My life here has settled down to tranquility and quiet after the nerve-wrecking incident at the family meeting passed by.
Peace, I should say.
There’s at least no chance of getting attacked by an armed assailant or having a shuriken thrown my way by a chakra-using killer ninja. None of those ridiculous plot twists for now.
However, I received a phone call from that place.
◇ ◆ ◇
Turn of events never comes knocking beforehand.
Just when Maria was away, a worker in the Swiss information agency, medical department, happened to make a call.
“Mr. Siyoung of Blackhazel. I’ve heard stories about you.”
Her voice sounds cold and mechanical. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was an office worker straightening her glasses on the other end of the phone.
“Ah, yes, what are you calling about?”
“Well, it’s about Dorothy-san’s medical checkup from a while ago.”
Ahh, I guess it’s about that not-really-important checkup she had from a while back.
“It’s not a huge problem. But… we found some signs of lung adenocarcinoma, and we decided to notify you beforehand for precaution purposes.”
I’m still a student, so I don’t know any hard word like that.
But when I think about it, I doubt they would go through the trouble to make a phone call if this was something trivial like catching a flu or something like that.
“We believe it could be a tumor of some kind.”
“W-wait a second… Tumor… you say?”
Wait a minute, what’s with this nonsense.
“There is no need to worry. It’s a biological phenomenon that occurs commonly to decayed cells, so as long as we take the proper precaution beforehand…”
“Um, excuse me, but what do you mean by decayed cells?”
That reminds me, they were talking about ‘decayed blood’ or something like that at the family meeting before.
Maybe they were referring to Dorothy?
“Could it be that you haven’t been informed yet?”
A tone of surprise is felt on the other end of the line. No, what is she talking about. Is she trying to tell me that Dorothy is some kind of a transgender or something?
There’s no way that’s possible.
That’s way too much of an unexpected development.
“Has Miss Maria not informed you yet?”
“Well, all this about a decaying something and all that, I’m not… Ah? Er, hang on a second.”
While I was busy on the phone, I spotted Dorothy coming out of her room to do something. I gesture her over to the phone.
“Yo, Dorothy! There’s a call from the Swedish hospital or something like th- Fueh?!”
“G-get off the phone, you idiot!”
She gets angry in an instant and knocks me aside to answer the phone in haste.
Oy, oy, if you really hate me that much, then just tell me. Don’t just act it out. I was going to pass the phone over to you anyway.
“Um, is this Doctor Anna?”
I could sense a pitch of anxiety from the way her voice shook as she answered the phone.
If there’s nothing wrong with my ears, then I swear I heard something like ‘tumor’ from before. Could this be something really serious?
“That idiot doesn’t know anything! It’s something even Maria-onee-sama agreed with! So please don’t go around mentioning ‘that’ so carelessly!”
If you’re talking about the tumor, I already heard about it.
Could it be that she was afraid of saying goodbye to me, so she developed this cold attitude of hers to keep me away and hid how she really was… Nah, something as simple as that can’t possibly be true.
“I’m fine with something like that! I know I’m the best at knowing what’s wrong with my own body! But do you understand me!? You have to keep it in mind! I won’t let anyone, not even you Doctor Anna, just go around about ‘that’!”
And so, it was a moment when Dorothy’s attraction points skyrocketed.
“Yes, yes, then please do so. I’m always in your debt. I’ll take the treatment at a suitable time.”
With her usual one-way conversation in tow, Dorothy puts the receiver down.
I break in tears, stuttering for words, overwhelmed by my pity for Dorothy
“Ahhh, my poor miserable little sister, second to none in this world!”
“Wh-what? What’s with you?”
“Knowing that you didn’t have much to live because of the tumor, you decided to voluntarily distance yourself from your Onii-san, in fear of getting too attached emotionally!”
As I told my tale of deepest misery to tear any eyes and pain any heart listening to it, I expected the antagonism I have built up with Dorothy to melt down in an instant like snow in spring. And at that exact moment-
“I told you to stop watching soap operas, you idiot!”
A fierce punch flew my way, and my fluttering heroin-like conscience was returned back to reality.
◇ ◆ ◇
And on that evening.
After the meal is finished, I return back to my room with a game console that was stocked in the house. From what I heard, it was given by a company working under a gaming software developer free of charge, to test out their newest product.
And it’s not like there’s anyone in this dignified mansion that would actually take the time to play on a video game console.
Somehow I can’t imagine Maria moving her character here and there busily to get healing potions. Maybe I could Imagine Dorothy doing that easily enough, strangely.
Looking through the various game titles, I pick out a game that looks the most familiar to me, and insert it inside the console.
If you never heard of Tekken series all your life, then I’d have no choice but to brand you as an alien spy from another planet. This sequel number in front of the game seems a bit foreign to me, though.
“Hey, Lily. You know how to play games?”
There’s no way I could possibly have fun fighting against computers with their lacking AI. No matter what, fighting games were meant to be played against someone else.
Lily shines her eyes in curiosity at the fighting game I held in my hand. I think this match-up is going to be pretty interesting.
You’re looking at someone who used to dominate the arcades in the fighting game genre when he was young. There’s no way someone of your caliber could ever have a chance against me.
We eventually ignite off somehow and choose a character for ourselves. And so, it’s round one start.
“You do this and this, ah, hmm, then like that, ohhh! Yep, just like that!”
I nail down a brilliant combo, connecting it with a low-mid fake wall combo to hit it off.
It’s to be expected, but I leave Lily enraged, who was hit by defeat harder than a Greyhound bus traveling at full speed.
The fruit of victory is sweet, my friend.
So what if it was against a twelve-year-old girl or a three-year old toddler, a win is a win.
“You just can’t compare this feeling of playing around with newbs in a game to anything else.”
Following that was another victory for me, giving me two consecutive wins in the ‘three win victor’ rule system the match was set in.
I can tell what she’s feeling, it’s easy with the childish way she thinks.
I swear I’ll use the opportunity to get back at Lily for all the times she had me tricked and mocked before.
A principle of warriors; not fighting against unarmed civilians, comes to my mind briefly, but it’s fine with me. In the end, a win is a win. Especially in a video game.
And after my undisputed domination at the very beginning, a small ripple of change in the game took place at the third round, right after the timer started.
I say a small ripple, because all she’s managed to do was simple learning to guard some of my attacks.
Aerial attacks are stopped by a mid guard. Mid guard is stopped by a low attack.
Middle attacks are stopped by low and mid guard. Aerial attacks go through low guard.
She’s only learned the basic foundation of fighting games just now.
I hardly think it’ll be enough to change the flow of this match but…
“Huh, it changed.”
Aw crap, I forgot that this kid has a genius level of reflex at a professional level!
She doesn’t know any combos, but she’s guarding away all of my attacks to nab counters at me with basic attacks to slowly chip away at my HP.
I start to sweat at the unexpected turn of events.
With just a few matches’ worth of data she’s beating me, who once managed to beat a local champion 30 times in a row. Consequently, he decided to try out real-life Tekken at me in frustration afterward. I’m losing this bad to a newbie of this level.
The pressure I’m feeling right now is no joke.
And so, the situation escalates into three wins under my belt and two under hers.
If I lose this round as well, then it’ll become three for the both us, evening out the score.
But Lily’s absorbing every bit of knowledge like a sponge, starting from the combos I used to all sorts of feint skills. She really isn’t normal at this. Gaming reflex, I should say? In any case, her reflex transcends that of a normal person!
The match score was about to set even, with three wins for Lily.
It’s time I brought out my ultimate card about now.
“It’s getting late. We should stop here for today.”
I quickly sprint forward and click on the reset button.
Comrades, have you heard of Alt+F4? It’s a word of profession to those that work on this side. In translation, it means to win and run way. In essence, since I ended the game right ‘before’ the score was about to progress from 3 to 2 into 3 to 3, it technically makes me the victor.
It’s even in the Art of Wars. Winning a war is better than winning a battle.
I suppose it a bit different in this situation, but it doesn’t really matter.
“Uuu, you, cowar…”
I enjoy the victor’s leisure at my convenience, while I ignore Lily glaring this way in vengeance, blazing with contempt.
◇ ◆ ◇
Though “it’s getting late” was only a technicality I came up with, but really in reality, the grandfather clock in the mansion was already pointing away at one.
The mansion at night feels stifling with silence like a graveyard indeed, with not even a late-night halogen lamp lighting the way. It reminds me of a haunted house. No, a cheap amusement park-scale haunted house filled with disappointing antic can’t compare to this. The mansion is hundred times scarier. That much I can say for certain.
And just then, did I imagine the groaning sound that sounded like a ghost lamenting at a graveyard?
Nope, I’m not imagining.
“W-wait a sec, what is this now!? You’re kidding me!?”
You’re actually trying to tell me there really is a ghost in the mansion?
Whatever the case, I’ve only lived for only 18 years. I’m not even that plump and I certainly don’t look that appetizing at all. I’m not gonna pay for your medical bills if you get a stomachache eating me.
And most importantly, I’m still a virgin.
Wait, hang on.
Logically speaking, something like ghosts doesn’t exist. And I’m not one of those neo-science cultist idiots around nowadays either.
What’s important is that this sound is coming from Dorothy’s room.
If it’s coming from Dorothy’s room- If we assume so.
“Maybe’s she’s feeling unwell?”
I think back on what the person from the Swedish medical something-or-the-other said to me over the phone. If my ears were working correct, it was certainly something about a tumor. Even someone uneducated like I am know that tumor isn’t something you can just laugh through.
With that thought, I head to Dorothy’s room with a rather foreboding mind.
“Ahhh, yes, Onee-sama…!”
Shining through the gap on her door to my eyes,
Lies Dorothy with her white blouse torn half-open and her breasts exposed, posed in an erotic stance, teasing her nipples and crotch with her fingers.
Moan of lewd whispers could be heard from her half-clenched mouth.
Oh my lord.
My legs lose what strength they have left at this unexpected event before me. It’s an awkward situation that I just can’t make heads or tails out of.
‘I like it there, Onee-sama… Maria-onee-sama…!”
And she’s keeping calling out Maria’s name, smiling.
Just what the hell’s going on here?
The information is sufficient enough, for sure. But I just don’t know how to process all of this inside my head.
It really is a needlessly awkward situation.
Could I just pretend that I haven’t seen anything and just live the rest of my life normally? No, sitting here thinking about all this is one thing, but exactly why aren’t I running away?
Ahhh, I don’t know what to do.
What do you want me to do!?
Maybe this is a trial.
It’s really driving me crazy. Really. What could possibly be the right thing to do at a time like this? What do I need to do to get through this correctly and live like nothing happened?
Like a wave of fire blazing along, my train of thought races through my brain racking for an idea.
Not like I expected my brain to suddenly throw me a perfect idea to do at times like this, but it was still something.
While I was buy busy still trailing my train of stupid thoughts, I accidently, and I really mean accidently, push back the door just by a smidgen of a millimeter with my elbow.
Spitting out my exclamation of absolute horror, I know what is to come.
Maybe this is the time when I start preparing my will for the future generations.
I really wonder why the pause of time Dorothy takes to notice the door widening and my presence has to feel so long, geez.
I felt like if there was a hole somewhere, I’d surely have stuck my head inside and never come out until the end of time.
Of course, it’s impossible for such convenient hole to be there, and if the door opens likes this, then I have to face Dorothy in the eyes, on the spot.
Just how will I manage through this awkwardness and uncomfortableness?
Every second, and every minutes are stretched out helplessly, like a strand of cheese being spread apart on Italian pizza.
◇ ◆ ◇
When the plaster-stiffened arrows on the clock started to tick yet once more,
Our gazes meet in midair, and weave together to form a tangled wad of ribbons.
Perhaps it was because the situation was too unexpected for her, but Dorothy did nothing but stay still on the spot, frozen with confusion. Likewise, the same could be applied to what I was doing.
“Ah, no, t-this is!”
Like an excuse would do any good now.
Everything’s in shambles now. Ohhhh Buddha. Please take pity on me to save my life somehow. I don’t care if you have to give me a lecture about how Buddhism isn’t about salvation, just whatever it takes for me to get out of this mess.
Well, actually in that case, maybe it would have been better to have prayed to God instead.
Whatever comes, comes.
I’m dead meat anyway. I could pray to every god in existence but it won’t change the predetermined karma fate has set in store for me.
It really is horrifying to watch Dorothy put her clothes back on, straighten herself, and approach my way. I don’t think I ever saw her like this.
I feel like wetting my pants right now.
I can feel her killing aura, similar to raging waves crashing against a lone cliff in a storm, blowing my way.
How much time had passed, I don’t know. I feel like if I opened my eyes even for a moment right now, I’d see angels draped in white with horns play fanfare around me.
Shouting something like ‘Welcome to the heaven!” or something to that effect.
Ahhh, it’s a future I don’t want to imagine.
Think about the hundreds of possibilities of miserable future that I can choose from, I forcefully move my tongue to spit out a pitiful excuse as an explanation.
“Ahah!? So the guy Dorothy happens to like has the name Maria, it kinda sounds like a girl’s name!? Ahah, ahahaha, hahaha… ha.”
Just look at how pathetic I look, expecting an excuse as corny as this to possibly work at a time like this.
She’s hiccupping all of a sudden. To be more specific, she’s letting something out inside here using her hiccups as a starting point.
“Hic… Hic! Huaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah-!!”
Ahhh, Romeo. Just what kind of explanation do you have towards this sudden reaction here?
Maybe a straightforward punch-out would have been better, Juliet.
“No, hey, Do-Dorothy…?”
“Hua, huaaaaaaaaah-! You’re, hic! You’re the b-bad… Hic! Bad one here! From start… Hic! Hic! Huaaaaaaaaah-!”
She’s obviously half-crying, half-confessing to something here, but the problem is that I just can’t understand what she’s trying to say.
This really isn’t good for me.
What should I even do with Dorothy here, crying away like a child in front of me?
If there was anything I could do to begin with, anyway.
It’s not like I can just turn blind eye to this and retreat back to my room.
At that time, the best idea that came to my head was bow down in front of Dorothy and beg until my head was cracked to pieces.
“Sorry! It’s all my fault! Everything is my fault! Sorry I was even born in to this world!”
Like a servant begging his king to spare his life, I beg away pitifully and humbly, again and again.
Maybe she’s calmed down a bit. She’s still sniffling, but she’s stopped her crying outburst and beginning to say something.
*Sniffle sniffle* Tear-sodden Dorothy struggles to speak coherently, and continues on her sentence.
“What? What is it? Just go ahead and tell me!”
“Now that I’ve been seen like this, I can’t remain by Onee-sama’s side anymore!”
“I’ll kill myself and take you along with me, if it’s come to this!”
And then, Dorothy takes a sharply edged fountain pen and proceeds to swing it my way!
She was being serious about it?!
“S-someone help me!”
With the sound of gale grazing my ear, the sound of wind sounds deathly chill. This feeling of fear and pressure combining together everywhere in my body… I really don’t like it.
“Die! Someone like you is better off dead!”
“So-sorry! I really didn’t mean to do it! To explain, I-“
I should’ve just stayed back there and kept on getting destroyed by Lily. 100 to 3 if it needed to be.
If I think about it, all this happened just because I wanted some meaningless sense of victory to myself.
Ahh, somebody please save me.
While I was busy thinking about those things, Dorothy, who was waiting for a moment of opportunity, throws the pen right at my direction.
Leaving a thin gash on my chin, the pen travels on leaves behind a hole on the wall behind me.
“Why… Won’t you just die!”
Take that stupid persistence to someone that actually wants to die!
Dorothy approaches my way, held within her a whirl rage and killing intent.
I stumble clumsily backward, until the wall behind me closes in and stops my escape.
Back to the wall.
So I really am going to die now.
I automatically flinch and close my eyes watching Dorothy jerk her hand back and prepare to swing it my way like a golf club. FuXX, getting hit by that is going to cost at least two ribs by default, with organ damage as a bonus option to boot, with plenty left to spare.
The impact that follows is nothing more than a tap to my chest, nothing more than a gentle touch.
Confused, I cautiously open my eyes.
And there was Dorothy with her arm helplessly stretched and her head bowed down.
Dorothy continues on once more, fighting back her tears.
“Why are you trying to take Onee-sama away from me.”
“All I want is just to remain by Onee-sama’s side, and even that isn’t allowed for me?”
I hastily try to come up with a reply, but Dorothy swiftly cuts down on the rest of my sentence.
‘I don’t want to hear anything from you!”
Her emotions aren’t just in a normal level of agitation.
I expect anything I could say to her would sound twisted to her ears right now, I imagine.
My conclusion is that I should forget about my side of the story for now and retreat.
The situation I’m in is one with no escape, an absolute checkmate.
“W-well for now, let’s just calm down a bit, alright?”
“I don’t even want to you look at your face, so just beat it!
I don’t think I ever saw her this angry.
“Er, er…. Right. I’ll return to my room for now then, alright? Calm down a bit, and we can talk this through tomorrow, okay?
“If you have time to babble in front of me then get out of my sight!”
“O-okay! I got it! I’ll be off now!”
I walk backward to get out of Dorothy’s sight, and breathe down a sigh of relief out of her earshot to calm my nerves.
I really could have been killed back there.
On that token, I should be just thankful that I got out of there still breathing.
…Was what I was thinking.
That was the train of stupid thought that was circulating inside my head.
Back then, I never would have thought in my dreams that this would turn to one of the top 3 worst mistakes in my life.
◇ ◆ ◇
“I can’t find Dorothy anywhere.”
That was Maria’s first word on the next day morning.
I was crying.
Like always, I was crying.
I can’t recall what I was crying for. Maybe I was scolded by one of the caretakers in the mansion, I accidently broke one of my toys that I treasured, or perhaps I lost my precious doll that I always kept close by me.
“Please don’t cry, Dorothy.”
If it ever happened, I always had my older sister by my side.
Back then she was only a little girl stuck somewhere in childhood, but even back then her eyes seemed to carry this enigmatic power that froze anybody she happened to looked at.
“There, there, you’re a good girl, right? Your sister will always be by Dorothy’s side.”
Just a word from my sister would stop my tears in an instant.
My wounds would stop hurting, people that disliked me would change their mind, and everything miserable would melt away like snow into nothingness.
My older sister could do anything.
Someone as amazing as her was always smiling by my side.
Someone that treasured me more than anyone else would.
These simple facts, to a younger me, would make me so happy, that it brought tears to my eyes—
Snapping back to reality, the cold embrace of the busy Braşov streets comes into my view. I’m sitting on a bench. I think I fell asleep when I decided to sit down for a while to rest a bit.
I get up hastily and made my mind to move somewhere else that was less crowded, away from everyone else’s attention.
With no particular aim set in mind, I wander through the streets, taking a glance at the shops by the side through the windows.
Why does the boundary between inside the shop and the outside world feel so solid? Why do those cheap trinkets inside the window, that’s probably worth nothing more than a few coins, feel so distant from me?
I mutter such words helplessly.
I want to go back.
To where my sister is. To the mansion where delicious meal, comfortable bed and relaxing sofa awaited me.
But it’s too much for me to ask now.
There is not the place where I should be at.
Though I was unaware, a drop of water slips down.
It’s not a teardrop.
The drops of water that fell on my head quickly turns into a torrential rainfall to batter down the ground. It’s a rain shower.
People on the streets scramble in panic to find cover under the street banners, and for some lucky few, they open up their umbrella.
Only I’m left standing alone in the rain, separated from everyone, as I gaze hollowly into the void around me.
But there’s nowhere for me to go.
A wave of sorrow suddenly hits me. I feel like breaking down in tears where I’m standing and give up on everything there is in my life.
Even though I’m this much deep in anguish and trouble. Even though I’m screaming out for someone to look after me.
Why won’t anyone stay by me?
Why won’t you look after me like you used to before?
—Just when I was thinking such things.
A shadow descends on top of my head, and the platter of rain battering on my head cease.
I’m not sure what gave me such confidence that it was her.
I thought that there was no one else that would be caring enough towards me to do such a thing.
With that hope in mind, like a traveler dying of thirst in a desert spotting an oasis, I raised my head to…
◇ ◆ ◇
“Onii-sama, just what kind of talk did you have with Dorothy the last time you saw her?”
Perhaps it was only natural? The situation is continuing to take a turn for the worse.
It’s been exactly two days since Dorothy has run away.
Maria is beginning to realize the severity of this situation, and she dogs me for an answer with an unfitting persistence.
“W, who knows?”
It’s driving me mad here.
Do I just come out with it or not?
If I did and Dorothy happened to come back, she could just as well be inclined to tear me to pieces when she hears what I’ve told them. It’s possible. Since this much amount of misfortune just seems to be a part of my everyday life.
“Er, well the thing is, that…”
So in the end, I have no choice but to avoid the minefield and try to put things in a nice perspective. Not that I’m sure this is the best thing to do.
“You could say that we had a small quarrel.”
“Quarrel, you say?”
“I don’t think that girl understands the position I have in this house.”
I don’t know if I have enough position in this house to even talk about the issue of having a place or not, but the point I’m making isn’t a wrong one in a sense.
“That’s to say, it felt like there were two suns in the sky.”
An anecdote of critical validity, compared to none in the world.
“I know you’re vaguely aware of it. How Dorothy’s really unhappy with me being here.”
“Then, does Onii-sama not feel the same way about Dorothy?”
To be honest, I can’t say I’m that fond of someone who tries to make my life a living hell.
“But family is still family.”
I’m not talking about a simple relation. And it certainly isn’t about whether we like each other or not. Going beyond all that, it’s about something that makes family ‘family’, something that can’t be defined nor categorized.
“In that case, Onii-sama…”
“Let’s say that…”
In a slightly wavering tone, Maria speaks:
“Dorothy isn’t Onii-sama’s sister. What would you do then?”
“What are you talking about?”
We’re not related?
Hold up there, you idiot. You and Dorothy look the same like a pair of taiyaki. Except maybe those heterochromatic eyes, but that’s a genetic mutation to begin with, anyway. I wouldn’t say you guys don’t look alike just because your eyes are different.
“You guys are twins. Identical ones at that.”
“That is not what I’m asking. Looking past the relation and responsibilities, Onii-sama, I’m asking what you think of a girl named Dorothy.”
“Why are you asking something like that?”
Are you trying to tell me that this situation is a lot graver than I think it is?
“…You’re getting me worried all of a sudden.”
Watching me say something like that while scratching my head awkwardly, Maria puts on a dry smile and apologizes.
“I am sorry if I had you worried.”
But we’re talking about her one-and-only sister running away from the house. Even for Maria, aren’t they both sisters? Though one’s called older just because of a few second difference.
“But it’s because there was something worrisome on my mind.”
“Yes. For my convenience, I am using the Bendersnatch Information Taskforce to locate the whereabouts of Dorothy, but…”
“I can’t find her.”
With Maria’s words, my already lead-like heart sinks further down my chest.
I can see where Maria is coming with this.
This situation really, really did take a turn for the worse.
◇ ◆ ◇
Me and Maria spent the next day in a state of extreme nervousness, when an unexpected visitor came by with an unexpected punch line the next morning. It’s been exactly three days since Dorothy has run away.
Spewing unnecessary engines noises in front of the mansion is nothing other than a brand-new Lamborghini Aventador.
The handsome man decked in a suit and sunglasses that emerges from the car is none other than Heimlich, who I had run into at the family meeting earlier.
“Well, look who it is! It’s that famous Onii-sama who does nothing but leech off the master of the Blackhazel family like a parasite that he is.”
“Oh? Look at you acting so high and mighty now.”
That smirking face of his remains obnoxious as usual. I can still picture him whining away in front of his sister and Maria like it happened just yesterday.
“What is it that you need, Heimlich?”
Maria, just coming out of the house now to meet our unexpected guest, remarks back coldly to him, as if to say that Heimlich will not be admitted even a step inside the mansion.
“Ahh, it’s nothing too major. I just thought that you should take this opportunity to say hi to your new soon-to-be brother-in-law.”
This guy, I hope he didn’t eat something bad and got himself food poisoning that’s affecting his head or something.
When I was deep in such thoughts looking at Heimlich, I notice that there seems to be a strange leash of sort coiled in his right hand.
“Here, here, hurry up and come out, you damn bitch!”
With a rough tug of his hand, what forcefully emerges in front of us is none other than.
“W, what the h—”
With a lock buckle, the type you’d only use on a pet, locked tightly around her neck connected to a leash, as if she was only an animal being domesticated.
For some reason, I can’t sense any resistance or defiance from her, and she’s doing nothing but stare into empty space, her dispirited eyes mirroring nothing in return.
“W, what’s this guy planning…!”
In just a moment, I’m charging straight at Heimlich with all I have, my minds blanked out by anger and rage.
Stepping in front of me to stop what I’m doing is none other than Maria.
“You, do you now see what that guy’s doing right now…!”
When I was about to raise my voice in response to Maria’s unfathomable actions, I nonchalantly notice Maria’s hands she curled up into a fist.
Blood was dripping down from her hands where her fingernails dug into her palm.
“Keep your composure, Onii-sama.”
“Yeah yeah! When it comes to treating the ladies, I’m a gentleman that has women’s best interest at heart. I’m not some pervert that likes fastening leashes on some bitch that doesn’t want to be in one!”
“You, so you’re saying that Dorothy is wearing that leash because she wants to?”
In response to my burst of anger, Heimlich replies back, adding on his exaggerated shoulder shake.
“Of course! Look, she’s enjoying all this, really.”
Cackling loudly, Heimlich forcibly tugs on the leash.
With that, Dorothy is dragged closer with Heimlich’s weight on the leash, losing her balance and trailing on the ground like an animal.
She’s gasping for breath and claws at her leash in agony.
But Maria doesn’t panic.
Even though she’s gripping so hard that there’s blood trailing from her hands. Even though her only sister is being dragged around like someone less than an animal by that bastard.
She does nothing but maintain her icy stance wrapped in wintery antagonism, and calmly asks for an explanation.
“Remember that depending on Dorothy’s answer, your life can be forfeited in place of a punishment, or that opposite might be in place.”
If I had my ways, I’d want nothing more than to run right to him and beat this bastard’s face to a bloody pulp.
But if that is so, then why am I standing here, biting back my patience?
It’s because we need an answer.
“Answer if you can, Dorothy. What you’re doing right now, is it of your own free will?”
You just need to say one word.
Just say ‘help’.
To beat this bastard until he dies.
“Is that so?”
But what comes back in return is nothing but an unexpected answer.
This girl, what did she just say?
You’re really trying to say this pitiful state you’re in right now is because of your own free will?
The times when you stomped over me like you were the best, the times when you flaunted the Blackhazel name you held so proudly, what happened to the façade you used you have? Where did it go?
“She’s only saying that right now because she’s scared out of her mind! I’ll just beat this bastard until he’s half-dead and free Dorothy right after!”
I can’t stand still anymore.
Shaking my fists in anger, I approach to step forward once. As I do so, Dorothy’s empty eyes that seemed to be set on nothing shakes slightly. Her swollen lips open cautiously.
“… I’m fine, so stop.”
“What are you talking about!?”
The words her small lips spoke powerlessly, I couldn’t understand right away.
“I’m, master’s dog.”
Heimlich loses himself in laughter.
Maria does nothing but carefully observe the situation, coldly calculating inside her head.
As for me, I fall into a feeling of endless delusion that felt distant from everything like a sunset would.
“I’ll ask you again, Dorothy.”
“This idiot, what are you talking about?”
“…There’s no other way.”
“Hmph, looks like you don’t have the brainpower to even talk properly.”
Taking the time to scoff at me repeating the same thing, Heimlich pulls on the leash again and drags Dorothy back inside the car.
Me and Maria can’t do anything. We couldn’t do anything.
We could only watch.
I stood around and mumbled such things to myself, as I watched Heimlich’s Lamborghini speed away on the road in front of the mansion and disappear through the horizon.
I’m not asking for the ‘reason’ as to why there can’t by any other way.
I’m asking, for someone like you saying such thing, why you are—
A shadow appears over my head and the pouring rain ceases to fall down.
“It looks as though you’re lost, little miss abandoned kitten?”
With that, an odd woman with red hair comes into view, staring down at me.
It’s not Onee-sama.
What flashes though Dorothy’s face is only a self-mocking despair, along with the explicable sadness she had towards reality.
“Why, aren’t you my Onee-sama?”
The red-haired woman laughs at Dorothy’s murmuring which symbolized nothing more than the vain hopes she had.
“Hmm~? That’s because Maria-san isn’t coming.”
“Yes. But speaking of that, wasn’t Dorothy-san a ‘little abandoned kitten’ before?”
How does this woman know my name? Well, now that it’s come to this, I won’t worry about something as trivial as that. I don’t care.
“Little, abandoned kitten?”
“Yes, you’ve been abandoned. It’s probably because Dorothy-san isn’t a Blackhazel or anything. Something like an old toy that’s grown boring to play with; wouldn’t it make more sense to throw something like that away?”
“I’m not a toy! I’m Maria-onee-sama’s little sister, Dorothy Ivalice-“
Cackle cackle. In response to Dorothy’s almost pitiful response, the red-haired woman laughs in amusement.
“Don’t delude yourself. Dorothy-san is not a Blackhazel.”
“Maybe Maria-san calls you a Blackhazel for the sake of this game of house she’s playing; surely I don’t think Maria-san remotely considered you a ‘real Blackhazel’?”
No, Onee-sama is different!
The red-haired woman cuts across Dorothy’s rebuttal and continues on her lecture.
“As proof, did Maria-san ever bring you along for any of the family meetings she attended? She even let that ‘half-blood’ come along with her!”
Dorothy’s desperate cry scatters to pieces in her throat.
Stifling sense overwhelms her.
An illusion of falling into a trench of despair, deeper and darker than anything else in the world.
The red-haired woman’s words become a sharp blade to dig into Dorothy’s chest.
I could be called Blackhazel all I want, but I can never become one in the end. I’m only a fake, a ready-made at best; it’s because I’m only tool to be used.
The last spark of hope she had inside her heart disappears into nothing.
“But, there is still one way.”
Atop the extinguished spark comes the glowing ember of temptation. That which feeds on despair and blazes with intensity.
“Yes, there is one way for Dorothy-san to become a ‘real Blackhazel’, that one way…♡ “
◇ ◆ ◇
“Most likely, there was a trade of seeds.”
Maria starts the conversation with an unexpected beginning, in the Blackhazel mansion living room.
Looking up in response to Maria’s unexpected choice of words, I stare at her. As expected of her, Maria has already figured out what’s been going on?
“It’s because that child doesn’t think of this place as somewhere she should be at.”
My heart sinks.
“Somewhere… she should be at.”
Why didn’t I realize something obvious like that way before?
Dorothy herself had her own share of pain. The pain she felt when the place she thought she was entitled to was taken from her by my sudden appearance.
The place she should be at.
Her only respite.
「All I want is just to remain by Onee-sama’s side.」
It’s because I took that away from her.
“It’s my fault.”
I was too carefree.
“I made her like that.”
I was stupid.
“Don’t beat yourself up. Grieving like that will accomplish nothing but falling right into their hands.”
“Into their hands…?”
“You must maintain your true self, Onii-sama. This is, ultimately, only a trap to shake us, using Dorothy’s weakness as bait.”
She knew everything.
Her twin-colored gaze had already figured out their dark schemes and their shallow tricks, right from the beginning.
“Then why can’t we go rescue Dorothy right now?”
But, that’s exactly why I can’t understand her.
“Whatever the truth dictates, the situation is that this is packaged as what Dorothy did of her free will, even if it’s only a formality.”
“Unless we have a reason to convince the rest of the Blackhazel family with, we cannot interfere with her choice here.”
“Reason, you say…?”
Mutely continuing on her sentence, I don’t even have the effort and energy to contradict Maria’s calm pokerface.
“I am the master of the Blackhazel family. No matter how much I despise the rest of the Blackhazel, I cannot openly go against my own family and single them out as my enemies.”
“You can’t go against them?”
Those bastards treated her only little sister like some farm animal, much less as a human being, and still she can’t ‘go against them?’?
Just because they’re part of the family?
“In that case, then are you trying to say that bringing me here was also because ‘the family’ wanted you to?”
“In their position, no matter how unreasonable I try to be, they have no choice but to follow though my decision as the family master. It’s because that’s the unanimous agreement the master and the members have agreed on.
You, what kind of gibberish are you talking about now?
“Then, if you try to be unreasonable again and bring Dorothy back, then they’ll have no choice but to follow through with your decision!”
“That is impossible. I have already exceed the limit of unreasonable I could act as the master of Blackhazel.”
‘What are you talking about?”
“If I try to force my will onto them anymore, then the hierarchy of family we have established will crumble away.”
Hierarchy of family.
At that point, I realized the point of what this philosophical and complicated story was about.
They could hate and disapprove on each other all they wanted, but they couldn’t go against the basic shell of hierarchy that was laid out onto them.
Maria loathes her family members, but she doesn’t deny the fact they’re still a part of the family.
As it is with the members; they don’t like the fact that Maria is the family master, but they have no choice but to comply with her orders as long as she’s the master.
That is the reason: no, the source of power, as to how the Blackhazel family maintains its structure amidst the blood-stained conflicts and oppositions that whirls around them.
“And that child was more or less, kicked out from this mansion because of you, Onii-sama.”
“The truth can be whatever it wants it to be, but that was what that child was thinking before.”
So Maria knew about what happened before.
Not only that, she was unknowingly aware of the problems Dorothy started to have because of my place here in the mansion.
“It’s because of me.”
“Yes. But as the same time, all this happened because of that child’s choice.”
“Whether that choice is a meaningless misfortune she called upon herself as sacrifice or not – Even then, I still respect the choices she has made for herself.”
You say you respect her choice.
“Let me ask you one more thing.”
“In other words, you’re saying that you won’t save Dorothy?”
“I am merely approaching this problem as logically as I can possibly be.”
“How can you even decide on something heartless like that?”
That girl’s your only little sister you have.
She only longs to stay be your side, as she has until now, and until the end of time; that’s the type of poor, delicate girl she is.
How can you ever snip away someone like her?
In response to my question, the《Princess of Pure Darkness》emotionlessly replies back, colder and more merciless than she have ever sounded:
“That is – the way of the Blackhazel.”