NB: this story contains spoilers regarding the first, 'best' ending of Kana: Little Sister. Please don't proceed unless you've completed this ending to the game.
'Blinding White', part 1. This story loosely follows 'The Second Farewell'.
Special note: this fanfic is decidedly more melancholy than the first two, and follows the same path as most of the game endings. If you want to avoid that sort of thing, please stop here.
My name is Rika.
I'm twelve years old. My otousan sometimes says I'm 'twelve going on forty-three'. He means I'm grown up for my age. And it's true, I guess.
I started junior high school this year. My imouto-chan, Sara, was sad when I left our old school. So was I, to be honest. It's a lot different at junior high. The work is harder and there's a lot more of it. And I miss Sara-chan. She needs me.
I felt kind of alone when I first started here. A lot of kids from my elementary school came here as well, but I've never really been close to any of them. I don't have a lot of time to make friends. I barely have time to attend soccer club. I guess my life's a lot different to the other kids'. They don't know it, but I do. Okaasan calls it 'the burden of awareness'. She means that it's a hassle to know things that other people don't know, because even if I tried to explain it to them, they still wouldn't understand.
I miss Sara-chan a lot. I'm still alone here.
It's the end of the school day and I'm racing out the front doors into the school yard. Class lets out the same time here as it does at Sara-chan's school, and it's ten minutes from here to there if I run fast. I've got my satchel slung over my shoulder and one hand on my cap to keep it from flying off. Uniforms are such a bother. That's another thing I've had to get used to. Another responsibility.
Someone calls my name, but I don't let up my pace. I just keep jogging towards the main gate, cocking my head sideways to see who it is.
"Todo-san! Wait up!" He comes running up next to me, keeping pace with me easily. "Can't you stop for just a minute?"
"Sorry, Yatabe-kun," I tell him, between controlled breaths, "but Sara-chan's waiting for me. I can't hang around."
"I'll come with you," he says. "It's on my way home too."
"Sure," I tell him. "I don't mind."
Yatabe-kun is in the soccer club with me. He's quite good, actually; we make a good team. But lately he's been trying to talk to me outside of the club, more and more...
"Slow down!" he gasps, after we've been sprinting down the road for a couple of minutes. "I'm sure Sara-chan isn't going anywhere!"
No. No, she's not. She'll be waiting there at the school gates for me, as usual. But I feel bad if I make her wait.
Yatabe-kun's right, though. As much as I'd like to run full-pelt all the way to Sara-chan's school, I can't make it all the way there at this pace.
I slow down to a brisk walk. Yatabe-kun walks along at my side, easily keeping up with me. We talk about little things. How the soccer club is doing. What movies he wants to see. The amount of homework we've been getting much more than at his old school. He went to a different elementary school to Sara-chan and me. I've only known him for a few months.
"After this, do you want to go to the park with me?" he asks, eagerly. "Sara-chan can come along too. We can practise our passing and goal shooting. And there's this great shop that has fifty-something flavours of ice cream..."
"Rainbow Mountain." I nod. I've been there before. Sara-chan likes their Strawberry Swirl Surprise the best.
"Yes, that's the one!" He seems happy. "So you'll come with me?"
I shrug, hoping he can't see my blush either that, or that he'll take it for overheating in the warm summer afternoon. "I can't today, Yatabe-kun. Sorry."
"Oh." For a moment, he looks down at his shoes. "Some other time, maybe?"
"Um..." I come to a halt, and he pauses too, looking across at me. I hang my head a little. "Um, we're here, Yatabe-kun. Would you... I mean, Sara-chan's not comfortable around people she doesn't know, so... if you, um, don't mind..."
"I'll see you in class tomorrow, then," he says, looking disappointed. I feel a bit guilty for making him go away, but Sara really would be uncomfortable with him around.
"We have our club meeting tomorrow after school," I remind him. He nods, and smiles.
"We can practise our passing at the meeting," he says. "I just wanted to get some practice in before our next game."
"Some other time," I tell him, vaguely. I can't promise him anything. Maybe if Sara-chan didn't need me so much, or if Okaasan or Otousan could pick her up from school sometimes... She's too young to go home by herself.
"Later, Todo-san," he says, with a casual wave of his hand. "Catch you tomorrow."
"See you!" I wave back as he crosses the street, heading back the way we came. I thought he said this was on his way home?
Never mind. I shake my head briskly and start running down the footpath. As I crest a slight rise, the front gate of the elementary school comes into sight. As usual, Sara-chan is waiting there behind one of the columns, nervously clutching her satchel with both hands in front of her.
She's so small. She's only three years younger than me, but I'm a lot bigger than she is. She has long silky black hair and huge, sweet purple eyes. She looks like a doll. She's skinny, but so pretty. And when she smiles... I think anyone would melt.
She finally sees me coming, and she runs out to meet me, satchel swinging wildly from one hand. "Oneechan!" she squeals, happily, throwing her arms around me. I hug her back.
"Hey, Sara-chan," I say, ruffling her hair. "Been waiting long?"
"No, not long," she says, lowering her eyes. And I know what she's not saying. I do my best to get here as fast as I can, but it's still an eternity to Sara-chan. She doesn't have many friends. She's not a member of any popular groups. She always waits here alone and walks home with me. But that's okay.
I'm the only big sister she has, after all.
We don't go straight home today. Instead, we take a little detour into town. It's out of the way, and I hate to make Sara-chan walk the extra distance, but once again, if I don't take care of this myself, no-one else will.
FB Salon's motto is 'Fast Beauty in Fifteen Minutes', but it's actually more like twice that before I get a chance to sit down in the hairdresser's chair. The hairdresser is a nice lady named Aoi-san; she's cut my hair a few times before, and I usually wait until she's available. You don't need to make appointments at FB Salon if you just want a quick haircut. They usually have three or four hairdressers working at once, cutting fast to deliver their fifteen minute haircuts.
Okaasan often says that a real lady wouldn't want to be treated like something on an assembly line, but I've never wanted to be a real lady. Besides, Aoi-san is nice, and she always does what I ask.
As always, though, there's the opening argument to go through.
"Rika-chan, good to see you again," she says, as I climb up into the chair and she fastens the smock around my neck. She reaches out and touches my hair lightly with one hand, lifting it with her fingers. "Your hair looks lovely. It's so becoming on you when it's slightly longer. Do you want me to just neaten it up for"
"Cut it short, please," I tell her.
Aoi-san looks at me in the mirror, despairingly. But she doesn't say anything more. She just sighs. "Yes, Rika-chan."
For the next ten minutes she fusses around with scissors and the electric clippers, trimming my hair short and doing her best to make it look pretty and feminine, which is pretty much impossible considering how short I like it. But that's the point, really. The last time my hair touched my shoulders was when I was ten years old. Sara-chan's age.
Aoi-san sighs as she finishes blow-drying my hair, brushing vainly at my fringe in an effort to make it delicate and feathery. That doesn't matter, though I'll wash it tonight and get it sitting straight again.
"Thank you, Rika-chan," she says, as she unclips the smock. I hop down from the chair and head over to the counter, pulling my purse from my skirt pocket. Otousan gave me the money for the haircut last night, plus a little extra. I hand the money to Aoi-san, and she gives me the change.
"Thanks, Aoi-san," I say, smiling. She just looks at me and sighs sadly.
"Take care, Rika-chan," she says.
I turn to Sara, who's sitting in one of the chairs in the waiting area, swinging her legs back and forth. "Come on, Sara-chan," I tell her, pointing out the door. "I'll take you to Rainbow Mountain."
"Ice cream!" Sara-chan cheers, jumping off the chair and grabbing her satchel. "Yay!"
Poor Sara-chan. She doesn't eat much, so I try to make sure she gets treats every now and then to make up for it. One Strawberry Swirl Surprise won't make up for everything. But it'll make her happier, at least.
After sitting under a shady tree in the park for a while, eating our ice creams, we pick ourselves up and start heading home. The afternoon is still hot, though the worst of the summer is past us now. Sara-chan seems to wilt slightly from all the extra walking. I'd give her a piggy-back, but she's too big for me to do that now. That isn't saying much, though not really. I'm a good athlete and a fast runner, but I'm not that strong.
It was nice when Otousan used to be able to walk with us to school. That was years ago, before he and Okaasan had to start working such long hours. It seems awfully unfair to me. Sara-chan and I are important, too, aren't we? But it seems that we hardly see Okaasan and Otousan anymore.
Otousan says they have to work so hard 'to put food in our mouths'. He doesn't just mean food, though. There's Okaasan's pills and Sara-chan's medication to pay for. It makes me glad that I'm not sick as well. I wouldn't want my parents to have to work even longer than they already do.
Okaasan has to take her pills every day. Sara-chan has her magic wand. And Otousan has problems with his hands, especially when he's tired. It's like our family is cursed or something. I used to think that when I was younger. I thought there was some kind of evil spell on us, keeping everyone else but me from being completely healthy. I think Sara-chan still believes in magic. She believes that someday something will come along to make everything better.
I don't think the same way, not anymore. I just want Okaasan and Otousan back, the way it used to be. Why do they have to work so hard with nothing to show for it?
Sara-chan holds my hand as we walk along. We don't say much to each other, but we don't need to. I know she loves me. And she knows I'll look after her.
I collect the mail from the letterbox before we take the elevator up to the fourth floor. I start sorting through the letters as we ride upstairs.
Taka Todo that's Otousan. Taka and Kana Todo that's both of them. Mrs Kana Todo that's Okaasan, again. Hmm, the last letter is from Sara-chan's school. I hope they're not complaining about Sara-chan's lack of attendance. She's been a lot better lately...
Sara tugs at my hand as the elevator bings and the doors slide open. I shake myself out of my preoccupied state and follow her out into the corridor. We take a left and head down towards our apartment.
"Afternoon, Rika-san. Sara-chan."
Watanabe-san is standing just outside his apartment again, smoking a cigarette. I don't know what he does for a living. It seems he's always here, at all hours of the day and night. He's always very nice to me and Sara, though. He says hello whenever we pass by. I don't know why Otousan doesn't like me talking to him.
"Hello, Watanabe-san," I say, politely. Sara just stands mutely at my side, still clutching my hand.
"You've had a haircut today, Rika-san," he notes, blowing a thin stream of smoke into the air.
"Um... yes," I murmur, lowering my gaze a little bit. He always notices little things about me like that. When I've had my hair cut. If I've scraped my knee. He even complimented me on my junior high uniform, the first time he saw me wearing it. "I thought it was getting too long again."
"I agree," he says, casually. The tip of his cigarette flares brightly as he inhales. "I think your hair would be pretty no matter how long or short it was, though, Rika-san."
"Ththank you," I stammer, feeling embarrassed. Watanabe-san never treats me like a child. He's so polite and respectful. Why can't my parents be like that? Is that why Otousan doesn't like him?
"And how was school today, Sara-chan?" he asks, his voice kind as he peers down at Sara. She shrinks closer to me, nodding silently.
"You're lucky you have your big sister to protect you," he says, dryly. "You're grateful for your oneesan, aren't you?"
Sara-chan nods vigorously, and Watanabe-san laughs.
"Good. Nice to see you both again. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to ask. We're neighbours, after all."
"Thank you, Watanabe-san," I say, shepherding Sara-chan past his doorway. "We'll see you later."
"Bye! Bye, Sara-chan. Be good."
Sara-chan seems a little unnerved as we walk down the corridor and stop in front of our door. I don't know why she still gets that way around Watanabe-san; he's been living there for almost two years now. He's nice, and he calls me Rika-san. That's something even my parents don't do.
I unlock the door and push it open. As usual, the apartment is something of a mess. Sara-chan and I were in a bit of a rush this morning, and I didn't have time to clean up the breakfast dishes. Otousan and Okaasan left before we did, so the dishes have been sitting there all day.
I sit Sara-chan down in front of the TV with a cup of milk to watch her cartoons, then I tiredly start sorting through the chores.
Why can't Okaasan do all this? Why is it always me? Always Rika-chan! 'Rika-chan' this, and 'Rika-chan' that. Rika-chan, wash the breakfast dishes! Rika-chan, sort out the laundry! Rika-chan, vacuum the rooms! They treat me like a child and they give me all these responsibilities! Which is it? Am I a child, or am I a grown-up?
I sigh, quietly. Why can't my parents be more like Watanabe-san? Why couldn't I be his daughter? He wouldn't make me act like a slave!
Okaasan gets home a few hours later. By that time, I've washed the dishes, vacuumed the living area, ironed my second uniform for tomorrow, and helped Sara-chan with her homework. Somewhere in all that time, I also cooked some instant ramen. Sara-chan had a few mouthfuls, but was much more interested in her book. I finished off the rest myself, then started doing my homework at the dining table.
The sky is orange and red outside, and I've turned on the lights in the dining area so I can see better. Okaasan comes into the living area, looking exhausted. She's always tired these days. She works much too hard.
"Okaasan!" Sara jumps up and throws herself into Okaasan's arms. Okaasan hugs her gently, crouching down to rub her cheek against Sara's.
"Hi, Sara-chan," she says, in that quietly loving tone. "How's my beautiful girl today?"
"I had ice cream!" Sara-chan blurts.
"Oh, you did? And was it good?"
"It was fabulous!" Sara-chan says, happily, and Okaasan just smiles, the weariness disappearing from her face for a moment.
"You'll have to tell me more about it later," she says, giving Sara-chan a big kiss on the cheek. "Have you done your homework?"
"Yes, Okaasan!" Sara-chan says.
"Good, good," Okaasan says, slowly climbing to her feet. She turns to me. "Hi, Rika-chan."
"Yeah," I murmur, pretending to be engrossed in my books. She still calls me Rika-chan! Like I'm Sara's age!
Okaasan moves towards me, gently laying a hand on my shoulder. She strokes my hair softly. "Your haircut looks nice, Rika-chan."
"Aoi-san does a good job," I say, curtly.
"How was school?" she asks, her voice sounding a bit vague.
"Same as always."
"Good..." Okaasan says, softly. "Rika-chan... can you look after Sara-chan a bit longer, please? I'll... I'll start dinner now."
Her hand seems to tremble a bit as she lifts it from my shoulder. I look sideways at her, for the first time. She doesn't look well at all. Her violet eyes are sunken and shadowed, and her skin looks paler than normal. Her gold heart pendant stands out against the pallid skin of her throat. Okaasan doesn't go out in the sun much. It's not good for her. But her skin is usually so smooth and clear...
"What are we having?" I ask, shrugging off my concern. Okaasan can look after herself.
"I thought we'd have okonomiyaki and yakisoba," she says. She's still standing there behind me. Why hasn't she moved away yet? I don't like her standing there over my shoulder!
"Okonomiyaki!" Sara-chan cheers. "Yummy! Can I help, Okaasan?"
"No, no... just stay here with Rika-chan, darling," Okaasan says. "I'll take care of dinner, then you can tell me all about your day. And then I'll get your medication ready for you."
"Oh." Sara-chan suddenly sounds a lot less cheerful. "Yes, Okaasan."
"I'll get out the magic wand and we'll cast a little spell," Okaasan says, coaxingly. "It'll be fun, Sara-chan."
"Yes..." Sara-chan says, uncertainly.
Okaasan heads into the kitchen, the door swinging shut behind her. She's making okonomiyaki again? We have it all the time!
Sara-chan comes up beside me and tugs at my sleeve.
"Yes, Sara-chan?" I ask, distractedly.
"Okaasan doesn't look happy," she says, sounding worried. "Do you think"
"Okaasan will be fine." I almost snap the words at her. She's not your okaasan, Sara-chan! Who's been looking after you all today? Who made sure you ate your breakfast? Who walked you to and from school? Who
A loud crashing sound from the kitchen makes me jump up, my heart pounding. My knee slams hard against the table, sending a surge of agony through my entire leg. Gritting my teeth, I sink back into my chair and rub my knee hard. I wait in the silence for Okaasan to call out, "It's okay! I just dropped a plate!"
But the words don't come.
"Oneechan..." Sara says, her voice anxious.
"Don't worry, Sara-chan," I tell her, as I get out of my chair. "Okaasan's fine. Why don't you... why don't you start reading again?"
"Um... okay." She looks up at me, her eyes tugging at mine. She's worried about Okaasan. And, to be honest, so am I.
"Okaasan?" I call, hesitantly, as I approach the kitchen door. "Okaasan, are you okay? Did you drop something? Do you want me to"
My words break off as I swing the kitchen door open. Okaasan is lying there on the floor, limply. Her eyes are closed. She's
I don't think she's breathing.
Rika's otousan finds himself in a familiar situation, in A Bitter Wind.