64. Her Changing
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The weather that day was bright and hot, even though summer was at its peak and transitioning into autumn.

Yet, the atmosphere was cold.

"I know! I know! That's why... please, come back, Onii-chan! *sniff* I, I will call you properly, I won't badbehave anymore and will be a obedient child, I will try not to trouble you! So... Please, just this once... come back to me... *sniff*"

On that day, among the grieving people dressed in black, there was a teenage girl who continued to cry in regret while hugging a formed grave. No one could stop her sobs, not even her parents who were also mourning behind her.

On that day, Misaki showed her true nature. She, who usually only showed immature behavior and was often aggressive and harsh towards her brother, now only showed tears that were never expected by the person who was no longer there.

"I beg you, just once..."

But everything was already too late when he had gone.

Shirogane, who secretly watched her from behind, could only watch the grave from behind with sadness.

"The day you welcomed me as best as you could in a clumsy way until we could talk casually with someone like me, I will remember it, Senior."

Then he left the grave after giving his final respects.

As he walked, he passed someone with blonde hair who was also wearing mourning clothes.

Even as he walked quite far from him, he could hear whispers of regret from that person.

"Damn, why did you leave so soon. Why... who else should I play games with if not with you who had such a simple life."

His words were filled with contempt, but his bitter-sounding voice had already explained how much he missed his friend.

Shirogane stared directly at the hot sun.

That day, for some reason, it felt much colder than it should have.

---

"What? Why are you standing in front of my desk."

Misaki narrowed her eyes sharply at Shirogane, who approached her without any clear reason. He usually just quietly sat in his seat in class. So, seeing him come to her was already very strange even if she knew him.

Misaki also didn't seem like her usual. She usually wore flashy earrings, but today she didn't wear them at all. Even her striking makeup was absent, revealing her natural face that looked much better than when she wore makeup. She even seemed to be avoiding her usual mischievous friends whom she used to.

From that, it was very clear that Shirogane knew she had changed.

"Senior, no, I mean your brother. He asked me to look after you."

Shirogane said flatly to her.

For some reason, his words made Misaki angry, so with a restrained growl, she said, "Stay away from me."

"I'm just send a message."

Shirogane said briefly and without further ado went back to his seat.

Misaki just stared sharply at him before her gaze returned to the front. Her expression still looked annoyed even from the start of class until the breaktime.

And even after the uncomfortable interaction, Shirogane still watched her discreetly. Whether from afar or near.

For example, when Misaki bought a drink from the vending machine and got stuck in the middle.

"Why—Is—This—Thing—So—Useless!"

Misaki complained with a kick on each word to the vending machine. Hoping that it would fix it.

"Ugh... Ugh... Damn useless."

In the end, she gave up after exhausting herself. Her frustration only increased if she stayed here, so she left with a dry throat and the feeling of doing something draining her energy earlier made her feel like she was in a desert, causing her mood more worst. Moreover, her stomach was empty and growling.

"I should go see Onii-chan to get..."

She didn't continue her words because she just remembered that the person she mentioned had passed away. Kazuto usually made her packed lunch, so she didn't have to bother to cooking, which she never did because she was pampered by him.

Reminded by the unchangeable reality, she walked with a bowed head while gritting her teeth.

Regret now means nothing at all. I ruined everything, so I deserve to get worse punishment.

"I'm sorry..."

"Kicking is not a way to fix the machine."

When she continued to wallow in regret, someone's voice behind her almost made her jump with surprise. She immediately turned around only to see someone who had annoyed her since this morning. He was standing in front of the broken vending machine she had left, inserting money, pressing the button on the drink he wanted to order, then tapping it twice before hearing the sound of the can falling inside. After that, he stooped to pick it up.

"You..."

Her meaningless frustration was met with a light throw that she could easily catch. A can of drink with a basic composition of coffee and milk mix in her hand.

At first, she looked confused, but her expression slowly distorted into annoyance.

"I don't like this type of drink."

"Just throw it away if you don't like it."

Shirogane replied without even looking at her, as he took another can.

Furrowing her eyebrows, Misaki stared at the can of drink in her hand and with a forced expression, she opened the seal and drank it. Misaki forced it all in a few sips before sighing and throwing the now empty can into the trash.

Then she looked at Shirogane with a sharp gaze as if that was what he should have done.

"Are you satisfied now? Now leave me alone."

There was no fluctuation in Shirogane's expression as he just stared at her silently. But his mouth opened when he spoke.

"In the end, you still can't express things correctly."

Misaki widened her eyes for a moment before looking at Shirogane with an even sharper gaze.

"Shut up! You don't know anything about me!"

She yelled before turning around and walking away, leaving him behind.

However, there was the sound of footsteps following behind her, causing her to turn back again.

"Why are you following me?" Misaki asked irritably.

"I just wanted to go to the cafeteria," Shirogane replied.

"Don't you have someone who makes lunch for you? Don't you have a family?"

Even though Misaki asked this, she no longer had parents at home, and even...

"They passed away a long time ago," Shirogane replied.

Although his expression remained flat, there was a slight pause in his response that made Misaki feel somewhat guilty.

"Just do as you please then," she said.

But her ego didn't allow her to say what was on her mind, so she just yelled at him before walking away.

And once again, Shirogane was not provoked by her words and followed her from behind.

And that's how their strange relationship began from that day on.

By the way, Shirogane still followed Misaki around at school, making others feel disgusted, but she never tried to drive him away again.

---

"What are you doing here?" Misaki asked as she entered the reading club room.

As usual, the place was deserted. Ever since Kazuto, who was the club president and the one who spent the most time in this room, had passed away, only Shirogane was actively present here now.

And today, it was quite surprising that Misaki came here when she had no business to attend.

"Am I not allowed to visit here?" Misaki asked.

Shirogane explained that the club was left as it was to serve as a place for students who didn't really want to actively participate in club activities.

"So what's the problem?"

"The problem is you being here," Shirogane replied.

This explanation was enough to make Misaki feel awkward, as she was only listed here in name and had never been get involved in any activities.

"That... I just wanted to know what Onii-chan did here. That's all..."

Misaki explained sincerely, which left Shirogane speechless.

"Surprising. You don't even know what your brother does here."

"Shut up, you jerk! You don't have to mock me like that!"

Misaki's outburst left Shirogane unable to say anything.

Closing the book he was reading with a sigh, for some reason he could feel his Senior's feelings when faced with Misaki.

---

"Is this really the work that Onii-chan did here?"

Misaki's whiny and complaining tone lasted for several minutes after she became curious about what activities her brother Kazuto did in the club. She didn't seem too pleased with what she found out he did.

"You asked. I just gave you an answer," Shirogane explained while sorting through some books in a box. And there were still many more boxes lined up behind him, sealed up. This made Misaki feel dizzy just thinking about having to do the same thing Shirogane was doing.

They had to sort the books, categorize them by type, genre, size, and other criteria before they were handed over to the library. And most of the books had arrived today. Many of these books were donations from the community. Such sorting activities should have been done by the library committee...

But for some reason, it was now up to them to do it.

"Trash committee. They just know how to command people around, those filthy bastards!"

Misaki's complaints never stopped even after the time passed. It seemed like her mouth was made of something other than foam, as it didn't froth at all despite all the empty words.

"You can relax because you won't have to touch them again. You just have to help me sort the books that you haven't touched in the—"

"No! Absolutely not!"

Shirogane, who had shown little expression from the start, let out a faint smile at the girl in front of him. He seemed to understand a little of his Senior's feelings towards his troublesome younger sister.

"What are you staring at? I have no intention of helping you again tomorrow and in the future! I also have no intention of coming back here!"

... Well, just a little bit.

The following day and the days after that, despite what Misaki said, she always came and helped, accompanied by continuous complaints. But that didn't stop her from coming. So what started as a bad relationship slowly turned into a good one through their interactions. Misaki that he saw now, somehow changed. Shirogane, who saw her, could see that she was not just a mischievous kid who knew how to annoy her brother.

Until one year after Kazuto's death...

At a grave site, Shirogane and Misaki stood there.

The sun showed signs of rising, but it was as if time had stopped, none of them spoke.

"You know..."

Until finally, the sun's rays slowly emerged from the east, Misaki began to speak softly.

"I am indeed a foolish girl."

She said, mocking herself with a bitter smile.

"I never tried to hate Onii-chan, in fact I wanted to be close to him. He is a good brother, always indulging my whims, my requests, and never refusing anything I say... even though he's tired of it all..."

Her voice quivered as tears began to fall and her voice grew hoarse.

"... That's why he is also so foolish. Why doesn't he scold me, why doesn't he just yell at me, why doesn't he try to refuse what I say! And why am I so foolish that I can't stop making him do all that! Why... only in the end I realize... that what I did only hurt him..."

"I... I love Onii-chan so much... but my treatment towards him is completely opposite to my feelings... forgive me. Hey, Onii-chan, I apologize, so please come back to me..."

Misaki spoke through sobs that did not stop.

Unfortunately, in the end, she was too late in expressing her feelings. Far, very far away.

Seeing Misaki crying and kneeling, Shirogane did not try to say anything to cheer her up. Because he knew his words would not change anything. Just like himself, who could only watch his family covered in blood and lifeless.

Glancing at the sun that had fully risen, the cold feeling from a tragic past did not make the warm light shining on them feel any less.

But just as the days and months always change, humans will always move following the course of time. There will be a time when they will forget the past.

"Or not at all."

Shirogane whispered, his hand clenched tightly.

---

"So as I told you, Misaki really loves Senior. Even after that."

Listening to Shirogane's story, Misaki sitting beside him couldn't help but show a bitter smile.

"I know."

So that dream really was true. Misaki thought to herself. She still felt guilty for realizing too late. If only she had known earlier...

"Then, about her death..."

Misaki immediately became gloomy when she heard that. Of course, she would be sad to know about her sisters's death.

"I don't know all the details because after graduating from high school, she went abroad to study with her parents and stayed there for college. Although we sometimes kept in touch, it was still rare. One year after graduation, from the information I heard, she died in an earthquake that hit the area where she lived and was crushed by the rubble."

"An earthquake?"

"Yes. And she was the only victim who died."

Misaki fell silent and somewhat emotional because her death was so tragic.

"And... What about you?"

"Me?"

Seeing Misaki looks curious, Shirogane explained with a wry smile.

"I can't explain much, but I died before turning 30 years old."

"Even... that young?"

Misaki asked, surprised.

"Yes. My colleagues at that time betrayed me and killed me. We were so close but..."

Shirogane's hand clenched slightly, showing his emotions at the moment. Misaki, seeing it, knew he was feeling pressured.

"Can't you really explain anything comprehensively about the future after I die?"

She asked Shirogane. But it was immediately answered with a shake of his head.

"I can't. It's better if Senior doesn't know. Even if I did, nothing would change."

He looked at Shirogane, who continued to smile even though he seemed to have gone through many things that were probably much harder than her. But even as his personality became more abstract, Misaki could tell that this person was still the same person, a gentle junior.

Misaki slowly moved closer to Shirogane and hugged him, patting his head.

"You've been through a lot. Well done for surviving and becoming the Shirogane I know today."

She didn't know what he had been through, what brought him here, and how he faced it. But what she did know was that Shirogane had gone through a lot of difficulties and needed someone to support him.

Even though her mind was filled with a lot of overwhelming information, she could only bury her joy and sorrow in her heart for now.

Misaki chose to sympathize and encourage her junior who seemed to carry a heavy burden on his shoulders.

"Senior, I think I'm feel embarrassed right now."

Shirogane, who did not pay attention to the sudden movement from Misaki, had a stiff smile. His cheeks were also slightly flushed, indicating that he had never been so close to a girl before.

But even after hearing the discomfort, Misaki continued as if it was normal, and said, "Don't refuse for now, or your senior will be angry."

...

So Shirogane could only stay silent for now.

But slowly, he also realized that his Senior was worried about him and trying to help in any way she could. Gradually, his stiff back became relaxed. After thinking about it, this was the first time he could share words with someone just like him, who came from the future. Although not much, it gave him a feeling that his burden was slightly lighter now.

Several minutes passed and Misaki then released her hug.

"How? Feel better already?"

"Yes... somehow. Thank you, Senior."

"Don't answer like that. I didn't do anything."

Misaki replied cheerfully. She was happy to help him even a little. After all, Shirogane once helped her more.

"Ohh, come to think of it...."

She suddenly remembered something after hearing Shirogane's story and wanted to ask him about it.

"... What's your relationship with my sister? Are you guys dating or something?"

Misaki asked with a smirk, but it was creepy enough to make Shirogane uncomfortable.

"No, until our last time we met we didn't have that kind of relationship. We ended up being close friends because Senior acted as a mediator between us, but we don't have feelings for each other."

Shirogane answered with a bitter smile that silenced Misaki.

"Instead..."

Now it was Shirogane's turn to make a smirk that made Misaki a little nervous.

"... Didn't Senior once say, that if somehow Senior turned into a girl, we would get married after high school graduation?"

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