
It’s not that we don’t get along well, and I care about her a lot. However, we rarely talk more than necessary.
We usually maintain a reasonable distance from each other and recognize each other as “family” for better or worse.
However, the past few days, Azusa has been very vocal… or maybe that’s not the right word.
Azusa seemed to be worried about me in some way.
“Hey, were you helping our aunt with her business today?”
“…Yeah, something like that.”
I give a blurry answer to Azusa’s words.
Actually, I had not told her about Kurumizawa-san.
Currently, I only explained that ‘my phone was taken away from me because of my poor grades’ and that ‘as punishment for that, I am being forced to help my aunt with her work’.
So Azusa does not know that I was at Kurumizawa-san’s house. This girl perceived that I was with our aunt.
“Are you okay? Has she said anything strange to you?”
“No, I’m fine, but… it’s rare. Azusa worrying about me.”
I’m surprised that this girl is concerned about me.
After all, Azusa probably thinks of me as family, too. She seems to have been sensitive to my changes.
“I’ve seen Onii-chan seem depressed lately…, so I guess it must be hard for you to have your phone taken away from you. You can’t even reach Shimotsuki-san anymore.”
I don’t think so, but I can’t deny that I’ve lost my energy because I can’t see Shiho anymore.
So it’s not surprising that I might look that way.
“I’m fine, don’t worry about it… They took my phone away, but Shiho’s on sick leave, too, and I couldn’t reach her if I had my phone.”
Not wanting to cause unnecessary worry, I make up an air of cheerfulness.
I forced a smile and tried to pass Azusa off.
“…I hope you’re doing well.”
Azusa still wanted to say something, but she didn’t say anything more.
As a stepsister, she seemed to sense something was wrong, but maybe she also understood that I didn’t want to say anything about it.
I’m sorry for making her feel uncomfortable, but I let her take advantage of that for now.
“Well, I’m a little tired… I’m going to take a rest now.”
“Umm, yes. Good night.”
I cut the conversation short early and was about to head for my room.
It was then.
“Oh! Onii-chan, I got a message.”
I stopped in my tracks.
“Yeah. It’s from Shimotsuki-san!”
The words somehow choked me up.
Although the fragrance of Shiho, which I hadn’t felt in a long time, was very faint, partly because it was through electronic media…, I was still happy.
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