Chapter 1: The Girl Who Carries a Coffin
When he woke up, his younger sister’s face was in front of him, close enough to feel her light breaths as she stared down silently.
The two stayed in place for a short while. He heard the chirping of birds somewhere nearby, white sunlight shone through the window, and a trace of warmth hung in the air. Even holed up in this room, it was obvious that the end of the long winter was finally drawing near. The plants were budding, and the animals were leaving their dens. With prosperous days ahead, every single bit of existence began to come to life with hope—it was that kind of scene.
“Nii-sama, good morning,” his younger sister Akari said softly.
Both siblings were on the bed.
But Akari was on top.
She was on all fours looking like a carnivorous animal holding down its helpless prey, ready to dig in. She was tall for a girl her age, so naturally, stretching over someone with her back arched like that would quickly persuade them to submit.
Even though she was his sister, Tohru had to admit that she was rather pretty.
She was only seventeen, already at the ripe age where it would be more appropriate to call her “beautiful” rather than “cute”. Her authoritative facial features stood out clearly, and her long black hair gently cascaded down and stayed in place like a work of art. Naturally, she was well-liked by members of the opposite sex, and her looks were such that even members of the same sex took notice.
However, she generally didn’t have many expressions to show. Tohru had thought that this would leave her with quite a disadvantage, but she didn’t seem to mind.
Reflected in Akari’s eyes was the face of a boy with a troubled expression, whose eyes were narrowed into long slits. He had black hair and black eyes, just like Akari. His facial features were also somewhat—well, it could probably be said that he hadn’t been ready for this particular scenario at this particular time, yet overall his facial features were relaxed. He looked listless, or even weary.
Since he was a teenage boy, he shouldn’t have been lacking in things like ambition and vitality, yet somehow his face wore a dry and tired appearance. Though there weren’t any wrinkles or dark spots, he still felt like an old man approaching the final stage of his life. Even the act of lying down and getting up was, for him, a huge chore.
Even for me, this is a pretty gloomy face, thought Tohru.
But the very idea of reforming the way he was now, after all this time, was wholly unthinkable.
The younger sister was in bed with the older brother she idolized, on top of him, straddling him.
But, to say this was a completely unexpected event would be a lie.
I figured it would end up like this eventually, he thought.
He noticed that Akari had been focused on him for a while now.
“I–can’t hold back anymore.”
Akari said this while gazing into Tohru’s eyes.
“When I think about Nii-sama, I…”
“You…what?” Tohru responded to that gaze with half-opened eyes.
“…I had never intended to act this boldly…” Akari said, glancing away furtively.
“Nii-sama, you’re terrible.”
“That’s right. You’re a terrible person,” she said with a tiny shake of her head. “Even though you knew what I was going through…”
He knitted his eyebrows, looking up at his sister’s face. A tuft of her black hair gently fell down and grazed his cheek, almost as if it were giving into temptation.
“Honestly, I didn’t think you were this hung up over it until now.”
She lacked many expressions, but since she had been this obvious about it, even Tohru could tell what his sister was thinking. However, there was one thing that he didn’t realize: normally she had a strong sense of self-control, but she had been stockpiling, holding it in and holding it in until the day where she released it all in a sudden explosion, and naturally someone who was close to her would have to bear the burden.
The older brother—-Tohru Acura.
The younger sister—-Akari Acura.
Those were the names of the Acura siblings.
They didn’t bring up their first names any more than they needed to, and even among the residents of their neighborhood, no one knew their surnames. Because there were many countries that had commoners without surnames, it wasn’t thought of as especially strange. The period of long wars had created many refugees, and it wasn’t rare to find immigrants from all over living in the same area.
Well, setting that aside for now…
“Akari. Can I ask you something?” Tohru said with half-closed eyes.
“Whatever could that be? If it’s a question from you, my dear brother, I will answer anything.” Her tone of voice belied the expression in her eyes, which were as frigid and dead as the frozen surface of a lake in winter.
Well, she had always been like that, though.
“What the hell is this?”
Tohru pointed to the object next to his head.
A large, cylindrical iron hammer, which was embedded deep in his pillow.
“What do you mean, Nii-sama?” Akari tilted her head with a curious expression. “Even though you’re still young, could it be that you’re already losing your memory? It’s been my beloved partner for at least ten years now, remember?”
“Of course I know that,” Tohru groaned.
Simply calling it an “iron hammer” did not do it justice. Due to its make, size and weight, the user had to possess an abundance of physical strength and, above all else, the ability to wield it with ease; in other words, it was effective enough as a lethal weapon.
“What I want to know is why this thing is embedded in my pillow.”
“Well, that’s obviously because it was swung downward.”
“I get that as well.”
“Then what else is there to not get?”
“First off, what I don’t get is how you don’t get what I don’t get,” Tohru replied while giving his younger sister a sharp look. “With this indentation made by your ‘beloved partner’ that you’ve been carrying around for ten some years”—he indicated the hammer by tapping it with his fingertip–“what I don’t seem to understand is the reasoning behind swinging it down.”
She shook her head as if she pitied him, yet her expression did not change even a bit.
“I did not swing my hammer in the direction of my dear Nii-sama’s pillow.”
“I swung it in the direction of my dear Nii-sama’s head.”
“That’s even worse, you idiot.”
Tohru almost let out a frustrated moan, but since he had just woken up, he didn’t have the strength to raise his voice any further. Instead, he ended up muttering something resembling a mumble.
“Were you trying to kill me?”
“I would never harbor any murderous intent towards my cherished and respected Nii-sama,” Akari said in a dignified manner, still in the stance of having just sunk the hammer into his pillow. She clearly didn’t look shy at all about it; if anything, she seemed refreshed.
“I merely wanted to wake up Nii-sama, who constantly sleeps no matter how much time passes.”
“I was nearly in a state of eternal sleep…”
Just by a hair—if Tohru had been hit before he had turned over in his sleep, there was no doubt that his forehead would have been crushed, rather than his pillow. Incidentally, the hammer’s being buried in the pillow disguised a certain fact: because Akari’s hammer was sharp on one side, it was already stabbing through to the point where it might have even reached his skull.
“Oh, I see.”
Akari nodded her head, remaining cool and composed with a look that said, And what’s the problem?
For a while, neither of them moved nor said a word, and the birds could be heard chirping outside.
“Nii-sama…” Akari began in her usual indifferent tone, as if she was tired of even looking at her brother. “What are your plans for today?”
“Resting,” Tohru said, as if it was bothersome to even respond. “Or in other words, lying around all day, doing nothing.”
“I see. And?”
“And…when I’m hungry, I’ll get up and get something to eat.”
“Right, I guess you’d have to do that at some point. And?”
“That’s pretty much it.”
Tohru rolled back over on his side, as if saying anything further would be a nuisance.
Akari waited for a bit as if she expected the conversation to continue, but she was met with nothing but silence. So—
Akari said this while looking down on her brother’s face. The hammer was still cutting into Tohru’s pillow.
“If you were to do some work today, I would undoubtedly spurt blood from my nose in utter delight.”
“Go ahead and die from excessive blood loss.”
“That’s a cruel thing to say, Nii-sama. Even after all the love and respect I give you…”
“That’s why you tried to crush me with that hammer, right?”
“That’s a form of love,” Akari replied calmly.
She grabbed her hammer with ease, got down from the bed with a nimble motion, and swung the hammer over her shoulder. Her lean, toned arms looked perfectly normal, but even if one were to get used to the concept of a young girl and a heavy weapon combining to make something so deadly, it was still a surreal thing to witness.
“Nii-sama. I’ve been thinking you’ve been acting unusual lately.”
“What do you mean?”
“Why aren’t you doing any work?”
It was actually easier to deal with her questioning when she didn’t have any scorn or ridicule in her voice.
After swallowing down a sigh that he was about to let out without thinking, Tohru replied.
“Those who work, lose,” he said, his back still to his sister.
The sense that she was tilting her head in puzzlement drifted over him.
“Who does that refer to?”
A heavy silence fell over the two.
Staaaaaare—sensing Akari’s piercing gaze from behind, Tohru spoke further.
“Listen, do whatever you want, but leave me out of it.”
For a bit, he had the sense that she was considering it. But then—
He could read the murderous intent that was practically written in the air.
The hammer swung in an arc and landed with earth-shattering force, a hair’s breadth away from Tohru’s skull. If he had been late in dodging by even one instant, his hair would have been shaved off, giving him a magnificently bald head. That is, if you could call having your bare skull exposed “bald”.
As one would expect after something like that, Tohru got up and turned in the direction of his sister.
With an unmistakable air of regret, she covered her face that still bore a murderous expression with her left hand, and with her right, furiously twirled her hammer.
“You said I could do anything, so…”
“No, wait. Wait. For starters, put that damn thing away!” he said, putting up his hands to keep a bit of distance between him and Akari. Actually, even at that range Akari could have probably scored a direct hit on his head if she had simply reached out a bit with her arms. She was within “killing distance”, so to speak. If the force of that rotation was to strike him directly, it had the potential to slice both Tohru and the bed completely in half.
Akari continued to twirl the hammer around with such unrelenting force that the noise it made vibrated through the air. It was apparent that she had no intention of yielding. Usually he could wriggle out of the situation through excuses and slippery methods, but today Akari was determined to hold her ground to the bitter end. As one would expect, she was simply fed up with him.
“I’ve had it up to here with you. Not making any effort to work, not even leaving the house, just lazing around and lazing around and lazing around and lazing around just lazing around and lazing around and lazing around and lazing around in the house all damn day! If you keep on like this, I…”
“That’s a lot of lazing around, even for me.”
“Oh, you…If only…”
“If only what?”
“If only you were stuffed so I could sell you…”
“Well, I’m not! Besides, I wouldn’t even sell!”
Akari’s hand twirling the hammer had not slowed down in the slightest, however, she shook her head as if his response was unexpected.
“If it were me, would I not take out a loan to buy you?”
“My stuffed corpse, you mean?”
“In the long run, wouldn’t a stuffed Nii-sama be more economically viable, since I wouldn’t have to feed it?”
Neither of them said a word.
The only thing that could be heard was the sound of the hammer still whirling around.
“As I thought, stuffing you would be—”
“Okay, okay, I get it!” Tohru said in a panic. At this rate he really was going to be smashed to a pulp by his younger sister. Of course, he’d prefer not being stuffed. He had absolutely no intention of working, but right now he should formulate a plan instead of going back to bed.
“A-anyway, that is, for now, let’s save this for after breakfast.”
“We don’t have any more money for that,” Akari said, dropping her hammer at last. “You could say that last night’s dinner was the “Last Supper” for us.”
“Oh…that was it, huh?”
“Surely the wise Nii-sama that I have the utmost respect and affection for would have to believe me.”
Tohru looked up at the ceiling and sighed. Now that she mentioned it, he did recall her saying something like that last night. He didn’t remember it clearly because he usually let Akari’s scolding go in one ear and out the other.
She picked up the hammer and prepared to swing it once again.
“Okay, I get it! For the time being, I’ll do something about breakfast!”
With a whistling shriek, the hammer rushed through the air…and stopped just short of pulverizing Tohru’s face.