Chapter 1:

Prologue

Ai no shiki: 4 seasons of love


"Hey, you!" A little girl, around the age of 6, flinched at the loud voice and whirled around, only to tense. Under the intense gazes of group, some of whom she recognized as her classmates, she meekly waited for them to continue. Her hands busy in her long, golden hair.

"Can you wash these too for us, Kiyo-chan?" The taller girl in the group referring to the rags in gesticulate manner. She was using her nickname to intimidate her with familiarity, but...

They were told by their warden to wash it together. Her words are the rules here. She can't possibly go against them!

"Um...but...I...Miss Yori said..." Kiyomi felt her words die in her mouth when she saw one of the girls glare at her. Hate and anger, such ugly feelings... she felt sickness pool in her stomach.

"You mean, you wouldn't do it? Even for friends?" Their words hit a chord. She knew that they knew her weakness. It was a dull move on their part but effectiveness is all that matters in the end, right?

Feeling small, she lowered her head and nodded slowly.  Their joyous cheer and halfhearted 'thanks' reached her ears. When the door closed behind them, it was just Kiyomi in a dim room. 

It was always like this; they left her behind all on her own. But she couldn't mind, her teacher had told them to never turn your back to your friends, she said they bring you happiness. Her face breaks into small hopeful smile. 

She would rather do all work alone then have them hate her. After all, they were all she had to call her own. 

...

"N-No...Please don't," They turned deaf to her agonized pleas.

"Just sight of you disappoints me, Kiyomi, and weren't they too?" Anything but this. 

...

There's nowhere to run
I have no place to go
Being left with no choice
But have to surrender my heart, body, and soul

...

A girl, no more than 7 years old, was standing there, looking like she won a lottery . By the way the curve of her lips wavered (for a slightest moment), the boy knew that he looked less than happy seeing her. 

And really, why wouldn't he.

"Pig...It's past midnight now, yes?" He tried to keep irritation off his tone as leaned against the door frame. Pretending having not heard him, she grabbed his hands, her cool azure eyes crinkling in joy. He could tell that grin anywhere. When such excitement and happiness burned in her sparkling eyes; it meant only two things. 

"Yes, but it's totally worth it!" He blinked, once and then again, waiting for her to continue. 

A very dramatic pause. He knew of her ways and how she'd yield soon.

"We are going out, finally!" Ah that's why.

"When?" It seems her years of pestering for trip to their parents wasn't completely futile. 

"THIS SUMMER! Can you believe it? It's lake Matsuri!" She skipped past him, through the door and plopped on the bed, rocking side by side. He, raking his hand through his dark hair, just closed his door behind him. "We'll have so much fun, shortcake!" 

Her face broke into teasing smile when his eyes twitched at the pet name.

Kaede sighed a breath that spoke of his suffering when his sister giggled. She had been so loud in her announcement that he was worried their parents might hear them from their room. They wouldn't like to see her with him at this hour.

"And when did you hear about this? You could have waited for morning." He didn't bother hiding his disdain at her for his ruined sleep. He meant his words, but...

"This morning; I overheard them talking about the tickets father has brought for us." He gave her a look, lifting a brow. 

Face burning, she turned her nose in the air. "They know that I know, but when I asked them to let me see you, they refused...again, and I wanted to share this news with you so badly too..." Her lips pursed in a pout that rose warmth to his heart. 

"I missed you, meanie..." She murmured faintly, pink dusting her apple cheeks. 

He missed her too, but he needn't admit it. 

"I know." He didn't say anything anymore and just watched her watch him. She was accessing him over, alert for any signs of discomfort. He looked fine, and he felt the same. Her presence was all he needed at times. 

"Kaede, I-" The door behind him slammed open, drawing both the occupant's attention, breaking Miyuki's speech.

"Kaede, Miyuki, this is third time this week," Voice stern as her face, the siblings saw their mother standing by the door. Their father glanced at them over her shoulder, brows knitted and mouth drew in line. They didn't know if they were the cause behind the weariness in his eyes.  

"Miyuki, I thought we had come to an agreement, yet you didn't listen. You never listen," Miyuki abruptly sat upright from her lying position when the older women's eyes landed on her. The sharp, glaring set of eyes behind the thick frame of glasses added more coldness to her profile. 

Miyuki bit her lips, unconsciously, settling her eyes on her mirror image that was her brother. His eyes softened at her reassuringly, urging her to speak up.

"I wanted to see him...and the news...I haven't talked to him in many days, my brother," It was a heartfelt reply but the women's eyes never softened at her. 

"But he is not well, Miyuki. Do you wish to worsen his health?" This earned a flinch from the twins. One glaring down, other had protest on the tip of her tongue. The women wanted to take her words back but didn't let the feeling win over her logic.

"O-of course not! Why do you-"

"Mom, please, I asked her to come." Kaede cut in, voice thick.

"You are at fault too... you should know better than putting strain on your body," Their mother's silver eyes softened at the downcast look on his baby face.

"I'm really oka-" He doubled over in a coughing fit, grabbing hem of his mother's floral night dress. His mother was quick to kneel beside her, pulling him into her embrace, rubbing his back and running circles to sooth him. 

The coal haired girl, bug-eyed, jumped off from the bed and hurried to her brother's side. She only managed to touch his shoulder when her tiny hand was grabbed firmly by a larger one. Panic seized her when her deep blue eyes met identical ones of her father. 

"Miyuki, he needs rest," His voice was soft and grim, very much in contrast to her mother who spoke in rough and loud tone. "You can see him tomorrow."

"Promise?" She couldn't help herself after seeing pained look in her brother's face. Her heart ached when his small form trembled against their mother's lithe form. Kaede struggled to get up, but he did, and when their eyes met, his eyes crinkled in grin. 

"D-Don't worry about me, Pig,"

She licked her chapped lips absently and reached over to ruffle his ebony hair, fondness and anguish melting in her eyes. 

"I'll see you tomorrow, Shortcake," She left with the promise in her voice. 

But it was yet all the same; they didn't let her. 

...

"Can I see go him? It's already 6 months now..." Plead was clear as daylight in her voice.

"He doesn't wish to meet anyone," But she knew it was just her. 

...

The scar I can't reverse
When the more it heals the worse it hurts
You gave me piece of yourself, your life
Don't I hate to be distant to someone so close

...

"He wouldn't be joining us today as well eh..." A 7 year old boy muttered to himself when he scanned the room for any signs of his father. The dining table was already set and his sister, 10 years older than he, was already helping herself. Gorging was more like it. "Y'know if you keep stuffing yourself like that, no one will marry you, sis,"

His offhanded remark only earned him a glare that rivaled the flames of hell itself.

"And who do you think is working her ass off for the food that you're eating three times a day? It's not you so keep it low," came her sassy reply. Her anger dissipated when he kept to himself. Lowering her lashes, Ame returned to her business, ignoring his existence.

The awkwardness in the air was sliced when a third voice joined in. 

"Ichirou, apologize to her... this is no way to talk to your big sister," His mother rebuked him as she placed plate before him. "She works really hard everyday for this, you should keep that in mind."

Ichirou didn't reply, but found himself connecting eyes with ones that looked identical to his own. Amethysts. 

Ame beamed in triumph when he mouthed her sorry. Behind him, he could feel his mother shaking her head at him in disapproval. The corners of his lips turned up when her fist hit him at the back of his head. Gently of course, it's always gently.

 "You can try working on your apologies, young man," His mother joked with a teasing glint in her amber eyes. 

"Please, that'd needless," He brushed off with a wave. His eyes crinkled in a grin. 

"Smile any more and I'm gonna to choke,"

His smile slipped just like that. And he was wondering if she died.

 Closing his eyes, he tried to keep irritation off his voice. 

"After eating like that it's only natural," To his chagrin, she only gave him a lazy smile. 

"Update yourself, kid," That's when they realized what they shared aside their eyes and blood, their glare. 

"Low blow," He growled, eyes dilated in annoyance. 

"I could say same, kiddo," Another one of her annoying grins. 

"You two..." Their mother rubbed the spot between her brows, wearing a crooked smile on her lips. Loud and verbally abusive as they might be, they were a joy and laughter in her life. 

A comfortable silence fell between them as their mother served them food. Ame continued with her dinner, asking for refill every now and then, while Ichirou studied the lines on sides of her small nose with narrowed eyes. 

'Probably stress,' He thought. Ichirou wanted to ask her if this had anything to do their father but chose better than ruining their dinner. Pause. 'After dinner, it is,' He mentally decided.

"Thank you for the food!" Both the sibling chorused. 

"I really loved the curry today!" Ame flashed her thumb approvingly. This earned a chuckle from the older women.

"Um...Mom?" Both the women turned to him; one wearing mask of indifference, other curiosity. Gulping the remains of water, he set down the glass with dull thud. 

"When will you be having dinner?" This earned a soft smile from the women the words were directed to. Smile that spoke levels of the weariness and longing. It broke their heart to see her looking so forlorn. 

"Once he arrives...He will be here before midnight," She looked heavenwards thoughtfully. The cheer in her voice was heavy and sounded superficial to their ears. Knowing that protests were in the tip of their tongues, she added. "You children don't have to worry, I'm fine." 

But she looked all but. 

He dropped his gaze on the empty glass, eyes fixed and grave. Ame looked on, jaw set and eyes inscrutable.

That night he heard screams and shouts downstairs but found the door of his room locked, just as every other night he is home. 

...

"It's because of you that he left..." She drawled weakly, hunching over in her seat.

"But you're the reason why she died." He countered calmly, his frigid gaze weighed on his elder sister who helped herself with another bottle of beer. 

...

We will keep on blaming each other
Drinking and gambling every day and then
Ignoring the loneliness searing their insides
Hoping they will sleep away their night

...

It drips, drips, drips...

The dripping never stops, nor do their tears.

...

Like the four seasons- Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, they were different. Each had a story of their own, a past that shaped them into the shell that they were now. What happens when these people meet and share joy that they lack in themselves, and pain that is their immortal demons? 

...

I hope you enjoyed the prologue. New chapters will be posted once every two weeks. Thank you for reading! Please do leave your opinions on comments.

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