To put into order the sequence of events leading up to my horrifying abducted confinement — yes, recalling back to around the morning of July 29th would be fitting.
Though it was the summer holidays, having resolved to take college entrance exams in an attempt to dispel my image as a failure, I couldn’t play around. Having Senjougahara, with some of the best grades of our school year, and Hanekawa, with the best grades of our school year, watching over my studies on alternating days became my daily routine — tough, but when I think about it, it would be difficult finding an everyday as blessed as mine was.
Actually, it just isn’t possible for one to not make progress when being taught by those two.
It happens to be a fine carrot-and-stick approach.
No, I suppose it’s more like honey-and-rod.
My schedule was to have Senjougahara in charge of even days and Hanekawa in charge of odd days (Sunday is an unconditional break) but of course, they each have their own arrangements as well, in which case those take priority, as when on July 29th, Hanekawa, who was responsible that day, said, “I’m sorry, Araragi-kun! There’s something I just have to attend to! I’ll definitely make up for this! Around the day around tomorrow, to be precise!”
As such, I became free.
And actually, seeing as I was the one who asked her to be my home tutor, she didn’t have to be so apologetic about it…
As always, Hanekawa is really just too nice.
Incidentally, the thing she had to attend to apparently concern her parents. It wasn’t something I should just bluntly trend onto, so I didn’t try to ask too deeply about it. I would be willing to do anything for Hanekawa, but if the best policy called for by the situation is “do nothing”, then that too would be a part of “anything”.
That is why I am now idling.
Well, it wasn’t like I couldn’t study by myself, but Hanekawa told me to rest once in a while — Senjougahara has never said once said that to me before, but for times like this, I obey Hanekawa.
Anyone would do so.
Onwards, to my wonderful two-day break.
Well, though I say two-day break, in truth I already have plans made for tomorrow, so I guess I could go to the bookstore I haven’t been to in a while, but still, I finished up my regular assignment and headed down to the living room, where I found that my father and mother were already out for work (they both work, regardless if it’s Saturday) and Tsukihi, in her yukata, was lying on the sofa with her head tilted back and watching TV upside-down. She didn’t even mind that, thanks to her slouching around while dressed in a yukata, her chest area was having a bad case of exposure. Well, I couldn’t really judge others when it came to appearances, so as long as she looked proper when she was outside, I guess it didn’t really matter.
“Oh, Onii-chan. Are you done studying?”
Turning off the TV (she wasn’t watching it because it was interesting, apparently) Tsukihi turned this way. Thanks to her droopy eyes she looked sleepy but she probably wasn’t, considering the time.
“Is your home tutor on break today?”
Well, on Senjougahara’s days we study at her place, and on Hanekawa’s days we study at the library, so “home tutor” isn’t really accurate.
There had been plans for cram schools and prep schools and such, but unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my parents. I guess it made me realize how important your usual behavior in persuasion.
My only choice is to work hard and try to redeem myself.
“I guess I’ll have to take entrance exams one day, too. Sounds horrible.”
“Well, you didn’t have to take them for high school.”
Seeing as your school goes straight from middle to high.
And for their middle school entrance exams, both Karen and Tsukihi passed without studying for a single thing… they really are too smooth with things like this.
“And even if you do, it’s still far off. It’s not like you have to think about it now, right?”
“Well, that’s true. But you got so motivated all of a sudden, so it got me thinking a bit.”
“Yeah, sorry about that… huh? Where’s she?”
“The bigger one.”
“Karen-chan went out.”
Not, that Karen went out.
That Karen would go out while Tsukihi was idling about on the sofa at home — it’s the norm for the Fire Sisters to operate together. It’s also very often the case that when they act separately, they’ve stuck their heads into some sort of trouble.
“Just don’t bring me any trouble, you two.”
“Really, it’s not like we’re plotting something… you’re always like this. All you ever do is treat me and Karen-chan like kids. You worry too much.”
“I don’t worry about you. I just don’t trust you.”
“Isn’t that the same?”
“No. It’s worry and trust. The difference between them is beyond clear.”
“It’s only when you put it into words that… mmn.”
“Don’t just stop talking all of a sudden!”
Just how noncommittal are you to this conversation, exactly?
It is true that we are in the middle of a meaningless conversation, though.
Let’s get back on topic.
“So where did the bigger one go?”
“I told you, it’s not trouble. If anything, she’s going to solve trouble.”
“Then it is trouble.”
“Just report it to me now before trouble becomes trauma. Blow your whistles, and be proud of your betraying ways. No matter what the problem is, I can probably do something about it if you get to me early.”
“Don’t go sticking your head into a fight between middle schoolers, geez. You’re so lame. A fight is a legitimate form of communication too, you know. Don’t you think there are too many people who don’t know the ways of dispute these days?”
“I guess, when you put it that way, it does sound like you’re in the right…”
“Fighting isn’t what’s wrong. Not knowing the proper way to dispute something, that’s wrong.”
Getting carried away, Tsukihi said this in a knowing way.
There was a look of triumph on her face.
“But whenever you are fighting over something, it practically always involves violence. I definitely don’t think that’s the proper way to dispute…”
“That’s just an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
“That was how they thought back before Christ. How far do you think we’ve progressed into the second millennia?”
It’s just the twenty-first century.
“So how about, a tooth for an eye, a blunt object for a tooth?”
“What are you, tripling the return?!”
“God, you’re so annoying!”
In the blink of an eye, she snapped.
The triumph she wore just before had disappeared to some remote place.
“I don’t know, I don’t know! I don’t know anything! I don’t know about the big one, the middle one or the little one!”
“…We don’t have a middle sister.”
This is why it’s just not worth worrying about you two.
Well, considering that the worries and troubles of others are fundamentally the driving force of the Fire Sisters, thoughtlessly revealing the contents of their matters of concern isn’t something they would do. And personally, thoughtlessly stepping into the private matters of total strangers isn’t something I would do, either.
If they run into something they can’t manage, they’ll come for advice.
Although I would really prefer to be spared another kidnapping incident.
“Good grief… it’s not like I’m going to tell you to be adults, but you two really need to behave better.”
“Don’t wanna hear it coming from you~”
Saying this, Tsukihi threw the remote control she had nearby. Watch it. What’s the matter with you? Unable to dodge it, I somehow managed to catch and return it to the table.
Well, I guess telling them to behave better would be asking for rather too much.
Besides, everyone becomes an adult. It’s just a matter of age.
On the other hand, it would be problematic for them to settle down as much as Sengoku.
It would be just right for both ends if Karen or Tsukihi could have one-tenth of Sengoku’s passiveness, and Sengoku could have one-tenth of Karen’s or Tsukihi’s vigor.
This sort of calculation would be impossible in the real world, though.
It wouldn’t go well.
“Hm… oh, right. Sengoku.”
I recalled my plan for today.
Actually, I just remembered.
Cancel that trip to the bookstore; come to think of it, I’ve put off my promise to play with Sengoku again and again.
Originally she was in the same year as Tsukihi during primary school. She was one of the friends she invited to play at our house — at the time, Tsukihi and I (and Karen, too) were in the same room, which is why although we were in different school years, I knew her by sight. When Tsukihi went to a private middle school I’d thought that would be where we part ways, but a while back, I met her again in an unforeseen way.
Which is to say, involving the abnormalities.
Well, with that particular problem having been overcome for the time being, Sengoku came to my house to play one time. Smart and dashing as I am, I had arranged for her to meet with Tsukihi again. From my point of view as their brother, Karen and Tsukihi have problematic personalities, but they are mysteriously well-received among their generation and extremely good at standing at the center of attention — maybe they were just sociable or something, but it was incomprehensible to me: a skill of charisma. Even a friend from their primary school days, whom they have not met for a long time, posed no problem to said skill and Tsukihi and Sengoku played together well.
That day, when Sengoku was going home, she said, “come to my place to play next time”, and I had nodded.
Now that I think about it, it had been quite some time since then.
As with the average rural middle schooler, Sengoku doesn’t own a cellphone, so I will have to call her house. I took my cellphone out of my pocket. Sengoku’s home number has already been recorded — come to think of it, she’s already called me from this number many times, but this is actually the first time I’ll be calling her. It was still morning time, but considering it’s Sengoku, she’s probably up.
“He… H’llo?! This’s Sengoku — !”
Seeing as it was her home number, I was sure that it would be one of her parents, but Sengoku was the one who suddenly picked up. And a Sengoku who stuttered in a most Hachikuji way.
Hm? Did she just wake up?
That was unexpected.
I hadn’t thought that she would be the type to sleep till noon just because it was summer break.
“It’s been a while, Koyomi-oniichan… what is it?”
However, Sengoku’s voice was clear as she asked this. Huh. But I didn’t even say anything yet, how — no, I guess call displays aren’t limited to just cellphones.
“Yeah, sorry about calling you all of a sudden, but a while back, I promised I’d go to your place to play, didn’t I? I was thinking maybe I’d make that today.”
“W-Whe — ?!”
Sengoku was surprised.
Way too surprised, actually.
Strange, seeing as how it was an earlier promise
Maybe she forgot about it?
“I know it’s sudden, but if today’s no good for you…”
“Oh no! Today! Today’s fine! I’ll be busy every day except today!”
That’s the first time I’ve heard Sengoku so firm.
I mean, I didn’t even know her voice can go that loud.
“I see. If you’re going to be busy every day, then it’ll have to be today — is it okay if I come now?”
“Yes, this is the only time! You have to come right now!”
Just how tight a schedule do you have?
Middle schoolers these days sure have it tough — I really wish my sisters, wasting their youth on their moronic hero of justice pretense, could learn from your example.
I wouldn’t even ask for 10%, just give them something.
“So I’ll be coming over now, then.”
I said, and ended the call.
Turned back to Tsukihi.
Tsukihi switched back on the television she had turned off for a while. Having changed the channel to a (Saturday edition) talk and variety show, she was watching the entertainment news, this time apparently with great interest. In contract with her air of aloofness, she is fundamentally a follower of the latest fads. Please, I wish you would exercise some of that charisma on me as well.
“So yeah, that’s it.”
“Mm? What? What is?”
“Weren’t you listening?”
“I’m not sure what to think of you accusing me of not listening in other people’s conversations.”
That’s a justified question.
“I was on the phone with Sengoku just now.”
“You’re going to her place, right?”
“I thought you weren’t listening.”
“Have a good time. I can watch the house.”
Tsukihi waved her hand.
She didn’t even bother to look this way.
“Um, no. You’re coming with me.”
Tsukihi turned around, seemingly surprised.
“Isn’t it obvious? We’re going to Sengoku’s place.”
“…Judging by your call, I was under the impression that you would be going by yourself. And I’m sure Sen-chan thinks so, too.”
“Really? But of course I won’t.”
I had already said that I would be going together with Tsukihi.
Oh, didn’t I mention it?
“Well, I don’t mind either way. But I’d probably get in the way if I went too, so just go by yourself. She’ll be happier that way, too.”
“What’re you on about? How would you get in the way if we’re meeting Sengoku? Besides, you have nothing to do, right?”
“Well, I guess I have noting to do.”
“Don’t make a typo like that just because you can’t notice the difference unless you write them beside one another.”
“Ooh, I just remembered, actually. I have club activities today.”
“I thought all activities of that Tea Ceremony Club of yours were suspended for the entire summer.”
That was the action decided on after the club ran a Japanese clothes fashion show during the Cultural Festival. Incidentally, the originator of that lovely project was the middle schooler now before me. Naturally, all responsibilities were on her, but I think there was a big problem, individually, in each of the club members (and the staff consultant) who went along as well.
“We’re supposed to be training individually.”
“Just shut up, you Japanese clothes cosplaying maniac. Fashion isn’t just about things fitting nicely together.”
“I don’t wanna hear about fashion from someone who thinks it’s okay to wear a parka with jeans.”
“Well, I see your point… but I don’t get it. Why are you being so reserved? It’s weird.”
“What. I’m. Saying. Is — ”
She’s gonna snap —
Seeming as though she was only one step away from the brink, Tsukihi said.
“Even if it will go on unrequited, I’m not so thoughtless as to get in the way of a friend’s love life.”
“Huh? ‘Rough life’? When did Sengoku get involved in something reckless? Unlike you sisters, Sengoku is a proper girl.”
“I’ve actually noticed it since we were in primary school. But really, you’ve only met a few times, how should I put it, maybe it’s because she’s just so wholeheartedly pure… it’s been years since then… it’s really something I can’t do at all. I wouldn’t even think of it.”
“By the way, do you believe in friendship between a man and a woman?”
I replied quickly to a question that, long ago, I would have answered, “I don’t even believe in friendship between two people of the same gender.”
“Just look at Sengoku. We’re steady friends.”
“Really. Well, that’s fine the same it is, I guess. Anyway, have a nice time.”
Mmn, she’s stubborn.
I guess it would be pointless to ask her further.
“All right. I’ll go by myself, then. Watch the house for me. When Karen gets back, tell her I have something to talk to her about.”
It will probably be pointless, but I should at least try to approach her too.
“All right, I’ll be going now.”
“Just one more thing before that.”
“You’ve been having remarkably fewer scuffles and such with Karen-chan lately. Why is that?”
She took the conversation on an unexpected turn.
And pointed this out.
…Has she been thinking about things like this?
Perplexing as it was to me as to why she would ask this now, perhaps Tsukihi had always been wanting to ask for a long time.
I changed to a clueless tone of voice, dodging the question.
“…Nah, she’s just been getting too tough lately. I can practically hear her muscles flexing. If we just fight normally I’d lose. Even if she’s taller than me, I’d have thought that I would be stronger still, but I guess I really can’t compete with someone seriously doing martial arts.”
“Fine, that settles things with Karen-chan. But just now, with me, you pulled back straight away, too. Maybe I should say you’re being awfully understanding.”
“Mm… well, that’s…”
“If it were like the past, you definitely would have strangled me.”
“I never went that far!”
It’s not like I’ve… never done that before.
Once, or twice… three times, maybe four.
“I mean, that just makes it easier for us to be selfish, which is awesome, but it’s just, well, it’s like…”
Rarely enough, Tsukihi talked roughly, as though she were imitating Karen.
“Just don’t go and become an adult by yourself, okay? It’s boring.”
Everyone becomes an adult. It’s just a matter of age.
It certainly didn’t seem to be the right mood to say something like that.
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