When Seiji had been a child, he had wanted a dog. A white dog. A white dog he would have named Shiro. (Or maybe a parakeet. One with bright eyes and blush cheeks.)
Unfortunately, his parents had not wanted a dog (or a parakeet). And so, Seiji had remained pet-less for most of his elementary school life.
Then, one day, Seiji had been minding his own business. It had just turned from summer to autumn, and his sweater was a little too big, the sleeves falling well past his hands. (But he had liked that sweater. It was white and had a blue stripe at the hem that matched his favorite pair of socks.)
While walking home from school, he had been passing a pile of leaves when he saw it.
Crouching down beside the fallen leaves, Seiji had placed his sweater sleeves against his bare knees and stayed quiet until it happened again.
A moment later, a brown and yellow turtle cautiously moved out from its shell.
Seiji adjusted his glasses accordingly.
The slow-moving turtle turned to look up at Seiji with a dark, immoveable stare.
Seiji looked back at it, and said,
The turtle bobbed its head just slightly, as if to nod.
Seiji tilted his blonde head curiously, wondering,
"Do you want to come home with me?"
Again, the turtle bobbed its head just slightly. This time, turning to look straight ahead again and taking a slow step forward.
Seiji blinked, and then, as was only polite,
Using his long sweater sleeves, Seiji had made sure to be extra careful as he had very gently and softly picked up the turtle.
Turtle-san had hidden in his shell the rest of the way home. And he had been called by the generic "Turtle-san" title until Seiji had joined Touya Kouyou's study group.
Seiji had honored his new sensei by renaming his turtle after him.
Seiji had not been there for Touya Akira's birth. Though, he had visited the newborn at the hospital shortly after his birth.
Personally, one baby looked like every other baby to Seiji. And he hadn't wanted to hold it. (Yet, there is a photograph of a teenage Seiji very stiffly holding a newborn Akira during that visit.)
It was around this time that Kouyou-turtle (formerly "Turtle-san"), had begun to grow lethargic and less active. And Seiji had been worried.
That is, until he had witnessed the rejuvenation of Kouyou-sensei after the birth of his son. That is what had ultimately inspired Seiji to begin his exhaustive search.
And it hadn't been until the fifth pet store that he had found the perfect candidate.
Seiji stood in front of the glass display cases of turtles. The store employees were all fidgeting behind the counter. (This wasn't Seiji's usual store, so he had had to repeatedly assure them that he did not need their assistance. Three times.) And since it was the height of summer in a very humid Tokyo, Seiji was sure that his sweaty and exhausted image wasn't making a very good first impression.
"Hello, turtle-sans." Seiji greeted the group politely. "My name is Ogata Seiji, and I am visiting you on behalf of Kouyou-turtle."
He held out the framed photograph for them to inspect.
"Would any of you like to become Kouyou-turtle's companion? Kouyou-turtle is a very quiet, thoughtful individual. Well-travelled, from the time before he and I met. Perhaps he would be willing to exchange some stories of his wanderings with you."
Seiji waited for a response.
Most of the time, their response was indifference. The best Seiji had gotten in the last four pet stores had been brief glances before the turtles had seemingly lost all interest.
But in this pet store, one turtle hesitantly approached the glass to stare at the framed photograph Seiji was presenting.
Seiji regarded the small green, light-green-striped, turtle curiously.
"Would you like to come home with me and meet him, Turtle-san?"
Even more hesitantly, the small turtle bobbed its head once, and then retreated into his small shell.
Seiji named the turtle in honor of Touya Akira.
Seiji had arrived right away, bursting into the room, still in his coat.
Both occupants of the room turned to stare at him. One in alarm. The other, smiling and waving quite happily.
"Sai-sama, Hikaru-sama—" The panicked servant rushed up behind Seiji.
"Are they here?" Seiji didn't bother with politeness, gaze trained upon the wooden crate on the table.
As Sai quietly assured the interrupted servant that it was fine, Seiji joined Hikaru in seiza at the table.
"We found them in our garden." Hikaru explained, gesturing excitedly towards the crate. "We don't know how long they were roaming around out there before we noticed. And we found the first one and put it in a box before the other came looking for it. It walked up right to the box!"
There were two turtles shifting around the loose hay at the bottom of the crate. They were hiding, most likely scared by their new environment.
Both had dark shells. One appeared purple in the light. The other's shell was streaked with bright electric yellow.
"Thank you for coming so soon, Ogata-san." Sai said with relief, before gesturing to the two turtles. "We weren't sure what to do with them."
"You did well enough."
There had been a heat lamp set up. Seiji mentally nodded with approval.
"What do you think?" Sai nervously wrung his hands. "Do you think they can go home with you?"
Seiji looked directly at Sai and responded,
"I don't know. I'll have to ask."
Sai blinked. And it was testament to how long they had been friends that he only nodded in agreement.
"Whenever you're ready, Ogata-san." Hikaru encouraged, leaning forward to look into the box one last time. "We'd let them stay in our garden, but they'd be cold with winter coming."
Seiji hid his frown at the thought. He didn't like the idea of the two turtles running wild in the winter cold. He would have to make a very good impression to convince them.
Clearing his throat, Seiji leaned forward and peered into the box. Then he waited very patiently until the turtles peered out of their shells enough to look at him.
Seiji gave them another moment to get used to his face, before he said very politely,
"Hello, I am Ogata Seiji."
At the other sides of the table, Sai and Hikaru began to exchange a silent conversation.
"My home has two turtles who would very much welcome your company. Would you like to come live with us?" Seiji asked very solemnly.
The purple-shelled turtle slipped back into its shell.
The yellow-streaked turtle took a step forward towards Seiji, peering up at him with approval, before moving back towards his companion.
"Was…was that a yes?" Sai asked.
"I believe Turtle-san will convince Turtle-san to agree." Seiji nodded hopefully.
Sai's brows furrowed, before concluding,
Seiji waited until the purple-shelled turtle peered out again, looking fleetingly at Seiji before retreating back into its shell.
"It's settled then." Seiji announced, sitting back.
Sai and Hikaru looked at one another.
"I believe we'll go home directly." Seiji told them with a nod. "It'll be best to introduce everyone before dinnertime."
"We don't mean to rush you, Ogata-san." Sai said.
"And we have tea!" Hikaru gestured grandly at the table.
Seiji glanced down at the prepared tea tray. It had been set up with his favorites. However, he had to consider the turtles.
"Thank you, but I'd prefer to return home." Seiji replied neatly.
Hikaru sighed, but his disappointment was slight. "Next time then."
"Have a safe trip home." Sai said, not at all offended.
After making his short goodbyes, Seiji picked up the crate and left the Fujiwara home for his own.
Seiji named the turtles Sai-turtle and Hikaru-turtle, in honor of his friends.
I think I'll miss you most of all, Ogata the turtle lover.
2017.06.01 Happy 1-Year Anniversary!