Yozora no Mukou: Chapter One: Ever Since Then
Bearit's Notes: Hiya everyone! I've finally decided that I will write a sequel for "Lion Heart", and here it is, "Yozora no Mukou", which translates to "Beyond the Night Sky". Yes, it's named after yet another SMAP song of the same name. I hope you enjoy! (Normal warnings apply)
It had been a year since the weddings. Hikaru and Fuu were permanently living in Cephiro with their husbands, though Umi still had yet to have even a boyfriend, so she traveled frequently between both lands. Hikaru made it easier for her brothers and Umi to do so by their own freewill, though by Satoru's advice, Kakeru limited his visits to once a month. Masaru kept his control easily; he had married Katsumi and they had a son named Shingo. Plus, he held an important role in a new anime; he couldn't just take a week's worth of vacation lest he delayed the release of a few episodes.
Kakeru admitted that life was now dull for him. He still kept his distance from his father, but now he lived in an apartment in downtown Tokyo. It was easier access to Tokyo Tower, and therefore easier access to Cephiro, but he had a promise to keep to Satoru.
His friend Hidehiro had married Hikaru's friend Rei, and Yuujirou was busy in Hokkaido with family affairs of some sort. Kakeru never asked, so Yuujirou never told. Sera was busy in America working on some space station project, and Fumiko...
Now that Kakeru thought about it, he didn't know where Fumiko was, much less what she was up to. In fact, he last saw her at Hikaru's wedding, which was a good seven months ago. Perhaps she had decided to stay in Cephiro?
Nah, Kakeru thought. Considering how frequently Umi goes there, I would have heard even in Tokyo some of the arguments. It's either that, or Umi killed Fumiko.
Kakeru considered that for a while. Considering how explosive Fumiko and Umi became during their arguments and with Geo's and Zazu's failed attempts to get the girls to simmer down...
I wouldn't be surprised if she did. Or vice versa: maybe Fumiko killed Umi.
Satoru taught at the Shidou Kendo School with their father now, and Kyousuke assisted. It was actually no different than before; the only real change was that the founder of the Shidou style was once again the headmaster of the school rather than his son. The dojo was gaining more and more popularity, and there was no day when Kakeru wandered the streets of Tokyo he never heard someone--any random person--talking about it.
Now that Kakeru thought about it, it was very ironic. It was almost if all four Shidou siblings were destined to be popular in some way. Satoru was a teacher of a popular kendo school and was the crush target of more than half of the female students (and most of those students only joined because of Satoru--never mind that he was more than twice the age of many of those girls), Masaru was a famous actor, and Hikaru was the would-be Pillar of Cephiro.
Kakeru was a star baseball player. He would have been a soccer player if baseball didn't pay him a whole lot more, but that was okay; the manager of the Lions, the team he played for, told him that the American Major Leagues were interested in recruiting him. Kakeru was going to refuse, of course. He liked it in Japan just fine.
The real beauty of living in a huge metropolis was that he would look familiar to a lot of his fans, but out of respect and fear that he may not be the real Kakeru Shidou, nobody ever approached him. It was a really happy life.
Happy, but utterly dull.
Kakeru slumped onto the pastel couch in his apartment and grabbed the remote control, turning the television on. It was morning; he might as well watch some of the news. In the end, it wasn't anything he was particularly interested in; the Americans were still in the Middle East as soldiers and diplomats against terrorism, a drought was conquering the western coast of Japan, and in sports was the same old, same old. Just when he was about to change the channel, a loud knock sounded on the door.
He stood from the couch and trudged to the front door.
"Coming," he called absent-mindedly. The pounding grew louder. "I said 'coming', damn it--"
Kakeru opened the door, and lo and behold, Fumiko Tachiiri stood there with a bright smile on her face.
"Good morning, Kakeru!" Fumiko chirped.
Kakeru blinked. He thought he would never use the word 'chirped' in conjunction with Hikaru's best friend, the almost exact replica of Umi Ryuuzaki. He narrowed his eyes.
"What the hell?" he asked.
"Can I come in?"
"Oh, come on," Fumiko pleaded. Another word Kakeru thought he would never use in conjunction with Hikaru's best friend. He blinked again.
"Kakeru..." Her voice held a warning tone, and Kakeru sighed softly in relief. There was the Fumiko he was used to.
"All right, all right," he muttered, stepping aside.
She bounced--yet another word that never fit her--inside, and Kakeru shut the door. Fumiko sat on the ground and pulled off her shoes, humming a happy tune. Something was going on, and Kakeru was pretty sure that he didn't like it.
"Yes?" she chirped again.
Kakeru's eyebrow twitched. "What the hell are you doing here?"
When both of her shoes were off, Fumiko hopped to her feet.
"What?" she asked, beaming a ray of sunlight. As if the weather wasn't already bright enough, Kakeru thought bitterly. "Am I not allowed to visit my best friend's older brother?"
"This isn't just a visit," Kakeru growled. "You're here for a reason... tell me what it is, damn it!"
Fumiko looked comically at him as if she were giving the matter a serious thought. After about five seconds, she shook her head.
She giggled. "Get me something to drink first... and get yourself some water. And then sit down. And then I'll tell you."
"Evil bitch," Kakeru muttered as he stomped into the kitchen.
"I know I am," Fumiko said as she entered the living room.
Under his breath, Kakeru murmured obscenities that he would never say to Fumiko's face even in her good mood... or the mood she was in now, whatever that was. He pulled out two glasses from the cabinet--it was a good thing that he had done the dishes the other day--and poured faucet water into one of them. He poured green tea into the other, and he walked into the living room, where Fumiko had already settled herself on the couch.
He sighed and handed her the green tea.
"Thank you!" Fumiko chirped. Again.
Kakeru was seriously getting freaked out.
"Fumiko, if you don't tell me what the hell is going on..."
"Sit," she commanded. "And then I'll tell you."
Kakeru scowled but did what he was told as he grabbed a seat next to her. "Now," he said. "You tell me. Why are you so... perky?"
Fumiko... perky... that does not mix at all, he thought.
"Well..." Fumiko began. She hesitated with a mischievous expression on her face. "I just got back from Cephiro, you see."
"So you WERE there the entire time?" Kakeru asked with an eyebrow raised. "Is Umi dead or something?"
"No. She's quite alive, but she's in England right now," Fumiko said as-a-matter-of-factly. "Now, do you want to know, or what?"
Kakeru sighed. "I want to know. Now tell me."
"With that attitude I'm not telling you anything."
She laughed. "Let's see... when was the last time you were in Cephiro?"
"About two weeks ago, why?"
"That means you can't go back for another... what? Two more weeks?"
Kakeru slapped his forehead. "I'm going back in three weeks for Hikaru-chan's birthday."
"Hmmmm," Fumiko mused. "She may be upset with me if I told you since she wants to tell you herself, but she still has Satoru-san and Masaru-san to give this information to."
Kakeru glowered. "Is there something wrong with my sister?"
Fumiko burst into a guffaw again. "Oh, there's nothing wrong with her, but there is something definitely, ah, different about her, that's for sure!"
Fumiko grinned. "Okay, I'll tell you, but you can't tell your brothers. Let Hikaru tell them herself since I'm stealing this joy from her. Besides, telling you will be more fun for me than it will be for her."
"Fumiko..." Kakeru growled.
"Hikaru. Is. Pregnant!" Fumiko chirped. Again. But this time, Kakeru gaped for a completely different reason.
Apparently, the look on Kakeru's face was so amusing that Fumiko laughed even harder than she had the previous times. She doubled over and had to set her cup of tea on the table to keep it from spilling on the carpet. Kakeru continued to stare forward, absolutely stunned. He found that he couldn't get a coherent thought in his head.
"Hikaru... what... Hikaru-chan is... WHAT?!"
Fumiko's outbursts grew louder.
"Oh... my... God..." Kakeru murmured.
Fumiko finally sat back up, but her guffaw would still not disperse. "Kakeru," she choked. "Water."
He slowly brought the cup to his mouth and sipped the liquid, but it helped none. Fumiko must have noticed, for she simmered down and said as quietly as she could possibly muster, "I should have told you to get ice cold water, shouldn't I?"
Fumiko heaved a great sigh, her laughter finally disappearing. "Let me see that," she said as she grabbed the cup from Kakeru's hand. The next thing he knew, a splash exploded on his face, and his head was soaked with water.
Kakeru narrowed his eyes. "Fumiko..." he growled.
"There!" she said proudly. "It was fun while it lasted, but I need you back to normal now. I have to leave for work in a couple of minutes, and it would be just cruel if I left you as a sputtering idiot."
"I have an office job in Sunshine 60."
"Oh. But Hikaru-chan? What? She's... what? WHAT?!"
Fumiko smiled. "Yes, she is. We just found out last week. Who would have ever thought that she would the first one of us to have a kid? Last I heard, Rei and Hidehiro were going to wait for a couple of years before they were going to even try, and Yuujirou and Sera? Well..."
"He doesn't count. He's not part of the gang."
"But then, of course, I didn't expect for her to be the first one of us married," she said. Her grin had softened, and now that Kakeru inspected her further, she seemed rather... mournful? "And yet, somehow, I was never surprised."
Kakeru smiled. "Who can't love Hikaru-chan?"
"You have a point. Well, I have to go," she said as she stood up. "Work and everything. Oh, and I did come by for another reason. Geo and Tatra finally got over themselves. They're getting married around Cephiro's springtime. Our wintertime. December. As Hikaru's older brother, you're invited, and Tarta is looking forward to it."
"Oh," Kakeru said as he accompanied Fumiko to the door, "okay. I'm coming, then, I guess. Wow. Geo and Tatra are finally... I guess it's about time. I take it Eagle still hasn't woken up yet?"
Fumiko shook her head. "Nope. He keeps telling everybody that he's getting closer... he and Hikaru... but since Lantis isn't saying anything I know they're lying." She pulled on her shoes and opened the door. "Well, I guess I'll see you around, okay?"
"O-okay," Kakeru said. "Oh, but hey, I still need to catch up on how everybody is doing in Cephiro. Want to go out for dinner sometime?"
"You were only there two weeks ago," Fumiko said. "There's not much I can tell you. But I need to catch up on how your brothers and my friends and your friends and you are doing. So, yeah, let's call it a date!"
Kakeru blinked. "A date? Whoa, wait a second--"
Fumiko sighed. "Not in the boyfriend girlfriend sense, you idiot."
"Oh," Kakeru said, half laughing, "all right. Is Saturday good? I don't have a game or anything. It has to be in the afternoon, though; my manager is a stickler on me being at batting practice early on Sundays."
"You have a game Monday, don't you?" Kakeru nodded. "Well, Saturday, three o'clock, at my work? Say, I have your phone number, so I'll call you for more specific instructions. If I don't leave now, I'm going to be late."
"All right, all right," Kakeru said as Fumiko stepped out of the apartment. "I'll see you see then!"
Fumiko nodded and walked down the hall. Kakeru closed the door and slumped his back against it and exhaled a great surplus of air.
He just couldn't believe it. Even with the other news Fumiko brought him, the fact that his little sister was pregnant astounded him and infested his entire mind. He knew that she was no longer a child and that she could take care of herself even better than he could, but it was mind boggling. To him, Hikaru would always remain a young, innocent girl that he must protect from emotional harm.
"Hikaru-chan... my little sister... pregnant?" he murmured. He fell to his knees. "... I hope I'm there when Hikaru-chan tells Satoru and Masaru..."
Elsewhere, in one of the suburbs of Tokyo, Masaru woke to a household of men. Katsumi was in Kyushu to act in a movie, so it was only him, his son Shingo, and his uncle Tadasu. He rolled over on the futon and stole a glance at the clock. Eight thirty. He didn't have to leave for the television station for another hour and a half. Just when he was about to sleep in, his uncle burst into the room.
"Masaru-kun, rise and shine!"
Masaru groaned. "Go 'way, Uncle."
"You're nearly thirty and you're complaining about getting up like a teenager!" Tadasu scoffed. "Come on, up! Shingo-kun needs a diaper change."
"You can't do it?"
"I'm making breakfast," replied Tadasu. "I can't get my hands dirty, unless you want baby wastes all over your food."
"They have sinks and soap for a reason, Uncle!"
"Or maybe you prefer your food burnt?"
"Fine," Masaru grumbled as he sat up and rubbed his eyes. Tadasu walked out of the room but left the rice paper door open. Masaru scowled and stood, stretching his arms high above his head. "Just another day of voicing an episode, that's all."
He walked to the dresser and pulled a drawer open. He grabbed a few pieces of clothing and threw them on, and only three minutes later did he walk into the living room and realize that Shingo really did need a diaper change.
"Ack!" Masaru threw a hand over his nose.
"See what I mean?" Tadasu called. "You better change it now."
"Okay, okay! I'm on it!" Masaru said as he picked his son up from the floor. He smiled at him innocently as if nothing was wrong, but Masaru glared at him. "You know, if your mother was here, I wouldn't have to do this sort of thing..."
He carried Shingo to the bathroom and laid him on the counter of the sink, muttering and grumbling about how much he hated changing diapers. He really felt empathy for his parents now, to have to go through this for four different kids. No wonder his uncle Tadasu stayed single.
Smart man, Masaru commended. He wrinkled his nose as he pulled the diaper off.
I wish Katsumi was here. Damn her for being such a beautiful and great actress! Leaving me with the dirty work! No, wait, damn Uncle for making breakfast!
"This is a housewife's job," he muttered.
Apparently, he had said it loud enough for his uncle to here.
"Well, unfortunately, Katsumi-san isn't a housewife, and don't go making me out to be a house-uncle, you hear me?" Tadasu called.
Most of the time, Masaru got along with his uncle, which was why he called for him to be Shingo's guardian if anything were to happen to both himself and Katsumi. In fact, since Masaru and Katsumi were always so busy with their jobs, Tadasu was there to baby-sit Shingo for most of the day. Luckily, Katsumi was going to quit being an actress for a few years after the release of the movie she was currently working on, and Masaru's job as a voice actor kept him in Tokyo. Shingo would not grow up believing that his family was dysfunctional.
But despite Tadasu's protests and Masaru's reassurances, Masaru had to admit that his uncle really was the replacement for the lack of a housewife. He cooked, he cleaned, he did the laundry, and he took care of the kid. The only thing missing was an apron.
Not that Masaru was complaining of course.
He pulled on Shingo's shirt and tossed the dirty diaper into the trash. All done. Even taking care of Hikari wasn't as harsh as this.
Masaru picked his son up and grinned. "All right, Shingo-kun, let's get something to eat, all right?"
Shingo, of course, didn't understand a word his father said, but he didn't care all the same. A cheerful tone and a smile--and a clean diaper--was all he needed to be happy, so he giggled in joy.
"That-a-boy," Masaru said.
He walked back into the living room and let Shingo go back to watching the famed cartoon Anpanman, a show Masaru and his brothers and sister had grown up watching. He chuckled.
"Almost nostalgic," he muttered.
"Did you wash your hands, Masaru-kun?"
"Erk." Masaru gulped. "Yeah. Getting to it now, in fact..."
Masaru entered the bathroom again and turned the sink on, but he still decided to dwell into his memories. His brothers, sister, and himself had gone through so much in eighteen years, and he couldn't believe that nearly two decades had passed since his father had left the Shidou household. Everyone always knew that he left to get stronger, but they always thought physically; they never thought mentally. Kakeru still refused to listen to his father's reasons; he continued to deem them "pathetic excuses". And yet, if Kakeru was able to forgive Hidehiro and even become one of his best friends, then why was it taking him a longer time to do so with his own father?
Masaru knew the answer to that question. It's because Mitsuru Shidou was his father that Kakeru couldn't forgive him. When he was seven, he depended so heavily on him that when he broke a simple promise, Kakeru's world was crushed. Kakeru never had an opinion on Hidehiro Akugenta, and there was only a few months passing in between the misdeed and the regret as opposed to twelve years.
Even Tadasu, who wasn't even blood-related to Mitsuru but rather the younger brother of Kinoko, understood and forgave him. Everybody had except for Kakeru.
Someday, Masaru swore, he was going to have to knock some sense into his little brother. This obsession was getting him nowhere.
Masaru turned off the faucet and returned to the living room. "Is breakfast ready yet?"
"It will be soon," Tadasu answered. "Say, when was the last time you visited your family?"
"Where? Back at the school or in Cephiro?"
"At the school, but I guess you could bring Cephiro into account as well."
Masaru sighed. "Well, actually, I was in Cephiro about three months ago. I wonder how Hikaru-chan is doing. At the school, well, I haven't been there... well, for even longer than I haven't been in Cephiro. And don't even ask me about Kakeru. I know he lives in an apartment somewhere downtown but I don't know where exactly."
"Well, I was just thinking," said Tadasu, "since Katsumi is coming back in about a month since the filming will be finished by then, we should go visit them."
"Them? At the school or--"
"Besides, Hikaru-chan's birthday is in August, we might as go then. If I know Kakeru-kun, then he's probably planning to do the same thing. Let's get Satoru-kun and maybe even Kyousuke-san to come along, and maybe your parents too," Tadasu suggested.
"If that's the case," Masaru said, chuckling, "we might as well throw her a birthday party. After all, she's turning twenty-four, isn't she? Twenty-four is a very important age."
"Kakeru-kun is turning twenty-six in a couple of weeks."
"Yeah, but twenty-six isn't as an important age as twenty-four," Masaru said.
"Watch you change your mind in two years."
"So, what do you say? Shall we go throw Hikaru-chan a birthday party?" Tadasu asked, popping his head out of the kitchen expectedly for an answer.
Masaru blinked, and then grinned, and then nodded. "Sure, why not?"
It didn't matter where in Japan or what the day of the week was, lunchtime at McDonald's was always crowded. And since it was July, everyone from junior high school students to entire families stood in the worthlessly air conditioned building waiting by the steaming counters for their lunch.
Kyousuke, being the keen man in circumstances such as this, dragged Satoru to the restaurant at eleven o'clock, barely beating the masses. Twenty minutes later, they were finished eating, but for the sake of having more privacy while they talked, they stuck around for a while longer. After all, why would a single person decide to eavesdrop on their conversation when there were dozens of others he could choose to listen to? And with the bustling discussions all around, it would be impossible for others to directly hear them, anyway.
"Now, what do you want to do after this?" Kyousuke asked. "There's a karaoke box just across the street, but we could always hitch a ride on the monorail and go down to Tachikawa... but then, we're a bit old to be shopping down there..."
"Why should that stop us?" Satoru asked. "We both look like we're still in our mid-twenties. I'm sure it will be fine."
"So, Tachikawa, is it? You're too modest for karaoke, anyway."
Satoru frowned. How could he say such a thing when Kyousuke only took him there once? "What do you mean?"
"Well, last time we went, back in high school, you sang no songs and me and the other guys ended up making fools out of ourselves," Kyousuke said. He sighed "You really don't know how to have fun, do you?"
"Yes, I do, I just don't dwell on it as much as you do."
"Which is why we're going to get back your childhood today," said Kyousuke. "I mean, really, you should have never let me stay in Eagle's room by myself if you didn't want something like this to happen."
"That's why your chances are very slim."
"Going back to Cephiro."
Kyousuke stared at Satoru long and hard, and Satoru kept his solemn gaze. After half a minute, Kyousuke groaned, "Satoru, I don't know whether you're joking or being serious. Damn you. Just... damn you!"
Satoru chuckled to indicate to Kyousuke that he was just kidding around. It was also to prove a point; Satoru did know how to have fun and hated when Kyousuke tried to tell him otherwise.
But Kyousuke's goal on taking Satoru out of the house for the day was not going to waste. Even Satoru's father agreed; it was about time that Satoru experienced life as a teenager, since while he was growing up, he had to live life like a full-grown man. It was a task that Satoru was prepared for, but prepared for and accomplished all too early. From Eagle, Kyousuke's suspicions had been confirmed, and he also took Eagle's advice to give Satoru that adolescent age back. Never mind that he was thirty-two years old; Satoru more than deserved to enjoy the life of the carefree.
Satoru knew why his father agreed to let him take a day off. He felt guilty for stealing those years from Satoru, and this was the best he could do give it back to him. Satoru knew that he was going to get more and more days like this. It was absolutely certain.
Kyousuke's never-ending mission in life, however, was also taking place on this day; though, as Satoru was about to find out, he actually seemed serious about it.
Yes, the never-ending proclamation that Satoru should get a girlfriend. He only wished that Kyousuke would one day see that Satoru just wasn't interested; not everybody had to settle down with a "one true love." Besides, in order to continue to be a devoted son and brother to his family, he would be best if he never married.
"So, Satoru," Kyousuke began again, shaking off the verbal prank Satoru pulled on him, "Fuu's sister is about our age, isn't she?"
"Younger. She's younger than Masaru," Satoru said. "Why?"
"Well, she acts just as old as us, though that's going to change soon," said Kyousuke with a small smirk. Satoru shook his head, but Kyousuke continued, "And she looks just as old as us... what do you think about her?"
Kyousuke cringed and stared out the window. "Well... you know... there's a perfect match for everybody. I hate to force you into a relationship and everything, and I'm not going to. Trust me. But... well... you do know where I'm getting with this, right?"
Satoru sighed. "I'm sure Kuu-san has other interests."
"Like who? Geo?"
"No," Satoru said, shaking his head. "Somebody from her work, or maybe even someone else in Cephiro. Or maybe someone we can't even consider. We haven't seen her in a long time, and we don't know too much about her."
"But if you knew that she wasn't interested in anybody else, would you give her a chance?"
"Most likely not. I'm not interested."
Kyousuke gaped. "'Not interested'? What's there to not be interested about? She's smart, sweet, beautiful--"
"If that's the case, why don't you try to go after her?" Satoru asked with a soft smile. "After all, you never had a girlfriend either. And don't go pulling that 'I'm different' excuse. We're the same, Kyousuke-san."
Kyousuke's face tinted red. "You won't believe how wrong you're on that," he muttered. "I'm sorry for being hypocritical, but I'm not... that interested in her, either. I think you deserve her far more. There's nobody for me, and if there was, she's probably in New York or something like that. Someplace I'll never go."
"Hypocritical is right... it's either that, or you're not telling me something," said Satoru sternly. "Is there someone else you're pining after although she is with another man? Or something along those lines, at least?"
Kyousuke sighed. "You're half right. I am pining after somebody, but I'm not going to tell you who. Come on. We're finished eating, and he might as well let someone else have these seats. It's getting too crowded."
Kyousuke stood up, leaving Satoru with a thought in his head.
Somebody else? I wonder who. I wonder who he could possibly be in love with who is making him this miserable.
"Coming, Satoru?" Kyousuke asked. Satoru nodded and followed him out the door. "So, Tachikawa, is it?"
In an instant, Kyousuke's depression seemed to have disappeared, but Satoru knew better than to bombard him with questions about it. After all, if Kyousuke didn't wish to tell Satoru, then what right did he have to ask?
Besides, it was supposed to be a happy day, and Satoru had no particular interest in ruining that.
To Be Continued