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Mao-chan had been hesitant but Okaasama had half forced her to accept, so in the end Mao-chan turned into her dress-up doll.
“Sorry, Mao-chan…” I apologised as Okaasama was happily choosing dresses.
I was used to it, but I’ll bet Mao-chan wasn’t.
“No, I’m fine with it, but is it really okay to buy me something? I’m starting to feel really shameless… Okaasama might get angry at me…”
“No, that is not something you need to be worried about. In fact I should be apologising for forcing you to go along with my mother’s fun. I will make sure to speak to your parents, do not worry. And perhaps you should try to at least let her know which you like. If not, she will choose everything on her own.”
Mao-chan was still a little hesitant at first, but before long she was happily trying on this and that for Okaasama. As I watched I started to want to choose clothes for her too, and in the end I joined in. Could you blame me? Mao-chan was just so cute that everything looked good on her!
The one that they settled on was a cute lemon yellow party dress, with a wide, light skirt.
“Cute! It suits you so well, Mao-chan!” I clapped, causing Mao-chan to thank me shyly.
What I had picked for her was a white flower-patterned summer dress. It was maidenly and very cute too!
Mao-chan wore the white dress out of the store. Okaasama looked a little dissatisfied about that but the party dress was too fancy to walk about in, so there wasn’t any choice. But Mao-chan’s next words cheered her up right.
“Do you think it would be okay if I wore that dress to the summer party this year?”
Sorry that you had to worry about her feelings, Mao-chan.
Then Okaasama brought her to a hair salon and curled her hair. Uwaahh!
She had turned into me in miniature. The two of us stood in front of the mirror like sisters with perfect curls.
I was genuinely apologising to her in my mind but…
“It’s like I’m a princess!”
Mao-chan seemed overjoyed.
“I’ve always adored your hair, Reika-oneesama. I thought you looked just like a princess from a fairy tale,” she said as she happily touched her own hair.
Mao-chan kept glancing back to her reflection in the mirror. Eh? She actually thought that?
Apparently I had gained a successor to the Rococo Queen throne.
After a visit to a tea shop and then some more shopping and whatnot we returned home to find Otousama coming back with a cake. The tanuki had literally no other ideas for gifts to women except sweets. It was no wonder he was tubby if food was all he could think of.
I was a little worried because Mao-chan was on a diet but she was kind so she thanked him with a smile. What a good kid…
After an enjoyable dinner where we asked Mao-chan about her school life, the two of us returned to my room and relaxed.
Mao-chan seemed interested in my needle felting things, so I told her about what I was making for the school festival and then showed her the photos and the sketchbook.
“Waah! These are so good! Did you draw these, Reika-oneesama.”
“No, it was my Oniisama that drew these.”
“Your Oniisama is amazing at drawing. Ah! This one is wonderful too. Waah… Hm? Huh? What’s this one…?”
What? Ahh! That was the one that I drew!
“Ummm, what is this…?” she asked me awkwardly.
“Ah, that was the one that I tried using my left hand to draw. I wanted to see how well I could do it.”
“Wow, is that what this was!? No wonder it looked so strange. But if you drew this with your left hand then aren’t you pretty talented?”
Can I cry?
I hurriedly put the sketchbook away and decided to help Mao-chan with her summer homework instead.
“The truth is I haven’t done it at all…”
“Truly? Then shall we work hard at it together?”
Teaching Mao-chan how to do her homework. The ‘oneesan feeling’ I got was amazing. She was so cute. If only she really was my little sister.
A while later Oniisama came back from work and popped into my room.
“Good evening, Mao-chan. I’m Reika’s brother, Kisshouin Takateru. It’s nice to meet you.”
“My name is Sawarabi Mao! I’ll be intruding tonight!” she replied with a bow.
I always wondered this but even though Oniisama always worked so late, how come Otousama could always came home early? Wasn’t he pushing all the work onto Oniisama?
Oniisama spent a bit of time in my room, kindly helping Mao-chan with her homework before heading back to his own room.
After some more homework the night was getting late so I thought it would be good to prepare for bed. Mao-chan was really excited to try the canopy bed. I was fine as long as she was happy, but if you slept in one each day it took surprisingly little time to get bored of it. It got dusty too, you know?
The two of us climbed in next to each other.
“Sorry for treating you like a doll today, Mao-chan. It must have been tiring.”
“No. I had a really good time.”
I had planned to played more with her, but the unexpected Okaasama attack threw the schedule off course. Honestly!
But Mao-chan said that she had fun. I asked a little more and found out that her grandparents and relatives had come over again this summer. They had only paid her brother heed again and she was feeling a little lonely because of it.
So that’s how it was. They might have been annoying, and swarmed her with attention, but I suppose my parents were of at least a little use. I guess it was okay then.
But I went to sleep next to her with thoughts of tomorrow on my mind. Tomorrow was going to be mine turn to play with her.
──At least that’s what should have happened but there was another assault in the form of Ririna. For whatever reason she came to visit the following day.
“Reika-san! Good news! I’ve come over to play!”
Uh, nobody asked you to. Look. Mao-chan has no idea why you’re here.
“Oh? Who’s this girl?”
Ririna stared without restraint at Mao-chan who was doing needle felting next to me.
“Her name is Sawarabi Mao-chan, and is something like a cute little sister to me,” I said to look out for her, “She goes to Zui’ran in the primary section. Mao-chan, sorry for surprising you. This girl is Kotou Ririna, my younger cousin.”
Ririna’s eyebrow twitched.
Ririna looked back and forth between us unhappily, and Mao-chan seemed frightened of her. It was situations like this that I had to tell her off!
I was about to chide her when she suddenly stepped forward, pushed me aside, and put her hands on her hips.
“So your name is Mao. Very well! From today onwards you have the privilege of being my little sister!” Ririna announced.
“Eh!?” Mao-chan exclaimed.
“Haaah!?” I blurted.
It was so shocking that I couldn’t help myself. Making Mao-chan her little sister!? What the hell was she on about!?
“If you’re Reika-san’s sister, then you’re as good as mine. Call me Ririna-oneesama from today onwards!”
“Eh… Ririna… oneesama…?”
Ririna gave her a contented nod.
“So you’re from our primary section, Mao. I see, and you’ve come over today to play? Wai-, you’re staying over!? Then I’ll stay over too.”
I called out to stop her but the conversation was progressing quickly without me. Before I knew it, the two of them were really getting along. Wai-, and it was settled that Ririna would be staying over too!?
Just like I had yesterday, Ririna was enjoying the feeling of being an oneesan. She told Mao-chan that she would teach her, and then began helping her with homework. I was about to stop her but Ririna was surprisingly good at teaching. And she was smart, too. I casually asked Ririna how she was doing in her exams only to find out to my shocking truth that she ranked 20th in her last one!
“Wahh! You’re so smart, Ririna-oneesama!”
“20th place isn’t much. I actually dropped ranks compared to my mid-terms.”
I had lost… Mao-chan’s eyes were filled with complete respect for Ririna. I quietly left the room.
“Oh? What’s up, Reika? Where’s Mao-chan?” asked Oniisama.
Today was his day off, so he had just been leaving his room in preparation to go out. I answered him with a glum face.
“Ririna came over…”
After a quick peek into my room he muttered “I see.”
Even from outside, I could hear their excitedly voices.
“So Ririna stole Mao-chan from you.”
“Well, just try to have fun, the three of you. When I’m back I’ll join in.”
Oniisama was going to come home early then. I saw Oniisama out and then headed back to the storehouse by myself.
The other day I discovered something terrifying when I came in here to store my hula hoop. There was a large wooden box in the back of the room. Out of curiosity I opened it up,
Inside was a bobcut Japanese doll in a red Kimono.
“Gyaaaaaahhh!” I had screamed.
I hated dolls. Worse yet, it turned out to be one of those mechanical chahakobi dolls that could walk and carry tea. Despite knowing better, I wound up the spring and it began walking my way with clattering noises. Scaaary! Dolls were scary already, but dolls that could move on their own were too much!
Behind me was an antique hinamatsuri doll whose hair grew. In front of me was a creepy chahakobi doll who could move. Had that happened at night my hair would have turned white from the fright.
I had quickly returned the doll into its box and then made my escape from the storehouse. All while trembling at the worry of those dolls visiting me in the night…
Now was the time to reawaken her.
I took the chahakobi doll out of the storeroom and began winding up the spring. When it was ready, I put it down in the gap between my opened door and the doorframe.
It didn’t take long before the whole house heard the screams of Ririna and Mao-chan. Uhehehehe. This was punishment for taking away my position as oneesan~
Afterwards, Ririna furiously demanded to know what the hell I thought I was doing, and I ended up apologising over and over as Mao-chan was half in tears.
Later at night when Oniisama was back, the four of us played games like cards and jenga. It was nice having the numbers for things like these.
My bed wasn’t huge so I told Ririna so many times to go sleep in the guest room, but she wouldn’t budge and kept saying that she was going to sleep with us as well. In the end the three of us ended up glued to each other in bed. Cramped…
When Ririna heard about Mao-chan’s family situation she was infuriated.
“What’s wrong with them! That’s so exasperating! You should have just come clear and given them a good telling off!”
“Ririna, Mao-chan is not like you. She is a gentle girl,” I objected.
“Hmph. Then if she isn’t going to tell them off she should just snatch the heirship off her brother. Show everyone just how much better she is. Huhuhu, fool brother. You’ll rue the day you made an enemy of us.”
“Eh… Umm, I don’t hate my little brother or anything… And I don’t really want the heirship either.”
“Really?” asked Ririna.
“Yes,” replied Mao-chan.
That’s right. That’s because Mao-chan was the successor to the Rococo throne instead.
“Huh. Then all you have to do is start laying the groundwork so that you can marry the man you want when the time comes.”
“Where did marriage come from.” I commented.
The conversation was making so many leaps that I couldn’t keep up.
“Obviously because if we don’t pay attention we’ll end up in some political marriage chosen by our parents. If she already has somebody she likes then she has to start planning now.”
“Hahh… You are still just a child and you already think about these things?”
“Of course I’m thinking about these things. I’m an only child so I have to get married. You’re being too carefree, Reika-san. You never think about anything, do you.”
That night I realised that for all that she acted spoilt, Ririna had a serious side to her that was already prepared to take a husband.
I only ever thought about how I would live my life after my family fell to ruin, but if I continued on the way I was would I eventually end up in an arranged marriage as well…?
No, no, I had to marry for love. Ririna was right, I had to start preparing! Not that I had a partner in mind, though!
While I was muttering to myself, Ririna and Mao-chan had fallen fast asleep,
I had once heard that sleeping in a symmetrical pose made you more prone to sleep paralysis. As Ririna slept soundly, I gently moved her arms and legs so that they matched.
A chahakobi doll is a traditional mechanical doll powered by varying mechanisms, designed to carry tea to somebody, stop, and then turn around and leave, a prestigious luxury toy for its high complexity.
Read more here: http://www.karakuri.info/zashiki/