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 6. This story follows 'Return Your Love'.
The rain continues to pour down around us, between us, filling the empty gulf that stretches between me and her. Kana stares at me as the tears stream down her cheeks, her violet eyes tugging at me, her mouth half-open. Her lips move, but no sound comes out. She's trembling.
I'm still standing close to Yumi too close, much too close but I can't move. The weight of Kana's helpless gaze holds me in place. She doesn't want to believe what she's seeing; I can tell that much. She doesn't want to have to face reality.
So we stand there in the rain-soaked night, and we look at each other. And somehow, we've never been further apart.
Kana and I don't need words. She's looking into my eyes, and I can read every emotion in hers. Fear. Jealousy. Anxiety. Hurt.
And loneliness. Empty, aching loneliness.
What can I say to her? There's nothing I can say that will make things better. We both know it, and that's why we're standing here like this. Because if we move, time will start to flow again. And then this won't be a moment anymore it'll be reality. And reality has consequences.
We can't hold on. The moment is slipping. Kana's eyes crease up and the grief in her expression starts to take over her entire body. Her arms lock and tighten at her sides; her small fists clench, knuckles whitening. Her chest heaves with her forced gasps for air. But her eyes never leave my face. Even as fresh tears well up and stream from her eyes, she never takes her gaze from me.
My Kana. My... Kana...
"It's... not what you think."
Yumi's voice startles me. I'd almost forgotten she was there. We could have been standing here for hours, for all that I can tell.
"Kana," Yumi says, hesitantly. "Please just listen to me. I... Me and Taka, we're not"
She breaks the spell.
"No!" Kana screams, and covers her ears, clamping her hands tight to either side of her head. She squelches her eyes tightly shut, sobbing openly now. "No..." she moans, almost to herself. "Taka..."
Kana said my name. Kana said my name! She's real she's still here!
"Kana." I summon every last scrap of willpower I possess, and force my feet to move. I take a step towards her. She's crying helplessly, head hanging limply, her face contorted as the sobs wrack her body. I just want to If I could just hold her
She jerks upright, startled, at the sound of my footsteps. Her eyes flare open, taking me in. And then, almost desperately, she stumbles sideways, shoving open the side gate, and disappears from sight.
"Kana!" I'm about to start after her, but my hand's caught on something. It won't come loose. I shake at it irritably, but... but...
I blink as I turn back to look over my shoulder. "Yumi?"
Yumi. Kana. Love, the world, my feelings... Why doesn't any of it make sense? How can I keep walking through this world if I don't know what reality is?
"Help me, Yumi," I beg. "Tell me... tell me what to do..."
"Go to her," Yumi says.
Her words penetrate into my fog-ridden brain like the dazzling light of the sun.
"Go to her," she repeats, her eyes clear and calm. "She... she needs you more than I do."
I rock back for a moment, completely thrown. It's true. What she said... It's completely true. Why... why couldn't I see it? Why couldn't I accept it?
"I can't do anything for you," Yumi continues. She's not looking at me. Her eyes are lingering uneasily on the ground to one side of us. "After all those years, all that time I spent waiting for you... all the time you spent with her... I can't do anything for you anymore, can I?"
She catches her breath as I say it, closing her eyes. A deep shuddering breath escapes from her lungs... and it's as if she doesn't want to take the next one. She grimaces, her shoulders trembling.
"No," I repeat, quietly, as the truth of what I'm saying washes into my heart. "Only Kana can, now. Even if I shouldn't, even if it's wrong... I can't let her go."
"At least... at least you were honest with me, this time," Yumi mumbles. She chokes softly, bringing a hand up to rub at her nose, smearing tears and makeup across her cheek.
I step forward. I place my hands on her shoulders. And I kiss her on the forehead.
Yumi draws a shivering breath, relaxing against my hands for a moment. And then, reluctantly, she straightens up, supporting her own weight again.
"Thank you, Yumi." My voice is clear, and so is my head. At last. I was honest with her. And, more importantly, I was honest with myself.
"Go..." Yumi says, quietly. "Go, now. Please."
"I'll... I'll be okay." She lifts her head and offers me a brave little smile. "I will. Go." She pushes me, gently. "Go to Kana."
I smile back at her. She looks up at me wistfully, her hair straggly and wet, her long lashes beaded with moisture. She's beautiful. She could have been mine.
I turn from her and run after Kana.
There's a trail of wet footsteps that leads from the front door, wavers up the stairs, and ends abruptly at the door to Kana's room. As I stand there, momentarily stymied, I'm sure I can hear the sound of Kana's agonised sobbing through the door.
Kana. I don't need to try the door knob; I can tell it's locked. I could go get a screwdriver, unlock the door, and go in without her permission, but... but that would be wrong, wouldn't it?
Instead I just stand there at her door, soaking wet. My hand drifts up to the sign on her door, and I start tracing the letters of her name, one at a time.
K... Keep me safe from harm.
A... Always be there to complete me.
N... Never leave me. Never ever leave me.
A... Always know... I love you.
I sink to the floor, bringing my knees up to my chest. It's warmer here, inside, out of the wind. And my thoughts are more settled now, though they're still not going any slower.
It makes more sense now, in a way. After my disastrous attempt at a 'relationship' with Yumi in fifth grade, I was driven to Kana. There were no other options for me. I found love and solace where I wasn't supposed to.
But was that all there was to it?
Kana and I understand each other. We need each other. That's not something that just 'happens' when you randomly throw two people together. Our connection means something.
Sure, I was there to be her big brother. I brought normality to her life. I brought her comic books, and I took her to school. We went home together, and I'd look after her all afternoon and even into the night sometimes... just trying to give her a normal home life. I had to be older than my years for her I had to learn responsibility and heartache.
But I didn't just give.
Kana always listened to my stories so intently. She faithfully read every single book I brought her. She adored me her face would light up whenever she saw me, and she'd look crestfallen whenever I had to leave. She made me feel respected and needed. And more than that.
She made me feel wanted.
And so I had to live up to Kana's view of me. She made me exceed my self-expectations. With her weakness and vulnerability, her gentle humour, her shyness and strength... she always managed to defuse my anger and my resentment. It made me feel good just to be with her, and I didn't have to feel torn or moody anymore. She made me into a better person, simply by loving me.
I gave her my strength, and she gave me her kindness. Together, we made a whole person.
No. No, that's not it. Together, she and I one physically weak and the other emotionally vulnerable we make two whole people.
I don't know how much time has passed. I must have fallen asleep; my clothes cling damply to my skin, and every joint in my body is aching. I look up and down the hallway, wondering what it was that
Is the voice just in my imagination?
"Taka, I... I... I can't say it. Why can't I say it?"
"Kana?" I ask, hazily.
There's a startled gasp and an awkward thump from the other side of the door. And then, after a moment's pause as if giving the world time to catch its breath the lock clicks. The door swings open.
I squint up into the doorway. Kana's standing there in her white pyjamas, looking pale but collected. The pendant I gave her earlier tonight is hanging around her neck. Her hair is damp and tangled, but mostly dry.
"Taka," she says, looking down at me. Her expression isn't giving anything away. "Come in."
Painfully, stiffly, I climb to my feet. She looks at me, worriedly, as I stumble into the room.
"You haven't been sitting out there all this time in wet clothes, have you?" she asks, ushering me across the room to sit on her bed. She drags at the covers and arranges them around my shoulders. They're warm, and they carry her fragrance. They feel good.
I don't know whether it's the fact that I just woke up, or if my brain has just burned out for the night, but I don't know what to say to her. She pulls the straight-backed desk chair over and sits on it, across from me, leaning forward a little and peering into my eyes.
"You should go to bed after this," she says, as if she's a doctor giving a prescription.
She smiles at me, but it's not quite right. It's flawed, somehow. Broken. She takes a deep breath, and sits back. Her right hand comes up to play with the gold pendant around her neck, one white finger tracing the curves of the two interlocked hearts. The only light in the room is her desk lamp, sitting behind her; it casts her form into silhouette, hazily radiant at the edges. It paints the smooth fabric of her pyjamas with warm yellow light.
"I just wanted to tell you how happy you've made me," she says, softly.
"No." She looks at me pleadingly. "Please."
I shrink back, pulling the covers tighter around myself.
"You always gave so much to me," she continues, pulling one knee up to her chest and wrapping her arms around it. "You brought me books, and you brought me stories about the outside world. You made me feel as if I was a part of that world. My brother. My... And, and after you gave me more than anyone could ever be expected to give after you gave me a part of your own body... you gave me the most precious thing of all. You loved me. In spite of everything, all the rules and barriers and taboos that insisted you shouldn't... you loved me. You made me so happy I thought I would die. I would have been happy to die, feeling that way."
She lowers her chin to her knee, looking up at me quietly from beneath her long lashes. "I was loved," she whispers, "if only for a while. I finally got to experience it. To find out how love feels. To understand what it means to share myself with the person I love, the person I'll always" She cuts herself off, smiling bitterly. "But best of all, I got to share that feeling with the person I loved the most in the entire world. The... the only person I think I've ever truly loved loved with everything inside of me. Every single part. My heart, my mind, my body, my soul. You were my forever love, Taka. You're my always."
"I just want to say this," she rushes on, cutting me off. "I have to say this now, or... or I know I won't have the strength to say it later." She lowers her knee and leans forward again, tilting her head at me with a pained smile on her face. "I love you. You're everything to me. Your happiness is all I want. Even if..." She pauses again, lowering her gaze from mine. Her lashes flicker down momentarily, then open again to reveal her violet eyes. Her expression is firm and determined. "Even if I'm not the one who's making you happy," she blurts.
"I'll go to Osaka," she says, staring down at her hands. The corners of her eyes start to crease up again. Her hands are shaking slightly. "I'll go to Osaka, and you can stay here. You can stay with Yumi. I'll get out of your way. I'll... I'll live alone. I've done it before. I'll mana" She breaks off with a sharp, high-pitched sob. A tear traces its way down her cheek. "I just want you to be happy, Taka," she whispers, in a tiny voice. "That's all."
Kana. Even now, even after all we've been through, why don't you know? Why can't you understand?
Almost my entire life, everything I've done, everything I've felt the pain, the joy, the contradictions... All of it, every minute... was for you.
For you, Kana. I love you.
"I love you." I say it almost without thinking. I don't have to think about it, in fact. It's something I'll always know in my heart.
She blinks. "Wha?"
"I love you!"
"But... bbut... what about Yumi?"
"What about Yumi?"
"You were kissing her!"
"Yes," I admit, evenly. "It's more true to say that she was kissing me, but I won't lie. But Yumi's not the one I'm in love with, Kana. Yumi's not the one I can't live without. You are."
For a moment, Kana just stares at me. I can see how much she wants to believe, how much she wants to hold onto me. The kiss doesn't matter to her; it's just an excuse, a way for her to convince herself that I'm better off with someone else. Someone other than her.
Is she going to allow that excuse that escape to get between us? It's more than just a relationship or a potential future at stake here. It's her entire life.
Kana lowers her eyes.
"She's so much... better than I am," she mumbles. "Prettier, healthier, stronger... And I'm so weak, Taka. I always doubt myself so easily... I don't do anything but take from you..."
"You're stronger than you think, Kana."
"What?" she asks.
"When I was in hospital, who supported me? Who was there every day to cheer me up and cheer me on?"
She blushes. "That... that was nothing. Anyone would have"
"And when I tried to push you away, despite everything you'd done for me did you run? When you lost your job, did you fall down and cry for someone to come save you? No! You took control. You made plans you made plans for both of us. Even then, at your lowest, you weren't thinking of yourself, Kana. You were thinking of me."
"That... that wasn't really selfless, Taka..." she protests, feebly.
"You loved me, and you knew I loved you. You believed. You faced your fears, and mine, and you won through. Your strength shines through in everything you do now. And I love you all the more for it."
"But..." Kana looks like she's going to cry, and not because she's sad anymore, but because she's overflowing with joy, wonder, relief... and fulfilment. "But you said to Yumi... You said it was wrong. You said you shouldn't love me..."
"Yyes?" She looks at me hesitantly.
"What did I give you tonight?"
Her hands instinctively reach for her throat. "A... pendant," she murmurs, stroking it gently.
"What shape is it?"
She looks puzzled, but answers me anyway. "Two... two hearts. Two hearts, joined."
"And what's engraved on the back?"
"Engraved?" She blinks and lifts it up, squinting at the tiny characters etched into the gold. She chokes softly, and she starts to cry.
"What does it say, Kana?" I ask.
"'One love'..." she whispers.
"That's what we share. That's why I know you're the only one I'll ever love, or could ever love. It doesn't matter if it's wrong it wouldn't matter if the entire world was against my love for you. I can't let you go. I won't let you go." I lean forward, pushing my hands out from underneath the bedcovers, and take her hands in mine. "'One love'. That's what binds our hearts together. Not that you love me, or that I love you. But that we love each other. We need each other."
"I do." She sniffles. "I need you, Taka..."
"I love you."
She raises her arms, helplessly. "Hold me!"
I take her in my arms and I clutch her tight. Fiercely, possessively.
I never want to let her go.
I open my eyes. I'm curled up on Kana's bed with the covers still wrapped around me. I stretch, yawning silently, and pluck at my rumpled clothing. I'm warm and dry now, at least. That's something.
It seems to be close to sunrise; Kana's standing at the window, looking outside onto the street. She turns to look at me, smiling, and beckons to me. "Taka," she whispers. "Come, quick."
Mystified, I crawl out of the bed, disentangling myself with difficulty. I stumble across to stand behind Kana, sliding my arms around her and peering over her shoulder at the cold wet street.
"What" I yawn, involuntarily, tightening my arms around her. She brings her hands up and holds them against mine over her chest, covering the pendant. Sleepily, I kiss the side of her neck. "What are we looking at?"
"The sun's coming up," Kana says, her voice hushed. "The light's been changing for a while now, gradually getting brighter. Things that were far away and hidden... They've been slowly becoming clear. I... Ohhh!"
The first glimmer of sunlight breaks across the horizon. Golden light spills across Kana's face and mine as we stand there, holding each other.
"I... I don't think I've ever done this before," Kana says, softly. "It's so... pretty."
"Beautiful," I agree. I'm not looking at the sunrise.
She leans her head back against me. I bend mine closer, gently rubbing my cheek against hers. She sighs happily, and smiles. Resting against me. Relying on me.
We can never pretend that we just 'met' like other couples do. We've known each other all our lives. We've been together all this time. Our bond is stronger and more lasting than anyone else could ever know or understand. Because we love each other, and we need each other, and we would never push each other away.
We're forever. The two of us simply are. We always will be.
Taka and Kana. Oniisan and imouto. Boyfriend and girlfriend. We're all these things, and at the same time, we're none of them.
And that's all that needs to be said.
Goodbyes are said, in The Second Farewell.