"Onii-chan," Komachi's voice broke the silence, "if you get married someday, will we still be able to live together?"
Hearing this unexpected question, Hachiman felt somewhat helpless. Why had she brought up marriage all of a sudden?
Sure, Japan had been dealing with a declining birthrate, and there was a societal push for high school students to date and consider marriage after graduation. However, Hachiman hadn't really given much thought to marrying right after high school. He had other plans, like finishing college at the very least. By then, he might even start his own company, ensuring his future.
Plus, if he were to gauge his parents' reaction, he'd likely be the one kicked out of the house if he married too soon.
Seeing the worry on Komachi's face, Hachiman couldn't help but lightly flick her forehead in irritation.
"You fool, what's gotten into your head? I don't have any plans to get married right after high school."
She looked at him with those earnest eyes, and he continued, "Even if I do get married someday, remember, I'll always be your brother, and this will always be your home."
Yui and Yukino were not the type to be jealous, and from what he knew, they liked Komachi quite a bit. She was, after all, their future sister-in-law.
"And if, in the future, any unfairness befalls you, remember, you can always come to me. Your Onii-chan will make sure justice is served."
"No matter what lies ahead, I'll forever be your Onii-chan, and that's an unchanging fact."
"Really, Onii-chan? I adore you the most, you know."
Komachi's face lit up with a radiant smile upon hearing Hachiman's words. She immediately embraced him, her arms wrapped around his waist.
To Komachi, the brother who had cared for her since childhood held the most special place in her heart. Even her parents couldn't surpass him in her affections.
Seeing her joy, Hachiman gently patted her head.
"Absolutely, it's the truth. I adore you the most, Komachi."
Whether it was Hachiman's original memories or the genuine emotions that Komachi had stirred in him, his affection for his little sister was sincere. In his heart, Komachi occupied a place that no matter how many girls entered his life, they could never replace.
With Hachiman's reassurance, Komachi's smile shone even brighter than before.
At that moment, Komachi's attention was drawn by a faint sound, causing her to look around and tilt her head in curiosity.
"What's the matter, Komachi?" Hachiman inquired, perplexed by her sudden change in demeanor.
"Onii-chan, did you hear that?"
Hachiman's ears perked up, and with his heightened senses, he indeed caught a faint whimpering sound. Following the noise, he eventually traced it to a small hole in a cement pipe.
To their surprise, they discovered a newborn kitten inside the pipe, so engrossed by Komachi's presence that it had gone unnoticed until now. The kitten had gray fur with tiger-like stripes, while its belly and limbs were white. It appeared to be less than a month old, with innocent black eyes and a pink nose.
"Wow, what an adorable kitten."
"Who would abandon such a little thing here? That's really heartless," Komachi commented, her expression displaying disapproval as she observed the kitten.
"It does seem that way," Hachiman agreed.
The kitten had been left inside a small cardboard box, lined with old newspapers and bits of cloth, accompanied by a tiny saucer of milk.
It was clear that someone had heartlessly abandoned the kitten in this place.
"Um... Onii-chan, can we please adopt it?" Komachi held the pitiful kitten gently and looked at him with hopeful eyes.
"Of course, no problem at all. Adding another cat is not a burden given my current financial situation."
"Actually, even if we added you, Komachi, it wouldn't be a financial strain," Hachiman added with a playful grin.
Naturally, Hachiman couldn't refuse his sister's request. This little kitten was probably Kamakura, as mentioned in the original story. As for whether their parents would agree, considering their deep affection for Komachi, there was little doubt.
"Tch, I'm definitely not a cat," Komachi wrinkled her cute little nose at her brother's comparison.
"Haha, just kidding."
"By the way, Komachi, since you're going to adopt it, why don't you give it a name?"
"Hmm... a name, let me think... how about Kamakura? Onii-chan, what do you think?"
As expected, Komachi decided to name the kitten Kamakura.
"Kamakura, that sounds great. Now, let's go buy everything we need to take care of our new furry friend."
Kitten food, cat litter, a litter box, a cat bed, a cat tree...
Since they had decided to adopt a cat, they needed to prepare all these essentials.
Due to the kitten's small size, Hachiman even made a special purchase of a can of lamb milk formula.
For young cats and dogs, it's better to feed them lamb milk as opposed to cow's milk. Compared to cow's milk, lamb milk has larger fat globules and is lower in lactose, making it easier on their digestive system and reducing the risk of vomiting and diarrhea.
At the supermarket, the siblings purchased a whole bunch of supplies for taking care of the cat.
Once they returned home, Komachi went into the kitchen and prepared a small bowl of lamb milk formula for the kitten.
Being in a new and unfamiliar environment, the little kitten seemed a bit wary. Its round black eyes showed curiosity but also fear and caution toward its new surroundings. However, the temptation of the lamb milk was too strong to resist, so it approached the small bowl with cautious steps.
After glancing around with its tiny head and making sure there was no danger, it tentatively extended its tongue and began lapping up the milk.
"Onii-chan, look how adorable it is," Komachi whispered to Hachiman as they observed the kitten enjoying its milk.
"Yeah, incredibly cute," Hachiman agreed with a nod.
It's worth noting that nearly all baby animals are undeniably cute. Even animals known for their fierceness, like lions, tigers, and brown bears, are quite endearing when they're young.
After finishing the milk in the small bowl, the kitten curled up in a corner once again, reverting to its previous state of fear and caution.
"Hey, Onii-chan, this..." Komachi appeared somewhat disappointed by the kitten's behavior.
"Don't worry, this is normal. It just arrived in a new environment, so it needs some time to adjust," Hachiman reassured her.
"Alright," Komachi nodded in understanding.
"Yeah, Komachi, go watch TV for a while. I'll go prepare lunch," Hachiman suggested.
After a morning of activity, it was already past eleven o'clock, and Hachiman headed into the kitchen to start preparing lunch for the day.