Here's 9. Enjoy.
"Me and Onii-chan? Living separately?"
During the rest time after the bath, in the hostel's canteen.
After hearing the proposal from Kaichou and Nasuhara and Ginbe, my sister gave a blink as though she was listening to some foreign language.
"Urm— sorry, I don't understand what you people are talking about."
As the representative of the group, Kaichou began explaining.
"It is the same everywhere no matter which family you go to. Regardless of how good their relationship is, typically speaking, the elder brother and younger sister will not be allowed to live in the same room. Of course, there are exceptions, but those will be due to the difficulties they are facing - an example: the house is already cramped, and there are no extra rooms."
My sister had an expression which says she still could not understand.
"Urm, but, me and Onii-chan only have us siblings as our only remaining relatives."
"Back when the hostel is still 'Himenokouji's house', it is nothing unnatural. That's because the room you two are living in, can be considered to be like a 'house'. It's an apartment with a single room - such situations are rare, but they still exist."
"Haa, I guess."
"Still, that is a thing of the past. Currently, this building is a standard students hostel, and not an empty apartment whose residents consist of only you siblings. It is operated by students under the supervision of the school, a place where students live together under a set of rules."
"It is written in the rules. 'All residents will have their own room, and they will be in charge of their own living quarters'. The room is not that big, but it is still the resident's own territory, so you can't be depending on others to clean up your ass. That's how it is."
"Taking a hundred steps back, should you act like an ordinary younger sister, then it's not like we can't turn a blind eye to it. However, that does not apply for a younger sister who nearly went to heaven just by bathing together with her trunks-wearing blindfolded elder brother. Moreover, you keep openly insisting on loving your elder brother as a man. To allow you both to live in the same room under that sort of situation, that's really impossible no matter how you look at it. Should anything happens, we will not be able to explain to the school, and at that time, all of the residents of the hostel will have to bear some of the responsibility as well."
"Due to the above mentioned reasons, you should be living separately from Himenokouji Akito. Ah, don't be like that, it's not like we want you both to be separated immediately. We just wish it to be as soon as possible, alright?"
"...... That. Ugh."
She finally got a grasp of the current situation.
Akiko was originally planning to listen to what Kaichou has to say with a smiling face. However, as her expressions gradually became stranger, she was suddenly in tears.
"Eh? Urm, but me and Onii-chan have been together again only after six years and going through much difficulties, that-"
"If you are a normal younger sister, it will be fine for you to do as you wish to make up for the six years window period."
As Akiko voiced out her objection, Nasuhara pointed out coldly.
"But since that is not the case, then this is the correct judgement. I don't like you, but this is nothing personal. Everyone else will probably agree to this arrangement."
"Even then, should you insist on living together no matter what."
This time, Ginbe stood up,
"Then the only option left is for you siblings to leave the hostel. Of course, that will not solve the root of the problem. Also, since we are already fellow residents living together, it would be a shame should that happens."
She was totally isolated, without anyone to run to.
She was assaulted by waves after waves of flawless and perfectly correct arguments. Just as I thought that even Akiko will be helpless in that sort of situation,
"— H-Hmph! Even if you guys have said those sort of grandiose words, it is still far from defeating me!"
She turned the situation to her favor in an instant.
As per usual, she was smiling with an unknown source of confidence, and puffing her chest,
"Because no matter what others say, the love between me and Onii-chan is absolute. The proof is this: Onii-chan had tried all his means -though he would not tell me what those things are- in any case, he had did his best so that us siblings can living together by ourselves once again. Also, he has managed to obtain enough money for our expenses -though he would not tell me what sort of work he is doing- in any case, he has still done it. Lastly, no matter what sort of irritating attacks I did on him, he will always smile and forgive me in the end."
"...... So you are aware of yourself being irritating, huh."
"In any case, from the various evidences, the fact about me and Onii-chan being in love with each other is obvious!"
My sister continued her speech emotionally, as she ignored my subconscious tsukkomi.
"Indeed, Onii-chan has no intention of seeing me as a woman! However, it is also true that he treasures me a lot! For something as unreasonable as to force us to live separately - how can I agree to that! Yes, I absolutely can't!"
"...... Well, it's not like we are implementing it with force."
Finally, she ended off with that.
"We will still have to listen to the caretaker of this hostel, which happens to be the eldest son of the Himenokouji family. The final decision will rest in that fella's hand. That is something that everyone can agree on. Isn't that right, Himenokouji Akito?"
And thus, with that.
In the first day where everyone from the students' council have gathered together to live in the hostel, the end of the end. It has turned into a situation where I have to decide on how to deal with the root of the problems between my sister and I.
Well, we had it coming. No, in fact, I was quite surprised that no one has mentioned it up till now.
My sister's feelings towards me was obviously beyond that of siblings love.
Should the Arisugawa or Takanomiya come to know about this, they will definitely put an expression of a demon and reprimand us brutally - though I will definitely make them fail in their attempts to do that. However, there is the fact about Akiko's lack of ethics, which is a problem that is really difficult to deal with. Things have finally boiled down to this, and it seems like it will not do if I do not come up with a definite answer.
I wish to talk about something that I have never mentioned before.
It is about the conversation of the Himenokouji family.
Just like I had mentioned earlier, for the past six years, my sister and I have been growing up in different families.
I grew up at the Takanomiya family.
While my sister grew up at the Arisugawa family.
Also, one can probably infer from those exaggerating names, that these two noble families have quite a bit of history to them. They are still wielding a lot of influence in the current world of economy.
Of course, those two are not the only noble families around. There are still plenty of other fleeting families that I am not familiar with. Putting aside the Nasuhara family, who has only grown in strength recently, Ginbe's Sawatari family can be considered to be one as well; so does Kaichou's Nikaido family; and pardon me, but us Himenokouji family can be counted as one too.
However, for us Himenokouji, even though our status is not low, there are not too many people left who is directly affiliated to the family. Meaning to say, we are close to the state of extinction.
Then you may ask: why is a noble family like that in the danger of being without a successor - this is where my parents takes the stage, as the main reason for all of our troubles.
To conclude, regardless of my father or mother, they were both people who create lots of trouble for others.
Aside from the word 'troublesome', there is no other better way to describe them.
Of course, it is not like they were bad people. They were full of drive, they put their all in their work, and their open and innocent personalities were popular with a lot of people. Even I am one of those who like them a lot. Ignore the bad people part, you can say that they were your textbook models of good people.
However, in this world, it is not like there are no flaws to the good people, and neither can you say that what they are doing is good all the time. Both my father and mother were your perfect examples - as a family member, they can be considered to be sinful failures.
There are two reason why I describe them as 'troublesome'.
One: they couldn't manage their own finances.
Two: they were too trusting towards others, and they had the bad habit of handling things for others to do.
As for the former, you can probably understand simply by seeing how me and Akiko were in a state where we had to depend on some other families - that is because there is not a single thing that can be considered to be a property of the Himenokouji family, despite us being a noble family.
My parents were capable and love working - since they were managing all sorts of enterprises, they should have earned quite a sizable sum of money. However, all the earnings were either donated, or distributed to fellow colleagues and workers generously, leaving us without a single penny. That's the sort of people they were.
Well, their favorite food was all sorts of instant food, so they were the type of people that requires little monetary maintenance in regards to their meals - that's what I think. Also, those who live that sort of life usually don't live long either - that's what I think as well.
As for the latter, it is easy to imagine it as well, seeing how they had dumped everything to do with the house to me, who was of a young age. Since they were earning so much, they could have just simply hired some servants for a young master like me. However, they simply threw everything to someone who knew nothing of the world, and was one hundred percent innocent. Not just the housework, but even the education of my younger sister.
Well, it is thanks to all these, that I had learned quite a lot of things. You can say that all those things have molded me into who I am today, but that is just purely speaking in terms of the results. At least pick the right person to do this...... Urm, but, no matter what, I still maintained our house quite impressively, so perhaps you can say that my parents had quite the foresight. In actual fact, the enterprises managed by them were actually operating really smoothly as well.
There is one thing that I can say for certain. That is, my parents were unique people, and at the same time, you can say that they were eccentric people.
In another words, they were your soldiers of fortune.
Being born in the noble families where everyone places emphasis on tradition, their existence were viewed as a sort of aberration. In fact, their abnormality was frequently viewed as the source of cancer for the family.
The pair of cancer cells were very similar, and they were so close, their mutual understanding were so impressive, they were like puzzle pieces that fit just nicely. Therefore, the trouble and benefits caused by the two had an unexceptional influence to their surroundings as well. Even so, there was no unanimous conclusion reached, as to whether those things can be considered to be lucky or otherwise for the duo in question.
...... And with that, we have finally reached the main topic.
This was something that happened back when my parents are still alive.
"Neh father. Can I ask something?"
On that day, it was the rare occasion (and it's really rare) where both of my parents were at home.
And I finally managed to had the chance to ask a question which had been bugging me for quite a while.
"Mmm? What's up, Akito?"
"It's about Akiko and me. Could it be that we are not real siblings?"
My father shifted his line of sight off the novel which he was reading, and smiled at me,
"Why do you think so?"
"If you ask why, it's just a feeling I have."
"Is that so? But that doesn't seem to be the case to me. In my eyes, it must be on a certain basis for you to be saying that."
Since I was pointed out, I might as well come clean.
"Mmm- actually, it's when I was chatting with my friends."
"Then we talked about sisters."
"Everyone was saying things like, 'elder and younger sisters are really irritating', or 'or rather, they are really disgusting', or 'I really can't see them as girls'. Due to those words, I thought the relationships between them and their sisters are poor, but that does not seem to be the case. Rather, they are still getting along as siblings."
"I see, I see."
"But as for me, I find Akiko really cute. It's not about liking or disliking her, I just see her as an ordinary girl. At the very least, I have never once seen her as disgusting or irritating. So it just feels very weird. If that is the case, then there is either something wrong with my brain, or that me and Akiko are not blood-related siblings."
My father crossed his arms as he said that. After a while, he nodded,
"Oi— Mummy—. Come here for a second."
"Coming coming. What's wrong, Daddy?"
"Mmm. Seems like Akito has found out."
"Ara ara. Oh my."
My mother was making pastry in the kitchen, and she walked out while hugging on to the egg beater and the bowl,
"Did Daddy leak it by accident?"
"No no. Akito found out by himself."
"Ara ara. I see."
...... Looking at the conversation between my parents, my only thought was 'wow, they're taking it real easy'. Me and Akiko are brought up as twins, but in reality we are not real siblings - that should be a huge problem that affects the basic foundations of the Himenokouji family, and it should be kept in absolute secret from the outsiders. They were being way too relaxed, even though the secret's out already.
"Well, it's because initially, we had never imagined such a thing to happen."
While looking at the dumbfounded me, my father said laughingly,
"Moreover, it is not like I can cover it up, with you looking at me so seriously. And, it is something that I will have to reveal someday, anyway."
"Ahh...... is that so."
"Then again, the same goes to you, Akito. You have came to know of such a shocking truth, and yet you are still so calm and collected. You are not in a position to say anything to Daddy and Mummy."
In actual fact, I am quite certain about this fact. Rather than saying that I was questioning them, you can think of it as me confirming the fact with them - that's how it really should be. Also, I was already used to my parents' eccentricity.
"Even then, it's still surprising that you have realized it."
This time, it was mother's turn to sigh, as she continued to whip the egg-whites,
"We have obtained full assistance from our gynecologist, and we have done plenty of stuff to our family register as well. We have also done lots of things in many other areas. There is actually no one, not even our close relatives, who has realized anything."
Though she was speaking to me in a light fluttery manner, things are still getting really troublesome, no matter how you look at it. Any wrong step will probably end up with a trip to prison, resulting in huge problems for the people around us. Then again, this is not something that can be done easily just because you want to. Tweaking the family register is of a totally different level from changing the stage name or the pen name.
"No no Mummy, we should be saying, it is as expected from Akito. Our small tricks are nothing more than child's play in Akito's eyes. Ah, I had expected you to find out someday, but I never thought it will be this soon."
"Yeah. Akito is a really smart and dependable child. He has done things like cooking and cleaning without any complains, and has also taken good care of Akiko as well. Without you, we will not be able to concentrate on our work. Really, we can't thank you enough."
...... Well, that's exactly how those two will say out their inner thoughts.
Even so, it will not makes one feel uncomfortable, or that they are overdoing with the praises - in regards to that aspect, they were surprisingly well calculated. Or you can say, that their nickname 'Man-eater Himenokouji' used by some people was really fitting for them.
As a saying goes: with enough praises, even pigs can climb the trees. But in the case of my parents, forget about trees - they probably can even fly...... In any case, they were good at spotting the capabilities of a person, and developed them to their fullest. You can barely say that the reason for me to be quite independent for my age, is in no small part due to the influence of my parents.
"Ah. Incidentally, the one who is not blood-related is you."
I was speechless, while facing my father who continued to be blunt without much of a care.
"...... Don't you think, it's just a little too casual? It should be a really heavy topic for me, you know."
"Even though you put it like that, but at a time like this, there is no point in hiding anymore. There's not much meaning in telling you all these while being all emotional and crying, right?"
Whatever, he's right too.
It was pointless, and there was no other option. Most importantly, that's how my father was.
"Also, even if you are not blood-related to us, you are still our son. Or perhaps you are thinking stupid things like, just because you are not blood-related to us, you are not our child anymore?"
"...... No. Definitely not."
It was because I had already came up with that conclusion, that I chose to bring up the topic in the first place.
"Speaking of which, you have mentioned that you both have did somethings to the family register, right?"
"Mmm. So I did."
"Why do you have to do that deliberately? Since you are planning to tell me anyway, it should be fine even if you did not do that."
"Mmm. There's lots of reasons for that. Himenokouji is a really troublesome family."
With that said, my father scratched his head with a perplexed look.
At then, I did not realize just how troublesome the problems of Himenokouji family are in reality. I had only came to realize that after I was separated from Akiko, and moved into a noble family while in an isolated state. But I'll just leave these things for next time, should there be a chance for me to do so.
"Well then Akito. Though we are not blood-related, you are still the son of me and your mother. There are a few things that we would like to request of you."
"Firstly, we hope you can keep this a secret."
"Mmm. Well, that's what I am planning to do anyway."
"That includes Akiko too, you know?"
"Even Akiko? Ugh- urm, this is...... It feels slightly mean, for only the lass from the family to be kept in the dark."
"Well, she is someone who will become really troublesome should she come to know about the truth. It is best to keep it a secret from her as well."
With that, my father shrugged.
"There are less than ten people in this world who know about this. Well, the number has reached the threshold for keeping it as a secret. Should the information spreads even further, then it will be out of the domains where Daddy and Mummy can control."
"But, no matter what, it will be revealed someday, right? Didn't I realize it myself too?"
"You can put it that way, since you are the person in question. It is not strange for you to feel like there is something off in the relationship between you and Akiko. But like I had said, that was accounted for right from the beginning."
"Even then, wouldn't a simple DNA test reveal everything?"
"Mmm, so it will. That's why Daddy and Mummy have actually put in a lot of effort, and put on a lot of show, in an attempt to cover it up."
Both siblings' name begin with the character <秋 (aki)>, in order for everyone to have the concept that "Himenokouji Akito and Himenokouji Akiko are twin siblings'. It has already penetrated deep into their consciousness — my father explained cheerfully.
"To add on, your blood-type is the same as Akiko's, and your faces look alike. It will be bad should people think, 'this pair of siblings do not look the same at all'. We can only consider ourselves to be really lucky for the appearance of such favorable conditions, thus typically speaking, no one will get suspicious of it. The first impressions are really strong and long-lasting."
"...... Well, I understand all that. But still, don't you think it is better to let Akiko know?"
"You are really harping on that."
"Because it feels really bad. Since I found out about it myself, then won't it be the same for Akiko in the future? Therefore, I am thinking, wouldn't it be better for her to just tell her right now?"
"Nah, I don't think she will be hurt. Rather, she will be jumping with joy."
" ? Is that so?"
"Forget it, let's not talk about that for now."
My father brushed it off vaguely,
"It's fine with Akiko. As long as no one tells her, that lass will never realize it herself."
"Well, the first impression thing we had talked about earlier - it has already entrenched itself deeply in Akiko's mind. We had instilled that into her since she's a baby, and we have done it quite thoroughly. So much so that should the time comes when the lass realized this by herself, everyone in the world would have know of it by then. Well, we can't put the possibility to zero, but you can say the chances are so small, we can pretty much ignore it."
"...... Since father has put it like that, then it means that should it be found out, then there will probably be someway to deal with it. That's what you think, right?"
"Yeah, that's how it is."
With that, my father and mother exchanged looks briefly.
They looked really happy.
"...... What's up? Both of you seemed really happy."
"Do you have to ask. It's obviously because we are happy about how our son is growing up."
My father's smile became even brighter,
"You are not shaken despite things turning out to be like this. Or rather, despite being shaken, you have managed to control yourself so that it will not show on your expressions. That is not something that can be easily done. And you have placed me, Mummy and Akiko under consideration first before yourself, right? Daddy is really happy at how gentle you are."
"It is useless saying all that, you know? Whenever father praises someone like that, it means that you definitely have something bad up your sleeves."
"Hey hey, don't doubt people like that. I am in full praise of you, and I am about to request the second thing of you too, but these two things have no relation to each other, alright?"
"Yeah yeah...... And? What's the second thing?"
"Mmm. I hope you can protect Akiko."
I agreed immediately.
"I'll protect Akiko. That lass is my precious little sister, so even without the request from father, I will still protect her. No matter what that lass will become, no matter who she pissed off, I will always protect her. That has nothing to do with us not being blood-related. I will definitely protect her."
"...... How very dependable."
My father narrowed his eyes.
As though he had seen the bright rays of the morning sun rising from behind my back.
"I am proud of you, Akito. Me and your mother have already fulfilled our goals in life, and are able to puff our chest proudly, just because we have raised you up well. It is really great that you have became our son."
"And also, this is the only thing that you are not to forget, alright? Since the day you are born till now, you have always been me and your mother's son, for each and every passing second. Of course, you are still our son from now on, till forever. This is the only thing which I hope you can remember, no matter what may happen."
— Like that.
That is the small episode between my parents and I, where it was revealed that I am not blood-related with my younger sister.
What happened to my parents later, and why do Akiko and I have to be sent to live at different families -I'll explain those things should I get the chance to do so in the future.
The problem right now is, in regards to the action that I should take about our current situation.
Night was slowly falling onto the canteen of St. Ririana Academy's students hostel.
Someone proposed me and Akiko should stay in different rooms, and the final decision had fallen into my hands. In a situation like that, what sort of answer should I give?
My sister stared at me, as though I was the final straw that could save her.
Kaichou, Nasuhara and Ginbe were all looking at me with varying expressions, while waiting for my answer.
I closed my eyes, and thought for a while.
I remembered the promised which I had made, as mentioned in my recount.
'No matter what happens, I will always protect Akiko', that.
Even though I had said all those things, I still love my parents a lot, and respect them more than anyone else. I had confidently and uprightly sworn before their very eyes.
Of course, that determination of mine has never once shaken. Even now.
Doing my all to get my sister back to my side is one of the proof of that. If it is not because of me treasuring her a lot, and if I do not carry out my oath with a firm determination, it will be impossible to accomplish this feat - I can say that proudly.
And what drives the not-too-diligent and not-too-capable me, what wills me to overcome all odds to obtain this victory, is the wish of 'being together with my younger sister once again'. That is the obvious truth.
The proposal and my wish are in conflict with each other.
Or you can say, it will cause my six-years worth of effort to be all for naught.
Also, take a look at the person who was directly involved in this.
My younger sister was staring at me with teary eyes, as though she was watching her savior descending from the sky.
That expressions that says she was uneasy and afraid, yet at the same time, she had absolute trust in me.
(...... Well, there's nothing to fret about.)
I could not help but gave a snicker.
Because, as a person, and as a man. No, as the son of my parents.
It is natural for me to keep my promise. That is not something I should be agonizing at, or be at a lost on what to do.
"I understand everyone's opinions."
Opening my eyes, I gave a smile.
Then, without any doubt or regrets, and with an enlightened feeling.
No, you can even say that I said my conclusion with pride.
"I'll live separately from Akiko. I hope to move all the stuff by tonight, so everyone, please help me out. Alright?"