* 48 *

Even a week later, the conversation I had with Tsugumi was still repeating in my head like a favorite record.
I could recreate the thirty minute talk down to the slightest detail. Rather than grow muddled as memories do, it felt like it became clearer every time.
I have to remove Tokiwa, I thought. Much like the day I saw Tsugumi at the bus stop, I was reinvigorated with energy.

Even if Tokiwa was like a saint, made everyone around him happy, had more than ten times the value I did, and killing him would make Tsugumi sad, I didn't care.
I had no need to find justice in my actions. All that mattered was if Tokiwa's existence made me happy or unhappy.
And of course, it made me unhappy. And his non-existence would make me happy.
Thus, I would kill him. That seemed fine to me.

I slapped my cheeks with both hands to liven myself up.
I would kill Tokiwa today if I could.

Seeing me confidently preparing to leave, my sister, fleeing from home for... who knows how many times it was now, drowsily spoke up.
"You look like you're having fun. It's weird."
"In a bad way?"
"Bad way."

She threw aside the book she was holding.
"Hey, those are borrowed books. Treat them carefully," I reprimanded.
"You can treat sucky books rough. Didn't you know?", she replied.
"Never heard that before. What's so sucky about that book, anyway?"
She thought for a moment, then answered.

"The kid in this book thinks answering a question is the same thing as thinking."
I was surprised, having not expected a serious answer.
"I don't get it, but... What, do you mean it's best to leave questions unanswered?"
"That's not what I meant at all. I think it's weird to detach questions from answers in the first place. When a question comes up, it's expected an answer will follow. So answering in itself isn't a big deal. Rather, it's how you go about pulling things from your head to..."
After going that far, she appeared to feel she'd said too much and quickly shut her mouth.

"Well, I'm not trying to look like I'm having fun. So what exactly makes you say that?"
"...You've been dressing better lately, haven't you, big brother?"
"Have I?", I said, playing dumb.

Indeed, since tailing Tokiwa with the same clothes could raise suspicion, I was mixing it up lately.
I tried my best to wear fashionable clothes that let me blend into the crowd as best I could. But she had misinterpreted it as suddenly caring more about my appearance.
After all, before I had no problem wearing the same clothes to college two days in a row. I didn't expect anyone to care how I looked.

"Could you have gotten a girlfriend, maybe? In which case it's awkward for me to be here?"
Though bluntly said, it was a rare occasion for my sister, as she actually demonstrated tact. Granted, she assumed wrong.
However, it was true I was in love. My sister was surprisingly good at seeing through me, it seemed.

"Unfortunately, that's not the case," I answered.
After a little thought, I explained it like this - as usual, I felt it best to lie with a little bit of the truth, to throw off the scent a little.
"I want to become a faceless person. Just blending into the crowd. It's my hope that after people pass me by, they'll have already forgotten my face - that's how little impression I leave. And rather than wear plain clothes in empty places, I've found it's more effective to dress like everyone else and wander where the people are."

"So like an invisible man?"
"Right. In a sense, I want to be an invisible man."
"Weird," she dubiously said. "Alright, so you didn't get a girlfriend. ...Where are you going today?"
"I'm planning to go to a café to study."
"Even though you don't go to school?", my sister said somewhat ironically - likely also scorning herself for her lack of attendance.

I replied, "I'm studying because I don't go. It sounds contradictory, but I don't want to be a dropout. I don't go to school because I don't want to go, but it doesn't mean I don't want to do something with myself. Things like job qualifications and English, I can study by myself."
I could tell lies like this all day. I hadn't done any studying to get a job at all.
"See you," she said to cut off the conversation. It was a "see you" with the nuance of "get out already."

Chapter 49

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