The Web Novel Club
One week later. As night settled in over Miyazawa, Fuyuki punched in the passcode to her apartment with an excited hand and kicked open the door.
“I’m home!” she proclaimed with a wide grin on her face. “Oh, Natsuki, it was so much fun! I even got you souvenirs…Natsuki?”
Fuyuki scanned the room. All the lights were on, even the one in the room she shared with her sister, but there was no sight of Natsuki. The pots and pans and everything else in the kitchen area looked untouched. Everything in the whole apartment looked untouched.
Fuyuki spotted a pale hand waving to her just over the top edge of the couch. “Welcome back,” an exhausted voice said in time with the motion of the hand.
Fuyuki grinned. “Natsuki, did you fall asleep in front of the television again?”
Having not seen her sister for a week, Fuyuki went to go fool around with her, push her off the couch or something, to make the family love for a sister she hadn’t seen in a while tangible. Instead, when she peered over the edge of the couch, she found Natsuki sprawled out across the cushions. She had huge bags under her eyes and her hair looked even worse than during the grind of last month.
“Natuski, are you feeling okay?” Fuyuki asked, full of concern. She dropped her softball bag and bounded over to the other side of the couch.
Natsuki shifted slightly. “I’m fine. Just tired.”
“H-have you been eating good while I was gone?” The moment Fuyuki rounded the couch to reach the other side, she answered her own question. Dozens of candy and snack wrappers and empty soda bottles littered the floor between the couch and television. Fuyuki accidentally kicked a half-eaten gas station hot dog and recoiled.
“This isn’t a spiral,” she realized. “This is rock bottom! What happened, Natsuki? Y-you’re wearing the same clothes you were wearing when I left!”
Natsuki tilted her head to look at her younger sister and smiled. “It’s alright. I told you, I’m just a little tired.”
Fuyuki jabbed a finger of concern at her. “There it is! You’re faking that smile! You’re definitely not alright!”
She immediately got to work. “I don’t know what happened, but it’s been a whole week. You need to clean up, change your clothes, and eat something good. I’ll start a bath and make some dinner!”
As Fuyuki scurried off, Natsuki called out to her, making her pause. “It’s alright, Fuyuki. You’ve helped me so much already. You just got back, you don’t have to go running around for my sake. There’s no point to it.”
Fuyuki shook her head. “Of course there’s a point to it. You’re my sister!”
Natsuki spoke weakly. “You don’t have to do anything for me anymore.”
This time, Fuyuki smiled. “I don’t have to do anything for you, Natsuki. This is something I want to do.”
Natsuki understood that, where she was timid, Fuyuki was headstrong; there was no further use in arguing with her. But Fuyuki going out of her way to help Natsuki like that just made her feel even worse about herself.
A few minutes later, Fuyuki stormed out of the bathroom, the heat of a warm bath following her, and stood before Natuski. “C’mon, let’s get you changed.”
Natsuki turned away. “Getting changed by my own sister…”
Fuyuki wasn’t having it. Using all her softball strength, she grasped one of Natsuki’s arms and pulled with all her might. Between Fuyuki’s strong physique and Natsuki having lost several pounds off of her already scrawny frame, Fuyuki easily peeled Natsuki off the couch. She caught Natsuki when she collapsed in her arms, much like the night she came home from karaoke. This time, her breath smelled just as bad.
“What have you been doing this past week?” Fuyuki asked in disbelief.
Natsuki wasn’t sure. “...watched some baseball, I guess.”
Fuyuki started walking Natsuki to the bath. “What happened? What’s making you feel so bad? Was it Mitsuko moving away?”
Natsuki sighed. “Well, I guess that’s part of it.” When they reached the hallway towards the bathroom, Natsuki stumbled and ended up leaning against the wall. “I miss Mom and Dad, I miss Mitsuko, I miss my friend Yumiko, who got locked up, I miss Masako, who was my idol until she wasn’t…but I miss myself most of all.”
Natsuki nodded. “I miss the old me. I spent this whole week thinking of April. Back then, anything seemed possible…”
Fuyuki tried to hoist her off the wall, but it took all her effort to keep the dead weight known as Natsuki from sliding down it. “Anything still is possible, Natsuki-”
“That’s a lie!” Natsuki interrupted. Her voice was close to breaking. “Back in April, I thought I could do anything. I felt alive for the first time. But now I know that things don’t work out. Things fail. People move away. And people can die without accomplishing their dreams. They never had a chance from the start.”
Natsuki started trembling in Fuyuki’s arms, so Fuyuki wrapped them tighter around her. “Who’s going to die?” she asked softly.
Natsuki didn’t answer. She gave a long sniffle, and Fuyuki, who had never once seen her sister cry in all fourteen years of her existence, realized the dam was about to burst.
“It’s alright, Natsuki,” Fuyuki said, ruffling her hair. “You know, my friends and I all read your stories before going to sleep at softball camp. Everyone loved them.”
Another long sniffle. “That’s a lie, too…the dialogue always sounds stupid and I can never finish my stories…there’s a reason they’re not popular.”
Fuyuki smiled and spoke softly. “Sure, they’re a little rough. But they’re popular with me, Natsuki.”
That broke the dam. For the first time in over a decade, for the first time since she felt so embarrassed and stupid to cry, since crying meant you were weak, since crying put an easy target on your back, Natsuki started sobbing. They were ugly sobs into her sister’s chest.
Fuyuki patted her back. “It’s alright, Natsuki.”
“I just want things to go back to how they used to be,” Natsuki sobbed out. She raised her own arms and gripped her sister tightly.
Fuyuki nodded. “They say part of becoming an adult is realizing that not all dreams work out.”
“All dreams don’t work out,” Natsuki corrected.
“But that’s not true,” Fuyuki answered. “I said this once before - forever is a long time. You’re only fifteen going on sixteen. If you write one story per year…don’t you think that one of them will work out? And I’m not just talking about popularity. Maybe in a few years, what you consider ‘success’ could change.”
“But…one day, neither of us will be here anymore…I don’t want to die, Fuyuki.”
The inevitable conclusion to life never takes a conscious form in the minds of youth. At that age, you seem invincible, death merely a foreign concept. Fuyuki herself had never considered her own death. She was also in a much better mental state than her sister.
"It's alright," Fuyuki said again. "I don't know a whole lot about death. But I feel like death is a far-off thing. There's three hundred sixty-five days in a year, and hopefully you can multiply that by eighty years of life...that's a whole lot of days."
Fuyuki smiled. "And you even said it yourself. If you're afraid of dying, why not trying to seize the days as they come?"
Seize the day.
Laughter broke into the sobs. Natsuki felt like an utter mess at the moment, but at the same time, laughing and crying out all the negative feelings she had repressed inside her for the past week, if not months, made her feel just a little better.
Natsuki managed to stand on her own two feet, but she still kept her arms wrapped around Fuyuki. “I see what you mean. But I’m still scared. Saying that I’ll seize the day is easy. But how do I actually do that? What’s the point of anything?”
Fuyuki scanned her young mind for answers. “Hmm…you know, the first baseman told us about this once. She’s so smart and reads all kinds of books. She said that life has no inherent point.”
“...there really is no point?”
“I guess so. But isn’t that sort of nice, in a way? I like playing softball, but imagine if I was born and life said my purpose was to work in a coal mine.”
In between sniffles, Natsuki giggled. “That wouldn’t be good.”
Fuyuki nodded. “So, life really does have no point. But - and the first baseman emphasized this by raising a finger - that gives us the freedom to decide for ourselves what the point of life is.”
Natsuki couldn’t help but picture the negatives. “But what if I never find out what the point of life is? What if I always fail?”
“You just have to hope for success.”
Masako’s angry words flashed across Natsuki’s head. “But hope…that’s just falsely deluding ourselves into thinking we have a chance when we really don’t.”
That stumped Fuyuki for a moment, but Natsuki knew her sister had a stronger spine than she did, and that’s one of the many reasons as to why she loved her. “I’m not really sure how to answer that, but I guess…part of growing up is realizing that things don’t always work out. But maybe another part of growing up is realizing that some things work out.”
Natsuki just nodded, trying to process everything. She spent an entire week with a glazed-over mind struggling with the inevitable fact that one day, she would die. And even beyond that - one day, Fuyuki would die, too. Everyone she knew would die. And would any of them accomplish anything before it arrived? That was enough to make her spiral into oblivion by the end of the first night at home by herself. Six days later she was just barely functioning.
Natsuki sighed. “You really think things will work out for me?”
Fuyuki nodded vigorously. “Of course! Not only do I hope things work out for you, but you’re my favorite sister in the whole world, Natsuki. I know things will work out for you.”
That just made Natsuki hug her tighter. “I’m your only sister.”
Fuyuki coughed. “Uh, Natsuki…you have this sudden bear-like strength to you.”
Natsuki started laughing, a full-on laughing that started in her stomach and rose upwards. “I’m glad you came back, Fuyuki.”
Fuyuki just shrugged. “Well, where was I gonna go?”
Natsuki separated from her sister and stood tall on her own feet under her own strength. “Hmm….to find my own purpose. To make my own magnum opus. I have to admit - it sounds tough.”
“Why not break it down into smaller pieces?” Fuyuki suggested. “Instead of thinking of your life’s purpose, why not think of August break’s purpose? Or even just tonight’s purpose?”
“You know what? I think I can do that.”