Spring had long, long passed, and fall had descended upon Tokyo. Sooty brown leaves fluttered to the ground, their regular colors washed away by the absence of sunlight, denied by the indifferent violence of the clouds above. Exhausted trees flanked the school gates on either side, in front of which a stout purple haired teenager anxiously shuffled her feet, awaiting her cousin’s return with muted trepidation.
Morino Kirin, now a first year in high school, had been living with Machiko Ryou for several months now. At first, she’d been eager to live with Ryou and feel the warmth of her cooking. And the food was good as ever, of course. For a while, the highlight of every day Kirin spent with Ryou had been another meal, the excitement of having another unique flavor to share between themselves as the two of them talked and laughed with each other.
But the days had gradually blurred together, and the flavors along with them. The tired cyclicality of school, as the seasons changed, but her lessons mostly remained the same, the classes stale and suffocating, the lectures and their art exercises becoming background noise to the incessant faint hum of it all. The students, all faceless and interchangeable in Kirin’s view, all chatting about the same inane topics from day to day to day, seemingly oblivious to the invisible but ubiquitous fog of the state of the world outside, the economic instability, the climate—
Kirin sighed. She was being melodramatic, she thought. None of this was all that bad. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t safe or secure— her family’s crops had gone a long way towards keeping them financially afloat. And she still got to visit her family on the weekends, which should have gone a long way towards breaking up the monotony of her routine, but...
Kirin was fine. She was supposed to be fine. “Yeah,” she said, “I’m still young! I’m supposed to be enjoying my youth! What am I all worked up for!” she laughed a hearty, warm laugh. “I’m fine! I’ve got delicious food, I’ve got Ryou, I’ve got…”
“Ryou…” Kirin’s chest pounded as she softly vocalized her sweet cousin’s name. With her small fingers, she traced the ripples set off by her heartbeat from her collarbone, up her neck and then to her face, where she released a soft, subtle breath that almost tasted like mint. Mint, and…
“That’s right… I’ve got Ryou…”
The warm voice of her beautiful big cousin caused Kirin’s skin to tingle with anticipation. Why, she didn’t know, quite, but she jumped at the sound.
Literally jumped, her head coming into impact with her cousin’s chin.
“Uwaaaaaa!!!” Ryou shouted, tumbling to the ground, but stopping the fall with her hands, thankfully sustaining no injuries.
Kirin turned, just in time to see Ryou’s breasts oscillate slightly, drawing Kirin’s eyes downwards to her abdomen, her hips, her— and Kirin averted her eyes there. What was she thinking?
Wait, she thought, why am I being shy about it? It’s not as if I haven’t… seen more… and well, that one time I…
Kirin put that thought out of her mind, before turning back to her cousin with big, concerned eyes. “Ryou! Are you okay?!” She kneeled on the ground and reached out with her right hand, offering to help her up.
Ryou blinked, and lifted her face towards Kirin, shaking her shining chestnut locks off of her shoulders. “Kirin… I…”
And then their eyes met.
Their beautiful, bright, shining irises, both varying shades of purple, and for a moment, neither blinked.
“I’m okay… Kirin…”
And Kirin gripped Ryou’s hand.
The trees stood still. The clouds did not move. The air remained stale, stagnant, and silently hostile. But for these two girls, if only for but a moment, it felt as if spring had come again.
The door to Ryou’s— no Ryou and Kirin’s apartment, swung open, and they gingerly stepped inside. It was their home… so, for what reason they were so timid, neither girl was certain.
“I… I’m home,” they said in harmony, speaking to the walls. After a moment of dead air, they wordlessly moved in opposite directions. Kirin to her preferred spot under the kotatsu, where she usually awaited Ryou’s foods daily, and Ryou to the kitchen. Usually, they’d consult one another about what foods they wanted to eat, but today, it felt too awkward somehow. Neither wanted to risk speaking their feelings.
What had happened back there, anyway? Kirin wasn’t quite sure.
Well, all that had happened is Kirin accidentally made Ryou fall over, and then she’d offered a hand to help Ryou up, and then she’d stared into Ryou’s eyes for what felt like an awfully long second… or was it two seconds? Or thirty? Had it been a full minute? Had someone noticed them?
Oh, god… No… Kirin hoped not. She didn’t want any of the students at their school thinking they were like, depraved perverts, or anything like that… But…
But Ryou’s mouth had been right there. That same mouth she’d watched eat all sorts of delicious food, so many times. There was no food between them, but that mouth— those lips. They had looked so… appetizing.
“Uwaaaaaaa!!!!” Kirin slapped herself repeatedly with both hands, wailing in frustration. “You can’t think that! You can’t say that! That’s— stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid Kirin! Stupid, stupid, stup-”
Kirin felt an enormous presence looming over her, and stopped wailing, slowly looking up at her very tall and very big cousin.
Ryou towered over Kirin by a great many miles, but she didn’t feel threatening at all, Kirin thought. She should have, shouldn’t have she? Since Kirin had a complex about her height, seeing someone her own age taller than her should have been a huge turn off. But when it came to Ryou, Kirin only wanted her big cousin to—
She shook her head furiously.
“Uh…” Ryou tilted her head curiously. “Kirin… Are you okay?”
“I… I…” Kirin gulped anxiously.
She was, wasn’t she? She loved her cousin, she loved living here, she loved Ryou’s food, and she loved her school, the school that she’d come all the way here, to Tokyo, for to begin with.
Had she forgotten that?
Why was she so… so…
And why did Ryou’s collarbone… No, not just that. Ryou’s skin, face, arms… Chest…
That’s right. Kirin had never been open about that, but she’d always been pretty jealous of how big Ryou was. Perhaps in more ways than one.
Again, that didn’t mean what it sounded like! Kirin emphatically shook her head.
“I’m fine! I’m fine!!”
“D-Do you want to help with the cooking?”
“I-I-I don’t know! I don’t know if I want to cook! I don’t even know what I want to eat!”
“Oh!” Ryou seemed surprised. “As it happens, I didn’t know what to cook…” She averted eye contact sheepishly. “I was on the verge of just making some rice balls or something… but I uh… I was hoping you’d tell me! What you wanted!”
“I… uh… uh—”
Kirin, too, averted her eyes from Ryou.
“What I want…”
The air was still and cold again. Kirin hated this feeling, this stagnant caution, this uncertainty, tepidness. This missing key to their real feelings, the impossible wall between them… and this…
No, she couldn’t let this stand! No! No, never mind. Fuck it. It didn’t matter. Ryou was Kirin’s closest, best, most cherished— family!
It didn’t matter if people thought they were weird. They shared a special bond, and on the off chance Ryou didn’t understand, then that— that bond, that warmth, all the time they’d spent together. What did all of that even mean if she couldn’t at least understand when Kirin said—
“Ryou… I… I want to eat you!!”
A few moments passed before either girl spoke.
“Kirin… uh…” Ryou sheepishly forced a smile, “surely you don’t mean that—”
“No! Well, uh, yes, but—” Kirin shyly, self-consciously glanced to her sock-clad feet, shuffling them together and apart and together again. “I-I meant- I want to know what you taste like! I mean, I want to touch- No, I want to let you- I want- I want”
Ryou backed away in bewilderment. “What are you saying?!”
Kirin took a deep breath, then furiously burst out: “I want to kiss!!”
Again, awkward silence. Ryou said nothing. It was as if a lag in processing had occurred in her cognition. Well, not quite. The word was “shock.”
Kirin made a point of emphasizing the desire dripping from her voice when she repeated herself. “Ryou, I want to kiss you!”
The words had been said. Kirin’s feelings, having now been affirmed, lingered tangibly in the air between them, impossible to ignore.
“Y-You…” Ryou finally seemed to process what Kirin had said. “You want to kiss?”
“I do, Ryou… I really do… if you’d let me…”
“But… why did you say…”
“Because… because I think… that’s why it hasn’t been the same lately,” Kirin began carefully, “why all your cooking’s not… tasted the same, because I… I’m not… I’m… I’ve been wanting something more! I’ve been… I… I…”
Even after she’d resolved to share her feelings, it still felt impossible to say it fully. It wasn’t a matter of if Ryou would understand— Kirin just didn’t know the words for what she wanted to say. Or rather, she did, but… those words felt wrong. For… for her to…
Kirin was about ready to cry, but before she could, she felt her waist being squeezed.
“I understand, Kirin.” Ryou’s arms tightened around Kirin’s hips and back, forming a gentle, firm vice of her soft and warm skin. “I think… I understand…”
“Then…” Kirin looked up at Ryou, her face moist and salty. “We can?”
“We can try… If you really want.”
The two girls sat down on their futons, their legs folded beneath themselves, as Ryou looked down at Kirin. They had decided, for now, to forgo dinner, in favor of each other. But neither knew when to initiate, or how. The tension between them had not entirely vanished.
“Are you…” Ryou awkwardly chirped.
Kirin couldn’t wait any longer. She decided to make the first move— sensible, since it was her request. Thus—
Rising to her knees, Kirin closed her eyes and lunged forth to peck Ryou on the lips. Ryou shuddered, but hardly resisted, as Kirin held their lips together for a few moments before carefully parting.
“Was it good?”
“It…” Kirin hesitated. “I… I want more!”
Ryou’s eyes widened. “More?! But— well… well… I…”
She turned towards the window and was silent for a moment.
“I guess I… I don’t mind. It… Your lips… You…”
Kirin leaned forward, more slowly this time, and slotted Ryou’s lips in between her own. Ryou gasped and shuddered again, her mouth coming ajar slightly, giving Kirin the opening she needed to go further. Kirin’s lips brushed against Ryou’s tongue, and she tasted her cousin’s wet, moist, surprisingly flavorful saliva. It tasted…
Like mochi… Or like gum, maybe? Or… mint. Mint?
Maybe that one’s my fault, Kirin realized. Come to think of it, she had accepted some mints from a classmate earlier that morning. They hadn’t seemed much at the time, but Kirin supposed that such tastes tended to linger and stew for a while. It wasn’t something she’d ever thought about, her tasting like the things she’d eaten lately… or her putting her flavors in someone else.
Wait. Was this really happening? Was she really letting her cousin, of all people, have her first kiss? Wasn’t that supposed to be… against the rules? Had Ryou really agreed to that? She was accepting it? She was—
Ryou gently pulled on Kirin’s sailor top, causing Kirin to loosen her grip and again find their mouths separated before she collapsed upon Ryou, and found her head settled in Ryou’s chest.
“Ahhhh… Uh… Ryou!” Kirin gasped, realizing where she was now. “Ryou, are we… are you… are you really okay with this?”
Kirin suddenly remembered the time she’d compared her cousin’s chest to strawberry buns. They… did feel kinda doughy, but she wasn’t sure she could say there was much other resemblance…
Come to think of it, she supposed she had wanted to touch them for a while, but she hadn’t exactly had the courage to— yet she’d gone and said something like that-
Ryou ran her hands through Kirin’s hair, gently untangling it as she went, undoing her hair ties and unwrapping her bright purple locks to stroke freely.
“I… uh… Your boobs are nice… I guess… and…” she gulped nervously. “Thank you… Ryou…”
Kirin couldn’t think of anything else to say. This was too disarming, too blissful, too… it felt… this felt… this felt too good. So very… very…
“What is it?”
“Do you think you’ve been feeling… um…”
“Well… when you think about how this is all just… this is nice… but these days will only last so long. Us… like this. Whatever this is… I guess?”
Ryou was quiet.
“Life is so rigid and inflexible,” Kirin kept going. “It’s not… bad… but it’s— it’s not… nothing’s new. Nothing’s changing. Nothing’s… I… and… Nothing’s going to change, I’m going to work in my family’s fields, and it’s just going to get harder to grow crops with how… things are…” Kirin anxiously shivered, but didn’t linger. “And we’re just going to transition from school to work to… Well, I guess just… that’s just all our life is, for most of us… most people…”
Ryou hugged Kirin close and stroked her back.
“But that’s not all our life has to be, Kirin.”
“We’re here. We’re together, and we can go wherever we want together, we can hold each other as much as we want, we can try as many foods as we want…”
“But we won’t be able to, will we?!” Kirin cried. “No one’s able to—”
“We will.” Ryou was firm. “We’ll make sure we will. Because… we’ll be together, Kirin. And it’ll be okay.” She gently stroked Kirin’s cheek. “I promise it’ll be okay…”
Kirin didn’t know if she believed it, but she nodded anyway.
“Yeah. It’ll be okay.”
“I love you, Ryou…”
“I love you too.”
As the two girls blissfully fell asleep in each other’s arms, neither much pondered the potential complications of this newfound development in their relationship.
It would be okay. They were cousins, after all.