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"Sister, I can't support what you're doing anymore. This is… really getting out of hand."

The sound of crunching rubber against asphalt drowned out the voice echoing through her mind. A gentle rainfall would've soothed her nerves in any other case, but its rhythmic hum only agitated her strained nerves.

"You've fallen in love with a person- one that you've created in your head. You can't fix someone- who doesn't exist."

The lights illuminating the near empty street cast an amber hue over her, its intensity drawing harsh shadows across her face. It does little to hide the tears. She is thankful for the feeble shelter from the rain her hat offers, and reminds herself she got a small victory by getting whatever belongings she had when she got the chance.

"I don't feel comfortable around him. I barely see you anymore, and you need help around the house especially when you're so close to the end of term. I don't understand him."

Yorihime had been brief, but not cold. The cool palette of the night did soothe her burning heart a bit, pounding so hard she had a feeling it'd burst out of her chest. Something within her wanted it to happen, mulling over the possibility. Would her death be instant? Would it hurt, if she were to suffer a heart attack right now? She thought back instinctively to her education back at the hands of a woman who was as emotional as the brick stone sidewalk she stood on. Myocardial infarction, she corrected herself, wiping her face with a sleeve. She thought of her last call with her younger sister, who sounded as if she had just woken up. Natural behavior, for it was 4 thirty AM, and she always slept early.

"I'm sorry… I'm coming over. Take shelter, stay safe. I love you."

She wondered if love was something she deserved.

He had promised.

It was getting tiring to stand, but she forced her protesting legs to stay up. A cough broke through the rhythm of the rain, and she became aware of just how cold she felt. She wondered if he was watching. Maybe he thought of her as a delusional, stupid woman. She sure thought of herself as a delusional, stupid woman, albeit for other reasons. She closed her eyes as another car passed by. She thought of her mentor. She had called Yorihime first, then thought of calling her. After all, he was a relative of hers, but she recalled how Yagokoro had reacted to her marriage, and bit her tongue.

Her words hadn't been kind.

You're not going to be happy like this.

What did you expect? For prince charming to sweep you off your feet, for you both to live happily ever after? You barely know him. He barely knows you.

Happy endings don't exist. Not for the Watatsuki family. Not like this.

The car crawled to a halt. The sound of spraying water didn't hide the familiar roar of a car she used to frequently ride.

She couldn't remember much of what her sister said. Something about her appearance, probably. An inquiry about if she was hurt. She was fixated on the other's face for having seen the shattering of something behind her eyes.

It hurt her, didn't it?

She felt her knees buckle as Yorihime embraced her. The rest was a blur until the moment she felt herself sink in the rough polyester seats. As the slam of the door beckoned the lights to dim, she found her voice.

"He promised."

Yorihime glanced towards her, before frowning and training her gaze on the road. She breathed in rather forcefully, a sign she was angry. A small fraction of her wondered if her sister resented her, for being so rash, for being so hard-headed.

Toyohime glanced towards the mirror, cradling the soaked plastic bag of a few clothes.

He promised.

The rain hit the window with increasing aggressiveness, soon turning into soaked hail pellets. She wasn't used to being so attentive, being so afraid, being so paranoid. It frightened her.

Suddenly, the car squealed to a halt, and she felt arms holding her once again.

"I'm sorry."

She glanced over towards her little sister, eyes pressed shut, tears streaming silently down her cheeks, and held her back. She jolted a bit at how soaked she was, and her clothes were staining the ironed, tidy fabric of Yorihime's red dress, but it felt comforting. She caught sight of a sword nestled next to the driver's seat. Came definitely expecting a fight, as she is used to; probably mulled over the possibility of things getting… worse.

Toyohime felt her world had ended, but not in the sense of finality. She's going to wake up, every day, continue to live despite him, thinking of every way it could've gone differently.

He promised.

Maybe it was better for her to just not exist.

 


 

"How do you feel?"

Yorihime had broken the question over dinner. Probably not wanting to upset her and ruin her appetite. Still, the divorcee – he would be applying the papers as she ate, unbeknownst to her – drank her soup silently for a while. She felt a twinge better, it always comforted her to be in the presence of her sister; a feeling not mutual to the rest of her relatives, not that she would say it to them, of course. She understood the need for manners.

She had forced herself to take a shower. Being apprehensive of water and drains had its downfalls. Sometimes, she wondered how it would be if she wasn't so afraid, it probably would've been easier to visit aquariums, have normal, comforting baths, and do all sorts of things. She watched as blood streamed down the drain, and hid her face against her knees as she hugged them close.

She was just getting used to a feeling of normalcy. He was kind, sometimes. He was caring, sometimes. She ignored the many red flags sprouting left and right because he wasn't hurtful, sometimes. When in a marriage, one makes compromises, or so she was told. She pushed aside her intuition in favor of… true love. Or something.  She thought of his promise.  She had believed it.  He wouldn't hurt me like this.

Her sister tucked her into bed after watching her quietly comb her hair, noting how Toyohime sat in the living room for around an hour. It felt better to do menial tasks, get her mind off it all, but the thought of him still lingered in the back of her head, and Yorihime probably noticed. It probably irked her to think of what brought it on. Silence was a usual treatment when the older woman felt distressed, with occasional glances towards the younger one. Yorihime already had enough on her mind, it's unnecessary to burden her further, she thought. It was almost ironic, being tended to by a person in the way she tended to them. It made her feel less vulnerable, albeit not much.

They had held hands as she pulled the covers close to her chest. Her sister's voice came as if from a distant canyon. "Please, rest. You've been through a lot." Yorihime mumbled, a bit sleepy probably. She unconsciously paid little attention to her demeanor when tired or stressed, resulting in quite a bit of anxiety for her. People didn't take kindly to it, calling her conceited, aggressive, and apathetic; Toyohime always felt like punching them in the face. Although she'd get flak for it till the end of time, as it was unbecoming of a lady such as herself.

The night went on, and something inside her wondered if her newborn child was sleeping as fitfully as she was. Children were little, fragile things as her mentor told her, and as she had seen taking care of her younger sister when their parents would leave for days on their bureaucratic duties. They need care, love, protection, attention; it was nothing short of cruel to abandon one. She wondered if he'd be taking care of his son, but the thought had been interrupted by a gentle hand pressing against her forehead, and she became aware of light streaming into the dark room. Yorihime had walked in, in her pajamas, probably hearing the sound of creaking springs under all the tossing and turning. "You don't have a fever, should check tomorrow."

Now, as she ate her dinner, Toyohime laughed a bit at the question. She always likes to be on top of things, a studious young lady, she thought. The laugh had gotten a curious expression from her sister, her mouth slightly open, something she was used to seeing. As someone who spent her life surrounded by hefty textbooks and the smell of gel ink on fresh paper, she had a bit of a social struggle going on at family gatherings, or meeting new people. Something told Toyohime her case wasn't purely from academic overdose, but she didn't care.

She liked her younger sister just as she is.

She closed her eyes.

"Better. As long as you're here."

There was the faintest hint of a tired smile on her face.

 


 

"They know, probably… so there's no need to tell them."

"I still think I should. Just in case."

They both stared at the landline telephone in the corner of the living room, resting on a small coffee table with a neat little doily under it. She envied that telephone with its brief, docile, meaningful existence.

"Will she be upset?"

"Probably."

Probably not upset for her, but upset at her. Her hands reached for the hems of her sleeves, crossing her arms. She didn't want to think of Yagokoro's reaction. She'd be scolded, probably forced to return after a brief meaningless discussion. She had seen it happen years back, peeking from a slightly ajar door, watching as her mother consoled a relative. They weren't familiar, but the couple before her in the memory felt as if it were a precognitive reflection of her state to come.

She didn't want to return to him.

She doesn't ever want to see his face.

She loathed him.

His words briefly sounded through her head, and she felt herself choke up. "I love you."

She loathed it.

Yorihime carefully hovers a hand over the digits, the motion pulling her away from her thoughts. "I can speak to them for you…" she offered, her voice a tad wavering. She was definitely anxious about the entire ordeal but still wanted to help. Probably not to be useless like her elder, foolish, delusional sister. Sometimes she wondered if it was meant for Yorihime to be the elder one, with her reliability being a strong suit, but she'd cave under the pressure; the loneliness was too unbearable sometimes. Even the strong need a gentle hand.

Besides, she was never good at reading people.

Toyohime returned her attention to the telephone, dreading the possibility a call was going to come in any second now. Taking the initiative felt… rather terrible, but she felt it was even more pathetic for the news to travel through him. He'd probably make her out to be overreacting, oversensitive. Maybe she really was like that, panicking over a mere telephone call. Something twisted in her gut, making her feel sick, a bout of anxiety definitely about to strike; or maybe she was about to suffer postpartum complications with how she ran out of there mere hours after giving birth… she wondered where the strength to do that came from. A dull pain had filled her body but she ignored it, and she sighed knowing it was foolish of her. Well, if she was going to die soon, then so damned be that call.

"It's okay. I'll do it."

It's best to get it over with.

The voice over the line was tired, old, and the static didn't help. Her tone was indiscernible, as always. "Hello, Toyohime."

She seemed to always know what was going on, as if she had eyes in their walls. She knew her too well, probably anticipated it.

Toyohime's voice shakes a bit, but she tries to hide it. "H-Hello. I'm sorry for calling on such short notice."

"I understand. I am aware of your circumstances."

An uncomfortable silence filled the room, only interrupted by the static in her ear and the sound of her own racing heartbeats.

The whisper that came from her was surely pathetic.

"Did... he tell you…?"

"No."

Something within her wanted an answer, feeling entitled to know just who was aware, probably discussing her over some tea with a rather solemn tone, but she felt it was useless to prod. Her mentor wasn't one for chitchat, anyway, and the answer probably would've disturbed her further. Unless...

She slowly glanced over to her sister, who was fidgeting.

It wasn't like her to rely on others.

"I… I'm sorry. I was an idiot, I didn't think–"

"Please, don't. You are still young, impressionable, and even though it's unfortunate what happened, you are not to blame."

She didn't know what to respond with, leaving a noticeable gap. Eirin coughed a bit, barely audible over the weak, aging lines.

"I was harsh on you, even if my intentions were good."

She wanted to cry, the static filled her ears.  She thought she was harsh?

But it was warranted, wasn't it?

It was what she deserves, for being so naive.  It's what should happen.

But she couldn't bring herself to say it again.

The walls within her were crumbling, and she was starting to feel the pounding in her head increase to an unbearable rate as she cried her heart out over the line.

He had promised.

 


 

A knock on the door had become the harbinger of doom to her, as her usually estranged parents returned unexpectedly. They were… furious with her, and she had sat with her hands clutching the fabric of her dress enough to tear it, as her father yelled enough to lose his voice.

Understandably, they were upset.

She felt something break knowing they weren't upset for her. At least, if they were, they knew how to hide it.

Their parents had told Yorihime to leave to care for the child, out of responsibility, and she was usually glad to oblige. But, her bleak expression as she sat on her bed said otherwise. The sunset painted the room an orange hue, and it reminded Toyohime of staring up at the street lights of that dreaded night, but she closed her eyes and kept silent. It was her fault this was happening, after all. She had no right to infringe on her sister's sadness. Yorihime had her fingers interlocked, staring at them quietly, before she spoke.

"I don't know how I'll look at him."

Toyohime placed a hand on her arm. She didn't want to send her younger sister to… live with that man. Not after that. Never after that. Who was to say he wouldn't violate her trust, her boundaries, if the "love" he had for Toyohime had held him back… Yorihime had nothing.

"Will I see you again?"

"I hope so."

There were no tears left to cry, but they stayed there in a tight embrace, and once again Toyohime's attentiveness got the best of her. Yorihime had grown thin. She probably wasn't eating properly. Her breathing was uneven and she could feel the slow, slow beating of a heart that probably gave up. It wasn't normal. She needed a hospital, but her parents wouldn't call one. They'd tell her to sleep it off, and from the faintest hints of dark bags under her eyes, it didn't work.

The years had flown by with minimal contact. He thought it was weird Toyohime wanted to see her sister "so often". It now broke her heart, but that was probably due to her being unable to be angry anymore. Her usually calm rage was replaced with a sense of… loss. Yorihime was in her arms but she felt as if she weren't there. Her face was blank. She had rarely seen her so… empty. Toyohime pulled her closer, trying to invoke a reaction, not wanting her to slip out of her arms into the emptiness of the world and… who knows.

After a few minutes, Yorihime jolts. It's sudden, but not unexpected, and she instinctively felt an apology tumble from her sister's lips and crash onto the floor.

Toyohime reassures her, voice barely higher than a whisper. "It's okay."

It wasn't, obviously, but what use was it to state the obvious?

 


 

"I don't understand why you're so upset."

He hasn't changed.

"I'm your husband, and I have a right to check on you." He continued, bolstered by the presence of his relatives, probably. Her parents stood off to the corner, their heads hanging low, a gesture of shame.

"Why'd you promise then?"

He momentarily looked incredulous. "I beg your pardon?"

"Why'd you promise me?"

"Comfort. You were inconsolable, it was necessary. God knows what you'd do to yourself if I refused."

"I'm not–"

"You're unstable, Toyohime. I don't know what is wrong, but something is. I'm not going to apologize for trying to act when you've been so uncommunicative."

Her name on his lips felt wrong.

She couldn't bear to speak, not when people were nodding along with him, but the words left her with a struggle. "Then leave me be. I just want to be left alone."

"Do you understand how much of a scandal this would be? How do you think my family feels? How do you think your parents feel?"

She knew all too well.

Noticing her silence, he continued. "I'm not going to apologize for doing what is necessary."

He continued, seeing how she withdrew into herself. "You can't escape from your responsibilities. Your son. Our son. Do you not think of him? Do you not think he misses his mother?"

She couldn't bear to respond. She wanted to leave, leave here, leave existence.

"At least your sister is doing something." He mumbled under his breath, disdain seeping into his tone. "Maybe I should've fucked her instead."

It probably was then that her patience reached its limit. She didn't recall.

Her parents seemed to look up the moment she tightened her grip on the fabric of her dress, face dark. He didn't anticipate it, for all the praise he's given to himself, and as she lunged at his throat, screams of rage echoing through the room as the people rushed to pull her away, she could see fear in those eyes.

Not Yorihime.

"YOU LEAVE HER ALONE!"

Never.

She couldn't imagine it, it brought tears to her eyes as her ears rang with a sharp whine, unable to discern the torrent of scorn that was pouring from her. She gripped him enough to tear the skin, slamming his head against whatever lied behind him, sure there was a murderous look in her eyes from his reaction. She didn't care.

She felt arms tug on her, pulling her back, but she struggled against them. Whoever it was didn't care. None of these people cared. They just wanted her to suffer. "YOU LEAVE HER THE FUCK ALONE YOU– I'M NOT DONE WITH YOU!"

She reached for him as she was pulled back, digging her heels into the ground. "IF YOU DARE TOUCH A HAIR ON HER HEAD I'LL KILL YOU MYSELF YOU HEAR?! YOU FUCKING HEAR?!"

Yorihime's desperate voice suddenly filled her mind, right next to her ear. She choked on her words as the grip around her waist tightened, trying to pull her back further. "Toyohime! Stop it!"

She struggled as if her life was on the line. Gods know she felt like it was. She wanted his blood. She wanted him to suffer. "LET ME GO! Let me GO!"

The tears were wet on her neck, her sister's voice breaking. "You can't, stop, please-"

"No! No! I can't– I can't listen to this shit anymore!"

"Then don't! Just leave him alone!"

" Never! "

Suddenly, with a cry, she felt Yorihime let go– and a loud thud silenced everyone in the room. Toyohime fell forward without the force, crashing onto her knees, gasping for air, before she quickly turned around to see– To see–  To see–  To see– To see– To see– To see– To see– To see– To see– To see–

Her eyes widened at the sight of fresh blood staining the floor.

She wasn't moving.

Why wasn't she moving?

Her mother rushed to her side, calling for an ambulance, calling her name, but it all wasn't registering in her mind. Her father, with an unusual gentleness, cradled her motionless body. A sound was coming from her. Something, something wrong. The wooden frame of a table dripped with red. 

Fresh blood stained the floor.

It was bright.

His voice echoed through her head, as she couldn't tear her gaze from the sight of her deed. "You're insane. You're fucking insane."

She couldn't even bring herself to call for Yorihime, not now, and it felt pathetic. Pathetic.

The room spun, and fell into darkness.

 


 

She was leaving today.

Those lavender eyes would've swelled with tears at another point, but they just stared at the floor, clutching at her chest every once in a while.  A bandage was haphazardly wrapped around her forehead, and it stood out. Toyohime couldn't tear her eyes from the thing.  She couldn't bear to see her off. She didn't deserve to see her off. But Yorihime had insisted, quietly, from behind the door.

"I want to see you."

Not that she deserves it.

"You're not okay, not after… I just– I don't blame you."

She had sat next to Toyohime in the corner of the room, the silence thicker than old b–

No.

She couldn't get the image out of her head. She was slowly descending into despair at this point, only able to replay the events in her head over, and over, and over–  It was raining, and it grew more intense with time as the minutes ticked past.

Yorihime lightly left a kiss on her sister's forehead upon hearing the choked cry from her. "I'm sorry."

"No. It's– it's–"

She threw herself in the other's arms, crying, apologies rushing out of her at a speed where they blended together. In a fit of anger, she had done something she wasn't even aware she could do. It repulsed her. Hearing the apology made her feel ill. Yorihime was sorry for being hurt, at her hands. Why?

Why?

"I'm going to… I'm going to miss you. I'll try to stay in touch, ok?"

She couldn't say anything.

The silence stretched on for days. Weeks. Months. Yorihime is rarely called, often sounding burdened, even more rarely calling herself. It seemed her voice was growing… fainter as days passed. She could hear the crying of a child over the line.

She was losing her, wasn't she?

There was nothing to be done.

Every now and then Toyohime indulged in the guilty act of parking outside their home, her old home– and watching the house. She saw shadows moving in the windows, the cold would get to her bones, but she didn't care.  She would wait. Wait for as long as she needed to, to make sure he wasn't– doing whatever ungodly acts he was usually up to.

He probably stares at her as she sleeps at night. He probably thinks of how vulnerable– how defenseless– ugh.

She quietly started mumbling to herself in despair, thoughts racing, before driving off through the empty streets, the drive nonexistent in her memories. Not that she cared. News reached her of how their life was going, going to social gatherings together, family events as well, but she couldn't bear to go herself. She imagined her little sister, seated at a table, body stiff as he offered her sake– and she'd refuse because she doesn't drink, cautiously eyeing the crowd. Toyohime busied herself thinking about just what he'd be up to, day and night, occasionally noting her sad appearance in the mirror. Hair frazzled, eyes tired, a frown etched onto her face. She got rid of the mirrors in the manor.

At some point, Yorihime's calls stopped.

She heard rumors of tensions, noticeable enough even to her parents who grew concerned. Toyohime buried her jealousy over a meal. He was up to something. He was up to something. She just felt it. Waiting night and day, staying up and wondering if Yorihime was ever going to come calling.

At some point, her thoughts became bleaker and bleaker. She no longer waited, no longer drove by, no longer listened to her father mumbling to himself about how awful it all was. She just wanted her sister back, but it seemed that wasn't going to happen any time soon. Why wait, when she was out of reach, out of contact, probably… hurting. One day, her phone lit up during a late night of tossing and turning. She had gotten rid of clocks too. She usually ignored it, wanting to be alone with her thoughts, but as she saw the notification her blood ran cold.

A number she thought she wasn't going to ever see again had texted her. Yorihime's number was something she had kept in her memory, and she clutched the phone with quivering hands as she read the text again.

"Help."