Chapter 18:

Forgotten Memories

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. Bookmark here

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? Bookmark here

Croissant! Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

"I'm home!"Bookmark here

Ryouta removed his shoes at the entrance and stepped inside with his socks on. Bookmark here

"Just a moment, Ryo! I'm almost done here."Bookmark here

"Take your time. I'll lay the table till then."Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"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!"Bookmark here

Imitating one of his favourite anime characters, he whipped a long white cloth and tied it around his head.Bookmark here

"Dig in!"Bookmark here

Ryouta, without batting an eye, sat down and folded his hands. Murmuring a small prayer, he picked his chopsticks and started eating. Bookmark here

"Mhmm."Bookmark here

"So? How many Michelin stars do I get?"Bookmark here

"Mhmm."Bookmark here

"..."Bookmark here

"Mhmm."Bookmark here

"Oi. Stop mhmming and just tell me already."Bookmark here

"I will, but I want you to sit down and start eating too."Bookmark here

"Tch... Alright, alright!" Bookmark here

The two brothers ate slowly, enjoying the savoury curry.Bookmark here

"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!"Bookmark here

"Haha. Yep, you understood it finally. So, Ryu... How was your day?"Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

After that day, Daigo would invite the brothers for dinner or for lunch every few months. Bookmark here

Ryouta raised an eyebrow, "Didn't he call us just last month?"Bookmark here

"Hmm... Well he did say he had someone he wanted us to meet."Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

"Gotcha. I'll cancel my date with Futaba."Bookmark here

Ryouta frowned.Bookmark here

"If you want, you can leave earl-"Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

Ryouta sighed, "Well, alright then."Bookmark here

"Enough talk, I need to savor this last bite of curry. Don't speak anything, alright?"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"I'll be sure to return the favour sometime soon, big brother."Bookmark here

"I'll gladly wait for that day, kiddo."Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

"Welcome Master Ryouta and Master Ryuuji. It's a pleasure to have you over again."Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

The woman in butler clothes simply bowed and led the brothers inside to the dining hall. Bookmark here

After talking with Ryuuji for a bit, she turned to Ryouta.Bookmark here

"And how do you do, Master Ryouta?"Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

"Oh my Master Ryuuji, quite the womanizer aren't you? I wonder how long will this relationship last."Bookmark here

"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-"Bookmark here

"It's good to see you're the same as ever, Master Ryuuji."Bookmark here

"Huh? What do you mean? If I change, what will happen to my fanclub? I have to be thoughtful."Bookmark here

She chuckled politely while Ryouta sighed, much used to Ryuuji's acts now.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

He tipped his hat and bowed.Bookmark here

"Welcome dear guests, welcome to Ichinose's humble abode."Bookmark here

Ryuuji smirked and said, "Your palace is as humble as your shiny dress."Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

"That's my daughter, you schmuck."Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

The host kept his cane by his side which Himawari took care of immediately. He introduced the two to her daughter. Bookmark here

"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."Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Hinata looked at the two of them with absolute wonder and admiration. Bookmark here

"Wow, I- I can't even imagine how it must have been like. I'm really honoured to sit and eat with you both."Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

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."Bookmark here

Daigo interrupted, "Alright, alright! Enough with the formalities. Let's begin eating!"Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

"Hey Ryo..." Said Ryuuji, his mouth drooling a bit, "Can we shift back here? This food looks like it was prepared in the heavens."Bookmark here

"I... Uh... I want to say n-no... Bu-but this food..."Bookmark here

Daigo chuckled, "Stop looking and better start eating. It's specially cooked for you two growing boys." Bookmark here

With hungry wolf's eyes, the two brothers dug in.Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

"Ryouta... Do you remember when we first met 8 years ago?"Bookmark here

Ryouta blinked again as his eyes widened with surprise. Bookmark here

"8... Years... Ago!? I don’t-"Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

"Hi-Hina-chan…?"Bookmark here

She pulled back a loose strand of her behind her ear and said,Bookmark here

"You've changed a lot, Ryo-chan."Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.