Chapter 65:

My Sister Isn't Really a Bad Person.

My Dad is an Otaku, My Mom is a Fujoshi, and I Wish I Was Dead

"So I bet you're wondering why I've called you here today." Nee-san, with a proud expression, slams her palms down on the dining room table where Mom and Dad are sitting, giving her blank looks in response. I'm pretty sure they know exactly what you're going to talk about, dumbass. I mean, I'm right behind you. It's pretty goddamn obvious. We're not here to talk about the weather or the fuckin' Giants.

"It's actually a couple things, now that I think about it." Nee-san shifts her gaze with an awkward grin. "But first, I think an apology's in order."

"To you? About what?" Dad shifts in his seat.

"I'll get to that in a second. You owe him first." That's when she points right at me and I immediately gulp. Shit, she put me on the spot. I feel like I'm about to get interrogated or something. It's got that atmosphere.

Mom and Dad exchange a long glance and finally Mom sighs, puts her hands under her chin, and begins. "Ryou, we were doing what we thought was best based on what we knew at the time-"

"Mom, stop it. What did you tell him? 'Take responsibility for your own actions', right? The school apologized to Ryou. Why can't you?"

Oh. Right. I should probably explain.

Yesterday, as I was finishing up the last makeup exam (in a room at Shinchou by myself, naturally), Headmaster Beardy himself came in, told me to come with him to his office, and as I was sitting there for minutes wondering what the fuck was going on, my parents showed up, and that's when he told me that my suspension was lifted effective immediately because there had been a misunderstanding about my actions on the last day of the semester and several of the students involved had cleared it up or something like that, and then the headmaster and vice-headmaster both formally apologized to me for acting so rashly. Or maybe they used another big, formal word. I don't remember. But it really happened. Koike literally bent his balding ass over and apologized. To me.

I have no idea how in the fuckin' world I got out of trouble, though. Maybe someone helped me out...but who would that be? I don't have a lot of friends at school. People usually run when they see me, or stay away. Not like I give a fuck, though. Maybe Napoleon Bitchaparte had a change of heart? Pfft. Yeah, fucking right. And maybe I won the lottery.

Or maybe an angel or something came down to Headmaster Beardy and told him exactly what happened. I don't really care at this point. All that matters is that I'm a free man.

Mom nervously looks away for a second. "Sorry, Ryou," she says guiltily. "We were trying to do the right thing-"

BANG! "Stop it!"

Holy fuck, that was loud! What the fuck is my idiot sister doing-

"Ayame..." Mom's staring at my sister, who's slammed her hands down on the table, panting.

"Do your words mean nothing?! Mom, do you remember when you promised me that you'd taken your last contract? Remember when you promised me you'd be home more often? That was months ago...and you're working more than ever! When you told me 'I promise' to my face, did you have any intention of keeping it?!"

Dad tries to open his mouth, but Nee-san keeps talking before he can. "What about you, Dad? You told me that you love me and you're proud of me and then you yell at my own brother like he's trash where I can hear everything! Is that something that someone who loves me would do?"

Dad opens his mouth and Nee-san immediately goes "Let's hear what you have to say! Come on! Are you going to make an excuse, too?!"

Dad doesn't say anything, just looks down, in shock.

Holy fuck, she's mad. When she told me that she wanted to sit me and my old man and lady down and have us sort things out, I didn't expect Nee-san would go full S*per S*iyan.

"Look, I know Ryou's an idiot, and he's disrespectful, and he's annoying, and he doesn't respect his elders and he doesn't wash his hands after he flushes, but who cares about that? I was an idiot at his age, too! And I bet both of you were, too!"

HEY! You did not need to say all that shit! And you're still an idiot!

"He's got good sides to him, too...he's a hard worker...and he tries to do the right thing, even though it might not seem like it at first...and he's surprisingly thoughtful...and he'll do whatever it takes to help his friends...but you don't know any of that because you're never around to see it! Do you think I like having to take care of his messes because you're not around to do anything? Do you think I like picking up shrinkwrapped dinner from the Kougas every night because neither of you are there to make it? Do you think I like lying in bed at 10:30 wondering if either of you are going to get home early enough for me to tell you good night? Do you think I like hearing excuse after excuse about why you missed the cultural festival...or the sports festival...or my tournament? And do you think I like it when the one time in what seems like forever that you're finally both home at the same time, you spend it yelling at Ryou like he's nothing, and then you fight with each other?! Huh? Do you think I like any of that? Do you?!"

Holy shit, dude. Holy shit.

"I'll go ahead and answer that for you, if you didn't figure it out by now! Of course I don't like it, and Ryou will never admit it, but he doesn't either! We're your children! So what if you've got your own problems?! That doesn't mean you get to treat Ryou like he's worthless instead of defending him! Did either of you even try to listen to him, or figure out what actually happened? No! You know who did? Me! And Haru-kun! Because all you did was yell at my own brother and left me to deal with the mess like you always do! He's only twelve! Isn't he...your son, too..." Suddenly, her scream drops to a whimper.

"Ayame, I..." Dad can't even finish before he looks away, ashamed. Mom is just sitting there like she's seen her entire squad get killed by a landmine or something.

"I just...hate it when you fight...I hate it so much...I'm sick of it..." Nee-san's starting to sniffle. Shit, dude. Talk about uncomfortable. Feels like a goddamn funeral in here. "I just...want us to be a real family...please..."

I can't bear this any longer. She's bawling her eyes out over me. I feel like I want to crawl in a hole in the ground and never come out. Shit's fucking embarrassing, dude.

"Nee-san, enough-"

And that's when she whirls around. Her face is red, and her eyes are puffy, but she's glaring right at me.

"Shut up!" she hisses, barely above a whisper. "I've got them right where I want them!"


"I'm at the part where I cry and make them feel really bad and I'm about to go for the kill but I can't remember what my line is because you said something and threw me off! Just sit there and be quiet!"

"Your line?!" My "whisper" is way too loud.

"Haru-kun helped me write all of this and I spent half a day memorizing it because I was trying to help you so don't ruin it for me, idiot!"

Mom and Dad's ashamed expressions slowly disappear off their faces, replaced by blank looks of confusion. I don't know what Nee-san's plotting, but it just went down the fuckin' drain. Figures.

Finally, Dad speaks. "Ayame, what's going on?"


She turns back around to me, hisses "Plan B, get ready!" and then, going back to my parents, trying to look as angry and upset as she possibly can, exclaims, "If you're still not convinced, Ryou's gonna show you something! Did you know he's been learning how to play the guitar for almost a month and a half? Did you care? But this is what he was actually doing when both of you were at work assuming he was committing crimes or something!"

"Me? Show you?"

"Hey, brat, that's your cue!" my sister hisses as she leans over toward me.

"You never told me about this! What do you want me to do?"

"This is the part where you get your guitar out and blow them away with a solo so powerful that it leaves them with no choice to apologize for everything!"

"My guitar's in my room!"

"Go get it!"

"You have got to be kidding me..."

This is the dumbest fuckin' idea I've ever heard. My sister's plan or whatever just fell apart in front of her face all because I said something when I apparently wasn't supposed to and I didn't even know because she didn’t tell me shit.

And all I can do is get up to go trudge to my room to get my guitar like the fucking dumbass I am...

"Ryou-" My dad's voice stops me as I put a foot on the first stair. "You don't have to go that far. I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused. I haven't been setting a very good example." He bows his head.

It takes Mom a second, but she finally does the same thing. "Me as well. I didn't keep my promises. Sorry about that. I'll try to be better. This contract I'm currently on is the last one I'll have for a while. I mean it this time."

"Come back." Dad runs his hand through his hair. "I- no, we- wanted to talk to you about something."

Hesitantly, I finally scooch back into the seat alongside Nee-san.

"Ayame was right. We haven't been communicating very well. I wanted to make sure we're all on the same page. Ryou, your sister're learning to play guitar, right?"

"Yeah, I guess..." Fuck, he's gonna say I'm not allowed to do it anymore...

"I'd like to hear you play sometime."


"I was a little surprised to hear that you were doing that, but I've got no problem with it. So long as you're not causing any trouble."

"No, I'm not. I swear. I've been practicing nonstop the last few weeks. Me and my friends decided to form a band and that's basically all we've been doing."

"I didn't realize you were that serious about it. Who were you taking lessons from?"

"A guy named Mitsukoshi who runs a music store down one of the streets near the old temple."

"You weren't paying out of your own pocket, were you?"

"Nah...he was teaching me for free."

My dad's face furrows, then he pulls out his wallet and takes out a wad of bills, slapping them down in my hand. "The next time you see him, give him these. It's our thanks for his generosity. From now on, I'll pay for your lessons. It's my fault you had to rely on his kindness, anyway. If I had been a better parent and known that this is what you wanted to do...I'm sorry."

"No, really, it's okay...Mitsukoshi-sensei is closing the store down really soon. So I don't know what I'm gonna do next."

"I'll see if I can find a teacher around here."




"I wanted to make this clear, though. Your grades come first. So no more skipping classes and no more picking fights. If you're putting that much effort into learning music, I want to see you put the same effort into your classes. Otherwise, we'll have to restrict your hobbies. Do you understand?"

...Ugh. "Yes."

"Good. Now, on my end...I know I've been working way too much. I apologize. I know that sometimes I have to go in for an urgent news cycle or something like that and there's nothing I can do about it, but from now on I won't stay a minute past six at the office and hopefully I can be home for dinner most days. I hope that's good enough."

Nee-san nods.

"What about you, Tsubaki?"

Mom looks hesitant- her tall frame is slouched and she's still looking back and forth nervously, but she says in a soft voice, "Like I said latest contract is done in a week, and after that I'm not taking another one. We’ve got enough saved up that I can be a full-time mom from then on. It's about ten years too late...but I hope that's okay."

Dad stands up from the table, pushing his chair in. "Goodness, it's gotten late. I need to go put the garbage out...sorry, I'll be right back."

Mom stands up to follow him, and then my sister smiles widely and leaps over and wraps her in a hug while Mom stands there confused, like she doesn't quite know what to do.

"This time, Mikono-sensei keeps her promises, right?" Nee-san says happily.

Mom hesitates a second, then nods slowly. "Yes. I will."

"Hey, Ryou!" Nee-san just grabbed my sleeve! Fuck, get off me, dumbass! "Group hug, get in here!"

"What?!" Holy fuck, I'm turning red. I can just feel it. "Hell no!"

"Language!" She glares at me.

"Ayame...I think that's enough..." Mom's voice, soft and flustered, interrupts both of us.

Nee-san frowns, but she finally relaxes her grasp on me, and then her grasp on Mom. Is Mom okay? I actually feel sort of bad. Nee-san's strong. She may not look like it, but she's wrenched me before. I hope that didn't break one of Mom's ribs.

Holy shit, Mom backed away fast. Now I'm kinda worried.

"All's well that ends well, right?" Nee-san's eyes are bright and she's way too close. She never gives me any personal space. I don't think she knows the meaning of that word.

"Well, yeah..." There's one thing I need to get off my chest, though. "You didn't tell me you were faking your speech!"

"It wasn't fake."

"Then why'd you snap at me for making you forget your lines?"

"I admit, I did kinda play it up a little...ehehe...but all my feelings were real. I had to write down what I wanted to say and memorize it because I was afraid I'd forget stuff if I didn't." She grins sheepishly. "I'm not good at saying what I actually feel."

...That's because you're stupid.

But still...she did all of that for my sake.

"You didn't have to go that far for me." I'm only saying this once and I'm not repeating myself. And I'm not soft, dammit. Real hard-ass delinquents show their gratitude, too.

"Of course I did. You're my cute little brother." And before I can stop her, she reaches up and ruffles my hair like I'm in grade school.

Instantly, I slap her hand away and back off. "Nee-san, stop it!" Fuck, dude, my cheeks are burning. Shit! She did that right in front of Mom, too! I'm not a little kid!

"You better not try that again-"

"Night, Ryou!"

"Hey, we're not done!"

She's not paying me any attention. She just skips over to Mom, and then to Dad, who's just come back inside, and then skips up the stairs. A few minutes later, Dad follows, and then it's just me and Mom downstairs, not saying anything to each other.

I guess that means it's time for me to head on up, too. Maybe I could get in a little practice before I go to bed...

"Ryou, I have something I wanted to ask you."

When I turn around, Mom is leaning against the long cabinet in the living room, the one that has all the picture frames on top of it, right where you turn the corner to go to the stairs.

"What is it?"

"Did I ever tell you what your name means?"

"...No." I never really cared about it. It's kinda lame to. "Why are you asking me?"

"I told Ayame about hers not too long ago, and then I realized I probably never did the same for you."

"It doesn't matter to me either way."

"Well, I'll go ahead and tell you." She takes a notepad and pencil off the top of the cabinet and quickly scribbles on the paper before turning it around to show me. "Literally, 遼 means 'faraway'. Most people use it in the sense of meaning above and beyond. Reaching new heights. Of course, we wanted you to achieve great things, too. But there's a bit more to your name than that."

She looks down and away, and then back to me. "A long time ago, I used to be a manga author."

"You were? Really?"

"I hid it because I didn't want you two going down the same path as me. It...didn't stop your sister, though. There's no point in me keeping this secret from you anymore, so I'm going to tell you. As I was writing my first series, I was getting the idea for another one. It was about a girl who, as a child, saw a mysterious light that saved her from certain death, and as she grew older she traveled the universe to try and find it, and she goes on so many adventures and sees both the best and worst of humanity, but she never sees the light again. Until the end. She realizes that it was inside of her all along. I called it Faraway Light. It uses the same character as your name."

...Not going to lie, that sounds stupid. But all I do is nod and say "Really?"

Mom chuckles wearily. "Pretty cliche, isn't it?"

...She read my mind.

"I can tell you're thinking that. I never got the chance to do anything other than come up with the basic idea. My best friend died and I quit the industry because of it."

I can't say much in response. I never knew that any of this happened to Mom.

"I had to do a lot of soul-searching. It took me, years...trying to figure out what I wanted to do after that. What I wanted to live for. I had lost the dream I had ever since I was a schoolgirl, and the only person there to help me through it was your father. But then when Ayame came life got a little brighter. And then we had you, and that was when I knew for sure what I wanted to do from then on."

A wistful smile crosses her face. "I was just like that girl in my story...searching everywhere to find the answer when it was inside of me all along. And that's why I named you what I named you." She pauses. "Even though I didn't keep my own promises very well. I'm sorry. All this time I've wondered if you and your sister deserved better than me..."

It takes me ages, but I finally choke out, "'s okay, really..."

"Is that so?" She looks me dead in the eyes, and for what seems like the first time in my life I can see sadness. Weakness. It's...painful. Thinking of all the times I've mouthed off to her when she really was looking out for me...

God, I'm too ashamed for words.

Finally, she smiles again, gently. "Good night, Ryou. See you in the morning."

Steward McOy