I've always wondered what it was like,

What is was like to be free

Free from hardships, free from struggles…

Free from criticism, free from expectation…

It must be a sweet calm, that freedom.

I'm not free.

Hardships scour my life as vultures would carrion,

My struggles are countless and heavy,

The criticism is non-stop

And the expectation is killing me.

I'm living under a shadow,

The light no longer reaches my eyes

And my life is slowly engulfed in the darkness.

However… deep inside…

I can feel that the stars are there behind the clouds.

Twinkling brighter and brighter without end.

I may be living under a shadow,

But I'm waiting for the day…

Waiting for the day I can see my stars again.

Once I reach them,

I will be free.

Reaching for the Stars

Part I, Chapter 1

[ Satoshi Tainaka – S ]

"It's freezing…" I grumbled, shivering violently as my sister and I walked through the winter cold. Zipping my jacket straight up to the neck and practically embracing myself didn't do much to help either, "Seriously, what happened to global warming?"

"Of course it's cold during winter," my sister explained. The spry devil then turned to me and smirked. "Man… look at you! I'd like to show this side of you to the girls of your class."

Was she laughing at my slow freeze to death?

"Please… spare me."

My name is Satoshi Tainaka, and that person over there is my big sister Ritsu. Yup, that's right, I'm Ritsu Tainaka's (or Riichan as her friend Yui-senpai calls her) little brother Satoshi. Never heard of me? I'm not so surprised. I'm just a regular boy after all, living a regular life. The only abnormality is that I have a famous sister. She's the drummer for her school's light music club, basically a band she formed with her friends Mio-senpai, Yui-senpai, Mugi-senpai. People know her more than me... but I guess that's what it meant to be a Tainaka.

"Oh right…" Ritsu said, stopping in her tracks as if she remembered something important.

"What is it?" I asked impatiently, wanting to get home as soon as possible

Suddenly, before I could react, my sister's cold hands were wrapped around my cheeks. It was cold!

"So warm…" she moaned sapping my heat, "it's like I'm touching a heater."

"If you touched a heater," I said, struggling to get the frozen hands off my face, "wouldn't you get burned?"

"Just kidding Satoshi-kun," she replied sticking out her tongue, "now let's head on home, okay?"

"Fine." I said, still sour for having the face I've been trying to warm ever since we left the theater frozen by her hands. Deep inside though, I felt satisfied and was laughing heartily. Somehow, I felt that Ritsu was laughing with me too.

Despite this gaping inferiority complex, my sister Ritsu and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. From elementary to junior high, we've shared the ototo-san/one-san* relationship and have looked out for each other through thick and thin. I know it's weird for boys to have their elder sisters as a good friend, but she was the only sibling I had. We loved each other to bits. She taught me how to play the drums and I taught her how to make a mustache out of her long bangs (something she and Yui-senpai seemed to enjoy doing) and a lot of other stuff like that. In short, we enjoyed each other's company.

Just as Ritsu and I were about to head on back, a friend of mine happened to pass by.

"Hey, Tainaka!"

"Oy! Haruta!" I called back as he joined Ritsu and I

"Yo!" greeted my friend Kouji Haruta with a curt salute. "Oh... Ritsu-senpai, you're here too!"

"Hello there." Ritsu greeted back

"Anyways, I'm going to Suzuki's house Satoshi." Kouji invited, "Want to come along?"

"Well, it's up to my sister." I said folding my arms in thought

"Oh, you can go too Ritsu-senpai!" Kouji added, "Suzuki's a fan of your band after all. He's been itching to have your autograph."

"I see," Ritsu said flattered, "nah… I'll pass this time Haruta-kun, but you can go if you want Satoshi."

"Really?" I asked cheerfully.

"Sure thing." Ritsu said with a wink, "I'll talk it out with the folks so don't worry about it."

"Wow, thanks sis!" I said, thanking her with a one-armed embrace

"Don't stay too late though," she added, "and say hi to Suzuki-kun too."


With that, Kouji and I bid farewell and ran off to our friend's house.

At Suzuki's House

"Ah, just in time." Francis Suzuki, a Japanese-Canadian classmate of mine greeted as he opened the door for us, "Hurry inside before the windchill kills ya, eh?"

"Sorry to intrude," Kouji and I said as we entered the house. The two of us, took off our jackets and basked in the warmth of Francis' heated home. Man, it felt good to be warm. I felt like a frozen fish being thawed in a flame… awesome.

"So what's up France?" Kouji asked as we took off our wet shoes in the anteroom, "Finished the homework?"

"Of course," Francis said triumphantly, "and I assume you want help finishing yours."

"Please!" Kouji begged, falling to his knees. Francis had read his mind.

"I'll help out too." I offered, remembering that I finished the homework before going to the movie with Ritsu, "the more the merrier, right?"

"Ah," a young woman said pleasantly, joining us in the anteroom, "so the boys are here."

"Yeah," Francis said, "do you mind if they stay here for a while auntie?"

"Sure, sure." Francis' aunt said happily, placing her hands together, "Your friends are always welcome here, especially if Tainaka-chan's little brother is…"

"Auntie Katherine!" Francis growled

"My, my, my~!" Francis' aunt suddenly squealed. She seemed to glow as she spoke, making Francis blush madly. I wonder why…

"Anyways," Francis said, "we're gonna be studying for now, but do you mind if we use the garage later?"

'The garage?" Francis' aunt asked, "Go ahead, just be sure to clean up afterwards."

Francis' aunt then left for the kitchen, leaving the three of us to ourselves.

"Who was that?" I asked, unfamiliar with Francis' relative

"Oh, she's my aunt Katherine." Francis explained, "She's from Germany you see, but since she's visiting in Japan, she prefers to be called 'Kareha*'."

"I see…"

"She's pretty." Kouji drooled, his eyes obviously dazed.

"Don't you get any ideas, you…" Francis glared at Kouji

"Just kidding!" Kouji apologized, giving a dry laugh,

"Anyways," I interrupted, "before I forget, my sister Ritsu told me to say hi to you France."

"Did she…" Francis said, his cheeks turning red. So that's why his aunt was so worked up… Francis…

"That aside," Francis said shaking his head, "let's get this over with. There's something I want to show you in the garage you see."

The three of us then headed up to Francis' room and helping Kouji with (but most of the time, letting him copy) the homework.

Francis Suzuki and Kouji Haruta. These guys are my two closest friends in school. We hang out and visit each other's houses a lot so our families know each other pretty well. The three of us are so close, that we're rarely found in our own houses (save for Francis, whose house we usually crash at). Francis is an intelligent and composed person like Mio-senpai who enjoys listening to music and trying out new things. Compared to Mio-senpai, he isn't phobia-ridden and is quite fond of many things (even barnacles, which could make Mio-senpai faint). Kouji on the other hand is always thinking about girls and other nonsensical things (even during school). I cringe just thinking about what the hell goes on through that guy's mind... it might be some incomprehensible barrage of factoids and pun jokes. But who knows? Maybe it's the sign of genius! Well... probably not. Anyways, they're my chums have been my companions throughout middle school.

There is one problem with this happy picture. Francis and Kouji... they're not going to be around here much longer. Kouji's going to be moving to the countryside with his relatives while Francis is being asked to go to a Canadian high school for something called 'International Baccalaureate' or something like that. It makes me wonder what's going to happen when they're gone.

"So, Francis," I said closing the mathematics textbook in my hands, "have you finished packing your things yet? It's almost the end of winter term."

"I am actually." Francis said, "Most of my stuff's already in Halifax… that's why my room's so empty eh?"

"I wonder what it's like in Canada?" Kouji asked, "Do their sentences always end with 'eh'?"

"Kouji…" Francis grumbled, smacking him on the arm, "finish your homework."

"Yes sir…" Kouji sighed, a lump forming on the top of his head. Where have I seen that before?

"Anyways," I said standing up from where I sat, "we're almost done here. What were you planning to show us France?"

"Oh right." Francis said in realization, "It's in the garage. We'll go down there once this knucklehead's done writing the homework. Seriously dude, can't you write any faster?"

"I'm trying, I'm trying!" Kouji cried, scribbling faster and faster, making the paper smoke.

I wonder what Francis wanted to show us?

Basement of the Suzuki Residence

"Whoa…" I gasped, "this is…"

"It's beautiful isn't it?" Francis said confidently

"The shininess…" Kouji moaned covering his eyes, "I think I've gone blind!"

In the middle of Francis' basement sat a set of instruments; a guitar, a bass, a keyboard and a drum set. All of them were brand new and in mint condition. It's almost as good as the ones my sister's band plays at her school.

"So what do you think guys?" Francis asked with a grin

"This is awesome!" I cried, "Where'd you get all of this?"

"My older brother has a band in Canada you see." Francis explained, "He asked us to buy instruments here for him so that when I go there, his band has a spare set."

"I see…" I said rubbing my chin, "but why are you showing us this?"

"Well, you see." Francis said, "I asked my brother if I could have the first dibs on the instruments and he gave me the green light. 'Test them for us if you want, eh?' he told me. I've played the guitar, but I never got around to playing the other instruments since I didn't really have a band to jam with."

"So you're proposing a jam session?" Kouji asked with a raised brow

"Yup," Francis said happily, "if that's okay with you that is."

"Cool!" Kouji cried, "I may not be a Tsumugi Kotobuki, but I can play the keyboard."

"Awesome." Francis said, "Just unwrap the thing and plug it to the side Kouji."

Francis then turned to me and said,

"What about you Satoshi?"

"Well… my sister taught me to play the drums," I said, "but I'm nowhere near her skill level."

"That's okay dude!" Francis said, "All the more reason to play, right?"

"I guess you're right…" I said as I approached the drum set, "but there's only three of us here. We have no bassist."

"It's fine." Francis reassured as he connected his guitar to the amplifier, "We can still make it sound nice."

"Alright, let's begin!"

The three of us prepped the instruments and played around to test them out. When we started playing a song though, it didn't sound as good as we wanted.

"Hmm…" Francis said adjusting his guitar strap, "that didn't go too well…"

"Something's missing." I said, dropping the drumsticks on the snare, "I can't seem to get the beat right."

"Yeah…" Kouji added, "we keep getting off-track at times."

"That's because you don't have a bassist." A familiar voice explained, "Without the bass, the sound is a little hollow, you know."

"Ritsu!" I cried, surprised to see my big sister climbing down to the basement with Francis' aunt.

"You boys have a guest." Francis' aunt said with a chuckle, "I thought she might want to hear you play."

"So, you're finally playing the drums little man?" Ritsu said intrigued, "I want to see this!"

"Well," I said picking up the drumsticks, "you did teach me how to play. It's time that I learned to play by myself."

"Growing up so fast ah?" She commented, "Anyways, that's an awesome song you're trying to play, so if you want to nail it, you need a bassist."

"Do you want to play bass, sis?" I asked mischievously

"N… nah" she said trying to save face, "my fingers are cold so I can't really play too well."

"I can play though." Francis' aunt said, "I'm a bassist in the Reichstag Orchestra, so I think I can play that song."

"Right on!" Francis said, "We might even be able to do the vocals this way!"

"Sure thing Francis," replied his aunt, "you do the main voice and I'll be the backup."

Picking up and unwrapping the new bass, Francis' aunt attached the instrument to an amplifier as well and got ready to play.

"Good luck you guys!" Ritsu cheered as she sat on the staircase to watch, "Don't hold back!"

"You got it!" I said raising the sticks over the drums. The four of us then performed the song *Fireflies. Though the song was mostly Electronica, Francis was able to transpose it for the four band instruments. With the addition of the bass, it sounded really nice. However, the thing that stood out the most for me were the lyrics.

"I'd like to make myself believe,

That planet Earth turns slowly,

It's hard to say I'd rather be awake when I'm asleep,

Cause everything is never as it seems."

Even though I wasn't the one doing the vocals, I felt the song touch my soul. I did wish that time went slower. As we played the song, I realized, I didn't want these guys to leave, not yet. However, what could I do? Towards the end of the song, the drum and bass part ended, leaving only Francis' vocals and Kouji's keyboard echoing throughout the room. When it ended, I felt great at having been able to drum for such a great song, along with a specter of sadness that nibbled at me.

Just then, my sister stood up from her seat and gave us a lively applause.

"That was great you guys!" Ritsu said, "I'll be sure to tell the girls about this on Monday."

"I'm glad you liked it Tainaka-senpai," Francis said blushing

"Hey… you…" I grumbled, tapping Francis' head with the drumsticks

"Anyways," Ritsu said turning to me, "we'd better head on home. The parents are looking for you, they're getting mad again..."

"Well," I said to my friends, "that was fun. Let's do this again someday, okay?"

"Definitely." Francis said determinedly, "When I come back here from Canada, we'll make our own band. We might even perform at Budokan before your sister's band."

"Is that a challenge?" Ritsu asked intrigued

"Maybe," Francis said, "anyways, see you Satoshi, Tainaka-senpai."

Francis' aunt opened the door for us and my sister and I headed back home. As we walked, I couldn't help but think about my friends. Next week would be our last week in school together… and here I am thinking if we'll ever see each other again. "Only time can tell," I thought to myself, giving out a sigh that fogged up before my eyes.

"That was really good playing there Satoshi-kun," Ritsu suddenly said, "I'm proud of you."

"Thanks," I said, unsure of how I felt at the moment

"If you really want something," Ritsu then said facing the sea of stars that filled the night sky, "don't be afraid to reach for the stars. If you keep believing, you'll be able to see them again. Okay?"

"Oka… wait!" I cried, "I never told you about that!"

"Well, I am your onee-san, and you are my ototo-san." Ritsu said ruffling my hair, "It's my job to know you, to be worried for you and to look out for you."


"Haha," Ritsu laughed, jabbing me on the side, "of course it's also my job to bug you and make your life a living hell."

"Hey… that's not fair!"

"Just kidding boy," she said cheerfully, "anyways, the parents are furious, we have to move it."


Under the stars and the curtain of bright moonlight, my sister and I ran to our house hand in hand. What the future holds for us, I do not know. Until then, I will keep looking at the stars, waiting for the day I can reach mine.

To Be Continued

*ototo-san/onee-san relationship - Little brother/Big sister relationship

*Fireflies - popular song by the artist Owl City. Disclaimer: I do not own the lyrics

*Kareha - secondary character from the anime Shuffle! as well as one of the mains in my Shuffle! fanfic.