She supposes this is the worst feeling one can have, this sense of longing and regret. When she looks back, there was nothing she could have done.
It wasn't just a choice between Hiruko and Azusa, a choice between a brother and...and a person she doesn't quite know how to categorize. She still doesn't know where to put him, into the box of brother or friend or lover, because he never was any of those things. He never had the chance.
No, it was the choice between Hiruko and the city and in the end, the city had to win.
No matter how much she wished otherwise.
It's odd, opening the shop the way she does now. Her brother sits at a table, hardly moving until a customer comes.
She spends hours staring at him, seeing the short hair and the gentle smile. The absent look in his eyes, the pale skin, he is her brother and yet he isn't. He's a stranger in her brother's skin and she should have known that this wouldn't have changed.
Only, it has. Sometimes the tall stature melts into a shorter boy, blanching as Hifumi excitedly showed his latest purchase and quickly moving his bag away from the cat. He glances at the tea cup in front of him, at the door when a customer walks in, at her as she peels an apple.
And then Azusa coughs and the mirage fades away into reality.
"Mizuki," Hifumi exclaims, pulling a bag in front of him, "Look what I just bought!"
An ornate clock comes out of the bag, delicate arches coming together to form a small church. Bells ring as he moves it from side to side and as the clock strikes four, a priest comes out and hits a larger bell.
"It's...interesting," she starts, staring as a small procession of people twirl around the doors. There isn't much to add to that sentence. It's odd, clunky, and probably utterly useless. She can barely make out the clock's face, behind the screens and banners.
"I know!" Hifumi grins broadly, fiddling with the gears in the back. "Apparently, I can--"
Snap! She can't see what broke, only that his hands start to move in a more frantic manner as his face pales.
The sigh she expects to hear never comes.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs once, twice, thrice. She wrings her hands, nervously bites her lip, and moves on.
She walks down the street, past delirium, past the shops, past everything. Just walks and looks and listens. The sky is overcast, clouds lazily floating over the sun, and a child is laughing somewhere.
Nearby there is a garden, and she stops to look at the flowers, the pale pink and dark purple bunches that cluster together. She picks one, stares at its orange petals, puts it in her hair.
The sun shines on her warmly as she follows the railway tracks. The curve around the town, leading to a vast unknown, and she turns back before she goes too far.
The bells chime as she opens the door, alerting Azusa to her presence. Smiling, she makes four cups of tea.
One for her. One for Azusa.
One remains untouched, cooling as she cleans the room. When a customer comes in, she gives it to him, knowing it won`t be drunk in all likelihood.
The fourth cup remains on the counter, stone cold, and she pours it down the drain.