"What should I do...? His heart is his. While mine is his also...'"
He was living the life most people could only dream of. Huge house, vast lands, businesses, a name; the things any man wishes to have, he have it all.
Yet, not many knew that the 'huge house' was the cage he created for himself.
The vast lands he owned, so wide one would feel lost, was really a greenery masking the grave he had readied for himself.
Businesses that kept on flourishing without him lifting a finger, he wasn't involved with anything, with everything.
And a name that everyone loved and revered, Usami Akihiko. The man surrounded by wealth yet had nothing to call 'precious'.
Five years ago, he was nothing like that.
Five years ago, when Japan was starting to accept foreign influence, he was humble and kind and good natured. He was simple yet had high dreams. He was a man full of vigor to leave the slums where he grew up.
Five years ago, he probably had become too 'deep' in reaching the pedestal, that he had overlooked the little lamp shining every step of his way.
When he reached the highest place, he became surrounded by bright lights. Strong, blinding lights all directed at him. But they all lacked the warmth, his 'little lamp' used to give.
He turned back to look for the warm light, it wasn't there anymore.
Five years back...
"Isn't living simply a better choice?"
The sound of his voice complemented the calm flow of the river. His legs, splashing water here and there as his green eyes observed the man to his side, waiting for a fish to catch.
"This isn't living 'simply' idiot," a five years younger Usami Akihiko answered. His tanned skin sparkled under the sun. "This is not the 'living' I want."
Usami sighed, seeing that no fish took the bait.
"One day, I'll buy the very spot your sitting on, everything your eyes could sweep over, I'll make them mine."
Smiling proudly, the eighteen year old teen then darted his gaze at the sky.
"As for me, I have two feet to take me wherever, eyes to see the changing seasons, and healthy body. But if it's you, I don't think it's impossible."
Turning twenty-eight that month, Usami Akihiko shrugged and haughtily grinned back at the shrimpy kid named Misaki. The kind of airheaded boy that Usami at that time, called his best friend.
"So are you going to stick with me?"
"I'll leech off from you."
They were the most incompatible buddies. A man so ambitious, and a kid who was fine if he could eat three times a day. Yet, they complimented each other. They were inseparable, tied by a bond of knowing what 'poverty' is, glued by a chain masked as 'friendship'. Both had already noticed that their 'friendship' wasn't normal. But no words were said.
Set at the time when war and trade from different countries was rampant, ambitious men like Usami Akihiko flocked the streets, selling his talent.
"Konnichi wa!" Misaki would yell while tossing pieces of paper in the air. Jumping on one foot, skidding after, his tattered kimono brightly fluttering. Circling the crowded streets of the market, the young boy would shout, "The 'Kaizen Acting Troupe' has a new story to tell! Written by Usami-sensei! It starts at seven! Don't miss it!"
The whole day, the kid would dance in the air, announcing the play his most precious friend had written.
Misaki couldn't read nor write. Still, this was his best way of helping the man who gave him food when he was near dying under a bridge.
Since then, the scrawny boy stuck himself to the man like a sticky rice cake.
"Usami-san, we'll be a full house later for sure!" the sweating kid would announce.
If he wasn't loitering, Usami was just in a small room, writing and thinking of getting better at his ideas. His inspiration? To set foot at the most important banquets with the most important people. The shogun, the daimyos, the rich, he'd be like one of them he promised.
"That's a given of course, moron," he murmured, tossing a candy he kept for the kid. "I got that from one of the actors."
Misaki caught it perfectly and looked down at his palms. Looking at the butterfly-like thing on his skin, the kid knitted his brows.
"You pick-pocketed this didn't you?"
Laughing, Usami would continue dragging his brush on the paper, with Misaki whistling throughout the calm afternoon.
Their life was simple and peaceful. Days like these were like dreams to Misaki. These dreams started getting shorter and shorter though.
At that time, foreigners loved and started noticing the storyline Usami was writing for the small acting troupe. And for as short as a month, the man had been recruited for a much bigger company.
And as Usami's crowd grew, the wider the gap he was making between him and his number one fan.
"Usami-sensei...the Kaizen troupe is asking if you can still make a new script for them?"
The flickering candle shone brightly in the middle of the room. The shadows created by Usami's moving figure across the room was like a restless fly being dazzled by the new flame before him.
"I can't," Usami replied, putting clothes into a bag with his idea notes. "The new troupe I'm writing for is going to have a show for the diplomats from the west. I'm busy."
Misaki pulled his knees to his chest. "They're starting to go out of business..."
"It's their fault for having crappy acting. Now that I have a name as a promising playwright, I won't let them drag me down with them."
Cicadas cried out in the peak of summer, the clear night sky seemed to be going farther and farther for Misaki.
"Usami-san...the play will be in that huge, white house right? I heard one couldn't enter if not dressed formally?"
The kid inched closer from his spot by the wall and looked at Usami's baggage.
"I still don't have those kind of clothes, you think that actor from Kaizen would lend me?"
Usami stopped from filling his bag and looked at the kid. There eyes met for a while. The world stood still for a while. It stood still, and started crumbling.
"You don't have to watch."
The man smiled. "Why, those are diplomats. This play I wrote is in English. Just my luck the monk who took me when I was young taught me the language. You'd be out of place in there."
"But..." Misaki's green eyes reflected Usami's own which were already clouded by greed. "I always..."
"You don't have to. Just wait for me here. I'll bring that candy you like."
The kid didn't say anything as he watched Usami step out of that tattered little door. It seemed like, the man he vowed to follow was getting farther from his grip.
Days drifted into the nights. And accompanied by the changing seasons out the window, Misaki's collection accumulated. Candies, the Sakuma drops which was the rage in 1908.
It's been so long since Usami Akihiko had come home. Only by short notes, bills and packs of candies being sent by him to his 'bestfriend' were the remaining proof that they were still somehow connected.
"The grandpa at the market were talking about great Usami-sensei...he's doing very well. I'm glad."
Misaki tucked the paper bills under his pillow and watched the tin can of colorful balls of candy. He took one and felt the hard texture of it in his fingers. Putting it inside his mouth, he sucked on the candy, rolling it on his tongue. All so suddenly, tears started streaming down his face without noticing it.
"The pick-pocketed candies were sweeter...I wonder why is that?"
The old man sweeping the golden leaves out the streets stood stupefied as the sight of a dignified man grew nearer.
He gulped. No rich people would go at this stinking side of the world. And yet, the man, as dressed expensively as he was, he trudged the dirt road as if he knew it like the back of his hands.
The tall man in a dark-suit, and dark hat, the kind those English men wore in the capital stopped at their old house. He stood regally, his presence added a ray of decency in the tattered cluttered houses.
"Uhm...excuse me Sir? May I help you?"
"What's all this?"
The old man got confused. He stepped back a little, scratching his balding head.
In front of the house in shambles, were people in the lowest of the low class gather, was a table. The table made from wood showed tin cans of a popular sweet that was the rage in the capital.
"Where did you get all of these?"
"Uhh, well one of the occupants gave these to us. Said we can sell it."
The man took his hat off and showed lavender eyes that were bordering between confusion.
"Where? Where is that occupant you're saying?"
Seeing the urgency from the man's voice, the old man smiled apologetically. He wanted to help, but he couldn't.
Usami watched the old man's mouth utter his words. At the same time, he lost grip of his hat. Slowly it reached the ground, a silent, awkward thud before the rustling of the leaves took over.
He gazed up the palace-like mansion. It was the dream house he wanted.
It wasn't enough to say that the mansion seemed unreal. Standing in a vast garden of flowers and autumn trees, the setting sun showered it with golden rays as if giving its blessings. It's the place where no one would look down on him.
Made from bricks, blue-roof so that no matter the kind of weather, it would always be clear above their heads. Huge glass windows so the air could freely go in and out. And a huge kitchen that would never run out of food.
"That kid, Misaki was it, his room was next to mine so we talked a lot. I just moved in there three months ago, he's a weird one."
He opened the door with his key, his shoes clicking loudly against the floor as he took the winding steps to the second floor.
"Two months ago, it shocked me that kid said there is something wrong with these candies...hmmm...it doesn't taste good was what he said."
Usami ran his hand to his face tiredly after pushing the door of the room facing the mountains.
"He knocked into my room and told me he used to live with the person he likes. When I asked him where that person is, he just smiled."
The bed was made of fine materials. The mattress the kind that would never graze roughly on one's skin. The clothes aligned one after another in the dresser, the shoes shining waiting to be wore, they gave off lonely shadows as the sun hurriedly disappeared to rest.
"I really have a strong feeling that kid just had his heart broken that time. He did nothing but stare at these candies. Before he disappeared he asked me a question I even at my old age couldn't answer..."
By the time Usami realized it, the sun had completely set. The darkness of the night, and his heart enveloping him.
"He asked me 'What should I do Ojii-chan? His heart is his. While mine is his also...'"
Usami could remember the old man taking a tin can and shaking it mindlessly. The sound of the hard candies filled his ears.
"I don't know what's the real story, but if the kid had been told to wait in this house without explanation or anything. Isn't that no different from telling a dog to wait for its owner? It's low and the kid probably felt tired of it."
Usami blinked into the dimness of the room and stared at the study table he filled with books. He was planning to use all of those to teach his 'bestfriend', 'companion' and 'fan' how to read and write.
He looked around. "This is...this is supposed to be..."
Everything was for Misaki. He worked hard for Misaki. He did this so he could give a better and comfortable life for a kid who haven't experienced a decent home.
But after about two years with only sending money and candies, Usami, just now realized, that along the way his dreams had been clouded by the glittering life and the hypnotizing scent of money.
His realization struck him hard. He liked the glittering world and the attention. He liked being treated as important. He was a hypocrite.
"I used him as a reason to justify my greed..."
In that palace-like home, Usami Akihiko intensely felt how poor he was as a man. The real wealth was nowhere to be found. He had it all along, it was him who neglected it.
Five years have passed by in a flash. He searched everywhere he could, he went to any places the kid would think of going to, but there was not even a trace of a boy named Misaki in there.
Five years have passed, and he would give anything, everything to go back to that small room where everything was just simple yet satisfying.
He'd trade anything to go back to where the fluttering in his chest never stopped as he listened to the contented whistling the boy made while sucking on the candy Usami pick-pocketed.
Anything, he'd do anything, so he could go back.
"No matter how much you regret things, life isn't so forgiving..."
The lead man for the play had been reading that part of the script over and over. He was disturbed and bothered about it.
He brushed his blonde locks to the side of his face and eyed the playwright, sipping tea while his eyes were at the stage as it was being built.
"Sensei...this is kinda heavy don't you think? At least...a happy end would be great."
Usami placed his cup down, frowning at the clumsy way the curtain was being fixed to cover the back side of the stage.
"That's simply 'reality'."
The lead star just smiled understandably. He was all aware of the great playwright looking for someone all these years. But no matter how Usami Akihiko looked, if the person being searched for didn't want to be found, he wouldn't be found easily.
"I would have been happier...if we just stayed simply...together..."
The actor heard it. He could sometimes notice the far away gaze of the wealthy man. His unconsciously voicing out of his thoughts. He just didn't dare ask anymore. Usami was never the kind to tell stories of his own. But through his writing, a lot could understand, why the man always focused on longing. It was his story in the end.
"No matter how much you regret things, life isn't so forgiving..." Usami repeated in his mind. It was exactly him.
At night, Usami was all alone in his mansion. He could wander in the halls and sometimes get lost in it himself. A lot of women, even men had offered their hearts to him. Yet, he couldn't see anybody else aside from the simple, contented kid together with him in that place.
"Where are you? Are you well?"
Usami wrapped a robe around himself and basked under the moon. Its shape a breathtaking silver blade in the bluish night sky.
"I really miss you. I'm going crazy."
From a far, the winding trail road was visible. The flickering lamp shining, signalling of a coming visitor in a simple yet classy carriage. That dirt road only leads to Usami's mansion. He wondered why at a time like this without any announcement, someone would come.
The hooves of the two horses in front grew louder, the dust swirling under their strong legs as they closed the gap.
The owner of the mansion stood with his arms crossed. Waiting for the announcement the horseman would make.
"What can I do for you?"
The horseman jumped out of his seat and bowed at the man once more. He extended a rolled piece of paper that seemed to glow golden in the dark. Looking at the stranger, then at the paper, Usami read.
"Usami Akihiko-sama. It's been a long while and we have heard of your great achievement. It's an honor to have experienced playing your stories when you were just starting.
We know we're not as big as the other troupes you are writing for. But we hope once more to work with you. We're hoping for a positive response.
Kaizen Acting Troupe"
Usami's hand shook a little as he gripped the letter. Kaizen Acting Troupe was where he initially worked for. It brought many happy and sad memories flooding to him at the same time.
"Usami-sensei," a voice called out from the carriage. A much deeper voice, a more refined way of talking. A silhouette of a human being visible. "We are really hoping you'd agree this time. That's why I am here to close a contract."
The door opened. Both Usami and the horseman looked at where the voice was coming from. Usami had to hold his breath. He knew this presence. There was no mistaking it.
After escaping the shadows casted by the carriage, a young man of average built and height appeared. His face being lit by the moon like he was being introduced to a waiting audience.
Extending his hand towards Usami, he gave a confident smile. "Good evening. I'm Takahashi Misaki, assistant coordinator of Kaizen Acting Troupe. Our real coordinator is on a sick leave. This is my first deal, I'm in your care."
Usami just stood as if he had grown roots on where he was standing. It was as if the horseman had disappeared, the house disappeared, time disappeared. He just looked at the hand extended at him disbelieving.
He couldn't even utter a word. He just wanted to cry, but his eyes couldn't cope up with the swell of emotions in him.
"Takahashi -kun, as planned, I'll go to the nearby location and pick you up tomorrow," the man winked in the darkness.
The young man dressed casually and neatly nodded. "Okay, Takamura-san."
Horses cried, their hooves a slipping dream as they left the two long lost souls get to finally see each other again.
Takahashi Misaki smiled, taking Usami's hand in his. The still much smaller hand was rough and calloused. Clearly, the boy had been working hard. And what a fine young man he had become that Usami was lost for words.
Usami asked over and over.
The young man smiled sheepishly, his green eyes the reflection of what Usami has been longing for so long. "It is Misaki..."
Usami reached out to the young face before him. The feel of the young man's skin, the warmth, the softness, the tears he could feel under his fingers, they were all real. So real that he burst into a mess, grabbing the long lost Misaki into an unbreakable hug.
"God...I'm so glad you're okay. Why?"
"Why did you do that you moron? Five years...five years I've thought of the worst things that could have happened to you!"
The once shy boy buried his face on the man's chest. Inhaling the warmth and scent he had also longed for so long. It wasn't easy for him as well.
"I just wanted to find my real self..." Misaki whispered. "My reasoning of living 'simply' was just my mask for being afraid to try new things. I promised myself that when I see you again...I can stand beside you without anybody telling me I can't. I don't want to be pushed around anymore...I've matured in many many ways Usami-san..." Misaki dug his fingers on Usami's back. "In five years, I've worked hard to be someone you could be proud of..."
The older man pushed Misaki away, searching Misaki's face with his moist lavender eyes. To Misaki's surprise, Usami slapped him on the cheek. It was a slap as though a feather touched his skin.
"Whatever you turn out to be, I don't care. I'm proud of who you are."
Misaki patted Usami on the cheek in return. "You'll agree with working with us right?"
Usami planted a kiss on the young man's forehead under the night sky as their witness. Truthfully, their tale was just beginning.
"Of course..." Usami whispered before kissing the tip of the young man's nose. "Of course NOT."
Misaki's eyes grew in confusion. He couldn't fight the urge to frown which made Usami want to laugh.
"This is definitely my Misaki..."
"Why is that?!" Misaki asked, cheeks burning. "Be a little nicer to me! This is my first job as an official assistant coodinator!"
Usami pulled open the robe he was wearing, wrapping Misaki in it too as the chill grew fiercer. "Didn't you just said you've matured and worked hard? Show me that convincing ability then."
Misaki scowled as he was contemplating things. And then resigned to the reality that Usami Akihiko was still a freaking bully after five years, he let himself fall in Usami's strong arms, stroking his back lovingly.
"I'll show you, you'll see," Usami heard the young man's voice as he said this begrudgingly.
Five years have passed. Still in his eyes, Misaki was still his Misaki. He may have grown taller. He may have become a little rebellious. His voice gone deeper. Still these were all changes that he would accept openly. People change for the better. And as the man could feel the thundering heartbeat of the chest against his own burning one, he knew that other than all the changes of maturing, Misaki's heart was still the same.
"Never disappear on me again...I'm begging you..." Usami whispered into Misaki's ear. It was his heartfelt wish not to experience once more that fright of never seeing Misaki again.
Misaki pressed his lips on the man's neck. A very bold act of the more mature Misaki. "I'm not going anywhere...this is where...I've come to prove it to myself...this is where I belong..."
They didn't talk at all. Not a word. And yet they both knew where they should be heading next. It was like the telepathy of two people strongly tied by love, longing, surrendering.
Step by step was like already dancing on fire. Misaki had that tint of red on his face, but his eyes spoke of million things couldn't be described on words alone.
As they both sat on that bed Usami usually used all alone, Misaki took off his own coat himself. Impatient, willing and offering. Usami didn't know whether to shed tears or smile. Probably, the distance they made for themselves before was for the best. Misaki was no longer the indecisive kid that needed telling.
With this, Usami was sure, Misaki wants him. And that he wants Misaki.
Vaguely gazing at Misaki's eyes, Usami placed a gentle yet firm force on his treasure's shoulders, slowly pushing him down. He didn't feel any resistance. Instead, he was welcomed with open arms.
Usami lightly bit on the young man's bottom lip. Misaki bit back. Usami did it again. Misaki did the same. They pecked and bit and chewed on each other's lips like two stupid birds pecking each other.
Laughing in between their deep, and passionate kisses were tears flowing both down their cheeks. Usami nor Misaki couldn't understand whether they were shedding those things because of too much laughing. Or because of too much kissing. Or because of both.
They did nothing but kiss each other until they both fell tired. They kissed as an unspoken symbol of sharing one breath, sharing one soul now that they have become one in heart. Becoming one in body could wait.
This very moment was already heaven that it was enough.
"No matter how much you regret things, life isn't so forgiving..."?
It's still an idea true for Usami. That was why he'd treasure every moment, the big and the small, important or not as miracles. So that his eyes wouldn't be clouded again anymore and make him look at things the world could offer. His miracle was Misaki. And Misaki's miracle was Usami.
The moon's rays showering their room, they fell asleep with hands clasped together.
Their intertwined fingers was the agreement of baring everything they have not known for the years that passed. Connecting their past, their present, and to the promises of the future.
chapter end notes:
my inspiration was the SAKUMA DROPS. it's a favorite^^
their cans could even be a collectible^^
thank you for the time reading! please share your thoughts!^^
after fragments and second to none, i wanted to write something really light! so here it is!
Now working on: Shadow singer, The great Pretender
⋯⊶≕≍≖≎≢≣≋∺∻⋰⋰ ⋯⊶≕≍≖≎≢≣≋∺∻⋰⋰ ⋯⊶≕≍≖≎≢≣≋∺∻⋰ -shuusetsu ⋯⊶≕≍≖≎≢≣≋∺∻⋰⋰ ⋯⊶≕≍≖≎≢≣≋∺∻⋰⋰ ⋯⊶≕≍≖≎≢≣≋∺∻⋰⋰
cover art for this one shot is in my tumblr(edited pic from roman gousha)