Chapter 9:

Ryo and Haru

Will The Stars Remember My Name?

Haruto came to Ryouta in between periods. He said, "Yo, Ryo! Wanna go to Nagasaki's today?” Ryouta looked up from his desk, "Yeah, I don't think I have a shift there today. I'm free, so I guess we can go.” 

"It's all thanks to Ryu that you have more free time now.” Haruto commented. 

"Yeah... Also, yesterday, that cake... It was pretty awful...” The other trailed off. 

Haruto turned red and snapped, “Hey, I'm still learning! Also, the bad cake must be because I have a bad sensei. After all, you got pretty good in soccer, but I haven't learnt anything properly from you yet.” 

Ryouta sighed, "That's because I'm a fast learner, unlike you.” 

The two boys had developed a good friendship the past week. Haruto had introduced Ryouta to soccer, and they would play together when Ryouta had free time. On the other hand, Ryouta was teaching Haruto how to bake. Shiomi's birthday was coming soon. Spring was about to end, and soon their summer vacations would start and Ryouta would have to find summer jobs to make ends meet. But, since there would be no school, it would be easier for Ryouta to manage his summer job and his part times. 

Ryouta also had an idea so that all of them could spend more time together, but he still hadn't told anyone about it yet. Since Ryouta barely had any free time with his part time jobs, Ryuuji had come up to him a few weeks ago with a proposal. He told him that in exchange for Ryuuji taking some of his jobs on weekdays, Ryouta would help him out on the weekends. Ryouta was against it in the beginning, but with the help of Haruto, he managed to convince him. Now, Ryouta had free time during evening, which he would spend with Haruto playing soccer or teaching him to bake a cake. 

There was just one problem: Ryuuji. He was getting overburdened with work now. He had to share Ryouta's shift during the weekdays, and at the same time, he had to do the jobs he was secretly doing behind Ryouta's back, and not to mention, he had to work on weekends too.

‏‏‎ Futaba was quite understanding in this whole matter. She knew Ryuuji was doing his best for his brother but she was concerned about one thing. Ryuuji pushed himself to do all this work with just one thought: "If my brother did this for me, I can do it too.” With this thought in mind, Ryuuji worked harder than Ryouta. She was concerned that he would hurt himself one day. She was also not happy with Ryuuji keeping secrets from Ryouta, but she didn't want to interfere in between the two brothers for now. She believed they could work around it and come to terms eventually. 

Later that day, the two boys left for Nagasaki's Cafe. That place had become special to all of them and they would often meet up there. Being regulars, they had become familiar with the staff of the cafe. Haruto invited Shiomi, Futaba and Ryuuji, but all three of them had prior engagements so it was just him and Ryouta. The small bell tinkled as they opened the door. 

“Welcome!" said a cute girl from behind the counter. 

Haruto said, "Hey Natsu-senpai! How're you?" 

Natsu exclaimed, "Oh, it's Ryo and Haru! Hey, hey! I'm doing fine, Haru! How're you?” 

"Just fine. Wait, where's Miyuki-senpai? Doesn't he have a shift today?" 

Natsu laughed sheepishly, “Ehehe... I broke some dishes while washing them, so he's cleaning up..." 

Natsu was a lean, tall and thin girl. She had a fair complexion and big, round, ocean blue eyes. She had short light orange hair, and a cute voice. She was adored by everyone around her. She was light hearted and always full of joy and energy. But, much to the chagrin of Miyuki, she was a bit clumsy and awkward at times. Since they both went to the same college, the two were pretty close. One could always find them bickering and fighting with each other. 

Ryouta sighed, "Poor Miyuki-senpai... Always cleaning up after Natsu-senpai's mistakes." 

Natsu pouted, “Hey, now! I don't always make mistakes, and I clean up sometimes too, y'know!”

‏"You mean like the time you spilled orange juice on a customer? It was a stroke of luck that he was understanding and didn't do anything." 

Natsu turned red and challenged, "Okay then! I'll make another mistake and make your coffee very bitter today, Ryouta!" 

Miyuki came up from behind and lightly smacked Natsu on her forehead. “Ouch—!” 

“How many times have I told you to not annoy customers like that even if you know them?!  

“B-but, Miyuki! Ryouta was saying—“ 

“Yes, I did hear what they say. And they aren’t even wrong! I do clean up after your mistakes.” 

Natsu pouted and crossed her arms, “You guys are so mean!” 

Miyuki rolled his eyes, "Yes we are." He turned to Ryouta and said, "Also, you were too upfront about it, we all know she makes mistakes, but you could be a little less direct, you know?" 

Natsu giggled mischievously as Ryouta turned a bit pale. She said, "Don't worry Ryouta, it's nothing. I just wanted to see if Miyuki would take my side or yours." 

Miyuki turned red. "Natsu, you—" 

"I'll go wash rest of the dishes now. Bye, bye!~", she ran off inside before Miyuki could say anything. Miyuki sighed as Ryouta and Haruto laughed. 

"So, what'll you guys have?" 

They both ordered their meals and sat down. They talked for a bit, ate some sandwiches, and had coffee.

‏‏‎Ryouta initiated conversation, "So… Haru." 


"You have a girlfriend?" 

Haruto choked on coffee. "Wha- Why- I... Uh... I mean, why suddenly ask?" 

Ryouta chuckled softly and said, "What? Why can't I ask my friend who his girlfriend is?” 

"First of all, I don't have one and second, you just dropped that topic so suddenly..." 

Ryouta smirked, “Eh?~ You feel uncomfortable? Hm. Don't tell me you've never had a girlfriend. The only people who panic on these topics are either totally inexperienced virgins or... People who have someone they like, but are too scared of asking them out." 

"I'm not scared!" 

Ryouta raised his eyebrows and said, "So there is someone you like?" 

Haruto turned red and stammered, "N-No... I- No- I don't have anyone I- I like." 

Ryouta chuckled, "As you say…" 

Haruto quickly changed the topic, "So today, I'm gonna make the perfect cake!” 

Ryouta whistled, "I sense spirit in you, my dear student. Alright then, let's get going then!" 

The duo went to Haruto's house. They entered and Haruto called out, "Mom, I'm home! Ryouta's here with me here too." 

A woman wearing an apron peeked from the kitchen. She had some wrinkles on her face, announcing early onset of old age in her. She had permanent worry lines on her forehead and her rough hands, busy washing dishes, were hard and much tarnished due to overwork. 

"Oh, welcome back! Hello Ryouta, came here to teach Haruto again?”

‏‏‎"Yes, I hope I'm not intruding…” 

His mother smiled, "Not at all! I'll be done with the dishes soon. Haruto can go ahead and change his clothes while you can sit down in our living room and wait for him." 

Haruto ran off to his room, saying, "I'll be back soon, Ryouta. Don’t hesitate to help yourself to a glass of water from the kitchen." Instead of sitting down in the living room, he went to the kitchen and offered to help out Haruto's mom. She refused to have him help out but eventually after much insisting, she relented. While Ryouta arranged the dishes, she said, "I'm happy Haruto has such good friends now... I was worried, he would have no other friends in school other than Shiomi, but it looks like he's doing well. When he was younger, we used to be so busy with work that we didn't pay enough attention to him and because of that... Something happened once.” 

Ryouta understood what she was talking about. "I think Haruto is a very good person. As his friend, I know that he is a very sensitive, sensible and mature boy. He's happy and bright, and makes the people around him smile too. I think, whatever happened to him, made him a stronger person. And who he is right now, is all because of his parents, I believe,” said Ryouta with a kind smile. 

Haruto's mother chuckled softly and said, "You're a very mature boy... I would love to meet your parents too." 

Ryouta didn't say anything and continued to wipe the dishes and keep them in their right place. A few moments later, Haruto came down. "Mom, you've worked enough now! You need to rest. Watch something on the TV maybe, or read a book. I'll handle the rest, okay? Dad will be back home soon, too." 

Haruto's mom smiled at him then agreed. She left the kitchen to go rest while Haruto took out the ingredients for the cake. "So, what're we making then?" 

"Hmm... I think instead of complex cakes like a pineapple cake or something, you should just go for a simple chocolate cake.”

‏‏‎"So, I'm that worthless, huh? I mean... Shiomi loves pineapples and... I wanted to make something special for her this time because... You know what happened between us..." Haruto's voice trailed off. 

Ryouta smiled and said, "I'm pretty sure whatever you make she'll love it." 

Haruto sighed, “Okay, then. A chocolate cake it is." 

The two friends got to work. After a few hours, Haruto opened the oven door, and took out the cake carefully. It had a rich dark brown colour and nuts sprinkled over it. It was coated with white powdered sugar and looked quite appealing. 

“Finally!" exclaimed Haruto. 

“Now, now, we haven't tasted it yet. Though I have to say, it looks pretty good… Now, bring it to the judge!" said Ryouta. 

Haruto steadily placed the cake in front of Ryouta and served him a slice. Ryouta cut a small bite with a fork and blew over it to cool it down. He then slowly brought it closer to his mouth and then ate the bite. Haruto looked at Ryouta with hope and anticipation as he slowly chewed. 

He chewed... And chewed... And chewed... And then finally gulped it. 

"Sooooo... How was it!?" 

Without a word, Ryouta got up, went to the place where Haruto was preparing the cake and picked up a bottle with some white powder in it. 

"Haruto... What do you think this is?” 

"Why? It's just some powdered sug-" 

Haruto stopped when he saw the small label on the bottle. On the label, it was written "salt”. They both looked at each other for a few seconds... and then burst out laughing. 


 Later that night, when Ryouta was just about to fall asleep, he remembered his conversation with Haruto's mom. He thought about something for sometime and then whispered quietly to himself, "I would love to meet them too..." 

Then, he fell asleep... hoping to dream of his mother again.