* 37 *

Of course, there would be no third loop. It was a once-in-a-lifetime... uh, I mean, a miracle that would only happen once.
So I woke up the next day, and the day after, to repeated dejection.

It had been five days since my sister fled home. By then, she was starting to become a bother.
While she was around, it was a near-daily back and forth between the library and the apartment, and I had to prepare food for us both.
Not to mention I had the desire for alone time about ten times as frequently as the average person.

No offense to her, but I wanted to be alone already.
That night I worked up the courage to ask “When are you going to get out of here?”, but received a kick and a “You get out, big bro.”
Geez, my bad.

But not long after, I got a call. It was from our mother, and of course, it was about my sister.
She irritatedly asked "Did Honoka come by there?"
I hesitated for a second, but before my sister heard, I told her "She's been here the past five days."
And so I was instructed to take my sister home. She said to lend her some money to get home if she needed it, and I said okay and hung up.

When I put down the receiver, my sister looked away and pretended she hadn't been listening.
But about twenty minutes later, she sluggishly stood up. And she started getting her things together, with a look like "I should be going, shouldn't I?"
I was relieved. She was actually pretty understanding in that respect.

"Do you have enough to get home?", I asked.
She didn't reply. Must have been mad, about me telling our mother where she was.

While she didn't seem to want me around, I went with her as far as the bus terminal.
The snow was really bad, and the road wasn’t well-lit, so I was worried about my sister going alone.

We walked at a very strange distance from each other that I’d be hesitant to call “together.”
As ever, we said nothing to each other as we walked the roads filled with fallen leaves.

My sister seemed very bitter. Well, she'd hated me for so long, it was fine.
Besides, as someone who was planning to kill a man, I couldn’t be worrying about what every single person thought of me.

The bus terminal was wholly decrepit.
The walls and floors were blackening in spots, the lights were yellowed, the cushions were torn open, and drab shutters were pulled down on all the shops.

The few people waiting for the bus were dead silent.
With all the gloom about, it almost felt like everyone here was trudging back home after having run away.

"Dirty place," my sister quietly said. "Like your apartment."
"Hey, it's got feeling," I argued for my apartment.

My sister and I sat on a sofa, about 40 centimeters apart, and drank coffee from a vending machine as we waited.
It was a terrible place. I wondered if a ride on the buses here would take you back decades or what.
I mean, if they really did, I would have gladly gotten on. Any time but now sounded great.

When I was done with my coffee, my sister reached over to grab it, stacked my cup with hers, and went to throw them away.
I watched her briskly walk from behind. She seemed a lot less dependable than my first sister. Like I could just give her a shove and she'd topple over.
She came back and sat beside me again. This time, it was more like 20 centimeters apart.

Suddenly, I felt like I’d done something absolutely terrible to my sister.

Had I even considered that she was a sixteen-year-old girl who ran away from home?
Should I, in fact, have lied to our mother?

She didn’t seem like the kind to run away from home in the first place.
And it might be a huge assumption - but she had come to me, hadn't she?
Perhaps I should have at least sheltered her until she was satisfied?

I stole a glance at her, and we made eye contact, upon which she grumpily looked away.
I hesitated to take her back to the apartment now, after promising our mother.
So I at least wanted to say something before she went.

But I had no idea what to say. "Be happy" would be a laugh coming from me. And I rather die than have it said to me.
And "Don't think too hard" wouldn't mean anything from a fool like me.
I spent the whole time thinking it over.

The time passed in a blink, and my sister stood up to board the bus. I stood up too and followed with her.
There were still bits of snow outside. I was briefly blinded by the headlights of the bus in the dark.
Just as my sister was boarding the bus, I said, loud enough to hear over the engine, “Hey.”
"If you want to run away again, feel free to come over."

Even this took a lot of courage for me to say.
I was a coward even in front of my family the second time around.

My sister turned around, and for once, opened her eyes wide.
She stood still and looked at me for a second. "I’ll do that," she smiled, and got on the bus.

The bus left, and I set on my way home, again warming myself with cocoa.
I was all too relieved just to see my sister smile.

Chapter 38

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