'Allo! I meant to upload something sooner; I started writing this chapter over winter break, but I didn't bring the file back to school with me, and I didn't want to re-write it.
I'm sorry if this chapter feels a little preachy. I'm not trying to make a point one way or another about abortion; Matsuri and Inori simply have differing views on it. Mine don't make it into the story :3 I thought it would be interesting if they both had very strong, opposing views.
And I'm sorry for anyone who was hoping I'd continue on with Yutaka in this chapter; you're going to have to wait for chapter 14 for that.
Also, the winner of the first chapter's cookie contest is from an Anon review named "taking a guess". The chapter names for chapters 1-9 were songs by BrokeNCYDE. Congratulations! I was starting to think no one would ever answer it XD If someone else already answered it and I missed it, please let me know so I can ship the cookie to the correct computer.
~~The night before last chapter's events~~
The silence at the table was overbearing.
Matsuri boredly drummed her fingers on the kitchen table, observing the second hand on the gem-encrusted watch around her right wrist. Their mother had demanded they all be ready and waiting at the kitchen table when she arrived from work, though it'd been ten minutes since she'd said she would be home in five.
Either way, the brunette sister couldn't help but sneak glances at Tsukasa, who sat diagonally across the table from her, absently-mindedly playing with a soft-bodied, plastic-faced doll. Tsukasa and the doll wore matching pink, small floral-designed dresses that the pregnant girl herself had stitched with love, although her own dress now stretched tightly around her protruding stomach.
She also took glances at her other sisters. Inori, to her left, who was pounding away on her phone, sending frantic texts, probably to their father, who was undoubtedly by this time rushing home from work himself. Kagami, directly across from her, hung her head in thought, purple ponytails drooping over her shoulders as if they shared her current mindset.
As Tsukasa began to braid the doll's plastic black hair, the light from Matsuri's watch caught her eye. "Oh… Mat-chan," Matsuri jumped to attention, caught off-guard, "what a pretty watch!"
"Huh? She raised her eyebrows in confusion for a second before Tsukasa's words made sense. "Oh… thanks."
"Where'd you get that? I don't remember you having one like that… or really being a fan of watches…" Tsukasa trailed off.
The subject was dropped as the sound of hurried footsteps came closer and closer to the house. The door was hastily pulled open and shut, and the thud of shoes hitting the ground clumsily preceded the appearance of the long, royal purple-haired matriarch of the house.
"Oh Tsukasa…" she said in a combination of a pant, a sigh, and exasperation, as she rushed over to hug and examine, then hug and examine again, her youngest daughter. "Oh honey, why didn't you say something?"
"Mom, the results of the test were positive-" Inori started, but was cut off.
"Kagami was right; she didn't need the test." Miki placed a hand over a surprised Tsukasa's stomach. "Sweetie, how did this happen? When did this happen?"
"Um… I dunno? But I started getting morning sickness—I think they call it—a couple of mornings after Minoru got killed."
The thought "boyfriend" instantly popped into Kagami's head when her deceased classmate was brought up again. "Tsukasa, Minoru didn't…"
"Hm? Didn't what?" Her sister looked at her confusedly, waiting for her to finish the sentence.
Kagami took a deep breath in and slowly let it out, biting her lip before asking, "In the van… do you remember what happened? Did Minoru touch you in any way?"
Matsuri was about to open her mouth and say something, but she was silenced with a wave of the hand from Inori and a look from her mother.
"Hm?" She twirled her doll's hair as she thought. "Well, I don't really know… I mean, I don't think the man who wanted help did anything, so maybe. But what does that have to do with my baby?"
"Did you know about it, Tsukasa? Did you know you were pregnant this whole time?" Inori murmured, leaning over the table, fixated on Tsukasa.
"Of course!" Tsukasa said, furrowing her eyebrows lightly, uncharacteristic of her current disposition. "Why do you think I was practicing with all of my dolls?" Her eldest sister placed her face in her palm and groaned. "I want to be a good mommy when my baby comes."
The four others looked at each other without saying a word, but all knowingly thinking the same thing. Looks were enough to convey that none of them were sure what to do about the child.
"Kagami, Tsukasa, will you go play upstairs for a bit?" Miki asked softly. "I'll make your favorite dinner, just please head upstairs."
Both twins shot incredulous looks toward their mother. Tsukasa spoke up quickly. "Awwwh, but I want to be included in what you're talking about! I'm not a kid anymore, mommy!"
Kagami's sentiment was the same in her own case, but she agreed with keeping Tsukasa out of the conversation. However, before she could say anything, her mother interjected. "Girls, I need you to do me this favor, alright?"
"But-" the youngest tried again to protest.
"Well, I guess I could use a nap…" Tsukasa yawned as she got to her feet, her short hair swishing around her face as she stumbled tiredly for balance. Kagami resisted the urge to contend her mother's judgment, and followed Tsukasa out of the room.
Once the younger Hiiragis were out of the conversation, Miki took a seat at the head of the table, and the three remaining women shot each other gazes screaming with concern and worry, hoping to find solace in another's eyes, but finding none.
"I never thought this would happen," Miki spoke first. "One of my girls…"
"There's so much pressure because of the shrine," Matsuri murmured. "No matter how shameful being a young mother is, dad would never have it…"
"Are you saying you're thinking of having the baby aborted?" Inori retorted with a sudden loudness. After being shushed by Miki, she spoke again in a lower tone. "Matsuri, where the hell did all of the guidance-!"
"I know, I know!" her younger sister hissed. "But what's more important, our beliefs, or our sister's well-being-"
"There's nothing good for the 'well-being' of an 18-year-old about murdering her unborn child-!"
"Oh my GOD, think with your HEAD for a second, Inori! Look, I know you think abortion is wrong and all. I got the same upbringing as you did. But we live in a place where an unmarried, pregnant 18-year-old is going to catch her a lot more grief than aborting the baby!"
"I can't believe this," Inori spat bitterly. "I knew you were the black sheep of the family, but this-"
"Inori!" The sharpness of the word from her mother's mouth hit her like a jolt of lightning, and made her blood run cold.
"What, mom, didn't you hear her!"
"I did, thank you very much. But Inori, what's ethical isn't always what's best."
The young woman was speechless. There were several jaw-gaping seconds of silence before she managed to sputter, "W-WHAT! Mom, you would KILL an innocent-"
"My dear, you sound like a broken record," Miki warned before continuing. "Yes, the belief that your father and I tried to instill upon you is that abortion is not good. But unlike your father, who believes that it's completely wrong, I believe that it is a last resort." Apparently, this was news to Inori, whose eyes only got wider and jaw more slacked. "This aside, I will NOT hear either of you discuss it as an option unless we are out of others. Understood?"
For once, Matsuri was the one to agree, and Inori was the one with the spark of mutiny in her eyes. "It's not an-"
The woman chewed her lip in bitter rage.
"What about adoption?" Matsuri posed. "I hate to propose this, but that Christian missionary church has a program that helps girls discreetly through the adoption process. We could keep her hidden until she has the baby, then give it up for adoption."
A bit of pensive silence overtook the table. "It feels kind of wrong to rely on them for support." Inori spoke through twisted lips. "I'm sure there's a better way that doesn't involve going through a different religion. Plus, what about just keeping him or her? Pretending he or she belongs to me?"
Miki stood from the table, and headed over toward the tea kettle. "You're not married though, Inori. Nor is Matsuri, and your father and I are too old for another child."
"Not really," Matsuri argued, "Women are having children into their fifties nowadays. You could just call it a 'miracle child'-"
"I WISH YOU WOULD STOP CALLING MY BABY AN 'IT'!"
A far-away shout drained the blood from the faces of all three women at the table, and a slightly closer gasp was heard as the room got dead silent.
"H-honey, go back upstairs to play with Kagami!" Miki yelled upstairs
"Kagami's not upstairs; she's on the stairs eavesdropping on the conversation! But she shouldn't have to be! And I shouldn't be up here! I should be at the table, talking with you about MY options! You know why? Because I am eighteen! EIGHT! TEEN! And no matter what is going on around here, I always get treated like I'm five, and have no understanding, or say, in what happens!"
There was a momentary pause, while Tsukasa stopped to take a break. Heavy footsteps were heard pounding down the staircase.
"Did you ever think, for a SECOND, 'What does Tsukasa want to do? What's her opinion on what's going to happen to her body and her child?' Not at all! I'm sure it was more like, 'Oh, dumb little Tsukasa can't make such a big choi-' No, don't 'Sissy!' me!" she interrupted herself, presumably in response to Kagami attempting to calm her. She entered the room, Kagami on her heels with fear and worry evident in her body language. 'Tsukasa can't make such a choice because she doesn't know enough! She's not smart enough! She's not in the mental state to-'"
"Sis, it's not like that!" Matsuri was the one who was brave enough to interrupt Tsukasa's rant. "We just have a better understanding on the matter-"
"Look there; that's exactly my point! 'Tsukasa doesn't know enough to be part of such an important decision.' Well someone PLEASE tell me the Intelligence Quota required to have a say in what happens to my own body! Anyone? No?" The room was silent, all eyes dumbfounded at Tsukasa's nuclear-force outburst.
"Tsu-" Miki started as the tea kettle began to whistle under the force of the steaming pressure inside.
"If anyone tells me to sit down, or calm down, I'M. LEAVING!"
"No, seriously, honey, I'm not trying to calm you or silence you. It's bad for you to exert yourself so much while you're pregnant-"
"See, there you go again, mom, telling me what's good and b-"
"You'll cause pregnancy complications," Miki said quietly, turning back toward the stove.
This calmly-spoken reality finally got into Tsukasa's mind, and the girl sighed deeply, before beginning a slow tread back upstairs. "I'm going to go take my nap. Let me know when you've finished planning out the rest of my life."
The room was silent except for the motions of Miki, who removed the cap from the kettle. Steam poured into the air, and she poured the water into a clear teapot.
The long-haired sister looked at her brown-haired elder. Matsuri rested her chin on her folded hands, shifting her glare toward the girl in the doorway.
"Why the hell were you eavesdropping instead of watching Tsukasa?"
"Language," Miki chided. "But yes, Kagami, I sent you upstairs so you could keep your sister from hearing what we were discussing. She shouldn't have been let out of the room."
Kagami's eyes averted the gazes of her family members. "I'm sorry; I messed up. I guess I felt like you were kicking me out because I'm 'too young' too. I just wanted to hear what you guys had to say."
The moment was interrupted by the swift opening of the front door as Tadao burst into the house. "Sorry it took me so long to get home. How is everything? I thought I heard yelling." He looked to his wife for the answer to his question. Miki responded by wordlessly turning her gaze from her husband back to the cups of tea she was preparing. His face dropped slightly, from its already worried look, as he looked at each of his daughters. Inori, looking away as she always did when she was angered. Matsuri, shooting daggers at him with eyes that had been aimed at Kagami. And his aforementioned eldest twin daughter, who looked up at him with defensive, sheepish, and pleading eyes. His youngest was missing.
"Where's Tsukasa?" He asked to break the paper-thin tension in the room.
"Upstairs, napping," Inori replied shortly.
"Was that her I heard yelling?"
"Yeah," Kagami responded this time. "Mom, Inori, and Matsuri were discussing what we should do, and Tsukasa overheard."
"Which she wouldn't have if-"
The entire room jumped as ceramics met metal when Miki brought down a full cup of tea on the stove. This was proven to be a terrible response when the scalding liquid once contained by the cup came splashing down onto Miki's hand. "Ahhh~!" she hissed as the tea burned itself into her porcelain skin. Tadao rushed to the side of his injured wife, brought her to the nearby sink, and stuck her hand under some cold running tap water. He held her tightly as she calmed down, the cool water easing away the throbbing pain.
"I'm sorry, girls," she spoke again once she was calm.
"It's okay, mom," Matsuri said softly. "We know this is all really stressful. We're all stressed. Kagami," she turned to her sister, "I'm sorry for blaming you for Tsukasa overhearing."
"It's alright. I'm sorry for neglecting my duties and eavesdropping."
"I'm sorry for calling you the "black sheep", Matsuri," Inori said. Miki's temper had brought her back to a position facing the rest of her family.
"I think we all owe an apology to Tsukasa," Miki concluded. "She's right. We always think of her as the baby of the family; someone we need to protect and shield from the world. But she deserves the same level of respect and trust as any of my other beautiful daughters. Especially in a situation like this, that has everything to do with her."
"Mom's right," Kagami concluded. "Inori, Matsuri, let's go apologize."
When her three siblings appeared in her room, however, they found their baby sister to be asleep.
"Ahhh, she must've really been tired," Inori murmured, looking nostalgically at the sleeping bundle of Tsukasa.
"Let's come back later," Kagami whispered, starting to usher her sisters out of the room.
"Wait," Matsuri said, "Maybe if we apologize now, while she's asleep, she'll accept it better when she's awake."
"But what if we wake-" Kagami started, before she was cut off with an "are you serious" look from Matsuri.
"She sleeps like a log," Matsuri muttered. "We're not gonna wake her up." With that, she turned to face Tsukasa. "Sis, I'm sorry for always teasing you about being the youngest."
"I'm sorry for making you feel left out of things that you're old enough to be a part of," Inori added. "We just have a hard time seeing our baby sister as a grown up girl, free and intelligent enough to make her own decisions."
"I'm sorry for always treating you like I know more than you do, Su-chan," Kagami whispered. "Being your older twin and all, it's a terrible habit from when we were kids, and I should have outgrown it by now. I never really thought about what kind of effect it had on you-"
Tsukasa began to stir under the covers, and her sisters recoiled. "I told you she'd wake up!" Kagami hissed. Matsuri, nor Inori replied as Kagami chased them out of the room, closing the door behind herself.
Tucked cozily into her bed, Tsukasa could hardly contain her face-splittingly wide smile.
~~A bit later on that night, at the Kusakabe residence~~
Misao woke up just in time to swipe a drop of drool from her mouth before it hit the page of mostly finished homework in front of her. "Damn this rain…" she whined. The rain had always had an extremely relaxing effect on her, and she knew this assignment was not getting done until a full night's sleep occurred.
She turned off her desk light, and dove under the lilac-and-white checkered cover on her bed. As she began to get snuggly…
"…..I have to pee =_=."
She hadn't realized how cold her room was until she had to leave her bed. "The final frontier: The thirty feet from the bed to the bathroom," she muttered as she shuffled out into the hallway.
When she got out of her room, though, she was met with a most unexpected image of her older brother in a tan rain jacket, socks padding down the hallway with a purpose.
"Tsuneo? Where are you going this late at night? What girl wants to see you."
She was met, as usual, with his poker face. "It's not about who wants to see me." He turned and continued toward the front door.
Usually, Misao didn't care enough about her brother's endeavors to delve further into his cryptic messages, but this time she had a hunch that she had a stake in it.
"Don't tell me you're going to see Ayano," she yawned.
He was silent for a split second that let Misao know she was right.
"Y'know she already has a new boyfriend, right? Name's Mihiro. He's a sweet kid. Sort of your polar opposite, y'know, kind, caring, human..."
He'd paused in his tracks. "Cut the shit. I'm listening."
"He's really soft-spoken, but with a silky sort of deep voice," she started, giving him an actual description of what Mihiro was like. "Cute, too; dirty blonde hair and honey brown eyes. He's always doing everything for Ayano. Treats her like a princess."
"That's weird…" Tsuneo mumbled under his breath.
"What's weird?" Misao asked, yawning again to show her disinterest and tiredness.
"That's not the type of girl Ayano is. She hated it when I would treat her like a princess."
"Earth to Bro; I don't like being treated like a princess. Ayano doesn't like being treated like she's made of glass, but she still likes being treated like a lady. That's why she broke up with you, remember. You were way too rough-and-tumble with her. Now tell me why you're going over there. I came out here to pee, not talk to you about girl troubles."
"Shut up before I tickle you until you wet yourself. I need to talk to her."
"Something that doesn't involve you being a total stalker ex-boyfriend."
"I'm not," he growled, heading once again to the door, bored and annoyed with this conversation with his little sister.
"Then riddle me this: Who's still talking about his ex of a month who hasn't shown a bit of interest in him, still trying to talk to her when she doesn't want to talk to him, and is totally jealous of her new boyfriend?"
"You spend too much time on my life. Go get yourself a girlfriend already."
"Ehhhhhhh!" Misao made a buzzer sound while crossing her arms in an X. "The correct answer was Tsuneo: The crazy stalker psycho ex-boyfriend! Plus, I'm not a lesbian. Ayano's brother, remember?"
"Right, but you totally act like a lesbo, and you've never proven to me that you don't like girls. You spend far too much time being jealous of that blue-haired munchkin who's Kagami's friend, and is it just me or have I caught you checking out Ayano's sister, too. Although I wouldn't blame you. She's smokin'."
"Okay, firstly," Misao said, still in a bored tone. "You can't *act* lesbo. Secondly. Kagamin's like, my second bestest friend, and she never spends time with me anymore. Thirdly, no. It's just you. And your naughty fantasies about your sister need to stop right now, mister- HEY!"
Misao found herself being ruthlessly tickled to the floor by her older brother. "S-STOP!" she managed to force out between laughs and breaths.
He listened to his sister's plea, but gave a warning: "Next time, you're going to be stuck mopping pee off the floor. Then we're going to have to put you into diapers. Then what would Ayano's bro say, when he sees you all dolled up like a baby?"
"Well, he could be into that sort of thing…" started Misao. Tsuneo interrupted.
"Goodnight, Siiis," he said, waving his hand behind him as he disappeared down the dark corridor to the door. "I'll be back eventually."
"Yeah, don't get sick," Misao yelled behind him. As the door closed, she sighed. "Stupid bro. He's just getting himself in deeper and deeper water," she murmured to herself.
These thoughts followed her all the way to the bathroom and back into her bed. She'd decided in that time to shoot Ayano a warning text to let her know to expect Tsuneo. That might help his case a little, instead of just showing up completely unexpected. She set her phone aside, and as she drifted off, her thoughts drifted to Ayano's older brother. A smile and a string of drool appeared at her mouth, and a content expression appeared on her face as she fell asleep.
Well, I won't make any promises about next chapter, but the good news is that I'm already almost 1,000 words in (Each of my normal chapters is about 3200-3500 words) so you can reduce your begging by 1/3rd XD I hope this was good enough for you!