Yozora no Mukou: Chapter Four: Noticing Someone's Voice
Bearit's Notes: Do you want a long explanation as for why the wait was long, or do you just want to torture/maim/burn me at the stake and get on to this chapter? Well, read the chapter first, then you can torture/maim/burn me at the stake, either over the lack of quality of this chapter or... uh... you'll see. Eh-heh.
Umi watched the birthday festivities amused and satisfied. She hated to admit it, but Masaru's idea worked well. Many of Hikaru's family members and friends from Tokyo showed up, and most of their friends from the other world had decided to take part in the party as well. Well, okay, there were mostly only those from Cephiro. The only ones who were not were Geo and Zazu; the now adolescent Lady Aska had business to attend to in Fahren and she needed Chang Ang and Sang Yung's help, and Tatra and Tarta were busy in Chizeta with family affairs as Geo had put it earlier.
The surrogate sibling pair sat on the edge of the infamous fountain, Geo practically devouring the thick slice of cake he had cut for himself and Umi amusedly pointing that it was Hikaru's birthday--she should get at least half.
"Nobody seemed to mind," Geo pointed out with a fake huff. "And I took less than a quarter of it!"
Umi pouted. "Well, if everyone had as big of a slice as yours, only seven others would have been able to have some. I know my math."
"But they didn't," said Geo as he took another bite. "Which left plenty more for me."
"I have never known any man who has indulged so much in sweets."
He chewed and swallowed in haste to protest. "If you're complaining so much, you should have made more."
Umi glared. "Not everyone here has big appetites like yours. Is a quarter of a cake the least you normally take?"
"Hey, I have big appetites for only one thing-- your cakes. And a quarter of it is... is only my normal amount."
Umi laughed and shook her head again. "Don't eat too fast. We wouldn't want you to die before your wedding, and during Hikaru's birthday, no less."
She realized that she had said the wrong words when Geo grinned wearily and offered a faint chuckle. "Yeah. Before the wedding, if we can even go on with the engagement."
Umi blinked. "What?"
"Nothing. By the way, if you hate sweets so much, why do you even bother to make stuff like this?"
She narrowed her eyes as everything fell into place. She promptly ignored his poor attempt to change the topic--or, rather, return to the original topic--and glared at him. Family affairs. Right. "So, Tatra and Tarta are in Chizeta to convince their parents to go along with you two? A quarter of a cake isn't your normal amount--you're so bothered by it that you have to act like how a normal depressed person would without the alcohol."
Geo stared at her incredulously for a moment, and she held her narrowed eyes strong. He sighed. "Damn, you saw right through me. I guess I should have told you, but I was going to wait until tomorrow, after the party and everything. Happiness is a virtue in this case."
"Even if it is false?"
Umi blinked and mulled over it for a second. "Okay, never mind, you're right. Best to hide it, especially with Hikaru's brothers around. And I'd say let's talk later, but let's not. The topic is up now. Maybe I can help."
"It's complicated," Geo warned.
"I'm an ex-Magic Knight from another world once involved in a legend I never understood until it was too late, and came back again with the issues your country brought. Don't preach to me about complication."
He laughed. "Sorry."
Umi paused and frowned as she thought over his words. Complicated? Maybe it isn't the obvious. "You're not worried about disapproval, because you and Tatra decided that you were going to do it no matter what her parents said. She's just there to see how to work everything out."
Geo nodded. "You're perceptive today."
She shook her head. "That's as far as it goes. I'm clueless for the rest of the story. What's bothering you, really?"
"You're going to think that I'm an idiot."
"I already think that. It's not going to make a difference."
Umi grinned for a moment before turning solemn again. "Oniichan."
Geo sighed. "I hate it when you refer to me like that. It's always either you want something from me or you're mad at me." Umi glared. Why must he avoid the subject so? Geo met her eye and cleared his throat. "Sorry. I guess... it's stupid, really, but... I forgot that Tatra was a princess."
Umi blinked. "What?"
Geo smirked. "I thought you'd answer like that. I mean, I knew she was royalty and everything, but it never clicked that hey, she's heir to the throne. Whoever she marries gets to take the throne with her."
"Oh," said Umi with a slow nod. She frowned. "So you just realized that by marrying her you get to be--"
"The King of Chizeta." He groaned, set aside his plate, and buried his head. "I've never even been to Chizeta before; how am I supposed to rule the country? A nation and a military are two different things. I can't govern people the way I would soldiers. Soldiers are more apt to follow your commands without hesitation or question. But the people..."
"Have you talked to Tatra about this?"
"I think she knows. I hope she knows."
Umi sighed. "It probably won't be as bad as you think. I'm sure Tatra's parents are intelligent and generous. They'll work something out so that it'd be more comfortable for you." She studied Geo for a moment. "Hey, what do the men of Chizeta normally wear?"
Geo turned his head to Umi. "What are you talking about?"
"Well, I'm trying to imagine you wearing that style of clothes..." She grinned.
He narrowed his eyes. "Gee, you're a lot of help to me, imouto."
Umi laughed, which seemed to have promptly invited the Shidou voice actor over to chat with the two. Masaru plopped down next to the ex-Knight with a wide grin plastered on his face and a cup of crimson juice in his hand. Geo immediately sat up, and Umi coughed a little to hinder her laughter. Masaru then frowned.
"What? I feel so unwanted!" he wailed.
"Nothing against you," said Geo hastily. "We were just talking about... events."
Masaru blinked, and then nodded. "Oh." He smirked. "Private stuff?"
"Masaru, I will throw you in the fountain if you don't develop tact soon," Umi warned. "What we were talking about is none of your business."
"That's mean. And when I've come by to spread some holiday cheer--"
"It's not Christmas yet."
"... that's not what I meant and you know it." Umi stuck out her tongue, but Masaru seemed to have ignored her and continued. "Besides, Geo over there looked a little glum before. What's up?"
"Like I said," said Umi, immediately jumping to her "brother's" defense, "it's none of your business."
"And like I said, you're mean. No wonder you and Kakeru never get along." Masaru shook his head irritably, but thankfully passed over the subject and wandered to another. "Say, Geo, I just heard that you and Tatra finally are getting married."
Geo blinked. "What do you mean 'finally'?"
"Well, you two have been attracted to each other ever since I met you, and everybody was wondering--"
"Why did everybody realize our feelings before we did?!" Geo groaned and buried his head again. Masaru and Umi grinned.
It was then when the redheaded star of the party called for everyone's attention, and with her husband's hand gently placed upon her shoulder and a loving smile on his face, she announced with such cheerfulness that Umi almost swore that Hikaru was being very malicious with the news... but Hikaru wasn't a sadistic person, so it couldn't be true. But she must have taken some delight in her words, for with a bright smile she said:
"Mother, Father, oniisama-tachi... I'm pregnant."
From beside her, Umi heard Masaru choke on his drink and stutter... well, something, his eyes wide and his shoulders hunched. Umi and Geo exchanged a grin, and Umi looked around the courtyard to see some of the other reactions.
Satoru and Kyousuke wore identically stunned faces, though when Kyousuke caught a glance at Satoru's face, he pursed his lips as if to stifle a guffaw. Elsewhere, Katsumi beamed with elation, and next to her Hikaru's mother smiled kindly. Hikaru's father had a look to kill, and Umi did likewise as Kyousuke. A couple of Hikaru's childhood friends gaped, but when Umi had nearly completed the circle around the garden, she gaped at Kakeru and Fumiko.
They both were turned to each other with a smirk, Fumiko's feminine fist to her mouth in hidden laughter and Kakeru's shaking shoulders not bothering to hide his enjoyment of the situation.
"I'm disappointed. Kakeru would have been the most enjoyable of all." Umi sighed.
Masaru jumped to his feet then, dropping the glass (thankfully not breaking) and pointing at his sister and brother-in-law. "WHAT?!"
Hikaru merely giggled.
As Hikaru's family and Sera and Rei swarmed around her, Kakeru and Fumiko turned to each other with a huge smirk. Kakeru shook his head and brought his cup to his lips--holding back a laugh was just as bad as performing the actual laugh. Fumiko heaved a great amused sigh.
"Your family gives great entertainment," she said, "someone ought to make an anime about them."
Kakeru pulled his glass away and swallowed the small lump of red liquid. "Entertainment for people outside of the family. It's no fun inside."
"But you can't deny that it's ever quiet around your house," Fumiko pointed out, "not with you and Masaru."
"I'll give you that." He blinked. "Wait. I'm not that noisy!"
Fumiko laughed and waved off the topic, proceeding to their conversation from previously. Kakeru grunted and turned back to where most of the excitement stood, which was where most everyone else gathered. Those from Tokyo gathered in shock; those from Cephiro gathered for pure enjoyment. Some random others continued to watch from the sidelines such as he and Fumiko chose to do, but nobody ever stopped glancing the general way of the crowd and turned back to their partner with a smile. Geo and Umi, for instance, stayed put, but company soon joined them when Ascot noticed they were alone together.
Kakeru grinned. Ascot surely has matured since the first time they met, and now he had an aura of protectiveness over Umi. Even now, when everybody knew fully well that Geo and Umi were just siblings, and Geo was now engaged. Neither had shown even the slightest interest in the other; when Kakeru suggested it to Umi a couple of years previously she promptly sent him flying into the fountain. He climbed out soaked and met with a load of guffaw from the onlookers. If it had been Tokyo he would have flushed with embarrassment; since it had been Cephiro he glared and took the towel offered to him before he screamed at Umi.
Fumiko hadn't been there, luckily. Kakeru couldn't bear the idea that she would have continuously used that against him, especially since Umi refused to remember why she even pushed him. That, and being embarrassed in front of her of all people wasn't one the top of Kakeru's wish lists.
Again, because she would have used it against him.
"So, random question," said Fumiko, and Kakeru widened his eyes acting as though he had actually been paying attention, "who in this world would you date if you could?"
Kakeru blinked. They weren't talking about this before Hikaru made her proclamation to family and friends. He stole a glance in the direction of the group, and many began to drift away since, apparently, the sane ones in the Shidou family let the news sink in and they accepted it, while Masaru acted as he did fifteen minutes previously. Nothing over there seemed to have sparked the topic change--and, wait, what were they talking about before this?
"Say what?" asked Kakeru.
Fumiko smirked and asked again pointedly, "Who would you date in this world if you could?"
Kakeru shrugged. "Presea's beautiful enough."
"Since when did you care about looks over personality?" asked Fumiko with her voice drawing death.
"What?" asked Kakeru with a bright grin, trying to imitate innocence. "Jealous because personality is all you've got to get a guy like me? You don't even have enough of that to win me!"
If looks could kill...
Sensing the conversation taking a dangerous turn, Kakeru steered the attention away from him. "Who would you date from the other world? If you could?"
Fumiko sniffed pompously and turned her head away from him. "Well, wouldn't you like to know? After all, you'd like to know the kind of competition you're up against if you want to be with me?"
Kakeru frowned. "Wait a minute. I turned you down the exact same way! Cheater! No stealing from other rejections and insults!"
"But you make it too easy."
"Answer the question, Tachiiri."
"Oh, how frightening, using my family name. I thought we were past that stage in our relationship?"
Kakeru seethed and clenched his fists, while Fumiko stole a peek at him from the corner of her eyes. Much to his irritation, Fumiko warmed her cool eyes and gently smirked. Kakeru wanted to glare some more, but found he couldn't. He loosened his fist and turned his hellish gaze into suspicious curiosity. Somehow, there was something about that look...
In a soft yet deep voice she asked, "Do you really want to know?"
"Er," Kakeru managed. What to do now? "Well. I told you mine..."
She lifted the other end of her smirk and now held a full smile. A full... seductive smile. Kakeru widened his eyes. Oh no. What the hell is she doing...?
"Eagle Vision," she said simply, and her face transformed into wicked innocence that modeled Eagle's voice whenever he was playful.
"He's everything you aren't! He's kind, fun, polite, rich, and..." she smirked evilly this time. "Damn sexy."
"You...!" Kakeru stuttered for some sort of retort. "Bu--but... he's in a..." he glanced around, making sure Geo and Zazu were out of earshot, "... a coma."
"And your point is?" She turned her head to the sky with a musing stare. "You and Presea, me and Eagle. Should be very interesting. Though, you have to fight Clef, I think, or at least turn Presea's attention away from Clef. Me, well, as long as I help Eagle get over Lantis and Hikaru, I'll be on the right track..."
"You evil fiend!"
Fumiko turned back to him and frowned slightly. "Now you're sounding like someone from this world."
Kakeru sighed, knowing this was something he could not win. "Fine. Have it your way. You go after Eagle, and I'll go after Presea. How does that sound?"
"But isn't Presea older than you?"
"So is Eagle!"
Fumiko beamed. "What? Are you jealous that I'm interested in your exact opposite instead of someone more like you?"
"What are you getting at?"
Before Fumiko could answer--though Kakeru doubted that she would--Masaru stormed to the two of them, his face near purple with rage. Fumiko burst out in laughter, and Kakeru was unsure whether to do the same or run away from his older brother.
Masaru huffed once, then twice. He licked his lips and narrowed his eyes. "You," he stated simply.
Fumiko walked towards the direction of Geo and Umi, who Kakeru noted from the corner of his eye, was watching with the utmost amusement. He was alone in this. Damn it. Why did Fumiko have to leave him now of all times?
Kakeru cleared his throat. "And... uh, what about me?"
Masaru glared some more, but he was growing angrier and angrier. His face turned a darker shade of a color Kakeru never knew existed. He decided to be frightened.
"Our little sister is pregnant, and all you have to do is stand there with your girlfriend and laugh about it?!"
Kakeru blinked. They sure as hell were not laughing just before Masaru showed up! "W-wait a minute, Masaru, I-- we-- weren't doing... we were yelling at each other!" Then Kakeru realized what else his older brother said. "And she is NOT my girlfriend!"
"Off the topic of our little sister, I see?"
"Masaru, you're going to be an uncle; why are you so upset?"
"You aren't doing your 'Kakeru' thing!" said Masaru. "I hate covering for you! You're supposed to be eating our dear brother-in-law's head off, but you aren't! You aren't surprised at all; you don't seem to care..."
From the distance, Fumiko sighed. "Masaru, he isn't surprised and he isn't upset, because I already told him. He's had time to get used to the idea. Now quit acting like him, you're starting to scare all of us."
Masaru blinked, and the color faded from his face. "Oh," he managed when his skin returned to its normal color. He glared at Kakeru. "You cheater."
Kakeru shrugged, and his courage rose again. "Hey, I never asked to know. She just came hopping into my apartment one day and--"
An arm wrapped around his neck and Masaru now hung off Kakeru's shoulders. "We're going to be uncles, Kakeru! Uncles! And Lantis, if our nephew or niece turns out anything like you, this boy here--" He jammed a thumb in Kakeru's cheek. Kakeru glared and struggled free from his grasp. "--will have to kill you for your lack of personality."
Kakeru pushed Masaru away as soon as he wriggled out of the death lock and brushed off his shirt. "Idiot," he muttered. Finally, he turned to where his sister and brother-in-law stood, and a new light of jealousy grew in him even as Masaru continued his ecstatic ramblings about how he was going to spoil his nephew or niece.
Hikaru and Lantis were blissful. Each of them wore soft smiles and exchanged kind and loving eyes. Kakeru knew he lost his sister when he first met Lantis but that wasn't what bothered him now.
Why couldn't he have anything like what they shared?
He sighed. Love only comes to those who deserve it, I guess.
Since Satoru had an early class the next morning, he politely excused himself from the party and headed towards the simple wooden doorway that linked Cephiro's palace to Tokyo Tower. According to his watch, the Tower would be closing in about fifteen minutes, so he would be cutting it rather close making the last few elevator trips down to ground level. At least he stayed for as long as he possibly could before this happened.
As par normal, Kyousuke accompanied him, and Satoru welcomed his presence with a small nod as they walked through the doorway from the medieval-like walls to the modern day bathroom stall, which held the forever hung sign of "Out of Service."
Without a word the two made their way out of the women's bathroom, luckily being spotted by nobody, and walked into the empty observation arena. A high-pitched voice called out from far off, "Last elevator down to ground level! Please make your way over here immediately!"
Kyousuke flashed Satoru a grin. "Shall we go?"
Satoru nodded and they walked silently to where the rest of the visitors gathered in a line. A relatively short line, perhaps because they were honeymooners or lovebirds wanting to watch the moon rise over the Tower as a sort of date. After all, each man had a beautiful woman wrapped around his muscled shoulder and the two shared secret giggles and words as they boarded the elevator. Despite the small numbers of people onboard, Satoru and Kyousuke still found themselves forced to stand close to each other to stay away from the couples lined against the walls holding each other intimately.
Satoru felt Kyousuke shuffle with discomfort, though Satoru could hardly understand why. Well, there was the idea that they were the only single ones in the car, but that was nothing. He should not be as intimidated by the others' actions as the trip down seemed to take forever.
When the elevator landed at the ground level and everyone swarmed out, one of the couples did not seem to think so. A girl who could not be out of high school pouted as she and the man she hung on walked past Satoru and Kyousuke.
"That was too short," she complained.
The man she was with, someone who seemed to be a "bad boy biker," laughed heartily and kept his arm around her. "Oh, come on, there are other places in Tokyo we can hang out."
"I guess you're right."
Kyousuke leaned close to Satoru and whispered, "How old is that guy? He looks about twenty-something--"
"Leave them be," said Satoru. Kyousuke fell grudgingly silent, and Satoru sighed. He knew nothing of the two, and he knew it to be unfair that he disapproved of their relationship.
The sliding doors parted for the two and they walked away from the quiet bustle of the shops at ground level to the warm hum of traffic a block away from the Tower. The yellow lights were behind them and now they were met with only orange streetlamps illuminating the streets, and they kept silent when they boarded the bus to the train station and even fifteen minutes later, when they reached their destination. A conversation did not take place for them until they boarded the green striped train that took them to the station closest to their home and were halfway there.
Satoru sat next to the door and Kyousuke next to him; next to Kyousuke sat a business man with a newspaper in his lap, snoring softly as his head bobbed up and down along with the sound of the trains wheels along the tracks. The car was near empty, and Satoru thought of it to be quite unusual. It wasn't that late, he was sure of it.
"Wow," said Kyousuke softly, shaking his head slightly. "Your sister. Pregnant. I remember when I first met her, when she was, oh, three years old or something. I didn't get to know her well at all until she was about eleven or twelve, when she was about to start her years at that all girls' school."
Satoru nodded. Somehow, he knew the conversation would start like that. And he knew precisely where it was going to lead to. But silence with Kyousuke was just a short-time blessing; he preferred Kyousuke to talk rather than keep quiet, though it was welcome for short periods at a time. So he said nothing to stop his train of thought.
"And now, this... it's crazy, isn't it?"
Satoru nodded again.
Kyousuke grinned. "You're going to be an uncle again. How does that feel?"
"I don't see Shingo quite enough to be considered a true 'uncle'," said Satoru, "and I probably won't see Lantis's and Hikaru's child any more frequent to let him know me."
"But by blood, you are," said Kyousuke. Satoru sighed. "Don't have a guilt trip on me. Both kids will still love you no matter what. How could anyone not? Besides, I know lots of people who hardly ever saw even their grandparents except for Obon and New Year's, so you'll be fine, believe me. So long as you do what Masaru is going to do with Hikaru's kid and spoil him rotten with money on New Year's."
Satoru stifled a laugh, and Kyousuke beamed more brightly than he did before.
A rough man's voice spoke on a soft intercom in the car. "Next stop, Kakigawa. Kakigawa."
"That's us," said Kyousuke, and the two stood as the train slowly came to a halt. Along with a couple of others they piled off the car and left the boarding ramp in quite a haste, though there was no need. The early class wasn't until after Satoru normally woke and the train station was small enough to get from the ticket booths to the farthest boarding ramp in less than fifty strides.
They quickly found themselves walking side by side on the road home, with white lamps as their only eyes to the darkened residential streets. Finally, the conversation previous on the train came back in the direction Satoru feared it would.
"So," Kyousuke continued, "your sister is married and is expectant. Your younger brother is married and has a son. Your youngest brother is more open than you but has your social skills. His bad temper won't land him with anyone so soon. But what excuse do you have? I know plenty of girls who like the brooding type."
Satoru sighed. "Kyousuke-san..." Why, of all things Kyousuke knew about him, was him not feeling comfortable with talking about his love life not one of them?
"I'm serious. You don't want to be just an uncle, do you?"
"I'm fine with it."
"Okay, I'll give you that," said Kyousuke with scorn in his eyes. "But you are not fine with being alone, are you?"
Satoru shook his head. "Kyousuke-san, how many times must I tell you? I'm not alone. Not with you around."
"I don't mean like that," said Kyousuke with a frown, but now he refused to meet Satoru's eyes, "I mean... well... love, you know? More than just friendship. More than what we have. You need a girl, Satoru, who will, you know, be there for you. All the time. Take care of you."
"But you already do that," said Satoru. "I've always considered you to be my best friend, or like a brotherhood that Masaru and Kakeru never gave me... could never give me, since I was the one always taking care of them."
"I don't mean it like that!"
"What's the difference?" asked Satoru. He noticed that they stopped walking underneath a streetlamp, and now they were facing each other. Kyousuke's face was frustrated, and Satoru only stood in mere puzzlement.
"The difference is," said Kyousuke, his voice low and wavering, "that what we have with each other isn't enough. You need someone who loves you the way you love hi-her back. That when you're afraid or when she is, or when you both are, you'll hold each other. And, well... there's just so much more to it than what we have. What our friendship has."
Satoru frowned. "But I don't need any of that--"
"Yes, you do," Kyousuke retorted. "Satoru, you're not as strong as you let on. I know that. Your family may be blind to that fact, but I know it. Don't you think someone else who has the power to give you strength know that, too?"
Satoru fell silent. How could he argue with Kyousuke when he kept overriding his comments. Romance was for ones who needed it, deserved it, and Satoru held neither requirement. He didn't need it--he was quite content teaching others the Shidou style of kendo and having Kyousuke around as a companion to get him to loosen up. He didn't deserve it--what has he ever done to merit such reward?
But his silence proved fatal. "See?" said Kyousuke. "I'm right. So why won't you just start going out on dates?"
Satoru said nothing for a while. "Kyousuke-san, I don't want it. I'm happy the way I am now."
"Even if--even when you see others happy with their one special person?"
Satoru sighed. "Kyousuke-san, please stop being so concerned with me. It seems like the one who needs the relationship you want for me the most is you. Why don't you find someone?"
Kyousuke turned his gaze away from Satoru. "I already found someone to provide my support and love to."
Kyousuke said nothing for a while, and Satoru feared the worst for his friend. Who in her right mind would turn Kyousuke down? Was he just being used by this girl he loved?
Kyousuke shook his head. "It doesn't matter. You're changing the subject."
"What do you mean it doesn't matter?" Satoru snapped, somewhat surprised with his voice. He never even lashed out against his brothers when they were transforming the house into a barnyard. Kyousuke, too, seemed shocked and even hurt, but before Satoru could stop himself from losing control he lost it. "If it doesn't matter for you, why should it matter for me? Why bother with this if all it causes is pain for the both of us?"
"Because it's worth it!" Kyousuke retorted, the shock worn off. "It's worth the pain of finding someone for you who is right for you. My feelings certainly don't matter in this entire... matter!"
"Why not? If you're giving up your chances with the girl you love on the account of me, please, stop it! I'm not worth that trouble. I'm not worth you giving up your happiness!"
"I'm trying to give happiness to him but he won't take it! Maybe if you felt worthy of my giving up my happiness I will be happy because you're the one I...!" snapped Kyousuke, then he blinked and paled. "Oh. Shit."
Satoru widened his eyes and took a step back away from his friend. "What?" he whispered hoarsely.
Kyousuke also shrunk away from Satoru, and the most dreadful silence befell the two. Kyousuke shifted around uncomfortably, like he did back on the elevator, like he did every time Satoru asked him if there was someone he was pining for and Kyousuke acknowledged it...
"I have to go," said Kyousuke, and he turned and took long strides to hurry away.
Satoru, still frozen in place, could do nothing to stop him. He had nothing to say, nothing to do, nothing to save his only lasting friendship.
He stood there. Suddenly lifting his feet to either catch up with Kyousuke or head home seemed like the most impossible task to ever accomplish.
To Be Continued