Chapter 4:

Ch.4 Little Flower

Sleeping Princess

I looked in the mirror, and a high school girl stared back. She twirled around once I did, causing her skirt to wave like a gymnastic ribbon. Elegantly, it flowed back down as she stopped, facing me once again. My chest pounded like thunder on a warm night making me wonder if the girl in front of me felt the same.

“You look adorable.”

My neck cranked, mechanically, as I turned to see the fox posted on the other side of the door.

“W-why are you here, Koda-san?”

She grinned as she pushed herself off the wall.

“The door was open, and I just happened to be walking by...”

She pushed up her slim shoulders making herself seem smaller.

“Y-Your room is downstairs! Why are you up here in the first place?”

Koda-san shrugged.

“I was checking in on Hana.”

My teeth nibbled at my bottom lip in distaste.

“Hana-san’s room is before mine though…”

Like a thief caught red-handed, she put her hands up with that daring smile still painted on her face.

“Fine, you got me…I just wanted to be the first to see you in your uniform!”

Her face a slight tint of red, she skipped her way down the steps. Watching her do this in heels made me slightly impressed.

Still annoyed that my secret viewing had been interrupted, I made my way out the door and ventured down the steps. Everyone seemed to be ready to go as they all conjugated at the front door.

Hana-san lifted her backpack from the couch. The soldier now ready for war, she nodded sharply.


She cried, giving my mom a grin.”

I hit the last step when mom looked at me. Her face lit up like stars in the night sky.

“Honey, you look like a proper young lady…Your father would be proud, Madoka.”

“T-Thanks mom.”

Mom approached; her lips puckered now.

“Are you sure you don’t want us to take you two to the station? It’s no trouble for us, Madoka, Hana.”

“Ayumi, it’s time for the girls to have a bit more independence.”

Mom turned to Koda-san. Her fingers entwined as they shielded her lips.

“I-I know…but still.”

“They’ll be okay. They have each other now, Ayumi.”

She took a deep breath. I didn’t think she’d get this nervous over the fact that Hana-san and I wanted to make our way to school alone from now on. Hana-san proposed it a few nights back, and mom has been reluctant about it ever since. Koda-san however has supported the idea. It’s one of the few things she and I agreed on.

“Madoka, you make sure you come home with Hana!”

“Aren’t I the oldest here? Shouldn’t you be telling Hana-san this, mom?”

Mom wasn’t amused. She gave me a scowl without saying a word. Knowing full well what that meant, I caved.

“Y-yes ma’am.”

“Okay Ayumi, let the big girls run along to school before they’re late.”

Mom’s puffed cheeks didn’t waver as she looked at her partner. Like a balloon they expanded.

“Are you sure Mari? Aren’t you worried about our babies?”

With a snicker, the fox poked my mom’s cheeks, deflating them. It was so adorable I couldn’t turn away. I kind of wanted to be the one to do that instead though.

“Mom, it’ll be alright, okay?”

Hana-san jumped in, giving my mom an overly affectionate hug.

“Hana! You’re so reliable.”

Eyes shining like gold, she took her momentum and turned to the other adult.

“Mom, make sure mom gets home safely, okay?”

With vigor, Hana-san pointed at her nose.

“Hana don’t point at me.

The mother bear gripped her cubs’ finger. Her smile never faded all the while.

“And don’t you worry about that. I gave you an assignment, and I better hear that you did it.”

Her cub staggered back. It seemed that Hana-san had no authority over her mother, despite her assertive stance at the beginning.

“Y-yes, mom.”

“Oh, Madoka, Hana, I forgot to mention…Mari and I will be working late tonight, so don’t wait up for dinner.”

“That’s right. A new, hot book is coming out next week, and we have to be there in case of issues.”

The younger of the two slumped her shoulders. I don’t know much about the job they work at. I can only imagine how tough the work is. Mom didn't seem fazed while Koda-san looked like the world had just been thrown on her.

“Okay, Mom.”

Hana-san chimed in with a nod.

With everything settled, we marched outside. The day was a bit chillier than yesterday. I clung to my school bag for dear life, embracing the icy winds.

“See you later, girls!”

Mom and Koda-san waved as they drove off, leaving Hana-san and me to make our way to the station.

“Off we go.”

I turned down, meeting my eyes with my new partner.


She flapped her head making her dark hair swing about.

Hana-san’s junior high is the sister school of Jinda High School and is in the same vicinity. They are both all-girl schools also. Mae and I went to a coed school for junior high so this is a different experience. That means we’re going to be taking the same train and even get off at the same stop.

One of the reasons why I picked it was because Mom asked me to stay close to home and Ma-chan just so happens to go there too.

I found myself touching the new sensation accompanied by my school uniform. My body felt stiff as I moved. Like my bones have been replaced with rocks, grinding together.

“Are you alright, Madoka-san?”

I looked down to see the flower veering up to me. I must have been wearing a scary face as she looked a tad terrified.

“Are you nervous?”

Hopping up on her toes, barely reaching eye level with me, Hana-san searched for the answer. I didn’t even realize it until she mentioned it.

“A little, I guess…”

With her finger to her mouth, Hana-san nodded her head. She then pointed at me suddenly.

“Even if we’re in the latter part of the year, I’m sure you’ll make friends.

I haven’t even thought about the idea of making friends or not. It seemed to me that Hana-san was more in-tune to the school life than I was. But I doubt that was the reason for my expression.

When I woke up, I found myself anguishing over how to explain my situation. The conclusion I came up with…to just tell anyone who asks the truth. That I was in a coma for the last couple of years. Any other question that comes after that, I’ll take in stride. With a deep breath, I exhaled.

“Thanks, Hana-san.”

Even though my worries were different than what she imagined, she still took the time to worry about me. This flower is sweet, and I appreciate her for being that way.

The walk to the station is around ten minutes or so. Hana-san and I didn’t speak much, and it’s becoming more apparent as I’m alone with her. Despite us having that chat when Koda-san first came home, our relationship felt as though it hasn’t gone anywhere since.

Hana-san has different interests than I do. She plays video games and watches anime. I listen to idol music and look up cute clothing and fashion. Her taste is more boyish for sure. But one wouldn’t know that looking at this blossom. She looks like a gentle kitty, and sometimes it makes me want to pet her.

“Oh! Madoka-san?”


Hana-san leaped up, nearly giving me a heart attack.

“I think I left my Japanese History book on the TV stand.”

I sighed in relief.

“Nope, I put it in your bag for you.”

“Hm? Oh, that’s good…”

I kind of wonder how these three made it without me sometimes. Even though that does sound a bit conceited, it’s the truth.

Speaking of the three of them…I had a few questions about a certain weirdo…and I think Hana-san might be the person to ask.

“Hey…Hana-san I have a question.”

“Hm? What about?”

Innocently she stared up. Looking at her now I can’t imagine that she came from…her. I repressed the urge to ask Koda-san the other day, but maybe Hana-san would answer me clearly.

“Hana-san, how old is your mom?”

“Mh? Where’s this coming from?”

“I’m just curious…”

Koda-san acts less mature than her daughter. But I’m more interested in knowing how far apart in age her and mom are…

She put her finger to her mouth.

“…She just turned 29 in April.”

I closed my eyes and envisioned my mom. She’s…38. So, that would make Mom and Koda-san around 9 years apart. Hana-san is 13 right now…So, does that mean Koda-san had Hana around 16 years old? That’s young.

I stared back at her, but what came to mind is Koda-san's chilling behavior in the morning.

“…Do you think your mom is…I don’t know, strange?”

“My mom?”

Hana-san put her head down to contemplate the question. She crossed her arms and puffed out her chest. I wasn’t expecting such an extreme reaction, so I watched her with awe.


Hot air blew from her mouth. An anti-climactic end.

“What, really?”

“She’s…like any other mom, right?”

Maybe she’s just blind to it because she’s been with Koda-san her entire life. If I had to make a list of things that I find strange about her: One, her over-touchy-feely behaviors are inappropriate. She constantly acts like she’s shady like a con trying to pull their latest trick on you. As if the person I’m looking at isn’t the one who is truly there.

“What did my mom do that made you think she’s strange, Madoka-san?”

I thought about it more thoroughly, but before I opened my mouth, the little voice in my head told me to stop.


Some of the things are kind of embarrassing to even talk to Hana-san about. Like her feeling my hair. Saying weird things to me that made me uncomfortable also. I mean…who the heck buys an apron just to see their supposed stepdaughter cook in it? If she was my stepfather, it’ll be a red flag for a grade-A pervert.


Maybe that’s it. She might be a grade-A pervert!

I stopped my theatrics before I hurt someone though. Now I’m just bashing the person my mom fell in love with. Coming to that conclusion is probably worse than just calling her a weirdo and leaving it at that.

I turned to Hana-san, now realizing I began leaving her out of the question I gave her in the first place.

“Hmm, let’s get back to that another time, Hana-san.”

She sighed a tad dejectedly.

“If anything, mom sure likes you.”

“What do you mean by that?”

She lifted her nose in the air, brushing off my question.

“Well anyway, the train is crowded, so stay near me, and if you can’t find a seat, keep to the walls.”


“Mom told me to watch over you while we’re going to and from school.”

“Wait, my mom did?”

“No, my mom.”

No matter how much I hear it…it’s strange knowing we're talking about two different moms. It’s tiring, to say the least…

It doesn’t help either that Hana-san readily calls both Koda Mari and Nakagawa Ayumi, Mom. She should at least find a better way to differentiate from the two of them.

But then again, they have been seeing each other for nearly 2 years now. I wonder if it was always like that? Or did Hana-san have to adjust to this strange situation too?

Now conscious of this, I looked down at her. My mind wrapped around the circumstances that must have made Hana-san accept it the way she does now. But before I could delve deeper into my idle thoughts, a rod of thunder struck my body.

“Wait, why is Koda-san telling you to watch over me?”

“Because you never had to take the train to school before. You don’t know that there are lions out to get you, Madoka-san.”

I scratched my head.

“How would she even know that? For all she knows I took the train alone in middle school all the time.”


Hana-san cut into my words with a karate chop of her hand.

“Mom told me that you would always get dropped off on the way to school at least.”

Frustrated, I weighed my head. She was right…Dad would take me to school in elementary and when he passed mom would do it instead. I was a pampered little princess for most of my life. The only time I took the train was when I went out with my friends. And that became a rarity when I worked for my scholarship.

“Wait, I have to back up…You said “Mom” again. Which mom told you that I would always get dropped off?”

Hana smiled and put her nose up again.

“My mom! Koda Mari!”

Why does she know all of this? My only guess is that my mom, Nakagawa Ayumi, told her…But what would be the point in her telling Hana-san? There are more questions to ask about Koda-san than meets the eyes.

I could feel my mouth twist up. I was outwardly annoyed that even this kid is treating me like a pampered doll.

“And what is a kitten, like you, going to do if a lion attacks me on a train?”

“Eh, are you calling me weak and defenseless! I carry one of these!”

“Hana-san pulled out a predator alarm. The kind the kids in elementary school have around their backpacks to keep the perverts away if they feel threatened. It wasn’t a bad idea, but Hana-san being the one to hold it made my heart flutter.

“You’re so adorable…”

“Eh? What do you mean by that?!”

I treasure cute things and Hana-san is no exception. Conway-san could rival her if she’d act less violent.

Eventually, we made our way on the train and to our expectations, there were no open seats.

“Can’t be helped…”

Hana-san muttered.

“Well, what do we do now?”

A sudden feeling caressed my hips. I was in shock. Was someone bold enough to assault me like this? As I turned around to catch a glimpse of the person in question, I met eyes with no one. After panning my head downwards, I caught eyes with the culprit.

“What the heck are you doing, Hana-san?”

I whispered, still trying to keep my composure.

“I’m lining you up in a good spot.”

After lining me up she snaked around to the front of me. With all her weight, Hana-san laid her body up against my chest, pushing me to the walls of the train.

“This is uncomfortable.”

“But this way nobody can touch you...but me that is.”

Hana-san shifted back more. I could feel her back brushing up against my rib cage. My back wedged into the bars of the doors. Pain crept up in me.

“Hana-san, this looks weird. People are looking at us strangely.”

“I don’t care…”

“Well, I do!”

“This is for your own good, Madoka-san.”

It’s like a battle between a buck and a mule. Neither of us will back down with this ridiculous exchange. So, I held my head up high and leaned away, looking out the train’s window. This was going to be a long ride…

I bet if Koda-san told Hana-san to climb Mount Fuji with a boulder strapped to her back, she would. No questions asked. Despite the discomfort, there was one thing that stood out to me. A fragrance of morning dew after a rainy day. Flowers dancing about a field. It took me a moment to realize that it was coming from Hana-san’s hair. The same scent from her bedroom. That smell calmed my nerves if nothing else.

After a few minutes or so we got off a few stops later and walked down a street. Hana-san signaled to me that she was taking the turn to her junior high. From there I had to walk the rest of the way alone.

As I entered the gates the school was bustling compared to when I came on a Saturday afternoon for the exam. I go right to the faculty office as I was previously instructed. My new teacher was there. A man with a rough goatee and a gentle face. His name was Takanaki-sensei.

He smiled at me and explained that he was going to introduce me in first period and all I had to do was tell them my name and hobbies. I didn’t have to go into my previous medical conditions if I didn’t want to,

“Students, please settle down, we got a new student today.”

Takanaki-sensei called me in. Before I knew it, my head was holding itself down. With all my might I lifted it and faced forwards. I made my way to the chalkboard and wrote my name out.

“Hello, I’m Nakagawa Madoka. It’s a pleasure to meet you all.”

I could hear the chatter of the class. A few girls in the back turned to one another, pointing their fingers at me. That alone set a stuffy feeling in my stomach. I searched around and met eyes with a certain someone. Her eyes darted away as if trying to escape, but I spoke up, causing her to jolt. With a tilt of my head, I questioned...


The class squealed in unison.


Oh, I accidentally blurted it out. The class chimed in after me. Conway-san’s face contorted as she crossed her arms in disgust. She sank into her chair like a turtle hiding in its shell. I silently cursed my impulse to throw out words without thinking.

Takanaki-sensei luckily pointed me to the seat behind Conway-san, to my delight. Now I could properly apologize to her. I sat down and whispered to her.

“S-sorry, that just came out.”


I guess she didn’t hear me, so I decided to give her a light tap on the back.


“Do you have something you’d like to add, Conway-san?”

Takanaki-sensei scowled in her direction.

“Ehh…No, Takanaki-sensei.”

I slumped my shoulders. Perhaps I made the situation worse? Dejected, I focused on the class. During the next break, I’ll properly apologize.

Once the bell rang, I stood up and made my way to the other side of Conway-san’s desk.

“Sorry about that, Conway-san…”

“I heard you the first time…”

Conway-san puffed her cheeks and glared at me.

“Why did you have to be in my class…”

It was reasonable that she'd be mad at me this time. With that I made my way back to my seat, defeated.


A girl approached me with short ivy hair that stubbornly made its way down to her neck. Both her ears were pierced with rugged iron rings hovering in them. But what stuck out most was her almond-shaped eyes.

“It’s nice to meet you.”

“Ah, it’s nice to meet you too…Ah…”

“Okabe Kasumi.”

She lifted her bag over her right shoulder and tilted her head at me. Reaching out her hand we shook, forming the new bond between us.

“So, where did you come from?”

“I’m from Hiroshima. I lived here my entire life.”

“Oh cool, me too. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

Now interested, I take it; Okabe-san pulled up a chair from a nearby desk towards me.

“I’m an only…”

I stopped mid-sentence. No, that wasn’t true anymore. I'm not technically an only child per-say.

“Actually, I have a step-sister I guess, but I am an only child.”

“Is she older, younger?”

“She’s younger than me and super cute!”

I found myself hopping from my seat. I need to control these impulses when dealing with cute things. Okabe-san chuckled. I did get a bit excited there and had that coming. But I can’t deny that Hana-san is nothing short of adorable.

As I turn to Conway-san in response, our eyes meet as she darts away looking back into her manga on her desk.

“So, why did you transfer to our school, Nakagawa-san?”

My lip puckered a bit.

“Well, you see…Because of some medical problems I started school late.”


“I’m actually 16 right now…”

“Wow, you started high school one year late?”

“Medical problems?”

A voice from outside the conversation filtered through. Conway-san turned to me, now interested, I noticed. I nodded. It seemed the class had gotten a bit quieter too. Not as though they were listening to me, just by chance if anything.

“Well, I was actually in a coma for the past couple of years…”

I scratched my cheek. Okabe-san’s almond eyes grew wider. Conway-san however seemed genuinely concerned as she tilted her head.

“Wow, that’s crazy. What happened, did you like, hit your head or something?”

I shrugged, haphazardly.

“Yeah, that’s what the doctors told me. So…”

She closed her eyes.

“That’s so wild. How did it feel? You know…being in a coma and all?”

“I don’t recall much. Like…a really, really, long dream, I guess?”

Her mouth opened slightly.

“How did it feel…knowing all that time passed afterward?”

Hm…I guess that would be a natural question, wouldn’t it? My thoughts about mom resurfaced. I don’t think she had any malintent. Just curiosity, yet my heart ached. I found myself looking away from her for no reason.


My chest started to boil…How did it feel that I’ve lost so much time? There were words I’ve been holding back circling in my mind. Like, “It isn’t fair.” or “Why did it have to be me?’… I looked at my legs and the thoughts of that spoiled child…the princess in me started to wail back up and I hated it.

“Are you seriously going to ask that ignorant of a question, Kasumi-san?”

I turn to Conway-san who’s now posted on the side of her desk.

“Can’t you see that Nakagawa-san is having a hard time speaking about this? Learn some tact, idiot.”

To my surprise, the shark once again threw me a lifeline. Maybe on the aggressive side though. Calling your classmate an idiot isn’t subtle in any way.

“I’m talking to Nakagawa-san, not you, blondie. And don’t call me Kasumi-san.”

Conway-san puffed her chest out.

“Stop using Nakagawa-san’s problems for your entertainment, Okabe-san.”

Conway-san leaned on her desk and shook her head.

“You girls are all the same…”

The ivy head turned back to me with a slight smile still on her face.

“You know… Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable, Nakagawa-san. That wasn’t my intention, like she made it out to be.”

“Oh no, I know that.”

I waved my hand, trying to brush past the mood.

She then turned to the person in question.

“But, here’s a tip for you, Nakagawa-san, choose better friends. Conway-san isn’t good people to hang around.”

Like fire, she torched her enemy. With a lift of her bag, she strolled out, leaving a heatwave where she stood. The class was about to begin, so I couldn’t understand why she was leaving.

“Don’t let the door hit you on the ass.”

She screamed in a fit. Conway-san’s demeanor brought me back to when I first laid eyes on her.

“Don’t mind her, Nakagawa-san.”

Conchi-san glared behind me to see the class staring in our direction. Most of the class shifted their eyes in a panic. Detached from their gossip, she continued.

“She’s such a disgraceful person. She’s always been like that.”

“…Thank you, Conchi-san…”

I found myself whispering this as if wanting to hide from the world.

As I looked around the class everyone seemed to have already established themselves in their respective groups. Girls who seemed to be into make-up and fashion all relaxed in the corner of the room. They shared kits and glosses, cheerfully.

A group of three who seemed to be average by their standards played card games, enjoying each other’s company. It was easy enough to conclude that most of them had found their comfort zones.

Even listening to the lecture today I found myself apart from the flow. Takanaki-sensei just started up class. The river was already in motion, and I found myself waiting for the right time to jump in. I gazed down at my notebook. Even the notes I took started mid-way in another lesson, so they felt incomplete.

It was as if I was detached from reality. Like I didn’t belong in the world they’ve already created. Or like I’m just a spectator playing the part of a student. But…thanks to Conway-san being here, it made a transition like this bearable. I didn’t want to imagine how it would have been if she wasn’t here.

“You shouldn’t thank me. I’m probably the reason why nobody wants to approach you, to be honest...”

She scratched her cheek, timidly.

“I don’t mind that…as long as I can chat with you, Conchi-san...”

Conway-san’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. Or more like a red ornament.

“Tsk. Most of our classmates are fine people, Nakagawa-san. Okabe-san just rubs me the wrong way.”

She turned back to the groups behind us.

“You should get to know them.”

Before I could reply, the bell chimed. Conway-san crossed her arms and sat back in her seat. It seemed to me that the class actively avoids Conway-san. Knowing how she can be, I don’t blame them though. She certainly could be the staple delinquent, I guess. Despite that, it’s thanks to her that I feel as if a load had been lifted off me. I’m not sure if that was her intention though. If anything, I felt that Conway-san was a reliable person. A partner I could depend on…

Lunch arrived and Ma-chan was nowhere to be found. At Conchi-san’s suggestion, I gave her a call revealing a sick Ma-chan.

“I just woke up…and I couldn’t get out of bed.”

“Would you like me to come over after school?”

“…Not necessary, Mado-chan! Mom’s taking care of me since she works from home most times.”

Ma-chan’s breathing seemed normal. The tone of her voice is what made me worry though.

“Sorry. Your senpai let you down, didn’t she?”

“Don’t be stupid. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

With that, Ma-chan hung up the phone. Conchi-san and I sat in the café. The bustle of students waved around us.

“Hm. She sure misses a lot of days.”


I turned to Conchi-san who seemed to have a dish from home. It looked to be spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread. Her meal even stood out from the rest.

“Your friend, Watanabe-san. She gets sick easily.”


“Well, since I met her. But who am I to judge when I skip class on the regular?”

Wow, even Conchi-san skips class? Maybe I am between two delinquents and shouldn’t associate with them. That being a joke anyway.

“Has she always been that fragile? She looked fine to me yesterday.”

“No…Ma-chan would never miss school in junior high.”

I thought back to the days in middle school. Ma-chan would be the one who pushed me to do things. She was always the first to jump into the room and introduce herself to others. Even now she still held that personable charm.

“Ma-chan was working towards a volleyball scholarship. She even signed the papers for it…last I remember anyway.”

“Ah yes, that memory of yours. Who to think your life was so complicated?”

Now that I thought about it…

“Hey Conchi-san, does Ma-chan still play volleyball?”

“Hm? No, she’s not in any clubs to my knowledge.”


“I have no reason to lie about that.”

When did…Ma-chan give up playing sports? She was so talented. I was under the impression that she didn’t change much from when I went into my coma until when I woke up. But now hearing what Conchi-san said, Ma-chan skips school every now and then and even gave up on her sports? That should have been one of the first things I asked her about, but…when I thought about sports…

I searched my legs again. They feel simply fine now until I begin exercising…The idea of being who I once was…might be out of the question now.

“Eh, Nakagawa-san.”


“Are you going to eat the rest of your rice?”

“Y-You’re stealing my lunch from me now? Conchi-san, you’re a bully.”

“Oh, shut up.”

Conchi-san takes the bowl from me without another word and begins eating my rice. For someone so small, she has an appetite.

“Well, it can’t be helped, so you shouldn’t worry over Watanabe-san.”


Conway-san put my bowl of rice down and turned back to me.

“I have a question for you now, Nakagawa-san.”

“Hm, what?”

“You said you have a little step-sister…”

Her eyes shifted to the side.

“Yes, I do.”

“Tell me more about her.”

Conway-san wanted to know about Hana-san? I closed my eyes trying to gather up as much detail as I could about her.

“Her name is Koda Hana-san and she lives up to her name. She’s cute, but likes boyish things. Like games and manga….”

I found myself stopping even though I wanted to continue. I couldn’t find much else to say about her. I didn’t even know her blood type. Conway-san stared at me waiting for more.

“T-that’s pretty much it.”

She looked away with a huff. It seemed she wasn’t satisfied with what I gave her, and I wasn’t either.

“How close should sisters be, do you think?”

“How close should they be?”

What a strange question. I found myself parroting her without realizing it. Conway-san looked me in the eye as if searching for the answer to the meaning of life.

“Is it okay if sisters…”

Conway-san closed her eyes and turned away.

“No, never mind. It’s a stupid question, Nakagawa-san.”

“Hm, are you sure?”

She nodded, flipping her blonde hair.

“Do you have any sisters, Conway-san?”


With no hesitation, she concluded and continued eating away at her meal. Maybe she was curious to know how it is to have a sister? Either way, I felt as though I couldn’t do Hana-san any justice.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Afterward, Conway-san and I traveled to the gates together.


“Yeah…see you tomorrow.”

With that Conway-san made her way down the eastern street alone. I looked back to my phone and couldn’t get the idea of Ma-chan out of my head. But before I could stare too long, I came to the realization that I had to meet back up with a certain flower. So, I rushed down the street. From the side, my bodyguard jumped out nearly giving me a heart attack.

“There you are. We’re going to miss the train!”

Hana-san abruptly took my hand and started walking with me.

“Eh? You don’t need to hold my hand.”

“We’re doing the same thing as this morning.”

“Oh, come on Hana-san! We don’t need to do that!”

“Mom told me to protect you, and I will!”

I’m going to hurt Koda-san if this keeps up!

Luckily, we found two open seats on the train. Hana-san sat down, right next to me.

“Thank god.”


I looked around to see a few students from both of our schools riding home. Now that I remember, Ma-chan and I use to walk to and from school together because we lived in the same direction. We are certainly childhood friends…

“Did you make friends?”


Hana-san stared at me closely, causing me to back up.

“Did you make friends?”

“Oh…yeah I did I guess.”

Satisfied, she nodded then turned back to her manga.

“It might seem a bit awkward at first…but that’ll pass.”

Hana-san spoke like she’s been through the same situation. I understood that Ma-chan isn’t here right now, but Hana-san is. When I mentioned Hana-san at lunch I wanted to tell her more about her, but I couldn’t think of much.



She flipped to the next page without moving her eyes.

“How about we get off early and buy some ingredients for dinner? You know since Mom and Koda-san won’t be home until late tonight?”

Hana looked up and nodded.

“Sure, I’m fine with that.”

“What’s your favorite food?”

“I’m fine with anything. Don’t worry about me.”

With that she engrossed herself back into the manga. It appears I was asking the wrong questions. With that in mind, I caught eyes with her book.

“What are you reading?”


She opened the book wide and leaned over to me.

“It’s an Otome romance story about a wolf girl who finds herself in a din of people known as hunters. She’s one of the last ones to…”

Her face glows with excitement, but then she stops herself and leans down.

“Nnn…. It’s stupid.”

“Could I read it too?”

“Hm? Are you sure…?”

“Sure, I’ll read it.”

The flower nodded, crossing her arms like a stern old man.

“Okay. It’s 5 volumes and I have all of them. I’ll let you borrow 1 volume a week.”


I haven’t taken an interest in what Hana-san does, but now that we’re going to be together more often, I want to explore her life. It’s strange to know that this girl knew me years before I knew her. Not only that, but I also want to understand why she is so accepting of my mom and Koda-san’s relationship. Not that them being together is the part I’m curious about. I’m more interested in…how she sees it.

Once we got home, the gentle flower barbarically tossed her bags on the floor and raced upstairs.

“Hana-san! Take your stuff upstairs!”

But she didn't reply. So, instead, I put the food on the table and brought both of our bags up the steps.


I looked at the title of the manga. “A Lonely Howl in the Dark Night.” I wondered why these manga titles have been getting unnecessarily long lately. It’s like the writers are thinking, “The longer the title, the more interesting it has to be.” Or something like that. But before I could go on a tangent, I took hold of the book.

“Cool, I’ll read it before bed.”

“It has cool action in it too. And gore also!”


“Yep! There’s plenty of bloody parts and the romance is adorable.”

Oh no…I might have gone into this prematurely. I get queasy looking at blood. It’s so nasty and smarmy and…But then I look at the cute flower. How could this adorable thing…read something like that?

“Here, take your books and stuff.”

Hana puffed her cheeks and ripped it from my hand.

“I’m going to make dinner, so don’t snack on the chips you bought at the store.”

“Eh? How did you know I bought those?!”

After putting my own stuff away, I made dinner. At the table, we sat eating away at our food. Just as I was about to ask her a question, Hana-san leaped out of her seat.

“I’m done!”

Without even bothering to clean her plate from the table, she rushed up the steps. There I sat alone now not even close to finishing my own meal. I couldn’t understand what made Hana-san decide that she had enough either. Maybe she got bored of the taste? Or was her stomach so small that only an inch of food would fill her up? Maybe all she needed was water as her main source of nutrients just like an actual flower? I imagined a field of Hana-sans on a sunny day.


My mind swirled as I continued to finish my dinner.

The night went on, and before I knew it, it was time for a bath. With my bath soap in hand, I made my way out the door. My body moved on it’s own as I knocked on Hana-san’s door. With each thump on the door my heart beat, harshly.

“It’s open!”

Her childish voice called out, beckoning me to come in.

There she laid on her bed, kicking her feet as she played her handheld game.

“Hana-san, are you taking a bath tonight?”

“Oh, yeah. You can go in first, Madoka-san.”

As if glued to the light shining from the system, her eyes didn’t turn away. Her tiny feet kicked back and forth as she swung her head.


With all my stuff already in hand, it would have been natural that I just take the initiative to go in first. But here I was standing outside of her door. It seemed she became immersed in her fictional world. I recalled what happened when Koda-san first came home. Hana-san marched into my room and expressed her true feelings. It was then that I noticed that we were fundamentally different.

At her age, I wouldn’t have been able to convey my feelings so clearly. Now it felt as though I was on the other side of that discussion we had back then. I certainly couldn’t be as decisive as her, but I found myself wanting to close the distance between us. So, I had an idea…

“I was actually wondering if…”

My voice peeked out.

“…We both could go in?”

I heard a sharp noise illuminate from her game. Hana-san likely paused it because she poked her head back to the doorway.


The spotlight being on me I felt the blood begin to rise to my head.

“Ah…never mind.”

I tried to take back my words, but it was too late. It was already in the air and had filtered into Hana-san’s tiny ears. Again, I didn’t think it through enough before saying it. Only now did it occur to me how strange the idea was.


Her purple eyes gawked at me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking by her stoic expression. She set her game system aside and sat on the corner of her bed.

I’m doing my best to get closer to Hana-san and even after today it feels as though we’re so far apart. So, I want to at least spend a bit more time together before bed.


Hana-san mumbled something inaudible before nodding to herself.

“A-Are you sure, Madoka-san?”

It didn’t register to me at first. After a brief silence between us, I found my eyes turning away from her gaze.

“If you want…that is, Hana-san. It’s okay if you’re not comfortable with it.”


Sternly, she replied, standing to her feet.

“I'm okay with it.”

Hana-san sat properly on the stool. Now showing me her bareback, I noticed how translucent her skin was. I wondered how she kept her skin so pure. I gently filtered my fingers through her hair like a comb. In the nearby cabinet, I selected the shampoo to use. The scent was named “Fresh Winds” which reminded me of the botanical garden that I met her in. Why does she hold up to the name, Hana so well?

“Hm, this one’s yours, right?”

I brought my arms around her, showing her the purple bottle.


“Hm… I like the smell."

I sniffed the bottle, trying to open a door into a conversation. But Hana-san continued to stare forward without another word. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all. She’s been stiff since we entered. We rarely talked, but now was a whole new low.

To give myself a motivational push, I slapped my face.

“Huh? Are you okay, Madoka-san?”

“Eh? Yeah, I’m fine.”

It appeared that I hit myself too hard. However, the slap to my face gave me an idea to try out. I took my two fingers and poked her back.


Hana-san turned around; her face flushed.

"You should probably eat more, Hana-san."

I teased. Her face puffed up like a blowfish. It reminded me of mom from earlier this morning.

"It-It wouldn't matter...I won't grow any bigger… Look at my mom."

She looked down at her stomach…It took me a moment to realize that Hana-san wasn't talking about her height. Reactively, I checked my own. I'm content with what God gave me, thankfully.

“You’re embarrassed, aren’t you Hana-san?”

I taunted, poking her cheeks. I can't help but bully cute things I guess...

“I…I…I am not!”

She crossed her arms. I might have gone too far this time.

“How… aren’t you embarrassed though…Madoka-san?”

I looked up to the ceiling as if trying to catch hold of a few memories. They bounced around my head before one landed in my mind.

“Well, you see, Hana-san…”

Yeah, that’s right. There is a reason why I’m used to this sort of thing.

“When I was young, Ma-chan and I would bathe together at times and that was a fond memory of mine. Even when I was in junior high, we would occasionally.”


Hana-san leaned her head to the floor. The water trickled past her feet, flowing down the nearby drain.

“I heard of her…she’s your childhood friend, right?”

I poured some shampoo in my hand and began rubbing her hair. Her tiny head moved along with me.

“Yeah, she is.”

“I never had someone that close to me before…”


Her body slumped to the side like a marionette doll that the strings had been cut from.

“Mom and I would move around a lot. Especially when I was in elementary school. After my dad died…”

Before I knew it, a topic that I wasn’t prepared for seeped in. I could hear the somber tone of her voice hit against the bathroom walls. I've known that Hana-san's father was out of the picture, but I didn't know it was because he died too.

“So, your dad passed away too?”

Hana-san nodded tenderly. I wouldn't have been able to tell if my hands weren't still caressing her scalp though. That’s how subtle her movements were.

“But unlike you, Madoka-san, I was only 4 years old when it happened. So, I don’t remember him much. I don’t remember crying when it happened either…For all I know…I never had a father.”

My fingers slowed down and eventually; they came to a stop... I had a fair amount of time with my dad before his passing. Hana-san on the other hand had her dad taken from her far sooner.

“But I don’t mind. Mom is all I needed, and she took good care of me.”

Earlier, on the way to school, I asked her if her mom was strange…Hana-san told me that she was just a normal mom to her. I can only imagine how Koda-san had to take care of a 4-year-old child alone.

Koda-san is 29 years old now…That would mean she was taking care of Hana-san alone at the age of 20. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her now.

Just how strong of a person would she have to have been to be widowed at such a young age? And not only that but take care of a child at that age too? It reminded me that there is a great deal that I don’t know about these two.

The lives they led before meeting my mother was still a mystery to me.

It felt like a fire burned in my stomach. Before I knew it, I held her, wrapping my arms against her petite body. They folded over her shoulders and crossed around her chest.

“So, you can say that having both our moms filled that gap. Huh, Hana-san?”

When I straightened up Hana-san’s room I saw the picture of her and Koda-san. They seemed happy, that was certain. But like any staple family in society, there are usually two parents. That left a hole in my chest that I didn’t realize was there until now. Could that be why she calls my mom…mom too? If I look at it like that...

“Eh, what are you doing?!”

I don’t know what came over me, but I just wanted to hold her tight. As if she’d vanish if I didn’t.

“S-sorry, you just made me want to hold you...Hana-san”

“S-Stop it!”

I couldn’t see her expression from behind, but her movements gave me an idea. To try and brighten the mood I decided to pull a prank. Ma-chan would do it to me when I felt down. So, I started tickling her small body. Hana-san sprang up in laughter.

“I-I said stop it!

“I can’t hear you, Hana-san!”

She kept giggling, unable to stop. I felt bad but couldn’t help myself now.

“S-Stop it! I-I said stop! "

She tugged, but I pulled her back, closer to me. I held her tight and before I knew it, she cried out…


I let go of her, unconsciously. The blood sprinted to my face as Hana-san turned to me. We gazed at one another. I could see the heat dissipating around her body.


Maybe I went a bit too far? That’s what I thought, but it was too late now.

Hana-san pushed her fingers together. I could see her bright cheeks as she veered to the side. I didn’t know what it could be, but something told me that this word…"Onee-san" has been in her mind for a while now. Maybe I’m not the only one who wanted to get closer to the other?

“S-Sorry, H-Hana-san?”

I started to feel a tad lightheaded. We might have been in here a bit too long. Hana-san however spun around and faced up to me.

“I-Is it too soon for me to call you, Onee-san?”


The corner of her eyes was wet. I couldn’t tell if it was from her laughing earlier or not though. She then got quiet and whispered.

“…I-If it is, I won't ever say it again…”

She pushed her fingers together like Koda-san did the other day. I've never seen her this flustered. How can I say no to this? So, I put my hand on her head and caressed her silky hair.

“Of course, not... Hana-san. You can call me whatever you want.”

Her face lit up. When I thought about it, Hana-san never had a sister, one older than her either. But…she has known me since I went into my coma. So, maybe she was wondering when the day would come that she could say…those words to me? But then, that’s just my own interpretation of the matter.

“If it’s not too soon then…”

Her face flushed as she pushed her body close to mine.


Hana-san silently chanted the words to herself. I could see her face grow ruddier by the syllable. She turned back to me with a smile, causing me to clench my chest. I didn’t end up learning much more about her aside from that. But even so, I felt that I’d be able to tell people more about Hana-san now, with confidence.

After we exited the bath, Hana-san and I went our separate ways. I entered my room and rested on the bed. Suddenly, my door opened and Hana-san peeked in.

“G-Good night, Onee-san.”

Without waiting for my reply, she shut the door.


If I could see the smirk on my face, I would surely think I was an idiot.

Even though we had school, it felt like the first time we spent the entire day together. I turned over to see the manga Hana-san lent to me, lying stubbornly on my nightstand. The picture of a silver wolf howling at a glistening moon stared back at me. Curiously, I opened the first few pages revealing a bloodied mess of an image. My stomach churned as I closed the book, harshly.

“I’ll start reading tomorrow instead…for my cute little sister.”