After thoroughly writing down the events that took place in her life for that day, Hino Kahoko switched the lights off and crawled towards her bed. Heaving a sigh, she closed her eyes and slowly nodded off. As hours passed by, she curled herself, turned side-to-side, placed her pillow atop her head... and later, she sat up abruptly, sweat trickling off from her forehead.
She had this very bad dream. OK. Maybe it was not right to take her night vision as a "dream"; it was better to refer to it as a "nightmare", her most dreaded illusion.
In her dream, her father and mother sold her to the Tsukimori couple, who happily handed her parents a briefcase with cash worth eighty million yen. The reason?
Apparently, Kahoko's older sister had spent a little too much (well, so much) of their family savings, and her brother was not helping at all by not having a job that time. In her dream, her parents couldn't afford to send her to Seiso any longer, and had to resort to putting her up for adoption (sale).
Finally, in Kahoko's dream, Hamai Misa loved to be her adoptive mother. It appeared that Misa had grown to like the lass after hearing so much about her and hearing her music.
Then there was her Tsukimori-kun ('No, Kaho, do not call him yours!' she reprimanded herself) who glared at her with high intensity saying things like 'You're an idiot' and 'I can't believe I have an idiot as a sister.'
Kahoko hopped off her bed and realized that something was wrong; she simply could not point out which it was. Since it was dark, she slowly found her way to the door and exited her room.
The redheaded girl rapidly blinked when she registered that the hallway across her room was darker than she thought—usually, the lights by the end of the hall was on for evening escapade purposes (which screamed midnight snacks... and more snacks). With bare feet and tips of the fingers touching the adjacent wall, Kahoko walked to the left where her brother's room was. The redhead always went to her brother whenever she had a bad dream and slept beside him, even as a teen. There was one time when he promised to protect her (but that was when she was a mere child. She thought that it had been years since she last asked of her brother to comfort her and guard her as she slept).
When she opened the door, her eyes settled on the bed where the sole occupant had his back turned to her. She walked to him slowly and shook him.
"Aniki, I had a nightmare!" she whispered, but it was loud enough to stir her brother awake.
Her brother took her by surprise when he turned, because he was not her brother but her brother! Her brother who was not her brother but was her brother! Her brother who was not a Hino but a TSUKIMORI!
Tsukimori Len glared at the redhead who shook him awake. If there was something Kahoko could have wished, it would be having the earth open up and swallow her alive along with her immense embarrassment.
So the nightmare was not merely a vision you see in dreams. It was true.
A little less than twenty-four hours ago, Hino Kahoko found herself practically sold to one of the wealthiest families in the Yokohama prefecture—to the Tsukimori family. It was not just any other family.
It was Tsukimori Len's family.
It was the family of the person who holds her heart.
And now, they were practically family.
"It had not been twenty-four hours that we have been siblings, and you're already calling me Oniichan," grumbled Len while propping himself up through his forearms. "What do you want, Hino?"
Kahoko blushed. "I-I'm sorry, Tsuki... Len—I—you—Len-oniichan!"
Len cocked an eyebrow. "What?" he hissed.
Again, the redhead blushed. She kneeled on the floor beside Len's bed and placed her closed fists on her lap. Looking down, she said, "I—Since you're my brother now, don't leave me!'
"What?" repeated Len.
"I-I had a nightmare, Len-oniichan"—Len's eyes twitched at that reference—"and I... well... can I sleep... with you...?"
Kahoko's eyes glimmered with hope when Len seemed to consider it. However, Len's glare toward her smashed the hope in her eyes into smithereens.
"You had a nightmare?" he asked. He slowly sat up straighter on his bed and stared at Kahoko. "How about this? I also had a nightmare—would you believe that?"
Kahoko's face crumpled at the vile tone in Len's voice. He was... trying to be sarcastic. Not that he was not before! But within the one year he had been away... she knew there were a lot of changes within him. He spoke too much.
"In my nightmare," continued Len, eyes narrowing on her, "I had to play five different complicated pieces within five minutes and five seconds in the fastest pace of prestissimo, maybe faster. In addition, I should have these pieces played impromptu. But Hino—do you know what the difference between our nightmare is?"
Kahoko shook her head no, almost whimpering. "N-No?"
Len's eyes narrowed. "In my nightmare, when I woke up, it didn't end."
As though to prove his point, his glare on Kahoko turned sharper.
"I..." started Kahoko, a sheepish smile on her lips, "I take it as... a no, then?"
Len cocked an eyebrow.
SCREW THIS LIFE OF MINE! thought Kahoko as she scampered away from Len's bedroom.
Her new brother's bedroom.
That was the moment when she realized she was living in her own nightmare.
Author's Notes: It's been years. Hi. I'm supposed to rewrite The Isle (and am currently rewriting, actually, but I'm taking it slow), but I came to this old file and I realized that I had so many ideas flooding me back then that they were incontrollable. This is one of those ideas. It had been published back in 2010 I think, and I took it down because I couldn't, for the life of me, continue writing. But I will try my best this time. Seriously. Throw rotten tomatoes to my direction once I start failing.
Words in ITALICS are parts of Hino Kahoko's diary entry.
i. Today, I called Tsukimori-kun 'Len-oniichan'.
Monday, 09:45 PM
Dear Franz Schubert,
I could say that today had been very weird. Really. The day started bad. I woke up at two in the morning with a nightmare and accidentally went to—aargh, I don't even want to remember this!—Len-oniichan (I decided to call him that) who practically shoved me away with a newfound mouth. HE HAD A MOUTH THAT ACTUALLY SPEAKS WORDS MORE THAN TEN.
Can you believe that?
Anyway, life goes on with me. Being a Tsukimori is a bit... nice, I guess. Not that I like being part of the Tsukimori family (I would have loved to, really, but there is this thing...), but it was good being Tsuki—oh, scratch that—Len-oniichan's sister.
Can you believe this?
The whole school eventually found out about this... this... this screwed-up fate of mine! Asdfjkl. This day is weird yet good all the same.
Let us start with what has happened to me earlier morning. I met someone who completely, utterly, astounded me.
(He's taken, though, damn it.)
Sitting on one of the seats in the dining room, I shyly looked around my new family. The seat on the far end of the dining table was empty—my new father left earlier morning for a flight to Australia—and on the right side of the head of my new family (who was supposedly present) sat my new mother, Misa-okaasan.
Beside Okaasan (—or shall I refer to her as 'Okaasama'? What do you think, Franz Schubert?—) was Kei-oniichan, my new cousin (he was actually Tsu—Len-oniichan's older cousin who attended university in a nearby school. Then, across Okaasan (—I guess I'd like Okaasan more—) was Len-oniichan who I sat beside with.
Okaasan looked surprisingly bubbly today.
"Kaho-chan, I hope you'd like our breakfast for today," she said as she leaned across the table to pat my hands. I noticed how her short (but now quite longer) blue hair bounced when she did so.
As humbly as I could, I smiled. "Of course, I'd love anything you'd place in front of me. I would be more than glad." Okaasan.
Kei-oniichan snickered. "Even if what is placed in front of you is a disgustingly roasted rodent?" he challenged. Crossing his arms before his broad chest he added, "Or even a charcoaled, inedible-looking croissant?"
Kei-oniichan sported a bored-looking pair of golden eyes and midnight black hair. He looked to be a few inches taller than Tsukimori-kun—I mean, Len-oniichan—which made him look a little too intimidating.
He strangely reminded me of Yunoki-senpai.
"Some people eat rodents," snapped Len-oniichan. I looked at him then back to Kei-oniichan then back. "Kazuma Azuma was able to pull off a nice trick with his burnt croissant."
Kazuma Azuma was this really famous baker who managed to create a set of so-called Ja-Pan. I was able to taste one of his breads one time, and heavens, it tasted so good (but cost too much, sadly).
"Not to mention that our resident baker here in the manor was Kazuma Azuma himself," Misa-okaasan chimed in. However, after stating the sentence, Misa-okaasan's face fell.
Oh, I was supposed to say, "REALLY? THE Kazuma Azuma? I have seen him on TV and I think his bread is astoundingly delicious!" However, Misa-okaasan had to add something up.
"He left, though, two days before we were able to bu—adopt you."
I was so sure she was about to say the tabooed word, "BUY". (Insert my face crumpling here).
"Maybe he was able to sense that an idiot will come," interrupted Kei-oniichan. In every moment he spoke, I started liking him less and less. His eyes would shimmer in my direction as though challenging me—or even testing me—into some kind of "let's-see-if-you-can-retort-back-or-something" kind of thing.
Len-ku—Len-oniichan glowered at him but did not speak. I wanted to retort—I wanted to throw it to Kei-oniichan's face that I was not some wimpy girl or anyone else. I was being me. And for Kami-sama's sake, I was not an idiot!
...even though Len-oniichan calls me that.
...but I did not speak.
"Kei-kun, don't try using your medic-tactics on Kaho-chan," said Misa-okaasan. She turned to me and grinned. "I'm sorry about Kei-kun's attitude, Kaho-chan. He simply finds you as an interesting..."—she paused to search the right words—"subject for his hobby."
Misa-okaasan had me confused there. What "medic-tactics" was she talking about? And then I realized that Kei-oniichan was a—
Kei-oniichan let out a chuckle to which Len-oniichan rolled his eyes at. He looked at me and sheepishly winked. "I'm a psychologist-slash-counsellor, Kaho-chan," he said.
"Y-You are?" I questioned. "All this time you were—"
"He was not playing with you," came Len-oniichan's voice. I stared at him, curious. "He was just being his usual self."
My new cousin faked pain in his face. "Are you implying, my dearest Len-chan"—Len-oniichan visibly winced—"that I am a naughtynaughty boy? Hmmm... I was just helping Kahoko-chan here out of familial trauma."
"Familial trauma?" I asked.
BECAUSE HELL. WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS... THIS NEW COUSIN OF MINE TALKING ABOUT? What is a familial trauma?
"I—"started Kei-oniichan but was sooner cut off in midsentence.
"I apologize for disturbing your morning chat, but here is your breakfast for today." It was a slow, yet perfect English coming from a low and composed voice.
I looked over my shoulder, and my jaw practically fell on the solid ground. Right before my eyes was the well-known, famous, popular actor from the comedic romance on TV, Kaichou wa Maid-sama.
The USUI TAKUMI!
As though answering my confusion, Usui Takumi winked slyly himself while Len-oniichan closed his eyes and sighed beside me.
Usui-san said, "I was invited by the famed Hamai Misa-san here to cook for you since I heard your baker, the equally famous Kazuma Azuma, was needed back in Pantasia. Isn't that right, Kei-san and Len-san?"
Kei-oniichan waved and Len-oniichan grunted. I remained still, struck by that TV star in front of me.
"Oh, and you must be Kahoko-san, the new member of the Tsukimori family," said Usui Takumi. "It's a pleasure to have to meet you."
I did not even realize it when someone laid down my breakfast across me, or when Usui Takumi left mumbling something like "Misa-chan will kill me for being late" or something.
OK. I realized and had been conscious enough to notice everything but I was too... too stunned to speak. All of those happened within thirty minutes and I learned so many things I never knew about Len-oniichan's life before. Craaaap.
Anyway, it seemed the whole school did not also expect to see Len-oniichan coming back, just as I did not. It has been a year, after all, since he had left. It was amusing how they started gaping when we arrived—together—and started whispering and pointing and bleh.
"Look who's back."
I grinned as Len-oniichan and I walked toward our group of friends. It was funny how we all seemed still connected with each other even though only a musical competition had brought us together.
At first, I was given the impression that this friendship formed within every one of us would be obliterated soon. However, the complete opposite took place.
Len-oniichan glared at Tsuchiura-kun who had just spoken. "I can't believe that a pea-brained idiot was able to head to senior year."
Yup. We were still stuck together.
"And I can't believe that a stiff, rugged, and edgy stick even has the brain and wings of a cockroach to fly back. How amusing." Tsuchiura-kun glared back.
"Oii, oii," I said, getting in between the two. "Stop while the fire isn't—"
"I see... If it isn't the Tsukimori Len," interrupted the forever nosy Amou-san. "Tsuchiura-kun over here is just welcoming you, Tsukimori-kun. His way of greeting, let's say."
"Welcome... back... senpai..." mumbled a sleepy Shimizu-kun, who was already staggering from drowsiness. I gasped when he seemed to fall forward but was able to bring himself back straight.
I sweat-dropped. "Are you all right, Shimizu-kun?"
My kouhai nodded his head slowly and fell asleep while standing. Fuyuumi-chan, who stood beside Shimizu-kun, walked up and bowed in front of Len-oniichan.
"W-Welcome back, Tsu-Tsukimori-senpai!" she greeted.
It was like something sparked in me. Franz Schubert, do you know that feeling when there was something that was apparently happening but you actually forgot about it? Because when Fuyuumi-chan said her simple greeting with her stuttered "Tsukimori-senpai" in the end, I remembered.
I'm a Tsukimori now.
And I could not help it by then but feel... so alone, wondering how everyone would react when they find out.
I snapped my head up and looked as our History teacher glared down at me. I blinked as I thought the once three strands of hair atop his balding head had been reduced to only one strand that was threatening to fly off.
"Y-Yes, sensei?" I asked, straightening up. My gaze was stuck to the lone strand of hair that seemed to nearly fall off.
"Let me repeat my question," Balding-sensei said. My eyes snapped back into his glaring stare and I gulped. "Who was the first Japanese writer to ever receive the Nobel Prize for literature and in what year?"
Something light and frail hit my back, and I looked beside me. I looked back to Balding-sensei to find that he was staring at me intensely and not to anybody else so I looked back to my expectant friend, Mio. She was grinning and pointing her book that was held out open for me to read.
I smiled in relief. Only that my smile was short-lived.
I know that Mio only wanted to help me. But by the Kami-sama above! The book WAS UPSIDE-DOWN!
"Oh, uh... In 1698—oh, 1968, sorry," I stuttered, and the class began to laugh. So embarrassing. I tilt my head sideways and tried to read—of course, without Balding-sensei knowing, because he was too focused on my facial expression. "Ta—Ba—Wa—Ka... Tabawaka! That's it."
I did not know why the class almost suffocated from laughing their hearts off. Had I said something awfully wrong?
"Ri—Na—Su—Ya. Tabawaka Rinasuya. Yeah. Uh," I saw Mio and Nao (who was sitting on the far corner) staring at me as if I was some sort of an alien. Anyway, I continued by saying, "In 1698—oh, 1968—sorry—Tabawaka Rinasuya was the first Japanese writer to—"
"Enough." The words were spoken in such a way that you could feel the speaker's anger burning into your skin, and when I looked up at Balding-sensei, the only strand of hair left on his head had completely come off.
Anger worked wonders, I realized.
In the end, I wondered why the class kept laughing their heads off. Because really, I had no idea as to why.
Then I found out WHY. I am so, so, so embarrassed. No wonder the name didn't make sense! The first Japanese writer to receive the Nobel Prize for literature was named Kawabata Yasunari. In short, I read the whole Japanese characters backwards.
I'm a disgrace to the Tsukimori name. But the whole school didn't know about me being a Tsukimori, then, until...
"Tsukimori Kahoko, you are expected in the Principal's office now." Everyone looked up to the PA system. "Let me repeat. Tsukimori Kahoko, you are expected in the Principal's office now. Thank you."
The class all stared down at me. I felt myself sink.
Tsuchiura-kun (—he's my classmate this senior year now—), who was sitting behind me, placed a hand on top of my head and asked rather cheerily-slash-confusedly, "Tsukimori?"
I actually do not know which was worse. I cannot seem to weigh these two things properly. Which is worse? Me finding myself being transferred to the Music Division or—
"Misa-sama has already informed the board about your... uhh... change of name, apparently," said the old principal from behind his huge desk. He was smiling at me kindly as his fingers interlocked with each other in front of him.
"I see," I said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. The principal already knew! "I guess it's just... proper, I guess, to have you informed about this, kouchou."
"Hm," he grunted. His beetle-like eyes settled to look on my face. "The staffs were stunned about the news, honestly. But that's not why you are being called here in my office now."
I pursed my lips and looked down on my lap. "W-What is it that you need, kouchou?'
The principal shook his head. "I do not really need you, no. I would have preferred it if Kira-riji be the one to tell you this but he isn't available now so... Misa-san and her husband want you to be transferred to the Music Division."
"What?" I hissed. Tightly, I gripped the side of the chair I sat on in front of the principal. "Me? In the Music Division? Why?"
The principal shrugged. "But don't worry, Tsukimori Len-kun will be in your class. I'll have him informed."
"I-I can't—it's—" I stammered, still unable to fully comprehend what the principal was talking about.
(You see, Franz Schubert, it is not so easy to be me. Being me means having to be "fitted for the expectations of the Tsukimori family" and perhaps attending some banquets or perhaps being so classy and all. Oh, and part of being a young Tsukimori—I so HONESTLY think—is being an ice princess, just as Tsuki—Len-oniichan, I mean, who is the Ice Cube. Do you understand my point?
Of course, you don't. The thing is... my life is not easy now that I am part of the Tsukimori household. You see that? I am expected to be a classy and prodigious MUSIC DIVISION STUDENT!)
The principal sighed. "You'll be in the Music Division starting tomorrow. You may go now."
And I could not help but gape.
—or me being thought of as Len-oniichan's wife?
It during lunch when it happened. I was successful in avoiding both Mio and Nao (because hell, they were so bent on questioning me about my new name) but never Amou-san. She was following me everywhere I went, asking me why I became a Tsukimori. I could not even hide from her!
Her question was not "how I became a Tsukimori", apparently. It was downright "WHY".
"Come on, Kaho-channnn! Spill!" she nagged, still running after me. I headed toward the cafeteria and looked back at her.
"Please Amou-san, not now!" I pleaded. I did not want to deal with it by then. I just wanted to sulk in one corner because by tomorrow, I would be away from the usual General Education building and division, from my black uniform that I grew to love, and from my classmates who were damn idiots like... well, like me.
I could feel Amou-san rolling her eyes. "Oh, come o—"
I felt her grasp my wrist and pull me toward her (backward) before I could turn a corner. She placed a hand on my mouth and leaned on the wall in the hallway—just the same way Len-oniichan had done before when he was hiding from her.
"Ohhh... Tsukimori Kahoko, huh?" said a gruff and unfamiliar voice.
Amou-san let go of my mouth and we both peeked from behind the wall toward a group of Music Division students. In the center stood Len-onii—
...somehow, I thought it was wrong to call him oniichan. We are friends. FRIENDS.
He is Len-kun.
And in my heart, he'll never be my brother. He will always be my friend. Yes. That's it.
In the center stood Len-kun. He looked so annoyed while four other guys wearing the Music Division uniform paced around him.
You know, Schubert? I wonder how I would ever survive being a Music Division student with those bossy and bully students mocking me.
"Are you married to her? To that pathetic violinist?" the tallest among the four asked. His companions snickered and I and Amou-san noticed Len-kun's forehead crumpling. "That sucks, dude. That sucks."
It hurt that Len-kun did not even bother save my name.
"It's actually downright hilarious. That girl? That pitiful wannabe?" said another. "That would be a Tsukimori? Such a bad, bad stain in the famed family. She is the black sheep, isn't she, Tsukimori?"
It was silent. My heart was beating so hard I could hear it in my ears... so painfully... so—
"She isn't just a 'that girl'."
He had spoken. The other four who were mocking Len-kun stopped from pacing around him and stared. Amou-san placed a hand on my shoulders and looked at me, confused. I could not answer her. I was too confused myself.
"Don't call her pitiful."
"She wouldn't be a Tsukimori."
My heart thumped too hard against my ribs—it was practically breaking it.
"She is a Tsukimori now, after all."
"Hah!" said the tallest yet again. He looked around his friends and started laughing. "He's still saving the girl! You are so lame and pathetic, Tsukimori!"
I did not know what possessed me but I felt the urge to move forward and speak in a loud and clear voice. That was what I could simply do.
"Don't call him lame!" I cried, earning their attention. Len-kun seemed to grow more annoyed at my appearance. I did not turn to look at him to apologize for the annoyance I sparked in him and instead, I continued, "Don't call him pathetic!"
"Oooh, if it isn't Mrs. Len Tsukimori. How nice of you to be the princess in shining armor." The look on the other four people made me want to squirm in embarrassment. I was so screwed, really.
You know what is funny? What's funny was the way Len-kun calls me.
He calls me "Hino." Somehow, I felt like he still considers me as a friend.
I did not stop. Amou-san had already stepped out and watched.
"If this helps, since you are all so... so... nagging..." I opened my mouth and spoke immediately, since I saw Len-kun was about to cut me off, "I'm Tsuki—I'm Len-kun's sister."
Students stopped by us and watched. The four students making fun of me being a Tsukimori had their eyes widen. It seemed that the whole world stopped from turning around its axis as well. It was so damn silent that if you let a pin fall on the ground, you would hear its tiny click on the ground.
I continued, "And so what if I'm now his sister? Don't mar his name and reputation just because his family adopted me! Somehow, I'm lucky. You? You're—"
"Lame and pathetic. That's what," quipped Len-kun—Tsukimori-kun. He glared at the boys mocking him and turned to me. "Let's go, Hino."
My heart fluttered when he reached out for my wrist and pulled me with him.
I think Tsukimori-kun has never been so proud in his life. Yikes! Anyway. With what had happened earlier... I think Tsukimori-kun is starting to appreciate me as his sister. Even if it hurts me so badly (because I think I like him a little more than I should), it is so refreshing to know.
Nevertheless, one question remains.
Why does he keep on calling me "Hino"?
Proud to be a Tsukimori,
POST SCRIPT: Today, I called Tsukimori-kun 'Len-oniichan'. Don't tell him, but there's something funny about hearing "Len" and "oniichan" together. The truth? It doesn't suit him. At all.
POST POST SCRIPT: Misa-okaasan has shown me my new Music Division uniform. For tomorrow. I have mixed feelings about it.
POST POST POST SCRIPT: Len-kun already knows that I'll be his classmate. He... well... he did not even react. I wonder how he feels about my transfer. Will he help me?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, you are the most beautiful picture I have ever heard.
Disclaimer: I disclaim the following:
La Corda D'Oro (Characters)
Kaichou wa Maid-sama (Usui Takumi)
Yakitate! Japan (Kazuma Azuma)
Alvin and the Chipmunks ("In my nightmare, when I woke up, it didn't end"—Ian)