Chapter 30:

Ryouta's Guilt

Will The Stars Remember My Name?

Futaba's brain stopped working. She turned around slowly to see Ryuuji pull away and close his eyes. He kept his hand on his forehead and sighed. Bookmark here

"I'm really sorry Futaba, this wasn't supposed to work out this way. It's my fault."Bookmark here

"B- bu-..."Bookmark here

She tried to form words of what she was feeling at that moment but she just couldn't do it. She was shocked, confused and surprised. Bookmark here

Finally, she managed to say, "But why... Why me? How me?"Bookmark here

"I don't know! One day we're pretending to be lovers and then suddenly I wasn't pretending anymore. I just- I don't know! When I think about you with someone else, I just feel- feel so weird and angry. I feel like I'll lose your or something even though I perfectly know that I never had you in the first place. But it just hurts a lot when I think of you being with someone else. I'm sorry Futaba, I really am. I am frustrated at these unnecessary feelings too. I don't want them! I want us to be friends... But, I don't know..."Bookmark here

Futaba rubbed her temple and sat deep in thought as she tried to understand the situation and figure out a solution. Bookmark here

"Ryu... All I can say right now is... I don't know how we can solve this... This problem. I need some time to think about it. But I know this, we'll always be friends no matter who I fall in love with."Bookmark here

She smiled warmly at him and continued, "Right now, there's a lot of stuff going through my head. I didn't come over... Just because Hinata invited me. I mean she did but... I wanted to escape from someone. Someone in my... Family. I can't explain right now, I'm sorry. But I'm glad you told me the truth Ryu. I'm pretty sure we'll be able to work it out. Ok?"Bookmark here

Ryuuji smiled weakly and nodded. Just then they heard a knock on the door.Bookmark here

"Come in!" Said Ryuuji as Futaba got up to leave. Bookmark here

The maid Iori entered and said, "Your chamber is ready, Miss Sakamoto."Bookmark here

"Oh, thank you! Er..."Bookmark here

"Iori. Iori Fujiwara."Bookmark here

"Thanks Iori! And please call me Futaba."Bookmark here

She bowed politely.Bookmark here

"As you wish, miss Futaba."Bookmark here

Futaba turned around and smiled one last time at Ryuuji. Bookmark here

"Goodnight Ryu."Bookmark here

"Goodnight Futaba."Bookmark here

She left the room as Iori closed the door behind her and accompanied Futaba to her room. Futaba walked with a sad and lonesome expression on her face still unable to believe the turn of events. She wondered how she would be able to face Ryuuji the same way as before. Her plan to fulfill her wish had never been threatened this bad before. But she knew that she had to keep Ryuuji’s feelings in her mind too. Bookmark here

"Miss Futaba, I don't mean to interfere but I believe you're in a relationship with Master Ryuuji?"Bookmark here

Futaba chuckled nervously. Bookmark here

"I'm not sure what to say. We're... I don't know how I should put it. It's complicated."Bookmark here

"I understand. I apologise for stepping out of my bounds."Bookmark here

"Not at all, not at all! It's just that I have a lot of stuff going on right now and I'm a bit confused."Bookmark here

They reached her room and Iori showed her inside. Bookmark here

"I shall take my leave now. I hope you enjoy your night. Please tell us if there's anything we can do for you. You can contact us through the phone kept beside your bed. The number for calling the maids is written on a paper beside it. Goodnight Miss Futaba."Bookmark here

She was just about to leave when Futaba stopped her, "Iori! Wait!"Bookmark here

The maid with short black hair that was tied into two neat pigtails glanced up at her. Her round eyes were sea-green in color and her features were soft. She had soft thin cheeks and a short nose. Her lips were small and fat that suited her short face. She had small slender arms and was just a bit taller than Futaba. Bookmark here

"Uhm- thank you... For everything."Bookmark here

Iori was taken aback by her gratitude.Bookmark here

"But I didn't do-"Bookmark here

"Just- take it. I'm really thankful to you."Bookmark here

She bowed politely accepting her gratitude and a slight smile appeared on her face. She closed the door and smiled a bit more to herself. Just as she was about to walk away, she looked up to find the blond Himawari staring at her with emotionless eyes.Bookmark here

Her lips parted as she was surprised by her sudden appearance. She felt a tingle run down her spine, afraid that she had angered her boss. She gulped in fright as Himawari continued looking at her.Bookmark here

Then Himawari turned around and said in her cold voice, "Miss Fujiwara, let's take a walk."Bookmark here

It was an order, not a request.Bookmark here

Iori obeyed and walked beside her. They walked for some time as Himawari inspected the house for security. Bookmark here

"Miss Fujiwara, how long have you been working here?"Bookmark here

"Uhm- 3-4 years ma'am."Bookmark here

"3 years 4 months and 12 days," she corrected her.Bookmark here

Iori's fear and apprehension grew as she wanted to just jump away from Himawari. She was definitely angry for some reason which Iori could only suspect.Bookmark here

Himawari continued, "I've been with the Ichinose family ever since Mrs. Ichinose was married to Mr. Ichinose. I was trained to be the perfect maid from the beginning of my childhood since my family came from a long line of butlers and maids serving the Mistress' family for generations. All my time as a maid I've learnt many things but, there is one rule that is much more important than any other."Bookmark here

She turned towards Iori and looked at her with her dead eyes. Bookmark here

"Do you know what that rule is Miss Fujiwara?"Bookmark here

Iori made an effort to keep her hands from shaking and pulling her skirt in nervousness. She mentally restrained herself from fleeing away from her intense gaze. Somehow, she managed to shake her head. Bookmark here

"Let me enlighten you then. It'll be useful for you if you are in this line of work."Bookmark here

She leaned closer and softly said, "Never get involved in the personal affairs of the people you serve unless they wish you to do so."Bookmark here

She backed away and started walking again. Bookmark here

"I hope you know what I mean by that Miss Fujiwara. Have a good night."Bookmark here

With those stiff and bland words, Himawari went downstairs as Iori clutched herself, unable to stop her teeth from chattering. She knew Himawari was being utterly sarcastic with her last line. A good night? She would be lucky if she got any sleep that night. Iori somehow regained her composure and decided to follow Himawari's advice. She sighed to herself, a bit calmer now and left for the servant quarters. Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

Ryouta slowly added salt to the curry. He tasted it and added some more. The Ito house was much quieter than usual, perhaps because of the absence of a certain someone. Bookmark here

Nevertheless, Ryouta was enjoying the peace and quiet in the house. The sound of the curry boiling and it's spicy aroma were enough to stimulate him. He served the dish for himself and realised he had made it for two people instead. He sighed and put the rest of the curry and rice in the refrigerator. Bookmark here

"Itadakimaaaas!" Bookmark here

He picked up his chopsticks and started eating. Bookmark here

Ryouta was not a lively person and neither had been like that as a kid. Sure, he would be naughty and loud with his friends but he could never be the center of attraction. When they used to go to parties of friends of their father, Ryuuji, quiet and shy as he was as a kid, would steal the spotlight with his cute and gentlemanly mannerism while Ryouta would sit in the corner and sip his juice, hoping to find someone who he could make trouble with. Ryouta didn't exactly want to be in the spotlight but he still envied his little brother. Bookmark here

Kids often want things simply because someone else has them and not because they actually ever wanted or needed it. There is an irresistible urge within them to have everything you can, just to feel you're better or maybe at par with other people. It's not just kids, knowingly or unknowingly, many adults feel the same way but they ignore this childish feeling of theirs, for they know that one cannot have everything they desire. Bookmark here

Ryouta learnt to ignore that feeling at a very young age. He knew very well that he could not have everything he wanted and that sometimes he even had to fight for the things he wished for. His love for his younger brother was far more than his envy and he knew that even if he was put in the spotlight, he wouldn't ever be the same as Ryuuji. Bookmark here

So he would cope up by being different. By being daring, by having fun and by causing trouble. He had to be different from his younger brother and he would show that side of the world to him. Bookmark here

At least that was the excuse Ryouta gave himself when he was young.Bookmark here

As he realised how fickle and empty his excuse was, he chuckled to himself alone on the table. Bookmark here

"Who am I to show him any side of the world?" He said aloud, laughing off his childish behaviour.Bookmark here

But an excuse was better than the harsh truth.Bookmark here

Now that Ryouta knew it was just an excuse, he had to accept all his hurtful actions and behaviour as a kid were his fault. The actions that he did for some sort of an emotional relief to vent out the frustrations of life that he was slowly learning about and in turn wreaking havoc into the lives of other people were always his and his only. Nobody else could ever be responsible for them and no logical reason could explain his actions. They were purely selfish, insensitive and rude. And knowing that weighs a ton on one's shoulders. Bookmark here

He wondered if he was being like that again to Ryuuji. Maybe he was doing all this because he was angry that his little brother hit him in the public. Maybe he wanted him to suffer a bit under the pretense of punishment. Maybe he wanted him to feel sad, dejected and lonely. Bookmark here

Maybe he wanted him to feel the same way he felt when Ryuuji stood in the spotlight.Bookmark here

The chopsticks in his hand cracked under the intense pressure. Ryouta realised he had stopped eating a few minutes back. He massaged his head with his other hand to dump out the negative thoughts and tried to reassure himself that was not the case. He didn't take another serving and put the rest of his share in the refrigerator. Bookmark here

"I need to get busy," he thought to himself.Bookmark here

He cleaned up the table and went to his room to study.Bookmark here

———————Bookmark here

The next morning Ryuuji woke up to the sound of his shrill alarm. The yellow old-fashioned alarm clock vibrated loudly on the desk that was kept beside his bed. He brought his hand out from under the covers and felt for the round shape of the source of buzzing. Pressing the button on top, he stretched his arms and legs and slowly opened his eyes. The orange sun peeked out of the trees in the backyard through his window, ever so slightly illuminating the room with a bluish tint of nature. He opened the window next to his bed and let the fresh scent of the small garden fill up his room. It seemed like it had rained the night before.Bookmark here

"Haaaah..." Bookmark here

He took a deep breath in as he felt all his nerves tingling inside his body and a wonderful sensation spreading through his lungs. A perfect morning to wake up. Bookmark here

Ryouta climbed out of his bed quite energetic. He quickly washed his face and got dressed. Humming to himself, he called out to Ryuuji whose room was upstairs. Having completely forgotten he had kicked his brother out of his house, he prepared breakfast for both of them and served it on the dining table in their living room. He called out again for him only to be responded by silence. Confused, he started climbing up the stairs when it dawned upon him that his brother was not in the house. Bookmark here

Ryouta rarely cursed but this was one of those rare moments where the F word escaped out of his mouth inadvertently. Irritated, he ate his breakfast hastily and threw away Ryuuji's portion in the trash. He went in his room and checked the calendar to see if he had planned anything for that day. It was the first day of summer vacations after all. Bookmark here

Ryouta blinked in surprise when he saw what was written on his calendar. He picked up his phone and was about to call Ryuuji when he decided not to. He left a text message and then started packing a backpack. His irritable demeanour had taken a sudden turn and had brought him back to normal somehow after seeing the calendar. His usual calm self returned as he finished packing his bag. Bookmark here

After locking up his house, he walked quietly to the nearest inter-city bus stop. The air outside was quite pleasant and the sun was slowly rising upwards and turning into a brighter shade of yellow. The buzzing of the insects and the chirping of the birds truly made Ryouta feel that summer had finally come. Bookmark here

For other kids it might be a time to have fun and eat ice-creams all day but for him it was the best time to earn money. Like ants, the two brothers worked extra hard each summer to have enough savings for the rest of the year. This year, Ryouta was looking forward to what kind of job he would get. Bookmark here

With these thoughts, Ryouta climbed aboard one of the buses that went to a nearby town which was a couple miles away from the city they lived in. By afternoon, Ryouta had reached his destination. He asked the conductor to stop the bus near the outskirts of the city. The conductor was surprised, a reaction he had received every year he made the trip, and exclaimed, "But there's nothing here except a few small villages! You don't look like a kid from there."Bookmark here

Ryouta politely smiled and said nothing as the bus screeched to a stop. He got down and looked around. There were nothing but huge fields of rice overflowed with water. Bookmark here

In between two of those fields was a small way that led towards one of the villages. Ryouta looked up to see the sun had reached its highest point. He closed his eyes to protect them from the harsh and very bright light of the sun and slowly started walking towards the village. Soon, he arrived at the place he was looking for. Bookmark here

The building in front of him was not that tall but rather it spread all across the village. In fact, this particular village was famous for just this building. In huge silver letters, on the gray building, it was written,Bookmark here

"Dr. Shimura's Hospital for The Mentally Ill"Bookmark here

He went inside and greeted the middle-aged woman behind the counter. Immediately recognising him, she smiled back and called one of her associates. Bookmark here

"Hello? Yes. Yes, there's a visitor for Megumi."Bookmark here

She nodded and then kept down the phone.Bookmark here

"Mr. Ito, please have a seat! Have your summer vacations started?"Bookmark here

"Yeah... Actually, today's the first day of our vacations," he said, sitting on one of the comfortable and sleek black couches kept in the huge reception area.Bookmark here

"Wow! That's great. I hope you enjoy these wonderful days of youth. They don't last long, I'm telling you!"Bookmark here

Ryouta chuckled politely and smiled back at the happy and pleasant woman. He patiently waited for five minutes or so when the receptionist got a call. She indicated to Ryouta, telling him he's been allowed entry. He got up as she signalled him the room number of Megumi. Bookmark here

B5Bookmark here

Ryouta nodded to acknowledge her signal and pushed open the door that led to a small hallway. He scanned through the rooms and finally reached B5. Bookmark here

He knocked on the door and heard someone say, "Come in!"Bookmark here

He pushed open the door to enter into the dark and dingy room. There were black walls all around without a single window except one on top. The small source of light illuminated a person sitting on a chair, gazing at the window for absolutely no reason. There was a female doctor sitting beside her who smiled at Ryouta. She called out to the person, "Megumi, look who's here to visit you!"Bookmark here

She slowly turned around, her eyes darting in all directions as they finally came to rest upon her nephew. She raised her trembling finger towards Ryouta and in a raspy voice snapped at him,Bookmark here

"Murderer!"Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.