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.
'New Blooms', part 1. This story follows on from 'My Sister, My Strength'.
The walk home from the train station never seemed quite this long before. I'm panting a little as I slowly pick my way up the gentle slope, relying on my cane to support my cramping legs. Relying on my cane, and relying on Kana.
She's walking beside me, my blue sports bag swinging from her left hand, the fingers of her right hand entwined with mine. She's not breathing hard. She's enjoying the sensation of the weak winter sunlight on her upturned face. Her steps are casual and leisurely.
As with everything else, this will take time. I've been out of the hospital on my cane before, of course on mandatory 're-socialisation' trips to the city, to shopping malls and even to my university but it's somehow different now that it's just me and Kana, facing the world alone, without any hospital staff along. No backup. No-one who'll take responsibility for me if I get exhausted, or fall over.
I have to maintain constant awareness of mundane reality the sloping footpath; the cracks and irregularities in the concrete; stones that could catch under the foot of my cane and make me stumble. Again, these are things I never noticed before. It's like I've come out of the hospital reborn, a new Taka Todo. Weaker, somehow more vulnerable.
"It's nice, isn't it?" Kana says, looking across at me. Her smile warms me right to the tips of my fingers, which are aching slightly with the cold.
"What is?" I ask.
She tilts her head, smiling coyly, and swings our linked hands higher. "I'm sorry. I was being selfish again."
I grin. "Don't change the subject, Kana."
"Us." She lets her head slip back and sighs blissfully, closing her eyes. "Us, together. Walking together. Holding hands. On the street."
"It terrifies you."
"Yes." She looks at me bashfully. "But I've hoped for this moment for so long. Walking. You're walking, Taka."
"I have someone I always want to walk with," I say, quietly. "That helps."
She smiles, ducking her eyes. "I'm so glad. When I thought... When I was afraid that you might never..." The corners of her eyes crease up, and she bites her lip. "Taka, I"
"Kana, watch out!"
Kana's not looking where she's going, and she's about to walk straight into a streetlight. I yank at her arm, hard, and she stumbles sideways, bumping into me and knocking me off balance. We collapse against the nearby wall, her hands braced awkwardly on my shoulders. The friction of my back against the painted concrete is the only thing keeping me from slipping gracelessly to the footpath.
"Watch... where you're going, Kana..." I manage to gasp.
"Taka." Her violet eyes shine as she gazes up at me. A shaky smile tugs at her mouth. "You're walking," she whispers. "You're mine. I love you." She steps forward, still holding her hands against me, and brushes my lips with hers. Tentatively at first, then harder. More passionately. She forgets where we are.
We forget everything except each other.
"To Taka's successful return from the hospital!"
We clink our cups together across the table. Standing behind me, Kana takes a hasty sip from her tea, then reaches down to put her cup on the table in front of me. Her hand gently touches my shoulder before she straightens up and heads back into the kitchen.
The situation is strange. I mean, it's rare enough for Mom and Dad to be home for dinner, but that's not it. Kana's bustling around the kitchen like a thing possessed, but that's not it either.
Mom and Dad usually sit at the head of the table, facing each other. That's the way it's always been, as far back as I can remember. I'd sit next to Mom, on the inside edge, and Kana would sit next to Dad on the window side, when she was there. That's Todo family tradition.
Tonight, it's different. Mom and Dad are sitting there across from me, side by side. They've seated me and Kana next to each other. Like we're... a couple.
"Do you have to go back to the hospital tomorrow?" Mom asks, using her chopsticks to take some of the pickles that Kana has laid out as appetisers.
I sip my tea. "Nope. They've given me tomorrow off, to settle back in here. After that, though, they'll want me in almost every day except Sundays."
"It's a long trip," Dad says. "Did it really tire you out that much coming back today?"
It's sad, but it's true. Even just the short walk from the train station to our house exhausted me. When we got here, Kana took me upstairs and put me to bed, before coming back downstairs to finish preparing dinner. Mom and Dad just got back a little while ago; they found me sitting in here with Kana, talking about nothing in particular, as she made the finishing touches to the meal.
Finishing touches that have been going on for a while now, I realise. Kana's probably never tried to make a meal this elaborate before. She wants it to be special.
"I'll get used to it," I say, lightly. "It's all part of the process. Regaining independence and confidence. That kind of thing."
"Kana will be going with him whenever she can," Mom points out. "It's not as if he'll be alone."
Dad's expression clears. "That's good, then. I feel better knowing she's with you, Taka."
I feel my brow furrowing, just slightly.
"Done!" Kana gasps, elated. She sweeps back into the dining area with two steaming bowls, which she sets down in front of Mom and Dad. It's miso soup, and it looks good. The aroma that drifts up as she places another bowl in front of me is heavenly.
Kana lowers herself into the seat next to me. "Um, I tried my hardest, but I'm not sure how well I did," she says, apologetically. "So, if it doesn't taste right, you don't have to finish it. Okay?"
"It smells wonderful, Kana," Mom says, approvingly.
Kana just blushes and hunches her shoulders a little in embarrassment.
"Enough with the formalities," Dad suggests. "Let's start."
"Itadakimasu!" we chorus.
The miso soup is really, really good. Smooth and subtle, its flavour delicately enhanced with morsels of tofu and wakame. We all compliment Kana on her success, and her cheeks flush even brighter red.
She clears away the bowls when everyone's done, and returns to lay out the main meal. Almost everything is one of my favourite dishes. There's deep-fried chicken, tuna sushi rolls, vegetable tempura and an elaborate garden salad. Kana dishes rice into serving bowls and passes them around. We serve ourselves from the main dishes with the spoons laid out for that purpose.
I take some of the chicken and a few pieces of tempura, piling them into my bowl. Then I reach down and pick up my chopsticks. But they feel wrong. It's like I'm trying to use them with the wrong hand.
I'm holding them correctly. I've always held them this way. But they just sit there awkwardly like two useless pieces of wood, rather than utensils I can use to eat with. Kana and our parents are talking about something or other, but I can't make it out. My heart is throbbing. My fingers won't move properly.
"Taka?" Mom's voice sounds distant. "Taka, dig in!"
"You wouldn't want Kana to think you don't like her cooking," Dad jokes.
"No..." I murmur. "No, of course not."
I reach down with the chopsticks, but it's like my hand belongs to a completely different person. It's detached from me. My bowl seems like it's a mile or two away. The chopsticks move jerkily towards the bowl, and I clumsily try to snag a piece of chicken.
My hand starts to shake uncontrollably. The chopsticks fall from my hand, clattering to the table. One goes flying to the floor.
I can hear my panicked breathing, coming in short harsh gasps. I can't stop my hand trembling. I can't even put it down.
The conversation at the table has stopped. Though I can't see them, I can tell that Mom and Dad are studiously not looking at me, trying to spare me any embarrassment. Tears threaten to choke me. I thought I was recovering? I thought I was better! But... but I
Kana's hand touches my arm, steadying my hand.
"It's nothing special," Kana says, continuing the conversation effortlessly. "A little soy, a bit of mirin. The trick is getting the oil temperature just right. Taka, I'm going to get myself a fork. Do you want one?"
I hang my head. "Um... yes, please."
She lowers my hand gently to the table. "Try the sushi rolls, Taka. I... I hope they're all right. I might have used too much vinegar."
Hesitantly, I reach across to the plate of sushi rolls and take a piece. It's easier. I don't have to worry about dropping it.
I take a bite, and it's delicious. Kana didn't have to worry.
"Here." She returns to her seat, placing a fork next to my hand. She puts her own chopsticks aside and starts eating her rice with a fork. "Taka," she says, gently, after a few moments have passed. "Taka, it'll get cold."
I finish the sushi roll and pick up my fork. I feel like a child. But the food Kana's cooking is wonderful. The chicken is tender and marinated to perfection. The tempura is crispy and light. Even the rice is perfect.
For a while, there's no more conversation at the table just the sound of people engrossed in their food. Kana sits there next to me, eating with a healthy appetite. The portions on the table dwindle away. It doesn't look like anything will be left behind.
"Well, congratulations," Dad says, after a while. "Your meal is a great success, Kana. It's a credit to you."
"You must have been cooking for hours, Kana!" I add, summoning a smile.
Kana waves her hand, laughing shyly. "Oh, not really. Mom helped a lot..."
"Don't believe a word of it," Mom tells me. "She hasn't let me do a thing! She's been busy since she got back from visiting you last night. Let me tell you, it's the first time I've ever been shooed out of my own kitchen!"
We all laugh.
"You won't want for anything in Osaka, that's for sure," Dad says, taking the last piece of chicken.
"Now, dear, Kana won't be able to cook for him every night," Mom says, laughing. "She'll be getting a job while Taka finishes up at university."
"Oh dear," Dad says, looking worried. "Does that mean you'll be cooking for her, Taka? Kana, the best brands of antacid are"
"I'm not that bad!" I interrupt, doing my best to sound wounded. Everyone laughs again.
"We're sure you'll be happy in Osaka," Mom says, after we've settled a bit.
"Yes," Dad adds. "We hope you'll do well."
I can't help but shoot a quizzical glance at Kana, sitting next to me, but she's happily finishing off what's left of the salad, and doesn't seem to notice.
In yet another break with tradition, Mom and Dad volunteer to do the cleaning up after dinner. I'm not complaining, though. Kana takes my hand with a secret smile and leads me out of the dining room.
It's dark inside the house now; it's still winter, and the sun went down early. Kana walks up the stairs, and I trail behind her, our outstretched arms linking us together.
"One question, Kana," I say, as we reach the top of the stairs.
"Yes?" she asks, turning to look at me.
"What did you do with the real Mom and Dad? And where did you find such convincing fakes?"
She blinks at me, innocently. "That's two questions."
"No, I mean... 'We hope you'll do well'? 'You'll be happy'? Those are not my parents, Kana!"
"Well, I could try to get the old ones back, if you were that attached to them..." she muses.
"I'm not complaining," I say, drawing her by the wrists into my room, and shutting the door behind us. "I just shudder to think what you're blackmailing them with..."
"Grandchildren," she says, slipping thankfully into my arms.
Her violet eyes are dancing as she looks up at me. "I promised them five."
"Five grandchildren, hey?" I ask, slipping my hands caressingly down her back. She jumps and squeals as I squeeze her bottom. "That'll take a lot of work."
"We have... time..." She moans softly, letting her head sink forward against my chest as my hands creep under her blouse, touching her skin.
"We'd better start practising," I suggest. I cup her breasts over her bra, lightly pinching her nipples through the fabric. Kana trembles against me. She reaches down to unfasten my jeans.
"Yes," she whispers, fondly. "Let's do our best."
I stoop down and teasingly nip at her neck, massaging her breasts a little more roughly. A passionate sigh escapes from between her lips. I slip my hands out from under her blouse and start... I start trying to unbutton... But the buttons are too small, and my fingers won't... I can't
My hands start shaking again, erratically. A button pops off her blouse as my fingers paw awkwardly at it. Surprised, Kana jerks back momentarily, and I lower my hands, anguished, hanging my head. I can't look at her.
"Taka." Her hands touch my shoulders, gently.
"I'm sorry, Kana"
She raises herself up on tiptoe, coming up from below to kiss me, silencing my protests. Reaching down, she takes my trembling hand and replaces it over her breast. Her heart is pounding.
Her eyes meet mine, shadowed in the darkness of my room. Mere pinpricks of light.
"I want you," she whispers. "I'll always want you."
She tears fiercely at the buttons of her blouse, pulling it open and tugging it off her slender white shoulders. She kisses me, hard, and my hands find her body again, sliding under the cups of her bra to close over the soft swelling of her breasts. She moans quietly, needfully.
Her skirt tumbles to the floor. My fingers delve exploratively into her panties. Her breath catches. She whimpers softly as I find the spot and stroke her gently.
"Dirty boy," she purrs, lovingly. "Such a dirty boy."
It's quiet. It's dark. We move together in my bed. She cries my name, achingly, again and again.
Afterwards, we lie together, holding each other tight: her body pressed against mine under the covers, her head on my shoulder. We whisper to each other. We drift off to sleep, safe in the nearness of each other.
I'm back, Kana. I'm home again.
Kana and Taka deal with anxieties both old and new, in Old Scars.