As ‘Azusa Nakayama’, Not as ‘Little Sister’
—Certainly, if the ‘Onii-chan’ who was gone had grown up, it would have turned out like this.
Every time Azusa looked at Ryoma’s face, she recalled the past.
When she was in the early years of elementary school, she used to follow her real brother around. Shy, timid, but lonely, having her real brother to hold her hand was such a significant presence for her.
Therefore, when he was lost in an accident… she couldn’t accept his death. It might be because she was too young to fully understand the concept of death, but more than anything, she couldn’t endure becoming ‘alone’ without her brother.
“If Azusa is a good girl, Onii-chan will come back, right?”
She said that to her father. Her father unable to deny it, she ended up believing in that lie, convincing herself that she wasn’t alone anymore.
Since then, her time stood still.
She kept her hairstyle in twin tails from that time on, and her personality remained that of a beloved ‘little sister’ to her big brother. Both mentally and physically, she didn’t grow much, as if her appearance was connected to her heart.
Even as a high school student, she had the appearance of a primary schooler, and she behaved toward her classmates as if she were younger.
And then, when she found Ryoma, who resembled her real brother — Azusa’s heart couldn’t endure it any longer. By being next to him, she wanted to fill the loneliness she felt.
However, naturally, Ryoma was not her real brother.
So, even if she loved him, Ryoma didn’t love Azusa.
The one who supported her through all this was Kotaro.
Initially, it was more like leaning on him. However, recently, Azusa, who had started to walk on her own, cut her hair short, resembling a bobbed haircut like a child.
And Azusa’s time began to move.
Although she had remained childlike for so long, she was gradually growing up.
But after more than half a year had passed since then… her hairstyle had completely changed.
“…You’ve become somewhat more mature, Azusa.”
On the way home from Shiho’s house. Her mother had offered to drive her home, but for some reason, she felt like walking, so she declined. Perhaps because of that, or maybe for some other reason… however it should be expressed, she encountered Ryoma.
He was waiting, standing in front of his own house.
“Did you grow a bit taller too?”
Looking at Azusa, Ryoma squinted happily.
On the other hand, Azusa didn’t know what expression to make, and she was puzzled.
“S-so, by the way, Ryoma… kun, your house is here too, right?”
She had completely forgotten.
Or to be more precise, she had been avoiding thinking about it.
She knew that Shiho and Ryoma were childhood friends. She also had information that their houses were next to each other.
Even so, until he spoke to her, she had forgotten about that fact. It was probably an unconscious self-defense mechanism.
Now, if she confronted Ryoma, there would be no one to protect her.
Kotaro was not here.
So, she wanted to escape — realizing that she wanted to run away, Azusa suddenly felt anger welling up inside her.
(Still relying on him?)
She scolded her unconscious self that was trying to depend on others.
(Relying on someone again?)
She felt angry at her own arrogance for taking it for granted.
She couldn’t accept her weakness.
Every time something happened, she wanted to rely on her ‘big brother’, and that annoyed her.
(It’s time for Azusa to do something.)
She told herself.
Not as a little sister, but as Azusa Nakayama.
She had to settle the past and the present.
To protect her own future, she clenched her fists tightly.
“…It’s been a while.”
And Azusa dispelled her hesitation.
Seeing her determined face, Ryoma was surprised, his eyes widening.
“Yeah, it has.”
Then, he smiled gently…
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