Twelve years later
Tanaka Rika sighed, holding her clipboard to her chest. "Koji, what's going on?" she asked as she stood and watched her husband stare through the window to her office. He was trying to see through the blinds.
"Ah! Rika!" he jumped. He was from Osaka and had a really strong accent. "Some guy is in your office."
Rika opened her door. "Fuji-kun!" she almost screamed as she smiled and dropped her notebook. She hugged him tightly. "Oh, I missed you!"
Fuji smiled as he returned her embrace. "I missed you too, Rika-chan," he said with a slight chuckle. "A clinical neuropsychologist, huh?"
Rika pulled back and gently nudged him. "I've done more courses than that. It's take a long time to get this far, Mr. Photographer," she said as she looked at all of her awards. "I'm half way to becoming a psychiatrist, you know. I am a doctor already too."
Fuji smiled. "Good. Then when I get attacked, you can try bringing me back to life."
"Don't even joke about things like that!" Rika exclaimed. She looked rather fine, but her expression had changed a little.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Fuji instantly apologised. He had obviously taken the joke too far. "I know you don't like jokes about death. I shouldn't have even-"
"It's okay," Rika said with a small smile. "It's been a long time. I really shouldn't be like this still."
Fuji pulled her into a hug. "It's okay," he said comfortingly. "I miss him too." He started to smile, ready to change the subject. "You have to meet Kiyori."
Rika smiled. "Sure. How old is she now?" she asked as Fuji took her hand and pulled her around to behind her own desk.
Fuji smirked. "Kiyori!" Fuji called and a tiny girl popped up from behind Rika's desk. She had light brown hair and blue eyes.
Kiyori ran over and hugged Rika. "I missed you!" she said in fluent Irish. Her mother was from Ireland and they had lived there for most of her life, so it wasn't a surprise.
"In Japanese, Kiyori," Fuji corrected. Kiyori was definitely better with Irish, but spoke some Japanese and very little English.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I missed you!" she repeated but in Japanese this time. Rika smiled as she picked up the small girl.
"How old are you now, Kiyori-chan?" Rika asked.
Kiyori looked at Fuji. She wasn't asked her age all that often. "Deadaí!" she cried out to Fuji in Irish. Fuji laughed a little and repeated the question to her how she would understand in Japanese. He had told her that she would be learning a lot more Japanese while they were in the country.
"Oh… four years old," she said with a smile. Rika smiled and congratulated her on saying it the right way. It would have been very hard for a four year old to try and learn two languages at the same time, considering she wasn't even completely fluent in one yet.
"There's my favourite niece!" Yumiko smiled as she picked up Kiyori. The Kikumaru house was full of people as per usual. This date was basically the biggest day of the entire year for the Kikumaru family; the day Eiji died all those years ago.
"Deadaí!" Kiyori called out to Fuji again. She hadn't understood anything but 'my' in that whole sentence Yumiko had said to her. Fuji chuckled. He was going to be doing a lot of translating; he knew it.
"She's so cute. Just like lil ol' Fujiko-chan," Momo noticed as he swung an arm around Fuji's shoulders with a laugh. "So why didn't your missus come?"
Fuji let out a small laugh. "Kayleigh and I aren't married, or plan to be," he said. "I thought you knew that."
Momo still looked confused. "Kayleigh" – he pronounced this more like 'Kayree' – "is Kiyori's mother, right? So are you going back to Ireland?"
Fuji shook his head. "Ireland was beautiful, very green and wonderful for my photos, but we're staying here for a while now. Or we plan to. Kayleigh just wanted Kiyori to be raised on at least a little of her mother's culture first. But Kayleigh is staying in Ireland. If Kiyori ever wants to go back to her mother, then I'll let her go."
Momo nodded. "I see," he said. He never thought he'd hear that from Fuji. He always imagined Fuji would be the kind of person that wanted to be a 'complete' family – one with a mother, father and child/children. It seemed like it wasn't to be.
"Syuusuke! Help!" Yumiko called as she tried to explain drinks to Kiyori. Obviously Kiyori hadn't gotten to this point when she was learning Japanese. Fuji explained yet again with what he had picked up in his time in Ireland. He wasn't too good with Irish, but he could speak with someone. English from school had helped since English was the second major language in the country.
Shou gently watched as people finished arriving. Rika, once again, came on her own. Shou didn't like her husband at all. Koji may have been quite the gentleman and made Rika happy, but he also didn't support her. Koji wouldn't come to one of the most important things in Rika's life even though they were married. Koji wouldn't let their son come either. 'Because they had never met Eiji' he had said, even though that was just an excuse.
"Rika-chan!" Shou shouted.
Rika smiled and bowed just a little. "Shou-kun, thank you for having me over once again this year."
Shou smiled. "Don't worry about it," he insisted.
Everyone got together and sat around the table set out for everyone – tables, rather – and waited silently to pray to Eiji's ashes. Kiyori sat between Fuji and Rika, Rika's face buried in her hands. Everyone could tell that she wasn't as happy as usual. She radiated that she was worried and stressed but no one wanted to confront her.
"Rika-chan," Fuji whispered quietly. Rika looked up at him. "What's going on?"
Rika looked at Fuji like he was an idiot. "We're waiting our tur-"
"No, you're stressed out and worried," he stated bluntly, but quietly. "What's going on?"
Rika took a deep breath. "I'm okay. Just a little over tired," she insisted. She saw it was her turn to go and 'see' Eiji.
Rika gently bowed her head as she sat on her knees and prayed to the Kikumaru family's shrine. She was trying to remain composed but everything was rushing through her head.
"Rika-chan," Fuji said as she got up. She looked definitely worse for wear. "Do you want me to call Koji-kun t pick you up?"
Rika shook her head. "I have to pick up some things from the hospital and check everything is alright."
"Ah, I see," Fuji said.
Rika held her books in her arms. She wanted to help people like Eiji, but she felt incompetent. She needed to get everything out of her systems.
She should have asked Fuji to come along.
"I see," Nurse Kobayashi said with a smile. "Well then, Keisuke-kun, I think Dr Kobayashi Rika knows a little about what's going on."
Rika looked at her aging mother as she brought in a red-headed boy. Rika couldn't believe her eyes. He was almost the spitting image of Eiji in his younger years. Redish hair and big, open eyes, a smile that you could see even when he was frowning and the inviting atmosphere around him that had attracted Rika all those years ago.
"Hello," Rika said quietly.
Nurse Kobayashi had a devious smile on her face. "This is Yamamoto Keisuke-kun. He has something similar to Eiji-kun."
Rika smiled. "I see. Well then, Keisuke-kun, it's very nice to meet you."
"Hi," said Keisuke dejectedly.
"Keisuke-kun wishes to find out about what he's likely to be going through over the next few months while we wait for his cure," the aged Nurse said with a smile. "It seems a cure has appeared over the last few years."
Rika nodded. "So I've heard as well. Come and sit, Keisuke-kun."
Keisuke sat in a chair, unsure of what to expect. "Am I going to die?"
Rika looked shocked. He wasn't even as old as Eiji was when he died, so it was strange this boy could have come to terms with him possibly dying. "We hope not. How old are you, Keisuke-kun?"
"Twelve," he replied.
"Do you play any sports?"
"A little bit of tennis but okaasan wants me to keep on learning piano. I like watching old tennis videos." Keisuke was starting to open up to Rika. He had a forming smile.
"Really?" Rika asked. "Who do you want to be like?"
Keisuke smiled. "There was a doubles player who went to my school. He was so cool. He did all these crazy moves. But he's not famous so you won't know him."
"I see. I know a lot of tennis players," Rika insisted. "I went to school with Tezuka Kunimitsu and Kaidoh Kaoru. Fuji Syuusuke was a good tennis player when I was in middle school, but he left tennis to pursue photography."
"Ah, then do you know Kikumaru Eiji? I really want to meet him but he disappeared from the tennis world after his middle school Nationals win."
Rika chuckled to herself. She should have guessed. "I did. He was my boyfriend at the time," she told Keisuke. "But he passed away shortly after those finals."
Keisuke went quiet. "Why did he die?"
Rika smiled just a little. "From what you have, but there was no cure when I was in middle school. He's the reason I became a doctor… well psychologist/psychiatrist. You're almost his spitting image."
Keisuke was pleased, hearing stories of his idol doing as he did. Re-incarnation was common in Buddhist religion and Shinto, so it was no surprise. Rika believed Keisuke was Eiji coming back to her. Rika smiled. She missed Eiji dearly, but Keisuke was in need of her now.
Fuji smiled as he held Kiyori in his arms. She was sleepy, but still awake.
"Deadaí," Kiyori said. "Rika-san is?"
Fuji smiled. "Eiji-jichan is watching over her," he said. "Don't worry. He will keep her safe."
"Like Mhamaí watches over me?" Kiyori asked.
Fuji nodded. "Just like how your Mhamaí watches over you," Fuji said with a small smile. Kayleigh… she really wasn't coming to Japan but for a different reason than what Fuji had told everyone; she had died in the last month of an accident. Fuji and Kayleigh weren't made to be mother and father together. Their views on parenting were too different to maintain a relationship together after Kiyori was born. Fuji was going to leave Kiyori with Kayleigh, as much as it would pain him, but Kayleigh passed away. Kayleigh knew Fuji would return to Japan so Kiyori got a Japanese name to always be a part of her Japanese side. Plans never worked.
"Do you miss Mhamaí, Deadaí?" Kiyori asked. "I miss Mhamaí a lot."
Fuji nodded. Sometimes he was too tired to get Kiyori to speak Japanese. "I miss her a lot too," he said with a slight crack in his voice. Kiyori wrapped her arms around Fuji's neck as he carried her home.
"This, Keisuke, is Kikumaru Eiji's grave," Rika smiled as she introduced 'Eiji' to Keisuke. "Eiji-kun, Keisuke-kun is a fan of your tennis. He wanted to meet you."
They never expected a reply. "My name is Yamamoto Keisuke and I play tennis for Seishun Gakuen. I'm not good enough to be a regular yet. I have what you had, Kikumaru-san. But there is a cure now."
Rika smiled. Every single day, Keisuke looked more and more like Eiji. He even spoke with the same tone like him. Well, without the nonsensical words and 'meow' but it was still almost the same.
"Fuji-kun as a daughter. I've told you about her. Did you meet her? She's half Irish, so she doesn't speak Japanese too well," Rika said with a slight laugh. "Can you imagine living with just your father? I'd miss my mother too much. But we know my dad has zero personality."
Keisuke and Rika spoke to Eiji's grave for a long time. It was almost dark when they got back to the hospital. Rika held open her office door for Keisuke to grab his new high-tech gaming device. Keisuke was going to go home, then school tomorrow, then he'd receive the cure that next afternoon.
"Fuji-kun," Rika said with surprise to see Fuji asleep in a chair in her office. Keisuke laughed as he grabbed his gaming device and said farewell.
Rika shook Fuji's shoulder. "Fuji-kun, wake up."
Fuji gently stirred. "Rika-chan," he muttered as he rubbed his eyes. "You're back."
"It's almost five thirty. Why are you here? Where is Kiyori?"
"So many questions," Fuji chuckled. "Yumiko is trying to teach Kiyori how to speak Japanese 'like a girl'. She sounds too much like me, supposedly, 'boku' and all."
Rika chuckled. "Well she has to learn from somewhere," Rika admitted.
Fuji's eyes were closed so Rika couldn't read his expressions with too much ease, but since his trip to Ireland, his expressions had changed. They changed a little after Eiji died but you could see in his face now that he was absolutely exhausted. Even with the bags under his eyes skilfully hidden, his expressions were weaker than before. His voice trembled when he spoke about the 'Emerald Isle' but no one had seemed to notice too much to worry.
"I'm so tired," Fuji sighed, his expressions totalling relaxing to nothingness as he rested his head against the wall. "I've almost had enough."
Rika was surprised. Fuji didn't speak openly often. He was the silent soldier continuing to battle. Even if he was 'under the weather' he would soldier on. "I'm sure a day care or Yumiko-san will watch Kiyori-chan. I'll even watch her if you need to work," she insisted. "I know a few patients that wouldn't mind having a girl with a bright smile visiting them. If you asked for help, a lot of people will offer in response."
Fuji nodded. "I know," he said like he had repeated it over and over to himself. Rika wouldn't have been surprised if he had. "But I have to stay strong for Kiyori and that's what's exhausting."
Rika didn't quite understand. Sure, she got the whole 'I'm the dad so I have to be strong for my child and never let them see me cry or down' but she always thought Fuji would be able to handle that. "If you can't cope, Kiyori's mother will take care of her, won't she? You could visit when you have the money."
"Kayleigh is dead," Fuji said harshly. He sounded angry. "Some drunk bastard hit her with a car."
Rika went very silent. It wasn't very often Fuji was annoyed, yet alone angry. But Fuji had always protected others, just like Eiji. "So you've been a single-father all on your own?"
Fuji held his head. "Kiyori was meant to stay in Ireland but Kayleigh died so I she had to come with me. I love Kiyori; she's my daughter. But I'm not cut out to be a father." Rika spotted tears welling in his eyes. She was right – he had held it all in for a long time. "It's not damn fair. First Eiji, then Kayleigh. I can't handle everyone around me dying."
Rika gently supported Fuji. "Eiji died and was released from all of his suffering. He still protects us though. He wouldn't want to see you cry."
"Saa…I'd be teased forever," Fuji chuckled. He suddenly looked serious. "The point of the matter is, you better not die or I'll bring you back to life and kill you myself."
Rika smiled as she and Fuji joked, telling stories of their old friend. Eiji may have been gone from sight, but not from mind. Never ever from mind.
"Rika, I have a photo album." Okay, Fuji was a photographer. Rika thought he had a lot of photo albums. Fuji pulled it from his bag out and gave it to Rika. "I want to ask the Kikumaru family if I can do a show on Eiji's life."
Rika smiled as she began to flick through the pages. "It'd be perfect."
Fuji took a deep breath as he watched all of the people walk in to check out his exhibit. He had seen most of the regulars – Tezuka had even flown in from Germany to see it. The room was filled with hustle and bustle. There was even word of a critic coming to see the show. Of course Inui had come up with that information so Fuji took it as fairly accurate. Everything had to be perfect.
"Daddy! When's the show going to start?" Kiyori asked in Japanese. Fuji smiled as he ruffled her hair just a little.
"Patience, Kiyori. It will be on soon," he said to her and she pouted.
"Everyone, the presentation is going to begin soon. This will be played every hour at the show, so feel free to come see it again," an announcer came over the loud speaker. "Please find a place in the room to watch and show your respect to the photographer who is present tonight, Fuji Syuusuke."
The room dropped dead silent after a few moments. Fuji even spotted the whole Kikumaru family, including his sister. He saw Rika enter with Keisuke, the boy from the hospital. She had been made to promise to bring him to the presentation. Her husband and son followed, a smile that Fuji had never seen before on Koji's face. Just that glimpse of a smile and a laugh instantly told Fuji why she had married Koji – he reminded her of Eiji in the subtlest ways.
"Fuji-san, you're on now," someone quietly whispered. Fuji nodded and stood up the front of the room.
With a deep breath, he looked around the room again. With so many that knew Eiji present, he had to say it perfectly. He opened the album with all of the original pictures in it. He didn't usually have the strength to even open it without missing his friend so dearly he'd have to fight back tears. But tonight, he was confident in himself to say it without crying a single tear. He slowly unfolded a note of paper and began to speak:
"Not it sight, but
not out of mind.
Your presence in person guided us,
and your dreams shall continue to inspire many.
For you lived for everyone around you
when times were almost impossible
Through thick and thin,
You never gave anything but your best.
That's why, my
You may be gone from sight
But you are not gone from my heart
You shall not age like we do
and you shall never fear what we must fear.
Every day you shall live on deep inside of me
and everyone you have met
Giving them hope
Please never fear
You will never be forgotten, my friend.
Please never give
You are always in my heart."
The paper folded over gently and slipped back into the original album, where it belonged. It had been there for a very long time and the album was beginning to get dusty. He blew the dust away as he took out a particular picture, his best friend smiling brightly.
Yes, he would always be by his side.