It’s been decided, then.
“It’s only going to get busier from here!” Asagao said earlier. “First we need to increase our appeal! I’ll leave that up to you, Kasumi!”
And just like that, I had more work to do. She gave me such a vague task too… I guess I had evaluate different campaign strategies and come up with the one that would give her the most votes. Well, this surely wasn’t something that could be done overnight. I took out my tablet and headed back to my dorm.
The sun had set long ago, so it was well into the night. As such, the town was eerily quiet, and my dorm was no different. I didn’t hear a thing— there were no voices, no sounds… just silence. I slowly crept to my room, hoping not to wake anyone up. Finally, with just a touch from my hand, my door automatically opened up. It was a small, two room apartment, but it was my home. I tiptoed in, and at last, I was finally back.
The lights were still on inside my apartment, and I could hear someone from the dining room. It was my sister, Asuha.
“Welcome back~”, she said as she peeked at me through the dining room door.
“A-Ah… thanks,” I muttered. That’s odd, why was she here? I looked at her suspiciously. Her dorm was separate from mine— she lived with the other middle school girls and I lived in the military housing unit.
“I just thought it’d be nice to visit once in a while,” she said before I could ask anything. Her hair, smelling faintly of shampoo, was a little damp, so the usual fuzziness wasn’t there. With the help of a hair band, it flowed nicely down her shoulders. “You’re a bit late, though…” she added.
“Well, it’s always like this,” I responded as I headed towards the dining room. Asuha didn’t bother to close the door when she peeked through, so I just slipped through the crack. I dropped my bag on the floor and jumped onto the sofa. At last, I can finally relax… I closed my eyes and breathed out a sigh of relief.
“Good work today,” said Asuha as she lightly pressed a cold can of coffee against my forehead. “Here… ”
“O-Oh, thanks,” I said, grabbing it. I popped it open and took a sip. That tiny sip filled my mouth with this unbelievable sweet taste, and as I gulped it down, the even sweeter aftertaste of the condensed milk lingered onwards. I recognized this taste— it was Max Coffee! For some reason, the manufacturing plants around here prioritized the production of this caramel-colored drink.
To the people in Chiba, this was nothing more than a mere soft drink, but as I drank more, I could feel its caffeine working on my body. It was sweet… way too sweet for my liking. I wonder if this sweetness was something added by Asagao herself. Perhaps she thought this would appeal to the consumers more.
Lost in my own thoughts, I opened my eyes once again and turned towards Asuha. She was wearing light pink underwear, and a bath towel was wrapped around her upper body. A bit of water dripped down her pure skin, so pure in fact that it was slightly dyed red from her blood underneath. From the looks of it, it seemed she just showered.
This was my house, and she was my sister, so I wasn’t bothered by the way she dressed. But I did wish that she would have dressed more modestly, even if I was the only other person here.
“You sure came back late today,” she said as she dried herself with the towel and adjusted her hairband. She popped open a can of coffee and took a sip. Looking satisfied, she then wiped her lips with her fingers. “Work?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Since I had to meet with the military… you know… everything was pushed back.”
“You sound super funny when you talk about your work,” she said with a smile. “It’s hilarious.”
She sure spoke bluntly and maybe sounded a little apathetic, but I knew she harbored no ill will. She really did talk like me, I think… But, even if we both talked like that, we were still able to converse properly. In fact, we talked more here than we did earlier in the day.
“Nah, it’s not hilarious,” I said. “I’m just a normal person talking about my normal work. Out of curiosity though… why did you have to be so cold earlier??”
I was worried that something might have happened to her since she was acting so unpleasant during the meeting. In response, Asuha just shrugged her shoulders and groaned a bit.
“…C-Cuz it’s embarrassing when you’re with me…” she whispered as she quickly looked away.
“Is that something you can say when you’re in your underwear?” I joked lightheartedly. “Where’s your shame in that? Also, it kinda sounds like you’re embarrassed to have a brother…”
I mean, I could kind of understand where she’s coming from. She was an elite and I was a dropout. I wasn’t exactly the shining example of a perfect big brother. But still…
“W-What?” she exclaimed as she waved her hands around. “N-No… I mean, you’re pretty embarrassing, but it’s just that when I’m seen with you it’s kinda… weird, you know…?”
“Oh… I get that I’m embarrassing, but there’s nothing weird about us being seen together, okay? Now hurry up and put some clothes on…”
“Okay, okay,” replied Asuha. She grabbed her holster from the sofa and wrapped it around her thigh.
I just stared at her. Was that what girls usually put on first? Or was that something only she did? In any case, I understood her words well. Before I entered the cold sleep, I remembered being very embarrassed and awkward when I was with my mother. To be fair though, my mother was honestly a weird person, especially when she was in front of other people…
Plus, I’m pretty sure Asuha was in her rebellious stage. I know I was, when I was her age back in the day. Despite that, she’ll grow up, just like I did… She’ll grow up, huh? I got emotional just thinking about it… Her breasts especially needed a lot of growing up to do…
Asuha loosely threw on a pastel-colored hoodie and put on some short pants, an outfit similar to what she probably wore at home. She then jumped on the sofa next to me, took out her phone, and stretched out her long, but thin legs. After a while of lazing around, she started to hum as she played with her phone. She was using her phone just like how she usually did in public, but right now, she seemed to act a bit differently. Actually, I guess it’d be more accurate to say that I viewed her differently in public. In fact, I pretty much treated her as if she was a different person. By doing so, I could feel much closer to her here at home.
Other people probably saw Asuha much differently than I did. To them, Asuha’s probably only just a cute little girl, but to me, she’s my cute little sister. She’s seen as a cute girl either way, but because I’m her older brother, I had a unique sibling bond with her.
Some people, however, didn’t see Asuha in such a positive light. Even if she was cute, it wasn’t surprising that she was hated by many. Take black-eyes, for example. From what I saw, she was sick of Asuha’s constant bratty and apathetic attitude, and she sure made it clear that she did not like Asuha at all. I’m sure black-eyes wasn’t the only one that hated her, and that concerned me.
“By the way, I don’t mind it, but do you act like that around Natsume too? Since you’re always around the punks?”
“I don’t know, maybe…” said Asuha, annoyed. She buried her head into the cushion and sighed.
“Even though I rarely talk to her, Natsume’s a good person. She always praises you as well… Why don’t you try to be closer to her…?”
I wanted to add “even if you just tried to fake it,” but decided not to in the end. I thought it would be too arrogant of me to suggest something that I was unable to do myself.
Asuha just sighed once again, perhaps noticing my hesitation. “Nah, you got it super wrong, man. Girls don’t just simply compliment other girls… they usually have something else in mind…” she said. She turned back face up and gave me a smug smile.
“Natusme is pretty sly,” Asuha continued. “When she’s complimenting me, she’s really saying that I’m beneath her. She doesn’t even try hiding it, too.”
I was taken aback. “Really? Wow, girls are really scary… Don’t say any more though, I don’t want to get in on all this gossip.”
“You got issues if you think this is gossip,” said Asuha as she hugged her own knees and laughed. Then, as if she remembered something important, she jumped up and sat cross-legged on the couch. “Ah, that reminds me. Today was the first time I saw you working, you know.”
“Err… You know that we were together in the military branch, right?” I interjected. “That counts as working, right?”
Yes, yes it does… And don’t say that with such a serious face… I stared back at her, and our eyes met.
Asuha continued to stare at me for a bit, but then she smiled. “Well, how do I put it… Like, it was the first time seeing you work from the manufacturing branch, you know?”
She raised her finger and lit it on fire, making it glow brightly, albeit faintly. This was no doubt her <World>, just on a very, very small scale. Because the power output was so minimal, she didn’t need the help of any equipment. She made the flame burn a bit more, and then using her finger as an iron, she slowly curled her hair.
“Maybe, like… relieved? Something like that,” she said after drying her hair.
“Relieved? Oh…” I sighed.
Asuha blew out the fire on her finger, and her beautiful reddish-brown hair gently fell on her shoulders. “Yeah… you aren’t really suited for the military,” she said. “Cuz you know, you are like, super weak.”
“I guess so… Sorry for being so weak and worrying you…” I said reluctantly. There was no way I could refute anything she just said.
Asuha shook her head. “No, no… it’s not like I’m worried about you or anything…”
“Can you then? Can you worry about me once in a while?”
“I guess…” she said as she looked directly in my eyes. She cleared her throat. “I’m more worried about how you’ll do if I go inland…”
“Oh…” my voice trailed off softly. Inland was a place reserved only for people with exceptional results. People in the top of the rankings or in prestigious positions, like the city head and subhead, had the privilege to transfer inland. In other words, transferring inland meant transferring to the heart of the cities’ government. It was said to be the best reward that people could get.
All the previous heads and subheads pretty much went inland, and Asuha was on track to do the same. If things kept going the way they were, Asuha would no doubt be transferred much earlier than me. Of course, her going inland meant that we would no longer be together anymore.
In any case, the chances of me being transferred were ridiculously low. I earned a measly amount of points back in the military, and now I’m earning even less than that. At this rate, I’ll probably never reach the points necessary for the transfer privilege. There was the possibility of being transferred after I completed my service, but even if that happened, I’d still be very lowly ranked. Even then, it would be difficult to live with my sister— she was just on a whole new level.
That being said, one day I will go inland with my sister. We would live there peacefully and quietly without having to fight another battle. Yes, this was definitely much easier said than done; I was no one special, and I knew more than anyone how useless I really was. That’s why I pushed myself to even join the military. Despite that, I ironically ended up in the manufacturing branch, and became no different than the vegetables I now helped produce. Unable to find any self-worth myself, I desperately clung on to the ground to maintain my role in society.
I was sure I wasn’t the only one who was like that. Even if people served under the greatest, most powerful princesses of all time, or even if they were the elites among elites, they would only get a sense of accomplishment or self-worth if other people told them so. Every single one of them lived by desperately clinging on to anything that made them useful. Their self-worth relied completely on others, and they had no choice but to find meaning in their lives through fulfilling their respective roles in society.
However, my sister Asuha was truly a special case. She not only didn’t conform to the norms of society, she almost seemed above it. What she did and what she could do were unique to her and her alone. There was no one else in the world like my sister.
That’s why, if I were to fulfill my dreams of living together with my sister, I would have no choice but to rely on her.
“Don’t worry about me,” I said. “I’ll manage somehow.”
Asuha just laughed playfully. “Well, I am worried,” she said teasingly. “You can’t get any points at all. That’s why I gotta take care of you even when we are like super old, you know? I’m kinda worried about that.”
I smiled bitterly at Asuha and she just snickered a little bit. She wasn’t wrong, though… Hmm… I wondered what kind of pension plans this city had. I had to start saving now, for sure…
I tilted my head upwards and just stared at the ceiling. Thinking about the future made me a little depressed, but I soon felt Asuha tug lightly on my sleeve. As I sluggishly turned to her, she quickly looked away.
“Well, you know…” she muttered softly as she fidgeted with her hair. “If it comes to that, I don’t mind helping you till the very end… since I’m your sister…”
I saw her blush slightly and just smiled at her. “It’ll be okay. I’ll think of something.”
So I said, but I didn’t have anything ambitious or anything like that on my mind. But even so, there definitely had to be a way for us not to be separated in the future.
To be honest, I was a little excited— excited for the world Tsurube Asagao vowed to create. It was a vow that secretly brought me hope.