I was diligently working at my desk, focusing on my tasks.
Recently, I had been busy with planning and organizing events like the annual Tokorozawa Festival in October.
Despite the workload, I made sure to finish my own work at the minimum and leave work on time.
Today, once again, I finished work on time.
“Alright then, I’m off,” I said, bidding farewell to Sasaki.
“See ya,” he replied.
After bidding farewell to Sasaki, I left the office and slid into my car, ready to head back home.
It was dusk, and to my surprise, the road was bustling with quite a few cars.
I wondered if there were other working adults who, like me, had managed to leave work on time.
With my foot on the accelerator, I made my way towards my house, keeping a vigilant eye on my surroundings as I drove.
Along the way, I couldn’t help but think about the sisters.
What would they like to have for dinner? Were they facing any troubles at school?
I knew that these girls had their own struggles.
It was the same in the game.
But in the game, because you were playing as the protagonist, you could solve their problems andchange things towards the end.
Consequently, If I meddled carelessly, it would probably make them uncomfortable.
I did feel like I wanted to become an ideal father, but I knew I could only do the bare minimum.
However, I also believed that there must be something that only I could do and that we had no choice but to live together.
Lost in embarrassing thoughts, I arrived at my home.
As I unlocked the door and entered, Chiaki, who usually greets me enthusiastically, had a dark expression on her face, with tears welling up at the corners of her eyes.
“What’s, what’s wrong!? Are you feeling pain somewhere?”
“C-Calm down! Um, first, please calm down and tell me what happened.”
“Uh, yeah, Chifuyu, Chifuyu… She seemed down and locked herself in her room on the second floor.
Chiharu is also feeling down, and Chinatsu who doesn’t what’s happening is crying, and I, I’m just so sad, so sad…”
So Chifuyu is hiding in her room!? Did something happen at school? But if that’s the case, why isn’t Chiharu doing anything? Usually, Chiharu takes care of everything.
She’s always meddling, overprotective, and she prioritizes her sisters above all else… Even in the game, she was a girl who prioritizes her sisters over anything..
“What is Chiharu doing now?”
“Um, she’s sitting on the sofa in the living room, hiding her face and sitting in a hunched position…”
“Did she say anything?”
“I don’t know…”
Chiharu was known for her proactive nature, always taking action and going to great lengths for the sake of her sisters, sometimes even going overboard.
Therefore, if she ever seemed inactive, it wasn’t because she didn’t want to take action but rather because she was unable to do so.
…Then, the current situation is actually quite a serious issue, isn’t it!?
I need to ask for more details about what happened.
“Chiaki, tell me what happened today.”
“In the morning, we all took the bus together and separated in our classes… Uuu.”
“Are you okay? Take your time.”
I urged her to continue as I wiped her nose and tears with a pocket tissue.
This morning, when I saw Chifuyu, she appeared to be acting normally, and Chiharu was as affectionate towards her sisters as usual.
There didn’t seem to be anything wrong at that point.
“So, I was studying at school, got seconds for lunch, dozed off in afternoon classes, and then I got scolded by the teacher, and then, while the four of us were chatting on the bus, Chifuyu started acting strangely…”
“What were you talking about on the bus?”
“Well, we were talking about the test results…”
“And what was Chifuyu’s score?”
“And what about Chiharu?”
“100… That’s why I thought both of them were amazing.
Chiharu always gets perfect scores, and Chifuyu studies diligently at home, so I thought her efforts paid off in the end…”
Chifuyu rarely ventures out of her room, but Chiaki accidentally revealed to me once that she occasionally spends long hours studying there.
Perhaps she was exerting immense effort to excel in the recent test, determined to achieve victory at any cost, and that could explain her current despondency or even self-loathing.
It’s possible that she’s disgusted with herself for harboring negative feelings towards her sisters or frustrated with her own perceived inadequacy.
Chiharu, in contrast, not only studies but also takes care of Chiaki and her other sisters.
However, despite Chifuyu’s putting in all her effort, she ended up losing…..which has left her feeling like she’s losing herself as well.
This event took place during the game, where the sisters, who had become high school students, met the protagonist, and the event unfolded from there.
There were several types of events, but Chifuyu had been harboring jealousy and various emotions towards Chiharu, Chinatsu, and Chiaki, which finally exploded.
She expressed her feelings to the protagonist, talking about the discrimination she felt and how she had suffered despite not having any special abilities.
She confessed that she wanted to be special.
This event likely only occurred if the protagonist had a certain level of favorability with Chifuyu.
Without enough favorability, the event itself may not have resolved anything.
Chifuyu tearfully confessed, “I want to be special…” In response, the protagonist told her that she was a special being to them.
They praised her for her efforts and told her that she looked dazzling, even if she couldn’t be the best.
“Is that so? Is Chifuyu special to you, XX-san?”
“Hehe, I’m glad I could talk to you, XX-san.
You’re an interesting person… ‘Thank you.”
With interactions like that, the intimacy between them grew stronger.
It might have sounded like mere nonsense if it hadn’t been for the fact that the protagonist, who had a good favorable impression, called Chifuyu special.
But because it was coming from someone she liked, it deeply moved her, more so than if it had been from her sisters.
Because with sisters, Chifuyu would inevitably think there is some extra care in their words.
What can I do…? I’m not the protagonist; I don’t have enough favorability; and we’re also far apart in age.
We don’t have many things in common… This is… something I might not be able to do anything about.
“….Chiaki, let’s head inside the living room for now.”
Once again, I wiped away her tears and stood up, heading towards the living room.
Inside the room, Chiharu was sitting on the sofa with Chinatsu sleeping on her lap, and her eyes were swollen.
She must have been crying.
“Welcome back, Onii-san.”
“I’m sorry, Onii-san.
You’ve been working hard, and yet we’re just lounging around at home.
It must be unpleasant… But for now, please let Chinatsu sleep.”
“Ah, yeah, it’s fine…”
“Thank you very much…”
Chiharu absentmindedly continued to stroke Chinatsu’s head as if her mind was elsewhere.
They had been spending time in this silent space without even turning on the TV even when I came back.
“Chiharu… Why is Chifuyu so down like this? I don’t know what to say; even when I talk to her in front of her room, she doesn’t respond.
Hey, what should I do!?”
Chiharu embraced Chiaki, who was once again overflowing with tears, and gently stroked her head.
Onee-chan will try to figure something out.
I’ll do my best, so don’t worry about it, okay?”
So, just relax.
You must be tired, right? Come here.”
Chiharu gently guided Chiaki to sit beside her, carefully adjusting Chinatsu’s head as she placed Chiaki’s head on her thigh.
With a warm smile, she began to softly stroke Chiaki’s head, emanating a comforting presence as she soothed her with her gentle touch.
As Chiaki continued to cry, eventually she drifted off into a peaceful sleep, comforted by the sense of security that her older sister provided.
“…Onii-san… Can you please make dinner?”
I didn’t know what to say or how to act.
I simply did as requested and went to the kitchen, taking out ingredients from the refrigerator and moving my hands almost mechanically.
Suddenly, I became curious about Chiharu.
She was just gently caressing the heads of her two sisters.
Without crying or changing her expression, she just kept stroking.
If it were in the game, I could easily skip over such scenes.
It wasn’t pleasant to see Chiharu and the sisters growing distant, with their words falling on deaf ears.
I skipped over the parts where Chiharu expressed her emotions and the sisters’ strained relationship.
I didn’t want to see much of it .
I only extracted the happy ending scenes.
But now I couldn’t do that anymore.
“Dinner is ready… Will you eat?”
“No… I’m okay… But please give dinner to the others when they wake up.”
“Sorry for taking up the sofa…”
“Don’t worry about it…”
I couldn’t do anything, so I sat down near Chiharu.
Sitting on the ground made my eye level lower than Chiharu’s sitting on the sofa.
I could see her face clearly as she looked down.
She wasn’t crying.
Her expression was blank, but she definitely seemed sad.
We sat in silence as time passed without saying anything.
I don’t know how many seconds went by, but after a while, Chiharu spoke up.
“When Onii-san came back, where was Chiaki?”
“She was sitting at the entrance…”
“Is there something wrong with that?”
“Maybe Chiaki had expectations of Oniisan… She’s a bit more straightforward and childish than the other kids, but she’s also more mature than we think.
That’s why she already knew… none of us sisters’ words would resonate with Chifuyu.”
“I really wanted to do everything for her.
Give her everything.
Take away all her worries.
But I knew that was impossible… I didn’t have the emotional capacity for it until now.
We could only cling to each other and survive in our cramped world.
That’s why I couldn’t look at other things with an open mind.
But when you appeared, Oniisan, and our heart found some peace, we were able to see the world around us… And Chifuyu started comparing herself with her sisters…”
“I don’t think you can understand what I’m trying to say.
And even if I could tell you my specific worries, I’m not sure you could solve them.
Still, I’m asking you.
Please, reach out to Chifuyu.
Care for her.
That’s all I ask, even if it doesn’t lead to any specific outcome.
Because what Chifuyu needs is something other than her sisters.”
Chiharu lowered her head, her face obscured by her flowing hair.
However, the palpable waves of frustration, anger, and sadness emanating from her could not be hidden.
“…Okay, I understand.
I’ll do what I can.”
I left the living room without looking back and climbed the stairs.
What should I say? I wondered if anything I said would even matter.
But since I had agreed to Chiharu’s request, I had a responsibility to fulfill it.
I stood in front of the sisters’ room and knocked.
“This is Kaito… I want to talk… Are you okay?” I called, but there was no response.
Did she fall asleep, or was she deliberately ignoring me? I tried turning the doorknob and pushing, but the door wouldn’t budge.
Was something heavy blocking it?
“….Chifuyu, if you’re awake, can you please move whatever’s blocking the door?”
Maybe she really wasn’t awake.
But somehow, I had a feeling that she was.
Just a hunch…
“Well, if you’re awake, would you mind talking for a bit? We haven’t had much chance to talk since you came to this house, right? It might be a good distraction, too…”
I spoke to her again, and this time the door to the room creaked open.
It was dark inside, and I could hardly see.
But the faint light from the hallway revealed Chiharu sitting by the door in a hunched position.
Maybe it’s better not to turn on the lights.
She might not want me to see her tear-streaked face.
“Thank you, Chifuyu…”
I sat down near the entrance, finding a spot on the floor, before I began talking to her.
“How have you been lately?” I asked.
“Normal… just like always,” she replied in a monotonous tone.
Just like always… those words revealed how much she had been struggling day in and day out.
At the same time, her tone of voice made it clear that I still hadn’t been able to truly connect with her.
“Is that so?”
“Did Haru-nee say something to you?” she asked.
She said so while sitting on the floor.
I couldn’t bring myself to lie to her, even though I doubted she would have noticed.
It just felt like a lump would be lodged in my throat, if I were to lie.
She asked me to look out for you because you’ve been troubled,” I replied.
“…..i see,” she said again.
“Please, can you tell me about your troubles?” I asked.
“I know it might seem strange for an adult to suddenly talk to you like this, and I’m sorry, but I’m not good at beating around the bush,” I said.
“Why do you even care about Chifuyu and the others? We’re not family, we’re not even relatives.
We’re just strangers, so you could just leave us alone, right?”
“I have a responsibility now that I’ve taken you in.
And I can’t just leave Chifuyu alone either.
Please, tell me anything within your comfort zone,”
“It’s a boring story,” she said.
“Even so, let me hear it.”
After I said that, there was a pause for a while.
Without turning her face towards me, she started speaking with her face buried in the darkness.
“Chifuyu and the others… have always been kept apart and at distance from the world.
Because we’re different from normal… howver, only my sisters are special.
Chifuyu isn’t special, and I hated that.
So I wanted to at least excel in my studies and catch up to my sisters.”
“But I knew it was impossible.
Chifuyu had nothing, and what my sisters had, Chifuyu didn’t.
That’s what made it so hard—to experience suffering despite not being special and to hate myself for thinking that way…”
Hearing her trembling voice, I regretted interfering without thinking.
There was nothing I could do.
I felt like I had nothing to say.
Despite her lifelong suffering due to her lack of superpowers, she found it difficult to accept that there was no apparent reason for her anguish.
While her sisters possessed special abilities, she felt a sense of loneliness for not sharing in their uniqueness.
The concept of having superpowers seemed to be something only her sisters could comprehend, and it made her feel like an outsider within her own family.
In the end, she ended up feeling lonely.
I couldn’t say anything.
I couldn’t even console her like the protagonist did in the game.
As the “you’re special to me” words would make no sense from my part.
But Chiharu asked me for help.
I promised to do whatever I could.
Even if it didn’t make sense, I would try to say something.
“…I’m sorry, I probably can’t say anything that would help Chifuyu… But maybe, I think Chifuyu is special…”
“What makes you say that?”
“…There’s no one in the world who isn’t special.
It’s like one in trillions… I don’t know what criteria Chifuyu uses to define herself as special, but just by existing, isn’t she special?”
“Ah, sorry, I was being idealistic… It’s probably meaningless…”
“Oh, no, it’s not like that…”
Inadvertently, I made Chifuyu worry for my sake.
Idealistic words don’t really move people.
But that’s all I could say…
“…Anyway, to me, Chiharu, Chinatsu, Chiaki, and Chifuyu all seem special.
Regardless of what burdens they carried or what they possessed, those are just elements that make up one person.”
“Chifuyu has really beautiful chestnut brown hair, and your eyes are also stunning with double eyelids and a charming way of speaking.
Oh, I’m not hitting on you or anything.
On the other hand, I have black hair, black eyes, and a face that would have probably been popular in the Heian period.”
“…..The Heian period?”
“Yeah, well, I heard that beauty standards were different in the past, so sorry, I was trying to make you laugh… In modern times, I’d just be an average guy.”
The joke fell flat.
It would have been great if a lighthearted remark had come to mind to change the mood…
“In other words, to me, everyone looks special, so I want you to cheer up a bit.
It’s a given that there might be jealousy or rivalry among sisters, but you don’t need to worry about that.
In fact, it would be weirder if this didn’t exist.”
I had a feeling that my words didn’t really resonate with her.
She seemed to react more compared to earlier, though.
“I’ve said it multiple times… I truly think Chifuyu is special.
That’s what I wanted to say the most.
Can you try to believe me, even if you think I’m trying to deceive you?”
“….Are you trying to deceive me?”
But even if you can’t believe in yourself, I’ll believe in you.
There will come a day when you can truly believe that you’re special, so keep hoping for the future.”
With those words,, she revealed her concealed face for the first time during our conversation.
Her eyes were swollen with tears, and even now, teardrops glistened at the edges of her eyes.
“Thank you…” she said, bowing her head.
I hoped that even a little bit of encouragement would help lift her spirits.
Maybe my cheap, empty words didn’t mean much after all.
My words alone might not be enough to move her.
I couldn’t do much else except try to bring her a slight sense of happiness with dinner.
“I’m sorry… I couldn’t say much to help you.”
“No, it’s okay… I think I’m feeling a little better,”
“Are you sure you’re not forcing it? Is there anything else you want to say?”
“I’m fine, thank you,” she said.
“I see… well, if that’s the case… should I bring you dinner?”
Thank you,” she said.
I’ll bring you a bigger portion than usual! Please eat a lot,” I said, leaving the room.
I couldn’t tell if she was truly feeling better or not.
But if she did experience even a tiny bit of improvement, I would be glad.
There wasn’t much I could do to help her after all.
However, I resolved to keep doing my best, no matter how small my efforts were.
For now, I would bring her dinner.
In the end, Chifuyu was ultimately defeated by her own weakness.
I had become fed up with my relationship with my sisters and locked myself in my room.
Haru-nee, Natsu-nee, and Aki-nee all showed concern for me, but their words did not resonate with me.
I couldn’t help but see everything through the filter of being pitied.
I lost track of what was what and just cried uncontrollably.
Then, that person came.
I knew he had appeared because Haru-nee must have said something.
But I wanted him to listen to me.
I didn’t know why I felt that way.
Maybe I just didn’t want to be alone.
I thought he would use difficult words of persuasion and encouragement like the other adults, but surprisingly, his words were simple and straightforward.
This could have been the very first time I received such heartfelt words from someone who wasn’t one of my sisters.
Haru-nee, Natsu-nee, and Aki-nee have always shown care and exchanged words with me, which also made me feel happy.
But the happiness I felt from that person’s words was something I had never experienced before.
The person in front of me was just an ordinary person.
Maybe it resonated with me because he used ordinary words to tell me that I was special.
It made me happy.
He complimented my hair and told me multiple times that I was special.
He told me straight out that he believed in Chifuyu, which even I couldn’t do myself.
I was extremely happy.
It was the first time I tasted love from the outside world.
I was confused and didn’t know how to react, but I couldn’t help but smile a little.
Maybe that person didn’t notice because it was dark.
I was incredibly, incredibly, incredibly happy.
It was peculiar how someone who wasn’t even one of Chifuyu’s sisters could recognize and acknowledge that I was special in a way.
Despite knowing that I might still grapple with comparing myself to my sisters in the future, his words made me feel like I could give it another shot.
That’s how he made me feel.
That person is interesting…
I felt a little curious to know more about that person.
But before that… I have to apologize for causing them to worry.
Haru-nee must have been really worried.
I also made Natsu-nee and Aki-nee cry.
I have to say sorry… I got up and headed straight to the living room.
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