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Rukawa sat uncomfortably in economy class, cursing mentally at the check in woman for deliberately giving him the window seat after reassuring him on his selected aisle seat. He squinted as he slowly moved his gaze to his side, secretly hoping the seat next to him will stay empty.  Suddenly, as if on cue, a brawny man came fumbling clumsily on the seat, his hands occupied with bags.  His movement practically shook the plane as he hurriedly placed the bags on the overhead compartment. He looked at Rukawa, carefully fixing his eyes on the handsome boy.  His expression was surprised at first but then suddenly contorted into one that of awkwardness. Rukawa gave him a threatening look, one that instantly caused him to move his gaze away from the boy.  

 “Excuse me kid, I need the room.” The man proceeded to shove his giant back pack under the seat, pushing the boy insistently further towards the window, cornering the poor boy in the process. Rukawa glared at the man, his gaze emitted a level of annoyance that seem to caught the attention of other passengers but only to be ignored by the man as he casually flipped through the in-flight magazine. “Moron.” Rukawa cursed mentally. If the space wasn’t so cramped perhaps he would’ve already started a fight. But then again, too much energy would be wasted on such a trivial individual.

Rukawa leaned back against his seat, folding his arms against his chest as he recollected the development that led him to this 13 hour flight back to Japan.  The details were unclear but he remembered the dreams, the smidge of a familiar figure and the flash of red.  It had been consistent now; the remnants of a certain boisterous individual seem to find its way into his psyche.  At first they were just random memories, memories which reminded him of the growing attachments between him and the red head. Awkward stares, silent confessions and unwilling acceptance, all of which took about a year.  But the more he tried to resist his thoughts, the more apparent they come, like a wave of relentless memories suddenly washing over him. 

Rukawa stared down at the ticket in his hand. He sighed; his eyes hesitantly glance up at the screen across him as he covers his face with his hand in a weary manner. Rukawa furrowed his eyebrows, suddenly realizing the suggestion of his decision, as if he intended on chasing his past relationship.  Rukawa shook his head lightly, affirming to himself that that was far from his intention.

It had been 2 years since their split, knowing Sakuragi; the last thing he would want to see is Rukawa’s face back in Japan.

 It had been 2 years since he left Kanagawa and he never once thought about going back. Truth is, he intended to stay in America for as long as he could, or at least until he fulfilled his desired purpose. The decision to come back was a normal one, normal by most standards. Some nights Rukawa stood silently on his balcony, looking out into the iridescent night view of New York City as he took in the loud honking and wailing of sirens of the sleepless city. Some nights he would be reminded of the difference between Kanagawa and America, and some nights he would miss the simplicity of Japan and the more calm nature of the lifestyle.

 It was a month ago when he received a letter from home.  His parents had begged him to come home to visit since they missed their only son and demanded that he show his face for an upcoming family gathering.  He dismissed it at first, uninterested in the plans that his parents always persuaded him to do. 

He debated on it for a while, reassuring himself that going back would only slow his progress down. But maybe it was partly homesickness that made him purchase those damn flight tickets. Or maybe he was possessed. Either way, he promised himself that it would only be a short visit.

2 years was a long time to be away. He wondered about the people he knew, and wondered how much things did or didn’t change.

 “Excuse me,” a light tap quickly snapped him out from his thoughts. Rukawa blinked as he noticed the stewardess smiling at him brightly. “Can you lift your window covers up please? We’re about to land.” Rukawa lifted the covers as his eyes squinted at the sudden blinding light penetrating his window.

“Sir?  Wake up sir.” The stewardess tried to move the man next to Rukawa to wake up. With one swift motion, Rukawa elbowed the man awake. “Huh? What going on?” the droopy eyed man scanned his surroundings and noticed Rukawa looking deeply outside his window while the female attendant points to the illuminated seatbelt sign. “We’re landing now; please have your seat upright.” The man cursed irritably and positioned himself straight.

Rukawa Strapped his Nike bag on his shoulders as he stood amongst the streak of people chaotically reclaiming their luggage. “Excuse me, can you help me please?” A blonde –blue eyed girl helplessly tried to reach for her bag overhead. Rukawa grabbed the bag from the overhead compartment and handed the girl her red luggage bag. “Thanks.” She smiled politely before pausing momentarily to look carefully at her heroic stranger. Her eyes widened in admiration as she noted his handsome features and his strong build. Her cheeks went crimson red, and her eyes sparkle in instant fascination.

“Are you going to take this?” asked Rukawa plainly with the bag still in hand.

She took the bag quickly and proceeded to walk over to the exit as she secretly glanced back at Rukawa one last time, smiling cheekily before departing out of sight.

Rukawa walked steadily along the familiar streets of Kanagawa, secretly thankful that he managed to make it back just before noon. As he took in the sight of the familiar structures he thought about America and his first week adjusting to the energetic streets of New York. The noise, the people, the skyline, and the thrilling lifestyle were a lot to take in for a simple guy.  But slowly, he just became used to the city, the people and the culture. Still, there were times when he had found it difficult to adapt to a place where people were so informal.

For someone as reserved as Rukawa; it was step outside his comfort zone. Sure, he cherishes his personal space like any introvert would, but that does not make him an outright hermit.

 Settling down in a different country was one of the most challenging and awkward things Rukawa had been through in his life. Not to mention the inevitable need to adapt to their use of the English language.  He regretted not paying attention in English class before since he was always caught sleeping instead. Speaking to them was hard enough but speaking to them in a language that feels so distant to the tongue is not only cruel but embarrassing. For a while, it was terrifying but then it became like an option he was able to adjust.

Rukawa yawned, placing a hand to his mouth. His eyes scanned the surroundings as he stopped to see a familiar structure across the street. He approached the open gates of what seems to be a school. On the walls, a sign read, ‘Shohoku high school’. Rukawa stopped and stared at the old looking building. Up until now, he hadn’t really thought about what this school really meant to him. In the past, it didn’t matter where he decided to go; all he cared about was joining the basketball team. But looking at the place now, he wondered if he would have been the same if he went to Ryonan or Kainan instead.

 “R-Rukawa?” a female voice called out, her tone between questioning and disbelief. Rukawa turned to see a brown haired girl with bright brown eyes staring at him in genuine shock. Her eyes widened and her mouth hung open. He looked at her, his eyebrows furrowed as he desperately tried to remember her face.

‘Oh, it’s the captain’s sister…’ thought Rukawa finally, embarrassed that he couldn’t remember her name.

“You’re back!” Haruko stared wide eyed as she approached the tall figure. Rukawa simply nodded and looked down at the small girl. “It’s been a long time hasn’t it?”

“Something like that.”

“How’s America? Did you like it? ” asked the girl excitedly, her eyes beaming with eagerness and curiosity. Rukawa shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck uncertainly, “It’s...different.”

“That sounds exciting!” exclaimed Haruko, clapping her hands in a childish manner.

“How are you Rukawa? We didn’t hear much from you since you left for America.” 

Rukawa fidgets slightly, recalling his many fail attempts at mail posting. “Oh, I was busy…”

Haruko nodded, her smile still plastered on her lips. “Of course, I bet it wasn’t easy. The team still talks about how proud they were.”

“You should come and visit the others. Its Sakuragi’s last season in Shohoku and since Miyagi and Mitsui will stay for a final year; it’s their last season together.”

“Ah, I see,” said Rukawa thoughtfully.

Haruko stared at Rukawa, her eyes carefully trace his features; from his porcelain skin to his jet black hair that always seem to lightly cover his cobalt eyes. She noticed he still remained as handsome as ever and his expression still indifferent as when she first fell for him.  

The girl smiled at the raven-haired boy, happy at the prospect of his return. Rukawa sensed the gaze on him but awkwardly looked elsewhere hoping to break the uncomfortable stare.

Bzzz…Bzzz…

“Oh, I am late, “said Haruko as she stared down at her phone in her hand.  “It’s nice to see you again Rukawa,” she bowed politely, smiling cheerfully one last time before proceeded to walk away. He watched as she walked on, waving frantically as she did so, “Come visit us okay!”  Rukawa only managed to lift his hand up before the girl disappeared out of sight. He stood there briefly, processing what just happened before he continued to walk again.

 Before long, he reached a moderate looking house. He stood there, familiarizing with the house in front of him. He scanned the structure carefully as several thoughts circled his mind. He gripped his bag tightly and heaved a weighty sigh as he proceeded to enter the gate of the house.