Look, I don't know, autumn's gonna be here soon, and I was sitting around thinking about how pretty it is but also how quickly it goes by (which is too bad, seeing as it's my favorite season), and later I finally went and read the Loveless volume 9 and 10 scanlations…honestly speaking, I think the quality of the manga has gone down a bit. Other than the admittedly intense Bloodless fight, it's become too cutesy. Part of it was like one big dumb filler, which sucks because I remember the series being more intense and dark and I miss that.
ANYWAY, in case you couldn't tell, I did not come to bitch and moan, I came to post my latest fic, my first in a while, one that you could say was prompted by nostalgia. All I can say now I guess is that I appreciate any constructive criticism and also that I hope you enjoy!
As he walks through the park, a sudden wind sends colored maple leaves tumbling through the air, prodding Ritsuka to button up his jacket and shove his gloved hands into his pockets. Some float down softly from a nearby tree, spinning in the wing, and others are swept off the ground and sent upwards along the chilly current. They all seem to ripple and shine in the evening air.
As they float above and around him, Ritsuka raises his hand and skillfully plucks a large golden leaf from the air, smiling briefly as he does so.
He takes the leaf by the stem and holds it close to his face. It was a maple leaf, its veins a deep brown and extended from the center of the leaf and along the seven tattered finger-like lobes, tinier veins in turn sprawling out from each of them. The skin is wrinkled and coarse, like the skin of an old man. Ritsuka brings the leaf to his nose and smells the sweetness that age and decay had brought out from within the leaf. At the same time, he closes his eyes as a sudden memory swells up from inside him, one of falling leaves, a sweet, cold breeze and the slight touch of a stranger's lips against his own. It was autumn when he had first met Soubi.
He remembers being pulled into Soubi's embrace, held tightly against the adult's body as strange words and magic raged around them. He remembers smelling the sweet chill of wind and transience in the fabric of Soubi's coat.
He remembers how he had vanished as quickly as he had come, and how he had thought the entire encounter a dream until he had looked at his photos.
Ritsuka opens his eyes, drawing the leaf away from his nose. He sits down on a nearby bench, taken slightly aback at the sudden memory. He leans back on his seat, filled with a sudden loneliness. Autumn always made him feel like this at some point. He rolls the leaf's stem between his fingers.
He remembers one late November evening when Soubi had stayed at Ristuka's place for part of the night because of his mother's latest beating. The scariest part of it he remembers was, strangely enough, how she didn't yell furiously like she usually did when she flew into a rage. He had displeased her (he couldn't remember how, exactly) and then she had mechanically started to hit him, her face distorted, her mouth clenched in fury, issuing no sound. The hate had come out of her eyes instead of her words. He remembers how terrifying and perfectly inhuman she had looked when she had pounded away at his frail body.
He had run up the stairs and into his room, locking the door behind him with one fumbling hand while clenching his teeth at the pain in his arm, upon which a large purple bruise had later formed. Then she had come up and as he waited for the screams and wails which never came, she started beating at the door with her fists, at some point even throwing the whole of her body at it in vain. He remembers waiting for her to stop, fearing that she would eventually injure herself somehow, and when she finally did, it was abruptly and other than the muffled tap of footsteps moving away from the door, soundlessly. Soubi swooped in through his balcony soon afterwards to find Ritsuka on the floor, curled in a small, tight ball.
Later that evening he was lying loosely wrapped in thin sheets and Soubi's strong arms, safe from his mother and the cold of the late autumn night. Behind his half-closed eyes, everything stricken by the moonlight that came through the window seemed to shine with a blurred, silvery glow, from the white sheets to Soubi's pale skin. He doesn't know why he remembers that. Despite his initial protests, he had grown drowsy and comfortable in every second spent in the warmth and safety that he so lacked in his daily life. Then, suddenly, he had felt Soubi slowly draw him closer.
Ritsuka hadn't bothered to resist. He had been too tired and too weakened by the day's ordeals to lash out at Soubi in his usual manner. Then he had felt Soubi's fingers tangling themselves loosely in his hair, his other hand at the small of his back, pulling him in until Ritsuka had felt his nose pressing against Soubi's chest. He remembers feeling the rise and fall of Soubi's breath and if he turned his head, the slow beating of his heart. The hand at his back had moved up towards Ritsuka's shoulder, curled around and remained pressed below his neck, had traced long fingers against his shoulder blades through Ritsuka's nightshirt.
He remembers suddenly being pulled, softly yet somehow desperately, into Soubi's body till he could hardly breathe, and the weird, deliberate slowness of Soubi's hands along his back and sides, his arms wrapped tightly around the whole of his slight frame and the feeling of Soubi's lips caressing the top of his head and the tips of his ears, barely even there, and the smell of cigarettes and the slight, yet delirium-inducing scent of old maple leaves in Soubi's shirt—sensations that he remembers gave him shivers all through his body that would've cut his breath short even if he hadn't been being slowly, gently smothered by Soubi's warmth and strength. The pressure eventually had started to strain against Ristuka's bruised arm.
He remembers murmuring a muffled, "Soubi."
A soft, childlike whisper, uncharacteristic of the adult. "Yes, Ritsuka?"
A pause. His heartbeat quickening. "I can't breathe."
Soubi's arms loosening, enough to leave room for Ritsuka to push himself away from the adult's body, just enough for let Soubi's arms be lying limp across the boy's ribs. "I'm sorry."
He remembers waking up in the morning with his arms curled around a sheet and Soubi gone, the only proof of his being there a few strands of blonde hair and the ghostly scent of cigarettes on Ritsuka's pillow.
As he slowly comes out from his reverie, Ristuka looks down to see the remains of the gold-colored leaf crumbling out of his tight fist, which he opens to find the leaf's crumpled skeleton, remains of golden-brown skin floating through his fingers.
He lets the rest of the leaf's remains drop to the ground, then he stands up and continues walking down the path, heading towards the woods. Slowly, Seimei comes through his mind and he remembers it was autumn when he was told of Seimei's death.
He remembers hearing and imagining all the gruesome details; a dark, empty classroom at his old elementary school, musty shadows leering over the figures of victim and perpetrator. His brother tied to a chair, helpless as some wicked stranger poured gasoline over his face and body, then a dropped match and the whoosh and billow of flames. The smell of burning flesh.
He remembers that he didn't cry when he was told the news. He instead had felt uncomfortable prickles of shock spreading through his body, then a sudden cold feeling from somewhere inside his chest. A tightness in his throat. The limp, heavy feeling of his arms. Weariness.
He remembers his mother's grief, how she first hung on his shoulders, sobbing quietly and stroking the back of his head comfortingly, and how she later smashed plates and slapped at him, beat his fists at him, all the while howling for Seimei, his father doing little to stop her. And while he had flinched at her violence and her powerful anguish, he had done nothing to resist her blows. He was too tired, too weary, too numb.
That numbness, that feeling of weight and being dragged through his life by outside forces prevailed for weeks since Seimei's death, and when he was switched out of schools, a futile attempt to escape the memory of an abrupt and ugly death, he had simply forced a big smile and wide eyes on his face and wished for his days to slide through as quickly as possible. His mother had grown continuously worse and the only way he thinks he managed to survived those dark, empty weeks was the memory of the day he woke up an alien with no past in someone else's body and how a kind stranger with a warm smile explained to him that he was his brother and then held him for a long time.
Then he met Soubi, the last link to his brother, and everything changed.
The smell of leaves and autumn was everywhere when it had all happened.
He enters the forest with a crunch of dry leaves beneath his sneakers. The red web of foliage above him casts thick shadows upon the ground. Colored, pronged leaves drift past him, landing on the ground soundlessly. He follows the narrow path, relishing in the peace and earthy smells of the woods. Eventually, he reaches a small clearing, where the sky above him was framed by maple trees and there was room for him to lie down on the ground, cross his arms behind his head and watch evening stars come slowly into view.
His brother had returned to life, unhurt and seemingly well off, yet not the same as Ritsuka had remembered him. The Seimei who had protected him from his mother and the bleakness and injustice of the world was no more. Something else had returned. Something like a tightly-held, cold, sharp knife, ready to lash out at whoever stood in its way, even at Ritsuka.
He is stricken with the memory of Seimei's cold, commanding voice and his glittering dark eyes, looking for the first time in Ritsuka's eyes, menacing. Then he had professed his love to Ritsuka, had laced it with the threat of abandonment and pain, had left Ritsuka feeling powerless in the face of his brother's menace. He remembers a resounding, tinkling crash and shards of glass flying everywhere, then an icy wind and silence. Seimei had vanished, dry brown leaves fluttering in from the broken window that he had used as his escape. He remembers Soubi covering his face with his bandaged hands in shame.
Ritsuka sighs, feeling heavy and tired.
Memories like this have become characteristic of autumn, Ritsuka thinks. Such memories have eventually shaped the season into a time of turbulent emotions, sporadic bitter cold and soft warmth, and of the melancholy feeling that all he knows is transient. From the very beginning, his life seems to be defined by that knowledge that all things, especially those things that are good and right, must always come to an end. Autumn, a season of fleeting beauty and quick death, is a reminder of that. A reminder of Seimei's death and rebirth, of Soubi's lies and soft, sometimes distressed whispers in his ear, the fluctuating moods of his mother, and of personalities shifting from one skin to the other.
But right now he is here in the crimson woods, a year older yet still confused and unsure of the future. Someone had died in place of his brother, his identity still unknown. Seimei was still out there somewhere, presumably planning his next set of actions. Soubi, in contrast to the cryptic and mysterious man he seemed to Ritsuka when he first met him, now seems just as lonely and vulnerable as feels. But he did know there were dark clouds looming over all of them. If something were to end all of this, all of this confusion and change, it would have to be something big. Or perhaps it would never end. Perhaps they would continue to spiral into each other in a delirious cycle of endless metamorphosis and pain until they would all die from it.
In the circle of deep pink sky, a thin crescent of a moon and a few faint stars hang in the air. Another wind blew across him, one much colder than the earlier breeze. It made a hollow sound through the trees. Ritsuka sits up, sweeping leaves off the top of his head and ears and then stands to his feet, looking into the dark depths of the woods. In the dimming light, the trees have left long, jagged shadows across the clearing. It was getting late.
He shivers, turns around and starts walking back the way he came.
Ritsuka always hated walking back. It meant going back to the present, to how things were. An undesired return to life. Yet he also knew that life couldn't be so easily shaken off. There were people in his life that he cared about and things to be done, things that would finally put an end to their collective torment. Even if he couldn't save himself from the future, he could at least strive to rescue those he cared about from the coming storm. To do otherwise would be selfish and wrong.
He shrugs off a leaf when it falls on his shoulder and steps out of the woods, his way back now clear and visible before his eyes.
Thank you very much for reading and remember to leave some criticism! That stuff always helps.