Ch 17 -- Loving Older Sister and Dutiful Younger Brother
~ What has gone before ~
I made friends with a boy and out of nowhere he declared my best friend to be his (love?) rival.
* * * * *
We had stopped in what appeared to be the biggest street in town, with arcades on either side covering stores and shops. The buildings were all made of stone, an unfamiliar sight to a modern-day Japanese person. It made me feel like I was visiting Kyoto or some other historical place. I suppose if you're creating an RPG then these sorts of stone buildings fit right in.
The day was getting on and there was almost no traffic around, no crowds of people which was good. I rather like night when it's quiet with few people. As a hikikomori even just imagining the crowds of people who would be here in the daytime unnerved me.
The stores in this town were grouped together in districts much like a lot of Japanese cities and this neighbourhood we were in seemed to be for eating and drinking. The place we had stopped outside turned out to be Erim's home, a tavern named "O - pub". It was a single-storey building about 160 square metres in extent, a bit like a family restaurant at home. Thinking that it was operated by just two siblings rather impressed me.
In front of the store was one of those double-flapping doors commonly seen in saloons and the like that appear in Westerns. The light that glowed past the doors wasn't from an oil lamp or candles, it was a bright white colour just like a modern fluorescent or LED lamp. Since there probably wasn't electricity in this world the light was undoubtedly produced by something else.
Although the lights were on there was a sign on the door reading "Closed" written in in something like English cursive -- hold on?
"What's wrong?" Erim asked as I stopped suddenly.
"I can read what's written there," I explained, puzzled. "It says that the shop is closed, doesn't it?" Erim nodded, still not clear why I was confused. I said "cursive" but the letters on the sign weren't actually English, they were ones I'd never seen before but somehow I could understand what they meant.
"Yes it says 'Closed'." Erim agreed, thinking hard. "Being able to read might be a skill of someone reincarnated like yourself. This is the written language that humans use. Can you write it?"
I concentrated hard, imagining myself creating text and..."It's impossible for me to write like that." I finally admitted. "I tried thinking how I'd write the letters of my name but nothing came to mind."
In Japanese even if it was a word like, say, "rose" with complex characters made up of lots of strokes and radicals [薔薇] I could just read it. Selecting letters on a smartphone, it auto-converts to allow me to make the right choice from homonyms. This language though, I couldn't write the letters with pen and paper. It was so odd, being able to read but not to write.
"I'll help you to learn to write as well as read." Erim offered.
"Thank you Erim." I said. "However since I can already read this language it shouldn't be difficult for me to learn to write."
"I hope so, but if it isn't an imposition then when I've got the time I'll help you with it as much as I can."
"I wouldn't want to bother you, Erim." I protested.
"I want to get a start on the battle I face," Erim stated blushingly, "and doing this for you will only help me."
Battle? Are you planning to fight anyone, Erim? Any why does the idea of helping me study make you so happy? Will teaching me a letter give you a power-up somehow? Wouldn't it be better for you to concentrate on bulking up and building muscles? I searched my memory of the previous conversations trying to figure out what I might have said that would cause him to blush but I couldn't find anything. I gave up for the moment.
"Excuse me, cow-san, can you wait outside for a while? I don't think you can go in until I move a lot of chairs and tables." Erim said. Minoko accepted Erim's instruction to wait and meekly squatted down in front of the store entrance. I thanked Minoko for carrying us all this way and stepped down onto the packed earth of the roadway. The cool soil felt good on the soles of my bare feet.
"I'm kinda nervous about the idea of bringing a girl home to introduce them to my family." Erim said, hesitating in front of the door.
"Ah, I see." I was confused at his sudden non-sequitur. "Are you likely to do that any time soon?"
"Please don't say you don't understand." Erim said exasperatedly.
"Well I don't, not really," I said, "but it will be fine. I'll explain everything you did to your sister and how you only had the best of intentions towards me and that will be that, Erim."
"Richy-san, maybe... Are you making fun of me?" Erim asked.
"What?" Where did that come from?
"...She's really got no idea," he muttered to himself under his breath, "Is she truly that naive?" He shrugged. "Okay, let's go in." What Erim just said worried me but I had more immediate problems -- I was finally going to meet with his older sister. For that reason above all I was very nervous.
Erim went first, pushing the swing doors open wide. I snuck in behind him, trying to conceal myself using his not-very-broad back as cover while the doors flapped back and forth in the background. A wood scent assaulted my nostrils when I entered. Unlike the usual painted or plasticky inorganic appearance of modern Japanese shops, the floor, ceiling and walls of this tavern were all boarded over. The decor seemed warmer and more welcoming for that reason.
I peered into the interior of the tavern over Erim's shoulder. A long bar ran the length of the wall on the left side of the single large room, with shelves on the wall behind filled with neatly-arranged bottles of assorted colours. I could see a sink back there too.
"- Oh, welcome back, you're early aren't you?" A lovely clear voice called out from behind the counter where a girl stood polishing a transparent drinking cup. Was she really Erim's older sister? She was beautiful rather than cute. Erim's older sister was 22 years old according to her brother so it may be rude to call a woman of that age a "girl" but if the thirty-something office lady at the Reincarnation Support Division could see her that person would shed tears of blood in jealous envy. I would have guessed she was about the same age as me or Erim if I hadn't been told otherwise. Her hair was a similar shade as Erim's but perhaps a little lighter, carefully dressed in a long plait that fell to her slim waist. Her large expressive eyes were a warm brown colour. I estimated we about the same height, realising I was now probably a bit shorter than originally after my reincarnation as a succubus.
"Richy-san, allow me to introduce my older sister Sumirena to you." Erim said very formally. So this is Sumirena-san? I bobbed my head politely to her, wondering how she would react.
Sumirena-san put the half-polished glass down on the counter and came out around the counter which allowed me to see that she was wearing a long-skirted dress with a white apron. She lifted her skirt at the front and rushed over to us in an apparent panic.
Both me and Erim were in bare feet. It might have seemed a trivial fact but not to Sumirena-san. For me I thought their reunion would be like a family drama on teevee back home, a worried sister hugging her brother who had faced up to an terrifying orc out in the dangerous woods, asking him if he was all right, tears of relief glistening in her eyes, that sort of scene. Instead...
"Kneel." - no hugs, no tears, just a word of command in a cold voice. Sumirena-san? Erim instantly knelt in seiza, back straight and feet folded under him as if obeying this sort of command was a regular occurrence in this household.
"Erim, you made me worry, didn't you?" Sumirena-san said with a sorrowful voice. Erim's face, however was stricken with fear.
"Even though I tried to discourage you from entering the forest as much as I could I eventually gave in and I even closed the tavern temporarily because you absolutely insisted on going. And now I found out it was a lie, you weren't going to the forest at all, you were spending your time making out with a girl instead!"
"Ah, S- Sis, please hear me out!" Erim begged.
Sumirena-san touched Erim's forehead with a finger to silence his entreaties before turning to pick up a heavy crate full of bottles from the bar with an "umphh".
"Erim, I understand you're at that age where you're interested in that kind of thing... But if you lie to me and run off to indulge your sexual desires, don't you think that'd I'd be disappointed in you?" she said with a sigh before depositing the crate of bottles onto Erim's knees.
"S- Sis! It's heavy, it hurts!"
"And then you bring this bint-san back here so late? I don't wish to believe it but I can only wonder if you're planning to use our home as a love hotel? Are you going to take her up to your room now?" Sumirena-san glared down at Erim's tear-streaked face before turning to pick up another heavy crate of bottles from the bar. I didn't know what to think as my original vision of Erim's loving sister, Sumirena-san disintegrated before my eyes.
"Let us explain please! This person will tell you that nothing happened between us!" Erim begged. Sumirena-san looked at me curiously but I was frozen and unable to say a word as always. I could never speak up for myself in such situations before I was reincarnated and I still retained my hikikomori fear of dealing with strangers, especially angry ones like Erim's older sister.
"Well ... I suppose I shouldn't scold you before finding out what happened. Sorry." Sumirena-san said in a conciliatory tone but she still held the second heavy crate ready for use and furthermore did nothing about the first crate resting painfully on Erim's knees.
"That's all right, sis. Once you understand what happened..." Erim said but Sumirena-san shook her head.
"I can't believe my little brother's excuses since I'm his big sister and I know him too well but I'll listen to you, bint-san." She hefted the crate in emphasis. "However before I hear your version of events I need to ask Erim a few things."
"I'm all right, sis." Erim said in relief. "I've not been hurt at all, in fact we never even came across the orc we were hunting."
Sumirena-san shook her head in dismissal "No, I do not care if you're hurt unless it hinders your work in the tavern." she said coldly. "I do not care..." she said about her little brother. How unfeeling of her. My view of Sumirena-san's sisterly heart descended another level.
"More importantly, that girl has a really splendid chest." Sumirena-san declared, fixing her gaze on my breasts. I reflexively held my arms up to obscure them from her accusatory eyes. Unfortunately my new arms were quite thin unlike my substantial breasts and did little to conceal them.
"Well, that's true," Erim agreed.
"I don't care about her chest," Sumirena-san declared insincerely while unable to take her eyes off my breasts, "but have you done anything perverted with that girl?"
"P- perverted, have I done...?" Erim looked away. "Um, no?"
"Oh hoh, you did something, didn't you? Maybe you groped those enormous breasts, oh oh oh you blinked, yeah, that's what you did. " Sumirena-san said triumphantly. "You play hooky from the tavern forcing me to close up for the evening to run off into the woods with a girl. " Her eyes narrowed, "Just how thoroughly did you massage those gigantic breasts of hers?"
Stupid honest Erim remained silent which only confirmed her accusations. Thump, and a second crate of bottles was stacked on Erim 's knees.
"Sister, ahhh, it's digging into my legs!"
"Well, it's only about twenty kilogrammes which should be nothing for you, Erim." Sumirena-san declared. "You can stand a lot more, can't you? After all you're not making any attempt to remove the crates which tells me you're guilty, doesn't it?"
"It was an accident! I didn't mean to push Richy-san down!" Erim said quickly. Sumirena-san's eyes widened and she turned to me.
"Oh no, I'm sorry. I didn't realise that my little brother had become a sex criminal behind my back. As his guardian, castration, oops, correction of his deviant personality is required of me." As she spoke she picked up a third crate of bottles from the bar.
"Listen to what I'm saying! Please listen!" Erim begged.
"I'm listening, but I will add another crate every thirty seconds." Sumirena-san said menacingly.
"Well, uh, everything was OK to start with. I joined up with the party of adventurers as planned and we went to the Lububu Forest..." Erim hesitated, thinking, "and I met up with Richy-san there..." The third crate was deposited on Erim's knees.
"Ummm, onee-san?" I tried to interrupt.
"Richy-san, leave this to me .... Please!" Erim insisted.
Erim pressed on. "When Richy-san was about to be attacked in the forest, I wasn't any use, I couldn't defend her, I never regretted my weakness so much when that happened to her... so I promised myself that I'd succeed next time!"
"That's nice but unimportant! Hurry up with the explanation of your perverted actions. Fourth one!" The next crate was deposited on his trembling knees.
He was beaten up by his adventurer companions, punched by me and then tortured by his sister and guardian. It seems to me that Erim had had a very unpleasant day since meeting up with me. By the time we finished explaining everything to Sumirena-san's satisfaction Erim had over a hundred kilograms of beer crates loaded on his knees.