Epilogue'd!

Here you go!

-N

--

"Watch it!" hissed the black-haired teenager who had bumped into Scott. Scott stopped and stared angrily at the shorter boy as he continued to walk normally, but who quickly livened his pace.

"What a prick." Will muttered to his friend.

Little piece of sh—

Then, to his friend's surprise, Scott dropped the bags he was carrying, and ran towards the boy.

"Scott!" Will called towards him. He had donned the alias 'Scott' immediately after he arrived in the US. His boss at the restaurant knew his name was actually Ryo Akiyama, but promised not to tell. In fact, she had helped Ryo keep up the façade to the other employees, and even got him enrolled in school with it. Ryo was truly grateful for her help—though he hadn't been expecting it from her, of all people. His friend, Will, was short, had dirty-blonde hair, and was fifteen—two years younger than Ryo. Will, too, worked at the restauranthe was the youngest of the people who worked at the restaurant, and was often picked on because of it. But never by Ryo. Ryo knew that Will looked up to him—which was perhaps why Will was so happy when Ryo invited him along to the mall when he went to do some grocery shopping.

Presently, though, Will was screaming at Ryo to stop—because Ryo was in the process of tackling the boy who'd bumped into him.

"Scott! What the hell are you—"

Ryo took him to the ground fast and hard, and then held up a fist threateningly to the black-haired boy he was on top of, but lowered it when the boy held up the wallet he'd snatched from Ryo. Ryo sighed, took the wallet, stood up, and walked back towards Will. The people who had gathered around in shock or curiousity dispersed, anda glance over his shoulder told Ryo that the boy who'd stolen from him was scrambling away from him.

Whatever.

Will helped him gather his things, and wore a huge grin on his face. "So yeah, that was pretty awesome." he told him.

Ryo smiled back to him, but didn't respond otherwise.

It had been three months since he'd left Shinjuku. He'd been back once during that time—a few weeks ago, when he got word that Jeri had woken up. He went to see it for himself—he didn't speak to her, as Henry had been in the room with her. Ryo was glad that hewas—it gave him a reason to not be seen.

He wasn't sure if he would have been able to talk to Jeri, given his role in Takato's death. Add that to what Rika would no doubt tell her of his abandonment, and even Jeri—the nicest person on the planet—would have all the reason to hate him. The flight had been long, especially since he was only there for a few hours. Miriam—his boss at work—hadn't been thrilled that he'd 'wasted' his wages on it. She was the only person that he'd told why exactly he left Shinjuku.

Ryo still carried the guilt of Takato's death, but he had managed to move on. What had been just as difficult was not contacting his friends at all over the last three months. It had been a few weeks ago when he'd been most tempted to contact any of them—after he read a message from Kazu:

"Ryo, please come back.

I know you think that what happened was your fault, but it wasn't. Nobody blames you for what happened to Takato. Not even Jeri. Things here haven't been good. Everyone's on edge, and everyone's unhappy.

We need you back here.

Please come home.

Kazu"

Ryo was touched by the sincerity in it, especially since it came from a goof like Kazu. He didn't let himself read it twice, because it almost convinced him. Instead, he forced himself to close the account. It had been a very difficult thing for him to do.

Ryo's was living in an apartment above the restaurant he worked at—besides work and school, he didn't get out much. Will was the adopted son of Miriam, which is why he was able to get a job there at such a young age. Will was a good-natured kid—Ryo didn't really think of him as a child, but he knew Will did—he knew Will hated being younger. The friends Will had at school were—Will claimed—idiots. Will was rather mature for his age, but still playful. He hated his school, and had been bothering Miriam to transfer him elsewhere.

"Hey, Miriam." Will said to his adoptive mother.

"Hi Will, Scott." She said warmly. "Did you get everything on the list?"

"They were out of the big tomato sauce cans, so we got some more small ones." Ryo reported.

"Okay, thank you." She said to them. Ryo put the bags he carried on the counter, and began to sort through them, as Will did. He made sure to put the cans that he dented from dropping them in the back of the pantries.

"Will, can you go put the breads in the back room?" Miriam asked. "I need to speak with Scott."

"Sure." Will said politely. Ryo helped him put what he needed to in a few bags. Ryo was unsure why she wanted to speak with him privately, and was uneasy because of it.

"What's up?" Ryo asked casually.

"Ryo," she said quietly, making sure Will wasn't within range. "You need to go back to Shinjuku."

"What!" Ryo said louder than he knew he should have. It was probably the last thing he expected to hear—he'd been worried that—at most—she'd noticed the dents in the cans. Now he was being evicted.

"You're not happy here. I can see it."

It was true, Ryo did miss home. But he couldn't go back.

"Ryo, you're living a lie, here. You can't keep it up—it's not healthy. Your name's not Scott—you go out every day to school, you don't even try and you're at the head of all your classes, but you won't let the school advance you to a higher grade. You don't bother to make any friends here besides Will, I barely ever see you even smile, you spent weeks worth of wages to go home for a few hours, you're—"

—"Mom?" Ryo interrupted her quietly.

He could see her squirm when he said the word—it had only been the second time he called her that since he came to live there. "I'm not ready."

"Are you really sure of that?" his mother asked him quietly.

Ryo's mother had been much more supportive than he would have expected. He'd never been the one to call her back home, and was rarely around when she called. He felt guilty asking so much of her in letting him live there, and was equally surprised to learn that she had adopted a son. He'd asked her not to tell Will that Ryo was her actual son—strictly on the basis that Will didn't need to know.

He found himself doubting his own arguments, when he thought of how much he missed Shinjuku.

"I wouldn't have anywhere to stay." Ryo said slowly, trying to stall for more time to think. "I don't think dad's exactly happy that I left without telling him."

"Will's been wanting to transfer schools. This could be a good change for him."

It probably would, Ryo wouldn't deny it.

"You could live with us. I'm not going to force you to agree to this, it's your decision. But I know you want to get back home to your friends and to Rika."

Ryo felt his gut twist as he mother mentioned her name, and he almost regretted being so honest with her. He missed Rika more than anything. But he didn't deserve her—not after how he abandoned her, and not after what happened with Takato. He could never protect her.

"I don't deserve her." He said as he lowered his eyes to the floor.

"Of course you do." She said soothingly. "Ryo…I know you have doubts of yourself—but is that enough to keep you from everything you've always wanted?"

Is it enough?

Ryo thought it over. Thought of Rika, thought of everyone. Thought of how things used to be. Of whether his doubts were enough to keep him away from where he belonged. He thought of whether or not it was fair to let his fear dictate his life.

No.

"…All right." He said finally. "When do we leave?"

--

Here's something to hold you over. I won't be posting the new story until Flux is done, as there will be one or two characters that will be introduced—they won't play key roles in the sequel, but there will be a few events that will be referred to. Miriam and Will will both appear in the sequel, but their roles will depend on how many people actually read this chapter to know who the heck they are.

Thanks for the support,

-N