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 7. This story follows 'Shared Lives'.
It's also the conclusion to this series.
"Taka? Taka, have some natto..." Sitting across from me at the table, Mom anxiously pushes the bowl towards me. I look up at her and sigh.
"Taka doesn't like natto, Mom," Kana says, patiently.
"Oh." Mom looks from Kana to me, distraught. She's taking a simple statement about what I don't like to eat much too personally. She'd just better not start crying again. Honestly, it seems like every meal Mom has made for the past few nights has been flavoured with tears.
"I'll have some, though," Kana says, taking the bowl.
As Kana spoons some of the natto onto her rice, I reach out with my chopsticks and nab a piece of rolled omelette from my plate. I have to be careful, because my grip isn't very strong, but I manage to bring it to my mouth without incident. I lift my bowl up, digging the chopsticks in, and follow the omelette with a mouthful of rice.
Kana looks sideways at me, the corner of her mouth tugging upwards in a quiet joyful smile. As I continue eating, she reaches out and puts her hand on my elbow, stroking my arm just once, reassuringly. And for reassurance. It's a big step we're taking, after all. Moving day is finally here.
Breakfast is finished, and we're in Kana's room, making sure all the last minute preparations are done. Kana made a list a couple of weeks ago, before her birthday, with everything from 'confirm apartment' to 'call taxi' on it. The list is sitting on her desk now, looking quite lonely on the polished wooden surface. Everything else that used to be there Kana's desk lamp, her little calendar, her assortment of stationery has been packed away.
The apartment in Osaka was vacated three days ago. When we called last night, the landlord said that the premises had been thoroughly cleaned, though Kana's not taking that at face value. She's packed dusters and cleaning rags in her suitcase, and one of the first things on her post-Osaka list is 'buy vacuum cleaner'.
Kana likes to be organised, and I'm thankful for it, because I wouldn't have the slightest clue how to go about a major lifestyle change like this. Paying rent and finding a job... It all seems a bit surreal to me. But then again, I'm not the one who'll be job-hunting right away. For the first year, I'll be finishing up at university, while we live on whatever Kana can earn, plus the money Mom and Dad have promised to contribute.
We'll be fine, Kana. Won't we?
Kana already has a few leads on possible employment in Osaka. She's not being terribly picky, though she's leaning more towards customer service jobs than anything more physically demanding. Kana also knows her limitations.
The referrals for the two of us have already been forwarded to the appropriate people in Osaka: a well-respected physician who specialises in nephrology, for Kana's regular check-ups; and a physical rehab team led by one of Yamada-san's old colleagues, for me. My rehab should continue for another six months or so maybe less, depending on my progress. My walk is improving, and I've been regaining fine motor control at a rate that even Yonekura-san finds hard to fault.
Yamada-san. Yonekura-san. It's strange, but I'll miss them. They were such hard taskmasters, driving me onwards even when I didn't want to try anymore... You'd think I'd hate them, and in a way I do, but at the same time... I know they did their best for me. The goodbyes a couple of days ago hardly seemed adequate.
And then, when Kana had to say goodbye to Miki... Even I felt my chest tightening when I watched them hug each other, each of them trying not to cry. Miki was so important to Kana for so long such an integral part of Kana's life. And the first person to approve Kana's love for me. Miki vindicated her. Miki let her see that it was all right.
I see it now, too. I thought it was clear to me before, but it wasn't. It took someone special to me to show me the truth of the matter.
"Taka! Hey, Taka!"
"In here, Dad!" I call, abandoning my thoughts. "What is it?"
"Come down!" Dad yells. "You have a visitor!"
A visitor? I look at Kana, mystified, but she just smiles cryptically and picks up her list, running one slender finger down the items and more or less ignoring me.
"What do you know, Kana?" I ask her, suspiciously.
She smiles. "Go down and find out," she suggests. "Then come back up and start carrying down some of these boxes." She laughs brightly and points out that item on her list to me, still unticked. "I'll be here."
I just give her a dubious look as I leave the room. Heading down the stairs, I can hear a very familiar voice chatting to Dad.
"Hi, Taka!" Yumi says, beaming, as I reach the bottom of the stairs. "I came to say goodbye!"
"Isn't that nice, Taka?" Dad asks, looking almost proud.
"Of course." I step forward and kiss Yumi's cheek. "Dad, Kana could use some help with the boxes. Yumi and I'll be up in a minute."
Dad just gives the two of us a knowing glance, then heads up the stairs without another word. I turn to look at Yumi, who's standing there smiling, with her hands clasped loosely behind her back.
"You thought you'd seen the last of me?" she asks, teasingly.
"Well, no," I say. "Of course not. I'm glad you're here. We could always do with another pair of hands to carry the boxes."
She reaches out and slaps my arm gently. "I'm glad to see you, too!"
"Yumi." I look at her, my positive mood slipping. It's true I'm losing her, as well. Kana and I are going a long way away. It's not just doctors and parents we're leaving behind. It's our past. The bad things... and the potentially good.
"We'll see each other again," Yumi says, startling me. Was it that obvious what I was thinking?
"I... I know," I manage to say. "Some time, somewhere down the road..."
"I figured you'd say something vague like that," she says, lightly. Reaching out, she takes my hand. "That's why I'm here. Well, I'm actually here because Kana called me and let me know what time you were leaving, but you get my meaning. I don't want us to end the way we did last time, without anything even resembling closure. To be honest, I don't want us to end at all."
"Yumi? I thought you underst"
"Oh, don't get me wrong," she says. "I do understand. I'm... I'm even learning to accept. Almost. It'll take time. But I understand that you need Kana. And that if I tried to take you away from her, I still wouldn't have your heart. I wouldn't want that, Taka. That wouldn't be good for either of us."
"What do you want, then?"
She smiles, radiantly. "I want to be your friend, dummy. Ever since the fifth grade, when you were the one who stood out to me out of all your friends, I've always thought there was something I could give to you. And something you could give to me. Something we could share."
"Fifth grade?" I laugh. "You don't give up easily, do you?"
"No!" Yumi giggles. "No, that's not my style at all. I decided you were going to be a part of my life, Taka. So that's all there is to it. If I can't have you as my boyfriend, then I'll just have to have you as a friend."
"And I don't get a say in the matter?"
"Not one bit!" Yumi sticks her tongue out at me, and we both laugh. I look at her fondly. She's a good person. She's so strong she's already bouncing back from that night last week when I turned away from her. She's...
I hug her tight. She stiffens momentarily, a bit surprised, but then relaxes into my embrace. Her hands gently come up to stroke my back.
"So... friends?" she asks, wistfully.
I draw back and look at her, with a smile. And I nod. "Friends."
Kana's room is empty and uninhabited now. The bed has been stripped; the desk is bare; the drawers of the dresser have been left wide open to air out.
And our lives our possessions are neatly laid out in the driveway. The bigger boxes will be shipped to Osaka, where they'll catch up with us in a day or two. For the moment, Kana and I will just take a couple of suitcases and a small box of essentials. The apartment is semi-furnished, so it's not as if we have to take beds and tables with us.
It's going to be... strange. Just me and Kana, in a new place.
Yumi's having an animated discussion with Mom and Dad as I stand there in the sunlight at the end of the driveway, leaning on my cane. Kana's with them, listening in quiet amusement, but then she excuses herself and walks over to me. Coming to a halt beside me, she slips her hand into mine, leaning her head against my shoulder.
"We'll be fine, Taka," she says, softly. "After all... we'll be together, right?"
I smile, turning to her. I plant a kiss on her brow. She slips her arms around me.
"As long as I'm with you, I'm sure I'll manage."
She sighs softly, happily, and cuddles up against me. "This is only the second time I've done this, Taka. Said goodbye to an entire life and left in search of a new one."
"It's a first for me."
"You have it easy," she teases. "You have me with you."
"At least you're not leaving me behind this time."
"I could never do that," she whispers. "I never want to be apart from you again."
She looks up at me, smiling, her eyes half-lidded to keep out the sun's rays. "I love you."
"I love you t"
Kana and I both jerk upright, letting go of each other. In unison, we turn our heads.
"Hello, Yuta," Kana says, with a smile. "You came, after all."
"Well, I couldn't let you leave without saying goodbye, could I?" Yuta says, nonchalantly. "Hey, Taka. How's things?"
"I'm fine, thanks," I say, a trifle uneasily. Hearing something in my tone, Kana turns back to me, smiling reassuringly.
"Yuta called last night and said he might stop by," she says. "I didn't see any harm in it."
"It's the last chance we'll have for a while, you know," Yuta says to me. "I just wanted to wish you luck. You and Kana... I'm sure you'll have a great time in Osaka. It's a good place. I have friends there."
"I know," I mutter. "Kana told me. If you ever are"
"Taka? Who's oh." Yumi pauses, looking from me to Yuta, then back again.
"Oh." I nod. "Yuta Ito, this is Yumi Kas"
"Hey, Yumi-san," Yuta says, easily.
"Hello, Ito-san," Yumi says, blushing slightly.
I blink. "Did I miss something here?"
"Yumi-san is Murakami-san's assistant," Yuta explains. "My lawyer. I'm on the national track team, you know, so I need representation."
"I... liaise with Ito-san when Murakami-san doesn't have time to meet with him," Yumi adds, with an embarrassed smile.
"Yeah, I buy her lunch, we chat about stuff that kind of thing," Yuta says. "In fact, she's the one who told me"
"Ito-san!" Yumi squeaks.
"Oh." Yuta pulls himself short. "Oh, of course. Oops. Hey, Kana, let's go chat with your parents a bit. We have time, don't we?"
"Um... if you want," Kana says, hesitating just slightly. "The taxi should be here in ten minutes or so."
"Plenty of time." Yuta nods at me. "Back in a minute, Taka."
I watch them as they walk over to my parents. Mom pulls herself together enough to talk politely with Yuta, who is respectful and deferential to her and Dad.
When I turn my attention to Yumi, I find that her gaze is following them as well. Her eyes are half-closed, her cheeks faintly pink.
"I didn't know you knew Yuta," I say, casually.
"What?" Yumi jumps. "Oh, er... ththat is, I don't really know him. We just meet up every now and then when there's business to discuss, and I... I..."
"Two lost souls cast away survivors of the Todo family?" I suggest.
"Well, er, yes..." she admits. "When I told him which hospital our firm works for, and that my dad runs it, he mentioned that he'd been there, visiting Kana... and we found some common ground."
"Is that all you found?" I tease.
"Taka!" she snaps, looking scandalised. "I'm a professional!"
I just laugh. "And was it professional detachment that made you send him to the izakaya on Kana's birthday?"
She just purses her lips at me, then laughs ruefully. "No. No, that was just me doing my utmost to get you back. When I saw you in the hospital that day, part of my heart just leaped at the idea of having you to myself again. But another part of me already knew that it was over... even if I didn't know why. I couldn't accept it. And so... when I asked you to lunch, it was because... It was for two reasons. Part of me wanted you back, and would have done anything to get you back. And the other part... The other part just needed to understand you, and your feelings, to be able to accept them. I think I do, now. That helps."
"And...?" I nod in Yuta's direction.
"I don't know," she says, her brow furrowing slightly. "It'll be a while before... before I'm ready for anything like that."
"Don't take too long," I advise. "Some other girl might come along and drag him to a love hotel..."
She stares at me, perplexed, then just bursts out laughing again. "I guess someone might!"
The taxi's here. Yumi and I are loading the suitcases into the trunk. Mom's inside answering the phone work never loosens its hold on her and Dad for very long.
Kana and Yuta are still talking to Dad, but they seem to be finished now. Looking over at us, Yuta whispers something to Kana, and she laughs, the clear sound carrying across to me even over the low throbbing of the taxi's engine.
"Well," Dad says, as the three of them walk over, "I guess it's time."
There's suddenly a lump in my stomach. It's real, all of a sudden. We're leaving. We're going to say goodbye.
Dad hugs me, then hugs Kana. Mom comes running out of the house, and does the same. I shake Yuta's hand. I kiss Yumi on the cheek.
"Be happy, Taka," Yumi whispers to me, before she lets me go.
"Thank you, Yumi."
Embarrassed, Kana shakes Yuta's hand as well. Yumi gives her a hug, which Kana accepts, though she doesn't look comfortable about it. Some things never change.
I watch her my Kana, the woman I love. She's so small and so delicate, as fragile as a flower. And just as beautiful. I love her so much.
On one level, yes, it's sad and a little ironic that I found the person I would always love right there in front of me, sitting in a hospital bed, holding my hand and always wanting me there beside her.
But the fact is, I did. That can't be changed. I love Kana. I need Kana. And she loves and needs me.
In some way, she'll always be my imouto-chan. I can't deny that. It's part of our history together, part of the life we've shared. We wouldn't love each other the way we do now if we weren't brother and sister.
But she's so much more than that to me now. Sister. Lover. Soulmate. My best friend. Kana is all these things to me.
She's everything to me.
And so it doesn't matter how it started. I just know how it's going to end.
Taka Todo. Kana Ichida.
Five years ago, I nearly lost my imouto-chan forever. I fought. I struggled. I gave up a part of myself I gave that part of myself to her, in order to keep her breathing. To keep her alive.
And then she walked away. My little sister didn't need me anymore. Or, at least, that was what I thought. As it turned out, thankfully miraculously I was wrong.
I don't have an imouto-chan anymore, as such. Now I just have Kana. I'm hers, body and soul. And I wouldn't trade her for anything.
I'm Kana's, forever.
"Take care!" Mom is sobbing now, tears running down her face. "Don't forget to call us!"
"Look after each other!" Dad says, with his arm around Mom's shoulder.
"I'll see you in Osaka sometime!" Yuta grins.
"Be good," Yumi says, smiling at both of us. "Be happy."
"We will," I tell them, as I climb into the back seat beside Kana. "Thanks, everyone. Bye!"
"Goodbye!" Kana adds, her voice trembling just slightly as she leans forward to look at them, bracing her hand on my shoulder.
I pull Kana close against me and we wave to them to our parents; to Yuta; to Yumi as the taxi pulls out into the street. We turn around and peer through the back window as their tiny figures recede into the distance. They dwindle, they fade... and, eventually, they vanish.
But still we keep staring back.
I reach out to Kana, finding her hand already reaching out for mine. Her fingers tremble in my grasp, and there are tears in her eyes. I smile at her, gently, and she squeezes my hand, leaning forward to kiss me, softly and sweetly. I kiss her back. Our souls touch.
And then we both turn around, looking forward together. Hand in hand.
Our new life is starting again.