Will The Stars Remember My Name?
Ryouta slowly walked through the familiar streets of his neighbourhood. It was late evening and the sun had set long back. In the clear night sky, Ryouta could see the crescent shape moon glowing dully. It gave off a pale yellow light, in turn gladly throwing off it's shade to the nearby stars.
The moon reminded Ryouta of this french bread he used to eat when he was young. What was it called again? Cro- Crossing or something?
He remembered his mother bringing a croissant every Friday from the nearby bakery. The two brothers would then fight over who would get the bigger half while their mother, much amused at their antics, would take over the distribution of the bread.
Ryouta's house came into view as he hastened a bit to quickly reach his house and rest in the familiar warmth of his abode. He nose twitched at the faint aromatic smell of food that Ryuuji was preparing for them.
Ryouta removed his shoes at the entrance and stepped inside with his socks on.
"Just a moment, Ryo! I'm almost done here."
"Take your time. I'll lay the table till then."
When he entered the living room he saw that the dining table was already laid with fresh lettuce leaves and ripe tomatoes kept in the centre as salad. Two ceramic plates were kept facing opposite to each other and the cutlery was neatly arranged beside the plates.
The past few days Ryuuji had become more responsible. He would quietly do Ryouta's share of chores without a single complain. Ryouta wasn't exactly pleased with this but somewhere inside he actually felt relieved. His usual fatigue at night had diminished to a degree where now he would idle on his phone for sometime before going to sleep. Before Ryuuji’s transformation, Ryouta would fall asleep the moment he lay on his bed.
Ryouta went to his room and kept his bag near his study table. He quickly undressed, his tongue almost salivating as the aroma of the curry Ryuuji was cooking had become stronger, and took a quick shower. When he came out of the shower, Ryuuji had just brought the steaming curry he had prepared at the table.
"Ta-da! Presenting Ryuuji's special spicy curry with loads of vegetables, meat and brotherly love, Curry Connection~! The dish that can connect two hearts!"
Imitating one of his favourite anime characters, he whipped a long white cloth and tied it around his head.
Ryouta, without batting an eye, sat down and folded his hands. Murmuring a small prayer, he picked his chopsticks and started eating.
"So? How many Michelin stars do I get?"
"Oi. Stop mhmming and just tell me already."
"I will, but I want you to sit down and start eating too."
"Tch... Alright, alright!"
The two brothers ate slowly, enjoying the savoury curry.
"My my, I'm proud of this one. Now I know why you were just replying with 'Mhmm'. It's hard to describe this dish's taste in words... Mhmm!"
"Haha. Yep, you understood it finally. So, Ryu... How was your day?"
Ryuuji smiled and then began their usual dinner conversation. Ryuuji would describe his day with panache turning small events into grand ones while Ryouta would patiently listen to him, expressing his amusement with a slight smile on his face. Ryuuji had tried to engage Ryouta in the conversation before but it was a lost cause. All Ryouta would say, "My day... Well, I don't know. Nothing interesting happened."
Sometimes both the brothers would listen to some songs that Ryuuji would play on his phone while eating. For Ryouta, it was the most peaceful time of the day. He loved these special few moments with his brother.
Ryuuji's energy was contagious. His words would ease Ryouta's fatigue and kept it at bay. Even though the two brothers disagreed on many things, they were in fact very close, much more than they themselves were aware of.
"Ahh, that reminds me Ryo, Mr. Ichinose called me to his office today. He wants to have lunch with both of us. He invited us to his house — or should I say his mansion — this Sunday."
Daigo Ichinose was the principal of the school where the two brothers studied. A very close friend of their father, he had been their support when his father's side family had abandoned them. He was a man of values who took pride in upholding them. He believed in bonds between people, the ones which were formed over time not by blood or any other 'obligation,' as he called them.
He was the only person who supported their father's marriage while the entire community was against them. A true friend till the end, he took care of everything his friend left behind for Ryouta and Ryuuji. He helped the brothers manage their family's financials and took care of them for 6 months after their parents' death.
It was after 6 months that both the brothers approached him and told them about their decision to live independently. Daigo, after giving a lot of thought to the brothers' request, decided to go along with their decision. Though, somewhere in his mind, he had already decided to step in as their father figure to fill the void left by the death of their parents. It was hard for him to let go of them so early but he respected their strength and courage for trying to stand on their own feet.
Daigo also tried to send allowances to both of them as he had signed up as their legal guardian, but Ryouta had promptly returned the money saying he wouldn't ever be able to pay back this generosity. He understood his gesture and was thankful to the principal for his care but he refused the money quite firmly. After all, they had made the decision to leave his house so that they're not dependent on anyone.
Daigo was once again hurt by this but when he looked into Ryouta's eyes, he saw his resolve. It was the same look he had seen in his father's eyes when he decided to marry the woman of his dreams, even if that meant going against his family.
After that day, Daigo would invite the brothers for dinner or for lunch every few months.
Ryouta raised an eyebrow, "Didn't he call us just last month?"
"Hmm... Well he did say he had someone he wanted us to meet."
"Alright then, I'll inform the places where I work that I'll be taking the day off. You do the same too, Ryu. Knowing him, he'll probably have us stay over for the entire day."
"Gotcha. I'll cancel my date with Futaba."
"If you want, you can leave earl-"
"No no. Not at all. It's fine. She'll understand. Plus Mr. Ichinose has helped us so many times, it would be a little disrespectful for me to leave early."
Ryouta sighed, "Well, alright then."
"Enough talk, I need to savor this last bite of curry. Don't speak anything, alright?"
Ryuuji closed his eyes and raised his chopsticks as if it was the last bite of his life. He made a grand gesture and proceeded to slowly bring it towards his mouth.
Ryouta smirked and with lightning speed snatched the bite from his chopsticks. He smiled sadistically as he saw Ryuuji's bewildered expression seeing him gulp down the remnants of his last bite.
Ryuuji quietly kept his chopsticks back on his plate. He smiled politely and somehow managed to speak without letting his anger get the best of him.
"I'll be sure to return the favour sometime soon, big brother."
"I'll gladly wait for that day, kiddo."
Ryouta and Ryuuji stepped off from the bus. As the bus sped off leaving them in dust, they opened the metal doors which made cranky sounds as it made way for the two brothers.
Daigo Ichinose's house was nothing less than a palace. It had numerous beautiful gardens surrounding the mansion with huge trees and lovely fragrant flowers like Morning Glory, Iris, Bellflower, Lavender and so many more. Each garden seemed like a painting with a splash of various vibrant colours. The iridescent sight was lovely to watch as all the flowers and trees were arranged in a beautiful pattern.
Mr. Ichinose had always been fascinated by nature so it was no surprise to see such a complex yet brilliant display of nature's best in his home. The two brothers took in the grand sight and slowly made their way to the towering mansion. The huge double doors opened and a woman with formal black and white clothes of a butler welcomed them.
She was tall, fair with long natural blond hair, neatly tied into a bun. Her attire was perfect, without a speck of dust or dirt. Her face features seemed to be perfectly cut, like a diamond. Her angular chin, small eyes and nose, thin lips that hinted a polite smile every now and then, and her visible cheekbones all made her look as if she was carved to perfection.
"Welcome Master Ryouta and Master Ryuuji. It's a pleasure to have you over again."
Ryuuji replied, "Oh my, the pleasure is ours Miss Himawari! It's always wonderful to visit Mr. Ichinose's home. We have quite a few memories attached to this place."
The woman in butler clothes simply bowed and led the brothers inside to the dining hall.
After talking with Ryuuji for a bit, she turned to Ryouta.
"And how do you do, Master Ryouta?"
Ryouta, knowing it was futile lying to the observant woman, said, "I've been doing well. I don't feel that stressed nowadays. Ryuuji's being more responsible, which I guess is because of his new girlfriend."
"Oh my Master Ryuuji, quite the womanizer aren't you? I wonder how long will this relationship last."
"Wha- I'm not a womanizer! I can't help it if girls just keep falling for a cool person like me. Not to mention, my handsome face and my beautiful hair-"
"It's good to see you're the same as ever, Master Ryuuji."
"Huh? What do you mean? If I change, what will happen to my fanclub? I have to be thoughtful."
She chuckled politely while Ryouta sighed, much used to Ryuuji's acts now.
They arrived at the dining hall and Himawari opened the door for them. The dining hall was a huge place with three big chandeliers hanging on the ceiling. A long table was kept in the centre with many chairs arranged along the length of the table and two chairs opposite to each other, along the width of the table. The white walls with yellow outlines and flowery pattern were were decorated with different kinds of paintings. Some were of famous japanese scholars, artists and poets.
On one end of the table sat a man dressed in a neat white suit with a white hat. He held a cane in his left hand and had a toothy wide smile on his face. He had curly long hair down to his shoulders and deep black eyes that shined with a naughty enthusiasm and joy.
He tipped his hat and bowed.
"Welcome dear guests, welcome to Ichinose's humble abode."
Ryuuji smirked and said, "Your palace is as humble as your shiny dress."
"I know right! This dress is so perfect. Makes me look like a villain from a movie. You know the ones who pull the strings from behind."
The man's presence was so huge that it overshadowed the presence of the girl sitting next to him. It was when the two brothers came to sit down when they noticed the young lady politely smiling at their guests.
Ryuuji, without a moment's hesitation, teleported next to her and said in fake formal accent, "Oh my, Mr. Ichinose how rude! You didn't even introduce this lovely lady."
"That's my daughter, you schmuck."
In an instant, Ryuuji was back to his seat. The girl chuckled and laughed softly at the act. She had ginger hair that was tied in a French braid which reached down to her chest. She had soft sea-green eyes, lean figure and a glow about her that radiated elegance. She seemed to be a quiet and meek person but her straight posture and confidence indicated she was far from timid.
The host kept his cane by his side which Himawari took care of immediately. He introduced the two to her daughter.
"Ryouta and Ryuuji, meet Hinata, my dear 17 year old daughter who has returned to her loving father after 5 years of living in Europe with my beloved wife. Hinata, these two brothers are the sons of Takumi Ito, my late childhood friend."
After the brief introduction, Daigo started his long praising speech for the two brothers while Hinata listened attentively. While Daigo was talking about the brothers, both of them looked down, a bit embarrassed. The food was quickly brought to the table by the time Daigo finished his speech.
Hinata looked at the two of them with absolute wonder and admiration.
"Wow, I- I can't even imagine how it must have been like. I'm really honoured to sit and eat with you both."
Ryuuji waved it off saying, "The pleasure and honour are both ours actually. To sit and eat a grand feast like this in a huge palace beside two lovely hosts and one stinky brother."
Ryouta smacked his kid brother's head and said, "What Ryu said is true. It's definitely our honour to be invited by an esteemed figure such as your father."
Daigo interrupted, "Alright, alright! Enough with the formalities. Let's begin eating!"
As soon as the word was said, two maids standing nearby opened the cloche covered dishes to reveal a huge plethora of various dishes ranging from deep fried tempura served with a mellow orange sauce to a western dish made of chicken legs and breast pieces. There was a dish of almost every cuisine and all of them were presented in a royal manner.
"Hey Ryo..." Said Ryuuji, his mouth drooling a bit, "Can we shift back here? This food looks like it was prepared in the heavens."
"I... Uh... I want to say n-no... Bu-but this food..."
Daigo chuckled, "Stop looking and better start eating. It's specially cooked for you two growing boys."
With hungry wolf's eyes, the two brothers dug in.
The feast went on for a long time and after that Daigo, who had had wine along with food, was pitch drunk. He started blabbering about one of their father's stories and Himawari and Ryuuji had to drag him back to his room. At the same time, Hinata invited Ryouta to accompany her for a walk. Ryouta asked about her lifestyle in Europe while Hinata asked about his life in Japan.
The sun was beginning to dip over the horizon and left orange-pink streaks across the sky. Ryouta looked at the sky and remembered the day Shiomi had asked him to stay away from Haruto. At first, he had gotten completely the wrong idea and was quite taken aback by her words. He realised how far he had come from that time. How much he was growing. He still knew there were many things he was afraid of, there were many things he knew had to face but, now, he knew that he wouldn't have to face them alone. He was slowly blooming out of his lonely life. He was rediscovering bonds and making new ones.
He blinked when he was drawn back to the present by Hinata. She had skipped a few steps ahead and had turned around to face him.
"Ryouta... Do you remember when we first met 8 years ago?"
Ryouta blinked again as his eyes widened with surprise.
"8... Years... Ago!? I don’t-"
The girl's polite expression was now replaced by a sad lonely smile. The nostalgic scent of Arabian jasmine reached his nose and suddenly, old memories flashed through his mind.
She pulled back a loose strand of her behind her ear and said,
"You've changed a lot, Ryo-chan."