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Scattering petals

Chapter Text

…please let us reunite.

Opening his eyes, Ichimatsu stared at the white ceiling, feeling tears freely rolling down the sides of his head. There was faint voice calling his name but the buzzing sound in his ears made it impossible to make out anything more than his own name. He blinked twice to push out the remaining tears before turning to a side and met with two worried faces.

"Mom, dad?" he whispered, frowning at how hoarse he sounded that he almost did not recognize his own voice.

"Thank God, you're awake, Ichimatsu." holding his hand tightly, his mother brought it to her cheek like making sure that was she was not dreaming. Behind her, his father folded his hands and kept them at his chest, silently praying. Ichimatsu could see some water glittering at the corner of his eyes.

Taking a quick look at his surrounding, Ichimatsu could easily tell he was in a hospital room; he could never miss the distinct smell of disinfectant. However, how he had ended up here was beyond his guess.

"Doctor said you collapsed due to overworking and malnutrition." as if she was reading his mind, his mother said, her lips quivering. "How could you be so careless, son?" still holding on to his hand, she reached up to touch his cheek, caressing ever so gently.

Ichimatsu closed his eyes, trying to recall the most recent event but immediately gasped. A shudder ran through his body, startling both his mom and dad… Or were they?

Staring at the middle-aged couple intently, Ichimatsu shook his head. Yes, of course they were his parents, but something was not right. His mother should have smaller figure with her hair always tied in a low bun. His father should be fatter and have a bigger tummy… Right? No, it was not like that. Ever since he was a little boy, his mom always had her hair cut short, and his father was slim. Out of a few things Ichimatsu had confidence in was his memory so it could not be wrong.

But then why he suddenly thought that his parents should be different?

"Ichimatsu?" his mom questioned hesitantly, seemed puzzled by his strange reaction.

"I-I'm sorry…" Ichimatsu quickly said, deciding that he would deal with his jumbled memory later. Maybe he had hit his head somewhere when he collapsed.

"Don't worry, dear." smiling tenderly, his mother patted his cheek "Your favorite dishes will be waiting for you at home when you get discharged."

Ichimatsu was discharged two days later, scolded by the doctor for neglecting his health. Then his parents drove him home, entirely denying his plead to go back to his apartment to fetch his incomplete work.

"You're not touching a pen until you recover completely." his dad said, voice stern, mild expression but Ichimatsu knew that decision was final, no more discussion. "I already contacted your editor." father quickly added, giving him a knowing look when Ichimatsu were searching his belongings for a phone.

"Your dad is right, just focus on resting now, dear." mom took hold of his hand, squeezing lightly.

Having no choice but giving in, Ichimatsu shrugged before whispering his apology again for making them worry.

His parents both worked in education with his mom being a high school teacher while his dad was a professor at a renowned university. With that kind of background, one would think Ichimatsu at least would become a teacher, yet here he was: a manga artist with a series running in Akatsuka monthly magazine.

His contract was signed two years ago, when his submission for a contest caught eyes of an experienced editor: Shouei. Since then, Shouei had been helping him on almost every aspect so he could become a professional manga artist of today. Ichimatsu was thankful, so he always did his best on every chapter to live up to his devoted editor and his readers' expectation, which, unfortunately, led to his collapse.

If his parents were not against the idea of Ichimatsu working in entertainment industry before, they could be now. He wished he had not been skipping meals just because he was frustrated with the idea block. But damages had been done anyway, he should try to come up with an acceptable explanation so his parents would not be too mad.

When they arrived, Ichimatsu followed mom's lead to the dining room while his dad was parking their car in the garage. As promise, all dishes on the table were his favorite, and mom even overdid it by decorating them with cat pattern.

"Thanks mom." he whispered embarrassingly, unable to hide his touched expression. He only moved out one year ago, but it really felt like an eternity since the last time he had someone cooking for him. Most his meals were either instant noodles or readymade food from the supermarket. Ichimatsu was not a picky eater so he was fine as long as he was not starving, but he could not deny how he miss a warm meal prepared by mom.

They were enjoying the food and chatting cheerfully until Ichimatsu near choked on the dessert with his father's question: "So why have you been skipping meals? Are you stressed about something?"

"I-I wasn't intended to-" he struggled lamely under his parents' gazes, "I mean…" felling like he was shrinking smaller with every second passed "… I just forgot to eat, somehow.". Ichimatsu was never proud of his quick wit, but this line of reasoning was seriously stupid, he could have done better than that.

"Did you get an idea block?" his mom suggested casually, surprising Ichimatsu. Was he that easy to read? "I can't be your mom all these years without understanding you at least this much, can I?" she laughed light-heartedly, resting her chin on her hand and gave him an almost impish look.

"… Yeah." he admitted in defeat, overcame by embarrassment for getting his health in danger over a silly reason.

"What is it about?" his mom asked helpfully "Maybe we can give you some suggestion."

Now this was what he wanted to avoid, because he would become a laughing stock the second he disclosed the topic.

"Nothing serious, mom." he grumbled, trying to finish his dessert, which was becoming tasteless, "I can manage."

"If you could, you wouldn't end up in a hospital." his dad pointed out mercilessly.

With dad's expression, Ichimatsu knew he would go to the end of this matter and he better gave up now or they would have this discussion for days until Ichimatsu finally spilled the beans.

But Ichimatsu did not want to discuss this at all. He still remembered how Shouei tried his best holding in his laugh when he confessed that he could not come up with any excellent idea because he was inexperienced. Of course he had tried but Shouei rejected them all because they were worse than average and he would not want Ichimatsu to ruin his series that way.

"Ichimatsu?" his mom tilted her head curiously, looked a bit guilty for cornering him.

"Romance…" Ichimatsu muttered, sudden becoming interested in the table more than ever.

Both his parents made a quizzical sound. Arg, could they just let him retire to his room and rest? He was just discharged this morning, he deserved all the rest he could have, did he not?

"My ideas lacked romance!"

The silence after that was nerve-wracking. Ichimatsu could feel his parents' eyes on him but he could not bring himself to return their look. They must have found it funny just like Shouei. A man in his twenties without a slightest idea about romance except to find them in novels and such was pitiful. He wish he could dig a hole and bury himself alive already.

However, no matter how long he waited, no laughter came. Unable to withstand the quiet atmosphere any longer, he lifted his head, bracing for any pity look.

"Why aren't you laughing?" he blurted unknowingly seeing his parents' blank stares. They both have their hands on their chins, seeming to be deep in thought.

"I'm surprised." his mother started first, raising an eyebrow in confusion. And Ichimatsu gave her a dumb stare. Why was she surprised? She must have known her son and his twenty-something years of being a virgin already.

"I'm surprised too." his dad added not so helpfully.

"Why are you even surprised?" he raised his voice, irritated by his parents' questioning looks, "I've never been romantic since I was born."

Ichimatsu was awkward when it came to human interaction. He could not even hold a normal conversation, let alone being romantic. That was why most his work focused on friendship and family love rather than romantic relationship. However, with the development of his series, the situation finally called for a chapter with romance elements although he went a long way avoiding it. He had been naive enough to think he could end the series before it got to that point. Served him right.

"Aren't you having a girlfriend?"

"Pardon?" Ichimatsu raised his eyebrows confusingly, staring at his mom who just said an outrageous thing. He and 'having a girlfriend' could not stand in the same sentence, except when 'not' was added between them.

"Your neighbor said that you always came home with a flower or even a bouquet on every Sunday." finally his mom explained, smiling understandingly "Who else could they be for except your girlfriend?"

Pausing a moment to think, Ichimatsu tried to recall what flowers his mother was referring to and then it hit him.

"They're just fan gifts." he sighed loudly, not even stopping to consider that he could have pretended like he had a girlfriend and got this matter over without being laughed at. Yeah, he was an idiot.

"You meet your readers that often?" his dad asked, trying to hide his apparent disappointment. Sorry dad, for being both an idiot and a virgin at this age.

"No, I barely meet them." Ichimatsu waved his hand dismissively "I only visit a bookstore every Sunday, and a bookstore clerk delivers the flowers to me."

After moving in the apartment, Ichimatsu got more time in his hand doing nothing at home when he finished that month manuscript. Therefore, he decided to go out on a Sunday to observe the town so he could come up with more interesting ideas for his next chapter. He spent some time in a zoo, chatting with a friendly zookeeper, which Ichimatsu still could not believe he did that because he was not very interested in idle chats. For the first time ever, Ichimatsu was not socially exhausted after a talk, so he wandered some more and ended up in Akatsuka bookstore. All he knew about this store was that it belonged to Akatsuka publisher, so his manga would definitely be here somewhere. He would just take a glimpse at them to satisfy his curiosity, nothing more. And he found it, right on the front shelves.

If having a chance to work with an experienced editor was one of Ichimatsu's rare proud moment, it still lost to then, when he saw his work displayed beautifully at the front with many praises from experts placed around. His breath was taken away until a clerk patted his shoulder and brought him back down to Earth from a short trip to the Heavens. For some reason, even when Ichimatsu wore a mask, and his face was never publicly revealed, the clerk recognized him. He could not recall their conversation after that, but Ichimatsu had promised he would come by again. And that was how his habit of visiting the bookstore emerged.

The first flower Ichimatsu had received was on his fourth visit. He was having a cold at that time, coughing continuously while waiting for the clerk to come back from somewhere just to say hello and dismiss himself. Actually he could just send a message to inform the clerk that he was not coming, but only that moment he realized they had not exchanged their contacts. So here he was, sitting in the cold weather of January while coughing his lungs out, just so he would not make the clerk wait in vain.

It must seem strange for an anti-social person like Ichimatsu to worry so much about someone he just acquainted with for a month. The clerk was nothing special like the zookeeper, but for some reason, spending time with him while secretly checking his readers' reactions was relaxing. Maybe Ichimatsu had been unconsciously feeling lonely after moving out.

"Then he suddenly came back with a daisy, saying it was a fan gift to me." Ichimatsu yawned, feeling tired after a lengthy explanation "After that, there were always some flowers waiting for me every time I visited."

"I see." his parents nodded understandingly, although not trying to hide their dissatisfaction. They must have been so proud and happy thinking their virgin son finally got a girlfriend. Ichimatsu wished he could turn back time and changed his answer.

"So that's why you're stuck on romance." his mom sighed, unknowingly piercing him right through the heart "Did you try asking that clerk friend of yours?"

"No, why?" he raised an eyebrow. Professional manga artists did not go around asking people for ideas for their manga, did they?

"He might have a girlfriend-"

"No way." Ichimatsu nearly broke out laughing at the thought "If he had one, he wouldn't spend every Sunday with me, would he…". His voice lowered at the end, realizing how pitiful that sounded for two grown men of the same age spending their Sunday together almost every week for nearly a year without feeling something wrong.

"Sorry, Ichimatsu." his mom hastily said, her smile a bit strain "It's my fault for asking-"

"I'm tired." he stood up, gathering his plates "I need some rest. Thanks mom and dad."

Then he brought the dishes to the sink, about to wash it out of habit but his mom stopped him and said she would handle them, he could retire to his room. Her tone was apologetic which stung him even more. That was why he did not want to bring this matter up, but he only had himself to blame.

On the way back to his old room, Ichimatsu could not help but reminiscing about the past. Living in this house for more than twenty years, he remembered every nook and corner of it. Thank to his parents, he never felt lonely even when he was an only child…

… was he?

Ichimatsu did not realized he had stopped walking until a vision flashed before his eyes for a second and he had to catch the handrail to support himself. He was not sure what he just saw but it seemed like a small living room with a round table placed in the middle, and he was sitting there, silently having his meal. And there were… five other pairs of chopsticks on the table…


Snapped out of his illusion, Ichimatsu turned around to see his father frowning worriedly.

"D-Dad." he stammered, uncertain why he acted like he was caught red-handed for something wrong.

"Are you okay?" his dad put a hand on Ichimatsu's forehead "You look as white as a sheet."

"Maybe I just need some rest." he answered quickly, rushing upstairs, not forgetting to smile back at dad "Good day, dad."

"… up…"

A faint voice from somewhere far away reached Ichimatsu ears but he could not turn his head back to see who was calling him. He was standing in a Japanese style living room he had seen in the previous illusion but there was nothing around him, not even the round table he saw himself eating at. Then something in his peripheral vision caught his attention, he turned his head and saw-

"Ichimatsu! Wake up!"

His eyes shot open, and there was only a white ceiling in front of his eyes. His heart was beating wildly in his chest while his breathing was erratic, sweat running down from his forehead and he could feel the dampness of his own clothes. Trying blinking, he then realized that he had been crying, just like how it was in the hospital.

"Ichimatsu, are you okay, dear?"

Only until then, Ichimatsu recognized there was a presence by his side. He turned his head slowly and caught sight of his mom on the verge of tears.

"Mom?" he mumbled, pushing on the bed to sit up. The surroundings immediately told him where he was. "What are you doing in my room?"

"I came to check up on you…" his mom bit her lower lip, trying not to sound too frightened "But I saw you turning and crying in your sleep like you're in the worst nightmare ever."; she stopped, taking in a deep breath to calm herself "So I tried shaking you but you were not waking up, you even shook me off and sobbed harder…". She put a hand over her mouth "You said…", her whole body started shaking "You said you want to die…" and tears rolled down her cheeks.

Staring at his mom with his eyes widened and his mouth hanging open, Ichimatsu tried to remember what he was dreaming about that led him to say that but nothing came to mind. He could only recall the living room that he had never spent a second of his life in.

"Are you having depression, dear?" his mom touched his cheek, scared was still in her complexion "Don't hide it from me, please."

"No!" Ichimatsu shook his head immediately "I'm never better."

"Please, Ichimatsu." she pled "You can trust me."

"I'm fine, mom." he wrinkled his eyebrows, not knowing what to explain because he was indeed healthy. "I'm really fine." he assured again when his mom only gave him a concerned look "It's because of a dream, I think."

"A dream?" his mom raised a eyebrow doubtfully

"Yes, it's a very sad dream." he lied. He did not remember anything, but for his body to react like that, it must be true. "You and dad were both gone…" he carefully chose his words, forcing his creative mind to make up a believable story "I was left alone, so I was scared… and sad…". Trying to sound sorrowful, Ichimatsu felt a bit guilty when his mom stroked his hair gently as a comfort "So… I was wanting to follow you two." he concluded, averting his eyes "I think."

Before he could glance at his mom to check her reaction, a pair of arms was thrown around him and pulled him in a tight hug. Blushing a bit at mom's affectionate gesture, he awkwardly returned her hug. They sat in silence for a while with his mom patting his back tenderly like when he was crying after a nightmare at younger age.

"We here, dear." mom assured, voice soft as if she was careful not to hurt Ichimatsu in any way "We will not go anywhere.". There was melancholy in her voice, indicating that she knew they could not be together forever but tried to avoid the fact. God, he felt so bad for lying. But that was certainly better than saying he did not remember anything in his dream and still had those extreme actions.

"I'm sorry for worrying you again, mom." he whispered, holding her more tightly. It had been a long time since their last hug because Ichimatsu was too shy to show his affection to his parents, but hugging felt nice… He should do this more often.

After the incident in his bedroom, Ichimatsu was taken to a psychiatrist but the results stated he was normal. Of course he was, except for the matter of being girlfriend-less at this age, but that was not a problem… Well, except it was taking a toll on his career. Sometimes he felt like he should just skip the whole thing with a simple 'They had the most happy time of their life on their first date' then went back to the main storyline. No, obviously he could not do that. Shouei would kill him. His readers would kill him. Flowers would become threat letters if he dared.

Ichimatsu was allowed to returned to his apartment after spending one week lazing around at home, only eating and reading romantic manga for reference. He felt like if he had stayed any longer, he would gain at least ten kilograms of fat. Chuckling lightly, he started tidying up his working table because his mom had already cleaned the whole apartment while he was in the hospital. He appreciated her concern that he might have a hard time finding his stuff so she had left the table untouched.

Finishing after half an hour or so, he left house, not forgetting to bring a small bag containing blank papers and some pens. It was Sunday.


Nearly tumbling backwards when a red shadow plunged at him just upon his arrival at Akatsuka bookstore, Ichimatsu dropped his bag in an attempt to find balance.

"I heard you collapsed." the person wearing a red apron held Ichimatsu's face in both hands "Why were you so careless?", patting his cheek a bit too forcefully.

"I'm fine, Osomatsu!" pushing the clerk away, Ichimatsu bent down to pick up his bag, but not missing the pouting face so he cleared his throat embarrassingly "I appreciate your concern though…"

Osomatsu's face lightened up again at that sentence, he did not waste any second to throw an arm around Ichimatsu's shoulders and dragged him in the bookstore, knowing the manga artist would be uncomfortable showing his emotions in public.

When they settled on some stools behind the counter, Ichimatsu finally could relaxed a bit and took off his mask. After a year frequenting here every Sunday, he slowly got used to Osomatsu's friendly gestures but only when there were two of them, not in the middle of the street, no matter if it was crowded or not.

His eyes automatically followed Osomatsu running to the store owner to ask for a small break. Since Ichimatsu technically played a role in increasing their profit, the store owner was not against giving Osomatsu some time to spend with him. Or maybe Osomatsu was less damaging when he was on break.

"So why did you collapse?" Osomatsu asked the moment he came back. Arg, this again.

"I forgot to eat." answering curtly, Ichimatsu looked sideway when Osomatsu's face churned up.

"Come on." he whined "Do I look like a child to you?"

"No." replying almost immediately, Ichimatsu tried to hold back a laughing sound forming in the back of his throat "But you sure act like one."

Osomatsu took offence at that and puffed his cheek like a kid while looking away, crossing his arms. This was why hanging out with Osomatsu was entertaining, even for an anti-social person like Ichimatsu.

"I was really worried." Osomatsu started again when Ichimatsu showed no sign of giving in to his pout, suddenly sounding thoughtful "I tried messaging you when you didn't show up on Sunday two weeks ago, but there was no reply.". He frowned, hands folding together "So was calling you, no one picked up.", then turning to face Ichimatsu with a worried expression "I thought of going to your place but I don't even know where you live…"

"Sorry…" mumbling apologetically, Ichimatsu unconsciously averted his eyes "I should have called you earlier." It completely slipped his mind that he should call Osomatsu after regaining consciousness due to some weird dreams and visions that he could not recall ever happened in his life.

"Don't forget to eat again!" as abruptly as when he started sounding serious, Osomatsu slapped Ichimatsu's back a bit too strong that the artist almost fell off his stool. After regaining his balance, Ichimatsu shot an irritated glare at the grinning clerk.

"Can you avoid doing that?" he complained "I just got discharged one week ago."

"Sorry, sorry."

Frowning at Osomatsu's unapologetic grin, Ichimatsu resisted the urge to smash him back on the head.

Then they had some random talk until Ichimatsu caught the bookstore owner's scowl on Osomatsu. "I think it's time to excuse myself." he stood up, putting on his mask again. "Thanks for worrying about me." avoiding Osomatsu's wide smile, he cleared his throat and added "I guess…"

"You're going already?" Osomatsu said, whiny in his voice, before following Ichimatsu's gaze and smiling innocently under the owner's annoyed stare "Yeah, it's quite late. Take care." However, he still followed the artist out of the store.

"Here is okay." Ichimatsu chuckled, gesturing for Osomatsu to look at his back but the clerk totally ignored. Why he had not lost his job, Ichimatsu wondered.

"I'll always be here if you need help." Osomatsu waved his hand, shouting after Ichimatsu so loudly that the artist had to pretend he did not know him.

As a professional manga artist and a manga fan for more than twenty years, Ichimatsu should be able to draw a simple romantic chapter without having to have actual experience or consult anyone else, like how he drew action scenes without hitting anyone… Actually, he did have to watch, or even participate in, some martial art classes to make those scenes realistic and interesting… But he had watched so many romantic movies that he even fell asleep at the beginning of some because they were so cliché. So why was he not able to create something Shouei could approved of?

"I see." Osomatsu hummed understandingly. "You find the right person." grinning confidently, he pointed at himself using his thumb "Charisma legend here will give you some genius ideas."

Ichimatsu had to try his best not to grimace in distrust. Despite previously denying his parents' suggestion to seek advice from the bookstore clerk, he had no choice but to invite Osomatsu to a family restaurant for help on his manga.

He had a month break because he would not make it for the January issue, but if he did not start somewhere, he would get nowhere when deadline for February issue came.

Why Osomatsu and not someone more reliable?…

Like a friendless person like him would have anyone else close enough to ask for help!

"Since it's their first date, an amusement park would be sufficient." Osomatsu started writing 'amusement park' in the middle of a blank paper, which surprised Ichimatsu because it actually sounded decent. He should not have doubted the clerk too much, Osomatsu must have some dating experience in the past that he did not tell.

"I thought of that too." Ichimatsu sighed "But my editor said it's too simple-"

"Wait." the clerk interrupted "You just haven't shown him all the potentials of an amusement park date.". Smiling suggestively, Osomatsu wrote down 'haunted house'.

"That's cliché-"

"If you're thinking about a hug, it is." Osomatsu gestured for Ichimatsu to get closer "But in the dark and eerie atmosphere, they can…"

Turning bright red, Ichimatsu pulled back before Osomatsu could finish his sentence. "What the hell are you saying?!" he sprang up, yelling "It's their first date!" then quickly sat back down and covered his face with both hands after realizing he was attracting attention. Through the gaps between his fingers, he could see Osomatsu's troubled expression as if he did not understand why the manga artist reacted like that.

"I thought it's perfect." Osomatsu scratched the back of his head, eyebrows furrowed "I only saw it once and it's interesting."

"I'm not drawing porn." Ichimatsu massaged his temples after calming down. He should not have expected anything from this pervert.

"Then how about-"

"Stop." interrupting before even hearing, the manga artist deadpanned "Not another word."

"But I prepared so many ideas…" the clerk sulked "I even brought some videos-"

"I said stop!"

Shooting a burning stare at the person wearing red hoodie as if daring him to pull anything out of his suspiciously heavy handbag, Ichimatsu regretted every second he spent thinking that Osomatsu could help him find an idea. Now he could not get rid of the images the clerk just put in his head! A rich imagination had been a gift for his career, but now, he did not know when those dirty thoughts would wore off his mind.

"You're looking for something pure and romantic?" Osomatsu spoke up, sounding half bored half apologetic when the artist stayed silent for a long time.

"I believe I said that at the very beginning." crossing his arms, Ichimatsu gave the clerk an irritated look.

"Pure and romantic." Osomatsu repeated, seemed thoughtful.

"You don't have to try." the artist shrugged, not holding back his sarcasm "I know there was none of those in you."

It took Osomatsu some seconds for that to sink in. "Hey!" he complained "I'm trying to help."

"Yeah, I appreciated your effort." Ichimatsu mumbled monotonously.

"How rude-" Osomatsu suddenly came to a halt, his face lightened up like a genius idea just sparked "I know an expert in that for you!"

Startled by Osomatsu's excitement, Ichimatsu needed some seconds to regain his composure and shot a doubtful look at the clerk "Are you sure?".

"Yes!" Osomatsu answered confidently, then swiped out his phone and started typing something before Ichimatsu could voice his opinion "Here, just let me write this and he will come flying."

"He?" unable to hide his worry, Ichimatsu was hoping that romance expert was at least a girl. But at this rate, that guy would be more or less like Osomatsu and he would have a long nightmare of his manga characters doing some indecent acts…

"Don't worry, despite his look, he's really an expert in romance." Osomatsu assured, flashing a thumbs-up together with a wink, which, unfortunately, made him even less trustworthy in the artist's eyes.

"I… ehem." Ichimatsu cleared his throat, clumsily standing up, trying not to appear like he was escaping "I just remember I have an appointment with my editor-"

And his attempt was cut short when the main door of the restaurant swung open. At the doorstep stood a man in a blue apron with big white words "Flower Akatsuka". One hand still holding the door open, that man slowly brought his other hand to his chin, two fingers making a V shape. His eyes was hidden behind a pair of sunglasses, which was questionable because it had long passed sunset.

"Heh, Osomatsu." that person started, voice low, when he spotted Osomatsu, who was averting his eyes and trying to hold in his laugh "I've come running seeing you're in dire need of my assistance!". He walked steadily with his head held high, sticking out his chest confidently until he reached their table. "Your savior has come." he snapped his fingers and pointed at the clerk "Tell me what you need, I will get it done in seconds."

That was the limit of Osomatsu's endurance, he broke out laughing hilariously while holding his side dramatically as if he had really broken some ribs. On the other hand, Ichimatsu could only stare blankly at the newly appeared florist, undecided if he should cringe at his supposed be cool entrance or laugh because it was ridiculous.

"What's wrong, Osomatsu?" the person in blue apron frowned his thick eyebrows, looked genuinely worried "Are you hurt somewhere?", putting a hand on Osomatsu's shoulder "Was I too late?"

"I can't breathe…" waving his hand rapidly while trying to stop his laugh, Osomatsu took in a deep breath but failed and started laughing again "Just stop talking for a second, Ka-"

… "Karamatsu… couldn't make it."

Slamming the table unconsciously, Ichimatsu was suddenly out of breath. His body started trembling without a reason while he was overcame by something similar to a shock and overwhelming sadness.

Why was he feeling like this? What happened? He was finding the situation funny, then an unfamiliar memory flashed through his head and all of a sudden, all those feelings squeezed his heart so tightly he could not breathe. There were voices saying something but he was unable to hear through the ringing in his ears. The urge to cry was too strong to withstand.

"Karamatsu…" Ichimatsu whimpered, and before he realized, tears were already rolling down his cheeks.