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The Prodigal Sister

Chapter Text

Maya hummed to herself, a veil of anger left her lips as she looked through her phone, her other hand held her umbrella as the rain continued to pour above her. She stayed behind as usual to practise but left earlier when she was warned by a passing teacher to go back home before the rain became too heavy later on. 

 

And indeed, it would be pouring heavily later on into the night but that wasn’t why she was angry. She was on the class group chats. There were two she was in, Class A's group chat and Karen's group chat that consisted of the usual nine friends. She was mostly on the latter but today she was pinged in the former, warning her about a deranged fangirl. 

 

It wasn’t her fangirl, it was actually her best friend Saijou Claudine’s fangirl. A girl with long wavy blonde hair was in front of the dorm entrance, begging to be allowed inside to see Claudine and wouldn't budge until she met her. She was there for an hour but so far no teacher was involved, at least not yet. They didn’t want to hassle them on such a rainy day. 

 

Maya had her fair share of adamant fans before, but this took the cake. The fact that she would most likely meet the fangirl as well just irritated her. Maya was right when she glanced up, she saw her as the dorm building came in sight. 

 

The girl was soaked to the bone and on another day Maya would feel pity but right now? Maya believed the girl deserved it. Seriously, was Claudine so important that she would stay through the rain instead of a sunnier day? Holding her most irritated expression, Maya walked towards the entrance and ignored the girl’s existence. 

 

“Uh, excuse me?” the girl asked, in a quiet voice as her teeth clattered, “Do you know Saijou Claudine?” Maya paused but didn’t turn around. She waited for a long moment before deciding to humour her a bit. Maybe she could scare her away to visit another day. 

 

“And if I do?” 

 

“Please,” she begged, “I need to speak with her. It’s important.”

 

“Is it so important to wait all afternoon in the soaking rain?” Maya turned around and faced the girl. She didn’t need to hide her bite or the disgust in her voice. The girl’s head was down, maybe she was for once feeling the shame of her actions. “You’re still in uniform and you don’t even have an umbrella. You’re shivering and no doubt every part of your clothes are soaked, is this meeting with Claudine more important than your health?” The girl mumbled something, her hands were clenched next to her sides. “I can’t hear you.”

 

“IT IS!” the girl yelled, snapping her head up with a fierce glare that despite seeing for the first time, felt and looked familiar. The boldness as well, the daring attitude to address a stranger like this was familiar too, it was enough to make Maya go silent. But why? Why did a fangirl Maya never meet before act so familiar? 

 

The answer came to her the second the fangirl took a deep breath, eyes narrowing in defiance. It made Maya’s heart plummet to her stomach in recognition. She saw that look before. 

 

“I need to meet Claudine today or else—” 

 

“Yumeoji Shiori.”

 

“Eh?” 

 

“You’re Claudine’s little sister aren’t you?” 

 

Shiori nodded her head, the relief on her shoulders was too obvious to ignore and it made the guilt twist Maya’s heart further. She was about to leave Claudine’s little sister in the rain. She heard from Claudine herself the length she would go to protect Shiori and her other sister Fumi. Though Maya was a single child, she learnt fairly quickly that the wrath of an older sister was something she never wanted to face. She was certain Claudine would’ve murdered her had she left Shiori in the rain. 

 

Not hesitating anymore, Maya ran towards Shiori’s side, holding the umbrella over her head. “Allow me to profusely apologise about my behaviour, I didn’t know—”

 

Shiori waved her away, “It’s fine I just— I need to see Claudine.”

 

Maya nodded as she turned around and bent down, offering her back to Shiori. “Climb on, allow me to atone my actions with this.” 

 

Shiori was about to deny but the ache in her legs protested. So she climbed onto Maya’s back, wrapping her arms around Maya’s neck as she stood up and began to walk inside at a fast pace. When she was inside, Shiori curled her arms closer, basking in that warmth that she was denied before. Black spots encroached on the corners of her vision as Maya all but ran up the stairs. Her last thought before the darkness completely engulfed her was only of one person. 

 

“Onee chan…”

 


 

Seigfeld wasn’t the nicest place, the reputation of being a draconian school was there for a reason but that was fine. Shiori knew what she was doing when she begged her mothers’ permission to join her sister's trip to Japan on their own to study. Yes, she was 14 at the time but she wasn’t going to be left behind by them. It took several attempts but when Shiori found out Seigfeld, the school that Fumi was going to attend, had a middle school she knew she won the argument. 

 

And just like that, Shiori was with her older sisters ready to take their home country by the storm. Shiori was only in middle school but she went to nearly every play her sisters held and soon enough she’ll be with them sharing the stage. Despite the strict schedules and the way people got annoyed at Fumi for being an extremely cocky edel, life was fine for Shiori. She knew her sister would mellow out one day, she was getting better everyday and she was praised routinely by the teachers and her classmates. Everything was just getting better and better by the start of the second year in Japan. 

 

Then came the sudden announcement that Fumi left the school. 

 

And everything started to fall apart. 

 

Shiori couldn’t reach Fumi after school ended. No one knew where she went, she wasn't in the Edel Dorm and she wasn't nearby either. She checked the teacher’s offices for more information but none of them offered the advice or the help that Shiori wanted.

 

 What she wanted was to know why Fumi left, why she didn’t tell her. She spent most of her battery life calling Fumi, sending messages, waiting for a reply. By the time she just remembered about Claudine and her mothers, her phone was dead. 

 

On another day, Shiori would’ve had the common sense to go back to her dorm. She would charge her phone and text Claudine and her mothers about what happened and ask for answers about Fumi. But today where Shiori wanted nothing more than the physical presence of a family member to comfort her, Shiori went to the train station in search of Claudine. She just needed someone,  anyone  to tell her everything was going to be okay. 

 

She didn’t want a broken family again.

 


 

Claudine will punch Fumi one day. Maybe out of Cain instincts, maybe because she deserved it, who knows. But Claudine will 100% punch Fumi one day and on that day Claudine will remember this day and realise why. Because somehow she allowed Shiori to visit her in the soaking rain without telling her. God if Maya didn’t call her to stop practising and come back to the dorm, who knows how long Shiori would stay out there. 

 

But Claudine didn't want to think about that. The guilt on her chest for not being there for Shiori was already enough to suffocate her. Shiori was on her bed, most of her wet clothes were already gone and were replaced with her own clothes that were baggy on Shiori’s small frame. Mahiru and Nana were next to her, acting as nurses as Claudine held her hand.

 

“Are you sure we shouldn’t bring her to the hospital?” Junna asked from the doorway, “Or at least inform the teacher?”

 

“Doing so will lead to someone calling our parents and I don’t want them to stress out so early in the morning,” Claudine explained as she squeezed Shiori’s hand. The fact that Fumi wasn’t answering Claudine’s calls didn’t help either but Claudine had important things to worry about. “Besides Shiori is strong, she’ll wake up fine from this.” If not forget about punching Fumi, Claudine was going to murder her instead. 

 

Nana frowned, “Isn’t it 5pm though?”

 

Claudine shook her head, doing a quick calculation in her head. “10am in France.”

 

“Oh right,” Junna nodded, “Time Zones, I forgot about that.”

 

Mahiru gave Claudine a worrying look as Claudine opened her phone once more to find no messages from Fumi. “Has your sister answered yet?”

 

“Not that I know of,” Claudine sighed, “Fumi can be stubborn to reply but she’s never like this to Shiori. If Shiori wasn’t right in front of me I would be worried for her sake too, she’s acting strange by ignoring her like this.”

 

Mahiru patted Claudine’s back in gentle reassurance. “I’m sure both of your sisters will be fine Kuro chan.” 

 

Claudine turned to Mahiru with a soft smile, “Thank you Mahiru.” She then looked at everyone else, “You guys can go ahead, I’ll stay here and keep an eye on her.”

 

“Are you sure?” Nana asked as she looked at Shiori again, “We don’t mind keeping you company.”

 

“Dinner won’t be cooked without you two,” Claudine chuckled, “I’m sure Shiori wouldn’t mind something to eat when she wakes up.” 

 

With that, Nana and Junna bid their goodbyes and started prepping for dinner. Mahiru lingered a bit at the door, giving Claudine another reassuring look before leaving too, closing the door behind her. Claudine waited for at least ten seconds to pass before she turned back to Shiori. 

 

“Alright they’re gone now, you can stop pretending to fall asleep.”

 

Instantly, Shiori’s eyes opened and she turned to Claudine wide-eyed. “You knew?”

 

“Not until you opened your eyes,” Claudine chuckled. Shiori groaned at the obvious give away as Claudine climbed on and sat on the edge of the bed, leisurely parting Shiori’s hair. It was still cold and damp with rain. “You should take a bath later before you get sick Shiori.”

 

Shiori didn’t answer. Not until she looked up at Claudine, her eyes showing all of her worries. “That’s not what you wanted to say, right Kuro nee?”

 

“I was going to ask you when you woke up,” Claudine admitted as she checked her phone, again there was still no sign of Fumi, “But your health was more important.”

 

Shiori sighed and with a shiver, she slowly sat up. Claudine didn’t waste any time covering her up with a blanket. “I woke up when you mentioned Onee chan, but I didn’t want them to know about it.”

 

“Did something happen to Fumi?”

 

Claudine looked carefully at Shiori’s face, she watched it how her lips trembled, how Shiori refused to look her way. Tears were welling up in her eyes but Shiori didn’t either notice it or care about them. In the end, Shiori responded by dropping her head to her covered knees, choking back a sob and an actual reply. 

 

“I need you to speak louder Shiori,” Claudine asked calmly. Her blood was conflicted between intense worry and boiling with rage, but she can’t pull that face on Shiori, not when she needed her to be calm. “What happened to Fumi?”

 

“She—” Shiori took a deep breath as she lifted her head. “Onee chan left Seigfeld.”

 

Claudine’s blood ran cold. It took all of her acting skills to calm her rage. “She did what?”

 

Shiori swallowed down the tears and Claudine wiped the rest from her eyes as Shiori leaned in for a hug. Shiori’s body was still cold, still damp but that didn’t matter. Her grip was tight, almost enough to squeeze the air out of her but Claudine didn’t care. She needed to be here for Shiori, her frustration with Fumi could wait. 

 

“It was on the school announcement today. Fumi left Seigfeld and abandoned her role as the Frau Jade Edel,” Shiori explained, in a tired quiet voice that tore Claudine’s heart apart. The last time she heard Shiori be this broken before was when her mothers first told her she couldn’t go to Japan with them to study theatre. 

 

“She didn’t even tell me Kuro nee,” Shiori whimpered into Claudine’s shirt. “I kept looking and sending texts and sending phone calls but she didn’t reply. By the time I decided to go to you my phone died and I was caught in the rain.”

 

“I’m so sorry she treated you like that,” Claudine whispered. She hugged Shiori tighter, kissing her crown to soothe her. “If it makes you feel better she hasn’t answered my texts and calls too.”

 

Shiori shook her head, “Please don’t be angry at her, she— she must have a good reason to leave right?” Shiori looked up at Claudine, desperation in her watery eyes. “She doesn’t hate me or anything right Kuro nee?” 

 

“Of course not,” Claudine assured, taking Shiori’s cheeks by both of her hands so that Shiori could look directly at her. “Fumi loves you,” she cooed, brushing her damp hair strands away from her face. “She loves you so much, we both do.”

 

Instead of calming down, Shiori’s face scrunched up and the tears fell once more as she turned around and buried her head into the pillow. Her cries were still heard despite the muffle. “Then why did she leave me behind!?” 

 

Claudine sighed, hugging Shiori as she patted her gently. “I don’t know Shiori.” Then Claudine’s eyes hardened and under her breath, Claudine made a promise. “But I will find out before today ends.”

Chapter Text

Fumi knew she was in the wrong. Fumi knew that today, she fucked up as a person, as a stage girl and most importantly, as a sister. And she hated herself for it. But she can’t do anything about it, she has to deal with it. 

 

The constant pings of her notifications don’t help either. Fumi knew it would be better for herself if she muted the phone or better yet turned it off but she couldn’t. She forced herself to hear how Shiori kept messaging her and kept worrying about her. Fumi forced herself to listen, just so that the guilt in her chest can crush her more efficiently. 

 

She deleted everyone last night from her phone, the school contacts, the edels, Akira… But when it came to her family, Fumi just couldn’t delete Shiori just yet from her contacts. Maybe in the morning when she’s stronger Fumi would delete it but not now. She couldn’t delete her mothers’ number either, or Claudine. The failure to delete Shiori’s number led to the failure to delete anyone else after her. 

 

 So here she was, in a random hotel with a suitcase full of clothes and a rucksack full of stuff to her name. Here she was caught in the heavy rain in a lonely room feeling so very tired. Not from the efforts, she pulled to leave Seigfeld, she’s just… 

 

Tired.

 


 

It was nice being a place where she wasn’t being compared to Claudine. Not that Fumi minded being compared with Claudine, sure it annoyed her at times but it was never enough to hate her. Despite all their fights and squabbles, Fumi knew Claudine respected her and vice versa, so when people's comparisons were being too much for either of them they talked about it. Fumi was used to it in the end, being compared to the child actor and older sister Saijou Claudine. 

 

So it was a breath of fresh air for Fumi when she entered Seigfeld. It was different. In Seigfeld she could fully show off her talents without being in Claudine’s limelight and she knew back in Seisho Claudine felt the same. France was too small to contain them both, Seisho and Seigfeld were so different that they gave each girl their room and world to thrive. 

 

And it was beautiful. 

 

Fumi knew she was arrogant, she had every right to be and she had the skills to back it up. Sure she wasn’t the best since Frau Platin Yukishiro Akira took that spot but Fumi knew that would change over time. Fumi was certain she would beat Akira by the time the second year came by, she would challenge her to a duel and win the title she deserved. 

 

That was the first mistake that would lead to her downfall Fumi realised as she continued to look back to the past. 

 

Growing up, Fumi had a mentality where you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. How you shouldn’t put all your efforts into something completely unattainable. It was something she learnt due to the comparisons and rivalry with Claudine over the years. Fumi knew she would never beat Claudine when it came to things like Ballet and in the same way, Claudine would never beat her on the piano. 

 

There was no point trying so hard in something you can’t even obtain. If there was a chance then sure go for it, but if there wasn’t even a single chance why put in the effort? There would be a better reward in trying to do something you had a better chance of getting.

 

This mentality was further enforced in Fumi’s life when she started to date in France and broke people’s hearts. Well, it’s not like she planned to break people’s hearts. Despite her reputation to date and kiss but to never have a girlfriend, girls didn’t understand the word no and set themselves up for heartbreak when Fumi wouldn’t budge her conviction. Instead, they would blame her for their stubbornness and consequential heartbreak instead of realising it could’ve been avoided if they just gave up on the idea of being her girlfriend.

 

This also meant if Fumi was going to try something, it meant she was going to get it or stood a chance to get it. She would give it her all and grab it with two hands. Fumi was going to give her to be the very best and she made sure Akira knew about it.

 

So when the second year came around and Fumi still wasn’t Frau Platin… it rattled her. But that was fine, it wasn’t the first time she didn’t get what she wanted no matter how hard she worked for it. It was a bitter defeat but that wasn’t going to shake her foundations. No, what shook her foundations was how it rattled everyone else.

 

There were rumours that Fumi was losing her edge, that Fumi was slipping as an edel. It frustrated her to no end. All that effort and all of that hard work and apparently she was slipping?? The nerve of them. It was no point to fight them, the best way to counter these things was to prove them wrong and not listen to the rumours.

 

So she did just that, but even Fumi can’t ignore the comments when her sister was mentioned. 

 

“Have you seen Yumeoji san lately? Yeah I know she’s getting bad right? No not her, her sister. Eh? She has a sister?”

 

“Haven’t you heard? She wants to be an edel too. Wow I wonder when Shiori san will defeat her sister.”

 

“Aaaa a conflict between the sisters is one worthy of the Seigfeld stage.”

 

Now Fumi was used to comparisons,  but only for Claudine . She wasn’t prepared for being compared to Shiori and how Shiori was better than her. She ignored it all but there was a little voice in her head, distracting her and making her lose concentration. It was enough to grab Akira’s attention, it was enough for her to verbally express her disappointment. 

 

Where was the girl who challenged her? 

 

Fumi didn’t know where she was but Fumi knew she was probably better than the current self. At least she wasn’t getting angry at herself, at Claudine, at Shiori. At least that Fumi wasn't scowling to herself in her room and wishing hell on her sisters. Where she wished Shiori got ill again, where she wished her mothers never met so that Shiori wouldn’t have gotten the help she needed to get better quicker. Where she wished she never met Claudine so that for once... She could live a life where she wasn’t compared by her sisters. 

 

That was the final moment that mattered in Fumi’s life in Seigfeld. It mattered because that was the moment where Frau Jade Yumeoji Fumi died, and on her bed was simply a shell of her former self. A skeleton made from her broken heart glued together by her choked tears. 

 

What was the point in being an Edel, to bear all of these hopes and dreams of Shiori if at the end of the day Fumi would meet them back with violent hatred? What was the point in being part of Shiori’s life at all if she wished her ill? 

 

Fumi wasn’t a person to put her efforts into something unattainable.

 

And on that night Fumi knew that no matter what she couldn’t be the person Shiori needed her to be or wanted her to be, let alone be the edel Akira and Michiru trusted. Not when she was in Seigfeld. The person Fumi wanted to be in Seigfeld was no longer attainable. 

 

So she left... and took the dead dreams to be a worthy stage girl with her. 

 

But the stage wasn’t done with her yet. 

 

A chime Fumi never heard before came from her phone, it was so strange that Fumi had to look up and see what the fuss was about. A giraffe that spun around in circles was on her screen as an unknown number called her. 

 

Despite the logic to not talk to strangers Fumi felt the urge to answer it. 

 

*ding*

 

Pop up notification

Kuro: Hey tell the hotel person you expected me 

 

*ding*

 

Pop up notification

Kuro: If not I’m calling mum

 

Immediately Fumi decided to decline the mysterious call and head downstairs to meet Claudine, unknown calling giraffes can wait. Claudine’s infamous impatience when it came to Fumi does not. 

 


 

It took her a while to find Fumi but that didn’t matter to Claudine. Eventually, finally, she found her wayward sister in a decent hotel thanks to the phone locator app that their mothers made sure everyone had before they went to Japan. 

 

Then after some arguing with the manager for her room number, the lost sister appeared right in front of her. Claudine’s first instinct was to frown and glare and hold back all the yelling she rightly deserved when they were in her room. The second instinct that quickly vanquished the first was to hug Fumi. 

 

And she did just that, Claudine quickly wrapped Fumi into her arms and was so sure she squeezed out the surprised gasp from Fumi’s throat. “Don’t scare Shiori like that again,” Claudine whispered into Fumi’s ear. She heard Fumi’s gulp of shame and let go, once again seeing the expression that led Claudine to hug Fumi in the first place. 

 

It was rare for Claudine to see the equally prideful Fumi look completely defeated. It was even rarer to see her act so soulless and full of fatigue. Sure Claudine was angry and frustrated still at Fumi but she was her sister first, and as the oldest, Claudine needed to know if she was okay. 

 

“I’m sorry—” Claudine shook her head, pressing her finger on Fumi’s lips as she gave Fumi a comforting smile. 

 

“Not now Fumi, let’s head upstairs yeah?” Fumi nodded her head, glancing around to notice that a few of the hotel patrons were watching them before they returned to whatever they were doing now that they were caught. With a sigh, Fumi led Claudine up to her room. As Claudine followed her, she turned off her phone, silent in its small vibrations with a giraffe spinning around in circles. Thankfully, it didn’t need to come to that. 

 

Now that they were in the room, the door closed, the air became tight. Like a million different invisible threads were stretching from one wall to the next so that every time one of them just exhaled, the entire room would shiver. It was almost worse than auditioning for roles in Claudine’s opinion but this was something that had to happen, whether in a random hotel room or a stage. 

 

“So,” Claudine said as she crossed her arms, sitting next to Fumi on the bed. “What was the fight with Shiori?”

 

“What?”

 

 “That’s why you left Seigfeld right?” Claudine watched Fumi’s reaction carefully. Her eyes were wide but distant, staring into nothing but so focused on something that Claudine couldn’t see. “You two had a fight.”

 

Fumi’s intake was sharp. “I… We— I didn’t leave because we had a fight…”

 

“Then why did you leave?” 

 

There was another sharp intake, followed by a quiver of her hands when Fumi looked away. “I can’t say it.”

 

“Fumi,” Claudine assured, uncrossing her arms, nudging her shoulder with her own to get Fumi to look her way. Fumi stayed where she was, the silence slowly suffocating both of them. “I’m not mad.”

 

“You will be.” A beat. Then in a quivering voice. “You’ll hate me.”

 

“And what makes you think that?” Claudine continued to search for anything on Fumi’s face that didn’t bear the shame and hatred Claudine knew she held. It’s strange, almost frightening how easy it was to read Fumi, she was always good at acting. The fact that she wasn’t trying or even wearing a mask just showed how tired she was. “Do you hate yourself?” 

 

The silence was very telling.

 

Claudine’s heart fell to the floor, the sound it made was heard in her quiet gasp. “God Fumi…”

 

“Don’t hug me.”

 

The warning came too late, Claudine was already squeezing Fumi again, dragging her face to her chest as she rubbed her arm. She even cooed. “Too late, onee san is here now.”

 

“Ugh,” Fumi growled trying hard to pull herself away. Claudine shouldn’t really be annoying her like this but she won’t lie, the weight on her shoulders lightened that despite everything Fumi was still able to get riled up like normal. “Let go.”

 

“Nope!” Claudine grinned as Fumi tried to wrangle herself out of the hug. 

 

“Why!?”

 

“Because Mama always gave us a hug when we were sad,” Claudine explained. If she wasn’t trying to be the oldest sister she would’ve relished how quickly Fumi stopped fidgeting. “Mama isn’t here now but I hope I can play a good role for her.”

 

Claudine felt parts of Fumi’s tension be released in her exhale. Her words were muffled against Claudine’s shirt. “You suck as a mum.”

 

Claudine smiled at the insult as she looked down at Fumi. “How about as a sister?”

 

Claudine watched Fumi’s eyes flicker to the side before it closed, resting her forehead against her shoulder, hiding her face away from her judgment. “You’re practically glowing compared to me…”

 

“So you did leave because of Shiori,” Claudine mused. 

 

“...You don’t know that.”

 

“But you do, don’t you?” Silence, even the attempt to get out of the hug stopped entirely. Swallowing her anxiety that she said yes, Claudine continued.“Do you hate her?”

 

Fumi’s head snapped up to Claudine within a second. “NO!” 

 

Claudine nodded, relief slipping through her sigh as the two sisters looked at each other. “Good, you know I hate to lie straight to her face.”

 

A bitter laugh left Fumi’s lips. “So she thinks I hate her huh…”

 

“Not really,” Claudine assured, no longer hugging Fumi as she rested a hand on her shoulder, “She’s just scared.”

 

“So I scared her,” Fumi laughed even harder as she pulled away from Claudine and stood up to create some distance. “That’s even better.”

 

“Fumi… what happened?”

 

“I told you already,” Fumi snapped, crossing her arms as she looked away from Claudine, “I can’t say it.”

 

“Then act it!” Claudine yelled, her frustrations reaching a tipping point. She stood up, her nostrils flaring as she screamed at Fumi, unable to hold herself back. “Tell me a story, exploit your grief and anguish to a narrative I can understand.”

 

“It’s not that simple Claudine!” Fumi roared as she turned back around to Claudine, the anger unveiled in her snarl so similar to Claudine’s.

 

“Sibling fights are never simple, you and I both know that,” Claudine growled, gesturing to the big space between them as proof. 

 

Fumi shook her head. “This is nowhere near to our level.” It was above it but Fumi wasn’t going to admit that. 

 

“Fumi we punched  a wall  in a fight one time,” Claudine stressed as she stepped closer to Fumi to emphasize her point. 

 

“Well I would rather punch a wall,” Fumi exclaimed, throwing her hands back up in the air in a scowl. “And break my hand then tell you why I left Seigfeld!”

 

“That’s fine with me,” Claudine yelled back, “Just as long as you explain why to Shiori!”

 

In and amongst the face full of rage and anger, for a second in a blink or you miss it moment, Claudine thought she saw a flash of fear in Fumi’s face. 

 

“I’m not explaining this to Shiori!” 

 

“WHY!?”

 

And that was the small crack needed to unleash the tsunami of the truth and the natural disaster that came with it. 

 

“BECAUSE HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EXPLAIN TO HER I WANTED HER TO GET SICK?” 

 

Fumi screamed, not even caring that her eyes were starting to well up or the way her conscious used the horrified expression on Claudine’s face, carved it into a knife and stabbed it right directly to her heart. She didn’t care how much she bled, the emotional blood seeping through the tears as Fumi hunched over in pain. 

 

“THAT I WISHED OUR PARENTS NEVER MET SO THAT SHIORI DIDN’T GET BETTER SO QUICKLY IN FRANCE? THAT I WISHED YOU WERE NEVER HER SISTER?”

 

Claudine didn’t know how to react. Yes, she was horrified that Fumi thought this but at the same time… How can she be mad when Fumi,  her sister , was making that sort of face? “Fumi…” 

 

“HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EXPLAIN ALL OF THAT AND THEN TELL HER I STILL LOVE HER AS MY SISTER!?”

 

Fumi’s knees gave way and she collapsed to the floor. Still crying, still choking back the words that continued to power through her lungs and throat. Vomiting her sins right in front of Claudine to judge and then execute in the name of sin and justice. 

 

Except for that righteous and just anger never came, Claudine knelt right in front of Fumi and slowly with a gentleness Fumi knew she didn’t deserve and nudged her forward. “Fumi… come here…”

 

“HOW…” Fumi began again before her body, exhausted from running away and from venting fell forward into Claudine’s embrace. Her cries were now smothered by Claudine’s shirt, “how… how am I supposed to be her sister when—”

 

“Shhh,” Claudine whispered, stroking Fumi’s hair before speaking in French. Something all three of them turned back to when they were in high emotions. “It’s okay Fumi, I’m not mad".

 

Fumi heaved, her breathing was heavy and fast. She’s a fish out of the water. Fumi was not used to this sort of environment, even if the environment was about having compassion amongst the rightfully damned. “You hate me, don’t you".

 

“I don’t hate you either.” There was a pause and then with a gentle tone, “Shiori won’t either when she understands why you had to leave.” 

 

Fumi looked up and shook her head. “You don’t know that.” 

 

Claudine smirked, taking Fumi’s cheeks to wipe away the tears. The entire conversation was still in french. “And somehow you know she’s going to hate you the second you tell her?” Fumi opened her mouth to say something. Then she grumbled out a sigh and flopped her head against Claudine’s shoulder in defeat. Claudine could barely hold back her chuckle. “That’s what I thought.” 

 

They stayed there in relative silence as slowly Fumi was able to control her breathing again until she broke it. “Be with me when I tell her?"

 

“I’ll be with you every step of the way,” Claudine assured, squeezing Fumi again in her hug. Her eyes glanced at the windows and she let out a grumble in Japanese when she noticed that the rain still hadn't died down. “Even through the goddamn rain again".

 

Against her shoulder, Fumi snorted. “God what made you be so dramatic?”

 

“I go to a drama school.”

 

“Nerd.”

 

They both laughed together at that, Claudine’s tired laugh mixed in with Fumi’s hollow laugh shouldn’t have worked but it did. It was something that almost sounded like forgiveness. It was just missing one other voice. 

 

“So,” Fumi sighed as she wiped away stray tears with her sleeves. “Where is Shiori?” 

 

Claudine winced, rubbing a hand at the back of her neck. She was so focused on knowing why Fumi left she completely forgot to explain what happened with Shiori. “Well, long story short, she’s staying the night in Seisho."

 

As expected, Fumi’s eyes widened in surprise. “SHE’S DOING WHAT?”

Chapter Text

Despite being related to Claudine and Fumi, people who are liable to be considered the ‘Top Stars’ were people Shiori wasn’t particularly fond of. Actually, being related to two top star candidates might be why she didn’t like them that much. Shiori was fine with her sisters, but with every rival Claudine and Fumi talked about gave her crude impressions. The fact that upon meeting them they would normally prove her bad assumptions were correct didn’t help either. 

 

Top stars these people may be in the very best of their art, or at least the stage they were on. But when it came to leaving a favourable impression on Shiori, they were the lowest of the rank. Top stars were rude, arrogant and obnoxious. They were so full of their own vanity that they could’ve redone the entire dictionary meaning of narcissus if it was a stage piece. Her sisters were also included, but their bickering always chipped away most of the unfavourable traits. 

 

So Shiori’s impressions on Tendou Maya was at an interesting place. On one hand, she was the person responsible for the return of Claudine swearing in french since she would complain about her non-stop. On the other hand, Maya was the one who allowed her in the Seisho dorms. Even going as far to carry her up the steps. 

 

It wasn’t in Shiori’s plans to think about top stars but it was certainly better than overthinking about her sisters. Claudine said she was going to bring Fumi home and explain herself so Shiori had to trust her. Besides the last time she overthought, Shiori focused too much on her sisters it led her to stand out in the rain for who knows how long. Which meant it was somehow better to think about Tendou Maya to distract herself. 

 

Yes, Shiori was mad that Maya accused her of being a fangirl and glared at her for trying to come in. But after she calmed her head in the baths, she understood why Maya was like that. Shiori blushed from embarrassment whenever she thought about her desperation to get inside to meet Claudine. Staying in the rain like that… It was really stupid considering her health. She was glad that her mothers’ weren’t going to learn about this or else she would’ve got an earful from them. 

 

But now she understood why Maya acted the way she did when they first met. With the added fact that she carried Shiori to the dorm, Shiori didn’t know exactly what to think about Tendou Maya. She remembered vividly of Claudine’s warnings to keep a safe distance away from her last year but they’re best friends now so was that warning valid anymore? 

 

A knock on the door stirred Shiori out of her thoughts. “Come in!” 

 

Shiori was in Claudine’s room, sitting on the bed borrowing one of Claudine’s hoodies to wear. Ideally, she should’ve eaten dinner after she called Seigfeld to explain why she wasn’t at the dorms tonight but she didn’t want to be in a room full of Claudine’s friends. She saw them before on the stage and Claudine talked to Shiori enough about them but the idea of meeting them for the first time without Claudine made Shiori nervous. She was friendly enough with Mahiru since Claudine asked her specifically to help Shiori. 

 

Though to Shiori’s surprise, the person who entered wasn’t Mahiru but Maya. The person who has been plaguing her thoughts as of late. “Tendou san,” Shiori said as she sat up. “What brings you here?”

 

“Ah, Yumeoji san,” Maya smiled warmly as she stood near the bed, a respectable distance away from Shiori. “I would like to have a moment of your time please.” 

 

Shiori blinked, shuffling to the side as she gestured to the bed. “Uhhh sure? You can sit down if you want.”

 

Maya sat down, nodding her head as a sign of thanks but she didn’t turn fully to face her and was more interested in staring at the door. “Much appreciated Yumeoji san. I would like to begin with a formal apology for my actions when we first met. You waved it away at first but personally, it wasn’t enough for me to atone.” 

 

Shiori’s mouth opened, lips staggering to get a word out as she stared at Maya wide-eyed. Not because the girl came to apologise directly (again) but the wording of her sentences. Who in the world uses the word “atone” in a sentence like that? It was so archaic that it made Shiori want to giggle, but she won’t because that’s just rude. Besides she was struggling to hold back her smile already. 

 

Maya turned to her and immediately Shiori shut her lips together. Maya’s eyes were so sharp, so serious that she couldn’t help but freeze up. There was no doubt this girl was a “Top Star” though as almost quickly, her sharp gaze turned to her Maya’s eyes softened and her lips formed a small smile. Shiori couldn’t deny that Maya looked cute smiling like that, it was another reason she was a Top Star. 

 

“So please accept my sincerest apology Yumeoji Shiori,” Maya said with a bow of her head, a hand over her heart. Her voice was gentle and sweet. It was so sweet in fact for Shiori that it made her cheeks reddening from embarrassment. “For leaving you with a bad impression upon meeting for our first time and for scaring you initially with my apologies. I initially planned to give you something to amend my mistake but there was nothing in my current possession worthy of your forgiveness.”

 

This girl… 

 

It was no wonder why Claudine got frustrated with her often. Claudine didn’t exactly like extravagance actions, a simple apology would be the same as an apology with flowery words if it was sincere from the heart. If anything the added flair meant you weren’t sincere and was just doing performative actions that looked genuine. Though Shiori wasn’t her sister, she found the entire thing silly in a dorky way. 

 

“It’s fine Tendou san,” Shiori said, allowing herself to have a small smile instead of giggling. “I forgave you already and honestly--” she paused wondering if it was okay to say this. Shiori’s smile wavered a bit and she brought a plushy that Claudine owned (they all owned a matching one since their mama bought them a plushy trio set) closer to her chest. “I uh, don’t know what you’re exactly apologising for.”

 

“Oh…”

 

One thing Shiori noticed about top stars was that they barely showed their most naked expressions. Even Fumi and Claudine had their moments where they were hard to read due to their impressive acting. So Shiori couldn’t help herself when she hid her smile into the crook of the plushy when she saw Tendou Maya looked so genuinely dazed and surprised. It was such an apparent expression that Shiori found parts of herself finding it cute. 

 

“Se passe-t-il?” Shiori asked herself in french (What the heck?). She shouldn’t find the situation funny or cute but here she was hiding her face behind a plushy. “T’es bête.” She didn’t mean to call Maya an idiot but oh well, what she doesn’t understand can’t hurt her. 

 

However, her comments in french were enough to rouse Maya from her dazed state, clearing her throat. “Well I should explain the situation then shouldn’t I?” Maya wasn’t looking at Shiori anymore despite the occasional glances back. “You see Yumeoji san… I well,” her voice trailed off opting to say no more. 

 

Shiori perked up, extremely conscious of the ways the corner of her lips wanted to curl upwards out of amusement. She shouldn’t be rude and smile about this even if it was funny to see top stars flounder about, what would her mothers say if they were found out. (They would probably half-jokingly blame her older sisters for leading her astray)

 

“Well I left you in the rain first of all,” Maya said, turning back to Shiori to address her. “Or was about to, had I not recognised you so quickly.” 

 

Shiori hummed, tilting her head. “Didn’t you already apologise for that though Tendou san?” She vaguely remembered the umbrella over her head. “With the umbrella?”

 

“Well, yes I did,” Maya conceded, “But I also accused you as a rabid fangirl to your sister.” 

 

A small frown marred Shiori’s expression. Her arms dropped to her sides, the plushy on her lap tumbled to the side. “But that was also my fault too since I didn’t do anything to stop that bad impression—” Shiori’s eyes widened in panic and she quickly bowed her head. “Oh! Tendou san I’m really sorry for yelling at you back then.”

 

“It’s fine,” Maya assured, she gestured to Shiori to raise her head. “I was rightfully deserved—”

 

“Only now maybe,” Shiori interrupted, taking Maya by surprise once more. “But even if I wasn’t Claudine’s sister I shouldn't have yelled at you like that since I was also in the wrong.”

 

“I…” 

 

Shiori’s eyes widened again but this time a small embarrassed blush accompanied it. Growing up with her sisters led her to sometimes interrupt others especially since sometimes she had to stop Claudine and Fumi’s debates from getting too heated. “Oh, I’m really sorry I interrupted you Tendou san.”

 

“No it’s fine,” Maya chuckled. “Though I still aim to apologise properly with a gift for nearly leaving you out of the rain by the way Yumeoji san.”

 

Shiori smiled politely before she ran her hand through her hair with a sigh. “You’re just as troublesome and stubborn as Kuro nee warned you to be, Tendou san.”

 

Before Maya could respond, there was another knock on the door. When it opened, the kind face of Mahiru appeared. “Shiori chan, Kuro chan called, they're coming here now.”

 

Instantly all of Shiori’s relaxed calmness hiked up to a sudden spike of panic. “Kuro nee found onee chan!?”

 

Mahiru nodded, “She said they’ll be here in around 15 minutes once they find a taxi.”

 

Instantly, Shiori began to wilt and a nervous smile crept up her face. “Ah…” She should be happy that her sisters are safe and sound but the question of why Fumi left her in Seigfeld was burning the back of her throat and made her stomach squirm in trepidation. 

 

Maya and Mahiru gave each other a worried glance until Maya cleared her throat. Shiori glanced her way. “Are you okay Yumeoji san? Do you require any assistance?”

 

The last question said in that ever serious tone with the pretty top star face, made Shiori close her eyes and rest her head on the pillow. She sounded like an in-game tutorial robot with that sort of wording. It was enough of a bizarre thought to remind Shiori to breathe.

 

 “I’m fine, Tendou san,” she exhaled as she opened her eyes yet again. Shiori shifted, resting on her side as she looked at Mahiru, “Tsuyuzaki san do you mind getting me a glass of water?” Mahiru nodded and closed the door as she left.

 

“I’m glad you’re fine Yumeoji san,” Maya said as she stood up, “I’ll be leaving first to give you some space before their arrival.”

 

“Ah— wait!” Shiori said as she reached out to grab her wrist to get Maya’s attention. She missed, touched her hand instead for a mere second before quickly pulling back like she touched a burning stove. It was an apt metaphor with how much Shiori’s face burnt red. “Sorry!” 

 

Maya gave her a calm smile, “It’s fine Yumeoji san, do you need any further assistance?”

 

“Do you still plan to send me a gift even though I already forgave you?”

 

Maya nodded, “However if you’re not comfortable with it I will forgo all of my plans concerning the matter.”

 

Shiori shook her head, “It’s fine Tendou san, I just—” Shiori looked away again as her eyes scrunched up. She really shouldn’t be doing this but she was curious to see what a top star would do as an apology. She barely met any top stars that seemed genuine in apologising that weren't her sisters. Though her sisters must never learn about this. “Can I borrow your phone?” 

 

Maya blinked but still took out her phone for Shiori to use. “Do you wish to message your sisters?” Shiori shook her head, deciding that the best way to continue without second-guessing her actions was to keep quiet. Said action was to simply add her line number to Maya’s contacts. 

 

It was completely utterly scandalous. 

 

It went against what Shiori thought about most Top stars and she knew she wouldn’t do this in normal circumstances. But this wasn’t a normal circumstance and Shiori was looking for a way to distract herself from her sisters coming in less than 15 minutes. Mentally berating yourself for giving away a line number was a far better situation than thinking non-stop that you were the reason why your sister left Seigfeld. 

 

“Here,” Shiori squeaked as she gave the phone to Maya. She waited, her excuse lodged in her throat ready to fire the second Maya questioned what she had done. Maya gave her a confused glance before scrolling on her phone. The signal for Shiori’s excuse came at Maya’s wide eyes and partially opened mouth. 

 

“It’s for you to message me later about the gift,” Shiori blurted out, her hands scrunching on the blanket below, her red face darkening. Maya looked at her, a slight tinge of pink on her cheeks. “Please don’t think anything more about it, Tendou san.”

 

“I would never,” Maya said, her voice still calm despite her surprised face. “I just wasn’t aware of your boldness Yumeoji san.”

 

Shiori flushed more, ducking her head as she tucked a hair behind her ear. “My sisters are protective,” she explained, “You probably won’t get a chance to talk until I’m already gone and even then it would’ve been too late.”

 

Maya nodded, tucking her phone away as she headed straight for the door, voice unreadable. “Understandable, have a nice night Yumeoji san.” 

 

Shiori gave her a weak smile, too worried that if she would say a word what would come out was a squeak instead. However the second the door was shut, Shiori immediately dove under the covers, grabbed a pillow and quietly yelled into it. 

 

“Merde!” 

 

Then after a tired long sigh, Shiori screamed again, under her breath this time so no one would hear. 

 

“Je ne peux pas croire que j’ai fait ça…” (I can’t believe I did that…)

 

Shiori sighed again, removing the pillow from her face as she quietly recalled what happened. One thing was for certain though, she wasn’t going to let her sisters find out about this anytime soon. 

Chapter Text

To think that Fumi’s biggest struggles today would be a door. Though in her defence, behind the door was Shiori probably resting on Claudine’s bed waiting for her sisters to return. But Fumi wasn’t hesitating to open the door because of Shiori’s presence, nope. Fumi was a big girl. She could handle whatever was going to happen next. 

 

“If you can handle what’s going to happen next stop talking to yourself and open the damn door already,” Claudine snorted. Fumi turned her head to the side and glared as Claudine stuck her tongue out back at her. She was resting on the wall, Fumi’s suitcase on her side. “Or at least stop acting like an idiot to everyone watching.” Fumi was about to question who if it wasn’t for the sudden noise of running footsteps near them. Fumi turned around but by the time she looked, they were gone.

 

“Don’t worry, they didn’t hear anything,” Claudine said as she pushed herself up the wall and placed a hand on Fumi’s shoulder. “You were talking in french.”

 

“No wonder you knew I was stressed.”

 

“Oh no I didn’t need the french for that, it was all over your face,” Claudine chuckled. Glaring at her, Fumi swatted her hand off her shoulder. Claudine nudged her arm, “You’ll be fine Fumi, she’s not going to bite you.”

 

“She has your temper tantrum though,” Fumi mumbled under her breath before she yelped when Claudine smacked the back of her shoulder lightly. “Come on you know I’m right!” she snapped back, rubbing the place where Claudine hit her. It was rare for Shiori to be that mad but when she was mad it was a force to be reckoned with. 

 

“Shiori is more worried about you that she wouldn’t even hurt a fly.” Claudine laughed at the statement, walking back to her spot on the wall to drag the suitcase closer to Fumi. Yet the roll of the wheels made it all too real for Fumi that this was happening. She was going to talk to Shiori about why she left. 

 

“Maybe a degenerate of a sister perhaps,” Fumi muttered, looking away with her head down in shame. Or at least until Claudine pushed it up gently with the back of her hand underneath Fumi’s chin.

 

“Oi,” Claudine said as her eyes narrowed towards Fumi. She gestured to the door with her head. “Stop hating yourself and open the door.”

 

A sound of displeasure left Fumi’s frown, she crossed her arms and stared at the door. Claudine ever watching over her sister, gave her a worried glance. Fumi’s eyes were a mix of frustration but also fear. Said emotions were further emphasised in the distress of her tone. “Can’t you do it?”

 

“I can,” Claudine said, glancing at the door. Even though she wasn’t the one facing Shiori directly, just staring at the door Claudine felt her bones shiver in trepidation. If this was how she felt, one could wonder how much Fumi was feeling. “But it would defeat the point.”

 

Fumi let out a hollow chuckle. “What point?”

 

Claudine turned to Fumi, a gentle supportive smile on her face. “That you can be brave enough to face your fears.” The smile snapped to a mischievous smirk, raising her hand over Fumi’s hair to seemingly ruffle it. Fumi raised her arms to block her but Claudine slipped past and touched the flower clip Fumi had. At the touch, Fumi froze and the weight of Claudine’s flower pendant on her chest, attached via a necklace became more apparent to the eldest sister. 

 

“At the end of the day,” Claudine said, her voice as soft as a forgiving embrace. Fumi looked up to her eyes. “We’re all still sisters, remember.”

 

Fumi flushed, embarrassed at the sisterly love as she flicked Claudine’s hands away from her head. She scowled turning away, ignoring Claudine’s chuckle. “Shiori is scary when she’s mad.”

 

“What level of Shiori are you even imagining?” Claudine laughed completely in disbelief.

 

Fumi paused at this. “Remember when Mum didn’t let her go with us to Japan at first?” Claudine nodded. “How about the time we broke the horse pinata on her birthday and she didn’t know what a pinata was?” Claudine winced but nodded. She can still remember Shiori’s cry of anger when they offered her the cute pony’s blood (sweets) to her as a peace offering. “It’s those two combined then multiplied by itself.”

 

“Merde…” Claudine sighed, “And you call me dramatic.”

 

Fumi raised a brow at Claudine. “Am I wrong?”

 

She shrugged, “As much as you are a coward.”

 

“Great,” Fumi said, clapping her hands together with a smile. “Anyways, I’ll be off—” she said turning around and walked away swiftly before Claudine grabbed her arm to turn her around. 

 

“Merchant va! Fumi!” Claudine yelled and she started to drag her back to the door. When Fumi started to resist, Claudine let out an audible groan before she turned around and completely lifted Fumi into her arms, over the shoulder like a sack of potatoes. “God I have to do all the work around here.”

 

“Let go of me!” Fumi roared, pounding Claudine’s back with her fists before trying to wriggle herself free. 

 

“When we’re in my room you dumbass or do you have to wrestle you there?” Claudine grunted before she had to stumble into a wall because of Fumi’s insistent moving. Fumi managed to escape the initial grasp but failed to block off the second grab, resulting in a headlock. 

 

“And you told me off for starting a scene you hypocrite!” Fumi screamed, once again attempting to wriggle herself out. 

 

“I told you off for acting like an idiot,” Claudine hissed as she managed to get Fumi off the ground into a terribly done bridal carry. “Which is what you’re still doing!” 

 

“Well it takes one to know one!” 

 

“Exactement.” 

 

And just like that Fumi and Claudine froze. The sound was quiet, almost fondly tired with the familiar tinge of a sigh. It was something that was only heard from experience, cut through the chaos with sisterly exasperation. It was something only Shiori could pull off. The two older sisters were too busy arguing and wrestling with each other that neither noticed the door of Claudine’s room opening. Or the fact their younger sister came out. 

 

“Shiori!” Instantly, Claudine turned around a panicked smile on her face when she saw that Shiori was indeed right in front of them. She was so spooked and embarrassed that Shiori saw them in this state (again) that her hands flew to side in a gesture to mean she didn’t do anything. “I didn’t start it!”

 

Thud.

 

Promptly leading her to drop Fumi on the floor. 

 

Landing squarely on her butt, Fumi winced as she rubbed the side of her thigh. She looked up at Claudine with an expression of disbelief and annoyance. “Oww???” 

 

“Oh,” Claudine said with a wry smile, glancing at Shiori’s unreadable expression before turning to Fumi. “Whoops?” 

 

“You just dropped me!” Fumi yelled, glaring straight up at Claudine. She leaned forward and smacked Claudine’s thigh, Claudine moved back to dodge but didn’t avoid the entire blow. “And that’s all you’re going to say?”

 

“I mean,” Claudine sighed, one hand to her waist as she looked down at Fumi. “Would you rather be carried into my room like a big baby?”

 

“No? But I prefer being let down gently.”

 

Claudine proceeded to pat her head with a sickly sweet smile, made only to piss Fumi off. “We don’t have any ponzu in the cupboards.”

 

Fumi opened her mouth and then closed it with a frown. “Well now I’m just upset.”

 

Claudine shrugged. “You did say you liked getting let down gently.”

 

Fumi was about to say something but was caught off by a light chuckle. But when she turned around to the sound, Fumi saw a sight that was far worse than Shiroi’s anger. Shiori was crying. 

 

“Shiori…”

 

“I’m so glad you’re okay Onee chan,” Shiori smiled through the tears as she ran over. She almost knocked Fumi with a hug as she wrapped her arms around her neck, burying her face close to her chest.

 

“Shiori…” Fumi whispered, glancing up to Claudine for advice. Claudine leaned down and patted Shiori’s back before making a pointed look towards the open door. Fumi took a deep breath, her exhale struggling to get past the clog in her throat. There was no more time to run away now, the judgment of her sins as a sister was calling. “Let’s, let’s have a talk.”


 

Shiori didn’t mean to cry the second she saw her sisters. It just happened. Something was tugging at her heart when she saw them arguing together, acting like this was France and not Japan like Fumi’s departure didn’t happen. Maybe it might’ve been nostalgia, or maybe it was the relief. Relief that despite everything they were still the same sisters, to her and each other. 

 

However, that relief evaporated when the door of Claudine’s room closed, trapping them to fully confront what happened. Shiori, ever so excited and relieved that things would be okay, climbed on the bed fully expecting with a smile on her face that her sisters would follow. Like how they usually did when they had a slumber party, good times where they would gossip and joke about, throw a pillow here and there. 

 

Her smile flickered when she noticed she was the only one to climb on. Claudine was near the door, blocking it in a way as she placed Fumi’s suitcase to the wall nearby. Fumi was near the middle, edging more towards the closed and blocked door opposed to Shiori. Shiori watched as Fumi glanced at her before turning to Claudine. Claudine in turn sighed and with one hand gently nudged Fumi closer. 

 

It reminded Shiori of the time when they went to the zoo. Claudine and Fumi were pushing each other to the tiger pen because both of them were scared but they didn’t want to show it. Especially because the tiger was near the window prowling up and down. Would that make Shiori the tiger in this case? The thought sent a wave of unease within Shiori. 

 

Shiori wanted to speak, to bring up the question burning at the back of her throat. All of that bravado left when Fumi turned her way and failed to look at her in the eyes. Scared of ruining things more, Shiori sunk into the bed and glanced to the floor. The silence was suffocating but it was better than drowning in a mess she could’ve caused if she opened her mouth and spoke. 

 

Claudine however, looked at her two sisters and sighed. Loudly. 

 

“Alright this isn’t going to work,” she growled as she grabbed Fumi by the arm. Fumi was about to say something but her words transformed into a yelp as Claudine unceremoniously flung on her the bed, but not a  pillar that made up her 4 poster bed. She didn’t even wince when Fumi hissed and rubbed the back of her head. 

 

“Onee chan!” 

 

“Kuro what the hell?” Claudine didn’t care about the yelling, she leaned down with a finger pointing towards Fumi’s chest. 

 

“This is for not gaining the courage to talk to our sister,” Claudine explained. Fumi winced looking away as she rubbed her arm. Satisfied, Claudine moved to Shiori. “And you—” She paused however at the sight of a teary-eyed Shiori, bottom lip trembling. Defeated, Claudine sighed and pushed her plushy from their plushies set into Shiori’s arms. “This is for you, you might need it.”

 

“Oh uh… okay?”

 

“Look, I know this is going to be difficult on all of us but we can't move forward until we address this.” Now it was Claudine’s turn to sit on the bed, nearing the edge on Shiori’s other side as she looked over at Fumi and Shiori.

 

 “Whatever happens here, I just want both of you to remember that we all love each other.” She makes a pointed look towards Fumi, then equally at Shiori. “Even if you think or heard otherwise.”

 

A long agonising silence continued. The only sound heard was the deafening ticks of the clock in the room. 

 

“Look,” Fumi started, her words shaking as she did a sharp inhale. She was fixated on the ground, staring at it intently to avoid her sisters. “I don’t exactly know how to start this, I know it’s my fault, I know I’m in the wrong for leaving you in Seigfeld Shiori without any reason but still… I don’t know how to say it.”

 

Shiori nodded, she looked down at her hands, opening and closing them in thought. “I think… an apology would be a good start Onee chan.”

 

Fumi let out a hollow chuckle. “That won’t mean much if you don’t know all the reasons about why I’m saying sorry.”

 

Shiori clenched her fists tightly together. “That’s the hard part right?” Next to her, Shiori could feel the heavy nods of her sister. 

 

Shiori took a deep breath, her hands relaxed, she exhaled. “I guess I should start then…”

 

Claudine, watching them closely perked up in confusion, “Shiori?”

 

Shiori ignored them. “I was scared when you left Onee chan. It was so sudden, so quick I…” She paused to hang her head in shame. “In my worry I even neglected my health and stayed in the rain looking for you.”

 

“Shiori!”

 

“I’m not sick though,” Shiori yelped, quick to pacify her sister with her hands and head up. When she did look up, she couldn’t hide the surprise that Fumi’s head was up as well, looking at her with a face full of worry and concern. This was the first time they looked at each other eye to eye. The thought made Shiori smile. “I’m fine Fumi, Kuro’s friends made sure of that.”

 

Fumi glanced behind to Claudine and Claudine nodded. “She’s right, Tendou Maya went to the dorm early and found her. She then brought her up to my dorm, Mahiru and Nana tended to her before Maya called me and told me what happened.” Claudine’s didn’t mention how Shiori’s fainted, she didn’t want a riot to derail things. 

 

Still, that didn’t stop Fumi pressing the back of her hand against Shiori to check the temperature. Shiori stayed quiet and allowed it to happen even brushing her hair out of the way to help. From the other side, Claudine clicked her tongue in amusement. Fumi sent her a pointed look that said “This is serious” responding in Claudine rolling her eyes. Shiori held back her giggle at their interactions. 

 

“Well looks like you’re okay,” Fumi said in relief as she pulled her hand back. With her other hand, Fumi used it to run her fingers through her hair. “That being said,” Fumi continued giving Shiori a stern look. “Don’t do something like that again. The last thing I want is for you to be sick.” 

 

Strangely enough, the second Fumi finished that sentence Shiori noticed how her face paled rapidly. Taking the initiative, Shiori placed her hand on Fumi’s thigh causing Fumi to snap out of it. Knowing that Shiori had her attention, Shiori sharpened her gaze like how Claudine did it but failed, resulting in puppy eyes. 

 

“Do you plan to run away again then Onee chan?” This close Shiori heard Fumi’s quiet but audible gulp. Her eyes closed and Fumi’s shoulders slumped. 

 

“No, I don’t plan to run away anymore, Shiori.” Shiori’s eyes widened, Claudine raised a brow. Fumi decided to stand up and shake her hands, releasing all of her nervous energy.

 

Shiori didn’t know what to do, part of her wanted to stand, the other part wanted to bring Fumi back to the bed. She snapped out of it when Claudine held her hand and gently pushed the plushy back to her arms. Remembering Claudine’s words before, Shiori gripped Claudine’s hand harder and squeezed the plushy into a tight hug. 

 

“Shiori…” Fumi was still facing away from her, Claudine coughed into her hand and Fumi turned around. Shame, conflicted and apparent was on her face but Fumi had the strength to look Shiori in the eye. No matter what would happen, Shiori had to respect her sister to have this courage. 

 

“The reason why I left Seigfeld was because—” There was a pause. Fumi bit her lip so hard that blood drew, she licked it away, struggling to keep her gaze. The confession came out like a gasp of air only to realise you were drinking in poison.  “Because for a moment I hated you and everything you achieved.” 

 

The gasp that came from Shiori’s lip was enough to shoot the room into silence. Even the clocks rendered itself mute. Fumi’s face fell, her hands on her sides clenched. “And then I hated myself because of it.” A hollow laugh followed... “I even wished our parents never met and we never found out about Kuro.”

 

Shiori wanted to speak but she couldn’t, she wanted to protest that she knew Fumi wouldn’t say that but wouldn’t that just be selfish ignorance? Even so, she looked to Claudine for any hope, any sign that this was a prank. But the fact that Claudine failed to look her way sent more shivers up Shiori’s spine. Enough to make tears tremble from the corner of her eyes like leaves in a windy day threatening to fall. 

 

Fumi didn’t notice all of this, her eyes were shut to hold back the tears of shame and raw self-anger and hatred. Not that it mattered much, what couldn’t be shed was heard in the way her voice choked in her throat. 

 

“And so the second I thought that, I realised I could never be the sister you look up to anymore.” Fumi couldn’t stop herself and quickly wiped her tears from the back of her sleeves, taking in a shaky breath as she looked at Shiori in the eye. The held back tears both sisters saw on each other was enough to make them cry at the same time. 

 

“You know my resolve,” Fumi continued, her voice struggled to stay calm as silent tears rolled down her cheeks. “If something is impossible I don’t do because all of that effort is just wasted when you get nothing in return. I looked at myself, looked at who I was in Seigfeld and realised I could never be the person I wanted to be there, I could never be the stage girl that was worthy to be your sister.”

 

 “Onee chan… is not going to go on the stage anymore?” Shiori said, voice blubbering as she tightened her grip on the plushie. It’s not what she wanted to say though, she wanted to assure Fumi that it didn’t matter, that Shiori still thought of her as a sister. But all of that was gone the second Fumi brought up the stage, the second Fumi mentioned that she was going to leave. It was selfish of Shiori to want Fumi to stay on the stage even when she didn’t want to but Shiori didn’t care. She only cared about Fumi leaving her alone and how the thought scared her. 

 

She didn’t want any more family members to leave her. 

 

“I… I don’t know,” Fumi sighed. She wore a broken smile on her lips. “I can’t remember it anymore.” 

 

She can’t remember the joys of the stage, she can’t remember the fire in her lungs when she fought against Akira, she can’t remember all of the things that made her happy in the first place. Every time she thought about the stage she thought about Shiori, of the thoughts she hated as well as the comparison from the student bodies. Whatever stage she had a year ago was corrupted, unfit to hold the stage girl she was— she should’ve been. 

 

“I think…” Claudine said after a moment of silence, cutting through the drama was a cautious knife. She looked up and met Fumi’s eyes and her gaze resolved into determination. “Instead of leaving, maybe a break is better. I don’t think taking away your favourite place because you had bad thoughts isn’t going to help you.”

 

A break? The thought of returning to the stage made Fumi laugh. “And how is a break supposed to help me Claudine?”

 

“I think it’s because you probably burnt yourself out, the competitive nature of Seigfeld plus your own thoughts regarding Shiori burnt you out,” Claudine explained, her voice becoming more gentle but determined as she continued. “Don’t you remember why we decided to not go to the same school Fumi? Our fighting for the lead was getting too much for both of us. And unfortunately, Seigfeld just kept that fight going until you couldn’t continue anymore.”

 

“So it’s Seigfeld’s fault I’m like this not my own?”

 

“Sometimes, things occur due to the environment they are in,” Claudine explained as she crossed her arms. “Shiori got a role we both wanted in France when we were younger but we didn’t fight about it. A more extreme thing happened here and it was because other people were doubting your abilities and used your sisters against you.”

 

“I don’t remember that.” She shouldn’t because it’s never existed. But Claudine would do what she can to soften the blow even if later when she’s better Fumi would have her head about it. She waved off the concerns casually. “It was a long time ago.”

 

“But what I’m saying is,” Claudine said the second she saw Fumi’s mouth open to protest, “Seigfeld wasn’t good for you Fumi. Or maybe it was in the beginning but it’s not good for you now.”Claudine looked away, growling under her breath as she scrunched up the fabrics of her sleeves. 

 

“The fact that they were just casual would pit two close sisters together and compare them doesn’t sit right with me.” She turned back to Fumi. “I mean yeah, we got compared a lot but that’s because we’re basically twins minus the obvious age and height difference.”

 

“Do you really need to do it now?” Fumi asked, giving Claudine a deadpan look. Did they really need to start this now? 

 

Claudine smirked, igniting a familiar irritating flame in Fumi’s gut. “Bold of you to assume I never ignore a chance to assert my dominance.”

 

 “Think again.” Instantly, Fumi did a T-pose and despite the tears in her eyes and the way her tongue tasted like salt, Fumi smirked as she towered over Claudine. It’s something that shouldn’t have happened, a whiplash of comedy amongst the pain. But the two emotions were never against each other but side to side. If one can laugh that can turn into a cry, why can’t it go the other way around?

 

They stayed there in the silent tension before both the girls collapsed into absurd laughter, even Shiori giggled at their antics. Humour was always a human medication for pain. 

 

“See this is what I meant,” Claudine smiled, more gentle than before, “If we were in your dorm in Seigfeld would you do this? Mess around like this?” Fumi looked at her like she saw a ghost and Claudine tugged at her arms with a narrowed gaze. “Answer me honestly Fumi.”

 

“...No,” Fumi answered after a heavy swallow. She hated how Claudine was right. She hated the idea that the place she was comfortable before, Seigfeld, was becoming a cage. But Claudine was right. It was a cage, Fumi couldn’t grow there even if she stayed. “Honestly if you came to Seigfeld Kuro, I would’ve been more on edge.”

 

Kuro nodded, a satisfied smile on her face. “Exactement. You don’t hate Shiori right?”

 

“No I don’t,” Fumi said instantly, she looked to the side again, curling her hands into a fist. “I hate myself more for even thinking about it.”

 

“Please don’t.” 

 

Fumi turned to the voice, not surprised to see the tears forming in the corners of Shiori’s eyes. Another bullet of guilt plunged her chest. Hadn’t she made her sister cry enough? What was so wrong with her that she needed to make her cry again?

 

“What?”

 

Shiori looked up at her with red eyes, her lips wobbled into a plea. “Please don’t hurt yourself more Onee chan, you’re already hurting enough.”

 

“Shiori—”

 

Shiori didn’t care about her words, she reached forward and pulled Fumi down to sit next to her. Before Fumi could do anything though, Shiori threw herself into her arms, burying her face into her shoulder as her arms wrapped tight around her back. 

 

“I don’t want to see my sister get hurt!” The yell was enough to defy the heavens, it was enough to constrict the air in Fumi’s lungs. 

 

“Shiori…” she gasped, aching in more ways than one. She didn’t deserve this, she didn’t deserve this forgiveness. Yet in the embrace of forgiveness Fumi couldn’t do anything but stare into the compassionate gaze of Claudine overlooking all of this, all Fumi could do was silently cry. 

 

“I love you Fumi, even if you hate me I’ll still love you because we’re family and because you’re my sister!” Shiori yelled, her voice still heard despite being muffled as she buried her tears and her face into Fumi’s clothes. “So don’t be so hard on yourself! These things happen and yeah they hurt but we’re still sisters. We’re not supposed to get on with each other perfectly. I yelled at you before, you and kuro yell at each other. We’re not supposed to be perfect.”

 

No, they’re not perfect, the entire family was born from an imperfect relationship— two imperfect relationships in fact. That doesn’t take away the guilt in Fumi’s chest, the way she hurled hate and ill wishes on the two people she loved the most. 

 

“But that doesn’t take away the fact I wanted both of you gone for my own selfish reasons,” Fumi croaked, barely getting the words out. The roof of her mouth was numb, raw from her tears, silent or otherwise. “That I wanted you to be sick again.”

 

Fumi winced as Shiori dug her nails onto Fumi’s back from gripping it too hard. “It doesn’t,” she agreed as she pulled away from Fumi. She wiped her own tears away with a watery smile. "But that’s okay.”

 

Fumi stared at her, dumbfounded by this until she exploded. “How is that okay!?”

 

“Because you have done it before,” Shiori explained so easily, so sweetly like it was a comment on the weather. “So you can do it again.”

 

Fumi’s face paled in even more. “What?”

 

Sensing Fumi’s pain, Shiori quickly held her hands, rubbing the back of it to calm her. “Remember when our mum got married to mama, you didn’t like that Kuro nee was our new sister,” Shiori explained softly, with a confident but kind smile. “But you got over that so you will get over this and I’ll still be here as your sister to help you.”

 

“I—” Fumi said, hanging her head to avoid looking at Shiori in the eye. “I don’t deserve this forgiveness Shiori.”

 

“You didn’t deserve it when both of you ruined my birthday party with the pinata,” Shiori giggled as Fumi felt two soft warm hands hold her cheeks and lift it. She was looking Shiori in the eyes again. “But I forgave you then too.”

 

“I can’t believe you compared me leaving you alone and hating you to the pinata,” Fumi chuckled, a weak smile on her face. 

 

Shiori’s face flickered and she dropped her hands and looked to the side. “Honestly… I thought it was going to be like when dad left.” She shut her eyes at the gasps from both of her sisters. She knew that this comparison was a blow to both of them but it had to be said. This was how scared she was, this was how much they hurt her. They deserved to know. “I thought you would leave, and it would be my fault and I would never see you again.”

 

“Shiori…” Fumi choked, pain in her eyes as she reached out to Shiori. She knew exactly how Shiori felt when dad left, it was why she clung onto mum so quickly after his departure, she was so scared, she blamed herself for being sick that he couldn’t handle it even when now it was so far from the truth. “I’m so—”

 

Shiori brushed the hand away, her jaw was set. There was no anger, no malice, there was only a determination to see her words through. “But it’s not like when dad left because you came back, even if kuro dragged you back, you still came back.” But slowly the jaw relaxed and again there was that gentle smile of love and forgiveness, “You were so brave telling me all the bad things, thinking I’m going to hate you but you were wrong. I think you’re really cool standing up to your fears,” The smile widened, so infectious that Fumi had to smile back. “You’re still going to be my cool Onee chan.”

 

It was there, Fumi realised one important thing. Shiori was going to be better than her, she would be better than Claudine. Shiori was the best of both of them— and Fumi no longer hated that idea. Her little sister was simply amazing and she was so proud of her. 

 

Not holding back, Fumi flung her arms around Shiori and pulled her into a hug, happy regretful tears streaming down her face. “I’m still so sorry for hurting you like this Shiori.”

 

“It’s okay Fumi,” Shiori smiled, quiet tears falling too on her cheeks. “I don’t know if I can forgive you now cause it still hurts but I know— one day I will.” She was certain of this. One day this pain will be over and they’ll still be a happy family. 

 

“Thank you…” Fumi hugged Shiori tighter, she didn’t deserve this kindness but Shiori gave it to her again and again. She wasn’t going to disappoint her again by throwing that love away. “I love you Shiori.”

 

 “I love you too Onee chan.” Shiori’s smile threatened to break her cheeks but that didn’t matter, she held Fumi closer, the ache in her chest slowly fell apart. Parts of her chest still ached but that’s okay, those will go away too in time. 

 

“Aww is there no space for me?” Claudine chuckled, wiping the happy tears from her eyes, even as a partial outsider and being partially involved she still was moved by the happy ending. Mostly she was glad that she was right that everything was okay. 

 

“Come here too Kuro nee,” Shiori beckoned, grabbing her arm and tugging her in. But when Claudine’s ear was in reach, Shiori leaned in and whispered, “Thank you for bringing Onee chan home.”

 

The family of sisters, of blondes, stayed like that hugging. The prodigal sister came home, the truth was revealed but most importantly all would be eventually forgiven. They were a family, not even hate can change that. 

 

Though Fumi tugging Claudine’s hair after a few minutes of silence could change that. 

 

Claudine fell backwards, grimacing as she massaged the back of her head. “What the hell Fumi!?” she growled, knowing too well that it wouldn’t be Shiori who would start it. 

 

Fumi frowned back, not even caring about the red in her eyes. “Now that we’re okay?” she asked hesitantly, glancing at Shiori. Shiori nodded and Fumi relaxed, her voice returning to its normal sisterly bite. “Now that we’re okay, that was for throwing me onto your bed.” Fumi turned around to glare at the bedpost in question but that glare became curiosity as she looked around. 

 

“Oh yeah!” Shiori exclaimed, eyes widening, she forgot that happened after everything. She turned to Claudine and frowned, “Kuro nee apologise to Onee chan about that, that was rude.”

 

Claudine gasped as the tables turned against her. She sat up as she pointed at Fumi. “She didn’t even want to talk to you! I had to use drastic measures!”

 

“Speaking of drastic measures,” Fumi smirked as she looked up at the ceiling.  “Kuro did you miss France so badly?” It was funny how this bed was a 4 poster bed like the one in France. “This bed is like—” Fumi’s face froze in realisation.

 

“WAIT! Is this your bed from France?”

 

“What—” Claudine yelled, “NO!?” Not that Fumi heard it, despite the clear no, she began to fall on her back with a cackle. 

 

"Oh my god I can't believe you brought your bed to Japan,” she howled with laughter, hands clutching her sides with how much she was laughing. “Mum said pack lightly and you brought your fucking bed."

 

"I swear to god,” Claudine growled as she pinched the bridge of her nose, her anger slowly rising. “I didn't bring my bed Fumi." None of them heard Shiori’s quiet chuckle about the swear jar. 

 

"OH SO YOU BOUGHT THE EXACT SAME BED YOU HAD IN FRANCE HERE!" Fumi roared, cackling even at the idea. She rolled out of the bed, just missing the lunge Claudine did towards her. 

 

"I DID NOT!" Claudine yelled, not even caring that her friends could hear her in the middle of the night. 

 

On the floor, Fumi quickly climbed onto her feet before she ran to the drawers and rummaged through it. If Claudine’s bed was the same one in France then that meant it wasn’t the only French thing here— if that thing was here. "Hold on let me check something."

 

"Stop rummaging through my drawers!" Claudine climbed off the bed, hands on her hips as she barely restrained herself from throwing hands at Fumi. Even though just less than 5 minutes ago they were all hugging and singing french kumbaya. 

 

"Oh fucking gladly." Fumi’s eyes sparkled, holding back her laughter as she held up the thing she was searching for. She turned to Claudine with a raised brow, drinking in the flushed embarrassment on Claudine’s face. Even Shiori, still on the bed, covered her mouth to stop the giggling. Inside Fumi’s hands was a queen size duvet of the flag of France. 

 

"PUTAIN!"

 

And just like that, Kuro dived towards Fumi in an angry lunge and Fumi welcomed it. As the two sisters wrestled on the floor, Shiori shook her head and sighed. She should be angry that they’re causing a scene again but honestly, she was just glad that she had her sisters. Even when they were squabbling little children again despite being two years older.