Suggested BGM: Don't Forget the Sun by Uppermost
The sun was already starting to set. Warm light streamed through the windows of the floral shop as Ritsu spoke to the clerk. The young brunet was completely dressed in black, wearing a formal black jacket and pants. The only article of colored clothing that he wore was the bronze apple-shaped locket that was wrapped around his neck.
"I have your bouquet all ready, Onodera-san." Pulling out an extravagant yet quaint arrangement of flowers, the clerk adjusted a few flowers that seemed a bit off in the arrangement. Handing it off to Ritsu, the two exchanged pleasantries before Ritsu headed out the door.
Walking outside, Ritsu quickly headed over to the dark car parked in front of the shop. There was a wind barreling through and Ritsu made sure to cover up the flowers as he made his way over. "Takano-san, I got them." Ritsu had said as he opened the door. He carefully climbed into the car as he positioned the elegant bouquet into his lap. He turned to see Masamune completely clad in black, eyeing the flowers.
"Damn, that looks pretty amazing." To Masamune, the floral arrangement was a literal explosion of reds, oranges, and whites. This was something that Masamune had not expected Ritsu to get for a yearly grave visit. Wafting throughout the car, he could feel a strong apple-like scent that greatly resembled Ritsu's.
"Since their graves were put over here, I wanted to make sure that everything came out pretty well. It's the least I can do for them." A warm smile graced Ritsu's lips as he looked down at the array of flowers. "My mother's name is Zakuro so I always made the habit of getting pomegranate blossoms for her." Ritsu pointed over to the orange flowers before pointing to the red and white ones. "Tsuri's favorite flowers were apple blossoms and peonies."
"Wait, so that's why you had me go get an apple and a pomegranate?" Masamune immediately turned to the backseat of the car to see the fruit he had bought, sitting in a bag.
"Well, of course. They'd love it if you got them their favorite fruits…" Red tinged Ritsu's cheeks as he tried to reword his sentence. "I mean, it'd be kind of awkward if you met them for the first time and you didn't bring them anything. I'd really like it if you gave a good first impression." Ritsu's cheeks grew even redder. "I-I mean…!" Ritsu was stopped when he felt a warm hand on his cheek and he turned to see Masamune leaning over.
"Thank you." Masamune softly kissed him on the cheek.
"…" Not doing anything more, Masamune leaned back to direct his eyes towards the road with his hands on the wheel. However, he stopped himself for a moment when he felt Ritsu's emerald gaze. Amber eyes shifted for a quick glance to see Ritsu completely wide eyed and blushing like mad. He looked completely adorable.
With a content smile on Masamune's lips, the two drove through the streets and up onto the highway. Ritsu had already given him the directions on which exit to take so there wasn't much discussion being carried out.
"…So you always visited them?"
Masamune stole a glance at the setting sun, still bewildered at the time of day. He originally thought that Ritsu would want to go to the cemetery during the day and it kind of threw him for a loop when he said that he only went when the sun was starting to set.
"Yes, I visited them every year… except for when I left for England in high school…" Ritsu grimaced at bringing up the sore subject. His eyes vibrated with sorrow before he turned away.
"Right…" Masamune's long fingers squeezed the dark rim of the steering wheel. "So your uncle visited them in your place?"
"No… my uncle and his wife came with me to England. They wanted to make sure I wasn't alone." Ritsu had confessed. "…To be honest, they were the ones who raised me throughout the rest of my childhood."
Nobody said anything for the next ten minutes of the ride. Masamune wasn't really sure what to say or ask about Ritsu's childhood, as curious as he was. It was clear that he had it pretty rough when he was growing up and he still hadn't gotten over the past. The last thing Masamune wanted was to see Ritsu break into tears again over the terrible memories he seemed to have…
Masamune was snapped out of his thoughts when he heard Ritsu take a deep breath. "…Takano-san, there's something I think I should tell you… about why I went to England in high school. Like you told me before, I pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth. I guess I could've at least told you before I left…" Ritsu furrowed his brow, rubbing the cool surface of the bronze locket resting on the base of his neck.
"Did your dad force you to go or something?"
"No… this actually happened a few days after I stopped going to school. My uncle called me in the middle of the night, telling me that a friend of his in London had arrested a man." Ritsu sighed as he looked at the setting sun. "I didn't know why he told me that until he faxed me a picture of the man and my first words were, 'It's him'." Ritsu had venomously hissed.
"As it turned out, that man happened to be the one who murdered my mother and my sister."
Surprised, Masamune had almost stopped the car. Seeing as there wasn't much traffic on the highway, Masamune stole a glance over to Ritsu to see his narrowed eyes showing so much pain.
"They were… murdered?"
Ritsu solemnly nodded as he crinkled a small fold of the plastic wrapper between his fingers. "Not even two hours later, I was all packed and ready to leave the country. I wasn't really thinking. I just wanted to see for myself if the man really matched the picture, and he did."
"So they found the guy by luck?" Masamune had asked, only to see Ritsu shake his head.
"Apparently, my uncle's friend was a detective that was still on the case at the time." Ritsu had told. "It had already been eight years since it happened and he was the only one who didn't give up…"
"Was there a trial?"
"The trial carried on for two years."
"In the end, what happened?" Masamune asked.
"His verdict was guilty. They wound up giving him life imprisonment."
"And… how did you know for sure that he was the man when you saw that photo?" Masamune had curiously asked. He raised an eyebrow at the lack of a response and peaked over to Ritsu. Amber eyes had gone wide as he saw the fierce expression in Ritsu's face. The look in his peridot eyes seemed as if they were replaying something. Masamune went wide eyed when he noticed the cog engravings on the apple shaped locket held a small glow before fading away.
"Because… because he killed them right in front of me." Ritsu had whispered out, loud enough to reach Masamune's shocked ears. "At one point, even I had to go up to the stand and describe how he killed my family…" Ritsu had quivered at his final confession. He turned towards the window, letting a single tear slide down his cheek as he rubbed his aching head.
Going off the highway, the car went down the ramp and Masamune parked at a nearby parking lot. He quickly wrapped his arms around Ritsu's shoulders and pulled him close, making sure not to disrupt the flowers. Masamune rubbed Ritsu's back in small circles, letting him relax into his shoulder. "…I'm sorry."
Ritsu slowly shook his head as he pulled away from Masamune. "Don't be."
"So, where are they?" The duo looked around the warmly lit cemetery to see that they were the only living beings around. Ritsu gestured for Masamune to follow him towards some distant stone steps that led up to a hill.
"Ritsu!" A booming voice surprised the two as they turned towards the source.
"Uncle! You're already here?" Masamune had originally raised an eyebrow further down the road when he saw an approaching tuft of blazing redness.
"Shit, he's tall…" When the man had come over, Masamune had almost taken a step back in surprise when he noticed how tall the hyperactive man was. Towering over the duo at fifteen centimeters higher than Masamune, Ritsu's uncle happily rubbed the top of Ritsu's head as if he were a child. Despite the black suit he wore, the man's wavy red hair and proud gold eyes seemed to make him look anything but solemn.
"Yeah, the traffic was unexpectedly light this time around."
"Oh, you must be the person little Rittie told me about!" Masamune couldn't help but crack up at the nickname, earning a glare from Ritsu. "I'm Onodera Areta. It's a pleasure to meet you." The redhead had told as he extended his hand to Masamune. He tilted his head in surprise at the odd greeting, not knowing what to do.
"Areta, that's the wrong greeting." Chimed in a calm, female voice. Everybody turned to see a beautiful woman with black hair and flawless bronze skin walking up to them. Her wavy black hair was tied back into a long ponytail with a few locks hanging over her ears. She wore a darkly colored knitted sweater with a long skirt that swept over her ample curves and hid her model-like figure. Standing at about Ritsu's height, the tall woman had stood beside the redhead. A light cinnamon scent emanated from her as a little breeze went by. Her sharp steel eyes seemed to give a serene but unsettling look as she looked over Ritsu and Masamune.
"But I personally like handshakes better." Areta had moaned.
"That doesn't matter if you wind up confusing the other party." The beautiful woman had sighed, crossing her arms.
"Marga nee-san, you're looking well." Ritsu said. Marga warmly nodded as she walked over and introduced herself to Masamune.
"Excuse my ditzy husband." The dark haired woman did a formal bow, grabbing the front of her tall husband's tie.
"Oof…" The redhead winced when Marga immediately tugged down on the tie and he was brought down to bow at the duo.
"I'm Onodera Marga, wife to this lovable oaf over here. It's a pleasure to meet you."
"I'm Takano Masamune, it's a pleasure." Masamune had bowed in return.
Looking the two people over, Masamune couldn't help but feel a little surprised at them in terms of appearance. The entire time, he thought that Ritsu's uncle and aunt would have a gentle and aged atmosphere around them. He remembered that Ritsu mentioned that his father was the youngest out of all of his siblings and it would make sense that Areta would look like more of an older man. However, he seemed to be bursting with life and could easily pass off as someone younger, even with the few white strands of hair he had in the mane of red.
Areta and Marga also carried a strong sense of wisdom in their eyes but it seemed to be something that would belong to people who would be older. However, the way they carried themselves held such unbridled confidence that it would be difficult to notice the aged pain of sorrow in their eyes. It pretty much reminded Masamune of how Ritsu looked when he first came to Marukawa.
"What's wrong?" Ritsu had asked. He noticed that the pairs of steel and gold eyes kept shifting between Ritsu and Masamune, as if trying to figure something out.
"You're lovers?" Areta and Marga had asked.
Red faced, Ritsu vigorously shook his head. "N-no! He's my boss!" He held the bouquet of flowers close to his chest as if it were a stuffed animal. Masamune couldn't help but pout at the denial Ritsu was still in. They had already done so much but Ritsu still wound up acting like this whenever the concept of being lovers was brought up.
"Hmm?" Marga gave a cheeky grin as she turned to Masamune. "Are you his lover?"
"Takano-san!" Ritsu had yelled.
"You don't need to hide it, Ritsu. Rather, from what I can tell, it's too obvious to hide." Marga had chuckled out.
"You should calm down though, you don't want to ruin those flowers." Areta had pointed out.
"Right…" Ritsu took a deep breath, relaxing his hold around the flowers.
"Ritsu, are you alright? You look like you lost weight." Marga had worriedly asked as she walked up to Ritsu. She pressed a slender hand against Ritsu's cheek. She frowned at the loss of softness on his cheek.
"I-I'm working on it…" Ritsu had assured. However, Masamune frowned as he stepped forward.
"If I hadn't checked your refrigerator, you'd still be living off of energy drinks!" He scolded.
"I had granola bars in the cabinet!"
Masamune sighed as he turned to Marga. "Don't worry, I'm making sure he has at least one meal a day. It's not the best meal plan but it's still progress."
"…" Marga stared at Masamune for a few seconds before giving him a thumbs up. "I approve." The duo before her blinked twice in surprise before Areta sighed and propped his hands on his hips.
"Ritsu, you should be grateful for him. What kind of grown man lives off of energy drinks without getting sick? Thinking that just granola bars can fill in the gap is just plain stupid." Areta had pointed out. "If you're going to be together, shouldn't you try to make sure not to worry him so much as well?"
"…" While Ritsu stood there completely bewildered, Masamune had also stood there in shock. He never thought that the two would figure out about their relationship so fast, much less being able to approve of it so quickly.
"Do I need the spoon to make sure you understand that?" Marga had hissed out. Emerald eyes had gone wide while Masamune merely raised an eyebrow. Right behind her, Areta fought back little giggles. As if there were eyes in the back of her head, Marga turned to see Areta immediately stop and gave her a weak grin. She scowled at her husband as he whistled off to the side.
"…!" So it threw everybody off guard when Marga tugged down on Areta's tie again, bringing him down to her level. Letting go of the tie, she bopped him on the side of the head. "Ow… that hurt, Marga…" He rubbed the side of his aching head but Areta couldn't help but start giggling at Masamune's surprised reaction.
"Well?" Marga turned back to Ritsu and Masamune.
"…No, Marga nee-san." Ritsu replied, a ghost of a chuckle emanating through his voice.
"…" Everybody stood there for a few moments, unsure of whether or not to head up the steps at this awkward point until Ritsu gasped. "Takano-san, you forgot the fruit!"
"Oh, I must've left them in the car. Let me-"
"I'll get them, Takano-san." Before letting him say anything else, Ritsu immediately handed off the flowers to Masamune and went through his pocket to get the car keys. "I'll be right back." Ritsu nodded off to everybody before he bolted down the path towards the parking lot.
Masamune watched him run off into the distance, bewildered by Ritsu's sudden actions. "What's up with him?"
"Is there something on your mind?" Areta asked, causing Masamune to blink twice in surprise.
The dark-haired man asked himself whether or not he should speak what was currently on his mind. He thought he might seem stupid to ask but sighed in the end. "'…The spoon?'" Masamune had asked. As hard as he tried to think it out, he couldn't figure out what Marga would use a spoon for to make Ritsu act so differently at the mention. He didn't think that his pondering over it would appear so obvious to the sharp couple either.
"That's what bothered you?" Marga said.
"What? Your mother never tried to use a spoon on you before?" Surprised, Areta cocked his head and crossed his arms.
"No, why on earth would she?" Recalling his not-so great childhood, even when his mother forced him out to Shikoku, she didn't really change in her parenting style. She just left him to his own devices to explore the little town that they lived in. To be honest, the only thing that Masamune would think his mother would do with a spoon would be to cook with it, but even then she rarely ever was the one who prepared meals for him.
"Wow…" Areta and Marga had gasped. "You're so sheltered…"
"Oh, well." Marga had sighed as she pulled out a card and handed it over to Masamune. "If you two ever have any problems, you can always come to us." He looked over the card to see that it had the couple's phone number and the address of the art supply store Ritsu had told him about. Pulling out his own card, he handed it off to the couple.
"…You really don't care that we're men?" Masamune had asked.
"Not really." Areta and Marga had blankly said in unison. They both chuckled at Masamune when he looked so obviously thrown aback by their answer.
"This has been the first time in so many years that I've seen that look in Ritsu's eyes." Marga told.
"He's happy." Areta had continued. A warm smile flitted across his lips as a hint of nostalgia went across his eyes.
"It's natural that you want the people you love to be happy, right?" Marga had softly assured. "Besides, if it's love, something like gender doesn't matter."
Masamune blinked twice at the familiar sentence. "Just like Tsuri…" He had thought.
"Come to think of it, I feel like I've met you before." Marga had mentioned to Masamune.
"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Have we?" Areta had asked. The two elder adults curiously looked over Masamune but neither could make any connection.
Masamune raised an eyebrow and quickly looked them over to see if he remembers ever seeing them before but shook his head in the end. "Sorry, I'm pretty sure this is the first time we've met." It went without saying that it would definitely be hard to forget people like Areta and Marga. An overgrown redhead with golden eyes and a tall woman with such piercing eyes are really hard to come by.
"I'm back!" Everybody turned to see Ritsu shuffling up to them with the two pieces of fruit in his hands. Everybody could see that a very warm looking blush and rare smile had graced Ritsu's face. "Here you go, Takano-san." Stopping at Masamune's side, the two exchanged the flowers and fruits.
"They'll definitely like those!" Areta had chirped. Everybody started heading for the steps. Soft clackers of their shoes emanated from the stone steps as they steadily rose up the incline. Masamune quickly took note of the darkening sky, realizing that they must've stayed in the cemetery longer than what they had expected.
"Here it is…" Finally getting to the top of the steps, everyone finds a ring of graves that stood in the center of a small field. A mass of trees surrounded the field except for a gap in front of them that gave an amazing view of the distant ocean. Walking past each of them, Masamune took note of the fact that each of the people inscribed on each of the stones was an Onodera.
"Huh? Did you also give them the fruit?" Ritsu had asked. Looking at two of the graves, he found an apple on Tsuri's grave and a pomegranate on his mother's. They also had a small cup of tea on each of the graves.
"Nope. We brought them apple and pomegranate tea. These were already there when we got here." Marga had nonchalantly pointed out.
"I… see…" An unreadable expression was on Ritsu's face as he headed over to the gravestones. Unsure of whatever Ritsu might be feeling at the moment, Masamune still put the fruit on the respective graves. Turning to Ritsu, the brunet gave a small nod as he came forward. Setting the flowers between the gravestones, Ritsu went down on his knees as he clasped his hands together. He softly held them to his lips, looking as if he were praying.
"…" A calm breeze went by as the contours of Ritsu's body started to glow. Soft rings of gold chimed throughout the field, whisking themselves past the bystanders' feet. There was a hint of surprise in Areta and Marga's eyes but they didn't seem to make as much of a fuss as some people might have done. Seeing the familiar rings again, Masamune couldn't help but gasp at the beautiful sight of Ritsu's gently glowing form.
The area had instantly gotten warmer with the shining rings coming in waves. Finding himself starting to overheat, Masamune decided to take off his jacket. Getting it off, he gasped in surprise when he looked down, seeing small orbs of light trickling off the blades of grass and floating up into the dark sky.
"Look, they're dancing…" Areta had softly told, turning towards the cemetery below them. Masamune and Marga followed him towards the edge of the hill to get a full view of the sight before them.
"Whoa…" Amber eyes had gone wide when he saw multiple golden glowing figures out and about nearby the graves. The warm laughter of shining people young and old filled up the night sky. They all happily danced with each other as the balls of light continued to float up into the sky.
"Hah…" Getting exhausted, Ritsu started to breathe heavily. A small dot of sweat trickled down his cheek as Areta quickly made his way over.
"Ritsu?" The tall man gently shook Ritsu's shoulder. "…!" There was one final ring of light that emanated from their bodies, causing all of the surrounding trees to sprout cherry blossoms. The bright pink ring of petals surrounded the surprised group of people. Disoriented, Areta swooned before falling backwards. "Uh…" There was a very heavy thud that vibrated through the ground as thick red hair was splayed out in the flower-filled grass.
"Areta? Areta!" Marga had cried out. Both Marga and Masamune had frantically bolted over to their lovers. They could feel the pits in their stomachs get even larger when they saw Ritsu fall to the side. "Ritsu!" They both got to their respective lovers, frantically holding them in their arms.
"So sleepy…" Areta had yawned out. He slowly blinked, trying to focus his eyes onto Marga. "Sorry…" He lightly chuckled before he drooped in his wife's hold. Soft snores emanated from his throat as Areta slept.
"Oi…" Masamune tried to shake Ritsu gently but only got soft laughter in return.
"Look, Takano-san… it's so pretty…" An arm dazedly reached up. Masamune followed it to see an incredible amount of stars littering the night sky. It was almost like sparkling glitter that was spread out across a chalkboard. However, he quickly looked back down when he felt Ritsu's arm plop at his side. The brunet's chest softly rose as he slept in Masamune's arms. "Takano-san…" The cog-shaped grooves in the locket continued to glow as Masamune worriedly held Ritsu.
"Nero-sama…" Marga had murmured. Fear was etched into Marga's eyes as she looked directly in front of the group. Confused at the odd name, Masamune followed her gaze and blinked twice at the sight.
There was a distant figure floating before them. Light brown locks were tied in a loose braid that was over one shoulder. This person would've been confused for a woman, had he not worn a traditional male kimono. The man actually seemed to be a more mature version of Ritsu. He had a stronger chin and paler green eyes, which glared down on the people before him…
Disappearing for a split second, the man reappeared directly in front of Masamune and Ritsu. Using the grave as a type of armrest for his elbows, the ghost leaned over and stared intently into Masamune's eyes. They stared at each other for who knew how long until the long-haired man sighed.
"Tsk. Useless." The man merely scoffed to the side before disappearing.
A/N: And that ends this installment!
I hope all of you like my introduction to Ritsu's uncle and Marga! :D
I know a lot of people were looking forward to updating my Hostage situation fic but I also wanted to get into the mood of working with my other ones again since they've been left untouched for so long and Hostage Situation will be ending soon...
My mood is all good now so my updates might be a little faster depending on my college work.
On one note, I kind of want to let everybody know that many of my OCs will reappearing in various fics that I'll be making in the future but since each of them will technically be a different universe, they might come out differently. I guess the best way to realize that would be to read them when the time comes.
The next chapter will feature the second half of Tsuri's attempt to give Yoshino the Shigofumi! :D
Sid- Thanks for loving this fic, it really makes me smile. And no, I'm not European, brunet is just the male version of brunette. I know some people use brunette for both genders but i find it less confusing like this. Also, Tsuri's and Ritsu's name similarity was intentional and I'm really happy you caught that! I figured it would be better to just flip the syllables around rather than give her completely different name. :D
Tac- Well this chapter kind of told how it happened but I do intend to show the scene at one point in time! :)
Until again and please review! :D