The New Year’s bell rings from a temple somewhere.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve. It is the last night of the year when the bell rings as if counting down the seconds to the end of the year, erasing all our troubles one by one.
“Shino〜, another glass of hot sake〜”
But in the living room of my parents’ house, a tiger, suffering from worldly desires, was curled up under the kotatsu.
“Nee san, this is the fifth round of sake. We’ll run out of sake for tomorrow.”
I was sitting in the kotatsu and I was mortified.
I live at home, but my sister Fumino lives alone in the city. But since it was the end of the year, she had gone home for a short visit and was lounging around.
“And if you keep eating greasy snacks, you’re going to get fat, you know?”
“Eh, you’re so mean, Shino. Let me celebrate at least on New Year’s Eve with delicious snacks and drinks.”
“Nee san, how can you say that when you regularly come home and make me prepare sake and snacks for you?”
“I can’t remember because of the alcohol !”
Don’t say that with a smug look on your face.
“Haa, I don’t know if it’s okay for a school teacher to be like this. If you’re seen drinking and lounging around, it’s not good for the students, is it?”
“That’s one thing, that’s another. Even teachers have their private lives.”
My sister protested adamantly.
But she has a point. There is no law that says that because you are a teacher, you have to be a model human being all the time. Rather, they are just one person, and if they don’t take a break, they will only accumulate stress. They have to relax at the end of the year and the beginning of the new year to keep going.
“And this year, I’m in charge of the third grade, so Ill be even more tired…… I have to give guidance for exams, do paperwork, and explain to parents. The children are constantly asking me questions and I don’t have time to rest. The other day I was teaching even in my dreams…..”
My sister collapses on the top of the kotatsu.
Teachers are very busy. I don’t have time to rest because my job involves not only teaching but also teaching club activities. I kind of guessed that because I knew my sister’s work style.
Recently, however, I have become even more aware of how busy she is. The reason is that I’ve started tutoring Ari chan.
I never thought that teaching others would be so difficult.
I was happy to have regained my intuition for the exam through problem books when I started to give lectures. However, when it came time to teach Ari chan, I couldn’t communicate well, and I experienced frustration many times. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t communicate with her.
“I really appreciate your hard work, Nee san.”
I was so grateful to my sister for her unimaginable hard work. But since my sister is working so hard, I shouldn’t be discouraged.
Ari chan’s academic ability is rising rapidly, and her chances of passing the exam are also increasing in proportion.
She just needs to go one step further. If I can do it one more time, she will pass the entrance exam and I will be able to be on the same level as my sister.
Until then, I will persevere.
“Thank you, Shino. Thanks to you and the others, her academic performance and motivation are both improving.”
It was as if she could see right through me. I was so surprised that all I could do was smile in a strange way, though I should have been honestly pleased.
I guess I can’t compete with my sister after all…
“By the way, how has things been with Kobayakawa kun since then? Have you made any progress?”
“…..Why are we talking about him?”
An inappropriate smile appears on her red face. Ah, this is troublesome.
“Well, I mean, Shino has never got along with a boy before, right? Mom and grandma are worried that it’s time for you to get a boyfriend, you know?”
“Gmm……it’s none of your business. Kobayakawa kun is a junior who will be assigned to the same seminar next year and is a fellow tutor. I’m not in love with him or anything.”
“For someone who says so, you’re wearing his Christmas present like you care about it.”
My sister is not slowing down in her pursuit. The gift she points out is the light wisteria-colored stole that I’m wearing around my shoulders at this very moment.
I’m flustered, as if I’ve just seen something bad.
“N-no……. I’m only wearing it because it’s cold !”
“The heat is working well enough.”
“I’m cold !”
“Oh my, I’ve never heard of that. I’ve been your sister for 20 years and there are still things I don’t know.”
Gnnn…… I’ll say it like I mean it. Drunk Nee san are mean. She makes fun of me every time, even though she doesn’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve to get involved. And I can’t believe she’s using Kobayakawa kun……
“Between you and me. You have a little fondness for him, don’t you?”
“I do, but only as a good junior.”
“You’re so stubborn. For a gift from just a junior, you take very good care of it.”
“It’s a gift, so it’s only natural to take good care of it. I’m only wearing it because it’s cold.”
“Then, would you like to exchange it for my winter coat? This one is warmer.”
“I don’t like it because it smells like alcohol.”
I dodged her clever leading questions. I was getting nervous because I didn’t know where I was going to get fried. I thought New Year’s Eve was supposed to be more about enjoying the holidays.
“You’re really not being honest, are you? The night before Christmas, you went your separate ways, saying you were going to make a detour, but you were actually meeting with Kobayakawa kun, weren’t you?”
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about……”
“What on earth were you talking about?”
Ugh, she reeks of alcohol.
That night, yes, I told him why I had offered to tutor Ari chan.
The reason was because I wanted to win over my sister. I told him my selfish desire that if I could accomplish the task that my sister had given up on, which was to help Ari chan go to Hokusei University, then I could be on the same level as my sister.
“It’s none of your business.”
I was afraid to be honest about it. I was afraid to be honest about it, and I was sure she would be sad if she knew. Or perhaps she would be angry.
So, this is definitely a secret.
But the person to whom the secret was given did not care about it.
“Hmm, so you met him after all.”
It’s a story to tell. I had unknowingly confessed that I had been meeting with Kobayakawa kun.
My face was burning. It’s the worst. It was a secret meeting that she lied to my sister about meeting a boy who was my junior. I can’t believe she knows about it……
“fufu, there’s no need to be embarrassed. What kind of boy is Kobayakawa kun to you, Shino?”
“L-like I said, he’s my junior in the seminar–“
“I’m not saying that, but as a person. I would like to hear your impression of him as a person, not as a position.”
She rested her chin on the back of her hand and looked straight at me. Her smile is the same as it has always been. She was a kind sister who tried to be close to my heart.
Kobayakawa kun’s personal impression…… I have never thought too much about him. He was really a junior in my seminar and a boy who unexpectedly became my tutor. It was really just a passing acquaintance.
But now I suddenly think about it. Why did I confide in such a young man that I wanted to win over my sister?
I have never revealed to anyone until now, the most delicate part of my innermost heart…..
“I think Kobayakawa kun is lovely. He’s kind, sincere, and above all, he’s a serious person.”
“Right……he is a good man.”
My sister convinced me a little.
Maybe she was hoping that I would accept her evil motives.
Or maybe I wanted to be recognized by him, a man of sincerity and conviction, who would accompany Ari chan to study for her exams because she is his fan.
Even after thinking about it, I cannot find a satisfactory reason.
I probably won’t be able to find the answer alone.
I will probably be able to decipher the answer only after I get to know him better and have him get to know me.
“I look forward to next year…….”
The feeling leaked out naturally from my mouth. Next year, I will have more opportunities to be involved in seminars. I’m sure that I will be able to find the answer to my question.
“Life is short, so fall in love, young girl. Enjoy the moment, Shino.”
“I don’t want to fall in love….but thank you, Nee san.”
I don’t know what I want to do with Kobayakawa kun, even I don’t know what I want to do. But even though I’m not good at socializing with people, I felt like I could have a good relationship with him, and I couldn’t help but smile.
“By the way, Nee san. How about your love life? Why don’t you get mar–“
“Now, now, it’s almost New Year’s Eve ! I’ll keep drinking until then !”
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