After Clarice finished preparing, Kazuki and the rest returned home.
Saki arrived shortly afterwards.
"Please excuse me. Eh heh heh...."
She wore a layered tunic-style top and a pair of three quarter jeans. She also had a tote bag over her shoulder.
That tote bag should have her "sleepover set."
Kinoshita is going to sleep over at my house....
Obviously, Kazuki wasn't going sleep in the same room as the girls just because it was a sleepover.
Sleeping under the same roof with a girl his age, especially one he has a crush on, was an exciting event for Kazuki.
Since they all just gathered together, they had some dinner.
Everyone sat at the large table in the living room. The dining table was a lot noisier than usual with six people sitting at it.
For dinner they had some of the dumplings Kazuki received earlier.
We ate the same thing yesterday.... Maybe I should have cooked something else to show off my skills?
He wasn't really able to prepare anything because the sleepover was so suddenly arranged.
I hope no one minds the garlicky smell.
"It's delicious. Ootaki-kun sure is good at cooking."
It looks like Kazuki worried for nothing, because Saki smiled after tasting a fried dumpling.
"No, it's nothing. I just fried them. Sabrina helped me out as well."
"Huh? Sabrina as well?"
"Si. I've been cooking with Onii-chan every day. It's time just for the two of us."
"Heh, I see."
"Just for the two of us."
"Heh...... I see......."
For some reason, Sabrina repeated herself twice. Saki also wrinkled her brows.
Kazuki felt the usual chill while watching them.
Recently, that feeling has been getting even chillier.
Am I cursed? Maybe a ghost?
When Kazuki looked around for help, he saw Clarice battling dumplings with her unskilled hands.
Slip. Roll roll.
A dumpling rolled away from her, and stopped in front of Kazuki.
Clarice tried to picking the dumpling on the table up with her chopsticks, but it wasn't going well.
It seemed like she wasn't accustomed to chopsticks yet.
Slip. Roll roll.
Thinking this would last forever if he didn't intervene, Kazuki picked the dumpling up with his chopsticks.
"Here, eat it."
"Whoa. Thank you."
Clarice ate the dumpling off of Kazuki's chopsticks immediately.
He didn't mean to, but he ended up feeding her.
"Hmm~ delicious. Ootaki-san, one more please."
"Eh, I have to feed you?"
"Yes! If it's not a bother."
Riche sent her unique innocent gaze.
He wasn't able to say no.
"Umm.... Well, I'm fine with it."
Clarice's previously frustrated expression was now replaced with a happy one.
At that moment, Kazuki felt a strange glare.
When Kazuki looked around, he saw Sabrina and Saki eyeing him like he was their prey.
"W-What's the matter, you guys? Did I do something wrong?"
"No, it's nothing."
"Yeah, yeah. What Sabrina said."
That didn't seem to be the case at all.
Kazuki could tell that much, but he didn't know why they were glaring.
"Then, I'll also eat the dumplings."
After saying that, Sabrina quickly tried to grab the dumpling.
Slip. Roll roll.
But she didn't get a proper grip and let it drop.
She glanced at Kazuki.
Without changing her facial expression, she made another attempt.
Slip. Roll roll.
But the result was no different.
"The food called 'dumpling' is truly hard to hold. I won't be able to eat like this."
She looked at him again.
"Didn't you eat them just fine yesterday!?"
"No, no. You did eat them."
"It must be someone who looks similar to me. Like you said earlier today, there is at least a single person who shares the same face as me in the wor—"
"Someone who looks like you wouldn't eat in our house!"
Kazuki retorted at Sabrina.
"So. Then what should I do, Onii-chan?"
"No, what do you mean 'what should you do...' huh?"
At that moment, Sabrina fidgeted and...
Slowly opened her mouth.
Did she want me to feed her?
Feeding Clarice didn't matter because she's just a kid, but feeding Sabrina in front of everyone was a bit embarrassing....
"S-Sabrina, you can eat by yourself, right? Eat it yourself."
"Sabrina, here, I'll feed you."
As Sabrina was about to say something, Saki blocked her by holding a dumpling to her mouth.
Ah, how lucky, Sabrina. To have Kinoshita feeding you.
"...Uuu (nom nom)."
Sabrina was able to eat the dumpling just as she wanted, but didn't seem satisfied.
"...Sabrina, you can't cut in line."
Saki whispered to Sabrina in a way that was inaudible to Kazuki.
Sabrina bit Saki's hand.
"Ah—hhh! What are you doing, Sabrina!?"
"Si. I mistook her for a dumpling."
"That's not normal, is it!?"
"Ootaki-san, one more please."
"Eh? Ah, yeah."
Kazuki fed Clarice again.
"Whoaa~ Riche is so happy."
Seeing that, Sabrina and Saki froze.
Shortly after that, the noisy dinner came to an end.
And just for reference...
"Crunch crunch! Crunch crunch! Nom nom!"
Without paying any attention to what Kazuki was doing, Izuna kept eating dumpling after dumpling, just like yesterday.
After dinner, they decided to take a bath.
Due to his parent's preferences, Kazuki's bathroom was large.
Izuna, who found out about it, suggested the girls take a bath together.
After setting up a place for the girls to sleep in the first floor guest room, Kazuki sat in the living room by himself.
Silence filled the room and the tick tock of the clock echoed.
So, they're all bathing....
This might be a godsend.
I have to do it now if I'm going to—!
It's certainly dangerous...
Everything could go wrong if I slip up...
There are things men must do even at the risk of death.
I can do this.
I can do this!
Kazuki heaved his ass up and bravely walked to his destination.
Being careful not to make any noise, Kazuki entered the basin area.
Just behind that translucent door was the bathroom.
Inside, there were girls enjoying the bath without a single piece of clothing on them.
H-Hmmm.... Everyone is bathing inside.
Kazuki imagined a scene of the girls bathing.
He strongly shook his head and threw that image away.
His heart was beating so fast, he wondered if he was having a heart attack.
Trying to calm himself down, Kazuki deeply breathed in and out while holding his chest with sweaty hands.
W-W-W-W-W-What should I do....
Maybe I should give up.
But it's not like I'm doing something strange, and if I can get out quickly without getting caught—
While Kazuki was hesitating, he heard chatter from behind the door.
「Uu... you really have a great body, Izuna-san. How I envy you.」
「Na ha ha, really? That's alright, Saki. Your time has just begun.」
Izuna-san's breasts certainly were great.
Kazuki thought about the soft texture of her suffocating breasts.
Get your act together, thoughts!
No, no! I can't eavesdrop!
I'm not even supposed to be here!
I can't listen to whatever conversation they're having inside!
While thinking about it, Kazuki naturally tried to overhear anything said inside.
「Why is Saki-san concerned about the size of her breasts?」
「Because I heard boys like bigger ones. So... Grow~bigg~er!」
Kinoshita... what do you mean, "Grow~bigg~er...?"
Kinoshita's breasts are fine.
Well, in my opinion, I think they are.
「No. Having small breasts is fine as well, because Onii-chan prefers them smaller.」
H-Hold on, Sabrina! What are you saying!?
Kazuki was barely able to contain his words as they rose up in his throat.
「Really? ...I see. Ootaki-kun preferred them that way....」
No! Not at all!!
「Also, they can't be as big as Saki's. My size is perfect.」
Why are you being so specific!?
「Eh!? No way...」
「Kazuki-kun is such a maniac even though he's so young.」
「Riche doesn't really get it.」
What a cruel misunderstanding.
He wanted to jump in right now and clear up all the misunderstandings.
However, even if the current misunderstandings were resolved, a new misunderstanding would certainly arise (and one that would label him as a pervert, at that).
Kazuki was barely able to contain himself.
He was saddened, but there wasn't any way for Kazuki to clear himself.
So, he could only wipe away his tears and do what he had to.
Kazuki reached for the girls' clothing.
"But... which one is it?"
The clothes laying in a heap should be Izuna's...
...and the rest were neatly folded.
There was underwear lying there as well.
There were different types, like an ordinary pure white pair, a casual looking orange pair with white checkers, and a pair of cute striped panties.
Uuu... I don't know where to look....
But it should be somewhere... there!
Kazuki slowly reached towards the clothes.
"So, I have to undo this... with this, and like that.... Good."
Kazuki hid what he spotted in his pocket.
"And now I have to replace it... there."
Anyway, he was able to achieve his goal.
After he achieved what he came to, Kazuki relaxed.
At that moment, Kazuki heard the sound that marked the end of his life.
The bathroom door opened.
"Oh no, oh no, I forgot to take my veil off.... But, huh? Isn't that Kazuki-kun over there?
Without so much as a bath towel wrapped around her, Izuna stretched her body and looked straight at Kazuki.
Izuna's breasts appeared before Kazuki as he kneeled on the floor in a pose that made it look like he was going through the clothes.
No, that's no it!
I was found out!
I need to make an excuse.
But what should I say!?
Without a shadow of a doubt, doesn't it look like I'm peeping...!?
"A-Aaaaaaaa, um, um, this is, uhh...."
"Na ha ha. Kazuki-kun is also a boy, huh? How perverted✩"
Kazuki felt like he was just hit with a thunderbolt.
Izuna, covering her chest with one of her hands, gave Kazuki a light chop to the head.
It seemed like Izuna really didn't mind that much.
"Ah, it's Ootaki-san. What's the matter? Will you be joining us, Ootaki-san?"
Clarice was waving her hand widely in the bath as she was too young to understand why she should be embarrassed.
"What was that about Ootaki-kun? Ehhh—hhhh!?"
Realising that Kazuki was in the bathroom after following Clarice's gaze, Saki quickly covered herself with a bath towel and hid in the bathtub.
"W-What—a-a-a-a-a-a-are you doing there!? Ootaki-kun!?"
"N—no! T-T-T-Th-this isn't what it looks like! It's just not!"
As Kazuki struggled to explain, Sabrina wrapped herself in a bath towel and appeared in sight.
"...What's going on here?"
Sabrina asked with a colder tone than usual.
He felt like he was going to be petrified by Sabrina's gaze.
Was Sabrina angry?
It's obvious she would be angry in a situation like this.
I-I should apologize!
"S-Sorry... Sabrina. I can't go into detail, but there's a great reason for..."
"Onii-chan, did you really want to see my naked body?"
"Ehh!? No, no, I'm telling you no! That's not what—."
He tried to deny it, but he wasn't able to continue talking.
If he did, all would be for naught.
"Si. I understand."
As Kazuki stood there speechless, Sabrina nodded her head.
"If Onii-chan really wants to take a look...."
Sabrina shyly brought her hand towards the bath towel.
"I'm telling you it's not like that!"
Kazuki scrambled to stop Sabrina.
"That's right Sabrina. Kazuki-kun isn't here to perv on us."
At that moment, he heard words from an unexpected source.
"Kazuki-kun didn't try to perv on us! I can tell."
Izuna was vouching for him.
She usually says useless things, but she's really dependable sometimes....
"Judging by the situation, Kazuki-kun isn't here for our naked bodies, but our used underwear!"
Izuna pointed her finger at Kazuki.
She wasn't vouching for him. She was just another accuser.
"Ootaki-san, did you wish to take a look at our panties?"
"Riche, a boy has his own reasons. Remember that. But to think Kazuki-kun was into small breasts and was a used underwear collector.... He's such a maniac even though he's still young~."
"H-Hold on! Please protect me properly!"
Even Saki chimed in.
"Ah, Kinoshita, sorry. There's a good reason for—"
"...W-Whose underwear were you after?"
"Kinoshita!? That's what you're concerned about!?"
"...This is the worst."
After using the bathroom (the girls finished their bath), Kazuki collapsed on his bed.
In the end, the matter of Kazuki being a voyeur (and underwear thief) was brushed aside with Izuna's statement of "Kazuki-kun's still young."
—"I don't mind."
Those kind words from Saki cut him even deeper.
I wasn't even trying to peep....
I didn't even go to look through their underwear...
Why do I have to put up with these accusations...?
But looking at the current situation, he was even more hurt by the fact that he could only endure the accusations.
As Kazuki shamelessly complained to his pillow, he heard someone knocking on the door to his room.
"Ootaki-san, do you have a moment?"
It was Clarice.
Kazuki regained his composure. She was an assassin.
"What is it?"
"Umm... I've got something to say to Ootaki-san before I go to sleep."
"Something to say?"
What could it be?
Kazuki tensed up.
"Yes. Um, thank you so much—for today."
She bowed her head.
"Riche has never experienced a day as hectic as today. It's all thanks to Ootaki-san's invitation. I'm really grateful."
"Um, Ootaki-san... I want you to call me Riche from now. Also... may I call Ootaki-san, 'Kazuki-san?'"
After asking, Riche fidgeted and looked up at him.
"Sure. Let's do that then, Riche. I'm fine being called Kazuki as well."
Clarice called out Kazuki with determination.
"Then, Riche will go to bed now. Good night, Kazuki-san."
"Yeah, good night. Ah... Riche, it's about your 'mission,' but..."
"Yes.... About that, I'll continue again tomorrow morning. I already gave up on it for today. You can sleep without worrying, Kazuki-san."
With that, Clarice smiled and waved her hand as she left Kazuki's room.
Left alone in his room, Kazuki lay flat on his bed.
He organised his thoughts while staring at the ceiling.
She was a nice and normal girl, but...
She's... an assassin.
Why is Riche working a job like assassin?
Why was Riche aiming for Sabrina?
There must be a reason for it....
But... I can't let her carry out her 'mission' no matter what that reason might be.
...but also for Riche.
Deep into the night, Kazuki opened his eyes because his blood suddenly ran cold.
"What's this.... I have a bad feeling about it."
Feeling thirsty, he walked to the hallway leading to the kitchen.
As he did, he noticed a bluish light coming from downstairs.
Is someone... on the first floor?
Don't tell me it's Riche—!?
Kazuki silenced his breath and walked down the stairs.
Even though she said she wouldn't carry out her "mission" today...
The light was coming from further in, inside the kitchen.... There was a knife in the kitchen.
With a knife, it would be possible to commit a murder without making any noise.
Kazuki opened the living room door slightly and quietly headed to the kitchen.
He heard the sound of someone looking for something.
The worst situation started playing out inside Kazuki's head.
There was an outline of a person in front of the fridge.
That person must've noticed Kazuki, because the shadow turned around.
Kazuki took a sharp breath.
There stood— Izuna.
She was shoving large quantities of food into her mouth like a hamster.
"Don't do something that will confuse me!"
"Geez, that Izuna-san...."
With his head bowed and his shoulders shivering, Kazuki returned to his room.
As he did, he noticed someone's shadow in his dim room.
"W-Who are you?"
The shadow belonged to Sabrina.
"What's the matter, Sabrina?"
"Umm... may I sleep with you tonight?"
"'Omertà'? Did you have a nightmare?"
An Omertà is a "Code of Silence" in a Mafia family.
Kazuki and Sabrina created their own Omertà.
According to the seventh one, Sabrina can sleep with Kazuki when there is a thunderstorm, or she has a nightmare.
Sabrina shook her head.
There seemed to be another reason, but....
Saki and Riche were in the house with them.
He wanted to avoid a misunderstanding, so if it didn't involve the Omertà....
So it's Izuna-san and now Sabrina.
Why do they cause so much trouble...?
"Sabrina, there are other people in the house, if it's not the Omertà, then today we should—"
Kazuki, being exhausted, tried to refuse.
—At that moment.
Tears started flowing down Sabrina's expressionless face.
Kazuki jumped back at the sudden occurrence. He let out a yelp without even realising.
"What's the matter!? Sabrina? What's going on?"
Sabrina only shook her head.
"Why? Why are you crying? Sabrina, what's wrong?"
"...Do you hate me, Onii-chan?"
"...Do I fail at being your sister?"
Kazuki couldn't tell why Sabrina was asking those questions.
"What makes you say that?"
He asked her, but Sabrina only continued crying.
"This isn't good.... What should I do...?"
As Kazuki stood in front of Sabrina at a loss, Sabrina spoke with a silent voice.
"Onii-chan... is only paying attention to Clarice.... Because I'm no good as a sister... Onii-chan is trying to make Clarice the sister instead."
Kazuki let out a painful cry.
There was no way that was possible and no way he would even if it was.
He stopped himself as he tried to say so.
Sabrina hasn't lived outside and lived alone prior to coming to Kazuki's house.
So that might be why this was to be expected.
She finally found a place to feel safe.
She finally found someone she can call family.
...and the fear of that disappearing someday.
He couldn't quite fathom how scary the thought was to Sabrina.
Reflecting on that day, Sabrina's attitude was certainly unusual.
He was angry at himself for making Sabrina feel this restless.
However, he pushed that blame somewhere deep inside his heart for now.
With Sabrina shivering before him, Kazuki had something he must do.
Her slender shoulders, that appeared far too thin for an assassin, were shivering.
When Kazuki placed his hand there, Sabrina flinched and shrank back.
"Look at me Sabrina."
Not knowing what Kazuki was going to say next, Sabrina hesitantly raised her head.
He looked straight into Sabrina's eyes.
"Sabrina, the bond between siblings isn't something so frail it can be cancelled."
"...and even if something like that was possible..."
Kazuki cut Sabrina off and continued talking.
"Sabrina is my only sister."
Sarina opened her eyes widely. Tears started rolling down her cheeks again.
Kazuki wiped the teardrops rolling down her cheeks away with his hand.
"...Then, why is Onii-chan looking after Clarice so much?"
"Hmm... I'm definitely looking after Riche in many ways, but there's a reason for that."
"Sorry. I can't tell you just yet. I know I'm not making sense right now, but I hope you won't ask too much about it. I'll tell you when the time comes."
Sabrina bowed her head.
But she quickly looked up at Kazuki again.
"Si. I understand. I won't ask you anymore."
"Sabrina.... Sorry, and thanks."
"Instead, please hug me."
Drop, drop. Tears were still rolling down Sabrina's face.
Sabrina seemed to be overflowing with tears.
"Whoa whoa. I get it, so please don't cry anymore."
Kazuki hugged Sabrina close to his chest.
"There, there. Sabrina, Sorry I made you feel lonely.... I'll definitely tell you someday."
"...Si. This warmth is enough for now. So please stay like this just a bit longer...."
Afterwards, silence filled the dim room.
Kazuki held Sabrina until she calmed down.
In the end, Kazuki and Sabrina fell asleep together like that.
* * *
"I understand... I know that already...."
Right now, everyone was fast asleep.
Clarice was on the phone with someone.
"I will keep my promise. Please leave it to me."
She continuously bowed to the unseen person.
"I understand. I just infiltrated the brother's side today. Eh? When will I carry it out? That's... after I inspect the situation for a bit longer... eh? There's no time? I-I understand. So anyway, I hope you'll leave it to Riche. There seems to be a fundraising at school! I'm thinking of using the commotion to carry it out! So...."
Clarice spoke swiftly, firing words off like a machine gun.
"I understand... I understand...."
She sighed loudly after ending the call.
Then she stared blankly up at the sky.
There was a full moon tonight.
Clarice gripped the small shoulder bag.
The dull metallic feeling she felt inside appealed to her.