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 5. This story follows 'Questions'.
"Hey, guys, who is that?"
I turn to follow Ikuro's outstretched finger as a pink-and-red blur goes dashing across the playground. High-pitched laughter trails in her wake as some of the other kids chase after her, trying to catch her. It's no use, though. She's fast.
"Sorry, Ikuro, I don't know who she is," I mutter, pretending to be uninterested. "Why don't you go ask her, if you think she's so cute?"
Ikuro elbows me in the ribs, gently, and laughs. "I never said I thought she was cute, Taka! She's in our class, right?"
"Her name's Yumi Kashima," Tomoki says, peering over at her through his thick glasses. "She was one of the only people in the class to ace the mathematics test last week."
"She wears white underwear with pink flowers on it," Masa adds. "At least, that's what she was wearing on Tuesday."
"And the only other one was you, right, Tomoki?" Ikuro asks, with a smile.
"Of course," Tomoki says, unfazed. "It wasn't difficult at all."
"I barely passed!" Masa groans. "What good is math going to do me, anyway?"
"Knowledge for knowledge's sake," Tomoki says, in his curt, straightforward manner. "If you train your mind, who knows what you might achieve?"
"You think too much, four-eyes!" Masa laughs.
"How about you, Taka?" Ikuro asks, but I barely hear him. I'm staring at her. Yumi Kashima. She's running, and her hair is trailing behind her, streaming like a golden banner in the sunlight. "Taka?"
"I told you, I'm not interested in her!" I snap, turning to glare at him.
"Who said anything about any 'her'?" Ikuro asks. "I just wanted to know how you did on the test."
"Taka has a thing for Yumi!" Masa blurts, gleefully.
"Shut up, Masa!"
"She is rather attractive," Tomoki says, clinically.
"You can shut up too, Tomoki!"
"Guys, guys... lay off Taka," Ikuro says, in soothing tones. "I wouldn't have asked if I knew this would happen. But still..." He trails off, watching as Yumi's finally tagged by someone else. She laughs brightly and starts counting to ten as the other children scatter away from her.
"In your dreams, Taka!" Masa laughs. "You, with a girl like her? Not in a million years! She'd never return your feelings!"
"I didn't say I had any feelings for her, you idiot!" I turn and punch Masa in the arm, hard. He scowls at me for a moment, rubbing his arm gingerly.
"You're taking it a bit personally, Taka," Tomoki says, looking at me with a half-smile on his face.
"I'm denying it because it's not true!" I snarl.
"Taka loves Yumi!" Masa crows.
"Her parents are very well to do," Tomoki adds, as Masa dodges behind Ikuro to avoid getting hit again. "Her father is a well-respected physician."
Rich. Talented. Smart. Pretty. Is there anything Yumi Kashima isn't? Is there anything she couldn't have if she tried hard enough to get it?
"More beer, Taka?"
Wordlessly, I hold my glass out. Yumi fills it almost to the brim, watching it carefully, and sets the bottle down beside her again. She's very good at playing the hostess. She's good at a lot of things.
I sip at my drink, slowly.
"So..." Yumi remarks, after a few more awkward moments of silence. "So I've finally managed to get you alone, Taka... and you're just going to sit there not saying anything all night?"
"No, not all night," I say, quietly. "I have to go home eventually."
"That's not what I'm talking about!" She smacks at my hand, which is sitting on the table across from hers. It seems she doesn't know whether to be amused or angry with me. I'm not sure which way I'm feeling right now, either.
I really don't want to be here, at this bar, with her. And yet, it's not something I can avoid. Why else did I keep calling her, despite all her clashes and cancellations and late nights at work? Why else did I end up letting her schedule it for tonight, of all nights?
This is something I have to do.
"Look, I know it's a bad night," Yumi says, hanging her head almost guiltily. "I know you had plans with Ka... with your family. I did my best to work around them. I've been waiting here for more than an hour, you know!"
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"Your body is, yes," Yumi says, taking my hand and holding it gently. "But I've seen that look in your eyes before. Where's your heart, Taka? Who are you thinking about?"
"Do you need to ask?"
"Kana." Yumi sits back with a disgruntled sigh, still loosely clinging to my hand. "Kana this, and Kana that. You know, it all started making more sense to me after we broke up, after I found out how you felt about her. The awkwardness and the secrecy and the avoiding me... You didn't want me to know! No, no... you didn't want her to know! You didn't want her to know about us! I was never a factor! Was I? Was I?"
"I... I don't know," I admit.
"Then why are you here?" she asks, her voice tight with frustration.
"Because I want to know the answers as much as you do."
"Did you always love her, Taka?" Yumi asks, quietly. The pain in her eyes is almost unbearable to look at. I take another long sip from my drink.
I'm not in a good mood. I tripped on the way home, and my knees are skinned. One is worse than the other a ragged bloody mess of shredded skin and bits of leftover gravel. They both hurt, though the pain's more of a dull swollen ache now.
I wasn't looking where I was going. It's Yumi Kashima's fault. I was trying to convince myself to walk up to Yumi's group of friends tomorrow and ask if I could join their game. The thought was scary, and yet so hard to put away. And no, it's not like I want to be alone with her or anything! It's just that I
I can smell something yummy as I step through the front door.
"I'm home!" I yell, pulling off my shoes.
"Taka?" Mom's voice filters into the hallway from the kitchen. "Taka, I'm busy right now. Can you look after Kana?"
That's it? That's all I get? No 'welcome back', no 'how was school today'? Just her. Just...
Kana's standing there in the doorway that leads into the living room. Most of her body is hidden behind the wall; she's peeking out at me timidly, one small hand clutching the door frame. She looks up at me warily as I step onto the floorboards and take my slippers from the rack.
"Don't stare at me," I snap at her.
She flinches, shrinking even further back behind the door frame. But she doesn't stop looking at me. I feel like I'm a museum exhibit.
"I said don't stare!" I yell. "What is it? Do I look weird? Do I look weird to you? Stupid Kana!"
I can say this because Mom's not there. If she or Dad heard me call her that, they'd hit me.
Kana just stares up at me with those huge wet purple eyes of hers. Purple eyes are stupid! No-one else in our family has purple eyes. What, does she think they make her special or something? Is that why Mom and Dad treat her so much better than me?
I drop my satchel on the floor and stomp towards her menacingly. She swallows hard. She has to tilt her head back to keep her eyes on me as I draw closer.
"Out of my way, Kana," I order, though the doorway's wide enough and Kana's skinny enough that I could get past her quite easily.
Her hand tightens on the door frame. She's frozen there, bracing herself for whatever's about to come. Her eyes flicker down to my knees. She mumbles something under her breath.
"What was that?" I ask, my voice mockingly loud. "Did you say something?"
She sniffs hard, trembling. The expression on her face is pinched and scared. But she manages to repeat herself, haltingly. "Blood," she whispers. With her free hand, she gestures weakly at my knees.
"Yeah, I'm bleeding," I tell her. "I'm a boy. I can live with it. What is it, Kana does it disgust you? Are you afraid I'll get my blood all over you?"
Her eyes widen as I step closer to her, exaggerating the movements of my legs. I move my bloodied knees closer and closer to her clean pink skirt. She starts to shake even harder, but she can't let go of the wall.
"Pink and red go together," I say, taking another step. "They're a good match. Watch this, Kana. I'll make your skirt prettier."
"Nno..." Her breathing is sharp and fast. Her purple eyes are glassy and staring. "No, ddon't..."
"Everyone will say how good it looks, Kana," I promise her. I stop in front of her and lift one foot off the ground, moving my knee closer to the fabric of her skirt.
"No!" She screams and pulls away from the wall, staggering clumsily away from me. Her reflexes aren't up to such a sudden burst of speed, though, and she stumbles. She falls against the couch. Her head makes a loud thumping sound as it glances off the couch's hard frame.
"Kana?" Mom's voice comes from the kitchen, sounding concerned. "Kana? What did you Kana!"
Mom rushes into the living room and crouches anxiously over Kana's limp body.
"Kana!" She turns her ear to Kana's face, listening for breathing, then looks up at me angrily. "Taka! I told you to look after her!"
"I'm bleeding!" I yell at her. "I hurt myself on my way home!"
"You're a big boy," Mom says, turning back to look at Kana worriedly, rubbing gently at Kana's temple. "Oh, Kana, it's okay. You're not going to bruise. It's all right..."
I can't stand it. Disgustedly, I turn around and stalk away. Kana. Always Kana. Never Taka.
Why? Why do my parents love her and not me?
"I... I had no idea," Yumi says, looking taken aback. "I always thought... well, you know..."
"That I was sick and dirty?" I ask, wearily. "Maybe I am."
"No... no. That's not what I was thinking," she protests. "I always thought that you... your being with her... was sibling love that went too far. That you must have always been in love with her, on some level, if you could... if you could see her the way you do. As... as something more," she finishes, looking uncomfortable.
"Why would I love her?" I point out. "She stole my parents' love! Everything, every day... It was always Kana! No wonder I was such a rotten kid!"
"Then... then why?" Yumi asks, her eyes fixed on me pleadingly. "What changed?"
Why wasn't it me? That's her unspoken question.
I sigh. My head is starting to throb. I lower it into my hands, resting my elbows on the table.
"You changed things, Yumi."
She blinks. "What?"
"In fifth grade, when I wrote you that letter... when I thought you'd betrayed my feelings..." I look up at her through my interlaced fingers. She's staring at me, transfixed. "You broke my heart. I never wanted to feel that way again. I never wanted to risk feeling that way again. I told myself that I'd stop trying. But I... but I still needed to love someone. I don't know, maybe it was because my parents always neglected me because of Kana... but I needed to love someone, and be loved back."
Yumi groans quietly. "No..."
"So I loved Kana," I say, softly. "I could do that for her. I could protect her my little sister. And, somewhere along the way... during those years when all we had was each other... I fell in love with her."
"And she fell in love with you." Yumi's voice is soft. Almost dead.
"Yes," I admit. "She did. I didn't know it at the time. She kept it secret. She loved me, and I loved her... But neither of us could tell each other. Until she realised she was dying. That's when things... started to change."
"You... you do know it's wrong, don't you?" Yumi asks, raising her head. "You do know it's not normal? Sisters aren't supposed to fall in love with their brothers that way! Taka? Tell me you understand! Tell me you know that it's not right! It isn't! It" She breaks off, staring at me with an impassioned gaze. Her eyes are shimmering with tears. "Tell me..." she begs. "Please."
Kana clings to me mutely, tears streaming down her cheeks. She just lies there, pressed up against me. Gently, I bring my hand up to stroke her hair. We remain silent for a few minutes.
"B... Bro..." Kana whispers, hesitantly.
"Yeah..." I mumble. My thoughts are in a daze. Kana's here. Kana's alive, and she's here beside me. We've loved each other. We've just loved each other for the first time... and all I can think of is how I never want to let her go.
"We did it..." Kana says. Her voice sounds slightly awed.
I nod, gently. "Yeah."
"It felt good."
"Really?" I turn my head, craning my neck slightly, to look at her face as she lies there beside me. "Didn't it hurt?"
Kana smiles, wanly. "It did... but it's all about the emotional feelings." She cuddles me tighter, her breasts moving against my chest. My hand gently tousles her damp hair.
"This is incest," I tell her. As if she didn't already know that. Or as if it matters to either of us.
"I don't regret it."
"Yeah," I agree. "I don't care if people look down on me."
Kana looks up at me with a wide smile on her face, but says nothing.
I pull her close. I kiss her lips. "Welcome back, Kana."
"I'm back..." Kana whispers. Her smile deepens. It's a secret, joyous smile. It's just for me.
Yumi pulls the car to a halt, and tugs at the handbrake. Mechanically, she turns off the headlights, casting the alleyway into darkness. She switches off the wipers, and the rain rapidly blurs the view through the windscreen, streaming down the glass and obscuring anything clear.
We sit there in silence for a while.
"It looks like the rain's easing up a bit," I say, peering out the window. "I'd better take this chance to"
"You never answered me," she says, quietly.
I turn to look at her. The rain trickling down the windscreen casts a mottled shadow on her pale cheeks. She's staring at the dashboard, her hands braced on the steering wheel.
"It's wrong, isn't it?" Yumi asks, when I don't say anything. "You can see that, can't you? Your love for Ka Your love for, for her isn't right. You said it yourself. You were driven to her. I know it was my fault. But still... can't you see that Taka? Taka!"
I tug at the door handle and climb out of the car. Rain spatters on my face, and into my eyes. I grab my cane and slam the door behind me.
"Don't run away from me!" Yumi shrieks, clambering out of the driver's side door. "Taka! Answer me!"
The alleyway runs by the side of my house; there's a locked door that leads into the garden, though no-one ever uses it. The surface of the street is wet and slick, dully reflecting the ambient light from a distant streetlight. Blind white walls rise up around us. Fencing me in. There's nowhere to run.
"Taka!" She runs around the car and grabs my hand. She pulls me to face her, staring deep into my eyes. "Taka, I need to know!"
"Yes!" I snap the word at her, and it's like tearing my heart out. "Yes, thank you, Yumi! You've shown me that my love for Kana is wrong!"
She draws back, startled. Caught off guard. "Oh. Taka, I... I..." Impulsively, she throws herself at me, pressing her lips against mine. She kisses me hard.
I stand there, keeping my balance, and I don't resist. But I don't kiss her back, either.
Eventually, she realises it. She draws back awkwardly, looking up at me with a chastened little-girl expression on her face.
We look at each other as the rain pounds down around us.
"So... why don't I feel any better?" she whispers, brokenly.
"Because you haven't won me," I tell her. My voice is harsh. "You've just helped me see the truth about me and Kana. The two don't have to follow each other."
"You don't want me." She looks at me, downcast. "I don't excite you. I don't excite you! You do! You make my heart pound! You make my breath catch! I love you, Taka still! I've never stopped! But..." She pauses, breathing hard. "But it was always her, wasn't it? Even when I had you, she was always first in your heart. I... what can I How am I meant to fight that? How am I meant to deal with the fact that the person I've always loved... never loved me? How"
She breaks off, staring at me. "You... did?"
I sigh heavily, leaning on my cane. "You're very special to me, Yumi. I really wanted to be your boyfriend. But you were always... too good for me. It was almost a relief when I thought you'd told everyone about my letter. Because suddenly I didn't have to worry about being good enough for you. Because then I could accept what my parents had already been teaching me up to that point that I wasn't. I was never good enough..."
"Taka." She steps forward, putting her hand over mine as it trembles on the cane. I'm staring at the ground, my vision blurred with tears and rain. "Taka, I didn't know..."
"Who could I give to?" I choke. "Who wanted me? Who could I do anything for?"
"Kana," Yumi murmurs, softly. She squeezes my hand, sympathetically.
"Kana," I repeat, numbly. "She's all I have. She's everything I need."
"I'm sorry..." Yumi bends down, her hand coming to lift my head. Gently almost tenderly she kisses my lips. And this time I kiss her back.
"It's wrong; I know it's wrong..." I mumble. "I can't love Kana. I shouldn't love Kana. I"
Yumi and I both look up at the same time. Her hand on my cheek. Her lips so close to mine.
Kana is standing there in the alleyway. She's soaked to the skin, my white shirt clinging to the fragile curves of her figure. She's staring at us with her broken heart in her eyes.
"Taka," she whispers. And she starts to cry.
Taka decides, in Shared Lives.