“Sowwy, I, I! I wanthed to ju sumthin, but! Mom and onee-shan were in tatters! So I!”
Yousuke continued to talk incomprehensibly while crying as if he did not hear Shinichi’s conversation with the fox-like creature on his shoulders
“I know. You were protecting them, right?”
“I’m all jhey have. Jer are no other men left in ja house. You told me, so I thought I had to ju something!”
‘That’s what I thought,’ Shinichi told himself internally.
Shinichi recalled putting on airs and telling him just as his dad told him.
He told him that if either he or his dad weren’t around, and he was the only boy left, then he had to protect their mother and sister.
With their parents divorced, and him being taken in with his older sister by their mother, and both women being insecure, as the only man of the household, Yousuke desperately protected their family’s heart in his own way.
That’s why he couldn’t reject their feelings.
Although part of that was because the information they had also left him with no choice but to agree.
“You did really well, Yousuke. Thank you.”
“U, uu, onii-chan!!”
Shinichi spoke gently to this younger brother of his who did his best while enduring everything by himself.
Although Yousuke had also given up on Shinichi surviving, somewhere in his heart he had been waiting for these words, and now that he finally got them, he couldn’t stop crying.
Shinichi held his younger brother and patted him on the back just like old times. He didn’t mind that his uniform would get dirty.
But because of that Yousuke couldn’t see the complicated color that surfaced on Shinichi’s eyes.
“Have you calmed down? Come on, wipe your face. It would be a waste of your good looks if you don’t take care of yourself.”
Who knew how much Yousuke had cried before he finally stopped crying and Shinichi handed him a handkerchief.
Yousuke accepted it and wiped his tears and snot with it.
There was still quite a bit left despite that, but it was still a lot better than before.
“If you’re done wiping, have a drink and calm down. We’ll talk after.”
“O-Okay… Ah, you remembered that I like apple…”
“Of course,” Shinichi nodded, and Yousuke’s whole face bloomed into a smile.
The can of juice that Shinichi threw earlier was a 100% apple juice beverage.
Shinichi watched Yousuke happily drink that while he drank his own can of beverage as well.
“…So, onii-chan. Since when did you notice me?”
“Hmm? Are you talking about your stalking habits in the male dormitory? Or the fact that you haven’t really rejected me?”
“S-Stalking? …Ah, but I guess that is how it is, huh. Both. I feel like you knew from the start, though…”
He was full of emotion after being shown that brotherly face and called by that brotherly voice in a long while.
When he’d calmed down and thought about it, he found it surprising that Shinichi had noticed both.
But as far as Shinichi was concerned, Yousuke’s behavior was too easy to see through.
“Well. If you stare at me like that from behind just like you did in the past, it becomes clear as day that there’s something you want to say.”
“Yeah. That’s why I immediately noticed both. And when I think about it, you were acting weird during our reunion too. Your attitude was a little weird compared to mom’s or Youko’s.”
At first it looked like he was keeping his emotions in check and choosing his words.
The second time he didn’t waver at all and focused on calming down his older sister.
With all that it wasn’t hard to imagine why he was always looking at Shinichi with those clinging eyes whenever they were at the male dormitory.
What’s more was that face he made when Shinichi talked in that distant manner when he called him out.
With all that there was no need to think so hard about what he was thinking.
“You were probably thinking that as long as it’s in the male dormitory, Youko won’t find out, right?”
And if it was here, then they could easily get in touch as long as they’re able to do something about the other students.
Although not correct strictly speaking, but Yousuke is recognized as a ‘Supplementary Public Morals Committee Member’, so no one would find it strange even if he were to be caught loitering within the male dormitory. And even if he were to be found near Shinichi, at most people would just think that he’s keeping an eye on him. And even if Youko were to get wind of that, it still shouldn’t be a problem.
“A ha ha… You really saw through everything.
I was so anxious wondering how I could get you to understand and forgive me, but in the end, I guess I really can’t win against you, Onii-chan.”
These past few days, his head has been full of nothing but this talk with his older brother, but when he finally got down to it, this was the result.
It was anti-climatic but at the same time he was glad.
“As expected, onii-chan is still onii-chan,” he happily smiled.
“I was your onii-chan 8 years ago, so of course I could tell this much.”
“You’re still our onii-chan! To me and even to nee-chan.”
When Shinichi started talking as if he wasn’t their older brother anymore, Yousuke immediately refuted him and started talking to get him to understand his real motives.
“That’s why… Can’t we go back to the way we were before? I’ll mediate for you and nee-chan. Nee-chan is also just being stubborn. I’ve been doing well these past 8 years. So I understand where nee-can is coming from. If I go about it well, I’m sure I can get her to loosen up…”
Yousuke said it was possible to mend their relationship, but Shinichi told him to stop.
Just like that, a voice without any intonation and was somewhat cold cut down Yousuke’s proposal.
“Perhaps one day that might be possible, but now’s not the time. I’m sure you know better than me why, right?”
When Shinichi said that, the dream Yousuke saw of the siblings being together again crumbled.
He was being too rash after seeing his older brother come back and even enter their school.
“How was mom and Youko since that time (my return)?”
And then Shinichi asked that question that anyone in his position wouldn’t want to ask the most.
Yousuke found himself at a loss what to say but he still replied.
“…I think nee-chan is still forcefully trying to maintain her composure. She’s my big sister, so she says she’ll protect me and mom. She’s protecting herself by being strong. As for mom, she was shaken after the reunion and remained so for a few days. She’s calm right now, but she’s not at a state where we could talk about you.”
Yousuke tried to word things to make as little impact to Shinichi as possible, but there was no hiding the fact that Shinichi’s return was the cause of all these.
Yousuke felt bad, but Shinichi just readily replied, “Figures.”
“If that’s how it is over there, then you can’t ally yourself with me or try to mend relationships.”
“…Because one of them will end up alone?”
“Only if you succeed, but regardless, if either one of them were to lose you as their ally, then they’ll become needlessly insecure.”
That’s why Shinichi told him to just act as he always has. Yousuke bit his lips.
Shinichi was right. The timing right now was bad.
But in that case, he’ll end up relying on Shinichi again in a bad sense.
And this time while the person himself was alive and everyone was aware of that fact.
“You don’t have to make a face like that. They just need time is all. And that’s true for both me and you too. Until then we should avoid making contact as much as possible.”
“…Even in the male dormitory?”
“The reason you couldn’t be proactive was also because you were afraid of hurting them, right?”
Even if Youko couldn’t see what happens in the male dormitory, there were other male students.
No one could say for sure that word won’t reach her.
Once or twice, and they could still shove it under the rug by saying that Yousuke was just keeping an eye on Shinichi, but if it continues for a long time, then anyone would think something was up.
“Could you really fool her if she were to pursue the matter?”
“T-That’s… Fine… I got it… You’re right, Onii-chan.”
Although Shinichi had struck a sore spot and Yousuke didn’t want to agree, he didn’t have the words to refute or another plan to propose.
But despite that he still changed his mind and asked something else from this older brother of his instead.
“But we can at least mail each other, right!? Let’s exchange address!”
Shinichi had some thoughts regarding Yousuke’s expectant eyes, but he nodded with a sigh and told him to disguise the messages in case someone saw the recipient’s name and the contents.
Of course, Shinichi already intended to do some hacking in the shadows, though.
“Sure, I got it! I’ll also tell you nee-chan’s schedule, so I’m sure this messaging thing will be really useful to you!”
After exchanging addresses, Yousuke happily registered the fake name into his foster.
“Thanks… But it’s almost time. If you don’t go, it’ll be bad.”
“Huh, ah, that’s right! I have to patrol today too!”
When Shinichi said that and Yousuke realized the time, his countenance fell.
He didn’t appear concerned how Shinichi knew that when he was unrelated.
Yousuke rushed back in from the roof, but then suddenly stopped and turned around.
“Onii-chan, if there’s something troubling you, anything at all, be sure to tell me, okay! I’ve gotten really strong since then! This time I’ll be the one protecting you!”
“…Y-Yeah, thanks… But you better hurry up or you’re going to get killed, you know.”
Shinichi’s already saved them once actually, but he could never say that.
That’s why he spoke in a way to urge him to go.
“Ah, darn it! See you tomorrow! Good night, Onii-chan!”
Sure enough he became even more panicked and ran down the stairs.