Matsuyo gently peeked inside her son’s room only to be met with the same scene again. Her eldest son, Osomatsu, was in the middle of the room with his back on the floor and eyes straight to the ceiling.
“Osomatsu?” His mother called, “it’s time for lunch.”
But there was no response from him, not even the tiniest movement that could tell her that he knew she was there. She turned around and went down, knowing that she would have to separate his meal again today. She already knew that her son would not be joining her at all.
It has been a week since Ichimatsu left without even a single word. When she asked Osomatsu about it, she merely talked to the wind.
She was worried about him, but her words failed to reach him every single time.
He barely ate. He didn’t go out anymore, not even to gamble. His eyes looked blank as they stared at nothingness, focusing on a something she could not see. There were times that she would hear him talk, but when she rushed to his side and saw him facing the wall, she knew that it was not her he was talking to.
But that was not the worse of it, because she swore, just recently, she had heard him laugh loudly to himself.
That’s when she decided to call him, Choromatsu, hoping that he can knock some sense into his older brother. Though they departed on a sour note, she knew how close they really were and maybe… just maybe… if they fix this rift between them, the darkness that surrounded their household would fade away as well.
Choromatsu arrived in front of their house after work. It was already dark and he looked so tired. But he was worried. He knew that his mother was on the verge of tears when she talked to him over the phone. There was something terribly wrong with Osomatsu and even his parents did not know what to do anymore.
Choromatsu swallowed. He did not want to do this. He did not want to go back home yet. A part of him felt that it was still too early and he had nothing proven at this point, coming home was embarrassing. But another part of him felt that this was all just a part of Osomatsu’s plan to bring him home. He did not want to fall for that .
His mother told him what happened when he arrived. She started from when he left. He knew that everyone left after him, but only now did he feel how tragic it was. In just a few months, the once rowdy house turned too quiet for anyone to bear.
Matsuyo saw how her son’s eyes changed as she told him what happened. At first he was just worried for her, but when she told him how Ichimatsu left and how Osomatsu had been behaving, she saw guilt even more than sadness or worry.
Choromatsu marched up to their room and opened the door too loudly. He was announcing his return to him.
He saw Osomatsu on the floor in the middle of the room. His hands were at his side and his eyes to the ceiling. Even with all the noise he just made, Osomatsu did not acknowledge him.
However what made Choromatsu grit his teeth was the sight of his older brother’s smile. He was looking at nothing, but was obviously smiling to himself.
Choromatsu shook his head and stomped his way in, still insisting his presence.
“OSOMATSU!” he shouted.
He knelt down and picked him up by the collar.
“What do you think you’re doing? Mom is very worried about you.” Choromatsu continued. He shook him as he spoke, just to make sure he could wake him up.
Osomatsu’s eyes still stared to the abyss, but after a few more shake Choromatsu saw how his brother’s eyes rolled towards him and slowly focused. The lazy smile on his lips widened into a larger grin.
“Hey Chorofappsky!” His voice sounded the same. It was as if nothing happened.
“You little shit – ” Choromatsu said, reacting to the nickname.
“We’ll try again with the invitational this year right?” Osomatsu continued, cutting Choromatsu’s words.
“The invitational, silly. I know we died in space but that won’t stop us from doing it all again. We can call the whole gang and form the team again. This time we’ll be more merciless than the last! We can even call Akumatsu. AH! Why didn’t we think of that last time….yes… we’d really be invincible if he’s around.”
Choromatsu slowly let him go in the middle of his crazy rambling. Osomatsu sat on the floor, unperturbed and continued to speak.
Choromatsu watched as Osomatsu sat there formulating plans of this ‘invitational’ he spoke of. His older brother looked so happy and energetic, despite the bag under his eyes and dryness of his skin. His hair was unkept as well and his clothes looked like he had worn them for days. His voice was a bit hoarse, as if he had never talked in length before.
When Choromatsu looked at him even more carefully, he noticed that he seemed to be thinner than the last time he saw him.
“Nee~ Choromatsu, are you listening?” His brother called to his attention.
Choromatsu snapped and stopped staring. He gave him a weak smile and replied, “yes, Osomatsu-niisan.”
“Like I was saying, bigger guns and bigger bats!” He explained as his hands limply waved around emphasizing the size of the imaginary items.
Choromatsu sat down beside him and this time he listened. He looked worriedly at him, but every time Osomatsu turned his eyes towards his direction Choromatsu would fake a smile and give the appropriate response. How many times had they played this game before? And how many times was Choromatsu swept away by the fanciful tales his older brother had weaved for him?
In the end, Choromatsu had no idea what this ‘invitational’ really was. It was some kind of deathmatch slash baseball. It was wild and random, like how they were as siblings.
Choromatsu found himself laughing at some things Osomatsu said. He nodded in agreement and even gave suggestions. He could not help himself —it seemed so fun. It looked so fun!
Too bad, it was only inside his older brother’s head.
“He’s been like that ever since he read your letter.” He remembered his mother’s words to him.
“Hey, Osomatsu-niisan.” Choromatsu called, not really expecting anything from him.
But Osomatsu stopped talking and looked at Choromatsu. With his grin still on his face he responded, “Yes?”
“I never got a response. I was waiting for it the whole time, you can’t even imagine how I lost sleep thinking about how you’d reply… but your letter never came.”
Every word of it was true. Choromatsu was worried about what his brother would say after he left them and moved on. He had been thinking about it ever since he was composing his words and even until now that he was sitting beside his eldest brother. He had never stopped worrying.
That was why, whether this was a bad timing or not, Choromatsu wanted to ask about it. To have “something” he could hold on to as a reply.
However, Osomatsu tilted his head to the side and furrowed his brow in thought, “What are you saying?”
Choromatsu’s eyes widened, unbelieving of what he heard, “Remember? My letter?”
Osomatsu then burst out laughing.
“That stupid thing? It never arrived here. I burned it even before you could mail it to me.”
Choromatsu had no idea what he was talking about. He successfully mailed the letter. His mother confirmed that the letter arrived safe and sound. She also told him that she saw Osomatsu read the letter.
The very thought of it made Choromatsu tremble. He bent over with his hands shaking.
Osomatsu slowly stood up and walked closer to him. He easily towered over him. A hand then went to Choromatsu’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry about that…” Osomatsu’s grip on him felt strong.
Choromatsu looked at his brother’s hand and how desperate that grip felt. The grip might not be painful but the guilt inside his heart started to become more and more unbearable.
Choromatsu knew he caused this too.
Choromatsu looked back up to Osomatsu with shoulders slightly trembling. His older brother looked serious.
Osomatsu’s eyes widened as he looked down darkly at Choromatsu. All the younger could do was look at his older brother helplessly. Choromatsu stared deep into Osomatsu’s eyes and saw the light fading from it.
Slowly Osomatsu smiled at him, a twisted grin with unfocused eyes.
Right there and then Choromatsu knew that his brother was not looking at him. He felt his gut churning when he realized that his brother could no longer see him.
“The invitational is much more important.”