If one were to speak of the most conspicuous trait of second-year middle-schooler Sengoku Nadeko, one could say it was her far too docile personality, but I think it would be her bangs. Having grown out her hair in the front, she didn’t split them off to the sides, but let them hang down, as though in the style of Rukawa Kaede, almost like some sort of eye shield. Sengoku apparently still had line-of-sight through the slits between the hair, but it was nearly impossible to observe her eyes from the outside. Such a conspicuous hairstyle might bring about a certain air of eccentricity, but, well, the fact was that it actually came from her element of stranger anxiety, so in a sense, it couldn’t be helped.
Speaking of which, Sengoku often wears a hat when going out; there is apparently a metaphor that a hat is a wall around the heart. Even Oshino called her Bashful-chan, but really, at this stage, rather than “shy” or “bashful”, she seemed to just not trust human beings at all.
As something of a brother figure, I feel unease regarding her future.
How would she live her life?
Anyway, while thinking about this, I hit the intercom at Sengoku’s house (Her place is a typical two-story private home, by the way. It wasn’t like Senjougahara’s old apartment or Kanbaru’s stupidly large samurai house. It’s normal.) and was welcomed in, but I was in for a surprise.
No, ‘surprise’ is too insufficient a word.
Better to say I was aghast.
I shook with fear.
Sengoku raised her bangs.
Her hair, even the bits on the side, were wrapped behind with a cute pink (not the shocking kind, a calm pink) Alice band.
I can clearly see her whole eyes.
Hell, I can clearly see her face.
Is this what she looks like?
She looked exactly as I expected — though her face was more adorable than my expectations. It’s enough to get my heart beating a little faster for someone who is supposed to be like a younger sister figure.
Even though she would always look down, for today, she held up her head to meet me.
Though she seems to be blushing a bit, somewhat.
Did she want to play with me this much?
“…Are you like this when you’re at home, Sengoku?”
She became confused.
Ah, that’s the Sengoku I know, and I relaxed.
I had thought that it might actually be someone else, but it was beyond a doubt Sengoku if she was this flustered by a single question.
“What d-do you mean, like this?”
“I mean, uh, your hair.”
“M-My hair? Wha… what about my hair?”
Scarily, she pretended not to understand.
But how could you not know?
“I-It, It’s not like, Nadeko gathered up all her courage, just because Koyomi-oniichan is coming over to play for the first time.”
If she says so herself, then I guess it is the truth.
I guess wearing that headband when she was at home was par for the course — that skirt, so short it exposed her pale thighs, and that cute camisole, and that light cardigan she wore on top, too; these must be what she normally wear in her room. It was almost August, after all, and the height of summer.
That was close; I was about to get the wrong impression that Sengoku dressed up as best as she could in order to meet with me. What was I thinking? Doesn’t that make it sound as though Sengoku recognizes me as someone of the opposite sex?
That would be inconceivable.
Possibility of zero.
“So. Koyomi-oniichan. Come on in.”
“Oh, right… huh?”
As I took off my shoes at the door, I noticed.
There weren’t any shoes on the floor.
Those school shoes were Sengoku’s, right?
Her parents’ shoe should be here, too…
“…Where’s your father and mother, Sengoku?”
“My parents work on Saturdays, too.”
“Oh, my place’s the same… so that’s why it was you picking up the phone.”
Is it all right for me to intrude when both her parents are out with only their daughter in the house? I had been sure that her parents would be at home… damn, I really should have dragged Tsukihi with me, even if I had to force her, though actually, it’s still not too late, and besides, shouldn’t we reschedule this?
As I thought this.
Sengoku locked the door.
One door, two locks.
She even latched on the security chain, carefully.
Hmm, seems like Sengoku is well aware of crime prevention… then I guess it should be okay. It just shows how much she trusts me.
I have to answer that trust.
That is my obligation as her elder.
“My room is on the second floor. The staircase, here.”
“Yeah, most kids’ rooms are like that.”
“It’s all been prepared.”
We climbed the stairs as we talked.
Sengoku’s room was about 9 square meters and truly felt like it belonged to a middle school girl. A strawberry-colored girlish aura came seeping out from every corner (even from the wallpaper, the curtains and the doorknob cover). Take a sniff, and the air would smell sweet. How should I put it; it was a big difference from my sisters’ room.
The only place where I can’t feel that strawberry-colored girlish aura would be that closet.
In fact, it was a bit…
“Sengoku, that closet’s…”
“Don’t open it.”
Sengoku said this in a tone not simply firm, but could even be called forceful. It felt like she had answered me by the time I got to the “lo” in “closet”. Before I could close the “t”, she was already finished speaking.
“I won’t forgive you if you open it. Not even you, Koyomi-oniichan.”
That was a shock. Who would have thought that the words “won’t forgive” even existed within Sengoku’s vocabulary…? This is what it’s like to go to other people’s homes.
Upon seeing that I have entered the room completely, Sengoku, following behind me, locked the door. As one would expect from a girl entering puberty, her room had a lock… and, hey.
I get the part about the front door, but I cannot fathom why she would lock the door to this room.
Did she just shut us in here?
But, no, of course not.
Sengoku wouldn’t do something like that.
What reason would she have to?
She was probably just used to shutting it… Sengoku is shy and afraid of strangers, so it was hardly mysterious that she would have the everyday habit of locking the door.
Some juice and snacks were placed on a tray atop the carpet. I see, this was what she meant by “prepared”.
What a lovely girl.
“Well then, Koyomi-oniichan — sit there.”
“There? On the bed? Can I?”
“Yes, you must. You can’t sit anywhere else.”
I guess Sengoku does not have any concept of this thing called choice.
She’s been telling me that I “can’t do anything but this” a lot.
Maybe she is some sort of ‘eliminationist’…? First time I’ve heard of someone with ‘eliminationism’ before.
I sat down on top of the bed while Sengoku sat on a revolving chair in front of her study desk (a Kurukuru-Meka).
“P-Phew. This room is, a bit hot, isn’t it?”
Saying this, Sengoku took off her cardigan.
Uh, “this” room is your room.
“If you’re hot, we can just turn on that wall-mounted AC over there…”
“Y-You can’t — ! Don’t you care about what happens to this Earth, Koyomi-oniichan?!”
She took the Earth hostage.
Talk about one colossal hostage.
“The carbon dioxide is really bad with global warming… carbon oxidation is bad enough already, so that’s double bad!”
“I, I see…”
It was an explanation suggesting that she knew nothing about the actual mechanics.
Well, as a matter of fact we don’t really know what causes global warming yet. Seeing as there have been ice ages, it is just as likely to have the opposite, and apparently the source or whatnot of all the carbon dioxide is in fact unclear.
“B-Besides, they didn’t have AC back in the past… if we clear our minds, even a fire can be a cool glade.” 
“Creating life from fire? That’s some very novel alchemy…”
Wouldn’t that be in the domain of God?
Now that’s awesome.
“Y-You too, Koyomi-oniichan. Why don’t you take off that parka if you’re hot?”
“Even if you’re not hot, you have no choice but to take it off.”
“No choice but to take it off…”
What a fearsome planet.
Kanbaru and her kind would be delighted.
Well, it’s understandable for a middle-schooler to be sensitive about environmental issues, so the proper attitude of an ‘older brother’ here would be to go along with her. It’s not like it wasn’t hot… as a matter of fact, this room has been feeling like it was not so much cool-conditioned as heated for a while now.
Beneath my parka was a tank top that bared my two arms. As Sengoku was wearing a camisole, we looked sort of like a sleeveless pair.
And, well, it doesn’t matter in my case, but Sengoku being okay with wearing something so revealing in front of a boy really makes me think she’s still a child.
“Now, Koyomi-oniichan, let’s drink some juice… there’s only one cup, though.”
“Why is there only one?!”
How did you slip up when everything else was prepared?!
“N-Nadeko doesn’t mind sharing a cup — we’re like brother and sister, after all.”
“No, well, it’s not like I mind, but…”
Isn’t there also the choice of going to the kitchen now to get another cup? Oh right, choices don’t exist to Sengoku.
I probably have no choice but to share the cup.
Just what is this feeling as though I’m some sort of little animal caught in a trap…? If anything, the little animal should be Sengoku.
For now, let’s drink the juice.
It tasted somewhat like alcohol.
“…This isn’t wine, is it, Sengoku?”
“Nope, it’s not.”
Sengoku shook her head.
“It’s just cola.”
“Well, the taste is, at least.”
“It’s extra-carbonated, though.”
“Is that stuff still being produced?!”
The terrifying cola that can get you drunk.
Speaking of which, all the snacks she prepared were chocolate bonbon. It almost seems like an array of products meant to get the consumer drunk and trick him into doing something while he is unconscious.
What a fearsome line-up.
Of course, this was all just a coincidence, and it would be unreasonable to request the hospitality due to a guest from a middle-schooler, so I shouldn’t complain. In fact, I should think of this as a chance to taste some rare foods.
“You don’t have a TV in your room, huh.”
“No, I don’t watch TV that much. My eyes will go bad.”
If so, then what is with those bangs you normally have?
It’s hard to poke holes in something when there’s already a gigantic one there.
Or perhaps Sengoku wanted to grow her hair out in front and, as such, is more mindful about her eyesight than others.
“So I guess you don’t play much video games. Though you can do it with portables nowadays.”
“No, I don’t play them much… I’ve only play the more famous ones a bit.”
“I see. For example?”
“Like, Metal Gear.”
“On the MSX2.”
“Huh — ?!”
An MSX2 user?!
What kind of middle-schooler is that?!
As always, she was a girl full of surprises.
“It’s in the living room on the ground floor… I hadn’t planned for it, but if you really want to, we could. Do you?”
“Who’d go to someone else’s house to play a single-player game…?”
“I have a Potira 2, too.”
“A Potira 2?!”
Don’t you have a PlayStation 2 or something?
“Anyway, you sound like you had something planned, so what did you prepare?”
Sengoku took out two split wooden chopsticks.
The tip of one was painted red.
“Let’s play the Ou-sama Game.”
Where should I start explaining from?
This is tough.
“Sengoku… do you even know what the Ou-sama game is? It’s got nothing to do with the King in cards, you know?”
“I know. It’s like Captain’s Orders, isn’t it?”
That’s pretty close to the mark.
It’s Simon Says.
“The words of the King must be entertained.”
“That’s too political!”
Not knowing whether Sengoku was being stupid on purpose, I went ahead and quipped at her fairly incomprehensible line.
I looked at the chopsticks.
“Well, I haven’t done it either so I don’t really know the details, but Sengoku, this probably isn’t something played with two people.”
Sengoku cocked her head.
“I’m okay with it either way. Ordering, or being ordered.”
“A-Anyway, let’s not play that.”
She still didn’t know anything, did she?
It was very comforting to see such innocence, but sometimes it was troublesome to deal with. Geez, this must be how a mother feels when she gets asked about how babies are made.
Sengoku seemed somewhat perplexed, perhaps because her plans hadn’t worked out, but she put the chopsticks aside without showing any discouragement.
“Then, let’s play the Game of Life.”
“The Game of Life, huh. Sounds good.”
“The words of life’s span are absolute.”
Sengoku left the room for a moment to get it from storage. Apparently, “you can’t open the closet, but other than that, you can do what you like — look at that album.”
Why is she letting me see the album?
Sengoku took quite some time to return — somehow I got the feeling that she was disappointed upon seeing how the album on the bookshelf had not been moved, but no, that was probably just my imagination.
Incidentally, the bookshelf’s lineup was quite distinct. How should I put it? It was a bookshelf that would be almost alien to a middle-schooler, without a single volume of manga and filled with classical literature from Iwanami Shoten’s selection. As though it was drawing attention to the fact that its mature owner regularly read these books. Some may even carelessly misinterpret that these books are normally in Sengoku’s father’s study and that she was simply putting on airs before a guest such as myself.
……But seriously, I was so sure she was the manga type.
We’re talking about someone who knows the ending of Dodge Danpei here.
Anyway, it’s been quite a while since I’ve played the Game of Life.
I remember having trouble with it when we were kids because we didn’t really know how to use the bank loans.
“Oh, right. Didn’t we play this together with Tsukihi a long time ago?”
“Yes. I remember.”
“I never forgot to begin with.”
Well, Sengoku certainly does remember the past well. Speaking for myself, I don’t really remember how Sengoku was like… though I do recall that she was always looking down.
We spun the wheel.
Although this was a game which would be more enjoyable with more players, but ultimately, it was just something like sugoroku; we would become glad and sad just by spinning the wheel and moving the car-shaped pieces, and really got into the game.
It felt like I was taking back my childhood.
Sengoku was leaning over the board placed on the carpet, and I could just about see into her camisole into things best left unseen. She was already sitting opposite of me, too, making the depths of her short skirt highly at risk.
She may be a child, but if it weren’t Sengoku before me right now in that dangerous pose, I may even entertain the misunderstanding that I was perhaps being tempted. I’ve always thought this, but Sengoku really doesn’t know where she should be protecting herself… hm? The last time I had thought of that, didn’t Sengoku choose her bangs as her “place to protect”? Yet today, that was completely open as well.
I just don’t get it.
And she wasn’t even wearing a bra under her camisole.
Actually, wasn’t a camisole something like underwear in the first place…? Not that I really know. Both of my little sisters, big and small, are strangers to fashionable clothes like that.
It’s tracksuits and kimono for them.
Well, in any case, Koyomi-oniichan won’t start feeling dirty just from seeing Sengoku’s body. Lucky for you, I’m a gentleman, Sengoku.
“Oh… it’s a marriage tile. Take the pin, Koyomi-oniichan.”
“…If Nadeko had to marry, Koyomi-oniichan would be nice.”
“Hm? Is there a system for marrying between players in this game now?”
There wasn’t back when I played it.
“Um… well, no. But, I mean, ideally.”
Speaking of which, Karen and Tsukihi both used to say, “when I grow up, I’ll marry Onii-chan!”
Talk about nostalgic.
Well, Sengoku is of course not so childish, so that just now was probably something like lip service.
Sengoku said, looking mystified.
“…Does that mean servicing you with a kiss?”
“That’s totally off!”
“It would be embarrassing, but if Koyomi-oniichan wants that kind of service…”
What kind of brother figure would that make me?!
I’d just be a pervert!
“Ah… I’ve been thinking, Koyomi-oniichan.”
“Hm? About what?”
“Calling you ‘Koyomi-oniichan’, that’s a bit, childish, isn’t it? You’re not my real brother, after all.”
I get the feeling I’ve had this discussion with Kanbaru before.
As I recall, we didn’t reach any meaningful conclusions.
I had a remarkably bad feeling about this, but it would be an unnatural situation now to change the topic, so I went with the flow.
Personally, I’m frankly quite happy that Sengoku still calls me “Koyomi-oniichan” like in the past.
“Well, you can just call me however you like. What would you prefer?”
Sengoku answered my question as though she had already decided upon it for the longest of time.
That’s a fairly normal way to refer to someone.
There was nothing unnatural about it.
There was absolutely no reason to take into the account the fact that we just had a talk about marriage, and my, it seems my bad feelings had all been off lately. There had been a time when I was proud of their 100% accuracy, too.
“Yeah, I don’t mind.”
Seemingly embarrassed, Sengoku, with her face mysteriously reddened for some reason (though with her bangs up, she was surprisingly full of expressions) said,
So she said.
She’s being weird.
“Look, Sengoku, you…”
Sengoku’s face became even redder.
She seemed mightily shaken.
“‘Dear’, and ‘you’… ah, wah, wawah…” 
That’s a normal way to refer to someone, too, isn’t it?
It felt to me for a while now as though our words weren’t really fitting in with each other properly.
Maybe I should ask the pro at Japanese, Hachikuji to teach me.
“Well, anyway — has anything odd happened lately, Sengoku?”
“Huh? I-In what way?”
“No, just, like what happened a while back.”
To be honest, it was something I thought of after seeing Sengoku’s high-exposure appearance today. The Sengoku I had met again after several years, and me, we simply couldn’t have worn something so revealing —
It was because of the abnormalities.
And because of humans.
Well, as Oshino says, unlike Hanekawa and I, Senjougahara and Hachikuji, Sengoku’s case should not be unconditionally thought of as the same thing — but there was no doubt that it became easier for her to attract abnormalities.
Of course, being too careful might ending up tripping you over.
But I should confirm her present condition.
“No… not really.”
Sengoku’s expression darkened.
“As always, those strange ‘charms’ are still popular.”
“At your school?”
“Yes, but not just our school. All the middle schools.”
Here, Sengoku hesitated.
And then, as though having decided,
“Rara-chans are probably doing something about it right now.”
she said this.
Rara-chan, by the way, was Tsukihi’s nickname from primary school — the ‘rara’ from the middle of ‘Araragi’. When it’s “Rara-chans”, she’s including Karen and talking about the Fire Sisters.
They’re doing something.
They’re doing something.
They’re doing something!
How ambiguous those words were, as though they could lead to any possibility, making people feel ill at ease… they’re doing something!
But, still… they’re doing something!
“A while ago, I tal– Rara-chan asked me about the snake… of course, I couldn’t tell her the truth, so it ended up really vague… but apparently, she asked for some help and checked up on a few things.”
“…A few things?”
I want to know specifics!
And yet I don’t!
That’s right, Karen went out today… could that have something to do with this? Well, seeing as it was a trouble amongst middle-schoolers, the Fire Sisters wouldn’t not be on business…
“So basically — it’s related to these ‘charms’. But, properly speaking, weren’t those curses fakes to begin with? If anything, in your case, it was your response that was bad.”
It was the response that was bad.
The response — was too accurate, and that’s why it was bad.
That’s how it went.
To be even more proper — it was a malady brought about by the visit of the vampire of legend amongst legends, the steel-blooded and hot-blooded and cold-blooded vampire, Oshino Shinobu.
In other words.
With those problems having been solved at this point, there should not be any effect in the ‘charms’ popular among the middle-schoolers.
“I think it was only in my case when an abnormality truly, genuinely materialised to that degree. Probably.”
“But if that’s the case,”
“But, it’s not like they see the results of the ‘charms’ as a problem — they probably don’t believe in abnormalities and such in the first place… I think.”
“Well… that’s true.”
They are rather realistic.
They may be afraid of ghosts, but they don’t believe in them.
That’s their stance.
“Rather, they’re seeing the fact that these fake, suspicious ‘charms’ being so widespread as the problem — and they’re going to pin down who’s the one making it happen.”
Pin down — the originator of the ‘charms’, huh.
My sisters have thought up something quite outrageous.
Actually, if you think about it normally, wouldn’t that be impossible?
“They’re not spreading because someone is trying to spread them… and even if you do pin the guy down, now that the ‘charms’ have gotten all over the place, it’s not like it’s his fault anymore.”
It wasn’t that gossip lasts just one season.
But the first person and last person would be almost completely different.
It’s almost like playing Broken Telephone.
“That’s just like what Rara-chan… I mean, just like what the Fire Sisters would do. Rara-chans said they would determine the ‘someone’ and the ‘purpose’ behind spreading the ‘charms’ and deal with it…”
“…That does sound like what they’d do.”
Looks like I really do need to have a proper talk with Karen now — it’s not like I couldn’t just leave it to them, but this was a delicate subject due to the precedent of Sengoku Nadeko.
If it goes badly.
They might be sticking their foot into a coffin.
One foot would be fine — but not both.
Not to mention,
like me, they might stick their necks in it instead —
Perhaps it was because I became silent.
Sengoku returned to her old way — and called me.
I gave a start and raised my face.
Sengoku was looking at me with concern — she even looked like she was about to cry. She must have been fretting because it seemed like her words had troubled me.
She really is a good girl.
I thought of how well things would be if Sengoku were my sister.
If Sengoku were really my sister, we would never get into scuffles.
“It’s nothing. I’m all right, Sengoku.”
“And, yeah, you look better that way, Sengoku.”
“Your bangs, I mean. You should do that when you’re out, too.”
“B-But, it’s embarrassing…”
Sengoku covered her face with her hands, as though in place of her bangs.
“I-If Koyomi-oniichan says so, though… I’ll try.”
“Yep. Trying is a good thing.”
It really does feel good to watch over someone’s growth.
If possible, I would like to watch it all the way through.
“By the way, it looks like we’re almost done the Game of Life. What are you doing next, Sengoku?”
“Huh. I don’t know that one. What kind of game is it? Teach me how to play.”
“Yes, I’ll teach you… physically.”
“Hahaha, I’m looking forward to that.”
I get the feeling that, sometimes, in Sengoku’s eyes – now exposed due to her raised bangs – something mixed in which ill-suited her: a glint like that of a rattlesnake’s. In the end, was this perhaps just my imagination?
<< 004 | 006 >>
 : “B-Besides, they didn’t have AC back in the past… if we clear our minds, even a fire can be a cool glade.”
The joke comes from the saying 「心頭滅却すれば火もまた涼しい」 shintou mekkyaku sureba hi mo mata suzushii, meaning that as long as one can clear one’s mind, even a fire would feel pleasantly cool. Sengoku instead says 「火もまた鈴虫」 hi mo mata suzumushi, meaning “bell cricket”, hence Koyomi’s reaction to ‘fire creating life’.
 : “‘Dear’, and ‘you’… ah, wah, wawah…”
I couldn’t work this part out properly in English… Sengoku calls him 「あなた」 anata, which is a polite way to refer to someone, but is also what a wife calls her husband. Koyomi responds with 「お前」 omae which is the masculine way he had always referred to others by, but is also what a husband calls his wife.