Author: Blissful Archangel PM
Ryuku Saotome's life is plagued with abandonment and dark rumors. Throughout his childhood, he lacked inspiration and had eventually gave up on the family arts. That all changed when he met a young girl on a cold winter's day. From there, his life was flung into disorderly chaos - crazy martial artists, ancient magic, and Amazonian tribes crash into the redhead's life.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Family - Chapters: 31 - Words: 301,443 - Reviews: 105 - Favs: 36 - Follows: 51 - Updated: 03-30-13 - Published: 04-28-07 - id: 3512832
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own Ranma ½. The only things that belong to me is the story and my own characters.
Chapter 16: Here's… Who are you?
Everything was a dream.
There wasn't any other alternative that made sense.
Everything had to be a dream. Either that or this was another illusion. Ryuku's stomach jittered at the thought; he desperately hoped it was the former. He didn't think he'd ever recover after meeting a teenage illusion of his father.
Twin pairs of dark blue eyes gawked at each other, while minutes continued to gradually tick by. Neither of them blinked for the longest time, acting as if they were in a peculiar staring contest. The other Ryuku hadn't budged from where he stood. He simply stared at Ryuku, wearing a puzzled expression on his face. The look was perfectly understandable. It wasn't everyday you walked into the bathroom, expecting to relax after some time spent away from home – only to find that someone had beaten you to the bathroom, and that that someone happened to be an exact replica of yourself. Occurrences like didn't exactly happen every day.
Warily, Ryuku eyed himself. What kind of sick dream is this?
The other Ryuku heaved a sigh, momentarily disturbing Ryuku from the possible scenarios going through his mind. An exaggerated yawn left the other Ryuku's lips. His hand kept the towel around his waist in place, while he stretched his other arm in the air. "I don't know about you," Ryuku blinked, watching the other redhead wipe at his eyes. Hearing his voice coming from someone other than himself was not normal at all. "But as much as I do enjoy checking myself out, I'd rather do that with clothes on."
Ryuku glanced down at himself, immediately wishing he had been fully dressed before he had discovered that he, apparently, had a long lost twin no one bothered to mention. Silently, Ryuku answered him with a curt nod. The confusion lessened on the other Ryuku's face, instead his lips turned up into a light smirk. Without another word, the double briskly strolled towards the door. As he past Ryuku, the redhead's eyes were instantly drawn to what was attached to the other Ryuku's hair.
"Ouch!" the other Ryuku suddenly yelped. He glared behind him. "What the heck are you –"
Ryuku's hand gave another hard tug to the pigtail he held. "You have your –"
This time it was the other Ryuku who cut him off. He slapped his hand away from his hair to protectively hold his braid in a loose fist. "Yeah, it's a pigtail," he stated matter-of-factly. "What's with that look? You have one, too!" he reached around Ryuku's head, his fingers curled onto Ryuku's hair. "What the heck? Where'd your pigtail go?"
"… I got rid of that a long time ago."
"This is just too weird," he shook his head, gazing down at the tiled flooring, only to realize that he was still only wearing a towel. "Right. Clothes."
What kind of crazy dream was this?
"Who are you?"
Seeing himself turn away from the mirror, which was hung above his desk, was most likely the strangest thing he'd ever witnessed. In the other Ryuku's hand, a metal comb was poised over his stylized hair, greatly contrasting with Ryuku's heavily tousled look. Suddenly feeling rather self-conscious, Ryuku raked his fingers through his red tangled tresses, attempting to straighten his hairstyle somewhat (the attempt wasn't very successful). Aside from their different hair, there were many other differences the redhead noticed. The other Ryuku's sense of fashion was entirely different as well. His double was now clad in a tight fitting red tank top and black cargo pants. On his twin's shoulder, he casually held onto a leather jacket, which was a darker shade of red than his top. Poking out of his pants pocket was a pair of matching leather gloves. When the other Ryuku moved his body away from the mirror, Ryuku's eyes landed on the aviator sunglasses hanging from his collar. The glasses swayed slightly from his brief movement, seeming like it was teasing Ryuku with his twin's dissimilarity to himself.
With a quirked eyebrow, the other Ryuku replied to Ryuku's inquiry with one of his own. "What kind of question is that?"
Ryuku looked away from the sunglasses to glare at his double. "What am I supposed to ask then?" he snapped harshly. "How was your day, whoever you are?"
The other Ryuku rolled his eyes, turning away to set his comb down on the desk. "I'm Ryuku Saotome."
"No, you're not."
"Yeah, I am."
"No, you're definitely not."
He leaned back onto the chair placed at Ryuku's desk. One of his hands reached behind him, blindly reaching for something. He nudged at his own backpack (which must've been on Ryuku's desk for quite some time now). When Ryuku had arrived home, he had paid little attention to his surroundings. The only thing he was concerned with was taking a break from his impromptu training trip, and then spending the rest of the day resting. If he had taken a minute to check something, he would've noticed something fishy going on sooner rather than later.
The other Ryuku picked up a manga to idly flip through; he kept his eyes on Ryuku, as he flipped through every page in the book. "Yeah, I definitely am."
"There's no way you can be me, because that just," Ryuku shook his head. "It doesn't work like that. There can't be two of me."
"Well, then how do you explain this?" he briefly gestured his hand between the two of them. "I'm staring at myself, aren't I?" the other Ryuku skimmed over Ryuku, as if he was trying to see through him, to see if he was actually real, actually there. "It's unbelievable. It's like I'm, well," he shut the manga closed. "Looking in a mirror."
Ryuku's eyes widened, realization finally kicking in. "You!" he pointed his finger at him. "You came from that mirror didn't you?"
A puzzled expression washed over the other Ryuku's face. Slowly, he faced the mirror hanging above Ryuku's disk, lifting the item up to blink at his reflection. "What mirror are you talking about?"
"Don't act dumb," He narrowed his stare onto his double. "Did you manage to escape or something? Or was there another part of me that split? No. That's stupid," he scowled, displeased that once again there another problem caused by his grandpa's supposed cure. "When I see that stupid panda again, I swear, I'm going to beat him to a pulp."
"What mirror are you talking about?" the other Ryuku repeated still as clueless as ever.
"Why should I trust you?" Ryuku spat harshly. "Are you planning something? Were you going to get rid of me and then take my place? Well, go ahead and do it! I'm sure I'll enjoy the break! It's not like you didn't make things any worse for me."
The other Ryuku set the mirror down behind him. "Not only are you confusing the hell out of me, but you're also freaking me out, man," he said. "I wasn't planning on anything, because I… I don't know what I think now. It's not every day you find your lost twin. Maybe we were separated at birth? It's nice to finally meet you, brother! My name's Ryuku –"
"Shut up!" was Ryuku's swift outburst. "I'm Ryuku!"
"Huh," was all the other Ryuku said. His hip leaned onto the sturdy wooden desk behind him. He moved his arms complacently to form a 'thinking' pose, taking hold of his elbow as he cupped his chin. "That's strange. Why would you have twins and give them the same name? Talk about lazy. I guess Ma was never that creative in the first place."
Ryuku attempted to rationalize this, there was no way they were twins. Mom would have said something, not to mention we look perfectly alike. "Are you really this dense? Or are you pretending to be dumb?" Ryuku asked snappily to the boy in front of him, who bore an uncanny resemblance to himself. "We aren't twins. We're the same person. Identical twins look alike, but you can spot the differences. When I look at you, I only see myself. I see a living reflection." He wasn't sure: Ryuku knew he wasn't an expert in this sort of thing. But his reasons sounded like they made sense.
The other Ryuku shrugged. "Then we're the same person. It's not like that's any less weirder than being twin brothers."
"Right," Ryuku said, annoyed. "I forgot these kinds of things happen a lot. Just the other day, I saw these twins at Uncle Tofu's clinic. I guess I should've just assumed they were the same person instead."
"I was trying to make light of the situation," the other Ryuku said. He shifted from his current position to cross his arms behind his head, forming a more relaxed and comfortable pose for himself. "So, what about this mirror you mentioned?"
"It's a very long and very annoying story."
"A story I should know about?"
"It doesn't matter," Ryuku said. "I just – we need to do something. We need to find that mirror," the redhead began to pace around his room, ignoring the puzzled stares he received from his twin. He kicked at the open backpack on the floor, scattering the contents inside all over floor. Suddenly, a nagging voice in his head informed him that he'd have to unpack sooner or later. But he couldn't pretend everything was normal, and unpack all his things, when everything definitely wasn't normal. "Grandpa was the one who did all this in the first place. Grandpa made me look into the stupid thing. Of course, it trails all the way back to him. The no good," he didn't bother to finish his sentence. Instead, he closed his mouth, lips pressing into a nasty irritated scowl.
"What about Gramps?" the other Ryuku piped in curiously. "Did he do something?"
"When does he not do something?"
"Tell me about it," he snorted, although based on the smirk he wore he was amused rather than annoyed. "My old man's always kicking him out of the house, the no good freeloader. But Gramps is a funny old fart, I can't deny that," his smirk grew into a grin. "He's really desperate when it comes to free eating, like this one time –"
"Wait a second," Ryuku cut in quietly. "Did you," he stopped to clear his throat, hoping by doing so would get the tremor out of his voice. "Dad still… he hasn't…" once again, Ryuku stopped speaking. His eyelids shut, as he struggled to force out the rest of his words. "He's… He's actually home?"
"Well, yeah," the other Ryuku replied. "Where else would Pops be but in Nerima? Speaking of which," he walked away from the desk to step over to the door, which he opened to poke his head out into the hallway. "Where is Pops?" he called out for their father in the corridor, his voice echoed throughout the otherwise quiet household. When he was met with silence, he looked back over to Ryuku to helpfully add. "He's good at handling this weird stuff."
Ryuku opened his eyes, watching his twin leaning out the hallway. Was he expecting their father to suddenly show up and have all the answers? The chances of that happening were very, very unlikely. A bitter laugh left Ryuku's lips. "I guess this kind of explains some things about you."
"What're you talking about?" he detached himself off of the doorframe and faced Ryuku. "Where's Pops?"
"Pops isn't here. He hasn't been home in nine years."
The other Ryuku's eyes widened, uncannily mimicking Ryuku's earlier startled expression. Of course, Ryuku had expected this to be his twin's response. But what he had not predicted was how short-lived his shock would last. The other Ryuku leaned onto the doorframe, crossing his arms in front of him, while a smirk formed on his lips. "I guess that kind of explains some things here."
Ryuku's narrowed his eyes onto the other redhead. "… What kind of things?"
"For one thing, the dojo," his twin replied casually. "Have you bothered to take a look around? You're literally living in a dump. I'm not crazy about cleaning either, but even I know when to stop being lazy and clean up after myself."
"Gee, thanks for the cleaning advice!" Ryuku retorted dryly, even going out of his way to force a grin on. "I've never noticed how bad this place has gotten! All it took was me to help me get my act together! Thanks, Ryuku!"
"Oh, you're very welcome," the other Ryuku spat out with a feigned cheerful smile. "Who better to hear this stuff from besides yourself?"
Ryuku threw back another dry retort. "Oh, how right you are!"
"Pops not being here also explains Ma's attitude when I showed up," the other Ryuku continued. "And boy was she pissed off! Usually when my ma lectures me, she never cried all over me. She kept mentioning stuff about being abandoned and how she lost Pops. Would it have killed you to leave a note or something?"
"Mind your own business."
"That's kind of hard to do," his double informed him. "Since your business is technically my business. I'm pretty sure I can meddle in my own business."
"If I wanted to talk to myself, I'd –" Ryuku stopped, pinching the bridge of his nose, grinding his teeth together. He dropped his arm down to his side to stare at himself. "We need to fix whatever the hell is going on here. I'm not going to waste all day arguing with myself!"
"What do you suggest we do then, smart guy?"
"Find that mirror," was Ryuku's snappy answer. "Grandpa stole something from this pawn shop he walked past. He thought it was another cure to –"
He was suddenly interrupted by the other Ryuku. "No way!" he snorted. "Don't tell me you have a Jusenkyo curse, too!"
Ryuku paled. "Y-You mean, you…"
The other Ryuku nodded. "Yeah, I do," he laughed. "Hey, looks like we have something in common after all."
"Stop distracting me!" Ryuku hissed. "The point is that we need to find that pawn shop, find the stupid mirror, and then get rid of you."
"Jeez, I didn't know I could be such a dick to myself."
"Since we can't exactly have two of us running around," Ryuku glanced down onto the floor, skimming over what had fallen out of his bag. When he perceived that what he needed hadn't been kicked out of his bag, he snatched his backpack to dig inside. Within a matter of seconds, he took out a canteen and shook it around in front of the other redhead, hearing the cold water inside slush around. "One of us needs to change."
The other Ryuku looked down at his clothes, which were nice and dry. Normally, he wasn't one to brag, but compared to Ryuku, he certainly had a better sense of style when it came to fashion. It would've been a crime if he had to be the one to change. The girls wouldn't be able to gawk at anyone worth drooling over. It wouldn't only be a crime against himself, but to all women in the world as well. Besides, all of the superior clothes he wore as a girl were back at his home. "As much as I enjoy the perks of being a chick, I just finished soaking in the furo. You don't want to ruin a nice soaking, right? That'd just be a crime against… well, yourself."
"You don't belong here," Ryuku shoved the canteen onto the other's chest. "You be the girl."
"If you think about it," the other Ryuku began, slowly moving the canteen closer to Ryuku. "I'm the guest. It's only natural that the host respects their guest's wishes and be the girl."
Ryuku grounded his teeth together. He felt like smacking his double with the canteen. "I bet you'll look especially cute with that pigtail of yours."
When an idea formed in his double's head, his face lit up. "I know what we can do," he grinned, beaming that he had come up with such a clever thought. "How about a quick round of Rock-Paper-Scissors?"
"I'm great at that game," Ryuku smirked. "I can't lose."
The other Ryuku returned the smirk. "Neither can I."
There was no point to pay attention to what was happening around him. The pawn shop was – like it always was – empty. The hardcover novel set in front of him did little to distract him, especially since the novel was printed in an entirely different language. When the bell rang, signaling a potential customer, Tetsuo reluctantly dethatched himself from his book. His dark brown colored eyes briefly glanced up to properly send a greeting to the patron. However, an annoyed grunt left Tetsuo's mouth and he abruptly shifted his attention back to the novel. The person who had entered the shop was the troublesome peddler.
"What do you want?"
Wearing a friendly smile, Mr. Peddler made his way across the shop to stand at the register. "Greetings to you, too."
Tetsuo didn't even bother to look away from the page he was on.
"Is something troubling you, my friend?" the peddler asked, his tone showing sincere concern towards the shop owner.
"Would you shut up?" he closed the book with a sigh and dropped it onto the counter.
Since the book wasn't even in a comprehendible language (it could've been a dead foreign language for all he knew). The only reason he kept a stack of old dusty books next to him was to make himself look busy. It was easier to discourage people from entering the store that way.
"I'm surprised you're still here," Tetsuo said. "Usually, you'd be gone by now, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, you should leave. You aren't exactly the greatest reminder from my past."
"Now, you know that isn't true."
"Don't even try to make me change my mind. You're a total prick," he snorted. "I don't even know why I put up with you for so long. Probably because I had nowhere else to go, or because you couldn't stand being alone."
The peddler pursed his lips. "I've brought plenty of things for your shop."
"Are you blind or just stupid?" the peddler gestured towards his clouded right eye. "Half-blind then," Tetsuo corrected himself through a chuckle. "No one comes to my shop."
As if on cue, the door to the pawn shop swung open, once again triggering the bell to ring. Scowling, Tetsuo ignored the smug smirk on the peddler's lips, and shoved the older man aside to see who had walked inside. Two teenagers stood towards the front of the shop. The tallest of the pair was a boy, who was dressed in something Tetsuo would've worn during his younger years. Tetsuo's scowl deepened not from what the boy wore, but from the boy's fiery red colored hair. He was a total delinquent. Granted, Tetsuo wasn't any better in his youth, but he had his justified reasons for rebelling against society. There was no doubt that the delinquent had a wonderful family, an even more wonderful home, and only acted in defiance to cure his craving need for attention. It was youngsters like that who Tetsuo could never tolerate.
The shortest of the pair was a girl, who greatly contrasted with the male next to her in her modest light colored clothing. Tetsuo assumed the slightly peeved expression on the girl's face was reasonable, considering who was invading her personal space. While it was terribly tempting to kick the boy out, Tetsuo could tell the teenagers were related. The first thing that was the dead giveaway was the similar facial features the two shared. But the atmosphere between the pair reminded Tetsuo of his daughters. Perhaps, it was a father's intuition that aided his conclusion as well.
Tetsuo glanced over to the peddler, knowing the old man would refrain from making any comments, until the customers left. "What do you want?" He greeted the teens with his usual warmhearted welcome.
The smirk that went on the boy's lips irritated Tetsuo's mood further, until he was elbowed by the girl. Tetsuo didn't bother to hide a smirk of his own. "We're looking for something," the girl answered, sounding nervous.
"Well, that doesn't exactly help me," Tetsuo muttered. The peddler shot him a look Tetsuo knew all too well. He rolled his eyes. "Are you looking for something in particular?"
Once again, the boy attempted to speak. This time the girl simply gave him a glare, which successfully silenced him. The boy held his arms in front of him defensively, before he decided to wonder around the shop. "A mirror," she said. "I, uh, we were told you had one."
"What kind of mirror would this be?" Tetsuo asked, already growing bored with their discussion. Cautiously, his eyes followed after every one of the boy's movements (even if the teens were related, nothing would stop him from kicking them out if something ended up broken).
"I'm not exactly sure what it's called," the girl mumbled. "But it was, um, small. It looked kind of old… and tacky," from the confused stare she received from Tetsuo, she quickly added. "My grandpa might've stolen it?"
Tetsuo turned to Mr. Peddler. "Do you know what she's talking about?"
Mr. Peddler waved Tetsuo's question away. "Tell me, young one," he began. "Is your grandpa a big man? Did he wear glasses and hide his baldness?"
The girl snorted. "That sounds like him."
"Then I believe I know what you're looking for, Miss." The peddler left for the backroom. It wasn't long before he shortly returned, in his hands he carried a box, which he held it out for the girl to take. "Here you are."
Hesitantly, the girl accepted the box. When she opened the lid, her jaw dropped. "I-It –"
"Broken, I'm afraid," the peddler finished calmly. "You see, my friend has a terrible temper. When he was given such a nice gift, he thought it best to show his appreciation by ruining a thoughtful gesture from an old friend. I've always told him to not let his anger control him, but he never listens."
"You're kidding, right?" Tetsuo scoffed. He faced the girl to lean over the counter to look inside the box himself. With a hefty amount of glue and patience the tacky mirror would be as good as new. "Look, if you want…" he sighed, raking his fingers through his short black graying hair. "You can have what's left of the mirror free of charge," under his breath, he muttered. "That saves me the trouble of throwing it away myself."
"Uh, thank you." The girl smiled weakly, as she closed the box. She left the register to go over to the boy, who had taken an interest with an item he was fiddling with. The girl snatched what he held away from him, nearly slammed it on the store shelves, and then dragged him out of the store.
When the peddler saw the two walk past the pawn shop, he turned back to Tetsuo. A pleased smile played across his lips, he was going to finally announce his unnecessary comment. "Now, didn't those two make a nice couple?"
Tetsuo made a disgusted sound, gagging slightly. "I'm pretty sure those two were related."
"That's a shame," the peddler hummed. "Perhaps, you should set one of your daughters up with the boy then? He looked like a nice young man."
"What exactly did you get from that kid?" Tetsuo snapped. "That since he dressed 'nice' that meant he must be a great guy? Can you stop meddling with my personal life, please?"
"That 'nice young man' looked like nothing but a troublemaker," he huffed irritably. "Did you see that head of hair? He's a total delinquent. It's bad enough that girl has to deal with a brother like that. I don't want any of my girls hanging around pricks."
On their way back to the dojo, the two spent most of the walk in complete silence. Ryuku couldn't help but notice that even the way her double walked was different compared to her. The other Ryuku strode forward with a bit of a bounce in his step. He even had his arms behind his head with his hands clasped against the back of his neck. His entire demeanor showed anything but the inner turmoil Ryuku was currently experiencing. Neither of them knew how problematic their current situation was. Of course, Ryuku would be the one stressing over everything. But one would think if someone was literally removed from their home they would've shownany other emotion rather than happiness.
How could someone who shared the same name, face, body, and even curse act so different? If they were identical twins, certain differences would've been perfectly understandable. But they weren't twins. They were the same person. Ryuku diverted her attention onto the box she held onto. Now that she had the mirror that started all this trouble, she'd be able to put an end to the endless mischief. Everything would turn back to normal. No one would have to be involved. For once everything was going to be plain and simple.
The other Ryuku was the first person to end the silence. "So," he started causally. "Why'd you drag me all the way out here to fetch a broken mirror?"
Ryuku didn't bother to glance in her double's direction. "This broken mirror is what we need to fix this stupid mess."
"… but it's broken."
"Who cares?" Ryuku hissed. "Just because it's broken doesn't mean we can't fix it."
The other Ryuku heaved a soft sigh, showing he was growing somewhat annoyed by Ryuku. A scowl marred Ryuku's features from the boy's behavior. If anyone was allowed to be irritated it was Ryuku. The other Ryuku hadn't exactly been helpful ever since they left the dojo. All her twin wanted to do was look around Nerima and check the sights, acting as if he was a tourist in a new unfamiliar area. But the other redhead wasn't a stranger to Nerima, unless he lived in a whole other town where he came from (which Ryuku highly doubted).
"Let's say we do fix it," the other Ryuku began. "What if it only makes things worse? Do you really trust in the ability of glue that much?"
Ryuku's jaw clenched. Why is he asking stupid questions? You'd think he'd be grateful that I found a way to get him out of here. Through her teeth, she slowly gritted out, doing her best to keep her annoyance from her tone."That doesn't mean we can't try."
"Do what you want," he shrugged. He swung his foot forward, taking a swift hit at a dented soda can on the streets. The can flew over the fence, mostly likely landing into the water canal to join the other trash and filth collected at the bottom. "Just don't get mad when it turns out I'm right and you're wrong."
Am I really this irritating? Ryuku scowled. She refrained from chucking the box at the redhead, who already seemed to radiate a fair amount of smugness on his person.
The other Ryuku moved one of his hands from his pockets to reach for the lid on the box. "Can I see what's inside?"
Ryuku moved away from him. "It's just a box of glass shards."
"Maybe I saw the thing before," he offered. "Who knows? Maybe I even had to deal with the same broken mirror, too!"
"I doubt it," was Ryuku's simple response.
However, the conversation wasn't put to rest, since the other Ryuku hadn't decided it was time to give up. His attempts to peek inside the box were all swatted by Ryuku, who only grew more and more annoyed with her twin's infuriating behavior. Eventually, the redhead smarted up and decided to entertain himself with other things. His pace gradually sped up, as he walked along the side of the fence, before he hopped up and landed onto the railing.
Ryuku kept silence, while she eyed the boy walk along the fence with ease. "… What's the point of that?"
"The point of what?"
"Walking on the fence."
"Pops always did it," was his wistful answer. "So, I copied him. I think I remember him telling me it has something to do with balance or whatever. Honestly, I just thought it was cool," He looked down at Ryuku. "You never tried it?"
Ryuku's shoulders tensed. "Why would I want to? You look stupid."
"I think what you meant to say is that: I look awesome."
Apparently, I'm obnoxious, too. Ryuku shook her head. "No, you just look really stupid."
"You're only saying that because you've never tried this yourself."
"That's it exactly," Ryuku spat dryly. "You know me so well."
"Well, you're me, aren't you?" the other Ryuku replied. "Or I'm you. Whatever. Who else would know you better besides yourself?"
"… the sooner we get rid of you the better."
The other Ryuku raised an eyebrow at that. "Someone's impatient," he grumbled. "Am I really that bad?"
Ryuku glared at the back of the other Ryuku's head. "I don't care what you are," she retorted in a fury. "The one thing you don't seem to get is that: you don't belong here!"
"I do get that."
"You aren't even concerned with anything!" Ryuku growled. Her glare focused onto the pigtail attached to his hair. She itched to reach forward to grab onto his braid and then yank him off the fence. Maybe that'd teach him to not take their situation so lightly. "You don't even care that you're somewhere else! Don't you miss your family and friends? Your home?"
The other Ryuku stopped his strides forward. "I miss everyone," he murmured. "Why wouldn't I miss them?"
"You don't care."
Without warning, the redhead appeared in front of Ryuku, as if he had popped up out of thin air. Startled by the unexpected presence of her double, Ryuku's response was based purely on reflexes. She moved her hands in front of her, her hold on the small package currently forgotten. A curse left Ryuku's lips when realization finally hit, if she didn't act soon the mirror would end up in an even worse condition, she lurched forward to grab the box. However, the box suddenly disappeared and was suddenly thrust back in her arms. Ryuku grasped onto the box, keeping it closer to her chest, as she blinked at the pair of aviator glasses swinging an inch away from her face.
"I don't know if you've noticed this yet but," the other Ryuku leveled his gaze with Ryuku's. "Even though we're the same person, that doesn't mean we are the same person."
Ryuku forced herself to recover from the shock. "Shut up," she said, refusing to listen to his words. "We're done talking. You can talk all you want when you get back to wherever you came from."
After a quick stop to the furo, Ryuku busied himself to restore the mirror. Once he sat himself down in the main room, the redhead skimmed over what he had to work with. The amount of broken pieces, which were in various shapes and sizes, were ridiculous. It was like starting a thousand pieced puzzle with a great bundle of patience. The problem was that Ryuku's patience was growing thinner by the second and that he hated puzzles. His twin wasn't offering any assistance with the mirror, as he was too preoccupied with a stupid game show on TV, which was yet another thing Ryuku didn't care for. Ryuku picked up a tube of glue and quickly went to work.
Eventually as time passed, the other Ryuku became bored with whatever was on the television screen, and turned his attention onto his double. He watched as Ryuku carefully glued and even taped pieces of the broken mirror into the right place. Ryuku had already cut himself multiple times on sharp jagged pieces, which did little to ease his tolerance. The other Ryuku held back a comment when he noticed Ryuku pick up a particular sharp shard in his hand. The piece sliced into Ryuku's palm, causing a trickle of blood to trail down his skin. Ryuku harshly inhaled through his nose to keep himself from sputtering long stringed curses.
"You okay over there?" the other Ryuku asked.
In response, Ryuku gave him a cold glare.
"I'll take that as a 'maybe'."
Finally, after a painful and very long process of gluing and taping, Ryuku finished the great mirror puzzle. Wearing a pleased smile, Ryuku lifted the mirror up by the dented handle and glanced over at his twin. Ryuku struggled to remember what had happened shortly after he stared into the mirror himself. Everything that had invaded his mind when his girl and guy copy reentered the mirror did little to help him figure out what had happened to his own body. His mother had explained that he had trouble responding to anyone, or even doing simple actions. It was as if he was in a vegetative state of mind. Recollecting what had happened the last time caused a part of Ryuku to hesitate tampering with the mirror once again. No one could predict what could possibly happen next. But there weren't any other possible solutions at the moment.
With a deep breath, Ryuku asked. "Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
"I'm not exactly sure how this'll work but –"
"Wait a sec!" the other Ryuku called out. "You don't know what could happen."
"What could happen is that you'd leave which would be great!"
"As much as I've enjoyed my welcome here," his twin grunted with a heavy amount of sarcasm. "It's never a good idea to mess with something we don't understand."
"Do you actually want to stay here? Or do you just enjoy being as obnoxious as possible?"
"The point is this could turn into an even bigger mess," the other Ryuku told him. "I mean, what if another one of us pops in? Or we get dragged into some other Ryuku's world? We could be worse off."
"Look, we have an option to fix this. If something bad does happen then fine! At least I'll know that I tried to do something before things got even worse."
It was clear that Ryuku had his decision; they were going to follow through with this. "… I guess you're not changing your mind," the other Ryuku sighed. "So, what are we supposed to do?"
"We just look into the mirror."
Right after Ryuku spoke, both of the redheads hesitated. They turned to each other, regarding one another with a brief nod, before glancing down at their less than perfect reflection in the handheld object. Ryuku held his breath, eagerly waiting for something, anything to take place.
Ryuku counted to ten in his head. He shut his eyes, praying that when he reopened them he'd be the only one left in the room. When his eyelids slowly open, a sinking feeling settled in Ryuku's stomach, seeing that he was not alone. Unfortunately, the other Ryuku remained where he was.
With a disappointed sigh, Ryuku's hand tightened around the handle. "I guess –"
All of a sudden, the other Ryuku let out an aggrieved bloodcurdling howl. He desperately clutched at his stomach, his fingers frantically grabbing into the material of his shirt. As he curled into a ball, gibberish jumbled out from his mouth. Immediately, Ryuku went to the other's side, checking for the source of his twin's crisis.
"What the hell happened to you?" he asked, panicked. "What's wrong? Are you okay?" the other Ryuku's screams only increased in volume. "Oh god, you were right I shouldn't have done anything with the dumb thing! I-I just wanted…"
Suddenly, the screams abruptly stopped. Ryuku blinked, confusion washing over his face, as he looked over his twin in concern. The other Ryuku slowly sat up, looking better than ever, while wearing a smug smirk on his lips.
"You said the words I wanted to hear," he laughed boastfully. "I was right."
"You," Ryuku narrowed his eyes on the other redhead. His jaw clenched tightly, gritting his teeth together. "I've never hated myself so much in my life."
"I couldn't resist," the other Ryuku's fit of laughter continued. "You should've seen the look on your face! Well, I mean you could, since we have the same face. But I doubt I'd be able to copy your expression exactly!" When he met Ryuku's glare, his grin only widened. "Hey, at least I got you to loosen up a little! You need to learn to relax."
"How am I supposed to relax with you here?" he snarled. "I'll relax when you get the hell out of here!"
The delight on his twin's face fell. He snatched the mirror from Ryuku's hands. "Fine," he frowned. "I'll look into the stupid mirror again."
When Ryuku led him back to his bedroom, the other Ryuku made a beeline for the bed and plopped down. The other Ryuku buried his face against Ryuku's pillow, inhaling the wonderful scent of a somewhat clean pillow case. He tilted his head back to exhale, content that he was finally somewhere comfortable. Ryuku's twin went onto his back, shifting around somewhat in order to be truly at ease, and let out a soft sigh. Even if Ryuku's room wasn't anywhere clean as his (which in a way was sad, since he wasn't a very neat person himself), a bed made everything several times better.
The other Ryuku adjusted the pillow beneath his head. "You know, my room looks kind of different," he decided it was best to leave out the clean part, since it proved to be a rather sensitive topic for the redhead. "I think yours is bigger than mine. This room, in my house, used to be the guest room. Which room did this use to be?"
"… This used to be my mom's room."
The other Ryuku looked over towards Ryuku, who had taken a seat at his desk. Ever since they returned to the room, the redhead had been looking at the mirror. He assumed that Ryuku would've tossed the thing away. It was useless to keep around. The mirror's supposed purpose didn't even happen when he looked into it. Ryuku would let out a sad disappointed sigh, before he'd set the mirror down onto his desk. Then after several seconds had passed, Ryuku picked it back up and repeated his previous actions. To ignore Ryuku's gloominess, the other Ryuku occupied himself with juggling wads of paper balls. At first, it proved to be effective enough to block himself away from Ryuku's sour mood. However, his temporary entertainment could only last for so long. He had to do something to cheer himself up. When the umpteenth sigh left Ryuku, his double threw one of the paper balls at him. The crumpled paper bounced off the back of his head and then dropped onto the floor. Ryuku didn't even bother to react.
The other Ryuku heaved a sigh of his own. "Why are you so down?" he finally asked. "Is me being here really bother you so much?"
"… You don't even care."
"How many times do I have to say this? Of course, I care," the other Ryuku huffed; slightly offended that Ryuku couldn't seem to notice that. "I have different ways of coping. I'm not going to mope and cry about being stuck here. That's not going to solve shit."
"Right," Ryuku mumbled sadly. He glared at the mirror, shoving it off of his desk and into the wastebasket below. "Leave the moping and crying to me."
The other Ryuku moved over on the bed, so that he could sit on the edge of the mattress. "How about we do something else?"
Ryuku glanced over his shoulder, sparing his twin a dull look. "What did you have in mind?"
"Well, we didn't exactly meet on very good terms," the other Ryuku said. "Let's change that!" He hopped off Ryuku's bed to stride over to where the redhead was. His hands grasped onto the back of his chair to spin Ryuku around.
Ryuku kept his eyes downcast. "Change what?"
His double extended his hand out in front of him. "Hello, Ryuku," he greeted with a friendly smile. "My name's Ryuku Saotome, but you can call me Gashu."
Ryuku's eyes left the floor to glance up at himself. "… Gashu?"
The other Ryuku did a little shrug. "Everyone back home calls me Gashu. The name grows on you after ten years. It's kind of weird hearing someone call me Ryuku," his answer did little to ease Ryuku's confusion. "My pops gave me the nickname. He compared my fighting style with gramps. Gramps is brash and mine wasn't… I was elegant or something. Pops said he'd rather I be elegant than brash. Pops liked the nickname and I did, too. So I told people to call me it."
"… Oh," Ryuku's tone was hard to pin. He darted his gaze down to his hands resting on his lap. "That's cool."
"It should help us out, too," Gashu added. "It'd only confuse us more if we were both called Ryuku."
"Good thinking," Ryuku pinched his lips together. "Gashu."
Gashu gently flicked Ryuku's forehead, making the redhead glance up. "Well?"
Ryuku gritted out. "What?"
"Now that we've been properly introduced," Gashu started cheerfully. "Shouldn't we get to know each other a little better?"
The rude snort from Ryuku didn't ruin Gashu's cheerful mood. "Why bother?"
"Just work with me, okay?" he playfully nudged Ryuku's arm, hoping some – or even a little bit – of his optimism would rub off onto the redhead. Ryuku could certainly use something to lose that frown from his face. "Ask me something. I mean, you're curious about me right?"
When Ryuku looked ready to give an answer, Gashu eagerly prepared himself for anything. "No," Gashu's lips curled into a scowl. "I don't care."
"You're such a liar," He left Ryuku to flop back down onto the bed. "Alright. Fine. Then I'll ask you something, because I can admit that I am curious. I want to know about this place, especially if I'm going to be staying here for… who knows how long."
"Who says I'll answer?"
"You can't just throw in a question! It's not your turn yet," Gashu scoffed, disregarding Ryuku's eye roll. "You and I both know I've got a pigtail," for added emphasis, he picked up his pigtail and rested it on his shoulder. "Earlier you mentioned that you got rid of yours. What I want to know is: why?"
Ryuku swirled his chair back forward to his desk, facing away from his copy. He fidgeted in his seat, fingers clawing at his clothed kneecaps. Hesitantly, he bowed his head, glaring at the mess collected all over the surface of his counter. "… Because he left," he finally murmured tightly. "He left without saying anything to anyone. What could I do? I was only six. A six year old can't do shit." He gnawed at his bottom lip. "The only thing I could do was chop that stupid reminder off. That the last thing I wanted to be was like my dad."
A silence filled the room.
"… Did that help your curiosity?"
"… Pops left us, too," Gashu told him softly. "I guess we shouldn't be surprised that I was six when he left," he sighed. "But the thing is… after two weeks, he came back to the dojo. He told us that he couldn't solve a thing by leaving his family."
Ryuku's teeth nearly tore into his lip. "Was that supposed to make me feel better?"
"I was just talking."
"I think that's enough talking for today."
"But we started to actually talk to each other!" Gashu protested. "Why do you want to stop now?"
"You're the only one who wants to know this shit. I couldn't care less."
When something was insistently tapping the window, Gashu was awoken from his unintended slumber. Leisurely, Gashu eased himself into an upright position on Ryuku's bed. The double rubbed his palm over his face, as he stretched the kinks out of his legs. Before he had fallen asleep, Ryuku had been in a terrible depressed state of mind. The room was utterly silent save for the adamant tapping next to him. Gashu wondered if Ryuku had left him by himself. His hand dropped onto his lap to browse the room. Ryuku was found still at his desk. The redhead was hunched forward, resting his head on his crossed forearms.
If the scratching on the window had stopped, Gashu would've gotten off the bed and left to give Ryuku time to take it easy. But whoever was on the other side of the glass, desperately wanted to be inside. Gashu moved the curtains aside to see who the visitor was. The window tapper was a light grey furred cat with black stripes decorated all over its fine coat. Somewhat puzzled, Gashu leaned closer towards the window to look over the small feline. Upon closer inspection, Gashu found that one of the cat's eyes was a rich golden color, while the other eye was a stunning shade of azure. In response, the cat simply blinked at him and waited. The double turned away from the window to Ryuku, before he finally opened the window. Immediately, the cat leaped forward and landed onto the bed. The cat looked up at Gashu with its pink nose twitching and its tail slowly swaying from side to side.
The animal's gape was rather unsettling; Gashu felt like the small cat was sizing him up. "I take it this belongs to you?"
A soft meow came from the cat.
At hearing the sound, Ryuku lifted his head up to look behind him. When his eyes landed on the cat, a smile lit up his face. "Seichi!" he left his desk to hoist the cat off his bed. "You finally decided to show up, huh? Probably only came home for food," the cat licked under Ryuku's chin. "Seichi's a guy cat, by the way."
Gashu rolled his eyes. "Sorry. My mistake."
Ryuku's smile slightly drooped when he noted the dreary expression his double wore. "Not a cat person?"
His twin pointed his finger at himself. "Who? Me?"
"Who else am I talking to?"
"I don't really like cats," Gashu confessed with a small shrug. "It's not because Pops is scared shitless of them, if that's what you're thinking. I'm just not much of an animal person."
The redhead paid little attention to Gashu's answer, instead choosing to focus on stroking Seichi's thick fur. "Well, that's good for you," his smile returned when his soft petting elicited a pleased purr from the cat. "Did you enjoy your nap?"
"Actually, yeah, I did," Gashu replied. His voice still sounded somewhat gruff, having just woken up. "I hadn't gotten a decent amount of sleep since I got here," he cleared his throat. "Did you enjoy… whatever you were doing?"
Seichi blinked up at his owner, bewilderment twinkling in his eyes, and then gently pawed at Ryuku's fingers. "I was just… thinking."
"There's nothing wrong with that."
"I know," Ryuku headed back for his chair, letting Seichi find a comfortable seat on his lap. He checked Seichi's neck, making sure his collar hadn't fallen off, during the cat's last adventure wondering wherever outside. "So, uh," he paused, unsure of how to proceed. "Earlier. You mentioned talking and… stuff."
"What about it?"
Ryuku shrugged. "I guess I am kind of, you know, curious," he muttered softly, almost like he was ashamed admit such a thing. He rubbed his hand over the side of his neck, curling his fingers through the hair at his nape. Briefly, he noted that his hair length was longer than he normally liked, he'd have to schedule a haircut sometime later in the week – when there wasn't a duplicate to deal with. "I don't want to talk."
Said duplicate was unfazed by Ryuku's conditions. Gashu rested his back to the wall next to the bed to slip into a comfortable seating position. "Its fine," he assured him. "You and I both know I'm fine with talking. If you want I can carry the conversation by myself," he laughed. "I wouldn't be going crazy, because I already am talking to myself. Looks like it works out for us either way, right?"
A slight smile went over Ryuku's lips. "You kind of have a point."
"Of course, I do!" Gashu grinned. "So, what do you want to ask me?"
For Ryuku's response, there was a short pause on his part. The redhead decided to pay even more attention to the animal on his lap. On the other side of the room, Gashu remained patient towards the boy. He was eager, willing to answer whatever Ryuku threw at him. The double was already bustling about with energy, since he hadn't exactly been doing anything. Talking was an excellent way to participate in a different sort of activity. However, while Gashu was patient, Ryuku was still being silent. Gashu's grin fell to a frown. Had Ryuku already changed his mind without putting an effort to try first?
Gashu sighed sadly. "Don't tell me you –"
"What were you doing before," Ryuku gestured around him. "You ended up here?"
"That's easy!" was Gashu's excited reply. "I was on a camping trip," he saw Ryuku's backpack left untouched. Everything that had fallen out of his bed hadn't been moved either. It looked like neither of them was planning on unpacking anytime soon. "I guess we both were."
"Yeah," Ryuku mumbled. "I guess you could call it a 'camping trip'."
"It was just me and a couple guys," Gashu said. "Usually, we have a camping trip like every month. The trip is kind of tradition for us. We get a breather from all the craziness in Nerima and we have time to ourselves," It wasn't long until a grin returned on Gashu's lips. "We were all making our way back to our camping spot, when all of a sudden I saw like a flash surrounding me or something. I didn't think much about it at the time. Maybe I should've but I thought it was my friends pulling a prank. We have the habit of pulling jokes on each other at every chance we get, because who doesn't love getting the last laugh? Anyway, after that flash I found myself… alone. I could've sworn we were all together, laughing and joking around and then – whoosh! – something happened and everyone vanished. Like I said, I thought they were pulling a prank. I mean, I've been ditched by my friends before.
"No one answered to my calls, so I guessed I had to look for them. Well, I didn't really have much luck finding anyone. I figured they were all back at our spot, laughing their asses off at me. When I got back, there was no one else around. I was all alone. I set up camp and waited for them to turn up. But no one did. I figured out that their prank was that they all packed up and left me to myself. We didn't exactly start our trip on the best terms anyway. Everyone was kind of grumpy that I had to leave early, since Pops was planning on a training trip for me and him. So, I headed back home, which was fine with me, since I had to leave early anyway. When I got to the dojo, it was already pretty late. I always came home late when camping with the guys, and I was tired as hell from everything."
Gashu's fingers scratched at his scalp. "I guess the first warning I should've noticed was when I ran into Ma at like three in the morning," he said. "Ma knows I go on trips with the guys. It didn't make any sense that she was worried about me, because she knew where I was. But I was so tired and all I wanted to do was sleep. So I told her to bug me in the morning and once I got to your room, I passed out."
Ryuku tried to keep himself from sounding bitter. "Guess you missed that training trip."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about it," Gashu quickly reassured him. "I can catch up on my training here. Besides, now I have a worthy sparring buddy!" His face brightened from the thought of training with Ryuku. None of his friends were anywhere near his level and most of them had given up on trying to fight with Gashu, who easily brought them to a sour defeat. "No one can beat Pops. Gramps is a cheater and not to mention a sore loser, especially since he's setting his ways," Gashu had to pause to snicker when he thought of his last fight with his grandpa. The last time he had sparred with Genma, the old man ended up breaking his back when Gashu casually tossed him over his shoulder. "And as much I enjoy fighting Ryota, it gets kind of boring beating him up all the time."
Ryuku brought up the name he hadn't recognized. "Who's Ryota?"
"Ryota Hibiki," was Gashu's simple answer. "We've been best friends for a long time."
"My best friend's name isn't Ryota," Ryuku said. "It's Ryou. Ryou Hibiki."
"Just because there's a different name doesn't mean they're not the same person," Gashu suggested helpfully. "But this is awesome! With you, me, and Ryota – uh, I mean, Ryou, we'll have like a sparring trio of pure strength!"
Ryuku shook his head. "I don't think so," he said. "Ryou was never really into fighting."
Gashu blinked. "You're joking."
"I'm not," Ryuku mumbled. "Ryou's always been more of a… book nerd."
His double stuck his tongue out in disgust. "Okay. Then I take back what I said before. This Ryou guy definitely isn't my best friend. Ryota wouldn't even think of picking up a book, unless he wanted to sleep behind one during a lecture," Gashu shook his head, offended that his best friend was compared to a geek. "I can't believe you're friends with a book nerd. What kind of best friend would rather read boring stuff than do anything fun?"
"Hey! I don't care what Ryou's interested in. He's still my best friend," Ryuku retorted crossly. Even if he was shouting at himself, no one insulted his best friend. "Ryou's probably the smartest guy I know. Hell, I bet he's smarter than everyone combined at Furinkan. I'd rather he be a smartass than a dumbass. Tell me, Gashu, does Ryota know how to read?"
Gashu rolled his eyes. "Ryota may not be the smartest tool in the shed," he said. "But cut the guy some slack, he gets lost all the time! You try to catch up on schoolwork, after you've missed out on a month of school."
"Ryou has a lousy sense of direction, too. And he's still getting better grades than me," Ryuku pointed out smugly. "The only reason he's not with the other smartasses is because they're pricks about absences, missing schoolwork, and unexcused exams."
"Are you guys in the same class?"
"Yeah," Ryuku grunted. "What's your point?"
"It's not like we're any better with school stuff," Gashu said. "Since I'm as dumb as Ryota, the way we pass anything is by cheating off the girl, who sits between us in class. She has a crush on me so she doesn't mind helping me out."
"Don't compare me with you. I'd never resort to cheating," Ryuku growled. "Ryou feels the same way. When he knows I'm struggling with something he helps me out."
Gashu was offended by Ryuku's words. "Hey! I help Ryota! Didn't I just say that I help him out with that smart chick?"
Ryuku snorted. "Maybe you're best friends with Takumi. He probably cheats all the damn time." Inwardly, he scoffed at the mere thought of being even remotely close to the brat. It was insulting to have Takumi and friend in the same sentence together.
"Takumi? Who's that?"
"Takumi Hibiki?" Ryuku sneered, disgusted at having to say Takumi's name more than once. "He's a brat, who unfortunately is Ryou's kid brother."
"Ryota's an only child."
Ryuku's eyes widened at Gashu's answer. "Wait. You mean that the brat doesn't exist where you're from?" Ryuku asked, clearly flabbergasted and envious. "Wow. Do you think when you leave you could take him with you?"
Gashu laughed. "Is there something wrong with the kiddo?"
"That's obviously the wrong question to ask. What you should've said was: What isn't wrong with the brat?" the redhead corrected matter-of-factly. "I won't bother to bore you with all of his flaws."
A snort came from Gashu. "I'm pretty sure I've got plenty of time to spare."
"How about some other time," Ryuku grumbled. "Just thinking of the brat makes me sick to my stomach."
But Ryuku's words had sparked an interest in Gashu. He always did enjoy discovering potential challengers. It was part of the fun of martial arts, learning about the specifics of one's opponent. Being in a different version of his own world brought him many opportunities. Who knew what kind of amazing fighters were aching to meet Gashu Saotome? Clearly, this Takumi brat was going to be one of the first people he introduced himself too, especially since his twin had such a negative reaction towards him.
Gashu was bouncing with anticipation on the inside, but to Ryuku he appeared calm, even if he wore a smirk on his lips. "I have a feeling I'll meet this kid eventually. He sounds kind of interesting," he didn't notice the disturbed look Ryuku wore. "But I don't think Ryota is this Takumi guy. Even if you don't think he is, Ryota's a nice guy."
"Trust me, anyone's better than Takumi."
While padding down the hallway, Ryuku steadied the plate in his hands, which had half of a hastily made sandwich on it, while the other half of the sandwich was held between Ryuku's teeth. Whatever was slapped between the two pieces of wheat bread spilled out and spread messily all over the plate. The bits that managed to fall off were quickly caught and eaten by Seichi, who was more than happy to clean up any edible messes. Filled with merriment, Seichi trailed after his master, while he playfully scratched at his owner's bare ankles.
The bedroom door was left slightly ajar, since he left to fetch himself something to eat. Ryuku nudged the door open with his feet and entered inside. Gashu was sitting at his desk, absentmindedly glancing over the broken mirror. Given by his profile, Gashu appeared to be in deep thought, as he stared at his mirror image. Wordlessly, Ryuku dropped the plate in front of him. As the plate collided on the wood, the minute impact from Ryuku's drop nearly brought the sandwich onto Gashu's lap. Ryuku finished the rest of his piece in big bites, silently watching Gashu pick up the sandwich.
Gashu ripped out a large bite from his lunch and began to chew. Within a matter of seconds, his face twisted one of repulsion. "This is –"
Ryuku was quick to interrupt, as if he expected Gashu to make a comment. "It's not so bad. Just try not to actually eat it."
"Who made this?"
"I know I'm no gourmet cook, but I can fix a better meal than mom any day of the year."
The double gaped at Ryuku. "What are you talking about?" he asked. "Ma's a great cook! I can't get enough of her food!"
Ryuku's expression eerily mimicked Gashu's. "That's a joke, right?"
"Ma's cooking isn't something to joke about!" Gashu told Ryuku firmly. "She's amazing! Are you really saying that Ma isn't a good cook?"
"Okay. Obviously we're not talking about the same person," Ryuku scooped Seichi up in his arms, before he went over to his bed. "Mom was never that great of a cook," he shuddered from the thought of any of Akane's past dishes. "But at least she can boil water."
"If I had known I'd be away from Ma's cooking I would've packed more food with me!" Gashu exclaimed, heartbroken. "I can't imagine going a day without a crammed packed lunch from Ma! All you could ever want came in her bento filled with love!" After letting out a dramatic sigh, he tipped his head back to stare at the ceiling. "My stomach will never be content again!"
"Jeez, relax," Ryuku groaned; growing annoyed with Gashu's over exaggeration of despair. "Aunt Kasumi's a great cook. I'm sure she's just as good as your Ma."
Gashu cringed from the sudden mention of their eldest aunt. "… Aunt Kasumi?" he dropped the rest of his sandwich onto his plate, no longer hungry. "I never really liked her."
Ryuku stared at him. "Are you serious?" he asked slowly. "You don't like Aunt Kasumi."
"No," Gashu muttered curtly, shaking his head from side to side. "She's not very nice. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't think she's ever really been nice to me." When Gashu looked up at Ryuku, he was startled by the redhead's glare.
"Who are you talking about?" Ryuku asked. "Aunt Kasumi's the nicest and the sweetest person I know! How could you not like her?"
Gashu's shoulders slumped. "Okay," he sighed. "Obviously we're not about the same person anymore," Ryuku rolled his eyes but kept silent. Gashu hastily continued their chat with another inquiry. "So, what does your Aunt Kasumi do?"
"… She's a stay-at-home mom. But she spends time at the clinic with Uncle Tofu and helps out there."
"Really? Well, that's nice," Gashu told the redhead. "Mine works at Nerima Hospital as a surgeon."
No matter how hard Ryuku tried, he simply couldn't wrap his head around the idea of Kasumi cutting someone open on an operating table. The image was too absurd. Picturing his aunt wearing wrinkled blood splattered surgeon's scrubs, while she smiled sweetly behind her surgical mask. A chill went up his spine, hearing her amiably tell the person she was operating on "not to worry!", before she moved the scalpel to their chest and then sliced the skin.
Finally, Ryuku managed to mumble out. "… That's different."
"Not for me," Gashu said. "She spends most of her time at the hospital. I guess, she used to be somewhat nicer, and I remember she used to come home earlier. But when Dr. Wasabi showed up, she pretty much became a total bitch."
Ryuku winced at his double's choice of wording but chose not to comment on it. Gashu wasn't talking about the Aunt Kasumi who Ryuku had grown up with. He was speaking of his own, who he had personally grew up with, which was perfectly justifiable. However, associating Kasumi with the word, Gashu chose to describe his aunt, still felt wrong. The name of the doctor Gashu mentioned, Dr. Wasabi, sounded familiar. Of course, it didn't take long for Ryuku to make the connection. Dr. Wasabi was the very same doctor, who had operated on him after his little 'fun adveture' with a certain annoying brat.
"I can understand why she's not as nice as she used to be – not that she was very nice to being with – but I guess I wouldn't be very happy either, if some woman wouldn't quit hanging all over my husband."
"… Your Aunt Kasumi married Uncle Tofu, right?"
Gashu nodded. "But their marriage is less than perfect. Uncle doesn't encourage Dr. Wasabi's advances, but he doesn't exactly stop them either."
"Wait. Why wouldn't Uncle do anything about Dr. Wasabi? He's crazy about Aunt Kasumi."
"I'm sure he likes her enough," Gashu shrugged. "But I don't think he's that crazy about her. Ma told me that Aunt Kasumi had the biggest crush on Uncle when she was still in high school. Apparently, she used to get really giggly and ditzy whenever she was around him. The whole thing drove Ma crazy, especially since Uncle never seemed to notice her crush at all. He's always been clueless about that stuff, according to Ma."
"That's not what happened here," Ryuku started. "Uncle was the one who was crushing on Aunt Kasumi. Whenever she showed up at the clinic, he always acted like a completely different person. People were warned to stay away from him when he was like that. My mom told me, he'd run all over Nerima with his skeleton Betty on his back every time she visited him."
"Really? That's pretty funny," Gashu snickered lightly. "Ma told me, Aunt Kasumi would go home and nearly burn the dojo down when she cooked."
Ryuku blinked. "That's hard to imagine."
"Well, like I said, I'm sure Uncle likes her well enough, even if his wife ad to make the first move," Gashu stated with another shrug. "But I'm sure they'll be okay. Maybe. Who really knows?" his twin reached forward to balance a pencil on his nose. "Michiru and Miyuki aren't taking the whole thing very well."
"Michiru and Miyuki? Who are they?"
"They're my cousins," was Gashu's simple response. He wrinkled his nose, causing the pencil to fall onto his chest. The double didn't bother to pick it up. "Michiru's a year younger than me and Miyuki just turned thirteen. We're not very close."
"Then I take it that Misaki doesn't exist." What would it be like to live in a word where his cousin wasn't even born? A disconcerting feeling settled in Ryuku's stomach from the atrocious question. Ryuku refused to dwell on the thought for very long.
"She's my cousin," After a beat, the redhead added. "She's thirteen, too."
"Oh," was all Gashu said. "I guess she doesn't. The name doesn't sound very familiar. I don't think you mean Aunt Nabiki's kids…"
"She has kids?"
"… actually, I have no idea," Ryuku mumbled. I only met her a few months ago.
"Well, mine does," Gashu shrugged again. "I'm not very close with them either. But they're a bit nicer than Aunt Kasumi's brats."
Ryuku mimicked Gashu's earlier gesture. "I'm close with Misaki. She's like a kid sister to me."
"That's good for you," his twin told him offhandedly. "I don't really get along with 'fresh teenagers'. It probably doesn't help that think they're better than me – Michiru and Miyuki that is, I'm not sure what Yukio and Keiji think of me."
"I think I'm fine with the one cousin."
"Keiji's kind of a prick. Maybe I'm being too nice. He's a total money hungry prick," Gashu spat. "He takes pictures of my girl form and sells them behind my back. But I managed to get the jerk to give me part of his profit."
Ryuku's face scrunched up. "Guys buy pictures of you?"
"I was disturbed by it too, but when you think about it I guess I can't really blame them," a sly smirk played over Gashu's lips. "We make pretty hot chicks. Our curse doesn't have to be a bad thing; we should be able to use it to our advantage! Otherwise, they'd totally be useless to have! Besides, guys are willing to do just about anything for a cute and busty girl."
A revolted expression twisted Ryuku's features. "That's… disgusting."
"No, it's not. It's perfectly reasonable," Gashu stated. "Don't tell me you never tried anything."
"Never," Ryuku grunted. "And I don't plan on changing that."
"Jeez, you're acting like I committed a crime or something! If it makes you feel any better, I've tricked girls too."
"You've 'tricked' girls?"
"Lots of times," Gashu admitted albeit a tad too easily. He sat up in his seat, dropping the pencil on top of the desk, and lifted up the mirror. As he stared at himself, he ran his fingers through his hair. "If there's a girl I like, what better way to learn about her by being a friend? You know, girls tell each other just about everything. Besides, it's not like I'm doing anything bad. I don't tell anyone else about what they tell me. Well, okay, I tell Ryota stuff, but he knows how to keep his mouth shut."
"If Keiji's a prick, you must be a bigger one," Ryuku remarked coldly. "I can't believe you think I'd do the same things as you."
"Please, spare me the righteous act," Gashu rolled his eyes. "I'm sure you've done something just as bad. Don't pretend you haven't."
"Why don't you think about it for a bit, before throwing out a half-assed answer?" his twin suggested with a grin. He began to comb his hair, paying particular attention to his bangs. "So what if I use guys to get free stuff? They'd do it for any other chick. Just because I trick girls, doesn't make me a jerk, I don't take advantage of them or anything. I'm pretty sure other people like us do the same thing! Heck, look at gramps! Pops does stuff, too!"
"Even if they take advantage of their curse, doesn't mean I have."
Gashu threw something over his shoulder. "I don't believe you."
Ryuku's hand jolted up and caught whatever Gashu had thrown at him effortlessly. In his hand, he held onto the broken mirror. A shard of glass landed on Seichi, who hissed and moved off of Ryuku's lap. Ryuku picked the shard up, gritting his teeth together when his skin was sliced by the glass. "I don't care what you believe."
"Does Ryou have his pops's curse?"
"Why does that matter?"
"It matters because Ryota uses his curse the same way as me," Gashu explained cheerfully. "The girls at school love the cute little piglet that wanders around the halls. They think he's a great mascot for Furinkan," when all he received in return from Ryuku was silence, Gashu was more than happy to continue speaking. "I was just wondering, since Ryou's so smart, I'm sure he realizes how to use his curse to his advantage."
All the blood rushed to Ryuku's face, his cheeks blistering hot. His thoughts were muddled and confused. Suddenly, he heard a shatter. Ryuku looked down at the floor, shattered pieces of glasses littered the floor; he had smashed the mirror. The mirror's handle was bent and the tacky jewels that decorated the back of the mirror had fallen out. What the hell did I just do? He noticed Seichi was panicked behind him.
He looked up to see Gashu's intense gaze. "What'd you do that for?"
Ryuku swallowed the lump in his throat, waiting for his intense emotions to subside. The redhead padded over to the door. "Let me show you your room."
Loud creaks escaped from the door's hinges when Ryuku swung the door open. From behind Ryuku, Gashu looked over his shoulder to see what he'd be calling his new room. The room was literally covered in cobwebs and various sized dust bunnies. Gashu's nose wrinkled at the musk. One could easily tell that the room hadn't been occupied in years. Ryuku was the first one to enter the room. He headed for the closet, roughly shoving the door aside, while he appeared to be searching for something. Moments later, Ryuku pulled out a rather large futon. Once it was unrolled, a thick blanket of dust was thrown out and showered the wooden floors. Ryuku tossed the daybed onto the middle of the room. He clapped his hands off, removing the dust and other grime off his hands.
Gashu threw his belongings in front of the open closet. As he made his way to the futon, he stomped on the bugs crawling around on the floor. He knelt down next to his new bed, smacked his palm onto it, which casted even more dust into the air. There was an itching sensation at the back of his throat, he doubled over and cough to ease the irritation. "Home sweet home," Gashu said weakly. "I've loved what you done with the place."
"We don't have many guests."
"That's surprising," Gashu commented dryly. "Maybe if you cleaned up the place, people would consider sticking around."
"I heard you the first time."
"The place is a dump."
He rolled his eyes. "Since you'll be here for awhile, I guess you can clean up this so called dump."
Gashu shook his head. "I'm good."
"There won't be much else to do around here."
Gashu clapped his hand onto his neck, killing the insect that had just started feasting on his flesh. "What? Are you going to keep me locked up or something? I'll go crazy!"
"You're not going anywhere! Do you really think it'll be easy to explain this to people?" Ryuku shouted. "That's not even the most difficult part! How am I supposed to hide you from mom?"
He heaved himself off of the futon, already regretting his decision to lie on his supposed bed. "Why do I have to hide from her?" Gashu groaned. "Can't we just tell her the truth? I'm sure she'll understand. Somewhat. Who knows maybe she can help us out?"
"I'm not taking any risks. I've got enough problems to deal with. I honestly don't need you to be even more of one."
"So what am I supposed to do? Sit here and rot?"
"I'm not saying we have to keep this a secret forever," Ryuku huffed. "We don't know how long you're going to be here. I don't want mom to see you, because then you'll have to explain that dad's with you. I don't know how she'd react. What if she wants to ask things? I don't want you to vanish in thin air. She'll be a wreck. She doesn't need more things to stress about."
"Fine. We'll keep me a secret," Gashu bit out reluctantly. "But if this drags on for too long, I'm doing whatever I want. I don't care what you say."
"This gives us time to find out how you got here," Ryuku added. "And to get you the hell out of here."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Gashu waved his hand at Ryuku, brushing away his statement. "I forgot how much of a nuisance I am! Jeez, it's not like I'm Happosai or anything."
Ryuku rolled his eyes. "I guess, I'll leave you to yourself for a bit. I think we both need some times to ourselves."
As Ryuku went up to the door, he turned to say. "So, you must be pretty well liked back home."
"Are you asking if I'm popular?" Gashu asked. "I don't know about popular exactly, but I've got lots of friends… and lots of admirers," he shrugged. "What about you? I'm sure you've got a good life here. Aside from… stuff going on at the dojo."
There was a brief pause, before Ryuku said. "Like I said, I'll leave you alone."
"Alright," he said, thinking nothing of Ryuku's response. "I could use some shuteye. Guess we'll talk more later?"
During his brief walk back to his bedroom, Ryuku thought over everything he had discussed with his double. No one could have a perfect life. Not even Gashu. Gashu didn't get along very well with his cousins, nor was he very close with his other relatives. Ryuku still couldn't get over how different he was compared to his twin. Aside from some minor differences in appearance, they looked exactly alike to the dot. But they didn't act like each other at all. It was difficult to believe they were the same person. Was the way Gashu acted akin to the way their father acted?
Ryuku slammed his door shut and headed directly for his bed. He plopped down onto his stomach, ignoring Seichi sleepily nuzzling his side. The redhead's thoughts eventually went back to the thing that bothered him the most: his father was home. Ranma Saotome had stayed with his family. He had left but he returned in the end. It was an entirely different ending to a similar story. Ryuku touched where his pigtail once was. He hadn't hesitated when he had cut it off. Gashu was given a nickname from his father. If he had stayed would his father had done the same? Gashu hadn't quit martial arts. He had years compared to him, and he assumed Ryuku was on the same level as him? He was surely humoring him. Was it evident that he was a poor fighter? That he would only bring nothing but shame to the Saotome name?
Suddenly, an uncontrollable trembling overcame him, his palms burned from his nails digging into his flesh. There was no point. What did he think would happen? After one stupid training trip, he'd be as good as his dad? Ryuku's laugh was hollow. He punched his pillow. I was stupid thinking anything. Grandpa doesn't know anything. If he met Gashu, there'd be a grandson worth being proud of.
Ryuku scooted away from his cat to shift onto his back. His eyes looked up to the ceiling. "… He's everything I could've, should've been."
Seichi moved onto Ryuku's stomach. The cat stared down at his owner's eyes, before he curled up into a ball and decided it was time for a catnap. Ryuku wanted to get up and do something. He wanted to pick up everything intact and throw it against something. But he stayed where he was and watched Seichi fall asleep. Ryuku wouldn't bother to take a nap of his own. There were too many things cluttering his mind for him to rest.
"… He has a dad."