Chapter 20: Tsujikawa Kotomi's Family Situation

Translated by Dawn


Chapter 20: Tsujikawa Kotomi’s Family Situation

—I feel sorry for people without their mothers.

These were the words that Tsujikawa Kotomi had been hearing since she was a child.

My mother who gave birth to me got divorced before I could remember.

According to what I heard, she chose work over family.
I wondered why she gave birth to me if that was the case, but it didn’t matter.

Because I was not chosen, and my father was the only family I had ever known since I can remember.

“It’s too bad you don’t have a mother.”

“Isn’t it normal to have a mother and a father?”

“Kotomi-chan’s house is strange.”

I didn’t understand why the kids around me called me that.

Normal? What is a normal family? Is normal for me different from ordinary?

When I asked my father these questions, he simply said, “I’m sorry,” and looked sad.

…If that was all, it was still good.

As a child, I was often mistaken for a boy.

I was a quarrelsome child and often fell and scratched myself, and I played outside until the sun went down every day.

Dad laughed.
He told me he was glad I had energy and took me out to play on his days off.
It was fun.
I was happy even if my mother wasn’t around.

But—even that was different from the “normal” life around me.

“She’s just like a boy…….I wonder if it’s because she doesn’t have a mother.”

“I don’t think she has a choice.
She’s from a single parent……”

“This is what happens when a father raises a child only by himself……poor thing.”

I was often told so by the adults around me.

There, too, I learned that my “normal” was not what people in the world would call “normal.”

Every time I asked my father about it, he looked apologetic.
He apologized to me.

I’m sorry.
I’m sorry, he said.

“…You don’t have to apologize”

When I told him, he just smiled at me as if he was troubled and apologized.

I hated it so much that I stopped playing with boys.

I grew out my short hair and started wearing skirts instead of pants.

I no longer played with dolls with the girls, chatted with them, or ran around outside.

Now I’m what everyone calls ‘normal’.
No one will say anything bad about my father.

When I entered elementary school, I studied hard.
I tried to read books.
I actively helped my teachers and acted as a serious student so that the adults would think I was a good kid.

(I’m not a poor child.)

Never again would I let anyone say that they felt sorry for me just because I didn’t have a mother.

“Kotomi-chan doesn’t have a mother? Poor Kotomi.”

“You’re doing a great job even though you don’t have a mother.”

“It’s amazing that you can make it this far even though you don’t live in a normal house.”

“Kotomi-chan, you are having a hard time.
It’s a waste of your talent.”

“If she had been born into a more normal family, she would have been happy.”

“With only a father, you can’t help it…….”

—It was useless.

No matter how hard I tried, no matter how talented I was……I would never have a mother.
That one fact alone makes me a ‘poor kid’ all by itself.

No……if that was all, it would be fine.
I just have to put up with it.

What I couldn’t stand was to see the smile disappear from my father’s face.

It was about my father being made into ‘a bad father who is giving his daughter a hard time’ or ‘a father who is dragging his talented daughter down.’

If we did not have a normal family, we would remain an “unhappy family” for a long time.

We must become a normal, ordinary, common family.

But there was nothing I could do about it, no matter how much I wished for it.

Just when I thought I had no choice but to give up—my father got remarried.

I was as happy as if it was me.
I was glad that my father was happy.

I had a mother and a father.
We could finally be such a normal family.

I practiced many times in front of the mirror until they moved in.

After all, ‘Mother’ is the one.
And…’Onii-sama’? ‘Onii-chan’? ‘Onii’? Hmm…I think ‘Nii-san’ is probably the most common.”

Then my new mother came home.

“Hello, Kotomi-chan.
Please take care of me from now on.”

Nice to meet you…M-mom (Okaa-san).”

When I showed the results of my many practices in front of the mirror, my mom smiled at me with a smile that made me happy from the bottom of my heart.

“Ah, yeah…Nii…Narumi-senpai, where’s he?”

I could show my mom what I had practiced, but it was still too embarrassing for me to say Nii-san.

I thought this was wrong.
Because usually, younger sisters didn’t call their older brothers ‘senpai’.

“Oh……he left his phone at our old house, and I went back to get it.”

“I see.”

Apparently, my new brother was a bit clumsy.

“…Hey, Kotomi-chan.
I talked with Mr.
Akihiro and we decided on something.”


I heard from my new mother about the circumstances of the divorce.

Apparently, Narumi-senpai was branded by his father as a “failed child.”

He had failed to reach his father’s satisfaction.
That was the only reason.

So my mother and father talked it over and decided on the rules of our family.

A secret rule only for Narumi-senpai.

We wouldn’t say anything that would provoke Narumi-senpai, who was abandoned by his father before him as a failure.

For example, do not compare brother and sister.

For example, do not praise me too much for my excellence.

For example, do not mention individual abilities.

I know it’s wrong to ask you to do this, but…please.
Can you help us, Kotomi-chan?”

Mom, who was asking for help, was desperate.
She was trembling as if frightened of something.

About her former home.
About his father.
I knew right away that it was not only Narumi-senpai but also her mother, who was left with a big emotional scar.

“I understand.
I’m fine.”

So, I accepted the condition.

I would accept any condition if it would make a “normal family” possible.
I would follow any rule.

—Thus, my new life began.

There was the normal family I had hoped for.
There was normal happiness.

If I had to say one thing, I still couldn’t call Narumi-senpai “Nii-san.”

I practiced in front of the mirror secretly every night, but since I missed saying it on the first day, I had been struggling to find the right moment to say it.

“Kotomi-chan, you are going to be a high school student soon.
How are you doing? Are you nervous?”

A little…but I’m looking forward to it.”

“I see, you’re looking forward to it.
That’s good.”

Both my father and mother were relieved.
I was happy to see that.

Ah, this must be the normal life people talking about.
This was the normal happiness of a normal family.

“Ah, that’s right.
Mom, please listen.
I’m supposed to make a speech as the freshman representative……”


I knew on my skin.

Just for a moment.
Just a moment.
The air was a little icy.

It was hard to tell from the outside.
Even if we were in a coffee shop or a family restaurant, and other customers or waitresses were watching us, they would not notice the slight change.

But I knew that my mother’s and father’s attention was on my new brother next to me.

I was so happy that I got carried away and quickly realized that I had broken one of the rules of the house.

Neither my mother nor father would blame me for it.
They didn’t even have the slightest intention of blaming me.
But I felt that I had “failed.”

I had broken one of the rules of a normal family.

Would you come to the entrance ceremony?”

I changed the subject, albeit forcefully.
Mom immediately made a bright smile and nodded.

“Yes, of course.
Hey, Akihiro-san.”

“Yeah, I’m taking the day off, too.
If I could, I would attend the opening ceremony.”

“That’s impossible, as expected.”

Narumi-senpai smiled wryly at our father’s unreasonable words.
Then the conversation continued as if nothing had happened.

(What should I talk about…I don’t know what I’m allowed to talk about…what is it…I have to talk…something…normal…because we are family.
Normal families at least talk to each other…normal…normal…)


(Normal…what is it…)

There was a father, a mother, and even a new older brother.


This was supposed to be normal.
This should be a normal family.
We were supposed to be happy.

(…..what is it?)

This house was uncomfortable.

(…..Uncomfortable, bad.)

That was what I thought.
I thought what I shouldn’t have thought.

(…..I want to escape)

No good.

(…..I want to escape from my family.)


(….I want to get out of this uncomfortable house.)

This isn’t a good idea.

I finally got it.
I finally had a “normal family”.
I couldn’t destroy it just because it was uncomfortable.

(Don’t run away)

If I run away, it will be destroyed.
This happiness will be destroyed.

I will become a “poor child” again.

My father will become a “bad father who puts his daughter through a lot of hardship.”

(This isn’t good…this is not how it’s supposed to work…!)

This happiness was the only thing I mustn’t destroy.
It was happiness named “normal” that I had finally obtained.

So I should not run away.

It was always been that way.
Even before we became a new family.
It had always been that way, even when it was just my dad and me as a family.

I had never run away before.

I would not run away from those who judge me as a “poor child”.

I didn’t run away from those who judged me as a “bad father who puts his daughter through a lot of hardship”.

Even if it ended in vain, I did not run away.
I confronted them head-on.

That was why I would never run away from them again.
I would not run away.

(And……I’m not alone anymore)

Even Narumi-senpai was……no.
I’m sure my Nii-san feels the same way.

The most important thing to remember was that you should never be afraid to ask for help.

I’d been on my own until now.
But I had a brother who would stand up to me together.
(If you’re my brother, come with me—….)

We will stay together and not run away from each other.

“Kouta, are you working part-time today?”

I’ll be home late.
You can eat dinner first.”

My brother began to avoid the house.

He ran away from our family.

The time he spent away from home increased day by day.

“You were back?”

I’m home, Tsujikawa.”

“Welcome back, Narumi-senpai…”

I had failed to call Narumi-senpai “nii-san” ever since that day.

“That day, it was senpai who chose to leave home.
And then you just wanted to run away from us, your family, because of ……Kazemiya-senpai, didn’t you?”

“…that’s right.”

“…isn’t that unfair? That’s right.”

Narumi senpai was really sly.

He thinks he was the only one who was uncomfortable.

You are the only one who runs away, and it’s not fair.

I, too.
In fact, I am too—

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