Chapter 27:

Ryuuji's Feelings

Will The Stars Remember My Name?

CrunchBookmark here

The sound of cookies being crunched echoed through the huge hall as two pairs of eyes stared at the bruised boy. He had bandages on his face and small cuts on his arms. His eyes focused on the chocolate chip cookies as he munched on them. He proceeded to take another one from the tray in front when he was suddenly interrupted by a stern voice.Bookmark here

"So?"Bookmark here

Ryuuji’s hand stopped mid-air and with stiff robotic movements he turned his head towards the tall older girl donning a classic maid uniform. Her long natural blond hair was tied into a low pony. Her brown emotionless eyes seemed to glare at him with anger as she stared down at him.Bookmark here

"Y- yes?"Bookmark here

"Master Ryuuji, I'm impressed."Bookmark here

"Huh? Oh! Well yeah, I know I'm pretty awesome. Can't blame you for-"Bookmark here

"I'm impressed you managed to anger your extraordinarily patient brother to that extent where he had to kick you out of your own house."Bookmark here

The momentary proud glint on Ryuuji's face was replaced by a sheepish look, like that of a child who had broken his mother’s glass vase.Bookmark here

"Well, I- uh-"Bookmark here

"Oh but that's not all. You actually hit your elder brother."Bookmark here

"Eeks! I-"Bookmark here

"Ah! But there's more, right?. It was your fault, and he even forgave you for the first hit as long as you apologised. Yet, overcome by some alpha-male instincts to prove who is stronger, you hit him again."Bookmark here

"I-"Bookmark here

"And you lost."Bookmark here

"Oi! I didn't lose!"Bookmark here

Himawari stared at him with her dead eyes to show she was far from amused by his act at that moment. He felt shivers run down his spine as he tried to drop the act.Bookmark here

He whimpered like a beaten dog and muttered under his breath, "I may have gotten an extra kick or punch."Bookmark here

"Which brings me back to my question. So? What're you doing here when you should be groveling outside your home begging your brother to let you back in?"Bookmark here

Ryuuji sighed, "No. I won't do that. I know it's my fault for losing my cool and bursting out like that, but the last thing that Ryouta would want me to do is beg for his forgiveness. He probably kicked me out because he knew I had things to resolve with myself. I will go back only after I have figured what pricked me exactly."Bookmark here

Hinata chuckled, finally breaking her silence, "Ahaha! Oh my, oh my! That might be the first time I've heard anything sensible from your mouth since I returned."Bookmark here

Ryuuji frowned at her and gave an equally sharp reply, "And I'm still waiting to hear anything genuine from you ever since we met."Bookmark here

Hinata sneered and was about to retort back when she suddenly felt a dark aura emit from Himawari that clearly conveyed the message, "Shut your childish nonsense before I burn you both alive."Bookmark here

Hinata shrunk back to her seat while Himawari took away the cookies kept in front of Ryuuji. He tried to snag one last cookie only to unsuccessfully lose his balance and fall face first on the floor as she snatched the tray away. Bookmark here

She looked at him one last time and said, "Master Ryuuji, you're more than welcome to stay till you figure out why you got angry but please do remember this, whatever happens between you two brothers we can't ever interfere and you must resolve this by yourself. You've depended on your brother for a long time now and now that you've fought with him, this would be a great opportunity to think about your independence. I hope you know what kind of independence I'm talking about."Bookmark here

Hinata looked a bit confused as she saw the both staring at each other as if they had reached some sort of understanding. Dependence? Ryuuji could cook, work and study all by himself. In fact, both the brothers were equally reliable and they never hesitated to take responsibilities even if it was not expected of them at their age. Hinata couldn't understand what Himawari had seen through Ryuuji. Bookmark here

Ryuuji nodded grimly as Himawari turned around and walked away smartly. Bookmark here

"So... Ryu," said Hinata as she slowly extended herself on the couch and faced him sideways, "Tell me what happened 5 years ago after I left without telling anyone?" Bookmark here

"Huh... Well it was as expected. Me and Ryouta were shocked by your betrayal and had to face the storm alone. I tried to tell them that you were there too when it had happened but Ryouta stopped me. I couldn't understand why at the time, but I did what he asked me to. Oh, and all your "friends," they tried to visit your home and ask where you were but Himawari didn't recognise any of them and never even let them in through the outer gate. Obviously, after a month or so, everyone forgot you."Bookmark here

"Ahaha! Well yeah, that’s what I had expected to be honest. Though I still miss those times when we had so much fun."Bookmark here

Ryuuji snickered at her, "Fun? You really call that fun!? No it wasn't fun dear Hina-chan, it was just you letting loose and going wild without giving a fuck about what happened to others. How many times did you use us? How many times did we cover up your mistakes? How many times did you use your innocent act to get away? But that stupid Ryo, all he cared about was just rebelling. It didn't matter to him if he was hurt in the process. Huh. Now that I think about it, you two were so similar. Me, on the other hand, I just tagged along as the good boy, who you didn't listen to and just used me to bond with each other. I was merely the guy who you both had to defy and find common ground that way."Bookmark here

Hinata grinned, "Now, now, don't be so angry dear Ryuuji. But yeah, that Ryouta was theeeeee best person. The only person who I could relate to. And now look at him, all goody-two-shoes and pretending to be a good samaritan. What the hell happened to him?"Bookmark here

Ryuuji looked down and kept his silence. He knew the answer to her question very well but he didn’t want to say it out loud, nor did he even want to think about it. He quietly got up and took his bag as Hinata stared at him hoping he would give some response. But, without even glancing at her, he left the hall and went to his room. He crossed Daigo's room and sighed, looking at the locked door. He wished he was here with them. Apparently, he was out of town for some business. He tossed his bag aside and fell on his bed, tired and lazy. It had been a long day for him. He decided to get some shut eye before dinner and fell asleep.Bookmark here

Hinata lay deep in thought on her couch. There were so many unanswered questions in her mind. She sighed and took out her phone. She idled on it for some time when an idea struck her. She got up immediately and called someone. With an evil grin on her face, she said to herself, "Time to spice things up!"Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

Ryuuji dreamt he was standing on a cliffside. He scanned his surroundings in hopes of finding another person but there was nobody with him.Bookmark here

He called out, "Is anybody there!?"Bookmark here

His lonely voice echoed throughout the landscape. He walked to the edge of the cliff and peered down. A black, murky ocean splashed against the rocky cliff. A familiar fear returned as Ryuuji's legs began to tremble. As a kid he had been terrified of high places and would cry loudly when his brother forcefully took him near them to have fun. Eventually, he had stopped going near them and the fear had just settled at the back of his mind. Standing near the edge, he felt a cold harsh wind slap across his face as his fear resurfaced from the depths of his mind. He held himself, shivering, trying to find strength to move his legs but to no avail. He called weakly once more, Bookmark here

"Is anybody there?"Bookmark here

"Ryu?"Bookmark here

He turned around to see Futaba standing behind him. Her hair was flying because of the strong wind as she tried to fix it. Ryuuji suddenly found strength to move. He reached out for her but just as he was about to grab her hand, he slipped and fell back into black water. He screamed as his body hit the sea. Bookmark here

He waited for the pain but it never came. Everything became black as he felt he was slowly sinking into darkness. He felt a familiar hand hold his hand and pull him out. The darkness retracted as Ryouta pulled him towards himself. They broke to the surface and gasped for air. The water wasn't dark anymore. They swam back to the shore and lay on the beach that had appeared in the place of the cliff.Bookmark here

Ryuuji tried to apologise, "Ryouta I'm sor-"Bookmark here

His eyes widened with shock as he saw Ryouta slit his neck with a knife. Blood poured from the wound, staining his white shirt. Ryouta looked at him with a kind soft gaze and whispered, "It's all my fault."Bookmark here

Ryuuji woke up sweating furiously as he gasped for breath. He wiped his forehead and looked at the clock. Half past eight. It was almost time for dinner. He got up and looked at himself in the mirror. He looked terrible. He touched his bandages, slowly running his finger across his wounds. It stung a bit but Ryuuji didn't make much of it. It didn't sting harder than what he had seen in his dream. Bookmark here

He decided to take a bath before dinner and took out a fresh pair of clothes and went inside the private bathroom in his room. He turned on the shower as hot water trickled down his body, soothing the pain out of his cold bones.Bookmark here

He stared at the beautiful decorated peach wall. He replayed the fight in his head and tried to figure why exactly did he do that. His mood was off since the recess when he saw Ryouta and Futaba together. Bookmark here

"Why," he asked himself, "Why was I pissed off at that? Isn't it all going according to the plan? Isn't Ryouta finally making friends? And isn't Futaba's wish coming true too? Then why did it bug me so much?"Bookmark here

He swept his hair back and sat on the floor and looked at the shower above him. He closed his eyes as water droplets hit his eyelids and flowed down his cheeks. Bookmark here

“Wasn't that the entire point of our fake relationship?" Bookmark here

Fake. For some reason, that word hurt him. He remembered talking with Futaba on the rooftop as they shook hands to confirm the deal. He remembered the smile on her face when she told him about her wish. Till the both of them got what they wanted, they would pretend to be a couple. That was the deal the two young adolescents had struck on the cold day at the rooftop. He knew exactly what bugged him now. While pretending to be lovers, Ryuuji had unknowingly fallen for Futaba, a grave mistake he knew he did not have to make no matter what happened. Yet, here he was, crushing on her. During recess, when he had seen them together, he was frustrated. He wasn't frustrated because he thought Ryouta was stealing Futaba but rather that he wanted to stop them from coming together. He was irritated at himself for having the childish desire to come in between and not "share" Futaba. Bookmark here

Ryuuji hung his head, desperate to get rid of these unnecessary feelings he had for her. He clutched his hand and tried to think how he could do that. Bookmark here

"Ryu, remember this carefully. Whenever you think you're stuck somewhere and can't move ahead, just be honest about it and reach out. Someone will always be there to take your hand. And if there is nobody, at least I will be there for you my sweet boy~" he remembered his mother telling him when he was a kid. Tears escaped out of his eyes as he felt the old forgotten pain return and the heavy absence of his parents settle on his heart.Bookmark here

He cried out in a small voice, "Mom, there's nobody here right now, so why aren't you here!?"Bookmark here

He let loose after a long time and wept quietly in the shower. He was overwhelmed by all these feelings and how they jumbled up his heart. He missed his parents, he liked Futaba, he wanted his brother to be free from the burden he had taken from himself, he wanted to be himself, he wanted to be free. Different emotions, both happy and miserable, had built up inside him and he let them go through his tears. Bookmark here

After some time, he came out of the shower and dried himself. He wore fresh clothes and looked at himself in front of the mirror. He pinched his cheeks and stretched them into a smile. Out loud, he said to himself, "Ryuuji Ito, you stupid asshole, I have taken a decision on your behalf. After the summer break ends, when you meet Futaba, I will make you tell her about your feelings and together both of us will sort this out. If there are no hands reaching out, I shall grab one and hold it!"Bookmark here

He kept his hands on his waist like a king and pouted at his reflection. Just then, there was a knock on his door.Bookmark here

Returning to a normal stance, Ryuuji said, "Come in!"Bookmark here

One of the housemaids quietly opened the door and said in a low voice, "Master Ryuuji, dinner is ready."Bookmark here

"Thanks a lot err… Miss Iori, right?"Bookmark here

The housemaid nodded and left as quickly as she had come. Bookmark here

Ryuuji combed his hair and realised they had grown a lot since he had stopped trimming them. He wondered if he should start tying them or should get them cut, they were becoming a bit difficult to manage. Happy in his thoughts, wondering how he would look with a pony or a bun he walked down the stairs and entered the dining room.Bookmark here

"Hey hey Hinata! What's there for din-" he paused abruptly when he saw the guest Hinata had invited.Bookmark here

Hinata tried to hide her mischievous laugh as she replied in a fake concerned tone, "I was worried about you Ryuuji so I invited her over. I hope you don't mind, do you?"Bookmark here

Ryuuji cursed Hinata in her head as he stared back at the girl sitting in front of her.Bookmark here

He sighed to himself and said, Bookmark here

"Looks like I don't need to wait for the entire summer break to end."Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.