When Yuuya woke up in the morning, he was disoriented, waking up in Nyoko's room and using her comforter like as a sleeping bag. Yuuya smiled when he looked down and saw his little sister cuddled up into him. “Bay-bee, wake uh-up,” he called to her sing-song voice. He jiggled them both and laughed when she didn’t respond. “Come on, sleepyhead.” She still didn’t respond; it was then he noticed the chill. “It’s cold, huh? You don’t like that. Here, I’ll warm you up.” He moved his hands from her back to her arms to rub them up and down.
His sister stayed in the same position, not moving at all. Her skin was also cold to the touch.
“Nyoko?!” he asked in alarm. His horror grew when he put two and two together. He screamed for the rest of his family.
They came running a few seconds later. His grandmother spoke first. “Yuuya!” she chided him. “You shouldn’t scream like that in the morning! I’m old; you’ll give me a heart attack!”
“She’s dead! She’s dead!” It was all he could say. He shrieked the phrase over and over.
“What? No!” his father couldn’t believe it. The man quickly came over and put his hand on Nyoko’s shoulder. Shaking her, he yelled, “Wake up! Baby, you gotta wake up!” Her lack of response soon turned his voice to pleading. “Wake up! Please? Please wake up, little one, please?”
Chikako fell back against the doorjamb. Her face had gone white, and her eyes opened wide. Shaking her head, she whispered the word “no” over and over.
Baa-chan rushed over to Yuuya once the initial shock wore off and allowed her to move. “Yuuya, precious, stop screaming,” she instructed him. The old woman stroked the young boy’s face, down from his temple over his cheek. “Yuuya, Yuuya, please,” she begged him, terrified.
His wild cries did not cease, and his eyes remained unfocused. He could not hear her.
The family which had come together again fell apart. Toshiro tried, but he couldn’t cope with the loss of his daughter. Soon after the funeral, he moved away from his remaining family. He would visit sometimes, especially when Yuuya asked him to, but mostly he stayed away. Chikako became like a living ghost. Absently, she moved through the house. Her eyes remained ever-wide, but she hardly ever saw anything. She would murmur to herself, but for a long time, she did not hear other people either. Only Yuuya’s grandmother remained strong. She took care of him and tried to get him to move past his loss. He was too far gone at first. He was a lot like his mother, an unseeing, unhearing spirit. Sometimes, he was absolutely silent. Other times, he was unsettled, screaming and shrieking without warning or ceasing.
His tenth birthday brought him back to life.
His grandmother sent his mother out of the house for a while; Chikako did not even remember that it was her son’s birthday. While he was at school, baa-chan put up decorations and made him a small cake. He blindly stumbled over the doorstep per usual. He noticed the “OTANJOUBI OMEDETOU!” sign over the back wall, only seeing it because it was out of the ordinary. Confused and then stunned, Yuuya realized what day it was.
He started shrieking. “No! NONONONONO!” As if on fire, he ran over to the sign and tore it down. He knocked furniture over and threw things. “NO!” he cried out again.
His grandmother firmly grabbed his shoulders and shook him. “Yuuya. Yuuya look at me.” One of her hands grabbed his chin and forced him to look her in the eyes. “Stop it. This is your birthday; you’re supposed to be happy.”
“NO!” he shrieked again. “No! I don’t want to!” He jerked away from her touch and tried to go tear down the other decorations.
With surprising strength, his grandmother caught him around the arms and chest and held him to her. He struggled but could not break her grasp. With her chest against his back, she bent forward and then lifted him. She took them over to the couch. “Yuuya,” she told him gently but firmly. “It’s okay. It’s okay, Yuuya,” she repeated.
He started to cry, for the first time since the night his sister died. “No. No, it’s not, baa-chan. It’s not okay!” He finally spoke to her, finally truly spoke at all. His voice was raw and hoarse.
His grandmother said nothing but instead shifted him so he sat sideways in her lap. She kept her grip around him with the arm behind him. She let him go with the other to rub his far arm up and down, hoping to comfort him. She kissed the top of his head as she rocked him, briefly cupping his cheek and pressing his face into her collarbone. She just stroked his face then, rocking and humming.
“It’s not okay, baa-chan,” he repeated. “Nyoko’s dead. She’s dead.” His voice cracked, and he cried freely. A long time later, he spoke again. “I don’t want it to be my birthday, baa-chan. I don’t want to celebrate anything without her.” He came to another realization. “Nyo-tama will never have a birthday ever again. Never. How can I have one if she can’t? …How… How can I be happy without her smiling and laughing with me?” His large, heart-broken eyes searched her face for an answer. “How, baa-chan?”
The broken pieces of her heart shattered to dust. “I don’t know, Yuuya. You have to keep trying, though, like you always told her.” She swallowed, and her strength returned. “She wouldn’t want this, Yuuya. She wouldn’t want you to be so sad like this. You know that. Remember when she wanted you to go play outside? She wanted you to have fun; she wanted you to be happy.”
He crumpled at the memory of his precious, selfless sister. “I can’t, baa-chan, I can’t. I can’t do anything without her...”
“You can, Yuuya; you can. Believe.” She paused. “I think she is in heaven watching us all the time. You don’t want to make her sad, right? If she is watching, she must be so sad because you are sad. Don’t make her feel like that, Yuuya.”
He was suddenly angry. “Then she shouldn’t have died!”
“Yuuya!” The woman’s voice reflected surprise and deep disappointment. “Yuuya, that wasn’t her fault! You know that she would have never chosen to leave you.”
Her grandson again dissolved into tears. “I know. I know.” He sobbed. “I’m a terrible brother. I say terrible things. And I didn’t keep my promise.” His grandmother remained silent, waiting for him to continue. “I promised her! I promised her before she was even born! I told her I’d always take care of her and would always protect her.” Anger came into his voice again. “I lied to her. She trusted me, and I lied to her; I failed her.”
“You didn’t fail her, Yuuya. It’s just like I told you before. You’re just a little boy. Just a little boy, Yuuya. Even your mama, and your papa, and me, we couldn’t save her. Even the doctors. No one could. It wasn’t your fault. There was nothing you could have done to stop it.”
“I wish I could be with her,” he murmured as he slumped entirely against his grandmother.
“No; no, Yuuya. I’m glad you’re not. I thank the gods every day that you are alive. I am very sad your sister is dead, but I am so happy that you are not. Please, Yuuya, live. Please. Your mama and I, we need you. Smile again, sing. Please sing for me, Yuuya.”
He knew he owed his grandmother a lot. He knew she deeply loved him. Although he didn’t want to sing because that was something he had mostly done for Nyoko, he sung.
Just that made him feel a little lighter. In his head, he could almost hear his little sister’s voice giggling and singing with him.
He came to love singing again as time passed. He came to be freed by it. In some ways, he sung for his sister. He felt that what his grandmother had said was true. Nyoko was in heaven watching. He wondered if she had been able to sleep; she had always needed him to sing for her. He flashed back to the especially dark bags under her eyes after the one sleep-over he’d gone to. He renewed his vow to never let that happen again.
His mother came home later that day. She smiled faintly when she heard his beautiful voice floating out of the house. Over time, Yuuya’s singing healed the family. He and his mother fully came back to life. His mother had to take down all the pictures of her little daughter, though. Yuuya kept them. He has at least three on him at any given time.
He sings all the time. The voice he had perfected just for Nyoko makes people stop and listen. It has won him the hearts of people the world over. He quickly became an idol after entering Johnny’s Entertainment despite having been a nobody. His posters now cover the inside of his mother’s house; they hide the places on the wall that are lighter because of the removed pictures.
He now has many siblings, older brothers. He cherishes them, and they adore him. The only problem he has is a crazy girl whose name is Imoto, which is very close to “little sister.”