She always finds a way to hold your hand. Probably because it makes her feel safe. It doesn't matter that she can't even walk yet, her plump little legs stumbling over each other as she makes her way to you. As long as you are close enough to crawl to, she makes her way to you, burbling with inexplicable joy. You watch as her bright, bright eyes shine even brighter when she finally reaches you, short arms flailing, demanding, and she wails because she can't even say 'big brother' yet.
You take one of her small hands in yours, and she giggles.
There it is, everything you have ever needed.
Your mother thinks it's adorable how your little sister favors you over everyone else. Whenever you go out, she is always there, still holding your hand, big eyes gazing at you with so much awe it almost makes you uncomfortable. But you take it, because you're selfish, aren't you? And you believe that you can live up to her expectations and more. You will be the strongest big brother, because the baldy is always leaving, and your mother needs to be taken care of. Your little sister must feel lonely sometimes, perhaps even abandoned.
But it's going to be okay. She has you.
You once try playing hide-and-seek with her. A game from Earth. A game your father taught you.
She doesn't understand the point of the game. When she is 'it' and she can't find you, she thinks you have left, too, and she cries until you can't stand it anymore and you have to come out of your hiding place to pick her up. Rock her in your arms until she calms down.
When you are 'it', she hides in the closet and wails and screams for you until you find her. She eagerly crawls into your arms, blubbering excitedly. Realizing that you can never play such a cruel game with her, you touch the back of her head and she laughs.
Ah. That sound.
You promise her that you will never have to look for each other, because you will always be together.
She watches you fight and tells you she wants to become like you. She doesn't understand the implications of what she's saying.
You decide that no one is allowed to hurt even a single hair on her cute little head. A scratch on her is a failure. Your failure. Your mother has entrusted her to you, and you refuse to fail her, too. The baldy is an unreliable shithead, always leaving, always turning away, not thinking about how it makes you feel to hear the door close behind him.
If your mother and your sister has you, then who is there for you?
This is a useless question. You don't need anyone. You are strong, and you will become stronger. Stronger than that useless baldy.
Anything less is unacceptable.
Here are the facts:
Your father is not your father. He is the reason your mother is dying.
If you kill him, everything will be alright.
If you kill him, it means you are stronger than he is. He is no longer needed.
If you kill him, you don't have to wait for him anymore.
You lie there under the pouring rain, alone, but you can still hear her crying. If you let yourself drift a little, you can even feel the ghost of her tiny fingers curling around yours.
Where did you go wrong? You are strong, you know this. Why did you lose? Why did you have to be spared, like some weakling?
You sit up slowly. You are weak still. You are weak because you are shackled by sentiment. The fact that you had to be saved by your own little sister is proof of that. You are in the company of the weak, and so you remain weak.
You rub your palm against your pants. When you stop, she is still there. A memory will always have a stronger hold than the real thing.
You eventually learn that your mother is dead. The baldy probably didn't even go back home. There's only one person left, one little girl left to bury her own mother.
But you don't dwell on that. The only thing you seek is strength, and she, with her tears and her refusal to hurt other people and all that sentiment, does not have that.
Blood is the answer. Blood is always the answer.
There are only two kinds of creatures in the universe: the strong and the weak. You will do your best to destroy the first to surpass them, and you will dispose of the latter because you have no use for them.
You stop thinking of what you have left behind on that planet, under that constant rain.
The next time you see her, she doesn't reach for your hand.
Instead, she finally speaks your language. She is covered in blood, some of them probably her own, her clothes torn. Her eyes are still wide and vividly blue, but now there is rage in them. Buried well and deep, but still there.
(Were you the one who put it there?)
You remember a time when you would never have allowed anyone to hurt her. But that kind of thinking never really brought you anything useful, and not even your little sister can convince you to go back. Having people to protect is just dead weight. As long as she doesn't understand that, she will remain weak.
You look at your hands. You flex your fingers, trying to grab the emptiness, trying to crush it with your newfound strength.
She does not give up on you and you don't understand why. You have memorized the snap of her bones as they fold under your knuckles, the way she grits her teeth in pain, even the sound of her boots scraping against the ground as she gets up for what feels like the millionth time.
No, you do understand why. In your clan, this is how a little sister calls her big brother home. You understand the need to not be alone. You understand the tyranny of the retreating back. You watched your father every time he left, determined to protect your family in his place, and each time, the sight became more suffocating. You needed to breathe, that's all. You just needed to breathe.
She screams as she lunges for you again, and again, and again, and you're tired and you hate her for not being as miserable and fucked up as you are, for looking like her, sounding like her, for reminding you that no matter where you go, no matter how strong you become, you cannot erase the fact that you failed them both.
When you were children, more often than not, she went to you whenever something made her cry. Always there, always with outstretched arms, always wailing your name as if you were all she needed to feel better.
This is why you are intimately familiar with what she looks like when she's about to cry, and you see it now as she is rushing towards you, as she screams your name as if you are all she needs to fix everything you have broken, and just like that, you cannot bring yourself to hit her again.
Your little sister wins this one.
You see her next on the battlefield, but this time you are on the same side. This is when you see how, despite everything, alike you have become. Pig-headed, reckless, acts purely on instinct and want and nothing else, heedless of the danger involved. To you, there is no danger, only obstacles to be eliminated.
There's a strange feeling in your chest when you fight beside her. Is this what coming back home feels like?
When you see your baldy of a father, everything in you clenches tight. All that leaving and fighting and hating and he is finally here.
Here you are on the planet Earth, a star of freedom.
And you are no longer alone.
You have forgotten just how much you can feel besides bloodthirst. Now that you are on (relatively) good terms with her (which means you still try to kill each other but like in an affectionate manner), you are reluctant to be separated from her.
But she has another family now, another place to call home. You don't consider them competition for her love and attention (she's still fond of holding your hand wherever you go), so you suppose there's no harm in her staying for long periods of time on Earth in between travels.
Until you remember that your little sister is a girl. A creature that grows in all the right places in due time. Which is now.
Men stare at her, craning their necks until she passes out of sight. You have stressed to your crew that what she is to them is fucking sacred. No one is allowed to touch her except you. But still sometimes they look. They glance. Nothing lecherous, mostly just surprised that she has started to look so different. Sometimes they politely compliment her and she is completely unfazed like she already knows. Like people have told her these things so many times she has gotten bored with them.
This will not do. This will not do at all.
You have to go to Earth and watch the men she surrounds herself with. Maybe try to kill the strong ones. It would be good exercise. And also to scout for potential brothers-in-law. The baldy still refuses to acknowledge the possibility, but you are not as irrational. You'll just take a nice look. If they die, well, they do not deserve to be in her company.
She is suspicious of your sudden interest. She makes you promise not to kill anyone, and you swear you will try. Your leniency has its limits. She threatens you with a slow and painful death if you kill anybody, and you tell her you'd like to watch her try.
She has to tilt her head to glare at you, and she looks more like your mother than ever.
(When did your little sister get so tall?)
You grin at her, pinch her nose, and yank downwards so hard she dives to the ground facefirst.
So far, there are two likely candidates.
The white-haired one is more of her earth dad and/or earth brother than anything, but he is strong, so he qualifies.
The other samurai, the one who has a killer's eyes, appears to be the closest thing she has to a boyfriend. She doesn't call him that, of course. They don't even call each other by name, but you can see them flirting while fighting and it irks you.
You watch them a few times. Especially him. You have fought him once, but that was years ago, and you want to see just how strong he has become. If he is worthy.
Their fights usually end in a draw, then a half-assed grapple that you are sure is just an excuse to touch each other. You keep the smile plastered to your face as you approach. You overhear what passes for conversation for these two, which is just a back-and-forth of insults that decrease in quality and maturity with each exchange, until they have devolved to poop-related name-calling.
You wait until he rolls on top of her, then you kick him in the gut.
The impact sends him flying, but he lands on his feet, his katana half-drawn. He straightens, eyes glinting with a hunger you recognize.
From that awkward position, he just blocked a kick that should have bifurcated him, and he is still standing.
Your smile widens. You wonder what it will be like to fight him when he isn't tired or trying to protect anything.
But you need not wonder long.
Blood is the answer.
She will watch, not because she is worried or even the least bit interested in his well-being, but because she has nothing to do, that's all.
Is what she said.
(How the hell did she turn into a tsundere? What are these earthlings teaching her?)
She has already told you he is not her boyfriend and he will never be, because he is apparently a disgusting jerk who needs to be crucified by the balls and set on fire.
You observe their banter before you pick a fight, smiling, always smiling. He tells her to watch and learn from the best. She tells him she has a mirror for that and he expresses wonder that an elephant can fit in a human-sized mirror. She informs him that if he's so obssessed with size, there are certain drugs that can help. He asks why she is so obssessed with his dick and graciously tells her that if she wants it so bad, she can just say so.
You step between them before the conversation can get more flirtatious than it already is. And also because hearing your little sister mentioned in the same sentence as some boy's dick is breaking your brain.
This decides it. She has a massive crush on the killer. You don't know much about these things, but they seem to be following your parents' pattern. And you know how that story ends.
Your smile gains an edge and the killer's attention shifts to you. He has a good instinct for danger. You call him brother-in-law to piss yourself off and it works. He twitches, his eyes flickering briefly towards her. The look only lasts a split-second, but it makes your chest cave in, like he has already taken her away from you.
He manages to squeeze a draw out of you and you almost approve of him. But he touches her so casually, he steals her food, he can make her laugh, he grabs her hand when she tries to slap him and instead of letting go, their fingers intertwine, and you have to smack their joined hands with your umbrella because the sight makes your stomach twist.
You hate that you are acting like the baldy. You have seen this coming. You have always known she would reach this point, and you have always told yourself that you won't act like the Overprotective Big Brother™, because really, there would be no point. It's a family trait, this stubbornness.
But you can't help it. Before she became his China girl (Before you failed her and she ran away and she found him and he found her), she was your little sister first.
She was yours first.
She was yours first, goddammit.
Don't marry the killer, you tell her, still smiling.
She blinks at you like she has no idea what you are talking about.
She is sitting in that too-small closet with her giant pet dog, peering up at you. You have become a common sight in the Yorozuya's place, just randomly dropping by (without knocking) whenever you're on Earth and you feel like it.
You crouch in front of her. Don't marry the killer, you repeat.
She huffs and turns up her chin and declares that he will grow into an old geezer and die alone and miserable because he is just so unmarriable and she just deserves so much better than that stupid sadist, and with each word that comes out of her mouth your heart sinks until it feels like it's at your feet, her feet, you are both standing on it and you realize she wants no one else.
No one else.
You ask her if that's it. If she's going to leave her idiot big brother now the way he left her, is this payback, where did you go wrong, what do you have to do to deserve her, what else, what else is needed for your penance, how come even for her you are not enough?
And there it is. That look. Either she's going to cry or she's about to punch you in the face.
She does both.
She tells you your words offend her. And also your face, but mainly your words. She doesn't understand how, even after all the trouble and pain she went through to bring you back home, back to her, you can still think that she will leave you. You may be the older brother, but clearly you are the dumber one and she will never, ever abandon you because without her, you are going to rot and die with your loneliness and refusal to acknowledge said loneliness.
She crawls into your arms, blubbering something about how she would never fall for a moron who has zero appreciation for sukonbu, whose gifts are heartfelt and delivered via bazooka or catapults, and who confesses his feelings by writing 'i love u china' with his piss on the ground in front of her home.
Which tells you she is already dating him.
You touch the back of her head. She's all grown up and so are you, but you are still two kids playing hide-and-seek, and you are still here, giving up, because being with her has always been the most important part of the game.
Both you and the baldy are beside her to hand her over to him. The baldy cries the entire time, but you are still smiling.
She holds your hand until the very last minute, even after the baldy has released her so he can wipe the tears and snot off his face. Your smile is unwavering. All you need to do is murder a bunch of people afterwards to get rid of the lump in your throat.
It is only when you finally let go that you realize this: she has never held your hand for her own sake; each time, she reached out because you needed her to.
You let your outstretched hand linger in empty space for the briefest moment.
Then you turn your back on them, smile still in place, and slowly walk away.
The boy says something scathing about baldies and it makes her laugh.