In the extremely important world of Japanese junior high school tennis, that year’s level of players only came once a decade, maybe longer. This is what happens when luck and fate conspire otherwise.
(τ _ τ )
Tomita Yuuta was surrounded by girls. A normal teenage boy, and Yuuta liked to think he was one, would be thanking his lucky stars and flirting shamelessly. Yanagisawa-senpai often said it was the thought that counted. The last time Yuuta had heard that piece of wisdom was right after Yanagisawa-senpai had been punched. By a girl.
“We can go to WcDonalds now and come back when Shuu-kun’s going to leave.”
“But we’ll lose our spot!”
Of course, Yuuta didn’t have lucky stars—he was in the middle of was a crowd of noisy fangirls, and one of them was his girlfriend. Yuuta thought that these girls were not right in the head, but what would he know? They were girls. He would never say that Tomo-chan, for his own safety.
Yuuta shifted his stiff and aching legs. Not that he was a whiner, but he had been standing in the same spot for an hour and forty minutes—at last check. His hands, which were holding an umbrella over Tomo-chan, had lost feeling about half an hour ago. It was clear to Yuuta that if Tomo-chan ever tried, she could get on any sports team she wanted. Again, things he wouldn’t say.
Not that Tomo-chan wasn’t a nice girl. Some of the boys at school called her pretty, although Yuuta didn’t really get that. She had good marks and good manners (usually), and Yuuta’s parents adored her. Unfortunately for Yuuta, the one thing he didn’t know when Tomo-chan had asked him out was that she was a devout Fuji Shuusuke fan.
Yuuta attempted to shift the umbrella to his slightly less tired hand, but Tomo-chan grabbed it back by reflex, soaking Yuuta in more rain. It was no worse than tennis practice, he reminded himself, and winced—Akazawa-buchou was going to chew him out if he got sick, even if Yuuta wasn’t on the team.
“Of course! I begged every store I knew for the Eyes posters!”
“I bought them from an industry friend!”
“An industry friend? Tell, tell!”
Yuuta ignored the ambient fangirl babble and stuffed his frozen hands into his sweater. Tomo-chan had told him once, or maybe twice, that she’d started liking Yuuta because he looked just a tiny bit like “Shuu-kun”—like Yuuta was supposed to consider this a compliment or something. Still, Yuuta considered their relationship pretty normal.
Except for the occasional day when Yuuta had to accompany Tomo-chan on her Fuji-loving sprees. There were no other guys standing in this square waiting for Fuji with their worshipper girlfriends. Yet again, Yuuta wondered if he was too easy to manipulate. Yuuta crossed his arms and turned to observing his surroundings through Tomo-chan’s clear-and-pink umbrella.
“I love ‘The ache of my heart’! It’s so sad!”
“I know! The part about how he’ll never forget…”
“And he’ll always be smiling…”
All of a sudden the ambient sound exploded, the fuzzy shape of Tomo-chan’s umbrella disappearing and reappearing in a mottled clump several metres ahead. The din grew louder as the clump—a crowd of fangirls—turned in Yuuta’s direction. Yuuta fought the urge to run.
“Yuuta?” asked a voice, strangely familiar and laced with disbelief and hope.
The clump bubbled, and someone was embracing Yuuta. Yuuta attempted to untangle the foreign limbs that were making him twitch. He noticed a blunt wall of stares and ignored it, trying to calm down. “Who—who are you?” he asked, unable to stop a stutter.
The body backed away slightly, but still clung onto Yuuta’s shoulder. Yuuta stared at his cager, someone slightly shorter than him with light brown hair who Yuuta realized was Fuji Shuusuke. Fuji Shuusuke stared back, an intense look in his eyes. Finally, Fuji-san broke the silence. “I’m…” Fuji-san’s voice was quiet, so quiet that Yuuta could barely hear him. “Your brother.”
Yuuta froze, recollecting a faceless boy he called Aniki, who’d given him a ragged tennis ball that Yuuta had treasured and somehow lost. In confused shock, Yuuta all but yelled, “What?”
“Come with me, please?” Fuji-san’s eyes were pleading. Yuuta glanced at Tomo-chan, who was furiously waving Yuuta away towards Fuji-san. Yuuta thought of the orphanage, which he hadn’t thought of in years.
He bit his tongue, and said, “All right.”
( ° ~ °)
With little explanation, Fuji-san ended up dragging Yuuta to his film shoot, since Fuji-san said he needed to be there on time. Fuji-san quickly foisted him off on some staff member, saying that Yuuta was his friend. And Fuji-san had called him brother, Yuuta thought with some annoyance. The staff member directed Yuuta to a seat, where Yuuta was now sitting and waiting. He had absolutely nothing to do but observe Fuji-san smile and smile, just like on television. Fuji-san would do something, a guy with ski goggles would talk to him, and Fuji-san would do it again.
Ski Goggles Guy shouted something, and Fuji-san ran over to Yuuta.
“Sorry,” said Fuji-san, smiling. “I was already pushing my schedule before I found you. You don’t mind, do you?” Fuji-san tilted his head slightly, smile never wavering, and gazed at Yuuta with lidded eyes.
Taken off guard, Yuuta blinked. “Ah—yeah, I don’t mind.”
Fuji-san’s smile became wider.
Yuuta blurted out, “Is the smiling thing normal?” He winced at how he said that. “Argh, don’t mind me.” He put his hands in front of his face trying to block himself out. He’d always wanted an older brother, but trust him to chase away his older brother candidate on the very first day.
Instead of seeming offended, Fuji-san chuckled. “You don’t remember me?”
Relieved but flustered, Yuuta exclaimed, “Of course I remember you!”
“Really?” Fuji-san asked in a lilting tone.
Yuuta was back to being annoyed now. Fuji-san was still smiling at him. Yuuta tried to think of something other than the tennis ball, because telling anyone that would be utterly embarrassing, and he wanted to make a good impression. Though, the other memory he thought of wasn’t much better. “You used to laugh at my drawings,” Yuuta muttered.
Fuji-san’s smile brightened, even though Yuuta thought it was already impossibly bright.
“Argh, don’t—smile so brightly, please?” Yuuta added, “I don’t remember you smiling so much.”
“Really? I didn’t?” Fuji-san was still smiling, and his tone was light.
Now Yuuta was just pissed off. Screw the good impression. “Are you playing with me?”
Fuji-san stopped smiling even though he still had that fake feeling about him. “Sorry, it’s a bit of a habit now.” He quirked his lips, and seriously looked at Yuuta. “I’ll stop smiling around you if you drop the formal speech. We are brothers, after all.”
Yuuta frowned. “Are we actually brothers?” he gestured between them. Fuji-san was a pretty boy, no matter how anyone called it, and Yuuta was a scruffy awkward tennis player. “I thought we were just in the same orphanage,” he added.
Fuji-san calmly pointed out, “We had the same last name.”
“I don’t even remember your first name,” Yuuta muttered under his breath.
Fuji-san had probably caught that though, since he said, “I’m hurt, Yuuta.” He was using that tone that ticked off Yuuta again.
“Well, you can’t really blame me can you?” Yuuta said bitingly. “I only ever called you Aniki.”
“Sorry. I slipped again, didn’t I?” Fuji-san asked, in a normal human being voice.
“Yeah, you did,” Yuuta replied, trying his best not to roll his eyes. Good impression, he repeated to himself.
“So,” Fuji-san said. “Did you watch the shoot?”
“Not really. I mean, I’m a bit far away, and I don’t really follow these things?” Curse it, good impression. “Not that it isn’t cool or anything, just that I’m a guy—er, yeah.”
Fuji-san chuckled in that annoying way of his. “This is a television drama shoot. You wouldn’t know what show, right?”
Yuuta shook his head.
“Mm.” Fuji-san pointed at Ski Goggles Guy. “Muromachi-san, the man wearing the goggles, he’s the director. He tells everyone what to do.”
“I know what a director is,” Yuuta said insistently. He was about to ask why directors wore ski goggles indoors in Tokyo.
Then Fuji-san said, “Sorry. I wouldn’t know what you know.”
Yuuta decided not to ask and settled for glaring half-heartedly. “Stop smiling, Fuji-san,” he mumbled.
Fuji-san was still smiling at Yuuta, but the smile was less annoying somehow. “Call me Aniki?” Fuji-san asked softly.
To that kind of smile, Yuuta could only reply, “All right.”
Fuji-san kept smiling.
Yuuta was being blatantly manipulated by someone he didn’t know—well, hadn’t met in at least ten years—and couldn’t stop it from happening. He muttered, “Aniki.”
The smile became blinding.
“Come on, Shuu-kun!” someone yelled.
Aniki said, “Stay for dinner,” before walking back to the cameras.
( ° <) ( ° <) ( ° <)
Yuuta found it vaguely creepy to be talking to someone with shades on, because he couldn’t see Fuji-san’s eyes and couldn’t figure out what Fuji-san was thinking at all. Not that Yuuta could anyway. Fuji-san had put on the expensive-looking shades, the hat and the scarf before leaving the studio, and said it was because he was famous. It didn’t stop the fangirls from screaming at Fuji-san as they got on the taxi. Yuuta had managed to spot Tomo-chan and wave to her, though after seeing Tomo-chan get mobbed he wasn’t sure that had been a good idea.
When Fuji-san had asked him where he would like to eat, Yuuta had suggested a Western-style restaurant. He had meant some place like Denny’s, but somehow they ended up in a small cozy restaurant sitting in a secluded booth. Yuuta opened up the menu and immediately cringed at the prices. Not wanting to be rude, he decided he could pay for it. If he scrounged up his pocket money for the next month. With no idea what to get, he decided that spaghetti was a safe choice.
After their menus were taken away, Fuji-san asked, “Do you like spaghetti?”
“Are you stupid?” Yuuta asked incredulously. “I just ordered it.”
“I would like to know more about my little brother who I haven’t seen in years,” Fuji-san said calmly. Fuji-san had stopped beaming, but he didn’t look angry either. He didn’t look anything.
Abashed, Yuuta muttered an apology. Fuji-san must be thinking he had the most annoying brother in the world.
Fuji-san sipped his water through a straw. As he swirled the straw, he lightly commanded, “Tell me about you.”
Yuuta replied to the question like he always did. “I’m a second year senior high school student.”
“You forgot I’m almost exactly a year older than you?” Fuji-san asked, looking clearly amused and not at all offended.
Yuuta was annoyed that he remembered nothing and Fuji-san remembered absolutely everything. “How do you remember these things?”
“I’m older than you?” Fuji-san suggested.
Yuuta glared at him. Then he realized this was a perfect opportunity to ask about something he’d always want to know. He asked, “Do you remember our parents?”
Fuji-san’s face finally gave a hint of expression. “No.”
“I looked them up,” Fuji-san said. “Hoshino Masahiro and Tokiko. Masahiro-san was employed in an overseas company; Tokiko-san was a housewife.1 They died in a plane crash. We were sent to the orphanage.”
That did not add up in Yuuta’s mind, but the waitress was already putting their food on the table.
“So, what did you think of the shoot?” asked Fuji-san as he added chili sauce to his noodles.
Yuuta stared at Fuji-san, who didn’t act uncomfortable about the sudden subject change. Yuuta decided they could talk about the parents they didn’t remember later. Instead, he thought about Fuji-san’s question for a second, and said, “You don’t seem that different in front of a camera. But…” Yuuta waved his fork in a circle. There was something different about Fuji-san in front of a camera. Yuuta stated, “You’re less creepy.”
“Creepy?” Fuji-san repeated drolly.
Yuuta stabbed at his spaghetti. He blurted, “Yes! Creepy! I don’t see what Tomo-chan sees in you!” He realized what he’d said, and went, “Um…”
“Tomo-chan?” asked Fuji-san.
Yuuta could only reply, “Um.”
Fuji-san kindly prodded, “A relative?”
“No!” Yuuta yelled. “My girlfriend!” The booth across the aisle was staring at them. Fuji-san was avidly looking at the wall. Yuuta cringed. “Um. Sorry, Fuji-san.”
“Stop calling me that,” Fuji-san very mildly berated, which was scarier than poison gas–wielding crazy people. “I’m your aniki.”
“Sorry, Aniki,” Yuuta mumbled.
“You’re very familiar with your girlfriend,” Fuji-san remarked.2
Yuuta glared, thinking that Fuji-san was very familiar for a near-stranger of a brother. He sullenly responded, “She decided it.”
Fuji-san tilted his head. Instead of saying something sensible, he asked, “Do you like your spaghetti?”
Yuuta decided that aniki or not, he would never get Fuji Shuusuke.
Yuuta never listened to music much. When he was in junior high, a band called Troika had been popular. From what Tomo-chan had said, he knew that Fuji-san—Aniki—had been in a popular group called Aozu, but one of their members had been injured and was now “taking time off”. Yuuta couldn’t keep the names straight, but he could sympathize. It sucked not being able to play real tennis.
The next day at school, Tomo-chan cornered him at lunch. She held Yuuta’s lunch box hostage and gasped, “So? Why did he want to talk to you?”
The last time Tomo-chan had asked that question, a girl from the tennis club had tried to ask Yuuta out. Tomo-chan’s scary outrage from that encounter was now more than replaced with very scary enthusiasm.
Chewing slowly on his red bean bun, Yuuta decided to think before speaking for once. He knew his current thinking silence might make him seem guilty, but he had to consider what to say. Yuuta had never told Tomo-chan he was an orphan, and he’d never heard her say that Fuji-san—Aniki—was an orphan either.
“Um,” Yuuta said, “we were childhood friends.” It wasn’t really a lie, but it still made Yuuta feel uneasy and fidgety.
Yuuta expected Tomo-chan to start squealing any moment now. In an unusual display of normality, Tomo-chan just stared at him. She asked, “With a Fuji?” She obviously didn’t believe him.
Just this once, Yuuta disliked normality. However, a long-lost superstar brother was definitely abnormal. Yuuta decided to say, “We lived in the same neighbourhood.” That was true. Yuuta could work with the truth.
Tomo-chan was eyeing Yuuta in an unnerving way. “You lived in the same neighbourhood as the Fuji family?”
Yuuta cut his losses. “I don’t know, that’s what he’d told me.” He shrugged and hoped Tomo-chan would believe him.
Tomo-chan slumped slightly, but perked up again and kept questioning Yuuta. “What did he say?”
That Yuuta was born to a family called Hoshino, thought Yuuta. Instead, Yuuta replied, “He didn’t say much. He was working.”
Despite the complete derth of information, Tomo-chan responded with squeal. “He took you to the set? Did you see anyone?”
Yuuta could only seem to remember Aniki’s annoying smile. Yuuta trawled his memory for absolutely anything, which ended up being Ski Goggles Guy. “I saw the director,” Yuuta said, quickly adding, “but I didn’t talk to him. Mostly I just sat around.”
Not discouraged at all, Tomo-chan asked, “Did Shuusuke-sama give you a keitai address?”3
Aniki did in fact give him a keitai address, as well as two phone numbers, his home address and his e-mail, but it was probably best if no one knew about those. “Um…no,” Yuuta lied, very badly. “I gave mine to him. He said he’ll contact me.” He cursed Aniki, whose shadiness was obviously contagious.
“Pity,” Tomo-chan said, pouting. “Poor Shuu-kun,” she added. Yuuta guessed that Tomo-chan was feeling sad that his shady Aniki was unable to share his contact information with his supposed childhood friend, which sort of made sense.
“Can I eat?” Yuuta asked, gesturing with his empty pastry wrapper to the lunch boxes.
Tomo-chan slid a box over. “Thank you,” Yuuta told her. After all, Tomo-chan was a decent cook. “Itadakimasu.”
Yuuta said, “Sorry for leaving you alone yesterday.”
“It was no problem,” Tomo-chan said. “At all!” She sounded way too happy for a way-sided girlfriend.
“Still,” Yuuta said, half-mumbling. He tried to smile at her, and ended up tilting his head. He’d never realized he did that before. Probably spent too much time with creepy Aniki yesterday.
“Um,” Yuuta questioned, “how was yesterday after I left?”
“It was insane!” Tomo-chan exclaimed. “Everyone wanted to know who you were and your keitai address and everything!”
Uneasily, Yuuta asked, “You…didn’t give it to them…right?”
“Of course I wouldn’t give your keitai address to a complete stranger,” Tomo-chan said. “But my friends are asking too—would you mind if I gave them your address?” Tomo-chan gave a long piercing stare.
“Um,” Yuuta said awkwardly. “Couldn’t you just…tell them whatever?” He waved his egg roll–laden chopsticks. “Trickle down?”
“Alright!” Tomo-chan said cheerfully, as if she had been planning for that response all along.
“Anyway, Shuusuke-sama has a new album called Eyes.”
Interested for once, Yuuta asked, “So is Aizu any good?”
Tomo-chan giggled behind a hand. “It’s Eyes, Yuuta-kun, not Aizu.”
“Oh,” Yuuta said, not really understanding the difference. He continued to half-listen to Tomo-chan’s heartfelt review of Aizu, nodded occasionally, and finished all the egg rolls. In between all of Tomo-chan’s “Shuusuke-samas”, Yuuta realized that he hadn’t asked Aniki if his real name now was Fuji Shuusuke.
(/ • _•)/
In the next few days, life was mostly normal for Yuuta. He went to school. He did decently in school. He went to afternoon tennis practices. His mostly normal life was punctuated by a slew of text messages from Aniki, who would tell Yuuta about his day and ask Yuuta how his day was. It was nice of Aniki, but Yuuta had no idea what to write back. It was like the time the tennis team went on a training camp and his mother had phoned every day. Yanagisawa pointed it out, often, and the whole thing was awkward and embarrassing and better forgotten.
On Saturday, Yuuta walked out of tennis practice only to be greeted by a blaring red sports car parked outside the school. Beside it stood someone wearing a safari hat, a scarf and large sunglasses, and talking to the female driver. The safari hat person spotted Yuuta, smiled brightly and waved.
Yuuta realized it was Aniki under the disguise. With his hair tucked into his cap, Aniki looked somewhat like Yuuta. Yuuta ran up to him, and said, “Ani—hey!” Aniki was pleasantly smiling, and Yuuta hoped no one picked up on his slip.
“Let’s go somewhere,” Aniki said through his scarf. Yuuta was starting to feel the uncomfortable stares directed towards a bright red sports car, a suspicious-looking Aniki, and Yuuta.
Yuuta replied, “Okay?”
Aniki ushered him into the back of the car, where Yuuta had to manoeuvre around a duffle bag. Aniki got in after Yuuta, and once he was seated, Aniki introduced the driver as his adopted sister Yumiko.
The very next thing Aniki did was to reposition and unzip the mysterious duffle bag. He opened it wide, looked up to Yuuta and said, “This is my disguise kit.”
Like an idiot, Yuuta repeated, “Disguise kit?”
In response, Aniki took out a long black-haired wig, shook it out, and smoothly put it on to his head. Aniki flipped open a mirror and adjusted the wig, before grabbing a fashionable bucket hat from the bag and placing it securely over the wig.
“See?” Aniki said. “A disguise.”
Yuuta, always one for speaking his mind, said, “You look, um, girly.” Then Yuuta remembered that the last person who’d said that to Yuuta had ended up on the receiving end of several twist shots, so maybe Yuuta shouldn’t have said that.
“Really,” said Aniki. A small part of Yuuta feared Aniki was putting on a placid face while planning a gruesome revenge. Aniki looked like the type.
Yuuta said with great conviction, “You look perfectly fine and pret—handsome!”
“Saa,” was Aniki’s only reply.
“Um,” Yuuta said, scrambling for something else to talk about. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to Fuji-Q!” Aniki’s voice full of cheer and steely enthusiasm, and Yuuta didn’t dare point out that there were closer amusement parks than at the base of Mt. Fuji.
“So,” Aniki continued, “how was your day?”
Yuuta tried to think of something, anything interesting. Instead, he said, “I got my English test back.”
“How did you do?” asked Aniki with all the interest of a cat with a toy.
“Um,” said Yuuta. He stared pointedly at his hands. “Not good.” That was the kind of conversation Aniki had to put up with for the rest of the car ride.
They arrived at Fuji-Q an hour and a bit later. Yuuta tried to thank Yumiko-san for the ride, but Yumiko-san waved him off, saying that she was going to do something in the area before speeding away. It was evident that Aniki was taking regular, ruthless advantage of Yumiko-san’s car.
Aniki walked straight to the entrance.
Yuuta rushed after him. “Don’t you need to buy tickets?” Yuuta asked worriedly.
“No, I have Free Passes.” Aniki handed one to Yuuta and put the other over his neck. “They cover entrance and rides.”4
Yuuta glanced at the pass, which came with the date in large numbers and a black-and-white photo of a dazed Yuuta. “Wait—how did you get my picture? And how much do I need to pay you?”
Aniki smiled that annoying smile of his, saying, “Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t be like that,” Yuuta grumbled. “How much?”
“It’s my treat,” Aniki responded. “You’re my little brother.”
“I’ll pay you back next time,” Yuuta said. Aniki laughed lightly, and dragged Yuuta by the arm to the first ride they spotted. It was massive metal monster—79 metres tall, the signboard duly informed them. Yuuta also spotted the bane of amusement parks: a long, snaking line.
Yuuta tugged on Aniki’s arm. “Um, there’s probably an hour wait on that,” Yuuta said, already eyeing the other rides in the distance.
“Don’t worry about it,” Aniki said, and proceeded to waltz up to the staff and ask for entrance. Aniki evidently got what he wanted, for he turned around and smiled at Yuuta, who was cringing far, far away. Aniki gestured for Yuuta to come.
“I thought you were trying to be inconspicuous,” Yuuta whispered.
“This is much better than lining up,” Aniki said cheerfully. At Yuuta’s eye-roll, Aniki turned serious. “Really,” he said, in a tone implied past debacle and death.
The staff ushered them into the front row. “Oh no,” Yuuta muttered.
“It’ll be fun,” Aniki smiled reassuringly, although that only made Yuuta’s nerves worse. The roller coaster finished boarding, and slowly began to chug upwards. Yuuta stared straight ahead in horror. After an impossibly long minute, they reached a flat part, and then—
One giant drop and several gut-lurching life-threatening turns later, Yuuta staggered off the roller coaster, accompanied by a still-grinning Aniki.
“So?” Aniki asked, eyes bright with fresh adrenaline.
“That’s enough for one life-time,” Yuuta muttered.
Aniki’s eyes calmed a bit and adopted a look of worry. “Are you ok?”
Yuuta tried to nod convincingly.
“Let’s go water-cycling then,” Aniki said. Yuuta grimaced—not so convincingly then.
Water-cycling was good leg exercise; Akazawa-buchou would approve.
Then they went on the Ferris wheel. It was not as high as the roller coaster, but Yuuta got to see Mt. Fuji slightly less enshrouded in cloud and fog than usual.5 At some point, Yuuta noticed that he and Aniki were the only non-couple on the Ferris wheel. Next, Aniki, in a fit of childhood nostalgia, decided they would be the only teenagers to ever ride Thomas the Tank Engine. Suffering from a double dose of embarrassment and mortification, Yuuta almost hugged Aniki in relief when they entered the Gundam ride.6 Giant mechanical suits made everything better.
As soon as they stepped off the ride, Yuuta started what might be called gushing if he wasn’t a boy. “That was so cool! Adam was awesome.”
Aniki hummed. “The animation was quite engaging.”
“Seriously!” Yuuta said. “I thought we were going to get slashed! Wow, look at these models—they’re so cool.”
“Let’s get one,” Aniki said.
Yuuta bit his lip. “It’s a bit much though…”
Aniki grabbed two keychains from a bin and dangled them from his long fingers. “One for each of us, to celebrate our first time at an amusement park.” He smiled—Yuuta could almost imagine it was a childish grin. “This one for you, this one for me,” said Aniki.
Yuuta looked at the tiny giant robot. It was red and white. He then looked at Aniki’s, which was proud white, red, blue and yellow. Yuuta shouted in a whisper, “Why am I the grunt Gundam?”
“It’s Adam’s Gundam,” Aniki explained with the patience of a smiling martyr. “You said Adam was cool.”
“Yeah—but—I’d even rather one of Char’s Gundams than this. No, wait, the Zaku was worse. This is much better than the Zaku.”
“Ok,” said Aniki with a polite understanding smile. “Oh, here’s one with devil horns and a whip!”
“It’s a bright blue Gouf,” Yuuta stated with a grimace.
“It has devil horns and a whip,” Aniki reiterated. “And blue matches—”
“Don’t say blue matches your eyes, because I know those are colour contacts.” Yuuta added, “Besides, you don’t have them on today.”
“I never knew you were so observant, Yuuta,” Aniki said in the sort of tone that Yuuta had previously believed only Mizuki-senpai could pull off. Obviously it was something natural to pretty boys.
“You could get a desert Gouf,” Yuuta said, picking one up. “It’s got horns and a whip and it looks more menacing.”7
Aniki asked with a Troubled Mother tone, “Do you think I look menacing, Yuuta?”
“Um.” Yuuta had no idea what to say. With a long wig, flowy clothes and a small frame, Aniki could have passed for a girl. But he would never say that. “You look—” But then again saying Aniki was menacing might be an insult, and Yuuta didn’t want to lose Aniki.
“You look kind of menacing,” Yuuta ended up saying. “I think? Sometimes. When you’re trying to look menacing.”
“That’s good,” Aniki said. Yuuta hoped Aniki would not disown him before even owning him—wait that sounded wrong. Aniki interrupted his train of thought. “Do you want to go inside a horror house?” he asked.
“Please, no,” Yuuta begged. “I hate them. You know I hate them. That abandoned house by the orphanage? Bring anything to mind?” On second thought, Yuuta hoped it brought nothing to mind, since Yuuta had spent most of the time clinging to and sniffling on Aniki’s shirt.
“Sorry, Yuuta,” Aniki said, frowning. “I should have remembered.”
No luck there, thought Yuuta, but Aniki looked sad, to someone who knew him, and—Yuuta really couldn’t stand seeing Aniki like that. “You already remember more than I do, Aniki,” Yuuta said. “It’s not your fault.”
Aniki smiled in response, and said, “You’re too nice, Yuuta. I appreciate that.” He glanced up. “A free-fall! Let’s go, Yuuta!”
“Oh,” Yuuta said. “No.”
Lots of swinging things and falling things later, Yuuta had decided looks were *an utter lie* and that Aniki was a diehard thrill-seeker. Yuuta looked kind of tough in his opinion, but he only liked roller coasters as much as the next teenager. Yuuta was actually a bit afraid of how much Aniki might like them, especially the double loop that Yuuta had thought would be his last moments on Earth.
When they got out of the water slide coaster, Aniki grabbed a wobbly Yuuta by the hand and guided him to the ice cream stand. He asked Yuuta what he would like, and then ordered for himself. Yuuta, having regained some of his wits, readied his pocket change and slapped them down on the counter before Aniki could even touched his wallet.
As they chomped on their ice cream swirls, Yuuta blurted out, “You know, you only ever have a few expressions. How did they make you an actor?”
“I stand around and look pretty,” Aniki replied, then chuckled secretively. “Don’t tell anyone I said that.”
Yuuta made sure to never ever tell anyone, because Aniki seemed like the sort of person who would hunt people down and do things to them that would haunt them forever. “I just don’t get it,” Yuuta said. He joked, “Don’t tell me you lip-sync, too?”
Aniki looked seriously at Yuuta. “No. Never.” He slouched, letting his arms rest over his spread legs. “Did you ever have something that made you think: I want to do my best at this?”
“Tennis,” Yuuta replied instantly. “Went to Prefecturals in junior high.” It wasn’t much compared to Aniki’s national recognition, but Yuuta had got some Valentine’s chocolates out of it. Though that was all in the past.
Aniki smiled. “Sounds interesting.”
“It’s music for me,” Aniki said. “I wanted to have something, so I chose music. There’s a lot of things I did before that—I played tennis at some point.”
Yuuta perked up. “Are you any good?”
“Maybe,” Aniki said, very noncommittally.
Yuuta made a face. “That sounds you’re either not very good or ‘will possibly kill you’ good.”
Aniki smiled smugly and deftly changed the subject. “Our last stop for the day, shooting.” Yuuta was starting to pick up that Aniki changed the topic often.
They ended up shooting aliens while suffering from rough turns and near–pitch blackness, but Yuuta thought it was very cool. Yuuta got the hang of shooting at approaching targets pretty quick, and thought he did decently, until he got a look at Aniki’s scores.
“I think you’re the ‘will kill people and leave their dead bodies on the ground’ type of tennis player,” Yuuta said as they left the ride. “You’re probably like that with other things, too.”
“Really?” Aniki said with some surprise. “I think it’s a bit gauche.”
“Then you’re the type to hide the bodies where no one will find them,” Yuuta said. With a bit of fear, he asked, “As your brother I have immunity, right?” Yuuta wasn’t really sure.
“Of course you do,” Aniki said with the innocent good boy tone the St. Rudolph students had employed when they got in trouble with the nuns. “You have my protection,” Aniki said with full cheer and death threats underneath.
“I remember what you did with the boys that stole my tennis ball,” Yuuta muttered. “It was really scary.”
Aniki got a confused look on face that Yuuta was certain was fake. “That’s the point, isn’t it?” Aniki stopped in the middle of the path. “We can have dinner here, or have it in Tokyo.”
Yuuta cursed. “I forgot to phone Okaasan!”
Aniki said, completely unfazed, “Don’t worry, I took care of it.” Yuuta sighed half in relief and half in dismay. “So, dinner here or in Tokyo?”
“Wherever’s cheaper,” Yuuta responded sulkily.
“Since we’re here we should eat here,” Aniki said, all smiles and wisdom.
So they ended up in front of a posh top-floor French restaurant in a nearby hotel, the staff giving them odd glances. Then Aniki flashed a business card, and the staff instantly escorted the duo to a secluded window-side table with a view of Mt. Fuji’s pink-and-gold snow cone.8
“Would you like something to drink?” asked the server.
Yuuta doubted they would have strawberry Ponta here, so he said, “Water please?”
“The same, please.” Aniki seemed completely at ease in this setting, which Yuuta supposed he was.
Yuuta flipped to the back of the menu immediately. “Do you want crêpes? They’re for two people, so…”
“Crêpes are fine,” Aniki replied with his usual smile. He added off-handedly, “There’s an assorted dessert plate.”
“Then let’s get that,” Yuuta said. He looked back down at the menu. “What’s ‘mirufuiyu’?”
Aniki chuckled. “Mille-feuille. You’re still the sweet-tooth I remember.”
“So what if I like sweets?” Yuuta muttered, eyeing the forks defensively.
“It’s puff pastry layered with cream,” Aniki said with the patience of a god. Maybe that was a bad comparison—gods were well-known for fickleness and smiting.
“So that’s…” Yuuta quickly added up the dessert prices. “6,500 yen!? That’s too much!”
“Don’t worry about it, Yuuta.”
“I’m not going to go around spending your money!”
“Just let me—”
“You don’t need to take care of me, ok?” Yuuta took a deep breath. “I can manage.” Yuuta decided he could live without dessert. He flipped to the main courses and scanned for the cheapest dish. “I’ll have the beef stewed in wine sauce.”
Aniki directed a wide, cold smile at Yuuta. “Yuuta. Please choose something you want.”
“Or I will choose for you,” Aniki continued sweetly. “Escargots sound most excellent.”
Yuuta, having been exposed to Mizuki-senpai enough to know what escargots were, balked. Yuuta glanced down at the menu. “The…quail, please?” he nearly almost pleaded. (Of course Yuuta never actually pleaded. Mizuki-senpai included; there was no pleading with him.)
“That sounds better,” Aniki replied cheerfully. He turned to a page and scanned for something. “Set B comes with the quail, fish, appetizer, soup and dessert.”
“What’s this ‘granité’ thing?”
“It’s sorbet, for clearing your palate. The server will explain later.”
Yuuta soon realized he should have taken that as a threat, because the server just wouldn’t stop explaining every dish, and Yuuta didn’t understand any of it. It was amazingly good, though Shuusuke had said it wasn’t much. Yuuta really didn’t want to know what was “much”.
When Yuuta got home (dropped off by Aniki’s sister, who he thanked profusely), his parents greeted him at the door.
“It’s wonderful you’ve found your family,” his mother said. She sounded truly happy.
Yuuta mumbled, “You’re still my family.”
I will not be appearing for a while, so I have taken this opportunity to shine in the spotlight!
1. Hoshino (星野), with the kanji for “star”, is fitting for Fuji. Masahiro (昌浩) is a very fortuitous name, and there is a 78% chance Renji would call Tokiko (時子) poetic. If these names seem similar to those of certain anime characters, that is entirely coincidental.
2. According to my data Tomita-san and Osakada-san have not reached the level of familiarity that the average couple requires to address each other by given names.
3. A mobile phone e-mail address.
4. As with other Japanese theme parks, Fuji-Q charges an entrance fee of plus a fee per attraction. A Free Pass for one day covers the entrance fee and most attractions. I recommend visitors research the prices of the attractions they are interested in, so that they can calculate if the Free Pass is more economical.
5. Scientific surveys show that Mt. Fuji is not visible for more than 200 days of the year.
6. Ah, Gundam. Who needs heroes with super-powers when you can have pubescent boys flying giant robots? Fuji and Yuuta-kun went on Fuji-Q’s old Gundam ride, which has now been replaced with a 1:1 scale Gundam model. Unfortunately, it is not a real Gundam. This shall be corrected.