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The Way to Nowhere

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There were days he woke up and hated the color white. It was the color of the walls of a room that wasn't his, and it stank of medicine and rubbing alcohol. It was the color of the itchy bandages covering his face and neck. The color of the dull pills being shoved down his throat meant to ease the pain, only succeeding in making his stomach churn.

There were also days when white decided to be tolerable. It was the color of the blank pages ready to be scratched over by the charcoal in his hand, yet at the same time, its emptiness mocked him day by day. It tinted the ointment used to ease the wishes of scratching his scars raw. It was present on the fluffy snowflakes bidding goodbye to the end of another year.

Eventually, he and white became well acquainted on the day it made itself at home in his crimson red hair. He would stand it since it reminded him of his mother's platinum hair, as well as his siblings’.

Well, except Touya. He had heard from Fuyumi that now it was now dyed pitch black. She’d said that in one hand he wore a ring whose twin was tightly secured between someone else's fingers, and that his actions were a shame to the family name even though he had given it up long ago... He really wished his older brother was the one telling him what was happening outside his white-painted enclosure instead of the fleeting whispers shared outside his door and the gossip thrown at his face when he was supposedly sleeping.

And sometimes, just sometimes, white was nice and warm. Like the hug of an old friend whose wide frame seemed to be made of glass, so frail but strong in its own way. White would smell of magnolias showered by early summer showers and taste like chamomile tea with honey. It reminded him of a smile worth a thousand dollars and bright as the sun.

At that point, white turned back to being despicable, for it reminded him it couldn't be nice and warm; it couldn’t be a smile so wide it made him want to grin as well.

At the end of the day, white was plain and fake.

Years later, he would encounter a second blotch of black and red on the white canvas on which he lived. Her name was Yaoyorozu Momo. She certainly brought a bit of color back onto his spectrum, but not the way other people expected.

Not ever.

The only time his eyes flooded with colors was in his dreams. He would see the lush green of leaves brushing his hair and the rainbow-tinted glasses waving with his reflection. The pink in a girl's cheeks and the lavender of a striped sweater. The shimmer of ruby red eyes and a golden glint hanging from his neck.

There were some exceptions, but otherwise, everything was pretty much a monochromatic mess.

Shouto picked up his mother's love for art. It was like yelling out loud inside a soundproof room. No one would really know what he was saying unless he allowed them to.

Though his progenitor certainly had other plans in mind regarding what all of his adult life would revolve around, he found a way to make things play by his own rules. Giving it his all and becoming an architect, having his name flaunted in papers and magazine covers as a young man heading for success in exchange of solitude and a don't-call-me-for-the-next-twenty-four-hours pass from his father during most of the days. The sound of pencils clattering down on his work desk was far more welcome than the racket that man could make on the phone.

His mismatched eyes lazily scanned the smudged paper from all the times he had erased the same sketch. Shouto took a sip from his steaming tea and squinted at the page. It was a cobblestone path in the middle of a forest, lined by flowering shrubs and curtains of tiny colorless petals raining down on the trail. The middle was occupied by the stubborn base line of a kid looking over his shoulder at the viewer.

Every time he tried to flesh out the child, Shouto felt frustrated by the product and promptly discarded it. He had already reached the point where the leftovers of the sketching were imprinted on the paper. Shouto sighed as he placed it on the top of a pile of many more works in progress. He seemed to be in some fantasy mood, lately, with the same palace that kept popping up here and there, surrounded by trees and at the end of a dirt trail behind a plaza. People thought that he came up with all the things he made, but that really wasn't the case. The pencil, while paired with his hand, had a mind of its own.

He pulled out a dried watercolor case from another painting night, and as he went for a glass of water for it, his phone started ringing midway; upon quickly unlocking the screen, Fuyumi’s picture popped up.

Alright, so my sister’s calling me on a weekend. Either she's planning on convincing me to go out and get some fresh air, or something has happened and she needs me there for some reason... please let it be option #1.

Balancing the phone on his shoulder, he searched to no avail for a clean glass in the mess he called his sink. Good thing that dishwashers existed.

“Shouto! I was afraid you wouldn't pick up,” her voice echoed, full of relief.

“Why wouldn't I? You're my sister,” he replied, scrubbing furiously at the old stains along the surface of the glass with a soggy sponge.

“Well, Dad said you weren't picking up any of his calls—” Oh, of course. “—and you do tend to sleep ‘till late.”

“I just let the phone ring, and if he messages me, I can always leave him on read, Fuyumi. Right now it's my Enji-temper-tantrum break.”

“God, you're impossible.” She sighed. Shouto almost saw the young woman rolling her dark grey eyes in front of him. “Well, apparently there's going to be this brunch-slash-associate reunion Dad wants us to come to happening around 1:30.”

Shouto frowned at the water filling up the glass. “Next time tell him to give me a better headstart” he strode back to the desk and sat down the glass with a sharp clink. “Why does he even need us there anyway, the other people attending should be enough to boost his ego.”

“I know, I know, but he's being persistent.”

“Tell me something I don't know.” He picked up the nearest brush and dipped it into the water, swirling it in the aqueous paint next. “Anything you’d like to add before I personally tell him to f—”

“Shouto!” She hated when he cussed and would always use that reproachful tone on him. “Please do come, uhm... Oh! the Yaoyorozu family will be there!”

“You can't keep using Momo forever as an excuse to get me out of my apartment, you know,” he murmured absently as shades of baby blue swirled with turquoise and hints of diluted stormy gray.

“If you won’t do it for Yaomomo, do it for me. I don't want to be beside Hideyoshi when he starts drinking.” The stroking of the brush skewed at the mention of his brother-in-law. Of course he would be coming as well.

“That could be easily fixed with some nice divorce papers and a lawyer.” He countered. The other end of the line remained silent as he dropped the brush back into— Shouto glanced from the empty glass of water to his mug full of tea. He would need to heat up more water now.

“You're not being fair, Shouto,” was his sister's reply paired with a tired sigh. Maybe that had been too harsh; Fuyumi's so-called marriage was more of a business relationship his father had arranged years prior. Shouto’s stomach twisted into knots. His sister hadn't slipped away at time, and now...

“Fine. I'll go,” he said in resignation, pulling out the brush dripping with spearmint tea and heading back to the sink with the mug in hand. “Text me the address and I'll be there.”

“About that….”

“He’s coming to get me, isn’t he? Great.”

“Sorry.” It was easy to imagine how apologetic she looked. She did it for her husband, their father, and even when they were younger, Natsuo and him in attempts of appeasing any dire situation. She just tried too hard.

“Don't worry, I'll be fine,” Shouto dismissed her, watching the green-tinted water swirl down the drain along with his hopes of a quiet afternoon. “Anything else I should know beforehand?”

“Yes. There's a dress code for the event: black or red with white. You could use the waistcoat Mom sent you for Christmas.”

“Sounds good,” he replied, turning the electric kettle back on. “I'll see you there, Fuyumi.”

“Alright. Bye, Shouto.”

The young man swallowed dryly as he waited for the water to boil, twirling a white strand of hair around his finger. Next time he should just stay in bed drifting in and out of sleep. Checking the time on his phone, Shouto grumbled softly under his breath. He had about two hours before the impending doom of social life arrived.

“Better get to it,” he murmured, heading back to his room. Hopefully the water would be ready once he managed to find proper clothes for the event.

 “Are you really planning on going with that look?” hissed his father as the driver opened the door. Charming like always.

“Are you planning on blocking the door the whole day?” Shouto retorted, waiting for the old man to move aside and sitting as far apart as the car seat allowed him to. If push comes to shove, will I be able to open the door and get out? I have to keep it in mind.

Shouto held his breath as the car started up, drumming his fingers against his arm and just waiting for it. For a while, all he could hear was the GPS's gibberish: “Turn right on the street light, take a left on 500m and keep going for 2.2km.”

“What did I ever do to make you turn out like this?” There we go.

Want me to list the things you did chronologically or alphabetically? Rolling his eyes would have to suffice as a reply. Always the same speech about how he dedicated all his efforts solely in Shouto's education and upbringing so one day he'd take his place and continue, blah blah blah.

Shouto had been hearing those same lines since he had memory; to be exact, once his father had lost all hope on his older siblings. The thing the old man said was “education”, which translated to isolation from any distractions, and “his future” was really his father's own failed endeavors shoved at him.

Meanwhile, his father rambled on about how his so ungrateful son was unable to dress properly.

“You won't wear a proper jacket nor a tie, never look up from your phone when people try to strike up a conversation, and the most unnerving thing is your hair!” His father seethed.

“Which is aesthetically symmetrical, now,” he objected, pointing at the division of red and white. Shouto had taken the time in fixing his hair so one side covered most of the scar tissue around his eye. That man just couldn't appreciate it. “I even go according to the dress code.”

Shouto,” his father growled with a hint of a warning, giving a deep sigh and rubbing his temples. “Important people will be there, so don't embarrass me. They may be even interested in hiring you for a new project.”

“Sounds interesting! More money I don't have a need for right to my pocket.” He turned his gaze to the window, concentrating on the buildings passing by.

He had no real use for the money. Shouto felt fine with what he had, his own four walls with a nice view, all the space one person could need, along with a guest room when Momo or Kyoka decided to drop by and enough materials, ranging from paint to alcohol markers. Okay, maybe the money is good in certain cases.

“Petulant child.”

Bite me.

His father gave one last huff of annoyance, crossing his arms over his chest and taking out his phone. Shouto had to hold back the urge to scoff at his wrinkled brow. Who exactly was being childish now?

He was grateful that no more words were exchanged through the rest of the trip. He kept himself busy watching the scenery dissolve from dull grays to slopes of green, dotted with the eventual little patches of vibrant colors.

They were probably heading towards some country club out in the middle of nowhere that suited the egos of all the people getting together. Eyelids becoming heavy, Shouto pressed his forehead against the glass, pleading for sleep to take him away for the rest of the ride. To take him back to when going out to the country meant running under the shade of trees and leaping over a tiny creek, not standing ramrod straight with a drink in his hand and a knot in his stomach.

His mother had painted the wildflowers just as they welcomed the first beams of sunlight, and Touya helped him up the branch of a small tree. Natsuo would chase after the birds, searching for the one with the brightest feathers, and Fuyumi would be reading, nestled in their mother’s side.

But just like every season, it soon came to an end. Touya grew up and left him to climb on his own, Natsuo stopped being a child and started copying his older brother. His mother went out less and less, rather spending time shut in her room, and Fuyumi only went with him because she was forced to.

That had been fall, followed by winter but remaining frozen in place. Every day was winter; austere, pale and empty. Like the letters he swore to write at some point, like the empty chats under two different names. Was it bad he had become used to living in winter? Should he be longing for spring to come back?No... Spring wasn't coming, not until he could make sure it was safe to go back to those halcyon days. In the meantime, all he could do was wait and dream of the day winter would end once and for all.