Rainbow of the Horizon—Illuminating Our Darkened Path | Our World
"Yuna and I are getting married next month…"
Is what Hiroomi Katsuto said.
I have to give him credit for getting the rarely unfazed got fazed. Talk about having people who can change the color of their eye, heal their bones in an extremely minimal time, stop their respiratory and circulatory system and still be alive, run in speeds more than half of Mach 1, jump an incredible height, discover that people are living underground for seventy years, discover that there is a room that can accelerate time and gravity, found out that shinobi still exist in this time, and found out that the other pair of my favorite socks were under my bed all this time.
Did I miss something?
Needless to say, those things that I just mentioned are somewhat unbelievable… excluding the socks. But they all exist in this world but those did not even make me spit out my heart.
Then I suddenly hear that the sister of my girlfriend who is freeloading in my house is getting married to one of the people I trust the most and made me faint literally.
The workers at the cafe apparently panicked, but Hiro said to them that it was "normal." At least don't include Rin.
Well, we got a little mad after we woke up. Rin, I guess is marginally madder than me.
"Oi… When did you even propose?"
"Ahaha… It happened at the 7th."
I hammered my head on the table and groaned, "Uuuuuurrrrrrggggghhhhhhh…
I could've have got the hint from the very beginning!"
"So that's why that sister of mine is in a cloud nine until today?!" she slammed while she moderately scolded her future brother-in-law. "Is this also the reason why Sis is quitting her job?"
"So you both knew that already… but yeah."
"I see. That makes sense if she'll be moving out of my house by next month or March. Wait, so that's why she was having the housewife vibe on her!"
"Uhh… That happened?" Hiro obliviously inquired.
"Because of you…!" I didn't realize that we were already scolding him. "It has been a week since Sis did things that she wouldn't even bother doing because she slack off in the kotatsu most of time. I'm rather scared, you know!"
"Ah, snap. I really should check on her more."
"Heh. You just want her to make lunch for you."
"I bet you're jealous that she makes lunch and dinner for us, but not for you, Hiroomi."
We leaned back and initiated the insult as we stared disgustingly at him.
"I'm not that immature!"
He was occupied from being worked up that he didn't notice that I emptied my cup and the rest of his cappuccino. The bills have been paid in advance and so I blatantly grabbed the back of his collar and dragged him out of the cafe.
Walking with the two, I made a quick call, "Hello, Jean? Can you come work in behalf of Hiro for the rest of the day? That's good. Tell the guys that the sous chef will take responsibility as to why the head chef is skipping work. Yes. Thanks.
Now we don't have any problems. Isn't that right, Hiro?"
"Aaah… Waaaah-! This is abduction…!"
~ ~ ~
"Sis~ We're back!"
"Oh? I didn't think you'd come back this quickly. It's still early for dinner."
"Nah. That's okay. Besides, I brought a souvenir from my excursion with Rin."
"Wha- You rarely brings souvenirs. What's the occasion, lil bro?"
Still on my grip, I raised Hiro.
"Uhh… Hi there, Yu."
"Well then, you two have some explaining to do, isn't that right?"
The soon to be married couple was suddenly pulled to an unexpected situation in front of the enraged little sister of the bride, and the subordinate of the groom.
Uncle Shuu~ you'll never hear me say this again, but would you like to have a drink?" I whispered although pointless as it is.
That's what she said.
"Heyoooo! Musuko, I heard your once in a lifetime call!" Shuu Akanami crashes in.
"How in the world did he hear that?!" they all thought.
"Here's your drink, Uncle Shuu~"
"Eh. Tea?! That's low, musuko!
Wait, this is actually good.
Oh, so you're here, Hiroomi! So musuko dragged you here, huh?"
Hiro suddenly complained, "Why is Gin getting called 'son' but I'm not?!"
"Huuuhhh? What, you got a problem with that, punk?"
"And Uncle Shuu, you're aware that I've been working at Giotto's for more than a year. You could've told me!"
"Ahahahaha…! Sorry about that, musuko."
"But on the other note, it might have been better if he was with us when we came to the plateau, you know."
"Oh. That's actually a good idea."
"You just realized that, Uncle…?"
"Let's just do that next time! Maybe we can also bring your brother for a chug!"
A loud(er) whack sounded throughout my house.
We men were slapped with the very same paper fan I folded back in the restaurant. I was not surprised as to how it made its way on Rin's hands. The three of us anyways are in agreement that women are scary so we kept quiet and came back to the topic.
Uncle then spoke.
"Well, if I have to say… Hiroomi asked Sumi and I if it is finally okay to give our daughter a ring months ago. We gave him the thumbs up with enough reason."
"Ahh… So it makes sense why you and Auntie weren’t very surprised about the existence of Exiles."
"At least, musuko, we didn't really know much aside from Hiroomi being one."
"It was still a hard time because Gin's concept of masks didn't cross our minds. I had to be very careful not to be noticed when I meet with Yu."
"While we're in the topic, how in the flying apples did you meet my sister, anyway?"
"Ohh… where should I start, I wonder. Yu?"
"Let's all have dinner first!"
To say the least, it was lesser the weirdness because of the presence of Hiro. Just look… we are eating dinner in my house. Uncle Shuu and Aunt Sumi are here, so is Rin and Sis. Pretty much, the whole Akanami family is having dinner here.
Things then get weird, having felt that I ironically feel out of place in my own house. Basically, it was as if I was the outsider. Hiro, in a sense, will be part of their family while I'm someone like from the outer party who shouldn't be here… perhaps.
Well, there's also a situation where I will be in. But pessimism being disregarded… a lot of things can still happen.
But that aside, the couple gave the narrative of how it all came down to the present.
▪ ▪ ▪
Past: Fourth quarter of 2013.
At this time, I was in my fourth year in college. Being in the second semester means that I was already undergoing my OJT. Where I did my training was the same company I am currently working at.
I was not very diligent in college, and so I sometimes think that the course I chose was a pain. At first, doing work in my early weeks was stressful since I was not yet used to how the society actually works.
So I was once in a situation when I was running like a headless chicken.
I had found an escape to my stress, however. Years like this before 2019, cafes were actually quieter and solemn. Those places were more enjoyable, since it wasn't much of a fad yet. It was a nice place.
Bulbs of yellowish lights hung on fiber lamp-like cylindrical meshes on the ceiling. The walls were painted beige and artworks were hung on it. They were mostly abstract, but were apparently made by some customers. The surface of the varnished mahogany tables were seen through the pane of glass, to avoid getting white marks on it. And most of all, you can smell the aroma of the coffee being brewed whichever corner of the place you sat on.
There was an intangible, but special feeling or vibe upon entering the building. It was like a treasure or an oasis in the middle of the unpleasantness of the outside. There was a certain peace and serenity once you take a seat.
It was undeniably a place of comfort while the air conditioners tirelessly cool us down. In the November and December of this year, winter wasn't a thing yet. So the tropical country still had its own character.
It was just one of those days. I looked like I am actually a fully-fledged worker in the society with the amount of stress that I got even in an OJT. That company lacked employees at that time and so I and my other college acquaintances were asked to do what we weren't supposed to originally do.
Thus, I am once again found inside the cafe.
This one-of-those-days day is what you'd expect from an ordinary weekday. Except, I am a little frustrated with how the day went in the company. But at least, the workday ended.
Contrary to what the usual afternoon that you might imagine, the surroundings are just being tinted with blue that darkens while the sun goes down. It was not a gloomy thought, however.
With whatever frustrations and stress that I bring with myself outside, it all vanishes whenever I enter this place. And so, I ordered the usual drink I get and sat without anything that could distract me. This is 2013, so few people were just beginning to be spent in social media.
I was having my own peace of mind when my table suddenly shook a bit from the slamming head of someone.
I was in panic, but I stayed quiet. I got a look from the person who looked very exhausted. It was Hiro, who I still didn't know at that time.
But then, he finally raised his head and jolted from surprise, "S-Sorry…! I'll go to another table!"
"Ah, n-no! It's okay! You might pass out if you try to force yourself to stand."
He stayed silent and sat obediently.
"A-Are you new here…? This is the first time I see you here."
"Ahh… I just got out of work."
"Work? You look like you're around my age. Are you also in OJT?"
"OJT…? What's that- Ack!"
He continued, "No… not that kind. I'm actually about to start a restaurant business around here. You might have seen an ad that a restaurant named Giotto's is going to open soon."
"Giotto's? Never heard of it."
Anyway, I am the head chef of that restaurant. I am Hiroomi Katsuto, 20."
"H-Head chef?! At your age?!
Ah- I'm Yuna Akanami, 19."
"I guess it's hard to believe, huh. But it's the truth. This is just one step forward… so that I can prove that I have something with worth, for the sake of others.
Ah… sorry. I feel like I said some embarrassing things. Haha."
"N-No. I think that's quite amazing, actually. But are you still a graduating student?"
"I am not. Actually, I didn't even enter college. So that makes it hard to open a business. Thankfully, my partner handles the statistics and accounting.
But then again, they think that I'm inexperienced so it's hard to hire people.
How about you, though?"
"I am currently a graduating student. I take Accountancy as my course. I'm doing my OJT right now, but I'm actually from Sector 392."
"Oh. Even if it's just beside 527, I guess the commute is still quite difficult?"
But… should you be taking your order now? You look really tired."
"Ahh… good caffeine…
Wait, Ms. Akanami. Are you a regular here?"
"I am. How come you know?"
"Hmm. I guess it's a chef's instinct. I've been observing many restaurants before opening mine, so I study several behaviors of what is it to be a regular customer."
"That's so cool. Well, if I have time, I might drop by if your restaurant opens. It'll be nice to relieve myself from the stress that I shouldn't be thinking about."
"Ahaha. So you're also in that tiring situation. If you'll go to my resto, then I'll be confident that I'll serve you something stress-relieving."
"I'll expect something, then."
▪ ▪ ▪
"Pfft… You didn't know what was an OJT, Hiro…? That's hilarious…"
"Oh, shut up, Gin."
"Ehh… That's also quite the normal way of meeting," Rin kind of complained.
"Lil sis, like yours was any different with Gin."
"Pfft…" I burst out in laughter again. "Hey, hey, Hiro. So we both called them Ms. Akanami… What was that?! Hahahaha…!"
"Goodness, you're right…
But aren't you enjoying this too much, Gin?"
"Alright, alright. I'll behave."
Rin was still feeling disturbed, and asked more in accordance to the story.
"How did you and Hiroomi get together anyway?
And I deserve to ask all of this. I was kept in the dark by everyone!"
"Hahh… Alright. Let's go back to another flashback."
▪ ▪ ▪
Past: 2014 recently came.
Somehow, we developed some kind of friendship. Even though I didn't live in Sector 527, I still got some time after OJT. Coincidentally, Giotto's closes nearly the same time as the company and we always meet each other in the cafe.
Although that's not the only time we meet since I usually went to Giotto's to eat. Contrary to Hiro's doubts, the restaurant became populous. As for the reason, it's the same as the present—you get to eat quality dishes and still save money. Giotto's then initially got the title 'Fastfood Killer' as neighboring chains' rates went down.
In those times, certain closeness developed. Even though we usually talk about mostly pointless things, Hiro was able to open up and seemed to enjoy those times more than ever.
And there came a point when we realized that we have feelings for each other.
Yada, yada, yada… finally the start of the drama came. It was in January.
"Yu… you've realized it already, right…?"
"And did you too?"
If ever… I don't think we'll work out."
I was of course hurt with his words. I've known of his feelings for a decent amount of time and so did he know of mine too. I felt that we just can't find the right time to speak, so we waited for each other to open up.
But it came… just in the way that I did not expect. I still didn't know at this time that he is an Exile.
"Why…? Why do you say that we can't work out?!"
"As much as I wish I had… I wanted to live an ordinary life. I am very happy that you see me the way you do now, and I hate to say that I may very well hurt you if we continue this.
I don't want to trouble you with my sufferings… and I might put you in danger if we're together. I don't want to lose someone I care about… so it's for the better if we just-"
I slapped him; a painful one at that.
"Don't you realize it, Hiro?! Even before you lose someone you care for if they're in danger… you're saying that you're about to lose me NOW…! Do you want it, Hiro?! Do you really want me to distance myself to you because you don't want me to get hurt?! I don't want it…!"
"But… But you will seriously get hurt if you're with me…"
"How many times…?! How many times do I have to tell you that I love you?! What is wrong?! What's wrong if you're suffering…?! What's wrong if you're not normal… or heck if you're something like an Exile?! Don't you get it, Hiro?! Am I the only one thinking that our relationship is more than just friendship?! If we feel the same, you can tell me your sufferings because I will listen to you!
Hiro, we… you are not the only one living in this world. You have friends… and there's Sean that understands you most… don't set aside others because of your pain."
"Then tell me this, Hiro…
If ever I go now and think of you as a stranger… will you not be hurt? You're saying that you don't want me to get hurt… but how about you?! You're hurt as it is! Do you want more pain to come to you?! Just when I see that you're beginning to cheer up more…
Hiro, please… stop hurting yourself any more than this…"
He went down to his knees while he tightly grasped on my hands. Not later than that, he bawled and shrieked down to his throat.
I have seen my parents’ pain… perhaps from my younger sister getting near at risk when she was five. But Hiro… he let out the pain that welled up inside him.
Thankfully, he calmed down and we had a chance to properly talk.
"Yu… do you really know… that I am an Exile?"
"A-Are you really one of them…?"
He nodded, "We really do exist… Even Sean is one of us. In our case… we've known each other since we were children—that is, we were nameless slaves that were toyed around and tortured. But we were saved nine years ago and became Exiles.
That was my suffering that still haunted me up to this day… I'm living a difficult life to prove that we are not worthless while I'm still in fear of people.
To be honest, I didn't even think of sharing my story to others, just like you said. That's simply because I didn't know I can. I don't understand others so I don't know that it can be possible. From those nine years, I did not experience interacting with people that are not Exiles. So I don't really understand how it is to be a human.
Even falling in love was new to me… I didn't get this feeling. But I realized that it was a very pleasant thing. I was happy with you and I even forget my problems because you're here. I said all those because I was simply scared.
For that, I'm sorry, Yu. I will try to understand you and others from now on… and if it is still okay with you…"
"I want to take back what I said earlier.
So Yu… are you really okay with me?"
I said that I don't care if you're an Exile or something. Hiro, I meant it, you know."
"If you're going to ask me out, then now is the time!"
At first, he doubted his own decision in his silence and thought, "Is this really fine?" But he set aside the negativity and finally spoke.
"Yuna… will you be my… lover?"
▪ ▪ ▪
"Woah… So you two had a fair share of drama in the past.
But well… that was like out of soap opera."
I have to admit, I was once again astonished, but I did not faint this time.
"Don't think that all the pain in the world crashed on you two, lil sis, Gin. But looking back, you had it harder."
"Well, sorry that I almost died a few times, Sis."
"That's why I dropped by here when you were still in isolation, Gin. You and Ringo reminded me of that time and I figured that Yu was lonely."
"Wait, Rin. Did you actually figure out that I liked you before?"
"It's just you, Potato. I did not and I don't have a brain as sharp as yours."
As though we were judges, we were satisfied with the statement and reasoning of our one sided argument. Somehow, we have settled down to the situation and decided to further the resolution.
So I asked the disregarded question.
"It's been a bit overdue, so I'll go ask before we get distracted again.
Hiro, what is it that you request from us?"
"That… Thanks for finally bringing that up, Gin."
It was apparent that it was something serious. Hiro and Sis had to stare in agreement and nodded.
"Gin, Ringo… Please be our right hand."
Okay, this is good. I've been genuinely surprised for three times in this day now.
"Eh? Wait, sis?! Aren't I a bit too early for that?"
"We're serious about this. We've been busy with the organization too, you know."
Then Sis followed up with an explanation.
"Aside from that, we've decided how our wedding will be anyway. Even in my family's side, we intend to only invite veeery close relatives. Besides, I have no contact with my friends in high school and college and I don't really have close colleagues from work.
That's that and there's this—Gin, your people will also be invited, of course."
I was somehow in awe upon hearing those. The thought suddenly immersed me in an imagination… where it was a wedding ceremony of an Exile and a human, without their masks.
"I see… I get the gist of it now.
Hiro… so Tenth will act as your father, then?"
"You're right about that, Gin."
"But one thing I'm confused… Why isn't Sean the best man?"
"He refused. He insist that the one that is suitable is that someone who knows not only the groom, but the bride as well. And you fit the description."
"And why me, Sis?"
"Lil sis… You're really asking that?
You're my sister, of course."
Rin felt for a moment that as though she was paralyzed. She knew to herself that her elder sister does not show much of her sincerity even if she wanted to. But she felt it, and was taken aback.
I thought that she was tearing up, and so I placed my hand on her head, and said, "Good for you, then."
And I continued, "I kind of expected that from Sean, knowing him. He always had that sense of courtesy. But I'll be sure to support you two. Isn't that right, Rin?"
"Yep. I'll do my best too."
"You guys…" Sis paused for a moment. "Seriously, thank you."
"But I have to warn you, Sis. By the time your wedding will come, my hair will be black so this will be shorter.
And I might stand out more than the groom if had my silver hair anyway."
"Just wait a second, musuko," Uncle Shuu sternly spoke. "Does this mean that Hiroomi will be your brother-in-law-in-law?"
For at least a split second, I had no idea what this cheerful uncle was talking about. But I got the idea which pushed a button in me.
I then silently smiled.
"For crying out loud, Uncle Shuu, I was holding out from saying that! I'm trying to keep that to myself and you up and said it!"
"Potato… Dad can really attack your rear, huh?"
"Hahh… If Dad was here, I'll be destroyed."
At least there was a feeling of relief that Rin was not bothered by what his father said. I do know for sure that she got what he meant.
"In any case, Rin and I have something to say…"
Or rather, it just slipped our mind from the very beginning. And on that note, we, in unison…
Unbeknownst to us four, Rin's parents were still watching us in our scene.
"Dear, I'm glad that we have good children like them."
"You're right, Sumi. Who would have thought that… choosing Gin in the past… turned out to be a blessing in disguise."
▪ ▪ ▪
A few days later, things turned to still be ordinary. Aside from helping in the organization of their wedding, I continued working with the groom in the restaurant.
And for some reason, along with the sound of sizzling and boiling, and the noise of the stove, I heard for once that many footsteps sounded from the back door.
"**Boss, we're finally here! Oh, Aniki is here too! Good day!"
"**Shun-kun?! And Ito-san?! Good to see you guys!" I had to stop with what I'm doing upon unexpectedly seeing rare faces.
It was not just Shun Kiriyama and the head chef of Giotto's North. The Japan team of the restaurant all came to Orio.
"**What's up for you all to be here?" I asked as I continued moving in the kitchen.
"**You don't know, Aniki? We'll be handling the catering in boss's wedding."
"You didn't tell me that, Hiro."
"Oh… I guess I didn't. Since you'll be helping in making the invitation, add Jean to the list, alright? I would want him to help along with Ito-san."
"I'm sure he'll be up for it."
"Speaking of Jean, add Ai-san and her sister too."
"Also, since you have background in graphic design and videography, I'd be glad if you can recommend someone. Photographers are also hard to find so I'll be asking your help for that too.
I'm not looking for a prestigious celebration, so there's no need to find an expert. Our budget may be short for that."
"Boss, that's funny. What you're looking for is just right under my nose."
▪ ▪ ▪
The next day in the Art Room…
I walked around in their desks while they did their works and dropped envelopes to them.
"You three, you've already agreed to the day, right?"
"At least tell us what it is for."
"Don't be impatient, Jean. Here is yours since you're a cook. The other two is for the Hikari sisters.
Nagi, thanks for being the one-man team for the filmmaking.
Shiro, your skills in photography will be very appreciated."
All at the same time, they opened the envelopes.
"Shh… Let's stay silent, Nagi.
You guys will be paid for the endeavor, so let's all do our best."
"Of course we're in this!"
While the five of us were enjoying ourselves, the other members of the club turned their heads on us in confusion.
I noticed, "Hey. Don't look so confused, you three. I'll be commissioning you all for something too.
It's a wedding gift so do your best."
"What, you're getting married, Gin?!"
"Would you tone down, G?! If I will be, then you should've been invited too, you know?"
"Ah, okay. You got me worried for nothing."
"I can see colors now, so expect something better."
"Now all that's solved…
Let's get to work."
▪ ▪ ▪
See you all in February 23.
That concludes 037!
Technically, it's been two years.
Thank you for reading!
038: In one flesh.